For some folks, the NFL Draft never ends. For most, however, draft season is only just beginning. With college football winding to a close and the NFL’s draft order starting to tighten up, fans are beginning to look ahead to figure out what their team might do to improve in 2022. To that end, this 2022 NFL Mock Draft looks at players who are either the best fit or the best value — or to find some common ground between the two.
2022 NFL Mock Draft | 1-16
The draft order is based on Pro Football Network’s free Mock Draft Simulator with trades, which is current as of the conclusion of NFL’s Week 12 action. Check back on Tuesday evening (December 7) for our latest mock draft, which will be updated after all Week 13 games have been played. Let’s get to it!
1) Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
It’s become somewhat sexy for Aidan Hutchinson to supplant Kayvon Thibodeaux as the No. 1 pick lately. For me, it comes down to disruption. While Hutchinson is certainly disruptive, he is playing across from another possible first-round pick in David Ojabo, forcing every team he faces to account for both.
Thibodeaux, on the other hand, has no such benefit and faces slide protection or double-teams virtually every snap he’s on the field. Other times, opponents simply run away from him or throw the ball as fast as possible to avoid him. The Lions have a weak roster, and they need anyone who can wreak havoc while they rebuild their roster.
2) Houston Texans: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
Like the Lions, the Texans have a wide variety of needs, which means they can simply take the best player here and walk away happy. With Aidan Hutchinson being the 1B of this draft, they walk out of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft with one of the best pass rushers in the nation, having been compared to both Bosa brothers and being considered for the first overall pick.
3) Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
It’s a pretty common trope that a team with a franchise quarterback needs to protect that investment. It’s a common trope because it works, so the Jaguars don’t need to go against the grain with their first pick. Evan Neal is a comically large offensive tackle, even by the lofty standards of the position. His aggressiveness matches that size as a blocker, so it’s no secret why Neal started and will likely end the draft season as a top-three player.
4) New York Jets: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
It’s difficult to compare Kyle Hamilton to recent safety prospects because so few were on the same level. No safety has been drafted in the top four picks in the last 30 years. Sean Taylor and Eric Berry were both drafted fifth overall, and Kyle Hamilton belongs on that level as a prospect. He’s expected to test as one of the most athletic safeties ever. His tape is among the best at any position in this entire draft class, not to mention the best among safeties in recent memory.
5) New York Jets: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
After shoring up their back end by taking Kyle Hamilton, the Jets go all in to fix their secondary here by taking LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. Head coach Robert Saleh needs some firepower to help fix one of the league’s worst defenses, so why not have them double up and put the pedal down? A foot injury may cause some concerns. If that clears as expected, we should see a player who showed phenomenal tape, size, and athletic upside like Stingley go quickly.
6) New York Giants: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
While he doesn’t jump off the stat sheet you’d prefer, George Karlaftis may be the strongest pound-for-pound player in the 2022 NFL Draft. At around 275 pounds, that’s saying quite a lot — Karlaftis plays bully ball with everyone he gets his hands on.
He’s not a quick outside rusher, but we’ve seen powerful rushers with a lot less technique than Karlaftis be successful in the NFL. Pairing Karlaftis with Leonard Williams or Dexter Lawrence would be a monumental task for opposing lines, and giving Azeez Ojulari the space he needs to wreak havoc in the backfield could put the Giants’ defense back on the map.
7) New York Giants: Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
Many of the Giants’ needs don’t really line up with who’s ranked this highly. One that does is Texas A&M lineman Kenyon Green. Having already gotten meaner and stronger on the defensive line with Karlaftis, the G-Men opt for adding some meat to the other side of the ball.
Green has played everywhere on the offensive line, giving New York some options. Still, if you want to see what he offers, you can check out Texas A&M’s upset win over Alabama. He lined up at left tackle and helped the Aggies completely stonewall one of the best pass rushers in college football (2023 top-five pick Will Anderson).
8) Philadelphia Eagles: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
The Eagles’ defense is not very good, but it isn’t so far away from taking a huge leap that the team can’t greatly accelerate their improvements. Andrew Booth Jr. is one of the best cornerbacks in a very strong class. The Eagles get to take advantage of the linemen coming off the board so quickly here. His ability to erase contested-catch situations will serve the Eagles well in a division with guys like CeeDee Lamb and Kenny Golladay.
9) Philadelphia Eagles: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Having picked up a player to help their secondary already, why not finish their back-to-back picks by taking the best linebacker in the 2022 NFL Draft class? Devin Lloyd will finish his college career with at least 43 tackles for a loss, 15.5 sacks, and 4 interceptions over 34 games. At 6’3″ and around 235 pounds, he has the size teams look for in athletic linebackers. The best bets are he’ll test extremely well. Pairing this pick with Booth ought to help fix two of the Eagles’ biggest needs.
10) Carolina Panthers: Matt Corral, QB, Mississippi
Few draft classes would take until the 10th pick to see a quarterback off the board, but that shouldn’t worry Panthers fans too much. Though this is a weaker draft class, that doesn’t mean that it’s without talent. Matt Corral brings top-tier athletic talent, one of the strongest arms in the class, and routine accuracy to Carolina, allowing them someone to build around in a competitive NFC South. There are other areas the Panthers could opt to go here, but getting the draft’s top quarterback at the end of the top 10 is like stealing.
11) Atlanta Falcons: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
The Falcons picked up A.J. Terrell in 2020, and he has developed into a strong starter for the team despite their struggles. With Fabian Moreau on a one-year contract, the team will need to find someone to play across from their budding star corner.
While a pass rusher would fill a bigger need, the value doesn’t come close to where the Falcons are picking. Kaiir Elam is an incredibly fluid athlete with the instincts to make his transition from college to pro fairly easy, building a cornerback tandem in Atlanta that could contend with any in the league.
12) Minnesota Vikings: Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
If you’re a sucker for top-tier athletes, you will love Daxton Hill. All he had to do to cement his status as a first-round pick in 2022 was have a decent season for Michigan. Instead, he balled out all year and showcased his ridiculous athletic talents while taking a massive step forward in the technical aspects of his game, coverage assignments, and run angles specifically. While Xavier Woods has been alright, he’s only on a one-year deal, and pairing an elite talent like Hill with Harrison Smith is good process.
13) New Orleans Saints: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
The Saints seem to have some kind of plan at quarterback involving Taysom Hill. Whether it’s a good plan or not remains to be seen, but serious dollars have been invested. One area they’ll need to help him is at wide receiver. While they’re facing a possible contract out with Michael Thomas, they could use another weapon regardless of their plans for him. Chris Olave gives them a physical, explosive receiver who can use solid game speed and body control to create separation.
14) Philadelphia Eagles: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
Jalen Hurts has yet to show that he’s capable of being a long-term NFL starter. While he’s not the anchor holding the team down, he isn’t leading them to new heights, either.
Sam Howell started the season a possible No. 1 overall pick, all he had to show was that he could still be productive (despite losing several of his best weapons to the 2021 NFL Draft). As it is, he was unable to do that and slid quite a bit because of it. This fall primes a team like the Eagles to swoop in and reap the benefits. Howell showed marked improvement as a runner in 2021. It wasn’t quite the season he imagined, but he has also dealt with a supporting cast that has hindered him at almost every step.
15) Cleveland Browns: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
One of the rarest types of players in existence is a super athletic nose tackle. We might see one or two per draft class. They rarely come with the type of dominant tape that you’ll see with Jordan Davis. He’s drawn comparisons to Buccaneers NT Vita Vea and Giants NT Dexter Lawrence, but he might test better than either of them. It’s not a coincidence that an interior defensive lineman might be the Browns’ biggest need coming into this draft, but few fits work better than this one.
16) Pittsburgh Steelers: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
The Steelers could go several ways with this pick, including selecting their quarterback of the future. However, I’m not sure they go that route in this class. Instead, they throw a little “Sauce” on their defense to try to rekindle part of what made their championship teams so fun.
You don’t earn a nickname like Sauce by being bland and generic. While Ahmad Gardner has plenty of enticing athletic traits to get fans excited, he might be the best corner in the class from the neck up. One of the most instinctive players in the class, Gardner could have himself the best rookie season among the corners in this class just because he’s likely to catch up to the speed of the game faster.