With the 2022 NFL Draft just hours away, we thought we would take a shot at a co-op mock draft. We tasked two of our writers with the challenge of alternating picks for this year’s draft. In this mock draft one of the members of The Sports Branch team, CJ, will be drafting for the odd teams, and Wesley will be drafting for the even teams . Tell us how you think they did. With that being said, this is the Sports Branch’s 2022 Co-op NFL Mock Draft.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia
While some fans see this as a surprise, the Jaguars will see this as an absolute win. They have been looking for a talented edge rusher for quite some time now and Walker fits the mold. He did start pretty low on a lot of boards, but his stellar combine helped push him to the top. The 6-foot-5-inch, 275-pound pass rusher will look to shush all the doubters as he will try and lead the Jags to a great future.
2. Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
If Aidan Hutchinson is still on the board when the Lions are on the clock, you’d have to think coach Dan Campbell and company would sprint to turn in the selected card. Hutchinson is the consensus number one player in this draft, he would immediately boost Detroit's that abysmal pass rush (31st in the NFL in sacks per game) and excite fans as he would be staying in his home state for the next step of his career. Quarterback is also an interesting position for Detroit, however, I don’t see it being the pick this early.
3. Houston Texans: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
With the top two edge rushers in the class off the board, the Houston Texas got themselves a gift by landing the best offensive lineman in the class. Neal has been a day one prospect since he first entered Alabama as a freshman. He has size, strength, and lateral quickness that is incomparable to his draft day peers. Neal, alongside Laremy Tunsil, will look to fortify that horrendous offensive line and create a haven for Davis Mills.
4. New York Jets: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
The Jets allowed just under two-hundred and sixty passing yards per game in 2021 (259.4) and were thirty-first in opponent passer rating (103.2 average ratings allowed per game). With cornerback being arguably the Jets' biggest need, this pick makes too much sense. Gardner is regarded as the number one corner in the draft by most and will be a day-one starter in New York. Gardner allowed a meager eight catches for sixty yards and zero touchdowns in 2021 at Cincinnati, the Jets would love it if he could have even half that impact as a rookie.
5. New York Giants: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
What a dream come true Giants fans; you got yourselves a generational o-lineman. While he may not be as big as Neal, Ekwonu makes up for it in his quickness and great hand technique. Ekwonu will also be a great downfield lead blocker as he has the traits to be a great screenplay guy. He and Andrew Thomas will look to help out Daniel Jones and his struggling quarterback play as well as improve Saquon Barkley’s running game.
6. Carolina Panthers: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
Nobody is quite sure of where the Quarterbacks in this draft will be selected, but it seems that if there’s one team in the top ten that will select a QB, it’s Carolina. Carolina also seems like the team most likely to trade back, as rumors around the league have suggested they’re looking to acquire more picks. Sam Darnold struggled in his first year in Carolina, and Head Coach Matt Rhule’s job looks like it’s hanging on by a thread. Carolina has only one pick in the first three rounds, so they need to hit with this pick. Willis could give Matt Rhule one last chance as the coach of the Panthers and would be the future of the franchise.
7. New York Giants (Via: CHI): Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon
Once again, the Giants get a steal of a draft pick by landing the #3 edge rusher in the class. Thibodeaux had a solid combine showing why he should go this high. Standing at 6-foot-7-inches, Thibodeaux’s size and speed show why he has the potential to be the best edge rusher in the class. Even though he has “locker room issues,” I don’t think that the Giants could pass up on his massive upsides.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
The Falcons could go several ways here as they have multiple glaring needs. However, none of them are as obvious as wide receiver (maybe QB). Atlanta’s passing attack was mediocre in 2021 without Clavin Ridley for the majority of the season. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they’ll be without Ridley for the entirety of the 2022 season as he’s suspended for betting on NFL games. On top of that, the Falcons were unable to re-sign Russell Gage who was second on the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. I expect an overhaul at the receiver position for the Falcons in this draft, regardless of if they select one here or not.
9. Seattle Seahawks (Via: DEN): Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
After the Russel Wilson trade, the Seattle Seahawks will have their eyes set on the future. With Malik Willis going at #6 to the Panthers, Pete Carrol will have to settle with the second-best QB option in Pickett. I feel like this is a blessing in disguise. The Pittsburgh prospect shows a lot of great qualities that a young Wilson once had. As long as he is not thrown into the spotlight too early, I feel Pickett will learn the playbook and be a great young leader in his second year.
10. New York Jets (Via SEA): Drake London, WR, USC
The Jets decided to upgrade the defense with the fourth pick and with their second pick in the top ten, I think they’ll choose to help their young Quarterback. The Jets started their rebuild strong in the 2021 draft as many of their draft choices played heavy snap counts in 2021. The Jets will want to continue to build around second-year player Zach Wilson, especially by adding young, talented receivers for him to throw the ball to. London would be the perfect fit alongside shifty wideouts Elijah Moore and Braxton Berrios. Something to watch for though; the Jets are reportedly willing to give up the tenth pick in a potential trade for 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel.
11. Washington Commanders: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Washington sits back and scores one of the most talented players in this draft. Hamilton has one of the highest NFL combine scores for the safety position science Devinn McCourty. Hamilton is so much more than a safety as he can play both in and outside of the box. Ron Rivera has always loved his defensive players, seeing as he's taken Chase Young, Jamin Davis, and Montez Sweat in the last three drafts. I can see Hamilton being a great addition to that Washington defense.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Minnesota has had issues at corner for multiple seasons in a row and have used consecutive draft picks to improve the position, including multiple first-round picks. The Vikings are lacking talent & depth at the position as they released 2020 first-rounder, Jeff Gladney just under a year ago. Stingley would be the best corner they used a draft selection on in quite some time and if Stingley can get back to the version of himself he displayed in 2019, the Vikings could be getting the steal of the first round.
13. Houston Texans (Via: CLE): Jermaine Johnson II, Edge, Florida State
Johnson had a great senior campaign at FSU where he lead the team with 12 sacks. To add to it, he lit it up and the NFL combine back in March to help him fly up draft radars. Thanks to that, some experts have Johnson listed over Thibodeaux on some boards. Ever since the departure of JJ Watt, the Texans have been looking for a pass rusher to come in and make an impact on their defensive front.
14. Baltimore Ravens: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Baltimore was struck by some of the worst injury luck the league has ever seen in 2021 as they had multiple starters go down, specifically at corner and running back. This team has very few weaknesses on its roster, but they do have a few positions of need. Amongst those positions is center. Baltimore was unable to bring back starting center Bradley Bozeman, leaving them with guard Patrick Mekari listed as the starting center on the depth chart. Linderbaum would be an easy plug-and-play replacement for Bozeman. Edge rusher, as well as corner, are positions that are a possibility here depending on how previous picks shake out.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (Via: MIA): Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
Two words to describe this pick; defensive…monster. Davis will provide Philly’s front seven with extra run defense and pass rush. After the announcement of Fletcher Cox’s one-year deal, Davis will look to learn behind the pro-bowler as he will look to take the helm in year two. The only question left is will Davis have the ability to be more than a 2 two-down nose tackle in the NFL? If he can, look for Davis to be at the pro-bowl within the next few years.
16. New Orleans Saints (Via: PHI, Via: IND): Chris Olave, WR, Ohio
The Saints’ lack of depth at the receiver position has been exposed over the last year and a half as they’ve missed Michael Thomas’s production with him battling injuries. Running back Alvin Kamara led this team in receiving yards last season but totaled under four-hundred fifty yards (439), to make matters worse, the Saints didn’t have a single thousand-yard receiver in 2021. The Saints could also target a tackle with this pick or the nineteenth as former starter Terron Armstead left New Orleans and signed with Miami this offseason
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
With the Saints’ selection of wide receiver Chris Olave, the LA Chargers can get themselves the fourth-best offensive tackle in the class, Trevor Penning. The charges have been looking for another solid offensive lineman to help keep Juston Herbert upright. Penning is a physical monster as he comes in at 6-foot-7-inches and 322 pounds. After his stellar combine, the UNI prospect can find himself a home in the middle of the first round.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (Via: NO): Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
Philadelphia had one of the strongest rushing offenses in the NFL in 2021 and did a great job of keeping their QB upright as they allowed less than two sacks per game (1.8, 7th best in the NFL). However, the Eagles currently have former seventh-rounder Jordan Mailata starting at left tackle, and if Cross does somehow slide to eighteen, it’d be hard to pass up the instant upgrade opportunity that Cross presents. The Eagles will likely look to add a receiver with one of their two first-round selections, with Chris Olave or Jameson Willaims as two potential options for them.
19. New Orleans Saints (Via: PHI): Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
With their second pick in the first round, the Saints decide to take an approach with the “best player available” mindset as they select linebacker, Devin Lloyd. Lloyd was nothing less than impressive during his time at Utah. The Junior’s last season was headlined by 111 tackles, 8 sacks, and 4 ints. This led to him becoming a 2021 All-American and an NFL Combine invite. His pro day was just as good as expected, so Saints fans should not shed a tear when his name is called.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
Quarterback seems to be a real possibility for the Steelers, but the Steelers really like Malik Willis, and if they want him they’ll likely have to trade up. In this situation, Willis is off the board early, so the Steelers could decide to take the best corner available and arguably the best player available at a position where they could use some help. McDuffie is a very versatile corner that I think would fit well in Pittsburgh.
21. New England Patriots: Rodger McCreary, CB, Auburn
With the departures of Stephon Gillmore and JC Jackson, the New England Patriots will be looking to build back up their secondary with young talent. Auburn cornerback Rodger McCreary is nothing less than both of those words. He is smart, fast, and agile. He has really good ball instincts and he uses his frame to play the ball better than most DBs in the class. Coming in at 6 foot, 190 pounds, McCreary will look to bring a new meaning to defense in New England.
22. Green Bay Packers (Via: LV): Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
This is probably highly unlikely considering the Packers haven’t selected a receiver in the first round since 2002. Yet, I think the idea of Jameson Williams being available still is too good to pass up. If it wasn’t for an ACL tear in the National Championship game, Williams would most likely be the number one receiver, and one of the highest-ranked players in this class. Williams is also reportedly ahead of his rehab schedule for his ACL injury.
23. Arizona Cardinals: George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue
After their end-of-the-season meltdown, the Arizona Cardinals will be looking to add talent to their roster in hopes to get them over the playoff hump. Purdue edge rusher George Karlaftis will do just that. Even though Karlaftis finished his career as a Boilermaker with only 94 tackles and 14 sacks after three seasons, his defensive presence was known as he led the team in both quarterback pressure and TFLs. With Chandler Jone off to Las Vegas, Karlaftis is nothing less than a much-needed fit to fill a hole in the Cardinals’ roster.
24. Dallas Cowboys: Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
Dallas used their first-round pick in 2021 on the reigning defensive rookie of the year in Micah Parsons. I don’t think Kyler Gordon has that same potential, but I think this is a great pick. I think Kyler Gordon is the fourth-best corner in the draft right behind his Washington teammate Trent McDuffie. Gordon had career highs with seven pass breakups and forty-five total tackles in 2021. Gordon would supply depth as well as more youth to what’s already a young cornerback group in Dallas.
25. Buffalo Bills: Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
Okay, nobody panic. I know that seeing a running back taken in the first round is a lot to take in, but let me tell you why Breece Hall fits the mold in Buffalo. Hall led the Cyclones in rushing yards (1,472) and touchdowns (20) in 2021. He was not a one-year wonder either. In 2020, Hall had one hundred more rushing yards and one more rushing touchdown than in 2021. Hall even averaged about 40 receptions a season with Iowa State, helping show his versatility as a player. The Bills have been looking for a consistent run game for a few years now. Seeing Josh Allen lead the team in both pass yards and rush yards is not something that your franchise quarterback should have to do. With all of the DBs off the board, Buffalo will hope that Hall will help push their offense to the next level.
26. Tennessee Titans: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Tennessee desperately needs help at receiver. With A.J. Brown reportedly skipping offseason programs in desire for a new contract and the Julio Jones trade not working out, the Titans are struggling to surround Ryan Tannehill (and Derrick Henry) with playmakers on the outside. Tennessee’s passing offense was below average last season and the signings of Robert Woods and Austin Hooper were great, but they need some more depth. Burks gives them a big target that does a great job of adjusting to the ball in the air and can make the contested catches.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Zion Johnson, G, Boston College
For Tampa Bay’s next magic trick, they will help the legendary Tom Brady stay upright by drafting the best guard in the draft class, Zion Johnson. Johnson flew under a bunch of radars before the Senior Bowl took place. He made his presence known even more at the NFL Combine as he ran a 4.46-second 20-yard dash and benched 32 reps of 225 pounds. Johnson will fit nicely into the Tampa Bay offensive line due to the retirement of Ali Marpet.
28. Green Bay Packers: Arnold Ebiketie, DE, Penn State
Green Bay was unable to bring back Za’Darius Smith who recorded twelve and a half sacks for the Packers in 2020. Green Bay’s starting two defensive ends on the current depth chart combined for just seven and a half sacks in 2021. Ebiketie is a player who’s been rising up draft boards and getting some round one projections, he could be a day one starter for the pack.
29. Kansas City Chiefs (Via: MIA, Via: SF): Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
With Tyreek Hill off to Miami, The Kansas City Chiefs are going to be looking for their new slate of offensive weapons during draft day. Jahan Dotson will look to fill the void. Weighing in at 5-foot-11-inches and 178 pounds, Dotson capped off his Penn State career by being selected as a third-team All-American and Big Ten all-conference player. He has starting talent, but his size and lack of physicality could prevent him from taking over games. I think that playing next to Juju Smith-Schuster will help him develop and grow as an overall player.
30. Kansas City Chiefs: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Kansas City lost two corners in free agency, Mike Hughes and Charvarius Ward. Kansas City was towards the bottom of the league in most defensive passing categories in 2021 and undoubtedly needs to improve at the cornerback position. Booth is a great press corner with the ability to make plays on the ball. He would be an instant starter in Kansas City and possibly the team's best corner.
31. Cincinnati Bengals: Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa
After the loss in Super Bowl 56, the Bengals learned one thing; they need to protect Joe Burrow. Tyler Smith from Tulsa will look to be one of the many players to help revamp that Cincinnati offensive line. Not only will Joe Burrow love this pick, but so will Joe Mixon. Smith is a player that NFL scouts like a lot more than the draft media does. Smith could play right tackle out of the gate or he could rotate inside and take over the guard position if needed. He can both stand his ground for standard blocking and progress up the field with ease during complex screenplays.
32. Detroit Lions (Via: LAR): Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Detroit was at the bottom of the league in the majority of rush-defense categories, partially due to injury problems to both of their starting defensive tackles. But also due to a lack of talent at the linebacker position. The Lions badly need a young leader in the middle of their defense and Nakobe Dean would be perfect. Dean did it all in 2021 at Georgia, as he was second on the Bulldogs in total tackles, recorded six sacks, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions, one being a pick-six. Dean’s sideline-to-sideline ability will allow him to instantly improve the Lions' overall defense, but especially the run defense.
*All stats were found using ESPN Stats & Info. department and teamrankings.com