The divisional round of the 2022 NFL playoffs is complete, meaning four more teams are locked into their first-round positions in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Titans, Packers and Buccaneers are all picking a little earlier than expected after losing as favorites over the weekend. The Bills joined them on schedule as the only road team to lose.
The draft order now being set through No. 28 changes what teams will consider what prospects at what spots. Knowing that, here are the latest early projections for what will happen on the night of April 28:
NFL Mock Draft 2022
Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan (6-6, 265 pounds)
The Jaguars should think about offensive line, especially if left tackle Cam Robinson leaves as a free agent, but with wholesale changes looming, it’s hard to pass on a cornerstone defensive disruptor. Hutchinson plays with great energy and power and is still developing his already-strong pass-rush moves. He’s ideal for a 4-3 end, so his availability might push Jacksonville toward that kind of scheme with a new coach.
Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon (6-5, 258 pounds)
The Lions might be tempted should Hutchinson be available, given the local angle, but they should also be thrilled to get Thibodeaux at No, 2. On top of the being the more athletic and disruptive pass rusher, Thibodeaux is more versatile. He could thrive in Aaron Glenn’s front seven.
Evan Neal, OT, Alabama (6-7, 350 pounds)
The Texans should be thinking about Davis Mills as a potential franchise QB to replace Deshaun Watson after he showed steady development down the stretch with his strong arm and accuracy. Mills’ improvement should prompt Houston to try to move a fading and now-injured left tackle Laremy Tunsil to create major salary cap space for their rebuild. Neal would be a young upgrade who could dominate as a pass protector and run blocker for a decade.
Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU (6-1, 195 pounds)
The Jets got good cornerback play in the first year of Robert Saleh’s defense, but in a zone scheme that connects to Seattle’s “Legion of Boom,” they need more effective playmaking. Stingley is a do-everything impact defensive back who can cover a lot of ground and different types of receivers.
Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa (6-3, 290 pounds)
The Giants would be smart to target the offensive line in the first round, perhaps multiple times, to help out Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley. Linderbaum, an intelligent rock of an interior blocker and a perfect long-term line leader, would be a great fit as a major upgrade from Billy Price.
Malik Willis, QB, Liberty (6-1, 215 pounds)
The Panthers once made Cam Newton, a former Auburn star under offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, their franchise QB. Willis, who started his career at Auburn under Malzahn before transferring, has a cannon for an arm and great speed. He has the potential to make scouting jaws drop in the predraft process and make teams less concerned about his small-school status given his career-ending awesome play.
Ikem Ekwonu, T/G, N.C. State (6-4, 320 pounds)
The Giants get another strong O-lineman with their second top-10 pick. Ekwonu is a powerful run blocker with the type of nasty streak that’s needed to dominate. He can play inside or outside in the NFL, but with Linderbaum bolstering the middle, it would be nice to have Ekwonu flank left tackle Andrew Thomas on the right side.
Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame (6-4, 220 pounds)
When he was the Titans’ offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith got to see Kevin Byard make a big-time impact as a playmaking safety. Smith needs that kind of player in Atlanta to support top-flight young corner A.J. Terrell. The Falcons had some of the worst play at the position in the league in 2021.
Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss (6-0, 200 pounds)
The Broncos have a quarterback decision to make, and they can’t afford to ignore the position in the first round. Remember former coach Vic Fangio’s final lamentation about not having a reliable passer. Denver’s shrewd GM, George Paton, must target a franchise QB to clean up the Teddy Bridgewater-Drew Lock mess. Corral is a dynamic athlete and confident runner who also shows aggressiveness with a big arm. He quickly refined his raw skills under Lane Kiffin.
George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue (6-4, 275 pounds)
The Jets shouldn’t mind loading up on pass defense for Saleh after getting Stingley to upgrade the back end in a big way. They need to target an ideal 4-3 end who can remind Saleh a little of Nick Bosa (6-4, 266 pounds). Karlaftis possesses elite athleticism for his size and is still tapping into his immense pass-rush potential.
Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh (6-3, 220 pounds)
Washington saw some flashes from Taylor Heinicke in place of Ryan Fitzpatrick, whose bridge season was a total injury washout, but it cannot expect to tap fully into the promise of its passing game without having a confident franchise QB who’s made for a big market. Pickett has surged into first-round consideration while other big-name QBs have faded, thanks to outstanding play that helped to make the Panthers ACC champions. He has natural deep-ball accuracy and football intelligence. He also has that underrated Joe Burrow-like swagger.
Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah (6-3, 235 pounds)
The Vikings will need to address the second level with aging, oft-injured, Anthony Barr heading into free agency along with Nick Vigil. Lloyd is a strong, rangy athlete who stands out making plays. He has the smarts and instincts for their zone scheme.
Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State (6-1, 189 pounds)
The Browns need to upgrade their receiving corps big time with a true go-to outside threat. Luckily for Cleveland, there’s a good answer in Columbus. Olave has great speed, quickness and burst. He can emerge as their new No. 1 for Baker Mayfield or whoever’s the quarterback in 2022.
Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida (6-2, 196 pounds)
The Ravens ended the season with an injury-riddled mess at cornerback. They need to rejuvenate their coverage to boost their blitzing scheme. Elam’s strength and length stand out. He is very efficient in coverage because of his athleticism.
DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M (6-4, 290 pounds)
Leal is a versatile disruptor who can thrive inside or outside in Jonathan Gannon’s four-man front. Tackle Fletcher Cox is fading with age and end Derek Barnett will be a free agent. Leal has shown his interior pass-rushing skills with 8.5 sacks, but he also is a stout run stopper. He will need to answer questions about his recent arrest on marijuana possession charges, but in the end, it shouldn’t affect his stock that much given that weed doesn’t carry the same stigma it once did for a prospect.
David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan (6-5, 250 pounds)
The Eagles, beyond Barnett’s pending free agency, also know Josh Sweat was so-so filling in for Brandon Graham, who is entering his Age 34 season and coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon. They need reinforcements for the tone-setting strength of their defense. Ojabo would give them a flashy, freakish edge player who can contribute initially in a situational role. His speed, explosiveness and energy fueled a big rise behind end-mate Hutchinson.
- Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia (6-6, 340 pounds)
The Chargers need to upgrade their run defense big time. Their entire front three struggled in that capacity. Coach Brandon Staley was used to having Aaron Donald as his 3-4 linchpin with the other Los Angeles team. Davis is a massive player who disrupts plays with great quickness for his size.
Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama (6-2, 189 pounds)
The Saints need to address wideout with Michael Thomas’ future clouded by injury and discontent. Williams profiles like many of the recent top Crimson Tide picks at the position, and he rose fast up boards after getting more showcase opportunities with John Metchie III on the shelf. Williams proved while playing with Heisman-winning QB Bryce Young that he can be a lot more than a route-running technician; he can flat-out make big plays. The big question now is: How will he recover from the ACL tear he suffered in the College Football Playoff title game in early January?
- Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson (6-0, 200 pounds)
The Eagles are getting nice late-career play from Darius “Big Play” Slay and Avonte Maddox has been good, too, but they could use a further boost in the secondary from Booth. He is a strong, active corner who has the speed and ball skills to become a worthy successor to Slay as their top cover man.
Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State (6-5, 310 pounds)
The Steelers should think about how best to address quarterback with Ben Roethlisberger set to retire; picking one here, trading up to land Pickett or swinging a blockbuster deal (Russell Wilson? Aaron Rodgers?). Whoever the QB is, they need to upgrade the pass protection for him, given the poor tackle play this past season. Cross is a strong, powerful edge blocker who can develop the footwork to handle the left side for the long term.
- Nakobe Dean, ILB, Georgia (6-0, 225 pounds)
The Patriots need to replace middle man Dont’a Hightower, who will become a free agent ahead of his Age 32 season. Bill Belichick should love a player who can play anywhere and do anything on the second level and quickly emerge as a leader, which is what he was for a dominant Bulldogs defense. Dean can flat-out fly and can make plays from sideline to sideline wherever he’s lined up.
- Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State (6-0, 188 pounds)
The Raiders need a reliable all-around receiver for Derek Carr instead of additional limited deep threats. Wilson is a natural technician with his smarts, quickness, route-running and hands. He also is dangerous in making big plays after the catch.
- Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati (6-3, 200 pounds)
The Cardinals have gotten flashes at corner with Byron Murphy making plays on the ball and veteran Robert Alford overachieving, but they need more a reliable player. Gardner has great agility with his length and can move around to handle vertical or horizontal coverage.
- Travon Walker, DE/DT, Georgia (6-5, 275 pounds)
The Cowboys had issues at defensive tackle this season and starter Carlos Watkins is a pending free agent. End Randy Gregory also is unsigned for 2022. Walker joins Davis and Dean in having momentum from the Dawgs’ defense-dominated CFP championship run. He is an explosive, versatile playmaker who can line up at multiple spots up front and can win with athleticism and power.
Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington (5-11, 195 pounds)
The Bills have a good No. 2 corner to Tre’Davious White in Levi Wallace, but Wallace will be a free agent and White will be coming off a torn ACL for his Age 27 season. With limited weaknesses as Super Bowl contenders, they should look for a direct replacement for Wallace outside. McDuffie can offer great explosiveness and quickness for Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier.
Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati (6-4, 215 pounds)
The Titans need to push for a higher ceiling at QB beyond Ryan Tannehill, who’s 33 and has only one “locked-in” year left on his contract. This may be surprise some, but this concept will gain steam should an option this appealing be available. Ridder was a great leader for the Bearcats, and he showed that he’s natural dual-threat NFL prospect with his strong arm and running skills.
Antonio Brown quit and Chris Godwin is a pending free agent. Although the Bucs have young depth at receiver, if they’re taking one more shot at a Super Bowl with Tom Brady, they need to upgrade their downfield element to play off Mike Evans outside. Dotson is a speedy vertical threat with the quickness to make big plays after making strong catches in the open field.
Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas (6-3, 225 pounds)
The Packers should use this pick to upgrade their wide receiver corps, either to better complement Davante Adams outside and please Aaron Rodgers or to protect themselves in case they can’t re-sign Adams, a pending free agent, to a long-term deal after franchise-tagging him. Burks is a huge target with big hands to match. He can dominate smaller, less physical corners and has deceptive speed.
Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State (6-5, 315 pounds)
The Bengals’ pass protection in front of Joe Burrow may keep them from reaching the Super Bowl. They need to upgrade the right side opposite left tackle Jonah Williams. They can find a good answer in-state. Petit-Frere is a well-rounded blocker with a nice blend of strength, agility and footwork, He stood out while playing both sides.
Drake London, WR, USC (6-5, 210 pounds)
The Dolphins should be pleased with first-rounder Jaylen Waddle as a potential next Tyreek Hill with his speed and quickness, but they could use an upgrade over DeVante Parker, who has durability issues going into his Age 29 season. London matches a nice catch radius with great hands and quickness, which makes him a big-play and red-zone threat in the Mike Evans mold.
Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina (6-1, 220 pounds)
After getting Thibodeaux as the cornerstone for their defense early in the first round, it’s time for the Lions to address franchise QB. They can wait and still get a potential long-term starter here. Howell is a smart, seasoned and accurate pocket passer. Looking for Howell or Ridder late would be a much smarter play than passing on Thibodeaux for Corral, Willis or Pickett.
Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn (6-0, 190 pounds)
With Charvarius Ward and Mike Hughes heading into free agency, the Chiefs should think about corner should there be a worthy talent available. If McCreary slips, he would be a no-brainer. He has the size, physicality, fluidity and ability to play well in any downfield coverage scheme.