2022 First Round NFL Mock Draft: Matt Corral, Sam Howell, and Kenny Pickett battle for QB1

The playoff picture is crystalizing for some, while others are dreaming of the 2022 NFL Draft -- which prospects go in this first-round mock?

With just four weeks of the season remaining, this 2022 NFL Mock Draft will explore team and player fits in the first round. Which players might teams be targeting as the 2022 NFL Draft order begins to crystalize more and more each week?

You’re about to read a completely enthralling 2022 NFL Mock Draft courtesy of PFN’s Draft Team. Want to go beyond reading and do one of your own? Take a spin on PFN’s free Mock Draft Simulator.

2022 NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-16

The very top of the top-end talent in this year’s draft class is all on the defensive side of the ball, so it makes sense that defensive players go 1-2-3-4. But that’s not to say the first round is bereft of playmakers. Teams just need to be patient and not force them up the board.

Jared Goff, Taylor Heinicke, and Matt Ryan combined to complete 58.7% of their passes for 5.7 yards per attempt, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions in Week 14. It’s little surprise, then, that the Detroit Lions, Washington Football Team, and Atlanta Falcons seek out their replacements in April’s NFL Draft — or at least they do in PFN’s latest 2022 NFL Mock Draft.

1) Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

The Lions rank 31st in sacks per game (1.5) and are near the bottom in pass-rush win rate. They of course need a quarterback too, but they’d be foolish to take one here. We’ll never again see Kayvon Thibodeaux in a Ducks uniform, but he should look great in Lions blue and gray. Detroit hasn’t had a Pro Bowl EDGE since Ziggy Ansah in 2015. Thibodeaux, who has the perfect combination of size, speed, and length, should end that drought.

2) Jacksonville Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

Aidan Hutchinson could have gone first overall, so the Jaguars landing him at No. 2 is just fine. Only five teams have averaged fewer sacks per game than Jacksonville (1.8), and Hutchinson should immediately change that. He received more Heisman votes than any player not named Bryce Young.

Hutchinson won nearly every defensive award imaginable in 2021 — the Lombardi, the Ted Hendricks, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and more. His decision to come back for a final year was a stroke of genius. He made himself a ton of money and is now playing in the College Football Playoff.

3) Houston Texans: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

Three picks in and it’s all chalk. Texans general manager Nick Caserio goes with safety over corner and pass rusher, taking the talented Irish underclassman who hasn’t played since October 23 with what then-Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly called a “pinched fat pad.”

Kyle Hamilton, like Thibodeaux, believes there’s little to gain from playing in a bowl game. His college career will end after just 27 games, but he made the most of his limited playing time. Hamilton’s measurables (6’4″, 219 pounds) and elite tape will be more than enough to make him the first safety selected in the top 10 since 2017.

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

The Jets have a defensive-minded coach but cannot play defense — at least, at any level approaching what’s needed in the NFL. The Jets rank last in defensive expected points added (EPA) per dropback, and personnel is a big reason why. They just gave up 30 points to Taysom Hill and the limited Saints while starting the likes of Bryce Hall and Brandin Echols at corner. So Andrew Booth Jr. — a junior with great ball skills who was first-team All-ACC in 2021 — would be a Day 1 starter.

5) New York Giants (from Chicago): Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

The first offensive player to come off the board is a guy who will likely never touch the ball. And that’s OK because the Giants’ offensive line is a mess. New York is in the bottom 10 of pass-block win rate, and right tackle Nate Solder likely won’t be back. Evan Neal plays on the left side — same as Andrew Thomas — so that’ll need to be figured out. But Neal has the size (6’7″, 360 pounds) and range to be an excellent NFL right tackle. Neal comes in at No. 2 on our Big Board, so this is excellent value for New York.

6) New York Giants: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

The run on pass rushers continues with George Karlaftis the third to go in the draft’s first hour. Still just 20 years old, Karlaftis will be one of the youngest players in this year’s draft. But this Athens, Greece, native has the physical gifts and the game to go in the top 10.

Karlaftis tallied 14 sacks and 29 tackles for loss in 26 games at Purdue, and he should help a Giants pass rush that ranks near the bottom in the league in win rate. New York hasn’t taken an EDGE in the first round since 2010, and it shows.

7) Atlanta Falcons (from Seattle via NY Jets): Matt Corral, QB, Mississippi

Seven selections in, we finally have our first draft-day trade — and it makes sense that it comes here. It would be malpractice to take a quarterback any higher than this point, and the Falcons were smart to wait. They surrendered this year’s third and next year’s second to move up two spots — a high price, to be sure — but one that they won’t regret if Matt Corral (57 touchdowns, 22 interceptions) can fulfill his huge potential.

8) Carolina Panthers: Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M

Kenyon Green, a two-time All-American, dominates with strength and leverage and would bring toughness to a Panthers team that ranks 26th in yards per carry (4.0) and 23rd in sack rate (7.2%). Green played every position but center for the Aggies in 2021, but he makes the most sense as a guard in the NFL.

9) New York Jets (from Atlanta): Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

Zach Wilson needs grooming. But he also needs help. Jets receivers have dropped the fifth-most passes in 2021 and aren’t particularly great after the catch. Chris Olave, who runs a sub-4.4 and is one of the most dependable pass catchers in college football, would help with that. A receiving corps of Olave, Elijah Moore, and Corey Davis would be dangerous.

10) Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami): Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

The Eagles are OK at cornerback but far from great. They’re 18th in defensive EPA per dropback (0.08) and 24th in passer rating against (97.6). So Derek Stingley Jr. — who played in just three games this year after undergoing left foot surgery — at No. 10 might be too much value to pass up, particularly with back-to-back first-round picks.

11) Philadelphia Eagles: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

With all due respect to Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison, Jameson Williams had the most impressive season of any collegiate wide receiver. He completely took over the SEC title game, roasting Georgia for 184 yards and 2 touchdowns on 7 catches. Williams and fellow Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith never played together in Tuscaloosa. We’d love to see them play together in Philly.

12) Minnesota Vikings: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

Tyler Linderbaum is a 21st-century center — athletic, light on his feet, and explosive. Expect the Vikings to get him moving after ranking 25th through 13 weeks in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards. Garrett Bradbury is entering the final year of his contract, and Linderbaum would be an excellent replacement.

13) New Orleans Saints: DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M

The Aggies’ defense was fierce in 2021, and DeMarvin Leal was its anchor. Leal, named a 2021 AP All-American, had always been a handful in the trenches. But he became much more of a playmaker (8.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss) this season than in years past. Saints defensive tackle Shy Tuttle is a free agent after this season, and New Orleans is more than $50 million over the cap.

14) Las Vegas Raiders: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

Quarterback was certainly a consideration here, but is anyone left on the board better than Derek Carr, who will make just $19.5 million in 2022? The Raiders’ offense wasn’t the same after Henry Ruggs’ tragic accident, and while Garrett Wilson isn’t a burner, he has averaged a ridiculous 15.5 yards per catch in his three years at Ohio State.

15) Pittsburgh Steelers: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

Another team that should think about taking a quarterback, particularly if Ben Roethlisberger’s successor isn’t found in free agency or via a trade. But we went with cornerback Kaiir Elam here because the value was right, and Pittsburgh’s defense (27th in yards per play, 24th in EPA per play) is as much of a mess as its offense.

16) Denver Broncos: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

We can hear the screaming coming all the way from the Rockies: “WHAAAAT???” Yes, quarterback is the logical play here, but this pick assumes the Broncos address the position in March so they don’t have to in April (Russell Wilson, anyone?). Devin Lloyd is a three-down linebacker who is much improved in the passing game.

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