With Week 1 of the college football season in the books, we fired up our Mock Draft Simulator for a first-round 2022 NFL Mock Draft. There may not be the wild surprises of Montana beating Washington or ETSU beating Vanderbilt, but did some early season performances shake up some stock in our simulator?
2022 NFL Mock Draft | 1-16
Defense features heavily in the first half of our 2022 NFL Mock Draft.
1. Houston Texans: Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
Despite a difficult opening day causing some knee-jerk draft stock reactions, the Houston Texans dive to the podium to select Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler. The Texans have one of the murkiest quarterback situations in the NFL, and despite his struggles on Saturday, the Sooners’ signal-caller still projects to be one of the top passers in the class.
2. Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
Kayvon Thibodeaux was exactly as advertised in Saturday’s win over Fresno State until he left the field with a sprained ankle injury. The junior pass rusher dominated, and if he ended his season now, there’d be no question marks over his draft stock. The Detroit Lions may be in the market for a quarterback, but a genuine defensive difference-maker would be too good to miss.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
With the third overall selection in our 2022 NFL Mock Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars give Trevor Lawrence the protection he’ll need to succeed in the NFL. Their need for the position was apparent with the selection of Walker Little earlier this year. While there are some questions marks over the former Stanford tackle, there aren’t over Alabama’s Evan Neal. A physically imposing specimen at 6’7″ and 360 pounds, Neal was dominant in his first outing at left tackle for the Crimson Tide.
4. New York Jets: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
While the merits of selecting a safety in the top 10 can be debated all day long, Kyle Hamilton demonstrated on Sunday night why he’s one of the best players in this 2022 NFL Draft class. The Jets land a ridiculously talented defensive playmaker who can impact the game in multiple ways. With Marcus Maye possibly making a move away from the Meadowlands, Hamilton would give the Jets a difference-maker in the heart of the secondary.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
Multiple moves made by the Cincinnati Bengals in the offseason pointed towards upgrading their pass-rush prowess for the upcoming NFL season. However, there’s a very clear out in Trey Hendrickson’s contract, and they just lost rookie Joseph Ossai for the season. Drake Jackson gives them a hyper-athletic pass rusher who is also adept in coverage. Versatile and productive defensive pieces are hard to find, but the Bengals get one in our 2022 NFL Mock Draft.
6. Carolina Panthers: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
While there seems to be a desire from the Carolina Panthers to help Sam Darnold succeed this season, a selection in the top 10 for the second consecutive season would suggest their offense stumbled. The Panthers were a team linked to quarterbacks earlier this year, and they strike for Sam Howell here. A tough, strong-armed playmaker, Howell will look to bounce back from a difficult start to the college season and solidify his early NFL Draft stock.
7. Philadelphia Eagles: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
While this could be another landing spot for a quarterback, there’s no doubting that the Eagles have significant defensive needs to fill next spring. They added Darius Slay in 2020, signed Steven Nelson before this season, and drafted Zech McPhearson. So it’s fair to say cornerback is an area they feel the need to upgrade. Since his true-freshman campaign, Derek Stingley Jr.‘s athletic playmaking has made him a potential top pick.
8. Las Vegas Raiders: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
The upcoming NFL season will be pivotal for a pair of pass catchers that will lead the wide receiver room for the Las Vegas Raiders. Even if Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards excel, the Raiders are crying out for receiving talent. Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave had a memorable outing in the Buckeyes’ season opener, showcasing an impressive skill set that had already seen him pegged as an early WR1 in this class.
9. New York Giants: Tyler Linderbaum, OC, Iowa
It speaks to the state of the New York Giants’ roster that there are multiple routes they could take with their two early-round selections in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. Rather than seek to replace Daniel Jones, they upgrade his protection with Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum. While Linderbaum’s selection should ensure Jones doesn’t lose the last of his nine lives, he’ll be equally beneficial for running back Saquon Barkley.
10. Atlanta Falcons: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Imagine a Falcons’ offense that features Calvin Ridley, Kyle Pitts, and Garrett Wilson. Good golly, Miss Molly — that would be an alliance that would terrify defenses throughout the entire NFL, let alone the NFC South. After trading Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans this offseason, Wilson gives the Falcons a dangerous multi-level threat for Matt Ryan, who continues to stave off potential replacements for another season.
11. New York Giants: Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M
After picking a potential All-Pro at the pivot, the Giants double-down on protection with the selection of versatile offensive lineman Kenyon Green from Texas A&M. Having already established himself as an elite guard prospect, Green is playing offensive tackle for the Aggies this season. While there will be question marks over his height for the position, that versatility will prove invaluable for the Giants.
12. Washington Football Team: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Troy Apke has been moved from safety to cornerback for the upcoming NFL season, which tells you everything you need to know about the relevance of this pick in our 2022 NFL Mock Draft. While Apke isn’t listed as a starter, Florida’s Kaiir Elam gives Washington an instant upgrade at the cornerback position. Another tall, long, athletic cornerback would fulfill a profile that started with the selection of Benjamin St-Juste last spring.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Myjai Sanders, DE, Cincinnati
The Arizona Cardinals have a cast of 30-something pass rushers led by a player in a contract year that demanded a trade during the offseason. If that isn’t justification for selecting a productive pass-rush protege, I’m unsure what is. Who knows how the Chandler Jones situation plays out or how long J.J. Watt plays for? Nevertheless, adding an explosive, bendy pass rusher like Myjai Sanders in our 2022 NFL Mock Draft is good business.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Having lost Steven Nelson this offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers are facing the potential of Joe Haden leaving the team at the end of this season. Although they could address quarterback or offensive tackle here, they take Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth Jr., an immediate starter alongside Cameron Sutton in the Steelers’ secondary. Fast, fluid, and full of energy, Booth should establish himself as one of, if not the best cornerbacks in college football this fall.
15. Denver Broncos: DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M
According to Vegas odds, since naming Teddy Bridgewater as the starting quarterback, the Denver Broncos have increased their Super Bowl chances. In doing so, they’ve negated their possibility of taking one of the top quarterbacks in the class. Instead, they land DeMarvin Leal, one of the nation’s most disruptive and versatile defensive linemen. His ability to terrorize from any alignment makes him a valuable acquisition for the Broncos’ defensive front.
16. Minnesota Vikings: George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue
While some 2022 NFL Draft prospects endured a torrid start to the college football season, George Karlaftis proved that his 2019 freshman form was no fluke. The Minnesota Vikings land a pass-rushing powerhouse in the Grecian Goliath from our 2022 NFL Mock Draft. It feels like the Vikings have been trying to add a productive playmaker at the position for as long as Tom Brady has been playing football. Now, they have their man!