NFL mock draft 2022: Mel Kiper’s new predictions for all 32 first-round picks, filling team needs after free agency

With the first wave of NFL free agency and a few league-shaking quarterback trades past us, team needs are becoming more clear ahead of the 2022 NFL draft. We’ve seen which teams have been aggressive in adding veterans and which have sat out free agency (and saved salary-cap space) while looking to a draft class deep with wide receivers and edge rushers.

Let’s get into a new post-free-agency first-round mock draft. I did my previous mock right before the combine earlier this month, so this one has some notable changes, with the Seahawks (No. 9) entering the first round and the Texans (No. 13) and Packers (No. 22) adding a second Round 1 selection. Where will the first quarterback go? Could the Lions shake things up at No. 2? And what’s the Falcons’ plan now?

As a reminder, I’m going to project the top 32 picks based on a combination of my rankings, team needs and what I’m hearing from execs, scouts and coaches in the league. Round 1 begins April 28, which means there’s plenty of time for more changes to come.

The order for all 262 picks is set, and check out our one-hour SportsCenter Special at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and ESPN+. Here we go:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars


Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan

When I did my previous mock draft, before the combine, I started off my write-up for this pick with this: “Offensive tackle or edge rusher here? I don’t think the Jaguars are set either way.” Well, things change quickly in the NFL. Jacksonville decided to franchise tag left tackle Cam Robinson for the second straight year, taking away its need for a top-tier blindside protector (at least for a year) for quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Now, Hutchinson is the heavy favorite to go to the Jags — barring a desperate team trading up.

Hutchinson, my top-ranked prospect in this class, could get double-digit sacks playing on the other side of Josh Allen in new coordinator Mike Caldwell’s defense. The Jaguars made a few big-money moves in free agency, but there’s still a huge hole at defensive end.

2. Detroit Lions

Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

Pass-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux will be in play here, but the top offensive tackles aren’t an option; the Lions are set with Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell. There’s more risk with Thibodeaux than I’d like for a No. 2 pick, because there’s no guarantee he’ll grow into his immense upside. I’d prefer a safer pick here, and I’ve come around to the fit of Hamilton in Detroit, which my guy Todd McShay has pushed for a little bit.

Hamilton is a playmaking safety in a 6-foot-4 frame who would immediately raise the ceiling of a defense that has struggled for years. He can play in the box, out of the slot and as a center fielder. Normally I’d say this is too high for a safety, but Hamilton is a unique and special defender. Detroit brought back safety Tracy Walker, but he could play with Hamilton.

3. Houston Texans

Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

Deshaun Watson is gone, and it appears the Texans will move forward with Davis Mills as their quarterback. This team really just has to focus on adding talent around Mills and then see where it is in 2023. Houston is not going to compete in the AFC South this season but could be right back in the top five next year. With five picks in the top 80 in this draft — including the No. 13 selection from the Watson deal — it should take the best prospect available.

For me, that’s Ekwonu, an elite offensive tackle. Yes, Laremy Tunsil is returning on the left side, so put Ekwonu at right tackle and the Texans can have one of the league’s most talented bookend duos. This is a roster with several holes; this selection is another crucial step in a slow rebuild.

4. New York Jets

Drake London, WR, USC

The Jets have had a nice start to free agency, filling voids at tight end (C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin), safety (Jordan Whitehead), cornerback (D.J. Reed) and guard (Laken Tomlinson). They haven’t yet added an outside wide receiver to help Zach Wilson, though, which means they could be eyeing one with either of their top-10 picks. They could get their choice of the best receiver in the class here, and really, if they want to take one, there’s no need to wait.

London, 6-foot-4 and my top-ranked wideout, had 88 catches for 1,084 yards in eight games in 2021 before a broken right ankle ended his season. He can be a weapon in the red zone. With London and Corey Davis on the outside and Elijah Moore and Braxton Berrios working out of the slot, New York would have a young and talented receiving corps for Wilson’s second season.

5. New York Giants

Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

The Giants, the other team with two top-10 picks, haven’t been as active in free agency as new general manager Joe Schoen gets the team back into decent salary-cap shape. That doesn’t mean they don’t have needs, though, particularly at edge rusher and offensive tackle. With the way the board has fallen in this projection, they can get Day 1 starters at both spots.

Neal is a massive tackle who can overpower defenders in the run game and move his feet as a pass-protector. Andrew Thomas, the No. 4 pick in the 2020 draft, looked much better in Year 2 and could stay at left tackle, pushing Neal to the right side. Neal also played some guard at Alabama, and he could be great there too. This is a big season for quarterback Daniel Jones, so the Giants have to keep him upright.

6. Carolina Panthers

Travon Walker, DE, Georgia

The Panthers have struck out in the quarterback trade market so far — although Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo are still available — but they are clearly trying to upgrade over Sam Darnold. Could they take Malik Willis or Kenny Pickett here? It’s possible. Coach Matt Rhule is on the hot seat, and this could be his attempt at a big splash for 2022. Still, if he wants to win now, he’s probably better off trading for a veteran and staying away from a rookie signal-caller. Carolina could instead take a sizable edge rusher who is still growing into his 6-foot-5 frame.

Walker just keeps rising in the pre-draft process, as he starred at the Senior Bowl and tested extremely well at the combine. He didn’t put up “wow” numbers in college — he had six sacks for the national champs last season — but that’s because of how dominant the entire Georgia defense was around him. He could put up better numbers in the NFL, and he’s stout against the run too.

7. New York Giants (via CHI)

Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon

This pick is logical for the team and for the prospect. The Giants’ top pass-rusher last season was rookie Azeez Ojulari, who led the team with eight sacks, and they have to improve on the edge. This is their best chance to add a young, talented defensive end. They can afford to use this pick on Thibodeaux, who has a high ceiling but was inconsistent in 2021.

If Thibodeaux puts it all together, you’re talking about All-Pro-level talent. But if he doesn’t build out secondary moves and can’t improve his all-around game, he could struggle. He has the type of physical traits NFL teams love, but taking that guy in the top 10 is risky. If New York passes on Thibodeaux, keep an eye on cornerback or linebacker with this pick.

8. Atlanta Falcons

Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

So long, Matt Ryan. That means the Falcons will go with a quarterback here, right? Not necessarily. They have one of the league’s worst rosters and could try to get by with Marcus Mariota for a season before going all-in for a passer in the 2023 draft. There’s no guarantee they love Malik Willis or Kenny Pickett enough to take one of them with a top-10 pick. And based on where they are in my rankings — Nos. 19 and 20 — I wouldn’t, either. This is a team that is a long ways from competing, so it shouldn’t force the pick.

Atlanta could go with the best prospect available and fill a need position with Wilson, a field-stretcher who had 113 catches and 18 touchdowns for the Buckeyes over the past two seasons. He ran a speedy 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the combine. With Calvin Ridley suspended for the season, the Falcons don’t have any starting-caliber receivers on their roster to catch Mariota’s passes.

9. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN)

Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

What’s the Seahawks’ plan for 2022? Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and D.J. Reed are gone. Quandre Diggs, Al Woods, Rashaad Penny and Will Dissly are back. They added Drew Lock, Noah Fant and Uchenna Nwosu, among a few others. So even after parting ways with two of the best players in franchise history, I don’t think coach Pete Carroll & Co. want to rebuild. It seems they want to give it a go with Lock at quarterback and try to win. That’s why I don’t see quarterback being an option here; Carroll and general manager John Schneider can instead use this pick on an early starter.

Cross could step in for veteran Duane Brown at left tackle. He’s a superb pass-blocker who dominated in the SEC. Seattle, which surrendered its original first-round pick in the Jamal Adams trade, has back-to-back Round 2 picks (Nos. 40 and 41) to add potential starters.

10. New York Jets (via SEA)

Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

I think the Jets would be thrilled to get a shutdown corner with their second Round 1 pick, improving a secondary that allowed quarterbacks to put up a 53.5 QBR last season, which ranked 31st in the league. Signing D.J. Reed will help, but I still see cornerback as a need. They also need a safety, but I don’t have another one with a first-round grade after Kyle Hamilton.

Gardner is a shutdown corner with outstanding tools. He showed in the College Football Playoff against Alabama that he can hold his own against elite talent. I’m a huge fan.

11. Washington Commanders

Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

Circle April 6 on your calendar. That’s when scouts will get the chance to see Stingley on the field for the first time since he injured his foot in September. He had surgery on the Lisfranc injury and didn’t work out at the combine. It’s a crucial day for a corner once viewed as a potential No. 1 overall pick. As a true freshman in 2019, he was one of LSU’s best players on the way to its national title. Stingley has played in just 10 games over the past two seasons and has some inconsistent tape. I’m still betting on his upside, but he could drop if he doesn’t test well.

Washington had major injury issues at corner last season, and it could upgrade its unit with Stingley. I also thought about a receiver to partner with Terry McLaurin for new quarterback Carson Wentz.

12. Minnesota Vikings

Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

The Vikings have used first-round picks on four cornerbacks since 2013. Can you name them all? (OK, fine: They are Xavier RhodesTrae WaynesMike Hughes and Jeff Gladney.) None of them are on their roster now, and the guys who drafted them — coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman — are gone, too. This is still a need position for new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and coach Kevin O’Connell.

McDuffie is the real deal; the stat you’ll see most often is that he didn’t allow a single touchdown in coverage over the past two seasons, and he goes all out on every play. Expect him to be a Day 1 starter.

13. Houston Texans (via CLE)

Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

As I mentioned in my writeup for the No. 3 pick, the Texans aren’t in the position to target needs over talent. They have to get the best players they can and figure out the rest later, because this is not going to be a quick rebuild. So while I thought about edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II and a couple wide receivers, I decided to get Houston a massive defensive tackle who could make everyone around him better.

The 341-pound Davis can plug the middle of head coach Lovie Smith’s defense. He wowed at the combine earlier this month, and even if he doesn’t have stellar pass-rush upside, he’s going to dominate interior centers and guards on early downs. He’s a unique player who can be excellent if used properly, helping off-ball linebackers find space and getting in the face of quarterbacks.

14. Baltimore Ravens

Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

The Ravens would likely be thrilled with this scenario. They just let Bradley Bozeman, who started at center in 2021 and left guard in 2019 and 2020, walk in free agency, and they don’t have a replacement on the roster. Linderbaum would be an improvement, not just an instant replacement. As I’ve said a couple times, he’s one of the best center prospects of the past decade.

Defensive end is another position to watch here. Offensive tackle would have been in play, too, but Baltimore added right tackle Morgan Moses in free agency.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA)

Jermaine Johnson II, DE, Florida State

The Eagles haven’t been super active in free agency, though they did add impact edge rusher Haason Reddick and bring back defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. I don’t think any of their needs have changed since my last mock draft. I’m looking at wide receiver, cornerback, safety, off-ball linebacker and defensive end — yes, they still need one — to fill out their three first-round picks.

That leads me to Johnson, a one-year starter who transferred from Georgia to FSU and had a stellar 2021 season. He was excellent at the Senior Bowl and has moved from a possible top-50 pick to likely landing in the top 20. NFL teams always want pass-rushers, and he could help immediately.

16. Philadelphia Eagles (via IND)

Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

Olave can play early and often for a Philadelphia team that has to get more out of its passing game with quarterback Jalen Hurts. Olave is a speedster (4.39 40-yard dash at the combine) who had 13 touchdowns last season. This would be the Eagles’ third straight draft taking a wideout in Round 1, but it should be a priority if they want to get back to the playoffs.

17. Los Angeles Chargers

Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

You’ve heard by now how bad the Chargers’ run defense was in 2021, and they’ve already taken steps to improve it, bringing in two defensive tackles via free agency in Sebastian Joseph-Day, whom coach Brandon Staley is familiar with from his time with the Rams, and Austin Johnson. That probably takes defensive tackle off the list of holes to fill in the draft.

So let’s turn the attention over to right tackle where Bryan Bulaga was just released. I don’t see Storm Norton as the answer there, but Penning can be. He’s fantastic as a run blocker, and offensive line coaches love him because he’s just plain mean and plays through the whistle. This would make back-to-back drafts with first-round tackles for the Chargers, and left tackle Rashawn Slater looked like a star as a rookie.

18. New Orleans Saints

Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt

The Saints tried and failed to add Deshaun Watson, so are they definitely committed to Jameis Winston now? I don’t think so. If the board shakes out this way — with all of the passers available — why shouldn’t they take Pickett? He’s the most NFL-ready of the bunch, leveling up last season with 42 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions. He is super accurate. He understands how to run an offense and lead a team. He could be the Saints’ future.

This is a strange quarterback class, and the range on when Pickett and Malik Willis come off the board varies from everyone I talk to in the league. No one knows for sure. I would not be shocked if either of them fell into New Orleans’ lap here.

19. Philadelphia Eagles

Devin Lloyd, ILB, Utah

Here’s a spot to fill Philadelphia’s void at off-ball linebacker. Lloyd was one of the best all-around defenders in college football last season, racking up 111 total tackles, eight sacks, 20 tackles for loss, four interceptions and a forced fumble. He has some juice as a blitzer and can cover tight ends and running backs in the passing game. Lloyd’s 4.66 40-yard dash at the combine means he doesn’t have the straight-line speed of former top-five pick Devin White (a linebacker I’ve compared him to), but I don’t think he should drop past the Eagles.

That’s three early starters for the Eagles here, with Lloyd, Chris Olave and Jermaine Johnson II.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers

Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

The structure of Mitch Trubisky‘s new contract with Pittsburgh — just $5.25 million guaranteed over two years — means this organization absolutely could draft a quarterback here. Trubisky could be a bridge to Willis, who is raw but supremely talented. As I said when I projected him to the Steelers in my previous mock, he is the most talented quarterback in this class. Willis could compete with Trubisky, Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins in training camp, but he wouldn’t be under immediate pressure to start in Week 1. That would be crucial for him.

If the Steelers go a different direction, they still have holes to plug along the offensive line and in the secondary.

21. New England Patriots

Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

Unlike last year, the Patriots have been quiet in free agency, notably losing star cornerback J.C. Jackson to a huge-money deal while not adding any surefire starters. I see holes at right tackle, off-ball linebacker, defensive end, cornerback and wide receiver. They’ve also lost several coaches this offseason, including offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. And yet, Bill Belichick’s Patriots team won 10 games last season and still has a lot of really good players.

I projected Williams here in my debut mock in mid-January, and it is a nice fit. Williams, who tore his ACL in the national title game, had a tremendous season for the Crimson Tide, with 1,572 yards and 15 scores. He said at the combine that he’s ahead of his schedule in his recovery, but it’s possible he misses a chunk of the season while rehabbing. New England could afford to wait for a receiver with true No. 1 upside who could be a star for years to come. And we know Belichick has a history of taking Alabama stars.

22. Green Bay Packers (via LV)

Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M

OK, so this isn’t the sexy pick that Packers fans will love after acquiring this selection in the Davante Adams trade, but check out Green Bay’s other pick at No. 28 before you yell at me. Green could step into the right guard spot vacated by Lucas Patrick‘s signing with the Bears in free agency. Josh Myers, a second-round pick last year, looked solid at center, but adding another O-lineman is important, too. Green also has some versatility, as he played both guard and tackle for the Aggies.

23. Arizona Cardinals

Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia

Arizona let edge rusher Chandler Jones and wide receiver Christian Kirk leave for big deals in free agency, and it hasn’t added many external free agents so far. It could go a few different ways with this pick, including at wide receiver, which suddenly looks barren, and offensive line.

The Cardinals could be a fit for Jordan Davis if he makes it here, but his former Georgia teammate, Wyatt, could be a nice pick, too. The 305-pound tackle had a great workout at the combine, and he impressed impressed NFL scouts at the Senior Bowl. He had only five sacks in four seasons, but I think he could put up better numbers in the right pro scheme. He’ll help take some pressure off J.J. Watt.

24. Dallas Cowboys

Tyler Smith, OT/G, Tulsa

The Cowboys will look different in 2022, with Amari Cooper, Randy Gregory, Connor Williams, Cedrick Wilson and La’el Collins among the notable departures. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be worse, but they do have to plug a couple of holes. I’m not sure an edge rusher makes sense if this is the way the board shakes out — could Dallas take a flier on David Ojabo, who tore an Achilles at his pro day last week? — but there are a couple of offensive linemen who could play immediately. And with Tyron Smith and Zack Martin both over 30, the Cowboys should reprioritize the line.

Smith could play guard or tackle, and in this scenario he’d slot in to Williams’ left guard spot. Zion Johnson is the other possibility, and he could even play some center.

25. Buffalo Bills

Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State

Buffalo released Cole Beasley and brought in Jamison Crowder as an option out of the slot, but Crowder isn’t likely to be part of the Bills’ long-term plans. Dotson would be. Where would he help most? The Bills ranked last in the league in average yards after the catch (4.3) last season. Dotson is an explosive playmaker who is a threat to score on every touch. He had 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2021.

The Bills have had a great offseason so far, so this is a luxury pick. Dotson, though, could help as a rookie.

26. Tennessee Titans

Zion Johnson, G/C, Boston College

If Tennessee wants to continue to pound the ball in the run game with Derrick Henry, it has to have a great offensive line. The Titans could upgrade at guard with Johnson, who spent time at multiple positions in college. He didn’t allow any quarterback pressures while playing guard in 2021, and he’s stout as a run blocker.

Even after adding Robert Woods, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Titans picked a wideout here. Treylon Burks and Jahan Dotson could be in play.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State

I made this pick before the Bucs re-signed Leonard Fournette on Tuesday morning, but I’m not going to change it. Their running back depth chart is still barren, and Hall could really help. I don’t love taking backs in Round 1, but Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht and coach Bruce Arians could ensure that they get their choice of the entire running back class here.

Hall had 3,044 rushing yards and 41 rushing scores over the past two seasons, adding 59 catches. His 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine answered a lot of questions about his straight-line speed. He is the clear No. 1 back in this class. If Zion Johnson is available, he could be the pick, too, because the Bucs have a need at left guard.

28. Green Bay Packers

Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

Is this better, Packers fans? Burks will almost certainly have to get a ton of early snaps, helping to fill the void left by the stunning trade of Davante Adams. Burks is a bigger receiver (6-foot-2) who has some run-after-the-catch ability; he can break tackles and run past defensive backs, though he doesn’t have blazing speed. He put up 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.

For Green Bay’s sake, it will have to hope Burks develops faster than Adams, who began his career with two up-and-down seasons before breaking out in Year 3. Aaron Rodgers needs help now. And I think the Packers could take multiple receivers with their picks in this draft.

29. Miami Dolphins (via SF)

Nakobe Dean, ILB, Georgia

This was a tough pick for me. It’s definitely a spot to watch for an offensive tackle, but if Miami pays up to sign free agent Terron Armstead (who visited the team on Monday) it doesn’t have to take one here. I also thought about wide receiver Skyy Moore, who is rising after his performance at the combine and could sneak into Round 1. Ultimately, I see a hole in the middle of the Dolphins’ defense that could be filled by a really good every-down linebacker.

Dean was the leader of the national champs’ defense, racking up 72 tackles with six sacks, two forced fumbles and two picks. He has the ability to cover tight ends, and he can blow up backs in the run game. He’s tough. Dean could be a steal for an already solid defense.

30. Kansas City Chiefs

George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue

If the Chiefs want to keep Chris Jones at defensive tackle where he can wreck game plans from the interior, they have to add capable edge rushers. They ranked 29th in total sacks (31) last season and also 31st in rushing yards allowed per carry (4.8), even though they improved down the stretch. Karlaftis is an all-around defensive end who has some pass-rushing traits and can anchor down in the run game. He had only 4.5 sacks last season, but the tools are there.

You might have noticed that I haven’t projected David Ojabo, who tore his Achilles at the Michigan pro day last week, in Round 1. I love him as a prospect, but I think he’s more likely to go in the second round now. That’s a tough injury, and he might have to miss the entire 2022 season. The Chiefs need help right away.

31. Cincinnati Bengals

Travis Jones, DT, Connecticut

The Bengals have significantly retooled their offensive line this offseason, adding four new starters in free agency. That takes some of the pressure off Joe Burrow (literally) in Year 3, as he was battered in his first two seasons. The Super Bowl runners-up can now afford to fill a different need with this pick, and I see Jones as a replacement for Larry Ogunjobi, who had a great 2021 season.

Jones is a 325-pound nose tackle with extremely long arms who can controls gaps with his strength. He was impressive at the Senior Bowl in January, boosting his stock into the top 50 picks. He could make sense for a Bengals team that is poised to compete for another AFC North title.

32. Detroit Lions (via LAR)

Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

I’m going to stick with Corral to the Lions, but I keep hearing it’s not out of the question that he is the first quarterback off the board. He didn’t work out at the combine, so teams haven’t gotten a look at him since his ankle injury in early January. He’s going to throw for scouts at his pro day Wednesday, and he could create some buzz there. He throws a ball with some zip and is extremely tough, though he doesn’t have a huge frame (6-foot-2, 212 pounds). The biggest question revolves around the offense he ran in college; his coaches didn’t ask him to make many reads. There will be an adjustment in the NFL.

For the Lions, I just don’t see Jared Goff as the future. This allows them to get a potential quarterback of the future on a team-friendly five-year contract.

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