The NFL Draft will soon be the focus of the football world as the 2021 regular season comes to a close. All 32 teams will be mapping out their free agency and draft strategies to make a run for the Vince Lombardi trophy in 2022.
Of course, the draft order hasn’t been officially confirmed yet, and with several teams holding multiple first-round picks, trades are likely on the horizon to shake things up.
Here is how Squawka NFL sees the first round of April’s 2022 Draft panning out:
Draft order as of the end of Week 14
#1 Detroit Lions – EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux – Oregon
Either of the edge rushing duo – Thibodeaux or Michigan’s Aiden Hutchinson – could go #1 overall. We’re giving the nod here to Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux. The 6”5, 258-pound pass-rusher is as adept with his hand on the ground as he is rushing from a standing start. With long arms, immense power and supreme quickness, Thibodeaux has the ability to maintain the edge in the run game too.
#2 Jacksonville Jaguars – EDGE Aidan Hutchinson – Michigan
Aiden Hutchinson will be quickly snapped up if he doesn’t go #1 overall. The Jacksonville Jaguars have drafted pass rushers in the first round of two of the last three drafts. However, with a new head coach at the helm, we expect them to go after another EDGE rusher. Hutchinson was been a consistent playmaker for Michigan this season, with 14 sacks, 73 tackles, and 19 tackles for loss.
#3 Houston Texans – QB Kenny Pickett – Pittsburgh
Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh is fast becoming the consensus #1 quarterback in the draft and a likely destination could be Houston, who won’t want to head into the 2022 season with Davis Mills or Tyrod Taylor as their starter. The Heisman Trophy finalist threw for 4,319 yards, 42 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in 2021, and has a pocket presence and quick release that should translate well to the pro game.
#4 New York Jets – OT Evan Neal – Alabama
Protection is the name of the game for the Jets if quarterback Zach Wilson – the #2 overall pick in 2021 – is to improve on a tough rookie campaign. The Jets have allowed the seventh most sacks in the NFL in 2021, and Neal is a versatile tackle who could potentially also help out inside, as he played left guard as a freshman before moving to right tackle. At 6”7 and 350 pounds, he is a formidable chess piece.
#5 New York Giants (via Chicago Bears) – EDGE George Karlaftis – Purdue
Continuing the early run on pass rushers, we have the Giants drafting Purdue’s George Karlaftis to pair with last year’s first-rounder, Azeez Ojulari. A potent defensive front has always been a key to success for the Giants. Karlaftis only has 4.5 sacks in his junior season but possesses the strength, power and elite athleticism to provide a substantial threat at the NFL level.
#6 New York Giants – OG/C Ikem Ekwonu – North Carolina State
Ikem Ekwonu is a hard-nosed offensive lineman who is aggressive in the trenches. That is exactly the type of player the Giants need. Despite having one of the best backs in football in Saquon Barkley, Big Blue ranks 26th in rushing offense, 27th in scoring offense, and 25th in total yardage. A powerhouse like Ekwonu is the best way to begin reversing those trends.
#7 New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks) – CB Derek Stingley Jr. – LSU
After selecting offensive players with each of their first four picks in 2021 – and selecting Evan Neal with their first pick in 2022 – the Jets turn to the defensive side of the ball and pick up an outstanding playmaker in LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. Stingley will help Jets imp[rove a pass defense that ranks last in passing completion percentage allowed (70.6&), pass yards allowed per attempt (8.3), interceptions (4), and opposing passer rating (108.2). This is a pick that absolutely fits a major need.
#8 Carolina Panthers – OT Charles Cross – Mississippi State
Carolina’s number one priority this offseason is to improve their passing game, which currently ranks 26th in the NFL at just 200.9 yards per game. Mississippi State offensive tackle Charles Cross certainly knows how to pass block, having played more snaps over the past two seasons (1,238) than any other player in the Football Bowl Series (FBS).
#9 Atlanta Falcons – S Kyle Hamilton – Notre Dame
One of the best prospects in the draft, Hamilton falls into the laps of the Atlanta Falcons. A physical specimen at 6”4 and 219 pounds, he is the latest incoming safety prospect who can match up with the elite tight ends of the NFL. An Atlanta native, Hamilton would be a hugely popular pick up for the hometown team.
#10 Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami Dolphins) – CB Andrew Booth – Clemson
The Eagles rank 30th in the NFL in opposing quarterback passing percentage (70.4), have given up 22 passing touchdowns and struggle to sack the opposing quarterback. They require help across the defensive line. Expect GM Howie Roseman to address this need with an excellent cornerback in Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. The 6”0, 200-pounder is effective in the run game and also has the ball skills to improve Philly’s pass coverage opposite All-Pro Darius Slay.
#11 Philadelphia Eagles – EDGE David Ajabo – Michigan
With the next pick, the Eagles look to address their pressing pass rush need. Philly has been blessed with a dominant front four in recent years, but that group has flattered to deceive in 2021. The likes of Fletcher Cox and Derek Barnett have mustered a mere three sacks and 17 QB hits between them this season. David Ojabo could follow in the footsteps of Brandon Graham, a fellow Michigan alumnus who’s helped power the Eagles’ pass rush in recent years.
#12 Minnesota Vikings – DT Jordan Davis – Georgia
The Vikings lead the NFL in sacks so far in 2021 with 41 and own a top-10 pass defense in terms of yardage allowed. However, their run defense is in need of a hand. That is where 6”6, 340-pound Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis can make a huge impact. He is colossal, has explosive hands and adept at disengaging offensive lineman. He could be the missing piece for the Vikings D.
#13 New Orleans Saints – WR Chris Olave – Ohio State
The consensus #1 wide receiver in the draft falls to the Saints, who must surround Jamesis Winston with talent on his return to the lineup in 2022. WR Michael Thomas will have missed virtually the entire 2021 season, and has played just eight games in the past two years. Olave is an exceptional route runner who should excel in Sean Payton’s timing-based scheme.
#14 Las Vegas Raiders – DT DeMarvin Leal – Texas A&M
DeMarvin Leal has the ability to play multiple positions across the defensive line. Teaming him with the likes of Yannick Ngakoue and Maxx Crosby in Las Vegas could cause opposing offensive lines some major problems. The 6”4, 290-pound tackle has the rare combination of size and athleticism that NFL teams covet.
#15 Pittsburgh Steelers – QB Matt Corral – Ole Miss
Speculation has been rife that Ben Roethlisberger could be coming to the end of his long reign as Steelers quarterback. There is no evidence to suggest that his replacement is currently on the Pittsburgh roster. Ole Miss signal caller Matt Corral is an athletic prospect who relies on his short-to-medium accuracy – as well as his legs – to keep the chains moving.
#16 Denver Broncos – OT Nicholas Petit-Frere – Ohio State
A naturally athletic 6”5 and 315 pounds, Nicholas Petit-Frere was the #1 offensive tackle prospect in the nation coming out of high school. He has a high ceiling due to his raw athleticism, but must work hard on the technical aspects of his game. Powerful, flexible and athletic, any NFL offensive line coach would be salivating over his potential.
#17 Cincinnati Bengals – OL Tyler Linderbaum – Iowa
The Cincinnati Bengals look to one of the best center prospects in the draft, Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum. The Bengals have have struggled to protect Joe Burrow, who’s been sacked 37 times in 24 games since being the #1 overall pick in the 2020 draft. Linderbaum is a perfect fit for Cincinnati.
#18 Cleveland Browns – OG Kenyon Green – Texas A&M
Green played both offensive guard spots for the Aggies before transitioning to left tackle in 2021. He likely profiles as an interior lineman in the NFL. Green should excel right away as an aggressive run blocker, but will need to improve technically to excel in pass protection. In an offense like Cleveland’s, which relies heavily on a strong run game, he should be a natural fit.
#19 Washington Football Team – S Daxton Hill – Michigan
Washington takes a chance on the physical tools of Michigan’s Hill, who has blistering speed, phenomenal athleticism and a high ceiling. He is somewhat inexperienced, having started just nine college games prior to his junior year – when he had 65 tackles, seven passes defended and two interceptions. Daxton is an excellent playmaker to add to a talented WFT defense.
#20 Buffalo Bills – OL Darian Kinnard – Kentucky
With the #8 passing offense and the #1 total defense, the #15-ranked rushing attack game is the ‘weakness’ for Buffalo. Strengthening this aspect of the offense would go a long way toward turning the AFC East outfit into a legitimate conference powerhouse. A powerful, aggressive run blocker is what is needed. Kinnard certainly fits the bill.
#21 Philadelphia Eagles (via Indianapolis Colts) – OG Zion Johnson – Boston College
I fully expect the Eagles to trade out of at least one – maybe even two – of their three first-round picks. If they do actually make three selections, one is highly likely to be on the offensive line. With the run-heavy offense adopted midway through the 2021 season, an aggressive run-blocking guard like Zion Johnson could be the pick. With All-Pro Brandon Brooks missing extensive time in recent years, they may need to replace him in 2022.
#22 Miami Dolphins (via San Francisco 49ers) – RB Kenneth Walker III – Michigan State
Having drafted WR Jaylon Waddle and DE Jaelan Phillips in the first round in 2021, Miami turns its attention to the running game, and Heisman Trophy candidate Kenneth Walker III. After transferring to Michigan State from Wake Forest, Walker rushed for 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2021. He has home run potential from anywhere on the field.
#23 Los Angeles Chargers – EDGE Travon Walker – Georgia
Georgia EDGE rusher Travon Walker would make the perfect complement for All-Pro Joey Bosa as the Chargers look to improve their pass rush. Walker has long arms which help keep offensive linemen at bay, as well as an explosive first step, giving him the ability to play inside or on the edge.
#24 Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams) – QB Desmond Ridder – Cincinnati
The Lions have done precious little winning with Jared Goff under center. Thus, it’s for the franchise to address the QB position. Ridder has had an incredible season, leading Cincinnati to a 13-0 record and a spot in the FBS playoff. He has the arm talent, size, mobility and college experience NFL teams look for when selecting a quarterback.
#25 Baltimore Ravens – OT Trevor Penning – Northern Iowa
An experienced guard who transitioned to left tackle during his final year in college, Penning offers the size and length teams covet from an offensive lineman. His quick footwork and pass pro technique would certainly benefit the Baltimore Ravens, who have allowed a league-high 41 sacks so far this season. With his physical talents, transitioning to the run-heavy Baltimore offense should be achievable.
#26 Dallas Cowboys – S Jaquan Brisker – Penn State
After hitting on Micah Parsons out of Penn State during the first round of the 2021 Draft, the Dallas Cowboys look again to the Nittany Lions to select safety Brisker. The hard-hitting defensive back would be best suited to playing at the line of scrimmage due to his aggressive nature. Dallas has improved immeasurably over the last year, and adding a strong run defender in the secondary could be the final piece in the puzzle.
#27 Kansas City Chiefs – WR Treylon Burks – Arkansas
Kansas City already has the explosive speed on offense of wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman, and the elite ability to get open of Travis Kelce. Adding Arkansas standout Traylon Burks could further enhance the offensive weaponry on hand for Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid to utilise. Strong, sure hands and the ability to identify the space in zone coverage are his top traits.
#28 Arizona Cardinals – CB Roger McCreary – Auburn
With Arizona potentially losing Robert Alford through free agency, the Cardinals could be in line to take a cornerback in the first round. McCreary has so far been outstanding for Auburn in 2021 and was a track and field star in high school. He is a willing tackler in the run game and translates well to a zone coverage scheme. McCreary will also make an instant impact on special teams.
#29 Tennessee Titans – LB Devin Lloyd – Utah
The #1 interior linebacker in the draft class, Lloyd is a downhill and dominant linebacker who will make tackles in the opposing backfield. A natural leader on the field, Tennessee will pull the trigger in an instant if Lloyd makes it to #29. He needs to improve in pass coverage to become a permanent three-down linebacker.
#30 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – CB Kaiir Elam – Florida
With the problems Tampa has had in the secondary due to injuries this season, the reigning Super Bowl champion could potentially look at Elam at the end of the first round. He has elite speed and exceptional instincts for a defensive back. At 6”2 and 193lbs, he also has the size teams covet.
#31 New England Patriots – WR Garrett Wilson – Ohio State
The second Ohio State wide receiver to go in the first round, Wilson is the perfect option for the Josh McDaniels offense. Exceptional with the ball in his hands, he is capable of generating plenty of yardage after the catch and could follow in the footsteps of Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman as a volume pass catcher in the New England offense.
#32 Green Bay Packers – WR Jameson Williams – Alabama
With the potential for Green Bay to lose quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Davante Adams – the former wanting out of Lambeau Field and the other a pending free agent – HC Matt LeFleur needs to prepare for the worst-case scenario. After transferring to Alabama from Ohio State, Williams caught 68 receptions for 1,445 yards and 15 touchdowns in a productive 2021 campaign. Green Bay will snap him up if he makes it to #32.