Squawka NFL

NFL Mock Draft 2.0: Pass rushers dominate April’s top 10

By Stuart Dick

Published: 19:00, 26 January 2022

With the playoff action well under way, Squawka looks ahead to the 2022 NFL Draft and predicts the top 32 picks.

Mock Draft Version 1.0 | 2.0

#1 Jacksonville Jaguars – EDGE Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan)

Jacksonville notched 32 sacks during the 2021 season, with Josh Allen their leading pass rusher with just 7.5. The need for reinforcements is immediate and they will have their choice of the top two players in this draft class, Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, and Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux. We’ve gone with the 6”6, 265lb Wolverine Hutchinson. With 2019 first round pick Allen and 2020 first round pick K’Lavon Chaisson the incumbents on the edge in the 3-4 system, Hutchinson will add a further threat with his hand on the ground.

#2 Detroit Lions – EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon)

Dan Campbell will be waiting with glee to select whichever edge rusher gets passed over by the Jacksonville Jaguars and Kayvon Thibodeaux is the man who lands in Detroit. The Lions recorded just 30 sacks in 2021 – third worst in the NFL – and will look to couple 2020 third-round pick Julian Okwara with a bona fide star at OLB. The 6”5, 258lb Thibodeaux recorded 19 sacks in his collegiate career.

#3 Houston Texans – OT Evan Neal (Alabama)

2021 third-round pick Davis Mills has flashed enough talent to be given another year under center in Houston, and with the plethora of needs required by the Texans they look to shore up their offensive line with Alabama standout Evan Neal. At 6”7, 350lb, Neal has the versatility to line up on the interior of the offensive line, but a combination of LT Laremy Tunsil and Neal at RT could set the franchise up for years to come.

#4 New York Jets – CB Derek Stingley Jr. (LSU)

Cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. will be an immediate upgrade for a Jets defense which ranked 29th in opposing quarterback competition percentage, joint 30th in interceptions and 30th in passing yardage. After missing the elite pass rushers, Robert Saleh looks to cement the back end of his flailing defense.

#5 New York Giants – OT/G/C Ikem Ekwonu (North Carolina State)

The Giants would ideally like to move up and secure Alabama offensive lineman Evan Neal, and we did consider the Texans trading down due to their plethora of needs, but in the end Big Blue has to settle for Ikem Ekwonu as a substantial consolation prize. With the talent Saquon Barkley possesses in the Giants backfield, the Giants – who will be under new leadership in 2022 – must strengthen the offensive line and this hard-nosed 6”4. 320lb man mountain can play across the formation.

#6 Carolina Panthers – OT Charles Cross (Mississippi State)

The Carolina Panthers offense finished 29th in scoring (17.9 PPG), 29th in passing yardage, and 30th in total yardage – whichever way you paint it, that is horrendous. With talents such as WR (Wide Receiver) D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson, plus RB (Running Back) Christian McCaffrey, they have the weaponry in place to excel. The Panthers were fifth for sacks allowed this season, so shoring up the offensive line is a no-brainer. Cross is a pass-blocking monster and has played more snaps over the past two seasons than any player in the Football Bowl Series (FBS).

*New York Jets trade (#10, 2022 3rd and 2023 3rd) with New York Giants for #7

#7 New York Jets (via New York Giants, via Chicago Bears) – S Kyle Hamilton (Notre Dame)

The Jets take the opportunity to trade up ahead of the Atlanta Falcons to take safety Kyle Hamilton, arguably the best prospect in the draft. At 6”4, 219lbs, Hamilton brings Earl Thomas vibes to the safety position, and he will be able to match up for size with the plethora of giant tight ends across the NFL. Further help for the Jets’ much-maligned pass defense.

#8 Atlanta Falcons – EDGE David Ojabo (Michigan)

After Kyle Hamilton was snatched from their grasp, Atlanta spends little time debating the alternative and selects pass rushing phenom David Ojabo. The Aberdeen-born Ojabo will fit the Falcons 3-4 scheme and will instantly upgrade a pass rush which recorded a pathetic 18 sacks in 2021 – by far the worst in the NFL. Ojabo recorded more sacks last season than college teammate and #1 pick Aidan Hutchinson, but is less well-rounded as a talent.

*Philadelphia Eagles trade (#15, #51 and 2022 4th) with Denver Broncos for (#9, #60)

#9 Philadelphia Eagles (via Denver Broncos) – EDGE George Karlaftis (Purdue)

With three first-round selections, Philly will be wheeling and dealing to pick up the best talents they can, and they steal a march on the Giants (who traded back to acquire more draft capital) to take Purdue edge rusher George Karlaftis. Despite the perception that the Philly front is a difference maker, the unit finished the 2021 season 31st in sacks, making DE a necessity. At 6”4, 275lb, Karlaftis would fit the mould of the Eagles’ power rushing 4-3 front.

#10 New York Giants (via New York Jets, via Seattle Seahawks) – EDGE Travon Walker (Georgia)

After being gazumped by the Eagles for the second year in a row (Philly jumped ahead of New York to select WR DeVonta Smith in the 2021 NFL Draft) the Giants reach slightly to take National Championship-winning pass rusher Travon Walker. The 6”5, 272lb lineman will provide an impact across from 2021 first-round pick Azeez Ojulari, who recorded eight sacks in his rookie season. The Giants are a franchise which has coveted pass rush in recent decades, will that continue under a new front office?

#11 Washington Football Team – OL Tyler Linderbaum (Iowa)

Washington, much like Denver, is keen to trade back in the first round to acquire more draft capital if they are not in love with any of the quarterbacks in this draft. Now the run on pass rushers has ended and the run on cornerbacks is yet to start, so Washington takes potentially the best lineman in the draft in Tyler Linderbaum. The 6”3, 290lb center would be an instant upgrade in the middle of that Washington front.

#12 Minnesota Vikings – DT Jordan Davis (Georgia)

The Minnesota Vikings select Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis to anchor their defensive line for the considerable future. The 6”6, 340lb giant will add a dominant run defender to a defense which led the NFC (National Football Conference) in sacks in 2021, but gave up the seventh most rushing yards in the entire NFL.

*Los Angeles Chargers trade (#17 and #79) with Cleveland Browns for (#13)

#13 Los Angeles Chargers (via Cleveland Browns) – CB Ahmad Gardner (Cincinnati)

The Los Angeles Chargers are not far away from being a perennial contender in the AFC (American Football Conference) – they have a star quarterback, offensive weaponry, strong O-line play and a pass rush. L.A. did though give up 27 passing touchdowns in 2021 and jumps up four slots to get a head start on the cornerback run. They select Gardner, the 6”3, 200lb corner out of Cincinnati who earned Consensus All-American honours this season.

#14 Baltimore Ravens – DT DeMarvin Leal (Texas A&M)

Texas A&M Aggie DeMarvin Leal is be the perfect addition to the Baltimore Ravens 3-4 defense which finished 18th in scoring, 24th in total yardage, 32nd in passing yardage and 24th in sacks – not what you expect from this unit. Leal recorded 8.5 sacks from defensive tackle for the Aggies in 2021

#15 Denver Broncos (via Philadelphia Eagles, via Miami Dolphins) – QB Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh)

Denver drops back in the draft order and still secures the #1 quarterback on their draft board in Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh. The Heisman Trophy finalist was phenomenal in 2021, throwing for 4,319 yards, 42 touchdowns and just seven picks. Pickett has all the intangibles to be a quality NFL starter – he is 6”3 and 220lb with excellent mobility, a quick release and the arm strength to make all the throws. If a team becomes enamoured with Pickett, he could be a top-10 pick. But for now, Denver grabs him at #15.

#16 Philadelphia Eagles (via Indianapolis Colts) – CB Andrew Booth Jr (Clemson)

The Eagles ranked dead last in opposing quarterback passing percentage (69.4) during the 2021 season and gave up 28 touchdowns through the air. There were two reasons for this and we have already addressed the first – the lack of pass rush – with the selection of Karlaftis. Now Philly looks to fix the back end by pairing Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth Jnr with Pro Bowler Darius Slay. The 6”0, 200-pounder had five interceptions and nine passes defended across the past two seasons.

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#17 Cleveland Browns (via Los Angeles Chargers) – OG Kenyon Green (Texas A&M)

Green would be the perfect fit for the run-heavy, play-action style offense the Cleveland Browns run with Baker Mayfield at the helm (assuming he is still the starter in 2022). At 6”4, 320lb, Green is an aggressive, run-dominating lineman – a two-time Consensus All-American who has played both guard spots and both tackle spots during his collegiate career. His frame likely translates to guard in the pros and he needs to improve in pass protection.

#18 New Orleans Saints – WR Chris Olave (Ohio State)

With Michael Thomas missing the entire 2021 season through injury, the Saints struggled to maintain the potent offensive output which had become characteristic under Sean Payton. Sure, the retirement of Drew Brees, coupled with an injury to Jameis Winston, did not help. But only Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harris topped 500 receiving yards in 2021. Since 2015 the Saints have drafted just three wideouts, all in the 6”1-6”3 mould, which is why we favour Olave over his Ohio State teammate Garrett Wilson. Saying that, Payton has now left the building so draft strategy will be dependent on his replacement.

#19 Philadelphia Eagles – LB Devin Lloyd (Utah)

The Eagles have not selected an inside linebacker in the first round of an NFL Draft since 1979, when they took Jerry Robinson #21 overall. We honestly expect them to trade down with one of their three first-round picks, but if they stay put the Eagles need to draft a linebacker and Devin Lloyd is a potential stud. At 6”3, 232lb, he has the size to play linebacker or safety, the power to rush the quarterback (eight sacks in 2021) and the speed and smarts to play pass coverage. He racked up four interceptions and six passes defended last season.

#20 Pittsburgh Steelers – QB Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati)

The Pittsburgh Steelers need a quarterback with Hall of Fame triggerman Ben Roethlisberger heading for the retirement chateaux this offseason. If the AFC North side is looking for a like-for-like replacement, the 2022 Draft is not the place to find a 6”7, 250lb QB. Instead, they go with Desmond Ridder who led the Cincinnati Bearcats to the NCAA playoffs on the back of 3,344 passing yards and 30 touchdowns. He is a very capable runner with polished throwing mechanics, but at 215lb he may need to bulk up slightly to deal with the rough and tumble of NFL life.

#21 New England Patriots – WR Jameson Williams (Alabama)

The New England Patriots seem to be forever searching for wide receiver help. Over the past decade they have drafted Tre Nixon, N’Keal Harry, Braxton Berrios, Malcolm Mitchell, Devien Lucien, Jeremy Gallon, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, and Jeremy Eber. That list has combined for just 243 receptions and 17 touchdowns – a terrible return. Jameson Williams at 6”2 and 189lb could become Alabama’s fifth first-round receiver in the past three drafts, following Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs.

#22 Las Vegas Raiders – OG Zion Johnson (Boston College)

Despite having the talented Josh Jacobs in their backfield, the Las Vegas Raiders struggled to get their running game going in 2021 – finishing 28th in rushing and averaging just 3.91 yards per carry (27th in the NFL). Boston College lineman Zion Johnson is 6”3 and 316lb and played two seasons at left guard before transition to left tackle. Guard though remains his most likely position in the pros. Johnson is physical and has the technique to back up his strength – he can excel in both the run and pass games.

#23 Arizona Cardinals – CB Roger McCreary (Auburn)

Despite making the playoffs, the Arizona Cardinals had a terrible record in the latter part of the season and gave up 30 passing touchdowns overall – ranking 25th in the NFL. In addition, their #1 corner Robert Alford is set to become a free agent this offseason. McCreary is a former track star who started for three years at the University of Auburn. He had 31 passes defended and six interceptions and he is also not afraid to get stuck into the run game at 6”0, 190lbs.

#24 Dallas Cowboys – S Daxton Hill (Michigan)

Daxton Hill drops into the lap of the Dallas Cowboys, who further shore up the defensive side of the ball after the improvements made in 2021. There is no Micah Parsons available here, but Hill is a good tackler at the safety position and has displayed impeccable football IQ. He also has 4.3 speed.

*Washington Football Team trade (#42 and 2023 1st) with Buffalo Bills for (#25 and #91)

#25 Washington Football Team (via Buffalo Bills) – QB Matt Corral (Ole Miss)

Buffalo is a well-rounded team with a plethora of weapons on offense supporting an MVP (Most Valuable Player)-calibre quarterback in Josh Allen and a strong defense. No wonder then that the Bills take the opportunity to pick up draft capital further down the line. Washington, meanwhile, trades up to select a potential franchise quarterback in Matt Corral. He is more of a project than the other quarterbacks in the draft and may take a few years to develop in an NFL offense.

#26 Tennessee Titans – TE (Tight End) Trey McBride (Colorado State)

The 6”4, 260lb tight end Trey McBride earned Consensus All-American honours in 2021 after catching 90 balls for 1,121 yards on a struggling Colorado State roster. He has the size, shape, and technique to develop as a blocker – which is a vital part of the Tennessee offense. McBride is not a dynamic playmaker at the position like Travis Kelce, Darren Waller or George Kittle, he is more in the mould of Zach Ertz or Hunter Henry. So do not expect too much sizzle when the ball is in his hands.

#27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – CB Kaiir Elam (Florida)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a trio of cornerbacks out of contract over the next two offseasons -Carlton Davis in 2022 followed by Jamal Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting in 2023. So the Bucs replenish their defensive backfield with the selection of Florida CB Kaiir Elam. Elam is 6”2, 193lb and is a former track star who has the length and athleticism to succeed on the outside in the NFL. He is more suited to zone than man coverage, but he has the physicality to dominate in press coverage.

#28 Green Bay Packers – WR Drake London (USC)

Davante Adams is set to become a free agent, Aaron Rodgers wants out of Green Bay, and Jordan Love needs some weapons around him as Matt LeFleur sets about rebuilding the offense. USC wide receiver Drake London is 6”5, 210lb and caught 88 passes for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns in just eight games in 2021. In five of those games he caught 10+ balls and in six he topped 130 yards.

*Order to be determined for final four teams

#29 Cincinnati Bengals – OT Trevor Penning (Northern Iowa)

Despite making it to the AFC Championship Game, the Cincinnati Bengals need to do more to protect Joe Burrow. The Bengals gave up the third-most sacks in the NFL (55) – and their terrific young QB has already suffered one devastating knee injury in the pros. It does not help that Cincy faces the likes of T.J. Watt and Myles Garrett twice a season, even more reason then for them to draft Penning. He has the pass pro technique to develop into a Pro Bowl left tackle and has the size NFL teams covet at the position (6”7, 329lb).

*Jacksonville Jaguas trade (#33 and a 2022 4th) with Miami Dolphins for (#30)

#30 Jacksonville Jaguars (via Miami Dolphins, via San Francisco 49ers) – WR Garrett Wilson (Ohio State)

Jacksonville jumps back into the first round to help surround 2021 first-round pick Trevor Lawrence with further talent. Garrett Wilson is the #1 WR in the draft for most experts, and the Jags pick him up at #30. He will make yardage with the ball in his hands and can become somewhat of a safety blanket for Lawrence with his ability to win in the middle of the field. Wilson would likely play the slot at the pro level with the ability to move outside when needed.

#31 Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams) – WR Treylon Burks (Arkansas)

Detroit could use an explosive weapon opposite last year’s draft choice Amon St. Brown, and Treylon Burks of Arkansas is that guy. A strong-handed receiver who has good recognition of finding space in zone coverage specifically, Burks at 6”3 225lb has the size to compliment his speed and create separation. He caught 66 passes for 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2021.

#32 Kansas City Chiefs – LB Nakobe Dean (Georgia)

With Tyrann Mathieu suffering a significant concussion in the build-up to the playoffs, Kansas City might consider Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean at the end of the first round. At 6”0 and 225lb, Dean may translate to a hybrid LB/safety at the next level in the mould of Mathieu. He will excel in pass coverage with his speed and play recognition and would be the heir apparent to the 29-year-old Mathieu.

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