4-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft: Pittsburgh Steelers shoot up the board to snag Malik Willis

Trades drive the quarterback market as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons find their future QB in this 2022 4-Round NFL Mock Draft.

4-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft: Pittsburgh Steelers shoot up the board to snag Malik Willis

With less than four weeks until Roger Goodell puts the Jacksonville Jaguars on the clock, it’s time for a final 4-Round NFL Mock Draft of the 2022 cycle. There are many philosophies behind compiling a mock, much like there are in the NFL Draft itself.

Do you draft for need? Do you take the best player available? With a mock draft, there’s also the element of whether you pick by what you would do, what you think a team will do, or even what you hear a team might do. The final attempt of this cycle encompasses all and also includes trades.

2022 4-Round NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-16

Once considered an impossibility, two quarterbacks fly off the board within the first 10 picks of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. Meanwhile, EDGE prospects dominate the early selections.

1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia

On the clock with the first overall pick for the second consecutive season, there’s a multitude of directions the Jaguars could take here. Taking Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal would be the smart move. Plug him in at right tackle in Year 1, and slide him across to left tackle when Cam Robinson departs in 2023. Protecting Trevor Lawrence has to be the main priority.

Despite this, finding an EDGE to plug in across from Josh Allen has been the focus of a lot of attention through this cycle. Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson has been the favorite to land in Jacksonville with the first overall selection.

However, Pro Football Network Chief NFL Draft Analyst Tony Pauline reported last week that there could be a surprise choice in Georgia’s Travon Walker. Walker certainly be a surprise for many. Yet, there’s definitely some allure with the standout Bulldogs prospect.

Walker has the versatility to line up as a 4-3 DE, 3-4 OLB, and has the frame to support a move inside. He posted insane athletic numbers at the NFL Combine, quantifying what was apparent on tape. The college production has been modest, but the upside is tantalizing.

2) Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

If the Jaguars pass on Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, don’t expect the Detroit Lions to do the same. The Michigan defensive end prospect epitomizes what Dan Campbell wants his Lions to look like. Hard-working, powerful, and coming off the back of an explosively productive final season in Ann Arbor, Hutchinson can be the answer to the Lions’ pass-rush problems.

The first two selections in the 2022 NFL Draft have the potential to dictate and transform the entire first round. It’s thought that if the Jaguars were to select Hutchinson first overall, there’s a legitimate chance that the Lions strike for Malik Willis to be their long-term face of the franchise. However, the Liberty QB remains on the board in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft.

3) Houston Texans: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

Having traded Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns, the Houston Texans are in a position to substantially overhaul their roster. With 11 picks, they have amongst the most capital to play with. Don’t expect them to use any of that to find a replacement for Watson. Instead, they’re likely to surround Davis Mills with the support he needs to succeed.

That starts with the acquisition of Alabama OT Evan Neal in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. Pairing Neal with Laremy Tunsil should provide Mills with a solid pocket to play from. The Alabama OT has alluring size and length for an NFL tackle. He’s also an explosive athlete who can get out ahead of the ground game, in addition to his protection prowess.

4) New York Jets: Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE, Florida State

The New York Jets are a team with two handfuls of picks but also a roster brimming with needs. Their free agency moves might have changed the order of those needs, but there’s definitely still plenty to hit in the 2022 NFL Draft. With one of the lowest pressure rates in the NFL last season, finding a starting defensive end figures to be one of the biggest.

Jermaine Johnson II‘s ascension in this class reaches its peak with the fourth overall selection in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. There might not be a more complete prospect on the defensive line. Johnson has scheme versatility, plays with exceptional power, and comes fully loaded with an arsenal of pass-rush weaponry. Furthermore, his ability to set the edge in the run game is a joy to behold.

5) Pittsburgh Steelers (from NYG): Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

Projected Trade: Pittsburgh Steelers send the 20th and 52nd picks plus their first- and second-round selections in 2023 to the New York Giants in exchange for the fifth overall selection.

Here. We. Go! As Malik Willis has risen throughout the pre-draft process, there has been one team that has been with him every step of the way. There have been multiple meetings between Willis and key components of the Steelers’ organization, including the infamous chicken wing dinner with Mike Tomlin that left the Liberty QB grinning from ear to ear.

Having traded with the Giants, Pittsburgh pounces for their Ben Roethlisberger replacement. Willis gives the Steelers a big-armed quarterback with game-changing creativity on the ground. The recent signing of Mitchell Trubisky means Willis doesn’t need to start immediately, removing pressure and allowing him the time that he’ll need to develop.

6) Carolina Panthers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

While the Steelers have been closely linked to Willis, there wasn’t anyone closer than Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule to quarterback Kenny Pickett during the Pittsburgh Pro Day. With a pre-existing relationship from Rhule’s tenure at Temple, it would appear that Pickett swapping one Panthers team for another is a very realistic possibility.

Would this be the pick that I’d make? No. The Carolina offensive line needs significant work, and ideally, you wouldn’t thrust a rookie quarterback behind it. However, Rhule’s seat is hotter than a Florida summer. Neither Sam Darnold nor P.J. Walker is likely to help with that situation. Pickett is a solid all-around prospect that should help relieve some of the pressure on Rhule, especially if he can replicate the single-season success he enjoyed this year.

7) New York Giants (from CHI): Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

Having traded the fifth overall pick to the Steelers, the Giants make their move with the seventh pick in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. Brian Daboll isn’t likely to move on from Daniel Jones this year. If he is to fairly assess whether Jones is the long-term future of the franchise, making sure his offensive line is substantially better will be a key focus.

Mississippi State offensive tackle Charles Cross is the addition that moves the needle in that regard. An athletic offensive tackle whose slender frame belies a strength and nastiness, Cross is an experienced pass protector. Meanwhile, he’s showcased savagery as a run blocker. A left tackle by trade, the Mississippi State lineman took reps at right tackle during his pro day. He can be a Day 1 starter opposite Andrew Thomas.

8) Atlanta Falcons: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

Kayvon Thibodeaux is my second overall rated player in this class. Let’s get that out the way immediately. Having studied the Oregon defensive prospect for three years, he’s an insanely explosive pass rusher who possesses the length to be combative at the point of attack. Thibodeaux is also equally adept at getting to the quarterback or stopping the run.

That said, I’m not an NFL scout. I don’t work for an NFL team. While NFL Draft rumors are always something to be taken with a pinch of salt, there seems to be real substance behind reports that teams are concerned about multiple elements of his evaluation. As a result, a fall down the order on draft day is possible. That fall ends with the Atlanta Falcons in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, with Thibodeaux providing the answer to a long-running pass-rush problem.

9) Seattle Seahawks (from DEN): Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

I’ve been operating under the assumption that the timing and destination of the Seattle Seahawks’ trade of Russell Wilson pointed to them falling in love with his replacement. Trading into the top 10 of this class should have put them in prime position to land Willis. However, in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, the Liberty QB is already gone.

What if, however, the Seahawks weren’t positioning themselves for a QB but to get in on the offensive tackle action at the top of the class? After all, both Brandon Shell and Duane Brown are out of contract. If they’re truly going to give Drew Lock a shot to start, getting a left tackle in the shape of Ikem Ekwonu would be a savvy move. A savage, mauling run blocker, Ekwonu is also an athletic pass protector with a potent punch.

10) New York Jets (from SEA): Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

If you’ve seen the photo of Zach Wilson wearing a “Braxton Berrios is good” t-shirt, you might be fooled into thinking that finding a wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft isn’t a priority. Don’t be. Wilson needs surrounding with offensive weaponry if he’s to establish himself as a long-term starter in the NFL.

Garrett Wilson would be an incredible addition to the Jets offense. A true three-level threat, the Ohio State pass catcher excels in every area of WR evaluation. A catch-point connoisseur, Wilson also possesses knee-breaking route-running ability. Clocking in with a faster time than his track star teammate speaks to his ability to add value as an after-the-catch threat.

11) Washington Commanders: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

It’s “overthink a prospect” season in the NFL. Kyle Hamilton is my top-rated player in the 2022 NFL Draft. At 6’4″ and 220 pounds, the Notre Dame product is a uniquely sized safety. He plays with disturbing physicality coming downhill, has the range to command the entire deep third, and has the length, intelligence, and ball skills to be impactful in coverage.

However, his slow NFL Combine and Notre Dame Pro Day 40-yard dash time has already cast doubt over Hamilton’s NFL Draft projection. Furthermore, a season-ending knee injury might cause concern for NFL teams. Throw in the age-old ridiculous debate about positional value and the Washington Commanders find themselves in a unique position to land the best player available at a position of need with the 11th pick of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft.

12) Minnesota Vikings: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

Since 2015, the Minnesota Vikings have selected three first-round cornerbacks. None of them are currently on their roster. Past failures may cause Vikings fans to balk at adding another first-round defensive back. Still, with Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander out of contract and a distinct lack of depth and talent, the position currently sits as the main area of need.

The selection of Ahmad Gardner in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft gives the Vikings a ball-hawking playmaker who adds a physical and explosive presence against the run and as a blitzer. If you haven’t heard that “Sauce” didn’t allow a single touchdown in his entire college career, then you must have been living under a rock with no cell signal throughout this process so far.

13) Houston Texans (from CLE): George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

While there is a temptation to add a wide receiver for Mills to throw to with the pick received from the Browns in the Watson trade, the Texans take to the defensive side of the ball in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. With a defensive head coach in Lovie Smith, expect the Texans to try and revitalize their glory days when the J.J. Watt-led defense was dominant.

George Karlaftis has been a divisive figure in this 2022 class. Pass rushing can be a very “pick your poison” position. While the “Grecian Goliath” may not fly off the edge like some of the speedier pass rushers, he possesses excellent athletic ability for his size. Furthermore, he’s a powerful defensive lineman with violent hands who plays with a red-hot motor on every play.

14) Baltimore Ravens: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

There’s a reason why Jordan Davis has been a popular 2022 NFL Mock Draft selection for the Baltimore Ravens. The fit between the behemoth Georgia defensive lineman and a Ravens team that has a plethora of potential defensive holes is just too good to pass up. Plus, there’s no guarantee that Brandon Williams or Calais Campbell return for next season.

Epitomizing the phrase “two on me, someone is free,” Davis is a double-team attracting, run-gap stuffing beast of a man. His presence will allow other potential pass-rush additions to thrive. Moreover, the insane athletic performance showcased at the NFL Combine is a testament to his own ability to explode into the opposition backfield as a pass rusher.

15) Philadelphia Eagles (from MIA): Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

The Philadelphia Eagles kick start a haul in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft by righting the wrongs of previous draft cycles. Alabama’s Jameson Williams is the pass catcher that the Eagles thought they were getting with Jalen Reagor. While speed is his predominant weapon, Williams showcases other tools of the trade, such as throttle control in his route running and excellent ball tracking.

The one concern that hangs over the former Alabama receiver is the ACL tear suffered in the 2021-2022 National Championship. You want your first-round pick to be able to contribute immediately, and Williams’ long-term prognosis isn’t clearly present. However, he’s set to make a full recovery, and you only have to look at the impact his departure from the college title game had on the Alabama offense to understand his game-changing appeal.

16) Philadelphia Eagles (from IND): Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

It’d be negligent if the Eagles don’t address the secondary with one of their first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. Despite adding pieces in free agency and the draft last year, they allowed the highest completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks last season.

Once considered the consensus CB1 of this class, injury and inconsistency have caused Derek Stingley Jr.‘s stock to sour slightly. However, on his day, the LSU cornerback has the explosive athleticism and ball skills to be an impactful playmaker in an NFL secondary.