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Cam Mellor’s 2022 NFL Mock Draft: Michigan edge defenders David Ojabo, Aidan Hutchinson are top-three picks

Come for three rounds of this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, stay for the consistent, over-used movie references sure to make Lloyd Christmas happy.

Someplace warm. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I’m talking about a little place called … the 2022 NFL Draft. If you thought I was going to say Aspen, Lloyd Christmas would be proud as we dive into our latest mock.

The 2022 NFL Draft is a place for lacking teams to find talent. It’s a draft full of players waiting to make an immediate impact in the NFL. In this mock draft iteration, I’ve taken the liberty of selecting for every team as if I was their general manager in the 2022 NFL Draft.

This mock draft was done with Pro Football Network’s free Mock Draft Simulator, which means the draft order is most current heading into the final weekend of the NFL season. A new mock draft will be released early in the week following the conclusion of all of Week 18’s action.

2022 NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-16

Excuse me. Could you tell me how to get to the podium? I’m supposed to be drafting for all 32 teams, and my driver’s a little lost.

1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

The run on edge defenders begins. A bulletproof prospect, Kayvon Thibodeaux has the term “generational” attached to him at every turn. Thibodeaux changes the Jaguars’ defense in all the best ways. He gives them a violent pass rusher, a terrific run defender, and a player who is just scratching the surface of his elite potential.

As of right now, the Jaguars have no food, no jobs, and their head coaches are falling off! They need a new identity. Thibodeaux gives them that new identity.

2) Detroit Lions: David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan

An edge defender from Michigan lands in Detroit. But it’s not who you think it is. David Ojabo has the draft class’ best spin move, and he’s the most complete speed rusher in this or any recent draft. He wins from a variety of positions, and the recent success of someone named Micah Parsons drives his stock up.

Parsons wins with speed and wins easily. Ojabo can have that same kind of impact. And you can triple-stamp that double-stamp.

3) Houston Texans: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

So, I’m telling you there’s a chance! The Houston Texans land the third edge defender in as many picks after the Lions step up to draft Ojabo ahead of Aidan Hutchinson. A big man with an even more powerful pass-rush arsenal, Hutchinson injects strength and tenacity into the Texans’ defense. In the mold of a bigger, stronger J.J. Watt, Houston lands their next great pass rusher.

4) New York Jets: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

There was a point in time last summer that Ahmad Gardner told me “being CB1 is going to be easy.” Boy, oh boy, did he ever make it look easy this year. Gardner locked down an entire side of the field for Cincinnati in 2021, forcing errant throws away from his coverage and setting up his teammate Coby Bryant to win the Jim Thorpe Award.

Gardner then took his game to the next level by locking down Alabama WR Jameson Williams in the College Football Playoff semifinals. In three seasons, Gardner did not allow a single passing touchdown into his coverage. He’s a lockdown cornerback who proved time and time again he’s up to any challenge.

5) New York Giants: Kenyon Green, iOL, Texas A&M

Just when I think the New York Giants can’t get any dumber, they go and draft Kenyon Green — and totally redeem themselves! The Giants are hurting for help along the offensive line. Sure, Evan Neal could be the pick here, but the jury’s still out (and draft capital has been spent) on Andrew Thomas.

Green gives New York a versatile lineman who can play any of the interior spots, and play them well. He’s also a must-pick because the next team up would likely steal him away.

6) Carolina Panthers: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

The Carolina Panthers wouldn’t leave the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft without an offensive lineman if I were in charge. Green would’ve been the pick here. Instead, the consolation prize is the top offensive tackle in Evan Neal.

A massive man at 6’7″, 350 pounds, Neal is nimble and moves incredibly well in both the run and passing game. Neal’s insertion into the lineup creates an instant upgrade over Cameron Erving and Dennis Daley.

7) New York Jets (from Seattle): Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

After not being selected in the first six picks, all Kyle Hamilton could do was sit by the bar and put out the vibe. Well, the Jets are picking up that vibe as they stop his slide here.

Hamilton has the best range in the class and presents a valuable opportunity for Robert Saleh to build around a young secondary full of talent. The Notre Dame product moves his massive frame around very well and is no stranger to closing off an entire half of the field.

8) New York Giants (from Chicago): Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

Look, the Giants have a ton of needs. There’s no denying that. But it’s too early to select a linebacker and the top three edge defenders are gone. No center or tight end should be selected this early. If the Giants want to be contenders any time soon, they’re going to need to rely on more than just the oft-injured receiving corps they have now. Garrett Wilson is WR1 and has a bevy of elite skills.

He presents challenges to undersized cornerbacks in the same way he presents problems for slower safeties. Wilson can high-point the ball with the best of them and runs incredibly sharp, precise, and crisp routes all along the route tree. Daniel Jones, Russell Wilson, or whoever is throwing footballs for this team in 2022 will have a terrific receiver.

9) Philadelphia Eagles (from Washington): Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

Trade: The Eagles send Pick Nos. 14 and 54 plus a 2023 third-round selection to Washington for Pick No. 9.

With enough draft capital to do so and a bunch of teams ahead of them who could nab their desired target, the Philadelphia Eagles move up to Washington’s No. 9 slot to select Derek Stingley Jr.

He may have some injury concerns after the past two seasons, but the level of play Stingley presented in 2019 is the best we’ve seen in some time. Stingley, arguably, has the draft class’ highest ceiling among defensive back prospects. However, the 2020-21 campaigns have left some questioning “What was all that one in a million talk?” about him.

10) Atlanta Falcons: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

Greece is near Austria, eh? So, how ’bout we put another shrimp on the barbie?! Okay, the Dumb and Dumber references are getting more difficult to pull off, so we won’t force them anymore.

The pick of George Karlaftis to the Atlanta Falcons is certainly not forced and was about as easy as they come in this mock draft. Karlaftis is a power rusher with a mean streak and incredible football intelligence. He’s got a great motor and enough bend in his pass rushes to get to the quarterback against even the most nimble tackles.

11) Denver Broncos: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

The Denver Broncos will be in need of a complete, three-down linebacker after Micah Kiser and Stephen Weatherly become free agents. Sure, Josey Jewell returns, but securing the services of Devin Lloyd “Christmas,” the best coverage linebacker in the draft, is too good to pass up. Lloyd has great instincts and even better coverage skills.

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He’ll patrol the underneath coverage lanes against Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert for the Broncos for years to come.

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

In need of some serious help in the secondary, the Minnesota Vikings rush to grab Andrew Booth Jr. from Clemson. Booth could go as high as third or fourth as he’s in the running to be the top cornerback in this class. Yet, he’s here at pick No. 12, and I — acting as Rick Spielman — run to the podium with the selection. Booth has great length, terrific ball skills, and a fundamental upside as he’s just starting to scratch the surface of his ability.

13) Cleveland Browns: DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M

Baker Mayfield is still my quarterback if I’m in charge of the Cleveland Browns. Nothing is going to change that. There are options to grab at receiver, but the positional versatility of DeMarvin Leal on the defensive line is too good to pass up. Leal can play anywhere from straight up over the center to as far out as 5-tech, or just shaded inside the tackles. He’s a menace and incredibly difficult to stop against both the run and pass.

14) Washington Football Team (from Philadelphia): Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

Come April, Washington should have a new nickname and a new quarterback. And I’m sure the general consensus will be a resounding round of applause of everyone’s agreeance on both. Kenny Pickett does not come without questions. Nor does he come without concerns.

What Pickett does come with is a bevy of uncoachable intangibles required to be a successful quarterback. Accuracy. Grit. Tenacity. Football IQ. He’s a born leader. Pickett exploded onto the national scene this past season, but his ability was already widely known inside scouting circles. You know what you’re getting with Pickett, and he’ll show that off at the Senior Bowl in Mobile in February.

15) New Orleans Saints: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

Life’s a fragile thing. One minute you’re WR4 at Ohio State, the next minute you’re WR1 for the SEC champions. Jameson Williams made great use of the transfer portal this past offseason by moving from Columbus to Tuscaloosa. He leads the country in plays of 50+ yards but is much more than just a big-play threat. Williams is rock solid in just about every facet as a receiver.

16) Baltimore Ravens: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

The Baltimore Ravens don’t walk, they run to grab the services of Ikem Ekwonu. A powerful pass protector on the edge, Ekwonu excels in run blocking. Charles Cross could be the pick here, but he’d have to make wholesale adjustments to Baltimore’s run-first offense. Securing a player who can play right away is paramount. Ekwonu is mean, he’s ferocious, and he’s technically sound. I don’t care where he plays — just play him on my offensive line.

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of the College Football/NFL Draft vertical 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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