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NFL Draft

2022 NFL mock draft (Version 3.0): Two-round projections after free agency and trades shake things up

When we last projected the top picks in the 2022 NFL draft, Russell Wilson was still a Seahawk, Matt Ryan was still a Falcon and the top two receivers in the NFL were still on their respective Super Bowl contenders.

After a pair of shocking trades, Davante Adams is in Las Vegas and Tyreek Hill is in Miami, showing just how quickly fortunes can change during the offseason.

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Now that the dust has settled from a wild few weeks of player movement, team needs are becoming abundantly clear. With less than a month to go before the draft begins April 28 in Las Vegas, The Baltimore Sun offers its projections for the first and second rounds.

Round 1

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

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After the Jaguars spent more than $250 million in free agency to revamp their roster, all signs point toward Hutchinson being the No. 1 pick. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound edge rusher didn’t disappoint at the NFL scouting combine, posting a Relative Athletic Score of 9.87 out of 10, which ranks 19th among nearly 1,500 defensive end prospects since 1987. He’ll make an immediate impact for a defense in need of playmakers.

2. Detroit Lions: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

In a truly unpredictable draft, the Lions are perhaps the biggest wild card. After a standout predraft process that included a strong performance at the Senior Bowl, the 6-foot, 219-pound Willis has quickly entered the conversation to be a top-five pick. With veteran Jared Goff holding the Lions’ starting job for now, this might be the perfect landing spot for the strong-armed, athletic prospect who still needs time to develop.

3. Houston Texans: Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia

Next to Willis, Walker has been the draft’s biggest riser, going from afterthought on the ultra-talented Georgia defense to one of the most sought-after players in this class. The 6-5, 272-pound lineman’s explosive performance at the combine was one of the best ever at the position, making him a near-lock to be selected in the top five. For a team that needs help everywhere on defense, Walker makes a ton of sense.

4. New York Jets: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

The prevailing thought for most of the offseason was that the Jets would target one of the premier offensive linemen in the draft, but the signing of guard Laken Tomlinson gives them a reliable starting five. While Ikem Ekwonu or Evan Neal would provide valuable insurance behind tackles Mekhi Becton and George Fant, it’s no longer a priority. Instead, the Jets take perhaps the best player in the entire draft in the 6-4, 254-pound Thibodeaux, giving coach Robert Saleh the game-breaking edge rusher he needs.

5. New York Giants: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

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The run on edge rushers makes this pick a no-brainer for the Giants, who desperately need to improve their offensive line. The 6-4, 310-pound Ekwonu is a dominant run blocker who can step in at right tackle opposite 2020 first-round pick Andrew Thomas, giving the Giants two of the best young bookends in the league. To get the most out of quarterback Daniel Jones, running back Saquon Barkley and a talented receiving corps, the Giants need to get better up front.

6. Carolina Panthers: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

While quarterback remains a glaring need for Carolina, there simply isn’t a prospect other than Willis who’s considered worthy of a top-10 pick. Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett might be a marginal upgrade over Sam Darnold in his rookie season, but is that enough to save coach Matt Rhule’s job? The Panthers’ offensive line ranked 31st in the league last season according to Pro Football Focus, so adding a stalwart at left tackle in the 6-7, 337-pound Neal would help solve a lot of problems.

7. New York Giants (via Chicago Bears): Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

With the Giants reportedly planning to trade James Bradberry to clear salary cap space, cornerback becomes one of the team’s top needs. The 6-3, 190-pound prospect known as “Sauce” boasts a rare combination of size and athleticism and has become the consensus top corner in this class after a dominant career at Cincinnati.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

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The year-long suspension of Calvin Ridley for gambling and the departure of Russell Gage to Tampa Bay left the Falcons with one of the bleakest wide receiver rooms in the league. The 6-foot, 183-pound Wilson is a reliable separator from both the slot and the outside who can pick up yards after the catch, giving new quarterback Marcus Mariota a go-to target.

9. Seattle Seahawks (via Denver Broncos): Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State

The trade of quarterback Russell Wilson to Denver not only netted the Seahawks their first top-10 pick since 2010, but also fourth-year signal-caller Drew Lock. An offensive lineman like Charles Cross or Trevor Penning will be tempting, especially if veteran left tackle Duane Brown doesn’t return, but the Seahawks haven’t had an impact pass rusher for years. The 6-5, 262-pound Johnson, a Georgia transfer, impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl after a breakout season.

10. New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks): Drake London, WR, USC

The Jets have a promising trio of young wide receivers in Corey Davis, Elijah Moore and Braxton Berrios, but the addition of the 6-4, 219-pound London would be the icing on the cake. While he’s earned his reputation as a contested-catch winner, London has also shown an ability to win off the line of scrimmage and create separation. He should be a huge help for young quarterback Zach Wilson.

11. Washington Commanders: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

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While the 6-4, 220-pound Hamilton is a consensus top-three player in this class, his 40-yard dash time of 4.59 seconds at the combine and “low 4.7s” at his pro day could lead to a tumble. The Commanders are the big winners here, taking a prospect who’s drawn comparisons to Chargers star Derwin James. If those fears about his speed are overblown, he could be an immediate difference-maker for a defense looking to rebound from a disappointing season.

12. Minnesota Vikings: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

The return of veteran Patrick Peterson helps, but the Vikings still need help at cornerback. Why not turn to another former LSU standout in Stingley? Despite all the concerns about his relatively disappointing play the past two seasons, the 6-1, 195-pound corner is still an exceptional athlete with a high ceiling.

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

As far as rebuilds go, there are worse strategies than trying to recreate the 2021 Georgia defense. Pairing the 6-6, 341-pound Davis — who posted the best Relative Athletic Score of any defensive tackle prospect in the past 35 years at the combine — with his former college teammate Walker would give the Texans two imposing building blocks at the front of their defense.

14. Baltimore Ravens: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

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Karlaftis feels like the forgotten man of this draft, and it could be to the Ravens’ benefit. While Walker and Johnson had more impressive workouts leading up to the draft, you can’t argue with the Purdue star’s production. According to Pro Football Focus, the 6-4, 275-pound lineman produced 54 pressures on 335 rushes, earning a pass-rushing grade of 90.6. The Greece native, who just turned 21 on Sunday, can be a foundational piece for a defensive front that needs to get younger.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami Dolphins): Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

Outside of last year’s rookies DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins, the Eagles’ wide receiver corps has been a disappointment. While Williams is coming off a torn ACL suffered in the SEC Championship game, there should be no concern about his future as a game-breaking receiver who can stretch the field both vertically and horizontally. The 6-2, 189-pound Ohio State transfer would give quarterback Jalen Hurts another elusive target who can separate downfield.

16. Philadelphia Eagles (via Indianapolis Colts): Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

While the Eagles boast one of the best defensive lines in the league, there’s work to do in the secondary. The 5-11, 195-pound McDuffie isn’t the most impressive athlete, but his performance speaks for itself. He’s consistently graded among the top cornerbacks in the country and offers the versatility to line up in the slot or the outside.

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

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This would be a dream scenario for the Chargers, who get a player many consider a top-10 talent. After trading for pass rusher Khalil Mack and signing cornerback J.C. Jackson, right tackle remains the biggest hole left to fill. The 6-5, 310-pound Cross might be the best pass protector in this class, allowing just two sacks in 719 pass-blocking snaps this past season, according to PFF.

18. New Orleans Saints: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

Star receiver Michael Thomas is expected to return from his ankle injury, but that shouldn’t stop the Saints from adding another wideout to the mix. Marquez Callaway and Tre’Quan Smith are fine No. 2 and No. 3 options, but New Orleans could really use another elite receiver to spread the field around quarterback Jameis Winston. The 6-1, 188-pound Olave is a polished route runner with sure hands who can torch single coverage.

19. Philadelphia Eagles: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

The Eagles have long ignored linebackers early in the draft, but with three first-round selections, this might be the year that finally changes. Lloyd wouldn’t just be a reach at a position of need, either. The 6-3, 235-pound former safety has the length, speed and athleticism to excel as a modern linebacker in the middle of the defense.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

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After the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger and the signing of former No. 2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky, the Steelers have reportedly done plenty of homework evaluating this quarterback class. They didn’t have to go very far to scout Pickett, who broke out in his fifth season to earn first-round consideration. While he might never be a truly elite quarterback, the 6-3, 220-pound Pickett should at the very least be an upgrade over backups Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins.

21. New England Patriots: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

The departure of J.C. Jackson in free agency leaves the Patriots’ cornerback room perilously thin. Given the resources the team has allocated to the position during coach Bill Belichick’s tenure, that won’t be the case for long. The 6-foot, 195-pound Booth is an explosive athlete who can stick to receivers one-on-one and be comfortable in just about any scheme.

22. Green Bay Packers (via Las Vegas Raiders): Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

The Packers haven’t drafted a receiver in the first round since 2002, but if they’re going to buck tradition, this is the year. After trading superstar Davante Adams to the Raiders and losing Marquez Valdes-Scantling to the Chiefs, they’re left with an unproven group of wideouts. The 6-3, 225-pound Burks fits their style as a big-bodied, athletic receiver who can get open downfield and make defenders miss after the catch.

23. Arizona Cardinals: Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia

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It wouldn’t be an exciting pick that makes quarterback Kyler Murray happy, but it’s the best value at a position of need. With most of the top receivers off the board, the Cardinals opt to bolster their defensive front with the 6-3, 315-pound Wyatt, a versatile lineman who has the potential to be an impact pass rusher.

24. Dallas Cowboys: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

Right tackle La’el Collins is now with the Bengals, leaving a big hole on the offensive line. The 6-7, 321-pound Penning could stand to improve as a pass blocker, but his raw strength and physicality gives him a strong base on which to build on. He and 6-5, 320-pound Tyron Smith would instantly be the most imposing pair of tackles in football.

25. Buffalo Bills: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

The Bills enter the draft in an enviable position. With one of the best rosters in football, there’s no major hole to fill. That could lead to a luxury pick like a running back, but Buffalo could learn from Kansas City’s mistake when it took Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round. The 6-2, 196-pound Elam — the nephew of former Ravens first-round pick Matt Elam — would be a nice fit next to Tre’Davious White and give the team some valuable depth at a premium position.

26. Tennessee Titans: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

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Linderbaum is a consensus top-15 player in this class, so why such a big slide? Positional value. According to a study by PFF, centers offer some of the lowest surplus value of any position in the draft because they are one of the lowest-paid positions in the league. Veteran center Ben Jones is back with the Titans this season, but Linderbaum could step in at either guard spot while preparing to take over in the near future.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Zion Johnson, G, Boston College

Tampa Bay lost starting guards Ali Marpet and Alex Cappa this offseason, shaking up one of the best offensive lines in the league. They brought back center Ryan Jensen and traded for Patriots starter Shaq Mason, but the hole at left guard remains unfilled. The 6-3, 316-pound Johnson, one of the draft’s biggest risers, is a plug-and-play option.

28. Green Bay Packers: Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, Penn State

After releasing edge rusher Za’Darius Smith in a cost-cutting move, there’s an opening on the Packers’ defensive line. While he lacks an explosive first step, the 6-3, 256-pound Ebiketie is perhaps the most technically sound pass rusher in this class, capable of setting up moves and beating blockers with outstanding hands.

29. Kansas City Chiefs (via Miami, via San Francisco): George Pickens, WR, Georgia

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With the pick the Chiefs landed for trading star wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins, they can draft his replacement. The 6-3, 200-pound Pickens missed nearly all of the 2021 season with a torn ACL, but he’s shown flashes of being a truly dominant “X” receiver who can bully cornerbacks and make contested catches.

30. Kansas City Chiefs: Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota

Outside of defensive tackle Chris Jones, there’s plenty of room for improvement on the Chiefs’ defensive line. The 6-4, 265-pound Mafe dominated at the Senior Bowl before posting some of the best athletic testing numbers ever at the position, ranking in the 90th percentile or better in the broad jump, vertical jump and 40-yard dash.

31. Cincinnati Bengals: Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn

Some teams might be scared off by the 6-foot, 190-pound McCreary’s sub-29-inch arms, but he more than held his own in three seasons against SEC competition — including against current Bengals star Ja’Marr Chase. The Bengals desperately need another cornerback to avoid giving reclamation project Eli Apple too many snaps.

32. Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams): Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

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This could be a prime spot for the Lions to trade down with a team that wants to land a quarterback and gain that valuable fifth-year option. If not, there might not be a better player to lead a rebuilding defense than Dean, a mechanical engineering major who can read plays in an instant and fly to the ball carrier. He might not have ideal size at 6 feet and 225 pounds, but his college tape speaks for itself. He’d be a true culture changer for coach Dan Campbell.

Round 2

33. Jacksonville Jaguars: Lewis Cine, S, Georgia

34. Detroit Lions: Daxton Hill, DB, Michigan

35. New York Jets: Travis Jones, DT, Connecticut

36. New York Giants: David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan

37. Houston Texans: Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State

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38. New York Jets (via Carolina Panthers): Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan

39. Chicago Bears: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State

40. Seattle Seahawks (via Denver Broncos): Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

41. Seattle Seahawks: Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington

42. Indianapolis Colts (via Washington Commanders): Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan

43. Atlanta Falcons: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

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44. Cleveland Browns: Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC

45. Baltimore Ravens: Jalen Pitre, DB, Baylor

46. Minnesota Vikings: Kenyon Green, G/T, Texas A&M

47. Washington Commanders (via Indianapolis Colts): Leo Chenal, LB, Wisconsin

48. Chicago Bears (via Los Angeles Chargers): Logan Hall, DL, Houston

49. New Orleans Saints: Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

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50. Kansas City Chiefs (via Miami Dolphins): Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota

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

52. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darian Kinnard, G/T, Kentucky

53. Green Bay Packers (via Las Vegas Raiders): Tyler Smith, G/T, Tulsa

54. New England Patriots: Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State

55. Arizona Cardinals: Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State

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56. Dallas Cowboys: DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M

57. Buffalo Bills: Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma

58. Atlanta Falcons (via Tennessee Titans): Nik Bonitto, EDGE, Oklahoma

59. Green Bay Packers: Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming

60. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama

61. San Francisco 49ers: Kingsley Enagbare, EDGE, South Carolina

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62. Kansas City Chiefs: Martin Emerson, CB, Mississippi State

63. Cincinnati Bengals: Cameron Thomas, EDGE, San Diego State

64. Denver Broncos (via Los Angeles Rams): Christian Harris, LB, Alabama


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