The Sports Branch official 2022 Mock Draft
The NFL Draft is just hours away and could be one of the most exciting drafts in recent memory. With most insiders and fans unsure of where certain players will be selected, and what most teams will do with their pick(s). The NFL Draft is one of the most exciting parts of the offseason, let's hope it lives up to the hype this year. With that being said, here is The Sports Branch's official 2022 Mock Draft.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Travon Walker, DE, Georgia
Georgia’s Travon Walker has soared up draft boards for the last few weeks and it looks like the hype is real. Walker doesn’t quite have the college production of Hutchinson, but teams believe he has an extremely high ceiling and possesses all the physical tools to be a difference-maker. It’s been reported that Jaguars General Manager, Trent Baalke favors Walker, while Owner Shad Khan wants the team to select Aidan Hutchinson. In other interesting news, Travon Walker has emerged as the favorite to be the number one pick amongst multiple official sportsbooks.
2. Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
Coach Dan Campbell would be ecstatic with selecting Hutchinson second overall. The Heisman Trophy runner-up has been viewed as one of the top prospects for the entirety of the draft process. Hutchinson would make an instant impact for the Lions who were thirty-first in sacks per game in 2021 and were one of the weakest defenses, in general, a season ago.
3. Houston Texans: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Houston looks to be building around 2021 third-round pick, Davis Mills as the future franchise quarterback. With two-time pro bowler Laremy Tunsil at left tackle, Mills’ blindside is protected, Neal’s could easily slide into right tackle for Houston, as he played the position for part of his college career. An offensive tackle tandem of Neal and Tunsil would be a cornerstone for the Texans' rebuild. The Texans have two picks in the top fifteen, and with the number of holes on their roster, they really can’t go wrong here.
4. New York Jets: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
The Jets' secondary was abysmal a season ago, ranking thirtieth in both completion percentage and pass yards allowed per game. Gardner is the consensus number one corner in the draft and allowed only sixty receiving yards and zero touchdowns in 2021 for the Cincinnati Bearcats. He would step in and be this team’s best corner right away.
5. New York Giants: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
Offensive line play has been an issue plaguing the Giants over the past few seasons and it remains to be a problem. Second-year Left Tackle, Andrew Thomas, showed improvement after an up-and-down rookie season and could be the long-term option for protecting Daniel Jones’s blindside. However, the rest of the line still needs work. Although Ekwonu played Left Tackle at NC State in 2021, he could easily slide into the Right Tackle spot for the Giants, or even guard, which he also played in College. The Giants would be depending on Ekwonu to help boost their pass protection (2.2 sacks per game allowed in 2021) and re-energize Saquon Barkley’s career by opening up more running lanes.
6. Carolina Panthers: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
Possessing only one pick in the first three rounds, the Panthers desperately need to hit the mark here. After Sam Darnold struggled in his first year in Carolina, it doesn’t feel like anyone believes he’s the long-term answer at QB. Carolina selecting a quarterback here would not surprise me, so I gave them the top QB in this class (in my eyes). Willis is everything teams want from their Quarterback in today’s league. He has a strong arm, can make throws from outside the pocket, can extend plays with his legs, and can take off and run when need be. Willis would come in and instantly compete for the QB1 spot.
7. New York Giants (Via: CHI): Jermaine Johnson II, DE, Florida State
New York boosted their offensive line with their first pick, and I think they’ll decide to remain in the trenches with their second pick. To me, Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux makes the most sense here, however, it’s been reported that the Giants (along with others) don’t like Thibodeaux’s personality, attitude, or work ethic. Thus being said, I believe they’ll take their next highest ranked pass-rusher in Jermaine Johnson II. With the Giants being twenty-first in sacks per game a season ago, it feels almost like a guarantee that one of their first two picks will be used to boost the pass rush.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
With Calvin Ridley being suspended for the entirety of the 2022 season, this pick makes too much sense. The Falcons are badly in need of explosive talent on the outside to take some pressure off Kyle Pitts and Marcus Mariota, their likely starting QB for 2022. Wilson is the consensus number one receiver in the class, and would be the number one wideout for the Falcons right away,
9. Seattle Seahawks (Via: DEN): Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
Nobody is quite sure what Seattle’s plan for the future is. After trading Russell Wilson and releasing Bobby Wagner, the Seahawks could be looking to rebuild. Seattle has multiple holes to fill, which leads me to believe they could decide to go with the best player available, which in this case is Kayvon Thibodeaux. Thibodeaux at one point was the favorite for the number one pick but has seen his projections change after the emergence of Aidan Hutchinson and others, as well as the rumors of issues with his attitude and work ethic. Offensive tackle is also a strong possibility here for Seattle, as they lost starting Left Tackle, Duane Brown, and have yet to re-sign him or his replacement.
10. New York Jets: Drake London, WR, USC
It’s no secret that the Jets are seeking to add more weapons for 2021’s number two overall pick Zach Wilson as they were interested in trading for Tyreek Hill and have shown interest in Deebo Samuel. London would be a great addition to the offense and would offer a different type of receiver for Wilson, London is a big target that the Jets don’t have right now and will give them more explosiveness with his big-play ability. London and Elijah Moore would create a young wideout combo for the Jets and their fans to be excited about for the foreseeable future.
11. Washington Commanders: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
The Commanders struggled in the secondary in 2021 as they were towards the bottom of the league in most passing defense categories. To make matters worse, they also released starting Safety, Landon Collins in mid-March. Hamilton at one point was regarded as a top-five pick, but as of late has seen his draft stock slide. Hamilton is one of my favorite prospects, I love the range he has at the Safety position and his ability to play the ball. Another position that could be in the mix here for Washington is receiver.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Minnesota has spent multiple draft picks in recent years in an attempt to upgrade their cornerback group, unfortunately for them, not many of those selections have panned out. I think if the Vikings do choose Stingley, he’ll be the most talented corner they’ve selected in recent memory. Stingley had an incredible freshman season at LSU and looked like a lock to be a top-three pick at the time. Stingley has had problems staying healthy at LSU, however, if he remains healthy once he arrives in the NFL, he could be the steal of the draft.
13. Houston Texans (Via: CLE): Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Houston solidified their offensive line with their first pick, and I think they’ll continue to build around Davis Mills with their second pick of the first round. The Texans were able to keep Brandin Cooks in Houston, but other than that, they need some more playmakers at receiver. Olave would be the number two option right away in a wide receiver room consisting of second-year wideout Nico Collins and veteran Chris Conley. Houston could also choose to go defense here, as they have holes all over the place on that side of the ball.
14. Baltimore Ravens: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
Baltimore was plagued by awful injury luck in 2021 that included starting corner Marcus Peters missing the entirety of the season and corner Marlon Humphrey missing a handful of games. With the top pass rushers selected already, I have Baltimore selecting the best corner remaining and one that could see a heavy snap count as a rookie. Baltimore could also go edge rusher if there’s one available that they like, or interior offensive line, a name to watch for is Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (Via: MIA): Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Philadelphia has used first-round picks on receivers in back-to-back years and I think they’ll make it a third with one of their two first-round picks. Williams is the best receiver on the board at this time and would be the consensus number one receiver if it wasn’t for the ACL injury he suffered against Georgia in the National Championship. Williams is an explosive target that can take the top off of a defense, and make plays after the catch. The Eagles, and Jalen Hurts, would be ecstatic to add Jameson Williams to their offense.
16. New Orleans Saints (Via: PHI, Via: IND): Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
Terron Armstead was a three-time Pro-Bowler and one-time second-team All-Pro for New Orleans, the only issue is he’s no longer with the Saints. New Orleans was unable to bring back Armstead as he signed a big contract with the Miami Dolphins this offseason, leaving a glaring hole at the Left Tackle position. If Cross is available here, and it’s also likely he’s already off the board, I believe the Saints would pounce on the opportunity to replace Armstead with Cross. Cross is viewed as the number three offensive tackle by most and is without a doubt one of the best pass-blockers in the class.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
Los Angeles did an incredible job in the 2021 offseason at building the offensive line and protecting Justin Herbert. But, the Chargers lost starting Right Tackle, Bryan Bulaga, leaving a hole at the position. Penning to the Chargers is another pick that just makes too much sense. Penning would be the day one starter at the tackle position for Los Angeles, his physicality combined with his speed is something special.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (Via: NO): Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
Davis could easily go much earlier than this, however, some have expressed concerns about the positional value of a Defensive Tackle going early in the draft. Long-time Philadelphia Eagle Fletcher Cox is now thirty-one, and originally wasn’t going to be an Eagle in 2022. The team decided to bring him back on a team-friendly one-year deal, Davis would line up next to Cox next season, before likely becoming the next star interior linemen in Philly.
19. New Orleans Saints (Via: PHI): Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
The Saints are in desperate need of depth at wide receiver, and Burks falls right into their lap here. Burks would give them a bigger receiver opposite of Michael Thomas, that Jameis Winston would love. New Orleans’s leading receivers a season ago were Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harry, so the Saints adding receivers through the draft this year is a must.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt
Steelers legend and future Hall-of-Famer Ben Roethlisberger retired after an amazing career in Pittsburgh. It’s no secret the Steelers have been looking for their next franchise leader all offseason. I think Pittsburgh is more infatuated with Malik Willis, however, he’s off the board in this situation, so the Steelers get Heisman trophy finalist Kenny Pickett here. Pickett may not be the day one starter, but he’ll have the opportunity to compete for the job as a rookie.
21. New England Patriots: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Llyod to New England has been a popular prediction during the draft process, and it makes sense. Lloyd is a player that Bill Belichick would love, he can fly all over the field, stop the run, and make big-time plays in pass coverage.
22. Green Bay Packers (Via: LV): George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue
The departure of Za’Darius Smith hurts the Packers' pass rush, which is why I’m confident that one of their two first-round picks will be used on an edge rusher. Green Bay ranked thirteenth in sacks per game in 2021 without the production of Smith, but they still need to add depth to the position.
23. Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
Arizona’s pass defense has shown improvement but overall was around the league average for most pass-defense categories. The Cardinals could use some more talent at corner as former fourth-rounder Marco Wilson, and second-rounder Byron Murphy Jr. are currently listed as the team’s starting corners. Gordon is the fourth-best corner in this class, in my opinion, he plays great in zone defense and is willing to make tackles in the run game.
24. Dallas Cowboys: Arnold Ebiketie, DE, Penn State
Former Cowboy Randy Gregory departed this offseason, signing a contract with the Broncos, leaving an opening on the edge across from DeMarcus Lawrence. Dallas recovered by signing former Falcon, Dante Fowler Jr. However, they could still use the depth at the edge position, especially after Fowler Jr.’s rough stint in Atlanta after receiving a big contract. Ebiketie is a name that has been thrown around within the last few weeks, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him selected tonight.
25. Buffalo Bills: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Buffalo had one of the best passing defenses and overall defenses in the league in 2021. Yet, they lost starting corner, Levi Wallace, to the Steelers in free agency, and All-Pro corner Tre’Davious White is coming off a torn ACL. Buffalo needs to reload with some more talent at the cornerback position to keep their strong secondary.
26. Tennessee Titans: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Tennessee's trade for Julio Jones didn’t necessarily work out the way they had hoped, and with A.J. Brown reportedly ready to hold out of offseason programs in desire for a new contract, the Titans are another team in need of a receiver. The addition of Robert Woods isn’t enough by itself to boost this Titans' passing attack, besides the fact that Woods is also coming back from an ACL injury. Dotson would give this offense some more big-play ability with his 4.43 speed and could offer versatility in the return game.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Zion Johnson, IOL, Boston College
Tom Brady decided that after about a month of retirement that he would be coming back to the NFL, a move that instantly put Tampa back in the Super Bowl conversation. Tampa must ensure that they protect him though if they want to achieve that goal. Starting Right Guard, Alex Cappa left Tampa for Cincinnati during the offseason, and although the Bucs were able to replace him with former Patriots Guard Shaq Mason, they could still use some help on the offensive line. Zion Johnson would be a great addition for them and could play Left Guard rather than the current starter, Aaron Stinnie.
28. Green Bay Packers: Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M
Here goes the stat that haunts every Packers fan; Green Bay has not drafted a receiver in the first round since 2002, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the streak extends. Green Bay allowed an average of just over two sacks per game in 2021, and with Aaron Rodgers coming back, that’s a number I’m sure they want to see decrease. Kenyon Green is arguably the best interior lineman in the draft and would likely be a day one starter for the Pack as they gear up for another run at the Super Bowl.
29. Kansas City Chiefs (Via: SF): Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
Kansas City saw a large turnover for their wide receiver room this offseason as three key receivers signed contracts elsewhere, or were traded. Watson is a name that has caught some first-round buzz as the six-foot-four prospect had an impressive showing at the combine. Watson’s 4.36 speed mixed with his size and frame could make him one of Patrick Mahomes’s favorite targets from day one.
30. Kansas City Chiefs: Boye Mafe, OLB, Minnesota
Ranking thirtieth in sacks per game last season, Kansas City needs to boost the pass rush through the draft. Mafe ran a 4.53 at the NFL combine and his speed and explosion would be a gamechanger for the Chiefs defense when lined up opposite of Frank Clark. Cornerback could also be in play here for the Chiefs as they need to add talent to that position.
31. Cincinnati Bengals: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Despite having possibly the worst offensive line in all of football, Cincinnati made a storybook run to the Super Bowl, led by second-year QB, Joe Burrow. Cincinnati has done well at building the offensive lineup in the offseason, but the Center position could still use some improvement. The Bengals depth chart currently lists free-agent acquisition and Guard, Ted Karras as the team’s starting center. With the addition of Linderbaum, Karras could slide to Left Guard to either start over or backup 2021 second-round pick Jackson Carman. Defensive Back or Linebacker could also be possibilities here for the Bengals.
32. Detroit Lions (Via: LAR): Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Detroit was able to use the number two pick to upgrade the pass rush and defensive line as a whole. With their second pick of the first round, I think they’ll look to improve the middle of the defense and secure a young leader on that side of the ball. Dean is a do-it-all linebacker that would help the Lions in multiple facets of that defense. If Dean isn’t selected here or earlier in the first round, I don’t think he’ll be on the board for long on day two.
*All stats were found using ESPN Stats & Info. department and teamrankings.com