Remember the 2013 NFL Draft? No? Then let me remind you. EJ Manuel was the first quarterback off the board, going 16th overall to the Bills. The next two signal-callers taken were Geno Smith at 39th overall by the Jets and Mike Glennon at 73rd overall by the Buccaneers. Those were the only quarterbacks taken in the first three rounds, and none of them amounted to anything more than a serviceable backup.
Given the significant emphasis placed on quarterback prospects in recent years, there will be more than one taken in the 2022 NFL Draft -- whether it's warranted or not. And in this year's class, none of these prospects are seen as traditional first-round signal-callers. Some have even compared the group to the lackluster one of 2013.
There is one prospect, however, that has all of the physical tools (sans height) of a high-end draft pick. That would be Liberty's Malik Willis, and his performance during Senior Bowl practice Wednesday, battling through rainy and windy conditions, could be one of the defining moments of his draft process. He was accurate as a passer and explosive as a runner. His arm strength, the best in this year's class, was evident on a variety of throws.
Willis might not be the first quarterback taken in April, but his impressive showing in Mobile, Alabama, was enough to make him the No. 1 guy in this mock draft and the only quarterback to go in the top 10. Elsewhere, the Vikings hang tight with Kirk Cousins, while the Saints and Steelers each commit to a signal-caller in the back half of the round.
The 2022 NFL Draft order has been updated through the conference championships, and only two teams remain in contention for Super Bowl LVI. The order of Bengals and Rams was determined by win-loss records. Now let's get started!
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Round 1 - Pick 1
Evan Neal OL
Alabama • Soph • 6'7" / 350 lbs
The Jaguars have plenty of needs, but priority No. 1 must be protecting hopeful franchise savior Trevor Lawrence. Neal has the immense size, run-blocking chops and pass-blocking prowess to do so at a high level from Day 1.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Aidan Hutchinson EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'7" / 268 lbs
Hutchinson isn't as highly touted as Chase Young or the Bosa brothers, but the Lions can select the homegrown product, sit back, and watch him consistently produce off the edge opposite Romeo Okwara.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Notre Dame • Soph • 6'4" / 220 lbs
Hamilton is a weapon who will elevate the entire defense with his unique skill set, and that's exactly the type of player a depleted Houston roster can use as it continues its overhaul. There might not be a more talented player in the class.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Kayvon Thibodeaux EDGE
Oregon • Soph • 6'5" / 258 lbs
Thibodeaux was mostly seen as a lock to go in the top three before the season, but now there's a chance he falls with the emergence of Hutchinson and the trio of offensive tackles (Neal, Ikem Ekwonu and Charles Cross). The Jets should be ecstatic if Thibodeaux is available here, as the raw but explosive prospect would pair nicely with Carl Lawson. Plus, that duo getting after the quarterback would surely make life easier for a secondary that was one of the worst against the pass in 2021.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Ikem Ekwonu OL
NC State • Soph • 6'4" / 320 lbs
New GM Joe Schoen said in his introductory press conference that the Giants will focus on building around quarterback Daniel Jones, so I'll take his word for it -- for now. The best way to accomplish that, given New York's current situation, is to add one of, if not the best tackle prospect in the class in Ekwonu.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Mississippi State • Soph • 6'5" / 311 lbs
Matt Rhule is entering a make-it-or-break-it Year 3 with the Panthers, so you have to think the franchise is going to swing big and attempt to bring an accomplished veteran quarterback to Carolina. Regardless of who winds up under center, he needs to be kept upright, which the team struggled to do last season by allowing 52 sacks, the fifth-worst mark in the NFL. Cross isn't elite across the board, but he would provide the team with a quality left tackle for as long as it keeps him.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 7
George Karlaftis EDGE
Purdue • Soph • 6'4" / 263 lbs
New York is building up the trenches with its top-10 picks. Karlaftis doesn't have the explosive traits of Thibodeaux or technical skills of Hutchinson, but he's a high-floor, high-ceiling edge rusher who will command attention and give the Giants a solid one-two punch with 2021 second-round pick Azeez Ojulari.
Round 1 - Pick 8
LSU • Soph • 6'0" / 190 lbs
A.J. Terrell and Stingley in the same defensive backfield? With the top edge rushers and offensive tackles off the board, the Falcons end up with the best cornerback prospect in the draft in Stingley.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Malik Willis QB
Liberty • Soph • 6'1" / 219 lbs
Let's ride the hype train Willis has created for himself during Senior Bowl week and anoint him as the first quarterback off the board. The home run move seems to be luring Aaron Rodgers to the Mile High City to reunite with Packers offensive coordinator-turned-Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett, but if that doesn't happen, adding the dynamic Willis to an offense full of untapped potential could spell trouble for the rest of the AFC West.
From Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 10
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 192 lbs
Cross would have made a lot of sense if Carolina had not snagged him at No. 6, but the Jets instead take the first wide receiver off the board. Wilson is arguably the most complete wideout in this class, and he'll fit in very nicely with Elijah Moore, Corey Davis and others as quarterback Zach Wilson attempts to take a big step forward in Year 2.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Nakobe Dean LB
Georgia • Soph • 5'11" / 231 lbs
It seems like everyone just assumes that the newly named Washington Commanders will select someone to command their offense in April's draft. But what if Ron Rivera and Co. take another big swing in free agency (like they did for Matthew Stafford last year) or try to work out a blockbuster trade? In that case, the Commanders' attention shifts to the second level of their defense. Despite being undersized, Dean has the leadership, instincts and playmaking ability to be the missing piece for a talented unit that unperformed in 2021.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Cincinnati • Soph • 6'3" / 200 lbs
The Vikings opt to keep Kirk Cousins, who will be reunited with former Washington offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell in Minnesota. Instead, new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and his staff addresses the defensive side of the ball with the ever-confident and aggressive Ahmad Gardner to sure up the Vikings' secondary.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Drake London WR
USC • Soph • 6'4" / 213 lbs
Ahead of his make-it-or-break-it fifth year in Cleveland, Baker Mayfield could really use a receiver who can haul in contested deep balls when there's no where else to go with the football. Cue London, a 6-foot-5 jump-ball aficionado who would immediately add another dimension to the Browns' run-heavy offense.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Georgia • Soph • 6'5" / 272 lbs
The Ravens' defense could lose its two starting interior linemen to free agency (or retirement), and the unit also finished in the bottom third of the league with just 34 sacks. Walker could help in both areas, as he can line up inside and outside and tallied six sacks for the national champion Bulldogs this past season.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 15
Arkansas • Soph • 6'2" / 225 lbs
Someone needs to help the city of Philadelphia forget about drafting Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson in 2020, and Burks can be that receiver. He's a yards-after-catch machine who would give Jalen Hurts, or whoever else starts under center in 2022, another explosive option alongside DeVonta Smith.
From Indianapolis Colts
Round 1 - Pick 16
David Ojabo EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'4" / 265 lbs
Derek Barnett is set to become a free agent, meaning the Eagles need another edge rusher. Ojabo would be an exciting replacement, especially if he continues his rapid ascension that included a breakout season playing opposite Hutchinson at Michigan. He and Josh Sweat would cause problems for NFC East quarterbacks.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Jordan Davis DL
Georgia • Soph • 6'6" / 336 lbs
Opponents created massive holes against the Chargers' defense, so the team adds a massive human in Davis to clog those running lanes. He can also help collapse the pocket against the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Derek Carr.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Pittsburgh • Soph • 6'3" / 220 lbs
The Saints are a complete wild card now that Sean Payton has stepped away, but the team needs to figure out its quarterback situation regardless. It looks to Pickett to hopefully be the answer for the foreseeable future.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Devin Lloyd LB
Utah • Soph • 6'3" / 235 lbs
The Eagles' linebacker corps need to be better, so they opt for the rangy, versatile Lloyd to bolster the front seven. The Utah product excels in coverage, is a reliable tackler and can even rush the passer off the edge.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Matt Corral QB
Ole Miss • Soph • 6'2" / 205 lbs
Steelers president Art Rooney II recently spoke about the Steelers wanting a mobile quarterback after Ben Roethlisberger's retirement, and Corral can get it done with his legs. He also greatly improved his decision-making and pocket presence at Ole Miss this past season.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Washington • Soph • 5'11" / 193 lbs
Regardless of what the Patriots decide to do with 2021 Pro Bowler J. C. Jackson, McDuffie would be a welcome addition to the defensive backfield. Some people will knock him because of his size, but he more than makes up for it with his technical ability in coverage and aggressive mentality against the run and as a blitzer.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 187 lbs
If the Raiders want to keep up with the offenses of the Chiefs, Chargers and perhaps Broncos (if they land an established quarterback), then they're going to need another weapon for Derek Carr. How about Olave, who can make plays down the field and shake defenders on intermediate routes?
Round 1 - Pick 23
Iowa • Soph • 6'2" / 305 lbs
In this mock draft, Linderbaum is the top-10 talent who falls further than he should. And if this is the case on draft night, the Cardinals, with an aging Rodney Hudson set to count $12.6 million against the cap in 2022, should jump at the golden opportunity to select his replacement.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Hill can help basically anywhere in the secondary, which would be a huge plus for a Dallas defense that could lose Jayron Kearse and Damontae Kazee in free agency. He'll also be another ball hawk for the Cowboys' turnover-hungry unit.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Kenyon Green OL
Texas A&M • Soph • 6'4" / 323 lbs
It would be easy to point out that the Bills need to add a defensive back here after they allowed 42 points to the Chiefs in their playoff loss, and they very well might. But in this edition, Buffalo opts for a versatile offensive lineman in Green as it aims to keep Josh Allen clean.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Alabama • Soph • 6'1" / 180 lbs
Williams is too good for the Titans to pass up here, even with the Alabama wideout recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in the national championship game. Tennessee's passing offense was lost whenever A.J. Brown was out with an injury, so selecting Williams would go a long way in rectifying that. Plus, the combination of Brown and Williams would be lethal in the play-action passing game.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Clemson • Soph • 6'0" / 194 lbs
The Buccaneers understand the importance of having quality corners, as they were integral to the team's Super Bowl run a year ago. But this past season was a different story, with the group dealing with a multitude of injuries that forced Tampa Bay to sign veterans off the street. Throw in the fact that three of the Bucs' top four corners will need new deals either this offseason or next, and it makes sense to bring in an athletic specimen like Booth who can develop into a solid starter.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Georgia • Soph • 6'3" / 304 lbs
Kenny Clark was awesome this year in making his second Pro Bowl, but his counterparts were underwhelming. Wyatt, coming off a dominant showing during Senior Bowl week, is a solid run defender and a quality pass-rusher who can basically line up anywhere across the front.
From San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 29
Round 1 - Pick 30
Jermaine Johnson II EDGE
Florida State • Soph • 6'5" / 262 lbs
Join me in welcoming Johnson to the first round. He had one of the best Senior Bowl weeks of anyone, but let's not forget that he posted 11.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss this past season at Florida State. The productivity matches the skill set for a prospect who should continue to turn heads during the draft process.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Zion Johnson OL
Boston College • Soph • 6'3" / 316 lbs
If you're a Bengals fan reading this, it's probably because you're extremely worried about all the hits Joe Burrow has taken during his first two NFL seasons. It's very understandable, and in this mock draft Cincinnati addresses your concern by selecting Johnson. He played left tackle at Boston College but excelled at guard and even center during Senior Bowl week.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 32
South Alabama • Soph • 6'1" / 195 lbs
Crazier things have happened, and Tolbert balled out during Senior Bowl week. He could make a major leap in a lot of people's rankings before the draft. He would also be a nice complement to breakout offensive weapon Amon-Ra St. Brown.