2022 NFL Mock Draft: Evan Neal, Kayvon Thibodeaux, and Kyle Hamilton rise to the top

With the end of the NFL regular season and the finale of the college campaign, it's officially 2022 NFL Mock Draft season!

In a week that saw the end of the NFL regular season and the conclusion of the college football campaign, the focus has quickly shifted to the 2022 NFL Draft. Yes, it’s officially draft season. Or should I say, it’s officially 2022 NFL Mock Draft season. To celebrate, I put together a quick one-round mock draft and attempted to fix the fortunes of multiple franchises.

Want to go beyond reading this 1-Round Mock Draft and do one of your own? Take a spin on the free PFN Mock Draft Simulator with trades.

2022 NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-16

The NFL playoffs are set, which means the opening half of the 2022 NFL Draft is, too (subject to trades of course). Despite questions about the quarterback class, two passers come off the board in the first 16 picks of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. However, it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have their quarterback of the future already secured, who are the first on the clock…

1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

In some respects, the Jaguars face a difficult decision with the first overall selection in 2022. They have their pick of two explosive pass rushers and — in my opinion — the best player in the class right in their grasp.

However, it really isn’t a hard choice. Protect Trevor Lawrence at all costs. 6’7″, 360-pound Alabama left tackle Evan Neal sensationally protected Bryce Young this season. He’d be a home run for the Jags.

2) Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

Forget the rapid ascension of a certain Michigan pass rusher this season. Forget the romanticism of keeping said defensive end in his home state. Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux is the real deal.

At 6’5″, 250 pounds, he’s a juggernaut of athleticism, explosion, and football intelligence. In addition to his exceptional pass-rush ability, Thibodeaux is an underrated run defender. Don’t allow statistics to mask his standing as the best edge player in the class.

3) Houston Texans: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

The Houston Texans have a quarterback! Davis Mills has shown enough this season to ensure the Texans don’t need to gamble a first-round pick on this QB class. As a result, they can address the rest of a dilapidated roster by taking the best player available.

In this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, that player also happens to be the best player in the class. Before suffering a season-ending injury, Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton was living up to his preseason hype. A unicorn of size, speed, and football intelligence, he can be the defensive leader you want to build a franchise around.

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

The New York 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, there’s 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

If you want to run a quarterback sneak on third-and-9, you might want to have a decent offensive line. All jokes aside, the New York Giants need to get better on both sides of the trenches this offseason. They do that in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft with the addition of Ikem Ekwonu. Play him at guard, play him at tackle — just play him. He’s a 6’4″, 320-pound savage who will carve open lanes for Saquon Barkley and protect Daniel Jones.

6) Carolina Panthers: Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M

The Carolina Panthers are a genuine candidate for a first-round quarterback. Their future under center is incredibly unclear. However, it’s truly impossible to ascertain how good or bad a signal-caller is behind one of the most dismal offensive lines in the NFL. Kenyon Green gives the Panthers a versatile offensive lineman who is nasty in the run game and has an anchor in pass protection that wouldn’t look out of place in the ocean.

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

Having added a game-changing offensive line piece with their first pick in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, the Giants turn to the defensive side of the ball and do the same. Michigan’s David Ojabo has all the pass-rush tools and athletic upside to be a monster in New York. While I believe his Michigan teammate is the better overall prospect, I prefer the schematic fit of Ojabo in the Giants defense.

8) Atlanta Falcons: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

I’m sure the Atlanta Falcons would be delighted to land a player that many consider the best prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft class. Aidan Hutchinson has been mesmeric for Michigan at times this year. He’s a devastating pass rusher whose impact on the run game isn’t always visible in the box score. He’ll instantly upgrade a Falcons defense that seems to have been searching for an impactful edge defender since God was a lad.

9) Denver Broncos: Matt Corral, QB, Mississippi

Teddy Bridgewater, Drew Lock, Brett Rypien. All three have taken a snap at some point this season, and none of them look like the future under center for the Denver Broncos. With a new coach incoming, the franchise resets with a new quarterback.

Matt Corral has demonstrated that he has one of the best arms in the country, and he’s a tough runner when under pressure. There’s every chance he’s the first quarterback off the board in April.

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

It’s one of the great debates of our time: is pass rush or coverage the most important element to defensive success? Right now, the Jets can’t really do either at a high level.

They attended to the coverage need with their first pick of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. Now, they let George Karlaftis — the “Grecian Goliath” — address the pass-rush need. A surprising athlete in his 6’4″, 275-pound frame, the Purdue pass rusher is technically sound and as powerful as they come.

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

The second quarterback selected in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft lands in Washington. Ryan Fitzpatrick might have played his last snap in the NFL, and even with all the will in the world, Tayler Heinicke just doesn’t move the needle. Despite an underwhelming statistical season, Sam Howell possesses excellent deep-ball accuracy, gritty mobility, and will ultimately reestablish his draft stock at the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl.

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

Although it could be argued there are bigger needs for the Minnesota Vikings, taking Derek Stingley Jr. No. 12 overall in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft is a no-brainer. The franchise has a checkered recent past at the cornerback position. Stingley gives them an athletic playmaker with exceptional ball skills who was phenomenal in his freshman season for LSU. An injury ended his junior campaign, but he should rebound as one of the best in the class.

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

Speaking of no-brainer picks, Garrett Wilson makes the two-hour journey up I-71 from Ohio State to FirstEnergy Stadium. Odell Beckham Jr. is gone and Jarvis Landry might follow, leaving wide receiver as the Browns’ biggest need.

Wilson has established himself as a true three-level threat and the WR1 of this class. An excellent route runner, he separates himself from the pack as a catch-point connoisseur.

14) Baltimore Ravens: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

A season beset with injuries came to a disappointing end at the hands of a divisional rival for the Baltimore Ravens. However, every cloud has a silver lining. And while the Ravens missed out on the playoffs, they land an elite talent at a position of need in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft.

Charles Cross has established himself as one of the best OTs in the nation this season. A lean, mean, pass-protecting machine, he’s also blessed with excellent athleticism.

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

I think we can safely say that the Jalen Hurts conversation is firmly closed. There is no need for the Philadelphia Eagles to delve into the murky depths of this quarterback class. Instead, they can focus on rebuilding their defense.

That starts with Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd, who is a phenomenal force against the run while possessing incredible coverage capability. Lloyd has been the defensive heartbeat for the Pac-12 champion Utes.

16) Philadelphia Eagles (from Indianapolis): Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

The Eagles double up on defense with consecutive picks to close out the first half of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. They added multiple defensive backs last offseason, yet they still lack an elite playmaker at the position.

Enter Ahmad Gardner, who incredibly hasn’t allowed a touchdown in his entire college career. He’s more than just an impressive coverage corner, however. Gardner can lay the boom in run support and blitz the passer with the best of them.

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