The NFL playoffs are almost here with two weeks left in the regular season. While some teams are looking forward to playing in the tournament toward Super Bowl 56, more teams’ next big event is the 2022 draft. At the same time, major college football is near the end of bowl season and set to play its much-anticipated latest four-team playoff.
With the some prominent prospects rising to the occasion and the updated draft order in flux, that fine intersection of pro future and college present makes it a great time for a new Sporting News first-round mock. There’s no doubt the big shakeup in how teams are picking in the top 18 have ripple effects for every pick through 32:
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NFL mock draft 2022
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan (6-6, 265 pounds)
The Jaguars will think about offensive line especially if left tackle Cam Robinson doesn’t return as a free agent, but now that wholesale changes are on the way, it’s hard to pass on a cornerstone defensive disruptor. Hutchinson plays with great energy and power and is still developing his strong pass-rush moves. He’s ideal for a 4-3 end, so his availability might push Jacksonville toward that kind of scheme minus Urban Meyer.
2. Detroit Lions
Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon (6-5, 258 pounds)
The Lions might be tempted should Hutchinson be available given the local angle, but they should be thrilled to get Thibodeaux at No, 2, too. Thibodeaux, on top of the being the more athletic and disruptive pass rusher overall, is more versatile to thrive in Aaron Glenn’s front seven.
3. Houston Texans
Evan Neal, OT, Alabama (6-7, 350 pounds)
The Texans should be thinking more about rookie third-rounder Davis Mills as a potential franchise QB to replace Deshaun Watson given his steady development in showing a strong arm and accuracy down the stretch. That should prompt them to try to move fading and now injured left tackle Laremy Tunsil to create some major space for their rebuild. Neal would be a young upgrade to dominate as a pass protector and run blocker for a decade.
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4. New York Jets
Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame (6-4, 220 pounds)
The Jets have needed to replace Jamal Adams and they can land a more dynamic playmaker who does a lot more than rush the passer. Hamilton makes a lot of sense as an intelligent all-around force to clean up for defensive-minded coach Robert Saleh, replacing a big mess at the position.
5. New York Giants
George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue (6-4, 275 pounds)
The Giants always get on the right track franchise-wise when they can get to the quarterback well from the perimeter, which is a current big need in their defense. Karlaftis possesses elite athleticism for his size and is still tapping into his immense pass-rush potential.
6. New York Jets (from Seahawks)
- Derek Stingley Jr, CB, LSU (6-1, 195 pounds)
The Jets have gotten some good cornerback play in the first year Saleh’s defense, but in a zone scheme that connects to Seattle’s “Legion of Boom,” they need more effective playmaking. Stingley is a do-everything impact defensive back who can cover a lot of ground and different types of receivers. Hamilton and Stingley would be a strong 1-2 punch to upgrade the pass defense.
7. Carolina Panthers
Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss (6-0, 200 pounds)
The Panthers will be under pressure to think about upgrading their awful offensive tackle situation, but they also cannot ignore QB early again with that Sam Darnold-Cam Newton mess replacing the Teddy Bridgewater burned bridge. Corral is a dynamic athlete and confident runner who also shows aggressiveness with a big arm. He has quickly refined his raw skills under Lane Kiffin.
8. New York Giants (from Bears)
- Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa (6-3, 290 pounds)
The Giants would be smart to also target a can’t-miss offensive lineman in the first round. Linderbaum, an intelligent rock of an interior blocker and a perfect long-term line leader, would be a great fit, too, as a major upgrade from Billy Price.
9. Washington Football Team
Malik Willis, QB, Liberty (6-1, 215 pounds)
Washington also needs to stop messing around with going down the bridge route and should know by now Taylor Heinicke isn’t a long-term answer. Willis has a cannon for an arm and great speed. He should have the potential to make scouting jaws drop at the position and make them less concerned about his small-school status given his awesome play so far.
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10. Atlanta Falcons
DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M (6-4, 290 pounds)
Leal is a versatile disruptor who can thrive lining up outside in Dean Pees’ three-man front flanking Grady Jarrett. He’s shown off his interior pass-rushing skills with 8.5 sacks but he also is a stout run stopper.
11. Denver Broncos
Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh (6-3, 220 pounds)
The Broncos need to target another franchise QB with shrewd GM George Paton to clean up the Bridgewater-Drew Lock mess. Pickett has surged into first-round consideration with other big-name QBs fading thanks to outstanding play, which made the Panthers a formidable ranked offensive-minded power in the ACC. He has natural deep-ball accuracy and football intelligence. He also has that underrated Joe Burrow-like swagger.
12. Minnesota Vikings
Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah (6-3, 235 pounds)
The Vikings will need to address the second level for Mike Zimmer with oft-injured aging Anthony Barr heading into free agency along with Nick Vigil. Lloyd is a strong rangy athlete who stands out making plays, with smarts and good instincts made for their zone scheme.
13. New Orleans Saints
Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State (6-1, 189 pounds)
The Saints need to address wideout with Michael Thomas’ future clouded by injury and discontent, so it’s nice they can go back to Ohio State, this time in the first round instead. Olave has great speed, quickness and burst to emerge as their new No. 1 for whoever’s the quarterback.
14. Cleveland Browns
David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan (6-5, 250 pounds)
Myles Garrett rocks, but the Browns only signed oft-injured and faded Jadeveon Clowney to a one-year deal and he’s set to become a 29-year-old free agent. Ojabo would give them a flashy freakish player to pair nicely with Garrett after his speed, explosiveness and energy added up to his big rise behind his end-mate Hutchinson.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
- Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati (6-4, 215 pounds)
The Steelers may make a move up to ensure getting Pickett, who’s the ideal successor for Ben Roethlisberger in terms of fitting Matt Canada’s offense. But this is a fine fallback plan for GM Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin. Ridder has been a great, tough leader for the Bearcats, also showing he’s a natural dual threat for the NFL with his strong arm and running skills.
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16. Los Angeles Chargers
- Ikem Ekwonu, G, N.C. State (6-4, 320 pounds)
The Chargers need to keep working on upgrading their line, this time focusing on right guard next to center Corey Linsley and left guard Matt Feiler. Ekwonu is a strong, powerful run blocker with the nasty streak needed to dominate at times.
17. Las Vegas Raiders
- Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State (6-0, 188 pounds)
The Raiders need a reliable all-around receiver for Derek Carr instead of more limited deep threats. Wilson is a natural technician with his smarts, quickness, route-running and hands. He also is dangerous in making big plays after the catch.
18. Baltimore Ravens
Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida (6-2, 196 pounds)
The Ravens are ending the season as an injury-riddled mess at cornerback and need a jolt of rejuvenation in coverage to boost their blitzing scheme. Elam’s physical strength and length stand out. He is also very efficient in coverage because of his athleticism.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (from Dolphins)
- Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson (6-0, 200 pounds)
The Eagles are getting nice late-career play from Darius “Big Play” Slay and Avonte Maddox has been good, too, but they could use a further boost in the secondary from Booth. He is a strong, active corner who has the speed and ball skills to become a worthy successor to Slay as their top cover man.
20. Philadelphia Eagles
Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia (6-6, 340 pounds)
The Eagles have Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave for the inside, but just like the Booth pick before, they can load up on grooming high-level depth with the future in mind. Davis is a massive player who disrupt plays with great quickness for that size.
21. Miami Dolphins (from 49ers)
- Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State (6-5, 310 pounds)
The Dolphins are still trying to sort their mostly young offensive line and can’t pass up on Cross should he drop here as at least an initial major upgrade from Jesse Davis at right tackle. Cross is a strong, powerful edge blocker who can develop the footwork to handle the left side soon.
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22. New England Patriots
Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn (6-0, 190 pounds)
The Patriots traded away Stephon Gilmore and they might not be able to afford new top shutdown corner J.C. Jackson in free agency. Bill Belichick will like McCreary because he has the size, physicality, fluidity and ability to play well in any downfield coverage scheme.
23. Philadelphia Eagles (from Colts)
- Nakobe Dean, ILB, Georgia (6-0, 225 pounds)
If you’re keeping score, the Eagles can address all three levels of their defense well in this draft despite picking later. Dean might be lining on the strong side as a rookie with T.J. Edwards signed through 2022, but reuniting him with Davis will bode well for the Eagles’ defense being a strong foundation for many years to come. Dean can flat-out fly and make a lot of plays from sideline-to-sideline wherever he’s lined up.
24. Arizona Cardinals
Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati (6-3, 200 pounds)
The Cardinals have had flashes at corner with Byron Murphy making plays on the ball often and veteran Robert Alford overachieving, but they need more stability and reliability. Gardner has great agility with his length to move around wherever need to handle vertical or horizontal coverage.
25. Buffalo Bills
Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas (6-3, 225 pounds)
The Bills like Gabriel Davis working with Stefon Diggs as Emmanuel Sanders nears the end of his career, but they might need to think more about a potential dominant, physical No. 2 should the right opportunity present itself. Burks is a huge target with reliable big hands to match.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington (5-11, 195 pounds)
The Buccaneers may not be able to afford to re-sign Carlton Davis with other free agency priorities to keep Tom Brady’s contending team intact. McDuffie, with nice size, offers great explosiveness and quickness in coverage, too.
27. Cincinnati Bengals
Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M (6-4, 325 pounds)
The Bengals still need to keep thinking about their offensive line in front of Burrow and Joe Mixon. The right side is the concern now between Hakeem Adeniji and Jackson Carman at guard and injured, fading pending free agent Riley Reiff at tackle. Green has the potential to play outside because of his athleticism that goes with his great power for the inside.
28. Detroit Lions (from Rams)
Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina (6-1, 220 pounds)
The nature of this draft should allow for some good value for a potential long-time starting quarterback late in the first round. This would be ideal for the Lions to land Thibodeaux earlier and land their passer of choice here. Howell is a smart, seasoned and accurate pocket passer
29. Tennessee Titans
- Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa (6-7, 321 pounds)
The Titans still have Taylor Lewan on the left side but could use an upgrade at right tackle who can also succeed him when needed in a few years. Penning can develop his athleticism while using his strong, powerful frame to help them in the downhill running game.
30. Dallas Cowboys
Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC (6-4, 250 pounds)
The Cowboys have prided themselves on their great defensive line rotation that has sparked the big turnaround with Dan Quinn, on top of the Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs breakouts. They will be losing Randy Gregory from the mix in free agency. Jackson is another agile and versatile outside defender in this class. He should be situational at first before polishing all his moves.
31. Kansas City Chiefs
Drake London, WR, USC (6-5, 210 pounds)
The Chiefs need to add a viable third option to complement Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce with Mecole Hardman not being that guy and three wide receivers heading into free agency. London matches his nice catch radius with great hands and quickness, which makes him a big-play and red zone threat.
32. Green Bay Packers
Myjai Sanders, EDGE, Cincinnati (6-5, 255 pounds)
The Packers need to keep rejuvenating themselves in the pass rush behind Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith on top of the awesome breakout season from Rashan Gary. Sanders is a physical beast with some classic freakish pass-rush qualities. He can help situationally at first before getting sound all-around.