NFL mock draft season has come full circle once again, which is also the one and only mock draft I run all year. This year's draft is extra intriguing with eight teams having multiple first-round picks, including the Philadelphia Eagles giving up one of their three first-round picks to the New Orleans Saints in order to have two first-round picks next year. Combine that with the lack of elite quarterback prospects, and this draft will be as unpredictable as ever.
I'm always curious to see how many of these picks I actually get right. To no surprise, I only got four of the 32 picks right last year (Rashawn Slater to the Los Angeles Chargers at No. 13 was the selection I was proud of). In my mock drafts, I don't do mock trades or anything like that. I just make the selection as the pick is presented at the time of publication.
Like prior mock drafts, I'm not going by positions of need with every first-round selection, but rather selecting the best player available on my board. That's how these teams are going to draft.
This is another draft that's deep on defense, so it will be interesting to see what teams are seeking prior to getting on the clock -- especially the organizations with two first-round picks. This is just the third mock draft I've done for CBSSports.com, so feel free to rip it to shreds. (I'll be criticizing myself anyway!)
Round 1 - Pick 1
Evan Neal OL
Alabama • Soph • 6'7" / 350 lbs
The Jaguars badly need an edge rusher here, but Doug Pederson learned a thing or two from his successful tenure with the Eagles. Offensive line is the priority to protect Trevor Lawrence as Pederson looks to reinvent his game in what the head coach dubs as his rookie season. Neal immediately starts on this offensive line at tackle or guard, giving Lawrence even more time to read the defense and not take a severe punishment. Neal not only is the safe pick, but can be a franchise tackle for well over a decade.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Kayvon Thibodeaux EDGE
Oregon • Soph • 6'5" / 258 lbs
Thibodeaux is the best player in the draft -- and the Lions have a really tough time choosing between him and Aidan Hutchinson. Both players are great fits for Detroit, but it's hard to pass up on a player with the incredible traits Thibodeaux possesses. The Lions get a star pass rusher for the next decade, immediately adding a game changer for a pass rush that needs one.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Aidan Hutchinson EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'7" / 268 lbs
With Thibodeaux off the board, the Texans select Hutchinson and grab an instant impact player on a defense that needs to be revamped. Houston was tied for the fifth-fewest sacks in the league with 32 last year and had the sixth-worst pressure rate in the league at 28.1%. Hutchinson will be the centerpiece on a defense that allowed the second-most yards in the league last season -- which should change with him getting to the quarterback more frequently.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Ikem Ekwonu OL
NC State • Soph • 6'4" / 320 lbs
The Jets add more strength to an offensive line that's already improving with the Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker picks over the past few years, becoming an even more dominant unit with Ekwonu. New York can slide Ekwonu in at right tackle, solidifying the right side of the line with Vera-Tucker and/or Laken Tomlinson at right guard. Hard to pass up Kyle Hamilton here, but protecting Zach Wilson is the No. 1 priority.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Mississippi State • Soph • 6'5" / 311 lbs
Another year the Giants need an offensive lineman, so they go for an offensive lineman with Cross here. The Giants need help at right tackle and have to find someone who can help create lanes for Saquon Barkley, who New York can't seem to trade with his massive contract. For the Giants to get the most out of Barkley and protect Daniel Jones, selecting a lineman like Cross is paramount.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Pittsburgh • Soph • 6'3" / 220 lbs
The Panthers have Sam Darnold at quarterback -- and quite frankly need someone better. Pickett is the best quarterback in this draft and the most ready to start Week 1 (if needed). Selecting Pickett is a bit high here, but Carolina won't get another opportunity to take a quarterback who can help them win in the years to come. This isn't a good quarterback class, but the Panthers should feel good about Pickett.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 7
Notre Dame • Soph • 6'4" / 220 lbs
Hamilton is going to be a game changer at safety, a player the Giants can't pass up with their other first-round pick. Wink Martindale likes to build a defense with players who can disrupt the passing game, which makes Hamilton the perfect fit for the Giants. Hamilton is a unicorn who can play anywhere on the back end, a player New York can build around.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 192 lbs
This is a position the Falcons draft for need -- and they badly need a wide receiver. Wilson is the best receiver in this draft, someone Atlanta can't pass up at No. 8. Marcus Mariota needs someone to throw to outside of Kyle Pitts if he wants to succeed in his second opportunity as a starting quarterback.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 9
Malik Willis QB
Liberty • Soph • 6'1" / 219 lbs
The Seahawks could roll with Drew Lock at quarterback for 2022 in the first year of their rebuild, but Willis can be a difference maker for them with his upside. Seattle needs an offensive tackle as both its starters from last year are currently free agents, yet the franchise can't win games without a good quarterback. The Seahawks can either develop Willis in 2022 or hold out for a deeper crop of quarterbacks in 2023. Getting a top-10 pick for Russell Wilson enables the Seahawks to get their quarterback now.
From Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 10
Cincinnati • Soph • 6'3" / 200 lbs
The Jets use their second top-10 pick in this draft and take the first cornerback off the board in Gardner, who should be a star in head coach Robert Saleh's defense. Gardner, who had three interceptions last year while not allowing a touchdown, will provide nightmares for receivers in press coverage. New York's secondary immediately improves with Gardner around.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Drake London WR
USC • Soph • 6'4" / 213 lbs
The Commanders have Terry McLaurin as their No. 1 wide receiver, but he and quarterback Carson Wentz could use a little help. In comes London, a physical receiver who can win at the point of attack and is the type of red zone threat Wentz likes to throw to. London led the nation with 19 contested catches last year, which will help Washington move the ball downfield -- which eluded the team last season.
Round 1 - Pick 12
LSU • Soph • 6'0" / 190 lbs
The Vikings can't pass up Stingley at No. 12, a player who can learn in his rookie season under Patrick Peterson while helping out a Vikings defense that allowed the fourth-most passing yards in the league in 2021. Stingley starts immediately for the Vikings. He just has to stay healthy.
From Cleveland Browns
Round 1 - Pick 13
Georgia • Soph • 6'5" / 272 lbs
The Texans continue to build their pass rush with the selection of Walker, who can line up on the edge yet is dominant in the interior. Walker can line up in the A and B gap and overpower the center and guard, making life much easier for the edge rushers in Houston. A pure bull rusher, Walker can become a stalwart for the Texans for the next several years.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Jermaine Johnson II EDGE
Florida State • Soph • 6'5" / 262 lbs
Adding a pass rusher with Johnson's production is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Ravens. He finished with 22 run stops to go with his 14 sacks for the Seminoles last year. The Ravens know how to find and develop pass rushers immediately (see Odafe Oweh), and Johnson will be no exception for a defense that's getting plenty of talent back from injured reserve.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 15
Devin Lloyd LB
Utah • Soph • 6'3" / 235 lbs
The Eagles finally snap their 43-year streak of drafting a linebacker in the first round, getting an impact player who changes their defense in Lloyd. A player the Eagles can use in pass-rush situations, Lloyd has a knack for finding the football and getting to the quarterback (his 31 pressures were sixth amongst linebackers last year). He'll line up in the middle of Jonathan Gannon's defense.
From Philadelphia Eagles
Round 1 - Pick 16
Matt Corral QB
Ole Miss • Soph • 6'2" / 205 lbs
The Saints made this interesting trade with the Eagles for a reason -- and they'll get their quarterback at No. 16 in Corral. While the RPO offense Corral used at Ole Miss won't translate well to the NFL, Corral is an athlete who adds another dimension to the Saints offense. New Orleans grooms Corral for a season before he takes over at quarterback. His ability to get off passes quickly will only make Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas even better.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Jordan Davis DL
Georgia • Soph • 6'6" / 336 lbs
Los Angeles continues to build up its defense with the selection of Davis, as his powerful frame immensely improves a run defense that kept the Chargers out of the playoffs last year. Davis makes enough plays in the A gap to force defenses to think twice about running up the middle consistently against him.
From New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 18
Alabama • Soph • 6'1" / 180 lbs
Somehow Williams falls to the Eagles at No. 18, and Philadelphia gets the wide receiver who has the potential to be the next Tyreek Hill in this class. A smooth route-runner with the ability to go vertical, Williams is the big-play wideout the Eagles need in the passing game -- a perfect compliment to DeVonta Smith. Jalen Hurts gets a fair shot at succeeding as the Eagles quarterback in 2022.
From Philadelphia Eagles
Round 1 - Pick 19
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 187 lbs
New Orleans could use another wideout to pair with Michael Thomas, so why not take Olave to compliment him. An excellent route runner with the ability to get open downfield, the Saints could use a player with Olive's expertise in their offense. He's not a player defenses want to leave one-on-one.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Kenyon Green OL
Texas A&M • Soph • 6'4" / 323 lbs
The Steelers can't go wrong with Green or Bernhard Raimann here, but they decide to get one of the best guards in the class. Green played every position but center last year, displaying his versatility for a Steelers offensive line in the process of being revamped. His body type will be what teams that want to develop good offensive linemen covet.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Clemson • Soph • 6'0" / 194 lbs
The Patriots need a wide receiver, but Bill Belichick can't pass up a defensive back after losing J.C. Jackson this offseason. Booth sitting there at No. 21 is too good to pass up, especially since he can play both man and zone coverage. With his polished footwork, Booth can become an instant star in New England.
From Las Vegas Raiders
Round 1 - Pick 22
Jahan Dotson WR
Penn State • Soph • 5'11" / 182 lbs
The Packers finally take a wide receiver in the first round for Aaron Rodgers, going against their way of thinking. Dotson will quickly become a favorite of Rodgers with his excellent route running and ability to create yards after the catch with the ball in his hands. He's made to start immediately in the slot, a reliable asset for Rodgers.
Round 1 - Pick 23
George Karlaftis EDGE
Purdue • Soph • 6'4" / 263 lbs
If the Cardinals ran more zone coverage, Trent McDuffie would be the pick here. Instead, Arizona is pleased with getting an edge rusher as good as Karlaftis. His versatility to bull rush inside and out with his frame will be what defensive coordinator Vance Joseph salivates over -- especially since he thrives as a 3-4 end.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Iowa • Soph • 6'2" / 305 lbs
The Cowboys need to get interior offensive line help. Linderbaum isn't a splashy pick, but he's the top center in this class. His athleticism at center and the ability to become an impact lineman right away makes the Cowboys offensive line immediately better. Tough to draft for need, but Dallas needs Linderbaum on its roster.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Washington • Soph • 5'11" / 193 lbs
Cornerback may be the lone weakness on the Bills roster (if one wants to consider that a weakness). With McDuffie and his sure tackling ability, the Bills will be more than pleased to line him up opposite of Tre'Davious White on the outside. McDuffie's elite play in zone coverage will be a tremendous asset for the Bills.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Nakobe Dean LB
Georgia • Soph • 5'11" / 231 lbs
Dean falls to the Titans at No. 26, a linebacker who has excellent vision for the game and plays fast. Tennessee can line Dean up on the weak side if the Titans so choose, and Dean will find the ball carrier. He can run with any player in the open field, creating plays every time he gets near the football. The Titans could use a player with his football instincts.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Boye Mafe DL
Minnesota • Soph • 6'4" / 261 lbs
Sure the Buccaneers will work to bring back Ndamukong Suh, yet having interior pressure is vital for Todd Bowles (along with co-defensive coordinators Kacy Rodgers and Larry Foote). Mafe has incredible power that allows him to disrupt the run, and he can line up on the end or the interior. Never hurts to have depth here.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Central Michigan • Soph • 6'6" / 303 lbs
The Packers could go a variety of ways here, but they decide to protect their $50 million per year investment with Raimann. He's a Week 1 starting tackle who can dominate in the run game. The athleticism and hand technique will make Raimann an impact player for Green Bay, especially if the Packers play him at right tackle right away.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 29
Arkansas • Soph • 6'2" / 225 lbs
Burks finally comes off the board as the Chiefs continue their revamp of the wide receiver position after Tyreek Hill's departure. The Chiefs have a slot receiver in JuJu Smith-Schuster, but it's hard to ignore Burks' 9.3 yards after the catch per reception (fourth in the nation). With Burks' burst and ability to be physical with defensive backs, the Chiefs have an 'X' receiver they can develop.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Auburn • Soph • 5'11" / 190 lbs
Kansas City could use an edge rusher with its second consecutive first-round pick, but it's hard to ignore the ability McCreary possesses in man coverage. His 20 forced incompletions led the nation and his 26.7% forced incompletion percentage was third. McCreary fits in the rotation with Deandre Baker and Rashad Fenton and can easily start Week 1. All of a sudden Kansas City has depth at cornerback.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Zion Johnson OL
Boston College • Soph • 6'3" / 316 lbs
The Bengals could use a tackle here, but Johnson is the closest thing to an instant starter at guard in the league. A consistent blocker, Johnson caps the Bengals' rebuilding of the interior of the offensive line. He can start at left guard come Week 1. Joe Burrow gets even more protection up front.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 32
The Lions go after the versatile Hill with the final pick in the first round, continuing to rebuild their defense. Hill is better in coverage than anticipated, as he was asked to play the slot for the Wolverines last year in addition to his duties at safety. Better suited as free safety in the league, Hill is excellent in coverage despite his small build. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn will be happy to work with Hill.