The Analyst’s NFL Mock Draft: When Will the First Quarterback Be Taken?
Trying to predict the NFL Draft is always an exercise in futility and a task that is all the more difficult in 2022.
With the top 10 shrouded in mystery and doubts over whether any quarterback will be selected in the first round, this is one of the most unpredictable drafts in recent memory.
But that hasn’t stopped us from attempting a mock draft.
Through advanced data and an assessment of the needs of all 32 teams, we have made every pick in the first round and each of the eight, yes eight, teams who do not own a choice in the opening round.
The last time only one quarterback was taken in the first round was 2013 when EJ Manuel went to the Buffalo Bills at No. 16. Will it happen again?
Here’s what we think each team should do in a draft that promises to provide plenty of surprises.
Picks 1-5: The favorite for the top pick until being displaced by Travon Walker, Aidan Hutchinson is most pro-ready edge rusher in the class. His pressure rate of 30.8% was second among all edge defenders in the draft class in 2021…Kyle Hamilton ranked 30th in allowed open percentage in pass coverage last season and the Detroit Lions should put concerns about drafting a safety No. 2 aside to grab the most versatile and arguably the best defender in the draft…The Houston Texans were 31st in pass protection win rate last season and Ikem Ekwonu would give them an athletic tackle who offers upside in the run game to pair with Laremy Tunsil…The New York Jets had the best corner in the NFL by combined open percentage allowed in Bryce Hall (14.61) last season. By adding Ahmad Gardner, an ultra-reliable press-man corner, their much-maligned secondary would be in impressive shape…The New York Giants are committed to Andrew Thomas at left tackle, but they were 22nd in pass protection win rate in 2021 and still have a hole to fill at right tackle. Enter Evan Neal.
Picks 6-10: The Carolina Panthers’ roster is in dreadful shape, and they could look to reach for a quarterback here. However, they were 30th in pass block win rate in 2021 and a tackle like Charles Cross is just as pressing of a need…For a team that has invested much in both lines in recent years, the Giants are still severely lacking on both sides of the trenches. The fast and ultra-powerful Kayvon Thibodeaux would give a pass rush that was 26th in win rate last season a much-needed boost after he posted a pressure rate of 24.5% that was fourth among edges in this class…The Jaguars are widely expected to bet on Travon Walker‘s phenomenal athletic traits, but an Atlanta Falcons team that already looks to have punted on 2022 would allow him more time to develop as a pass rusher. Walker would also be an excellent fit as a 3-4 defensive end in Dean Pees’ defense with his prowess in run defense…A lack of pass rush off the edge has long since been a problem for the Seattle Seahawks. Jermaine Johnson II, whose tally of 17 adjusted sacks was second only to Hutchinson in 2021 (see below), can finally fill the void…It’s unclear when Jameson Williams will be ready to play after tearing his ACL in the national championship game. However, the Jets, who attempted to trade for Tyreek Hill, have enough receiving depth to be patient with a dynamic speedster, whose nine receptions of 50 yards or more were the most in the FBS last season.
Picks 11-15: If Carson Wentz is going to succeed with the Washington Commanders, he will need all the help he can get. Garrett Wilson, who won his matchup with a defender – which we term as a ‘burn’ – on 71.6% of targets in 2021, would offer the quarterback a separator who can pick up yardage after the catch and be an excellent complement to Terry McLaurin…The Minnesota Vikings have Patrick Peterson back for another year, but they need long-term solutions like Derek Stingley in the secondary after ranking 23rd in open percentage allowed in 2021…Houston performed even worse in coverage last season, finishing 31st by the same metric, making a corner with versatility like Trent McDuffie an obvious fit…With Patrick Queen perhaps a little slower to develop than anticipated, the Baltimore Ravens have a clear need at linebacker. Devin Lloyd was tied for first among FBS linebackers with four interceptions in 2021, also recording eight sacks…There’s an argument for Devonte Wyatt’s Georgia teammate Jordan Davis at 15, but the Philadelphia Eagles like their defensive linemen to attack rather than simply eat up space. That’s Wyatt’s game, and he would add yet more strength to a pass rush that was eighth in win rate last year, helping Philadelphia protect a fragile secondary.
Picks 16-20: Needing a replacement for the departed Terron Armstead at left tackle, the New Orleans Saints can bet on nasty Northern Iowa-school product Trevor Penning. He’s blessed with long arms and athleticism that saw him run a 40-yard dash that put him in the 97th percentile for tackles…The Los Angeles Chargers already have size at receiver in the form of Mike Williams, but they don’t have a wideout who was used quite like Treylon Burks, who frequently received the ball on backfield carries and screen passes at Arkansas. Burks’ average depth of target was just 9.4 yards but only Jameson Williams (4.91) and Wan’Dale Robinson (4.86) averaged more burn yards per route (4.56). Burks would add another facet to an already exciting passing game…Philadelphia doubles up on Georgia prospects, with Eagles fans having called for help at linebacker for some time. Nakobe Dean can profit from the destruction the Eagles create up front, as he recorded six sacks for a Bulldogs defense that relied on his blitzing to create pressure in 2021. He also had six pass breakups, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.
New Orleans elected to stick with the historically erratic Jameis Winston at quarterback, meaning it helps to have as many well-built ball-winners at receiver as possible. The Saints already have two in Michael Thomas and Tre’Quan Smith. Drake London, who was fourth with a burn rate of 71.3% last year, would give them another who offers upside with his surprisingly fluid route running…Kenny Pickett gets to stay in Pittsburgh, with the Steelers landing the most pro-ready quarterback in an underwhelming class. He delivered a well-thrown ball on 82.7% of pass attempts in his final college season, the best ratio of any quarterback in the class. He can immediately compete with Mitchell Trubisky for the starting job.
Picks 21-25: Following the trade of Shaq Mason, the interior is the weakness of the New England Patriots offensive line, which ranked seventh in pass block win rate and ninth in run block win rate last year. Zion Johnson can address that with his ability to play both guard and center…The Green Bay Packers surely cannot go another first round without taking a wide receiver, especially after trading Davante Adams. Chris Olave is not close to becoming a player of Adams’ caliber, but he brings speed and route-running refinement. He tied for fourth among receivers in this class for burn yards per target (14.08) in 2021…With Chandler Jones gone, the Arizona Cardinals need to pair J.J. Watt with a younger edge rusher. George Karlaftis can learn from the future Hall of Famer, who should be able to help him add to a skill set that includes a fearsome bull rush. Karlaftis impressed with a pressure rate of 21.9% in his final year with Purdue…Wideout and offensive line are both obvious needs for the Dallas Cowboys, but Jerry Jones eschewing a receiver to pick a lineman just doesn’t seem likely. Jahan Dotson’s catch rating, which measures how successfully a receiver brings in balls that are considered catchable on a 0 to 1 scale, of 0.978 was the best of any receiver in the class last season…The one thing missing from what looks a vastly improved Bills defense? A corner to play across from Tre’Davious White. A leg injury kept Andrew Booth Jr. out of pre-draft testing, but he excels in both man and zone coverage and his five interceptions were the most among ACC cornerbacks over the last two seasons.
Picks 26-32: The Tennessee Titans were 28th in pass block win rate and 19th in run block win rate in the previous campaign. Kenyon Green can offer a boost in both areas…Between Jamel Dean, Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers don’t lack corner depth. Where they have struggled is keeping those players healthy. Kaiir Elam, who performed excellently in his matchup with Jameson Williams last season, can provide insurance and ball skills. He racked up 20 pass breakups in three seasons at Florida…The Packers can’t keep relying on the versatility of Elgton Jenkins if the injury bug hits again at tackle. Bernhard Raimann can slot in immediately at right tackle for a team that saw their season come to an end in part through a failure to protect Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs, ranking 23rd in pass block win rate…Jordan Davis, the undisputed star of the NFL Combine after running the 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds at 341 pounds, gets to slot in next to Chris Jones on the Kansas City Chiefs defensive line and takes his run stopping skills to a team that allowed the second-most yards per carry (4.77) in 2021.
Tyrann Mathieu doesn’t appear to be returning to Kansas City, but Daxton Hill can take his place as the versatile safety in the defensive backfield. He had nine pass breakups and two interceptions in his final year at Michigan…With Tyler Linderbaum likely limited to a team that runs a zone-blocking scheme and possessing arms barely over 31 inches that put him in the just the first percentile for centers, there’s talk of him falling out of the first round. However, the Cincinnati Bengals made the Super Bowl despite a line that was 25th in pass block win rate and 27th in run blocking. They should look past those concerns to make him the final piece of their offensive line makeover…After missing out on Hutchinson, the Lions take a chance on the other Michigan pass rusher despite the Achilles injury suffered at his pro day. David Ojabo had the highest 2021 adjusted sack rate (7.6%) of any edge player in the class.
First Picks by Teams Without First-Rounders
The Chicago Bears need a downfield weapon for Justin Fields at No. 39. Alec Pierce, who registered a burn rate of 72.9% and averaged 14.74 burn yards per target with an average depth of target of 16.4 that was the highest in the class, fits the bill…After finishing 2021 a disappointing 20th in pass rush win rate, it makes sense for the Indianapolis Colts to add Logan Hall at No. 42. Hall would offer inside-out versatility to a defensive front also featuring DeForest Buckner and Yannick Ngakoue…David Bell’s 1,286 receiving yards were the second most in the Big Ten last season and he did much of his best work from the slot, where the Cleveland Browns (44th pick) have a hole after the departure of Jarvis Landry…The tone of San Francisco general manager John Lynch’s comments on Monday suggested center Alex Mack will be retiring. Cam Jurgens is an excellent fit at No. 61 for a zone-heavy offense that was eighth in run block win rate.
Alex Wright is the sleeper of the edge class, which he led in both pressure rate (31.3%) and run disruption rate (18.7%), numbers that hint at him being able to help fill the Von Miller void for the Denver Broncos at No. 64…At 86, the Las Vegas Raiders select the Cincinnati corner who was tested more frequently as teams avoided Ahmad Gardner, Coby Bryant’s 10 interceptions since 2018 were tied for the fourth most in the FBS…Long, powerful and blessed with an impressive array off pass rush moves, Kingsley Enagbare (24.6%) trailed only Wright and Hutchinson for pressure rate in his final year at South Carolina. He goes to the Miami Dolphins at No. 102…The Los Angeles Rams have shown a scant disregard for draft picks that was rewarded with a Super Bowl title. Their first pick comes in the third round and Myjai Sanders is an undersized pass rusher whose pressure rate of 20.4 in his final year of college ball could improve drastically playing on the same front as Aaron Donald.
Greg Gifford and Kyle Cunningham-Rhoads contributed. Research support provided by Stats Perform’s Chase Weight. Graphic design by Matt Sisneros.