Kevin Hanson's 2022 NFL Mock Draft
BY KEVIN HANSON (@EDSFootball)
Updated: Wednesday, April 28th
Less than 48 hours from the start of the 2021 NFL Draft, I've taken an early look ahead to how things could shake out this time next year in Las Vegas.
With no NFL Scouting Combine or private workouts in 2021, it has been another unusual draft process, but the actual draft (on-site in Cleveland) should more closely resemble past drafts.
In the week following the 2021 NFL Draft, I will post an update to this 2022 NFL Mock Draft. For now, here are some players that could hear the name called on Day 1 in 2022.
Offseason trade demands and ongoing legal issues make Deshaun Watson's future with the Houston Texans anything but certain. If Houston is picking first in the 2022 NFL Draft, the organization could use this opportunity to draft a quarterback.
Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux will top my initial 2022 big board, but Howard is my QB1 a little more than a year out and a potential top-five pick. Like Watson, Howell has the ability to elevate the play of those around him and he's been one of the best deep passers in college football since his freshman season.
One of the top recruits in the nation in 2019, Thibodeaux has lived up to the hype so far. While he has a total of 12 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss over 21 games in his first two seasons, he's been virtually unblockable in two Pac-12 Championship Games with 18 QB pressures, 4.5 TFLs and 3.5 sacks in those two games combined.
Current Oregon (and former Texas A&M) DC Tim DeRuyter has compared Thibodeaux's explosiveness to Von Miller, one of DeRuyter's former players, as he said that Kayvon is "probably the first person that I've seen in a while who has that explosiveness off the edge like Von" [Miller].
The Bengals (17) ranked last in the NFL in sacks last season. Even though they signed Trey Hendrickson to a four-year deal, Carl Lawson (team-high 5.5 sacks) departed via free agency.
Since 2018, two Sooner quarterbacks (Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray) have been selected first overall and another (Jalen Hurts) was a second-round pick. If the Lions are picking this high in 2022, it's possible that they could look to reset at quarterback.
If there's a quarterback that will challenge Howell for the honor to be 2022's QB1, it's most likely Rattler. Based on props from Bovada, Rattler (11/2) is the early favorite to win the Heisman Trophy over Clemson's D.J. Uiagalelei (6/1), who's not eligible until the 2023 NFL Draft.
While not nearly as dominant last year as he was in 2019, Stingley's true freshman season was as good as it gets for any defensive back regardless of level of experience. Stingley has the size, speed and ball skills to be a top-five pick in 2022 (or whenever he declares).
Even though the Jets signed Carl Lawson in free agency, you can never have too many pass-rushers. While not as productive in a shortened 2020 campaign, Jackson led USC in sacks (5.5) and TFLs (11.5) as a true freshman in 2019 and has the traits to become a top-five pick.
A former five-star recruit, Leal (6-4, 290) has inside/outside versatility. The Eagles have more than $41 million in salary cap tied to defensive tackles Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave for the 2022 seasons.
Leading Notre Dame in tackles last season, Hamilton has tremendous size and length (6-4, 219) at safety with the versatility to impact the game in a variety of ways. This would be a homecoming for Hamilton, who is from Atlanta, and both of the team's 2020 starting safeties -- Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen -- have signed with Dallas and Cincinnati, respectively.
If the former five-star recruit is able to take a major step forward in his third season, he has the tools and athleticism to follow in the footsteps of recent Buckeye edge defenders to become a high draft pick.
Before his announcement to return to school, Olave was often listed in 2021 first-round mock drafts. By returning to school, Olave has a chance to be the first receiver off the board in 2022. Olave isn't the biggest receiver (6-1, 188), but he is an outstanding route runner and one of his reasons for returning is to improve his play strength. "That's one reason why I came back. I feel like I could have gotten a lot stronger in the weight room. Try to play with more strength," Olave said recently (via Eleven Warriors).
The Raiders will have more new starters -- to replace Trent Brown, Gabe Jackson and Rodney Hudson -- on the team's offensive line in 2021 than they will have returning starters. A former five-star recruit out of IMG Academy, Neal has started at left guard (2019) and right tackle (2020) for the Crimson Tide and is expected to replace Alex Leatherwood at left tackle in 2021. He provides the Raiders with some versatility, but he can potentially be a plug-and-play option at right tackle if they don't draft Brown's replacement in 2021.
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