2022 NFL Mock Draft | Picks 17-32
Here’s who closes out the first round of our November 7-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft. Several more receivers of varying styles go in this range, while a slew of offensive line prospects find their new homes.
17) Cincinnati Bengals: Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
The Bengals are so close to being good, it’s painful. But at the same time, they feel farther away than they did three weeks ago. Consecutive losses to the Jets and Browns will make that happen. Defensively, there are issues to discuss, but the offensive line still isn’t great, either. It’s a position that’s been neglected time and time again by Cincinnati, so it feels right to start there.
At 17th overall in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, Kenyon Green feels like a steal. He’s not the longest player, but the 6’4″, 325-pound blocker has great athleticism, balance, and power capacity. He also has the versatility to play all across the line if needed. The Bengals, however, would do best to keep him at guard. That’s where his best play ultimately comes from.
18) Las Vegas Raiders: DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
The Raiders’ pass-rushing unit was projected to be a potential weakness in 2021 — largely because of the team’s lack of talent on the interior. Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue have been exceptional. The bigger surprise, however, might be Solomon Thomas’ career revival beside them. That said, while Thomas has improved, the interior line is still a thin unit with little flexibility. In a pass-oriented NFL, that can’t remain the case for long.
In this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, the Raiders get one of their most popular matches from earlier in the year. Since Las Vegas has moved down the board, DeMarvin Leal isn’t often available in mock drafts. Here, however, he is. At 6’4″, 290 pounds, Leal has the size and length to handle the interior. But he’s athletic enough to rush from all across the front. Leal’s presence only makes Las Vegas’ pass rush more potent.
19) Carolina Panthers: Ikem Ekwonu, OL, NC State
Cam Newton is back. And while it’s relatively unlikely that he reinstates himself as Carolina’s franchise quarterback, crazier things have happened. If Carolina manages to ride Newton’s return to a Wild Card berth, it may be prudent to pass on QB in the underwhelming 2022 class. Going further, the offensive line should be Carolina’s primary focus.
Ikem Ekwonu is one of the fastest-rising blockers on the 2022 NFL Draft circuit. Here at PFN, we’ve always been fans of his athletic profile, his length, and his relentless mauler mentality. But he’s taken strides with his hand usage this year and has officially solidified himself as a potential first-round pick. His versatility to play either tackle or guard is an added bonus — but he belongs on the blindside for Carolina.
20) Los Angeles Chargers: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
The Chargers’ defense is one of the league’s most exciting units. There’s an immense amount of talent in tow, and Brandon Staley has already distinguished himself as one of the league’s premier defensive minds. However, while Los Angeles’ defense is strong, there’s still room for more talent, particularly on the line. They need a couple of 3-4 ends, but also a nose tackle who can keep guys clean and disrupt on his own.
At the 20th pick in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, Jordan Davis makes a ton of sense. Davis is a top-10 player on my board, but scheme fit could potentially push him down the board a bit. In this case, he winds up in what might be the best spot for him. With Linval Joseph set to be a free agent, Davis could slide in immediately as LA’s nose. In that position, his alien combination of 6’6″, 340-pound size and incredible athleticism would be deadly for offenses looking to minimize mismatches.
21) New Orleans Saints: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
It’s no secret that the New Orleans Saints need new talent at the wide receiver position. Quarterback is also an area of concern in the future, but with so much WR talent left on the board, the opportunity is too tempting to ignore. With their first pick in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, the Saints take Penn State star receiver Jahan Dotson.
Dotson is one of my favorite receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft, mainly because he fits the definition of a three-level threat particularly well. Dotson can separate with his quick twitch and smooth route-running ability. He can make plays at the catch point with his elite vertical athleticism and strong hands. And he can earn yards after the catch with his high-level explosiveness, long speed, and lateral agility.
22) Kansas City Chiefs: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
The Chiefs’ secondary has been up and down this year — and in truth, for years on end. They may be starting to stabilize after allowing just 38 total points in their last three games. Nevertheless, with several free agents in its DB room, Kansas City should be prepared to acquire new talent. When that new talent is Kaiir Elam, it’s a definite win.
Earlier in the summer, Elam was a contender for the CB1 mantle in my eyes. He’s since leveled out in the top five, but that’s by no means a bad thing in this CB class. Elam is one of the best cornerbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft. He might not be quite as explosive as Booth, Stingley, or Gordon — but he’s outrageously fluid for his 6’2″ frame, and he brings great competitive toughness and ball skills as well.
23) Pittsburgh Steelers: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Sauce. Dinner. Towels. David Harbour. This seems like the setup for a Tide commercial, but it isn’t. Rather, it’s an image — of Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner eating opposing receivers for dinner while Steelers fans wave Terrible Towels in jubilation. The Steelers need to upgrade their cornerback room, and it’s hard to do better than Sauce at this point.
At 6’2″, 188 pounds, Gardner provides the size and length Pittsburgh covets at cornerback. More than that, though, Gardner has good fluidity and efficiency of motion. He’s also fairly explosive, and he has great on-field awareness. He’s an instinctive cornerback on top of his physical traits. That’s one reason why he hasn’t allowed a single touchdown in his three-year starting career.
24) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
When healthy, Tampa Bay has one of the most athletic defenses in the league. Specifically in their secondary, there are a lot of high-level athletes who can match any receiver that comes their way. We’re continuing with the theme of athleticism in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft by adding a potential chess piece in Daxton Hill from Michigan.
Hill is one of the most exciting players in the 2022 NFL Draft, no cap. The Michigan defensive back had a 4.3 40-yard dash and a 43.6-inch vertical out of high school. That athleticism is simply uncommon, and it shows up on tape. Hill closes ground in an instant, and he flips his hips with ease. He can line up almost anywhere — two-high, single-high, or the slot — and his versatility would be invaluable for the Buccaneers’ secondary.
25) New England Patriots: Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State
Adrian Phillips has been phenomenal this year for the Patriots, but teams can never have enough defensive back talent. And that goes double for New England. Versatility is such an important part of Bill Belichick’s defense that new pieces constantly circulate on and off his rosters. One guy that should be there to stay, however, is Jaquan Brisker.
Brisker is a long, playmaking safety at 6’1″, 204 pounds. He’s been tremendous for Penn State this year, with 48 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, and 4 deflections. Brisker is clearly athletic, possessing exciting burst and top-end speed. But he’s also rangy and versatile — something that would endear him in Foxborough. He’d be a terrific complement to Kyle Dugger, giving the Patriots a dangerous duo on the back end.
26) Baltimore Ravens: Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State
Over the past year, the Ravens have been obliterated at offensive tackle. Ronnie Stanley has played just seven games over the past two seasons and had season-ending ankle surgery in October. Meanwhile, Alejandro Villanueva has not inspired confidence at either tackle spot.
The Ravens have a lot of depth and versatility, but it’s time to get another high-level talent in the tackle rotation. Nicholas Petit-Frere fits that description perfectly. The Ohio State product has a long 6’5″, 315-pound frame. He’s incredibly mobile in space, and he’s violent off the snap in pass protection. He can be a more efficient mover in pass protection at times, but he has all the tools to be a stud for a long time.
27) Detroit Lions: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
If you’ve seen Jared Goff play this year, you know one of the Lions’ first-round picks almost has to be a quarterback. But that pressure yields questions. Is there a quarterback worth picking first overall? And if they bypass that option, will there be a quarterback worth picking closer to the Round 2 boundary? In my opinion, Kenny Pickett could be worth the pick — on a condition.
There is uncertainty with Pickett, but you gotta hand it to the Pittsburgh passer — he’s arguably been the best QB in college football this year. Not only does Pickett have the production, but he also has good traits. He’s athletic and proficient off-script. He has an elastic arm with decent strength and can make throws off-platform. And he’s also a tough, smart player with a high mental floor. His hand size is the biggest concern, but if Pickett can prove it’s not an issue this offseason, he could earn a spot in Round 1.
28) Dallas Cowboys: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
It’s a bit unorthodox for the Cowboys, but we’re going away from defense in the first round of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. The time has come for the Cowboys to assess the future at the offensive tackle position. When he’s healthy, Tyron Smith is still a maniac. But that health is holding up less and less often. Terence Steele is a good backup but limited as a starter, and La’el Collins has had a strange 2021 in light of his earlier suspension.
The future is uncertain for the Cowboys’ line — uncertain enough to use early-round capital on the unit, especially when the protection of MVP candidate Dak Prescott is at stake. Charles Cross, in that light, fits well here. Cross is one of the most athletic tackles in this class. He’s a bit wiry, but he has a strong lower body and impressive hand usage for his age. In time, he could carry the torch at one of the Cowboys’ tackle spots.
29) Buffalo Bills: Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State
A running back isn’t going to fix all the Bills’ problems. Sean McDermott’s squad has been startlingly inconsistent this year. But Buffalo is still at a point where they can afford to spend on luxury. And Kenneth Walker III is about as close to making running backs matter as you can get.
So far this year, Walker has 228 carries for 1,483 yards and 17 touchdowns. He is the lifeblood of the Michigan State offense, and he brings a rare skill set as a runner. His natural balance is elite, and he also has great physicality, explosiveness, and instincts. Walker can create for himself better than any RB in this class, and he’s also flashed upside as a receiver. All the tools are there for him to be a dangerous threat in Buffalo.
30) Arizona Cardinals: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
Arizona’s offensive line hasn’t been bad this year, but there’s clear room to upgrade at multiple spots. Kelvin Beachum is a merely average player at right tackle, and D.J. Humphries will be a free agent in 2023. Arizona’s scoring offense is its most dangerous element as a team, and maintaining the line is imperative in protecting that function.
In the first round of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, the Cardinals settle on Northern Iowa tackle Trevor Penning. He still has some room for refinement, but he’s athletic, and there might not be a meaner tackle in the 2022 NFL Draft. Penning is a literal giant with a giant attitude problem (that he takes out on defensive linemen every chance he gets).
31) Tennessee Titans: Ainias Smith, WR, Texas A&M
On paper, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones form a duo that can provide some utility for years on end. But the Titans need more weapons aside from that tandem. If there’s one player who can take a Kadarius Toney-like rise this year and break into Round 1 with his athletic testing numbers, it’s Texas A&M’s Ainias Smith.
It’s worth noting that Smith doesn’t quite have the production Toney had in his final season. That said, Smith has proven receiving ability. He’s great when he has schemed separation, but he can also separate on his own with sharp, deceptive routes. At the same time, he’s an elite run-after-catch threat who can line up anywhere and everywhere. Smith’s testing will skyrocket his stock; he’s one of the twitchiest athletes in this class.
32) Green Bay Packers: David Bell, WR, Purdue
There’s a chance Davante Adams leaves Green Bay this offseason. And Green Bay’s receiving corps without Adams is not a pretty sight. Assuming Jordan Love officially takes the reigns from Aaron Rodgers at quarterback in 2022, replenishing his weapons should be of the utmost importance for Green Bay’s front office. No one can replace Adams, but David Bell might eventually come close.
In Bell, the Packers would immediately add a new alpha in their receiving corps. Bell has dominated production at Purdue since his freshman season. He’s likely not an elite athlete, but he has a solid floor there. On top of that, he has good size at 6’2″, 205 pounds, and he’s excellent in the finer parts of the game. Bell has some of the best contested-catch ability in the class, and he also has some run-after-catch utility.