The Eagles have drafted three defensive players in the first round in the last decade. Fletcher Cox in 2012, Marcus Smith in 2014 and Derek Barnett in 2017. According to this week’s 2022 mock draft, they’re going to match that total in one day.
The Eagles project to have three 1st-round picks for the first time since the inception of the draft in 1936, and we have them going defense, defense and defense with those picks.
Here’s our full first-round mock, with the order set by the standings following Week 8:
1. Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
As of now, the Lions project to have just their second No. 1 pick in the last 40 years, following Matt Stafford in 2009. You don’t get a lot of defensive players going No. 1 overall – just four in the last 25 years, all edge rushers – Penn State’s Courtney Brown to the Browns in 2000, North Carolina State’s Mario Williams to the Texans in 2006, South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney to the Texans in 2014 and Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett to the Browns in 2017. But it’s going to be tough for anybody to pass up Thibodeaux, who has 16 sacks and 31 tackles for loss in just 24 career games for the Ducks. The Lions need help everywhere, but Thibodeaux is the type of generational talent who should be able to provide instant playmaking to a defense that’s been one of the worst in the NFL for years.
2. Texans: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
The Texans are a train wreck, and they need to make a splash with this pick to try and gain some much-needed relevance in a post-Deshaun Watson universe. Willis has gotten even better after a promising 2020 season, and he’s sure looked like a big-time prospect as a dual-threat quarterback since transferring from Auburn, where he was stuck backing up Bo Nix. Willis has thrown for 4,000 yards and 37 touchdowns and run for another 1,600 yards in just 18 games at Liberty, and he’s just a natural playmaker. He’s the consensus No. 1 quarterback in the draft, and a couple more weeks watching Davis Mills is all the Texans need to see to convince them to take a QB.
3. Eagles: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
The first thing we have to do here is figure out what the Eagles’ QB plan is. Do they want to draft a 1st-round quarterback? Is there even one on the board who projects as a starter in 2022 if Willis is off the board (or even if he’s still available)? I’m thinking considering the current state of the 2022 quarterback draft class the Eagles will give Jalen Hurts another year, use all three of these 1st-round picks on defense and see if Hurts can show more consistency next year surrounded by better players (presumably) than he’s shown the first couple months of this year. The Eagles have to do something about this defense, and let’s face it, they haven’t developed a quality home-grown safety since Michael Lewis two decades ago. Rodney McLeod is 31, Anthony Harris is on a one-year deal and hasn’t played that well, and Hamilton is a stud who’s equally effective supporting the run or dropping back in coverage. The Eagles haven’t taken a defensive back in the 1st round since Lito Sheppard and Lewis 20 years ago, and it’s past time they did.
4. Jaguars: George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue
Karlaftis might not be a polished NFL-ready prospect but he’s got an unbelievable amount of raw ability, and it’s not like the Jaguars are going to be good anytime soon, so a kid who’s got a huge ceiling and all kinds of tools is a terrific fit for a Jaguars team trying to build from the ground up. Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson is probably a little more ready to contribute immediately, but Karlaftis is a powerful kid with a quick first step and terrific production at a high level in the Big Ten.
5. Washington: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Either of the Ohio State wide receivers could be the first WR taken this year, but we’re sending Wilson to Washington, where he’ll team up with Terry McLaurin to make up a formidable 1-2 WR tandem for whoever Washington’s quarterback is. McLaurin is one of the NFL’s most under-rated receivers – he’s already got over 2,500 yards in 2 ½ seasons – but he needs some help, and although Wilson’s numbers aren’t overwhelming in that balanced Buckeye offense, he’s got 116 catches for 1,842 yards and 17 touchdowns in just 2 ½ seasons in Columbus.
6. Jets: Derek Stingley, CB, LSU
The Jets need help everywhere, but we’re talking about a defense that didn’t record its first interception until Sunday. The Jets were one of only two NFL teams in history without an INT in their first seven games (along with the 2017 Raiders), and Stingley gives them a potential ballhawk, at least based on his incredible freshman season. The issue with Stingley is that he hasn’t played quite as well since 2019, and he’s currently dealing with a foot injury, but his ceiling is so high the Jets will jump all over him.
7. Giants: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
The Giants haven’t had a top-15 offense since Tom Coughlin was their coach. Hard to believe, right? They need help across the board on offense, and whether or not Daniel Jones gets a fourth season as quarterback – he’s 10-23 in his career going into last night’s game against the Chiefs – they need an elite offensive lineman to help protect whoever the quarterback is and try to revive a running game averaging well below 4.0 yards per carry. Neal is the consensus best offensive lineman in the draft and gives the Giants a potential franchise left tackle to build with no matter who he’s protecting.
8. Eagles: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
Speaking of Hutchinson … the Eagles have not been able to generate consistent edge pressure for years. They’ve drafted guys, signed guys, traded for guys, and they’ve had some veterans play really well for a bit – Chris Long, Michael Bennett, even Jason Babin for a year - but they haven’t had a double-digit sack edge rusher in a decade. Brandon Graham has been very good the second half of his career, but he’s 33, will be coming off a significant Achilles injury next year and even if he’s back he’ll need some help. A big chunk of that 74.3 percent completion percentage against the Eagles is a lack of consistent push from the edge rushers. Derek Barnett and Ryan Kerrigan will be gone next year, Josh Sweat will be back, but the Eagles need more. They need a young, powerful, relentless lineman, and Hutchinson fits the bill. If you’ve watched any Michigan games this year, you’ve seen his ability to get after quarterbacks and also stuff the run. The Eagles haven’t had great success drafting edge rushers in the 1stround going back to Jon Harris, Jerome McDougle and the consistently underachieving Barnett. But they’ve got to keep trying.
9. Eagles: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
I know, I know, a safety and an inside linebacker in the first round? The Eagles have never taken a 1st-round safety and they haven’t taken a linebacker in the first round since Jerry Robinson in 1979, so the odds are astronomical that they’ll do both the same year. But you know what? It really does make sense. It’s time to stop trying to invent a linebacker corps out of late-round draft picks, undrafted special teamers, former CFL stars and waiver wire pickups. We always hear how the Eagles never value the LB position, but they won a Super Bowl with a 2nd-round pick in Mychal Kendricks and a high-priced free agent in Nigel Bradham. They’ve done it before. This is a defense that has to be better in coverage, generating pressure and stopping the run, and a talent like Lloyd will help in all those areas. Is No. 9 a reach for Lloyd? Maybe. I don’t care. This team needs an elite linebacker and Lloyd will be one. He’s big enough at 6-3, 235 pounds to step up and defend the run and has the kind of athleticism and length that enables him to drop back in coverage. He’s also versatile enough to play inside or outside backer or even line up as an edge rusher. The Eagles have some intriguing young prospects on offense, but the cupboard is bare on defense when it comes to young talent. They won’t be competitive until they find some game-changing young defensive players, and that’s what this draft is all about. The only way they’ll ever be competitive over the long haul is by replenishing the defense, and drafting Hamilton, Hutchinson and Lloyd will go a long way toward achieving that.
10. Jets: DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
The Jets go defense again, adding a versatile interior lineman who can play inside or outside to the cornerback they drafted six picks earlier. Leal has the rare ability to play multiple positions and be effective defending the run or pass whether he’s lining up as a defensive end or a tackle. He already has a wide range of pass-rush moves and the athleticism and power to turn them into steady pressure, and he’s proven to be a disruptive force no matter where he lines up. This draft is loaded with defensive line talent up top, and Leal is one of the more intriguing prospects in the group.
11. Giants: Drake Jackson, E, USC
We’ve got the Giants working on their o-line earlier in the draft, and they need to address the defensive line with their second 1st-round pick. The Giants haven’t had an edge rusher with more than 10 sacks in a season since Jason Pierre-Paul back in 2014, and they haven’t drafted a 1st-round edge rusher / defensive end since Pierre-Paul in 2010. This has been a largely punchless Giants defense for years – ranked 23rd or worse in points allowed four of the last five years. No wonder they haven’t won a playoff game in a decade. Curiously, there hasn’t been a USC defensive lineman drafted in the first round since the Jets took current Giant Leonard Williams sixth overall in 2015. Jackson is a 3-4 outside linebacker at college but has the versatility and athleticism to play in any scheme at the next level. Like a lot of college d-linemen, he’s got to get stronger and work on his technique, but he’s got all the tools to be a productive player in the NFL.
12. Falcons: Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
This is an aging Falcons offense that hasn’t been able to run the ball at all and is led by an aging quarterback who isn’t going to be around much longer. When you’re rebuilding an offense, it has to start up front, and Green is the latest big-time A&M offensive lineman prospect. Green is 6-4, 325 but moves well, plays with a violent streak and is ready to make an impact from Day 1.
13. Dolphins: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
The Dolphins just used a 1st-round pick on Jaylen Waddle, but considering DeVante Parker’s injuries and lack of recent production this is a position they have to address. Nothing against Mack Hollins, but when he’s your No. 2 WR it may be time to think about upgrading the position. Olave is a rare 4th-year player and three-year starter who’s produced steadily (133-for-2,131, 28 TDs) since becoming a starter in 2019. Olave’s 28 TD catches are 3rd-most in the BCS since 2019 (behind DeVonta Smith’s 37 and Jaelon Darden’s 31 for North Texas State) and 3rd-most in Ohio State history, behind 1999 Arizona Cardinals 1st-round pick David Boston (34) and current Jacksonville Jaguar Devin Smith (31) and tied with one-time Eagle Cris Carter.
14. Vikings: Tyler Linderbaum, C-G, Iowa
At 290 pounds Linderbaum needs to add some bulk to hold up in the trenches on Sundays, but he’s in the mold of Jason Kelce and knows how to use his leverage and strength to dominate opposing linemen. Like so many top interior linemen, Linderbaum comes from a wrestling background and he’s got the combination of strength, athleticism and intelligence teams are looking for from a center prospect. Linderbaum was recruited as a defensive lineman but quickly moved to offense and it’s easy to see why. Iowa has always produced quality linemen (Eric Steinbach, Robert Gallery, Marshall Yanda, Bryan Bulaga, Riley Reiff, Brandon Scherf and of course Julian Vandervelde) and Linderbaum is the next guy in that lineage.
15. Chiefs: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
You know Big Red is more often than not going to build through the two lines, and the 6-foot-4, 340-pound Davis seems like an Andy Reid type of player. The Chiefs’ defense is a train wreck – 29th in points allowed, 29th in yards allowed, 28th in passing yards, 25th in rushing yards and last in sacks – and Davis has shown he’s one of the nation’s top interior linemen as a fourth-year senior playing on top-ranked Georgia’s top-ranked defense. They showed a stat Saturday during ESPN’s College GameDay that Georgia was allowing 4.1 yards per play going into the Florida game Saturday when Davis was off the field – that’s a pretty good number – but they were allowing a ridiculous 2.7 yards per play with Davis on the field. That’s otherworldly. The Chiefs need a lot more than Davis to become a respectable defense again, but I’m not sure there’s a better place to start.
16. Patriots: Ikem Ekwonu, G, North Carolina State
Bill Belichick goes best player available with Ekwonu, who is a massive 6-4, 340-pounder who can play guard but may eventually project long-term as a tackle. Ekwonu is the top intrior lineman in next year’s draft and what he lacks in polish he has in toughess. He’s the kind of guy who plays to the whistle and then another second or two. Just a big, violent left tackle on an N.C. State team averaging 32 points a game. Devin Leary is having a strong year for the the Wolfpack (66 percent, 17 TDs, 2 INTs) and has been sacked just 14 times in seven games, and if you watch Leary you can’t help be impressed by Ekwonu.
17. Broncos: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
You have to be able to protect the quarterback in the AFC West, where Maxx Crosby, Yannick Ngakoue, Joey Bosa and Chris Jones ply their trade, and Cross, despite playing just two years of college football, is already one of the more intriguing offensive tackles in college football. Playing for Mike Leach and the Air Raid Offense, Cross predictably is already a polished pass blocker, and he’ll have to get bigger and stronger to play in the NFL, but he’ll provide immediate help for a Broncos team that’s allowed the 4th-most sacks in the NFL this year and hasn’t ranked higher than 22nd in the NFL in offense since the 2015 Super Bowl championship season.
18. Browns: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Odell Beckham Jr. is five years removed from his last Pro Bowl, Jarvis Landry has been struggling with injuries, drops and fumbles, and while Donovan Peoples-Jones looks like a player, the Browns really need to address wide receiver high in this draft and get Baker Mayfield some outside help. The Browns have drafted just one WR in the first round in the last 15 years, and that was Corey Coleman, who lasted 19 games and has been out of the league since 2019. Burks has produced consistently, with 122 catches for 2,012 yards and 14 TDs in 2 ½ years with the Razorbacks. He’s really hit his stride the last five games, with 32 catches for 638 yards and seven touchdowns.
19. Panthers: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
Was impossible to watch Sam Darnold play the Eagles a few weeks ago and believe this was a guy the Panthers were going to hitch their wagon to. The thinking was that surrounded by better talent than he had with the Jets that Darnold would blossom in his fourth year out of USC. But he’s pretty much the same guy. If not a little worse. The Panthers need a quarterback, and they know it. Howell has been very productive in the ACC (86 TDs, 20 INTs, 64 percent) and has worked himself back into the first round picture with some big-time performances after a three-interception dud in the opener against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. This isn’t a particularly strong quarterback draft, and at 6-1 Howell isn’t a slam-dunk pick, but the Panthers won’t be able to help themselves at No. 14 and they really don’t have a choice.
20. Chargers: Zion Tupuola-Fetui, LB-DL Washington
The Chargers rank last in the NFL in rush defense at 159 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry, and the versatile 6-foot-4, 270-pound Tupuola-Fetui can make an impact in that area and also provide some pass-rush ability. Tupuola-Fetui only played in four games during the COVID-shortened 2020 season but managed to pack seven sacks and three forced fumbles into his abbreviated season. The big question with Tupuola-Fetui is his health. He tore his Achilles during Washington’s spring workouts but actually returned to play sparingly this fall. An intriguing prospect
21. Steelers: Matt Corral, QB, Mississippi
Big Ben turns 40 this spring, and after 18 years, 160 wins, a couple Super Bowls and 404 touchdown passes, it’s really time for the Steelers to think long and hard about his replacement. Corral has been very good this year for Ole Miss with 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions, one of them this past weekend at Auburn. Corral is hardly a slam-dunk. A third of those 15 touchdowns were against FCS Austin Peay, and at 6-1 he certainly doesn’t have ideal size. But he’s a smart, productive QB who has terrific running ability (519 yards, 10 TDs) and has played on the highest level of college football. Unless you think Mason Rudolph is the long-term answer, the Steelers need to 1st-round QB for the first time since they drafted Roethlisberger in 2004 and the second time in the last 40 years.
22. Bengals: Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson
Anybody who saw one-time 5th-round pick Mike White torch the Bengals Sunday for 405 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start knows the Bengals could use some help at cornerback. The Bengals, ranked 23rd in pass defense, have had issues drafting cornerbacks for years and their current starters are free agents Eli Apple (with his fourth team in four years) and Chidobe Awuzie. It’s time to try again, and after Stingley, Booth is the next-best option, a fast, rangy, physical corner who’s played at the highest level of college football.
23. Saints: Drake London, WR, USC
With Michael Thomas sidelined, the Saints are trying to make it work with a truly unheralded receiving corps, and it’s not going very well. Their top two WRs are undrafted free agents, and considering that Thomas’s ankle issues date back to Week 1 of last year, who knows if he’ll ever be the same player he was from 2016 through 2019. Even if he does come back healthy, the Saints need more at the position. London is a 6-5 receiver who’s dealing with an ankle injury of his own, but before he got hurt on Saturday in the Arizona game he piled up 88 catches (2nd. -most in the BCS) for 1,084 yards (3rd-most in the BCS) with seven TD catches. The ankle injury probably ended his college career but shouldn’t affect his draft status. He remains one of the most NFL-ready receivers in the draft and is a great fit for the Saints.
24. Buccaneers: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
The Buccaneers have been riddled with injuries in the secondary and are ranked 25th in the league in pass defense going into Week 9. Opposing QBs have already thrown 16 touchdowns against Tampa, and no matter how good Tom Brady still is, you’re not winning a Super Bowl ranked 25th in the league in pass defense. This is a strong cornerback class, and either Gardner or Florida’s Kaiir Elam look like the third-best prospect in the bunch behind LSU’s Derek Stingley and Clemson’s Andrew Booth. Gardner has great size at 6-2, 190 pounds, and the athleticism elite corners need to match up in man coverage against top NFL wideouts. Gardner is a physical corner, a willing run defender and a sure tackler, but he’s also earned raves from his coaches as a true student of the game.
25. Bills: George Pickens, WR, Georgia
The Bills throw the ball nearly 40 times a game, 6th-most in the NFL, but when you look at their receiving corps, Cole Beasley is 32, Emmanuel Sanders is 34 and Stefen Diggs is their only truly productive WR under 30. The Bills need to get Josh Allen some help and take some pressure off Diggs depending on what happens with Beasley and Sanders. Pickens hasn’t played this year thanks to a torn ACL he suffered in spring practice, but based on his production in 2019 and 2020 he projects as one of the top receivers in the country. Pickens has 85 catches, 1,240 yards and 14 touchdowns in just 20 college games, and at 6-3, 200 pounds, he’s a big-framed receiver who knows how to use his body to go up and high point the football.
26. Raiders: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
I can’t believe Elam lasted this long! I had him much higher on my board. Wait, this IS my board. Anyway, this is a strong draft up top for cornerbacks, and Elam could wind up being as good as any of them. Elam is another big corner at 6-2, 195, and he’s already technically sound, with the athleticism and instincts to cover at a high level.
27. Cowboys: Kingsley Enagbare, Edge, South Carolina
One of the more NFL-ready defenders in the draft, Enagbore is a four-year starter in Columbia and has recorded 15 sacks, including 14 in 26 games over the last three seasons. Enagbore’s big thing is his strength and his ability to overwhelm blockers and pressure the quarterback at 6-4, 270.
28. Packers: Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
You can never go wrong with an Alabama linebacker. Harris is still relatively new to the position after starting out his college career as a defensive back. But he’s got that elite coverage ability that comes from a d-back background but he’s also got the physicality you want in a linebacker that you don’t always get from a converted d-back.
29. Ravens: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
John Harbaugh wants to run the ball a lot, but the Ravens have really struggled to run the ball this year. Part of that has been injuries to J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, but adding a 6-foot-7, 325-pounder should help any running game.
30. Lions: Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M
We’ve all seen the problems the Lions have had running the ball. DeAndre Swift is a terrific receiver but probably best suited long-term to a spot role. The Lions get Duce Staley a young stud running back he can work with in Spiller, who has been a steady producer at A&M, averaging 5.7 yards per carry over the last three seasons and piling up nearly 3,000 rushing yards and 70 receptions. The Lions haven’t drafted a 1st-round RB since Jahvid Best in 2010, and although he had a 232-yard game against the Eagles as a rookie he was out of the league by 2012.
31. Titans: Jaxson Kirkland, OT, Washington
His dad did play in the NFL, but it was offensive lineman Dean and not linebacker Levon. This Kirkland has played both guard and tackle for the Huskies. Kirkland has very good technique but does need to get stronger if he’s going to play tackle in the NFL and bigger if he’s going to play guard. Washington faces Oregon Saturday at Husky Stadium in Seattle, which means Kirkland goes up against Kayvon Thibodeaux, the consensus best pass rusher in the country and quite possibly the first pick in the draft. With a solid performance against Thibodeaux, Kirkland can really solidify his standing as a 1st-round pick this spring.
32. Cards: Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State
Another big-time Penn State linebacker prospect, Smith is a semifinalist for the Butkus Award, which is given annually to the top linebacker in the country. Smith is a big-time hitter and run stuffer who needs to get better in coverage but is still an intriguing prospect. Smith has 14 tackles for loss and four sacks in just 16 games since becoming a starter in 2020.
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