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?

Round 1 | Picks 17-32

Here’s who falls into the second half of Round 1 in this 7-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft.

17) Los Angeles Chargers: Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia

If the Chargers can’t get Jordan Davis at 17th overall, the next-best thing is getting a 3-technique who can win 1-on-1 in pass-rushing situations. One of the highest-upside interior linemen in the 2022 NFL Draft happens to be Davis’ teammate Devonte Wyatt. The one downside with Wyatt is that he’ll be a 24-year-old rookie. But outside of that, the former Bulldog has all the makings of a standout playmaker in the trenches.

Coming into the NFL Combine at 6’3″, 304 pounds, Wyatt registered a searing 4.77 40-yard dash with a 1.66 10-yard split. He also put up a 29-inch vertical and a 111-inch broad jump. Wyatt’s explosiveness is now quantified, but it was always visible on tape. He gets off the line with wicked quickness, and he also has the violence in his hands to capitalize on displacement. The Chargers still need a nose tackle to eat up blocks, but Wyatt helps provide a high-level pass-rushing presence on the interior.

18) New Orleans Saints: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

Sam Howell only made two out of five free throws during the Eagles’ Combine meeting. That’s a red flag that can be tough to get past. But throwing that aside, Howell is a solid quarterback prospect. He hasn’t commanded consensus appeal because of an up-and-down 2021 season. Nevertheless, Howell’s done well to prove in offseason events that he’s at least worth investing in.

Howell is a solid athlete with a live arm and competitive toughness. And in interviews, he comes across as humble and personable. While neither his arm nor his athleticism is elite, you’re still looking at a passer who could become a top-12 quarterback in the league if he reaches his peak. For the Saints, who are strapped for cap and could stand to reset at QB, investing in Howell could yield major dividends.

19) Philadelphia Eagles: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

Three first-round picks can put a lot of pressure on a franchise. The last time a team had that much capital on Day 1, it didn’t go very well (sorry, Dolphins fans). But there are also plenty of opportunities that come with this situation. For the Eagles, it’s a chance to infuse the roster with blue-chip talent en masse. If they can take advantage, it could be key in reclaiming the NFC East.

With their third first-round pick in this 7-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft, the Eagles select Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean. We don’t have testing numbers for Dean yet, but we don’t need them. On tape, he pops as an explosive, high-motor leader on the Bulldogs’ defense. There have been concerns about his size, but Dean measured in at 229 pounds with his 5’11 1/4″ frame, confirming that he’s dense enough to compete in close quarters. On top of that, he’s an incredibly smart player who can command the Eagles’ defense.

20) Pittsburgh Steelers: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

From a character perspective, this QB class has plenty of appeal. Willis, Pickett, Howell, and Corral have all drawn rave reviews for their interview work. But Desmond Ridder also deserves recognition. He was a vital program leader for his Cincinnati Bearcats, and his personality is infectious at the podium. When asked if he would test and why, Ridder — with just the right amount of charm — said, “Uh … because I’m gonna be great at them.”

And great he was. Ridder ran a blazing 4.49 40-yard dash and also logged a 36-inch vertical and a 127-inch broad jump. Ridder is rough around the edges in several ways, but there’s a lot of moldable clay. He doesn’t have to convince teams he’s perfect. Rather, he only has to convince them he’s worth the investment. If he can kick a few bad mechanical habits and improve his decision-making, Ridder has the physical talent to be an impact starter at QB. A team like Pittsburgh, with a bridge in place, could take that chance.

21) New England Patriots: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

We’ll probably look back in a few years and lament on how we overthought Derek Stingley Jr. That’s just a hunch. It’s easy to be cooler on him. His injury history is at least a little concerning. Additionally, an argument can be made that he didn’t always play with maximum intensity over the past couple of seasons. But at the same time, situation and health have an impact on that.

After a remarkable freshman season, I could see apathy setting in for a young CB, who already knows the NFL is his future. He could’ve been drafted in the early rounds after 2019, so having to wait two years would be understandably deflating. Now that he’s moving on to the NFL, I doubt it’ll be a problem. Stingley has shown, when the stakes are high, he has the traits to tip the odds. His length isn’t elite, but he has the twitchy athleticism, closing speed, loose hips, and playmaking ability to be a blue-chip player.

22) Las Vegas Raiders: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

You don’t normally see offensive tackles taken in Round 1 for the Raiders in mock drafts, but this 7-Round NFL Mock Draft is different. After last year’s first-round experiment (Alex Leatherwood) moved to RG after just a few games, Las Vegas could already be looking for a new starter opposite Kolton Miller. The Raiders shouldn’t force the issue, but they should also be open to playing the board. If a top-tier talent like Charles Cross slips, they should be all over it.

Frequently referred to as one of the “Big Three” in the 2022 NFL Draft tackle class, Cross is arguably a top-10 prospect. He doesn’t have the sheer size of Evan Neal, nor the powerful, road-grading style of Ikem Ekwonu. But there’s a case to be made that Cross is already the best pass protector in this group. He’s incredibly smooth with his pass sets, with eye-popping lateral athleticism as he matches rushers. He has calculated hands, and he’s great at resetting his base and recovering. He’ll need to switch from LT to RT, but the talent is worth the risk.

23) Arizona Cardinals: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

Sadly, we didn’t get a complete RAS from either Washington cornerback at the NFL Combine. But if there was a Washington CB who won the day, it was Trent McDuffie. McDuffie did measure in with smaller arms, just below 30 inches. But he ran a strong 4.44 40-yard dash, mirroring his speed in the open field. We already know he’s as explosive as they come, so achieving that speed was a big box for McDuffie to check.

Going a step further, McDuffie looked great in open-field drills. He was one of the most fluid cornerbacks on the field, and he did a great job keeping his momentum through hip transitions. McDuffie has been compared favorably to Packers stalwart Jaire Alexander. He’s twitchy and fluid, which, combined with his recovery athleticism, makes him incredibly sticky in coverage. He’s also a high-IQ player with solid run support to boot.

24) Dallas Cowboys: Zion Johnson, G, Boston College

The days of endlessly mocking defense to the Dallas Cowboys are done. Dallas’ defense took a step in the right direction in 2022, with additions like Micah Parsons, Osa Odighizuwa, and Jayron Kearse providing boosts at multiple levels. Now, there are questions on the offensive side of the ball. What’s going to happen at wide receiver? Who will replace Connor Williams if he leaves in free agency?

In Round 1 of this 7-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft, the Cowboys can at least answer one of those questions by taking the first guard off the board. Zion Johnson is steadily gaining steam as a legitimate challenger for Kenyon Green’s throne in this interior line class. Johnson put up a 5.18 40-yard dash, a 32-inch vertical, and a 112-inch broad jump at around 6’3″, 314. He also led the class in bench reps with 32. His testing was great, and his tape is even better. Johnson could eventually be an upgrade from Williams.

25) Buffalo Bills: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

Andrew Booth Jr. didn’t test at the 2022 NFL Combine, opting to instead wait for his pro day. It’s a sensible move, and it made even more sensible by the fact that Booth tweaked his hamstring while training for the event in Indianapolis. Even so, without numbers to grapple to, Booth may slip in the eyes of scouts, at least in the immediate timeline. It already seems like the media is higher on him than the NFL.

Even so, I think Booth is a first-round talent. And if he falls to a certain point, a team like Buffalo should absolutely pull the trigger. Booth has one of the best length/athleticism combinations in the early rounds, and he compounds it with strong run support and acrobatic playmaking ability at the catch point. Opposite Tre’Davious White, Booth can help the Bills ensure that “13 seconds” never happens again.

26) Tennessee Titans: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

This pick is predicated on what happens to the Titans’ veteran starter Ben Jones in free agency. If Tennessee refuses to pay the tenured pro, they’ll be stuck with a void at the fulcrum of their line. In this 7-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft, there’s one option at 26th overall that stands out as a result: Tyler Linderbaum.

The Combine didn’t give us a ton of insight on Linderbaum as an athlete. But in truth, we didn’t need it. The tape says more than enough in Linderbaum’s favor. While he’s a bit undersized, he moves very well in the open field, and he has the quickness off the snap to reach contact first. Beyond that, Linderbaum has great natural leverage and core strength, and his physical mindset makes him a worthy investment.

27) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma

The Georgia guys get all the hype, but I think Perrion Winfrey is right with them — or at least Wyatt. It’s difficult to compare anyone to Davis, but Winfrey should be comfortably in the first-round conversation with them. The Oklahoma defender was dominant at the Senior Bowl, and he features an elite physical skill set.

Winfrey didn’t participate in every Combine drill, but he showed enough to strengthen his appeal. In the 40-yard dash, Winfrey ran a 4.86 with a brisk 1.68 10-yard split. All this comes as Winfrey weighed in at 6’4″, 290 pounds, with outrageously long 35 1/4″ arms. Seeing Winfrey’s length and compact, powerful frame in person, he looks like he was made in a lab. He’s tailor-made for the 3-technique role in Tampa Bay’s defense, and he could be an absolute menace next to Vita Vea.

28) Green Bay Packers: Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota

Boye Mafe‘s stock has increased exponentially since the start of the offseason. And all along the way, we’ve been asking ourselves: “Just how high can this guy go?” At this point, you can’t tell me with 100% confidence that he won’t go Round 1. I’m not sure it happens, but I do know this: Mafe is a stellar character off the field. He dominated the Senior Bowl game. And he’s a quantifiably elite athlete. All the ingredients for a first-round ascent are there.

Testing with the linebackers, Mafe earned a RAS of exactly 10. And if you switch him to defensive end, he’d still have a RAS of 9.91. At 6’4″, 261 pounds, Mafe has a torrid 4.53 40-yard dash, a 38-inch vertical, and a 125-inch broad jump. Talent is an important accelerating factor in Mafe’s rise, but team fit could be just as important. The Packers prefer larger edge rushers in the 260-plus range. Not only does Mafe offer that, but he’s an elite athlete who’s only scratching the surface of what he can become.

29) Miami Dolphins (from SF): Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

No, the world is not ending just because Treylon Burks logged a 33-inch vertical and a 123-inch broad jump. Those weren’t the explosiveness numbers many expected from the Arkansas wide receiver. But Burks still earned a solid RAS with his size, and his 4.5 speed should be esteemed for a guy who’s 6’2″, 225 pounds. His 33.5-inch arms also make his profile more appealing.

Burks is a classic example of “trust the tape.” He may not have ever been the generational athlete he was billed to be at times. But there is still a solid size/athleticism combination in tow. Get him the ball in space, and he can explode up the field and make the first defenders miss. Get him downfield as a vertical threat, and he attacks the ball in the air with his long-lever arms. WR might not be the biggest need for Miami, but Burks provides an excellent complement to Jaylen Waddle while compounding the pair’s RAC upside.

30) Kansas City Chiefs: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

Kaiir Elam a first-rounder? Insert “always has been” meme. The Florida cornerback suffered a slight dip in stock after the 2021 season, and he fell under the radar in the lead-up to the NFL Combine. He was frequently playing through injury in 2021, and that prevented him from living up to his Round 1 billing at times. But Elam put any concerns regarding his ceiling to rest at the NFL Combine.

Elam only ran the 40-yard dash. But at 6’1 1/2″, 191 pounds, with 31-inch arms, he logged a stellar time of 4.39. Elam also looked fairly smooth in the drills he partook in. His fluidity for his size has always been eye-popping. And now that he’s healthy, that’s not changing. The Chiefs don’t just need a new chess piece if Tyrann Mathieu leaves, but they also need help on the boundary. Elam can shut down his side opposite L’Jarius Sneed.

31) Cincinnati Bengals: Sean Rhyan, G, UCLA

If the value is there, the strategy remains finding the best offensive lineman available for the Bengals. Protecting Joe Burrow is of the utmost importance, and the Bengals have the best chance of doing that effectively if they use Round 1 capital. In this 7-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft, Sean Rhyan is the choice.

Rhyan played tackle in college but projects best at guard in the NFL with his lacking arm length. Having said that, you could argue arm length is one of the only things he lacks. He has everything else. Rhyan is physical, strong, well-balanced, and very athletic as well. He paced the class with a 33.5-inch vertical, and that metric shows up on tape when he’s exploding off the line.

32) Detroit Lions (from LAR): George Pickens, WR, Georgia

This match has been gaining steam in recent weeks, as George Pickens reestablishes himself as a legitimate first-round option in the 2022 NFL Draft. The NFL Combine was a big checkpoint for Pickens, who needed to reemphasize his athletic talent after coming back from an ACL tear. He most certainly accomplished that.

Measuring in around 6’3″, 195 pounds with arms over 32 inches, Pickens ran a 4.47 40-yard dash. He also logged a 33-inch vertical, and he has a 125-inch broad jump in the 84th percentile. Pickens is a playmaker with excellent body control and ball-tracking ability downfield. But he’s not just a contested-catch threat. He has enough speed to extend spaces, and he also flashes impressive hip sink and twitch as a route runner for his size. Throw in his tenacious blocking attitude, and Pickens looks like a Lion.

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