2022 NFL Mock Draft: Lewis Cine powers Georgia defenders who headline the first round

The NFL Draft is a few months away, but we have a much clearer picture of who your team should take in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft.

The 2022 NFL Draft will be here before we know it. As we approach the back half of the 2021 college football season, a clearer picture of where players should be selected has started to form. With that in mind, this iteration of our 2022 NFL Mock Draft takes into account all the most recent movements and top-notch (or subpar) play from all draft-eligible athletes.

Please note that the draft order is set based on the completion of Week 7 of the 2021 NFL season. Be sure to check back on Tuesday morning (November 2) for our next mock draft, which will have the updated order following all of the action in Week 8.

2022 NFL Mock Draft | 1-16

As with any mock draft, it’s important to understand the thinking of each selection. For this version, I’ve gone with the “what I would do as the GM” of all 32 NFL teams. There will be players left off, selections that don’t conform to the consensus, and other questionable decisions. This was done as if it were draft night, and I was the general manager of every NFL team.

1) Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

The best player in college football also happens to be the best prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft. Kayvon Thibodeaux came back from an early-season ankle injury and has looked dominant since. He racked up a bevy of pressures and single-handedly changed UCLA’s game plan in Week 8.

With Thibodeaux, the Lions grab a cornerstone defensive player. They also get a versatile, dominant pass rusher who can change the game at any point. Thibodeaux is among the safest selections in this entire class.

2) Philadelphia Eagles: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

Kyle Hamilton‘s range is unmatched in this class. He can close space in coverage faster than anyone since Derwin James. He also presents a mismatch for tight ends and slot receivers over the middle. Hamilton’s prowess doesn’t relate just to coverage either, as he’s a downhill run stuffer when the play dictates.

The Eagles, like essentially every team, need help in the secondary as the league continues to be dominated by pass-happy offenses. Hamilton immediately improves their secondary and defense as a whole.

3) Houston Texans: Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

Covering Davis Mills for his brief tenure at Stanford, I know the player he is and could become. It’s safe to say that Matt Corral is a better option at this point. He also likely presents the only quarterback worthy of a top-10 selection in this class. It’s a big reach to grab Corral at this point, but something that the Texans have to do.

Quarterbacks are at a premium in the 2022 NFL Draft, but Corral’s skills are not. He has arm talent in bunches and makes terrific reads. He’s also a terrific athlete who has more than enough skill to make something out of nothing.

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

The race to be CB1 in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft goes to Andrew Booth Jr. Nothing has really gone right for Clemson this season, except for Booth’s elevation into stardom. Overlooked by their struggling offense, Clemson’s defense has actually played almost as good as advertised. Booth doesn’t have any interceptions this season, but he’s hardly been targeted.

He’s proven sticky in coverage and has a great knack for finding the ball at any point. It’s a long way to go, and both Kaiir Elam and Derek Stingley Jr. were looked at with this pick. In the end, Booth’s physicality and upside mixed with his ball skills won out.

5) Jacksonville Jaguars: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

George Karlaftis is just scratching the surface with his ability. Jacksonville selects a player with arguably the most upside in the entire class. He’s a raw pass rusher with incredible strength. His football intelligence is unmatched as he’s truly a student of the game.

Karlaftis matches his off-field studies with improvements in every facet this season. He’s locked himself into the race to be the second EDGE off the board, and Jacksonville pulls the trigger here. Karlaftis anchors one side of the “DUUUUVAL” defensive line for a decade-plus.

6) Philadelphia Eagles: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

Aidan Hutchinson has a terrific skill set and a wonderful explosive burst. He wins quickly with speed and dominates tackles with strength. He’s a great combination of the two while possessing a keen understanding of the offensive play-calling. Hutchinson has taken something off his bend around the edge at times to thwart opposing quarterbacks stepping up in the pocket, demonstrating his football IQ.

Hutchinson and Karlaftis are different prospects but have the same kind of impact. Either one of these two players would be ideal for transforming an aging Eagles defensive line.

7) New York Giants: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

The Giants go back to the first-round offensive line pool with Evan Neal, who is a massive individual. At 6’7″, 350 pounds, it’s almost colloquial to call him a nimble man, but that’s what he looks like for a man his size. Neal is terrific in all facets and possesses great strength — obviously.

His low center of gravity and hand usage are among the best we’ve seen in some time. Neal is an upgrade over both tackles the Giants possess and secures two stalwart bookends when Andrew Thomas returns from injury.

8) New York Jets: Lewis Cine, S, Georgia

Their second pick in the first quarter of the 2022 NFL Draft sees the Jets go back to the secondary. Rising up the rankings with the success of the Georgia defense this season, Lewis Cine is the second safety off the board. New York needs more than one person to help bolster their defense, and the best defensive player available that isn’t another cornerback is Cine.

He’s a hard hitter with an impressive knack for finding the football. He has great size and underrated speed to close. Cine’s a great tackler and offers starting ability right away for the J-E-T-S.

9) Washington Football Team: Carson Strong, QB, Nevada

Washington needs a quarterback, and with the way the QB class is shaping up, don’t overlook the possibility of a trade down in this situation. Without trades in this iteration of our 2022 NFL Mock Draft, WFT drafts the best quarterback available for their situation. Carson Strong is a terrific passer and has great arm strength.

He may not be as nimble or as great of an athlete as Malik Willis, but then again, who is? Strong makes up for any athleticism pitfalls with ample arm strength and velocity. His throws to all levels of the field are translatable to NFL throws, and WFT gets their future signal-caller.

10) Miami Dolphins: Ikem Ekwonu, G, Ole Miss

The Dolphins are a mess, and no first-round pick is going to inject enough to make them a playoff team anytime soon. That being said, it’s all about building in the 2022 NFL Draft for Miami. And who better to build with than the technically sound Ikem Ekwonu. At 6’4″, 320 pounds, Ekwonu likely kicks inside and allows the Dolphins freedom to continue the Austin Jackson project outside (or move on entirely).

This is all, of course, contingent upon the Dolphins even having a first-round pick.

11) New England Patriots: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

I can’t think of a safer pick here. Chris Olave is a professional receiver playing college football. Though he lacks one “superstar” trait, Olave has everything you’d want in a receiver at near-elite levels. Olave wins with speed, hands, ball skills, routes, and elusiveness after the catch. He’s a shiny new toy for Mac Jones and New England’s offense.

12) Denver Broncos: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

Garett Bolles is good, and Charles Cross may be even better. The selection of Cross here allows the Broncos to field bookend tackles against the formidable pass-rush units in the AFC West. Cross is strong and has great size. He’s adjusted well to the Air Raid offensive pass-blocking scheme and presents well in the run game when tasked.

13) Philadelphia Eagles: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

Color me intrigued with whether or not Derek Stingley Jr. can re-obtain the 2019 level of success he had as a true freshman. Though his ball skills from that season are the best in the class by some margin, he has had inconsistent seasons since. He even struggled with injuries over the past two years. I am wary of Stingley’s ability to be a lockdown cornerback. However, after selecting two defensive players and still needing help at cornerback, his ability is too enticing to pass up at 13.

Stingley is excellent at the catch point and has terrific hips. He can swivel on a dime and has incredible quickness. For some reason, he hasn’t put it together in 2020 or even 2021. Still, that dynamic season in 2019 flashed glimpses of what could be.

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

The Panthers need help across the inside as Matt Paradis gets long in the tooth at center. They’ve been decimated along the interior of the offensive line, and Kenyon Green has great versatility to fill in either guard spot immediately. He’s strong at the point of attack and has great moveability to get to the second level.

15) New York Giants: Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC

The interior of the Giants’ defensive line is in good hands for some time with Leonard Williams. They need help off the edge, and Drake Jackson is that help. He can play both with his hand in the dirt or as a stand-up pass rusher, as he wins from either position. Jackson and Neal become quite the fearsome duo from the same class and happen to land on the same roster.

16) Kansas City Chiefs: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

Kansas City’s defense is a disaster — arguably the worst unit that Andy Reid has ever had. They need more than Kaiir Elam, but Elam certainly helps get them back to where they need to be. He is the complete cornerback with great ball skills, physicality, mental attitude, and all the traits you’d want in a lockdown cornerback.

This season, he’s shown his ability to stop the opposing passing attack in plenty of games and gave glimpses of elite-level ball skills. Elam has one of the higher ceilings at any position.

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of NFL News/Analysis for Pro Football Network. He is also the co-host of Between the Hashes, a college football and NFL draft podcast. You can find his writing here. Follow him on Twitter @CamMellor

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