1-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft: Malik Willis is the new era for the Carolina Panthers

    With three first-round quarterbacks and surprises aplenty, this 2022 NFL Mock Draft is the last ahead of the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine.

    Just hours ahead of the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, the Pro Football Network free Mock Draft Simulator takes one final spin at a 2022 NFL Mock Draft. The PFN Mock Draft Simulator ventures through the first round and selects all 32 players based on need and fit. With a few surprises, here’s how the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft could shake out ahead of the Combine and free agency period.

    2022 NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-16

    Just how many quarterbacks are selected in Round 1, and who are the future faces of those NFL franchises? 

    1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

    With an ever-important position a vital need, the Jacksonville Jaguars pull the no-brainer and select Evan Neal to anchor their left tackle spot for years to come. Protecting franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence is as much of a need as filling and upgrading the LT position. This pick just so happens to do both.

    2) Detroit Lions: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

    Kyle Hamilton could be classified as the best overall player in the 2022 NFL Draft. He could also be considered the safest of the top prospects. The Detroit Lions have multiple needs on defense, but pulling the trigger on a player with Hamilton’s proverbial ceiling is easy here at pick No. 2. Hamilton’s ability to close space in both run and pass defense is among the best we’ve seen in some time.

    3) Houston Texans: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

    While it’s perhaps surprising to go with Aidan Hutchinson over some of the other edge players available, the Michigan defensive end’s rise to the top is capped here by the Houston Texans. The Heisman Trophy finalist is a pure power rusher who somehow beats speed rushers to the quarterback. Hutchinson is a powerful man in all facets of defense and instantly upgrades Houston’s unit.

    4) New York Jets: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

    With a slew of value picks available for the New York Jets, they focus on their top need on defense: cornerback. Andrew Booth Jr. is a lengthy CB with terrific ball skills. His ascension to the top of the cornerback class may surprise some, but his play in a variety of coverages makes him an ideal candidate for the Jets defense. Robert Saleh can put Booth out on the boundary and know he has one side locked down.

    5) New York Giants: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

    Finally. Kayvon Thibodeaux slides to pick No. 5 — and the New York Giants would certainly sprint to the podium to select him. Thibodeaux is an athletic monster with a rare blend of power and speed. He can get after the passer with ease from a variety of alignments and his run-defense instincts are elite. The Giants have a need on the offensive line, but Thibodeaux’s value is too great to pass up.

    6) Carolina Panthers: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

    The first quarterback selected in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft heads to the Carolina Panthers, with Malik Willis becoming their future franchise QB. With Matt Corral opting to not throw at the Combine as he continues to rehab the ankle injury he sustained in the Sugar Bowl, his pro day on March 23 became must-see television. That also gives the edge to Willis to be the first quarterback selected, as no one has seen Corral throw since that first half in the bowl game.

    Willis is a dual-threat with an improving arm and pass-first mentality. He’ll throw for 200+ yards and run for another 100 yards if given the chance. His arm talent is rare, raw, and improved this past season with every throw. He is not a dual-threat, run-first quarterback. In fact, he’s much more prone to buy time, keep his eyes downfield, and uncork an accurate shot to all levels of the field.

    7) New York Giants (from CHI): Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M

    The Giants get their interior offensive line help after securing the services of a top-notch pass rusher. Kenyon Green heads to New York with their second pick in the first seven selections. Green offers versatility to play any of the interior OL positions and has experience playing tackle. He’s a powerful man in all facets and immediately helps bolster New York’s line.

    8) Atlanta Falcons: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

    A consolation prize among the edge defenders in this draft class, George Karlaftis falls to the Atlanta Falcons at pick No. 8. This is not an indictment of his ability — rather, it’s indicative of how talented the top tier of this edge group is in the 2022 NFL Draft. Karlaftis is a game-changing, havoc-wreaking power rusher on the outside. He can overmatch tackles and even slide inside to bully guards all the same.

    9) Denver Broncos: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

    The highs reached by Derek Stingley Jr. in the 2019 season were among the best we’ve seen from any cornerback prospect in recent memory. With shades of Jalen Ramsey’s shutdown ability, Stingley heads to the Denver Broncos after failing to reach those highs in subsequent seasons. Returning to form will be a must if he wants to see significant time, but pairing Stingley with Patrick Surtain II would be formidable — and incredibly important given the Broncos’ divisional opponents.

    10) New York Jets (from SEA): Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

    Despite an ACL injury sustained in the national championship, Jameson Williams is the first receiver off the board. He’s a big-play threat with an incredibly well-rounded skill set. He can high-point the football with ease and win with both his short and long speed. Williams also serves as a reliable downfield blocker, proving he’s a selfless teammate.

    11) Washington Commanders: Daxton Hill, S, Michigan

    This is a surprise now, sure, but it won’t be after the Combine, as Daxton Hill is expected to light up the board. He’s a downhill thumper in the run game and even better at closing space in coverage. Hill heads to Washington to bolster the secondary in both run and pass defense.

    12) Minnesota Vikings: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

    A lockdown cornerback, Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner is the pick for the CB-needy Minnesota Vikings. Gardner didn’t allow a touchdown in coverage during three seasons at Cincinnati. Even more impressively, he didn’t allow a catch of more than 13 yards this past year. Gardner is sticky in coverage but also presents upside in defending the edge against the run.

    13) Cleveland Browns: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

    The Cleveland Browns will be on the lookout for a variety of new pass-catching weapons, and Garrett Wilson is a very likely option. He has a tremendous all-around ability at receiver, winning at the line of scrimmage and at the catch point all the same. Wilson can run a full route tree and even has enough physicality to match his speed, making him a viable WR1 candidate.

    14) Baltimore Ravens: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

    Back-to-back Ohio State receivers land in the AFC North as Chris Olave heads to the Baltimore Ravens. Olave follows Rashod Bateman as another first-round Big Ten receiver who can help the Ravens build up their pass-game prowess.

    He’s the career leader in receiving touchdowns in Ohio State history, proving to be a more complete receiver than most in this class. He has exceptional skills, an underrated speed game, and terrific body control.

    15) Philadelphia Eagles (from MIA): Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

    The Philadelphia Eagles make a splash pick with Sam Howell from North Carolina. Howell enters the fray at quarterback despite Jalen Hurts leading the team to the playoffs this past season. Yet, Howell gives the Eagles a more pass-first offense that mimics today’s NFL. He can make every throw on the field and has terrific deep accuracy as well as athleticism to help him move the pocket and throw on the run.

    16) Philadelphia Eagles (from IND): Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

    The best sideline-to-sideline linebacker in some time, Devin Lloyd heads to Philadelphia. He improves the Eagles’ defense quickly with his ability to call the shots from the middle of the field. Lloyd does everything at an elite level, including blitz, stop the run, and cover, with the latter likely his best attribute. He’s a prototypical linebacker in today’s NFL — and a great one at that.

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