2022 NFL Mock Draft: B/R NFL Scouting Dept.'s Picks Ahead of NFL Season
College football is back, baby! With the onset of a new season, another NFL draft cycle begins anew.
An early look at the 2022 class differs significantly from this year's version. The top of the class isn't headlined by a slam-dunk No. 1 overall prospect like Trevor Lawrence. The skill positions don't appear to be anywhere near as strong. From a logistical standpoint, scouts aren't dealing with prospects opting out of the campaign or nearly as stringent COVID-19 protocols.
Just like in every draft before it, the next crop of talent will present its own unique possibilities with the potential to significantly help the professional ranks.
To sort it all out, Bleacher Report's team of scouts—Brandon Thorn, Cory Giddings, Derrik Klassen and Nate Tice—provided a preliminary look at the top options in the '22 class, along with early breakdowns and team needs. The draft order is determined by DraftKings' current Super Bowl odds.
Let this initial mock draft serve as a guide to the names everyone should watch throughout the season as the class takes shape throughout the fall.
1. Houston Texans: QB Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma
Inevitably, a quarterback will work his way to the top of the 2022 draft.
The position remains far too valuable not to invest in a promising talent early in the process. In fact, a quarterback prospect hasn't been selected in the top 10 only once in the last 20 years. Conversely, a quarterback went No. 1 overall in 16 of the last 21 classes.
Oklahoma's Spencer Rattler is the most logical option to do so next year.
"Rattler is the most natural thrower in this class with fantastic arm talent," Tice said. "He makes some mistakes with the football while trying to be a hero and will need to hone his natural abilities. But the Houston Texans can hit the reset button with a new franchise QB to build around."
On Monday, Texans head coach David Culley named Tyrod Taylor the team's starting quarterback in 2021. It is only a matter of time before Houston moves on from its previous starter, Deshaun Watson, whose NFL future is uncertain. There have been 22 civil lawsuits filed against Watson by women alleging sexual assault or misconduct. Watson will be deposed in February 2022 at the earliest.
Rattler will bring a fresh start to a franchise in need of a serious overhaul.
2. Detroit Lions: Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
If a quarterback doesn't make his way to the top of the 2022 draft, Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux will almost certainly fill the void.
"His height, weight, speed and flexibility combination is as good as it gets. Consensus No. 1 edge player for a team that desperately needs a star pass-rusher," Klassen stated.
The 6'5", 258-pound underclassman has been a force since the moment he stepped onto campus. Thibodeaux has registered 13 sacks and 24.5 tackles for loss in his first 21 games. Unfortunately, he suffered an ankle sprain in Oregon Ducks' season opener against the Fresno State Bulldogs on Saturday, which could slow him down a bit this season.
When fully healthy, Thibodeaux is in the same class as Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney and the Bosa brothers.
The Detroit Lions don't have a superstar talent on their roster. If the team decides to move forward with Jared Goff under center, Thibodeaux is the logical choice.
3. New York Jets: CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
The New York Jets are early in the rebuilding process after eschewing previous head coach Adam Gase and hiring Robert Saleh in January.
The first step has been achieved with the acquisition of quarterback Zach Wilson, this year's second overall draft pick. The team is also set at left tackle with Mekhi Becton. Edge-rusher remains a concern, though Carl Lawson should return next year from a ruptured Achilles tendon. Of the four premium positions, has yet to be truly addressed.
"With the Jets' cornerback position in a bit of a disarray, new blood is needed," Giddings said. "If Bryce Hall and Brandin Echols start this season, that will be two starters who were drafted in the fifth round or later. Derek Stingley Jr. has the superior athletic ability to come in and start right away."
New York released Blessuan Austin a week ago despite the 2019 draft pick starting 16 games over the last two seasons.
Stingley is a premier cover corner who should give the Jets the ability to fully implement Saleh's defensive scheme and help complete the roster.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: OT Evan Neal, Alabama
The Cincinnati Bengals will likely enter another offseason with the offensive line being their foremost concern. They can rectify the situation quickly and properly by investing in the top offensive line prospect, which they failed to do this year.
"Bengals right tackle Riley Reiff is set to hit unrestricted free agency after this upcoming season, and the team will need to add another starting tackle into the mix with Jonah Williams," Thorn noted. "Evan Neal would provide them with a blue-chip talent at a premium position, instantly giving the Bengals one of the most promising tackle duos in the NFL.
"After years of mismanaging the offensive line, the addition of Neal will go a long way toward protecting franchise quarterback Joe Burrow."
Neal, who converted from right to left tackle this year, dominated in Alabama's season opener against the Miami Hurricanes. The 6'7", 350-pound blocker is an imposing physical force with surprisingly nimble feet and movement skills. He easily handled Bryce Young's blind side in the 44-13 victory.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: OT Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
The Jacksonville Jaguars made one of the NFL's most interesting offseason moves when they placed a franchise tag on left tackle Cam Robinson despite middling-to-poor play throughout his career.
The two sides didn't reach a long-term deal, and as such, Jacksonville may be looking for significant offensive line help next offseason.
"With multiple starters on their offensive line set to hit free agency after this season in Robinson and guard A.J. Cann, the Jaguars will be in a position to inject some young talent into their front if they don't bring back one or both of those players," Thorn said. "Kenyon Green moved outside to tackle this season after playing guard in 2020 for Texas A&M, which should help his draft stock if he performs well. Worst-case, he'll cement himself as a guard in the NFL.
"With excellent explosiveness and physicality, Green has the tools to ascend into a premier prospect this season."
To clarify, Green opened the '21 campaign as the Aggies' right tackle. He does have the feet, length and overall athleticism to play left tackle if needed.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
Value in the draft resides at the intersection of available talent and team need.
Kyle Hamilton is one of the nation's most gifted prospects despite playing a non-premium position, while the Philadelphia Eagles could have a major void at safety next offseason.
"Hamilton is a big safety (6'4", 220 lbs) with the athletic ability to play at all three levels, although he's at his best when closer to the line of scrimmage," Giddings said. "He uses his length well when taking on blockers, covering tight ends and has the physicality to show up in the running game."
Both Rodney McLeod and Anthony Harris are scheduled to become free agents after this season. Furthermore, both will be 31 or older in 2022.
If the Eagles end up selecting sixth overall, that could mean they consider a quarterback because a poor season won't reflect well on Jalen Hurts. At this point, the 2020 second-round selection has yet to prove whether he's a long-term answer under center. If the team thinks Hurts is a capable starter, it can invest its selection in a dynamic defender.
7. Las Vegas Raiders: CB Kaiir Elam, Florida
The Las Vegas Raiders desperately need to hit on a top draft pick after multiple years of questionable first-round selections.
Maybe Alex Leatherwood will turn into a standout right tackle, corner Damon Arnette will bounce back after a disappointing rookie campaign and Clelin Ferrell will finally provide more pass-rushing punch.
Another investment in the secondary may be necessary depending on Arnette's development and the fact that Casey Hayward Jr. is scheduled to be a free agent after this season. Florida's Kaiir Elam has the potential to slide in as CB1 in the Raiders secondary.
"Elam is a long corner who attacks the ball in the air," Giddings said. "With his ball-hawk tendencies, the 6'2", 196-pound Elam is able to ride receivers off their line and attack the ball at its highest point. With Hayward getting up in age (31), this is the team's chance to add more length opposite Trayvon Mullen Jr."
Elam and Mullen—with Arnette working over the slot and outside of the numbers depending on the coverage, alignment and package—would bring enough upside for a weakness to turn into a potential strength.
8. Carolina Panthers: DT DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M
The Carolina Panthers may be a bit of a mess on offense until the franchise figures out what it has in quarterback Sam Darnold and a questionable front. Defensively, the story is different.
The Panthers can build a legitimate identity with young players they have on that side of the ball.
Brian Burns and Derrick Brown have already at least flashed the potential to become difference-makers. The Panthers can continue to build around this emerging group by adding Texas A&M's DeMarvin Leal.
At 6'4" and 290 pounds, Leal can play both defensive end and defensive tackle.
"Leal is a bit of a tweener between edge and defensive tackle right now, but that should not be an issue for a Panthers front that could use some firepower at either spot," Klassen said. "Leal's explosiveness is off the charts."
Burns, Brown, Leal and a possibly re-signed Haason Reddick, who is operating under a one-year deal, could form a potent defensive front.
9. New York Giants: LB Christian Harris, Alabama
Blake Martinez is a tackling machine for the New York Giants. He's a team leader and a reliable defender in the middle of the field.
At the same time, the Giants aren't particularly athletic among their off-ball linebackers.
"The 2020 free-agent signing of Martinez worked out better than expected last season, but the Giants still need real speed at linebacker," Klassen stated. "Christian Harris' speed, trigger and willingness to take on blocks make him a tackle for loss waiting to happen."
Harris led the reigning national champion Alabama Crimson Tide last season with 52 solo tackles. That stat is an indicator of how he flies to the football and the range he displays. He's not just cleaning up tackles; he's initiating and finishing them.
The addition of a true three-down linebacker behind the Giants' defensive front will provide the connective tissue to complete an already impressive unit.
10. Atlanta Falcons: QB Sam Howell, North Carolina
Instead of investing in a first-round quarterback this year, the Atlanta Falcons reworked Matt Ryan's contract, pushing an inevitable decision at the game's most important down the road and drafting tight end Kyle Pitts with this year's fourth overall pick.
Fast forward seven months, and the Falcons will face the same conundrum. What do they do at quarterback?
"After passing on a quarterback in the 2021 draft, the Falcons will go with North Carolina's Sam Howell to start a new path without Ryan," Tice said. "Howell is a great deep-ball thrower who plays in the Tar Heels' heavy RPO system. He will have to continue to improve on his timing and his footwork, but he plays with a toughness that can fire up a team."
Howell struggled in North Carolina's season-opening loss to Virginia Tech. He threw three interceptions, but he didn't receive much help from his offensive line or his receivers.
As long as the three-year starter gets back on track, he could easily manage top-10 status, especially since the Falcons can save $23.8 million next season by making Ryan a post-June 1 cut or trade candidate.
11. New York Giants (from Bears): OL Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State
The Giants benefit from the Justin Fields trade by landing two picks in projected top-11 slots. Earlier, the organization selected Alabama's Christian Harris to solidify the defense. Now the front office can continue to build around quarterback Daniel Jones by investing even more in its offensive front.
North Carolina State's Ikem Ekwonu is a bulldozer. The 6'4", 320-pound tackle may be the best in the nation at moving defenders from Point A to Point B.
"Ekwonu is a fascinating prospect who had offers from Harvard and Yale coming out of high school because of his smarts off the field, and he has the length, natural power and mobility of a long-term NFL starter," Thorn said. "While he's starting at left tackle for the Wolfpack, his future might be inside at guard depending on how he handles himself in pass protection this season.
"The Giants have question marks across their line, so Ekwonu would likely be able to plug in wherever he is most comfortable."
Andrew Thomas must improve in Year 2, or his status as the Giants' long-term answer at left tackle will come into question. Guard Will Hernandez will be a free agent after this season too.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Edge Adam Anderson, Georgia
High-upside prospects with tantalizing traits tend to rocket up draft boards, as long as their play indicates a long-term upward trajectory.
Georgia's Adam Anderson fits the previous description to a tee.
"Anderson is a speed-rusher through and through," Klassen said. "He will need to bulk up some in the NFL, but his burst off the snap and speed around the corner are a devastating mix."
Anderson's career will likely begin as a sub-package pass-rusher. As he continues to develop and mature physically, he could become an every-down defender.
The Minnesota Vikings lack any kind of consistent edge presence opposite Danielle Hunter. Besides, Hunter isn't a given since he's returning from a season-ending neck injury. The veteran defensive end also holds a $26.1 million salary-cap charge in 2022 with no guaranteed money remaining.
13. Washington Football Team: QB Malik Willis, Liberty
The Washington Football Team seems happy with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for now. But the organization didn't have a better option available to them this offseason, and the 38-year-old signal-caller isn't signed beyond 2021.
Eventually, Washington must make a significant investment in the quarterback position. Next year's draft could present the perfect opportunity.
Liberty's Malik Willis is arguably the most physically gifted quarterback prospect in the class. But he has to round off some rough edges.
"Willis is more of an athlete than a quarterback right now, but he has a chance to ascend as a prospect if he homes in on some of his natural abilities and becomes more consistent," Tice said. "He can create with his arm or his legs, and he has the ability to make all the throws. Washington would get an exciting QB to develop along with some of its other intriguing young skill players and outstanding defense."
This year, the San Francisco 49ers traded up and invested the third overall pick in Trey Lance. Willis is as good of an athlete with more starting experience at a higher level of play.
14. Arizona Cardinals: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
No team utilized four-wide receiver sets more than the Arizona Cardinals last season. Head coach and offensive play-caller Kliff Kingsbury loves to spread the field, as long as he has the weapons to capitalize on the edges.
DeAndre Hopkins is signed through 2024, and the team drafted Rondale Moore in this year's second round. However, A.J. Green and Christian Kirk are scheduled to become free agents after this season. Another addition to the wide receiver room may be necessary.
Ohio State's Chris Olave is a smooth operator. He effortlessly works his way through the Buckeyes' route tree.
"Olave is a skilled and polished wide receiver who would have likely been a first-rounder had he declared for the 2021 draft," Tice said. "While he's not the most physically dominant player, he already flashes a polished route tree and natural hands to catch the football. The Cardinals will get a different flavor to complement Moore and Hopkins."
Keeping the offense stocked with weapons will be critical to the scheme's effectiveness.
15. Denver Broncos: OT Daniel Faalele, Minnesota
Some human beings inspire awe based on their sheer size. Minnesota's Daniel Faalele is one of those people.
The 6'9" Faalele played most of his career at or above 400 pounds. He slimmed down to 380 this season. The Australian-born offensive lineman moves better than expected for a man of his size. He remains a work in progress; however, he clearly has the tools to physically overwhelm defenders and does so on a regular basis.
"Faalele is an enormous, agile and raw prospect with the tools to develop into an impact starter in the right situation," Thorn stated. "Being groomed by one of the game's few elite line coaches in the Denver Broncos' Mike Munchak would be the best-case scenario for Faalele while filling the team's glaring need at right tackle."
Ja'Wuan James' unfortunate torn Achilles tendon created a hole on the right side of the Broncos' offensive front. Bobby Massie will fill the void this fall, but at 32 years old, he's on the downside of his career and is not signed beyond this season.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Zion Nelson, Miami
Expectations in Pittsburgh haven't lessened, even though the Steelers have significant concerns with their roster, particularly the offensive line.
Offensive tackle remains unsettled. Chukwuma Okorafor is expected to move back to the right side after the team placed Zach Banner on short-term injured reserve. Fourth-round rookie Dan Moore Jr. will be tasked with protecting Ben Roethlisberger's blind side.
The team should invest in its offensive line so that things aren't more difficult for whoever starts under center next season. Miami's Zion Nelson continues to grow as a performer after being thrown to the wolves as a true freshman.
"As an emerging junior, Nelson possesses the size (6'5", 316 lbs) and athletic ability to be considered as a first-round pick, but he needs to shore up his technique and continue growing into his developing body first," Thorn said. "Nelson arrived at Miami at 245 pounds before starting and struggling as a freshman at around 275 pounds. While Nelson is a toolsy, raw player right now, he's only 20 years old and could develop rapidly as he gains experience."
17. Dallas Cowboys: CB Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson
The Dallas Cowboys traded out of this year's 10th overall draft pick after the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos selected cornerbacks Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II, respectively.
Maybe it's just a coincidence. Or the Cowboys wanted to address their secondary, saw the top two corners come off the board just before they picked and decided to trade out, even with the rival Philadelphia Eagles, when they couldn't land either.
Dallas enters this season with Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, C.J. Goodwin, Maurice Canady and rookies Nahshon Wright and Israel Mukuamu as its corners. It's time to make a significant investment in the position. Clemson's Andrew Booth Jr. can bring the physicality needed to play in Dan Quinn's defensive scheme.
"Booth is an athletic corner who does well playing in both press- and off-man coverage," Giddings mentioned. "He has the frame to play right away. Booth can provide youth and athleticism to form a nice tandem with Trevon Diggs."
18. Indianapolis Colts: Edge Drake Jackson, USC
Kwity Paye should provide a significant return for the Colts as this year's 21st overall pick. The rookie has all the tools to become a consistent edge-rusher and is the perfect complement to All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.
The Colts don't have a secondary threat off the edge, though.
Al-Quadin Muhammad, Kemoko Turay and Ben Banogu have all flashed at points in their careers. None of them have become consistent defensive ends. Without Justin Houston and Denico Autry, the Colts need more from this group. If not, general manager Chris Ballard can look to the draft and find a first-round running mate for Paye.
USC's Drake Jackson is packed with potential to develop into a premium edge defender.
"The Colts have used a few top picks on edge-rushers the last few years, but it is one of those positions where teams should keep swinging until they are set," Klassen said. "Jackson is a real heads-up player (check out his interception against San Jose State) with the length, strength and run-defense prowess to be a good No. 2 edge defender across from Paye."
NOTE: The Colts' first-round selection will transfer to the Philadelphia Eagles upon quarterback Carson Wentz playing 75 percent of the snaps next season or playing 70 percent and Indianapolis making the playoffs. Until the transaction becomes official, this selection will remain with the Colts.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (from Dolphins): Edge George Karlaftis, Purdue
If not for a leg injury and testing positive for COVID-19 last season, Purdue's George Kalaftis may have gone much higher in this projection.
"Karlaftis shows stunning explosiveness off the edge for a 6'4", 275-pounder," Klassen said. "The Eagles have a ton of solid pass-rushers, but they could still use a real home run hitter like Karlaftis. Don't be surprised if Karlaftis plays himself into a top-10 spot now that he has returned from last season's struggles."
As a true freshman, Karlaftis registered 7.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss.
Basically, the defensive end's status is in a holding pattern. He's definitely a first-round talent. But everyone is waiting to see if he'll be the same dominant defender from two seasons ago or if his play tails off.
The Eagles continue to build up their defense after selecting Notre Dame's Kyle Hamilton earlier. Much like the Hamilton pick, Karlaftis addresses a potential roster hole since Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan aren't under contract beyond the 2021 campaign.
20. New England Patriots: WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
The New England Patriots surprised many with a spending spree at the start of this year's league year. Among other moves, they acquired wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne to give the team threats in the passing game.
The Patriots don't need to stop there. Arkansas' Treylon Burks would add a completely different dimension to the offense.
"Bill Belichick decides to take another stab at a wide receiver in the first round and goes with another big prospect in Burks," Tice said. "Burks is raw with his route running but has great size (6'3", 225 lbs) and plays with toughness and strength in his game and is the type of competitive player the Patriots love."
Aside from N'Keal Harry, who's on injured reserve, the Patriots don't have a wide receiver with Burks' frame. When healthy, Harry has been a disappointment. Maybe Burks can provide the type of target the Patriots originally envisioned when they invested a 2019 first-round pick in the wide receiver position.
21. Tennessee Titans: C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
The Tennesee Titans don't have an answer at right tackle entering this season. Center could be a problem next offseason.
Ben Jones, who turned 32 in July, will be a free agent after this season. Jones has been Mr. Reliable since he signed with the Titans. In fact, he has started all but one game since he joined the team prior to the 2016 season. But Tennessee can make the transition from the veteran relatively smooth by investing in this year's top center prospect, Iowa's Tyler Linderbaum.
"Linderbaum was on Bruce Feldman's 'Freaks' list entering this season for his incredible weight room feats and athleticism that also translate to the field," Thorn mentioned. "Combined with excellent coaching under Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, he has the makings of an eventual impact starter."
As long as this year's second-round draft pick, Dillion Radunz, secures the right tackle spot at some point during his rookie season, center will likely be Tennessee's biggest offseason need along the line.
22. New Orleans Saints: WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
The New Orleans Saints offense could look drastically different next season. It already does with Jameis Winston taking over for the retired Drew Brees.
Still, Winston could be gone next season. Left tackle Terron Armstead and wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith are free agents, too. Then, the team still has to deal with wide receiver Michael Thomas and his apparent unhappiness with the organization.
Without Thomas and Smith, the Saints wouldn't have any legitimate threats in the passing game, aside from running back Alvin Kamara. Ohio State's Garrett Wilson would provide explosiveness to a unit in dire need of playmakers.
"The Michael Thomas situation remains up in the air for the Saints," Tice noted, "but Wilson gives them a different flavor or receiver either way. Wilson is built like fellow Buckeyes teammate Chris Olave but wins more with his athleticism than positional polish."
Even if fences are mended with Thomas, Wilson brings a different skill set as a receiver equally capable of blowing the top off a defense or creating after a short catch.
23. Los Angles Chargers: Edge Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati
The Los Angeles Chargers should see an improvement from an already impressive defense under new head coach Brandon Staley. Even so, the unit isn't complete.
Uchenna Nwosu will get an opportunity to be featured opposite Joey Bosa. The 24-year-old linebacker's skill set translates well to the new system, though the 2018 second-round draft pick is a free agent after this season.
Even if Nwosu returns next fall, Cincinnati's Myjai Sanders brings more to the table as an edge-rusher.
"Last season, then-Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley revived Leonard Floyd’s career, helping the former first-round pick earn his first double-digit sack season," Klassen said. "Sanders would give Staley another chance to maximize a pass-rusher built like Gumby who possesses speed, speed and more speed."
At 6'5" and 255 pounds, Sanders is long and lean. The first-team All-AAC performer had seven sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss and five deflected passes in 10 games last season.
24. New York Jets (from Seahawks): CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
The New York Jets own a pair of first-round draft picks thanks to the Jamal Adams trade. What better way to spend both than investing in a premium position?
"Doubling up at corner in the first round might just be what the Jets need to have some consistency in the secondary," Giddings said. "At final cuts, they released one of their starting corners from the 2020 season in Blessuan Austin. Cincinnati's Ahmad Gardner has the length to play with bigger receivers in the league and has shown consistency as a starter over the last couple of seasons."
Stingley may be the class of this year's incoming cornerback crop, but Gardner has been one of the nation's best pure cover men throughout his career. According to Pro Football Focus, the two-time All-AAC performer didn't allow a single touchdown entering this season and produced a minuscule 35.3 quarterback rating when targeted.
Stingley and Gardner can't help but improve upon the underwhelming group of corners the Jets will field this fall.
25. Cleveland Browns: Edge Zach Harrison, Ohio State
The Cleveland Browns defense currently looks great on paper. How long they can keep it together remains in question, though.
The Browns have potential contract extensions due for quarterback Baker Mayfield, guard Wyatt Teller, cornerback Denzel Ward and safety Ronnie Harrison Jr. Free agency is another wild card for the team's long-term plans.
"Cleveland doesn't need a starting edge in 2021, but Jadeveon Clowney is only on a one-year deal, and the team's depth at the position is not too inspiring," Klassen mentioned. "Ohio State's Zach Harrison has the length and strength that the Browns seem to value off the edge."
To build on Klassen's final point, Harrison is only 20 years old and comes from a Power Five program. Since Andrew Berry became general manager, the Browns have prioritized both qualities—younger prospects, who played against high-level competition—among their first-round selections.
Clowney might re-sign with the Browns, but a strong performance this season would likely price him out. Harrison could become a long-term bookend to Myles Garrett and minimize one expenditure.
26. Detroit Lions (from L.A. Rams): WR Justyn Ross, Clemson
Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross already has two things going against him, even though he clearly has first-round ability.
His medical situation will scare some organizations off after he needed surgery to correct a congenital fusion in his spine, which sidelined him for the entire 2020 season. Clemson's offense could also take a significant step back this season with DJ Uiagalelei starting at quarterback.
Beggars can't be choosers, though.
"The Lions desperately need help in their receiver room," Tice said. "Ross is supremely talented with the good size like fellow Clemson receivers of yesteryear. He has some medical concerns, but he has been cleared to play in the 2021 season. While will need to keep working to refine his technique, he has all the traits of a true ball-winner."
Tyrell Williams, fourth-round rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown and the recently acquired KhaDarel Hodge are the three best wide receivers currently on the Lions roster. Concerns may swirl about Ross, but he'd be worth the risk at this spot in the draft.
27. Miami Dolphins (from 49ers): OT Jaxson Kirkland, Washington
The Miami Dolphins have recently placed an emphasis on building their offensive line to help second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Over the last two draft classes, they've selected five different blockers among their 18 total selections.
There's no reason to stop there.
"With guard and tackle experience, Washington's Jaxson Kirkland is a well-versed prospect with prototypical size (6'7", 310 pounds) and renowned leadership of a starter in the NFL," Thorn said. "The Dolphins are set to have arguably the worst offensive line in the NFL again this season. With a promising young quarterback in place, they desperately need upgrades at the position."
What Thorn didn't mention is the overall disappointment in last year's 18th overall draft pick, Austin Jackson. Compared to the four tackle prospects drafted before him—the New York Giants' Andrew Thomas, Cleveland Browns' Jedrick Wills Jr., New York Jets' Mekhi Becton and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tristan Wirfs—the Dolphins' second-year left tackle is clearly lagging behind in his development.
If Jackson doesn't experience a breakthrough this fall, he could very well be pushed out of the left tackle spot with someone like Kirkland taking over Tagovailoa's blind side.
28. Baltimore Ravens: RB Breece Hall, Iowa State
The Baltimore Ravens took two major hits to their running back rotation this preseason when both J.K. Dobbins and Justice Hill suffered season-ending injuries.
Both are expected back next season, but how will they perform after suffering major leg injuries? Considering how reliant the Ravens are on their running game, they should look to add a set of fresh legs to the mix.
"Breece Hall is the only running back to make the first round of this mock draft, and the Ravens continue to build around their run game with another talented back," Tice said. "Hall isn't overly explosive, but he plays with great vision and tempo that would complement what quarterback Lamar Jackson brings to the table."
Hall didn't have a great start to his junior campaign with 69 yards on 23 carries against the Northern Iowa Panthers, but he led major college football with 1,572 rushing yards last season. As long as he gets a little help from the rest of the offense, the unanimous All-American will produce.
29. Green Bay Packers: OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State
The Green Bay Packers aren't likely to have Aaron Rodgers next season, which will usher in the Jordan Love era. The young quarterback will need to be comfortable in the pocket to maximize his skill set.
The Packers are already set at left tackle (David Bakhtiari), center (Josh Myers) and at least one of the guard spots (Elgton Jenkins), if not both (Royce Newman). However, Billy Turner will turn 31 during the 2022 campaign, and Green Bay could save $5.9 million by designating him a post-June 1 cut.
The Packers wouldn't necessarily have to move on from Turner right away if they select Mississippi State's Charles Cross, though.
"Cross is a young—he turns 21 in November—and inexperienced left tackle with flashes of starting-level play speed, power and competitive toughness that make him one of the more intriguing prospects in this O-line class," Thorn said. "The Packers are in need of a long-term starter at right tackle, and they're one of the few elite franchises at developing O-line talent consistently. That makes them a great fit for a talented yet raw player like Cross to reach his considerable potential."
30. Buffalo Bills: CB Trent McDuffie, Washington
Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie has been special since he stepped onto campus.
He started 11 games as a true freshman, and the coaching staff tasked him with shadowing each opponent's top receiver. According to Pro Football Focus, he's one of three Power Five outside cornerbacks with a grade above 75 in both man and zone coverage since the start of the 2019 campaign.
"McDuffie is an outstanding athlete," Giddings said. "With hip fluidity and more than enough speed to run with most receivers in the draft, where he lands comes down to his productivity and consistency. Listed at 5'11", his length may come into question on some plays."
The Buffalo Bills don't harp on measurables at cornerback. Their top three corners—Tre'Davious White, Levi Wallace and Taron Johnson—are all 6'0" or smaller. McDuffie could replace Wallace, who re-signed with Buffalo this offseason on a one-year, $1.8 million deal.
McDuffie might help the Bills finally solve their second corner conundrum.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Noah Daniels, TCU
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did a remarkable job this offseason of re-signing all of their top free agents and returning their entire starting lineup. However, that isn't likely to happen for two straight offseasons.
Top cornerback Carlton Davis is among the starters who could test the free-agent market and leave. If he does, cornerback should be among the Buccaneers' top priorities. Even if he returns, they could stand to upgrade at the position.
TCU's Noah Daniels is a toolsy prospect with a concerning injury history. His last two seasons have been almost entirely wiped out due to injuries. However, he remains intriguing after he flashed as a redshirt freshman.
"Daniels was a highly productive player whenever he played last year," Giddings noted. "He always seems to be around the ball, whether in the run or pass game. With two back-to-back season-ending injuries, Daniels will need to show that his durability issues are a thing of the past."
The Tennessee Titans took Caleb Farley in this year's first round despite some previous injury concerns. The same could happen for Daniels next year.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: LB Mike Jones Jr., LSU
Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach and head coach Andy Reid have carefully crafted one of the league's best rosters. But no roster is perfect.
The Chiefs have question marks along their defensive front seven, which could only intensify next offseason depending on what happens with defensive end Frank Clark and linebacker Anthony Hitchens.
The second line of defense could be a major issue since Hitchens turns 30 next year and the team can save $8.5 million with his release. Second-year linebacker Willie Gay Jr. is opening this season on injured reserve, but his development could be key to how Kansas City views the position and its future.
LSU linebacker Mike Jones Jr. has a desirable skill set. The Clemson transfer is a fluid athlete who's comfortable working in space. He's everything teams want in a modern linebacker.
"Jones brings the speed and versatility teams are starting to value more out of linebackers," Klassen said. "Though incomplete as a box player right now, Jones can fly sideline to sideline and has proved he can play out of the slot a little bit, showing off some of his coverage ceiling."
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