We're just 65 days away from the 2022 NFL Draft, and with the postseason firmly behind us it's basically all fans of the draft can think about. Free agency is exciting and splashy, but building a team through the draft is really where the great organizations do it.
Things will change before the draft, sure, but right now is the perfect time to really dive into film, get to know these guys, and form your opinions. You have nine weeks and change until your team is on the clock.
So let's dive into the picks in my latest mock draft:
1. Jaguars: OT Evan Neal, Alabama
Doug Pederson is obviously renowned for his work with two different quarterbacks in 2017 en route to the Eagles' Super Bowl - he was at the helm for Carson Wentz's best season as a pro, and Nick Foles' greatest two-game stretch of his career - but a gigantic part of that title run was thanks to success along the line. Pederson knows how important keeping your QB upright is, and now that he has Trevor Lawrence to protect, he'll want the Jags to take the biggest, meanest O-line prospect in the draft in Neal.
2. Lions: EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
Thibodeaux was long thought of as a no-brainer No. 1 overall pick, and he still might be, but going second isn't too bad either. He's proably the most physically-gifted player in the draft. Thibodeaux finished the year with 7.0 sacks, 12.0 tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles in 10 games, and really his impact goes even beyond the box score. He's gonna be a complete force.
3. Texans: EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
Hutchinson had a great 2021, but he really popped on big stages - check his performance vs. Ohio State - and catapulted himself to the top of the draft board. The Texans need to improve all over, so they grab an edge rusher with athleticism, production (14.0 sacks, 16.5 TFL, 2 forced fumbles), and a motor that will make any defensive coordinator salivate.
4. Jets: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
New York replaces the Jamal Adams-sized hole in their secondary with a cornerstone pick. Hamilton is the big-bodied, ballhawk-y type of playmaker you can build a secondary around, not just another piece in the unit. Think Brian Dawkins. In 31 career games with the Fighting Irish he notched eight interceptions, 16 passes defended, and 7.5 tackles for loss. That production is insane.
5. Giants: OT Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
How do you clear running room for Saquon Barkley and try to keep Daniel Jones clean so he stops fumbling so much? Nab an enormous and gifted tackle who could feasibly be the No. 1 overall pick this year. Ekwonu combines crazy strength with surprising mobility for a guy his size (6-foot-4, 320 pounds) and should be a revelation for the Giants.
6. Panthers: QB Kenny Pickett, Pitt
Pickett goes from one kind of Panther to another. Carolina owner David Tepper is a Pittsburgh guy, Pickett is an extremely interesting QB option in this year's class, and he's probably the one with the highest floor - though also probably the lowest ceiling. But he had an incredible 2021 campaign, so the Panthers keep stabbing at the QB position because until you get that right, basically nothing else matters. Can't blame 'em.
7. Giants: EDGE David Ojabo, Michigan
The Giants are building along the trenches this year. Howie Roseman would be so proud. Ojabo was hidden in the shadow of Aidan Hutchinson's rising star on Michigan's D-line, but he's a monster in his own right. The 6-5, 250-pound pass rusher notched 11.0 sacks and 12.0 tackles for loss last year, plus five forced fumbles. He can be a perennial Pro Bowler.
8. Falcons: CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
There are few things more thrilling than your team having a lights-out cornerback, Stingley is going to make one NFL fanbase extremely happy. He's 6-foot-1, he had six picks in 25 games with LSU, and he has the combination of instincts and speed to be DBU's latest star. If the Eagles could manage to get into his range, I'd try to do it.
9. Broncos: QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss
Corral is a very intriguing player with dual-threat upside (he has 20 passing TDs and 10 rushing TDs in 12 games this year) and could be the piece the Broncos need to take that offense and those weapons to the next level. You can bet new head coach Nathaniel Hackett is champing at the bit to get his QB of the future in the building and work his magic, and Corral might not be the best prospect but he certainly has potential if used correctly.
10. Eagles (via NYJ): QB Malik Willis, Liberty
TRADE ALERT! Eagles swap No. 15 for the Jets' No. 10 and give up their third-round pick this year and their 2023 sixth-round pick. Pretty similar to the Bears' trade up for Justin Fields last season.
And it's all in the name of figuring out the QB position.
Does this trade mean the Eagles have to get rid of Jalen Hurts? Not at all. Hurts showed last year he's a perfectly serviceable, replacement-level starting QB in the NFL. He can get you to the postseason, which not every quarterback can do. That's valuable! And Willis has a sky-high ceiling, but he's also a raw player and could probably do with sitting for a year, a la Trey Lance.
I don't think the Eagles are a quarterback away from being a Super Bowl team, so grab a guy who can make you great for the next 15 years in Willis. If he delivers on his promise, he's going to be electric. Think Michael Vick's arm strength and Colin Kaepernick's escapability. He's got athleticism in barrels, and every time you watch him Willis makes a play that will leave your jaw on the floor. A little more polish and he'd be a no-brainer Top 3 pick.
He still needs some work, though. Those rough-hewn edges - the occasional sailed ball (his completion percentage dropped by 3.1% last year), the decision-making that still needs improvement (he threw 12 INTs in 2021 after throwing just six in 2020) - will give some people pause.
But you don't have to squint hard to see Willis lighting the league up in midnight green for a decade-plus. The ability is right there. It'll be up to the Birds to plant the seed and let him blossom.
11. Commanders: QB Sam Howell, North Carolina
FOUR quarterbacks off the board by No. 11, and in a weak QB year! There's just so much demand for improvement at the position across the league, and Washington is in desperate need of a better man under center.
12. Vikings: CB Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner, Cincinnati
Nothing like a tremendous nickname to get folks fired up about taking you in the first round. Sauce Gardner lives up to his name: he notched three interceptions in each of his three seasons with the Bearcats, stands 6-foot-2, and has very solid man coverage ability. He feels like the kind of player who can slide into a pro system and start in Week 1.
13. Browns: WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
With Odell Beckham Jr. gone and the Browns still searching for the right way to maximize Baker Mayfield, Cleveland turns to wide receiver machine Alabama to try and find WR1. Williams caught 79 passes for 1,572 yards and 15 TDs for the Tide last year and brings serious quickness to the table.
14. Ravens: OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State
The Ravens need to protect Lamar Jackson at all costs, and Cross is the exact guy to target for that job. Cross (6-foot-5, 290 pounds) is good in pass protection, ideal for keeping Jackson upright and allowing him more time to scan the field instead of forcing the QB to flee the pocket. Cross can be a Day 1 impact player on the O-line.
15. Jets (via PHI): WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
I really like Burks as an alternate option for the Eagles. He's an impressive, big-bodied wide receiver who doesn't sacrifice speed for size - think Chargers wideout Mike Williams. He notched 67 catches for 1,123 yards and 11 TD this year, including 179 yards and two touchdowns against Alabama. He had TD catches of 91, 85, 66, and 52 yards this season, plus a 49-yard rushing TD. Zach Wilson needs weapons, and Burks is a weapon.
16. Eagles: LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
You're going to keep seeing linebackers mocked to the Eagles in the first round, and while I understand Birds fans' trepidation - Howie would never - it might finally be time. This year's class has two incredibly realistic LB options for a middle-of-the-first round pick, and it just makes too much sense.
Either Lloyd or Georgia's Nakobe Dean could go here, but Lloyd would be my pick. He's an impressive, attacking linebacker who excels in coverage - he had 7.0 sacks and 22.0 tackles for loss this season, but he also had four interceptions and six passes defended - and brings the kind of versatility and athleticism that should make him a starting linebacker in midnight green immediately.
I really liked this report on Lloyd's game from The Draft Network's Drae Harris:
"In the run game, [Lloyd]’s a thumper who plays downhill and physical. He has a heavy run lane anchor and has good tackling efficiency in the box. He's a downhill player who is among the nations leader in TFLs."
This is the do-it-all linebacker the Eagles' defense has needed for years.
17. Chargers: DT Jordan Davis, Georgia
Big boy alert! Davis stands 6-foot-6, weighs 340 pounds, and will wreck opposing offensive lines with abandon. Some will have questions about whether Davis translates in the pros, but he anchored Georgia's legendarily good D-line last season, drawing attention to let those around him eat. Davis finished 10th in the nation in sacks despite Davis racking up just 2.0 of his own. The Chargers had the 12th-fewest sacks in the NFL last year. Problem, solution, etc.
18. Saints: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
I'm not sure what the Saints will be doing at quarterback next season, but I know they'll need people to throw to. Marquez Callaway had a solid sophomore season, but he's not the type of top-end talent New Orleans needs at WR. Olave is a speedy and slick do-it-all wide receiver who stands 6-foot-1 and put up 35 touchdowns in 38 games with the Buckeyes. He'll quickly be Jameis Winston's (?) favorite deep target.
19. Eagles: CB Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson
Steven Nelson was good-not-great in 2021, and odds are good the veteran cornerback doesn't return for another go-round in Jonathan Gannon's defense. The Birds need someone opposite Darius Slay who can hold his own, and Booth can be a legit long-term answer at the position.
Booth didn't have crazy INT production in college (just 3 INT in 24 career games), which will probably worry some Eagles fans. But that can happen at the collegiate level, where each team only has one NFL-quality corner if that.
Booth is all about measurables, technique, and potential. His height (6-foot) and his long arms make him an exciting prospect in terms of his ability to cover guys in the pros. He's super fluid and should translate well to playing against NFL wideouts.
Also he can do this:
Yep, sign me up for some of that.
20. Steelers: OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
It's no secret that, outside of answering the QB question, the Steelers' main need on the offensive side of the ball is beefing up the O-line. Dan Moore Jr. was not terribly good at left tackle, and as Pittsburgh moves into a new era they need someone who can anchor the blindside for a long time. Penning, a towering human at 6-foot-7, 340 pounds, can be that guy.
21. Patriots: EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue
Karlaftis feels like the platonic ideal Patriots pick. I could see him going anywhere from the Top 10 to the bottom of the first round, and I think his lack of pop statistically (just 4.5 sacks in 12 games with the Boilermakers last year as opposing offenses keyed on him) could hurt his stock. But he's a monster in pass rush situations and will immediately improve the Patriots' fortunes on defense.
22. Raiders: WR Drake London, USC
With Henry Ruggs out of the picture and DeSean Jackson likely gone after this season after his nine-game rental, Derek Carr needs more targets to make things happen. London feels like a perfect pairing: the Trojans wideout caught 88 balls for 1,084 yards and 7 touchdowns this season and at 6-foot-5 he has the size to become a go-up-and-get-it monster.
23. Cardinals: CB Trent McDuffie, Washington
McDuffie isn't huge - just 5-foot-11, 195 pounds - but he makes up for it with serious speed and athleticism. He's a ball of energy on the field, and while he only notched two INTs in 27 games with the Huskies, his ability to see the entire field should help him find more at the next level.
24. Cowboys: WR George Pickens, Georgia
Do the Cowboys desperately need another wideout? Nah. But they're not a team with a ton of holes that can be filled in the first round, Michael Gallup is likely going to get paid in free agency, and Dallas likes to throw the ball with Dak Prescott under center. So add Pickens, whose size and skillset will make him dangerous in the pros, to an already-juiced offense and watch what happens.
25. Bills: CB Roger McCreary, Auburn
Levi Wallace is a pending free agent, Tre'Davious White was injured last year, and Sean McDermott's Bills like to emphasize their defense, so look for a defensive pick here. I like McCreary's production - six picks in three seasons as a starter for the Tigers - and his 20 passes defended over the past two years. Toss in his athleticism and you've got a surefire starter.
26. Titans: EDGE Jermaine Johnson II, Florida State
A possible Eagles target, Johnson should get looks throughout the first round and might not make it this far. But if he does, the Senior Bowl standout will be a huge addition to a Titans defense to pair with Denico Autry. Mike Vrabel likes an attacking defense, and this is his chance to double-down on the idea. Johnson notched 11.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss in a breakout 2021 season.
27. Buccaneers: LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia
Like I said before, Dean could be in play for the Eagles and might be gone by this time. He was an exciting cornerstone of the Bulldogs' legendary 2021 defense who broke out for a career year with 6.0 sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss, 2 INT, and 2 forced fumbles. The Bucs go best player available here and wind up with a stud.
28. Packers: WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
Davante Adams gone in the offseason? Enter Garrett Wilson, a monster wideout who racked up crazy production for the Buckeyes this year - 70 catches, 1,058 yards, and 12 TDs - and would provide the Packers with some help if they do in fact manage to keep Aaron Rodgers around. Marques Valdes-Scantling can't carry a passing attack on his own.
29. Dolphins: OL Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
The Dolphins had a historically bad offensive line last year, just absolutely abysmal, and if they want to be able to evaluate Tua Tagovailoa they need to let him operate. Green is gigantic and in some evaluators' eyes is probably a Top 10 talent, so this could be a steal for Miami at a position of dire need.
30. Chiefs: DL Travon Walker, Georgia
Walker set career-highs in tackles (30), sacks (5.0), tackles for loss (6.5), and passes defended (2) as a key piece in the Bulldogs' deep-as-a-chasm defense. He should shine in an NFL system. The Chiefs finished fourth-lowest in the NFL in sacks last year and could use some defensive juice to keep the pressure off Patrick Mahomes.
31. Bengals: C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
Like the Dolphins, Cincinatti needs to protect its franchise QB. Joe Burrow had an unreal 2021, but the Bengals were undone in the Super Bowl by their inability to keep him upright. Linderbaum is slightly undersized but is a blue-chip talent with a penchant for mauling. Iowa breeds offensive linemen like no other, and Linderbaum slides right in as a Day 1 starter.
32. Lions: QB Carson Strong, Nevada
Gamble time! The Lions went with a no-brainer talent at the top of the draft in Thibodeaux, so now they go left field and roll the dice on Strong, the biggest question mark of this year's quarterback class. Jared Goff clearly isn't the answer, so Detroit opts for a traditional pro-style passer who put up 36 touchdowns and eight interceptions last year for Nevada on 70.2% completion and 8.0 yards per attempt. It's worth a shot!