April 26, 2022
NFL Draft Week is one of my favorite times of the year. If not for the Sixers being on the verge of an unparalleled basketball collapse, I'd be riding so high now in life. Alas, on the heels of my Eagles-specific, seven-round mock draft from last week, I'm doing a full first round mock for all teams. My picks are more so what I think teams will do, but certainly include my own opinions on what should happen as well.
This is the most uncertainty football fans have seen at the top of the draft since 2018 when the Browns surprised some folks with the Baker Mayfield selection. Jacksonville could certainly pick a pass-rusher here, but I have them landing an offensive tackle in Ekwonu to protect their investment in QB Trevor Lawrence and have the Doug Pederson era start off as strong as possible offensively.
Hutchinson could go 1-1 (as could Travon Walker...), but he slides here, as the Wolverine stays in Michigan to play for the Lions. He had 14 sacks in 2021 and gives off the type of vibes that make him feel like a lost Bosa brother.
As I said, Walker could be the first pick. I don't quite see that and think his post-collegiate season rise up the boards may be a bit too sharp, but that doesn't mean I'm betting against him at the pro level. Like I've written during this pre-draft process, drafting players from the SEC (particularly those who played on this incredible Georgia squad), will probably work out for teams.
Never did I imagine I'd see the day where a cornerback from Cincinnati goes in the top 10 of the draft and he might even go top five. Gardner has the prototypical size NFL teams covet in CBs, great ball production at Cincy (nine interceptions and 16 pass break-ups in three seasons) and is physical enough to have a presence in the run game. Even more important: his name is Sauce. I just can't see him being bad because of that.
Their 2020 first-round pick Andrew Thomas has been solid enough at left tackle. The Giants still need to bolster that offensive line though. Neal was a beast at 'Bama and has experience playing at both left and right tackle, giving New York optionality on how to construct their o-line in the years to come.
It's been discussed ad nauseam about 2022 being a horrible quarterback draft class. I don't disagree! Teams will always be hungry for QBs though. No one has been more starved as of late than the Panthers. The Sam Darnold trade was an absolute disaster from the moment it was called into NFL offices. They whiffed on a Deshaun Watson trade (booooo). They're stuck. I could see them forcing a quarterback pick here. Pickett doesn't have some rocket arm, but his pocket maneuverability and accuracy will entice a team to take him in Round 1.
Perhaps the most talented player in the draft falling to the Giants? Yikes for Eagles fans.
Franchise cornerstone Matt Ryan is gone. Calvin Ridley will miss the 2022 season after firing off too many nonsensical 12-leg parlays on FanDuel. Kyle Pitts looks like a big hit in 2021 and Atlanta can continue building out their skill position group with Wilson. As a junior with the Buckeyes, Wilson put up a downright nasty 70-1,058-12 stat line.
It harkens back to less hectic times in my college years, but I won't ever be able to quit Marcus Mariota as a starting NFL signal-caller. I might talk myself into Mariota renaissance (a.k.a. a Marionaissance).
I was tempted to go QB here given that Seattle dealt future Hall of Famer Russell Wilson to Denver, but I'll have them "settle" for the best player at one of the premium positions (QB, OT, EDGE) available. Johnson might be a bit older than scouts and draftniks like (he turned 23 in January), but he still has the goods. Totaling 11.5 sacks and a whopping 17.5 tackles for loss in 2021 for FSU, Johnson is a player and I could even see the Birds being tempted to move up for.
Jets general manager Joe Douglas was the vice president of player personnel for the Eagles from 2016-2019. He left the Eagles fan base with a parting gift in the form of J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. He can go for those traits again (big Pac 12 receiver, contested-catch battler, questionable separator from CBs) with London.
Here's what I wrote about Williams in my mock draft last week where I had him ending up in Philly:
Williams spent two rather quiet seasons with Ohio State (three touchdowns in 10 total games played) before transferring to Alabama before the 2021. Like a bevy of Crimson Tide receivers before him, he had yugggggeeee college production.
The Carson Wentz era in Washington feels destined to be a misfire as the QB goes to his third team in as many seasons, but surrounding him with a wideout as talented as Williams (though he'll miss the start of the year as he recovers from an ACL tear...) will give the North Dakotan a legitimate shot to prove himself in a new locale.
New Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell comes to Minnesota after winning the Super Bowl this past February as the Rams' OC. Sean McVay's Rams offenses deployed 11 personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 receivers) very frequently. It's likely that O'Connell will replicate that in Minny. Justin Jefferson is on a superduperstar trajectory and can lead this offense, but adding a wideout of Olave's caliber to add to the mix with Jefferson and Adam Thielen will make Kirk Cousins' life a whole lot easier.
Hamilton is a top-five player in this class in my eyes. The board falls Houston's way here. Hamilton is the perfect modern safety. Versatility is the name of the game and Hamilton can do it all.
Here's what I wrote about Davis in my mock draft last week where I had him falling to the Eagles at 1-15:
Davis was the fulcrum of the best collegiate defense I've seen in my two decades watching the sport. He's a hulking presence in the middle of the field that can distort whatever an offense is hoping to accomplish at the line of scrimmage. I'm not a "spider graph over all" guy when it comes to evaluating prospects in the first round, but this is a big man who can move:
Dude's going to be awesome.
Stingley would've went top 10 at minimum and likely even higher had he not suffered a Lisfranc injury (tear in his left foot) back in September, missing the majority of the 2021 season. Due to the injury and the pandemic, Stingley has only played 10 games over the last two seasons, but was electric in 2019 as a true freshman on the Tigers' national championship team. He record six interceptions and a bonkers 15 pass break-ups.
I'm not buying the injury concerns here. Talent is talent and Stingley went up against the best of the best in the SEC and came up a champion. The Birds haven't selected a corner in the first Lito Sheppard in 2003. Stingley is more than worthy of being the first one taken in nearly two decades.
I'm not as bullish on Willis as some, but New Orleans making a play for a QB following their trade up with the Eagles makes sense. It's a post-Sean Payton world. Jameis Winston isn't the answer. Taysom Hill shouldn't even be a part of the equation. The Saints would be banking on upside here given Willis' undeniable arm talent (even with his accuracy issues), to say nothing of his ability as a runner.
It's worth noting that the Eagles own the Saints' 2023 first-round pick and rookie QB struggles for New Orleans would pay dividends for the Birds next April...
I could see Cross going earlier and might be a target for the Panthers with the sixth pick, but he slides here and lands in a great spot with the Chargers. Los Angeles is going all in with star QB Justin Herbert still on his rookie contract and want to do everything in their ability to get him to the postseason for the first time in his career.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. I do not care that the Eagles drafted wide receivers in the first round the last two years. One of those guys is very good. The other dude might not even be an NFL player. The team has 1.5 good receivers on the roster depending on how you feel about Quez Watkins. They need receiver talent and need to surround Jalen Hurts with an adequate skill position group, preventing the team-building mistakes that doomed Wentz, Donovan McNabb and Randall Cunningham.
Burks is a big receiver, standing 6'2" and weighing 225 pounds, who is a yards-after-the-catch machine. He was fourth in the country in YAC in 2021, averaging 9.3 yards after the catch per reception, according to Sportsline. Could he be A.J. Brown? Dez Bryant? I love his deep ball tracking. Big plays aplenty!
New Orleans needs offensive line help in the worst way after losing Pro Bowl tackle Terron Armstead in free agency. Look at his spider chart:
That's a pretty ideal blend of size and athleticism. Grabbing both Willis and Penning in the first round injects the Saints' offense with some youth.
Mitchell Trubisky might simply be a one-year stopgap option for Pittsburgh. Ridder has ample starting experience at QB, playing all four years for the Bearcats and throwing 87 touchdowns in 50 games played. In what seems to be an increasing trend among quarterback prospects, Ridder has an excellent arm despite accuracy woes. Trubisky may be fine for 2022, but the Steelers obviously need a long-term answer after Ben Roethlisberger's retirement and bet on Ridder to be that guy here.
Lloyd is such a Bill Belichick player, right?
I'm nowhere near done mocking Georgia players in the first round. Despite a game of chicken that's gone on for a couple of years, Aaron Rodgers remains in Green Bay. Davante Adams, my pick for the best wideout in the NFL, is gone and reinforcements are a must in order to get Rodgers back to the Super Bowl for the first time in a dozen years.
Pickens has missed time due to injury, playing in just 12 games in the last two seasons, but look no further than this past January's National Championship Game to see the ability that Pickens brings as a deep threat:
You just got Moss’d in the natty dog— Thor Nystrom (@thorku) April 20, 2022
Karlaftis looks to have fallen out of favor a bit when it comes to the "consensus" in the lead-up to the draft. His sack production in 2021 (4.5 sacks) is a little worrisome to me. Karlaftis is a stand-up rusher, which would fit Arizona's scheme under defensive coordinator Vance Joseph though.
The Cardinals had two players with double-digit sack numbers in 2021 in Chandler Jones and Markus Golden, but both are over 30. Karlaftis could be a rotational piece to start off his pro career before eventually find himself into a legitimate pass-rushing role.
The Cowboys have likely been happy with how Tyler Biadasz has played through two pro seasons, but Linderbaum is a different animal all together. He'd revitalize that Cowboys offensive line. Eagles fans appear very lukewarm on the Birds drafting him, but they might be sweating it out the next half-dozen years if he winds up in Dallas.
I love Booth's energy. He has a competitiveness to him that looks infectious on the field. I buy his ball skills too after a three-interception season in 2021. He'll be an instant fan-favorite player in Buffalo.
Tennessee has a hole at left guard. Boom. Enter Johnson and help prepare Derrick Henry for a bounce-back season in 2022. He's a mauler in the run game.
Elam feels like a guy Todd Bowles would love. He stays in North Florida and will provide a boost as a rookie following a great college career in Gainesville:
% of targets resulting in a forced incompletion or INT since 2019:— Ben Linsey (@PFF_Linsey) April 21, 2022
Marcus Jones: 25%
Sauce Gardner: 24%
Kaiir Elam: 24%
Roger McCreary: 24%
Derek Stingley Jr: 22%
Tariq Woolen: 21%
Kyler Gordon: 19%
Andrew Booth Jr: 18%
Cam Taylor-Britt: 17%
Trent McDuffie: 13% pic.twitter.com/V8QvgmMGva
Hill is undersized, but has killer speed that could have him succeeding at both safety and slot corner in the NFL. Some players that have the closest athletic profiles to him in the Mockdraftable database? Malcom Jenkins, Darius Slay and Stephon Gilmore.
Tyreek Hill is gone and in South Beach. Bring in another speedster like Dotson who can run go routes for Patrick Mahomes to try to replace Hill (they can't replace Hill's unparalleled speed, but they must try). Dotson caught 91 balls in 2021 for the Nittany Lions and scored 25 touchdowns over his last three college seasons.
I had the Eagles trading up early into the second round to land Cine in my previous mock. This is what I had to say about yet another key cog for that dominant Georgia defense:
Let him play in the slot. Let him play in the box. Let him play single-high safety. Let him play wherever [insert competent defensive coordinator] thinks he can succeed. Hint: it's almost anywhere.
McDuffie's name has been linked to the Eagles frequently. I'm weary of any Philadelphia team drafting a player from Washington ever again, but he makes sense here as a Week 1 starter for a Cincinnati team looking to get back to the Super Bowl. He has a physicality to him and I dig his demeanor.
The fifth Bulldog to go in Round 1! Wyatt's numbers weren't eye-popping given that he played on such a stacked Georgia defense, but he'll be an immediate plug-and-play guy along the defensive line. Pairing Hutchinson and Wyatt completely revamps that unit for Detroit and gives them a legit edge they've missing since... forever?
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