2022 4-Round NFL Mock Draft: Carson Strong, Sam Howell are the first quarterbacks off the board

With the college football season concluded and the NFL season coming to an end, it's time for our latest 2022 4-Round NFL Mock Draft.

With the college football season concluded, and the NFL just seven games from crowning a champion, attention is rapidly turning towards the 2022 NFL Draft. The underclassmen declaration deadline passed this week, so we have an even clearer idea of who will be turning pro in April. There’s no better time for our latest 2022 4-Round NFL Mock Draft!

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 4-Round NFL Mock Draft | 1-16

After months of dissecting the 2022 NFL Draft quarterback class, two passers come off the board in the first half of Round 1. In a defensively dominant class, there are 10 defensive prospects selected within the first 16 picks.

1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

When the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick last year, few could have possibly predicted that they’d be the first team up to the podium again one year later. As we said at the time (and multiple times since), Lawrence was never going to solely transform the fortunes of the franchise around in one season.

Later in this 2022 4-Round NFL Mock Draft, the Jaguars provide some weaponry for their young signal-caller. However, the first point of service is protecting their franchise quarterback. Evan Neal transitioned from right tackle to left seamlessly this season, providing imperious protection for Bryce Young as he embarked on a Heisman Trophy-winning campaign. Neal combines size, strength, athleticism, and impressive technique to be the obvious first overall choice.

2) Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

People have begun to overthink Kayvon Thibodeaux as one of the top prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft. For most pass rushers, 12 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles would be a statistically satisfactory season. However, many have bemoaned the Oregon edge player’s lack of production this season compared to other prospects in this class.

Let’s clear up a few negative misconceptions. First, Thibodeaux wasn’t 100% healthy this season. Secondly, a lot of his work wasn’t reflected in the box score. The Oregon standout possesses superior athleticism, excellent length, and standout technical ability as a prospect. He’s as adept at stopping the run as he is at rushing the passer.

For a Detroit Lions team that needs to make improvements all over the roster, taking one of the top prospects is a no-brainer, slam-dunk move.

3) Houston Texans: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

The Houston Texans were an early favorite to address the quarterback position in the 2022 NFL Draft. However, the murkiness of the class and the emergence of Davis Mills as a more than viable QB option have made that less of a priority at the top of the draft. There are, after all, a multitude of needs on one of the NFL’s most barren rosters.

Think back to when the Texans were a successful force in the league. They were a dominating defensive franchise led by J.J. Watt. In this 2022 4-Round NFL Mock Draft, the Texans snag their Watt of the future. Aidan Hutchinson has taken college football by storm this year.

A powerful defensive lineman who possesses a ridiculous first step, the Michigan man’s ability to stop the run in a division that contains Derrick Henry, Jonathan Taylor, and James Robinson will be as important as his pass-rush ability.

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

With two first-round picks this year, the New York Jets have the opportunity to drastically change the direction of their program. Additionally, they’ve got two second-round picks, giving them ample draft capital to address issues on both sides of the ball. While helping quarterback Zach Wilson reach his potential on offense will be critical, the improvements start on defense.

The Jets haven’t had a lockdown cornerback since Darrelle Revis closed down his island. The position projects to be their biggest need in the 2022 NFL Draft. Thankfully, this year features a talented cornerback group, with Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. sitting right atop it. Fierce, fast, and fluid, Booth has elite athleticism, plays strong against the run, and has some of the most insane ball skills you’ll ever see on the football field.

5) New York Giants: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State

Between the Jets and New York Giants, there wasn’t much to celebrate from a football perspective in the Big Apple this last year. The Giants will have a new head coach in place in April, and that could lead the franchise to move on from quarterback Daniel Jones. New coaches often want a clean slate on which to judge their tenure.

However, it would be wiser to avoid this quarterback class and focus on strengthening the trenches to maximize the potential on the roster. That starts with the selection of Ikem Ekwonu with the fifth overall pick in this 2022 4-Round NFL Mock Draft. A violent, mauling offensive tackle who has experience on the interior, the NC State lineman instantly upgrades the Giants’ offensive front no matter where they line him up.

6) Carolina Panthers: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

Matt Rhule is very much a head coach on the hot seat heading into the offseason. The Carolina Panthers got off to a 3-0 start but went on a downward spiral following. Despite using draft capital to secure Sam Darnold just a year ago, they’re a prime contender to reach for a QB early in the 2022 NFL Draft.

However, no quarterback is going to have success behind the current Panthers line. They legitimately need to address multiple positions across the line. They begin the rebuild of the line with the selection of Mississippi State’s Charles Cross. He’s a lean, mean, offensive tackle machine, whose athleticism will benefit Carolina’s running game. Meanwhile, he’s a technically sound pass protector whose aggressiveness belies his slender frame.

7) New York Giants (from Chicago): David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan

There was a serious consideration to doubling up on offensive line prospects with the Giants’ second selection in this 2022 4-Round NFL Mock Draft. However, the defensive need is almost as pressing as the problems along the offensive line. Games are won and lost in the trenches, after all.

Michigan’s David Ojabo has become familiar with winning football games this season. Alongside teammate Hutchinson, Ojabo was a key component of the most successful season in recent Michigan Wolverines history. A fast, agile, pass rusher whose plethora of moves is impressive for a relatively inexperienced player, Ojabo will become a dynamic menace alongside Azeez Ojulari.

8) Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

Another team with a hatful of needs, the Atlanta Falcons opt to take the best player available in this 2022 4-Round NFL Mock Draft. That player just so happens to be the best player in the whole class for my money. He also fits a defensive need for a Falcons team that allowed the third-most points, fourth-most passing touchdowns, and seventh-most total yards in the 2021 NFL season.

Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton is the real deal. He’s a uniquely sized safety prospect who can play from multiple alignments in the secondary. With ridiculous athleticism for his size, he combines sideline-to-sideline range and remarkable catch-point ball skills while coming downhill with a ferociousness that makes you wince. Positional value and an injury-hampered season see the Falcons get a bargain.

9) Denver Broncos: Carson Strong, QB, Nevada

Despite an outstanding first season from cornerback Patrick Surtain II, there are still large swathes of Denver Broncos fans who are sour that the franchise didn’t pull the trigger on Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields last season. With a failed season costing Vic Fangio his job, the time to start afresh with a new QB and new head coach is now.

The Broncos have their pick of passers with the ninth pick in this 2022 4-Round NFL Mock Draft. There’s no denying that Nevada QB Carson Strong has one of the strongest arms in the class. He might not fit the current mold of a mobile quarterback, but he’s far from the statue he’s oft-portrayed as. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Strong emerge from the Senior Bowl with a clean bill of health and the advantage in this quarterback class.

10) New York Jets (from Seattle): George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

Pass-rush success is often measured by how many sacks a team produces. However, pressures are a more accurate representation of a team’s pass-rush potency — and the Jets ranked 27th in the NFL this season. They created pressure on just 21.4% of opposition passing plays. Injuries played their part, but they need to add pass rushers to the roster.

They’ll get their opportunity to work with a talented pool of defensive end prospects at the Senior Bowl. However, none of them measure up to the “Grecian Goliath”, George Karlaftis. An outstanding athlete trapped in an imposing physical frame, Karlaftis is as powerful as he is athletic and provides the ability to create pressure both around the outside track and from the interior of the defensive line.

11) Washington Football Team: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

Just three years removed from selecting Dwayne Haskins in the first round, the Washington Football Team are again dipping their toes into the opening day quarterback waters in this 2022 4-Round NFL Mock Draft. We know Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t going to be the future of any franchise, and Taylor Heinicke hasn’t been a particularly strong driving force either.

North Carolina’s Sam Howell has the ability to drive the ball downfield with accuracy that will optimize Terry McLaurin in this offense. In addition to his deep ball prowess, Howell gets the ball out quickly and is able to put impressive zip on short and intermediate throws. While he’s not a Lamar Jackson-esque dual-threat, Howell’s a gritty competitor who routinely grinds out yardage as a runner.

12) Minnesota Vikings: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

With a recent checkered past where first-round cornerbacks are concerned, this might be a position that Minnesota Vikings fans want to avoid. What they can’t avoid, however, is that it really is a position of need. The Vikings allowed the fifth-most passing yardage in the NFL this season and also gave up the ninth-most passing touchdowns.

In this 2022 4-Round NFL Mock Draft, they land on their feet with former LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr. Since his sensational freshman campaign, Stingley has been considered the top cornerback prospect in this class. He’s an incredible athlete with breathtaking catch-point ball skills. An injury blighted his final season in Baton Rouge, and he hasn’t lived up to that first season for LSU, but he’s still a top-caliber defensive disruptor.

13) Cleveland Browns: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

Despite the questions over Baker Mayfield’s long-term future, don’t expect the Cleveland Browns to delve into the quarterback quagmire of the 2022 NFL Draft. They’ve already cut ties with Odell Beckham Jr., and with Jarvis Landry seemingly set for the exit of FirstEnergy Stadium, the Browns’ biggest need is set to be who catches passes from Baker — not who replaces him.

Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson is the current WR1 on my Top 300 Big Board for the 2022 NFL Draft. Wilson provides a three-level threat with exceptional route running and the athletic ability to provide a genuine after-the-catch threat. The Ohio State WR sets himself apart in this class with next-level ability at the catch point. If Mayfield can’t succeed with Wilson as a target, 2023 might be the time to consider the QB position.

14) Baltimore Ravens: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

The Baltimore Ravens have a whole host of picks in this 2022 4-Round NFL Mock Draft, especially in the fourth round. They’re a team without a huge list of needs, but they’re picking earlier in this draft than their roster would indicate due to a laundry list of injuries sustained throughout this campaign. Offensive tackle projects to be their biggest need. However, at this point in Round 1, they’ve missed out on the premiere trio of tackles.

With multiple defensive linemen scheduled to hit free agency, Jordan Davis is an easy pick from a team need and player fit standpoint. The gargantuan DT measures in at 6’6″, 340 pounds, and is an absolute menace in the trenches. While eating double teams to allow his teammates to flourish is his calling card, Davis improved as a pass rusher this fall. Trying to run on him is a foolish enterprise, which is particularly important in the AFC North.

15) Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami): Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

While Philadelphia’s abysmal offensive performance in their loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might rekindle passions for a passer in the 2022 NFL Draft, that isn’t the immediate plan for the Eagles in this 2022 4-Round NFL Mock Draft. There are plenty more pressing needs for the team, and it starts with building a solid defense from front to back.

Devin Lloyd is my current No. 1 linebacker in this class. The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year is a phenomenal force against the run. Meanwhile, he possesses impressive coverage ability. A long and athletic cornerback, Lloyd has incredible football intelligence that allows him to diagnose and react with incredible speed.

16) Philadelphia Eagles (from Indianapolis): Lewis Cine, S, Georgia

Speaking of diagnosing, allow me to introduce you to the Eagles’ second first-round selection of this 2022 4-Round NFL Mock Draft. Georgia safety Lewis Cine‘s motto should be “Diagnose and Destroy” because of the way he effortlessly reads the run game and snuffs it out with bone-shaking physicality. However, Cine isn’t purely a downhill thumper. He possesses excellent coverage ability too, making him one of the best safeties in the class.

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