Finally, it is upon us.
After a year-long wait, the NFL draft is here. And you all know what that means! One FINAL first-round mock draft before the REAL THING unfolds in Paradise, Nevada.
A side note before we get started: We didn’t project any trades for this exercise. Everyone has their own picks. Let’s see each team decides to use them…
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Travon Walker
Jacksonville needs another potent pass rusher to help out young stud Josh Allen. Hutchinson has been occupying this spot for a while now, but recent rumblings suggest GM Trent Baalke prefers Walker instead.
The Georgia standout has seen his stock rise rapidly since the combine. He may not be the most polished prospect, but his upside and versatility is too hard to ignore.
2. Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson
Gotta think the Lions will happily take whoever the Jags don’t between Walker and Hutchinson. Either guy fills the organizational need for a disruptive pass-rusher off the edge.
With Walker going first, that means the Michigan product stays home and lands in the Motor City, making for a nice sentimental draft moment. The Lions now have a new franchise face to build around.
3. Houston Texans: Ikem Ekwonu
Like Walker, Ekwonu’s stock has really taken off in recent weeks. It’s a coin flip between him and Evan Neal here. The latter might be the “safer” pick, but we see the Texans betting on Ekwonu’s incredible upside.
Pairing Ekwonu with Laremy Tunsil would give Houston two long-term building blocks along their offensive line. That should make Davis Mills a very happy man!
4. New York Jets: Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner
If we were Jets’ GM Joe Douglas, this would be a no-brainer. The Jets have lacked elite corners since Darrelle Revis’ prime years, and Gardner would immediately fix up a defense that ranked dead-last in both yards and points allowed last season.
Gardner didn’t allow a single touchdown in coverage at Cincinnati. That should be enough of a selling point for the Jets, who have to play the likes of Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle twice a season.
5. New York Giants: Evan Neal
Andrew Thomas came into his own last season for the Giants. He’s also the only above-average starting offensive linemen that the G-Men have. But this is a great opportunity for GM Joe Schoen to change that.
Neal is ready to start and would immediately improve the blocking for Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley, who are both entering make-or-break years. Neal and Thomas would provide the Giants with two franchise cornerstones on the offensive line. And trust us, those aren’t easy to find.
6. Carolina Panthers: Kenny Pickett
Would Pickett be going off the board too early here? Yes. But the Panthers don’t pick again until 137th overall. In an ideal world, Scott Fitterer trades down, gets more picks and finds his QB later.
But if nothing materializes there, the Panthers have to settle on the most NFL-ready QB in this spot. And that’s Pittsburgh product Kenny Pickett. Fun fact: He almost joined Matt Rhule during the latter’s tenure at Temple. Carolina has done a lot of homework on Pickett, so we’re just connecting the dots here.
Rhule is clearly high on this guy. He’s fighting for his job in 2022, so it’s worth taking this risk.
7. New York Giants (From Chicago Bears): Kayvon Thibodeaux
The man once viewed as the favorite to go first overall – only to see his stock go down in the months ahead of the draft – still lands in the top-10.
This would be the perfect first-round for the Giants, getting a new starter on the o-line as well as another pass-rushing stud to fit in Don “Wink” Martindale’s blitz-happy defense.
Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari patrolling the front seven? Now we’re talking!
8. Atlanta Falcons: Derek Stingley Jr.
The Falcons could go anywhere with this pick. A QB would not shock us at all. But if Stingley is available here, don’t you think GM Terry Fontenot will be overwhelmed with joy with the idea of having both Stingley AND superstar AJ Terrell rounding out the Falcons’ secondary?
The defensive line is Atlanta’s main weakness. But do you REALLY need pass rushers that badly if you have two Pro Bowl-caliber corners?
9. Seattle Seahawks (From Denver Broncos): Charles Cross
Seattle should be in take-the-best-player-available mode. The Mississippi product can be the long-term solution to Seattle’s pass protection woes. And Pete Carroll would love watching Cross maul opposing d-linemen in that rush-heavy Seattle offense.
10. New York Jets (From Seattle Seahawks): Kyle Hamilton
Wouldn’t this be something if the Jets landed the best corner AND the best safety in this class?
Hamilton is a special weapon who acts as a center fielder on the defensive side of the ball. His size, mobility and range make him a nightmare matchup for slot receivers and tight ends.
Robert Saleh needs a do-it-all game-wrecker, like he had with Fred Warner in San Francisco. He gets it here in Hamilton, who has perennial-First-Team All-Pro written all over him.
11. Washington Commanders: Jameson Williams
The Commanders have to take the best receiver available here. Williams single-handedly takes over games with his insane speed. Williams and Terry McLaurin would give newcomer Carson Wentz two Pro Bowl-caliber receivers to work with.
Taking Williams would go a long way towards helping Washington get the most out of Wentz. He and Scary Terry could very well be the NFL’s most dangerous receiving duo. Their quarterback just has to find a way to get them the ball.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Trent McDuffie
Derek Stingley would be perfect here if he falls, but in this case he doesn’t. So Minny goes with the next best cornerback, which is Trent McDuffie.
The five-star lockdown defensive back would give Minny its first star-level corner since Xavier Rhodes. And he’d have the fortunes of learning alongside the great Patrick Peterson, who re-upped with the Vikings for another year.
13. Houston Texans (From Cleveland Browns): Jermaine Johnson II
It’d be a surprise if Houston didn’t take at least one defensive player with one of their two first-rounders. Jermaine Johnson II broke out in his final collegiate season with 12 sacks, and he’s the type of player that could flourish in a Lovie Smith-coached defense.
Houston already has a stud run-stopper in Roy Lopez and a potential future star in Jonathan Greenard. One more defensive linemen here will do nicely.
14. Baltimore Ravens: George Karlaftis
The Ravens need some more youth and speed at the edge, and the Purdue star would perfectly fill this void.
Karlaftis would get to learn from Calais Campbell and eventually form a dangerous pass-rush duo alongside fellow youngster Odafe Oweh. It’s an ideal fit for Baltimore .
15. Philadelphia Eagles (From Miami Dolphins): Devin Lloyd
The Eagles are a tough team to predict here. But the linebacker position is arguably their biggest weakness, and some help is necessary there.
Lloyd is a do-it-all workhorse who can start right away. If he adjusts to the NFL level quickly, this Eagles defense could be a top-five unit.
16. New Orleans Saints (From Philadelphia Eagles): Trevor Penning
Do you really think the Saints traded for this selection to NOT take an offensive lineman following Terron Armstead’s departure?
A QB doesn’t make sense here. Not with Jameis Winston returning on a two-year deal. So let’s give the Saints the Northern Iowa tackle to round out one of the league’s top o-lines.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Tyler Smith
Rashawn Slater and Cory Linsley helped improve the Chargers’ offensive line in 2021. One more piece could take this unit to another level, though, which makes Tulsa product Tyler Smith the ideal selection for Brandon Staley’s club.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (From New Orleans Saints): Garrett Wilson
DeVonta Smith was a home-run pick for the Eagles last year, but he’s still the only capable receiver on that roster. Jalen Hurts can’t get too over-reliant on Smith, so more help is needed. That brings us to Wilson, who would give the third-year QB a world-class deep threat as well as a lethal red zone weapon.
19. New Orleans Saints (Philadelphia Eagles): Chris Olave
Our calculations have the Saints taking the best receiver remaining. In this instance, it’s Chris Olave.
As great as Michael Thomas has been, the Saints have yet to pair him with a true number two wideout. It’s time to change that, and the lightning-quick Olave – who racked up 32 touchdowns over his final three college seasons – would fit the bill perfectly.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Malik Willis
If Desmond Ridder is still available, the Steelers could very well take him. But we like the idea of Mike Tomlin and company going with the QB that offers the most upside in this draft.
Willis has a dazzling dual-threat game and could flourish on a Pittsburgh team with Najee Harris and a deep set of receivers. With Mitch Trubisky signed for two years, the Steelers wouldn’t have to rush Willis’ development.
21. New England Patriots: Nakobe Dean
It’s definitely a defensive player here for the Patriots…right?
Yes, they fielded one of the league’s strongest units a year ago. But the lack of speed and athleticism was exposed by the Buffalo Bills in their Wild Card blowout, and Bill Belichick isn’t going to forget about that.
Belichick-coached defenses always have a cornerstone linebacker in place. Dean – the Georgia product who posted six sacks, two forced fumbles and a pair of picks in 2021 – would do great things with Bill coaching him up.
His skill set and football IQ make him the perfect fit in New England.
22. Green Bay Packers (From Las Vegas Raiders): Drake London
You don’t trade Davante Adams and let Marquez Valdes-Scantling walk if you’re not planning to address the receiver position in the draft.
Packers fans are tired of being reminded that Javon Walker was the last receiver this team selected in round one, way-back-when in 2002.
No excuses for the streak to reach 21 years. London is the best receiver still on the board, and we have no doubt that he and Aaron Rodgers would develop a strong rapport rather quickly.
23. Arizona Cardinals: Roger McCreary
Arizona has SO MANY choices here. Do they draft Chandler Jones’ replacement? Take another weapon to help Kyler Murray? Upgrade the offensive line?
We wouldn’t complain either way. But when you consider all of the dangerous receivers they have to deal with in the gauntlet that is the NFC West…? Yeah, a lockdown corner like McCreary could really help here.
24. Dallas Cowboys: Kenyon Green
The Cowboys lost two quality starters on the o-line in La’el Collins and Connor Williams. The No. 24 pick gives Jerry Jones the perfect opportunity to replace one of them while adding a new foundational piece – on a rookie contract no less!
Green would slot in nicely on a unit that features two future Hall of Famers in Tyron Smith and Zack Martin.
25. Buffalo Bills: Zion Johnson
Josh Allen has helped mask the Bills struggles along their offensive line over these last two years. Now it’s time for the front office to actually bring in a high-level starter to lead this group.
And Boston College star Zion Johnson – one of the best pure blockers in recent memory – would fill that need.
26. Tennessee Titans: Tyler Linderbaum
Linderbaum deserves to be a top 15 pick, but most teams aren’t looking to draft a center that early. That would work out nicely for the Titans, who lost standout guard Rodger Saffold in free agency.
Even with Saffold, the Titans’ pass protection group left a lot to be desired last year. Here, they jump on the chance to take Linderbaum and happily call it a day.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Devonte Wyatt
The Bucs could use some youth and more athleticism on their already-stout front seven. Vita Vea is a one-man wrecking crew in the interior of the defensive line.
Placing Devonta Wyatt beside Vea could make this defense even more dominant than they were during their run to Super Bowl 55.
28. Green Bay Packers: Daxton Hill
We certainly wouldn’t complain if Green Bay doubled down on receivers in round one. But we kind of love the idea of them adding another stud defensive back to one of the league’s elite secondaries.
Yes, the Packers offense will likely regress without Adams next season. But if you field a secondary with Hill, Jaire Alexander, Adrian Amos and Rasul Douglas…you wouldn’t need Rodgers to put up 300 yards and 3 touchdowns every game.
29. Kansas City Chiefs (From Miami Dolphins): Treylon Burks
The Chiefs find a cheaper and younger alternative to Tyreek Hill by drafting Burks, who averaged over 16 yards per catch in each of his three years at Arkansas. He would undoubtedly do wonders in a Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid-led offense.
30. Kansas City Chiefs: Boye Mafe
The Chiefs have become too reliant on Chris Jones and the inconsistent Frank Clark in the pass rushing game. Something has to change there, and the draft will give GM Brett Veach the perfect opportunity to address this.
Minnesota product Boye Mafe got better each year with the Golden Gophers. He had seven sacks in 2021 and can play anywhere on the front seven.
31. Cincinnati Bengals: Jordan Davis
The Bengals would have loved Tyler Linderbaum here, but he’s not available. So instead, the Bengals improve an already-stout defense by taking the best pure run-stopper in this class.
There are questions about whether Davis will be a capable three-down player. But even if he’s only a two-down guy, how do you pass on a player who constantly demands double-teams from opposing offensive lines?
32. Detroit Lions: Jahan Dotson (From Los Angeles Rams)
We hear some of you grumbling, Lions fans. You want a quarterback here, don’t you?
Well, we’d advise the Lions wait until next year’s draft, which supposedly fields a dream quarterback class – with the likes of Bryce Young, CJ Stroud and Spencer Rattler expected to be available.
So instead, with the No. 32 pick, the Lions grab a guy who can start right away and accelerate the rebuilding process. Jahan Dotson would give Jared Goff and Detroit’s future franchise QB another dynamic weapon to complement TJ Hockenson, Amon-Ra St. Brown and D’Andre Swift.
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