The 2021-22 NFL season is now in the books, while the Los Angeles Rams and their fans are still celebrating their Lombardi Trophy, much of the football world has already turned their clocks ahead to the coming campaign. The 2022 NFL Draft is still more than two months away, but with the Senior Bowl in the rearview mirror and the Scouting Combine right around the corner, the focus has shifted to the next crop of rookies that will help their franchise make it to the big game.
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 — Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Doug Pederson's first challenge in Duval is to rebuild Trevor Lawrence's confidence. No better way to do that than landing a cornerstone on the outside that will make both their lives easier for years to come in having the mammoth Neal keeping the star QB off the deck.
2. Detroit Lions — Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
There are few more perfect marriages of player, head coach and team need than the terror off the edge from just up the road in Ann Arbor landing with the Lions. Hutchinson is in play to go with the top pick so those in Detroit hope that Week 18 win won't cost them a shot at the Wolverine stud.
3. Houston Texans — Ikem Ekwonu, OL, NC State
Ekwonu is going to test off the charts at the Combine given some of the freaky measurements he's got and could be a nice safe pick for a Texans franchise severely disappointed at seeing these quarterback options available.
4. New York Jets — Kayvan Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
When Robert Saleh was with the 49ers, he had some monsters to play with up front in building out some top-notch defenses. Thibodeaux could be just the building block he needs to get after the QB consistently in the Big Apple going forward.
5. New York Giants — Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Brian Daboll needs new weapons to help build out the offense but needs culture-setters just as badly to help get the Giants back into contention. Lloyd is a rare prospect who covers the entire field and can step in as a leader from Day 1 in the middle of the team's defense.
6. Carolina Panthers — Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Matt Rhule figures to go offense-heavy in this draft but can't pass up a player like Hamilton given the range he has and the ability to completely change a game with his ball-hawking skills.
7. New York Giants (from Chicago) — Tyler Linderbaum, OL, Iowa
No true center has gone this early in the draft but Linderbaum isn’t your typical center given the way he can impact both phases as a blocker. Not an exciting pick but when it comes to keeping the QB looking up field instead of at his feet, this is a key building block.
8. Atlanta Falcons — Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE, Florida State
The former Georgia Bulldog has a chance to instantly boost the Falcons' pass rush, providing a unique combination of size, speed off the edge and quickness you rarely find.
9. Denver Broncos — Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Much of the Broncos' secondary is set to hit free agency but drafting corners in this position has worked out well in the recent past so it wouldn't surprise if the team doubled down on the strategy. Gardner has rare length and size that pairs well with his speed and quickness and allows him to handle anything thrown his way from a variety of wideouts.
10. New York Jets (from Seattle) — Drake London, WR, USC
Zach Wilson needs a new best friend and London has a good opportunity to be just that in New York given his literal jump-ball ability and impressive catch radius. Given his overall size and competitiveness, there are few who can be a No. 1 WR quite like the former Trojans' pass catcher.
11. Washington Football Team — Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt
What a difference a year makes for Pickett, who goes from Day 3 selection to the first QB off the board as Washington buys in on his upside as an upgrade over Taylor Heinicke. His grit and determination will, if nothing else, earn him a fan in Ron Rivera.
12. Minnesota Vikings — Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
As much as the new regime in place could do with a fresh start under center, this isn't the class to risk a choice on a QB. Stingley has a top grade from many despite various issues the last two years and, if healthy, can slot in as the top corner almost right away as a rookie given his fluid movement skills.
13. Cleveland Browns — Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
The Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah pick in the second round turned out to be a superb one a year ago and the re-tooling of the linebacking corps can continue with Dean in the fold given how smart and active he is. While a touch undersized, he’ll make up for that with athleticism and the ability to lead the Browns' defense for years to come.
14. Baltimore Ravens — Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
Keeping Lamar Jackson upright remains a priority and the way the Ravens' offensive line got hit with injuries this season makes bringing in somebody like Green with five-tool versatility a priority.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami) — George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
Much of the Eagles' pass rush will need to be replaced this offseason and Karlaftis has just the kind of high-motor energy to slide in right away to get reps. He's stout, powerful and has all the hallmarks of somebody who fits the type of EDGE guys Philly loves to bring in.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (from Indianapolis) — Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
If the team wants to seriously evaluate Jalen Hurts as the firm QB1 of the future, they'll need some more weapons around him to help develop the passing game further. Burks brings size to the table but also versatility in lining up all over the place plus exquisite body control and catch radius.
17. Los Angeles Chargers — Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
The Chargers' run defense and associated issues were front and center as they slipped out of the playoff picture. Davis is a load in the middle and can solve that overnight by his mere presence in the lineup.
18. New Orleans Saints — Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
It's a new era for the Saints and while their head coach is now a defensive guy, Dennis Allen knows better than most that the franchise's priority is figuring out the QB spot. Corral has a chance to be something special given his arm, ability inside and out of the pocket plus that additional "it" factor that could make him a fan favorite in New Orleans.
19. Philadelphia Eagles — Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
Not quite the prototypical size, McDuffie nevertheless should come in and contend right away for one of the Eagles' starting CB spots. He ticks off the boxes when it comes to coverage skills both inside at the slot and out on an island, with the ability to come up in run support too.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers — Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
While much of the world will be looking to this spot to find a Big Ben replacement, the Steelers will much more likely opt to find value instead. Hill has the opportunity to line up all over the secondary and could form quite the tandem with Minkah Fitzpatrick and open up a world of options playing deep or near the line of scrimmage.
21. New England Patriots — Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Mac Jones was a great revelation for Pats fans everywhere but he certainly could do with some more help. Wilson has that all-around polish that previous draft picks at the position have lacked in New England and could be a key part of the new-look offense going forward.
22. Las Vegas Raiders — Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Josh McDaniel needs to re-tool the receiving corps to fit his offense a little more and who better to have in the fold than a polished route-runner like Olave? He complements what's already on the roster well and could be just the kind of big-play threat Sin City will love to watch.
23. Arizona Cardinals — Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
The team has to keep Kyler Murray healthy over the course of 18 games and Cross' ability to pass protect makes this a bit of a steal late in the first. Plus, he'll have little issue transitioning from college to the pros given the similar system his old and new head coach run.
24. Dallas Cowboys — Travon Walker, DL, Georgia
Recent Cowboys drafts have highlighted incredible value for the team and that's once again the case in landing Walker this late in the first. He can play both inside and out but really adds an extra dimension of versatility and could be an incredible pairing with the talent already on hand in Big D.
25. Buffalo Bills — David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan
Sean McDermott is going to need some reinforcements in the front seven this offseason and Ojabo's ability to bend around the corner should allow him to fit into the rotation right away. He’s not yet the finished product but could be incredibly disruptive early on as he grows into a starting role.
26. Tennessee Titans — Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
He gets overshadowed on that terrific Bulldogs defense but Walker is a unique player given his size and ability to fill gaps. There will be a bit of a development curve but the Titans have shown they’re fine with that given the way they love to bet on underlying talent.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Tom Brady is gone and Chris Godwin likely is too but the Bucs can still find a running mate for Mike Evans in the Ohio State-turned-Alabama star. While Williams did suffer an ACL tear, that doesn't scare teams off as much nowadays and would give the team a real burner when fully healthy.
28. Green Bay Packers — Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Who knows what the future holds for the organization for their back-to-back MVP or his favorite target but Dotson would be an excellent addition into the mix as somebody who can stretch the field and bring a reliable option in a variety of spots.
29. Miami Dolphins (from San Francisco) — Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia
His teammates get all the accolades but Wyatt has a chance to be the best of the Bulldogs drafted on defense if he lives up to his physical attributes and athleticism. He brings a rare jolt of pass rush for an interior guy and could be a big playmaker early on.
30. Kansas City Chiefs — Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
As great as Patrick Mahomes and company are, the defense in KC still needs some continued evolution. Gordon has all the tools to be a top-tier cover corner but will need a bit of refinement and coaching to reach his potential.
31. Cincinnati Bengals — Bernhard Raimann, OL, Central Michigan
It's no secret that the Bengals will be looking to shore up Joe Burrow's protection this offseason and Raimann could end up being the kind of elite tackle the team has been searching for. He's still raw and learning the game but the physical tools are off the charts and he's plenty capable of being a reliable starter before taking off to the next level.
32. Detroit Lions (from Los Angeles Rams) — Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
One of the more unique prospects under center, Willis is built like a linebacker and spins it with a cannon of an arm few can match. While he's undersized, he brings a different element to things and could be the long-term future in Detroit after learning from Jared Goff initially.
— 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.