2022 NFL Mock Draft: Denver Broncos find their franchise QB

The Denver Broncos are one of five teams to swoop for a first-round quarterback in our latest 4-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft.

Mock drafts are like yard work — you either love them, or you hate them. Thankfully, we at Pro Football Network love them. While we understand that the NFL Draft landscape will change beyond all recognition between now and April, our 4-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft gives you 132 players that should be on your radar with Week 1 of the college football season well underway.

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This 4-Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft uses the current Vegas odds for the 2021 NFL season to ascertain the order.

1. Houston Texans: Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma

Mac and cheese. Peanut butter and jelly. Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. These are all iconic duos, things that are destined to be associated with each other. Then, there’s Spencer Rattler and the Houston Texans, who again find themselves slung together in our 2022 NFL Mock Draft.

Although Rattler isn’t the consensus QB1 of this class in the same way that Trevor Lawrence was last year, there’s an inevitability about his ascent to the top. I expect to see a sensational season from Rattler and the Sooners, cementing his standing as the standard-bearer under center.

Strong armed with the ability to drive the ball to all field levels, Rattler is equally adept at making plays off-script. His development through the disrupted 2020 season was astounding, cutting out ball security issues while improving his ability to read the field.

2. Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon

Although the Detroit Lions are in a prime spot in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft to secure the long-term — and realistically short-term — successor to Jared Goff, the opportunity to infinitely upgrade the defensive side of the ball is too good to miss.

Pass-rush prospects like Kayvon Thibodeaux don’t come around every year. We’ll pump the brakes on using the term “generational,” but since he emerged as a freshman, Thibodeaux has become one of college football’s elite defensive players.

He is insanely athletic outside of his 6’5″, 250-pound frame. His combination of speed, power, lateral agility, and length makes him a versatile nightmare who can attack offenses around the outside track or from the interior. While we drool over his pass-rush potential, the Oregon defensive end is equally capable against the run.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M

Could the Jacksonville Jaguars be in the market for a quarterback if they pick No. 3 overall next April? Is Trevor Lawrence a bust after all? This is, of course, all in jest. Securing the face of the franchise was never going to transform a franchise overnight that had many glaring weaknesses.

The Jacksonville defense featured near the bottom of nearly every conceivable metric last season. The issues start up front, and they added Jay Tufele in the 2020 NFL Draft to help remedy those problems. However, in DeMarvin Leal, they get a true game-wrecker on the defensive line.

At 6’4″, 290 pounds, Leal has the physique of a defensive tackle while possessing the athleticism of a defensive end. Explosive, strong, and long, he has an armory of pass-rush weapons at his disposal. When he figures out how to use them all in harmony, the Texas A&M defensive terror will be unstoppable.

4. New York Jets: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

The Jets invested a lot of draft capital on the defense this year, and with due course. They lacked any pass-rush presence, and the secondary gave up amongst the most total yards and passing touchdowns of any team in the NFL.

Gang Green hasn’t had a true lockdown cornerback since Darrelle Revis vacated his island. With the selection of Derek Stingley Jr. in our 2022 NFL Mock Draft, they finally find one. Poetically, his father was on the Jets practice squad in 1999.

Jets fans can expect a little more out of Stingley Jr. The dynamic defensive playmaker emerged as one of the nation’s best corners in a highly productive freshman season. He’s a natural athlete with incredible ball skills and prototypical NFL cornerback size. As a result, if the ball is in the air, there’s a good chance that the LSU CB will make a play.

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Kenyon Green, OT, Texas A&M

While Ja’Marr Chase juggled and fumbled his way through the preseason, Cincinnati Bengals fans must have one eye on quarterback Joe Burrow and wonder why they didn’t invest in the offensive line instead. Listen, Chase will be just fine, but did the offensive line improve anywhere near as much as it needed to this offseason?

The answer may become apparent within the next few weeks. What is immediately apparent, though, is that Kenyon Green is the best offensive lineman in this 2022 NFL Draft class. His acquisition would immediately and immeasurably upgrade the protection for Burrow while giving Joe Mixon a 325-pound behemoth to run behind.

From stance to snap and the finish of a play, Green has elite talent written all over him. He plays the game violently but with incredible technical ability. Footwork, handwork, pad level, you name it. Green embodies the attributes you’re looking for in an offensive lineman. This season will be his first at offensive tackle, so his potential there is unclear. Still, you get an exceptional OT at best, and at worst, you get an elite guard.

6. Carolina Panthers: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

The Carolina Panthers appear to believe in Sam Darnold in a way that the Jets didn’t by the end of his tenure in New York. They added weapons and protection throughout the offseason while removing quarterback “competition” on cut day. There can be no questioning that head coach Matt Rhule has attempted to put the pieces in place for Darnold to succeed.

So, if they’re selecting No. 6 next spring, they’ll likely be looking for his successor, which is precisely what they do here. They may consider themselves lucky to land Sam Howell this late. For some analysts, the North Carolina QB is the best QB in the class.

A tough competitor who can hang in the pocket and make throws and puts his physicality to good use on the ground, Howell comes complete with a fully loaded arm. While college production means little in the transition to the NFL, Howell’s 68 touchdown passes through two seasons is the most in ACC history.

7. Philadelphia Eagles: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

With the NFL season still a week away, nailing down what went wrong between now and the 2022 NFL Draft is like trying to figure out where the other sock went in the washer — Impossible. What is safe to say is if the Philadelphia Eagles are picking inside the top 10, something did go wrong.

Regardless of the details, the finger of blame will inevitably be pointed at the decision to roll with Jalen Hurts as the starting QB. In the era of self-preservation, head coach Nick Sirianni will seek to buy himself some time at the helm by bringing in his own quarterback.

At this moment in time, that could be Liberty dual-threat Malik Willis. The Auburn transfer illuminated college football last fall with his incredible ability to create plays with his legs and cannon for an arm. He’ll need to demonstrate improved accuracy and decision-making, but Willis has the perfect skill set for the modern-day NFL quarterback.

8. Las Vegas Raiders: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

Although he’s still on the roster, it became apparent during the offseason that former first-round pick Damon Arnette is out of favor in Las Vegas. The Raiders may have struck late-round gold in Nate Hobbs, but cornerback figures to be one of the significant needs heading into the 2022 NFL Draft.

With Andrew Booth Jr., Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden get to combine their love of early-round cornerbacks and prospects from Clemson. Mayock continues to drink from the Tigers’ well, and this one might just be the best tasting one of them all.

When you think of Booth, think of the three Fs: Fast, fluid, and full of energy. For my money, he is one of the most athletic prospects in the class. Furthermore, Booth possesses incredible ball skills and plays the game with the requisite cornerback swagger.

9. New York Giants: Drake Jackson, OLB, USC

A large part of the 2021 offseason was spent theorizing whether the Giants would address their abysmal pass rush in free agency or the NFL Draft. The G-men were seen as a contender to select a first-round pass rusher. Yet, they ultimately waited until the second round with the selection of Azeez Ojulari. The Georgia defender fell to the Giants due to reported “significant medical red flags.”

Although he was arguably a steal if he stays healthy, it’s not a solid foundation to build a defense on. Moreover, Lorenzo Carter is set to hit free agency at the end of the season. As a result, pass rush still figures to be a need in the 2022 NFL Draft.

USC’s Drake Jackson offers the Giants a unique blend of size, bend, and athletic ability. Despite standing at 6’4″ and having played north of 270 pounds during his career, Jackson has an impressive ability to get around or under opposing linemen to impose himself on the QB. Currently set to play outside linebacker for the second consecutive season, the USC pass rusher also has experience as a traditional defensive end.

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10. Atlanta Falcons: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

Aside from the inevitable noise about finding Matt Ryan’s replacement, the need to add a playmaking cornerback, and their ultimate selection of Kyle Pitts, the offensive line was a position of consideration for most Atlanta Falcons fans with their first-round pick last spring.

Although they added Jalen Mayfield, that shouldn’t stop the Falcons from swooping for Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. Due to his versatility on the offensive line, he could play guard or right tackle until ultimately replacing Jake Matthews at left tackle.

Neal is a man-mountain at 6’7″ and 360 pounds. Despite this, he’s incredibly athletic while possessing the strength to dominate at the line of scrimmage. Neal plays the game with a competitive toughness that will appeal to head coach Arthur Smith, a former offensive lineman for UNC.

11. New York Giants: Ikem Ekwonu, OG, NC State

I could write many words and paragraphs about how the Giants may look to replace Daniel Jones. Conversely, this section could be filled with observations on the specifics of how New York needs to overhaul their offensive line. There would be plenty of scheme-specific analysis, talk of scheme fit, and what the Giants look for in each position.

Draft Ikem Ekwonu. Watch Saquon Barkley thrive. That is all.

NC State promises to be one of the best running teams in the nation this fall because of their violent offensive lineman. Although he can play offensive tackle, Ekwonu projects to be an elite guard prospect. He uses his strength, athleticism, and overall nastiness to be a game-wrecker from the interior of the offensive line.

12. Washington Football Team: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

While Washington is a prime candidate for a first-round quarterback, anyone outside of Rattler and Howell — and maybe even them — represents something of a risk for a franchise. Although multiple quarterbacks go in the first round of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, there is no certainty about any of them ahead of the college football season.

There is a remarkable amount of certainty in Kyle Hamilton. An uncommon NFL Draft prospect, the Notre Dame safety has the size and ferociousness of a linebacker while combining the coverage skills of an elite cornerback. His athletic profile means he can play a multitude of roles, making a versatile defensive piece.

Although Washington fans may consider safety a luxury, securing the best player in the class with the 12th overall pick and solidifying an already great defense seems too good of an opportunity to pass up.

13. Arizona Cardinals: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

Despite the addition of three college prospects last spring, the Arizona Cardinals are a team that needs to upgrade their secondary. Malcolm Butler recently retired, Robert Alford is 32 going into the season, and although there’s talent in newcomers Tay Gowan and Marco Wilson, they lack a standout playmaker.

Florida’s Kaiir Elam checks that and plenty of other boxes. At 6’2″ and just under 200 pounds, he has the ideal size to play the position in the NFL. He owns exceptional speed, fluidity, and ball skills. All that Elam lacks compared to the other potential CB1 prospects in the class is a gaudy stat line.

Like Stingley Jr., Elam has football blood running through his veins. The Florida cornerback is the nephew of former Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers: Sean Rhyan, OT, UCLA

With Ben Roethlisberger returning for one last rodeo, it appears the Pittsburgh Steelers will be in the market for his replacement next April. Most mock drafts feature a first-round quarterback in the Steel City. In fact, in my last edition for Pro Football Network, I had Boston College signal-caller Phil Jurkovec landing in Pittsburgh as the heir apparent.

It makes perfect sense, but what if the Steelers don’t like any of the QBs enough to jump for one at 14? What if they like what they have in Dwayne Haskins after a decent preseason? The draft, after all, isn’t all about the first round, and they could select one later on.

Following the departure of multiple crucial pieces, the offensive line is potentially the most significant need for Pittsburgh. UCLA OT Sean Rhyan has impressive size at 6’5″ and 320 pounds and possesses incredible raw power. Additionally, he combines athletic prowess with sound technical ability to be a dominant blindside protector.

15. Denver Broncos: JT Daniels, QB, Georgia

With the Twitter cries of “you should have taken Justin Fields” echoing around the mountains, the Denver Broncos signaled the end of the Drew Lock era by naming Teddy Bridgewater their starting quarterback for the 2021 NFL season.

While the organization has faith in him to deliver wins this season, there’s no denying that he’s more of a stop-gap than the face of the franchise. This fall, the Broncos should closely monitor college football for quarterback prospects, and Georgia’s JT Daniels could catch their eye.

It took Daniels a while to get going in Athens following his transfer from USC. However, once established, he was truly the hot hand at the quarterback position down the stretch. An intelligent QB with experience both under center and out of shotgun, Daniels possesses an NFL arm and deceptive pocket maneuverability. There is room for improvement like all prospects, but the Georgia QB is primed to take a leap this fall.

16. Minnesota Vikings: George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue

Ranking near the bottom of the NFL in sacks, pressures, and quarterback knockdowns last season, the Vikings failed to live up to the pillaging stereotype of their Nordic namesake. Although they added Patrick Jones II and Janarius Robinson to standout defensive end Danielle Hunter this spring, there’s every chance that they’ll need to add a genuine impact-maker at the position in the 2022 NFL Draft.

There’s no bigger impact-maker available in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft than the gargantuan Greek, George Karlaftis. The Purdue pass rusher has quickly become a dominant defensive end despite not playing football until the eighth grade. At 6’5″ and 275 pounds, he has the size and strength to rush inside or out, making him a versatile piece on the defensive line. Additionally, Karlaftis has deceptive speed and athleticism, making him an extremely dangerous proposition for opposing offensive linemen.

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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