* = team has hosted player on private pre-draft workout
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – DE Travon Walker (Georgia)*
Travon Walker has gained a lot of momentum towards being the eventual #1 pick in the past couple weeks, actually becoming the odds on favorite over Aidan Hutchinson, who has been considered the heavy favorite since the start of free agency. Both players play the same position, but are very different prospects. Hutchinson was highly productive in college, but lacks elite athleticism, might not have much more room for growth, and is not the kind of prospect that usually goes #1, even in an uncharacteristically weak draft at the top. Walker was not as productive in college, but that was largely because of how he was used, he is off the charts athletically, and he has an upside to justify being the #1 pick. Even before the betting odds swung, I was considering moving Walker up to 1. The buzz seems real.
2. Detroit Lions – DE Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan)*
The Lions might be the happiest team to see Walker go #1, as Hutchinson is reportedly their top choice. Walker would likely be the pick if the Jaguars passed on him, but Hutchinson is a local product who is probably higher on their board and, like Walker, Hutchinson would fill their biggest weakness, as the Lions moved on from free agent bust Trey Flowers this off-season, but have yet to properly replace him.
3. Houston Texans – OT Ikem Ekwonu (NC State)*
With the top two picks likely being edge defenders, the Texans are a good bet to take the first offensive lineman off the board, in a draft headlined by edge defenders and offensive linemen. The Texans’ offensive line struggled mightily without Laremy Tunsil for most of last season and, while he’s expected back for 2022, the Texans need a better right tackle opposite him and better insurance on the left side in case Tunsil gets hurt again or is not kept long-term, with two expensive years left on his contract. I’ve had Evan Neal here in the past and he’s still an option, but he’s reportedly slipping because of medical reasons and the Texans have worked out Ekwonu privately, whereas they have not worked out Neal. It’s a close call here, but Ekwonu gets the slight edge here. Worst case scenario, he could kick inside and play guard at a high level.
4. New York Jets – CB Ahmad Gardner (Cincinnati)*
It’s really close here between edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux and cornerback Ahmad Gardner. Both would fill big needs for a Jets team that had the worst defense in the league last season, but it sounds like the Jets prefer Gardner over Thibodeaux, whose stock is falling because of concerns about his work ethic. Gardner is a much safer pick and would immediately play a big role at cornerback for the Jets alongside incumbent top cornerback Bryce Hall and free agent signing DJ Reed.
5. New Orleans Saints (TRADE) – QB Malik Willis (Liberty)
The Saints made a trade with the Eagles to get an extra first round in this year’s draft, at the expense of significant future draft capital. The Saints now have picks #16 and #19 in the first round, but I don’t think they are done dealing, as it would be a weird move for the Saints to give up that much future draft capital for a pick this year when they don’t know who will be available at that spot. More likely, the Saints are looking to move up even further to secure their desired quarterback prospect and, now with two first round picks, they have the draft capital to move up to 5 ahead of the Panthers, who are very likely to draft a quarterback in the first round. The Saints would also jump the Falcons at 8 and the Seahawks at 9, who could both very well take quarterbacks before the Saints’ first pick at 16.
The Giants have the 5th pick, but they also pick at 7, so it would make sense for them to trade out of one of their top-10 picks if they have an opportunity to. If the Giants made this trade, they would have picks 7, 16, and 19 in the first round. The trade is close to even on the trade value chart, with the Giants holding the slight edge, but maybe the Giants would send a later future pick back to the Saints to complete this trade. I had the Saints taking Kenny Pickett in my last mock because he seemed to fit what the Saints look for at the position more, but it’s too hard to ignore the sky high upside Willis has, as compared to Pickett. The Saints have Jameis Winston under contract, so they can afford to be patient with a young quarterback. Willis seems likely to be the first quarterback off the board.
6. Carolina Panthers – QB Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh)*
It’s rare that teams are forced to use a first round pick on a quarterback, but the Panthers are in a unique situation and their front office has even admitted they may be forced to take a quarterback. The Panthers had one of the worst quarterback situations in the league last season and, unlike every other quarterback needy team, the Panthers did nothing to improve their situation this off-season, striking out on every major available quarterback, leaving highly inconsistent incumbent Sam Darnold as the starter if the season were to begin today. A trade for Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo is a possibility, but Darnold is already set to make a significant amount of money in 2022, so adding another highly paid, but non-elite quarterback would be a questionable decision.
That leaves the draft as their best option, but because of past trades, the Panthers don’t pick again after this pick until the end of the 4th round. The Panthers may try to trade down and get their quarterback after picking up additional picks, but with the Saints moving up ahead of them at 5 and the Falcons and Seahawks needing quarterbacks at 8 and 9, the Panthers might not have a choice but to take their guy here. Pickett doesn’t have Willis’ ceiling, but is the more NFL ready option for a Panthers team that needs an upgrade under center immediately.
7. New York Giants – OT Evan Neal (Alabama)*
The Giants once again need offensive line help, as they try to give Daniel Jones at least a fair shot at success for the first time in his career. Andrew Thomas has developed into an above average starter at left tackle, but highly paid right tackle Nate Solder has been a disappointment and seems unlikely to be retained as a free agent this off-season, ahead of his age 34 season. Neal would give the Giants a talented, young offensive tackle duo, after making some additions on the interior of the offensive line in free agency this off-season. Neal would likely be the Giants’ pick at 5 if they don’t trade down, but they can trade down with a team looking to move up for a quarterback and be confident they could get Neal at 7, with the Panthers likely taking a quarterback at 6.
8. Atlanta Falcons – DE Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon)
The Falcons need a quarterback after trading Matt Ryan, but they signed Marcus Mariota as a short-term option and they have so many other needs that reaching on a quarterback wouldn’t really make sense, especially since they figure to end up with another high pick in a better quarterback draft in 2023, given the current state of their roster. With the top-two quarterbacks off the board, the decision to pass on a quarterback is even easier. Instead, they take the best available, likely Kayvon Thibodeaux, who would fill a massive need for a Falcons team that somehow hasn’t had more than 39 sacks since 2004. Thibodeaux comes with a lot of risk, but was a candidate to go #1 at one point and the Falcons are a good bet to stop his slide if he falls out of the top-5.
9. Seattle Seahawks – OT Charles Cross (Mississippi State)
With the top-2 quarterbacks off the board early, the Seahawks instead address their glaring need at offensive tackle with the 9th overall pick they acquired from the Broncos in the Russell Wilson trade, as they don’t have a starting caliber tackle on the roster, with last year’s starters Duane Brown and Brandon Shell both hitting free agency this off-season. Even if they eventually re-sign veteran Brown, he is going into his age 37 season, so he’s obviously not a long-term solution. Cross could start in year one for the Seahawks on either side of the line.
10. New York Jets – WR Garrett Wilson (Ohio State)*
The Jets tried to trade this draft pick for Tyreek Hill and then for DK Metcalf, so they likely aren’t done adding at the wide receiver position. The Jets drafted Elijah Moore and signed Corey Davis last off-season and brought back Braxton Berrios as a slot option this off-season, but their depth is suspect, with 2020 2nd round pick Denzel Mims showing nothing in two years in the league. The Jets could have their pick of the top wide receivers in the draft at 10, if they go that route.
11. Washington Commanders – S Kyle Hamilton (Notre Dame)*
Kyle Hamilton’s stock is slipping after a disappointing combine, but he is still the obvious top safety in the draft and would be a good fit for a Washington team that is likely to target the best available and that needs an upgrade at safety next to Kamren Curl, after cutting disappointing free agent signing Landon Collins this off-season. I don’t see Hamilton going in the top-10 as a safety without elite speed, but Washington would make a lot of sense for him.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers (TRADE) – QB Matt Corral (Mississippi)*
Even after signing Mitch Trubisky, the Steelers are prime candidates to draft a quarterback, especially if they can get one they like without having to surrender additional draft picks to move up in a trade. They may ultimately end up having to trade up to secure one of the top quarterback prospects in the draft, but either way it’s likely they end up with a quarterback in the first round, with Trubisky and holdover backup Mason Rudolph both only being short-term options at best. In this scenario, they send a second round pick to the Vikings to move up from 20 to 12.
13. Houston Texans – WR Drake London (USC)
You can really point to any position and the Texans need help there, but wide receiver should be pretty high up on their list, even after extending Brandin Cooks, who was their only reliable wide receiver last season. Last year’s third round pick Nico Collins showed promise, but even if he develops, the Texans will still need at least one more wide receiver. Outside of Cooks and Collins, the Texans’ leading receiver last season had 323 receiving yards.
14. Baltimore Ravens – CB Derek Stingley (LSU)
Cornerback isn’t the Ravens’ biggest need, but Derek Stingley’s upside may be too much for them to pass on if he falls to them. The Ravens lost Anthony Averett in free agency and have not re-signed veteran Jimmy Smith ahead of his age 34 season, so they need depth behind starting cornerbacks Marlon Humphries and Marcus Peters, who are both coming off season ending injuries. Stingley comes with his own injury risk, but if Humphries, Peters, and Stingley are all healthy, they could be the top cornerback trio in the NFL.
15. Philadelphia Eagles – DT Jordan Davis (Georgia)*
Both Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave are heading into the final year of their contract and Cox will be in his age 32 season as well, so long-term help is needed at the position. The Eagles like having a deep defensive line anyway and need rotational help at the position in the short-term. Davis is a good value at this point and could play an immediate role for the Eagles as a rookie, with the upside to develop into a high-level player long-term.
16. New York Giants (TRADE) – CB Trent McDuffie (Washington)
If the Giants don’t trade out of one of their top-10 picks, I would expect them to address either the cornerback or edge defender position with the other pick, after using their first pick on offensive line help. In this scenario, the Giants trade out and get a pair of first round picks from the Saints, which they can use to address both edge defender and cornerback, after taking an offensive lineman in the top-10. The Chargers and Eagles pick between this pick and the Giants’ next pick and both spent significant resources on edge defenders this off-season (Khalil Mack and Haason Reddick respectively), so it would make more sense for the Giants to take a cornerback and wait on an edge defender. McDuffie seems likely to be the third cornerback off the board and could be a top-15 pick depending on how early the top two cornerbacks go.
17. Los Angeles Chargers – OT Trevor Penning (Northern Iowa)
The Chargers drafted a left tackle in the first round last year, but could still use an upgrade at right tackle, where the underwhelming Storm Norton is penciled in as the starter after the Chargers cut the oft-injured Bryan Bulaga this off-season. Penning is a good value at this point in the draft and right tackle is one of the Chargers’ few positions of weakness after an off-season spending spree, so this selection would make a lot of sense.
18. Philadelphia Eagles – WR Jameson Williams (Alabama)*
The Eagles have selected wide receivers in the first round in each of the past two years, but they have two first round picks this year and their selection of Jalen Reagor two years ago was so bad that the Eagles could easily take another wide receiver with one of those two first round picks, as last year’s first round pick DeVonta Smith remains their only real wide receiver threat. Williams likely would have been a top-10 pick and the first wide receiver off the board if he hadn’t torn his ACL in the college football playoff, but the news on his recovery has been good, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him still end up in the top-20, or even top-15. The Eagles will likely consider him at 15 as well, but with the Giants and Chargers picking at 16 and 17 both not needing wide receivers, it makes more sense to take Davis at 15 and wait on Williams.
19. New York Giants (TRADE) – DE Jermaine Johnson (Florida State)
The Giants addressed the cornerback position at 16 and now target an edge defender, having the same choices available to them as would have been available if they took an edge defender at 16. Johnson would be a big boost for a team that once again finished in the bottom half of the league in sacks last season and that lost starting edge defender Lorenzo Carter, without really adding a replacement. He could be a top-15 pick and would be a good value for the Giants at 19.
20. Minnesota Vikings (TRADE) – CB Andrew Booth (Clemson)
I have had the Vikings taking a cornerback in every mock draft. The Vikings traded down from 12 to 20 and acquired an extra second round pick in a trade that enabled the Steelers to move up for their preferred quarterback prospect, but the position the Vikings are targeting doesn’t change after the trade down. The Vikings re-signed Patrick Peterson, but he’s going into his age 32 season and only on a one-year deal, so cornerback could still be the Vikings’ biggest need. Booth would fit the draft range at 20.
21. New England Patriots – MLB Devin Lloyd (Utah)
It was clear from the Patriots’ playoff loss to the Bills that they needed to get more athletic at linebacker and, with linebacker Dont’a Hightower still unsigned as a free agent, the Patriots have an opportunity to find a more athletic upgrade. Even if Hightower returns, he is a declining player heading into his age 32 season, so a long-term option is needed. Lloyd would fit the bill well and is a great value if he falls to the Patriots at 21.
22. Green Bay Packers – WR Chris Olave (Ohio State)
This is one of the picks the Packers received in the Davante Adams trade and it would not at all be surprising if they used this pick to select a replacement wide receiver, as the Packers had a pressing need at the wide receiver position even before Adams was traded. That need got even bigger when the Packers were unable to retain Marquez Valdes-Scantling, despite the Davante Adams trade freeing up significant cap space. Olave would be counted on for a big role in year one.
23. Arizona Cardinals – DE George Karlaftis (Purdue)*
Chandler Jones was going into his age 32 season, but the Cardinals will still miss their top edge defender and need to find a younger long-term replacement for him. Markus Golden also had double digit sacks for the Cardinals last season, but they need an upgrade opposite him. Karlaftis falls a little bit because of how deep this edge defender class is, but he would be a good value for the Cardinals at 23, while filling arguably their biggest need.
24. Dallas Cowboys – C Tyler Linderbaum (Iowa)
The Cowboys have shown a propensity to draft offensive linemen in the first round, usually with a lot of success. Their offensive line was good last season, but they have taken a hit this off-season, losing a pair of starters in left guard Connor Williams and right tackle La’El Collins. Center also remains a weakness, as Tyler Biadasz was the weak link of this group last season and may still be even after Williams and Collins left. The Cowboys have yet to really replace stud center Travis Frederick, who prematurely retired a couple years ago. Linderbaum is one of the best center prospects of the past decade and could remind the Cowboys of Frederick, who they originally selected in the first round.
25. Buffalo Bills – CB Kaiir Elam (Florida)
The Bills don’t have many weaknesses on either side of the ball, but cornerback has been a bit of a concern for years and now is a bigger need, with Tre’Davious White coming off of a torn ACL and fellow starter Levi Wallace signing with the Steelers in free agency, leaving unproven 2020 7th round pick Dane Jackson as the projected starter right now opposite White. Elam could form one of the best cornerback duos in the league with White if he develops and White bounces back from injury.
26. Seattle Seahawks (TRADE) – QB Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati)*
If the Seahawks pass on a quarterback at 9, they could easily move back up into the first round to select a quarterback, possessing two picks in the second round and one in the third. In this scenario, they package together one of the second rounders and the third rounder to move up with the Titans, who can address their biggest needs on day 2. Desmond Ridder will likely be the fourth quarterback off the board, but if there is a run on quarterbacks early, he will likely end up a first round pick.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – DT Devonte Wyatt (Georgia)*
A lot has been made about the Buccaneers’ offensive line losses this off-season, but they retained center Ryan Jensen, traded for Shaq Mason to replace Alex Cappa, and could plug 2021 3rd round pick Robert Hainsey in as a starter at the other guard spot if needed. Their defensive line is what actually needs more help now, especially on the interior, where they have numerous unsigned free agents, most notably Ndamukong Suh, who also happens to be in his age 35 season. Adding a young talented interior defender early in the draft would go a long way towards solving that problem.
28. Green Bay Packers – G Zion Johnson (Boston College)
The Packers got Aaron Rodgers a new wide receiver with their last pick and now they get better protection for him with this pick. Left tackle David Bakhtiari’s return after missing all of 2021 would be a big boost for this offensive line, but he’s a major question mark long-term because of his recent injury history. Johnson would give them insurance at the left tackle position and could also play right tackle, where the Packers are replacing Billy Turner, or kick inside to guard, where the Packers could also use an upgrade. Adding a versatile offensive lineman like him makes a lot of sense with the Packers’ second pick in the first round.
29. Kansas City Chiefs – WR Treylon Burks (Arkansas)
The Chiefs now have back-to-back first round picks after trading Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins and could easily use one of those picks on a replacement wide receiver. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Mecole Hardman currently top the depth chart, but Smith-Schuster and Hardman will both be free agents next off-season. Burks has the potential to develop into a long-term #1 receiver for Patrick Mahomes.
30. Kansas City Chiefs – DE Boye Mafe (Minnesota)
The Chiefs’ defense was a lot better after signing Melvin Ingram mid-season, but he is a free agent this off-season and going into his age 33 season. Frank Clark led the team in sacks by an edge defender, but had just 4.5, despite being one of the highest paid edge defenders in the league. Clark could have been cut to save a significant amount of money, but the Chiefs brought him back because they didn’t have another option. They really need to add a blue chip edge defender prospect to the mix early in the draft.
31. Cincinnati Bengals – CB Roger McCreary (Auburn)
The biggest reason the Bengals came up short in the Super Bowl was their offensive line play, but the Bengals have done a great job of adding veterans in free agency to improve their offensive line. Now in the draft they can focus on their second most glaring need from their Super Bowl loss, finding an upgrade over veteran journeyman starting cornerback Eli Apple, who struggled for most of the season and gave up the game winning score in the Super Bowl. McCreary could be a year one starter and it wouldn’t be hard for him to be an upgrade.
32. Detroit Lions – OLB Nakobe Dean (Georgia)*
Nakobe Dean was one of the best defensive players in college football last year, but his unique draft profile could cause him to fall out of the first round entirely if teams can’t figure out how he would best fit. Dean was an effective edge defender in college, but at 5-11 229 he is likely to be seen by most teams as an off ball linebacker. The Lions would be drafting him more as an off ball linebacker, having taken an edge defender with their other first round pick, and he would fill a big need for the Lions at that position. If he falls in the first round, the Lions, who have worked him out privately, could stop his slide.