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Sunday, October 24, 2021

NFL mock draft 2022: Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Cincinnati players dominate Round 1

The last time Sporting News posted a 2022 NFL mock draft, it was our first one, right after the 2021 NFL draft. Much has changed since May, with a better indication of which top prospects are rising and falling going into the new college football season.

Once again, quarterbacks will be in high demand for the league’s have-nots at the position. But those teams that either choose or can afford to go in a different positional direction also will be rewarded in the first round. With five teams for now getting two turns each — the Lions, Giants, Eagles, Jets and Dolphins — there might be serious stockpiling ahead.

Here’s a look at all of those current pick projections, with Sporting News’ 1-32 first-round draft order based on the reverse of our record and playoff projections for the 2021 NFL season:

NFL DRAFT BIG BOARD: Ranking the top 50 prospects for 2022

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NFL mock draft 2022

1. Houston Texans

  • Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma (6-1, 200 pounds)

Deshaun Watson’s days with the Texans are finished. It’s only a matter of when the trade might happen and what discipline, if any, might be ahead for the QB. Regardless, the Texans will need a new franchise passer and dynamic runner. Rattler, who can end up as a Heisman winner and national champion, projects as the best choice with a strong floor of accuracy and athleticism and a high athletic ceiling, too.

2. Detroit Lions

  • Malik Willis, QB, Liberty (6-1, 215 pounds NEW)

Speaking of high ceiling, Willis has a cannon for an arm and great speed. He should have the potential to make scouting jaws drop at the position and make them less concerned about his small-school status. The Lions will need a QB, too, with Jared Goff serving as a shaky bridge.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Evan Neal, OT, Alabama (6-7, 350 pounds)

Trevor Lawrence will need better offensive line support in Year 2. So will Travis Etienne when he returns from his foot injury, to boost his running game. Neal is a no-brainer to dominate as a pass protector and run blocker for many years to come.

MORE: Each team’s worst-ever NFL Draft regret

4. Las Vegas Raiders

  • Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU (6-1, 195 pounds)

Stingley does carry a familiar name in Raiders lore and the team cannot deny it desperately needs a game-changing do-everything defensive back the way that Charles Woodson once was for them.

5. Denver Broncos

  • Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina (6-1, 220 pounds)

Drew Lock isn’t the answer for this season or the next one. Teddy Bridgewater is serving as a serviceable bridge. George Paton needs to end John Elway’s non-Peyton Manning run of franchise QB futility and go with this experienced and smart pocket passer after passing on Justin Fields in 2021.

6. Atlanta Falcons

  • DeMarvin Leal, DT/DE, Texas A&M (6-4, 290 pounds)

The Falcons need more impactful defensive linemen of any ilk to support Grady Jarrett and Leal is the real deal as a versatile disruptor.

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7. New York Jets

  • Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon (6-5, 258 pounds)

Once new defensive-minded coach Robert Saleh gets a good look at his rebuilding defense, he should soon realize he must find his version of Nick Bosa. He should already be thinking about Thibodeaux wreaking havoc in his front seven.

8. Carolina Panthers

  • Kedon Slovis, QB, USC (6-3, 205 pounds)

The Panthers need a smart passer who can make all the throws and deliver some of the Drew Brees-like qualities in a more ideal frame for Joe Brady. Sam Darnold is not the former high-drafted Trojan who will do that job. Slovis profiles as a much better option.

9. Philadelphia Eagles

  • Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame (6-4, 220 pounds)

The Eagles will have a need at safety in 2022, either needing to replace aging Rodney McLeod or pending free agent Anthony Harris. Hamilton makes a lot of sense as an intelligent all-around force to clean up for defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon.

MORE: The biggest busts in NFL Draft history

10. New York Giants

  • Jaxson Kirkland, OT, Washington (6-7, 310 pounds)

The Giants need a true rock of a left tackle to replace Nate Solder and allow Andrew Thomas to slide to a more comfortable position at right tackle. Kirkland is a big, smooth athlete meant to upgrade their pass protection big-time for Daniel Jones or another QB.

11. New York Giants (from Bears for Justin Fields trade up)

  • Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC (6-4, 250 pounds)

Big Blue has a big chance to upgrade both edges, perhaps even with consecutive picks depending on finish. Jackson’s agility and versatily are ideal for Patrick Graham’s version of the 3-4.

12. Minnesota Vikings

  • Kalir Elam, CB, Florida (6-2, 196 pounds)

The Vikings can’t expect Patrick Peterson to be a long-term solution in their cornerback transition. Elam has the size and coverage efficiency Mike Zimmer likes at the position.

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13. Philadelphia Eagles (from Dolphins)

  • Myjai Sanders, EDGE, Cincinnati (6-5, 255 pounds)

Sanders has freakish pass-rush qualities and will be a good reason for the Eagles to double up on defensive impact for Gannon given Derek Barnett will be a free agent.

14. New Orleans Saints

  • Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State (6-1, 189 pounds)

The Saints are having sudden trouble with their current top Ohio State product, Michael Thomas, but regardless, they need to address the big-play wide receiver spot opposite him for Jameis Winston or whoever will be QB next season. Olave has great speed, quickness and burst to be a true No. 1.

15. New England Patriots

  • John Metchie III, WR, Alabama (6-0, 195 pounds)

Metchie has plenty of speed to help give the Patriots more legitimacy to their passing game going forward, reuniting with former Crimson Tide teammate Mac Jones in the process. Look for him to develop into more a complete target this season in Tuscaloosa.

MORE: The biggest steals in NFL Draft history

16. Indianapolis Colts

  • Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State (6-0, 188 pounds)

Wilson has been a good complementary technician to Olave and does everything required of him well. The Colts need to replace T.Y. Hilton next season and Wilson would be a nice fit with Michael Pitttman Jr. for Carson Wentz.

17. Cincinnati Bengals

  • Zion Nelson, OT, MIami (6-5, 316 pounds)

The Bengals’ offensive line might surprise with its quality in 2021 with Jonah Williams back at left tackle but it still will need at least an upgrade on the right side in front of Joe Burrow over stopgap Riley Reiff 

18. Washington Football Team

  • Carson Strong, QB, Nevada (6-4, 215 pounds)

Strong is a Josh Allen-like prospect to watch based on his stout frame and big arm and can work his way into first-round consideration by displaying more of his athleticism for the Wolf Pack. He would be a good successor to bridge Ryan Fitzpatrick in Scott Turner’s offense.

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19. Arizona Cardinals

  • Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson (6-0, 200 pounds)

The Cardinals need to consider cornerback next year with trying to find the next Peterson in mind. Booth is a strong, active corner who has the speed and ball skills to make a lot of big plays for them.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati (6-4, 215 pounds)

Ridder has proved to be a strong, tough leader for the Bearcats with natural dual-threat traits of big arm and smooth running. He’s the kind of modern successor for Ben Roethlisberger the Steelers need under Mike Tomlin.

21. New York Jets (from Seahawks for Jamal Adams)

  • George Karlafits, EDGE, Purdue (6-4, 275 pounds)

Karalftis is an intimidating prospect with great explosive pass-rush moves for his size. He and Thibodeaux would form a nasty, versatile combination for Saleh.

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22. Los Angeles Chargers

  • Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati (6-3, 200 pounds)

Gardner is a well-rounded cover man who matches his size with agility to get all over the field to handle different types of receivers, which is what the Chargers still need for Brandon Staley.

23. Tennessee Titans

  • Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa (6-3, 290 pounds)

Linderbaum is a intelligent rock of an interior blocker and a perfect long-term line leader in the NFL. The Titans will need a replacement for pending free agent Ben Jones in 2022.

24. Dallas Cowboys

  • Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State (6-1, 200 pounds NEW)

The Cowboys have high hopes for Trevon Diggs at one corner but Anthony Brown isn’t the answer at the other spot anymore. Banks has great speed and size for the position and he can refine his coverage game well opposite Diggs.

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25. Detroit Lions (from Rams for Matthew Stafford)

  • Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan (6-6, 265 pounds)

The Lions, after addressing quarteback early, must upgrade their pass rush. They can look down the road for Hutchinson, a polished prospect who has some solid 4-3 end qualities but can expand his athleticism and moves to be more suitable for Aaron Glenn’s 3-4 scheme in 2022.

26. Baltimore Ravens

  • Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M (6-4, 325 pounds)

The Ravens have worked well to rebuild their interior of their offensive line post Marshal Yanda with Bradley Bozeman and Kevin Zeitler, but could use a big upgrade from Ben Powers in 2022. Green has all the attributes they are looking for a run blocker.

27. Green Bay Packers

  • Christian Harris, LB, Alabama (6-2, 232 pounds)

The Packers need a rangy cleanup man as they continue to have limited playmaking capacity in the middle of their defense. Harris has the typical Crimson Tide pedigree to deliver just that.

28. Buffalo Bills

  • Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M (6-1, 215 pounds)

The Bills did once draft a speedy running back with the same last name in the first round, but this unrelated prospect is a powerful pounder who would complement their deep passing game well.

29. Miami Dolphins (from 49ers for Trey Lance trade up)

  • Brandon Joseph, S, Northwestern (6-1, 192 pounds)

The Dolphins have some big safety questions next to Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. Here’s a big-time ballhawk in coverage who also brings the smackdown in run support. Brian Flores would love a player like him leading on the defense.

30. Cleveland Browns

  • Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia (6-6, 340 pounds)

The Browns are sneaky loaded on defense with their pass rush, linebacker corps and secondary. They should be, however, in the market for a run-stuffing beast to shore up the interior in 2022.

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31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State (6-3, 241 pounds

The Buccaneers don’t have a lot of immediate needs but they must think about a potential rangy replacement for Lavonte David, who will turn 32 in 2022 during the final year of his new contract.

32. Kansas City Chiefs

  • Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington (5-11, 195 pounds)

McDuffie is the explosive and quick cover man the Chiefs need to consider as a replacement for pending free agent Charvarius Ward opposite rising star L’Jarius Sneed.

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