Lee Wakefield – Final Mock Draft 2022

Well we are mere hours away from another edition of the NFL Draft, it truly is the most wonderful time of year!

It brings in the feeling of the next league year starting, optimism is high around the league, the process is coming to an end for another 12 months and it’s a time for everyone’s team to get better.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia

Walker is the bookies favourite moving into draft day, but what can we take from this? Does someone know something that others don’t or do some people just have more money than sense?

Walker destroyed the combine and played on one of the best defences that college football has ever seen, but is it enough to ensure he goes first overall?

He has all the physical tools you would want but his lack of college production would make me think twice.

Personally this wouldn’t be my pick but Trent Baalke just might be  ̶i̶n̶c̶o̶m̶p̶e̶t̶e̶n̶t̶  crazy enough to pull the trigger on this one.

  1. Detroit Lions – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

It feels like Aidan Hutchinson was the star of the 2021 college football season and his consistency coupled with health allowed him to be a game-wrecker week-in, week-out for the Wolverines.

Like Walker above, Hutchinson tested as an elite athlete at one of the game’s most premium positions however he did manage to put up gaudy numbers in his final season.

Walker going first overall also gives Detroit and Hutchinson the bonus of continuing his career in his home state, which will surely give everyone that extra little bit of motivation to ensure that this all works out.

The Lions just gained a star and a leader on defence. 

  1. Houston Texans – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

With two elite edge defenders coming off the board, the Texans decide to follow suit here with their first selection. The Texans have a lot of holes on their roster and for me, they should really look to gain high-end talent in the most premium positions possible, so part one of that mission is accomplished here at #3 in taking the number one player on my personal big board.

Thibodeaux is coming into the league with some, mainly media members, talking about whether he loves football and has the drive and motivation to be great – I have no concerns over this personally and feel like he is a potential superstar in the making. 

  1. New York Jets – Evan Neal, Offensive Tackle, Alabama

The Jets are in a similar position to the Texans in that they have two first round picks, they have an abundance of draft capital and they also have a wide range of gaps to fill within the roster!

Is Mehki Becton’s Jets career almost over? Or can it be salvaged? Either way, Neal will come in and either replace Becton (who I assume will be traded if he’s to leave) or form a dynamic tackle duo for the future.

Neal has the versatility to replace Becton on the left side or relegate George Fant to being a swing option, either way, Zach Wilson should be better protected in 2022, and the Jets can continue to build around the young QB with five picks in the top 70 this year! 

  1. New York Giants – Ikem Ekwonu, Offensive Tackle, NC State

There are some questions about whether Ikem Ekwonu is a guard or a tackle at the next level, but for the Giants, who have needs across the offensive line, it doesn’t really matter which he turns out to be.

The Giants aren’t a contender and probably won’t be even approaching that conversation for another couple of years, so they can afford to take high upside players like Ekwonu and see what he becomes for them once he gets some training camp reps.

I feel like Ekwonu has the potential to be the opposite bookend to Andrew Thomas for years to come but he’s going to be a good enough football player in the NFL that if he just turns out to be an elite guard long term, then it’s going to be a successful pick either way. 

  1. Philadelphia Eagles – Jameson Williams, Wide Receiver, Alabama

[The Eagles send picks 15, 51 and a 2023 first round pick to the Panthers for 6th overall]

The NFC East always feels like it’s a division that is there for the taking for the most consistent team within it, although that’s kind of a paradox since no team has retained the divisional crown since the Eagles won four in a row from 2001-2004.

So, with that in mind and armed with an extra first rounder this year, General Manager Howie Roseman could opt to swing from the fences and make another trade to go up the draft order and get his guy.

The Eagles look like they are wedded to Jalen Hurts whilst he’s on his rookie contract and don’t feel the need to upgrade and instead would prefer to build talent around him, and after taking DeVonta Smith with the 10th overall pick last year, the Eagles are taking another Alabama receiver in the top 10 here. 

  1. New Orleans Saints – Malik Willis, Quarterback, Liberty

[The Saints send picks 16 and 19 to the Giants for 7th overall]

Another trade here with the Saints packaging up their two first round picks and sending them to New York for the 7th overall selection.

When the Saints acquired the extra first recently, my first impression of that deal is that they were using the blueprint of the Bills deal to move up to acquire Josh Allen in 2018 (also at 7th overall), and since it has been reported that the Giants are willing to trade out of 7, they have the perfect dance partner. The Saints might just be keen to wait and see what the Panthers do in terms of taking a QB at 6, but if they do not, as we have in this situation, they would be wise to pull the trigger to go and get their guy ahead of divisional rivals Atlanta, who may also be on the lookout for a Quarterback. 

The Saints have Jameis Winston on the books for a couple of years yet, which could give Malik Willis the perfect amount of time to sit and develop behind him as the Saints reload and then turn the keys over to Willis and enter their new era.  

  1. Atlanta Falcons – Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State

Is Atlanta the worst roster in football at the moment? It’s a serious question.

Of the four most premium positions on the football field; quarterback, offensive tackle, pass rusher and corner, the Falcons have AJ Terrell who is an elite, long-term starter, Jake Matthews who is fine, an anaemic pass rush and seemingly an appetite to roll with Marcus Mariota for at least a year at quarterback. 

This is a long rebuild that the Falcons are undertaking here, so they need to continue to acquire players at these premium positions to give themselves their future franchise cornerstones.

Jermaine Johnson is a high floor pass rusher with a relentless motor and nasty on-field demeanour which could galvanise the Falcons defence as he becomes one of the leaders of the unit.

  1. Seattle Seahawks – Derek Stingley Jr., Corner, LSU

I feel like this is Derek Stingley’s absolute floor and if it does turn out that this is the pick I feel it’s a hand-in-glove fit.

Seattle loves long corners and has traditionally been a defence first team under Pete Carroll. Carroll could choose to deploy Stingley as a true CB1 and ask him to shadow the opposing team’s best receiver on a weekly basis, which is a task that I feel the former LSU Tiger would be more than capable of.

Like Atlanta before them, I feel Seattle needs a whole host of players over the coming years in order to be truly competitive again, so grabbing a star player and future franchise player is a great way to start.

  1. New York Jets – Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Corner, Cincinnati

When your starting corners are currently DJ Reed and Bryce Hall, it’s safe to say your team needs a little bit of help at the position.

Enter Ahmad Gardner.

Robert Saleh would possibly prefer to build his defence up from the front, but with two early second round picks to come, there is time to pick up another edge defender to pair with the healthy-again Carl Lawson, and to grab another pass catcher for Zach Wilson to throw to.

But for now, Gardner gives them a potentially elite starter at a premium position for the Jets in the top ten, so it looks like a great start to the draft for Gang Green, in what feels like a really pivotal draft for the franchise.

  1. Washington Commanders – Drake London, Wide Receiver, USC

The newly minted Commanders went out and acquired Carson Wentz this offseason and you would imagine they will attempt to build a support structure around him in order to give him and by association themselves, the best chance of success moving forward.

Washington isn’t in a bad position generally speaking, they have a very good defence, with a fearsome front, a passable offensive line, and some good skill position players, none more so than Terry McLaurin.

However, giving McLaurin a running mate, and Wentz a big bodied receiver to diversify the offence and add a safety blanket, not to mention what seems like limitless run-after-catch possibilities with London seems like a no-brainer.

  1. Minnesota Vikings – Kyle Hamilton, Safety Notre Dame

Harrison Smith is getting up there in age and moving from one former Notre Dame Safety to another on the back end of their defence might be a really sensible move for Minnesota.

Due to Hamilton’s skillset and versatility, he can co-exist with Smith too, which would allow the Vikings to mix things up on the back end and also include Camryn Bynum in some three-safety looks too, which is probably going to be a staple of new DC Ed Donatell’s playbook since he’s a Vic Fangio disciple.

Smith and Hamilton in 2-deep coverage shells with Hamilton able to drop down into the box in sub-packages sounds like a great way to build your coverages as the foundation of a defence. 

  1. Houston Texans – Charles Cross, Offensive Tackle, Mississippi State

Much like their pick at number three, the Texans acquire a high-end, high ceiling prospect at a position of need, which is a premium position in the league.

Charles Cross could be the opposite bookend from Laremy Tunsil before eventually replacing the former Ole Miss product long term.

Cross is a great pass protector and an underrated run blocker and with him and Tunsil walling all pass rushers, it should give Davis Mills ideal conditions to take the next step and lay down a marker as the Texans’ long term starter at QB. 

  1. Baltimore Ravens – Jordan Davis, Interior Defensive Line, Georgia

Another pick I absolutely love here with Jordan Davis going to the Ravens.

Baltimore needs to get younger up front with Derek Wolfe, Michael Pierce and Calais Campbell all getting towards the back ends of their careers.

Despite Wink Martindale having moved on to pastures new, I expect the Ravens defensive philosophy to be pretty much the same under Mike MacDonald considering that he was on the Ravens defensive staff from 2014 to 2020 under Martindale before he had a year away at the University of Michigan as their defensive coordinator.

At his size, Davis is clearly going to be a problem for any team attempting to run up the middle – Which is useful in a division with the likes of Joe Mixon, Najee Harris and Nick Chubb – but I also feel like he’s underrated as a pocket moving, penetrative pass rusher, and it’s certainly a skillset that can be developed in the NFL given his athletic profile at his size. 

  1. Carolina Panthers – Trevor Penning, Offensive Tackle, Northern Iowa

This would have felt like horrific value at number six overall but at fifteen, it’s perhaps passable to select Trevor Penning. Penning isn’t a player I’m high on, at all, but he does seem to be the consensus fourth best tackle in this class.

I don’t see how Matt Rhule can sign off on the selection of a quarterback in the first round of this year’s draft with his job seemingly on the line, they need to stick and build around Sam Darnold as much as they can, which might just mean they eek out enough wins to keep Rhule in employment, but also put in place a structure for the next QB or Baker Mayfield to flourish in.

Penning’s pick means that Cam Erving moves inside to guard and pairs Penning with Taylor Moton as the tackles, Bradley Bozeman and Austin Corbett round off the starting five in what is now a pretty serviceable unit.

The Panthers now have pick 51 instead of what would have been a very long wait from 6 to 137, not a bad bit of business.  

  1. New York Giants – Garrett Wilson, Wide Receiver, Ohio State

Now that they have three first round picks the Giants can look at the best players available here in the middle of the first round and really add the talent in their ranks, even if they aren’t at positions of the most pressing needs, especially since they have pick 36 at the start of the second round too.

Garrett Wilson gives them a star receiver to pair with and soon replace Kenny Golladay as the focal point of the offence, a young and dynamic player who gives Daniel Jones a reliable route runner with great YACability, which is particularly nice to pair with a bigger receiver like Golladay in the short term.

Looking ahead to the future of the receiver room, it feels like the Golladay contract hasn’t lived up to the money that they threw at him and it seems like Kadarius Toney isn’t going to be on this roster for much longer so finding a future WR1 now feels sensible, especially with the extra picks gathered in the earlier trade. 

  1. Los Angeles Chargers – Zion Johnson, Offensive Guard, Boston College

Protect Justin Herbert at all costs and maximise the offensive firepower – This has to be the MO for the Chargers front office for the foreseeable future.

I feel like the best way of doing this is to continue to add to what was an improved offensive line last year. The Bolts hit the jackpot with Rashawn Slater last year, alongside sensible adds in Corey Linsley, Matt Feiler and Oday Abushi.

Abushi could yet be re-signed if he has sufficiently recovered from his ACL injury and if he is to come back, will plug right back into his position at right guard with Linsley leading the unit from the center position. Johnson would slide in at left right with Slater on his outside and Matt Feiler flipping over to right tackle where he had played previously in Pittsburgh.

That feels like a wall in front of #10!

A speedy pass catcher can wait until day 2, which could complete the offence and give it a feel of a unit with endless possibilities. 

  1. Philadelphia Eagles – Andrew Booth Jr., Corner, Clemson

After the earlier swing, now for a more sensible pick.

The Eagles grab Andrew Booth to pair with Darius Slay, which becomes especially prudent considering two divisional rivals selected wide receivers earlier in the first round, so Philadelphia will need to keep adding players to lock down the division’s talented pass catchers.

Booth is a former 5-star high school recruit who has the measurables, physicality and coverage skills to be a CB1 for a long time.

The medicals are a little bit scary but I feel like Booth would be seen as a higher ceiling prospect than either of the Washington DBs.

  1. New York Giants – Lewis Cine, Safety, Georgia

Whilst it isn’t sexy to select a safety in the first round, the Giants need good football players and Lewis Cine is a good football player. 

The Giants have a nice defence already and aside from grabbing an edge defender to pair with Azeez Ojulari, the other open spot, or at least place where they could improve would be to find another safety to play alongside Xavier McKinney.

There should still be a pass rusher worth taking available at 36 and adding that player to Ikem Ekwonu, Garrett Wilson and Lewis Cine feels like an incredible haul for Big Blue.

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers – Kenny Pickett, Quarterback, Pittsburgh

Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada wanted a more mobile quarterback than the Ghost of Ben Roethlistberger, who appeared to be playing for Pittsburgh over the past couple of years, and he gets his wish here. 

The Steelers will be keen to welcome in a new era under center with a more mobile QB – with Kenny Pickett, who gets to stay in town and will continue to play at Heinz Field.

It’s not a bad situation to come into with Mitch Trubisky signed up for the next couple of years to serve as a bridge to this next era of Steelers football. Ideal for the Steelers who can allow Pickett to develop slowly and good for Pickett by the same token, since he’s not ready to start yet, especially in the AFC North, which should be one of the better divisions in football once more. 

  1. New England Patriots – Devin Lloyd, Linebacker, Utah

The Patriots are a team built off the back of sound defence, fundamentals and a mentality of the team over the individual.

The roster has always had glue guys who uphold the team’s culture and embed it into everyone who passes through the team and I cannot think of a player who fits this mould more than Devin Lloyd out of Utah.

The Patriots are also in need of further youth and leadership in the middle of their defence since the guys in those leadership roles on defence are getting towards the end of their careers now.

Lloyd is a modern day linebacker who can also rush the passer on a part time basis, which adds even more value to a player who is surely going to be a star in the league. 

  1. Green Bay Packers – Treylon Burks, Wide Receiver, Arkansas

After the trade of Davante Adams, the Packers are in dire need of some reinforcements at wide receiver. Not only did they lose arguably the best receiver in football, Marquez Valdes-Scantling also moved on too, leaving Allen Lazard, who is out of contract after this year and then after that, it’s veterans Sammy Watkins and Randall Cobb.

Treylon Burks gives the Packers an injection of youth and a playmaker with a diverse skill set who can be used in multiple ways.

In college, Burks was the whole offence in Arkansas, in Green Bay he shouldn’t have such a burden on his shoulders and it’s safe to say he’ll also experience an uptick in quarterback play.

  1. Arizona Cardinals – Trent McDuffie, Corner, Washington

The Washington to Arizona pipeline for DBs is back in business!

Are Jeff Gladney and/or Marco Wilson long term solutions for the Cardinals moving forward? Probably not. So this is an area in need of investment as they search for a CB1 as Arizona looks to fill an area of need as they look to round out her defence.

McDuffie is a smaller corner but he plays bigger than his frame and has great coverage skills. Shorter arms and lack of college production is a slight concern but still, McDuffie should have a successful career in the NFL.

  1. Dallas Cowboys – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

How long has it been since Dallas had a consistent and high level edge presence across from DeMarcus Lawrence? Because it feels like forever. George Karlaftis should provide that sort of backup for the Cowboys’ star man up front.

Having a proper second edge should allow Dallas to move Micah Parsons back to lineback and sprinkle in pass rush reps in the right situations, rather than as a point of necessity.

Dallas could use a corner opposite Trevon Diggs and a safety but at this point of the draft, the value would be in picking up a pass rusher to complete the front seven of their defence. 

  1. Buffalo Bills – Kyler Gordon, Corner, Washington

There is a reason why Kyler Gordon has been invited to Vegas to attend the draft in person on the first night… There must be a good amount of teams who like him enough that there is confidence that he will have his name called on Thursday night. It’s no guarantee of course, but I feel the tape and the athletic abilities do correlate to a player who could be taken within the first round.

Gordon coming in to pair with Tre White gives the Bills a great corner tandem, a superb secondary and a championship level defence on the whole.

This team is going to be there or thereabouts come January.

  1. Tennessee Titans – Kenyon Green, Offensive Guard, Texas A&M

The Titans are build to run the ball primarily and then use that to set up their passing attack. To bulldoze teams with Derrick Henry, the Titans need a good offensive line to open up those lanes and I feel that the interior of their line could be strengthened.

Green is the selection here to give Mike Vrabel’s men more umph up front! A big plus is the pedigree that he holds having been a 5-star recruit, alongside his football IQ and versatility to play multiple spots on the offensive line – Always a positive when injuries kick in, which was a reason why this team hasn’t managed to make a deep run in January, yet.  

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Tariq Woolen, Corner, UTSA

The Bucs are a tough team to pin down, their main targets might be the top two offensive guards, however they’re off the board here.

Looking at the rest of their roster there aren’t any real glaring holes, so in this situation Tampa Bay looks firstly for upside and secondly to their future issues… In terms of upside, I don’t feel like there are many player available this year with the upside of a 6’4 corner who runs in the 4.2’s and has the ball skills of a former wide receiver.

In terms of a future issue, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Logan Ryan are all out of contract after the 2022 season.

In the late first, a team is probably out of first round grades anyway…

  1. Green Bay Packers – Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota

Speaking of drafting for upside, here are the Green Bay Packers with their second selection of the first round and they are taking Boye Mafe, who has all the tools required to be a high end edge rusher in the league.

When teams have a second first round pick, I do feel that they can use one of them as a little bit of a luxury pick and take a higher risk swing to hit a potential jackpot down the road.

Mafe was never a full time starter at Minnesota and with Rashan Gary and Preston Smith, he wouldn’t need to be an immediate starter in Green Bay either, which might suit him in the beginning as he’ll be entering the league as a very raw prospect.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs – Chris Olave, Wide Receiver, Ohio State 

Kansas City needs to replace Tyreek Hill’s deep threat abilities within their offence because without that threat to the deep part of the field, things may get congested for the likes of Juju Smith-Schuster and Travis Kelce working in the short and intermediate areas of the field.

Olave also has the speed to be used in the ways that Hill was on short passes, and his jet motion despite not being quite as fast as Hill.

Olave will also enter the league as a better route runner than Hill at the point when he entered the league and in an offence that always puts up big numbers, Olave should be primed to make an immediate impact.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs – David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan 

Going back to earlier when I discussed making a luxury selection when a team has a second pick in the first round…

David Ojabo is primed to be selected with one of these kinds of picks or taken by a team who trades up into one of these spots.

In this scenario, Kansas City takes Ojabo at the end of the first round, which of course gives them the five year commitment to Ojabo, the first year of that will be spent recovering from injury and then learning his craft before really beginning to make an impact in 2023.

Like Mafe before, Ojabo has all the tools to become a real force in the league once he hones his skills.

  1. Cincinnati Bengals – Daxton Hill, Safety, Michigan

Tyler Linderbaum is a popular pick here at 31 for the Bengals however due to the depth of the center class this year, does is make sense to make a pick there at 31 for admittedly, a superb player, or would it be fine to take a center on day 2 or early day 3 who will also turn out to be a long term starter?

Back to this pick and Daxton Hill… It looks increasingly likely that the Bengals and Jesse Bates aren’t going to be able to work out a long-term deal.

Hill isn’t a pure safety and will likely play some nickel cornerback in the NFL but he will be able to take some snaps deep in the event that Cincinnati doesn’t find a direct replacement for Bates in 2023. But for now! Enjoy having another high-end player in the secondary in what will be a pass-happy AFC in next season.

  1. Detroit Lions – Desmond Ridder, Quarterback, Cincinnati 

The Lions are set for at least one more season at QB due to the money left on Jared Goff’s contact, which for a QB class like this one, is sort of perfect as it gives Detroit an opportunity to take a high end starter at #2, then draft their possible quarterback of the future at #32, giving Ridder that all-important fifth year option and time to marinate behind Goff.

Detroit also has the protection of picking 34th, so in just two picks time, which is another opportunity to find a second starter and immediate impact player with that pick, minimising the drawback of the lack of immediate return from the Ridder pick here.

Ridder has all the physical tools to be a success in the NFL but he just needs to work on his accuracy and put on some muscle 

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