September 25, 2022

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The Sports Fanatics

2022 NFL Mock Draft: Panthers take QB instead of addressing O-line; Eagles go all defense with three picks

Michigan

• Sr

• 6’6″

/ 265 lbs

Projected Team

Jacksonville

PROSPECT RNK

4th

POSITION RNK

2nd

Hutchinson is a great example of a player who got better each and every season, and instead of coming out early he stayed in school, balled out as a senior, and made himself into arguably the best player — on either side of the ball — in the country during the ’21 college football season. The Jags have taken an edge rusher in the first round in two of the last three drafts, but we don’t expect there to be teams clamoring to trade up to the top pick in this draft and Jacksonville may be stuck here.

Oregon

• Soph

• 6’5″

/ 258 lbs

Projected Team

Detroit

PROSPECT RNK

3rd

POSITION RNK

1st

The Lions would probably love to trade down because for as good as Thibodeaux has been, he won’t be the final piece to turning things around in Detroit. But since there are no trades in this mock draft, and there may end up being no team moving up this high for, say, a QB in the actual draft, the Oregon pass-rusher remains the choice here.

Notre Dame

• Jr

• 6’4″

/ 219 lbs

Projected Team

Houston

PROSPECT RNK

10th

POSITION RNK

1st

Justin Reid is in the final year of his deal for Houston, and while the team could certainly look to bolster the offensive line, or perhaps be in the market for a QB, the Texans will need first to find a head coach. Hamilton meanwhile, is coming off a spectacular season for the Fighting Irish where he was routinely the best player on the field.

NC State

• Soph

• 6’4″

/ 320 lbs

Projected Team

N.Y. Jets

PROSPECT RNK

6th

POSITION RNK

2nd

The Jets have to protect Zach Wilson, and this should be the mantra to begin every draft meeting the team has. Ekwonu is one of our favorite players in this draft class. There’s talk that he may have to move inside to guard but when you watch him play, he’s perfectly suited to be a dominant tackle, which is exactly what the Jets need, despite taking Alijah Vera-Tucker and Mekhi Becton in recent drafts.

Alabama

• Jr

• 6’7″

/ 350 lbs

Projected Team

N.Y. Giants

PROSPECT RNK

1st

POSITION RNK

1st

This feels like best-case scenario for the Giants, another team looking for a head coach and general manager. Of course, we’re presuming that whomever succeeds Joe Judge and Dave Gettleman will move forward with Daniel Jones, but that could certainly change. Either way, Neal is one of the best offensive linemen in this class, and should Jones return, the Giant have to protect him.

Ole Miss

• Jr

• 6’2″

/ 205 lbs

Projected Team

Carolina

PROSPECT RNK

13th

POSITION RNK

4th

Matt Corral suffered a scare in his bowl game but he remains our QB1. And, yes, we know: the Panthers desperately need to fix their offensive line, and it’s clear that neither Sam Darnold nor Cam Newton are the answer at quarterback. But we keep coming back to this: owner David Tepper is not a patient man and if he falls in love with one of these passers, well, it probably means Carolina is drafting one of these passers. Meanwhile, Matt Rhule will be coaching for his job in ’22, and if the team doesn’t land a big-name QB in free agency, his best chance at success might rest on the shoulders of a rookie passer.

Iowa

• Jr

• 6’3″

/ 290 lbs

Projected Team

N.Y. Giants

PROSPECT RNK

5th

POSITION RNK

1st

Linderbaum, who left Iowa’s bowl game with a lower-body injury, is one of the best offensive linemen in the country. And although a center hasn’t gone higher than No. 18 in the last dozen drafts, a) Linderbaum is that good, b) the Giants need to solidify the interior O-line.

LSU

• Jr

• 6’1″

/ 195 lbs

Projected Team

Atlanta

PROSPECT RNK

2nd

POSITION RNK

1st

Former first-rounder AJ Terrell is having a great season, and Isaiah Oliver, who has also been good in coverage, is in the final year of his contract. After that, there’s not much depth and if the best CB in the draft is on the board here, it’ll be hard to pass on Stingley. The other option, of course, is targeting a quarterback here.

Pittsburgh

• Sr

• 6’3″

/ 220 lbs

Projected Team

Denver

PROSPECT RNK

14th

POSITION RNK

1st

There will be plenty of teams talking themselves into QBs in this draft and the Broncos (along with Carolina, Atlanta, New Orleans, WFT, Pittsburgh and Detroit) will be in the running in a decidedly weak class. Pickett had a great 2021 season for Pitt and he’ll have several opportunities during the pre-draft process, starting with the Senior Bowl, to prove he’s QB1. For now, we’ll wait to see if any of those Rodgers-to-Denver rumors from last offseason materialize in the coming weeks and months.

Clemson

• Jr

• 6’0″

/ 200 lbs

Projected Team

N.Y. Jets

PROSPECT RNK

11th

POSITION RNK

1st

The Jets already addressed the offensive line so here they take one of the best defensive players in this class. Booth has all the athleticism and tools to be special, and he balled out for Clemson this season.

Liberty

• Jr

• 6’1″

/ 195 lbs

Projected Team

Washington

PROSPECT RNK

15th

POSITION RNK

2nd

Willis checks every box when it comes to arm strength, athleticism and playmaking ability, he’s just raw, and didn’t have a lot of help around him at Liberty. The math for QB-needy NFL teams: How will Willis’ skills translate to the next level? Clubs that love him will take him in this range; others may wait to see if he slips into Round 2. Either way, WFT needs to find a long-term answer to its quarterback plans.

Ohio State

• Jr

• 6’0″

/ 192 lbs

Projected Team

Minnesota

PROSPECT RNK

20th

POSITION RNK

3rd

Add the Vikings to the list of teams searching for a new GM and coach. They could go QB here or they could target a cornerback. Instead, we have them going with wideout. Yes, Justin Jefferson is one of the best players in the league but Adam Thielen will be 32 next season — and more importantly, there’s not much depth behind those two among the wideouts.

Georgia

• Jr

• 6’0″

/ 225 lbs

Projected Team

Cleveland

PROSPECT RNK

17th

POSITION RNK

3rd

Dean played in 2021 with the type of urgency and physicality that made him one of the best players in college football, and he would be yet another young playmaker on this Browns defense that was really good at times this season. And though Dean played on the best defense in the country, don’t get it twisted — he didn’t ride on the coattails of a dominant defensive line — he was a huge reason for their success. The thought of Dean and JOK on the field at the same time would create a lot of headaches for the rest of the AFC North.

Michigan

• Jr

• 6’5″

/ 250 lbs

Projected Team

Baltimore

PROSPECT RNK

25th

POSITION RNK

4th

Prior to the semifinal loss to Georgia, David Ojabo was a lot of fun to watch this season, where he took advantage of every opportunity playing opposite Aidan Hutchinson. But don’t get it confused — he’s a twitchy edge rusher who will only get better with experience. In Baltimore, he’ll join another athletic marvel, 2021 first-round edge rusher Odafe Oweh, who has had some jaw-dropping plays as a rookie.

Georgia

• Jr

• 6’5″

/ 275 lbs

Projected Team

Philadelphia

PROSPECT RNK

9th

POSITION RNK

3rd

Walker is something of a tweener, which is odd to say about someone who stands 6-foot-5, and weighs 275 pounds. But he can line up as the 3, 4 or 5-tech and that versatility, coupled with his nonstop motor and consistent playmaking ability, makes him an attractive option for several teams in this range looking to bolster their defensive line.

Utah

• Jr

• 6’3″

/ 235 lbs

Projected Team

Philadelphia

PROSPECT RNK

7th

POSITION RNK

1st

Lloyd is a twitched up, sideline-to-sideline player who fits the mold of off-ball linebackers we’ve seen coming into the league over the last decade. The Eagles might not have a history of taking off-ball linebackers in the first round but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t consider it here.

Mississippi State

• Soph

• 6’5″

/ 310 lbs

Rookie left tackle Rashawn Slater was brilliant this season but Bryan Bulaga, who has one year left on his deal, only played in one game in ’21, and Storm Norton, who’ll be a free agent in a few weeks, struggled in his place. It’s been a recurring theme in these mock drafts but to repeat: You have to protect your franchise QB. Cross is a high-upside athletic offensive tackle who had a strong season for Mississippi State.

Alabama

• Jr

• 6’2″

/ 189 lbs

Projected Team

New Orleans

PROSPECT RNK

8th

POSITION RNK

2nd

Quarterback will obviously be a consideration here but only wide receivers Michael Thomas, Marquez Callaway and Tre’quan Smith are under contract, and there’s no guarantee Thomas will be back. Williams, who had to transfer from Ohio State to Alabama to see the field, is a legit first-round talent.

Auburn

• Sr

• 6’0″

/ 190 lbs

Projected Team

Philadelphia

PROSPECT RNK

29th

POSITION RNK

5th

McCreary was the most consistent cornerback in college football this fall, and that’s all you want from that position, so while he lacks the high-end athleticism of some of the other names often mentioned as first-round talents, he’s rarely out of position and almost always making positive plays for his team.

Texas A&M

• Jr

• 6’4″

/ 325 lbs

Projected Team

Pittsburgh

PROSPECT RNK

48th

POSITION RNK

3rd

This isn’t a particularly sexy pick, but with the post-Big Ben Steelers looking like they may turn to Mason Rudolph (or possibly Dwayne Haskins), upgrading the offensive line is near the top of the to-do list. Green can play either tackle or guard and he has the ability to be a Day 1 starter.

Purdue

• Jr

• 6’4″

/ 275 lbs

Projected Team

New England

PROSPECT RNK

16th

POSITION RNK

2nd

Matt Judon had a strong Year 1 in New England but Karlaftis would add another dimension to the defensive line. Injuries and the pandemic saw him play limited snaps in ’20 but Karlaftis was nearly impossible to stop in ’19 when he recorded 17 TFLs and had 7.5 sacks, and in 12 games this past season he logged 10 TFLs, 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

Florida

• Jr

• 6’2″

/ 196 lbs

Projected Team

Las Vegas

PROSPECT RNK

19th

POSITION RNK

3rd

The Raiders’ secondary had some bright spot among its young players — rookies Trevon Moehrig and Nate Hobbs flashed — but the team also cut 2020 first-rounder Damon Arnette this season and could lose several veterans to free agency. Meanwhile, it was a forgettable season for the Gators but Elam’s talents were hard to miss. He has the size (6-foot-2, 190) and athleticism to be one of the best draft-eligible corners in ’21.

Ohio State

• Sr

• 6’1″

/ 188 lbs

Projected Team

Arizona

PROSPECT RNK

71st

POSITION RNK

8th

Olave is one of the best route runners in this class. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have DeAndre Hopkins (whose season is over because of injury) and Rondale Moore but Christian Kirk is in the final year of his deal, and Arizona can move on from A.J. Green after the season, if they so choose.

Washington

• Soph

• 5’11”

/ 195 lbs

Projected Team

Dallas

PROSPECT RNK

21st

POSITION RNK

4th

Even though McDuffie balled out on the outside for the Huskies this season, we get Tyrann Mathieu vibes when we watch him. We love him as a slot corner who serves as an enforcer in run support and locks down short and intermediate routes. The Dallas defense gets another young star in the making, even if defensive coordinator Dan Quinn could get a head-coaching gig elsewhere in ’22.

Georgia

• Soph

• 6’6″

/ 330 lbs

Projected Team

Cincinnati

PROSPECT RNK

12th

POSITION RNK

3rd

Cincy could certainly use Davis as it heads to the divisional round — the Bengals suffered some injuries in their wild card win over the Raiders — but even at full health, there isn’t much depth behind D.J. Reader, especially with Larry Ogunjobi and B.J. Hill set to hit free agency.

Kentucky

• Sr

• 6’5″

/ 345 lbs

Projected Team

Miami

PROSPECT RNK

23rd

POSITION RNK

1st

Kinnard is a mauler who plays with an edge and he can wreak havoc as both a run- and pass-blocker. He may have to kick inside at the next level but his ability to open holes in the running game makes him an immediate asset for the Dolphins’ offense, which has tried to address the O-line in recent drafts but not with the success it was hoping for.

Cincinnati

• Jr

• 6’2″

/ 188 lbs

Projected Team

Buffalo

PROSPECT RNK

27th

POSITION RNK

6th

Levi Wallace is in the final year of his deal and Dane Jackson has been serviceable as his playing time increased following Tre White’s season-ending injury. That said, beefing up the secondary would be reasonable here. Sauce Gardner is a long, press corner, who would have a chance to play immediately in Buffalo.

Arkansas

• Jr

• 6’3″

/ 225 lbs

Projected Team

Detroit

PROSPECT RNK

18th

POSITION RNK

2nd

By the time we get to the actual draft, we’ll much more clarity on what the Lions’ QB plans might look like, though it feels like Jared Goff’s job in ’22. With its second first-rounder, we have Detroit adding Burks. At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Burks has all the tools to eventually be WR1, as was evidenced just about every week in the fall.

Georgia

• Sr

• 6’0″

/ 190 lbs

Projected Team

Kansas City

PROSPECT RNK

36th

POSITION RNK

7th

Kendrick is a first-round pick all day long, and he proved that again this season with Georgia after transferring from Clemson. The biggest issue for NFL teams will be off-field issues; if Kendrick has matured since his time with the Tigers, he’ll be worthy of a top 32 selection.

Michigan

• Jr

• 6’0″

/ 192 lbs

Projected Team

Tampa Bay

PROSPECT RNK

28th

POSITION RNK

2nd

Hill is part of a Wolverines defense that could end up seeing three players go in Round 1 next spring. He’s underrated nationally but watch him play and it becomes clear pretty quickly that he’s in the running for one of the best defensive backs in this class. He’s listed as a safety but he can line up anywhere.

Houston

• Jr

• 6’6″

/ 275 lbs

Projected Team

Tennessee

PROSPECT RNK

44th

POSITION RNK

2nd

Last spring, some people were surprised Payton Turner made his way into Round 1. Don’t be shocked if his Houston teammate, Hall, follows a similar path. He was unblockable at times this season and at 6-foot-6, 275 pounds, he can line up just about anywhere.

USC

• Jr

• 6’5″

/ 210 lbs

Projected Team

Green Bay

PROSPECT RNK

32nd

POSITION RNK

2nd

London, was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing USC season. And while he won’t run a 4.3 when healthy, London is a high-point-catch machine who can take over games, which sounds like something both Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams would appreciate in Green Bay.