The Los Angeles Rams are Super Bowl champions. But, you know that by now. The season is long over, and the new league year is about a week old. That means, of course, that NFL teams now know where they stand. The first major wave of free agency is over, and all 32 teams have attempted to patch the holes in their metaphorical boats. That being said, there’s still much work to do this offseason! The biggest piece of work being, of course, the annual NFL Draft. I’m a draft junkie through and through, so let’s take a look at this year’s prospects. This mock draft won’t be the final product, but consider it the first of however-many-I-choose installments for this year’s draft.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars- Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
Unlike last year’s selection of Trevor Lawrence, the race for the No. 1 pick is pretty wide open in 2022. That being said, it seems like the odds-on favorite this year is Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson. If I had my way, it would be Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux in this spot. But, this is mostly about what I think is gonna happen, not what I would do. In any case, “Hutch” has all the drive to be a No. 1 pick, and I don’t have too much problem with him going here. But, it’s just not what I would do. Take that how you will.
2. Detroit Lions- Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
Dude, I love Malik Willis and I might be in the minority here, but I think he would be a tremendous pick for the Lions. Is Willis perfect? No. But the potential? Ridiculous. Willis has so much physical talent that I simply choose to ignore any of the shortcomings he might have in his mental game. Willis has all the skills you can’t teach, and nothing that you actually can. If Dan Campbell is willing to work with him on his processing abilities, and Dan Campbell seems like the perfect coach for that, Willis is going to be great. Mark my words.
3. Houston Texans- Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
I’ve seen quite a few people putting North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu here, and I honestly just don’t see it. I have no evidence for this, but my gut tells me that the Texans go with Evan Neal from Alabama here. Neal’s a mammoth of a man, standing about 6’8 and 340 pounds, and his physical tools and potential are through the roof. Neal should be plug and play in just about any offense, and I think the Texans, and especially quarterback Davis Mills, is gonna love him.
4. New York Jets- Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
I think the Jets could go basically anywhere but quarterback here, considering they still really believe in second-year man Zach Wilson. And I do too! But, you have to build this defense, and Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton is a ridiculously good defensive back prospect. Hamilton is a better safety, in almost every way, than Jamal Adams was for the Jets. Not only that, but New York has a huge need at the defensive back spot. Hamilton is one of eleven on the defensive side, but he’s going to be an electric playmaker for New York.
5. New York Giants- Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State
The Giants need offensive line help. Badly. With Neal off the board, I think Big Blue goes with Ekwonu here, considering he’s the next tackle down and no matter the offensive scheme, they need help on the line in any possible way. Bookending Andrew Thomas with Ekwonu could create a nice tackle tandem for whatever quarterback the Giants inevitably choose for 2023. I know this isn’t even about him, but I do not believe in Daniel Jones.
6. Carolina Panthers- Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
From all recent reports, it seems like the Panthers are absolutely smitten with Kenny Pickett. It’s hard to blame them, considering Pickett’s breakout 2021 campaign with the other Panthers at the University of Pittsburgh. Pickett compares nicely to “diet Joe Burrow” and with the recent success of Burrow with the Bengals, I understand that Carolina wants to emulate that. Or at least attempt to. I’m not completely sold on Pickett as a prospect, but there’s enough there to like. Either way, I like the Panthers swinging for the fences! I’m interested to see where this goes.
7. New York Giants- Travon Walker, DE, Georgia
And now, we come to one of the fastest risers of the draft process. I think that the Giants could go receiver here, but Travon Walker is such a fascinating prospect. The Georgia edge rusher tested phenomenally at the NFL Combine in early March, and he’s since drawn comparisons to Browns star defender Myles Garrett. While I don’t think Walker is the second coming of Garrett, he has blazing speed at his position, and is a physical freak in every way. He has the potential to be like Garrett, if not even more.
8. Atlanta Falcons- Drake London, WR, USC
So with Matt Ryan gone, I think the Falcons could definitely reach for a quarterback here. But more likely, they’re going to be taking a receiver to eventually pair with Calvin Ridley following his suspension. London is a big body (6’5!) with an equally-impressive catch radius. My only problem with him is that he’s a little skinny, and I worry about his durability if he gets blown up by a linebacker across the middle. If he turns into a Mike Evans type, though, expect London, Ridley, and Kyle Pitts to be a nice trio on Atlanta’s offense, as long as they have someone to throw them the ball.