2022 NFL Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions and Overlooked Prospects to Watch

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2022

2022 NFL Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions and Overlooked Prospects to Watch

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Every year, the NFL draft brings first-round surprises. Sometimes, it involves a player sliding. Other times, a player goes much earlier than fans and those in the media anticipated.

    The reality is that teams place their own values on draft prospects, and they don't always match what prognosticators have expected. When the Las Vegas Raiders used a 2021 first-round pick on Alabama lineman Alex Leatherwood, for example, few saw it coming.

    Below, you'll find a look at three under-the-radar prospects who aren't widely considered to be first-rounders—whether because of injury, positional value or program status—but who could end up hearing their names called on opening night. First, though, let's take a look at an updated Round 1 mock.

Round 1 Mock Draft

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan

    2. Detroit Lions: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

    3. Houston Texans: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

    4. New York Jets: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

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

    6. Carolina Panthers: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

    7. New York Giants (via CHI): Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon

    8. Atlanta Falcons: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

    9. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN): Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia

    10. New York Jets (via SEA): Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

    11. Washington Commanders: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

    12. Minnesota Vikings: George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue

    13. Houston Texans (via CLE): Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

    14. Baltimore Ravens: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

    15. Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA): Drake London, WR, USC

    16. Philadelphia Eagles (via IND): Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

    17. Los Angeles Chargers: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

    18. New Orleans Saints: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

    19. Philadelphia Eagles: Arnold Ebiketie, Edge, Penn State

    20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

    21. New England Patriots: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

    22. Green Bay Packers (via LVR): Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

    23. Arizona Cardinals: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

    24. Dallas Cowboys: Zion Johnson, OL, Boston College

    25. Buffalo Bills: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

    26. Tennessee Titans: Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa

    27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State

    28. Green Bay Packers: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State

    29. Kansas City Chiefs (from MIA, via SF): Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State

    30. Kansas City Chiefs: Jermaine Johnson II, Edge, Florida State

    31. Cincinnati Bengals: Travis Jones, DT, Connecticut

    32. Detroit Lions (via LAR): Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    The University of Cincinnati isn't traditionally regarded as a marquee college program. However, this has changed in recent years, under the guidance of coach Luke Fickell. The Bearcats made the College Football Playoff in 2021, and NFL teams are paying attention.

    Prospects like cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner and quarterback Desmond Ridder are potential first-round prospects. Wide receiver Alec Pierce could be, too, though he isn't getting a ton of Round 1 buzz.

    Pierce—the 38th-ranked prospect on the Bleacher Report Scouting Department's big board—has the physical tools and the versatility that scouts covet.

    "Pierce is a very athletic, explosive receiver who aligned in the slot and outside in college," Nate Tice of the B/R Scouting Department wrote. "He has good height and size and can win consistently versus press coverage because of his good foot quickness and balance."

    If a team falls in love with Pierce or there's a deep run at receiver in Round 1, the Cincinnati prospect could wind up going within the first 32 selections.

Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    No one is sleeping on the top offensive linemen in this class. Prospects like Evan Neal, Ikem Ekwonu and Charles Cross are likely to be drafted early and are staples at the top of mock drafts. There's less of a consensus when it comes to the second tier of first-round linemen.

    Texas A&M's Kenyon Green could slip into that conversation because of his versatility and experience. He's the 41st-ranked prospect on the Bleacher Report board, but teams may value him higher because he can fill multiple roles.

    "Green is a third-year starter who came to Texas A&M as the top overall recruit in Texas and a 5-star offensive tackle," Brandon Thorn of the B/R Scouting Department wrote. "He has amassed 35 career starts at every position except center in a heavy inside-zone-run scheme and projects best as a guard in the NFL."

    While Green best projects as a guard, he can provide depth at tackle, too, and that's a trait that will get a lineman drafted early. Teams are often willing to wait on drafting pure guards, but Green's market won't be limited to teams that need a guard only.

David Ojabo, Edge, Michigan

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Entering the pre-draft process, Michigan's David Ojabo was anything but an under-the-radar prospect. As a pass-rushing complement to potential No. 1 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson, Ojabo was a difference-maker on the Wolverines defense.

    Ojabo finished the 2021 season with 11 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 24 solo stops.

    However, Ojabo suffered a torn Achilles at his pro day, which will cause him to be overlooked by some teams on opening day. There's no guarantee of when or if he'll be able to return to action in 2022.

    Yet Ojabo could still wind up being a first-round pick if a team is willing to be patient. This is the approach that the Tennessee Titans took with defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons in 2019. Simmons tore his ACL in February before the draft but was still selected 19th overall. He appeared in nine games as a rookie and was a Pro Bowler by Year 3.

    While Ojabo may be overlooked following his injury, no one should be shocked if a team takes the long-term approach and still snags him on opening night.