The 2022 NFL Draft kicks off tonight, and it’s like Christmas for those of us who nerd out about football, scouting and team-building. This draft in particular seems unique. Not only is the narrative that this is a weak quarterback class, but many of the early-round teams don’t have a pressing need for a passer either. That is why everyone is having so much fun creating their own 2022 NFL Mock Draft.
Truly, anything could happen tonight. There have been smokescreens put out by teams, hiding who they really like. While the draft isn’t top-heavy, it’s deep. Writing this off as a talentless draft class is lazy and wrong, but it does seem true that there are fewer top-10 grades this time around.
To add to the reality television drama that is the 2022 NFL Draft, we have a few veterans that are seemingly on the trade block. Will we see a blockbuster trade? Could there be another “accumulation of information” from the bozos at ESPN? Anything is possible.
But without further ado, let’s get into my final first-round 2022 NFL Mock Draft.
Zach Brunner’s Final 2022 NFL Mock Draft
We’re not going to be doing a deep dive of analysis on this page. Instead, click the player’s link to read their full draft profile. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll draft straight up, keeping in mind the possible targets for teams interested in trading up.
1 — Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
Aidan Hutchinson started out the draft season as the top overall pick, but now Travon Walker has become the odds favorite. Supposedly, owner Shad Kahn likes Hutchinson while GM Trent Baalke. To me, this situation seems a bit fugazi.
Baalke supposedly likes Walker’s athleticism, but I think Hutchinson may be more athletic. Of course, the Jaguars have no reason to lie, with them holding the first overall pick. To me, Hutchinson is the better player, and it makes sense to go with the better player. It also makes sense to side with the billionaire.
2 — Lions: Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
In the NFL, you must be able to pass with success and stop the pass with success. It’s too early for a quarterback to improve their passing game, so the Detroit Lions will look to improve their pass defense, beginning with the pass rush. You don’t let Trey Flowers go without a plan to replace him, and I think the Lions pick one of the top two edge rushers. In this case, it would be Travon Walker.
3 — Texans: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
The Houston Texans need help everywhere, but they do have a promising young quarterback that they should help out and see if he can continue growing. The best way to do that is to improve the offensive line, and Evan Neal is the most NFL-ready offensive lineman in the class. Not only did he go against five-star recruits in practice every day, but he also faced Georgia twice last season. Lock down the tackle spot with a franchise player like Neal.
4 — Jets: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Possibly the best edge rusher in the entire draft is Kayvon Thibodeaux. While his lack of improvement at Oregon is a red flag, especially when it’s coupled with him saying coaches can’t make him better, but the defensive ego of Robert Saleh will believe he can turn Thibodeaux into the best edge rusher in the NFL, and he might.
5 — Giants: Ikem Ekwonu, OL, NC State
The New York Giants need help all along the offensive line. So, they start by taking Ikem Ekwonu out of NC State. Ekwonu played at tackle in college, but he’s probably better suited to play guard in the NFL. In the end, he has some versatility, and that’s something the Giants need upfront.
6 — Panthers: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
This is a really tough spot. The Carolina Panthers are clearly interested in a quarterback, but it seems possible they could trade down and get a better deal on their passer of choice. We could see a team trade up and start the wide receiver run. For my NFL Mock Draft, we will have them stay put and draft an offensive lineman, since that is also a massive need. Charles Cross is also one of the best players on the board, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see someone else move up for him.
7 — Giants: Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE, Florida State
The Giants are back on the clock. Kyle Hamilton is the best player on my board, and the Giants would benefit from his services. However, we will stay in the trenches with this pick. The Giants must get better at rushing the passer, and Jermaine Johnson II will be a big help. Johnson is also a solid run-stopper on the edge, which will be useful against the Cowboys and Eagles.
8 — Falcons: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Kyle Hamilton will come off the board here. We know the Falcons have a need at wide receiver, following the Calvin Ridley thing. However, Hamilton is a versatile player in the defensive backfield who can be a difference-maker for the Falcons. He will line up all over the field for Atlanta.
9 — Seahawks: Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
I think this pick is traded, but I’m unsure to who. So, we will just go with the self-proclaimed best player in the draft. Sauce Gardner is a big cornerback with a variety of skills. The Seahawks are currently trying to replicate their previous success, getting a young, cheap quarterback and surrounding them with talent. They are also looking to rebuild their defense through the draft, as they did before. Clearly, Gardner fits the profile of what the Seahawks like at cornerback.
10 — Jets: Drake London, WR, USC
Hey 49ers, want Drake London and another pick in exchange for Deebo Samuel? No? Well, we’ll upgrade at wide receiver ourselves then. London is a big, athletic outside receiver, filling a need for the Jets. He can complement the skills of Elijah Moore.
11 — Commanders: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
It’s time to get a second wide receiver on this offense. Playing next to former Buckeye Terry McLaurin, the Garrett Wilson is going to be very dangerous. Suddenly, the Commanders have a receiving corps that can compete in the NFC East. Now, we’ll see if Commander Carson can get them the ball.
12 — Vikings: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
The Minnesota Vikings were patient, and they were rewarded. They need a cornerback with this pick, and hopefully, it pans out this time. Minnesota has had their share of fails at first-round cornerback picks, but Derek Stingley Jr. may be the best of this draft class, but don’t tell Sauce that.
13 — Texans: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
Again, the Texans need help all over, but let’s continue to win in the trenches. Jordan Davis is a special player who can be an anchor on the defensive line for Houston. You must be able to stop the run in order to have success in the AFC South, and the pick of Davis will be a step in the right direction for the Texans.
14 — Ravens: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
I’m an offensive line guy, so I’m biased. However, I think Tyler Linderbaum may be the best player in this draft. In terms of a player being the best at their position, Linderbaum is definitely that in this draft, and he is one of the best prospects at center I’ve scouted coming into the league in some time. The Ravens will help to solidify the offensive line, helping out the running game. If Baltimore comes into the season healthy, watch out for this offense.
15 — Eagles: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
The Eagles have a need at cornerback. What year is it? It seems like they always have a need in the defensive backfield, and Trent McDuffie should pair well next to Darius Slay. With some good receivers in the division, this will be important.
16 — Saints: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
The Saints are surprised to see Jameson Williams drop this far. To be fair, other teams should be surprised as well, which could lead to a trade at 14 or 15. You could argue Williams is the best receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft, and pairing him with Michael Thomas could be lethal.
17 — Chargers: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
Chris Olave is a tempting pick for this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, but it’s pretty clear the Chargers need to either draft or sign a right tackle for next season. After locking down the left side last season, Trevor Penning will be a big, nasty lineman to lock down the right side for years to come.
18 — Eagles: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
The Eagles take another swing at a speedy wide receiver. This time, it should pan out. Not only is Chris Olave speedy, he is also a strong route-runner who has elite ball skills. If he cannot help Jalen Hurts take steps forward as a passer, then quarterback could be the top need next season.
19 — Saints: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
The Saints were patient, and they got the top quarterback in the class to drop to them, for this NFL Mock Draft at least. Malik Willis will have Michael Thomas and Jameson Williams to pass to. Not to mention Taysom Hill at tight end!
20 — Steelers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
The first quarterback went off the board, so the Steelers feel pressured keep the hometown kid, Kenny Pickett, in the Steel City. Again, this could be a trade spot, with the next series of teams not needing a passer, but that also could mean it’s tough to trade out of this pick.
21 — Patriots: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
The New England Patriots are typically good at drafting defensive players, and they will get their new linebacker here. Devin Lloyd is the best linebacker in this draft class, and he could quickly become the new leader of their defense.
22 — Packers: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
A second Greek Freak in the state of Wisconsin? The Packers won’t be able to pass up on this opportunity, as they love to tell a good story. Of course, George Karlaftis is also a stud at edge rusher. He’s a power guy who should also be able to play the run well, which is useful in the NFC North. The Packers have also basically said they aren’t drafting a wide receiver in the first round.
23 — Cardinals: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
The Cardinals aren’t working? Keep throwing offensive firepower at the wall and see what sticks. Clearly, Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury couldn’t be the problem in Arizona right now. Treylon Burks is a versatile weapon that can play in the slot for the Cardinals and do a variety of things. It’s possible they also try to copy the 49ers and use him like Deebo Samuel.
24 — Cowboys: Zion Johnson, G, Boston College
The Dallas Cowboys are a good football team, but their offensive line isn’t the feared unit it once was. Improving the line will also improve the play of Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. So, look for them to address this early, and Zion Johnson is the best pure guard in the draft.
25 — Bills: Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
The Buffalo Bills may have the best roster entering the draft, so they could be in a position to take the best player available. For this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, that’s going to be Kyler Gordon. The Bills are good on defense, but Tre’Davious White is coming off an ACL tear. Drafting Gordon could help out this secondary.
26 — Titans: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
The Titans need to get some speed at wide receiver to complement A.J. Brown. Jahan Dotson can clearly provide that. He will take the top off the defense, while Brown runs routes underneath or Derrick Henry runs it up the gut. This is a pick to ensure they don’t lose a playoff game after totaling nine sacks ever again.
27 — Buccaneers: Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia
There are questions about just how good Devonte Wyatt is. Yes, he’s quick, but will he hold his own on early downs? Do you know what the best way to ensure Wyatt succeeds? Put him next to Vita Vea, who will eat two blockers.
28 — Packers: Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M
The Green Bay Packers value versatility on the offensive line more than anything. Yes, more than actual skill. In the case of Kenyon Green, he is both skilled and versatile. He had snaps at every position on the offensive line last season except for center. For the Packers, he will be a road grader and a Week 1 starter at guard.
29 — Chiefs: Daxton Hill, DB, Michigan
The Kansas City Chiefs don’t let Tyrann Mathieu walk without a plan. I believe Daxton Hill is the plan. Hill is a versatile defensive back, having the ability to line up at multiple positions. Jalen Pitre is another versatile defensive back that they could pursue with one of their two first-round picks.
30 — Chiefs: Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan
With their other pick, the Chiefs will feel a bit of pressure to take a receiver to show the Tyreek Hill trade returned a pass catcher. There are few places where Skyy Moore could go and be extremely effective, but Kansas City is one of the places. They will use his speed and athleticism to complement the other pass catchers. Suddenly, the Chiefs offense looks perfectly fine.
31 — Bengals: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
I’m not sure Eli Apple is the answer at cornerback. I know — bold take. Drafting Kaiir Elam would give the Bengals a great cover guy on the backend of their defense, while their defensive line does work up front. This team looks capable of making noise once again this season, after addressing their clear top needs.
32 — Lions: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
The Detroit Lions could wrap up the first round by taking their quarterback of the future. However, with only two off the board, they could take their passer in the second round. They will stay on the defensive side of the ball, drafting stud linebacker Nakobe Dean, who Detroit brought in for a pre-draft visit. He edges out Lewis Cine, for my last choice of this NFL Mock Draft. Dan Campbell will get one of his dawgs.