While the playoff picture is the focus at one end of the NFL standings, for many other teams, it’s time to consider the 2022 NFL Draft — and that is exactly what we are doing with this mock. A lot can change between now and April, but as it stands heading into Thanksgiving, what are the biggest needs for teams in the first round, and who are the candidates to fill those holes?
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2022 NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-16
What are the biggest needs for the teams sitting in the top 16 of the 2022 NFL Draft? Which players could they potentially select to fill those needs, and who might be their other options?
1) Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
The Lions’ situation is tough because EDGE is not their biggest need right now. The problem is a player doesn’t fit better than Kayvon Thibodeaux. Some teams reportedly have concerns about Thibodeaux, but that could just be a smokescreen to try and get the Lions to pass on him.
Detroit might look at a corner, but they took Jeff Okudah just two seasons ago. Right now, there is no clear candidate for the first selection among the quarterbacks, and the Lions do not need to target offensive tackle. Given the situation, it is hard to pass up on a premier pass rusher.
2) New York Jets: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
The Jets have two selections in the top five of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, meaning they can address two of their biggest needs. Those needs are at CB and EDGE. They could take those positions in any order, but in this mock, they lock up a premier corner with Derek Stingley Jr.
The alternative option would be to grab their preferred pass rusher first. That would protect them against a team like the Giants or Falcons trading up to get the Jets’ second option. However, they would risk missing out on Stingley if the Eagles or another cornerback-needy team is looking to move up. A tackle is also an option here.
3) Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
The Jaguars’ need at tackle is glaring, and Evan Neal fits the hole beautifully. If Neal were to go off the board ahead of them, Jacksonville could focus on cornerback or be aggressive and get Trevor Lawrence a shiny new toy at wide receiver.
4) Houston Texans: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
For this mock, let’s imagine we see Tyrod Taylor impress down the stretch and remain in Houston as the starter. If that’s the case, he needs better protection and better weapons. There is not really an offensive lineman that makes sense here, so Chris Olave or Garrett Wilson would be a perfect complement to Brandin Cooks.
5) New York Giants: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
I am genuinely not convinced there is an option in this draft class that is a significant improvement on Jones. Therefore, if I were Giants general manager, I would get myself a dominant pass rusher to work in tandem with Azeez Ojulari. defense.
The Giants get their pick of pass rushers in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, and with that chance, they select the fast-rising Aidan Hutchinson. Hutchinson will have a chance to prove his credentials this week when Michigan faces Ohio State. A strong performance could lock him in as a top-five selection.
6) New York Jets (from Seahawks): George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue
If the Jets feel strongly about one of either Hutchinson or George Karlaftis then they may decide to grab them with their earlier selection. However, both are great options and Karlaftis is an impressive player who would fill some holes on the Jets’
7) New York Giants (from Bears): Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M
The Giants have a few directions they could go here. Maybe they target a QB to replace Daniel Jones, but their defense and offensive line are screaming to be fixed before they plunge more capital into the QB position.
With two early selections in the mock, the Giants start by getting themselves a strong option to sit at guard next to former first-round selection Andrew Thomas. A combination of Thomas and Kenyon Green on the left side of that line is a scary proposition.
8) Philadelphia Eagles (from Dolphins): Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
With three selections in the first half of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, the Eagles can address several needs. They just signed Avonte Maddox to a long-term deal to keep him and Darius Slay together. Targeting Kaiir Elam would allow them to have a talented trio of cornerbacks in a division loaded with good pass catchers.
9) Atlanta Falcons: Drake Jackson, DE, USC
The Atlanta Falcons badly need to address their pass rush, but this is an odd spot to do it. The drop-off from Karlaftis and Hutchinson to Drake Jackson feels quite large.
The Falcons might just be settling here, but a bigger need cannot be addressed with the talent available. Atlanta’s only other option would be to add Garrett Wilson at WR. That could make some sense with Russell Gage set to be a free agent and uncertainty over Calvin Ridley’s future.
10) Washington Football Team: Matt Corral, QB, Mississippi
Finally, our first quarterback comes off the board, and it is Matt Corral from Mississippi. Washington is the first team to have such a discrepancy in their QB need versus other positions that they have to take the plunge.
Corral is an exciting option, but there is a chance he is just a more hyped-up version of what WFT already has in Taylor Heinicke. The QB landscape will be a minefield in this draft unless someone inevitably stands out to finish the season.
11) Philadelphia Eagles: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
It is easy to see this being the first position the Eagles address on their defense — they have Anthony Harris and Rodney McLeod set to be free agents this offseason. However, they have needs at both cornerback and safety, so they could go either way depending on how they feel the board will fall to them.
There is no doubt about Kyle Hamilton’s talents, but concerns have been raised over whether he is a safety or a linebacker in the NFL. The Eagles really need to look to pair him with a veteran free-agent safety addition in 2022.
12) Carolina Panthers: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
So much of what the Panthers do in the draft depends on the play of Cam Newton the rest of the season and whether he is re-signed. However, even if Carolina brings their superstar QB back, they still need a long-term plan.
Malik Willis might very well be that plan. He has the athleticism to run a similar offense to Newton, but he still needs time to become polished as an NFL prospect. If Newton can be the answer for 2022 and maybe 2023, Willis could be a wonderful succession plan.
13) Denver Broncos: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
The Broncos badly need a QB replacement in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, but there is no clear option that makes you excited here. Sam Howell was expected to be a candidate to be selected first overall, but he hasn’t fulfilled that promise this year.
This will be a tough call for the Broncos, and it very much depends on whether they fall in love with a prospect during the process. Carson Strong and Kenny Pickett are names to watch here. However, the alternative if Denver does not fall in love with a QB is to go and get a CB partner for Patrick Surtain II.
14) Miami Dolphins (from 49ers): Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
The Dolphins’ offensive line is a mess and they need to fix it. While there are no clear options to upgrade at tackle or guard, there is the chance to add high-end talent at center in Tyler Linderbaum.
Whether it is Tua Tagovailoa or Deshaun Watson at quarterback for the Dolphins, giving them a center they can build a partnership with will be key. Linderbaum could be a fantastic anchor point to give Miami’s offensive line someone to build around.
15) Las Vegas Raiders: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
With the situation surrounding Henry Ruggs’ departure, adding a wide receiver might be a priority for the Raiders this offseason. Garrett Wilson would be a superb complement to the talents of Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller, and Bryan Edwards.
There are a number of ways the Raiders could go here. They have a lot of defensive linemen set to become free agents, especially at DT. Cornerback is also in play here if they let Casey Hayward walk this offseason.
16) Philadelphia Eagles (from Colts): DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M
There could be a bit of a scrap here between teams for their preferred option at defensive tackle. Right now, DeMarvin Leal is the No. 1 option for many, but it is close between him and Jordan Davis.
We know the Eagles like to build through a strong defensive line — adding either Leal or Davis would do that. Fletcher Cox was rumored to be on his way out at the trade deadline, while Javon Hargrave is a free agent in 2023. You can never have too many difference-makers in the trenches.