The Hullabaloo’s 2022 NFL Mock Draft

Jake Blancher, Associate Sports Editor

2022 NFL draft
Matthew Tate

The 2022 NFL Draft is now just days away. It is a much anticipated night for both players and fans alike. Here are The Hullabaloo’s predictions for what will happen on day one, as the first 32 picks unfold:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson, Edge Rusher, University of Michigan

This offseason, the Jaguars focused on surrounding last year’s first overall pick Trevor Lawerence with the pieces he needs to succeed. Christian Kirk, Brandon Scherff, Evan Engram and Zay Jones will surely improve the Jacksonville offense, so they opt to strengthen their defense with the Heisman Trophy runner-up. Hutchinson blended his monstrous frame with powerful pass rush moves to utterly dominate Big Ten offensive lines in his collegiate career. Alongside Josh Allen he will form the best young pass-rushing duo in the NFL, sure to menace AFC South offensive lines for the near future.

2. Detroit Lions: Travon Walker, Edge Rusher, University of Georgia

Walker’s draft stock has been on a meteoric rise ever since the combine. Overshadowed on the national champion’s historic defense by the likes of Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean during the collegiate season, the 6-foot-5-inch, 272 pounds with a 4.51 40-yard dash athletic freak certainly captivated scouts attention at the Underwear Olympics. General manager Brad Holmes is thrilled at the opportunity to add Walker to a decrepit defense.

3. Houston Texans: Ikem Ekwonu, Offensive Tackle, North Carolina State University

The Texans have one of the worst rosters in the NFL (Thanks Bill O’Brien!) and need help at nearly every position. This year is just their second time picking in the first round since 2018, so they opt to go with the best player available in Ekwonu. The unanimous All-American is a versatile offensive lineman, capable of playing both tackle and guard on either side of the offensive line, and will be a plug-and-play starter come week one.

4. New York Jets: Ahmad Gardner, Cornerback, University of Cincinnati

Aside from having the coolest nickname in the entire draft — “Sauce” — Gardner defines lockdown corner with comically unfathomable statistics. Not only did he limit opposing receivers to under 13 yards a game this past season, but he also did not allow a touchdown in the entirety of his collegiate career. Gang Green lost their only formidable player in their secondary, Marcus Maye, to the New Orleans Saints this free agency, allowing Sauce to step in and instantly improve upon the Jets unit that ranked second-worst secondary in the entire league last season.

5. New York Giants: Evan Neal, Offensive Tackle, University of Alabama

Left tackle and fourth overall pick just two years ago Andrew Thomas showed great promise last year, after an underwhelming rookie season. Neal, an explosive and massive tackle at the line of scrimmage, will play right tackle opposite Thomas and serve to solidify the Giants’ offensive line that has struggled for the better part of a decade. With a fortified line, Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley will have no more excuses as they both enter potential make-or-break years for Big Blue.

6. Carolina Panthers: Malik Willis, Quarterback, Liberty University

Matt Rhule is on the hot seat in Charlotte, securing only five victories in each of the past two years. As a last-ditch effort, Carolina grabs Willis to replace the struggling Sam Darnold. The Auburn University transfer is a dual-threat quarterback, with a big arm and the ability to easily scramble for yards, reminiscent of Justin Fields from last year’s draft class.

7. New York Giants (from Chicago): Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge Rusher, University of Oregon

Speaking of Fields, the Chicago Bears sent a package of picks —  including this one — to the Giants in order to move up and take the signal-caller. Thibodeaux was consistently rated among the top players in the early draft season. However, concerns of an ankle injury and effort cause him to fall a few picks. Former Buffalo Bills’ front office men Brian Daboll and Joe Schoen will gladly select Thibodeaux, who will fall right into their lap. Drawing comparison to Greg Rousseau, the Bills’ first-round pick last year, Thibodeaux features incredible athleticism and speed off the edge.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Garrett Wilson, Wide Receiver, The Ohio State University 

The Falcons’ roster is barely recognizable from what it was just two years ago. They traded away perhaps the two greatest Falcons ever in Julio Jones and Matt Ryan. Meanwhile, young receiver Calvin Ridley has been suspended indefinitely for gambling on NFL games. Head Coach Arthur Smith decided to reunite with quarterback Marcus Mariota, who he spent time together with in Tennessee, but did nothing to address the glaring hole at wide receiver, so they opt for Wilson in the draft. Wilson’s blazing 4.38 speed translates to the field, where he regularly dominates defensive backs from the slot. Despite an overall weak roster, Atlanta fans will have the Pitts and Wilson duo to root for in the upcoming years.

9. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver): Charles Cross, Offensive Tackle, Mississippi State University

The Seahawks made the most impactful and shocking trade of the offseason, shipping Super Bowl champion and beloved quarterback Russell Wilson to the Mile-High City for a haul of draft picks — including this one — and a few players including young quarterback Drew Lock. Wilson’s incredible play was the only factor keeping this tattered roster in perpetual playoff contention and thus without him, Pete Caroll and John Schnieder choose to have a full rebuild. They are far from a quarterback away from contention and as such, they select Cross, the best pass-blocking tackle in this draft class. He will protect the serviceable Lock’s blindside, a luxury that was never afforded to Wilson.

10. New York Jets (from Seattle): Drake London, Wide Receiver, University of Southern California

The Jets have invested their first-round picks in the previous two years in the offensive line, Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker, both of whom have played well in their short NFL careers thus far. They addressed defense earlier, and now Robert Saleh surrounds his quarterback and last year’s second overall pick Zach Wilson with wide receiver help. London is a big-bodied, sure-handed threat who will instantly become one of Wilson’s favorite targets.

11. Washington Commanders: Jameson Williams, Wide Receiver, University of Alabama

If Carson Wentz is going to find success for the Commanders, they need to have a plethora of talent on the offense. Terry McLaurin is one of the best and most underrated receivers in football, but the Commanders lack bona fide pass-catchers elsewhere. Williams was one of the fastest and most electric players in college football this past season but fell a few spots as he continues to rehab from a torn ACL suffered in the National Championship Game.

12. Minnesota Vikings: Derek Stingley Jr., Cornerback, LSU

Stingley was an integral part of the historic 2019 LSU season, which saw him ranked as the highest-rated cornerback in the country as only an 18-year-old true freshman. However, the past two years only dropped Stingley’s stock, as questions of injury and effort arose. The Vikings have found minimal success in first-round cornerbacks in recent years — Mike Hughes and Jeff Gladney — but Stingley should become the next elite cornerback in Minnesota that they have lacked since the departure of Xavier Rhodes.

13. Houston Texans (from Cleveland): Kyle Hamilton, Safety, University of Notre Dame

Hamilton quite possibly might have the highest ceiling in the entire draft. However, the combination of the fact that safety is not a highly valued position and Hamilton’s disappointing 40-yard dash time, makes him fall out of the first dozen selections. As noted earlier, the current Texans roster is far from promising, so they have no issue taking a shot on a falling star, especially after losing safety Justin Reid to the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency.

14. Baltimore Ravens: Trent McDuffie, Cornerback, University of Washington

To say the 2022 Ravens cornerback corps was riddled with injury would be an understatement. They lack a meaningful contributor outside of their two stars atop the depth chart, Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters. Considering the latter is a free agent at the end of the 2022 season, he is unlikely to re-sign with Baltimore as they need to save cap space to pay Lamar Jackson the over $40 million he will be demanding. McDuffie will be a more than ample replacement for Peters. He has the versatility to play on the boundary, the slot or even a single high safety in exotic packages.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami): Jordan Davis, Defensive Tackle, University of Georgia

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Davis had one of the best combine performances of all time. At 6 feet 6 and 340 pounds, he ran a 4.78 second 40-yard dash, the fastest time ever for a player over 315 pounds. This is not to mention his broad and vertical jumps which were similarly impressive. Davis’ ability to eat blocks and anchor in the run game is unparalleled by any other player in the draft class. The only knock on his game is he did not demonstrate consistent pass rush moves in his collegiate career. Luckily, aside from him on the Eagle’s defensive line is Fletcher Cox, one of the best pass-rushing defensive tackles in recent memory who will surely mentor him in the craft.

16. New Orleans Saints (from Indianapolis via Philadelphia): Trevor Penning, Offensive Tackle, University of Northern Iowa

In a trade that included a total of eight picks, the Saints essentially took an advance on their first-round pick in 2023, paying a steep premium of an additional third-round pick this year and a second-round pick in two years in order to secure the pick from the Eagles. They were likely willing to give up so much draft capital in order to fill the blatant hole that All-Pro Terron Armstead left as he is headed to Miami. Mickey Loomis takes Penning, who plays with a mean streak, blocking defenders like they personally offended his mother.  

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Devonte Wyatt, Defensive Tackle, University of Georgia

The Chargers have a prolific offense, thanks to the stunning play of phenom quarterback Justin Herbert. However, their defense, specifically in regards to stopping the run, was simply abysmal and largely what caused them to narrowly miss the playoffs. The Chargers would have loved to land Jordan Davis to replace their incumbent defensive tackle Jerry Tillery — who at this point is safe to call a bust — but instead settle for his University of Georgia Bulldog teammate Wyatt. Wyatt does not have the immense size or ability to completely stuff the run as Davis but is superior at pass rushing.

18. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans): Andrew Booth Jr., Cornerback, Clemson University

Darius Slay is one of the best and most consistent cornerbacks in football, clamping down opposing receivers for nearly a decade. The rest of Philly’s secondary is underwhelming to say the least. Booth would be an instant upgrade for Nick Sirrianni’s defense, who uses his fluidity in coverage and ability to plant his feet and drive through the ball to create pass breakups.

19. New Orleans Saints (from Philadelphia): Christian Watson, Wide Receiver, North Dakota State University

Since winning Offensive Player Of The Year in 2019 for a season in which he broke the single season receptions record, Michael Thomas has played in just seven games. Watson is a matchup nightmare, blending a tall frame with exceptional speed making him nearly unmatchable, especially on deep balls. Jameis Winston is far from a risk averse quarterback, making this a perfect pairing for New Orleans.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Matt Corral, Quarterback, University of Mississippi

With likely Hall-Of-Famer and Steelers legend Ben Roethlisberger retired this offseason, leaving a hole at the quarterback position in Pittsburgh for the first time in nearly two decades. It is fair to say that recently acquired Mitch Trubisky, infamously selected before Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, is not the long term answer at quarterback. Mike Tomlin opts for Corral, who has a cannon of an arm and is a powerful runner, with the potential of being the next Steelers franchise quarterback.

21. New England Patriots: Kaiir Elam, Cornerback, University of Florida

The Patriots have a talented roster with minimal holes and simply need to replace the new Charger JC Jackson. Elam is not a stat stuffer, recording just one interception last year. This is not a cause of concern, however, because he simply is not targeted because he mirrored SEC receivers so closely.

22. Green Bay Packers (from Las Vegas): Chris Olave, Wide Receiver, The Ohio State University

The Packers have done themselves no favors by neglecting wide receivers in the draft, not spending a pick on the position in the first two rounds since 2014. That pick — Davante Adams — who is now a Las Vegas Raider. Luckily, they land Olave, a silky smooth route runner who should provide immediate production, especially considering that reigning back-to-back MVP Aaron Rodgers will be throwing to him.

23. Arizona Cardinals: Jermaine Johnson, Edge Rusher, Florida State University

Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury are ecstatic that Johnson falls to them at Pick 23. Johnson dominated at the Senior Bowl, showing the ability to both effectively set the edge against run plays and quickly pressure the quarterback. Arizona lost the great Chandler Jones to free agency and JJ Watt rarely takes the field anymore, making edge rushers a desperate need that they were luckily able to fill with Johnson.

24. Dallas Cowboys: Daxton Hill, Safety, University of Michigan

The Cowboys defense transformed from a bottom five unit in 2020 to top 10 in 2021 in terms of points allowed thanks largely to last year’s first round pick and reigning Defensive Rookie Of The Year, Micah Parsons. Now, they just need to solidify their secondary. Dallas has Trevon Diggs, who led the NFL in interceptions last year but lacks talent elsewhere. Hill has the rare ability to be an effective single high safety, with also the flexibility to play cornerback if needed.

25. Buffalo Bills: Kenneth Walker III, Running Back, Michigan State University

The Bills have one of the most talented and complete rosters in the NFL. This allows them to take a pick on running back, a position not typically highly valued because of its replaceability. The Wake Forest University transfer blends rare speed and power — see his five-touchdown game vs Michigan in 2021 — and will make the Bills offense even more potent.

26. Tennessee Titans: Kenny Pickett, Quarterback, University of Pittsburgh

Ryan Tannehill is an expensive — due about $75 million over the next two seasons — and unequivocally average quarterback. As such, Mike Vrabel selects Pickett to be the heir to Tannehill. What the Heisman’s third-place finisher lacks in arm strength, he makes up for in intelligence, as he has a keen ability to quickly diagnose and dissect defenses.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Zion Johnson, Offensive Guard, Boston College

Ali Marpet’s surprise retirement and Alex Cappa’s departure to Cincinnati in free agency left a hole at guard on both sides of the offensive line. The Bucs filled one spot with a trade for Shaq Mason from the Patriots and now selected Johnson to fill the other spot and protect the eternal Tom Brady, who will return for his 23rd season.

28. Green Bay Packers: George Karlaftis, Edge Rusher, Purdue University

Za’darius Smith was an integral part of the Packers defense over the past few seasons but was a cap casualty and signed with the division rival, the Minnesota Vikings. Karlaftis is an NFL-ready edge rusher with similarities to Smith, both playing with a high motor and elite explosion off the line of scrimmage.

29. Kansas City Chiefs (from San Francisco via Miami): George Pickens, Wide Receiver, University of Georgia

The Chiefs unexpectedly shipped Tyreek Hill to Miami this offseason. Hill was a mainstay at Arrowhead, averaging over 1200 yards a year in the past five seasons. While Pickens doesn’t have the game breaking speed of Hill, he has elite acceleration, ball skills and body control.

30. Kansas City Chiefs: Roger McCreary, Cornerback, Auburn University

In 2021, the Chiefs cornerbacks were extremely thin. This issue was only exacerbated by former starter Charvarius Ward, who is now a part of the San Francisco 49ers. McCreary is a physical press-man corner with the ability to erase opposing wide receivers who are slow to get off the line of scrimmage from the game entirely.

31. Cincinnati Bengals: Tyler Linderbaum, Center, University of Iowa

Joe Burrow was able to persevere through a horrific offensive line to lead the Bengals to the Super Bowl, but the line crumbled when it mattered most. They added pieces like Alex Cappa and La’el Collins in free agency, and now Linderbaum on the interior completes the overhaul. Linderbaum is an exceptional center prospect but falls to the tail end of the first round because he is undersized for the position.

32. Detroit Lions (from Los Angeles Rams): Nakobe Dean, LB, University of Georgia

After selecting fellow Bulldog Travon Walker number two overall, Dean serves to further reinvigorate the Lions front seven. Dean won the Butkus award — given to the best collegiate linebacker — last season for good reason. He explodes through the line of scrimmage, shedding blockers to powerfully take down the ball carrier.

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