The 2022 NFL Draft is very nearly here, and there are still countless questions to be answered about this year’s draft class.
Who are the Jaguars going to take at No. 1 overall? It’s looking like an edge rusher, but it’s far from a sure thing. When will the first-round quarterbacks go and how many? It’s looking like Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett could slide a bit if the Panthers take an offensive tackle early.
And what about trades? Most of the rumors are about teams wanting to move down in this weak draft class. But eventually, some partners that want to move up will likely emerge.
There is still so much to sort out and so little time to figure it all out. How will this year’s unpredictable draft shake out? Here’s a look at one of The Sporting News’ final mock drafts, which will be updated throughout the day with all the latest rumors and draft buzz.
Stay tuned for all the latest news and pick changes, which will be finalized before the draft begins at 8 p.m. ET, below.
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NFL Mock Draft 2022
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
It seems likely that Walker is going to be the pick at No. 1 overall. There were reports that there could be a “surprise” with the Jaguars’ top selection during draft week. The selection of Walker would be surprising enough. After all, he was once considered a fringe first-round pick, and even in recent weeks, Aidan Hutchinson was widely considered to be ahead of him in the race for the No. 1 spot. Ultimately, Walker’s athletic testing at the combine gave him the nod over Hutchinson’s production from last season.
2. Detroit Lions
The Lions are going to take whichever of the edge defenders that the Jaguars don’t take at No. 1, in all likelihood. They would be happy to landing Hutchinson, who played locally at Michigan and had 14 sacks last season. He would be a nice replacement for Trey Flowers, who never lived up to the free-agent contract that Detroit gave him.
3. Houston Texans
The Texans are the biggest wild card in this year’s draft and will make or break many mock drafts. They need to upgrade pretty much every position on the field, so they could go in any direction. Right now, however, offensive tackle and cornerback are where they are expected to look, so Evan Neal, Ikem Ekwonu, Stingley and Sauce Gardner are all options here.
Right now, I’m leaning toward Stingley as the option simply because he has the most upside and betting odds seem to be tilting in his favor. If he can stay healthy and regain his freshman year form, he will be a true No. 1 corner in the NFL. That’s a big if, but the Texans are far from contending and have two top-13 picks. Why not take a chance on arguably the most talented player on the board?
MORE NFL DRAFT: Sam Howell, Brian Robinson among draft’s biggest sleepers for 2022
4. New York Jets
The Jets are another team with numerous options at No. 4, but Gardner is probably the safest pick. The Jets added DJ Reed to their cornerback room in free agency, but they still need to find a starter across from him. Gardner never allowed a touchdown during his three years at Cincinnati and has a well-built 6-3, 190-pound frame. He seems like the type of player that Robert Saleh would love to have in the secondary.
5. New York Giants
With both of the top corners off the board here, it’s safe to assume that the Giants will go for a tackle at five and an edge rusher at seven. Here, Neal, Ikem Ekwonu and Charles Cross are all on the board, so New York will have a decision to make.
The Giants seem to like Cross, but he played left tackle at Mississippi State. Meanwhile, Neal showed off more versatility, starting for one season at left guard, one at right tackle and one at left tackle. He is the safest pick for the Giants all that considered and could flourish as a long-term bookend for Andrew Thomas.
6. Carolina Panthers
Nope, the Panthers aren’t taking a quarterback at six. They may not even be picking at six if they have it their way, as they have no Day 2 picks because of the Sam Darnold trade. As such, this is a prime spot for a team to move up if they’re interested in a guy like Kayvon Thibodeaux.
We’re not predicting trades here, however, and the Panthers could stay put. They seem to like Ekwonu. The 6-4, 310-pound blocker would fill the gaping hole Carolina currently has at left tackle. They had to start journeyman Cameron Erving at the position last year, so suffice to say, Ekwonu would be an upgrade.
Carolina also could consider Charles Cross or Trevor Penning, especially if it trades down. And don’t rule out Malik Willis if they move down, but the safe money is on them taking a tackle.
7. New York Giants (from Bears)
The Giants upgraded the edge of their offense with a tackle at five and now can get a premier defensive player at seven. Thibodeaux comes with some work ethic concerns, but there’s no denying that he’s talented. The Oregon product generated 19 sacks in 30 collegiate games and could be the best defensive player in this year’s draft.
The Giants have long needed a quality edge rusher, and new GM Joe Schoen comes from the Bills, who have spent a lot of recent draft capital on the defensive front. Expect him to do the same.
8. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are a true wild card, much like the Texans. Will Atlanta take a quarterback? The team hasn’t ruled it out, but probably not. Instead, they will probably take the best player on the board considering that the team needs help at almost every position.
Atlanta hasn’t had a high-end pass rush since John Abraham was on the team. Grabbing Johnson, who had 11 sacks last year at Florida State, should help remedy that. The team could also target Garrett Wilson or Drake London at receiver considering that Oladmide Zaccheaus is currently their top receiver.
9. Seattle Seahawks (from Broncos)
The Seahawks are a team to watch in a potential trade down. They have a lot of needs and if a team wants to move up to get a top quarterback or receiver, this could be a sweet spot for them to do it. If not, however, the Seahawks will probably take the best offensive tackle on the board.
Cross could go as high as No. 5 overall. The 6-5, 307-pound tackle is only 21 years old but held his own at left tackle in the SEC. Both of the Seahawks’ starting tackles from last season remain unsigned free agents, so unless they bring both back, they have a gaping hole at tackle. Cross could solve the one on the left side for a decade or more.
10. New York Jets (from Seahawks)
The Jets will be happy to get Wilson here, as they seem to be targeting him. The team has Elijah Moore as well as Corey Davis and Braxton Berrios at receiver, but adding another player with No. 1 wide-out potential is a good idea.
Wilson had 70 catches for 1,058 yards and 12 touchdowns last season at Ohio State. He has good size at 6-0, 183 pounds and plays both strong and fast. He’s good with the ball in his hands and should be a multi-faceted weapon at the NFL level. Pairing him with Zach Wilson to make Wilson-squared could pay off in spades.
11. Washington Commanders
The Commanders have Terry McLaurin at receiver, but aside from him, there are questions. Curtis Samuel signed a solid free-agent deal in Washington but couldn’t stay healthy last season. Even if he can stay on the field, the team doesn’t have many proven options beyond him.
London would fit in well with Washington. He’s a massive 6-4, 219-pound receiver who generated 88 catches, 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns last season in just eight games. If not for an ankle injury late in the season, he may have been a sure-fire top-10 pick, and he still could crack the first 10 picks. There are speed concerns with him, but Washington won’t mind that, as he can make contested catches and provide Carson Wentz with an Alshon Jeffery-like target.
12. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings are primed to trade down, as few of the players available here line up with their biggest needs. That said, if they are stuck picking at 12, Hamilton is arguably the best player on the board. He clocked a slow 40 time (4.59) during the 2022 NFL Combine and at his Pro Day, but he plays fast on tape. He’s a playmaking safety/hybrid linebacker, and Minnesota will find a way to use him.
The Vikings once drafted a Notre Dame safety who ran similarly slowly at the 2012 NFL Combine. That would be Harrison Smith, who ran a 4.57. Smith has turned into a decade-long NFL starter and six-time Pro Bowler. Perhaps he can mentor Hamilton and add another versatile weapon to the Vikings’ defense.
13. Houston Texans (from Browns)
The Texans didn’t help Davis Mills with their first selection, so they’ll do that here. They will either go with a tackle or a receiver, but Olave is the safer pick at this juncture. He is arguably the best route runner in this class but also has good speed, having ran a 4.39 40 at the combine. He was productive at Ohio State, too, catching 65 passes for 936 yards and 13 touchdowns last year, so his floor is very high.
Olave complements Brandin Cooks well, so it’s easy to see Nick Caserio and the Texans falling in love with him. If they go the tackle route, Trevor Penning is the best one left on the board. They could also trade down with a team looking to grab Malik Willis or Kenny Pickett, as the two quarterbacks continue to slide.
14. Baltimore Ravens
Speaking of Penning, this is probably about his floor. The 6-7, 325-pound tackle is raw after playing at Northern Iowa, but he is packed with potential and plays with an edge. He’s long, athletic and isn’t afraid to get in the face of opposing defenders.
The Ravens struggled at the tackle positions last year, as Alejandro Villanueva struggled on the right side while Ronnie Stanley couldn’t stay healthy on the left side. Stanley is expected back this year while the team signed Morgan Moses to help at right tackle, but the Ravens need depth considering that Stanley is injury prone and Moses is entering his age-31 season. Penning would be the perfect developmental tackle candidate for the team.
NFL DRAFT ORDER: All 262 picks in the 2022 NFL Draft in order
15. Philadelphia Eagles (from Dolphins)
Fletcher Cox won’t be an Eagle forever, and the team knows that. They actually cut him this offseason before re-signing him to a more team-friendly deal. That’s a one-year deal, so the Eagles need to find a potential successor for him while shoring up their run defense.
Davis will help solve that problem. He was one of the catalysts on Georgia’s historically good defense last season and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds despite measuring at 6-6, 341 pounds. He never generated many sacks in college, but he will have more opportunities to do so in the NFL. The 15th pick is closer to his floor (17th to the Chargers) than his ceiling (ninth to the Seahawks).
16. New Orleans Saints (from Colts via Eagles)
Nope, still no quarterback here. The Saints could hypothetically take Malik Willis or Kenny Pickett, but they may wait until Day 2 to take a look at the position, as they still have to fill needs at receiver and offensive tackle.
With the top-tier tackles off the board, the Saints will probably go receiver here. Williams will probably pique New Orleans’ interest, as he has excellent speed and is a good route runner. He would complement Michael Thomas well and could have been the top receiver off the board if not for a torn ACL he suffered during the College Football Playoff.
Williams might not be ready to start the season for the Saints, but they can be patient. They have a second first-round pick with which to add more talent, after all.
17. Los Angeles Chargers
The board doesn’t line up well with the Chargers’ needs at this point. They are looking for a tackle to replace Bryan Bulaga, but the top four players at the position are gone. They also probably want some help on the defensive line, but Jordan Davis is off the board while Devonte Wyatt would be a reach at this point.
As such, the Chargers will continue to build around Justin Herbert. They have two great receivers in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, but they could use a third. Burks is great with the ball in his hands and could be used as a multi-faceted weapon in the passing and running games.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (from Saints)
The Eagles could take McDuffie at 15, so getting him here is a nice value. Philadelphia has long been looking for cornerback help and McDuffie was sticky in coverage at Washington. He only had two interceptions in his career, so he might not be a big-time playmaker, but he should still develop into a solid starter for the Eagles.
19. New Orleans Saints (from Eagles)
This is where many will have Kenny Pickett’s fall ended, but I’m not sold that the Saints will take him at this juncture. They still need a left tackle and while Smith is a bit of a reach, they have been connected with him during the draft process.
Smith (6-5, 324 pounds) is a raw tackle who plays a very physical game. He is inconsistent and needs to fix up his technique a bit, but the potential is there. New Orleans tends to value the offensive line pretty highly, having used three of its last seven first- or second-round picks on the position, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them take a chance on a prospect who has risen late in the draft process.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers
And finally, a quarterback comes off the board in this mock draft. Willis could certainly go earlier than this. It’s hard to find him a definitive landing spot if the Panthers pass on him at No. 6. Maybe the Falcons would take him eighth overall, or maybe the Saints would consider him, but it’s more likely that teams will pass on quarterbacks in what is considered to be a weak class.
That works to the Steelers’ advantage. They need a young quarterback of the future to pair with Mitch Trubisky. Willis has dynamic scrambling ability and an excellent arm; he just needs time to develop against higher-level competition and also needs to improve his accuracy and ability to read the field against tighter coverage.
Willis may not make it to the 20th pick, but the Steelers could still draft him. If Willis slips out of the top 10, the Steelers could trade up with the Vikings or Texans to get him. They were willing to trade up to 10 from 20 in the 2019 draft to get Devin Bush. They may do the same for Willis, who fits the mobile mold that Mike Tomlin is looking for at quarterback.
MORE: Top 10 quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft
21. New England Patriots
It’s nearly impossible to correctly predict what the Patriots will do year-to-year because they run such a tight ship. That said, they seem likely to target a defensive player here considering the losses they have had on the side of the ball, particularly at linebacker.
Lloyd is a true, three-down linebacker who was highly productive at Utah and has the size (6-3) that Bill Belichick covets. The Patriots could prefer Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean’s athleticism or the untapped potential of his teammate, Quay Walker, but Lloyd is the safest bet here for the time being.
Another name to watch here is Daxton Hill. The Michigan defensive back is versatile and can play at safety and in the slot. Belichick loves versatility, so perhaps he’ll pull the trigger on Hill here. More likely though, the Patriots will trade down, as they typically do. The Cowboys could be a trading partner (more on that later).
22. Green Bay Packers (from Raiders)
The Packers have to take a receiver here, right? Aaron Rodgers returned to the team only to see them trade away Davante Adams and lose Marquez Valdes-Scantling to free agency. The team is very thin at the position, so getting ar receiver early in a deep and talented wide-out class would be a good move.
Dotson is a smaller pass-catcher at 5-11, 178 pounds, but he was a big-time deep threat at Penn State. He caught 91 passes for 1,182 yards and six touchdowns as a senior while showing off good route-running skills. Dotson would pair well with the bigger-bodied Allen Lazard, so this would be a nice start for the Packers.
23. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals have long had issues on the offensive line. They got a bit better at center last year, but when Rodney Hudson missed time, the interior blocking was awful.
Johnson would help remedy that. The Boston College product looks like one of the safest players in this year’s draft, as he can play all three interior positions and blocks with great technique. He could challenge Justin Pugh and Will Hernandez for a starting guard job before eventually sliding to center to replace Hudson, 32. Arizona could also consider a receiver here if Dotson falls to them.
24. Dallas Cowboys
Dallas lost Connor Williams in free agency, so they have a hole at left guard. They could entrust 2019 third-round pick Connor McGovern in that role, but they would still need to replenish their depth across the offensive line.
The Cowboys would probably love to get Zion Johnson here, but they’ll settle for Kenyon Green. He’s a thick, strong 6-4, 324-pound guard who should be a plug-and-play starter at the NFL level. Dak Prescott will be glad to have him on the left side of the line.
25. Buffalo Bills
There aren’t many weaknesses on the Bills’ roster, but they could stand to add talent at cornerback and running back. There aren’t any running backs worthy of a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, so the Bills will more likely look for a corner to help replace Levi Wallace.
Booth was a productive two-year starter at Clemson and totaled five interceptions over his final 21 games with the team. He could develop into a solid No. 2 corner across from Tre’Davious White and would continue to add depth to Buffalo’s secondary.
26. Tennessee Titans
Look, this isn’t a great fit, but the Titans are going to be in a tough spot if they miss out on both Zion Johnson and Kenyon Green. They really need offensive line help, but the guards and tackles available at this juncture would all be reaches.
Could the Titans add a center like Linderbaum here instead? They have Ben Jones entrenched at center, but he’s 32 and Linderbaum put together some of the best tape in this year’s class. He may be too small to fit at guard, but the Titans may be happy to add depth to the line and a future high-level starter. And maybe they could try playing Jones at guard, though he’s a bit small, too.
That said, if the draft plays out like this, the Titans may prefer to trade down. They could then look to add a true guard a bit later or target a receiver early on Day 2. Players like Christian Watson and Skyy Moore could be in play here if the Titans are scared off by Linderbaum’s sub-6-1 frame.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Wyatt comes with character concerns, but the Buccaneers have taken a chance on players with those in years past. Most notably, they did so with Antonio Brown, and while that didn’t pan out long-term, it did help the team win Super Bowl 55.
The Bucs need to add talent to their defensive front to help replace Ndamukong Suh, and Wyatt would fit perfectly in Todd Bowles’ defense. He ran the fastest 40 among defensive tackles at the 2022 NFL Combine (4.77) and showed quick get-off at Georgia. He should be a well-rounded pro, so Tampa Bay may decide he is worth the risk here.
BENDER: Projecting the NFL’s first-round QBs through 2026
28. Green Bay Packers
The Packers could take a second receiver here, but it’s more likely that they will look to replenish their depth at other positions. The team had to cut Za’Darius Smith as a cap casualty this offseason, so adding another pass rusher to pair with Preston Smith and Rashan Gary long-term makes sense.
Ojabo is a great value here. He was getting buzz as a potential top-10 pick before he tore his Achilles at his Pro Day. He may not be ready for 2022, but we’ve seen young players like Cam Akers return quicker than expected from Achilles injuries recently.
Even if Ojabo can’t play this year, the Packers are getting a great value with him at this juncture. They took a long-term view when they drafted Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. They could do it again for a talent like Ojabo.
29. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have made quite a few moves at receiver during the 2022 NFL offseason. Most notably, they traded Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins, but they also lost Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson in free agency. They have since added JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling to the roster, but they still need a potential starter and more depth at receiver.
Watson would qualify as both. The North Dakota State product is very raw, but he averaged 20.5 yards per catch during his collegiate career. Granted, he played at the FCS level, but he is an NFL-caliber athlete, as he blazed a 4.36 40-yard dash despite measuring at 6-4, 206 pounds.
Watson will need time to improve as a route runner, but he could eventually form a deadly combination with Patrick Mahomes. He may not have a hyphenated last name like Smith-Schuster and Valdes-Scantling, but his fit in Kansas City is a good one.
30. Kansas City Chiefs (from Dolphins via 49ers)
Here’s an outside-the-box option for the Chiefs. They have a bigger need at corner than safety, but the team used three safeties a lot last season. Justin Reid is set to replace Tyrann Mathieu in the lineup, but the team has yet to replace Daniel Sorensen. Cine would provide a physical, playmaking presence in Kansas City’s defense and should be better in coverage than Sorensen was last season. Don’t be surprised if he’s the pick here, or if he goes earlier.
31. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals grab a falling player at 31 in what could become a great value pick. Karlaftis got some top-10 buzz at one point during the college football season, but his stock has slipped to the latter half of the first round at this point. He’s still a solid pass rusher with great power who compares favorably to another Purdue alumn, Ryan Kerrigan.
The Bengals have Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard at defensive end, but they could use an impactful third man for the rotation. That role should more than suit Karlaftis, who could eventually develop into an NFL starter.
32. Detroit Lions (from Rams)
Kenny Pickett at 32. Yup, it’s possible. The 2022 NFL Draft is weak at the quarterback position and only a handful of teams picking in the first round have a need at the position. And when you start to parse things out, it’s hard to find a landing spot for Pickett.
Sure, maybe the Panthers, Falcons, Saints or Steelers fall in love with Pickett. However, the Panthers seem to be focusing on the offensive tackle position while the Steelers may prefer Malik Willis. The Falcons seem poised to land one of the top defenders in this year’s class while the Saints aren’t guaranteed to take a quarterback early at all.
All it takes is one team to fall for a quarterback, but if Willis and Pickett both slide, Pickett’s fall could last a while. He may not make it all the way to 32, as a team could trade up from the second round to grab him. But a fall like this remains possible.
We see this happen all the time. From Aaron Rodgers to Brady Quinn to Lamar Jackson, some quarterbacks simply fall, regardless of their talent level.
If Pickett falls, his drop will be more reminiscent of Drew Lock’s in 2019. Lock was frequently mocked as a potential top-15 or top-20 pick, but he lasted until the second round, as teams simply weren’t as high on him as fans and draft analysts were. Pickett could suffer the same fate, though it’s unlikely that he will fall out of the first round in a weaker draft class.