2022 NFL Mock Draft: Can Rattler put the bite back into the Detroit Lions?

In the famous words of Bill Belichick, “we’re on to Cincinnati.” However, rather than Cincinnati, we’re on to Las Vegas for the 2022 NFL Draft. Do you want an extremely early look at who your favorite team could be targeting next year? Find out with our 2022 NFL Mock Draft!

2022 NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-16

The team order is according to Vegas odds. Thus, feel free to take it up with them if you’re unhappy with where we have your team picking. Selections in this 2022 NFL Draft Mock Draft have been made with consideration to two factors. Firstly, any major needs not addressed during this year’s draft. Secondly, any potential free agency losses at the end of the 2021 NFL season.

1. Detroit Lions: Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma

With the selection of Penei Sewell last month, the Detroit Lions have created the perfect environment to bring a rookie quarterback into. If they’re selecting first overall in the 2022 NFL Draft, as they do in this mock, then it’s fair to say that Jared Goff hasn’t been a success story.

They were heavily linked with quarterbacks in the previous class, and here they strike for Oklahoma signal-caller Spencer Rattler. Rattler possesses an excellent arm and has demonstrated impressive mobility. Furthermore, after a shaky start to last season, his decision-making improved consistently through the end of the year.

If he continues that progression, he can easily eclipse Sam Howell as the first quarterback chosen.

2. Houston Texans: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

There is so much uncertainty around the Houston Texans organization that it makes them the ultimate wildcard for this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. Their quarterback situation means that there is potential for them to be in the market for a passer. If that is to be the case, look for Sam Howell to be the second quarterback off the board.

Still, let’s pretend that Davis Mills showcases enough promise in his limited playing time to convince the Texans that he can be the face of the franchise. What then? Well, they take the best player in the entire class in Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux. Calling him a pass rusher is an incredible disservice to his ability to impact all areas of the game.

Explosive, powerful, and agile, Thibodeaux provides the game-wrecking threat that was once J.J. Watt’s domain in Houston. He would also mitigate the potential loss in free agency of Whitney Mercilus.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

If Jacksonville Jaguars fans think that Trevor Lawrence will miraculously transform this team from worst to first, then they’re sadly deluded. As the old saying goes, “one swallow does not make a summer.” They’ll presumably be making an early selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Protecting their investment in Lawrence should be a priority next April. It was a surprise to me that they waited until Round 3 this year to draft an offensive tackle, especially given the fact they could see left tackle Cam Robinson walk out the door next year. Time will tell if Walker Little can live up to his potential in the NFL, but he presents more risk than other options they could have selected.

For that reason, I have them selecting Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal. The 6-foot-7, 360-pound offensive lineman has impressive movement skills for his size. He also possesses a mauler mentality in the run game and displays an excellent ability to mirror pass rushers. Neal has played across the line for Alabama, adding versatility to his desirable attributes.

4. Philadelphia Eagles: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

At present, the Philadelphia Eagles have both starting safeties and both starting defensive ends on expired contracts following the end of the 2021 NFL season. It seems unlikely that they put pen to paper on all of them, creating a potential need at one, if not both positions. Additionally, if they’re picking at No. 4 next year, it’s safe to assume that quarterback will be a need.

With the above in mind, they use this selection in my 2022 NFL Mock Draft to find a leader in the secondary. As good an all-round safety as you’re going to find, Kyle Hamilton’s athletic ability ensures he’s adept in coverage. Meanwhile, he contains the tenacity to mix it up in the box.

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

As someone adamantly against the Cincinnati Bengals selecting Ja’Marr Chase over Sewell, I can’t believe that I’m allowing them to neglect the offensive line with their first-round pick once again. Yet, unlike last year, they’re not going to be in a position to take the best offensive tackle on the market. Moreover, this spot feels too early to take the next best talent at the position.

Instead, the Bengals fall on their feet and land the best cornerback prospect in the class. They lack depth and talent at the position, and Derek Stingley Jr. has buckets full of the latter.

Stingley was simply outstanding as a freshman, with a combination of insane athleticism and playmaking skills on the back end. Given his potential to play both sides of the ball for LSU, he is the most likely candidate for the first defensive winner of the Heisman Trophy since Charles Woodson.

6. New York Jets: Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC

The New York Jets’ addition of Carl Lawson in free agency was indicative of their need to find a productive edge rusher. They also selected Hamilcar Rashed Jr. in this year’s draft, further evidencing the need at the position. Vinny Curry will be 34 at the start of the 2022 NFL season, so there is a clear urgency required in securing someone to play at the opposite end to Lawson on the defensive line.

Drake Jackson has proven to be an impactful and versatile pass rusher for USC. He demonstrated his ability early in his Trojans’ career, leading USC in tackles for loss as a true freshman. Jackson has the size to play full-time defensive end while containing the movement skills and ability to bend off the edge to make him a dangerous pass-rush threat in the NFL.

7. New York Giants: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

Although this quarterback class isn’t held in as high regard as last year’s intake at the position, don’t rule out an early run on signal-callers. Multiple teams opted to give their current starter the luxury of another year to prove themselves. This time next year, however, those teams could find themselves in a situation where they want to reset at the position.

The first of those is the New York Giants. Per Vegas odds, the Giants are currently slated to select at pick seven. If that is where they end up picking next April, it could be game over for Daniel Jones in the Big Apple. The Giants surrounded him with playmakers this offseason, so there are no more excuses.

In this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, they replace him with North Carolina’s Sam Howell. The productive college passer has a strong arm and can create plays with his legs, almost a mandatory requirement for a modern-day NFL quarterback. Howell needs to show some consistency this season, while his performances with a depleted supporting cast could make or break his draft stock.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

The Atlanta Falcons were considered a firm favorite to land a quarterback this year as their heir apparent to Matt Ryan. Nonetheless, rather than put pressure on the former Boston College product, they opted to surround him with more talent in the form of Kyle Pitts. Despite this, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them address the quarterback position if they’re selecting in the top 10 again next year.

Everyone is looking for the following year’s version of Zach Wilson — a quarterback who enters the process as a virtual unknown but ascends at a phenomenal rate. Next year, it could be Liberty’s Malik Willis, and the Falcons land him at No. 8 in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft.

Willis has garnered attention early in the process, so he’s possibly starting with a higher public perception than Wilson last year. He has an incredible arm and is the most impressive rushing quarterback in the class. There are, of course, areas for improvement. If he demonstrates continued development throughout this season, there’s no reason he can’t land in the first round.

9. Denver Broncos: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

Do the Denver Broncos believe that Drew Lock is the key to offensive success? Their alleged interest in a trade for Aaron Rodgers coupled with their reported interest in selecting a quarterback this year would suggest not.

Lock has an array of offensive weapons at his disposal which leaves very little room for excuses. Like the Giants and Falcons before them, the Broncos’ projection as a team picking in the top 10 again likely puts them into the quarterback market.

In this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, they don’t let a passer pass them by for the second straight season and select Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder. At 6-foot-4, Ridder has prototypical pocket passer size but combines it with impressive ability to extend and create plays outside of the pocket with his legs. Ridder has a good arm, although he needs to demonstrate some development from an accuracy perspective this coming season.

10. New York Giants (from Chicago): Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M

Having secured their quarterback of the future earlier in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, the Giants make moves to address their offensive line with the second of their first-round picks. The interior is particularly lacking in-depth, and there is the potential that Will Hernandez hits the open market at the end of the season.

Even at this early stage in the process, Kenyon Green is the consensus best guard prospect in the class. Green has played both left and right sides, showcasing versatility.

That could be further enhanced through this season with the expectation that Green may play left tackle for Texas A&M this season. Big bodied, robust, and with impressive mobility for his size, Green would give the Giants a mauler in the ground game and protection upfront for their new starting quarterback.

11. Washington Football Team: Kedon Slovis, QB, USC

As much as it’s fun to imagine that Ryan Fitzpatrick can continue providing Fitzmagic for years to come, the practicality is that he is just a placeholder for the Washington Football Team. Another team that was heavily linked to the quarterback arms race in this year’s draft, Washington ultimately came away without a new face of the franchise.

Kedon Slovis faces a critical 2021 college football season for USC. Incredibly impressive as a freshman, he threw for over 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns while demonstrating excellent accuracy. A sophomore slump, however, that was further hindered by a shoulder injury has muddied his draft projection. If Slovis returns to his 2019 form in the coming season, he can establish himself as one of the top quarterbacks in this class.

12. Las Vegas Raiders: DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M

Having released Maurice Hurst, defensive tackle was seen as a need for the Las Vegas Raiders. Although they added Darius Stills as an undrafted free agent, they’ll be faced with Quinton Jefferson and Johnathan Hankins being at the end of their contracts. For a team that has struggled to rush the passer with consistency, the Raiders need to get better up front.

That’s where Texas A&M defensive tackle DeMarvin Leal comes in. The former five-star defensive end prospect is an explosive game wrecker on the defensive line. He’s extremely athletic in his 6-foot-4 and 290-pound frame and combines excellent movement with an array of pass-rush moves to be a dominant force. Due to the run on quarterbacks, the Raiders get a steal with the sixth overall player on our early 2022 big board.

13. Carolina Panthers: Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State

The Carolina Panthers seem more focused on surrounding Sam Darnold with talent than finding a long-term replacement.  Therefore, the best move that the Panthers can make in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft is to continue to develop the offensive line. Despite adding Brady Christensen this year, they could lose Taylor Moton after this season.

Regardless of whether Moton stays or Christensen outplays his draft position, Penn State’s Rasheed Walker upgrades their offensive line room. He offers prototypical NFL size at the position while playing with a nasty streak. Strong, mobile, and intelligent, Walker was considered a potential first-round pick this year. With another year of playing experience, he could be even more highly sought after in a less impressive class.

14. Minnesota Vikings: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

Although it feels like the Minnesota Vikings are constantly trying to find a pass rusher in the NFL Draft, there are more pressing matters to attend to in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. There is great uncertainty still hanging over the future of Jeff Gladney. They traded Mike Hughes to the Kansas City Chiefs, and Patrick Peterson isn’t getting any younger.

They need to add another playmaker at cornerback, and in Florida’s Kaiir Elam, they land an under-the-radar early first-round talent. Elam combines fluidity, ball skills, and prototypical NFL size at the position to be a true playmaker for the defense.

15. Arizona Cardinals: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

Although it seems likely that the Arizona Cardinals will extend pass rusher Chandler Jones’ contract beyond its current expiration at the end of the season, it’s worth noting that their main pass-rush threat comes from two players who are into their 30s. They did add Victor Dimukeje late in this year’s draft, but they’d still be wise to invest in star talent while it’s available.

Injury may have marred his 2020 college football campaign, but Purdue’s George Karlaftis demonstrated his destructive defensive capability as a true freshman in 2019. Productive, powerful, and with plenty of pass-rush moves, he’s the sort of impact player the Cardinals need when they face Trey Lance and Russell Wilson twice a season.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

The Pittsburgh Steelers could be in the market for a quarterback this time next year. However, in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, they miss out on the best available at the position. Nevertheless, they’ve also got some decisions to make with several high-profile players due for contract extensions at the end of the season. They could be in the market for a guard, cornerback, or even outside linebacker help by next April.

Offensive line factors to be a considerable need, despite adding Texas A&M tackle Dan Moore and Illinois center Kendrick Green. In Mississippi State offensive tackle Charles Cross, they get one of the best tackles in the class. He isn’t discussed much yet, but Cross has size, length, athleticism, and impressive technical skills for only a redshirt sophomore in 2020.

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