NFL Mock Draft 2022: Examining Elite Prospects and Predictions for All 32 Teams

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2022

NFL Mock Draft 2022: Examining Elite Prospects and Predictions for All 32 Teams

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    Week 18 of the 2021 NFL season is fast approaching.

    The playoffs will follow right behind it, but only for the 14 teams fortunate enough to make the final cut. For everyone else, it's either draft season already or will be after this weekend.

    Shifting into offseason mode is sometimes tricky before the campaign's official curtain drop, but an easy way to get your mind there is by focusing on the elite talent at the top of the draft class. We're here to help with that switch by following a first-round mock with a breakdown of two of the top prospects.

Mock Draft

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    Chris Seward/Associated Press

    1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon

    2. Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan

    3. Houston Texans: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

    4. New York Jets: George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue

    5. New York Giants: Evan Neal, OL, Alabama

    6. Carolina Panthers: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

    7. New York Jets (via SEA): Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

    8. New York Giants (via CHI): Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

    9. Washington: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

    10. Atlanta Falcons: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

    11. Denver Broncos: Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

    12. Cleveland Browns: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

    13. Minnesota Vikings: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

    14. Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA): Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

    15. New Orleans Saints: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

    16. Baltimore Ravens: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

    17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

    18. Las Vegas Raiders: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

    19. Philadelphia Eagles: Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State

    20. Los Angeles Chargers: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

    21. Philadelphia Eagles (via IND): Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

    22. Miami Dolphins (via SF): Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

    23. New England Patriots: Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn

    24. Arizona Cardinals: David Ojabo, LB, Michigan

    25. Buffalo Bills: DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M

    26. Cincinnati Bengals: Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M

    27. Dallas Cowboys: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

    28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

    29. Kansas City Chiefs: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

    30. Detroit Lions (via LAR): Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State

    31. Tennessee Titans: Jaxson Kirkland, OL, Washington

    32. Green Bay Packers: Travon Walker, DT, Georgia

Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Kayvon Thibodeaux looks like he was built in a football factory to terrorize opposing quarterbacks and lineman.

    The 6'5", 258-pounder has a size-strength-speed combination few players can possess. If his explosive first step doesn't send him directly into the backfield, he boasts the counter moves and motor to win on his second and third attempts.

    College linemen couldn't handle him. This past season, he had 49 tackles, seven sacks and two forced fumbles in 10 games.

    His edge-rushing will get him drafted very early and paid plenty, but his ability to hold his own as a run defender shouldn't be overlooked. Frankly, he'll be an instant asset to whichever defense adds him.

Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Not every analyst and executive will agree with this, but it seems like a two-player race for the top pick between Thibodeaux and Aidan Hutchinson. While Thibodeaux gets the narrow edge here, it's sort of like choosing between luxury vehicles: Can you really go wrong?

    Opposing quarterbacks became all too familiar with Hutchinson this past season. He had 14 sacks in as many games, and he recorded at least 2.5 sacks three different times.

    He's a plug-and-play prospect with through-the-roof potential. Oh, and he can fit any defensive scheme, so his NFL appeal is universal. The 6'6", 265-pounder has every tool a pass-rusher needs to succeed: length, strength, speed, counter moves, relentless motor and high football IQ.

    You could argue a few other prospects might have higher ceilings, but his combination of floor and ceiling might be as good as it gets.