The 2022 Draft is building to a unique level of anticipation due to a variety of story lines unfolding in its final hours. Never before has a NFL draft listed eight franchises with two or more first-round selections. How will these pairs of picks be utilized as the evening progresses will be fascinating, as will the strong possibility that zero quarterbacks will be taken within the top 10 spots, this a year after a draft where quarterbacks were taken with the first three selections.
There are also several top tier NFL players (Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown and Baker Mayfield) who may be moved on draft day, which could dramatically alter the course of this year's event. Let the roller coaster ride begin, it promises to showcase several turns, dips and curves before it ends.
1. Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
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Jacksonville franchise tagged incumbent starting left tackle, Cam Robinson, so selecting an offensive lineman isn't the priority it seemed several weeks ago. Hutchinson's above average athleticism creates an interesting dynamic for a defense searching for an identity. Jacksonville took quarterback, Trevor Lawrence last season to become the face of the franchise; by possibly selecting Hutchinson number one, the Jags may be acquiring the heart and soul for this organization. His never say die attitude coupled with a relentless combative style is exactly what Jacksonville's listless defense needs.
2. Lions: Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
Walker's versatility as an interior defender or edge rusher will make him extremely attractive to many NFL evaluators. Amongst this class of defensive linemen and edge rushers, He showcased incredible lateral agility combined with an explosive first step. Walker had arguably the most impressive combine performance and measurables for a player his size, which likely cemented his top five draft status.
3. Texans: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
The Texans were 10th worst in passing yards allowed (4117) and passes defended (64) last season. Taking "Sauce" Gardner could provide much needed coverage for a secondary that was routinely exploited. A graspy defender with spider-like arms, Gardner will lay off and bait quarterbacks into throwing potential interceptions. Houston could definitely benefit from this playmaking, attack minded, long-limbed defender with nine collegiate career interceptions.
4. Jets: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Despite an incomplete performance at the NFL combine, Thibodeaux should still be considered an elite level athlete. The Jets' front office decision makers could be pinching themselves if Thibodeaux "fell" into the fourth overall draft slot. Using exceptional acceleration and balance, Thibodeaux's explosive athleticism should alleviate an overcommitment to blitz schemes. At times, Thibodeaux is arguably the most athletic player on the gridiron, showcasing speed that is intimidating and next level ready.
5. Giants: Ikem Ekwonu, OL, N.C. State
Ekwonu earned a league wide reputation in the ACC as being the most feared offensive linemen in that conference. A wide body (6-4, 340 lbs) with an equally, well balanced anchored base, Ekwonu uses incredible leverage to overwhelm opponents. Ekwonu looks like a natural fit for the Giants. Considering new head coach, Brian Daboll's penchant toward designing offensive schemes for mobile quarterbacks, having an athletic masher who could line up at guard or tackle would be a tremendous plus.
6. Panthers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
The ACC Player of the Year, Kenny Pickett, offers consistency, maturity and game experience (over 30 starts) which makes him arguably the most NFL ready quarterback in this draft class. Panthers' head coach, Matt Rhule is currently winning about 45 percent of his contests and desperately needs a foundational piece to build his offense around. Taking Pickett may buy more time and wins for the embattled Rhule and his coaching staff.
7. Giants (via CHI): Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Excellent size ( 6-4, 219 lbs), extremely athletic with fluid hips and above average change-of-direction ability, Hamilton is an elite playmaker who should be an instant starter from day one. Giants' starting free safety, Xavier McKinney had a breakout season last year. If New York were to draft the uber athletic Hamilton to man the strong safety spot, the Giants could possibly field the most dynamic backend in the NFL.
8. Falcons: Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida St.
Atlanta's feeble pass rush between 2018 and 2020 averaged 31.3 sacks a season, which is noticeably below the NFL average of 38.5 during that same span. Johnson is an athletically well balanced, 6'4" and 262 pound talent, whose power, violent hands, bendability and lateral quickness make him an intriguing prospect. Atlanta may want to consider taking the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, a burgeoning gamechanger who registered 70 forced stops, 17.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks this past campaign.
9. Seahawks (via DEN): Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
If Neal (6-7, 337 lbs) were to "slide" to the Seahawks, they should immediately sprint to the podium and have Commissioner Goodell announce their selection. Neal's natural athleticism enhances his ability to play either tackle position and dominate. A downhill blocker with balanced footwork, his nimble movements neutralize speed and power rushers alike. Without question, Neal is an instant plug and play starter at the next level.
10. Jets (via SEA): Drake London, WR, USC
A lean athlete with good speed, London moves fluidly in and out of his breaks, displaying all the tools to be a primary receiver and possibly elevate New York's stagnant passing attack. Standing 6'4" and weighing about 219 pounds, London is an instant match up problem and end zone threat to opposing defenses. Playing to his size, London is also an effusive run blocker whose commitment to blocking helps a team's running attack.
11. Washington: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
The Commanders need better playmakers on their defense's second level and Lloyd is arguably the most active, versatile linebacker in the draft. Measuring at 6'3" and 237 pounds, he is an excellent blend of athleticism and discipline. Highly efficient at diagnosing plays, Lloyd could provide that necessary "thump" in the middle of Washington's inconsistent defense. Head coach, Ron Rivera played linebacker in the NFL on one of its most storied defenses, the '85 Bears. Lloyd's game is eerily similar to linebacker Otis Wilson from that Bears' championship team.
12. Vikings: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Despite the controversy surrounding Stingley's injury (surgery on his re-injured left foot), he still projects as a top 15 prospect. An immediate impact player, even as a freshman, Stingley recorded six interceptions and registered 15 passes defended during the 2019 season. Possessing a physique tailor made for the cornerback position (6-1, 190 lbs), Stingley's speed and sound technique increase his leveraging advantage against even the most talented receivers.
13. Texans (via CLE): Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia
Using their second selection in the first round, the Texans might choose the most complete interior defensive lineman in this draft class, by taking the 6'3" and 304 pound Wyatt. His ability to penetrate from any defensive alignment makes him extremely valuable and virtually indispensable. With measurables similar to retired, three-time Pro Bowler, Tommie Harris from head coach Lovie Smith's 90's defensive squads, Wyatt could flourish in a similar capacity.
14. Ravens: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
Cross is an agile 6'5" lineman with loose hips that allow him to fluidly pivot and block athletic pass rushers. A shade over 300 lbs, his frame can handle any additional weight he may need to compete as a professional. He regularly mauls defenders while run blocking, and is adept at punishing players attempting to bypass him on the way to the quarterback.
15. Eagles (via MIA): Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Wilson is more physical than his college teammate, Chris Olave and possesses a twitchy suddenness that naturally creates separation from defenders. A threat to score vertically, he would make a nice downfield target for incumbent quarterback, Jalen Hurts. A pairing of Wilson with emerging Eagles' star wideout, DeVonta Smith would be tempting.
16. Saints (via IND): Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Olave possesses the ability to consistently "route" defenders, meaning his precise running, cutting and change-of-direction create an organic separation from defenders covering him. If the relationship between two-time All-Pro receiver, Michael Thomas and the Saints continues to sour, taking Olave could ease the pressure on whomever is quarterbacking and calling the plays.
17. Chargers: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
A massive human (6-6, 341 lbs), Davis is an immovable presence who typically shoves his way past double and triple teaming blockers. He utilizes underrated quickness and herculean strength to wreak havoc along the line of scrimmage. The Chargers' defense needs a talent infusion, especially with journeyman defensive tackle, Austin Johnson (12 career tackles for loss in six seasons) being the main challenger at the starting position.
18. Eagles (via NO): Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
The Eagles may be one cover cornerback away from fielding a viselike coverage unit. Outside of Darius Slay, who led the Eagles in interceptions (3), the rest of the corner backs on the team lack game changing impact. Booth plays aggressively and displays NFL level closing speed that enhances his abilities to break up passes across the field.
19. Saints (via PHI): Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
Blessed with great size and length (6-7, 325 lbs), Penning's weight is well proportioned to his large frame, enabling a better athleticism than most would suspect. Competitive, tough and nastily tempered Penning plays with a single-minded desire to "destroy" anyone in his path. Plus, having lost three-time Pro Bowl left tackle, Terron Armstead to free agency, replacing him with Penning may ease the loss.
20. Steelers: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
The Steelers have always liked strong-armed throwers that could handle the wintery elements surrounding Heinz Field. Willis is a legitimate dual-threat quarterback, displaying promising upside as a passer with a "bazooka" right arm. With the league transfiguring toward dual-threat quarterbacks, the lure of an uber-athletic, cannon armed, Malik Willis might be too much for Pittsburgh to ignore.
21. Patriots: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
McDuffie is the type of intelligent, hard-nosed defensive back the Patriots are known to draft. Never panicked or in a hurry, McDuffie's patience and confident pre-snap assessments, generally position him in areas to make plays. McDuffie moves well in space, plays with balance and enough agility to cover tightly without drawing interference calls.
22. Packers (via LV): Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn St.
Dotson is an electrifying talent with quick twitch suddenness, who can attack from anywhere on the field. He is a tough competitor who can catch passes fearlessly across the middle of the field, or score on a quick screen, going 70 plus yards in the blink of an eye. A patient pass catcher, Dotson's unflappable focus may help the Packers adjust to the loss of superstar receiver, Devonte Adams.
23. Cardinals: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
Chandler Jones has taken his talents to Las Vegas and future Hall of Famer, J.J. Watt's career is near the end. If the Cardinals want to maintain their "edge" at their pass rushing positions, drafting a young, indefatigable Karlaftis could be a viable and affordable option. Although more of a power edge rusher, Karlaftis is adept at disrupting pass plays, having tallied six passes defended, 14 sacks and 29 career tackles for loss while at Purdue.
24. Cowboys: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Dean was crucial in Georgia's National Championship run, leading the team in tackles for loss (10.5) while tying for second in stops (72) and sacks (6). The 2021 Butkus Award Winner's incredible combination of quickness, speed, instincts and sure tackling make him a first round gem for any organization. Combined with a re-signed Vander Esch and 2021's DROTY (Defensive Rookie of the Year), Micah Parsons, drafting Dean could make Dallas' linebacking corps the fastest in the NFL.
25. Bills: Breece Hall, RB, Iowa St.
Buffalo's rushing attack is a mirage stemming from starting quarterback, Josh Allen's stellar contributions. Allen accounted for approximately one-third of Buffalo's running yards (763) and rushing touchdowns (6). The Bills should seriously consider drafting Hall, a rare bell-cow type of running back, who ranked 7th nationally in forced missed tackles (74). An excellent receiver as well, Hall has the speed to run away from defenders (4.39 40-time) at the NFL level.
26. Titans: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Williams' unfortunate knee injury (ACL tear) in the National Championship Game versus Georgia, undoubtedly altered his draft status and cost him millions. However, a forward thinking organization with patience and financial pragmatism, may consider him a "risky bargain" and take him late on day one of the draft. Keep in mind, star receiver, A.J. Brown's current contract demands could also factor into the Titans targeting receiving talent this draft cycle.
27. Buccaneers: Zion Johnson, OL, Boston College
The Buccaneers like to bully defenders with their running attack and then humiliate defenses with explosive scoring plays from various angles. Johnson's physicality would fit in seamlessly with Tampa Bay's current running schemes and his wide, anchoring base is a perfect deterrent against most pass rushing styles.
28. Packers: Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
The Packers should seriously consider drafting Green, a versatile unrelenting road grader and stout pass protector. Sound in technique and form, Green's ability to stay low increases his leverage against opponents. Extremely powerful with an explosive burst from his stance, he typically devastates defenders and dominates at the line of scrimmage and beyond.
29. Chiefs: Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota St.
Replacing the unique, difference making speed and uncommon quickness that Tyreek Hill possesses is virtually impossible. However, adding significant length with exceptional speed might be steadying attributes Kansas City requires to make up for Hill's loss. Extremely fluid in and out of his breaks, the threat of Watson's high arcing speed generates organic seperation from defenders. His comeback routes are the best I've seen over the past several seasons and his ability to turn those receptions into massive gains is tantalizing.
30. Chiefs (via SF): Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, Penn State
Methodical and cerebral in his approach at rushing the passer, Ebiketie wins mentally as much as he does with his physicality. Possessed with a bevy of moves in his toolbox, he's adept at setting up opponents then countering their attempts at stopping him. Ebiketie is an all-around defender who plays like a seasoned vet and rarely if ever compromises the integrity of the defense.
31. Bengals: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
A sound technician and student of the game, Elam is a dependable corner with excellent eye/hand coordination and savvy. Elam is an "in-your-face" defensive back who is versatile in zone as well as man coverage. His length and size ( 6-2, 192 lbs) make him incredibly difficult to pass around, and his short-area quickness stymies most receivers. Cincinnati's boundary cornerback situation is inconsistent at best, so acquiring a physical presence like Elam could stabilize the Bengals' secondary.
32. Lions (via LAR): Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Ridder impressed many scouts and player personnel types at the combine, coming across as the most well rounded quarterback from the 2022 draft class. He is an effective runner, but doesn't exclusively rely on his mobility to make plays for the team. Ridder can make every pass and has shown an ability to rise to the occasion, having led Cincinnati to its first college playoffs in school history. With two first round picks, Detroit may still be willing to gamble on Ridder and his potential.
Now to the Bears' picks.
39. Bears: Tyler Smith, OL, Tulsa
Undeniably raw, but exceptionally capable, Smith's physical attributes and athleticism make him a desirable day two draft target for many teams. Incredibly flexible, Smith's yoga-like bendability allows him to operate with superior leverage against opponents, helping him win more at the point of contact. Commanding strength that may outmatched his prodigious size (6-5, 324 lbs), he's able to control defenders and bully them into ineffectiveness. The offensive linemen depth in this draft might keep Smith available for the Bears, even if they trade further down into the second round.
48. Bears: Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan
Think retired five-time Pro Bowler, two-time All Pro receiver Steve Smith when accessing draft prospect, Skyy Moore's NFL potential. Pressing him would be a mistake because of his short area, cat-like quickness and impressive strength. Moore plays with a physicality that helped him lead the country in forced missed tackles (26) at his position. Chicago could significantly accelerate second year quarterback, Justin Fields' development, with Moore as a dependable receiving option from the slot.
71. Bears: Coby Bryant, CB, Cincinnati
Bryant won the coveted Jim Thorpe Award (nation's best defensive back) and was named to the AP's All-American second-team roster. Without question, the Bears need another boundary corner who competes competently against the run and is sound in pass coverage. Bryant led the team with 11 passes defended and was instrumental on a defense that ranked first in pass efficiency allowed. A solid mix of man and zone coverage skills, Bryant's smooth ninja-quiet footwork fluidly mirrors receivers across the field. Bryant's confident patience is his "superpower.”