2022 4-Round NFL Mock Draft: Kenny Pickett remains in Pittsburgh as Steelers find Big Ben’s successor

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, as they were engrossed in our 2022 NFL Mock Draft!

Although the College Football Playoff and bowl season are ahead of us, the end of the regular season heralds the beginning of NFL Draft season for a lot of fans and analysts. It just so happens that it’s also the start of the festive season. What happens when the two collide? Grab an eggnog and prepare yourself for a 4-round 2022 NFL Mock Draft with a festive twist.

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.

The draft order below is correct as of the end of Thursday Night Football. Check back Wednesday for a new mock draft with a draft order based on the completion of Week 15.

2022 4-Round NFL Mock Draft | 1-16

If defense wins championships, then the teams at the top half of our 2022 NFL Mock Draft should be set for Super Bowl success in a short time. The New York Jets, New York Giants, and Philadelphia Eagles all have multiple picks within the first 16 selections.

1) Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

If the ghost of Christmas past could take the Detroit Lions back one year, they’d select Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick. Should the ghost of Christmas future swoop Dan Campbell forward a class, he’d be sitting outside Bryant-Denny Stadium watching Bryce Young playing his way to the No. 1 pick of the 2023 NFL Draft class.

The stark reality is that the present doesn’t provide any quarterback gifts worthy of the first overall pick for the Lions in the 2022 NFL Draft class. However, they instantly upgrade their defense with the selection of Kayvon Thibodeaux in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. Strong, long, and explosive, the versatile Oregon defensive prospect presents higher upside than the hometown hero that many analysts have penciled into the first pick of many mocks.

2) Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright. Except in Jacksonville, where there is nothing silent, holy, calm, or bright about the way Urban Meyer has positioned the Jaguars franchise this season. Thankfully for Jaguars fans — and players — Meyer is driving home for Christmas after more controversy led to his firing from Jacksonville.

After a dismal start to his NFL career caused by his former head coach, there is just one mission for the Jaguars in the first round of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft — protect Trevor Lawrence at all costs. Alabama offensive Evan Neal is a 6’7″, 360-pound behemoth. He presents a strong, athletic, and technically sound upgrade on pending free agent Cam Robinson and 2021 second-round selection Walker Little.

3) Houston Texans: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

With the third overall pick of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, my true love gave to me, a defensive end that just made history. Aidan Hutchinson has been the ascending prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft class. His 14 sacks broke the Michigan single-season record. Furthermore, Hutchinson’s performances helped Jim Harbaugh to his first win over Ohio State and the program’s first Big Ten Championship since 2004.

Hutchinson’s ability to win with overwhelming power has earned comparisons to J.J. Watt from some analysts. That would be a welcome gift for a team that hasn’t resembled anything like the defensive juggernaut of Watt’s heyday. Although quarterback would appear to be the biggest need for the Texans, reinforcements are available later in this draft should they decide not to ride with Davis Mills.

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

It’s the season of goodwill, but the New York Jets’ secondary has been bidding goodwill to all men, all season. They’ve allowed the highest yards per attempt (8.3) and the highest completion rate to opposing quarterbacks (70.9%) while snagging the fewest interceptions (4) at the lowest interception rate (0.9%) in the NFL so far this season.

The capture of Andrew Booth Jr. in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft looks to remedy those issues. Booth is an athletic playmaker with insane ball skills. Furthermore, he’s fiery and physical against the run. The Jets haven’t had a true lockdown cornerback since Darrelle Revis left New York. Booth could be the man to take over that mantle.

5) New York Giants: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

The New York Giants’ offensive line has been more welcoming than a Bethlehem innkeeper this season. It’s difficult to evaluate if Daniel Jones is actually any good as a quarterback when he has to spend so much time scrambling for his life. New York could use upgrades across the offensive line, and thankfully, the 2022 NFL Draft has plenty of front-five talent.

In NC State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu, they land a player who could fulfill a number of needs. Last season, he was an All-ACC honoree at both tackle and guard. Ekwonu is a violent mauler who excels at interior combat. However, he’s also proven to be excellent in pass protection on an island this season.

6) New York Giants: DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M

Much like the soccer game of Christmas Day 1914, the game of football is won in the trenches. After securing the offensive side with the selection of Ekwonu, the Giants fortify the defensive line with the addition of DeMarvin Leal with the sixth overall pick in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft.

The Texas A&M defensive lineman is a versatile chess piece. He’s lined up at defensive end for the Aggies, logging 25 career tackles for loss, 13 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. However, at 6’4″ and 290 pounds, he has the size, length, and power to win the battle from any alignment on the defensive front.

7) New York Jets: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

The Grinch hated Christmas! He’d do anything to stop the inhabitants of Whoville from having fun and enjoying the festive period. The protagonist of Dr. Seuss’ childhood fairytale came down from the mountains to steal Christmas. Now, imagine Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd all dressed up in Jets green, coming down from the Utah mountains.

Yet, it’s not Christmas that Lloyd hates. It’s not the inhabitants of Whoville that he wants to stop having fun. It’s opposing running backs, tight ends, and quarterbacks. And it’s not Christmas that he wants to steal — it’s their souls. Lloyd does that with unerring regularity as a dangerous force in all phases of the game who simply can’t be stopped. Lloyd would be a phenomenal addition to a Jets defense that’s given up the fourth-most yards per game on the ground.

8) Carolina Panthers: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

Disorganization, disarray, an almighty mess. No, this isn’t the scene in households across the nation after the unwrapping of Christmas presents. It is, in fact, the only way to adequately describe the Carolina Panthers’ offensive line this season. They have been an absolute disaster, and right now, they don’t appear to have the answers to solve the problem.

Multiple quarterbacks have been sacrificed behind the line this season, and rather than strike for a signal-caller in the first round of this 2022 NFL Draft, they strike right at the center of the issue. Tyler Linderbaum brings a strong, athletic, intelligent presence to the offensive pivot. If the Panthers can ever get Christian McCaffrey healthy, he could rush for 2,000 yards behind the 2021 Rimington Trophy winner.

9) Atlanta Falcons: David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan

For years now, fans of the Atlanta Falcons have wanted one present. They’ve longed for a pass rusher who could effectively and consistently get after the quarterback. Year after year, they wait with the sense of expectation matched only by a child waking up on Christmas morning. Yet, like the child who gets the poor man’s equivalent of the gift they really wanted, Falcons fans remain disappointed.

This year, or more precisely in this 4-round 2022 NFL Mock Draft, things are different. For in Michigan pass rusher David Ojabo, they land the real deal. A 100%, bona fide, pass-rush monster. He’s explosive, speedy, powerful, and possesses more tools than a DeWalt catalog. He’s an ascending prospect after logging 12 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, and 5 forced fumbles this fall.

10) Philadelphia Eagles: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for in Philadelphia where opposing quarterbacks were effortlessly throwing on the Eagles’ secondary. Philadelphia has allowed a 70.4% completion rate this season, the third-worst in the NFL.

As a result, this should be where they focus their attention in the early part of the 2022 NFL Draft. Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton is one of the best players in the class. At 6’4″ and 214 pounds, he has uncommon size at the safety position. Hamilton has the football intelligence and ball skills to be devastatingly impactful in coverage. He also possesses the athletic ability to patrol the entire field, and the physicality to come downhill in the run game.

11) Philadelphia Eagles: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

All the Eagles’ Christmases have come at once, or at least in the space of two picks in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. One of their biggest weaknesses becomes a strength as they add Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner and previous pick Hamilton to completely overhaul their secondary.

At 6’2″ and 188 pounds, Gardner has NFL size in addition to impressive length. He’s extremely athletic, possesses incredible ball skills, and can be a physical threat both at the catch point and at the line of scrimmage. Furthermore, the Cincinnati cornerback hasn’t allowed a single touchdown in his entire college career.

12) Minnesota Vikings: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

While their Christmas list might be long this year, the Minnesota Vikings have pass rusher right at the very top. They must have been very good (presumably off the field). With the 12th overall pick of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, they land one of the best in the class in Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis.

Checking in at 6’4″ and 270 pounds, the “Grecian Goliath” is a fascinating mixture of size, speed, and strength. As such, he offers incredible positional versatility. While he has the athletic ability to win outside, he can punish opposing offensive lines from the interior, too. His stats might not be as gaudy as some of the other pass rushers in the class, but his best work often comes outside of the box score.

13) New Orleans Saints: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

What is the best present that a quarterback could ever wish for? Is it an offensive line to offer protection? Well, Jameis Winston already has one of those. Maybe it’s a running back who can take the pressure off the passing game by occupying opposition defenses? In Alvin Kamara, the New Orleans Saints already have one of the most difficult backs to game plan for.

No, what Winston and the Saints’ offense desperately need is a game-changing wide receiver. With the 13th selection of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, that’s what they get in the form of Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson. An incredible route runner, catch-point connoisseur, and deceptive after-the-catch threat, Wilson has the ability to transform this Saints offense.

14) Las Vegas Raiders: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

“Ho, ho, ho! Now I have a machine gun!” Derek Carr might not be John McClane, but as a result of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, he does have a dangerous weapon at his disposal. Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams‘ emergence as one of the best wide receivers in this class has been as rapid as one of his 55-yard touchdown runs.

In addition to his speed, Williams can beat you with impressive route running plus body control and ball skills at the catch point. He’s proven he can be a reliable target as the leader of an offense, and he should be a contender for Offensive Rookie of the Year in a Raiders offense that currently lacks a home run threat.

15) Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

Behind some uncomfortable statistics, the 2021 NFL season is likely to be Ben Roethlisberger’s last with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Big Ben ranks just 18th in passing yards (2,578), 18th in passing touchdowns (16), 20th in touchdown rate (3.9%), 21st in completion rate (64.8%), and 26th in yards per attempt (6.6). The last is particularly damning, and during the previous three years, Roethlisberger has averaged under 7 yards per attempt.

This season, the Steelers’ offense has been disjointed. Thankfully, Kenny Pickett’s double-jointed thumb can redress the balance. The Pittsburgh quarterback has been the most solid and consistent signal-caller in college football this season. He’s showcased arm talent, creative mobility, and the grit to succeed. After delivering an ACC Championship for the Panthers, he gets to stay at home and bring success to the Steelers.

16) Denver Broncos: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

Will the Denver Broncos even have a first-round pick come April? Large swaths of Broncos fans have quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the top of their Christmas list, and they’d be happy to give up a package of picks to land the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

However, in this 4-round 2022 NFL Mock Draft, the Broncos use one of their second-round picks to land Liberty quarterback Malik Willis. After watching him suffer behind a shockingly bad offensive line for the Flames, they use their first-round pick to secure their own offensive line. Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning is a BAD man. He’s strong, smooth, and thrives on putting his opposition in the dirt.

Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft and College Football Analyst for Pro Football Network. Check out the rest of his work here, and you can find him on Twitter: @ojhodgkinson.

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