John Daigle's 2022 NFL Mock Draft (Version 1.0)
There is a time and place for individual player analysis throughout the offseason but I genuinely believe it should take a backseat in mock drafting since a majority of the league's decision-makers typically forego any studious methods for hand-shaking, hearsay, and archaic jargon—"We're not selling jeans here," Billy Beane once reminded a room full of MLB scouts. The following is my best (and first) attempt at connecting the dots in the first round and my reasoning behind it, with player analysis sprinkled in whenever deemed fit.
2022 Draft NFL Draft Date & Time
Date: Thursday, April 28 (Round 1), Friday, April 29th ( Rounds 2 & 3) & Saturday, April 30th (Rounds 4-7)
Time: 8:00 PM EST (Round 1), 7:00 PM EST (Rounds and 3), &12:00 PM EST (Rounds 4-7)
Channels: NFL Network, ESPN & ABC, also FuboTV Livestream
More 2022 NFL Draft Resources: Anthony Staggs' Mock Draft | Ryan Noonan's Mock Draft | Big Board | Dalton Kates' Prop Bets | Draft Podcast Notes | Move the Line Props Betting Tracker | Draft Betting Odds & Tracker
2022 NFL Mock Draft
*Last Updated: April 16, 2022
1. Jacksonville Jaguars - Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
The in-house tug of war between Jacksonville's front office (Aidan Hutchinson), coach Doug Pederson (Ikem Ekwonu), and GM Trent Baalke (Travon Walker) not only summarizes how an organization loses in 13 of its last 14 seasons but offers the perfect analogy of the 2022 draft: It has to happen and no one wants to pick. For better or worse, I believe Baalke gets his wish in the end and Walker (+350) eventually becomes the overwhelming favorite to be selected ahead of Hutchinson (-250) across sportsbooks, which only ever moved in favor of the latter to combat their own handles. As for the team's future, Bill Parcells put it best: “Nothing ever changes because nothing ever changes.”
2. Detroit Lions - Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
There is a disconnect from the universe in this scenario if Dan Campbell doesn't rush to the podium for Aidan Hutchinson, who knocked out a position-high 28 bench reps at Michigan's Pro Day. Infamously labeled a "crazy worker" who has blown coaches away with his "effort in the run game," Hutchinson additionally upgrades Detroit's pass rush, which tallied the third-fewest pressures (124) and sacks (30) last year.
3. Houston Texans - Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
I suspect the Texans passed on bringing Evan Neal in for a top-30 visit because they're already familiar (and infatuated) with his character and ties to Alabama, which entice Nick Caserio given his Patriots tenure that spanned nearly two decades. Neal's experience at both LG (723 snaps in 2019) and RT (765 snaps in 2020) cement him as an immediate starter since LT Laremy Tunsil remains the only lock among Houston's trenches.
4. New York Jets - Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
For every new idea that was born throughout history, there was someone who first heard it and considered it inconceivable. That's the current reaction whenever Jameson Williams is discussed as the first receiver drafted (+200) despite the stars aligning: New York's front office has already tried its hand at adding an alpha wideout (Tyreek Hill, A.J. Brown, Deebo Samuel, DK Metcalf) via trade and, in failing to do so, can coincidently pivot to the No. 1 WR on their board. It took only three weeks for Williams' perceived stock to skyrocket from a mid-first round selection to inside the top 10 to, potentially, top four. What do you think happens with a full two weeks remaining until night one of the draft? Spoiler alert: It does not go backward from here.
5. New York Giants - Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Joe Schoen would love nothing more than to gift DC Wink Martindale a true shutdown corner in place of James Bradberry (trade pending) to begin their tenure together. Waiting until the No. 7 pick in the draft to make this selection would be far too risky with the Panthers eager to trade out.
6. Carolina Panthers - Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
Carolina has prioritized athletes over the last few years and, assuming Ikem Ekwonu is still on the board, won't alter that approach given the 21-year-old's 4.93 40-time at 6-foot-4/310 pounds. 'Ickey' serves as an immediate upgrade over OT Brady Christensen.
7. New York Giants - Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
Brian Daboll and Schoen accomplish what Joe Judge and Dave Gettleman consistently failed to do in rebuilding New York's trenches in just one offseason. Cross lined up exclusively at LT as a two-year starter in the SEC but would slide to RT in this scenario.
8. Atlanta Falcons - Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
I believe the Falcons are equally unimpressed with this year's QB class considering it initially restructured 36-year-old Matt Ryan's contract to allow him to play for one more year before shipping him to Indy. Although Atlanta has a need at every position and could opt to simply take the best overall athlete in this spot, replacing Calvin Ridley upon his reinstatement becomes priority number one; reminder the team had a deal in place with the Eagles before news of Ridley's suspension came down the pike.
9. Seattle Seahawks - Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
You cannot #EstablishIt without toughness and Trevor Penning brings just that to the table in not missing a game due to injury over the last three years. He also offers much-needed flexibility across Seattle's O-Line as a plug-and-play starter at three separate positions (LT, RT, RG).
10. New York Jets - Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon
Kayvon Thibodeaux's reported "arrogance" has pushed him down draft boards for character concerns despite standout production in leading Oregon in sacks and tackles for loss in each of the last three seasons. It's possible the Jets make this exact pick at No. 4 if they believe they can wait on either Jameson Williams or Garrett Wilson.
11. Washington Commanders - Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Continuing to connect the dots here after Ron Rivera made a rare trip to Ohio State's Pro Day and conducted a private interview with Olave. I'm of the belief the Commanders are in the market for a(ny) WR, regardless of whether those tea leaves come to fruition.
12. Minnesota Vikings - Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
A reunion of sorts under DBs coach Daronte Jones, who was Derek Stingley Jr.'s DC at LSU last year.
13. Houston Texans - Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
Enormous (6-foot-6/314 pounds) roadblock with vast experience (four-year starter in the SEC) and a sterling resume (2021 Chuck Bednarik Award winner for the best defensive player in the nation), including a recommendation from Nick Saban stating Jordan Davis is “about as good a player as I’ve seen for a long time as an inside player on any team." Pick 14 to the Ravens is Davis' floor.
14. Baltimore Ravens - Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE, Florida State
The rich get richer as Baltimore stacks Calais Campbell across from Jermaine Johnson II in the hopes his ACC-leading sacks (12) and forced fumbles (2) carry over as a value-based selection.
15. Philadelphia Eagles - Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Howie Roseman would gladly pivot from Trent McDuffie if Kyle Hamilton were to plummet, a situation that seems more likely with every passing day. A safety duo of Anthony Harris and Marcus Epps calls for a makeover.
16. New Orleans Saints - Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
Reminder Mickey Loomis attempted to make a last-second leap into the top of last year's draft for a corner opposite Marshon Lattimore. He gets his guy this time around assuming Hamilton falls to Philly.
17. Los Angeles Chargers - Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Chargers continue maximizing Justin Herbert's rookie deal in finally adding a yards after the catch (YAC) element to their offense, showcasing Treylon Burks' explosiveness (22 plays of 20+ yards last year) whether he's deployed underneath (68% of his catches in '21 came within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage) or deep (caught 12-of-18 targets 20+ yards downfield last year). An offensive lineman is also in play here if the right fit falls.
18. Philadelphia Eagles - Drake London, WR, USC
Eagles continue making life easier for Jalen Hurts' inevitable successor, allowing whomever the team makes a move for in 2023 to grow with DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert (extended through 2025), and Drake London. The latter could even have his name called with Philadelphia's first selection after he was fully cleared from October's ankle injury.
19. New Orleans Saints - Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
Saints undoubtedly want to leave this draft with LT Terron Armstead's immediate replacement but can't help themselves from pulling the trigger on the consensus "best player available". New Orleans can save $4.4 million by parting with Jameis Winston in 2023.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers - Malik Willis, QB, Steelers
Death, taxes, and Pittsburgh telling the world who it's drafting weeks before night one.
21. New England Patriots - Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
An elite player of need falls to New England like clockwork. With Dont'a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy still on the market, Devin Lloyd's explosiveness (35-inch vert, 10-foot-6 broad jump) and three-down ability take precedence over replacing Shaq Mason or Ted Karras with this pick.
22. Green Bay Packers - Zion Johnson, IOL, Boston College
An essential team-fit selection after Zion Johnson logged multiple collegiate starts at three different OL positions (LT, LG, RT) and more recently took reps at C during Senior Bowl practices. Note that the 22-year-old also cleared Josh Norris' athleticism barometer—historically a Packers threshold—with a 4.47 shuttle-time and 7.38 three-cone.
23. Arizona Cardinals - George Karlaftis III, EDGE, Purdue
24. Dallas Cowboys - Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M
25. Buffalo Bills - Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson
Whether it's Kaiir Elam or Andrew Booth, the latter who received a top-30 visit from the Bills, I cannot imagine this front office swerving from their previous team-building philosophy and reaching for a(ny) first-round RB. James Cook, Kenneth Walker III, and Isaiah Spiller on day two make much more sense in the grand scheme of things, especially since Buffalo requires overnight insurance for CB Tre'Davious White following November's ACL tear.
26. Tennessee Titans - Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa
Left guard remains a concern after Alex Cappa bolted for Cincinnati and Ali Marpet hung up his cleats. Aaron Stinnie did log 86 snaps at LG in place of Marpet last year but is not a long-term option.
28. Green Bay Packers - George Pickens, WR, Georgia
Packers continue prioritizing athleticism above all else, plucking George Pickens (6-foot-3/200 pounds) from the pack for his 84th-percentile Relative Athletic Score (8.41). As Dane Brugler notes in The Beast, Pickens also worked as the X receiver in OC Todd Monken’s scheme as a natural on-field replacement for Davante Adams.
29. Kansas City Chiefs - Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
Christian Watson registered this WR class' sixth-fastest 40-time (4.36), a priority of Kansas City's, at 6-foot-4/208 pounds. His career 21.5 yards per catch will overshadow his worrisome 10.4% drop rate in Andy Reid's eyes.
30. Kansas City Chiefs - Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Chiefs offset the loss of CB Charvarius Ward with Kaiir Elam, who permitted 18 catches for 185 yards (on 35 targets) in his final year with the Gators.
31. Cincinnati Bengals - Tyler Linderbaum, IOL, Iowa
The Rimington Award winner for the nation’s top center, Tyler Linderbaum allows Cincinnati to kick Ted Karras to LG in a complete and immaculate revamp of the team's trenches in only one offseason.
32. Detroit Lions - Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
The Lions forego QB at No. 2 if only for this selection, pending who's leftover between Matt Corral and Desmond Ridder. Jared Goff's dead-cap hit plummets to $10 million (compared to this year's hit of $41 million), making him easy to part with, in 2023.