NFL Draft 2022: Top Prospects and 1st-Round Mock Predictions

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IMay 1, 2021

NFL Draft 2022: Top Prospects and 1st-Round Mock Predictions

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    The 2021 NFL draft may not be over, but why not start looking ahead to 2022? It may be early—and things are certain to change during the upcoming college football season—but it can be fun to make some predictions and then see how they will differ throughout the course of the next year.

    This year's draft in Cleveland is set to conclude Saturday with the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. The 2022 NFL draft is scheduled to be held in Las Vegas. The 2020 draft was supposed to take place in Vegas, but it was changed to a virtual format because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Although it's not yet clear how the first round of the 2022 NFL draft will unfold, we have already seen some of the probable top picks in action. And if these potential future stars build off their early-career success during the upcoming season, that should help them solidify their status as likely first-rounders.

    Here's an early mock for the first round of the 2022 draft, along with a look at some of the top prospects. The draft order is set by reversing DraftKings Sportsbook's odds for each team to win the Super Bowl in the 2021 season.

2022 1st-Round Mock Draft

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    Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    1. Houston Texans: Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma

    2. Detroit Lions: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

    3. New York Jets: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon

    4. Cincinnati Bengals: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

    5. Philadelphia Eagles: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

    6. Jacksonville Jaguars: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

    7. New York Giants: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

    8. Carolina Panthers: DeMarvin Leal, DE, Texas A&M

    9. Atlanta Falcons: JT Daniels, QB, Georgia

    10. Washington Football Team: Kedon Slovis, QB, USC

    11. Las Vegas Raiders: Nick Broeker, OT, Ole Miss

    12. New York Giants (via Chicago Bears): Logan Brown, OT, Wisconsin

    13. Minnesota Vikings: Sheridan Jones, CB, Clemson

    14. Arizona Cardinals: Drake Jackson, DT, USC

    15. Tennessee Titans: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

    16. Pittsburgh Steelers: Owen Pappoe, LB, Auburn

    17. Los Angeles Chargers: Chris Hinton, DT, Michigan

    18. New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks): Christian Harris, LB, Alabama

    19. New Orleans Saints: Marcus Hooker, S, Ohio State

    20. New England Patriots: Jamaree Salyer, OT, Georgia

    21. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami Dolphins): Zach Harrison, DE, Ohio State

    22. Dallas Cowboys: Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State

    23. Indianapolis Colts: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

    24. Denver Broncos: Justin Egoigbe, DE, Alabama

    25. Green Bay Packers: Joseph Ngata, WR, Clemson

    26. Miami Dolphins (via San Francisco 49ers): Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State

    27. Cleveland Browns: Kenyon Green, OT, Texas A&M

    28. Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams): George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue

    29. Buffalo Bills: Wanya Morris, OT, Tennessee

    30. Baltimore Ravens: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan

    31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Travon Walker, DE, Georgia

    32. Kansas City Chiefs: John Metchie III, WR, Alabama

Will Rattler Solidify Status as Top Quarterback Prospect?

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Three former Oklahoma quarterbacks have been selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft: Sam Bradford (2010), Baker Mayfield (2018) and Kyler Murray (2019). Could Rattler become the fourth in 2022?

    It's likely that Rattler is going to be among the top Heisman Trophy contenders next season after he had an impressive 2020 while leading the Sooners offense as a redshirt freshman. The 6'1" quarterback passed for 3,031 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 11 games, also scoring six rushing touchdowns.

    Rattler could put up even bigger numbers in 2021. And if that's the case, he may not only be the top quarterback in the 2022 draft class but also could be the first player selected. While North Carolina's Sam Howell, Georgia's JT Daniels and USC's Kedon Slovis are also strong prospects, Rattler is coming from a program that keeps churning out top quarterbacks.

    "The NFL has learned to trust Lincoln Riley, whose past three QBs are all NFL starters," ESPN's Dave Wilson recently wrote. "Now it's Rattler's turn."

    And it should be exciting to watch as Rattler tries to solidify his status as a top draft prospect for 2022.

Thibodeaux Poised to Keep Draft Stock High

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Remember Von Miller in his prime? That's the type of potential that Oregon edge-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux has. That's the comparison that new Ducks defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter made during his introductory press conference in February.

    "[Thibodeaux] is probably the first person that I've seen in a while who has that explosiveness off the edge like Von," DeRuyter said, per Dylan Mickanen of NBC Sports Northwest.

    Thibodeaux played in only seven games during Oregon's shortened 2020 season, but that was enough time for the 6'5" defensive end to build off the success he had as a freshman. Over two seasons, he has 73 tackles (23.5 for a loss) and 12 sacks in 21 games.

    Depending on which NFL team ends up with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 draft, it's possible that Thibodeaux could be the player taken with the selection—especially if he keeps putting up impressive numbers and showcasing his elite pass-rushing skills during his junior season.

    Oregon has produced a top-10 pick in consecutive drafts (Justin Herbert in 2020 and Penei Sewell in 2021), and there's a good chance Thibodeaux extends that streak.

Could Falcons Draft QB to Succeed Ryan?

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Through the first three rounds of the 2021 NFL draft, the Atlanta Falcons haven't taken a quarterback. That seems to indicate they may not be adding a potential successor to Matt Ryan (who turns 36 on May 17) this year. They could still draft a quarterback for depth, but that player is unlikely to be their future franchise starter.

    If Ryan struggles in 2021—or even if he doesn't—Atlanta may look for its quarterback of the future early in the 2022 draft. There could be some strong options throughout the first round, so even if the Falcons play well this upcoming season and pick later on the first night, they could still add a franchise signal-caller.

    One intriguing possibility would be if Atlanta drafted JT Daniels, who would stay in state after finishing his career at Georgia. Daniels, who started at USC, transferred to the Bulldogs for the 2020 season and emerged as a strong player once he was healthy and got on to the field.

    Daniels passed for 1,231 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions in four games as a redshirt sophomore, and he should build off that in 2021, when he should get more playing time. Keep an eye on him as a potential first-round pick in 2022, perhaps even going to the Falcons.

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