NFL Draft Notebook: Broncos, Commanders and Steelers find their quarterback in mock draft

Feb 1, 2022; Mobile, AL, USA; American quarterback Malik Willis of Liberty (7) runs a drill during American practice for the 2022 Senior Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 1, 2022; Mobile, AL, USA; American quarterback Malik Willis of Liberty (7) runs a drill during American practice for the 2022 Senior Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports /

Now that we have seen the Los Angeles Rams win Super Bowl 56, it is time to turn our full focus to the 2022 NFL Draft. What better way to turn the page than our first mock draft of the season. While the top five picks in this mock draft are all linemen we also see several teams address the quarterback position starting with the Denver Broncos who hold the ninth overall pick.

In addition to our first mock draft of the season, this week’s NFL Draft Notebook also takes a look at the following:

  • The top offensive guards in the 2022 NFL Draft
  • A few players who should have received an invite to the NFL Combine
  • The top offseason needs for each NFC South team
  • And much more

2022 NFL Mock Draft

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
The Jacksonville Jaguars will likely decide between a defensive end or offensive tackle with this pick. Look for the team to go with an offensive tackle when it is all said and done though as the team needs to protect franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence. In Neal, the team gets a player who could play multiple positions on the offensive line and has the tools to develop into an All-Pro left tackle.

2. Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
One of the biggest issues with the Detroit Lions last season was the ability to get after the passer. The team ranked 31st in sacks per game averaging just 1.8 sacks a contest. In Aidan Hutchinson, Detroit gets a prospect who set the Michigan single-season record for sacks last year and is the tough physical type of prospect Brad Holmes loves.

3. Houston Texas: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
Another team that must upgrade their pass rush is the Houston Texans. Last season, the team finished with only 32 sacks which ranked 27th in the NFL and the only player with over four sacks on the season was Jonathan Greenard. With the addition of Thibodeaux, the Texans get a player with a high upside, who could develop into the best player in the 2022 NFL Draft.

4. New York Jets: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State
While the New York Jets would love for one of the top pass rushers to fall to the fourth selection in the 2022 NFL Draft this is unlikely to happen. This will require New York to go another way this selection and North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu is not a bad consolation prize. Ekwonu would be a day one starter and could see time at either right tackle or offensive guard.

5. New York Giants: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
The top offensive tackle on my board is Mississippi State’s Charles Cross and he would be an ideal fit for the Giants. This selection would give the team two young tackles in Andrew Thomas and Cross which should provide great protection for whoever New York’s quarterback of the future is.

6. Carolina Panthers: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
While the Carolina Panthers have one budding star at the safety position in Jeremy Chinn they need to add a player who can play center field in their defense. Kyle Hamilton is a player who can fill this role as he shows great range in pass coverage and can matchup against the top tight ends in the NFL.

7. New York Giants: David Ojabo, DE, Michigan
With their first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft the New York Giants addressed the offensive line and with this pick they add a pass rusher with the selection of David Ojabo. Ojabo is one of the more athletic edge players in the 2022 NFL Draft, and while it might take him some to develop into a complete player he has the potential to be an All-Pro.

8. Atlanta Falcons: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
One area the Falcons must upgrade this offseason is its pass defense. Last season, the team finished last in sacks and allowed opposing quarterback to complete 68% of their passes. There are two ways to address this need with the first one being adding a pass rusher, but all the top ones are off the board at this point in the 2022 NFL Draft. The other is adding players in the secondary which is where LSU corner Derke Stingley Jr. comes in.

9. Denver Broncos: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
The Broncons have one glaring need entering the offseason and that need is at the most important position in football. Denver would love to address this need by making a trade for someone like Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson but if they can’t look for them to address it in the draft. The top quarterback on the board is Kenny Pickett who would be a good fit in new coach Nathaniel Hackett’s offense.

10. New York Jets: Drake London, WR, USC
After addressing the offensive line with their first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Jets go back to the offensive side of the ball to take the top receiver in the draft. London is is a big receiver who had 88 receptions for 1,084 yards in just eight games this season. He would be an outstanding target for Zach Wilson who needs some more targets to throw to after having a disappointing rookie season.

11. Washington Commanders: Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
Washington is in a similar position as Denver, as they have a solid overall roster but must address the quarterback position. Last season, Taylor Heinicke turned the ball over way too often and showed he is best off as a backup in the NFL. Matt Corral is the second-best quarterback in the draft, and if put in the right situation should develop into a solid NFL starter.

12. Minnesota Vikings: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
To say the Minnesota Vikings need to upgrade the cornerback position is an understatement. The team saw disappointing play from its top three corners last year, and it would not be a shock if the team had two new starters at this position next year. Elam is a big physical corner who shows impressive agility and quickness for a player his size.

13. Cleveland Browns: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
If Baker Mayfield is going to have any chance of being the team’s long term answer ar quarterback he will need more weapons in the passing game. Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson would give Mayfield a go-to receiver who can make plays after the catch.

14. Baltimore Ravens: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
The Ravens add a right tackle to team up with Ronnie Stanley with the 14th selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning would be a natural fit in Baltimore since he is a strong run blocker who is one of the more physical linemen in this year’s offensive tackle class.

15. Philadelphia Eagles: Jermaine Johnson II, DE, Florida State
The Eagles would like to upgrade the defensive end position and the selection of Jermaine Johnson does just that. Johnson has seen his stock skyrocket this season going from a backup at Georgia to leading the ACC in sacks this season at Florida State. His stock was also helped by a strong Senior Bowl, where he proved he was one of the best players in the game.

16. Philadelphia Eagles: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
One key free agent the Philadelphia Eagles might lose in free agency is Steven Nelson. If the team moves on from Nelson they will need another corner to play opposite Darius Slay. One player who could be a good fit is Clemson’s, Andrew Booth. Booth is a good-sized corner who shows good ball skills.

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
Last season, the Chargers gave up 139 rushing yards a game which ranked 30th in the NFL so upgrading the run defense is a must. A step in the right direction would be the selection of Georgia’s Jordan Davis. Coming in at 6-6 340 pounds he has both the size and strength to clog up the middle and allow the Chargers linebackers to roam free.

18. New Orleans Saints: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Wide receiver Michael Thomas has battled injuries each of the past two seasons, so it might be time for New Orleans to find another number one wide receiver. Treylon Burks is a big play wide receiver who can make plays either downfield or after the catch.

19. Philadelphia Eagles: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
While Philadelphia has been pleased with the play of middle linebacker T.J. Edwards the team has little else at this position. Utah’s Devin Lloyd is the top linebacker in the 2022 NFL Draft and has the ability to become one of the better cover linebackers in the NFL.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin has stressed how important it is to have a mobile quarterback in today’s NFL is, and by far the most athletic quarterback in the draft is Malik Willis. While it might be asking a lot for him to be a day one starter he could serve as a backup this year, and be the long term replacement in 2023.

21. New England Patriots: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
After the Patriots struggled to stop the run in the wild-card game against the Buffalo Bills it is evident they must upgrade the linebacker position. Dean is an instinctive linebacker who has the range to play sideline to sideline. He would be a day one starter for the Patriots and is the type of a linebacker a defense can be built around.

22. Las Vegas Raiders: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Las Vegas needs to find a speedster to open up room underneath for slot receiver Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller. A player who can fill this need is Alabama’s Jameson Williams who averaged 19.9 yards per catch last season and set a school record with four touchdowns of 70 yards or more.

23. Arizona Cardinals: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
According to Pro Football Focus, the Arizona Cardinals finished last season ranked 28th in cornerback play, so adding one of the top corners in the 2022 NFL Draft is a wise move. Gardner is a lengthy corner who was a true shutdown corner for the Bearcats last season.

24. Dallas Cowboys: George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue
A player who was once projected to be a top-five pick but will more likely go towards the end of the first round is George Karlaftis of Purdue. Karlaftis is a power rusher who plays with his hair on fire and should earn a starting role as a rookie.

25. Buffalo Bills: DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M
The Buffalo Bills have one of the best rosters in the NFL, however, one position that could be a need is defensive tackle. This position could be a priority as both Harrison Phillips and Vernon Butler are set to be free agents. Leal is an athletic pass-rushing defensive tackle who had 8.5 sacks last year.

26. Tennesse Titans: Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M
Last season, the Titans allowed Ryan Tannehill to be sacked 47 times so addressing the offensive line would be a wise move. One move the team might make is releasing offensive guard Rodger Saffold who will be 34 next season and counts nine million dollars against the salary cap. A potential replacement is Kenyon Green who is the top guard in the 2022 NFL Draft.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
The Buccaneers could lose both offensive guard Alex Cappa and center Ryan Jensen in free agency this offseason, which makes the interior offensive line a need for the Buccaneers. Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum is the top center in the 2022 NFL Draft and could be a good replacement for Jensen.

28. Green Bay Packers: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
The Packers are hoping Aaron Rodgers decides to return next season, and if he is to commit he will likely want some more offensive playmakers. One area the Packers could add a few more players is wide receiver, since the team didn’t see much from Allen Lazard or Marquez Valdes-Scantling last season. Ohio State’s Chris Olave is a polished route receiver who consistently makes the tough catch.

29. Miami Dolphins: Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College
The Dolphins offensive line was the lowest-graded unit in the NFL last season by Pro Football Focus so adding a few players on the offensive line is a must. Zion Johnson is coming off a strong Senior Bowl week where he showed the ability to play either center or offensive guard.

30. Kansas City Chiefs: George Pickens, WR, Georgia
Kansas City adds another playmaker to its offense with this selection. Pickens is a big wide receiver who shows impressive athletic ability and the ability to pick up yards after the catch. He would give the Chiefs a number two receiver beside Tyreek Hill and also open up more room for tight end Travis Kelce to operate.

31. Cincinnati Bengals: Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota
One of the biggest concerns for the Bengals this offseason has to be keeping Joe Burrow healthy. The addition of Daniel Faalele should help with this task and would be a good replacement for Riley Reiff at right tackle.

32. Detroit Lions: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
After addressing the defense with the number two pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Lions go to the offensive side of the ball with their second first-round pick. Dotson would make a good one-two punch with 2021 fourth-round pick Amon-Ra St. Brown and give Jared Goff another offensive weapon.

2022 NFL Draft Offensive Guard Rankings

Top prospect: Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
The top offensive guard in the 2022 NFL Draft is Texas A&M offensive guard Kenyon Green. What separates Green from the pack is his combination of mobility and overall strength. He does a great job of sliding in pass protection and could even play right tackle in a pinch at the next level due to his ability to play in space. In terms of strength, he shows good grip strength and usually controls his man once he gets his hands on him. While Green does have All-Pro potential he needs to clean up his hand placement and some of his footwork to become an elite guard in the NFL.

Most underrated: Cole Schneider, UCF
A player who is widely receiving free agent grades by most analysts yet receives a fifth-round grade on my board is Central Florida’s Cole Schneider. One of the reasons he carries a day three grade here is that he shows the strength to hold up at the point of contact, and can get a good push in the run game. In addition to being a solid run blocker, he shows quick feet in the passing game and slides well when pass blocking. NFL teams will also like the versatility he has having played both guard and center at UCF.

Most overrated: Josh Sills, Oklahoma State
A prospect who is receiving a day three grade from most draftniks who doesn’t even receive a priority free agent grade here is Oklahoma State offensive guard Josh Sills. The reason he receives such a low grade is due to his lack of quickness and athletic ability. He is consistently beaten by explosive defensive tackles off the ball and lacks the agility to block in space. One positive with his play though is he does show good strength so a power running team will likely give him a shot in an NFL camp.

Biggest risk: Chasen Hines, LSU
A player who will raise some red flags in the pre-draft process is LSU offensive guard Chasen Hines. The biggest concern will be his injury history. He played on a partially torn ACL as a freshman and has battled injuries throughout his time in Baton Rouge. Teams will also have some concerns with his weight as he comes in at 350 pounds and looks like he would perform better if he was able to lose some of this weight. One more concern teams will have is his overall technique especially when it comes to hand use.

Player who had a breakout year: Zion Johnson, Boston College
After struggling at offensive tackle last season, Boston College’s Zion Johnson had a bounceback season this year. He was named first-team All-ACC this season receiving the second most votes of any offensive lineman in the conference. On top of his strong performance for the Eagles this season he also was one of the top offensive linemen at the Senior Bowl. It would not be a surprise if Johnson is a late first-round pick in the 2022 season, which is pretty impressive considering he entered the season with a fifth-round grade.

Player who had a disappointing year: Thayer Munford, Ohio State
Going into the season expectations were high for Ohio State offensive lineman Thayer Munford after he was named to the All-Big Ten first team in 2020. Unfortunately, he did not live up to those expectations this season and saw his draft stock dip to his poor performance this season. Some of the issues that popped up in his game this year included a lack of flexibility, sloppy technique and only average power. These concerns will likely cause Munford to slip to day three of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Top small school prospect: Cordell Volson, North Dakota State
In the last NFL Draft Notebook we highlighted how Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning is the top small-school offensive tackle in the 2022 NFL, and the top guard in this year’s draft also comes from the Missouri Valley. That prospect is North Dakota State’s Cordell Volson who has been named an FCS All-American three times during his career. While Volson played offensive tackle most of his career for the Bison he does project best inside where his physical style of play can flourish.

2022 NFL Draft Offensive Guard Overall Rankings
1. Kenyon Green, Texas A&M (first round)
2. Zion Johnson, Boston College (first round)
3. Darian Kinnard, Kentucky (second round)
4. Tyler Smith, Tulsa (third round)
5. Jamaree Salyer, Georgia (fourth round)
6. Spencer Burford, UTSA (fourth round)
7. Sean Rhyan, UCLA (fourth round)
8. Marquis Hayes, Oklahoma (fourth round)
9. Jean Delance, Florida (fourth round)
10. Cade Mays, Tennessee (fourth round)
11. Ed Ingram, LSU (fifth round)
12. Cordell Volson, North Dakota State (fifth round)
13. Luke Goedeke, Central Michigan (fifth round)
14. Cole Schneider, UCF (fifth round)
15. Cole Strange, Chattanooga (sixth round)
16. Justin Shaffer, Georgia (sixth round)
17. Marcus McKethan, North Carolina (seventh round)
18. Logan Bruss, Wisconsin (seventh round)
19. Thayer Munford, Ohio State (seventh round)
20. Chasen Hines, LSU (seventh round)
21. Lecitus Smith, Virginia Tech (seventh round)
22. Kyler Schott, Iowa (free agent)
23. Blaise Andries, Minnesota (free agent)
24. Ben Petrula, Boston College (free agent)
25. Ze’veyon Furcron, Southern Illinois (free agent)
26. Jaylon Thomas, SMU (free agent)

2022 NFL Draft Top Needs For NFC South

A look at the biggest offseason need for each NFC South team.

Atlanta Falcons
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees has stated the Falcons defense must improve in two areas which are pass rush and man coverage. The only player who is guaranteed to come back is defensive end Adetokunbo Ogundeji who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Look for Atlanta to address this need in both free agency and the NFL Draft.
Carolina Panthers
For the second year in a row, quarterback is an area the Carolina Panthers need to address. Last offseason, they brought in Sam Darnold who showed why he struggled with the Jets. While the Panthers might take a quarterback with the sixth overall pick it is more likely they will try and bring in someone via trade or free agency.

New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints are another team whose number one priority is to find the long term answer at quarterback. Their top quarterback last season was Jamies Winston who will be a free agent this offseason. The Saints need to decide if he is the long term answer at quarterback or if they are better off trying to bring in someone else vis trade, free agency or the NFL Draft.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Addressing the quarterback position is a common theme for NFC South needs. This became a top priority when Tom Brady retired. Tampa Bay did spend a second-round pick on Kyle Trask last year but he had a shaky preseason and it is hard to see the team being comfortable with him as the starting quarterback going into the 2022 season. This means the Bucs will likely try to bring in a veteran quarterback in the coming months.

Scouting Notes

— An offensive guard who will likely go undrafted yet could make a team next season is Iowa’s Kyler Schott. While Schott is on the small side and has battled injuries throughout his time in Iowa City, he does offer some traits that could allow him to make it as a backup. One of his most impressive traits is his mobility. He easily gets to the second level and his overall quickness would be a good fit for a zone-based running scheme. He also is a feisty player who consistently blocks to the whistle. One other positive with him is he is a versatile player who has seen time at both guard and center during his college career.

— One position the Chicago Bears will look to upgrade under new General Manager Ryan Poles is the offensive line. A quality Poles will look for in the lineman is a mean streak and the ability to set the tone for a physical offense. Two prospects who fit this mold are Kentucky’s Darian Kinnard and Tulsa’s Tyler Smith. Kinnard will likely be a second-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft while the Bear’s might be able to get Smith early on day three of the draft.

— Last week, the invite list for the NFL Combine came out and one player who was snubbed is James Madison quarterback Cole Johnson. Johnson put up outstanding numbers last year for the Dukes throwing for 3,799 yards and 41 touchdowns while only throwing four interceptions. As a prospect, he is a good-sized quarterback who throws with excellent touch and accuracy on his passes. It would not be a surprise if he is a player who made a team as a number three quarterback next year, despite not being invited to the combine.

— Another small-school player who should have received a combine invite is Sam Houston State wide receiver Jequez Ezzard. While Ezzard may lack ideal size he is a playmaker with the ball in his hands having averaged 15 yards per catch this season and 22.7 yards per catch last season. He can help out as a return man as well showing the vision and quickness to fill this role in the NFL.

— Now that the Miami Dolphins have hired Mike McDaniel as their head coach look for them to focus on upgrading the running game this offseason. One position the Dolphins will likely look to address in the 2022 NFL Draft is running back as running back Myles Gaskin finished with only 612 yards and the Dolphins finished 30th in the NFL in rushing yards. A trait that McDaniel will look for in his future running back is a back who can make one cut and explode through the hole. A prospect who fits this requirement is Cinncinati’s Jerome Ford.

Quote of the Week

“ I love being overlooked and being the underdog. I’m used to it. It’s been that way since I first started playing football. It gives me a different edge. I’ll forever have that chip on my shoulder.
I’m ready to prove myself to whoever it may be. I respond by competing. Let the results speak for themselves. I’m always ready to compete and work. I’m looking forward to answering those questions.”

-South Alabama wide receiver Jalen Tolbert, per the Draft Network, on overcoming the small-school label