NFL Mock Draft 2022: Post-CFP Championship Predictions for 1st-Round Prospects

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 11, 2022

NFL Mock Draft 2022: Post-CFP Championship Predictions for 1st-Round Prospects

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    The book is now closed on the 2021 college football season following Georgia's win over Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship.

    That means it's time to kick NFL draft season into overdrive.

    The various tiers of the 2022 class have already emerged for the most part, but there's bound to be some movement on draft boards as team representatives break down game film and attend the traditional showcases.

    Here are some of the burning questions that will linger between now and April 28.

2022 1st-Round Mock Draft

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    1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon
    2. Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan
    3. Houston Texans: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
    4. New York Jets: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
    5. New York Giants: George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue
    6. Carolina Panthers: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
    7. New York Giants (via Bears): Drake London, WR, USC
    8. Atlanta Falcons: Ikem Ekwonu, OL, North Carolina State
    9. Denver Broncos: Tyler Linderbaum, OL, Iowa
    10. New York Jets (via Seahawks): Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
    11. Washington Football Team: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
    12. Minnesota Vikings: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
    13. Cleveland Browns: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
    14. Baltimore Ravens: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
    15. Philadelphia Eagles (via Dolphins): Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
    16. Philadelphia Eagles (via Colts): Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State
    17. Los Angeles Chargers: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
    18. New Orleans Saints: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
    19. *Philadelphia Eagles: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
    20. *Pittsburgh Steelers: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
    21. *New England Patriots: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
    22. *Miami Dolphins (via 49ers): Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
    23. *Las Vegas Raiders: Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M
    24. *Arizona Cardinals: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
    25. *Cincinnati Bengals: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
    26. *Buffalo Bills: Derion Kendrick, CB, Georgia
    27. *Detroit Lions (via Rams): Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
    28. *Dallas Cowboys: David Ojabo, Edge, Michigan
    29. *Kansas City Chiefs: Martin Emerson, CB, Mississippi State
    30. *Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State
    31. *Tennessee Titans: Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson
    32. *Green Bay Packers: Logan Hall, DL, Houston

    *Picks 19-32 to be determined by playoff finish.

How Many (or How Few) QBs Are Off the Board in the 1st Round?

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    If you're a team in need of a young quarterback, this wasn't an ideal year to post a terrible record.

    Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder is the top signal-caller on the Bleacher Report NFL Scouting Department's big board, and he cracks the list at No. 17. Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett (No. 43) is the only other in the top 50, with Ole Miss' Matt Corral next at No. 82.

    "The general feeling is that the first QB is likely to be drafted outside the top eight picks, which would make it the latest that the first one has been picked since that 2013 draft," ESPN's Jeremy Fowler and Jordan Reid reported.

    The 2013 draft was a quarterback abyss. It included EJ Manuel—the position's only first-round selection—Mike Glennon, Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and Ryan Nassib. Glennon is the most successful player from that group, throwing for 7,025 yards and 47 touchdowns in 40 appearances.

    Fans have become accustomed to seeing a less heralded passer surge up draft boards in the spring. Trey Lance, Josh Allen and Daniel Jones are some of the more recent examples. But it's difficult to imagine that being the case in 2022.

    Whether that stops a team from reaching for Ridder or Pickett is another question.

Will It Be Thibodeaux, Hutchinson or Karlaftis?

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    Now if you're needing to upgrade your pass rush, on the other hand, this is a great year to have a top-five pick. Two edge-rushers are among the top three overall players on B/R's big board: Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux and Purdue George Karlaftis. Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson comes in at No. 14.

    Hutchinson enjoyed the strongest 2021 season of the three. He collected 14 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles en route to being a Heisman Trophy finalist. The 6'6" defensive end was the best player on a Michigan team that reached the national semifinals.

    Karlaftis' stats (4.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss) don't look great on paper, but that production obscures his obvious potential at the next level.

    "At 6'4" and 275 pounds, Karlaftis has a tall, thick frame, and his athleticism pops off the screen," B/R NFL Scouting Department member Derrik Klassen wrote in November. "He flies off the ball, has heavy hands and plays with better quickness and bend than a player his size should."

    As with Karlaftis, NFL teams will have to look past a somewhat unspectacular resume with Thibodeaux. Nineteen sacks and 35.5 tackles for loss over three seasons is good, but the record doesn't scream "No. 1 overall pick."

    "The keyword with him is 'potential,' as the feeling is that Thibodeaux still has a ways to go to reach his ceiling," Reid said. "He is an underrated run defender and is still learning how to use his traits to turn those flashes into more consistent production."

    Comparing Hutchinson and Thibodeaux, Fowler said the two are "the classic convergence of upside and explosion vs. the sure thing with a slightly lower ceiling." Karlaftis could stand in for Thibodeaux as well.

How Much Will Trades Reshape Day 1?

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    Even if there were a can't-miss quarterback available, the Jacksonville Jaguars surely wouldn't be prepared to give up on Trevor Lawrence already.

    The Detroit Lions have an obvious need for a long-term solution under center because Jared Goff isn't the guy. But they would get raked over the coals if they selected Ridder, Pickett, Corral or Liberty's Malik Willis that early.

    The New York Jets and New York Giants each have two top-10 picks, providing them with a lot of flexibility.

    A major trade at the top of the first round feels inevitable. The elite edge-rushers are all good enough to warrant such a deal. Maybe a general manager falls in love with LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. or Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal.

    And from the perspective of the Jaguars, Lions, Giants and Jets, they all have so many needs across the entire roster that turning a top-five selection into multiple high-round picks might be worth it.

    Going further down the draft board, a general manager could turn aggressive if he sees one of the better skill-position players still hovering around the mid-to-late stages of Round 1.

    Maybe the Chicago Bears, who don't have a first-rounder, want to make sure they get one of their preferred wide receivers to pair with quarterback Justin Fields. The same logic applies to the San Francisco 49ers as they prepare to hand over the offense to Lance.

    If Michigan State's Kenneth Walker III is still hanging around toward the end of Day 1, how quickly is a team ringing up an opposing front office to secure a deal to land the Spartans star?