Nate's NFL Mock Draft 1.0
1. Jacksonville Jaguars - Evan Neal, OT, Alabama - I’m going with the biggest team need over the best player available. The Jaguars are a complete mess, despite landing collegiate great Trevor Lawrence last season. They need a lot of help across all aspects of the game. In a draft where there’s no “must have” quarterbacks or no real “can’t miss” talent, the Jaguars ideally want to trade back, but they may be forced to make the selection. Getting the best offensive line prospect in the draft is no consolation prize however. Neal is the anchor to yet again, another great Alabama offensive line. Neal has a rare combination of size and speed at 6-foot-6. He has the measurables to be a starting offensive tackle in this league. The Jaguars must protect Lawrence, there’s no way around that.
2. Detroit Lions - Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan - I’m typically one that is against collegiate players returning for their senior year. It’s a big difference now that these athletes can benefit financially from their efforts, but still. Why risk your future going back to college when you can go into the NFL? Hutchinson has proven me wrong with this mindset, as his return to Ann Arbor for his senior year has skyrocketed his value. He’s a player that has improved every single week, leapfrogging the once near “untouchable” Kayvon Thibodeaux of Oregon. Hutchinson has the size to play edge in the NFL with his 6-foot-6 frame. The Lions are in a situation where they could take their pick of quarterbacks, but Jared Goff has given them a serviceable effort this past season. The Lions will opt for the best player available, it just so happens to be in one of their biggest areas of need.
3. Houston Texans - Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon - Davis Mills has looked competent at times, especially dealing with the very limited talent the Texans offered him. With a poor offensive line, no running game and a very limited receiving corps, Mills has proven that he has some potential of turning into a decent NFL arm. Therefore, the Texans could opt to not go quarterback as well in this draft. Let’s not forget that the Texans still can get draft capital for the likes of Deshaun Watson. The Texans’ defense is as depleted as their offense. There’s been a few decent names that have anchored the defensive line in the short history of the Houston Texans. Ever heard of J.J. Watt, Mario Williams or even Jadeveon Clowney? The Texans have their chance to get the next name for this list. The 6-foot-5 Thibodeaux may be better than Hutchinson, and if it wasn’t for a very impressive season and College Football Playoff appearance for him, Thibodeaux arguably would be the first pass rusher off the board. Don’t be surprised if he jumps Hutchinson during the draft process.
4. New York Jets - Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame - Kyle Hamilton is arguably my favorite talent in this draft. For some reason, I always gravitate towards the large safeties that are big enough to play linebacker. In today’s NFL you see them all over the place and the 6-foot-4, 220 pound Hamilton fits that ‘hybrid’ mold. These types of players can essentially play every position on defense and for a team struggling to find their defensive identity, such as the New York Jets, there’s no better pick than Hamilton. I talk about the sideline-to-sideline speed and abilities when talking about linebackers but that is what Hamilton is, a sideline-to-sideline ballhawk.
5. New York Giants - Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss - With two top seven selections, the Giants get a chance to take their shot. Daniel Jones is proving to not be the answer they once hoped he was when they selected him in the top ten. He’s flashed some bright spots but oftentimes is letting the Giants’ and their fans down. Sitting at five, the Giants get the chance to hit the reset button. Corral lost all of his main weapons from his breakout 2020 campaign but still made easy work of SEC secondaries. He showed a lot of his athletic ability this season as well, which is crucial in today’s NFL. He’s made great strides between 2020 and 2021 in both accuracy and decision making, showing promise that he can learn to take that next step into the NFL. On top of this, the Giants have parted ways with Joe Judge, allowing the new head coach to get his guy via the draft. There’s no closer thing to NFL defenses than the SEC and Corral has proven that he can handle them.
6. Carolina Panthers - Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU - If the Carolina Panthers were to go with a new head coach I would project a quarterback here, but as they are trending towards staying with Matt Rhule, the team may look to go with the best player available. This also seems to be the way the team will go after they quickly accepted Sam Darnold’s fifth year option. I think the Panthers give it one more go with Darnold. Rhule doesn’t have the time to develop a rookie quarterback. Stingley is the next in line to come from defensive back university, or better known as, LSU. Stingley is built to be a top corner who will follow the opposing team’s best receiver. His combination of length, speed and athleticism is ideal for the league. The Panthers need a lot of help, but getting a true number one corner is a step in the right direction.
7. New York Giants via Chicago Bears - Ikem Ekwonu, OT, N.C. State - After using the fifth overall selection to get their new quarterback, the Giants need to sure up that offensive line. Ekwonu may end up being the best offensive tackle in this draft when it’s all said and done. He could be long gone by this point come draft day, but if he’s there for the Giants’ taking, they should be ecstatic. Although just a touch undersized at 6-foot-4, Ekwonu may be the best run blocking offensive tackle prospect we’ve seen in a very long time. He finished the last two seasons with the most big-time blocks of any offensive lineman in college football. He’s going to be a great tackle in the NFL and after going with Corral, the Giants need to get their offensive line ‘quarterback’ as well.
8. Atlanta Falcons - Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia - The Atlanta Falcons are a mess defensively. They could use help at all levels. Therefore, getting the best linebacker of the draft makes sense. Nakobe Dean may not be the physical prototype of the typical NFL linebacker, but no one plays the position faster than he does. After help leading Georgia to a National Championship, Dean has proven that he has what it takes to be an NFL inside backer. He’s recorded a 91.9 pass-rushing grade and a 90.8 coverage grade over the past season. He’s as good at stopping the run as he is in dropping back into coverage.
9. Denver Broncos - George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue - The Broncos are an attractive destination for any free agent quarterback. They have one of the better complete rosters in the NFL and were semi competitive with Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock starting games. A free agent quarterback should choose them as their preferred destination and due to this, I think they go elsewhere in the draft. This draft is pretty loaded when it comes to defensive end talent. Karlaftis is a bit overshadowed by the two top dogs at the position in this draft, and rightfully so, but that doesn’t mean Karlaftis is not a top tier talent in his own right. When it comes to explosiveness and power, Karlaftis is the best in this draft, and that’s saying something. His close quarter hands and combat techniques are that of a veteraned professional.
10. New York Jets - Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa - The New York Jets used their first of two top ten selections on the defensive side of the ball and now get the chance to get arguably the best offensive lineman in the draft. A center in the top ten is essentially unheard of but Linderbaum is not your typical center. He’s a Pro-Bowl caliber lineman from day one. He can also play guard at the next level as well. Offensive line versatility is huge in the NFL. The Jets used a second overall pick a year ago on quarterback Zach Wilson so they have to protect that investment. Their offensive line is weak, so getting the best talent possible at ten is a win in my books.
11. Washington Football Team - Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina - The Washington Football Team has a competitive roster, just a lack of quarterback. They’ve tested the waters with several veterans at the position which obviously hasn’t paid off, as they still are picking just outside of the top ten in the rookie draft. With just one quarterback off the board, they get their go of the field after Carrol. Howell is often touted as the draft’s best signal caller. His passing numbers have decreased this last season but like Carrol, he lost most of his offensive arsenal from the previous season. Despite this, he flashed his athleticism, rushing for 1,072 yards this season and breaking 63 tackles, as a quarterback. He’s a little small for the ideal build of an NFL quarterback but we’ve seen that rule broken time-and-time again as of late.
12. Minnesota Vikings - Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida - Boy oh boy am I a Elam fan. I love lengthy corners and Elam offers all of the length in the world. I love SEC defenders, simply because they play NFL talent every single week. It’s easy to gauge what you’re looking at. Elam allowed just 18 catches from 33 targets and 165 yards on the season. In the SEC. Those numbers are from a video game. I’ll even go as far as declaring Elam the best corner in this draft, ahead of Stingley Jr. The Vikings have been a bottom half defense the last two years. They have a lot of needs on that side of the football. I think they give it one more go with Captain Kirk Cousins and forgo drafting a quarterback in this year’s draft.
13. Cleveland Browns - Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State - There are a lot of rumors circulating that the Browns may move on from Baker Mayfield. I don’t see how a franchise that has struggled to find a quarterback for its entire existence can move on from one it’s best of the past two decades (come on, you know it’s true.) Mayfield needs weapons. The team has done a great job building him an offensive line and one of the best one-two punching backfields in the league. You can’t succeed in this league with Jarvis Landry as your best receiver. This is a very nice receiving class, I think it’s highly underrated. Wilson is the cream of the crop however. The way he moves sets him apart from the rest of the field. He runs the best routes of the draft and his yards-after-catch ability is unmatched. He’s a true number one receiver and Mayfield needs that.
14. Baltimore Ravens - Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State - Protecting Lamar Jackson is one heck of a battle that the Ravens are fighting. During his MVP campaign and the dominant year the team had as a whole, their offensive line was dominant and stayed mainly intact. However, over the last two seasons, starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley has now suffered back-to-back season ending injuries to his left ankle. The Ravens need to look for life post-Stanley and that can start with Cross. Cross is a dominant pass protector and would be ideal for the Ravens to put in front of Jackson. Cross has also proven that he can improve from year-to-year. He allowed 44 pressures on 574 pass-protection snaps in 2020 and went on to allow just 16 on 719 pass-protection snaps this past season.
15. Philadelphia Eagles via Miami Dolphins - Drake London, WR, USC - The Eagles have three first round selections in the 2022 draft. They seemed to have finally hit on a receiver a year ago with Heisman winner Devonta Smith. Now, they get a chance to get him a much needed running mate. Drake London is a big body 6-foot-5 receiver who led the nation in contested catches with 19, while playing just eight games. During those eight games he caught 88 balls for 1,084 and seven touchdowns. The Eagles need to get a big physical receiver to play opposite the speedy, shifty Smith and that is exactly what London is. This would mark three straight years of the Eagles taking a receiver in the first round.
16. Philadelphia Eagles via Indianapolis Colts - Kingsley Enagbare, EDGE, South Carolina - Enagbare is not the best of athletes off the edge, but boy does he have length. This length had led Enagbare to be just behind Aidan Hutchinson with a 92.4 pass-rushing rating. That says something. The Eagles are young off the edge with Josh Sweat (24) and Derek Barnett (25.) Although young, not that efficient. The duo combined for just 9.5 sacks on the season. Enagbare will bring much needed depth and frankly, an upgrade to the position for the Eagles.
17. Los Angeles Chargers - Demarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M - There is some concern about Leal and that is justifiable. He was a top-ten player coming into the 2021 season but his lack of improvement from 2020 to 2021 is what has some people scared. I get it, I really do, but he is still a gifted 6-foot-4, 290 pound gifted athlete. The defensive front needs to be the Chargers’ focus via the draft in an effort to retool. I believe in the right situation Leal can strive and Los Angeles is a decent destination for him.
18. New Orleans Saints - Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State - The Saint are an odd team. Who knows what their situation is at quarterback for 2022. They should still be an appealing destination for a free agent or Jameis Winston is capable of running this team even post-ACL tear. Anyhow, whoever the quarterback is, they need someone to throw the ball to. Who knows what Michael Thomas’ situation is and beyond him, this is not a good receiving corp. What Sean Peyton has been able to do with the quarterback situation and the receiving corp he has is phenomenal. Now take another Ohio State product just as Thomas is. An excellent route runner, perhaps the best in the draft. On top of his ability to run routes, he joins that with his excellent speed and down field threat. That’s hard to find a combination of both. He’ll be a problem for opposing defenses for years to come.
19. Philadelphia Eagles - Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State - I hate to admit that the Eagles are trending in the right direction. They’re doing the right things in building their roster and have put together three top 19 picks in this year’s draft. They’ve gone receiver and pass rusher thus far, now they get that last piece to their defense, a dominant safety. Brisker is arguably the most physical safety in the country. He was the key piece to the Penn State defense that held some good offenses close. He is also fantastic in coverage. The Eagles’ secondary is much improved from just a few seasons ago. Now, it’s time to get that piece that sets them over the top.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers - Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh - This is a very fitting story. Ben Roethlisberger is set to hang it up after the completion of the Steelers’ season. Why not bring in the kid that already has the city’s heart. The city of Pittsburgh is a city that loves its players. Pickett was a four year starter at Pittsburgh and made a significant jump from his junior to senior season, re-writing the record books along the way. He’s this year’s biggest riser at the quarterback position and rightfully so. Pickett brings good size, mobility and accuracy to the table. On top of that, he possesses great poise, toughness, and leadership ability. These are things that can’t be taught. This just feels too good not to be true.
21. New England Patriots - Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn - The New England Patriots are all about value and that’s what they’ll be looking for via the draft, as usual. After a very surprising mid-season cut of former star corner Stephon Gilmore and some injuries to the position, the Patriots have found themselves thin on the outside. Luckily we have a pretty decent defensive back draft as McCreary is the third off the board here at 22. McCreary is led by his elite athleticism and in return, his reactive athleticism. McCreary is also a very good open field tackler and is willing to attack the ball carrier. Due to this, he can play both inside and outside, great for a team lacking depth at the position.
22. Las Vegas Raiders - Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia - You need a guy to fill space in the middle of the defensive line? Davis is your guy. He’s a menacing 6-foot-7, 360 pounds. He’s an immovable force. It is a bit concerning that he has only managed eight pressures on the season but he was also playing in one of the most talented defenses in the country. There is something that you cannot teach and that is size.
23. Arizona Cardinals - Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington - I’m the first to admit that I’m not that high on McDuffie. I know his tape and college resume says otherwise, but he is 5-foot-11 and played college ball in the PAC 12. The tape suggests that he plays bigger than he is. He allowed just 16 catches from 36 targets for 11 yards with no scores and five pass breakups. Rather impressive. I could be wrong though and that has happened before. The Cardinals started this season off hot before fizzling out towards the end. They need to strengthen their defense, which features many aging stars. That offense is more than fine.
24. Dallas Cowboys - Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati - The Dallas Cowboys’ defense has made a huge jump from last season to this season. They still have some work to do however and getting another cornerback is a great start. Gardner has not allowed a touchdown in his entire college career, which started way back as a true freshman. This season he allowed less than 100 yards to opposing receivers. Gardner brings a lot of length with his 6-foot-2 frame that he has filled out to just shy of 190 pounds. He has the measurables to be a starting outside cornerback.
25. Cincinnati Bengals - Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M - The way the Bengals are succeeding without a competent offensive line is impressive. I was one to quickly jump on them, saying not going offensive line last year over Ja’Marr Chase was a mistake. I’ll admit I was wrong, but now is the time to boost that line. Their franchise quarterback has already torn his ACL. They need to protect the man and a great way to start doing that is with Green. Green played every position along the Texas A&M’s offensive line, except center. The way this 6-foot-4, 325 pound man can move is absurd. He can play both guard or tackle at the next level, so this is an ideal pick for the offensive line needy Bengals.
26. Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers - Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan - The Dolphins had one of the more improbable runs to end the season. Winning eight of their last nine. Tua has proven to be a capable NFL quarterback. However, he still is left handed and is unconventional. Due to this, it’s really important for the team to build a stout offensive line to block for him. Raimann is a tight-end turned offensive tackle that allowed just ten pressures on the season.
27. Buffalo Bills - Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa - Keep Josh Allen healthy. A simple phrase yet such a hard task. The man takes enough of a beating on his own fault with the way he runs the football. The Bills can’t have him taking anymore hits, so adding the 6-foot-7, 321 pound Penning is a good idea. Due to his combination of size and strength, Penning moves defenders with ease. What a better way to protect your quarterback than with a literal mountain of a man?
28. Tennessee Titans - Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah - Lloyd is a very versatile linebacker that can play both inside and out. He made a massive jump from 2020 to 2021 in the passing game and in coverage. This is what really propelled him into the first round discussion. He can rush the passer from both the inside and outside. He attacks the ball very well in the run game with his good athleticism, quickness, and agility. Like I previously mentioned, it’s the versatility that really sets Lloyd apart. For a defense lacking depth in the linebacking position, Lloyd would be a welcomed addition.
29. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles Rams - Malik Willis, QB, Liberty - Why not use the pick they acquired from trading Matthew Stafford on their next quarterback? I think it’s obvious that Jared Goff is not the answer. Malik Willis is a huge risk, there’s no doubt about that, but he is an electrifying playmaker. He has a cannon for an arm and made 36 big-time throws. The turnovers are a concern but the Lions can treat Willis as a project and that’s what he needs. Some time to develop is best for Willis. Goff has two years left on his deal and should serve as a decent mentor for Willis.
30. Kansas City Chiefs - Lewis Cine, S, Georgia - Cine has been playing since being a true freshman for Georgia in the SEC. That says something. On top of his coverage ability, he is a very good open field tackler. He has missed just eight of 133 tackles this season. Tyrann Mathieu is a free agent and will demand a big contract. The Chiefs are hindered by Patrick Mahomes’ mega deal. They may be forced to move on and getting a rookie replacement would be a very smart cap move.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State - Chris Godwin tore his ACL towards the end of the season and won’t be ready for the start of the season. On top of that, he was on the franchise tag and would warrant a big contract. The Bucs’ may not be willing to pay that price, especially in the final year of Tom Brady’s contract. Enter Godwin’s replacement, fellow Penn State alum Jahan Dotson. Dotson has some size concerns at just 5-foot-11 but is arguably the most shifty receiver in the class. Dotson also has some of the most reliable hands in the draft, which is hard to find with his combination of speed and maneuverability.
32. Green Bay Packers - David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan - The smart thing here would be for the Packers to draft a receiver, especially with Aaron Rodgers likely on his way out and Devante Adams on the final year of his deal. They need to give Jordan Love something to work with but that’s not how the Packers operate. Instead, they opt for the best player available and that would be Ojabo, who made a heroic rise up draft boards after his breakout season. How much of his success was playing opposite Aidan Hutchinson? We’ll wait to find out.