With free agency kicking off and a bevy of moves already in the books around the league, the draft picture is getting a little clearer as teams fill certain needs while leaving holes at other spots.
1. Jaguars – Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State
The extremely curious decision to apply the franchise tag to starting left tackle Cam Robinson for a second straight year opened the possibility of the Jags using this pick on someone other than a left tackle. Then they signed Brandon Scherff in free agency, bolstering their line even further. But I still think Ekwonu is the pick. He can play right away then slide outside to protect Trevor Lawrence’s blindside long-term. Doug Pederson has a Super Bowl ring in large part because the Eagles had the best offensive line in football. Ekwonu will get the Jags moving in that direction.
2. Lions – Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
He just seems like the perfect pick for Dan Campbell, who continues to try and rescue the Lions from the depths of despair. Detroit hit a home run with Penei Sewell last year and opts to stay in the trenches to push their rebuild forward. Hutchinson is a hometown kid who should make an immediate impact.
3. Texans – Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
Thibodeaux seems to be slipping in many mock drafts, but I don’t believe he’ll fall that far. Houston has holes everywhere on their roster but the defense has been particularly troublesome. Thibodeaux has compared himself to Jadevon Clowney, so I’ll send him to the team that selected Clowney with the first pick back in 2014.
4. Jets – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Joe Douglas has used top-15 picks in each of the past two drafts on offensive linemen (Mekhi Becton, 11th in 2020, Alijah Vera-Tucker, 14th in 2021) but they still have a need along the line. Becton has been both out of shape and out with injury often. Neal gives the Jets stability up front as they move forward with Zach Wilson in year two.
5. Giants – Travon Walker, DE, Georgia
After a dominant showing at the combine, Walker’s name is now often mocked in the top-10. His power is unprecedented for a player who can run a 4.51. At 275 pounds he’s also big enough to even slide inside and rush the passer. He could be a problem in the division for years to come.
6. Panthers – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
The Panthers are in hot pursuit of DeShaun Watson so there’s a good chance this pick eventually belongs to the Texans. But Carolina needs an upgrade along the offensive line regardless. Cross has drawn some comparisons to Bucs Pro Bowler Tristan Wirfs and is by far the best remaining tackle on the board.
7. Giants (via Bears) – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
After adding Walker, the Giants continue their run on defense adding another potential blue chipper. Hamilton is considered by many to be the most talented in the draft. When you’re picking in the top ten you want elite talent. That’s exactly what the Giants accomplish here in their first draft with GM Joe Schoen.
8. Falcons – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Calvin Ridley was clearly already not in their plans even prior to his suspension. Jay Glazer told John Clark on the Takeoff Podcast that the Eagles and Falcons had worked out a deal for Ridley before his year-long ban hit. So Atlanta is clearly in the market for a receiver and there’s no better plug-and-play prospect at the position than Olave. His blistering 4.39 in the 40-yard dash vault him into the top-10.
9. Seahawks (via Broncos) – Derek Stingley, Jr., CB, LSU
It sure seems like Seattle is headed for a rebuild after trading away Russell Wilson and cutting Bobby Wagner, but Pete Carroll is 70 years old so I doubt he’s looking to start from scratch. Stingley in NFL-ready right now but doubles as a long-term fixture that can help restore the once-proud tradition of the legion of boom.
10. Jets (via Seahawks) – Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Robert Saleh’s defense in San Francisco thrived with Fred Warner in the middle. Joe Douglas cut is teeth within the Ravens’ scouting department while Ray Lewis was putting together his hall of fame career. So while they’d likely prefer one of the top pass rushers fell to them here, both Jets decision makers certainly see the value that an elite linebacker can bring to a defense. Dean is undersized but was an excellent playmaker for the national champs.
11. Commanders – Drake London, WR, USC
After their stunning trade for Carson Wentz, the Commanders go all-in to try and surround him with weapons. Wentz is going to get sacked and turn the ball over regardless, so you might as well construct a roster that allows him to hit enough home runs to outweigh the many mistakes. London gives him a big body opposite Terry McLaurin. That duo that should produce plenty of big plays in the passing game.
12. Vikings – Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Minnesota was addicted to drafting cornerbacks in the first round during the Rick Spielman/Mike Zimmer regime. The issue is that they rarely got it right. Now with a new brain trust making the decisions, the franchise finally get the caliber of corner they’ve been searching for in Gardner.
13. Browns – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Despite adding Amari Cooper, the Browns still need another target for Baker Mayfield. They released Jarvis Landry as free agency got under way, so they snag Wilson. He isn’t as game-ready as his Buckeye counterpart Olave, but might have an even higher upside.
14. Ravens – Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
The Ravens have a history of big bodies clogging things up inside on defense. From Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa to Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg, they’ve always had a proclivity for massive people movers. What separates Davis from the others is his freakish athleticism. He set a broad jump record for defensive tackles and clocked a 4.78 in the 40-yard dash… at 341 pounds!
15. Eagles (via Dolphins) – Jermaine Johnson, DE, Florida State
The Eagles announced the signing of Haason Reddick as a linebacker, meaning he’s likely to rush the passer from the SAM linebacker spot previously occupied by Genard Avery. That means the Birds still have a need for long-term answer at defensive end. Enter Johnson, who shined at both the Senior Bowl and the NFL combine. His college path took him from JUCO to Georgia and then to Florida State where he won ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Pop in the tape of Johnson’s first start in Tallahassee and marvel at how he dominated Notre Dame. The energy he plays with jumps off the screen. He’ the perfect blend of speed and power at the position and should become a force at the next level in midnight green.
16. Eagles (via Colts) – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
16.5. That’s how many sacks Lloyd racked up over his three seasons as a starter in Utah, including 8 last season. And that’s how I’m justifying his selection by the linebacker-averse Eagles. Lloyd will surely make his biggest impact anchoring the middle of the defense and hunting down ball carriers. But whether he was blitzing up the middle or simply lining up on the edge last season, Lloyd showed an ability to get to the quarterback that the Eagles crave. Micah Parsons broke the mold for middle linebackers last year, playing a ton of defensive end and wreaking havoc week in and week out. Lloyd isn’t in the same class athletically (he clocked a 4.66 40 at the combine) and I don’t expect him to be deployed the same way, but he’s got the ability and versatility to be a play-making weapon all over the field. He is a difference maker and they’d be foolish to pass him up.
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17. Chargers – Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
The Chargers have been spending like crazy to try and win big while Justin Herbert is on his rookie contract. But they’ve yet to address the protection for their franchise quarterback. Penning is big and nasty and will help keep Herbert upright as they try to capture the NFL’s toughest division.
18. Saints – Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
The Saints need a succession plan for the post-Drew Brees era and Willis offers the most upside of the 2022 crop of QBs. He’s got a rocket arm and is an elite runner. They’ll need a stop-gap for this coming season to hold them over until Willis is ready, which could mean the return of Jameis Winston.
19. Eagles – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
I’ve been steadfast that if the Eagles happen to use all three picks, they certainly won’t use them all on defense. Yes, Williams tore his ACL in the National Championship Game, but he would’ve been off the board in the top 10 had he not. That bit of unfortunate luck allows him to fall into the Eagles’ lap. Williams could still be ready by the start of the season and would pair with Devonta Smith to give the Birds a pair of elite playmakers on the outside for Jalen Hurts. Howie Roseman is steadfast in trying to build an elite offense and he’s recently shown an affinity for drafting players from Alabama. He adds one more to round out a really strong first round draft class of 2022.
20. Steelers – Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
They signed Mitchell Trubisky to be their starter but he’s proven to be much more of a stop-gap than long-term starter thus far in his career. Pickett was a Heisman finalist playing in the Steel City and is polished enough to supplant Trubisky by mid-season, if not sooner.
21. Patriots – Andrew Booth, Jr., CB, Clemson
With the exit of J.C. Jackson, Bill Belichick tabs Booth to become his next top-flight corner. The head coach has never had a problem turning late round picks and undrafted defensive backs into stars, but he opts for the easier route this time. Booth is already a polished player who should thrive in Foxborough.
22. Raiders – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
With Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow in place, Burks comes in to offer game-breaking ability in the passing attack. Josh McDaniels is trying to get Derek Carr to take his game to another level. Adding a stud like Burks will certainly help.
23. Cardinals – George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue
Arizona is in jeopardy of losing all-decade performer Chandler Jones in free agency, so they grab Karlaftis. While his sack production doesn’t scream first rounder, his work ethic and relentless motor make him a shoe-in to hear his name called on Day 1.
24. Cowboys – Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Ever since Travis Fredrick was forced to retire prior to the 2020, there has been a Pro Bowl-sized hole in the middle of the Cowboys offensive line. Linderbaum falling would be an ideal outcome in Dallas. He’s much less a behemoth like Fredrick, but rather cut from the undersized Jason Kelce cloth. Either way, he’s a Pro Bowler and culture changer in waiting.
25. Bills – David Ojabo, DE, Michigan
Buffalo has quietly been one of the best drafting teams in the NFL under GM Brandon Beane. They never seem to reach and always get production from their picks. Ojabo is a late bloomer with massive upside who doesn’t necessarily fit Buffalo’s drafting blue print. But he’s got too much raw talent to pass up at this point.
26. Titans – Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
The Titans spent money and draft capital to find a compliment to AJ Brown in the passing game last offseason. Unfortunately, Julio Jones couldn’t stay on the field. This time around they opt for a speedster to help complete their offensive arsenal.
27. Buccaneers – Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M
While Tom Brady’s “unretirement” was a positive surprise for the Bucs, they were surely caught a bit off guard when Pro Bowl guard Ali Marpet called it a career. Unlikely Brady, Marpet seems unlikely to pull an about-face, so Tampa Bay opts to fill that new-found need with Green.
28. Packers - DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M
It feels like the Packers always nab difference-making defensive linemen late in the first round. Guys like B.J. Raji, Nick Perry and Kenny Clark have been unsung heroes in Green Bay during the Aaron Rodgers era. Leal is tailor-made to play defensive end in a 3-4 scheme like the Packers run.
29. Dolphins (via 49ers) – Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College
If Mike McDaniel intends to implement the tough running approach that has made the 49ers so successful, he’ll need some maulers up front. Johnson is one of the strongest offensive linemen in the draft. The Dolphins will offer him some level of familiarity, as he’ll get to continue working with his college position coach, Matt Applebaum, who takes over as Miami’s offensive line coach.
30. Chiefs – Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota
The Eagles have watched as Jordan Mailata turned himself from rugby-playing project to a franchise left tackle. Faalele, a fellow Australian, is hoping to follow the same path while sporting nearly the exact same frame. He also stands 6-8 and weighs 380 pounds. What separates him from Mailata is he’s already played football. Faalele started as a true freshman at Minnesota and finished his career as an All-Big Ten performer in 2021. Andy Reid has always had an affinity for giant tackles. There aren’t any bigger than Faalele.
31. Bengals – Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
While offensive line is a massive need for the Bengals, they also had a glaring hole at cornerback which was extremely evident in the Super Bowl. McDuffie could be a day one starter in place of Eli Apple and improve their secondary immensely.
32. Lions (via Rams) – Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
This is a prime spot to nab a quarterback with upside, just like the Ravens did in 2018 by selecting Lamar Jackson. The 5th year option on Corral’s rookie deal will give Detroit plenty of time to decide if he’s the long-term answer under center.