I have been doing NFL mock drafts for more than 20 years and this is one of the toughest few drafts to predict, but these are my best guesses for how Round 1 of the 2022 NFL draft will play out:
1. Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
It would not be a surprise if the Jaguars pounce on a different defensive end or one of the top offensive tackles instead of going with the so-called safe pick in Hutchinson, who’s -200 to be No. 1. I’m not sold on Hutchinson and doubt Jacksonville is either, but I’ll play it safe with the odds-on favorite. If Hutchinson falls, he’s not going far because Detroit would draft him next.
2. Lions: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
This would be a shocker, but it’s Detroit, so expect an oddball move. A corner offers little to no value with a pick this high, yet the Lions took Jeff Okudah third overall in 2020. Stingley is a different player and probably a better prospect. It’s worth taking a shot on Hutchinson at + 220 to go No. 2.
3. Texans: Travon Walker, DE, Georgia
Rumors around the league indicate Walker could go No. 1 instead of Hutchinson. Houston has a lot of needs, starting with rebuilds to the offensive and defensive lines. If Walker is available, the 6-5, 272-pound Bulldog is probably the highest-rated player on the Texans’ board.
4. Jets: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
The Jets have more pressing needs than a corner, but “Sauce” could be their next Darrelle Revis, the team’s first-round pick in 2007.
5. Giants: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
With the Giants and Jets each holding two top-10 picks, this draft should be in New York rather than Las Vegas. This franchise has an affinity for edge rushers and this pick would be cheered by Giants fans. Before injuries sidelined him last season, Thibodeaux was widely considered the favorite to go No. 1 overall.
6. Panthers: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
Carolina’s desperate need for a quarterback is unlikely to get addressed here with Kenny Pickett or Malik Willis – a trade for a veteran like Baker Mayfield makes more sense. Expect the Panthers to take an offensive tackle or trade down.
7. Giants: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Neal is an athletic freak at 6-7 and 337 pounds. The Giants must build a better line in front of quarterback Daniel Jones, so they will probably take a tackle with one of their first two picks.
8. Falcons: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
There will be some early surprises in the most unpredictable draft in recent years, so here’s another one. Williams, the top-rated receiver in this class before an injury last season, is a speed threat to replace Julio Jones on the perimeter.
9. Seahawks: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
It’s obvious Seattle needs a quarterback because Drew Lock is not the future, but this is a rebuilding team with several holes to fill. A cornerback would make sense if Stingley still is on the board. Cross is a bulldozer who could step in as a starter in Week 1.
10. Jets: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
If the Jets go defense at No. 4, they should grab a receiver for second-year quarterback Zach Wilson. This pick will probably be Wilson or Williams.
11. Commanders: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Washington will have a lot of options in this spot and a receiver is a strong possibility. The defensive secondary needs a versatile playmaker, however, and Hamilton is an elite talent.
12. Vikings: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
How the draft unfolds at the top will determine this pick. The Vikings likely have their eyes on Hamilton and Stingley or another cornerback, but Davis would fill a big hole in the middle of the defensive front. Minnesota might also opt to trade down.
13. Texans: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
If Houston drafts for its defensive line at No. 3, this pick should be an offensive lineman. Penning is 6-7, 327 pounds and mean as a rattlesnake. He probably would go next to Baltimore if the Texans don’t take him here.
14. Ravens: Jermaine Johnson, DE, Florida State
This draft is deep with edge rushers and Johnson would be a steal if he’s available here. He led the ACC with 12 sacks last season after transferring from Georgia.
15. Eagles: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
If a top offensive lineman does not fall to Philadelphia, grabbing a receiver for quarterback Jalen Hurts is an option. Olave is a smooth operator who’s ready to make plays right away.
16. Saints: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
It would be tough for the Saints to pass on Willis if he slips by Seattle and is still waiting for his name to be called. Willis has impressive athletic ability yet has passing accuracy issues and takes too many sacks. He could develop behind Jameis Winston for a year or two.
17. Chargers: Drake London, WR, USC
London might be the first receiver drafted – and that’s where I had him last week – but there are hints he could be slipping as a couple other receivers are rising. Justin Herbert would love to add this 6-5 target who could stay home in LA.
18. Eagles: Devin Lloyd, ILB, Utah
The offensive line should be a priority for Philadelphia and that could be the pick here. The defense also needs help. If the Eagles don’t go with a corner, Lloyd is a run stopper and impact player from sideline to sideline.
19. Saints: Nakobe Dean, ILB, Georgia
A late first-round projection in many mocks, Dean is being overlooked because he’s 5-11, but he was the Butkus Award winner last season and the heart of the nation’s best defense. Dean means business and would be a good fit for New Orleans and New England.
20. Steelers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
It’s possible Pickett falls this far. Pittsburgh could be faced with a difficult decision to either draft the hometown star or go with an offensive lineman.
21. Patriots: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
At this point, Patriots coach Bill Belichick seems likely to take the best player available. McDuffie could be that player and fills a defensive need.
22. Packers: Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
How would Aaron Rodgers like a 6-4 receiver with 4.36 speed for a first-round gift? Watson, who visited with the Packers last week, would fit into an offense that’s missing Davante Adams. Rodgers could turn Watson into the most productive receiver in this rookie class.
23. Cardinals: George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue
Arizona has a problem on its hands with disgruntled quarterback Kyler Murray, who wants a new contract and another receiver. A big void was left when Chandler Jones jumped to the Raiders, so the 6-4, 275-pound Karlaftis could line up opposite JJ Watt.
24. Cowboys: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Amari Cooper must be replaced, and Jerry Jones has an affinity for playmakers and Razorbacks. Burks, a big 6-3 receiver, would be tough to pass up.
25. Bills: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Buffalo seems to be the only team interested in a running back in this round, but that position can wait for a later round. Cornerback is the more likely route for the Bills. Elam flashed 4.39 speed at the combine.
26. Titans: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
A mini-run on offensive linemen starts here with Tennessee and Tampa back to back. The Titans appear to like Linderbaum, a blue-collar tough guy for the Hawkeyes.
27. Buccaneers: Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M
With an unexpected hole on their line following the surprising retirement of guard Ali Marpet, the Buccaneers grab a replacement to protect Tom Brady, who surprisingly returned from his brief, dramatic retirement.
28. Packers: Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
Would the Packers do something crazy and grab two receivers in the first round? Don’t bet on it. Green Bay is looking for secondary help and Hill would fit the bill.
29. Chiefs: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Tyreek Hill took his talents to South Beach via a blockbuster trade, so the Chiefs need a speed receiver. Dotson and Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore are prime targets.
30. Chiefs: Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia
Several teams have reportedly dropped Wyatt on their draft boards because of character concerns. Kansas City has shown it will take chances on players of questionable character, and Wyatt could be viewed as a value pick after being projected to go much earlier in the round.
31. Bengals: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Cincinnati still wants offensive line help and also will look at linebackers and safeties. Cornerback is another pressing need, and Booth is a physical player who could be a value pick if he’s still on the board.
32. Lions: Matt Corral, QB, Mississippi
If the Seahawks pass on a quarterback in the top 10, they would probably like to snag Corral early in the second round. The Lions could beat them to the punch. Corral’s stock is apparently rising, so he’s now a better bet than Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder to go in this round.