The 2022 NFL Draft is just hours away. Before revealing my final mock draft of how things will play out Thursday evening, we explore what I would do as GM of each team.
As a general rule, trading up is not a strategy that I would be inclined to execute. There are also zero ramifications of making the wrong pick, which is totally different than the pressure some general managers will be feeling throughout the draft. Those emotions will impact decisions; it is human nature.
Without further ado, let's kick this thing off!
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Round 1 - Pick 1
Evan Neal OL
Alabama • Soph • 6'7" / 350 lbs
If I come out of this draft class knowing that I did my best to protect Trevor Lawrence, then I will be able to sleep at night. Neal has played guard and right tackle through his career so if that needs to be a short-term plan, then I am comfortable with it. It is all about putting the five best players on the field to protect Lawrence and allow him the comfort that he did not receive last season.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Kayvon Thibodeaux EDGE
Oregon • Soph • 6'5" / 258 lbs
Detroit does not really need an offensive lineman here and may be gun shy going back to the cornerback well after Jeff Okudah. I am investing in a premier position like edge rusher and the best in this class based on film is Thibodeaux. I have not been sitting in the interviews with him so I can not speak to the issue at hand, but I like the player and what he could become in the NFL opposite Romeo Okwara.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Ikem Ekwonu OL
NC State • Soph • 6'4" / 320 lbs
The franchise has made the decision to give Davis Mills a year to prove himself. It would serve no one to surround him with a flawed supporting cast incapable of giving him a fair shot at proving whether or not he was capable. If the team upgrades the offensive line and he does not work out, then pick a quarterback next year and you'll still have that offensive lineman to block. It is difficult to envision Laremy Tunsil on the roster next year under his current contract.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Cincinnati • Soph • 6'3" / 200 lbs
Cornerback is a premier position to me and, despite signing D.J. Reed, I think that is an area of the roster that could be elevated. With this particular draft class, I have been saying that I wish I could start my rankings at about No. 5 overall because I do not see a No. 1 overall prospect in this class. With that being said, Gardner is my top-rated prospect.
Round 1 - Pick 5
LSU • Soph • 6'0" / 190 lbs
If James Bradberry is gone, then New York can ill afford to miss on Gardner and Stingley. It is a risky proposition because you essentially know that the franchise is going to miss on an offensive tackle if Carolina does not take a quarterback. A sacrifice has to be made but it is the right decision.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Mississippi State • Soph • 6'5" / 311 lbs
Carolina can trade for Baker Mayfield if it pleases but no quarterback is going to be successful under the current structure. The Panthers need to upgrade the offensive line and Cross would allow for some hope at the quarterback position. I would rather take my chances this season and enter the quarterback market next year if it does not work out. Sam Darnold and Mayfield would both be off the books and the franchise would be starting clean. It is important to note that my job is not on the line with this pick, though. Panthers leadership will probably be motivated by what can help them the most this season.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 7
Georgia • Soph • 6'5" / 272 lbs
Upon missing out on the offensive tackles, the Giants take a second player at a premier position. An elite edge rusher has evaded the Giants since Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora. Walker is not that player walking in the door but he is a high floor run-stopper initially with the potential to develop into more of a threat as a pass-rusher. He should be able to win with speed and power early in his career until he figures out the rest.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 192 lbs
The Falcons need playmakers and Wilson gives them something a little different than what they already have in Kyle Pitts, who was used more detached than he was as a traditional tight end. Wilson is my top-rated wide receiver because of his elite body control down the field.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 9
Aidan Hutchinson EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'6" / 265 lbs
A surprising fall leaves Hutchinson available for Seattle at No. 9 overall. His production in college was fantastic and his floor as a well-rounded player suggests that he is not going to be a bust. The concern is his arm length and how opposing offensive linemen will be able to dictate movement at the next level.
From Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 10
Alabama • Soph • 6'2" / 189 lbs
Williams was trending toward becoming the top wide receiver prospect prior to his injury. His road to recovery has gone well to this day and that could lead to an early return. I value the Alabama product in this spot to complement Elijah Moore.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Notre Dame • Soph • 6'4" / 220 lbs
Hamilton is not a perfect prospect but he is a unique combination of size and speed. He can erase tight ends in the NFL and play downhill with force. His awareness and football IQ will endear himself to coaching and some of that leadership was missed on that side of the ball last season.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Jermaine Johnson II EDGE
Florida State • Soph • 6'5" / 262 lbs
I would have loved to get a cornerback in this spot but I think there is a significant drop from Gardner and Stingley to the next group. Despite signing Za'Darius Smith, Minnesota drafts a premier position to form a great rotation of talent while instilling some insurance in the event that either Danielle Hunter or Smith are moved in the next few years.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Jordan Davis DL
Georgia • Soph • 6'6" / 336 lbs
How much does a nose tackle impact a rebuilding team? It did little for Carolina and I can understand that argument. However, when exploring the prospects that are different from others, Davis is unique. Could he be a Vince Wilfork like New England had early in Bill Belichick's Patriots days?
Round 1 - Pick 14
George Karlaftis EDGE
Purdue • Soph • 6'4" / 263 lbs
Karlaftis is one of the more volatile prospects in this class. Opinions are all over the board. I value his talent here and believe that he would be a great complement to Odafe Oweh; speed on one side and power on the opposite.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Iowa • Soph • 6'2" / 305 lbs
Landon Dickerson was a center at Alabama but he also showed growth at guard this season. The idea that Linderbaum, who I value as a top-10 prospect in this class, could come in and sit a year is not a negative to me. There is no better resource for a rookie offensive lineman coming into the league than Jason Kelce. The devoted Eagle plays out his final season and walks off into the sunset knowing that he left a legacy.
From Philadelphia Eagles
Round 1 - Pick 16
Northern Iowa • Soph • 6'7" / 325 lbs
Terron Armstead was signed by the Dolphins in free agency. They could give James Hurst or Landon Young a shot at the position but off-season actions suggest that they are looking to be competitive this season. Penning theoretically gives the franchise a higher ceiling at left tackle.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 187 lbs
I walked into the Chargers' war room and locked the door behind me. The idea of adding a third wide receiver of Olave's caliber excites me. Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Olave give Justin Herbert one of the best receiver rooms in the league and gives them more salary cap flexibility into the future.
From New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 18
Drake London WR
USC • Soph • 6'4" / 213 lbs
London offers Philadelphia something a little different than what it currently has on the roster. In an offense that leans on the run game, I like the idea of having a big slot like London who can impede pursuers in space. He is going to be able to use his body to wall off defenders and make plays at the sticks.
From Philadelphia Eagles
Round 1 - Pick 19
Georgia • Soph • 6'3" / 200 lbs
There has been some conversation in media circles that Pickens has not exactly nailed his pre-draft interviews. At the same time, I saw a player that suffered a torn ACL in March and could have sat out the 2021 season in entirety without anyone blaming him. Instead, he returned to the field in November and was a part of his team's march to a national championship. His talent is in line with a player who should be taken inside the top 20.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Malik Willis QB
Liberty • Soph • 6'1" / 219 lbs
I would not trade up for a quarterback in this class because I do not have that level of conviction with any of them. Therefore, Pittsburgh, who has a roster that could justifiably plug and play a rookie, stays put and still lands a player with upside. The AFC North suddenly features Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson and Willis.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Kaiir Elam CB
Florida • Soph • 6'1" / 191 lbs
New England has been drained of secondary talent over the past few years. Knowing Bill Belichick and his inclination to have depth and versatility in that unit, it would make sense to add a player or two early. Elam is a big-bodied cornerback who offers man-coverage capability, which has been critical to that scheme. I am higher on him than most others.
From Las Vegas Raiders
Round 1 - Pick 22
Arkansas • Soph • 6'2" / 225 lbs
I look at Green Bay's wide receiver room as a clean slate right now. There really is no one who should preclude them from taking a player like Burks. I would have preferred Olave but he was gone. Burks is a big-bodied wide receiver who can serve as a big slot blocking in a wide-zone scheme.
Round 1 - Pick 23
USC • Soph • 6'4" / 273 lbs
Jackson being back in the first round will come as a surprise to many. My biggest question with him is whether or not the weight fluctuation is a problem or a byproduct of him doing what is asked of him. If it is the latter, then I am buying that stock. He has great size and the ability to bend around the edge. USC did not use him to his potential and any team that asks him to focus on working upfield will reap the rewards of its investment. He has 34-inch arms and only recently turned 21.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Zion Johnson OL
Boston College • Soph • 6'3" / 316 lbs
Initially, I had Nakobe Dean in this spot for the Cowboys. The thunder-and-lightning combination of Micah Parsons and Dean excites me. However, from a roster-building standpoint, it would be easier to find linebackers on Day Two than it would be to find offensive linemen. The success of an offense begins with the offensive line so I want to ensure that unit is one of the best in the league.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Kyler Gordon CB
Washington • Soph • 6'0" / 200 lbs
As with Burks, people had expectations for Gordon at the NFL combine that were not met. The enthusiasm many had for him disappeared but the reaction was overblown. He was a solid performer that is no less of a player. Buffalo adds another cornerback opposite Tre White.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Kenyon Green OL
Texas A&M • Soph • 6'4" / 323 lbs
The running game is the bread and butter of Tennessee's offense. The Titans need a strong offensive line to be successful and Green certainly upgrades that unit following the loss of Rodger Saffold.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Baylor • Soph • 5'11" / 198 lbs
Tampa Bay has few needs for the upcoming season. Adding a defensive back with versatility and great instincts that lead him to being around the ball constantly is an easy decision for the Buccaneers. He can play in the slot or safety.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Georgia • Soph • 6'3" / 304 lbs
Green Bay upgrades the defensive line by selecting Wyatt. The Pack are creating bully ball with Kenny Clark, Jarran Reed, Dean Lowry and now Wyatt.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 29
Boye Mafe DL
Minnesota • Soph • 6'4" / 261 lbs
I love Mafe and believe that he is undersold in his ability to drop into coverage or seal the edge. Although an older prospect, he is a well-rounded player who will be able to step into that role vacated by Melvin Ingram.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Washington • Soph • 5'11" / 193 lbs
McDuffie being available this late in the first round may come as a surprise to some but I do not think it is the stretch that the public is led to believe. NFL teams have guardrails to minimize risk and the Washington product's below-average arm length is not going to be everyone's cup of tea in the first round.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Logan Hall DL
Houston • Soph • 6'6" / 283 lbs
Cincinnati cycled through its defensive line depth last season. I could see the Bengals wanting to keep that depth in the future. Hall adds a different dynamic as a long penetrator who can create pressure from the interior. The ability of Trey Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard and Hall spreads the protection thin.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 32
Georgia • Soph • 6'2" / 199 lbs
Cine is one of the best prospects available at this stage of the first round. Detroit is not going to go broke taking a profit. It also does not hurt pulling a player from the national champions who is going to come into the building with the expectation of winning.
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