2022 NFL Mock Draft: B/R's Way-Too-Early Predictions

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystMay 3, 2021

2022 NFL Mock Draft: B/R's Way-Too-Early Predictions

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    There's more to see than can ever be seen
    More to do than can ever be done
    There's far too much to take in here
    More to find than can ever be found 

    The NFL draft serves as the lifeblood for professional football. As soon as one cycle ends, the next begins. 

    It's all part of the process. Front offices look ahead to next year's projected draft class before the current one even starts. An understanding of what's available a year later could impact what an organization does in the moment. 

    So, the idea of previewing the 2022 NFL draft while the '21 version remains fresh in everyone's minds is merely the circle of life. 

    Moving forward, this projection and its slotting are based on DraftKings' current odds of winning Super Bowl LVI at the time of writing (a coin flip broke any ties, just like it does as a last resort to determine playoff seeding). 

    Look ahead as far as the eye can see into the possibilities of what teams can and maybe will be doing this time next year.


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1. Houston Texans: QB Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Some variation of the same conversation occurs every year around this time. It goes something like this: "Next year's quarterback crop isn't as good as the current one." 

    Yet every year, quarterbacks are chosen near the top of the draft. Over the last few years, we've seen Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow and Zach Wilson emerge as elite prospects despite being considered mid- to late-round options entering their final seasons on campus. 

    So, don't be surprised when one or two quarterbacks do the same during the 2022 evaluation period. 

    A shaky start to Spencer Rattler's career as Oklahoma's quarterback doesn't overshadow the fact that he's college football's best quarterback entering the 2021 campaign. The first-team All-Big 12 performer ranked first among returning Power Five quarterbacks in passing grade from a clean pocket, per Pro Football Focus' Brent Rollins. Rattler posted the second-highest grade of any Division I quarterback when throwing past his first read in 2020. His 74.3 tight-window passing grade is college football's fifth-best effort over the last three seasons—just behind the likes of Wilson, Burrow and Murray. 

    If the Houston Texans do pick No. 1 overall, it likely will mean the organization has moved on from Deshaun Watson and 2021 third-round pick Davis Mills didn't show much potential.

2. Detroit Lions: Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    The Detroit Lions spent the majority of the 2021 draft addressing the trenches. The team chose Oregon's Penei Sewell, Washington's Levi Onwuzurike and North Carolina State's Alim McNeill with its first three selections. 

    The continuation of this trend should occur as high as the Lions are projected to pick with yet another elite talent from the Northwest sitting near the top of the class. 

    Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux will challenge for the No. 1 spot in the 2022 draft. He's a game-wrecker. The 6'5", 250-pound edge-defender has the size, length, athleticism, burst and flexibility to be considered a similar talent to previous top picks Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett. 

    "His body is continuing to grow larger, stronger, more explosive, more flexible," Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal told the Register-Guard's Ryan Thorburn. "His football IQ continues to increase. ...

    "The combination of all those things, and with a guy that wants to win championships, it's exactly what you want for your football team."

3. New York Jets: CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU

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    John Amis/Associated Press

    The New York Jets took an interesting approach to the 2021 NFL draft. 

    After hiring the defensive-minded Robert Saleh as head coach, the organization chose four straight offensive prospects to open this year's event. The Jets finished strong on the other side of the ball with six consecutive defenders, five of which are defensive backs. 

    Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas know the secondary is an issue. But prospects drafted in the fifth round and beyond won't stop New York from taking an elite cornerback prospect, like LSU's Derek Stingley Jr. 

    How good is Stingley? He's just the nation's highest-graded cover corner since the start of the 2019 campaign, per Pro Football Focus.

4. Cincinnati Bengals: OT Evan Neal, Alabama

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    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    The Cincinnati Bengals made the wrong choice by selecting the top wide receiver over an elite offensive tackle with this year's fifth overall pick. 

    (The previous statement isn't a slight against Ja'Marr Chase, who is an incredible talent. The argument is based on prioritization, how to properly build a roster and what's best for quarterback Joe Burrow.)

    Instead, the Bengals chose Jackson Carman, who will convert from left tackle to guard, in the second round. Part of the reasoning behind Cincinnati's decision to pass on Oregon's Penei Sewell had to do with Riley Reiff's presence on the roster, though Reiff is 32 and playing under a one-year contract. 

    It's time to rectify this matter. Alabama's Evan Neal is a massive human being (6'7" and 360 pounds) with starting experience at right tackle and guard. The former 5-star recruit has lived up to expectations with the Crimson Tide.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame

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    Tony Tribble/Associated Press

    Jamal Adams in 2017 was the last safety to hear his name called among the NFL draft's top 10 selections. Notre Dame's Kyle Hamilton has the athletic profile to be the next. 

    The 6'4", 219-pound defensive back brings a rare blend of size and length to the position while doubling as one of the nation's very best in coverage.

    According to Pro Football Focus, the All-ACC first-teamer has 594 coverage snaps with only 212 yards allowed and not a single touchdown surrendered. Quarterbacks posted a passer rating of 1.3 into his coverage last season. Basically, those same signal-callers would have posted a higher number by intentionally throwing the ball into the dirt instead of in Hamilton's direction. 

    The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted safety Andre Cisco in this year's third round, but Hamilton is on a different level.

6. Las Vegas Raiders: QB Sam Howell, North Carolina

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    Marta Lavandier/Associated Press

    Something will have gone seriously wrong if the Las Vegas Raiders are picking sixth overall. 

    Granted, the team has been mediocre during Jon Gruden's tenure, but its record improved in each of the last three seasons. In order to select this high in this process, the wheels will have fallen completely off. 

    When that happens, there's only one direction to go: start over, beginning with the game's most important position. 

    Derek Carr is a fine quarterback. He doesn't deserve the organization's continued dalliances with other available quarterbacks. But the Raiders can move on from Carr next offseason since there's not a single guaranteed cent left on his deal beyond 2021. 

    North Carolina's Sam Howell became one of college football's best quarterbacks the moment he stepped onto the field. As a true freshman, Howell posted an impressive 38-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. A season later, his completion percentage improved by nearly 7 percent, and his yards per attempt increased. 

    Howell is an ascending talent who will have proved his worth through three years of ACC play.

7. Philadelphia Eagles: OT Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    How the Philadelphia Eagles actually feel internally about quarterback Jalen Hurts remains a mystery. But ownership seems to back last year's second-round pick. 

    Ultimately, Hurts' performance this fall will determine whether the Eagles will be searching for another quarterback next offseason. Until then, the front office should heed Jeffery Lurie's mandate and build around the young signal-caller. 

    North Carolina State's Ikem Ekwonu isn't a well-known name entering the next draft cycle. But he should be. 

    "To me, he's the most feared offensive lineman in the ACC," an offensive line coach told The Athletic's Bruce Feldman. "He's similar to [Mekhi] Becton but more of an interior guy. He's got so much short-area power and explosiveness. He's violent. You'd go watch him on film: 'Oh, wow, he's destroying people.'"

    Ekwonu received second-team All-ACC honors from the Associated Press as a tackle and guard. Like Rashawn Slater this year, don't let slightly less-than-ideal height (6'4") and length take away from the prospect Ekwonu is, especially since Andre Dillard hasn't quite worked out to date.

8. New York Giants: Edge Drake Jackson, USC

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The New York Giants made one of the best value picks of the 2021 NFL draft when the organization selected Georgia's Azeez Ojulari with the 50th overall pick. The 20-year-old is the best speed-rusher in the class and an ideal fit for the Giants' defensive scheme. 

    General manager Dave Gettleman doubled down on the team's pass rush by selecting Northern Iowa's Elerson Smith two rounds later. 

    Are these two enough to improve the team's nonexistent edge rush? Probably not. They're definitely not enough to force the team to pass on an elite edge talent. 

    USC's Drake Jackson is a natural pass-rusher. His performance in 2020 with only two sacks doesn't accurately represent his capabilities to beat offensive tackles off the snap and bend the edge. Like Ojulari, Jackson would be an excellent fit in the Giants scheme and a wonderful bookend to New York's new primary edge-rusher.

9. Carolina Panthers: OT Zion Nelson, Miami

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    The Carolina Panthers' plan to properly protect new quarterback Sam Darnold can be described as confusing. The organization roared into free agency by signing Pat Elflein and Cameron Erving, both of whom have been underwhelming throughout their professional careers. 

    Maybe Erving starts at left tackle. Or, third-round rookie Brady Christensen could take the spot. Who's to know? These types of investments aren't exactly what everyone should expect from a team with a need at a premium position. 

    Miami's Zion Wilson has grown into one of the nation's best left tackles after a rocky start to his true freshman campaign. He's a fluid athlete with the natural movement skills to mirror and counter top pass-rushers. 

    "Zion's an incredibly gifted football player," Hurricanes center Corey Gaynor told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's David Furones. "He's got long arms. Think he's big and strong, and I think he's very twitchy. He's everything you want out of a left tackle."

10. Atlanta Falcons: WR Justyn Ross, Clemson

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross looked like a surefire first-round draft pick prior after the 2019 campaign. But life got in the way. 

    Eleven months ago, the Tigers program announced Ross would miss the entire 2020 season because of a spinal condition he had since birth. The 6'4", 205-pound target required surgery to rectify a bulging disk he had as a result. 

    Now, he's ready to play again. 

    "A year ago I didn't think I would put on pads again," Ross told reporters last month. "So I'm grateful. I'm taking advantage of every rep I get. ... I realize how quick the game could be taken away from me. ... I will be ready to play anytime they tell me."

    A fully healthy Ross could help the Atlanta Falcons transition away from Julio Jones, who has been the subject of trade rumors, and give the team a dynamic duo with him and Kyle Pitts for years to come.

11. New York Giants (from Chicago): DT DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M

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    Sam Craft/Associated Press

    The luxury of a second first-round pick this high in the process thanks to the Justin Fields trade creates a myriad possibilities for the New York Giants. 

    Fortifications to the defensive front seven continue after Drake Jackson's selection three picks earlier. 

    While Jackson works the edge, Texas A&M's DeMarvin Leal can join Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence along the defensive front to form a dominant group. 

    As of now, the Giants enter the season with Danny Shelton as their projected nose tackle. Shelton is operating under a one-year deal and has never lived up to his first-round draft status. Leal doesn't have the same girth at 290 pounds, but he's very strong at the point of attack with legitimate interior pass-rushing potential. Leal can mix and match with Williams and Lawrence to see who best fits where.

12. Washington Football Team: QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    The Washington Football Team features a playoff-caliber roster, except at quarterback. One position will hold back the franchise until it's properly addressed. 

    Everyone loves a little Fitzmagic, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is better as a heater in a short-term situation. No one knows exactly what to expect from Taylor Heinicke after one impressive performance in the postseason. 

    Washington's best bet is reinvesting in the quarterback position to make sure the rest of the roster doesn't go to waste. 

    Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder has everything a franchise wants in a quarterback prospect. He's an athletic 6'4", 215-pound signal-caller who has helped elevate his program to the national consciousness. The reigning AAC Offensive Player of the Year completed 66.2 percent of his passes last season and amassed 2,888 yards from scrimmage in 10 games.

13. Arizona Cardinals: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury can't have too many talented weapons in his offense. While this is true in most cases, the team's selection of Ohio State's Chris Olave is a safeguard against what could happen to the Cardinals' current receiving corps next offseason. 

    A.J. Green isn't signed beyond the 2021 campaign. Christian Kirk is scheduled to become a free agent as well. 

    So, a position of strength could turn into a significant need rather quickly. 

    Olave is a silky smooth route-runner who glides all over the field. The combination allows him to create significant separation on a consistent basis. As such, the first-team All-Big Ten receiver finished second in the nation with a 143.4 passer rating when targeted, per Pro Football Focus.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Malik Willis, Liberty

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    Matt Stamey/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers go as Ben Roethlisberger goes. That approach needs to change after the 2021 campaign. Roethlisberger is 39 years old and clearly in decline. The organization can finally move on from his contract after the upcoming season and invest in a legitimate successor. 

    Liberty's Malik Willis isn't a household name. But he'll likely become one as the 2021 season progresses. 

    As a first-time starter last year, the Auburn transfer completed 64.2 percent of his passes with a 20-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The quarterback also ran for 944 yards and 14 more scores in 10 games. As a thrower, Willis possesses arguably the strongest arm in the next quarterback class. 

    NFL evaluators already identified Willis as "freaky," per The Athletic's Bruce Feldman

    "Watching him on film, I was scared to death," North Carolina State defensive coordinator Tony Gibson told Feldman. "He has a really, really strong arm and a very quick release. One of the games he threw a ball like 75 yards and it was right on the money."

15. Los Angeles Chargers: Edge Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bears chose Leonard Floyd with the ninth overall pick in the 2016 draft. At the time, Floyd was viewed as a long and lean edge-rusher with tremendous upside. After four middling seasons in the Windy City, the Bears cut the former Georgia standout. 

    Floyd subsequently signed with the Los Angeles Rams the same offseason that Brandon Staley took over for Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator. Staley maximized Floyd's abilities, and the edge-defender experienced a breakthrough campaign with 10.5 sacks. 

    Now, Staley is the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers with the opportunity to select a similar talent to Floyd in this 2022 projection. Oklahoma's Nik Bonitto is the nation's best returning pass-rusher. According to Pro Football Focus, Bonitto led major college football last season in pass-rush grade (93.6), pass-rush win rate (28 percent) and pressure rate generated (25.7 percent).

16. Minnesota Vikings: Edge Kingsley Enagbare, South Carolina

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    Bruce Newman/Associated Press

    The Minnesota Vikings invested third- and fourth-round picks in Pitt's Patrick Jones II and Florida State's Janarius Robinson, respectively, to address a significant need at defensive end. 

    While those additions will certainly help, they don't necessarily solve the team's problem. 

    One will need to contribute quality reps opposite Danielle Hunter, while the other should crack the rotation. Furthermore, Hunter is returning from a neck injury that cost him all of last season, and his status remains uncertain. 

    South Carolina's Kingsley Enagbare can be the solution.

    The 6'4", 260-pound edge-defender has consistently improved during his three seasons on campus. He managed seven tackles for loss and six sacks in only eight games in 2020. According to Pro Football Focus, the first-team All-SEC selection was the nation's most effective pass-rusher on third down.

17. Tennessee Titans: WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    The Ohio State Buckeyes could have a little Alabama Crimson Tide action going with their wide receivers next year. Alabama had a pair of targets drafted in the first round each of the past two years. 

    How those selections played out proved to be interesting. In both cases, the more explosive option went higher than his more polished counterpart. 

    In this particular case, Garrett Wilson is the more explosive threat when compared to teammate Chris Olave. 

    From the moment Wilson entered the lineup, he's created big plays. The former 5-star recruit shows exceptional body control and separation skills. He can enter the Tennessee Titans lineup and provide a significant threat alongside A.J. Brown after the team lost Corey Davis in free agency. 

18. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami): CB Kaiir Elam, Florida

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia Eagles started to plan for their secondary's future with the addition of Zech McPhearson in this year's fourth round. But the cornerback's addition is only the starting point. 

    Darius Slay, who turns 31 next year, has salary-cap charges exceeding $22 million in 2022 and 2023. The likelihood of him staying on the roster at those numbers are slim to none. Plus, Avonte Maddox is entering a contract year. 

    Basically, the Eagles could be without their top two corners a year from now. 

    Florida's Kaiir Elam became a full-time starter in 2020. The 6'2" cornerback showed excellent ball skills and the ability to play through the catch point with 11 defended passes and a pair of interceptions. 

    Elam has the natural skill set to take over as the Eagles' CB1 if the organization chooses to move on from Slay or be a wonderful complement to the veteran (at a reduced price). 

19. New Orleans Saints: QB Kedon Slovis, USC

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    This year, the New Orleans Saints have Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill and Ian Book at quarterback. There's a very good chance none of them is the long-term solution at the position. 

    The search for Drew Brees' successor could stretch into 2022. 

    USC's Kedon Slovis has the potential to be the top quarterback prospect for next year's draft. But he has to bounce back after a disappointing sophomore campaign.

    Slovis set an NCAA freshman record in 2019 with a 71.8 completion percentage. He threw for 3,502 yards with a 30-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio. His decision-making wasn't as crisp as a sophomore, which caused a decline in his completion percentage and average yards per attempt. His interception rate increased as well. 

    Saints head coach Sean Payton is one of the best at teaching the position. Slovis' potential is far too tempting even if he doesn't quite reach his 2019 standard this fall. 

20. New England Patriots: WR George Pickens, Georgia

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    Michael Woods/Associated Press

    Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne are now the top two wide receivers in the New England Patriots offense after signing as free agents. 

    The two targets have similar physical profiles. Both are around 6'1" and primarily win with their speed and quickness. 

    Georgia's George Pickens is a different type of receiver. The 6'3" target excels at working outside the numbers and going up and plucking passes out of the air. Pickens' sophomore effort wasn't quite as good as his freshman season due to injuries. However, he projects at the type of X-receiver the Patriots thought they were getting when they drafted N'Keal Harry in the first round of the 2019 draft. 

    With Agoholor, Bourne, Pickens and the weapons New England now has at tight end, quarterback Mac Jones should be able to light up a few defenses. 

21. Indianapolis Colts: OT Rasheed Walker, Penn State

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    Barry Reeger/Associated Press

    Somehow, the Indianapolis Colts waited into the seventh round to select an offensive lineman, Will Fries,  despite left tackle behind a glaring need. 

    Now, the previous statement isn't to say general manager Chris Ballard should have forced his hand. Defensive end Kwity Paye was a fantastic pick in this year's first round. But the Colts had opportunities to address their offensive line well before the final frame. 

    Now, Indianapolis is staring down the possibility of Sam Tevi or Julie'n Davenport starting on Carson Wentz's blind side. That's not good. 

    As such, the Colts turn to Fries' old teammate, Rasheed Walker. The 6'6", 312-pound Walker started 22 straight games as Penn State's left tackle. Unless the Colts decide to do something unusual, like bump All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson to left tackle, the position will need to be addressed next offseason. 

22. New York Jets (from Seattle): Edge Zach Harrison, Ohio State

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas hangs his hat on building a tough team that can impose its will on opponents. More often than not, his viewpoint gets projected upon the offensive line. After all, the Jets did spend first-round picks on Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker in consecutive drafts. 

    The credo applies to the defensive line, too. 

    Head coach Robert Saleh knows how much his defensive front can benefit from an Ohio State product. Granted, Zach Harrison isn't Nick Bosa, but the former has the potential to be a consistently disruptive force. 

    Harrison looked like the next future star in Ohio State's defensive end pipeline but he didn't play as well as expected in 2020 with only two sacks. Harrison will be counted upon as a full-time starter for the first time this fall and could realize enormous potential as a focal point of the Buckeyes defense. 

23. Dallas Cowboys: TE Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    The Dallas Cowboys spent the majority of the 2021 NFL draft addressing last year's woeful defense. The unit needed an immense influx of talent and got it. It's time to flip the script. 

    Left tackle remains a question mark because of Tyron Smith's health. Though the fourth-round selection of Josh Ball gives Dallas a legitimate developmental option. 

    Tight end lacks a true threat. Blake Jarwin signed a four-year, $22 million contract extension last offseason. Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending ACL injury.

    Texas A&M's Jalen Wydermyer can help make the Cowboys offense absolutely unstoppable. With the weapons the team features at wide receiver and running back, the athletic 6'5", 255-pound tight end working the middle of the field is a mouth-watering proposition. 

24. Denver Broncos: LB Christian Harris, Alabama

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    If the Denver Broncos are picking in the 20s next year, something went very right with either Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater as the starting quarterback. 

    Another familiar position returns to the forefront of the Broncos' 2022 projection. Throughout the lead-up to the 2021 event, linebacker, particularly Penn State's Micah Parsons, because the most popular pairing for the Broncos with the ninth overall pick. 

    What didn't Denver do? Draft a true off-ball linebacker. (Baron Browning is better playing on the edge.) 

    The team still has A.J. Johnson and Josey Jewell as their inside backers, but both are free agents after this season. 

    Alabama's Christian Harris became a starter in Nick Saban's defense as a true freshman. Harris led the Crimson Tide last season with 52 solo tackles and tied for second with six quarterback hits. He should just fine in the middle of Vic Fangio's scheme. 

25. Green Bay Packers: WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas

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    Michael Woods/Associated Press

    As the Green Bay Packers' current imbroglio with quarterback Aaron Rodgers became public knowledge shortly before the 2021 NFL draft began, the front office could have made a move that should have been done years ago to make the future Hall of Fame signal-caller happy. But it didn't happen. 

    Yet again, the Packers failed to select a first-round playmaker. To be fair, general manager Brian Gutekunst didn't entirely ignore wide receiver this year. He chose Clemson's Amari Rodgers in the third round. The move has a feeling of being too little, too late.

    We might as well mock yet another wide receiver to Green Bay in hopes of Aaron Rodgers getting top-shelf help. 

    Arkansas' Treylon Burks is a big and physical wide receiver. The 6'3", 225-pounder caught 51 passes for 820 yards and seven touchdowns in nine games last season. No collegiate player is better at providing a target for his quarterback. 

26. Cleveland Browns: Edge Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Browns completely overhauled their defense this offseason. 

    In doing so, the team signed defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Takkarist McKinley. Surprisingly, general manager Andrew Berry didn't add another via the draft despite the two free agents only signing one-year deals. 

    Ultimately, Myles Garrett needs a long-term bookend. Maybe that's Clowney or even McKinley depending on how they play this fall. The solution is more likely to come from the draft. 

    Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson fits the profile of what Cleveland looks for in its first-round selections. He plays a premium position at a pipeline program and won't turn 22 until four months after being drafted. The 6'6", 269-pound defensive end is powerful at the point of attack and would provide a physical presence opposite Garrett. 

27. Baltimore Ravens: OT Darian Kinnard, Kentucky

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    Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

    The Baltimore Ravens bring a brand of bully-ball to professional football. They run the ball better than anyone else in the league and consistently win the war in the trenches. 

    The Ravens' O-line will go through a transition this fall, though. Orlando Brown Jr. is now a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. Bradley Bozeman could move from guard to center. And third-round rookie Ben Cleveland has a good chance to start. 

    Right tackle remains a question mark. Maybe Tyre Phillips secures the spot and it's no longer an issue. If not, Baltimore could use another tone-setter. 

    Kentucky's Darian Kinnard is one of the nation's best run blockers. The 6'5", 345-pound lineman started 24 straight games at right tackle, but he'll move to the left side this fall. His size and versatility are a perfect fit for what could be a major need area. 

28. Buffalo Bills: CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    The Buffalo Bills now feature one of the NFL's best all-around rosters. Concern does linger at cornerback opposite Tre'Davious White, though.

    Levi Wallace returned to the team this offseason, but he did so on a one-year, $1.75 million deal. Those aren't starting cornerback numbers.

    Bills general manager Brandon Beane didn't add much at the position courtesy of the draft. Racard Wildgoose joins the team after being a sixth-round selection. A real commitment to the position would be nice. 

    Cincinnati's Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner may not look a typical first-round cornerback. He's 6'2" and quite slender at a listed 188 pounds. But Wallace isn't the biggest defensive back, either. Gardner can cover with the best of them, though. According to Pro Football Focus, the two-time, first-team All-AAC defensive back hasn't allowed a touchdown in 598 career coverage snaps. 

29. Miami Dolphins (from San Francisco): RB Breece Hall, Iowa State

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    The Miami Dolphins bypassed every opportunity to draft a running back until the 244th overall pick when general manager Chris Grier finally selected Cincinnati's Gerrid Doaks. 

    Miami became a favorite landing spot for one of the top running backs in the 2021 class. The team had been linked to Alabama's Najee Harris, in particular, for quite some time. Grier decided not to pull the trigger on Harris with the 18th overall pick. 

    Instead, the Dolphins could have an opportunity to land the top running back prospect in the 2022 draft. 

    Iowa's Breece Hall led major college football last season with 1,572 rushing yards. The 19-year-old also finished first with 935 yards generated after contact and seven rushing touchdowns of 20 or more yards, per Pro Football Focus. Hall is a capable receiver as well. The running back snagged 46 passes through his first two seasons. 

30. Detroit Lions (from LA Rams): WR John Metchie III, Alabama

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The Detroit Lions stake claim to the NFL's worst wide receiver corps and it's not even close. 

    The idea of building the trenches on both sides of the ball as the starting point for a rebuild is perfectly fine, and the team definitely couldn't pass on Oregon defensive Kayvon Thibodeaux earlier in this mock draft. Eventually, something needs to be done at wide receiver. 

    No team needs to look any further than Alabama for yet another first-round wide receiver. 

    John Metchie III finished second on the Crimson Tide last season with 55 receptions for 916 yards. He helped pick up the slack created by Jaylen Waddle's injury. Metchie will take over as the Tide's top target this fall. But opposing defensive backs already know how difficult he is to defend. 

    "He's a great player, very quick step, fast, will block, so you got to get off blocks with him," former Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade told The Undefeated's Lukas Weese

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DT Haskell Garrett, Ohio State

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    Al Goldis/Associated Press

    The Ohio State Buckeyes feature a deep defensive line rotation. Even so, anytime defensive tackle Haskell Garrett took the field, he could be found in opposing backfields. The 6'2", 300-pound defensive lineman consistently reset the line of scrimmage and made life difficult for run games or quarterbacks dropping back to pass. 

    Plus, Garrett brings a different level of toughness to a team. When stumbling upon a domestic scuffle last summer, the 22-year-told tried to break up the fight, only to have a gun pulled on him. The assailant fired and the bullet went through both of Garrett's cheeks. 

    If that's not the type of guy that Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians loves, who is? 

    Besides, Tampa Bay will require fortifications along its defensive front next offseason since Ndamukong Suh and William Gholston are free agents.

32. Kansas City Chiefs: Edge George Karlaftis, Purdue

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    George Karlaftis' freshman season at Purdue was something to behold. The edge defender registered a whopping 17 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. His momentum didn't carry into 2020, though. Karlaftis dealt with a leg injury and then tested positive for COVID-19. 

    After a lost season, 6'4", 275-pound defender must reestablish himself this fall. If he returns to form, he could be one of the most sought-after edge-rushers in the entire class. At this point, his status is based more on promise than anything. 

    The Kansas City Chiefs would welcome a top talent at the end of the first round. As good as the Chiefs are, they lack punch in their pass rush. Chris Jones is often dominant working along the interior, but Frank Clark hasn't been great. Very little help exists on the edge beyond Clark, who may not even be with the team in 2022 since Kansas City can save $13.4 million with his release. 


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