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NFL Mock Draft Malik Willis
NFL Draft

NFL Mock Draft 2022: Justin Melo’s Predictive Mock

  • Justin Melo
  • April 27, 2022
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2022 NFL Draft week has officially arrived—it’s final NFL mock draft time. This year’s iteration of the draft promises to be one of the more wildly unpredictable occasions in recent memory. The process has truly qualified as one-of-a-kind. The uncertain nature surrounding the majority of selections should make for an exciting and jaw-dropping weekend. The draft represents an annual opportunity for clubs to improve the overall construction of their rosters ahead of the impending season, and several teams have placed themselves in an ideal scenario ahead of Thursday night. 

The New York Jets and New York Giants both possess a pair of top-10 selections, giving them a rare opportunity to secure the services of two blue-chip talents. The Houston Texans, Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, and Philadelphia Eagles also possess a pair of first-round selections. The majority of these teams missed the postseason in 2021 and are hoping to receive an immediate return on their investments via the 2022 draft. Let’s get to the action.

Here’s my final predictive mock of the 2022 NFL Draft cycle. This is my best prediction as to how things will unfold Thursday night.

Enjoy the mock and enjoy draft weekend, friends.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

The No. 1 overall selection is reserved for elite difference-makers at premium positions. Michigan’s Aidan Hutchison checks all the boxes. Hutchinson’s unique blend of size, power, and overall athletic ability should help make this a rather straightforward decision for the Jaguars, who are allegedly making this process more complicated than it needs to be.

2. Detroit Lions – Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
I went back and forth with this decision. I ultimately believe the Lions are in a position to select a quarterback with the No. 2 overall selection. Lions general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell will hope to avoid picking this high in 2023. Holmes and Campbell may feel inclined to take advantage of their draft positioning by selecting the signal-caller with the highest ceiling in the class. Willis’ raw athletic tools and electric throwing ability could help him develop into a rare next-level talent with the proper coaching and patience.

3. Houston Texans – Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
Texans general manager Nick Caserio is still in the process of revamping and constructing a roster that is largely devoid of talent. It’s a situation that places the Texans in an advantageous position to select the best player available. Georgia’s Travon Walker has aced the pre-draft process by routinely showcasing his elite and rare athletic ability. Walker has attached a jetpack to his pre-draft stock, and I believe it will lead to him being a top-three selection on Thursday.

4. New York Jets – Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Jets head coach Robert Saleh is a defensive-minded leader first and foremost. The Jets were forced to roster and play a bunch of unknown commodities at the cornerback position in 2021. General manager Joe Douglas has begun revamping his secondary this offseason by signing Jordan Whitehead and D.J. Reed, but more reinforcements are required on the boundary. Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner had an outstanding career at Cincinnati. He possesses the tools necessary to help Saleh and the Jets play more press-man coverage in 2022 than they did in 2021.

5. New York Giants – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
New Giants general manager Joe Schoen has inherited the difficult assignment of rebuilding a struggling Giants franchise. Schoen is a smart decision-maker that will prioritize revamping the Giants’ roster from the inside out. Building a strong team in the trenches on both sides of the ball is an excellent way to appropriately reignite a rebuild. Evan Neal is a plug-and-play offensive tackle prospect that could immediately take charge of the right tackle position, assuming Andrew Thomas remains on the blindside.

6. Carolina Panthers – Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
There’s been a lot of smoke regarding the Panthers possibly choosing a quarterback with this selection, but I ultimately believe they’ll either acquire Baker Mayfield or move forward with Sam Darnold for one more season. The Panthers desperately require help across an offensive line that struggled to protect whichever quarterback was under center a year ago. NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu is a tone-setting offensive line prospect that could start at a number of positions in Carolina, either at tackle or guard.

7. New York Giants – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
I’m cultivating the dream scenario for the Giants. I believe Schoen will prioritize securing the services of an offensive tackle with his first selection and will then turn around and address a struggling pass-rushing unit with his second top-10 selection. If a quarterback is selected within the first five picks, there’s an excellent chance Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux will remain on the board for the Giants. In this case, Schoen should sprint the pick to the podium. Thibodeaux is an extremely toolsy defensive end prospect with excellent quickness, flexibility, and body control. He possesses every tool necessary to quickly develop into a double-digit sack artist.

8. Atlanta Falcons – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
The Falcons currently house the worst group of wide receivers in the NFL. They can’t possibly move forward with Olamide Zaccheaus and Damiere Byrd playing significant roles offensively. Arthur Smith possesses a brilliant offensive mind through and through, and he’ll value what a receiver like Garrett Wilson can do at the next level. The dynamic Wilson is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Bridge quarterback Marcus Mariota requires that sort of helping hand.

9. Seattle Seahawks – Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
The Seahawks are prepared to usher in a new era of football in 2022 following the blockbuster trade that sent Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos. I was surprised that general manager John Schneider didn’t attempt to land a veteran reclamation project in free agency such as Mariota or Mitchell Trubisky. Seattle can’t possibly move forward with Drew Lock or Geno Smith under center. I like the fit between the organization and Desmond Ridder. Pete Carroll and the Seahawks will appreciate Ridder’s experience and leadership qualities as they begin rebuilding the franchise.

10. New York Jets –  Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State
The Jets’ defense recorded just 33 sacks in 17 regular-season contests last season. That must change going forward. Veteran free agency signing Carl Landry unfortunately experienced a season-ending injury before the 2021 campaign even kicked off, and the Jets should better protect themselves in case there are any lingering effects. Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson possesses the length, size, first-step explosiveness, and overall athletic traits to develop into a quarterback’s nightmare at the next level.

11. Washington Commanders – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Acquiring Carson Wentz from the Indianapolis Colts helped take Washington out of the running to select a first-round quarterback. Head coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio would happily pounce on the best player available at No. 11 overall, and in this scenario, that happens to be the best overall player left on the board regardless of position. There’s nothing Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton can’t do. Hamilton is a remarkable talent with a rare blend of explosiveness, size, speed, length, and overall athleticism.

12. Minnesota Vikings – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
The Vikings desperately require help at the cornerback position after allowing 252.9 passing yards per contest a year ago. Patrick Peterson is beyond his prime and shouldn’t be heavily relied upon going forward. LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. possesses every athletic trait imaginable to quickly develop into an elite-level press-man cornerback. Should he get this far, the league will regret overthinking Stingley throughout the process.

13. New Orleans Saints – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
*TRADE: Saints receive: No. 13 overall, 2023 sixth-round pick; Texans receive: No. 16 overall, No. 98 overall, No. 161 overall
When the Saints initially acquired the No. 16 overall selection from the Philadelphia Eagles a few weeks ago, I believed their intention was to position themselves to ultimately land one of the premier offensive tackle prospects before the Los Angeles Chargers came on the clock at No. 17 overall. After all, general manager Mickey Loomis must replace Terron Armstead, who signed a lucrative contract with the Miami Dolphins in free agency. In this scenario, the Baltimore Ravens also pose a threat to select a tackle, so the Saints move up to No. 13 in order to select Mississippi State’s Charles Cross. Cross is a high-level athlete that would fill out the rest of his game nicely in New Orleans.

14. Baltimore Ravens – Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
The Ravens may have missed out on Cross, but they’ll happily select Trevor Penning. Recurring ankle injuries have unfortunately left the future of Ronnie Stanley’s career in limbo. Penning is a tough, hard-nosed offensive tackle prospect that fits the rugged culture the Ravens have created and maintained. Should Stanley recover to reclaim his left tackle position, Penning can kick inside and play guard in a pinch.

15. Philadelphia Eagles – Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
Haason Reddick was a fantastic offseason addition, and general manager Howie Roseman did well to retain Fletcher Cox and Derek Barnett, too. The Eagles can however still become faster and more physical in the trenches. Georgia’s Jordan Davis fits their scheme like a glove. The imposing Davis would slot in nicely next to the likes of Cox, Barnett, Reddick, Milton Williams, and Josh Sweat.

16. Houston Texans – Drake London, WR, USC
*TRADE: Texans receive: No. 16 overall, No. 98 overall, No. 161 overall; Saints receive: No. 13 overall, 2023 sixth-round pick
The Texans were able to pick up some additional immediate and future draft capital in a metaphorical draft-day trade back with the Saints and still manage to land a bonafide alpha receiver on the boundary. After selecting Walker with the No. 3 overall pick, general manager Nick Caserio now turns his attention to providing his sophomore quarterback Davis Mills with some much-needed pass-catching help next season. The Texans must pair Brandin Cooks with an appropriate running mate. Drake London possesses elite above-the-rim ability.

17. Los Angeles Chargers – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

General manager Tom Telesco would love to select a right tackle of the future here, but in this scenario, both Cross and Penning have already come off the board. The Chargers won’t reach for a player simply because. Telesco has invested a terrific amount of resources into fixing the Chargers’ front seven this offseason. The likes of Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, and Khalil Mack will help provide the Chargers with their desired makeover. Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd would serve as the cherry on top. Lloyd is the anti-Kenneth Murray. Lloyd’s physical downhill ability and improved coverage skills make him an ideal three-down linebacker at the next level.

18. Philadelphia Eagles – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
The Eagles addressed their defensive line by selecting Jordan Davis earlier, and now they return to the podium in rather quick succession to improve their below-average pass-catching corps. DeVonta Smith does his best work while working underneath the coverage, and pairing him with a true burner such as Jameson Williams could really help further unlock Smith and the Eagles’ passing offense as a whole. Adding an elite burner like Williams makes sense as the Eagles attempt to maximize Jalen Hurts’ abilities as a passer.

19. New Orleans Saints – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
The Saints re-signed quarterback Jameis Winston earlier this offseason, and they now must provide him with more receiving talents than they did a year ago. Salary cap difficulties forced the Saints to largely sit out the free agency proceedings, so they must give strong consideration to drafting a difference-maker at receiver. The expected return of Michael Thomas should help, but it would be ill-advised of the Saints to overly rely on him at this point. Treylon Burks is an extremely physical route-runner that can create explosive plays for himself after the catch. The Saints simplified things on offense last season, and the appointment of defensive-minded head coach Dennis Allen is unlikely to change things in that department. Burks’ ability to win after the catch and throughout contested-catch situations meshes nicely with Winston’s skill set as a passer.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers – Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
There’s been a lot of chatter regarding the Steelers and a quarterback here, but with Desmond Ridder and Malik Willis both off the board, I have them going in another direction. Georgia Bulldogs safety Lewis Cine is a movable chess piece that is fully capable of playing single-high, in the slot, and in split zones. Playing in a division alongside Joe Burrow and Deshaun Watson means the Steelers must be better prepared to defend the pass going forward. Cine would help them achieve that.

21. New England Patriots – Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
The Patriots decided against paying J.C. Jackson this offseason. It was a highly questionable decision. Jackson’s departure leaves a sizable hole on the boundary of their defense. Malcolm Butler returns to the franchise after spending last season out of football due to personal reasons, but the Patriots would be wise to further invest in the cornerback position. Washington’s Trent McDuffie is an excellent athlete that’s received high-level coaching from a collegiate staff that’s developed a bunch of NFL-worthy secondary defenders as of late. McDuffie’s advanced instincts should allow him to hit the ground running as a rookie.

22. Green Bay Packers – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
The Packers moved on from Za’Darius Smith this offseason and have yet to adequately replace his pass-rushing abilities. Smith gave the Packers some inside-outside versatility, and general manager Brian Gutekunst has an affinity for those types. Purdue’s George Karlaftis fits their overall profile. Karlaftis’ raw power and advanced shedding techniques would be well utilized all across Green Bay’s multiple defensive front.

23. Arizona Cardinals – Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington

Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon is attending the draft in person because he largely expects to be a first-round selection. That makes two of us. Gordon is an exceptional athlete on tape who trusts his quickness in coverage. The Cardinals desperately require upgrades at the cornerback position after they allowed 25 passing touchdowns last season. Gordon fits Arizona’s defensive scheme like a glove.

24. Dallas Cowboys – Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M
The Cowboys lost several starting quality offensive linemen this offseason. The departure of Connor Williams especially weakened the interior of their offensive line. Stephen Jones has always prioritized fielding a strong offensive line, and I believe they’ll address that situation with this selection. Kenyon Green is a former 5-star recruit that absolutely lived up to his billing throughout an illustrious collegiate career at Texas A&M. Green is a tone-setter that should immediately earn a starting job up front. The Cowboys could plug him in at left guard and sleep peacefully.

25. Buffalo Bills – Tariq Woolen, CB, UTSA
Cornerbacks that measure in at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, run a staggering 4.26 in the 40-yard dash, and leap a breathtaking 42-inch vertical get drafted in the first round. I made a similar prediction last season with Georgia’s Eric Stokes and I’m doing it here again with UTSA’s Tariq Woolen. The Bills are in need of a starting cornerback opposite Tre’Davious White following Levi Wallace’s offseason departure. Woolen may face an acclimation period, but his potential is through the roof. Sean McDermott and Buffalo’s defensive coaching staff could appropriately develop his raw tools.

26. Tennessee Titans – Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College
The Titans released starting left guard Rodger Saffold earlier this offseason and they’ve yet to appropriately add his replacement. General manager Jon Robinson has always placed a ton of importance on receiving high-quality offensive line play, and the Titans lacked that last season. Robinson has used first and second-round draft picks on Jack Conklin, Isaiah Wilson, and Dillon Radunz throughout his tenure as their chief decision-maker. He’s also re-signed the likes of Taylor Lewan and Ben Jones. He really values the offensive line. Boston College’s Zion Johnson is an elite interior offensive line prospect that’s of the plug-and-play variety.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia
Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh remain unrestricted free agents and general manager Jason Licht could decide to add some youth and explosiveness to Tampa’s defensive line. New head coach Todd Bowles will hold a dear appreciation for Devonte Wyatt’s abilities. Wyatt routinely stood out despite playing on Georgia’s absolutely stacked defensive line. Wyatt is an excellent athlete for his size. He confirmed his first-round positioning with a jaw-dropping performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. Should Wyatt last this long, the Buccaneers may sprint to the podium.

28. Green Bay Packers – George Pickens, WR, Georgia
The Packers have to draft a receiver in the first round this time, right? The backbreaking departure of Davante Adams has left Green Bay’s pass-catching corps extremely thin. The returning Aaron Rodgers needs more weapons at his disposal. After addressing their defensive line with their first selection, the Packers turn around here and grab George Pickens, an alpha male on the boundary. Pickens’ dominant size and downfield ability fit their profile. Had Pickens not suffered a torn ACL injury last season, we’d be discussing the prospects of him getting selected much earlier than this.

29. Kansas City Chiefs – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach owns back-to-back selections and will almost certainly draft a wide receiver with one of those picks following a stunning trade that sent Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins. The Chiefs still value high-level receivers, they simply needed to get cheaper at the position. Should Ohio State’s Chris Olave remain an option here, Veach and the Chiefs shouldn’t think twice. Olave is a route-running technician that would immediately do damage in Kansas City’s high-octane passing offense.

30. Kansas City Chiefs – David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan
Kansas City’s defense crawled to a total of just 29 sacks in 17 regular-season contests last season. Only the Lions, Eagles, and Falcons recorded less quarterback takedowns throughout 2021. Veach will almost certainly address the future of the EDGE position via the first round. As a franchise, the Chiefs are good enough to take a chance on Michigan’s David Ojabo, who unfortunately suffered a devastating Achilles injury at Michigan’s Pro Day in mid-March. On tape, Ojabo is a first-round prospect that possesses elite first-step explosiveness and overall athleticism. Should the Chiefs prefer to draft an immediate contributor at the position, Minnesota’s Boye Mafe represents another option.

31. Cincinnati Bengals – Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
It was abundantly clear that Cincinnati’s Achilles heel throughout 2021 was their underperforming offensive line. General manager Duke Tobin has made efforts to address that situation going forward by acquiring three quality offensive linemen this offseason in La’el Collins, Alex Cappa, and Ted Karras. Analyzing Tyler Linderbaum’s tape was a relatively straightforward exercise. There are some concerns regarding measurables, but he’s a highly polished and experienced prospect that should help run the pivot for an NFL offense for the next decade.
32. Detroit Lions – Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
The Lions close out the first round with some much-needed linebacker help. The Lions have shown a terrific amount of interest in Nakobe Dean throughout the process. They hosted him on a private visit earlier this month. The middle of Detroit’s defense desperately requires a tone-setting energetic presence. Dean’s closing quickness, excellent blitzing ability, and overall reactive athleticism could make him a three-down defender at the next level.

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Justin Melo