2022 NFL Mock draft is here
By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)
It’s never too early to start planning for the NFL Draft. The 2021 football season is quickly approaching, for both college and professional, so it’s about time to start looking at preseason projections. Much can change during the course of a season, and almost always does, but this 2022 NFL mock draft will be based on expectations. The two main things to consider when making this list are the draft order based on projected team record and what kind of season the top college prospects will have. All things considered, here are the top ten picks of a preseason 2022 NFL mock draft.
1. Houston Texans: QB Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma
The Houston Texans are an absolute mess heading into the 2021 NFL season and much of that has to do with superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson. Between his ongoing legal issues that came up this offseason, paired with the fact that he wants to be traded, it is unknown if or when he will even play this year. If he doesn’t play the Texans will almost definitely be the worst team in the NFL and still could be even if he does play. Despite Watson leading the NFL in passing in 2020 with 4823 yards the Texans still only finished with four wins. It’s time to completely start over and rebuild in Houston. That process has already started with a new general manager and head coach so the quarterback should be next on the list.
Oklahoma and the Lincoln Reilly offensive system have been a factory for quarterbacks in recent years, producing first overall picks and Heisman Trophy winners in Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield. Next up is Spencer Rattler and he has all of the tools to follow in their footsteps. He is the preseason favorite to win the Heisman Trophy and is projected to have a huge season with the Sooners. He had a solid 2020 season passing for 3031 yards and 28 touchdowns while also rushing for an additional six touchdowns. If all goes as expected, he will be the number one pick in the 2022 NFL Draft by Houston.
2. Detroit Lions: QB Sam Howell, North Carolina
Like the Texans, it’s rebuilding time for the Detroit Lions as well. They went through many changes this offseason including hiring a new general manager and head coach while also trading away franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for Jared Goff and a package of draft picks. It seems unlikely that Goff is their future plan at quarterback so they will probably look to the draft for an answer. With how weak their current roster construction is, they should be selecting very high and will have the opportunity to take one of the top quarterback prospects in Sam Howell.
In two seasons as the starting quarterback for the Tar Heels, Howell has passed for 7227 yards with 68 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions. Many scouts believe that he is the best pure pocket passer available with the best arm talent in the country. While he is less dangerous with his legs than some of the other quarterback options, he is still mobile enough to roll out of the pocket and make things happen on the move. A big season in 2021 for Howell will put him right in the mix to be a top selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.
3. New York Jets: EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
The Jets are a team that has already started a rebuild of their own, bringing in a new head coach this offseason and drafting their quarterback Zach Wilson at second overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. They are making progress in roster construction but they aren’t quite there yet so another high draft pick is likely coming this year. Here they will get the opportunity to select one of the best overall players in the country in Thibodeaux, who has 12 sacks and 23.5 TFL in his two seasons so far. He will improve their pass rush immediately, pairing up with newly signed Carl Lawson, and make their defense better as a whole. Their new defensive-minded head coach Robert Saleh would be thrilled to add this type of player to the roster.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Derek Stingley Jr, LSU
The Eagles have been rebuilding their offense in recent years, filling it with a ton of young talent such as QB Jalen Hurts, RB Miles Sanders, WR Jalen Reagor, and WR DeVonta Smith. It’s now time to start focusing on the future of the defense. Stingley is not only the top cornerback prospect in the draft but one of the best overall players too. In two seasons he has recorded six interceptions and is widely classified as a lockdown corner with elite athleticism. LSU is notorious for producing good defensive backs, such as Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, so Stingley is hopeful to be the next one in line. He has all of the tools to be an NFL starter from day one and would be a great tandem next to Darius Slay in Philly.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: DB Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
It’s a new era in Jacksonville now that they have a generational talent at quarterback with rookie Trevor Lawrence and an exciting new head coach in college legend Urban Meyer. The combination of the two, along with a very young and talented roster, provides a ton of optimism for a bright future. This is probably not the year where it all comes together for the Jags quite yet, so they will likely still have a very high draft pick. This gives them a great opportunity to select a uniquely elite talent on defense in Hamilton. He is a super-utility defensive back who can contribute in a wide variety of ways. He will help in just about every area of defense with no holes at all in his game. In terms of skill set and usage, he is a similar style of a player as Derwin James. If he can produce like Derwin, he is an excellent building block for any defense in the entire NFL.
6. Atlanta Falcons: QB Malik Willis, Liberty
The Falcons are yet another team that is now rebuilding. This offseason they hired a young and exciting new head coach in Arthur Smith and traded away veteran WR Julio Jones. Current QB Matt Ryan will be 37 years old when the 2022 NFL Draft arrives so it is time to start thinking about the future of the most important position in Atlanta. Willis is an elite athlete with extreme raw talent and has some of the highest upside of any player in the entire country. He fits the modern-day style of NFL quarterback with his true dual-threat ability. In the 2020 season, he threw for 2250 yards with 20 touchdowns and added an additional 944 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. Smith is a progressive and new school style of coach so a player like Willis may really get him excited. This would be an interesting pairing to watch with unlimited creative potential if it works out.
7. New York Giants: EDGE Drake Jackson, USC
With head coach Joe Judge in charge, the Giants have shown that they are going to focus on defense as a priority. They are already solid in the secondary with players like James Bradberry and Logan Ryan while they look to improve their pass rush by trading for Leonard Williams and drafting Azeez Ojulari. They can continue to make progress in this department with one of the top-ranked EDGE prospects in Jackson. He looks the part at 6’4 and 255 pounds with good athleticism and a consistently improving skill set. There are good signs that he will continue to develop and polish his game as he further matures. In 17 games played at USC, he has totaled 7.5 sacks and 17 TFL.
8. Cincinnati Bengals: OL Evan Neal, Alabama
The Bengals have really built a young and talented offense of the future in Cincinnati. Two years ago they selected QB Joe Burrow with the first overall pick and also took WR Tee Higgins, who had a very impressive rookie season. In the 2021 NFL Draft, they went with a WR again in Ja’Marr Chase with their first pick, who was the favorite target of Burrow when they played together at LSU. Now that Burrow has the weapons he needs on offense, it’s time for the organization to focus on protecting him at all costs. Neal is currently the highest rated offensive line prospect and should be an easy pick for the Bengals if he is available when they are on the clock. He has the ability to play either guard or tackle and will look to join a very long list of successful Alabama offensive lineman at the NFL level.
9. Las Vegas Raiders: LB Christian Harris, Alabama
It seems like it’s always been an adventure in recent years when the Raiders are on the clock. By most standards, they have often “reached” with their selections and have been overall unpredictable about the way they are trying to build the roster of this team. It almost feels like a sort of randomness at times from owner Mark Davis, GM Mike Mayock, and HC Jon Gruden on draft day. Some of these selected players by the Raiders in the first round in recent years that qualify for this label are Clelin Ferrell, Damon Arnette, Henry Ruggs, and Alex Leatherwood. The one thing that all of these players have in common is that they come from the very top college programs in the country. Maybe they stick with that trend and select the top LB prospect, who happens to be from Alabama, but who really knows when it comes to the Raiders.
10. Carolina Panthers: EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue
The Panthers are well aware that they need to improve on the defensive side of the ball and they began working on it by selecting CB Jaycee Horn with their first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. It’s a good start to the process, but the main thing they really need now is more of a pass rush. In the 2020 season, they ranked 24th in the NFL with just 29 total sacks on the season. Karlaftis is a solid all-around player who could immediately help them in this category. In his freshman season in 2019, he recorded an impressive 7.5 sacks and 17 TFL across 12 games played. Unfortunately, a frustrating 2020 season filled with injuries and Covid issues only allowed for him to play in two games, but he still did find a way to add two more sacks to his career total. He is looking to have a big season in 2021 now that he is fully healthy again and is definitely a player to keep an eye on because of his great potential at a prime position.