2022 NFL Mock Draft: B/R Scouting Dept.'s Post-Trade Deadline Predictions

BR NFL Scouting DepartmentContributor INovember 3, 2021

2022 NFL Mock Draft: B/R Scouting Dept.'s Post-Trade Deadline Predictions

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    The 2022 NFL draft should turn into a fascinating case study of positional value, as well as supply and demand. 

    Quarterbacks will dominate the conversation, of course. Early signs point to a questionable class at the game's most important position. In Bleacher Report's initial top 100 big board, exactly zero quarterback prospects found their way into the top 20. 

    Yet, four of them can be found in the first round of this mock draft. 

    Other positions of note are interesting as well. Iowa's Tyler Linderbaum may become the highest-selected center of the modern draft era. Georgia nose tackle Jordan Davis is a difference-maker despite his limited reps. A case can be made in favor of Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton as the top incoming defensive back. 

    Next year's class should be far from traditional. 

    B/R's scouting department of Brandon Thorn, Brent Sobleski, Cory Giddings, Derrik Klassen and Nate Tice returned to piece together a post-NFL trade deadline mock draft with an eye toward individual team needs and preferences based on the current draft order, per Tankathon

1. Detroit Lions: Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon

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    The expected hasn't happened. A quarterback hasn't emerged to the point where he's staked his claim as the likely No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft. 

    Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux isn't a consolation prize, though. He's a defensive end prospect on par with others, like Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, who went No. 1  overall within the last 10 years. 

    "Best player in the draft. Plain and simple," Klassen stated. "Quarterback is the obvious position of need for a rebuilding franchise such as Detroit, but there isn't anyone worth the top pick. Thibodeaux has a special blend of length, speed, power and bend that can make him a double-digit-sack player for years to come."

    The 20-year-old prospect played through a balky ankle this season yet remains college football's best edge-rusher. According to Pro Football Focus' Anthony Treash, Thibodeaux posted pass-rushing grades of 90 or better in three of the four contests he'd played heading into last weekend. 

    The Detroit Lions will get a defensive centerpiece to build around and create some type of organizational identity.    

2. Houston Texans: Edge George Karlaftis, Purdue

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    The Houston Texans can now openly enter the full-on rebuilding stage.

    The team's eventual approach has been obvious since Nick Caserio became the general manager in January. But the organization still had to work through salary, talent and draft-capital issues.

    "Again, quarterback is the obvious desire here," Klassen said, anticipating the eventual trade of Deshaun Watson, who is facing multiple lawsuits and criminal complaints. "But it's hard to gamble on a shaky quarterback class when there are bona fide stars at other positions left on the board.

    "George Karlaftis already has a refined pass-rushing repertoire, as well as a rare blend of strength and short-area explosiveness for a defensive end. At 6'4", 275 pounds, Karlaftis even has the size and versatility to kick inside a bit on pass-rushing downs to give his future defensive coordinator extra tools to work with."

    While they may prefer a quarterback, the Texans sit in the bottom 10 of the league with 15 sacks through eight contests. Jonathan Greenard has been a pleasant surprise with seven, and the Texans can establish a strong pass rush with him and Karlaftis leading the way. 

3. Philadelphia Eagles (from Dolphins): CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU

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    The Philadelphia Eagles capitalize on this year's draft-day trade with the Miami Dolphins by landing the third overall pick in the 2022 class. This slotting may change, but the opportunity to land a high selection gives the Eagles plenty of flexibility. 

    In this case, an investment in an elite talent at a premium position is the logical choice. 

    "Derek Stingley Jr.'s selection is the first step to bolster the Eagles secondary," Giddings said. "The addition of a lockdown corner to pair with an aging Darius Slay is a good start. Though Stingley recently had foot surgery, he looks to be on track for a healthy return and continues to be the top cornerback in the draft." 

    Obviously, Stingley's medical status will be an extremely important part of his evaluation process. A clean bill of health by NFL doctors will keep him among the most sought-after prospects. 

    For Philadelphia, neither Steven Nelson nor Avonte Maddox is signed beyond this season, which makes Stingley's addition even more important.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: OT Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State

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    Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer rationalized the organization's decision to place the franchise tag on left tackle Cam Robinson because, frankly, the team didn't have a better available option

    Robinson has been a replacement-level performer his entire career, and the Jaguars can now draft an elite prospect at a premium position other than quarterback. 

    "The Jaguars can take the best available player on the board with the quarterback of the future already in place," Thorn noted. "North Carolina State's Ikem Ekwonu will be in consideration for the selection due to his incredible physical traits, dominant film and notable improvement as a pass protector from the 2020 to '21 seasons. Ekwonu can play tackle, but with Walker Little set to take over for Robinson next year and Jawaan Taylor on the right side, he will be able to slide into either guard spot as an immediate impact starter."

    The possibility of Ekwonu taking over at left tackle shouldn't be ruled out entirely. He's been a standout this season as the nation's highest-graded offensive lineman, per Pro Football Focus. If Little works out at left tackle, all the better.

5. New York Giants: C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa

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    New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman doesn't care what anyone thinks about positional value. The idea of Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum being a top-five selection shouldn't be surprising, especially with the Giants' issues along their offensive interior. 

    "The Giants have traditionally favored keeping their trenches stocked with talent, and the cupboard has gotten bare along their offensive line over the last few seasons, particularly the interior," Thorn noted. 

    "Linderbaum has the physical traits, refined skill set and film to warrant being one of the highest-selected centers in the modern era. It also happens to fill a significant need at the pivot for an offense desperate for a jolt that Linderbaum would provide, especially to their running game. With the ability to spearhead the offense on the ground using top-tier explosiveness and quickness, Linderbaum also has good technique and processing in pass protection to act as a force multiplier for the entire unit up front."

    Linderbaum in this cycle's unicorn. He's the outlier to warrant a much higher selection than others at his position typically do, much like Kyle Pitts and Quenton Nelson in previous years.

6. Washington Football Team: QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

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    Some team is going to pull the trigger on a quarterback much sooner than expected. The desperation to address the position is real. 

    Washington seems as good of a place as any. 

    "Although no QB is even in the top 20 on B/R's big board, that doesn't mean NFL teams aren't hungry to find their guy," Tice reconciled. "Washington goes with the improving Desmond Ridder, the current QB1 on our board.

    "Ridder has good height (6'4") and arm strength with very good athleticism and toughness. His accuracy can be shaky to start games but improves throughout the contest and leads to clutch play in late moments. In an iffy QB class, Ridder’s improvement with more room for growth makes him an intriguing quarterback to build around for Washington."

    Of the available signal-callers, the Cincinnati product is arguably the best combination of passing skills and athletic traits, hence why he found himself as the first quarterback off the board. To Ridder's credit, the quarterback leads the nation's No. 2-ranked squad with an 18-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. 

7. New York Jets: OT Evan Neal, Alabama

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    Imagine walking to the line of scrimmage and facing a New York Jets offense with Mekhi Becton (6'7", 363 pounds) and Evan Neal (6'7", 350 pounds) as the starting offensive tackles. 

    General manager Joe Douglas believes in building through the trenches, though the job is still incomplete even after Becton's and Alijah Vera-Tucker's additions. 

    "The Jets have a dire need at both positions on the right side of their line with the left side set for the future. Selecting Neal would give them an ultra-talented and towering duo at each tackle spot that would be unmatched across the NFL in terms of size and sheer physical talent," Thorn said. 

    "Neal played right tackle in 2020, so he has the experience over there to help make the transition go more smoothly. Bolstering the offensive line with a blue-chip talent like Neal will go a long way toward helping last year's top pick, quarterback Zach Wilson, reach his potential because of what Neal would bring in pass protection and as a run-blocker. The Jets need immediate impact starters at several spots on their roster, and there's no better place to start than the offensive line to protect the team's biggest investment."

    The selection may also serve as a bit of a wake-up call for Becton, since the Jets are unhappy with their left tackle, according to Pro Football Network's Tony Pauline.

8. Philadelphia Eagles: QB Malik Willis, Liberty

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    At the time of writing, the Philadelphia Eagles are expected to land three top-10 draft picks (with the Indianapolis Colts' selection still pending based on certain contingencies). Why not try to hit a grand slam with one of the picks?

    Liberty's Malik Willis is far from a polished passer, but he's the best athlete among next year's quarterback crop. 

    "It would be almost cruel for the Eagles to have this many high picks and not come away with a quarterback of the future," Tice said. "Willis is lower on our big board than a top-10 selection because his value is more about exciting traits than his polished play. However, the Eagles should take a chance on his upside to set the franchise's path toward the future." 

    The Auburn transfer has posted 2,670 yards from scrimmage and 30 total touchdowns in nine games. He also leads all quarterbacks in rushing grade, rushing yardage, first downs, forced missed tackles and runs of 10 or more yards, according to Pro Football Focus

    The Eagles won't be forced to immediately move on from Jalen Hurts, either, because Willis' development may take longer than other quarterbacks in the class.

9. Philadelphia Eagles (from Colts): S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame

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    What a haul for the Philadelphia Eagles. Three top-10 selections give the organization a possible franchise quarterback plus the top two defensive backs in the draft. 

    General manager Howie Roseman would be skipping to the podium to talk with local media if the draft actually played out in this manner. 

    "The Eagles continue their youth movement by selecting Kyle Hamilton," Giddings said. "With Anthony Harris and Rodney McLeod both being over 30, the Eagles now select the best corner and safety in the draft. Hamilton has the ability to play at multiple levels and will give defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon flexibility in his defense." 

    Of note, Harris and McLeod are both free agents after this season. But their status wouldn't really matter since the Eagles would go into the 2022 campaign with Darius Slay, Derek Stingley Jr. and Hamilton as three-fifths of the team's starting secondary. The 24-year-old K'Von Wallace and rookie nickel Zech McPhearson can complete the unit. 

10. New York Jets (from Seahawks): Edge Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan

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    When the San Francisco 49ers went to the Super Bowl less than two years ago, current New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh served as the NFC squad's defensive coordinator. His system and the team's identity were built around a defensive front that was loaded with talent that attacked opposing quarterbacks in waves. 

    The same approach can be taken with the Jets.

    "The Jets have gotten surprising value out of 2020 undrafted free agent Bryce Huff off the edge, but they still need help at the position," Klassen noted. "Aidan Hutchinson is wicked explosive off the line of scrimmage and has strong, smart hand usage that allows him to win a rep at any time. He should also help shore up a Jets' run defense that has been lackluster in 2021."

    New York already invested heavily in free agent Carl Lawson, who will return next season from a ruptured Achilles tendon, and John Franklin-Myers, who signed a $55 million contract extension last month. Now, throw Hutchinson into the mix. 

    The Jets will feature a formidable defensive front in 2022 to fully implement Saleh's defensive philosophies. 

11. New York Giants (from Bears): DL Jordan Davis, Georgia

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    True nose tackles must be special to warrant first-round consideration, let alone be considered a top-10 talent like Georgia's Jordan Davis is. 

    Plus, the idea of an old-school general manager, like Dave Gettleman, drafting Davis makes even more sense. 

    "If there is one thing everyone knows about Gettleman, it's that he loves defensive tackles," Klassen stated. "Davisall 6'6" and 340 pounds of himwould make for the perfect nose tackle to plop right in the middle of the New York Giants defense. While Davis' overwhelming power and ability to take up space are the cornerstones of his skill set, he moves much better than someone his weight should be able to and will find himself in opposing backfields often in the NFL, both in the run and pass game."

    The Giants signed Danny Shelton this offseason, but he hasn't provided the same stability over the center that Dalvin Tomlinson previously did.

    With Davis alongside Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams, a massive wall would deter opposing offenses as the Giants control the point of attack.

12. Atlanta Falcons: LB Christian Harris, Alabama

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    The Atlanta Falcons could go in myriad directions as a franchise in flux. The team is 3-4 with no real identity. They're a mediocre squad sitting in the NFC South's basement. 

    Since Matt Ryan should be expected back for at least one more season after the front office reworked his current deal, general manager Terry Fontenot can snag a defensive cornerstone in Alabama linebacker Christian Harris. 

    "Once again, the Falcons defense needs talent," Klassen mentioned. "Deion Jones has not looked great as of late and has a potential out in his contract following this season, while Foyesade Oluokun is a serviceable but replaceable starting linebacker. Harris' speed, coverage potential and willingness to take on blocks with force give him an exciting ceiling."

    By adding Harris, the Falcons could feature difference-makers at all three defensive levels with Grady Jarrett already up front and A.J. Terrell at cornerback. A first-round investment in a linebacker may not be sexy, but it can create the connective tissue to bring the entire unit together and improve upon the league's 26th-ranked scoring defense.

13. Miami Dolphins (from 49ers): WR Chris Olave, Ohio State

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    Over the last two classes, the Miami Dolphins made five first-round selections. None of those picks look like actual difference-makers. 

    Maybe wide receiver Jaylen Waddle turns into a consistent threat, but the offensive staff continues to manufacture touches for this year's sixth overall pick in an attempt to take advantage of his dynamic tendencies. All they're really doing is limiting his explosive capabilities. 

    At Alabama, DeVonta Smith was the top route-runner and reliable target, while Waddle created outstanding separation and chunk plays. The same dynamic could happen with the selection of Ohio State's Chris Olave. 

    "Dolphins could continue to invest in their offensive line. Instead, they take another wide receiver to team up with Waddle and add another weapon," Tice said. "Olave is a plus route-runner with an all-around game that should allow him to be an early impact player as an inside and outside wide receiver."

    Olave can be Miami's WR1 and security blanket for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa because of his consistency, and Waddle can get back to what he does best. 

14. Minnesota Vikings: CB Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson

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    Mike Zimmer may or may not be the Minnesota Vikings head coach next year, so his penchant for wanting as many cornerbacks as possible can't be fully integrated into this particular selection. However, the organization's secondary needs should be a primary concern. 

    "Andrew Booth Jr. is a great pick here for the Vikings," Giddings stated. "With Patrick Peterson, Bashaud Breeland and Mackensie Alexander all in their last year of contracts, the Vikings go back to the Clemson well for another talented cornerback. Booth is a rangy corner with lockdown potential and the type of player who thrives in a Zimmer defense (if he's still around)." 

    The possible turnover is important because the Vikings don't currently have the financial wiggle room to bring any of the aforementioned veterans back.

    Based on current projections, Minnesota's salary-cap situation is already in the red for the 2022 campaign, per Spotrac. Some maneuvering will undoubtedly be done next offseason just to create some flexibility. Still, the Vikings probably aren't bringing back all three free-agent corners.

15. New England Patriots: WR Drake London, USC

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    Drake London's ankle injury became the biggest NFL draft news coming out of this past weekend's play. USC's interim head coach, Donte Williams, told reporters that London will miss the rest of the season with a fractured ankle. 

    Considering doctors placed the wide receiver in an air cast to stabilize his leg and had him carted off the field, the severity of the injury doesn't appear to be as bad as initially thought. London may even be healed enough to declare and go through some of the predraft processes. 

    The New England Patriots capitalize by landing the type of wide receiver they currently lack. 

    "Patriots get some size (6'5", 210 lbs) for their receiving corps and give quarterback Mac Jones a big target and No. 1 option for the future to go along with their current receivers and tight ends," Tice said. "London recently suffered an injury, but his size and athleticism allowed him to dominate during his college career. He has more skill and fluidity to his game that will allow him to transition smoothly to the next level." 

    Surely, Patriots fans will gasp with yet another big Pac-12 wide receiver who consistently wins 50-50 balls. London isn't N'Keal Harry. The former can create separation and be a big-time target. 

16. Denver Broncos: Edge Adam Anderson, Georgia

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    The Denver Broncos knew Von Miller's time with the franchise was drawing to a close. After all, the 32-year-old future Hall of Fame defender entered this season on the last year of his contract. General manager George Paton traded Miller to the Los Angeles Rams on Monday for 2022 second- and third-round draft picks. 

    Denver still has Bradley Chubb and Malik Reed, though the former has dealt with injuries throughout his career. Georgia's Adam Anderson provides another explosive pass-rusher to add to the mix. 

    "The Broncos now have a Von Miller-sized hole on the edge following their deal with the Los Angeles Rams," Klassen noted. "Anderson is rail-thin for an edge-rusher but plays with much better strength and leg drive through contact than you might expect. Pair that with his excellent speed and flexibility around the edge, and it is not too hard to see how Anderson could be productive despite his undersized build."

    No one ever wants to be the person tasked with replacing an all-time great. Anderson may never be Miller, but he shouldn't need to be. His upside is more than enough to still warrant the pick.

17. Cleveland Browns: WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas

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    As if Odell Beckham Jr.'s departure from the Cleveland Browns wasn't already inevitable, online comments from himself, his father and, yes, LeBron James pretty much sealed his fate. The wide receiver isn't happy, and the Browns have no reason to pay him beyond this season. The organization probably wasn't going to do so anyhow since he's been a disappointment and no guaranteed money remains on his current deal. 

    Whenever OBJ's imminent exodus occurs, the Browns will need another playmaker in the passing game. Arkansas' Treylon Burks is the nation's No. 1 wide receiver when targeted, per Pro Football Focus

    "The Browns may have questions about Baker Mayfield's long-term future this offseason, but Burks gives them a big receiving option no matter what the Browns decide," Tice said. "Burks is an excellent athlete at his size (6'3", 225 lbs) with natural hands but is still developing more polish and a more refined route tree. Mayfield or not, he gives the Browns a receiving option they could use now and in the future."

    Burks fits the profile general manager Andrew Berry likes as an underclassman from a Power Five program. He can also do the little things, like work from the slot and block, the Browns expect from their wide receivers. 

18. Kansas City Chiefs: Edge Drake Jackson, USC

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    The Kansas City Chiefs have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad defense. The team's offense has its own problems right now, but the other side of the ball lacks talent to the point where any defensive addition in next year's first round would be considered an outstanding choice. 

    In this particular case, USC's Drake Jackson could give Chris Jones some kind of running mate as an edge-rusher. 

    "No team needs help off the edge more than the Chiefs," Klassen stated. "While all the elite options are gone, Jackson is a nice consolation prize at a position of need. The USC product still needs to show consistency in his ability to fly off the snap and bend around the edge, but the length, strength and run-defense skills are all there." 

    Jackson is a work in progress, but he does have seven tackles for loss and five sacks in eight games this season. He's been asked to move around the defensive front quite a bit, too. The 20-year-old defender can settle in at defensive end and provide the Chiefs with more pass-rush punch than they currently feature.

19. Carolina Panthers: OL Kenyon Green, Texas A&M

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    The Carolina Panthers took a calculated risk when they quickly signed Cameron Erving and Pat Elflein at the start of free agency. Erving hasn't been good, while Elflein has dealt with a balky hamstring. 

    Whoever becomes the Panthers' long-term starting quarterback must be properly protected. 

    "Carolina has one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL in 2021 with holes across the unit," Thorn stated. "While Mississippi State's Charles Cross would be intriguing to plug in at left tackle, Kenyon Green's versatility to play inside or out at a high level increases his value for a talent-starved group like the Panthers.

    "Green is a hulking, powerful presence with the body control and competitive toughness to impact the run game right away. His footwork and strike timing as a pass-protector should allow him to shore up leaky protection as well, giving the Panthers a building block for the future in the first round."

    Green can start at four of the five spots and become the glue to solidify a shoddy front five. 

20. Los Angeles Chargers: WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State

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    The Los Angeles Chargers spent the majority of their offseason rebuilding their offensive line to properly protect reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert. 

    The 23-year-old signal-caller looked like the game's best young quarterback through the first five games of the season but faltered slightly in recent weeks. Still, the potential is obvious as long as he has the right pieces around him to maximize his capabilities. 

    As such, wide receiver may need to be addressed depending on what happens with Mike Williams after the season since he's a pending free agent. Penn State's Jahan Dotson exploded onto the scene this fall as one of college football's best offensive weapons. 

    "Dotson provides speed and dynamic play for a Chargers offense that desperately needs it," Tice mentioned. "He is a legit plus route-runner with explosive-play capabilities as a downfield threat and running after the catch. He would fit in nicely with Herbert's arm and the Chargers' other receiving options."

    Even if Williams re-signs, three dynamic wideouts, including veteran Keenan Allen, will make the Chargers offense nearly unstoppable.

21. Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers couldn't imagine a better scenario than staying within city limits to find Ben Roethlisberger's heir apparent. 

    "It seems almost poetic to have Kenny Pickett end up a Steeler," Tice said. "He brings accuracy, smart play and just enough creation ability to the quarterback position. He would help the Steelers reset their franchise's timeline and sync better with their young playmakers, with the added benefit of only having to move one door down to the Steelers facility after the draft."

    Pickett may not possess elite traits, but the fifth-year senior consistently shows good ball placement as an anticipatory thrower. The 23-year-old made a massive leap this season, and his growing comfort level in the system and his role is readily apparent.

    The Panthers quarterback is a potential Heisman finalist and has an outstanding 26-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio with a career-high 69.2 completion percentage. More importantly, Pickett doesn't need to be a savior in the Steel City. He would just need to be a facilitator for an already successful franchise. 

22. Cincinnati Bengals: OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State

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    The Cincinnati Bengals are ahead of schedule as they sit near the top of the AFC North standings. The Joe Burrow-to-Ja'Marr Chase connection has been absolutely spectacular, though the team will still be looking for offensive line help next offseason. 

    "Mississippi State's Charles Cross may go even higher than this based on how well he is playing this season as a redshirt sophomore, but the Bengals would be happy to secure his rights with the intention of moving him to the right side of their line," Thorn said. 

    "In a division with superstar T.J. Watt primarily playing over the right tackle, having a springy, athletic mover like Cross to match up with him would be a great addition to add flexibility to their offense so they can live in empty formations where Burrow thrives. Cross has the profile of a fast-riser in the process because of his age (will be 21 years old Week 1 of 2022) and the improvement he is showing seemingly every week. The addition of a player like that at a premier position this late in the first round could be a steal for the Bengals." 

    Veteran Riley Reiff is a free agent after this season. Cross is a natural left tackle, but he has the traits to make the transition and bookend Jonah Williams. 

23. New Orleans Saints: WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State

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    The New Orleans Saints offense should look drastically different next year. 

    Quarterbacks Jameis Winston, who is currently dealing with a season-ending torn ACL, Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian aren't under contract next season. Neither is left tackle Terron Armstead or wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith. 

    On top of that, Michael Thomas' long-term status with the organization is tenuous after the two sides didn't agree on the wide receiver's handling of offseason ankle surgery. Even if Thomas remains with the team beyond this season, the Saints lack a secondary target.

    Ohio State's Garrett Wilson is an ideal playmaker for Sean Payton's offensive scheme. 

    "No matter who is at quarterback for the rest of the season and beyond, the Saints' lack of receiving weapons has been glaring without Thomas," Tice said. "Wilson provides speed and an improving skill set, as well as the ability to play inside or outside wide receiver. With a good offensive line and a feisty defense, the chance to land a player who can take any play the distance will help whoever is lined up behind center." 

24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State

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    Leonard Fournette revived his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he's not necessarily a long-term solution behind quarterback Tom Brady. Ronald Jones II isn't, either. Both are free agents after this season. 

    The possibility of adding the nation's top back as yet another offensive weapon in hopes of extending Brady's career has to be on the mind of general manager Jason Licht. 

    "The Bucs could lean to the future or continue to add cherries on top to their wonderful roster sundae," Tice quipped. "Michigan State's Kenneth Walker III has been the star of the 2021 college football season. He's shown not only the ability to be efficient on runs but also to take any single one of them the distance. For a team that has a lot of good things going for it, an actual viable running back would help even more." 

    Walker's rise as a Heisman Trophy candidate has been awesome to watch.

    The Wake Forest transfer ranks second overall with 1,194 rushing yards and first among backs with 175 carries with an average of 6.8 yards per tote. His 14 rushing touchdowns are tied for third. Walker is also second in forced missed tackles per rush, per Pro Football Focus' Austin Gayle. Though that number may have increased dramatically after the back's 197-yard, five-touchdown explosion against the rival Michigan Wolverines. 

25. Buffalo Bills: CB Martin Emerson, Mississippi State

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    The Buffalo Bills already own the league's top-ranked pass defense, but the unit can be even better. 

    While the group is outstanding, the cornerback spot opposite Tre'Davious White could use an upgrade. Levi Wallace manned the position over the last three-plus seasons, but the organization said all that needed to be said when the front office re-signed him to a one-year, $1.75 million contract. 

    "With his length and athleticism, Mississippi State's Martin Emerson is a clear upgrade on the outside over guys like Wallace and Dane Jackson," Giddings said. "With Emerson's rare length and size (6'2", 200 lbs) along with the ability to play in press-man, as well as off-zone coverage, he is what NFL organizations want in a cornerback today." 

    To Giddings' point, the Bills don't have a corner on their roster taller than 6'0". Emerson would give them a completely different skill set than those already on the roster and help improve upon what's already a top-flight defense. 

26. Las Vegas Raiders: OG Zion Johnson, Boston College

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    The Las Vegas Raiders chose to rework their veteran offensive line prior to this season, and the transition hasn't gone well.

    Center Rodney Hudson is missed. The team drafted Alex Leatherwood in last year's first round to replace Trent Brown, but the rookie has been since shifted to right guard. John Simpson and Brandon Parker haven't fared particularly well at left guard and right tackle, respectively. 

    Whereas, Boston College's Zion Johnson looks like a tailor-made NFL interior blocker. 

    "With starter-level play strength, power, and tenacity, Johnson is tailor-made to play guard in the Silver and Black," Thorn said. "Johnson is also a sound pass-protector with the processing skills to be steady in protection, making him a legit first-round talent. The Raiders need to upgrade the guard spot this coming offseason and could get a plug-and-play starter with this pick late in the first round to help restock the position."

    The combination of Johnson and Leatherwood should give the Raiders a strong guard combo for years to come, which could stabilize the entire unit. 

27. Dallas Cowboys: Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M

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    The Dallas Cowboys offense is explosive with weapons everywhere and an MVP-caliber quarterback pulling the trigger (when Dak Prescott is healthy). 

    Dalton Schultz has turned into a reliable and viable target within the scheme. But he's a free agent after this season and Dallas doesn't currently have the financial flexibility to re-sign him. The front office could rework some deals and open up space, but the team could also consider the possibility of adding a more athletic option to the position. 

    Texas A&M's Jalen Wydermyer is the class' top-rated tight end. The 20-year-old is a true Y-tight end capable of playing multiple roles. 

    "The Cowboys have a roster loaded with stars and could go a few different directions with this pick," Tice mentioned. "Dallas has loved to use two-tight end sets this season and Wydermyer's legit three-down skill set he's already flashed plus blocking ability at a young age to go along with his receiving statswould help maintain what they have going, even if Schultz were to leave in free agency."

28. Green Bay Packers: WR Justyn Ross, Clemson

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    The idea of the Green Bay Packers finally investing a first-round pick in an offensive weapon after Aaron Rodgers likely departs is hilarious but necessary. 

    "With Jordan Love likely to be stepping in for Rodgers whenever the Hall of Fame quarterback's 'Last Dance' ends, the opportunity to get his heir apparent a No. 1 receiving option becomes a priority if Davante Adams decides to leave as well," Tice said.

    "Clemson's Justyn Ross has battled injuries in his career but has looked dynamic and twitchy now that he's healthy and playing again. Ross still has room to improve, but he has the length, fluidity and natural hands to become a true X-receiver at the NFL level. The numbers may not be there, though he's done his best to produce in a poor offensive situation in Death Valley."

    In order for Ross to fulfill his first-round potential, his medical evaluations must be cleared after discovering a congenital fusion in his neck and spine, which cost him the 2020 campaign. At Tice noted, Ross hasn't been as productive this fall (39 receptions for 426 yards) because Clemson's quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei has struggled while trying to replace Trevor Lawrence. 

29. Baltimore Ravens: RB Breece Hall, Iowa State

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    For any other team, particularly those with questionable offensive lines, a running back would be a terrible decision. In Baltimore, the Ravens learned how valuable the position really is in their run-first offense after suffering a rash of injuries. 

    J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill are currently on injured reserve. All three will be back with the team next year, but the best pure runner in the class may be too tempting for the Ravens. 

    "Breece Hall's size, vision and explosiveness would let him shine in any run scheme," Tice said. "Putting him with quarterback Lamar Jackson and a healthy Dobbins would give the Ravens' rushing attack a true downhill option that synergizes the unit and would give it the pieces to go supernova." 

    The biggest concern with Hall is his usage rate at Iowa State. He already has 644 carries under his belt. But the issue isn't as alarming for Baltimore where he won't be a workhorse. He'd just be another thoroughbred in the game's most prolific ground-and-pound attack. 

30. Detroit Lions (from LA Rams): QB Sam Howell, North Carolina

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    One quote says it all from Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell, "I feel like (Jared Goff) needs to step up more than he has." 

    The Lions traded an unhappy Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams and gave Jared Goff one last chance to prove he's a franchise quarterback. He hasn't. 

    Detroit does have a pair of first-round picks. Instead of forcing the quarterback selection with the first overall pick, the organization lands North Carolina's Sam Howell at the tail end of the opening frame. 

    "The Lions are openly rebuilding and Campbell has made it very apparent that he doesn't view Goff as their quarterback of the future," Tice noted. "Howell is about a round lower on our big board. But he is tough, throws a good deep ball and can create a little bit. He still needs to improve in his progression for true dropback schemes that he'll have to run in the NFL." 

    To Howell's credit, he has evolved as a performer. He excelled during his first two seasons as a vertical passer. He's moving from the pocket far more often this year with a career-high 585 rushing yards. 

31. Tennessee Titans: OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa

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    The Tennessee Titans' mistake of drafting right tackle Isaiah Wilson with the 29th overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft continues to linger. 

    General manager Jon Robinson tried to rectify the situation by signing veteran Kendall Lamm and selecting Dillon Radunz in this year's second round. Lamm has been dinged, while Radunz wasn't ready to take the spot. The Titans can solve the problem with the selection of Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning. 

    "The Titans have managed to get by this season with David Quessenberry at right tackle by using creative ways to give him extra help in pass-protection, but are in need of a long-term answer at the position," Thorn noted. 

    "Penning's domineering play style is a nice fit for the Titans smash-mouth offense led by running back Derrick Henry. The tackle's play strength and demeanor fit the mold of what the team likes from its line. Penning has obliterated the competition at Northern Iowa this season with ideal size (6'7", 330) and smooth footwork in his pass sets. The Titans could move forward in 2022 with a much more well-rounded offensive line by adding Penning at pick 31."

    Once Henry is back and healthy, an improved offensive front will only make his life easier. 

32. Arizona Cardinals: CB Trent McDuffie, Washington

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    The Arizona Cardinals' seemingly neverending search to improve at cornerback continues into the next draft cycle. The process has lasted so long, Patrick Peterson no longer needs a running mate because his contract expired and he signed elsewhere. 

    The team relying on a familiar pipeline could certainly help the situation. 

    "Trent McDuffie is the next line of cornerbacks out of Washington. With Robert Alfred, who is a 33-year-old former second-round pick, on a one-year deal and Marco Wilson off to a shaky start, the Cardinals will be looking to solidify their secondary," Giddings mentioned. "The Cardinals will add another Husky to their secondary, as they already have Byron Murphy in the slot, and look to bolster an already dangerous defense."

    Like Murphy, McDuffie isn't the biggest cornerback—he's listed at 5'11" and 195 pounds—but he's an aggressive and technically sound defender, who should be able to step in and immediately start as one of the Cardinals' outside corners.