Kiper’s Final Nfl Mock Draft: Projecting Thursday Night’s 32 Picks, With A Qb Surprise
Welcome to NFL draft day, the best day of the year. Who’s ready for one more mock draft? Round 1 of the 2022 draft begins Thursday night (coverage starts at 7 ET on ESPN, ABC and the ESPN app), and if you thought last year’s class was intriguing, you’re in for a treat.
We still don’t know for sure who the No. 1 pick will be — though we have a pretty good idea — and there are big questions about where the quarterbacks will go in the first round. Expect some chaos on Day 1, and maybe even a bunch more trades.
My updated Big Board — top 225 prospects overall — and position rankings went up Wednesday. I have graded more than 500 prospects for this class, close to double the 262 picks from Rounds 1 through 7. I’ll be on ESPN all weekend, and my grades for all 32 teams will be out late Saturday night.
Let’s get into my final 2022 mock draft, projecting all 32 first-round picks based on what I’m hearing and where I think prospects could come off the board. This is my first mock since Todd McShay and I went three rounds, alternating picks, so there are several changes. I didn’t project any trades here, but there undoubtedly will be a few. I just don’t see many teams willing to move up, so it’s tough to project them. Here’s how I see Round 1 as of now:
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
This pick has been leaning in this direction for the past week. The Jaguars must prefer what Walker could be over what Aidan Hutchinson already is (and I think Hutchinson will get even better). Walker is my ninth-ranked prospect. It would be extremely hard for me to take a guy at No. 1 who had 9.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss and one forced fumble in his entire three-year college career.
We’re going to be talking about Walker vs. Hutchinson for years to come. On my board, Hutchinson is the best prospect in this class. He dominated games in college, and he’s going to be a star for the Lions.
I’ve heard the talk about the Texans liking cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., but this is just too high for him. Ekwonu is a safe pick, and he could move over to the right side with Laremy Tunsil playing left tackle.
Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
In this scenario, the Jets are in a great spot, with both top cornerbacks on the board and all of the wide receivers still available. Could they go corner here and then wide receiver at No. 10? Gardner has the ability to shut down one side of the field.
Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
With two of the next three picks, the Giants have to come away with a starting right tackle. They should go ahead and take one here. Cross didn’t get many chances to show off his run blocking because of the pass-heavy Mississippi State offense, but I love his potential. And he could play right tackle on the other side of Andrew Thomas.
The Panthers are likely going to try to trade down because they don’t have any Day 2 picks. Which team wants to trade up, though? That’s the issue — they have to find a partner in order to do so. This is too high for a quarterback, and they have a clear need at left tackle. Neal is a devastating run-blocker with quick feet as a pass protector.
7. New York Giants (via CHI)
Jermaine Johnson II, DE, Florida State
I have Kayvon Thibodeaux ranked higher than Johnson, but it’s close. Johnson had 12 sacks last season, showing great bend off the edge. He’d be a great fit in Don Martindale’s defense.
I thought about Jordan Davis for the Falcons; he could be an immovable object in the middle of their defensive line. But their wide receiver depth chart is No. 32 in the league. They have to get better. Wilson can be their No. 1 immediately.
9. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN)
The Seahawks could go in a few different directions here, but Stingley just seems like a Seattle type of defensive player. He doesn’t have the super long arms that Pete Carroll normally likes for defensive backs, but he is a ball hawk with great physical traits. Stingley played in only 10 games over the past two seasons, but I’d bet on his talent.
10. New York Jets (via SEA)
The Jets get their big red zone target for Zach Wilson in the 6-foot-4 London. This is the best-case scenario for general manager Joe Douglas, who adds a top corner and top receiver to an ascending roster.
11. Washington Commanders
If Washington wants to put Carson Wentz in a position to succeed, it could take Olave and pair him with another Ohio State receiver in Terry McLaurin. The Commanders’ defense has a lot of young talent, but the offense is lacking. Olave is great after the catch.play
Check out Chris Olave’s best moments in college that make him a top prospect in the 2022 NFL draft.
This is a bit of a slide for Thibodeaux — my preseason No. 1 prospect — but he’d land in a great situation in Minnesota. And he wouldn’t have a ton of early pressure on him. He could play on the other side of Danielle Hunter.
13. Houston Texans (via CLE)
Hamilton is my No. 4 prospect, but he’s likely to drop to this range because he ran a slower-than-expected 40-yard dash (4.59) and because teams just don’t value safeties as much as other positions. He’s a playmaker who could step in for Justin Reid, who left in free agency.
I thought about cornerback and offensive line here, but the Ravens have a real need in the middle of their defense. Davis is a 340-pound space eater with rare physical traits. Baltimore had success with a similar player in Haloti Ngata, who set the tone for some of the greatest defenses in NFL history.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA)
Williams would likely be the No. 1 receiver off the board if he didn’t tear the ACL in his left knee in the national title game in January. He’s explosive but might miss some time early in the season. This would mean back-to-back-to-back first-round receivers for the Eagles, who might just move on from Jalen Reagor.
16. New Orleans Saints (via PHI/IND)
Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
New Orleans made an interesting trade with the Eagles to get ahead of the Chargers, and it has to be for a tackle, right? Penning could step in and start at left tackle to replace Terron Armstead. He’s a great player.
The Chargers would be extremely disappointed if the Saints took Penning; there’s not another tackle I’d take this high. Still, they have a need at off-ball linebacker, as 2020 first-rounder Kenneth Murray has disappointed. Lloyd is a playmaker who flies to the football.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (via NO)
This could be a defensive end, but the No. 2 corner spot on the other side of Darius Slay is a huge hole. McDuffie is a tough and physical corner with versatility.
19.New Orleans Saints (via PHI)
Here we go — the first quarterback. There just aren’t many teams excited about the signal-callers in this draft. The Saints have a bigger need at tackle, which is why I went that way at No. 16, but this is good value for Pickett, who could compete with Jameis Winston for the starting job.
The Steelers could get a quarterback and not have to trade up for him. I have Willis ranked just slightly over Pickett, and I think he has the highest ceiling of the guys in this class. He’s super talented with a huge arm. We know Mike Tomlin & Co. heavily scouted the passers last month.
What does Bill Belichick want from his defenders? Versatility. Hall played mostly as a slot corner last season and could help there for the Patriots. He ran a 4.38 40 at the combine and has long arms. This is a great fit. I also thought about cornerback Kaiir Elam, who would be more of a straight replacement for J.C. Jackson.
22. Green Bay Packers (via LV)
With Lucas Patrick gone to Chicago in free agency, the Packers could address their hole at guard here. Green played everything but center for the Aggies and is a really good all-around player.
Zion Johnson, G/C, Boston College