Welcome to my way too early 2022 NFL mock draft. First off, I want to say thank you for choosing to read this article, as it means a lot. It takes a special person to read another mock draft article (after reading through so many during the mock draft season) just 28 days after the conclusion of the 2021 NFL draft and 336 days before the expected start of the 2022 draft.
This article is for the dedicated football fan, the addicted, and for fans who are simply curious as to who will get selected this time next year.
A few ground rules before we get going. This mock draft is only going to go to pick 18, considering that picks 1-18 are locked in before playoffs happen. I don’t want this piece to be a predictive article where I have to run through an imaginary playoff scenario to get you guys to pick 1-32.
However, I can predict which teams won’t make the playoffs pretty easily (the draft order below is based on what I think will happen). With that out of the way, let’s get started!
Pick 1. Houston Texans: Spencer Rattler, QB (Oklahoma)
Last season, the Texans won just four games WITH Deshaun Watson as Quarterback, JJ Watt rushing passers, and continuity at the head coaching position. Watt is now an Arizona Cardinal, David Culley is hired to be the fourth head coach in franchise history, and Deshaun Watson stated he didn’t want to play for the Texans ever again BEFORE his legal issues. Safe to say, I don’t see him playing this season, or for the Texans ever again.
Former first ranked QB of the 2019 class, Spencer Rattler is the next in line of the great Oklahoma Quarterback’s lineage. He had a little bit of an up and down beginning of his college career but managed to finish top ten in passing yards (10th with 3,031) & touchdowns (8th with 28) while completing 67.5% of his passes with just seven interceptions.
Rattler would be amongst the top in the NFL as far as arm talent goes the moment he gets drafted, as he can make every NFL throw and make them look effortless. He also possesses great improvisation skills and an underrated ability to get yards with his legs. He reminds me of a smaller Patrick Mahomes and will be a franchise quarterback for the Texans for many years.
Pick 2. Detroit Lions: Emory Jones, QB
Joe Burrow in 2020, Zach Wilson last year.. notice a trend? A QB prospect NOBODY is talking about will be a top-three pick at their position. Trying to predict the unexpected, I have Emory Jones going 2nd overall to the Lions.
After trading away Matthew Stafford for first-round picks in the 2022 & 2023 (Also received a 21’ 3rd & Jared Goff in the deal) drafts, along with new coaching staff with Dan Campbell’s “Knee Biting” identity, it’s obvious the Lions are in rebuild mode. Step one of the rebuild will be finding a franchise QB, which Jared Goff is not.
Emory Jones is a former four-star quarterback and the fifth-ranked dual-threat of his class. He flipped from Ohio State to be the first Quarterback to sign with Florida after Dan Mullen was hired in 2017.
He will get his first opportunity to start in his third collegiate season, so this prediction is a complete shot in the dark, but we’ve seen one-hit wonders get drafted early plenty of times in the past (Joe Burrow, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance & Mitchell Trubisky just to name a few).
Emory Jones offers a special dual-threat ability at the quarterback position and has a very live arm. This projection may be a head-scratcher now, but keep an eye on Emory Jones. A surprise happens every year.
Pick 3. Jets: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE (Oregon)
The Jets drafted their franchise quarterback in this year’s draft, so they’ll keep their defensive-minded coach happy and draft arguably the best pass-rushing prospect since Myles Garrett and the best overall prospect in the 2022 draft.
The number two overall prospect in the 2019 class, Kayvon Thibodeaux has 12 sacks and a forced fumble in two seasons at Oregon and looks to be dominant this year and be a top-three pick.
Robert Salah had success in San Francisco when he had a plethora of pass rushers, as he looks to make newly signed Carl Lawson & Thibodeaux a dynamic duo.
Pick 4. Eagles: Malik Willis, QB (Liberty)
As much as it pains me to say this coming from an OU fan, I just don’t see a way Jalen Hurts saves his job at Quarterback. Although a very limited sample size, Hurts went just 1-3 and completed only 52% of his passes.
Not only that, but I believe the Eagles would’ve selected a quarterback in this year’s draft before trading down, as they showed their hand by trading down from pick 6 to 12 IMMEDIATELY after the 49ers traded up to pick three overall. In my opinion, they made that move because they were targeting a QB at pick 6 but felt as if they wouldn’t land their guy after the 49ers moved up.
Willis threw for 2,260 yards last season and 20 touchdowns in the air (only 6 interceptions) along with a staggering 944 yards on the ground with an additional 14 scores.
He capped off his breakout season by beating 12th ranked Coastal Carolina in the cure bowl, as he threw for 220 yards and added 137 yards & four touchdowns on the ground.
The Liberty Flames has a chance to go undefeated this season, led by Willis as he looks to build on his breakout season. His rocket of an arm and mobility will put him in the Heisman race and will excite NFL scouts.
Pick 5. Raiders: Sam Howell, QB (North Carolina)
After trading away Trent Brown and Gabe Jackson this offseason, the Raiders reached big-time for Alex Leatherwood in the draft & proceeded to surround him with one of, if not the worst draft class in the league. With a worse offensive line and with an improved but still not a very good defense, along with being in the same division as Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert, I’m expecting the Raiders to be amongst the worst in the league next year.
Another season, another year Derek Carr doesn’t get the Raiders over the hump, and one has to think that his time as the team’s franchise QB is soon to be over if he can’t win games. One could also think that this move buys John Gruden and company more time at the helm.
A player comp I have for Sam Howell? An off-brand Baker Mayfield, as both stand at 6’1” around 220 pounds, and although they’re both not the most athletic of guys, they’re capable of buying time with their feet and making throws on the move.
Last season Howell was fourth in the nation in passing yards with 3,586 yards and sixth in touchdowns with 30. He completed 68% of his passes and only threw seven interceptions. Those stats have made him a top-three QB prospect by many, and even considered the best prospect at the position by some, but I’m projecting him to have a down year next year with his top two receivers and running backs last year now in the NFL.
That along with the quarterbacks above him in this mock being more dynamic and athletic than him will make him fall out of the top three at the position.
Pick 6. Jaguars: Derek Stingley Jr, CB (LSU)
The Jaguars focused on the back end of their defense in the draft by selecting Tyson Campbell and Andre Cisco before selecting a pass rusher. I wouldn’t call the secondary a HUGE need now, but Stingley would be the best player available and I don’t think Tyson Campbell should be the reason the Jaguars pass up on a player like him.
Stingley had an injury-riddled and inconsistent season last year, but his freshman tape (six interceptions & 15 pass breakups) is enough for him to be a top ten selection and the first cornerback taken off the board. Not including what I’m expecting to be a solid rebound year this season.
Pick 7. Bengals: Thayer Munford, OT (Ohio State)
Cincinnati’s first overall pick, Joe Burrow tore his ACL & MCL in his first season under center thanks to a gaudy offensive line. So one would think they’d address the offensive line pick five overall in this year’s draft right? Wrong. The Bengals ended up selecting Joe Burrow’s college teammate, Wide Receiver Ja’Marr Chase with the selection.
The Bengals will select in the top ten until they shore up their offensive line. Of the 512 total snaps taken in 2020, Munford had zero penalties committed and his 91.8 PFF grade ranks first among all remaining tackles. Munford projects to be a franchise left tackle in the NFL.
Pick 8. Titans: Drake London, WR (USC)
This may be a shock to many, but I’m expecting the Titans to take a massive step back this season. Why do you ask? The Titans tallied 19 sacks last season, only ahead of Cincinnati and Jacksonville. Even though they struggled in that department, the Titans didn’t select a pass rusher until Rashad Weaver in the fourth round.
Not only that, but this offense has lost Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, and Jonnu Smith this offseason, which accounts for 129 receptions, 1,660 yards, and 15 touchdowns.
Even with the signing of Bud Dupree, this defense will still be in the bottom ten in the league as far as rushing the QB goes, and they’ve lost a lot of underrated talent on the offensive side of the ball.
USC’s Drake London is 6’5” 210 pounds and was a former four-star basketball recruit before committing 100% to football, proving he’s an elite athlete.
He reminds me of Mike Evans with his big-play ability for a guy his size and the best is only yet to come as he will be moving to the outside full time (72 receptions, 1,069 yards & eight touchdowns out of the slot the last two seasons). He has great ball skills, body control, and is a strong runner of the ball after the catch. Watch out for him to break out in a big way this upcoming season.
He will give the Titans a much needed improved presence on the outside (with the versatility to play in the slot) to take the pressure off of AJ Brown, and with a nice second-round selection on a pass rusher (such as Iowa State’s Will McDonald), the Titans could be back on track again.
Pick 9. Panthers: Kyle Hamilton, S (Notre Dame)
After stealing Jeremy Chinn in the 2020 draft & taking Jaycee Horn at pick eight to be the first Cornerback selected in this year’s draft, the Panthers have the opportunity to create one of the youngest and most exciting secondaries in the league.
At 6’4” 220 pounds with a 40 inch vertical and a 40-yard dash that probably will be in the 4.4’s, Hamilton is an absolute freak with a versatility to his game that reminds me of Isiah Simmons. He very well could be the best player in the draft, and although it may sound odd, might be this year’s Kyle Pitts, as a player who’s an elite athlete that is considered the best player in the draft by many although they play at a not as valuable position as his peers in the first round.
Pick 10. Steelers: Obinna Eze, OT (TCU)
In what will probably be Ben Roethlisberger’s last season, he won’t end his career on a high note, as I’m projecting the Steelers to have a rough season. One of Pittsburgh’s biggest needs this past draft was an offensive tackle due to the impending free agency of Alejandro Villanueva (Signed with the Ravens), not to mention their tackle depth behind him of Zach Banner & Chukwuma Okorafor isn’t the most reliable of options. Not addressing the tackle position until round four and having a 39-year-old statue of a quarterback is a recipe for disaster.
In comes the MASSIVE Obinna Eze. The 6’8” 315 pounder has 25 games of experience starting at Left Tackle at Memphis before taking his talents to TCU. Besides his sheer size and length, he has excellent lateral mobility for a guy his size and if he can polish his game a little more & improve his consistency, he can easily be a first-round selection in next year’s draft due to the upside he offers at the position. Although Big Ben will retire, having a good protection for Dwayne Haskins will be important.
Pick 11. Giants (Bears): Kedon Slovis, QB (USC)
With Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepherd, Darius Slayton, John Ross, Evan Engram, and Kyle Rudolph, this season is do or die for Daniel Jones. Anything but a playoff birth will probably be the end to Daniel Jones’s starting tenure for the Giants, and possibly in the NFL.
As a true Freshman Kedon Slovis erupted on the scene as USC’s starting quarterback his Freshmen year, and never gave the job back to former five-star recruit, and now Georgia Bulldog, J.T. Daniels as he threw for 3,502 yards and 30 touchdowns on nine interceptions while completing 71.9% of his passes.
In half as many games last year, Slovis managed 1,921 passing yards along with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions (67% completion percentage).
Slovis is one of the more NFL-ready quarterbacks’s in the 2022 draft class with excellent mechanics and accuracy on all levels of the field. New York will push restart at the quarterback position, but he will walk into a perfect situation with plenty of weapons to throw to.
Pick 12. Falcons: Kaiir Elam, CB (Florida)
Atlanta had one of the worst pass defenses in the league last season. A.J. Terrell is a young prospect to try to build around, but the team’s options outside of him aren’t really promising, and Darren Hall or Avery Williams (fourth and fifth-round rookies) won’t push the needle either.
The son of former NFL Saftey Abram Elam has five interceptions and 15 passes defended in his career so far. For context, his 6’2” 193-pound frame is eerily similar to Derek Stingley Jr’s 6’1” 195-pound frame, with production that out-produces his four-star high school rating and matches up closer to Stingley’s five-star rating (6 interceptions & 20 passes defended). He will greatly help out Atlanta’s horrid secondary and can develop into the teams’ number one corner.
Pick 13. Giants: Evan Neal, OT (Alabama)
Coming into the draft, the Giants’ biggest need by many was help along the offensive line, but the team proceeded to draft ZERO offensive line prospects.
Evan Neal is the former number one offensive line prospect in the 2019 class (seventh player overall in the nation). He has experience at left guard, played right tackle last year, and projects to be Alabama’s starting left tackle next season.
The 6’7” 360-pound prospect might not project to be a left tackle at the next level, but offers versatility all along the line and can fill in a hole somewhere in the Giants’ offensive line.
Pick 14. Broncos: Nik Bonnito, EDGE (Oklahoma)
The Broncos selected Baron Browning in the third round of this year’s draft and plans to use the versatile Linebacker primarily at the inside linebacker position. That leaves a need still at the outside linebacker position, as Von Miller will be a 33-year-old free agent next summer and is coming off of an ankle tendon injury that kept him out all of last year.
The Broncos need to find his successor and someone to pair with Bradley Chubb, especially since they lost underrated pass rusher Jeremiah Attaochu this offseason to the Bears.
Bonnito is one of the best pass rushers returning to college football next season, as he totaled 8.5 sacks last year (12 sacks in the last two seasons). According to PFF, he had the highest pressure percentage against power five offensive linemen last season (26%) & had the most QB pressures among Big-12 defenders. He ranks as their top returning defensive lineman and will give Denver a much-needed pass rush boost.
Pick 15. Saints: John Metchie iii, WR (Alabama)
The New Orleans Saints lost Emmanuel Sanders & Jared Cook this offseason, and only addressed the pass weapons department with the selection of Kawaan Baker in the seventh round of this year’s draft.
Needless to say, this team needs to look at drafting pass targets in 2022, as their number two receiver is Tre’Quan Smith, who has never had more than 448 yards in his career.
Alabama speedster John Metchie had 55 receptions, 916 yards, and six touchdowns last season for the Crimson Tide even with Devonta Smith & Jaylen Waddle stealing a large portion of the target share. Being the “guy” next season, I expect Metchie to be amongst, if not lead college football in receiving yards next season & will allow Michael Thomas more room to operate.
Pick 16. Vikings: Brandon Joseph, S (Northwestern)
By the time the draft comes around, the Safety position will the be Vikings’ biggest need. Anthony Harris left the team for the Eagles, Harrison Smith is getting older & newly signed Xavier Woods signed just a one-year deal this offseason as the Vikings could potentially part ways with both of their starting safeties next offseason.
Brandon Joseph erupted onto the scene as a redshirt freshman last year, as he had 52 total tackles (28 solo) with a whopping SIX interceptions (tied for the lead in all of college football) and two passes defended. He should build on that and only be better in his Redshirt Sophomore season, becoming a first-round pick.
Pick 17. Dolphins (49ers): DeMarvin Leal, DL (Texas A&M)
The Dolphins drafted Jaelan Phillips in this year’s draft, but still has needs at the defensive end spot & needs defensive tackle help. Adding the versatile DeMarvin Leal would be a great value here at pick 17.
Leal is a former five-star recruit and the second-ranked defensive tackle in the nation in the 2019 recruiting class. He has 75 total tackles, 4.5 sacks, a fumble forced, fumble recovery, and an interception in his first two seasons, and should breakout this upcoming season. A lot of versatility and upside here.
Pick 18. Patriots: David Bell, WR (Purdue)
May I introduce one of my favorite receivers in this year’s draft class, David Bell? In his Freshman season, Bell had 86 receptions, 1,035 yards & seven touchdowns. As a Sophomore in just SIX games, he produced 53 receptions, 625 yards, and eight scores.
The Patriots invested in Hunter Henry & Jonnu Smith to give the tight end position a massive facelift, but the Wide Receiver position will need to be addressed, as the team’s current depth chart has just Nelson Agholor, N’Keal Harry, Kendrick Bourne & Jakobi Meyers.