2022 7-Round NFL Mock Draft: Jordan Davis, Aidan Hutchinson, and Malik Willis rise

The tape takes precedence over all, but the NFL Combine has an undeniable effect on draft results. What changes in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft?

You always hear “trust the tape,” and there’s a reason for that. The tape is ultimately what’s most important in NFL Draft evaluation. But, as much as we want to prioritize tape, the NFL Combine does matter, and this 7-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft will reflect that. Teams have athletic and size thresholds in mind at each position. Players who check the boxes can inflate their stock, even if they show flaws on tape. So, with the dust settling from the NFL Combine, let’s see who’s on the way up.

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2022 7-Round NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-16

Who leads off the latest 7-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft?

1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

At this point, I think the importance of solidifying the offensive line is paramount for the Jaguars. And looking at the comparative depth of the offensive tackle and edge rusher classes, it would be more prudent here to get one of the top offensive tackles first and address EDGE later on. The common quandary is now Evan Neal vs. Ikem Ekwonu. But for the Jaguars specifically, Neal makes the most sense for one reason — versatility.

The Jaguars drafted Stanford tackle Walker Little last year, and Little fared admirably when he played at left tackle in 2021. Neal and Ekwonu are similarly ranked prospects, but Neal has a wealth of starting experience at both left and right tackle. So, while they both have blue-chip talent, Neal gives Jacksonville more flexibility. And looking at Neal alone, his rare size and athleticism, combined with patience and polish, make him a franchise tackle in waiting.

2) Detroit Lions: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

It’s the worst-kept secret in the world that the Lions love Aidan Hutchinson. Not only is Hutchinson a home-grown talent, but he screams “Dan Campbell” with his relentless motor and energy. His athletic testing only made top-five capital a certainty for him. But there’s a wild card in this conversation, and that’s the sheer depth of the EDGE class. If Detroit likes a QB enough, they could take that passer here and still get high-level talent later on.

Right now, the quarterback who looks most likely to go this high is Liberty’s Malik Willis. He’s still a mixed bag on film, but he’s reportedly aced the offseason, showing off a solid game IQ and franchise quarterback charisma in interviews. The physical talent has never been a question, so if a team like Detroit — which coached him at the Senior Bowl — thinks he has the mindset to grow into a star with proper development, there’s no other choice but to take him here before someone else does. Quarterback is that important.

3) Houston Texans: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

Aidan Hutchinson used his 32 1/8″ arms to shrug at the length concerns at the NFL Combine. He effectively washed out the criticism with a stellar performance in athletic testing. Hutchinson wound up with a Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 9.86. His mythical three-cone time was proven true, and he also logged a 36-inch vertical and a 1.62 10-yard split at 6’6 5/8″, 260 pounds.

I still have some minor reservations regarding Hutchinson, but those reservations exist within the context of the first-round discussion. He’s always been a first-round prospect, and he’s a good one at that. He tested well enough and plays hard enough that most scouts won’t knock him too heavily for having below-average length. The top 10 seems like his floor. At third overall, the Texans might jump at the chance to add a potential blue-chip edge rusher with a hard-nosed style.

4) New York Jets: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

There’s too much smoke around the whole “Kayvon Thibodeaux doesn’t work hard” whispers to disregard its impact within NFL circles. Me? I don’t buy a cent of it. But at this point, I think it’s a safe bet Hutchinson goes over Thibodeaux — and largely for that reason. That won’t necessarily be a mistake; both prospects are terrific in their own regard. But Thibodeaux remains my top EDGE and the second overall prospect on my board.

Thibodeaux only did the 40-yard dash and the bench press at the NFL Combine. Odds are he would’ve only improved his elite 9.67 RAS had he participated in all events. But even in his limited sample, Thibodeaux proved his athletic prowess. At 6’4″, 254 pounds, with 33 1/8″ arms, Thibodeaux ran a 4.58 40-yard dash, with a supremely explosive 1.59 10-yard split. Thibodeaux is a longer, more explosive athlete than Hutchinson on tape, and he’s also much better at lowering his pads. At his peak, I think he compares well to DeMarcus Ware. The Jets would be unwise to pass on that kind of potential.

5) New York Giants: Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia

In my last 7-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft, I projected Travon Walker to the Giants but at seventh overall. Now, I’m taking him at No. 5. If you saw his NFL Combine performance, you’re hardly surprised. Walker is an alien who tested with a 4.51 40-yard dash, 1.62 10-yard split, 35.5-inch vertical, 123-inch broad, and a 6.89 three-cone time at 6’5″, 272 pounds. He also has massive 35 1/2″ levers for arms.

All told, Walker earned a RAS of 9.99. He came in as the third-most athletic defensive end ever to test. It’s hard to imagine a team that wouldn’t like Walker’s skill set, but the Giants stand out as a particularly strong fit. When Joe Schoen was in Buffalo, the Bills craved elite length on the edge. Walker provides exactly that, and it grants him elite power capacity as well. He still has room for refinement as a pass rusher, but he’s already a menacing physical force that can be developed into a legendary three-down threat.

6) Carolina Panthers: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

The Panthers have no cap, no quarterback, and no picks. Their sixth overall selection is the only pick they own in the top 100. Common sense says that the Panthers should seek to upgrade from Sam Darnold. But common sense also says that the Panthers wouldn’t be able to support a rookie QB with their dire lack of resources and coaching instability. Things may get worse before they get better in Carolina. But by at least adding a blue-chip lineman, they can adequately prepare for C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young.

Ikem Ekwonu brings a much-needed facelift to the Panthers’ offensive line. He can still seek further refinement, but his technique took a big step forward in 2021 and helped to channel his violent mindset. Beyond that, he’s a stellar athlete with an 8.22 RAS, which is largely brought down by his height. Moreover, Matt Rhule can’t pull out the “arm length” argument with this one because Ekwonu’s 34-inch arms are comfortably above-average.

7) New York Giants (from CHI): Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

If the Giants’ draft strategy is “draft literal Greek gods,” they’re off to a good start in this 7-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft. After taking Walker at fifth overall, the Giants double-down on the trenches and select Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning. Strengthening the offensive line should be the Giants’ top concern, and Penning could help them go above and beyond in doing so.

It’s important to note that Penning is not a finished product. He has some technical flaws to clean up. But his upside is astronomical. Penning registered a 9.96 RAS after testing, putting up a 4.89 40-yard dash, 1.71 10-yard split, 111-inch broad jump, and a 7.25 three-cone time at 6’7″, 325 pounds. He’s the sixth-most athletic tackle to test all-time, and he watches Saw movies before games. Daniel Jones doesn’t exactly give off a Mount Olympus vibe. But perhaps with Penning and Andrew Thomas protecting the edges, he can take a leap in 2022.

8) Atlanta Falcons: Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE, Florida State

Jermaine Johnson II was the “quietly solid” EDGE option for a while during the season. Then, his dominant Senior Bowl showing happened, and he truly started to lock in his first-round billing. The NFL Combine was just an extension of Johnson’s rise toward the top. The Florida State edge rusher weighed in at 6’4 5/8″, 254 pounds, and logged a 4.58 40-yard dash, a 1.6 10-yard split, and an explosive 125-inch broad jump.

If you’re the Falcons, you absolutely need to come away with a quality pass rusher in this 7-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft. And while the 2022 class as a whole is safe to bank on, the Falcons can hedge their bets by picking Johnson, who has a great mix of high-floor and high-ceiling traits. Beyond his solid athleticism and lateral agility, Johnson is a strong, wiry rusher with intense, calculated hand usage.

9) Seattle Seahawks (from DEN): Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

Still working on getting back to 100% after injuring his ankle in the season, Matt Corral only went through interviews at the 2022 NFL Combine. Testing isn’t particularly important for Corral, who’s already well-known as a dynamic athlete. For NFL teams, the questions may revolve around his size — he showed up at 212 pounds in Indianapolis — and his impact as a leader.

During interviews, however, Corral likely put questions regarding his character to rest. He’s a dynamic, energized competitor on the field. But at the podium, he’s detailed, thoughtful, and honest when speaking with reporters. He also has the athleticism, toughness, off-script ability, and elastic arm to be an elevating starter. For the Seahawks, who just dealt Russell Wilson in a blockbuster trade, Corral makes sense. Acquiring Drew Lock might not move the needle much, as his chances of reviving his career are somewhat slim.

10) New York Jets (from SEA): Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

Kyle Hamilton ran a 4.59 40-yard dash on Sunday, rubbing some onlookers the wrong way with that time. Commonly viewed as a transcendent prospect at the safety position, Hamilton’s speed underwhelmed. It is worth noting that Hamilton could’ve still been feeling the effects of a knee injury suffered late in the season. But even so, we need to put his 4.59 in context — because it’s not bad at all for his size.

Remember, with Hamilton, you’re dealing with a 6’4″, 220-pound defensive back who has a 38-inch vertical and a 131-inch broad jump. Hamilton is supremely explosive, and at the safety position, explosiveness carries more weight — especially when you’re a 6’4″ behemoth with long-strider speed. In this lens, Hamilton compares fairly well to Broncos star Justin Simmons. It’s worth noting that Simmons went in Round 3. But if you’re redrafting for outcomes, you take Simmons in the top 10. Hamilton can have the same impact on the Jets.

11) Washington Commanders: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

Editor’s Note: This mock draft was published on March 7 before the Carson Wentz trade occurred. 

The discourse surrounding Kenny Pickett‘s hand size reached tiresome levels a while ago. That discourse was only emboldened when Pickett officially measured in with 8 1/2″ hands at the 2022 NFL Combine. It remains a historic outlier, but at this point, it’s not a reason to rule Pickett out. There’s yet to be definitive proof that it impacts him more than other signal-callers.

By now, teams know how they feel about the hand size. But Pickett has a lot of other redeeming qualities. His arm, while not elite, is good, and it’s elastic enough to help him generate velocity off-platform. He’s also a great athlete and proved as such at the Combine. He’s a leader, a tough competitor, and a sturdy processor with eye manipulation in his toolbox. To me, Pickett can become a Derek Carr-type of QB fairly early in his career. If you’re Washington and you can get him on a rookie deal, you take that swing.

12) Minnesota Vikings: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

The Minnesota Vikings tried and failed a lot at cornerback under the previous regime. The misses in Round 1 are plentiful, and the position remains an area of major need. There’s now pressure on Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell to establish stability at the position. A deep cornerback class in the 2022 NFL Draft gives them that opportunity. But if they have their pick of the top CB at 12th overall, they should take it.

As of this 7-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft, Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner is trending toward being one of the first, if not the first cornerback selected. Standing at 6’3″ with 33.5-inch arms, Gardner is an elite physical talent. His arms are as long as Ojabo’s and longer than Thibodeaux’s. And on top of his length, he has true 4.41 speed. Gardner isn’t the most fluid, but for his size, he can transition well enough. At the end of the day, he’s a rare talent, with physicality, awareness, an alpha mentality, and superb ball skills.

13) Cleveland Browns: David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan

Just take a moment and envision Myles Garrett and David Ojabo rushing off the same line. Humankind wasn’t meant to see that amount of explosiveness on a given rep from one defensive front. But we can’t concern ourselves with whether or not Ojabo joining Garrett will break the matrix. Let’s just imagine the possibilities in our head — because for the Browns, there’s a lot to like.

Ojabo confirmed his explosiveness and freaky athleticism during testing at the 2022 NFL Combine. The Michigan star earned a 4.55 40-yard dash, a 35-inch vertical, and a 122-inch broad jump at 6’4″, 250 pounds. He also passes the length threshold with 33.5-inch arms, and overall, he earned an elite RAS of 9.19. Ojabo can still develop, particularly as a run defender, but bright flashes are there already. As a pass rusher, his rare combination of burst, twitch, length, and bend makes him a dangerous complement to Garrett.

14) Baltimore Ravens: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

It’s crazy to think that Jordan Davis could’ve tested even better had he not left his Infinity Gauntlet in the closet back at home. Even without his instrument of world domination, Davis still dominated the NFL Combine, compiling the second-highest RAS of all-time — yes, that’s right. Davis’ score of 10 was the second-highest composite value, only behind Megatron himself.

Davis is a true real-life titan, with a 4.78 40-yard dash, a 32-inch vertical, and a 123-inch broad jump at 6’6″, 341 pounds. After his testing, it’s unlikely he gets out of the top 15. Particularly for the Ravens, who will need a nose tackle when Brandon Williams leaves, Davis makes a ton of sense. With his suffocating two-gapping ability, Davis can free up other linemen to feast on one-on-one opportunities. But there’s no way this kind of athlete can’t eventually become a dangerous pass-rushing threat with proper development.

15) Philadelphia Eagles (from MIA): George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

George Karlaftis didn’t put together a complete NFL Combine showing, but he remains a first-round prospect in the aftermath of the Indianapolis showcase. Perhaps one of the biggest questions surrounding Karlaftis was his burst. I’ve been of the mind that it passes the threshold required from a starter. Karlaftis delivered on that expectation with a 38-inch vertical and a 121-inch broad jump.

Beyond his initial burst, Karlaftis brings many other valuable traits. He’s a strong defender with power and heavy force in his hands, and he also has some measured ankle flexion around the edge. He lacks elite bend, but he has shown he can reduce his surface area a bit and accelerate around the apex. The Eagles will soon need to revamp their EDGE room, and in this 7-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft, Karlaftis makes a lot of sense.

16) Philadelphia Eagles (from IND): Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

As deep as the 2022 NFL Draft’s wide receiver class is, there’s no Ja’Marr Chase or Jaylen Waddle. That was only made more clear by athletic testing results. There’s truly absurd depth, especially on Day 2, but we might not see the first receiver taken until the teens. Even so, Garrett Wilson remains one of the front-runners after a strong Combine showing, which featured a 4.38 40-yard dash, a 36-inch vertical, and a 123-inch broad jump.

Wilson weighed in a bit lighter than expected, coming in around 5’11 3/4″, 183 pounds. But for his size, Wilson has great proportional length with 32-inch arms. On the field, his play is eerily reminiscent of Buffalo Bills star Stefon Diggs. With his high-end explosiveness and twitch, Wilson can easily displace DBs. He attacks blind spots, has the acrobatic catching ability to make plays downfield, and is a slippery RAC threat. Alongside DeVonta Smith, Wilson could do damage.

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