NFL mock draft
After winning a National Championship, Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean goes top 10 in this NFL mock draft. (Chris Carlson/AP)

With the National Championship game coming to a close and Georgia winning the hardware, eyes are now set on the NFL Draft. Many prospects can boost their draft stocks through the Senior Bowl and Combine between now and April, however, there is plenty of first-round talent that will be addressed in this 2022 NFL mock draft.

1 – Jacksonville Jaguars

Evan Neal OT, Alabama

The Jaguars are back picking first overall and they need to protect the first pick of the 2021 draft. Trevor Lawrence still possesses that franchise quarterback potential but was under constant duress in his rookie season. Left tackle Cam Robinson is unlikely to be re-signed, leaving a gaping hole at left tackle. The Alabama mammoth Evan Neal moves incredibly fluid despite being 6-foot-7 and 360-pounds. After a shutout performance against the vaunted Georgia defensive front, Jacksonville should be enamored with Neal as Lawrence’s blindside protector.

2 – Detriot Lions

Aidan Hutchinson EDGE, Michigan

The Lions lack an identity along their defense. Jared Goff is not the long-term answer, but Detroit should be going best player available. In this case, that is Aidan Hutchinson. The Michigan star edge rusher racked up an absurd 14 sacks this season, leading the Wolverines to their first College Football Playoff appearance. His performance against Georgia was blown out of proportion, he still set the edge well and flashed his explosive power that NFL teams will fall in love with.

3 – Houston Texans

Kayvon Thibodeaux EDGE, Oregon

Similar to Detroit, the Texans should be going best player available. After Hutchinson, comes yet another edge rusher in Kayvon Thibodeaux. Compared to Hutchinson, Thibodeaux possesses more upside with elite speed and burst off the line. As a complete player, he still needs some refining in terms of pass rush moves. However, his athleticism jumps off the screen and he will show that at the combine. An injury-riddled 2021 season in which Thibodeaux finished with 7 sacks and 12 tackles for loss proves his productiveness when healthy.

4 – New York Jets

Derek Stingley Jr. CB, LSU

Robert Saleh’s defense was abysmal through the air, allowing the third-most passing yards and coming up with a mere 7 interceptions in 2021. Cornerback isn’t a top need for this team, but a talent like Stingley is too good to pass up on for a team devoid of it. A lockdown corner will pay immediate dividends for this New York secondary. Stingley isn’t my top cornerback in this class, but his athleticism and upside make him an easy top ten selection in this NFL mock draft.

5 – New York Giants

Ikem Ekwonu OT, NC State

The Giants have plenty of holes to fill, but the offensive line should be the number one priority. With needs at guard and tackle, a flexible lineman like Ikem Ekwonu is a great addition. Ekwonu is a mover in the run game, powerful at the point of attack, and plays well in space. There is room to grow as a pass blocker, but he can kick inside at guard to start off in New York.

6 – Carolina Panthers

Matt Corral QB, Ole Miss

The Sam Darnold project was just as much of a failure as the Cam Newton project this past season and Matt Rhule will want a fresh quarterback to mold. The first quarterback taken will be Matt Corral or Kenny Pickett, but I believe Matt Rhule will prefer Corral’s arm talent and playmaking ability. Corral can extend plays with his legs and can hit the deep ball as well as anyone in the draft. He can step into a situation with a solid receiving corps in DJ Moore, Robby Anderson, and Terrace Marshall.

7 – New York Giants

George Karlaftis EDGE, Purdue

After addressing the offensive line, the Giants fix their defensive trenches with this pick. He isn’t as athletic as the previous edge players off the board, but Karlaftis is so technically sound that he can be an immediate difference-maker for a team devoid of consistent pass-rushers. He is purely a power rusher who can collapse the pocket and set the edge in the run game. Azeez Ojulari showed promise as a rookie, making these two a young foundation for the New York defensive line.

8 – Atlanta Falcons

David Ojabo EDGE, Michigan

This edge class is impressive if you couldn’t tell. More will go off the board in this NFL mock draft. The next guy off the here though is David Ojabo who has all the tools to become a star in the NFL. The variety of moves Ojabo has in his arsenal is impressive despite playing football for a limited amount of time. Ojabo’s burst off the edge is just different. And that will show for an Atlanta team that managed a league-low 18 sacks in 2021.

9 – Denver Broncos

Kenny Pickett QB, Pittsburgh

Teddy Bridgewater couldn’t have disappointed more on a relatively stacked Broncos offense. Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, and Javonte Williams feature a young, talented offense that is just a quarterback away from being elite. Kenny Pickett is the most pro-ready quarterback in the class, as he goes through reads and makes accurate throws in tight windows. The smart-aggressiveness of Pickett will be welcomed after the quarterback carousel we’ve seen in Denver since Peyton Manning retired.

10 – New York Jets

Nakobe Dean LB, Georgia

An unconventional selection here in this NFL mock draft, but Saleh will fall in love with what Nakobe Dean brings to the table. At 6-feet 225-pounds, Dean flies over the field making plays everywhere. He can blitz the quarterback at an elite level. He shed blocks so well he leads the Georgia defense in sacks with 6 on the year. Against Alabama, he got home on the blitz seemingly every third down. His athleticism lets him drop back into coverage with ease. Dean will be a playmaker alongside CJ Mosley from day one.

11 – Washington Football Team

Kyle Hamilton S, Notre Dame

Washington expected to have a more vaunted defense going into the year and couldn’t live up to those expectations. Giving up the fourth-most receiving yards is something that clearly needs to be addressed. A ball-hawking safety like Kyle Hamilton can turn it all around. Hamilton’s insane range at 6-foot-4 220-pounds means he can play single high in the secondary. Allowing safety Kamren Curl to play more freely in the box will help the defense immensely.

12 – Minnesota Vikings

Ahmad Gardner CB, Cincinnatti

Mike Zimmer is out, but pressing needs remain along Minnesota’s defense. Primarily the cornerback position is a must this offseason as Cameron Dantzler and Kris Boyd are the only two under contract going into the offseason. My top corner Ahmad Gardner falling to them at twelve is a dream scenario for Vikings fans. Sauce Gardner is a surefire tackler while being a shutdown corner in man coverage. He is a do-it-all player this defense will rely on.

13 – Cleveland Browns

Garrett Wilson WR, Ohio State

Baker Mayfield’s play has been questionable, to say the least. Cleveland needs to know if he can be their quarterback of the future before extending his contract. So why not give him a weapon so there are no excuses next year? Garrett Wilson is the most complete receiver in the class. Elite route-running and burst allow him to separate on all levels of the field. A receiving room without Odell Beckham Jr. could use a polished pass-catcher in Wilson.

14 – Baltimore Ravens

Kenyon Green OL, Texas A&M

In a run-heavy offense and right tackle Alejandro Villanueva turning 34, the offensive line could use some help. The Ravens get just that in this NFL mock draft. Kenyon Green has played every position along the offensive line for the Aggies but will translate best as a right tackle. He moves incredibly well when pulling in the run game, a perfect fit for a Harbaugh/Lamar Jackson-led offense. The ability to move around to guard positions as well brings depth that Baltimore found themselves lacking throughout the season.

15 – Philadelphia Eagles

Andrew Booth Jr. CB, Clemson

Darius Slay has been lights out for the Eagles this year, but he is on the wrong side of 30. At the same time, Steven Nelson is prone to letting up plays in coverage. Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. has the traits to develop into an elite NFL corner. His fluid hips and athleticism are in the upper-echelon of players in this class. However, there are a few things to clean up technically. In zone coverage, he can get lost and tackling issues have shown, but the upside here is immense.

16 – Philadelphia Eagles

Devin Lloyd LB, Utah

The Eagles’ second first-round pick is focused on their linebacking corps or lack thereof. A group of Alex Singleton, TJ Edwards, and Genard Avery must be fixed going into 2022. The Utah linebacker is a downhill thumper. He plays at a high level in the box, disengaging from blockers and making the tackle. His improvement in coverage proves his worth as a three-down player. The instinctual Devin Lloyd will come in and likely lead the team in tackles as a rookie.

17 – Los Angeles Chargers

Jordan Davis DL, Georgia

The Chargers were gashed by the run this season. If they could just bottle up the Raiders run game they’d be in the playoffs. Georgia’s 340-pound defensive tackle is just the man to turn the defense around. Right now he is more of a two-down player but has shown promise as a pass-rusher. Against Alabama in the Championship game, Davis blew up a couple of plays getting after Bryce Young and running back Brian Robinson. If Brandon Staley can develop him into a three-down player Davis will be well worth the pick.

18- New Orleans Saints

Chris Olave WR, Ohio State

I would have originally wanted to take Jameson Williams here, but after a potential ACL injury suffered against Georgia, there are too many question marks there. Chris Olave is more than a consolation prize though. He profiles best as a smooth downfield route-runner. He can separate on the backend of the field, complementing the skillset Michael Thomas brings when he returns. Just like that Jameis Winston and Sean Payton will have a solid offense to work with.

19 – Philadelphia Eagles

Kingsley Enagbare EDGE, South Carolina

Philly finishes their first-round trifecta of picks in this NFL mock draft with yet another defensive player. This time a powerful edge rusher in Kingsley Enagbare. His first step is explosive as Enagbare has a mean bull rush. He could use some development in terms of ID’ing run plays, but his ability to pressure the quarterback is unquestioned. The power he brings will make an impact to spell an aging Brandon Graham on the Eagles’ defensive front.

20 – Pittsburgh Steelers

Tyler Linderbaum C, Iowa

Linderbaum dropping to Pittsburgh is too enthralling to pass up. No quarterbacks are too appealing here anyway. The offensive line has plenty that needs to be fixed and a lot of that can be done with this pick. Linderbaum’s presence can move Kendrick Green back to his more natural guard position, shoring up two spots on the offensive front. Linderbaum is the most polished player in this draft. He can move in space and into the second level, perfect for Najee Harris and the Steelers’ run game.

21 – New England Patriots

Treylon Burks WR, Arkansas

Mac Jones needs help. I realize Bill Belichick cannot draft first-round skill position players to save his life, but Burks is too good to pass on. At 6-foot-3 he is a threat with the ball in his hands. He is a mismatch with his combination of size and speed reminiscent of DK Metcalf. A true X receiver is what this offense is lacking and can allow Mac Jones to take a step forward as a passer.

22 – Miami Dolphins

Charles Cross OT, Mississippi State

There is an absurd amount of unwarranted hate for Tua Tagovailoa and that can be attributed to Miami’s porous offensive line. Cross’s stellar agility and first step make him a stifling pass protector. His strength at the point of attack is something to be desired, but an athletic left tackle can give Tua a fighting chance for an otherwise disappointing offense.

23 – Las Vegas Raiders

DeMarvin Leal DL, Texas A&M

The Raiders seem to always need help along their defensive line, but a player like DeMarvin Leal with positional flexibility can do wonders for this defense. Maxx Crosby is a budding star, but a more pronounced threat along the interior of the line is intriguing. Playing both on the inside and edge, Leal’s blend of speed and power will bolster the Las Vegas defensive line. Leal didn’t live up to lofty expectations going into the year, but shedding some weight will allow him to flash the explosiveness scouts fell in love with last season.

24 – Arizona Cardinals

Roger McCreary CB, Auburn

The Cardinals went on a cold streak to end the regular season as they allowed the eighth-most touchdowns through the air. Fourth-round cornerback Marco Wilson just doesn’t cut it on the outside. Auburn’s Roger McCreary is elite in coverage. He mirrors well in press man and has good instincts for zone coverage too. Alongside Byron Murphy will lead to zero questions for this Arizona secondary going into next season.

25 – Cincinnati Bengals

Trent McDuffie CB, Washington

Without any offensive lineman worth taking here, the Bengals address a fairly solid secondary going best player available. Trent McDuffie has been lights out for a stout Washington defense. He is proactive in the run game and a willing tackler. In coverage, he isn’t as physical as some may like, but he is smart in the zone and shuts off passing lanes well. Joining Chidobie Awuzie, McDuffie can work his way inside or outside for this Bengal defense.

26 – Buffalo Bills

Kaiir Elam CB, Florida

The third cornerback in a row goes here for a deep class. Tre’Davious White remains one of the best corners in the NFL, but opposite of him has been a question mark for years. In this NFL mock draft that is put to rest with Kaiir Elam. The Florida product doesn’t have top-tier long speed but makes up for it with his length at 6-foot-2. A zone-heavy scheme will accentuate Elam’s best attributes as a shutdown corner.

27 – Detroit Lions

Drake London WR, USC

A receiving group of Quintez Cephus and Kalif Raymond on the outside is the worst in the league. The alpha 6-foot-5 Drake London can give their passing game an identity. His contested catch ability is second to none. But he’s not just a big-body receiver who can’t separate. USC frequently went to him on screen plays due to his shiftiness with the ball in his hands. London’s skillset will give Jared Goff significantly more to work with.

28 – Dallas Cowboys

Trevor Penning OT, Northern Iowa

Dallas would like to go safety here, but I don’t see any worth taking at this spot. The Cowboys look towards the future with this one as Trevor Penning could be the long-term replacement for the oft-injured 31-year-old Tyron Smith. Penning is light on his feet in pass pro and engages well in the run game. For an explosive Cowboys offense, you can’t go wrong with a safety blanket for the offensive line.

29 – Kansas City Chiefs

Jermaine Johnson EDGE, Florida State

Melvin Ingram is aging and on a one-year deal. Frank Clark can be hot and cold any given week. Kansas City needs a young pass-rusher. JUCO transfer Jermaine Johnson was the best player for Florida State every game. Johnson is a relentless edge player with a plethora of moves to get after the quarterback. The best player on Florida State’s defense every Saturday, he is a game wrecker. He uses his length and power well, something needed for the Chiefs front seven. Look for Johnson to improve his draft stock at the Senior Bowl.

30 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Devonte Wyatt DT, Georgia

Tampa doesn’t have too many pressing needs assuming they retain their receivers like Chris Godwin. The looming retirement of Ndomakung Suh should be noted as the Bucs draft his replacement here. Devonte Wyatt is an under-the-radar player as he plays alongside Jordan Davis and Travon Walker. However, Wyatt is a disruptor along the interior and shoots gaps at a high level. In the college playoffs, Wyatt got through pressuring Young and collapsing the pocket. Bucs get their 1-2 punch alongside Vita Vea on the interior.

31 – Tennessee Titans

Zion Johnson OG, Boston College

The Titans have a tough pick here in this NFL mock draft. Their offense has and will be running through Derrick Henry no matter what. Therefore, fortifying the interior front is a must to keep that going and Zion Johnson can do just that. He is a natural at getting to the second level on counter plays and can leverage himself between defenders creating running lanes. His athleticism will translate smoothly to the next level.

32 – Green Bay Packers

Jahan Dotson WR, Penn State

Aaron Rodgers is seemingly here to stay after another MVP season (he should be). With how the board went, receiver is the best player available at a position of need. Green Bay finally breaks their streak of not taking a receiver in the first round with the talented Jahan Dotson. The Penn State product turns on a dime and attacks the ball with great ball skills. Unlike Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard, Dotson can get open with ease, a good change of pace for Packers pass-catchers.