2022 NFL Draft: First-round primer

2023 NFL Mock Draft: 3 QUARTERBACKS IN TOP 5 [FULL First Round] | CBS Sports
2023 NFL Mock Draft: 3 QUARTERBACKS IN TOP 5 [FULL First Round] | CBS Sports

2022 NFL Draft: First-round primer

Aidan Hutchinson

Here’s an in-depth breakdown of all the first-day possibilities for the NFL Draft

NFL drafts are always filled with drama, intrigue and surprises. Just usually not at the top with the first overall pick.

The hay is normally in the barn by now, but such is life when there’s not a quarterback available worthy of the honor.

The Jacksonville Jaguars have reportedly narrowed it down to four players — take your time fellas — two edge rushers and two offensive tackles. There’s a reason the Jaguars are picking first for the second straight year.

Georgia’s Travon Walker is one of those edge rushers and if he’s chosen, he will be the first in a parade of defenders who have played for the national champion Bulldogs.

I also expect a plethora of wide receivers will be selected tonight. According to DraftKings, the current over/under is 5.5 receivers drafted in the first round. In the spirit of the draft being in Las Vegas, I’d take the over.

My annual journey happens in six-month increments. I release my first mock draft of the season the first week of November.

I study 32 professional football teams and hundreds of college football players on a loop. I attempt to read the hands of 32 poker-faced general managers who treat their draft boards and strategy like government secrets.

I’ve done my best to make sense of all this. I hope it has provided some respite from the strange days we’re currently living through.

The 2022 NFL Draft is upon us. Here’s an educated guess at what will happen tonight in primetime:

1. Jacksonville
Pick: Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan)
Hutchinson is the safest choice of the four players being considered and reportedly has the support of Jaguars owner Shahid Khan.

Plan B: Travon Walker (Georgia)
Jags General Manager Trent Baalke apparently favors Walker’s upside.

Wild card: Ikem Ekwonu (N.C. State)
Head coach Doug Pederson supports taking a protector (Ekwonu) for last year’s top overall pick Trevor Lawrence, but wouldn’t be opposed to Hutchinson. I’ve believed the pick would be between the Wolverine and Wolfpack prospect since February. Either would make sense. Walker would be a slight reach. I side with the guy who cuts the checks.

2. Detroit
Pick: Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon)
The Lions have been near the bottom of the league in sacks and QB pressure rate the last three seasons.

Plan B: Hutchinson
The Heisman runner-up is the pick if he’s available.

Wild card: Kyle Hamilton (Notre Dame)
Hamilton’s versatility would play well for a secondary that used two-high safety formations almost half the time last season.

3. Houston
Pick: Walker
The uber-athletic defensive lineman is the likely pick if he’s available, potentially making it 1-2-3 for pass rushers off the board.

Plan B: Offensive tackle
Thankfully for the Texans, every position is one of need, so it’ll be hard to mess this up (even for them). Taking Ekwonu or Evan Neal (Alabama) would allow them to shift former first-round pick Tytus Howard to guard after he filled in nicely for an injured Laremy Tunsil at left tackle in 2021.

Wild card: Derek Stingley Jr. (LSU)
The Texans love Stingley and he appeared to finally be healthy at his recent pro day.

4. N.Y. Jets
Pick: Offensive tackle
Mekhi Becton was a notable absence when the Jets began their voluntary offseason workout program last week and I don’t believe they view George Fant as a long-term option at either tackle spot.

Plan B: Edge rusher
The success of Robert Saleh’s defensive scheme is predicated on creating pressure on the quarterback without blitzing.

Wild card: Garrett Wilson (Ohio St.)
The Jets favor Wilson and I don’t believe he’ll be available at No. 10.

5. N.Y. Giants
Pick: Offensive tackle
The Giants need to add toughness and athleticism to their offensive line and this would beat the Panthers to the punch. Charles Cross (Mississippi St.) would be the likely target.

Plan B: Edge rusher
Walker’s versatility fits defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s scheme perfectly.

Wild card: Ahmad Gardner (Cincinnati)
Veteran corner James Bradberry could be dealt during the draft.

6. Carolina
Pick: Trade down
The Panthers don’t pick again until No. 137 (fourth round). It would be prudent for GM Scott Fitterer to deal back and grow his stash, especially if they plan on taking a QB in the first round.

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Plan B: Offensive tackle
Assuming this isn’t a trade or a QB, it’s a no-brainer if one of the top three tackles are still available. It won’t matter who is under center if they don’t fix one of the league’s worst offensive lines.

Wild card: Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh)
Owner David Tepper is a graduate of Pitt (and huge booster) while coach Matt Rhule recruited Pickett to Temple. That’s a lot of smoke.

7. N.Y. Giants from Chicago
Pick: Gardner
The Cincinnati corner won’t make it past the Giants here.

Plan B: Trade down
This is the spot to leapfrog the Falcons for a receiver.

Wild card: Wilson
Notable pro days attended by GM Joe Schoen: Oregon, Georgia, Cincinnati and Ohio St.

8. Atlanta
Pick: Wide receiver
The Falcons current wide receiver room includes Auden Tate, KhaDarel Hodge, Olamide Zaccheaus (a restricted free agent), Damiere Byrd, Frank Darby and Chad Hansen.

Plan B: Edge rusher
This is Walker’s floor and maybe a ceiling Jermaine Johnson (Florida St.).

Wild card: Hamilton
GM Terry Fontenot isn’t afraid to draft playmaking safeties early. He was with the Saints organization when they selected Malcolm Jenkins (No. 14 overall in 2009) and Kenny Vaccaro (No. 15 in 2013).

9. Seattle from Denver
Pick: Trade down
Trading down is as much a part of GM John Schneider’s DNA as adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine.

Plan B: Falling star
This could be Thibodeaux, Hamilton or Stingley.

Wild card: Devin Lloyd (Utah)
The Seahawks have parted ways with linebackers K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner the last two years.

10. N.Y. Jets from Seattle
Pick: Edge rusher
The Jets will almost certainly take a pass rusher with one of their first-rounders with Thibodeaux and Johnson being the most likely options.

Plan B: Wide receiver
Finding more weapons for Zach Wilson is a priority. This could be the earliest we see Jameson Williams (Alabama) selected.

Wild card: Trade
This pick could be packaged for either Seattle’s DK Metcalf or San Francisco’s Deebo Samuel.

11. Washington
Pick: Hamilton
This would fit a need while also taking the best player available.

Plan B: Wide receiver
Coach Ron Rivera likes big receivers and Drake London (USC) fits the mold.

Wild card: Quarterback
The addition of Carson Wentz might make it easier to justify taking Malik Willis (Liberty) here.

12. Minnesota
Pick: Stingley
The top-5 talent doesn’t fall past the Vikings, unless they miss their pick like in 2003.

Plan B: Cornerback
Trent McDuffie (Washington) would also fit the Vikings top need if Stingley is gone.

Wild card: Trade down
A team seeking one of the top receivers, or potentially a quarterback would be a good dance partner.

13. Houston from Cleveland
Pick: Falling star
Hamilton (a steal here) or one of the top receivers would make sense.

Plan B: Jordan Davis (Georgia)
Davis would be the target if the Texans take an offensive tackle with the third pick.

Wild card: Trade
Sending this pick and its second-rounder (No. 37) or two third-rounders (Nos. 68 and 80) would be enough to swap with the Panthers for the sixth pick to take LSU’s Stingley or Ohio State’s Wilson. Also, a move down to stockpile picks is almost never a bad idea.

14. Baltimore
Pick: Offensive line
Trevor Penning (Northern Iowa) is a perfect match for the Ravens’ run-heavy, gap-blocking scheme. Cross would also make sense if he’s available.

Plan B: Defensive line
Davis or teammate Devonte Wyatt (Georgia) would replenish an aging and depleted D-line.

Wild card: trade down
This would be another spot for one of the top remaining receivers — Williams, London or Chris Olave (Ohio St.).

15. Philadelphia from Miami
Pick: Wide receiver
Drafting Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson remains a mystery to me.

Plan B: Defensive line
The Eagles re-signed veteran Fletcher Cox to a one-year deal, but I’d be surprised if he’s on the roster in 2023. This is the sweet-spot for Davis.

Wild card: Tyler Linderbaum (Iowa)
Linderbaum is ideally suited for the Eagles zone-blocking scheme and would be Jason Kelce’s eventual replacement.

16. New Orleans from Philadelphia through Indianapolis
Pick: Offensive tackle
Finding Terron Armstead’s replacement is a top priority.

Plan B: Wide receiver
Someone who can stretch the field opposite of Michael Thomas is needed regardless who is quarterback.

Wild card: Trade up
Both first-rounders would be enough ammunition to move up all the way to No. 4 overall, which is far enough for their choice of quarterback or receiver, and even a top-3 tackle.

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17. L.A. Chargers
Pick: Offensive line
Penning, Zion Johnson (Boston College) or Kenyon Green (Texas A&M) would all be significant upgrades to the right side of a significantly improved O-line.

Plan B: Cornerback
While J.C. Jackson was a splash signing, Michael Davis struggled mightily in coverage and against the run last season.

Wild card: Wide receiver
There’s no such thing as too many points in the AFC West. Alabama’s Williams or Ohio State’s Olave would add some speed on the outside.

18. Philadelphia from New Orleans
Pick: Defensive line
I’d be surprised if Georgia’s Davis remained on the board past this.

Plan B: Lloyd
The Eagles usually avoid taking linebackers early because they tend to not impact the passing game. Utah’s Lloyd can rush the passer and make plays in coverage.

Wild card: Trade up
The Eagles could easily move into the top 10 to target a specific receiver or even one of the top-two cornerbacks if they packaged both first-rounders.

19. New Orleans from Philadelphia
Pick: Wide receiver
Williams or Olave would be the targets if they take a tackle or quarterback at No. 16.

Plan B: Quarterback
The decision is likely between Pickett and Willis if they’re available.

Wild card: Trade down
Moving back a half-dozen spots would make sense if they select a receiver or quarterback at No. 16 and want to target the next tier of tackles.

20. Pittsburgh
Pick: Willis
The Steelers have telegraphed this pick much in the same way they did the Najee Harris selection from a year ago. They may need to trade up to secure the dynamic signal-caller.

Plan B: Offensive line
Rebuilding the O-line first, then finding a long-term solution at quarterback may be the more prudent move. Texas A&M’s Green and Boston College’s Johnson make sense here.

Wild card: Wide receiver
The Steelers used three or more receivers on almost 85 percent of pass plays in 2021 with JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington both leaving during free agency.

21. New England
Pick: Cornerback
The Patriots play man coverage more than most. Kaiir Elam (Florida) or Kyler Gordon (Washington) would help offset the loss of J.C. Jackson and Stephon Gilmore.

Plan B: Linebacker
Taking Lloyd or Nakobe Dean (Georgia) would be very Belichickian. Both would offer great value here.

Wild card: Offensive line
My gut says the Pats will go defense, but they need to fortify Mac Jones’ protection, especially on the interior.

22. Green Bay from Las Vegas
Pick: Wide receiver
The Packers have only drafted a receiver in the first round twice in the last 34 years — Javon Walker (No. 20 in 2002) and Sterling Sharpe (No. 7 in 1988) — but I can’t imagine them passing on one after trading Davante Adams and losing Marquez Valdes-Scantling in free agency. This is a good spot for Treylon Burks (Arkansas).

Plan B: Offensive line
The Packers utilized seven different O-line combinations with nine different players taking meaningful snaps during the 2021 season.

Wild card: Trade up
Packaging both first-rounders would be just enough to leapfrog the Falcons at No. 8 for a receiver.

23. Arizona
Pick: Wide receiver
The top five receivers will likely be gone. Taking Jahan Dotson (Penn St.) could go a long way in mending fences with disgruntled QB Kyler Murray.

Plan B: Offensive line
Improving Murray’s protection wouldn’t hurt either.

Wild card: Edge rusher
The Cardinals blitzed at one of the highest rates in the league, but only generated pressure 29.8 percent of the time (last in the NFL) and that was with Chandler Jones, who now resides in Las Vegas.

24. Dallas
Pick: Offensive line
Replenishing a once-dominant O-line has to be the top priority. Once again, either Green or Johnson would be a great value here.

Plan B: Wide receiver
It would be hard for the Cowboys to pass on Burks if he slides past the Packers at No. 22.

Wild card: Linebacker
Leighton Vander Esch re-signed, but the Cowboys still need a linebacker who frees up Micah Parsons to focus primarily on rushing the passer. Luke Gifford isn’t it, but Utah’s Lloyd or Georgia’s Dean would be.

25. Buffalo
Pick: Defensive back
Levi Wallace signed with Pittsburgh and Tre’Davious White is currently rehabbing an ACL injury. Also at safety, Jordan Poyer is a free agent after the season and Micah Hyde carries a $10.8 million cap hit in 2023. Elam, Gordon, Andrew Booth Jr. (Clemson) and Daxton Hill (Michigan) all work here.

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Plan B: Offensive line
Four different linemen have played significant snaps at left guard for the Bills the last two seasons.

Wild card: Running back
This would be a luxury pick, and it would be Breece Hall (Iowa St.) if it happens.

26. Tennessee
Pick: Offensive line
Reinforcements are needed on the O-line, the lifeblood of the Titans. Both Bernhard Raimann (Central Michigan) and Tyler Smith (Tulsa) would allow Dillon Radunz to move inside.

Plan B: Wide receiver
Robert Woods will operate mostly out of the slot when healthy, so adding Dotson, Skyy Moore (Western Michigan), George Pickens (Georgia) or Christian Watson (North Dakota St.) would make sense.

Wild card: Quarterback
The Titans could create $17.8 million in cap space by releasing or trading Ryan Tannehill as a pre-June 1 designation in 2023.

27. Tampa Bay
Pick: Offensive line
The Buccaneers lost starting guards Ali Marpet (retirement) and Alex Cappa (free agency), but re-signed center Ryan Jensen and traded for Patriots starter Shaq Mason. Tom Brady’s return makes left guard a glaring need.

Plan B: Defensive line
Drafting Georgia’s Wyatt, Travis Jones (Connecticut) or Logan Hall (Houston) would make re-signing Ndamukong Suh less of a priority.

Wild card: David Ojabo (Michigan)
The Bucs are one of the few teams who could afford to draft a top-20 prospect who ruptured his Achilles at his pro day in the first round.

28. Green Bay
Pick: Offensive line
Iowa’s Linderbaum, Central Michigan’s Raimann and Tulsa’s Smith are in play if the Packers follow through on a receiver at No. 22.

Plan B: Linebacker
Either Lloyd or Dean would pair nicely with All-Pro DeVondre Campbell.

Wild card: Trade down
Adding to three Day Two picks would give them more ammo in the honeypot of the draft.

29. Kansas City from Miami through San Francisco
Pick: Wide receiver
JuJu Smith-Schuster will almost certainly run most of his routes out of the slot with Marquez Valdes-Scantling likely being utilized as a field stretcher. Georgia’s Pickens and North Dakota State’s Watson would make the most sense here.

Plan B: Edge rusher
There’s a lot of smoke surrounding the Chiefs and Boye Mafe (Minnesota).

Wild card: Trade up
Packaging both first-rounders would allow the Chiefs to move all the way up to No. 11 to potentially target Alabama’s Williams. They could move further if they utilize the other six selections they have in the first four rounds.

30. Kansas City
Pick: Edge rusher
The Chiefs are also a candidate to target Ojabo.

Plan B: Wide receiver
One of these picks will be a receiver if they keep both.

Wild card: Defensive back
Charvarius Ward and Mike Hughes both bolted during the first wave of free agency, while it remains to be seen if Tyrann Mathieu will return.

31. Cincinnati
Pick: Linderbaum
The Iowa center would be an absolute theft here and Ted Karras’ contract is structured effectively as a one-year deal.

Plan B: Defensive back
Safeties Jessie Bates, Vonn Bell and cornerback Eli Apple will all likely become free agents in 2023.

Wild card: Trade down
If the Seahawks decide to take a quarterback, they’d likely want to leapfrog the Lions and could do so by dealing picks 40 and 109. Matt Corral (Ole Miss) will likely be the target if Seattle pulls the trigger.

32. Detroit from L.A. Rams
Pick: Safety
Lewis Cine (Georgia) is the likely target if the Lions pass on Notre Dame’s Hamilton.

Plan B: Trade down
The final pick in the first round always has expanded value due to rookie contracts and the fifth-year option. Also, because some general managers get antsy and don’t want to wait until Friday to see if their guy will be available.

Wild card: Quarterback
If there’s a signal-caller the Lions fell in love with, he’ll likely be selected here. I’m thinking Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati) would be that guy.

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