2022 4-Round NFL Mock Draft: Defense dominates as Detroit Lions target Kayvon Thibodeaux

Defensive playmakers and offensive line talent rise to the top of the class in our latest four-round 2022 NFL Mock Draft.

November is a magical time for football fans. The college season is coming to an exciting climax, and the NFL season is shaping up for the home stretch. At this time, 2022 NFL Mock Draft’s take on more meaning as fans of teams already out of contention turn their attention to the NFL’s annual selection event. What does the future hold for the 32 teams ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft?

Note: This 4-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft uses the draft order that is accurate as of Week 10’s Thursday Night Football game. Make sure to check out our newest mock draft released Tuesday (November 16) which will be reflective of the new draft order once Week 10 is complete.

2022 NFL Mock Draft | 1-16

There are just six offensive players selected in a defense-heavy opening to this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. The name at the top should come as no surprise.

1) Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

Back in the early 2000s, Canadian pop-punk sensation Avril Lavigne asked us: “Why’d you have to go and make things so complicated?” Well, Avril, we don’t have to. While the Detroit Lions are an obvious contender for a quarterback in this class, there isn’t an obvious QB worthy of the first overall selection.

As a result, they take the best player available in the class, Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux. The junior defensive end is a glorious mixture of size, speed, explosion, and agility wrapped up in a lean 6’5″, 250-pound, pass-rushing machine. Calling him just a pass rusher, however, doesn’t do justice to the damage he can do in the run game.

2) Houston Texans: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

The Houston Texans have so many needs that it’s difficult to know exactly where to start. Their biggest need is quite clearly quarterback, but like the Lions above them, they eschew this murky class early on. This second overall selection is also a prime destination for a wide receiver. Yet, it’s a little early to pull the trigger on a pass catcher here.

It’s fair to say that the Texans are in need of a complete overhaul. Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. gives Houston a playmaking cornerstone to build the foundation of a new-look defense. The athletic cornerback plays with ferocity while being a fluid athlete. Furthermore, Booth possesses exceptional ball skills for a defense that has allowed a touchdown on 5.5% of passing plays this season.

3) New York Jets: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

Defensive end Carl Lawson was the big free-agent acquisition of the summer for the New York Jets but ended up on the injured reserve. Such was the Jets’ need at the position that they then had to trade for Shaq Lawson to replace him. While John Franklin-Myers has emerged as a talent at the position, adding another piece on the defensive line is up there with CB as the biggest need next April.

Although adding a cornerback like Derek Stingley Jr. might be the fans choice, the LSU cornerback’s stock is questionable following a season ending surgery. The Jets instead secure a game-changing defensive end whose stock is on the rise in the form of the “Grecian Goliath.” George Karlaftis checks in at 6’4″ and 270 pounds but plays the game with deceptive athleticism for his size. His strength and size make him an absolute monster that few offensive linemen can contain.

4) Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

The Jacksonville Jaguars should have one mindset and one mindset only in Round 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft: protect Trevor Lawrence at all costs. Left tackle Cam Robinson is due to be a free agent in March, and he’ll likely demand more than the Jaguars should pay. Although they drafted Walker Little last year, the jury is still out on his long-term future.

If Evan Neal is still available at pick five, as he is in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, the Jaguars should run the card up to the podium. A beast among men, the 6’7″, 360-pound offensive tackle moves more smoothly than Urban Meyer in a Texas bar. Furthermore, Neal combines athleticism with strength and violence to be a dominating force in protection and the run game.

5) Washington Football Team: Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

The Lions can lean on Jared Goff for another year. Before his injury, the Texans won a game with Tyrod Taylor. Both of these teams can use their early first-round picks to select elite talents at positions of need without having their hands forced into the quarterback arms race.

The Washington Football Team are in a slightly different position. Has Ryan Fitzpatrick got another year of “Fitzmagic” in him? Taylor Heinicke isn’t a QB1 in the NFL. They’re the team most likely to roll the quarterback dice at this position, and in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, that’s what they do. In a murky class, Matt Corral is the most likely QB1 with his exceptional arm talent and intriguing mobility.

6) Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami): Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

As a result of the Carson Wentz and Miami Dolphins trades, the Philadelphia Eagles are loaded with three first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. Like the Texans above them, the Eagles are long overdue for a defensive overhaul. They have multiple defensive players set to hit free agency in addition to the glaring holes on their roster.

They start by finding the CB it feels like they’ve been searching for just as long as I’ve been covering the NFL Draft. While Derek Stingley Jr. has suffered injury setbacks this season that might impact his stock, he’s still widely considered as one of the best cornerback prospects in recent years. Insanely athletic with ridiculous ball skills, he’s exactly what this Eagles defense needs.

7) Philadelphia Eagles: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

Having secured a premier cornerback with their first selection of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, the Eagles continue their defensive overhaul on the front line. Aidan Hutchinson has elevated his stock more than almost any other player this fall. The versatile lineman is as dangerous rushing the passer as he is stopping the run. The Michigan man should slot straight into a defensive front that could lose multiple players to free agency in March.

8) New York Giants: Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M

From throwing passes to catching them, and making yardage on the ground in between, Daniel Jones has practically had to do everything for the New York Giants this season. The only thing he hasn’t been asked to do — because it’s impossible — is to protect himself as part of the OL.

The Giants appear to be set with Jones under center, so they use this 2022 NFL Mock Draft to add much-needed protection. Kenyon Green has played all across the Texas A&M offensive line this fall. However, he has the makings of an elite guard prospect. Green has an anchor that could hold a cruise liner in a tsunami and plays with the requisite nastiness to succeed in the NFL for a long time.

9) New York Giants (from Chicago): Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

Football games are won in the trenches. After not winning many over the last few seasons, the Giants take heed and address both sides of the battle lines in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft.

With Green holding down the offensive side, Jordan Davis slides straight into the nose tackle position potentially vacated by Austin Johnson hitting free agency. The 6’6″, 340-pound defensive lineman has eaten double teams for breakfast this season and elevated his stock with a series of sensational displays.

10) Miami Dolphins (from San Francisco): Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

Having traded their own 2022 NFL Draft first-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Miami Dolphins are relying on the San Francisco 49ers’ failures to ensure they have a decent selection next spring. At this rate, they’ll need it, with a multitude of issues manifesting themselves during a torrid season.

The Dolphins’ offensive line has been a mess this year, allowing an unfair evaluation of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. This 2022 NFL Mock Draft seeks to rectify those issues, starting with Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum.

Don’t let Linderbaum’s slender appearance screw your opinion. He’s a ferocious performer at the pivot whose wrestling background allows him to impose his will on defensive linemen. Meanwhile, running backs will love getting behind his athletic downfield runs, but more on that front later.

11) New York Jets (from Seattle): Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

With a premier pass rusher secured with the third pick in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, the Jets’ secondary takes flight with the selection of Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton. While cornerback is an obvious consideration, the Jets can find a cornerback in Round 2. You won’t find a safety of this caliber anywhere else in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Hamilton’s playmaking skills and ferocious playstyle will ensure he has an immediate impact. He’s comfortably a top-three player in the class, but positional value and an ongoing injury situation have allowed him to fall here.

12) Minnesota Vikings: Daxton Hill, S, Michigan

With Mike Zimmer potentially on the hot seat, the Minnesota Vikings have a multitude of needs in the 2022 NFL Draft. While finding a premier pass rusher or a lockdown cornerback feels like a must, they’ve missed out on both while sitting here at pick 12 of this mock draft.

However, they do manage to make a splashy addition to their secondary in the form of safety Daxton Hill. The Michigan playmaker is one of the most athletic prospects in the class, routinely acting like a heat-seeking missile to sniff out and blow up plays. He’s a menace at all three levels of the field and should immediately upgrade the Vikings’ defense.

13) Carolina Panthers: Ikem Ekwonu, G, North Carolina State

While it appears less and less likely that Sam Darnold is the long-term answer in Charlotte, having just given up $10 million, a second-round, fourth-round, and sixth-round picks combined for two passers that no one else wanted not so long ago, it’s unlikely that the Carolina Panthers will overpay for another quarterback.

While their QB situation is almost as murky as the 2022 NFL Draft QB class, let’s not pretend like that has been only the issue with Matt Rhule’s team this season. The OL has been equally as bad. Enter Ikem Ekwonu, a violent and versatile offensive lineman who has seen time at guard and tackle. To paraphrase OL guru Brandon Thorn — I want him on my line, and we’ll worry about where he plays later.

14) Philadelphia Eagles (from Indianapolis): Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

With the addition of Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean, the Eagles defense has added a playmaker at all three levels in Round 1 of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. As the Bulldogs defense has blossomed into one of the best units in college football history, Dean’s athleticism and football instincts have allowed him to be disruptive in all phases.

15) Denver Broncos: DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M

After trading Von Miller to the Los Angeles Rams, there can be two assumptions made. First, that the Broncos may package 2022 NFL Draft picks to trade for a quarterback. The second is that they will be in the market for Miller’s replacement in the draft.

While both are fair assumptions, landing a defensive stud like DeMarvin Leal with the No. 15 pick of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft is too good an opportunity to miss. Although he’s played primarily at defensive end for Texas A&M, at 6’4″ and 290 pounds, Leal can slide in at any position on the defensive line. His strength, length, and athleticism will allow him to cause havoc in the NFL.

16) Cincinnati Bengals: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

Early signs indicate that the Cincinnati Bengals’ decision not to draft Penei Sewell and instead take Ja’Marr Chase in the 2021 NFL Draft has paid off handsomely for the franchise. With the return of Jonah Williams to full health, and the experience of Riley Reiff, the OL has not looked too terrible so far this season.

However, Reiff is the offensive line equivalent of papering over a crack and hoping that the entire house doesn’t fall down. Eventually, you have to actually do something a little more solid. That is exactly what Charles Cross does for the Bengals in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. Although he looks lean, the Mississippi State OT thrives on putting a man in the dirt and should test as one of the most athletic tackles 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.

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