NBC Sports

2022 NFL Mock Draft: It's clear the Patriots need an offensive weapon

NBC Sports

Now that the Super Bowl is behind us, it's time. Let's throw ourselves into the draft.

We've already dipped our toes in those waters, but it's time to really home in. Hence this mock, which was a fascinating exercise to carry out less than 24 hours after the last game of the 2021 season.

We knew it was important to have a stable offensive line, but the relentless second-half pressure Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow saw from the Rams only hammered home that point.

We knew having a variety of pass-rushers was smart, but watching Aaron Donald and his friends wreck the game only brought that idea into greater focus.

Next Pats podcast: Patriots get Mac Jones a no. 1 receiver in latest mock draft; Jay Glazer 1-on-1 | Listen & Follow | Watch on YouTube

We knew giving quarterbacks a true No. 1 -- someone a passer can trust no matter the circumstances -- mattered, but seeing Matthew Stafford force-feed Cooper Kupp in crunch time only underscored that belief.

With the Rams' win still fresh, let's take what we learned and apply it to our latest mock.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

Evan Neal

Please. Get Trevor Lawrence some help. Please. With this pick, the Jags would be well on their way. For more on Neal, check out this episode of Next Pats with Bruce Feldman, who authors The Athletic's annual college football "Freaks" list. There's no bigger (6-7, 350 pounds) freak in college football than Neal.


2. Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

Aidan Hutchinson

The Lions don't have to force a pick on the offensive side here. They need players all over their roster. In Hutchinson, they have themselves a plug-and-play type at one of the game's most valuable positions. 

3. Houston Texans: Ikem "Ickey" Ekwonu, OT, NC State

Anyone have any idea who will be playing quarterback for the Texans in 2022? Looks like it could be Davis Mills. Could be someone from this class. Could be a free agent. Whoever it is, the Texans could do worse than to add Ekwonu to the protection plan. He's shown all kinds of power at the point of attack. And he's mean. Or at least he plays that way.

4. New York Jets: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon 

Kayvon Thibodeaux

Length. Athleticism. Flexibility. Thibodeaux, at 6-foot-5, 258 pounds, has rare traits. You could make an argument he should be the first player off the board. Instead, he goes to coach Robert Saleh at No. 4 overall to give the Jets a ready-made formidable rusher off the edge.

5. New York Giants: Charles Cross, OL, Mississippi State

The Giants have invested along the offensive line ... but that doesn't mean they shouldn't continue to do exactly that. Cross has shown out against some high-end competition in the SEC and could replace young right tackle Matt Peart, who tore his ACL in December.

6. Carolina Panthers: Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

Gardner was one of the toughest corners in college football in 2021, allowing just 117 total yards this season, per Pro Football Focus. His combination of body control, burst and awareness make him a good fit for Carolina here. They'll be looking to replace Stephon Gilmore, in all likelihood, as the former Defensive Player of the Year is scheduled to hit free agency.

7. Giants (via Chicago Bears): Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

If the Giants go in on Jones, they might as well try to protect him better than they have. Even though he doesn't play tackle, he might be worth a top-10 selection because he's so solid in the middle.

8. Atlanta Falcons: George Karlatis, EDGE, Purdue

Will the Falcons make the leap and take a quarterback to eventually replace Matt Ryan? Perhaps they should. Feels early, though. Instead, they take a potential game-changer off the edge.

9. Denver Broncos: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

Derek Stingley Jr.

In some circles, Stingley is considered "CB1" in this class thanks to his top-end speed, instincts and ball skills. His lack of consistency might push him down the board a bit, but the Broncos come away with legitimate NFL talent for new head coach Nathaniel Hackett.

10. Jets (via Seattle Seahawks): Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

If the Jets are going to work off the Burrow model (or the Josh Allen model, for that matter), they'll understand they need to do more for their young quarterback Zach Wilson. Grabbing another Wilson here gives their offense a run-every-route option who can make big plays down the field.


11. Washington Commanders: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

Washington could do a lot worse than Dean. The Butkus Award winner was one of the cornerstone pieces to what was a historically-effective Georgia defense in 2021.

12. Minnesota Vikings: Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M

Minnesota's offensive line is struggling. Green won't solve all their problems, but he'd be a start. He can play a variety of roles for the Vikes, though his best spot looks like it would be inside.

13. Cleveland Browns: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

Cleveland still needs to figure out who is playing quarterback there in the years to come. They could try to find an answer at this point in the draft. Pitt's Kenny Pickett? Liberty's Malik Willis? Instead they opt to help their Quarterback To Be Named Later to keep one of the smoothest receivers in the class in Ohio.

14. Baltimore Ravens: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

One of the best players in this draft just happens to play a position that isn't necessarily at the top of every team's list of needs. Their loss. The Ravens pounce on Hamilton, who has the burst and nose for the ball every team covets at safety. 

15. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami Dolphins): Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

Looks like it's not a bad year to need a corner. At 6-foot-2, Elam has excellent size and press ability. Plus, when the ball is in the air, he has the ability to change the game.

16. Eagles (via Indianapolis Colts): David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan

Aidan Hutchinson isn't the only edge defender coming out of Michigan who should be taken in the top half of the first round. Explosiveness personified, Ojabo has a chance to be another in a long line of top-end athletes to depart Ann Arbor and hit the NFL as a first-rounder.

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Drake London, WR, USC

The Chargers could be looking for a Mike Williams replacement. Their big-bodied down-the-field threat is slated to hit free agency. How's this for a fill-in? London (6-foot-5, 210 pounds) has a physical style that would provide the Bolts a similar boundary presence.

18. New Orleans Saints: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

The Saints ain't going anywhere in 2022. Sean Payton saw it and bailed. Mickey Loomis and the New Orleans front office have to be well aware they're in the middle of a real rebuild, too. Not a bad way to kick-start the thing than by taking arguably the best receiver in the draft. He's hurt so he may not be available for a while. But for the Saints? No big deal. They're playing for 2023 and beyond anyway.

19. Eagles: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

Lloyd, the Pac-12 Championship MVP, can do a little bit of everything at the second level and will further buttress Howie Roseman's defense along with Ojabo and Elam.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt

First quarterback off the board. Usually it doesn't take this long, but that tells you what kind of quarterback class this is. The Steelers have to replace Ben Roethlisberger and do so with another passer who doesn't have the strongest arm in the world. But Pickett's accuracy and anticipation -- as well as enough athleticism to avoid trouble when necessary -- make him worthy of this slot.


21. New England Patriots: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

How the Patriots attack the draft will of course be contingent upon what they're able to do in free agency. If they land a true No. 1 in this year's crop of free agents, then pulling the trigger on Burks here wouldn't be necessary. But if, for instance, it's easier for the Patriots to add offensive line help with a March signing ... and if the team is still looking for its No. 1 on the outside ... Burks would be an intriguing fit.

At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, he's among the most physically gifted wideouts in the class. And he has enough speed to have torched the always uber-talented Alabama secondary for eight catches, 179 yards and two touchdowns in their matchup this season. Before the game was even played, Nick Saban called him a "great" player. He added, "He's a physical mismatch. He's bigger than most of the guys that are trying to guard him. It's kind of like a point guard trying to cover a power forward-type guy who can run fast. Sometimes those mismatches are difficult. That's a challenge in the game. How do you do it?"

Burks has the kind of SEC production and versatility the Patriots want -- he's played outside, inside, at running back and as a Wildcat quarterback -- and he has physical traits that are rare. He wore XXXXL-sized gloves this season (he couldn't find anything bigger) and wore holes in each pair after about a week. He has a ways to go as a route-runner, but he should be an immediate threat as a catch-and-run player and a jump-ball machine. If they're looking for their version of Deebo Samuel or A.J. Brown -- two players to whom Burks has been compared and whom the Patriots missed on in the 2019 draft -- then Burks could be their guy. With his size-and-speed profile, he could give Mac Jones the down-the-field option he needs to reach his ceiling.

22. Las Vegas Raiders: Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan

Josh McDaniels apparently likes David Carr quite a bit. If that's the case, he should be focused on protecting him in the first round. Maybe McDaniels and general manager Davie Ziegler believe Raimann can be the Austrian version of Sebastian Vollmer. Raimann hit Central Michigan as an exchange student who played tight end. Now he's a potential first-round tackle prospect.

23. Arizona Cardinals: Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson

An off-the-charts athlete from Clemson who could help transform the secondary? Sound like someone the Cardinals might be interested in? Booth is ready to go on the outside, and he has hands that would make receivers jealous. 


24. Dallas Cowboys: DeMarvin Leal, EDGE, Texas A&M

Baltimore has a couple of young and talented edge players in Odafe Oweh and Tyus Bowser, but they're scheduled to see Calais Campbell and Justin Houston walk this offseason. Leal would give the team depth at a spot where it likes to rotate bodies to keep rushers fresh. 

25. Buffalo Bills: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

This pick isn't a reaction to Tre'Davious White's season-ending injury. It's more so that they are thin behind White. Especially with Levi Wallace, their No. 2, set to hit free agency in the spring. McDuffie is smart and physical and could excel in Sean McDermott's scheme.

26. Tennessee Titans: Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC

We've got a run on USC Drakes! Tennessee is in a good spot with former Boston College star Harold Landry on one edge. Getting Jackson on the other -- with Jeffery Simmons on the interior -- could make this pass-rushing unit frightening.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn

The Bucs struggled to find help in the secondary all season. The search won't stop here, in all likelihood, but if you like speed and SEC production from your corners, McCreary is for you.

28. Green Bay Packers: Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia

Consider this an if-Aaron-Rodgers-heads-elsewhere selection. If he sticks, the Packers may feel pressure to add an offensive lineman or a wideout. But if he's gone, and if the Packers are freed up to add the best player available, Wyatt would be a sensible choice. He has a rare combination of power and quickness that probably should get him drafted sooner than this. 

29. Dolphins: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

Under new coach Mike McDaniel, Miami is going to want to fortify its running game and protect its quarterback. Enter Penning. At 6-foot-6, 330 pounds with almost 35-inch arms, Penning has all sorts of NFL-caliber traits despite coming from a smaller program. He had an up-and-down week at the Senior Bowl, but with a little refinement he could end up being one of the steals of the draft.

30. Kansas City Chiefs: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State

Mecole Hardman hasn't quite panned out the way Kansas City was hoping. Why not take another shot? Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes could use one more weapon in that huddle, and Dotson would give them great speed and acrobatic ability to use in conjunction with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.

31. Cincinnati Bengals: Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota

This might be a reach. Faalele may not have the athleticism of a typical first-round offensive lineman. But he has the size. Man, does he have the size. At 6-foot-9, 380 pounds, Faalele has the ability to wipe out defenders in the run and pass games. He may not be the most flexible tackle taken in this class, but if he can improve Burrow's protection he'll be well worth the investment.

32. Lions (via Los Angeles Rams): Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

It's worth a shot. Willis has the kind of jaw-dropping physical ability that -- if molded the right way -- could lead to special plays at the quarterback position. The Lions are still so far from contention that using this pick as a dart-throw at the most important position in the sport is a shrewd move.