It’s finally here! The Draftstravaganza is coming to a close and we’ve finally, mercifully, made it to draft night. I’m not going to lie to you all, I’m exhausted. But for one more mock draft, we must push on. I’m keeping this introduction, and this article at large, short and sweet. You know these players by now, you don’t need me to explain them to you, especially if you’ve read my Draft Cheat Sheet for the past two months. Without further ado, this is my final mock draft for 2022. Lock it in.
NOTE: This is what I think will happen, and not what I would do.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars- Travon Walker, DE, Georgia
I didn’t buy the Travon Walker hype until he became the betting favorite in Vegas. Aidan Hutchinson has been the pick, written in pen, since basically right after the Super Bowl. But money talks, and the numbers don’t lie. It’s going to be Walker. Would I make this pick? No, it’s Kayvon Thibodeaux at No. 1 in my eyes. I even wrote Ikem Ekwonu here in my first draft of this article! But, Walker will be the pick tonight.
2. Detroit Lions- Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
Hutchinson is the “safer” pick of the top two, and he definitely has the higher floor, but I’m not all that high on him as a top guy. I have concerns about what his ceiling is, and I think Thibodeaux will be the better player by probably 2024, but this is what the Lions are going to do. Go grab the Michigan native who fits Dan Campbell’s philosophy, and please prosper. Please, Detroit. I want you to be good so badly.
3. Houston Texans- Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State
The Texans want to build in the trenches, that much has become clear to me. Whether they go with Ekwonu here, or Evan Neal, or even a defensive end like Kayvon Thibodeaux. Ekwonu is a great run-supporting tackle for a team that doesn’t have it all figured out at quarterback just yet. Nice pick, Houston.
4. New York Jets- Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
Our third defensive end in four picks, I think the Jets have a steal here in Thibodeaux. The Oregon product is, in my opinion, the best defensive end in this class by a pretty hefty margin. The Jets are getting a great one here, and pairing “Thibs” with Quinnen Williams could make for a lethal combo on the line.
5. New York Giants- Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
We’re really filling up the trenches at the top of this mock draft, which is exactly how I think it’ll go in the real thing tonight as well. Neal is a monster at nearly 6’8. Although I wish he could move a little bit better, it’s hard not to see the Giants falling in love with somebody of Neal’s size and strength. Shore up your offensive line and give Daniel Jones one more chance. I love the strategy.
6. Carolina Panthers- Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
The Panthers seemed to have been eyeing Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett for months now, and then suddenly, the bottom has completely fallen out for that pick. What gives? Either way, I still think this Panthers’ regime need a quarterback here to save their jobs. Willis is the top quarterback in this class in my opinion, and the only one even remotely worthy of this high of a pick.
7. New York Giants- Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Right now, I think Sauce is pretty clearly the draft’s top corner over Stingley. I don’t think the Giants really care who it is, they just need a cornerback. Gardner is long, sturdy, has incredible ball skills, and projects as a borderline elite corner to me at the NFL level in the vein of Richard Sherman. Maybe New York’s new coach and GM could go for a quarterback here? I’d love to see it happen, but I don’t think it will.
8. Atlanta Falcons- Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Atlanta’s not exactly in a position to win, and Jameson Williams isn’t exactly in a position to help them win for the first half of his rookie year. This is a match made in heaven. If the Falcons can snag a top quarterback in 2023, they could be cooking with some gas on offense with Williams and a newly-reinstated Calvin Ridley.