Cam Mellor’s 2022 NFL Mock Draft: Matt Corral, Sam Howell find first-round destinations

Two quarterbacks land in the first round of the latest 2022 NFL Mock Draft, but how high and where exactly do they go?

The 2022 NFL Draft is around the corner, and it’s time to take Pro Football Network’s free Mock Draft Simulator for a spin again. With the Wild Card round finished and the first 24 picks set in stone, here’s what the MDS saw happening come April.

This mock draft order is up to date, pending the final result between the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals to close out Wild Card Weekend.

2022 NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-16

Two quarterbacks land in Round 1 of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. However, it’s the defense that dominates the first half of picks.

1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

The Jacksonville Jaguars don’t let pre-draft hype overtake them. They select Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux, who presented as the draft class’ best prospect for the majority of the season — if not all of it.

Thibodeaux is a talented pure pass rusher with incredible upside in the run game. He’s polished off the edge and even gives the Jaguars a chance to move him around the defensive front rotation with his athleticism. But make no mistake, Thibodeaux’s biggest impact will be sacking quarterbacks for years to come.

2) Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

A pure power rusher, Aidan Hutchinson is still evolving as an edge defender. Still, his power rush is as good as we’ve seen in some time. And that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the requisite speed to jet past tackles on the edge.

Hutchinson presents a challenge for all types of lineman to block. He requires double-teams and chip blocks. Hutchinson is a menace to opposing offenses. The Detroit Lions continue building their ferocious identity with this selection.

3) Houston Texans: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

A raw cover corner with fabulous athleticism, the Houston Texans select their cornerstone defensive player for years to come. Andrew Booth Jr. has tremendous athleticism that allows him to skyrocket over receivers in coverage. He also possesses far more speed than most current NFL receivers in both short-area quickness and long speed. His future is bright under whatever regime is brought in in Houston.

4) New York Jets: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

Despite failing to meet expectations for two years, Derek Stingley Jr. is the fourth player selected. The New York Jets must first do their due diligence on Stingley’s last two seasons. While doing so, they can rest assured that if he does recapture the form he showcased in 2019, he’s a future All-Pro cornerback. Stingley has innate athleticism and the best ball skills at the position in some time.

5) New York Giants: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

The New York Giants could attend to multiple positions of need here. Instead, they grab PFN Draft Analyst Oliver Hodgkinson’s No. 1 player on his big board in Kyle Hamilton. With the widest range of any defensive back prospect, Hamilton has positional versatility to boot. He can play a variety of positions but has an elite future at free safety. For a man his size (6’4″, 220), his ability to close space on the field rivals that of Derwin James when healthy.

6) Carolina Panthers: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

Speaking of size, there is no one that takes up more real estate than Evan Neal. The big man on the edge for Alabama gives the Carolina Panthers a blindside protector for years to come. Neal is as good as he is big, and that’s massive. At 6’7″, 360 pounds, Neal moves incredibly well for a man that large. He has great hands, better feet, and as solid of a foundation you can find at tackle.

7) New York Giants (from Chicago): George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

The sky is the limit for George Karlaftis. Again, the Giants can go in a number of directions at No. 7, but they select their future havoc wreaker off the edge in Karlaftis. In the mold of Hutchinson, Karlaftis actually has an array of pass-rush moves at his disposal in addition to his power game. His football intelligence is what sets him apart as he’s a true student of the game.

8) Atlanta Falcons: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

The Atlanta Falcons need help. They need to answer the question of how much longer Matt Ryan will be their quarterback. But no matter what, they need some playmakers outside. Enter Garrett Wilson.

The draft class’ top receiver, Wilson has elite intangibles. He’s a sharp route runner with crisp breaks. Wilson’s got immaculate hands and even better ability at the catch point. He’ll immediately be thrust into the WR1 role, where he should excel.

9) Denver Broncos: Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

The first quarterback off the board, Matt Corral heads to the Denver Broncos. They’ll have a new head coach, quarterback, and a identity in GM George Paton’s second year at the helm. If so, Corral would have a huge chunk of responsibility in turning around an offense that struggled to impress in 2021.

Corral can throw it with accuracy and power from any angle. He’ll sling throws from the pocket or buy time with his athleticism to maneuver the pocket. Corral is a deceptive athlete who always keeps his eyes downfield, looking to make the play before tucking and running. His offense was a bit too “cute” at Ole Miss, so growing pains could be expected, but he has all the raw ability and intangibles he’d need to see success right away.

10) New York Jets (from Seattle): DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M

The Jets are a few pieces of the puzzle away from turning the corner. They could build around Zach Wilson entering his second year, but with two top-10 picks, they grab a cornerstone cornerback and a talented pass rusher on the defensive line. Keeping in mind that they’ll secure Carl Lawson’s return in 2022, the entrance and versatility of DeMarvin Leal will go a long way in improving their pass-rush unit. Leal can rush the passer from any alignment and do it incredibly well.

11) Washington Football Team: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

The Washington Football Team grabs their future franchise quarterback in Sam Howell, as he’s the second quarterback off the board in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. Howell has an incredibly talented arm and understands how to properly use it across the field. He can diagnose defenses quickly and make snap decisions with accuracy. Howell failed to elevate his cast in 2021, but the accuracy and power never left him.

12) Minnesota Vikings: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

A true lockdown cornerback heads to the Minnesota Vikings as Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner heads north. The talented CB from Cincinnati was so feared in coverage that he was routinely avoided this past season. He’ll blanket an entire side of the field in coverage and separate himself as a willing run defender. Sauce brings just that — some sauce — to an otherwise lackluster, aging secondary.

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

The second receiver off the board and the second Ohio State alum in the first round, Chris Olave heads north up I-71 to the Cleveland Browns and improves their passing attack by doing so. Olave is so skilled at the catch point that routine catches for him were highlight-reel moments for other players. He’s the career leader in receiving touchdowns at Ohio State for a reason and is arguably the most dependable player at the position this year.

14) Baltimore Ravens: Kenyon Green, iOL, Texas A&M

The Baltimore Ravens need help on the offensive line. And they need it at a bevy of positions. Kenyon Green would fill at least one of those positions while offering versatility to move around the line like a movable chess piece. He plugs into one of the guard spots and has plenty of experience in a run-first, pro-style offense from his time with the Aggies. Green is a mauler on the ground and a great pass protector.

15) Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami): Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

A talented specimen who is as strong as an ox, Nakobe Dean tosses blockers aside as quickly as he diagnoses plays. Dean is as smart as they come and presents a challenge for linemen to even get their hands on him, given his speed. On top of that, he bounces off contact from blockers in space and patrols over the middle in coverage brilliantly. Dean demands excellence from himself and his teammates, giving the Philadelphia Eagles a much-needed leader in the back seven.

16) Philadelphia Eagles (from Indianapolis): Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

Philadelphia makes their second pick in a row, grabbing Tyler Linderbaum to anchor their offensive line for years. Linderbaum is as solid of a prospect as there is in this class and even separated himself from other top center prospects in recent memory. He’s sound in pass protection but excels in the run game, where he routinely finds defenders at all three levels to make highlight-reel blocks on.

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of the College Football/NFL Draft vertical for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here. Follow him on Twitter: @CamMellor.