The Super Bowl is here, but for the teams looking forward to their first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Senior Bowl was the biggest event of the past two weeks. Many of the best prospects were on display in Mobile, including all the quarterbacks vying to go first off the board in April.
The picks, before trades, are still set from No. 1-30 after the conference championship round of the playoffs, just waiting on the result between the Bengals and Rams (whose first-rounder belongs to the Lions).
Keeping in mind the fluctuating player stock and knowing nine teams now have new head coaches, here are Sporting News’ latest projections:
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NFL Mock Draft 2022
1. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-14)
Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon (6-5, 258 pounds)
The Jaguars already have their franchise quarterback in Trevor Lawrence to work with new offensive-minded head coach Doug Pederson, so they should go for the best player on the board vs. an offensive lineman. On top of the being the most athletic and disruptive pass rusher in this class, Thibodeaux is versatile enough to be effective dropping back. He can thrive in Mike Caldwell Buccaneers-styled front seven.
2. Detroit Lions (3-13-1)
Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan (6-6, 265 pounds)
The Lions, with Thibodeaux off the board, should simply get a different kind of elite pass rusher for their defensive coordinator, Aaron Glenn. Hutchinson plays with great energy and power and is still developing his already-strong pass-rush moves. He might be ideal for a 4-3 end, but he’s shown he can wreak havoc in any front.
3. Houston Texans (4-13)
Ikem Ekwonu, G, NC State (6-4, 320 pounds)
Should the Texans dump the big contract of Laremy Tunsil this offseason, it would make sense to a potential left tackle with the athleticism to hold up well in pass protection. Ekwonu also is a powerful run blocker with the type of nasty streak that’s needed to dominate.
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4. New York Jets (4-13)
Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame (6-4, 220 pounds)
The Jets were smart to move on from Jamal Adams and now that Marcus Maye is a free agent, they should think about a big-time cleanup playmaker for Robert Saleh’s defense. Hamilton flies around in run support, but also handles himself nicely in coverage and can get to the quarterback. He’s a Derwin James-type game-changer.
5. New York Giants (4-13)
Evan Neal, OT, Alabama (6-7, 350 pounds)
Neal has fallen a bit behind Ekwonu but he’s still a top-flight tackle prospect in every which way with great pedigree as the anchor of an explosive college offense. The Giants need to upgrade the offensive line for coach Brian Daboll and Neal would be a fine bookend opposite Andrew Thomas to help Daniel Jones.
6. Carolina Panthers
Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State (6-5, 310 pounds)
The Panthers may opt to not address quarterback early in this draft and instead go after addressing their biggest offensive weakness overall. Cross is a similar strength-power prospect to Ekwonu with his own mean and nasty blocking style. He has untapped upside with his footwork and agility.
7. New York Giants (from Chicago Bears)
Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa (6-3, 290 pounds)
The Giants, should they eschew replacing Jones, should think about doubling down up front for Daboll. After getting Neal to lock down the outside, it would make sense to shore up the inside. Linderbaum, an intelligent rock of an interior blocker and a perfect long-term line leader, would be a great fit as a major upgrade from Billy Price.
8. Atlanta Falcons (7-10)
Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU (6-1, 195 pounds)
The Falcons have found a gem at cornerback A.J. Terrell but could use another dynamic playmaker for the back end of Dean Pees 3-4 pressure defense. They will also be ready to land Hamilton, but either way they should be ecstatic to upgrade their secondary with a can’t-miss well-rounded player.
9. Denver Broncos (7-10)
Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah (6-3, 235 pounds)
The Broncos should be strongly considered in play for Aaron Rodgers after hiring former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett as their head coach. So for now, until that situation is settled or not during the free agency period, it would make sense to pivot to the rangy, active Lloyd, given both Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell are pending free agents.
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10. New York Jets (from Seattle Seahawks)
George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue (6-4, 275 pounds)
The Jets shouldn’t mind loading up on pass defense for Saleh after getting Hamilton to upgrade the back end in a big way. They need to target an ideal 4-3 end who can remind Saleh a little of Nick Bosa (6-4, 266 pounds). Karlaftis possesses elite athleticism for his size and is still tapping into his immense pass-rush potential.
11. Washington Commanders (7-10)
Malik Willis, QB, Liberty (6-1, 215 pounds)
Ron Rivera found some good success attaching himself to another former Auburn quarterback, Cam Newton, more than a decade ago with the Panthers. Willis is another big-armed and athletic passer in a more compact but Russell Wilson-like well-built package. He stood as the best QB at the Senior Bowl, showing his small-school transfer only raised his massive game. He will fit well in Scott Turner’s offense.
12. Minnesota Vikings (8-9)
Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State (6-0, 188 pounds)
The Vikings, with Adam Thielen about to enter his 32 season coming off an ankle injury, need to upgrade No. 2 wide receiver for new offensive-minded coach Kevin O’Connell. Wilson is a little safer than Alabama’s Jameson Williams for that purpose.
Wilson would be a dynamic after-the-catch complement to the amazing Justin Jefferson with his smarts, quickness, route-running and hands.
13. Cleveland Browns (8-9)
Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama (6-2, 189)
Williams is coming off a torn ACL but he has still seen his stock stay up because of his hands, route-running and his best asset, flat-out field stretching speed as a future NFL No. 1. The Browns need that kind of player, regardless of who’s starting for them at quarterback to push them forward from the Odell Beckham Jr. mess.
14. Baltimore Ravens (8-9)
Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson (6-0, 200 pounds)
The Ravens ended the season with an injury-riddled mess at cornerback. They need to rejuvenate their coverage to boost their blitzing scheme. Booth has fine size, strength and aggressiveness, combining that well with big-play ball skills.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami Dolphins)
Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M (6-4, 325 pounds)
The Eagles need to replace retiring Brandon Brooks with an upgrade with someone who can also start for a long time. Green is a well-rounded interior run blocker with solid size, strength and technique.
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16. Philadelphia Eagles (from Indianapolis Colts)
David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan (6-5, 250 pounds)
The Eagles, beyond Derek Barnett’s pending free agency, also know Josh Sweat was so-so filling in for Brandon Graham, who is entering his Age 34 season and coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon. They need reinforcements for the tone-setting strength of their defense. Ojabo would give them a flashy, freakish edge player who can contribute initially in a situational role. His speed, explosiveness and energy fueled a big rise behind end-mate Hutchinson.
17. Los Angeles Chargers (9-8)
Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia (6-6, 340 pounds)
The Chargers need to upgrade their run defense big time. Their entire front three struggled in that capacity. Coach Brandon Staley was used to having Aaron Donald as his 3-4 linchpin with the other Los Angeles team. Davis is a massive player who disrupts plays with great quickness for his size
18. New Orleans Saints (9-8)
Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State (6-1, 189 pounds)
The Saints will need to think about taking an elite big-playmaking wideout given the uncertainty over Michael Thomas’ future. At worst, Thomas needs a more reliable complement. They can go back to Ohio State to get that kind of help. Olave has great speed, quickness and burst. He can emerge as their new No. 1 whoever’s the quarterback in 2022.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (9-8)
Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati (6-3, 200 pounds)
The Eagles are getting nice late-career play from Darius “Big Play” Slay and Avonte Maddox has been good, too, but they could use a further boost in the secondary from Gardner. He can move around to help them in subpackages before settling as an outside starter to succeed Slay, who’s entering his Age 31 season.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1)
Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh (6-3, 220 pounds)
The Steelers can look down the street for their preferred pocket-passing successor for Ben Roethlisberger. Pickett has natural deep-ball accuracy and football intelligence. He also has that underrated Joe Burrow-like swagger.
21. New England Patriots (10-7)
Nakobe Dean, ILB, Georgia (6-0, 225 pounds)
The Patriots need to replace middle man Dont’a Hightower, who will become a free agent ahead of his Age 32 season. Bill Belichick should love a player who can play anywhere and do anything on the second level and quickly emerge as a leader, which is what he was for a dominant Bulldogs defense. Dean can flat-out fly and can make plays from sideline to sideline wherever he’s lined up.
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22. Las Vegas Raiders (10-7)
Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas (6-3, 225 pounds)
The Raiders need a reliable all-around receiver for Derek Carr instead of additional limited deep threats. That becomes a higher priority for the former Patriots combination of offensive-minded coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler. Burks is a huge target with big hands to match. He can dominate smaller, less physical corners and has deceptive speed.
23. Arizona Cardinals (11-6)
Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn (6-0, 190 pounds)
The Cardinals have gotten flashes at corner with Byron Murphy making plays on the ball and pending free agent Robert Alford overachieving, but they need a more reliable player. McCreary has the size, physicality, fluidity and ability to play well in any downfield coverage scheme.
24. Dallas Cowboys (12-5)
DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M (6-4, 290 pounds)
The Cowboys had issues at defensive tackle this season and starter Carlos Watkins is a pending free agent. End Randy Gregory also is unsigned for 2022. Leal has shown his interior pass-rushing skills with 8.5 sacks, but he also is a stout run stopper.
25. Buffalo Bills (11-6)
Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington (5-11, 195 pounds)
The Bills have a good No. 2 corner to Tre’Davious White in Levi Wallace, but Wallace will be a free agent and White will be coming off a torn ACL for his Age 27 season. With limited weaknesses as Super Bowl contenders, they should look for a direct replacement for Wallace outside. McDuffie can offer great explosiveness and quickness for Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier.
26. Tennessee Titans (12-5)
Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State (5-11, 184 pounds)
The Titans didn’t get the durability and explosiveness they needed out of faded Julio Jones opposite A.J. Brown. Now they seem set on keeping Ryan Tannehill as the starting QB, they must upgrade his downfield options. Dotson is a speedy vertical threat with the quickness to also make big plays after making strong catches in open field.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4)
Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati (6-4, 215 pounds)
The Buccaneers can’t feel great about Kyle Trask taking over Tom Brady as a franchise QB so they must consider using a first-rounder at the position. Ridder would be a worthy selection for them given his winning leadership with the Bearcats combined with a strong arm and natural running skills to add another dimension to the offense of Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich.
28. Green Bay Packers (13-4)
Travon Walker, DT/DE, Georgia (6-5, 275 pounds)
The Packers will need to replace and upgrade from free agent Tyler Lancaster on their three-man front around Kenny Clark. Walker joins Davis and Dean (and a few others) in having NFL momentum from the Dawgs’ defense-dominated CFP championship run. He is an explosive, versatile playmaker who can line up at multiple spots up front and can win with athleticism and power.
29. Miami Dolphins (from San Francisco 49ers)
Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State (6-4, 260 pounds)
The Dolphins should be letting Mike Gesicki walk as a free agent and focus on a different target to pair with Jaylen Waddle for Tua Tagovailoa. McBride has emerged as the top prospect at his position with his sturdy frame, toughness, good hands. He can stretch the steam and become a quick and athletic vertical threat, reminding new coach Mike McDaniel a little of former 49ers ace George Kittle.
30. Kansas City Chiefs
Drake London, WR, USC (6-5, 210 pounds)
The Chiefs got some good contributions from their complementary wide receivers to Tyreek Hill in the playoffs, but there was still letdown in key situations. They could use a different type of young targets to help the speedy, quick hill and the reliable Travis Kelce. London matches a nice catch radius with great hands and quickness, which makes him a big-play and red-zone threat in the Mike Evans mold.
31. Cincinnati Bengals (10-7)
Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa (6-7, 321 pounds)
Penning has a high floor because of his strong, powerful frame that overpowered the competition but is also flashing starting-caliber athletic traits for pass protection. He makes sense for Cincinnati to upgrade right tackle in front of Joe Burrow.
32. Detroit Lions (from Los Angeles Rams)
Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss (6-0, 200 pounds)
After getting Hutchinson as the cornerstone for their defense early in the first round, the Lions should turn their attention toward addressing franchise QB.