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2022 NFL Mock Draft: Swooning over safeties and pass rushers

Early in the process of 2022 NFL mock draft coverage, it's more important to find the fit than the particular player. Let's attack needs.

2022 NFL Mock Draft | 17-32

Defense would have dominated the top 16, but the offensive line class stepped in to save the day. But in the back half of Round 1, the magnitude of defensive talent is on full display, as 11 of the 16 picks land on defense.

17) Cleveland Browns: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

I know, the Ohio State and Cleveland Browns thing isn’t real, but I don’t care. Geographical tiebreakers are always fun. This wasn’t a tiebreaker, though. Chris Olave is a technician. He can do it all as a wide receiver and has more than enough athleticism to separate at the next level. He won’t be a YAC monster, but he is the type of route runner the NFL has begun to prefer.

Olave should be able to step in from Day 1 and produce at the next level. He isn’t the same prospect we’ve seen recently in draft classes, but then again, we didn’t see Justin Jefferson being arguably the best receiver from his historically talented class. Olave is a pro receiver already, and he’ll need to be on a roster lacking long-term answers aside from Donovan Peoples-Jones.

18) Kansas City Chiefs: DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M

I love me some meat in the middle. Heck, I’ll even settle for undersized meat, like with the Aggies’ V… I mean Leal.

DeMarvin Leal has and probably will continue to go through the natural progression of a tweener-type player. Hybrid players often get massive offseason hype because they have plus athleticism for the interior and flash burst as a pass rusher, and we slap “potential” on them. Then, they underperform for a while in their draftable season and everybody decides the player is no longer being worthy of the first round before they eventually land somewhere in the middle.

The point is, Leal is a fine player who will be a good fit as that tweener type in Kansas City’s defense, where he can play in multiple roles. He must become more proficient against the run, but he’s been dominant affecting the pocket. He has 5.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss in just seven games so far in 2021. That production profile will pique the interest of NFL teams.

19) Minnesota Vikings: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

Time is a flat circle. We wake up, we eat, we hopefully shower, and then we sleep. The Vikings have one less step, it feels. They wake up, draft a cornerback, and then they sleep. It feels like they’re always taking a cornerback high or grabbing one in free agency. It just never seems to work out.

Andrew Booth Jr. is freaky athletic, and it consistently shows on his tape. He’s still not a finished prospect, and it’s the only thing holding him back from his top-10 ceiling. He moves the way you want to see a first-round cornerback move. He’s fluid and explosive with those sweet feet that allow him to stay with shiftier receivers.

However, that doesn’t always go to plan when his technique fails him (as we saw against Boston College’s Zay Flowers), which dropped him in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft.

20) Pittsburgh Steelers: Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State

The Pittsburgh Steelers are begging for offensive line and quarterback reinforcements in 2022. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly difficult to accomplish both in the NFL Draft with the high-value nature of each position.

The Steelers need to improve in the run game, and that’s something Rasheed Walker should immediately help with at the NFL level. He must improve as a pass protector, which will become more important with Ben Roethlisberger’s impending retirement. Nonetheless, whoever replaces him under center will need to learn to get the ball out with immediacy, or they will taste turf when they wake up in the morning.

21) New Orleans Saints: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

Just flip a coin between Garrett Wilson and Olave at this point in the season, and I will probably argue whoever picked second got the better value. They’re both outstanding players, and I do believe Wilson’s ceiling is higher. I also like his fit to complement Michael Thomas (should Thomas ever return from his ankle injury).

There’s no denying that, even upon Thomas’ return, the Saints need help at receiver. It was true before the season and it’s true now. It’s to the point where it appears Sean Payton is cautious of throwing the ball at all. The NFL has thrown the ball at a 59% clip so far in 2021. The Saints are 4% lower than the next closest team, sitting at a 45% pass rate on the season.

Jameis Winston has brought some explosive plays to the Saints’ offense, but they’re relying on Alvin Kamara the way the Panthers have Christian McCaffrey. Hopefully, that doesn’t continue because the Saints need the passing game for consistency’s sake (and possibly Kamara’s long-term health).

22) Buffalo Bills: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

Ahmad Gardner has his flaws as a prospect, but there is no denying the season he’s had for the Bearcats in 2021. The ball skills have always been there, and although stats can often be misleading, Gardner hadn’t allowed a passing touchdown in his career before this season.

And at 6’2″, 190 pounds, he has all the length the NFL could ever look for in an outside cornerback. His lower half is still a technical work in progress, and his footwork in transition could use improvements, but the rest of the athletic profile is there.

23) Tennessee Titans: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

Well, it sure seems like the contract the Titans gave Bud Dupree could have been better used by being lit on fire, doesn’t it? Aidan Hutchinson makes you forget about all that, especially with the 23rd pick. That’s outstanding value for someone who many believe is a top-15 prospect. At a premium position, it doesn’t get much better than that for the Titans in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft.

Hutchinson had a good year in 2020, but he was injured after just two games. Now, through six games in 2021, he’s notched 4.5 sacks and 6 tackles for loss on the bedpost. The 6’6″, 265-pound pass rusher is the precise mold you chisel for a defensive end at the next level. That makes him a nice fit opposite Harold Landry.

24) Dallas Cowboys: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

The Georgia defense is obviously unfair, and a big reason is the big man in the middle. Jordan Davis‘ athleticism makes him an absolute load in the middle because a large man with his explosion takes multiple bodies to beat (if that even does the job).

The Cowboys have improved defensively through free agency and the draft in the past few seasons, but they’ve struggled to find competent 1-technique play. Davis has been a Cowboys target now for what seems like two years. Now, they get him, and with this selection comes freedom for their linebackers.

25) Las Vegas Raiders: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

Charles Cross is a tackle prospect that got attention early in the process but has seen a perceived hit to his stock since. However, that’ll change as the offensive line gurus begin to tell the rest of the draft community how to feel.

Cross’ athleticism is his calling card. He still lacks some strength in his upper half, but his lower body strength and his hands allow him to properly answer the call against power. That type of power is easier to obtain when the game becomes a full-time job.

The Raiders have almost completely dismantled their offensive line from last season. It’s unfortunate that Derek Carr has to go through this, but he’s played above and beyond so far given what he’s working with. Hopefully, Alex Leatherwood improves on the interior, which would give the Raiders at least three serviceable linemen in 2022.

26) Los Angeles Chargers: Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma

The Chargers could have gone a few ways here. They needed a third receiver and could use some linebacker help as well. We shan’t forget about their need at cornerback, either. However, adding to the defensive interior on a team that doesn’t offer much aside from Joey Bosa felt necessary.

Perrion Winfrey can rush the passer, and he plays with outstanding leverage that makes him look more compact than he is. That’s another plus to his game. He doesn’t appear to have too many issues with length, which leads me to believe his anatomical length is probably good.

27) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kingsley Enagbare, EDGE, South Carolina

Kingsley Enagbare has great effective length and explosiveness to generate speed to power as a rusher with the best of them. He’s more of a projection than many of the other rushers in the class, but few bring the entire package the way Enagbare does.

He has the length, strength, bend, and (in flashes) the hands to win quickly as a pass rusher. He appears densely built yet still fluid and long. The Buccaneers don’t have many needs as long as their cornerbacks return healthy, but with JPP advancing in age, it wouldn’t hurt to have another pass rusher in the rotation.

So far, for the second straight year, it doesn’t feel like the Buccaneers have many pressing needs. Must be nice.

28) Detroit Lions: Christian Harris, LB, Alabama

I don’t remember a time where the Lions didn’t need athleticism at linebacker. Christian Harris brings all that and more to a Detroit defense that has already invested in the defensive interior. That hopefully allows Harris to roam more freely as a chase-and-tackle WILL linebacker.

He still needs to grow as a player, but he’ll be afforded the opportunity to improve on a team in the infancy of a multi-year rebuild. Detroit’s current linebacker unit isn’t going to get the job done. That’s why they attacked the position in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft.

29) Cincinnati Bengals: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

Washington simply breeds NFL-ready cornerbacks, and Trent McDuffie is no exception. Like many of the Huskies’ former cornerbacks, he doesn’t have the elite length or height of other top cornerback prospects. Nonetheless, he’s technically sound and moves incredibly well.

In fact, McDuffie’s explosiveness is well-documented. Out of high school, he tested quite impressively. He ran a sub-4.5 40-yard dash and jumped well. Washington has always asked a lot from its cornerbacks on the mental side of things. McDuffie is just the next in a long line of former Washington Huskie DBs that found success at the NFL level.

30) Green Bay Packers: Drake London, WR, USC

We don’t know who will be the quarterback of the Packers in 2022. We assume it’ll be Jordan Love, but no matter who it is, they’ll need a wide receiver. It’s no guarantee that Davante Adams is around next year, and even if he is, Drake London is an outstanding complement.

If there was a better receiving prospect for Jameis Winston, I’m not sure who it would be. I know Winston isn’t a Packer, but if London becomes one, we’ll immediately start recycling the old “awe heck it, Mike Evan out there somewhere.”

Statistically speaking, London is one of the greatest contested-catch receivers ever at the college level. But that’s not all he is — it’s simply his special trait. He’s a fluid athlete who, combined with his size, can improve on the finer points as a route runner to better generate natural separation.

31) Baltimore Ravens: Adam Anderson, EDGE, Georgia

Would a 2022 NFL mock draft be complete without the Ravens stealing a great player late? Adam Anderson is playing like a man possessed right now. Currently, he has 5 sacks and 5 tackles for loss in just six games. Although he is an undersized pass rusher, he’s very much in the mold of his former teammate Azeez Ojulari in that it only infrequently affects his ability to rush the passer.

The Ravens have preferred bigger pass rushers as of late, but in a multiple defense that blitzes as much as Wink Martindale does, Anderson would be a great fit in a hybrid linebacking role.

32) Arizona Cardinals: Mykael Wright, CB, Oregon

Much like the Washington Huskies, the Oregon Ducks have produced some incredibly NFL-ready talent in the secondary over the past few years. Mykael Wright is a strong run defender, has fluid footwork, and an attitude you love to see from your cornerbacks. The Cardinals already found success in Byron Murphy Jr., but they need help aside from him.

Robert Alford is playing well in 2021, but he is nearly 33 years old at this juncture, and Marco Wilson is learning that the NFL game is a tad more difficult than his Florida days. Wright certainly has things he can improve upon, such as squeezing vertical routes instead of allowing free releases, but those are teachable.

He has the size, speed, and change of direction you look for in a cornerback.

Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read more of his work here and follow him @daltonbmiller on Twitter and Twitch

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