The new NFL season may be just beginning, and this year’s NFL Draft is still some six weeks down the road, but we’re already moving on to the next crop of NFL-bound talent. Will Sam Howell or Kayvon Thibodeaux be the first overall pick? Who’s the next lockdown cornerback to grace the league? Is there another great Ohio State pass rusher heading our way? Our 2022 First Round NFL Mock Draft answers all those questions and more. The future is now!
2022 NFL Mock Draft
1. Detroit Lions: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
This is an absolute no-brainer if the Detroit Lions end up selecting first overall as they do in this 2022 First Round NFL Mock Draft. The assumption here is they don’t select a quarterback in 2021, instead “relying” on Jared Goff to guide them to their quarterback of the future in Sam Howell.
Not only does Howell possess a marvelous mustache, but a great arm and the ability to make plays with his legs. He has thrown for 7,227 passing yards through two seasons with the Tar Heels, with 68 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions. North Carolina’s offense has been potent with Howell at the wheel. Hopefully, the Lions will have a pass-catching weapon such as DeVonta Smith to help continue that in Detroit.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DL, Oregon
A dominant defensive lineman even as a freshman, Kayvon Thibodeaux is potentially the best player in the class. The 6’5″, 250-pound defensive end is athletic as they come. Moreover, he is a dominant pass rusher who has been extremely productive through two seasons at Oregon. Even in the disrupted 2020 college football season, he posted 9.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 3 pass breakups.
A smart player who prides himself on his work ethic, Thibodeaux instantly upgrades a Jacksonville defense that will continue to be overhauled through 2021 and into 2022.
3. Houston Texans: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Generally, here’s where this 2022 First Round NFL Mock Draft begins to get highly theoretical. Let’s assume that Deshaun Watson has finally forced his way out of the Houston Texans by this time. Having ridden a combination of Tyrod Taylor and A.J. McCarron into further mediocrity, the Texans find themselves with the third overall pick.
Although some people may consider that Kedon Slovis should be the pick here, for me, Desmond Ridder will be one of the best quarterbacks in the class. He has the ability to create magic with his legs that he will presumably need to survive, given recent offensive line activity in Houston.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, Louisiana State
The Cincinnati Bengals spent the 2020 offseason rebuilding their secondary. They’ve essentially done the same this time around, adding Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton in free agency. Here, they make it three consecutive seasons trying to improve their cornerback room. This should be the last time, however, they have to be this lopsided. Derek Stingley Jr. is, in fact, an absolute stud of a cornerback.
As a freshman, he burst onto the scene, breaking up 15 passes and snagging 6 interceptions as LSU landed a national championship. A cornerback whose skill set makes him a legitimate two-way player, Stingley can be a genuine difference-maker for the Bengals.
5. New York Jets: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
As a result of the Jamal Adams trade, the New York Jets have two picks in this 2022 First Round NFL Mock Draft. With the first of them, they select Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton. The Jets have demonstrated before that they aren’t afraid to use an early first-round pick on the position. Hamilton is the epitome of a do-it-all defender. He can play in the box and he can blitz the quarterback.
One of the biggest question marks over the former Jets safety was certainly his coverage ability. No concerns are there with Hamilton. I fully expect Kyle Hamilton to emerge as one of the best defensive players in college football this upcoming season.
6. New York Giants: Kedon Slovis, QB, Southern California
The expectation is that the New York Giants will continue to roll with Daniel Jones in the 2021 NFL season. However, that doesn’t stop the never-ending question of whether he is truly the face of the franchise. If the Giants are picking this early next year, we will have the answer to that question.
Here, they strike for USC quarterback Kedon Slovis as his replacement. Slovis surprised as a freshman in Southern California. He deposed J.T. Daniels as the USC starter, flashing playmaking ability and incredible accuracy. In 2019, he had a 71.9 percent completion percentage while throwing for 3,502 passing yards and 30 touchdowns.
7. Philadelphia Eagles: Zach Harrison, DL, Ohio State
The Philadelphia Eagles are also a contender to select a quarterback if they’re picking early once again. However, rather than move on from Jalen Hurts in the first round, they’re going to give him another year to prove himself.
Instead, they bolster the defensive side of the ball. In a division where they face a potent Dallas Cowboys offense twice a year and where one of the NFL’s fiercest defenses (Washington Football Team) resides, the Eagles put themselves in a position to succeed on defense.
Ohio State defensive lineman Zach Harrison is the latest pass rusher off the Buckeyes’ conveyor belt. He impressed as a freshman covering for the suspended Chase Young in 2019. At 6’6″ and 265 pounds, Harrison is lauded for his incredible speed. With teammate Jonathon Cooper departed, expect Harrison to be a more prominent force for the Buckeyes which will see his 2022 NFL Draft stock soar.
8. Denver Broncos: Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
If the Denver Broncos are picking this early again, they’ll be selecting a quarterback, right? Wrong! Deshaun Watson detailed Denver as a preferred landing spot and although it seems unlikely, let’s assume that the Broncos move on from Lock and land Watson.
With Watson, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler, and Melvin Gordon on offense, they use this 2022 First Round NFL Mock Draft to address the defense.
Alabama linebacker Christian Harris has become a force for the Crimson Tide. A former high school defensive back, he rose to prominence to relieve the injured Dylan Moses in 2019. A tough-tackling, head-hunting linebacker in Reuben Foster’s mold, Harris would help restore the Broncos to its former glory.
9. Washington Football Team: Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
Washington’s playoff run in 2020 took them out of contention for one of the top four quarterbacks in this year’s draft. They used free agency to land Ryan Fitzpatrick on a one-year deal, and he keeps the seat warm for the ninth overall selection in this 2022 First Round NFL Mock Draft, Spencer Rattler.
The Oklahoma quarterback was one of the highest-ranked high school prospects of all-time. He looked the part in his first start in 2020 before suffering a wobble early in the season. Rattler ended the season strong and will carry that momentum into the 2021 college football season. With a powerful arm, he can be the quarterback to get the most out of wide receiver Terry McLaurin.
10. Chicago Bears: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
What do you mean Andy Dalton isn’t the long-term future of the Chicago Bears? The Bears’ pursuit of Russell Wilson would suggest that they wanted to land a mobile quarterback. With Desmond Ridder off the table, they strike for Liberty quarterback Malik Willis.
The former Auburn passer was a revelation. Liberty emerged as one of the fairytale stories of the 2020 college football season under Hugh Freeze. He has a great arm and proved last season that he is one of the most creative quarterbacks in the 2022 class. Willis came up just shy of 1,000 rushing yards while running in 14 touchdowns.
11. Atlanta Falcons: George Karlaftis, DL, Purdue
The Atlanta Falcons’ seemingly never-ending quest to create a pass rush ends with this First Round 2022 NFL Mock Draft. George Karlaftis is a 6’4″, 270-pound game-wrecker at the defensive end position.
Although he had a disrupted 2020 season for Purdue, you only need to look at his freshman season to see his impact on the Boilermakers. He is a genuinely disruptive force, and Falcons fans can salivate over his 17 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, and a forced fumble as a freshman.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
For the Las Vegas Raiders, just take the above description and swap Falcons for Raiders. Getting pressure on the quarterback — in a division that contains Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert — will continue to be the main order of business for the Raiders. Here, they land an athletic beast on the defensive line in Texas A&M’s DeMarvin Leal.
Originally recruited as a defensive end, Leal has played both defensive tackle and end for the Aggies. That versatility and athleticism, combined with his college production, should make Leal a valuable asset at the heart of the Raiders defense.
13. Carolina Panthers: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
For this 2022 First Round NFL Mock Draft, let’s presume that the Carolina Panthers have Trey Lance under center. There’s a temptation to give him the top wide receiver at pick 13.
However, let’s also assume that he makes good use of Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore, Christian McCaffrey has returned to pre-injury awesomeness, and the offense is now the most explosive it’s been since Cam Newton and Greg Olsen were the two best friends that anyone could have.
Thus, cornerback figures to be one of the bigger needs to address, and Kaiir Elam fills that need just nicely. At 6’2″ and just under 200 pounds, Elam has the look of an NFL cornerback. Additionally, in his first two seasons in Florida, he’s demonstrated excellent ball skills with 15 pass breakups and 4 interceptions.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Drake Jackson, DL, USC
One of the big storylines of the opening day of the legal tampering period was Minnesota Vikings pass rusher Danielle Hunter voicing his displeasure at his current contract. Will he still be a Viking in 2022?
Regardless, Minnesota is another team that consistently needs to do better getting to the quarterback. USC’s Drake Jackson is a ruthless and versatile pass rusher. He’s played defensive end and outside linebacker for the Trojans, and he led an impressive USC defense in tackles for loss as a true freshman.
15. New England Patriots: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
The New England Patriots have certainly splashed the cash in free agency on offensive weapons. It also wouldn’t be a surprise to see them continue the offensive overhaul in this year’s draft.
Despite that, they shouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger on Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave if he’s available here. He has the speed and route-running skills to be a genuine receiving threat in the NFL. It may require a change under center to unlock his true potential in New England.
16. Arizona Cardinals: George Pickens, WR, Georgia
There are possibly bigger needs to be addressed for the Arizona Cardinals. That said, you have to assume that Larry Fitzgerald retires at the end of 2021 if he hasn’t already done so by then. A.J. Green is now in on a one-year deal, so it’s uncertain if he stays past 2021.
Although they have DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk, adding Georgia wide receiver George Pickens to a Kyler Murray-led offense would be devastating to the rest of the NFL. Pickens is a physical pass catcher with excellent body control and represents a contested-catch nightmare.