Skip to main content

2022 NFL Mock Draft: First-Round Predictions (Final Edition)

Travon Walker, DE, Georgia Bulldogs, 2022 NFL Draft

No one really knows how the first round is going to go on Thursday night and the uncertainty starts with the very first pick

It's finally here. No more talk, subterfuge or debate, just picks. Amid some likely incredible pomp and circumstance in Las Vegas, the 2022 NFL Draft has arrived to transform the league in multiple ways and secure the missing pieces for a Super Bowl run for at least one of the 32 franchises sending in names.

Related: How to Watch the 2022 NFL Draft

This year's edition could prove to be particularly wild, with unknowns all over the board — starting at the very top. Boards are all over the place with such a decisive draft class and that's not even getting into the arguments over those quarterbacks that have drawn equal amounts of intrigue and criticism.

With all that in mind, here's a look at who could go where in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars — Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia

It's rare for there to be some actual drama as to who the No. 1 pick is but that's the case this year with three vocal factions inside the Duval war room. Walker has rare measurables, athleticism and get-off while being able to move around the field on pretty much all three downs.

Related: Edge Rushers in High Demand in the 2022 NFL Draft

2. Detroit Lions — Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan

Few will celebrate their pick more than the Lions, who get the benefit of selecting the consensus top player in the draft who played ball right down the road. Maybe more than that, he's the perfect new face of the franchise and a real difference-maker in a division featuring plenty of QBs that you have to chase around.

3. Houston Texans — Ikem Ekwonu, OL, NC State

The draft can really begin with the Texans' selections, with pretty much every option under the sun available. A cornerback will certainly be in the mix, but Ekwonu can really help see if quarterback Davis Mills is the long-term option while providing insurance for the team in case they don't want to pay up for Laremy Tunsil down the road (or trade him to a tackle-needy team).

4. New York Jets — Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

General manager Joe Douglas knows there are few safer picks in the draft than this one. Gardner is so instinctual and polished that he could be the rare rookie cornerback who doesn't bat an eye at being thrown to the fire right away.

5. New York Giants — Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

If not for injuries, Stingley could well have been a top-two pick. New DC Don Martindale will love this addition as the secondary is set for a revamp and needs a long-term No. 1 at corner.

Athlon Sports 2022 NFL Draft Guide

Athlon Sports' 2022 NFL Draft Guide includes in-depth scouting reports on 230 of the top prospects. At 176 pages, it's the most complete preview of the upcoming draft. Purchase the digital edition for instant access, or look for it on newsstands everywhere.

6. Carolina Panthers — Evan Neal, OL, Alabama

The first of many picks in the top 10 that will be targeted for a trade, Carolina's preference is moving back to acquire extra ammo on Day 2. If they stay put, they'll take the last of the top-tier tackles and look to revamp that QB room another day.

7. New York Giants (from Chicago) — Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

You could do well betting a dollar or two on the Giants to move back with this pick knowing several franchises covet one of those premier pass catchers. Sticking at No. 7 would still allow for one of the highest upside pass protectors to slide in on the right side in New York and allow a real evaluation of Daniel Jones to take place in 2022.

8. Atlanta Falcons — Drake London, WR, USC

Kyle Pitts is a great weapon to have but the rest of the pass-catching depth chart in Atlanta looks lackluster at best. London can add to a deadly red zone combination with Pitts while providing inside/outside versatility.

Related: 4 Potential High 2022 NFL Draft Picks That Could End Up As Busts

9. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver) — Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon

A rare top-10 pick for the Seahawks provides them a ton of different avenues to explore. Thibodeaux is not for every team but his rare combination of traits and intelligence will find him a productive home as Pete Carroll's best edge player in a few years.

10. New York Jets (from Seattle) — Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

Zach Wilson gets a new best friend in one of the best all-around players in the draft. Wilson ticks the boxes when it comes to speed, hands and route-running but will truly help elevate that Jets passing attack with a knack for finding that sliver of space in the middle of a defense.

Related: Route-Runners on the Rise in the 2022 NFL Draft

11. Washington Commanders — Kyle Hamilton, DB, Notre Dame

Knocks against Hamilton's speed will play right into the Commanders' hands by giving them a big-bodied safety that has sideline-to-sideline range no matter what those Scouting Combine times said. The Irish star is built for the modern NFL game and could be the best weapon against a slew of athletic tight ends entering the league.

12. Minnesota Vikings — Jermaine Johnson II, Edge, Florida State

An aggressive move up the board can't be ruled out for the new regime but they're also in prime position to land one of the last true blue-chip prospects. Johnson is a terror rushing the opposing quarterback and the franchise will bask in the fact that he's literally from right down the road in Eden Prairie.

13. Houston Texans (from Cleveland) — Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

Lloyd's stock publicly has dipped but he's an ideal fit as the next leader for Lovie Smith's defense between his ability to shoot the gap or drop deep into coverage. Sliding back to land the linebacker is always a possibility too as the front office will field plenty of phone calls from teams eyeing other big defenders.

14. Baltimore Ravens — Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

One of those, "of course," picks from the Ravens, who will evoke plenty of Haloti Ngata comparisons when nabbing Davis. One of several headliners on that national championship defense, the big man has a chance to be an impact player for years to come in that stout front in Baltimore.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami) — Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

McDuffie doesn't quite fit every team's profile in terms of size but flip on the tape and you can understand why he's a potential Day 1 starter. The Eagles have been cycling through options on the back end but could get a nice new building block in the fluid cover guy from the opposite coast.

16. New Orleans Saints (from Indianapolis/Philadelphia) — Trevor Penning, OL, Northern Iowa

Terron Armstead isn't walking through that door but his replacement could be in Penning, a straight-up mauler who fits the mold of what the Saints have drafted while shoring things up for Jameis Winston up front.

Related: 5 Intriguing 2022 NFL Draft Prospects From the FCS Ranks

17. Los Angeles Chargers — Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

It will be a minor miracle if Williams is still around at No. 17 but this is another example of the Chargers landing a top-10 talent in their lap in the middle of the first round. The Crimson Tide burner not only gives Justin Herbert something else in the passing game but also could complement the existing receiving corps quite nicely.

18. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans) — Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia

Wyatt was certainly overshadowed on his own defensive line but it wouldn't shock anybody if he wound up being the player who makes the most Pro Bowls down the road given his intriguing burst off the line and ability to shed lineman and find the quarterback.

19. New Orleans Saints (from Philadelphia) — Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

Michael Thomas is bound to be jumping on the table for Olave, a fellow Buckeye who adds plenty of silky-smooth speed to the Saints passing attack while becoming the perfect complementary piece in pretty much any formation.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers — Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt

Talk about an easy move across the football building, Pickett is the high-floor type of quarterback that brings in prototypical size, arm strength and accuracy. He's sneaky athletic and more than capable of pushing Mitchell Trubisky aside as a rookie on a team that needs just that much more in the passing game.

Related: Best Fantasy Landing Spots for Rookie Quarterbacks and Running Backs

21. New England Patriots — Nik Bonitto, Edge, Oklahoma

Bill Belichick looks for rare traits in his draft picks and Bonitto has that coming off the edge for the Sooners. He's seemingly in the backfield a split second after the snap and could be the disruptive piece that makes up for some new faces in the Pats secondary.

22. Green Bay Packers (from Las Vegas) — George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue

The Packers are built to win now and Karlaftis has a chance to make a dent in opposing offenses with the way he comes off the line and bursts after opposing backs. He's hard-nosed and powerful, somebody who will just as easily make a play 30 yards down the field as he is five yards in the backfield.

23. Arizona Cardinals — Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

The Cardinals are in a bad division to have a hole in the secondary but Elam can help allay those fears a bit. He wasn't at his best last season but physically has everything you look for and more than enough instincts to develop into a quality starter early on.

24. Dallas Cowboys — Zion Johnson, OL, Boston College

The headlines surrounding the 'Boys are enough to think a bold move is just what Jerry Jones wants to get people chatting about Dallas but Johnson's versatility along the line and ability to fill in at a number of spots makes him another quality selection for the embattled franchise.

25. Buffalo Bills — Travis Jones, DT, UConn

The Bills have such a quality roster that nothing is really off the table. Jones would fill an obvious need in Buffalo but also could be an instant way of bringing pressure up the middle after jumping off the film in so many aspects.

26. Tennessee Titans — Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

Ownership is under fire on several fronts and also looking to rally locals into a new stadium. The rest of the organization doesn't seem sold on Ryan Tannehill, who is actually getting up there in age too in addition to recent playoff shortcomings. Willis is a high-upside bet on the future as much as it is about the Titans right now.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M

Green's ability to play pretty much everywhere on the line will be appreciated in Tampa but also makes for the easiest plug-and-play solution to replace Ali Marpet.

28. Green Bay Packers —Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State

Finally, the franchise's WR drought in the first round is over. Dotson is a field-stretcher who also can line up all over the formation and take on a variety of roles. Aaron Rodgers really hasn't had a weapon like this and is just the type of player who can be a difference-maker in big playoff games.

Related: Best Fantasy Landing Spots for Rookie Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

29. Kansas City Chiefs (from Miami/San Francisco) — Quay Walker, Edge, Georgia

While not the most pressing of needs, Walker is a talent that might be too good to pass up given his rare combination of size, speed and power. Plus he'd quiet down some critics who would finally realize the linebacking corps for the Chiefs is far more athletic than it once was just a few years ago.

30. Kansas City Chiefs — Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington

K.C. is primed to use both their first-rounders to move way up the board but Gordon's ability to pop up everywhere and find the ball is not going to be overlooked by NFL teams. He can play nickel or on the outside and tackles well enough to turn into a one-man third-down stopper in more ways than one.

31. Cincinnati Bengals — Daxton Hill, DB, Michigan

You just had to watch a few minutes of the Bengals' Super Bowl run to realize they needed secondary help. Hill can be a primary slot guy on top of providing some unique options deeper in the middle of the field next to Jessie Bates.

32. Detroit Lions (from Los Angeles Rams) — Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

Burks' ability to rack up yards after the catch will endear him to the Lions brass and help him turn into a quality option for a team that could benefit from his slipperiness in the screen game.

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.