Welcome Back to the Show
Pardon the rust – it’s been a long year.
As things get back to a somewhat normal state so too does the NFL and its yearly draft process. The combine, player travels, and even the atmosphere on draft night are assuredly full energy and excitement finally unlocked after long years in the dark. So too was the joy this mock-hobbyist felt as he returned to a yearly tradition of playing armchair-GM. It feels oh so good to be putting this pen to paper once more, and I thank you for stopping by to read my words.
So long as you pardon some terrible puns you will find that the mock is much the same as years past: two rounds; 64 picks; explanations are further detailed for the first 32 picks than the latter. Trades are in play so long as compensation is fair and discussed therein. Selections are made to the tune of what I believe the team at the podium will do rather than my own personal preference.
I’ll save the rest of my words for what comes below. For now, here’s to another great year of NFL football – happy draft, everyone!
The Jacksonville Jaguars are on the clock:
1.1: Jacksonville Jaguars – Aidan Hutchinson – DE
Don’t look now, but the Jaguars are going to be a sneaky good team. Well, sneaky good relative to the rest of the NFL’s bottom-third. I don’t think there is a soul alive that could argue against last year being completely lost with the Urban Meyer debacle. The question is, “was it enough to break Trevor Lawrence?” Having seen the process happen oh so many times with Cleveland, I’d say it’s not out of the question. Then again, Lawrence is Football Jesus to many (right, right?!). The talent is clearly there and Meyer or no Meyer it’s not as if the Jags’ O was ready to give him any help whatsoever.
The easy answer to this pick is for Duval to draft either Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu to help protect their hopeful franchise passer. But, with Cam Robinson being Franchise Tagged I’m not entirely sure how the justification can be made to spend the number 1 overall pick on a right tackle. And – with no offense to either Neal or Ekwonu – those two aren’t generational prospects that can’t be passed up. Plus, with the bevy of offensive weapons coming over in Free Agency, added to the return of Travis Etienne, it may be enough to mask O-line play. Still… even if not with the first pick Shad Khan & Co. would be wise to remember what happened to Joe Burrow without a quality O-Line in his rookie year.
A number 1 overall pick is meant to be the culture changer; the franchise fortifier; the alpha dog. Lawrence was certainly gifted that title but there is little he can really do for the defensive guys. Aidan Hutchinson can. Setting aside the prototypical 6’6″ 265 lb. frame Hutchinson is about as “solid” a prospect as I’ve ever seen. The size, the twitch, the power… Hutchinson is a coach’s dream prospect. Is he better than the Bosas? Than Garrett? Than Young? No, he very likely isn’t. He is, however, perhaps the most dedicated off-the-field grinder compared to any of them. With an impeccable character and disciplined determination to always get better Hutchinson is the guy you want in the locker room as he will inspire, lead, and keep everyone’s noses to the grindstone. That alone is worth the number 1 pick for a rebuilding team like the Jags. And pair it with the game tape to back it up? Yeah, this only makes too much sense.
1.2: Detroit Lions – Kyle Hamilton – S
The Lions are a wild card in this draft because there are so many routes they could take and none of them would be a bad option. Well, except for maybe taking a quarterback. Have we all forgotten how Jared Goff led the Rams to the Super Bowl? Sure, the casting off my Sean McVay has tainted his image, and he isn’t the future for this team, but I’ll be damned if he isn’t at the very least a serviceable bridge talent at the position. Considering that his only means of support were T.J. Hockenson, an oft-injured D’andre Swift and the late-breakout Amon-Ra St. Brown I think we all had better realize that Goff is nothing to scoff at – especially when compared to this year’s crop of middling signal callers.
Aidan Hutchinson is a match made in heaven for the Lions. It works on so many levels to the degree that I could see them trading up just to secure the culture-changer. He’s everything Dan Campbell wants and everything that Detroit needs. Unfortunately for them the Lions’ luck continues to bite them by the toe and the Michigan standout is already off the board. While there is ample smoke around Thibodeaux instead I would tend to put more credence to the belief that him and Campbell would not see eye to eye given the questions about his work ethic. Meanwhile, if the move is for some offensive support expect the Motor City Kit-Kats to search for a trade partner. With the bevy of holes they have yet to fill extra picks (added to the additional ones they already have) would be a welcome arrangement. Simply, at number two overall the value of a top-flight WR isn’t there, which begs the question: what is?
Enter Kyle Hamilton, the massive 6’4″ safety who has genuine All-Pro potential with his range, tenacity, and sheer destructive power. Like Hutchinson his coaches and teammates rave about his character and work ethic – which will undoubtedly attract someone so… enthusiastic… such as Dan Campbell. While his size hinders his twitchiness, there is no doubt that his presence would not only bolster the Lions’ backfield but also add a true captain to their defense who could bring the team an identity they have long since been searching for. So, while they might settle for bunts and doubles when Goff is up to bat, Hamilton will undoubtedly be a home-run on the opposite side of the ball.
1.3: Houston Texans – Ikem Ekwonu – OT
It’s a new era for the Texans post-Deshaun Watson. After a year of limbo in which no one really had an idea where this team was going it would appear that at least one decision has been (for better or worse) decided: Davis Mills will be the quarterback to start 2022. To his credit Mills did flash some positive traits and growth as the season progressed with minimal talent around him. Still, the road to success is longer than his neck, and if Houston wants Mills to succeed they had best find a way to make sure he stays upright.
The debate will rage between which tackle should be taken first: Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu. Neal has the Alabama air about him, and appears to be the “safer” pick. Yet Ekwonu has the higher upside. Violent, versatile, and vocal, Ekwonu has traits aplenty to fit whatever blocking scheme is thrown his way. As is the case with our first two selections of this mock “Ickey” also showcases a high degree of locker-room presence and positive personality. If Mills can prove he is the future, then Ekwonu is a star in the making to pair him with for the next decade. If not, well then the Texans are at least solidifying their line for the next prospect who comes in.
Coachability is key for prospects like Ekwonu who are rather raw but have all the physical gifts and intangibles. All too often we see players come in with all the talent in the world but flame out due to a lack of dedication, or unwillingness to learn. Malik McDowell, Greg Robinson, Dion Jordan, etc. all come to mind. Ikem is the on other side of this coin, where players such as Josh Allen reside. While it may be a little rocky at first, Ekwonu has the talent to succeed and the discipline to listen and hone his craft as he needs to. A player to grow alongside a franchise in rebuild mode. Perhaps, by the time the Texans find their way back to relevance, they will have a bona-fide stalwart on their line to match. This mock believes that Houston is ready and willing to find out.
1.4: New York Jets – Kayvon Thibodeaux – Edge
Robert Saleh made his claim to fame in San Francisco through the dominant force of his defensive line. Everything – from coverage schemes to stunt packages – started with the front 4 and their ability to control the run game and pressure the quarterback. It was through this success that put Saleh on the map as a head coach candidate, and likely one of the selling points he made to the Jets organization when they interviewed him for the role.
Averaging just over two sacks a game last year, the production of the current Jets D-line is a far cry from what was wrought out west. Quinnen Williams is growing into his role, but he will never be a true pass-rush candidate with his sheer bulk. The addition of Solomon Thomas will provide some relief in this regard, but there is still much to be desired for presence on the edge. Until, that is, Thibodeaux hears his name called at pick four overall.
This is an easy one, both in need, scheme, and smoke grenades going off all over the place. It wasn’t too awful long ago that Thibodeaux was being touted as the next Garrett or Young. To me the closest comp would have to be Jadeveon Clowney. Now, while his final season at Oregon tempered those expectations a bit there is still little doubt that KT has the skills to be a dominant force in Saleh’s regime. “Explosion” is the word that comes to mind when I watch clips of the Duck. Powerful, sudden, but indiscriminant and unrefined. All too often he looks like someone who was told to “point and shoot” in his football upbringing only because he didn’t need any extra technique to punk on opposing peasants. While his natural ability does still make him worthy of a top pick, the work will be cut out for Saleh and Co. to help him realize his full potential. If they can though, the Jets will have turned a shotgun into a sniper rifle.
1.5: New York Giants – Evan Neal – OT
While I don’t have a shred of a clue as to what the Giants are doing with their putting of Kadarious Toney on the trade block, I do know that it’s not going to matter as much who is in their WR room if Daniel Jones’ security is threatened on the regular. That said, the offense ought to be running through Saquon Barkley – barring he, too, returns to his rookie form and shows the work why he is one of the top backs in the league. In either case the Giants can help both Jones and Barkley by shoring up their RT spot with one of the safest picks in the draft: Evan Neal.
Neal’s pedigree speaks for itself. SEC All-Freshman, First Team All-SEC and Second Team AP All-American are accolades that Neal hangs proudly on his trophy wall, and for good reason. During his time at Alabama he showcased his talent at RG, RT (the spot where he helped ‘Bama win a ‘ship), and eventually LT. Being refined further than Ekwonu gives Neal a higher floor than his counterpart, but it also caps his potential as what we have seen on the field will likely be similar to the peak that Neal can perform at in the NFL. Make no mistake though: I say that in the most positive of ways. Neal’s technique is crisp, as is his discipline. His experience against top-tier opponents in college has done wonders for his growth. And, at 6’7″ 337 lbs. he has the natural size to dominate on either edge of the O-line.
Is he getting a “‘Bama” boost? Probably. And who can blame an NFL exec for wanting to pull the top talent from the top CFB program in the nation? Still, we but only have to look to the recency of Alex Leatherwood to remember that sometimes it is wise to pull off our Crimson-Tide colored glasses. The reality of the matter is that, regardless of if he is being brought up a few notches, Neal is more than ready to be a great asset for his new team in the NFL. Will he ever escalate to “Elite” status? Eh, I’d probably bet the under. But – in Madden terms – a player that will likely be in the upper 80’s OVR over the course of his NFL career is well, well worth the pickup. The Giants land themselves a Giant.
1.6: Carolina Panthers – Charles Cross – OT
Where oh where do the Panthers go from here? In a lot of ways I would say pick six is the point at which the draft becomes substantially more interesting. On one hand the Panthers desperately need help on their O-Line. On another they have to fill a gap on the defensive edge with the departure of Haason Reddick. Oh, and on a third they are also standing at the edge of a cliff where Sam Darnold is their QB for another year amidst a less than stellar class. Did I mention this is also their only pick until round 4?
That last fact is the fulcrum by which this pick will swing. Do they draft a rookie signal caller and throw him to the wolves? Even if they do, would they win more games than with Darnold at the helm? The Panthers have too many critical roles to fill and not nearly enough picks to fill them with, and no one will want to trade up with them in this particular case. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place, and so they swallow their pride and punt for next year’s QB class by taking Charles Cross to fill the gap.
Consistency is key when it comes to Cross, and is something his vids exhibit in spades. If nothing else, you know what you are getting with the Redshirt Sophomore. Strong, solid, and explosive enough to take a hit and give them out in both the run and pass game. First Team All-SEC has to count for something for the underclassman as well. There’s plenty enough talent and promise here to warrant the pick, even if it does feel like a bit of a reach. Frankly, regardless of whomever is under center for Carolina the offense still must run through their best player – Christian McCaffrey. In all fairness to Sam Darnold too, he is 24 and has intangibles that made him a top pick some years ago. Sure, the odds are against him, but with so many unknowns the safest move is probably the best one, even if their fans might be a little… Cross.
1.7: New York Giants (from Chicago) – Travon Walker – DE
It seems sacrilegious to drop Walker this low after all the talk of him potentially being pick number one overall to the Jags. Yet, here we are, and as of now the Giants are the unequivocal winners of the first round (at least for a few more picks…). Between Neal and Walker the G-Men have fortified both of their Lines with absolute studs coming out of the SEC. Just as well, Walker brings his own massive size at DE pushing 6’5″. A five star athlete, Walker showcases all the raw intangibles you would expect from someone who could develop into an elite player down the line. Granted, he doesn’t have the bend of the Bosas, or the strength of Mack, but Walker nonetheless possesses a frame to build upon and force opposing teams to scheme around.
Ximenes, Lawrence, Williams, Ojulari, Walker. SHEESH. Don’t look now, but the Giants have the tools in place to start crawling back into contention. Make no mistake, all pressure falls to Danny Dimes as this team reloads. Even if he fumbles it away (obligatory har-de-har-har) the Giants have the foundational pieces in place for long term stability, nabbing in their minds the BPA on both sides of the ball. There isn’t much more to say on them. Easy picks. The Giants become a significantly better team in the span of fifteen minutes.
1.8: Atlanta Falcons – Drake London – WR
Yes! The Atlanta Falcons’ passing offense is set to fly so high this year! With Kyle Pitts going into year two, and… erm… hang on. *checks notes* … *checks notes further* … *pulls out new sheet of notes and scrolls to the bottom*. Olamide Zaccheus, come on down!
With respect to the current Falcons’ WR corps, they don’t exactly strike terror into the heart of, well, anyone. It is Pitts alone with a smattering of Cordarrelle Patterson. That’s it. Those are the two impact performers the Falcons’ have. My condolences to Marcus Mariota trying to revive his career in the wake of Matt Ryan, but let’s all be real here: they are a long way out from returning to a Super Bowl. Of course, the need at Edge remains a massive need (as is tradition in Atlanta) but they simply cannot pass up their pick of the WR class when all are still available at pick 8.
With this pick, the Atlanta Falcons select, Mike Eva- sorry… Drake London! ‘Tis a jest that the comparison is so ubiquitous around the mock draft community, yet it is for good reason. The physical similarities; the basketball background; jump ball ability; London has all of the same traits that has turned Evans into a perennial 1,000 yard receiver and hallmark of consistent greatness. (yes, put him in the HoF when he hangs up his cleats). Sure, it might be a bit worrisome that there are SO many jump ball plays on his highlight reel, but for a team so desperate for talent as Atlanta is they will be willing to put up with the separation issues so long as London is able to move the chains and get the ball into the end-zone. In this regard he will succeed, just as Evans did before him, and be a cornerstone of the Falcons’ passing attack for many years to come.
1.9: Seattle Seahawks (from Denver) – Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner – CB
I can already hear the wails of Seahawks fans from across the nation as they still are reliant on Drew Lock under center following their first pick. Just as Atlanta has a perennial need at Edge, so too do the Seahawks seem to be stuck in O-Line purgatory. Now, this would be a prime place for them to try and trade down, but the value just doesn’t feel to be there in a class such as this. In my mind none of the QBs are warranted in the top half of the first round – let alone possibly all of it – but necessity will assuredly drive some up. To the Seahawks though this will not be the case, for they still have a BPA on top of their board – a rather… saucy... one at that.
It won’t take long for ‘Hawks fans to find some familiarity with the Cincinnati product as his brazen nature and lanky frame are oh so reminiscent of a certain Richard Sherman. Only allowing 6.6 ypr in 2021 (insanity), Gardner walks his walk and talks his talk all the same. Explosive, imposing, and with enough verbal sparring skills to take on anyone, Gardner can find Jalen Ramsey like success in the NFL… providing his game translates. As I watch his film, I see no reason for it not to. Yep, he absolutely is a bit “loosey-goosey” with his technique, exhibiting a lot of “I know I’m good and I know it” lapses in judgement. He will probably lead all rookies in penalties. He probably will also have the lowest ypa of any DB in this class.
Gardner comes straight out of the final wings of “Hot Ones” with the amount of fire he brings to the table. Is he too hot to handle the requirements of the NFL? Eh, who is to say. Regardless, the dude can ball. In the wind and rain of the Northwest, Sauce Gardner will have the 12th Man steaming.
1.10: New York Jets TRADED to San Francisco 49ers – Treylon Burks – WR
This is the Deebo Samuel trade. Though insistent that they would prefer not to trade the star player, this video says enough to me that Deebo won’t ever don the red and gold again. Meanwhile, the Niners are without a first round pick due to the Trey Lance trade last year, and it just so happens the Jets are in the market – ready to go full bore into a run for Samuel’s unique skillset. All things considered between this pick and a third rounder next year (or something along those lines) the Niners would be wise to just rip the band-aid off and get some value back. Meanwhile, the Jets acquire a dynamic, proven player that frees up Elijah Moore. Plus, with Saleh as HC, he surely knows a bit or two about what made Samuel succeed on his old team. The hands are dealt, and this deal is as good as any for San Fran. 49ers GM John Lynch has come out and said, “I can’t ever imagine wanting to trade a player like Deebo.” Well sure, I couldn’t ever imagine wanting to either. Sometimes you just get burned and have to make the best of what you can control – in this case – the ability to get value back out of a lost cause.
So where does the Band from the Bay Area go from here? Easy answer: draft a capable replacement for Deebo. Enter Treylon Burks. His tape would indicate that his production is mostly due to scheme. Jet sweeps, bubble screens, RPO posts… see where I’m going with this? Burks has the size at 6’2″ and the athletic profile to play the Samuel role for this 49ers team. Is he polished? Hell no. Is he the most physical receiver? Eh, he can grow into it. What matters is Burks’ versatility. A unique combination of size and twitch, Burks just makes plays. And, with an offensive mind like Kyle Shanahan behind the wheel, any growth Burks’ needs at the position can continue to be masked by scheme as he develops. It is, plainly, a perfect pairing should this trade come to pass.
1.11: Washington Commanders – Garrett Wilson – WR
Greetings, Comrades! Fellow Salamanders! ‘Tis the 11th pick of the draft, and the football team formerly known as the Football Team is on the clock. Now, would someone please get Terry McLaurin some help? ¿Por Favor? “Sorry Terry, best we can do is… Carson Wentz!” Ok, ok, let us not forget that it wasn’t too long ago that Wentz was an MVP caliber quarterback for the Eagles. Still, it’s hard not to be a little dissuaded by his track record following his torn up knee and subsequent decline. Like it or not the loss against the Jags at the end of last season is a stain that cannot be removed sans a consistently good-to-great performance that leads his team back to the playoffs.
As a team the Commanders aren’t only sneaky good – they are genuinely good. Much better than their 11th overall pick status might insinuate. Taylor Heinecke flashed, but could never fill the void of a true number 1. With Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chase Young shelved for most of the year, we will never know what may be if the Washington squad stayed healthy in 2021. Alas, c’est la vie. The team is primed to take control of a foundering NFC East, but the Commanders are in dire need of some more firepower opposite Scary Terry.
Garrett Wilson of The Ohio State University has all the tools you would want a number 1 wideout to possess. Slippery, twitchy – a YAC monster. Yes, in college his usage may have been restricted to a limited route tree, but of all skills to develop, route-running is far and away the most coachable and feasible to accomplish. Thankfully, playing opposite fellow Buckeye alum McLaurin will afford Wilson the opportunity to tinker with his game in 1:1 situations. There’s a very real scenario here where Wilson eclipses McLaurin in receptions in 2022, even if Terry hauls in more big time plays. Together though, the duo will take a tip from a fellow U.S. Capitol squad and make some magic on the field together.
1.12: Minnesota Vikings – Derek Stingley Jr. – CB
Harrison Smith and Patrick Peterson aren’t getting any younger. For as much talent as they have, Father Time is going to catch up eventually. It’s no secret that the Vikings have needs on defense heading into the 2022 season – namely along the D-line and in the secondary. Thankfully for them this mock gives them multiple Elite options to choose from at pick number 12. After a lot of himming and hawing the Vikings eventually decide to bolster their aging DB crops with LSU product Derek Stingley Jr.
It’s difficult to gauge exactly where Stingley is in his development due to him only putting ten games on film over the past two seasons. Then again, the fact that he is being this high is testament to the talent the young corner showcases in those ten games alone. A breakout in 2019, Stingley has long been on the radar for NFL teams looking to bolster their back end with an explosive, instinctive athlete. To that end, he’s absolutely electric – if inconsistent… and with questionable availability.
The team who takes Stingley is getting one of the best athletes in the class, period. They are also getting a player who is the best at making teams wonder if he will even be on the field on a week-to-week basis. Perhaps, with an NFL training regimen, Stingley will be able to manage his body for the long seasons to come. Regardless, the talent is there, and the Gjallarhorn sounds now for the wintry north winds of Minnesota to have a little more Sting in 2022.
1.13: Houston Texans (from Cleveland) TRADED to New Orleans Saints – Malik Willis – QB
By now in the draft the draw to select a signal caller is only too overwhelming to ignore. The Texans have made it no secret they are interested in moving their pick at 13 for more assets – thus the bidding war begins – namely between New Orleans and Pittsburg – for the right to come up and claim the enticing potential that is Liberty quarterback Malik Willis. Ultimately, with two first rounders in this draft alone (both before Pittsburg’s first pick, mind you) the Saints opt to pull a Trey Lance-esque maneuver to, erm, maneuver up for the player that will become (hopefully) their next franchise quarterback.
Jameis Winston fans, avert your eyes. Whilst the former number 1 overall pick surely has some gas left in the tank, his ceiling appears to be capped by his high risk, high reward style of play. Is he the quarterback for a team for the next 5-10 years? Or for the next 2? In the Saints’ case I think it has become the latter. However for a prospect as raw as Willis this will be the best possible situation to land in.
I’ll be blunt – I’m not a fan of this quarterback class. Ridder’s accuracy is frustrating. Corral and Howell are scheme-heavy. Pickett is… fine, but just that. Strong has one leg. Of the bunch though Malik Willis has the most tools to become a successful NFL quarterback. A lot of hubbub has been made about his mobility. Yes, he does have the ability to get outside the pocket and move – but much of that was never by choice due to a lackluster O-Line. If we are going off of pure schemed QB runs and composure in the pocket,then Ridder has my vote. But, as mentioned above, Ridder has a long track record of being just off with his accuracy. Whilst a strong supporting cast can help to mask this (See: Josh Allen + Stephon Diggs) accuracy is one of those mental things where (in this mocker’s perspective) you either have it or you don’t. Willis’ accuracy is acceptable, if still a touch inconsistent. That said, his ability to launch artillery missiles down the field is something to marvel at. His ball isn’t as pretty as Herbert’s or as dynamic as Mahomes’, but damn, the kid can sling it.
If given the chance to have a Redshirt season Willis will have the time needed to work with his coaches to tinker with the wealth of assets he possesses. Running will become a tool to extend a play or as a predetermined option instead of being a necessity to escape the pocket. Bombs launched by his cannon can be reigned back with touch, or built up even further in the NFL weight room. Most importantly though, Willis will have time in the classroom to understand and learn from folks like Winston who have seen all there is in the League. After all, Liberty isn’t exactly a known power in CFB. There should be no rush to get Willis on the field, and with Winston at the helm the Saints won’t need to for a year or two. But – when the time comes – it’s bombs away in NOLA when Willis takes the stage.
1.14: Baltimore Ravens – Trent McDuffie – CB
With 28 games under his belt as a Washington Huskie, Trent McDuffie is no stranger to competition. First Team All-PAC 12 in 2021, the 5’11” corner almost always matched himself up with the opponent’s number one wideout. His confidence comes with good reason as in 2021 he only allowed 16 catches on 296 total passing snaps. Better yet, McDuffie is not a one-dimensional pass-protector as he routinely showcases his ability to pursue run plays and attack with tenacity.
For all his fearlessness, McDuffie’s fire is not without fault. While he is adequately sized there is some concern to how he can take on taller NFL wideouts. Moreover, his play style is less instinctual and more “read & react” causing him to be late to the party. His ability to pursue appears to have developed out of necessity rather than intrinsic talent – If McDuffie can learn to play the chess match of the X’s and O’s better on the field, and think three moves ahead instead of merely the next play, then his ceiling is as high as any CB to come out of this year’s crop.
There’s a philosophy that says, “you can never have too many good corners.” For the Ravens this has proven to be need time and again as they enter the draft. They could opt to fill a gap at DE here by picking up Jermaine Johnson, but with the AFC becoming a monster of passing talent they will absolutely have to find a way to slow down the game so that their run-heavy attack can match production. McDuffie will come in and bolster their ranks from day one, even if he isn’t on top of the depth chart.
1.15: Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami) – Jordan Davis – DT
If Davis is on the board at 15, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Eagles sprinting to the podium to make this selection. Fletcher Cox is set to be a free agent next year, and the team finished second to last overall in sack rate. They have to find ways to generate consistent pressure. One way to do that is to draw attention to the middle so that the outside edge players are freed up to rush 1:1s. Thankfully for them, Davis is just the man to force opposing O-lines to provide help in the middle.
People at 6’6″ 341 lbs. don’t run 4.78 second forty yard dashes. They just don’t. And yet, Davis can. An absolute monster and freak of nature, Davis is a titan that the Eagles can drop right in the nose and expect production from day one. His sack numbers won’t be crazy, but as a run-plugger he looks to be one of the better prospects of the past few years to come out of college. His ability to be a stalwart in the middle as well as take on double teams will be instrumental to the Eagles’ coaches finding ways to stunt on their opponents.
If you’re a fan of watching the big guys do their thing, Jordan Davis is likely your favorite prospect. One glance at his reels tells you all you need to know: this guy is something else. Broad Street gets its Bully back.
1.16: New Orleans Saints (from Indianapolis via Philadelphia) TRADED to Houston Texans – Jameson Williams – WR
If not for a torn ACL in the national championship game, Jameson Williams may very well have been the first WR off the board. Long, smooth, and lethal, Williams is a YAC machine that works wonders in space just as Devonta Smith did before him for the Crimson Tide. The frame, too, is similar as Mr. Williams registered just shy of 180 lbs. Nevertheless, Devonta’s rookie season should prove an amicable exhibit that size is not necessarily indicative of success.
When it comes to the knee, it is unfortunate that the injury happened so late in the college football season. Surely this will knock him down a few selections as teams in need of a WR may not wish to take the chance that Williams might have to miss time. All things considered, ACL surgery has become “routine” insofar as the catastrophic damage classification goes. For better or worse a whole lot of ACLs have torn over the past years and by now the rehab has been figured out down to a science. There’s no reason to suspect Williams won’t be just fine once fully rehabbed.
For the Texans, who have now turned the Watson move into four first round picks with the move downward here, time is not of necessary concern. Yes, they will compete, but I don’t think anyone at the sportsbook is going to be betting the moneyline on the Texans making it into the playoffs. Wherever their success lies, it does not appear to be in the 2022 season. Flat out: they are in full tear-down and rebuild mode. Williams can ease himself into play, and Houston can rest easy knowing they got a steal in the middle of the first round.
1.17: Los Angeles Chargers – Chris Olave – WR
Trevor Penning is certainly in play for the Bolts at pick 17. For as improved as Justin Herbert was last year the need to help keep him upright was just as prevalent. The team absolutely hit a home run with Rashawn Slater to lock down Herbert’s blind side, and they could very well look to fortify the right end and give Herbert all the time he needs. That said, there’s an argument to be made that past and aging Keenan Allen and Mike Williams there is no help coming from the receiving core. A player who could come in, play underneath, and continue to spread out the offense would do wonders for the Chargers’ ability to move the ball down the field.
*The beacons! The beacons of Olave are lit! Los Angeles comes for aid!*
Smooth as silk does Chris Olave slide right into place for the team. On tape it appears that Olave does nothing wrong. Dare I say, he comes damn close. “Jack of all trades, master of none” comes to mind when I watch Olave, but that doesn’t give this premier athlete enough credit. Like a hot knife through butter he can cut through a defense playing both inside and out. Speedy enough to take a home run to the house, but aware enough to settle down on a hitch when the chains need to be moved. Between the big plays of Allen and Williams, Olave will be the one grinding out the yards when needed, flashing his potential for all to see. If there is a knock on Olave it would have to be his strength. He can be easily contested by press coverage and doesn’t excel in the run-blocking game. But, for a player such as Olave, these detriments are a non-factor when considering how much he can offense with his other plethora of skills. Los Angeles has found lightning in a bottle, and are ready to wreak havoc across the AFC.
1.18: Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans) – Jermaine Johnson II – DE
A top-10 talent, Jermaine Johnson’s slide ends at pick number 18 with the Eagles. Yes, they may have just drafted Jordan Davis a few picks earlier, but they still need to have someone on the edge to take advantage of that mountain on the interior. With the top tier of receivers off the board the Eagles look to take BPA at a position of need, and in the process work to establish a new identity on the defensive side of the ball.
Underdeveloped and inconsistent, Johnson needs a lot of work to ascend to greatness. That said, one but has to see his sheer power, size, motor, and explosiveness to know that this is a guy who wants it. After all, why wouldn’t we expect such a drive from a Last Chance U alum? Given enough time Johnson has a chance to truly become someone special. The question then is whom will have the patience to take on this project of a player, potentially not seeing a return on investment until a couple of seasons have passed? The Eagles, with their extra first round pick, have the luxury to take on such a project and pair him with Davis to lay the foundation of a revamped defense from the inside out.
1.19: New Orleans Saints (from Philadelphia) – TRADED to Houston Texans – Andrew Booth – CB
Back on the clock for the third time in the first round, the Texans have an opportunity to continue and add premium talent at positions of need. Thankfully for them they don’t have to struggle too hard at which position to focus on (hint: it’s all of them) and can simply go with the best player available when the time comes for them to make their selection. And, since they went with offensive talent with their first two selections, it’s time for Houston to add a piece to their defensive chessboard.
A five-star talent with a high motor, Andrew Booth comes out of Clemson in need of a bit of polish. Tendencies to bite on route fakes and run fits occur fairly often, and Booth will need to learn how to read and react in a consistent fashion. Discipline is the name of the improvement game Booth will need to play if he is to become a reliable starter at the NFL level. For the Texans though he represents a high-upside project who can take some lumps on the job as he develops into one of their foundational cornerbacks.
As with their pick of Jameson Williams, the Texans are opting for long-term upside with their selections in the 2022 draft. It takes guts to tell a fanbase that the year is already over before it begins. Yet, the actions taken by the Texans in this draft will be felt for years to come, and whatever pain they will need to go through to get back to relevance will be remembered as a necessary evil when it is all said and done.
1.20: Pittsburgh Steelers – Desmond Ridder – QB
The Steelers have unexpectedly found themselves in a division with a former MVP, a Super Bowl contending sophomore, and a prodigy taking the reigns of their rival. Meanwhile, looking at their roster and seeing the name “Mitch Trubisky” at the top of the list… well… “one of these quarterbacks is unlike the other.” It is clear what the path is forward for Pennsylvania Bumblebees: find a quarterback that can compete with Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, and Deshaun Watson.
To be fair to Trubisky he does have the capability to flash and lead his team to a surprise victory or two. With him at the helm the rest of the team is talented enough to vault them into a winning season and perhaps a repeat playoff berth. Still, it won’t be enough to compete with the star power at the position that the rest of the AFC has. Tough break for a team looking for a signal-caller in a decidedly less-than-stellar class at the position.
A case could be made for Kenny Pickett here. After all, a Pitt Panther would be a welcome addition to the Black and Yellow. Yet his surprising discrepancy in production between seasons leaves more question marks than answers. On the other hand Desmond Ridder comes out as a Redshirt Senior with plenty of tape and experience to boot. If there was a player that was the most “pro-ready” of the QBs, I’d have to give the nod to Ridder. He operates the pocket fluidly, and knows how to command an offense whilst breaking down a defensive look. Arm-wise his power won’t wow but is more than enough to get the job done. The X factor for Ridder lies in his mobility. Frankly, he’s the best QB in the class at knowing when to run whilst also having the athleticism to be a unique weapon in his own right. Willis might be more dynamic, but Ridder will more often move the chains. So what’s wrong with him? In a word: accuracy. Throughout his career Ridder hasn’t had total control of his ball placement – something that could be his Achilles’ heel at the pro level. In my book he’s QB1 of the crop this year… who also has the biggest asterisk. Letting him sit for a year behind Trubisky as Ridder works out the kinks paves the way for future success in the Steel City, as well as one more potential prodigy at quarterback to grace the AFC.
1.21: New England Patriots – Zion Johnson – OG
The New England Patriots need a wide reciever.
The New England Patriots suck at drafting wide receivers.
The New England Patriots need a guard.
Zion Johnson is a Guard.
Joe Thomas says that Zion Johnson is his favorite lineman in the class.
Joe Thomas knows a thing or two about the O-line.
Hyperbole and sarcasm aside, the statements above ring true. Historically speaking Billy B. doesn’t exactly have his finger on the pulse of transcendent skill position players on offense. Meanwhile, they have had success in putting together solid O-lines year after year. Call it the K.I.S.S. method of drafting, but the Patriots really needn’t overcomplicate the issue when it’s their time on the clock.
Intelligent and sound in his technical skills, Johnson is a big, high quality lump of clay that will take well to the Patriot way. High character in the locker room and strong work ethic will surely earn him some brownie points, as will his massive frame when he makes pancakes Sunday after Sunday. For who is still on the board it may be a bit of a reach, but Johnson to the Patriots will be as solid a pick as they come when the first round is said and done.
1.22: Green Bay Packers (from Las Vegas) – Trevor Penning – OT
*cue the angry mob of cheese heading to my apartment.*
Spoiler alert: The Green Bay Packers have needs at WR heading into the 2022 draft, and they probably will use one of their two first round picks on one. It could be that they make a package of said picks to move up and take one of the top guys at the position, but by now that tier has emptied and the Packers can look to address other needs until the value levels out for the position.
Considering how much they are paying Aaron Rodgers to stay – and how little weapons they are giving him – it would be wise to shore up the O-line. Fortunately, one of the top tackle prospects in the class in Trevor Penning is still on the board. At 6’7″ 345 lbs., Penning is a massive mauler that played on the left side but has the agility and demeanor to hold down the right end. This gritty style of play will likely earn him favor in the frozen North, and Green Bay takes the polar plunge on this bear of a man in hopes of further unleashing the A.J. Dillon bulldozer and helping Rodgers find the time to seek out anyone who might be able to catch a ball.
1.23: Arizona Cardinals – George Karlaftis – Edge
I think things might be getting a little too hot in the Southwest. Kliff Kingsbury somehow has a job. Kyler wants out if he doesn’t get a deal. Perhaps most surprising though was the egregious deal that Christian Kirk was given by the Jags… when he was a WR4 on the Cardinals’ roster. No, things don’t make much sense down here. And yet, beyond the whirlwind of confusion and – frankly – absurdity that surrounds this franchise there lies some simple truths that need to be acted upon; chief among these finding a replacement for Chandler Jones.
Arizona, meet Karlaftis. George Karlaftis. Edge defender, 2022. When I watch him play I see some – some – of J.J. Watt in the Purdue product. Absolutely relentless on the field, Karlaftis and Watt share similar mentalities insofar as they want to compete. Yes, he needs to improve his run defense skills, but with a mentor like Watt it likely won’t be long until Karlaftis starts to find his own rhythm. Already projected to be a “pro’s pro”, Karlaftis is going to bring his lunchpail down to the Cardinals ready to put in work – a mentality, it seems, to be much needed for this cross-roaded franchise.
1.24: Dallas Cowboys – Tyler Linderbaum – C
*Sigh* Do I have to make a pick for the Cowboys? And a good one at that? Well, $#!%.
Ok, let’s get into it. It seems like a decade ago that Dallas had the unequivocal best O-Line in the league. When compared to that roster, their current depth chart leaves much to be desired. Connor Williams and La’el Collins are gone. A fresh infusion of talent is needed in a desperate way to give the Cowboys a hope at reclaiming a solid ground game to compliment their passing attack.
Tyler Linerbaum, come on down!
At only 6’2″ Linderbaum will almost assuredly be relegated to center alone during his NFL tenure. That said, he has all the technical tools and pedigree to make that tenure a bright one indeed. His wrestling background is readily apparent through his control at the line of scrimmage. While his size is his biggest detriment it also allows him to be lightning quick off the snap and maintain leverage advantage when locked up with the 3-tech. Well-balanced, ultra-competitive, and with tape to back it up, Linderbaum is everything you could want in a center. It might be late in the first round, but Dallas gets a star.
1.25: Buffalo Bills – Jahan Dotson – WR
Stefon Diggs is a bonafide stud for the Buffalo WR corps. Past him though things start to get shaky. Sure, the Gabe Davis experiment is enticing and a potential breakout target, but it’s not as if the addition of Jamison Crowder got anyone in Buffalo all hot and bothered. Moreover, the team moved on from veteran speedster Emmanuel Sanders. In short: Buffalo would be wise to bolster their Super-Bowl level roster with some extra receiving talent.
If something isn’t broken you don’t fix it, right? Sanders provided a unique element to the Bills’ passing attack that is no longer present. Who better to replace him than a receiver compared to Sanders himself: Jahan Dotson. Juiced out of the gate, Dotson has enough speed and twitch to stretch the field and get over the top of the secondary in a hurry. Aware enough to adjust his speed on the fly, Dotson has the ability to keep a corner guessing for a full 60 minutes. With Dotson on the opposite side Diggs will have a chance to do his thing in 1:1s and allow Davis to see if his success in 2021 was a preview of something bigger.
Buffalo is arguably the Super-Bowl favorite for the AFC this year. Out of all the hopefuls they have the most talented and well rounded defense, yet are just a half-step behind when it comes to offensive firepower. By investing into Josh Allen’s arsenal early the Bills take a necessary step towards laying their claim on their long-promised land.
1.26: Tennessee Titans – Kenyon Green – G
Credit to the Titans: they managed to find plenty of success without Derrick Henry for much of the 2021 season. That said, so long as he is a Tennessee Titan the team is almost forced to revolve around the machine that he is. So what do they need to do? How about get some extra help in their run game.
Kenyon Green is an absolute bulldozer who can slide right in at one of the guard positions for the rough ‘n tumble Titans. Quick hands synergize with an academic understanding of leverage to create the unique dominance that Green has showcased time and again. You point him, you shoot him, and you watch the beautiful destruction he leaves in his wake. Of course, as you might expect, his pass protection issues offset his run-game proficiency. Green’s instincts leave a lot to be desired, which resulted in panic grabs and yellow laundry at a higher than average clip. Still, there is hope for Green as the immovable object, but the Titans are picking him up to be the unstoppable force.
At some point the Titans are going to have to start shifting away from being so reliant on Derrick Henry. Yes, they found success without him last year, but the offense is still designed to be focused on someone of his unique stature. While he may be a unicorn the history of running backs in the NFL tells us he may not have many peak years left as his usage remains oh so high. If the Titans are intent on milking Henry for all he has then they must get him as much support as they can to keep him upright through the line of scrimmage, and with Kenyon Green they do exactly that.
1.27: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Cole Strange – G
Thinking ahead to the Buccaneers’ future it stands to reason that they might take Kenny Pickett as the heir apparent to Tom Brady. Then again, no one has a damn clue how long Brady will play for until he retires again. Until that day comes, the Bucs are locked in to figure it out based on the main man himself and nothing else.
Despite the fact that Tom somehow has avoided Father Time until now it has to catch up with him eventually, right? Priority numero uno then is filling the open guard spot on the line so that number 12 doesn’t inadvertently suffer a broken hip when his bones suddenly turn to dust. To that end the Bucs need to plug in someone who can start now. No projects. No B.S. The clock is ticking.
It wouldn’t be strange at all then if Cole Strange was the pick. A Redshirt Senior, Strange has seen it all during his college tenure. Intelligent and instinctive, it shouldn’t take long for Tampa Bay to roll him out in front of their faberge egg under center. He might be a bit slim on tape, but his official weigh-in at 307 lbs. at least showcases he can put on the necessary weight to fight off the NFL nose tackles of the world. In short: he’s a known commodity and is the perfect choice for a team who cannot afford to take any more chances lest the guns fall silent on their Super Bowl window.
1.28: Green Bay Packers – Nakobe Dean – LB
Hey, I said that the Packers would probably use one of their two first rounders on a wide receiver, not that they necessarily would. Looking at the board now, and seeing that they have two second rounders, it actually makes total sense that the Packers would punt once again on a receiver when the value isn’t there and they can get one or two of the same caliber in but only a handful of picks down the line.
So, as Green Bay burns and all the memes are made Green Bay quietly takes one of the best players left, and the first of the linebackers, Nakobe Dean.
Dean is about as true a three-down linebacker as any other. Explosive and fast enough to play coverage, Dean excels in space and delivers results no matter where he is on the field. Now, I like Christian Kirksey, I do, but Dean is far an away a step above Kirko and can be the rallying cry for the Packers’ defense for a decade. He is, bluntly, a F-ing stud, and perfect for the gritty games that are classics in the NFC North. Butkus award winner. First Team All-American. National Champion. And now? Green Bay Packer.
1.29: Kansas City Chiefs (from San Francisco via Miami) – Christian Watson – WR
There’s a cheetah-shaped hole in the KC wide receiver room. While no one expects anybody to come in and fill that role to a T the Chiefs still need to find someone who can keep the high-flying offensive onslaught that Kansas City rains down behind the arm of Patrick Mahomes.
At 6’4″ 208 lbs., Christian Watson certainly looks a lot different than Tyreek Hill. And, while obviously not as elusive or quick off the gun, Watson still posted a respectable 4.36 40-yd dash which is rather impressive for someone at his size. Over the Mahomes Era the Chiefs haven’t been known for their jump-ball acumen so much as their laser show down the middle of the field. With Watson KC will have to shift around their scheme to match his style of play, but that doesn’t mean Watson can’t be a significant enough asset to the offense to even partially fill the void left by Hill. Again, trying to compare the two is like, I dunno, Iron-Man to Moon Knight.
Watson has all the natural gifts to make magic in the NFL, though it might take an offensive wizard to unlock his true potential. Good for him though – I think I know the right cheeseburger enthusiast for the job! It might take a year or two, but Reid and Mahomes can turn this kid into a superstar if they cast the right spell.
1.30: Kansas City Chiefs – Kyler Gordon – CB
The second of their two first rounders, the Chiefs opt to use pick 30 to fill the void left by Tyrann Mathieu. As is the theme for these two picks, Kansas City has to find quality duct tape to patch up their dreadnaught as they fight for another Lombardi. Joke’s on everyone else though as both of their players aren’t merely stopgaps in the hull.
Kyler Gordon is a defensive dynamo who has the size and range to play any role in the secondary. Fluid, athletic, and strong, he reminds of a swiss army knife that can be deployed to many a task on the back end. No, he’s no Honey Badger, but Gordon’s high rpm and versatility to fit into the Chiefs’ defensive puzzle is all too attractive to a team well within their championship window.
Kansas City lost an alpha, and here they gain another. Gordon brings some swagger back to KC.
1.31: Cincinnati Bengals – Devonte Wyatt – DT
You’d be excused if you lost sight of Devonte Wyatt as his running mate Jordan Davis tended to dominate the screen when Georgia was on defense. A one-two punch, the duo was one of the main factors that led the Bulldogs to a Title run. He might be the Robin to Davis’ Batman, yet that doesn’t quite do justice to Wyatt’s effectiveness on the interior.
Much less a wrecking ball as he is the wall in and of itself, Wyatt’s skill in lateral motion allow him to be in the right place at the right time once the ball is snapped. Granted, his quickness and agility mask a sub-optimal amount of strength, but no one can say that Wyatt doesn’t give his all on each and every down. He might never be a highlight reel star in the NFL, yet he has skills enough to warrant a first round selection and perennially solid stat lines at his position.
After retooling their offensive line in free agency the Bengals pick up Wyatt to partner next to Trey Hendrickson. It’s not a sexy move, but it is integral one for a team still picking up steam even after a surprise Super Bowl appearance.
1.32: Detroit Lions (from Los Angeles [Rams]) – Kenny Pickett – QB
Remember how I said Jared Goff will be good enough to hit bunts and doubles for the Lions? Well, with a year on the bench perhaps Kenny Pickett will be able to knock around some triples and the occasional home run when it becomes his turn to take a swing. With the final pick of the first round Detroit opts to take advantage of the fifth year option knowing full well that it would do Pickett good to get up to speed at the NFL level without the pressure of being thrown to the wolves.
On tape, “pretty good” can be used to describe most of Pickett’s game. It might be a bit of a generic descriptor, sure, but as I watch him I can’t help but think to myself, “Yeah, he could be pretty good, but probably not great.” The tools are there: the ability to run, decent arm, excellent size… and yet he routinely showcases nervous feet in the pocket and an inconsistent feel for touch on the ball. To me, he lacks finesse. Can he be good? Absolutely. Can he be great? Sure, at times. Can he be elite? Eh…. I’ll get back to you in a couple years on that one. I think Brett Kollmann said it best in his analysis: “[Pickett] is more of a quarterback that you win with rather than a quarterback you win because of.”
Nevertheless, Detroit has the luxury to see what happens with Pickett. For what it’s worth I would love to be proven wrong and Pickett goes out and kicks ass for the Lions. Right now, however, I just can’t see it happening anytime soon.
With that, the first round comes to a close.
2.1 (33): Jacksonville Jaguars – Devin Lloyd – LB
The loss of Myles Jack hurts the Jags’ defensive front significantly. Lloyd is a two-time Butkus award finalist with tremendous versatility and production who can be the lynchpin in the middle of the Jacksonville front.
2.2 (34): Detroit Lions – Boye Mafe – Edge
With Hamilton and Pickett in tow the Lions move inward and start to bolster their front 7. At 6’4″ 261 lbs. with a 4.53 40-yd dash Mafe is an intriguing prototype with the potential to be an explosive threat on the edge.
2.3 (35): New York Jets – Kaiir Elam – CB
Thibodeaux and Deebo have the Jets out in front as the potential winners of the 2022 draft so far. Whilst Kaiir Elam doesn’t have the name recognition of either he does bring patience, prototypical size, and the pedigree of Florida defensive backs to bolster the Jets’ backfield.
2.4 (36): New York Giants – Trey McBride – TE
With the departure of Evan Engram the Giants have a void at the tight end position that the must fill heading into the 2022 season. Trey McBride has exhibited success in both the pass-catching and run-blocking game, and well rounded enough as an athlete to eventually develop into a starting caliber TE in the NFL.
2.5 (37): Houston Texans – Breece Hall – RB
It’s time for the Texans to shrug off using a patchwork RB corps that has failed to produce. David Johnson is fine, but he isn’t the RB1 he used to be. Breece Hall, on the other hand, has the size and accolades (as well as being an end-zone magnet) to suggest he can be the workhorse in Houston for many years to come.
2.6 (38): New York Jets (from Carolina) – Phidarian Mathis – DT
Mathis might be getting an Alabama bump, but pairing him with fellow Crimson Time alum Quinnen Williams along the Jets’ interior – along with the newly acquired Thibodeaux on the edge – Robert Saleh the ability to tinker with all possible fronts as he institutes the San Francisco mentality over on the East coast.
2.7 (39): Chicago Bears – Bernhard Raimann – OT
The allure for WR or CB is evident as the Bears step up to the podium to make their first selection in the 2022 draft. That said, with so many holes to plug, new GM Ryan Poles opts to go with the safer choice in fortifying the offensive line. Justin Fields was thrown to the wolves in his early starts last year, and Chicago would do well to solidify the wall in front of him. Raimann has all the athletic traits to be a long term starter in the NFL. A former TE, the Central Michigan product showcases agility and movement skills uncommon for most O-Line prospects. He is just starting to uncover his potential, and can be the long-time bookend to Teven Jenkins on either side of the ball.
2.8 (40): Seattle Seahawks (from Denver) – Tyler Smith – OT
With back to back picks the Seahawks have a decision to make about their future. With Pete Carroll now on the plus side of seventy the decision must be made as whether to start sending him off into the sunset with a rebuild or going after one last shot at glory. I think they go with the latter. As is tradition for the Seahawks though they need help on their O-line to give whomever starts at quarterback a shot at getting the ball to Metcalf or Lockett. Russell Wilson suffered from neglect for years because of the Seahawks unwillingness to fortify, hopefully the next guy won’t suffer the same fate. Tyler Smith is a powerful, nasty thug who can be an enforcer on either side of the line whilst also being a bodyguard for whomever is under center. Speaking of which…
2.9 (41): Seattle Seahawks TRADED to Cleveland Browns – David Ojabo – Edge
I can’t believe that the Seahawks can look at a depth chart of Drew Lock and Geno Smith and actually think they have much of a shot in the NFC West. So, with an extra pick in the second round the Browns come calling to see if they would part with it for Baker Mayfield. There’s been a lot of posturing as to the trade parter for Baker wanting Cleveland to foot the bill on some of his contract, but all things considered 18.8 mil for a genuine, competent starter is worth it when most QBs are playing for 30+ a year. Say what you will about Mayfield, but he does at the very least give Seattle a shot to make a run. In the grand scheme of things though I doubt this would be Mayfield for this pick straight up – there will likely be some later pick shuffling as well between the two teams. Meanwhile, the Browns relieve themselves of a headache, for if they hold onto Mayfield through the 2022 season they will net a 3rd round comp pick anyway. In this scenario they free up some cap and get some positive value back as they enter their own window for success.
Well worth a selection in the first round, Ojabo has all the tools to become an above-average edge defender in the NFL. Unfortunately he tore his Achilles during his pro day, and will now likely be faced with a significant drop. As has become a theme for the Browns though they are able to find value with talent that falls due to medical concerns. First it was with Grant Delpit, and then last year with Jeremiah Owusu-Koramorah. Ojabo may not make an immediate impact, but for a GM as value driven as Andrew Berry this investment would seem to be right up his alley.
2.10 (42): Indianapolis Colts (from Washington) – Nicholas Petit-Frere – OT
With Matt Ryan at the helm and an offense that should continue to focus around Johnathan Taylor the Colts need to give them both some help on the left side of the line. Nicholas “Little-Brother” (en français) has a big frame at 6’5″ and surprising athleticism to match. He needs to bulk up a bit, but all the intangibles are there for him to be a successful cog in the Indy offensive machine.
2.11 (43): Atlanta Falcons – Cameron Thomas – DE
For a team as desperate for pass rush help as the Falcons it feels a bit of a reach for them to nab Thomas this early in the second round. Unproven against top-tier competition, Thomas nonetheless plays with a chip on his shoulder that few in the Power-5 programs can understand. It might leave some scratching their heads, but under the right circumstances Thomas can be a diamond in the rough for the team who is willing enough to develop him.
2.12 (44): Cleveland Browns – Skyy Moore – WR
With Jarvis Landry still debating on whether to return to Cleveland or move on down to NOLA the Browns decide to be proactive about adding talent to compliment Amari Cooper. Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz have untapped potential, but they still have to unlock it. Moore can come in and be that Landry-type presence over the middle that can give Deshaun Watson an out on a broken play or short yardage to move the chains.
2.13 (45): Baltimore Ravens – Daniel Faalele – OT
An absolute mammoth at 6’8″ 384 lbs., Faalele inserts himself into the Ravens run-heavy scheme as the Mac truck paving the way for Lamar Jackson and Co. Harbaugh should be able to turn this massive lump of clay into a finely sculpted power loader.
2.14 (46): Minnesota Vikings – Arnold Ebiketie – Edge
Ebiketie comes in to be the running mate alongside Danielle Hunter. Slippery and agile, you wouldn’t think Ebiketie to be a D-lineman at first glance – he could pass for a big-bodied WR. With time in the weight room (and the dining room) he can fill out a bit more and provide some welcome presence to the Purple Team.
2.15 (47): Washington Commanders (from Indianapolis) – Jaquon Brisker – S
With needs for depth in the secondary across the board the Commanders move to take the second safety in the 2022 draft class. Brisker is versatile enough to play almost any position on the backend, though his bread and butter comes over the top. Balanced, forceful, and with good size, he can easily find himself as a starter early while he continues to sharpen his awareness.
2.16 (48): Chicago Bears (from Los Angeles [Chargers]) – George Pickens – WR
There’s a lot of Beatles’ tunes coming down from Justin Fields’ side of the locker room. Darnell Mooney can’t carry a full passing load on his own, and newcomer Byron Pringle has already been arrested. So… things are going swimmingly in Chicago. Pickens needs some play strength (and a doctor’s note) but he reminisces A.J. Green for good reason. From the list of receivers still available Pickens is the one who can most easily slide into a WR1 role, and will need to as the Bears try to find an identity on offense.
2.17 (49): New Orleans Saints – Joshua Paschal – DE
The Saints may very well try to leapfrog the Bears to take Pickens, yet with their earlier move for Willis they are feeling a little light on draft capital. Instead, they opt to help out Cameron Jordan and pick up Paschal – a boisterous, fully-grown end who will be a big hit on Bourbon Street with a little refinement.
2.18 (50): Kansas City Chiefs (from Miami) – Logan Hall – DE
A defensive tackle in college, Hall maintains an imposing presence as he moves to the outside. Able to play across the entire line, his torque and violence are going to provide an added pop to a Chiefs’ D in need of some additional attitude.
2.19 (51): Philadelphia Eagles – Roger McCreary – CB
McCreary comes out of the class as one of the most strictly man-coverage cornerbacks. Fearless on tape, he will go toe to toe with anyone and be a disruptive force all the way down the field. You sic him on a target and let him do his thing. Philly picks him up to add another tool to their defensive haul from this draft.
2.20 (52): Pittsburgh Steelers – Luke Goedeke – G
Credit to Najee Harris for accomplishing what he did last year – the Pittsburg O-line is abysmal. Goedeke comes in as a TE convert whose disposition as a gym rat and classroom junkie will earn him points as a developmental prospect who can take his lumps on the job.
2.21 (53): Green Bay Packers (from Las Vegas) – John Metchie III – WR
At long last, the Packers get some help for Aaron Rodgers. Metchie III may not have the notoriety of Jameson Williams, but the Alabama product still comes from a long line of success at Nick Saban’s program. Like Williams though he also comes off an ACL tear, but his complete showing of routes on tape should be more than enough to convince an NFL club he’ll be ready to go from day 1.
2.22 (54): New England Patriots – Jalen Tolbert – WR
Tolbert was a two-star recruit who showcased high character and determination on his way to exploding onto the scene in 2021. A three-sport athlete, Tolbert has all the athletic gifts you could ask for in a prospect. He’s exactly the type of player who would appeal to the Patriots’ culture, and just so happens to fill a major position of need. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite picks in this mock.
2.23 (55): Arizona Cardinals – Kenneth Walker III – RB
The departure of Christian Kirk means that the Cards are apt to sign his replacement from the draft. However, the departure of third-down running back Chase Edmunds is just as glaring. Walker can come in and be the lightning to James Connor’s thunder in the rapid-paced Arizona offense.
2.24 (56): Dallas Cowboys – Sam Williams – DE
If the Cowboys are true to their word about pulling Micah Parsons back off the LoS then they are going to need to find someone who can come in and add to their pass rush. Williams is more of a pass-rush specialist and can surely help out the Dallas front 4, if but only as a rotational piece.
2.25 (57): Buffalo Bills – Coby Bryant – CB
The Bills’ defensive depth chart is solid across the board with the exception of a glaring hole opposite Tre White at corner. Named after the late NBA star, Coby Bryant draws fuel from the mamba-mentality ethos that is his namesake. He’s not the perfect prospect, yet he seems to have all the instincts that are not necessarily present for even top tier prospects. Call it a hunch, but I think there’s something to such an inspiration that Bryant has. Whether or not he does, he is still a valid contender to go in the second round and assist a team like Buffalo with their needs in the secondary.
2.26 (58): Atlanta Falcons (from Tennessee) – Matt Corral – QB
No disrespect to Mariota but his 2-year contract would seem to indicate that he is officially designated as the Falcons’ sacrificial lamb and bridge quarterback. Matt Corral has the tools to develop into a consistent starter, but a year or two on the bench would do him good as he garners the necessary maturity to become a NFL quarterback. If he hits, the Falcons might’ve found a gem. It’s a flyer on a ceiling prospect that they can’t afford to pass up while they rebuild.
2.27 (59): Green Bay Packers – Travis Jones – DT
Jones is an underrated thumper who can be put smack dab in the middle of the defensive line and hold his own as a run-stopper. The UConn Husky might not have the experience of a player out of the PAC-12 or SEC, but the man is a bear and I bet the Packers see the potential.
2.28 (60): Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Sam Howell – QB
*Gasp!* Sacrilege against Brady! Burn the mocker!
While I mentioned the Bucs would do well to build around Brady while they can, the man did retire this past year. Kyle Trask hasn’t exactly been getting votes of confidence as Tom’s successor. If the end is nigh on Brady’s career, then it would be wise for the team to start thinking ahead, if but only as an insurance policy. Howell oozes Baker Mayfield like tendencies (the good ones). With a little tutelage from the G.O.A.T. the Bucs should be able to iron out Howell’s inconsistencies before he is handed the oars to the ship.
2.29 (61): San Francisco 49ers – Dominique Robinson – Edge
In keeping with their aggressive philosophy the Niners opt to take a defensive lineman with their second pick in the draft. Robinson was a former wideout before deciding to add bulk to his 6’5″ frame and go after QBs instead of catch passes from them. There’s a lot to build on with him, but the low floor is matched by an equally high ceiling.
2.30 (62): Kansas City Chiefs – Brian Robinson – RB
Clyde Edwards-Helaire has his moments of “lightning unleashed”. A thumper though, he is not. Robinson on the other hand is primed to come in as a complementary back that can take care of the short yardage work whilst CEH handles the passing duties necessitated by the Chiefs’ style of play.
2.31 (63): Cincinnati Bengals – Alontae Taylor – CB
As Eli Apple memes will forever be funny, ’tis not the same for a Bengals team who was oh so close to securing the ultimate prize. Taylor has 4.36 speed and the mental processing to ensure that – if needed – he will be able to effectively cover, let’s say, end zone fade routes?
2.32 (64): Denver Broncos (from Los Angeles [Rams]) – Jeremy Ruckert – TE
The Broncos close out the second round by continuing to dance on the grave of the hopes and dreams for a Javonte Williams breakout fantasy season. Ruckert comes in to fill the void left by Noah Fant. And, while he is a much better blocker than his predecessor, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that he will become one more target for Russell Wilson and the Denver offense. Salt aside, it’s a solid pickup for the AFC contender.