It was an unfortunate scene that changed the face of the 2022 NFL Mock Draft circuit when Michigan’s David Ojabo suffered an Achilles injury this past week. As he was the No. 1 NFL Draft prospect on my Top 300 Big Board, it’s changed my board and mock drafts drastically. We, as a company, wish David the speediest of recoveries and hope for continued success when he’s back on the field.
2022 NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-16
Now, with a clearer picture of each team’s top needs as the first week of free agency is behind us, we can place big needs for every team in the first round of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft.
1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
The Jacksonville Jaguars franchise-tagged Cam Robinson, but excuse me for not seeing the long-term solution at left tackle on the roster. With the selection of Ikem Ekwonu at No. 1, the Jaguars now have a franchise quarterback and a franchise left tackle to bank on. Ekwonu is a violent run-blocking mauler but showed incredible growth in pass protection this past season. He’s a rock-solid Day 1 starter with future All-Pro potential.
2) Detroit Lions: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
The Detroit Lions are more than a few pieces away from a complete roster. However, like the Jaguars above them, they can leave the 2022 NFL Draft with a franchise-changing overhaul. In that, Malik Willis is included as the team’s new franchise quarterback. Willis ticks every box and comes with valuable upside at team sports’ most important position.
3) Houston Texans: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
With two first-round picks to work with, the Houston Texans can grab the best player available if presented with that opportunity now. After trading Deshaun Watson, it appears they’re sold on Davis Mills at quarterback, at least for 2022. Even if they weren’t sold on Mills, Kayvon Thibodeaux would be the pick here if available. Getting better and getting better immediately is what they receive with Thibodeaux’s services off the edge.
4) New York Jets: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
The New York Jets need to build around Zach Wilson to be more successful in 2022. That also includes getting better, much better on defense. Selecting Kyle Hamilton gives them the proverbial “movable chess piece” on the back end that they can distribute in a bevy of positions. Hamilton closes space in coverage and lays the lumber in the run game. He’s a starter from Day 1 through the next decade-plus.
5) New York Giants: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Sliding to No. 5, Evan Neal doesn’t necessarily have a spot on the New York Giants’ roster right away. Unless, of course, he changes positions. There are other options to choose from here, but unlike other top picks at tackle, Neal comes with potential positional versatility. Neal played multiple positions at Alabama and could slide opposite Andrew Thomas to become one of the league’s top tackle duos.
6) Carolina Panthers: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
The future is now, and the Carolina Panthers can’t rest on their laurels. The selection of Willis at No. 2 will ultimately expedite the rate at which other quarterbacks are selected: Sam Howell is the pick here. Carolina can’t wait to see if their top choice at the position is available come Round 2. Howell also has an NFL arm and can develop his skills into an incredibly well-rounded quarterback in the right place.
7) New York Giants (from CHI): Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
The slide halts here as the Giants end Aidan Hutchinson‘s fall after the quarterback rise. Hutchinson has proven to surpass even high expectations at every turn since returning to Michigan for the 2021 season. The Heisman Trophy runner-up wins with power but has plenty of speed and pass-rush moves to bank on. He’s dominant and will immediately help New York’s defense.
8) Atlanta Falcons: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
No matter who the quarterback is, the Atlanta Falcons need weapons to throw the ball to. Garrett Wilson is the selection here — he’s the top receiver who is ready now. Wilson has every coveted aspect around a WR1 and should immediately be seen as the team’s top receiving threat alongside Kyle Pitts. Atlanta’s new QB (at this moment, Marcus Mariota) would be glad to have that duo.
9) Seattle Seahawks (from DEN): Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
Like the Panthers ahead of them, the Seattle Seahawks can’t rest on their laurels either. After trading away Russell Wilson to acquire this pick, the Seahawks cannot be sold on the body of work Drew Lock has put in since entering the league. Sure, he may still have something left in the proverbial tank, but the upside lies in selecting a new face. That face is Kenny Pickett, who is NFL-ready now.
10) New York Jets (from SEA): Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
The aforementioned building around Zach Wilson continues — on the defensive side of the ball. With Carl Lawson returning from an injury, Kyle Hamilton at safety, and now Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner at cornerback, the Jets essentially leave this draft with three cornerstone pieces on a dramatically improved defense. Gardner is a lockdown cornerback in every sense of the word and should slide directly into that CB1 role.
11) Washington Commanders: Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
Another quarterback may not be what you expected, but as I mentioned, the selection of Willis at No. 2 pushes the price on the rest of the quarterback class. Matt Corral comes in after an injury sustained at the turn of the year sidelined him from all offseason workouts. Still, his arm platforms are next level, as is his athleticism. Corral has Carson Wentz to help him get acclimated as Wentz ultimately becomes the bridge quarterback — an expensive one albeit — for the Washington Commanders.
12) Minnesota Vikings: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
There are plenty of cornerback options available here for the Minnesota Vikings. Kaiir Elam is the selection as the former Florida Gator has a ton of upside with his coverage versatility. He can play multiple schemes and has a knack for finding the ball; he possesses tremendous athleticism, both at the catch point and in open space.
13) Houston Texans (from CLE): Drake London, WR, USC
Unlike most teams, the Houston Texans may not be in win-right-now mode come 2022. Instead, as they continue to overhaul the entire roster and get better at a multitude of positions, the selection of Drake London makes a ton of sense. London may not be at 100% through the offseason workout circuit, but it looks as if he will be ready to go come training camp. As such, the Texans also won’t need to rush him back if he isn’t ready to go in August. London can jump through the roof and is the toughest receiver to tackle after the catch in this class.
14) Baltimore Ravens: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
There goes the big man George Karlaftis as the Baltimore Ravens halt his slide here. Karlaftis is, by all means, a potential top-10 pick. But with the rise on quarterbacks, the Ravens are gifted his services at pick No. 14. Edge may not even be their top need. But in a draft where these edge defenders will be coveted, selecting Karlaftis here — or trading down — is in play. Karlaftis is terrific with his strength and balance, as well as providing potential versatility to use along the defensive line.
15) Philadelphia Eagles (from MIA): Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
The Philadelphia Eagles need to improve a bevy of positions through their first-round haul. With quarterback all but off the board for the remainder of the first round, they start that haul with the class’ best sideline-to-sideline linebacker. A beast in the middle, Devin Lloyd excels at every facet, including blitzing the quarterback, stuffing the run, and most importantly, stopping the underneath passes in coverage.
16) Philadelphia Eagles (from IND): Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
Their haul continues on defense as the Eagles grab Daxton Hill from Michigan. With their second pick in a row on defense, Philadelphia grabs another versatile playmaker in space who excels against both the run and pass. Hill closes similar to Kyle Hamilton and also eats up a ton of space in the run game.