The NFL regular season has come to a close, and while the completed draft order is yet to be set, teams needs are known. With that being said it’s never too early to start a mock draft, and this is the first of many to come over the next few months.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Offensive Tackle, Evan Neal-Alabama
Many people have the Jaguars taking an edge rusher with the first overall pick but I don’t. The Jaguars defense in terms of edge still has Josh Allen, and the potential is still there with K’Lavon Chaisson. So instead, after drafting their franchise quarterback in Trevor Lawrence last year, they make sure to protect him this year by drafting Evan Neal. A great pass protector, as well as someone who plays with outstanding power to be able to help immensely in the run game, will stand out to the Jaguars as they look to get both James Robinson and Travis Etienne back healthy and play a huge role on the ground. He has the skill set to play either left or right tackle and this versatility combined with his power to move defenders makes him the attractive choice for the Jaguars to upgrade their offense.
- Detroit Lions: Edge, Aidan Hutchinson-Michigan
With the hometown player now still on the board, it’s a no-brainer the Lions go with Aidan Hutchinson. The Lions defensive front has been among the lowest in terms of getting pressure on quarterbacks. With the impressive season Hutchinson has had accumulating 14 sacks, he fits the type of defense Dan Campbell wants to run. His body control, length, quickness, and the havoc he causes will help provide a much-needed boost to this Lions defense. Not only that but the leadership characteristics he showed at Michigan with getting teammates adjusted and aligned correctly is the type of player this defense needs.
- Houston Texans: Edge, Kayvon Thibodeaux- Oregon
Just like the Lions, the Texans also rank among the lowest in terms of getting pressure on quarterbacks. So with the top edge rusher off the board, they go with Kayvon Thibodeaux, the next best player available. Just like Hutchinson, Thibodeaux plays with an electric style off the edge and plays with a lot of power. The Texans have the second-lowest pressure percentage in the NFL which has put a massive amount of pressure on their secondary. Adding a guy like Thibodeaux would automatically help boost this pass rush area on defense with his savvy techniques to get good angles on tackles and plays with an explosive first step.
- New York Jets: Safety, Kyle Hamilton- Notre Dame
While a lot of people also think Derek Stingley, the cornerback from LSU, is the consensus right now for the Jets I have a different view. As of right now, Stingley’s injury history is a little worrisome to take him this high in the draft, plus I have the Jets getting a cornerback in free agency to bring an experienced cornerback to play opposite of Bryce Hall. While they could also go edge, they still have Carl Lawson who they never saw hit the field this year due to his preseason injury. So this leads to them adding an elite player to their safety position in Kyle Hamilton, who is a do it all player back in the secondary that can read offenses effectively and play from sideline to sideline. With Hamilton he is a “generational” safety with his IQ ability to read offenses and get to the ball even before the receiver, the Jets missed on Jamal Adams but they get redemption with Hamilton.
- New York Giants: Center, Tyler Linderbaum- Iowa
When the Giants made their Super Bowl runs with Eli Manning at quarterback, they were great in the trenches. The offensive line for quarterback Daniel Jones has not been great for him so far. Giving Jones more time behind an upgraded offensive line would give the team a good look to see what they have in Jones and if they need to pick a quarterback in the 2023 draft. Not to mention drafting a center would allow Nick Gates whenever he is healthy to come back, revert to the guard position, and compete for that starting role. Finding a generational center like Linderbaum is hard to come by, and if you look at how interior lineman like Quenton Nelson and Creed Humphrey have fared, the Giants follow suit. Having a good center unlocks a dominant run game, and that is something they weren’t able to do in 2021, but now with Linderbaum they will look to do it in 2022.
- Carolina Panthers: Offensive Tackle, Ikem Ekwonu- NC State
The Panthers offensive line has not been great this year and has left Sam Darnold and even Cam Newton with no time to execute offensively. The Panthers still have Darnold under contract for one more year so instead of going with a quarterback at this spot, they go with tackle Ikem Ekwonu. In the 2021 season, Ekwonu allowed only three sacks on 500 pass-block snaps and only 10 hurries, and he has a run block grade of 93.8 according to PFF. Not to mention if an improved offensive line doesn’t help Darnold, they can start “building” around their quarterback of the future that they could get in next year’s draft or even a developmental guy in the later rounds. The Panthers goal with Matt Rhule still as their head coach is to get back to establishing the run, and Ekwonu with his length and hand placement has allowed him to maximize run lanes in college.
- New York Giants: Offensive Tackle, Charles Cross- Mississippi State
With how much talent and depth this edge class has the Giants wait until the second round to address this. With their center now secured they address the next biggest need on their offensive line and that is the tackle position. They end up drafting tackle Charles Cross, who has ideal athleticism and great length to make him an ideal prospect on this Giants offensive line. The Giants with Linderbaum will help the run game and get Cross who is consistent in run blocking but thrives when it comes to pass protection as he had 719 pass-blocking snaps in 2021 and allowed only 16 pressures. Going with two offensive linemen in the first round will help their offense try to get some type of production going next season.
- Atlanta Falcons: Edge, George Karlaftis- Purdue
Matt Ryan has still been a good quarterback in the NFL as he put up his highest completion percentage since 2018 with 67% and threw for 3,986 yards and 20 touchdowns. While they could use improvements on the offensive line, specifically guard, to help protect Ryan, they go with edge rusher George Karlaftis instead. Throughout his collegiate career, Karlaftis has played with refined shredding techniques and motor to get to the quarterback. The strongest player the Falcons have is Grady Jarrett who hasn’t been as effective this year because he gets double and even triple-teamed, you draft a guy like Karlaftis and they should get back to being able to generate pressure. Getting this boost on defense should help their pass rush that finished with the lowest pressure percentage in the NFL and take some of the pressure off of the offense.
- Denver Broncos: Linebacker, Nakobe Dean- Georgia
With Matt Corral’s injury and a possible return to college, the Broncos don’t go quarterback as they pick up Mitchell Trubisky in free agency or even possibly make a trade for Jordan Love. They then go on to bulk up their defense with a star linebacker in Nakobe Dean out of Georgia and will target the offensive line in the second round. Dean at this spot is a can’t miss, the Broncos have struggled in this area and Dean has the athletic traits and mental processing to play as a pass rusher and out in coverage. When out in coverage he has the speed and the range to cover sideline to sideline as shown by his tenth most coverage stops with 19 and passer rating of only 31.3 allowed. In addition, this speed translates to him being able to rush off the edge as a blitzer.
- New York Jets: IOL, Kenyon Green- Texas A&M
Now the Jets go with the Joe Douglas usual ways of doing things by bulking up the trenches, specifically in the interior of the offensive line. They draft guard Kenyon Green to protect their franchise quarterback in Zach Wilson. Green is great at creating running lanes which is good news for Michael Carter as well. Green is the type of player that makes an instant impact whenever he steps on the field playing with great strength and an aggressive playstyle. Not to mention when it comes to pass protection he is stellar as he has a solid anchor and football IQ to counter defenders and slow their momentum as shown by allowing only five sacks over three seasons. After the recent Buffalo Bills game where Wilson was sacked nine times, Green will help with lessening this in 2022.
- Washington Football Team: Quarterback, Kenny Pickett- Pittsburgh
Taylor Heinicke has done a good job being a game manager in Washington’s offense, but he has his limitations. So they go out and get Kenny Pickett as the first quarterback off the board. Pickett has shown he can make accurate throws and has great decision-making skills. During his time at Pittsburgh he has shown he is comfortable in the pocket and calm under pressure still going through his progressions but has the ability to run when needed. What Washington’s offensive coordinator Scott Turner looks for in a quarterback is someone who is athletic, and accurate and Pickett is both of those things.
- Minnesota Vikings: Cornerback, Ahmad Gardner- Cincinnati
In a division that has speedy receivers like Davante Adams, Darnell Mooney, and even the rise of Amon-Ra St. Brown, the Vikings secondary needs help at the cornerback position. They will also have a decision to make with Patrick Peterson being a free agent. With that, they take lockdown cornerback Ahmad Gardner who had never allowed a touchdown over his college career even when going against Jameson Williams. Gardner’s ability to be a lockdown corner is because of his length to impact the catch point and his speed to keep up with receivers.
- Cleveland Browns: Wide Receiver, Chris Olave- Ohio State
The Browns had already picked up Baker Mayfield’s fifth-year option, and they have re-signed everyone on their offensive line to keep the consistency. The one thing the Browns need to improve on is their wide receiving core and what better way to do so than getting Chris Olave. The receiver out of Ohio State is one of the best route running receivers in this class. The large route-running tree as well as his release off the line of scrimmage will allow him to transfer into the Browns offense with ease. This is all something the Browns offense had been missing with the disconnect between Odell Beckham Jr. and Mayfield, leaving Jarvis Landry as their only reliable target. Inserting Olave into this offense would provide Mayfield with a receiver who can get down the field quickly and provides a reliable target who rarely drops the ball.
- Baltimore Ravens: Cornerback, Andrew Booth Jr.- Clemson
The Baltimore Ravens sustained a lot of injuries to the cornerback room over the 2021 season. The Ravens go with Andrew Booth Jr., someone who is a great fit to come in and immediately compete for a starting role. The Ravens love to play man defense, and Booth can play both but where he thrives with his physical nature is in man defense. Booth is a sticky player in coverage playing with loose hips and anticipation skills. In a division getting youthful with talent at the wide receiver position, something the Ravens struggled to slow down, Booth would be a welcomed addition.
- Philadelphia Eagles: Wide Receiver, Jameson Williams- Alabama
Outside of DeVonte Smith, Jalen Reagor has struggled this year for the Eagles whether it’s not being on the same page or dropping passes from Jalen Hurts. They thrived with their pick of Smith out of Alabama so with that luck they dip into that again with Jameson Williams. Williams would provide another receiver who can stretch the field with his speed and can make defenders miss in space to gain yards after the catch. With his ability to average 9.4 yards after the catch, he also provides someone the Eagles can use underneath in the slot and just let Williams work on getting upfield proving Hurts a safe option.
- Philadelphia Eagles: Edge, David Ojabo- Michigan
Overshadowed a bit by the year Aidan Hutchinson had was the stellar year David Ojabo had. The spin move combined with the speed Ojabo has helps him get into the backfield at an exponential rate which led to 42 pressures in 2021. Currently at one of their edge spots they have Fletcher Cox who is currently in his tenth year, you draft Ojabo here who has tremendous upside to learn under Cox and take over when needed on a rotational basis. Ojabo can convert his speed to power with his elite physical traits and has the length for a large tackle radius. The Eagles can be patient with him and really unlock his full potential going forward.
- Los Angeles Chargers: Defensive Interior, Jordan Davis- Georgia
Brandon Staley came from a defense that has a 6’1” 260 pound Aaron Donald on it for the interior and didn’t really have that this season which led to a lack in run defense. So to bulk up and improve the run defense they draft Jordan Davis on the interior. At his size of 6’6”, 340 pounds, Davis possesses unique athleticism and explosiveness to get into the backfield and completely close running lanes. Davis is a player that will need to be double-teamed, and that will take some of that off of Joey Bosa on the edge. With his power, he may not always get off blocks but he can easily push linemen back into the quarterback. And again when it comes to the run he is one of the best with a run-stop rate of 12.5% and this is what the Chargers need going forward.
- New Orleans Saints: Wide Receiver, Garrett Wilson- Ohio State
The Saints end up bringing back Jameis Winston in free agency so with quarterback not a need they surround Winston with what he was missing and that is a true wide receiver one with Michael Thomas who was out for the year. The Saints draft Garrett Wilson, to come in and make an immediate impact by providing the offense with an explosive weapon. In 2020 he played 188 snaps in the slot, then in 2021 played 306 snaps out wide so the Saints are also getting a versatile receiver they can move around based on the matchups. Of his 1,058 yards in 2021, 322 yards came from deep passes and Winston is the type of player who loves to take those deep passes.
- Philadelphia Eagles: Cornerback, Derek Stingley Jr. -LSU
The Eagles have had great play lately from their corners in Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox but could still use depth at this position. With both corners playing well they can take the chance on Derek Stingley Jr. who falls due to his injury history and slight inconsistencies between 2020 and 2021. Yet the Eagles provide a great situation for Stingley to come in and adapt without the pressure to start right away. In 2019 he showcased that he has active feet, mirrors receivers off the line, and has high levels of football IQ. If the Eagles give him time to get back to being comfortable and playing at a high-level Stingley can thrive in this defense against receivers like Terry McLaurin, CeeDee Lamb, and so forth.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Offensive Tackle, Trevor Penning- Northern Iowa
The trend for the Steelers as they try to rebuild their offensive line is to go with more athletic guys and at this spot in the draft, Trevor Penning is as athletic as they come. He has shown the ability to be a great run blocker with his urgency and toughness to create running lanes, the Steelers drafted Najee Harris last year and a guy like Penning will help Harris find those running lanes. He has great length and moves very fluidly in pass protection as well with quick feet to handle counter moves as showcased by not allowing two sacks over the last two seasons.
- New England Patriots: Cornerback, Trent McDuffie- Washington
The Patriots defense was a top unit in 2021 allowing only an average of 17 points per game. Yet when it came to spread offenses like the Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Chargers they scored 30+ on them. That is because their depth at cornerback wasn’t spectacular, so to deal with this they draft Trent McDuffie. With a defensive mind like Bill Belichick, McDuffie fits into this scheme, he can be used in man coverage with his short-area agility or in zone coverage with his great awareness skills. Out of the 702 coverage snaps he played in 2021, he was only targeted 36 times and only allowed 16 receptions for 111 yards. Belichick also loves his players who can contribute on special teams and McDuffie can do so with his great ball tracking skills and speed.
- Miami Dolphins: Linebacker, Devin Lloyd- Utah
Yes, the Dolphins need to invest in an offensive line to protect Tua Tagovailoa to see what they have in him, but doing it in the draft with younger guys is not the way to go. So with the thought of them addressing the offensive line in free agency they then move to the defensive side of things and address the linebacker position with Devin Lloyd. A sure tackler who can rush the passer, while in coverage he does allow yardage he limits anything after the catch. The Dolphins secondary and defensive line are pretty solidified so they now get Lloyd and solidify the linebacker unit as well. With his football instincts to diagnose both run and pass plays, he has the ability to be a three-down linebacker for this Dolphins defense.
- Las Vegas Raiders: Interior Defensive Line, Devonte Wyatt- Georgia
The Raiders have four defensive tackles set to be free agents in the offseason and it will most likely be the interior they decide to upgrade within the draft. Devonte Wyatt has great size and power to rush the passer along with help in stopping the run. During 2021 he has a pass rush win rate of 13.2% and a run-stop rate of 11.2%. Wyatt has the burst to penetrate gaps and make tackles for losses. When going against quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert, having a guy like Wyatt who can get into the backfield for a sack or even stop running backs will be a huge boost for this Raiders defensive front.
- Arizona Cardinals: Cornerback, Roger McCreary- Auburn
The Cardinals need stability at the cornerback position with 33-year old Robert Alford on a one-year deal. To keep a void at this position from happening they get a physical cornerback in Roger McCreary. McCreary can do it all, he can mirror receivers in man coverage and has the instincts and awareness to play well in zone. With how sticky he plays he limits yards after the catch for receivers, and with his ball skills, he leads the SEC in pass breakups. McCreary is also a sound tackler in both the pass and run, which when you’re in a division with a hybrid player like Deebo Samuel, having a guy like McCreary to match up against him will make life easier on the defense.
- Cincinnati Bengals: Offensive Tackle, Bernhard Raimann- Central Michigan
From picking inside the top five to now the back half of the draft the Bengals rebuild is paying off. Last year they elected to go with wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase over Penei Sewell which proved to be the right choice with the chemistry between Chase and Joe Burrow. Now though in a year where Burrow took 51 sacks they need to address the offensive line. To protect Burrow they draft Bernhard Raimann, a standout tackle who was converted over to a lineman from the tight end position. With that, it could give the Bengals an option on offense to cook up some trick plays in the red zone with Raimann. This is just a testament to the athleticism Raimann has, he is stellar in pass protection as he has only one sack and four hits over two seasons. This would help with reducing the sacks and give Burrow more time to find his playmakers.
- Buffalo Bills: IOL, Zion Johnson- Boston College
The part on the offensive line that needs improvement or at least depth is the interior. Left guard Zion Johnson here makes sense, after transferring to Boston College Johnson became a starter for three seasons. He has the plug-and-play ability and has the mentality of always looking for work and finishing blocks. Johnson with his anchor, hand technique, and lateral mobility allow him to be a balanced blocker for both the pass and creating run lanes. This would not only help Josh Allen by decreasing the amount of pressure from the middle that he faced in 2021, but also open up run lanes for Devin Singletary within the tackles to make the offense fully functional. In 2020 Johnson also played at left tackle for 704 snaps so he would provide a person the Bills could move over there in case of an emergency if Dion Dawkins has to miss a game as he did in 2021.
- Detroit Lions(via Los Angeles Rams): Wide Receiver, Drake London- USC
With both Kalif Raymond and Josh Reynolds being free agents and already addressing the defensive line, the Lions go with their next biggest need at wide receiver. Last year they drafted a shifty speedster in Amon-Ra St. Brown from USC who has been an essential piece in this offense so they go back to the USC pipeline. With that, they draft a contested-catch receiver in Drake London to help Jared Goff out. London at 6’5” can get over defensive backs and has strong hands to win in 50/50 situations, not to mention he does a great job separating at the top of his route to be a vertical threat for the Lions. Although his ankle is a concern after breaking it on October 30, 2021, if he can show that he can put up the 1,084 yards and 22 broken tackles in eight games before the injury he should be a boost to the Lions offense.
- Dallas Cowboys: Safety, Jordan Battle- Alabama
The Cowboys went defense last year with Micah Parsons, and they bulk up their defense again with Jordan Battle at safety. A versatile safety that can play both deep after and then also come downhill to combat the run is what the Cowboys need. While Trevon Diggs is the interception player on defense, Battle would be the player to force fumbles with his precise timing and ability to do so shown during his time at Alabama. Showcases great athleticism with his fluid hip movements to track receivers downfield and closes out with a physical tackle which has led to him being able to jar the ball loose from receivers. Adding a disruptive player to an already disruptive young defense is what the Cowboys do with this pick to keep adding talent.
- Kansas City Chiefs: Edge, Jermaine Johnson- Florida State
While the Chiefs defense turned things around after moving Chris Jones on the inside instead of on the edge and signing Melvin Ingram they still aren’t completely solid on this defensive line. Jermaine Johnson is an impact player who is quick off the edge and takes precise angles. His length plays a huge factor as he can tackle outside his frame and sheds blocks very easily. He plays with a very consistent motor to consistently make an impact on the defense. While the Chiefs also need help at receiver they can get that in the second round, grabbing an instant starter in Johnson here is a better fit for the Chiefs.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Edge, Travon Walker- Georgia
This defensive line for the Buccaneers isn’t getting any younger and they will have a massive amount of free agents to try and deal with coming up this offseason. So with this position in the draft, they get a versatile lineman in Trevon Walker who can play on the edge to replace Jason Pierre-Paul or on the inside to replace Ndamukong Suh. As a pass rusher, Walker has an incredible get-off time and can get through gaps with his twitch movements. In the run game, he has a great anchor to close gaps, and quickness to close on the ball carriers in the open field.
- Tennessee Titans: Linebacker, Christian Harris- Alabama
The Titans linebacker core could take a hit in free agency with Harold Landry, Rashaan Evans, and Jaylon Brown’s contracts expiring. With the defensive minded coach Mike Vrabel is a guy like Christian Harris stands out at this spot. By the time their next pick comes they’re looking at possibly decreased depth at this position for an instant starter. Harris has an athletic background and fits the linebacker role with a strong upper body and ideal frame to cover running backs and tight ends. He shines in pass coverage with a good change of direction, and in the run game has good losing speed to make him a three-down linebacker. There are one areas he can work on, but with a coach like Vrabel, he would be able to easily transition.
- Green Bay Packers: Wide Receiver, Treylon Burks- Arkansas
Aaron Rodgers has been asking the Packers now for a couple of drafts to get wide receivers, and now they have Davante Adams Marquez Valdez-Scantling as free agents. I would expect them to franchise tag Adams then draft a receiver in Treylon Burks. Primarily playing out of the slot with 222 snaps this last season Burks had 545 yards out of his 1,100 total. He is a shifty receiver who is great at forcing missed tackles as showcased by the 15 in his 2021 season. Rodgers loves receivers he can depend on, and out of 88 targets, Burks only dropped four passes in 2021. For a slot receiver at 6’3”, 225 pounds it also allows him to win on 50/50 balls in addition to his understanding of how to position his body correctly to make the catch. With the -$37,234,232 the Packers have in cap space they will need to figure something out at receiver and what better way to do so than drafting a player like Burks.
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