Draft season runs all year long, baby.
Even though the 2021 NFL Draft is only two months in the rearview mirror, the summer is a perfect opportunity to establish the top names in college football and find potential breakout candidates to keep an eye on in the upcoming season.
The Bears don’t have a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft after using it to trade up for Justin Fields, but they do find themselves with a handful of potential needs that they could address on Day 2 or later. For the sake of including them in this exercise, I decided to expand my first mock draft of the 2022 draft cycle into two rounds.
From standout defenders to an intriguing offensive line class to a handful of gifted quarterbacks, the 2022 class seems to have plenty to like heading into the upcoming season.
Using the most recently released Super Bowl odds to create the order of picks — while switching the Saints and Dolphins to obtain equal playoff teams in each conference — here is my early 2022 two-round NFL mock draft.
1. Houston Texans: Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
So much is up in the air surrounding Deshaun Watson’s future in Houston, so if the Texans end up picking first overall in 2022, that likely means they’ll need a new quarterback.
Rattler started off last year on a rough note, but he really picked it up down the stretch and helped Oklahoma win their last eight games, including four ranked wins. His natural arm talent, athletic ability, sound mechanics and deep-ball touch look the part of a potential franchise gunslinger.
2. Detroit Lions: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
Jared Goff is the de facto starter at quarterback for the Lions in 2021, but barring a bounce-back with his new team, it seems likely Detroit could upgrade from him next year.
An accurate, tough quarterback with impressive touch, a compact release and solid arm strength, Howell looks the part of an NFL starter on tape. With his third season as a starter coming up, he will have the chance to solidify himself as one of, if not the best quarterback in college football.
3. New York Jets: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
The Jets used the 2021 draft to set the foundation of their rebuild with quarterback Zach Wilson. Next year, they could add a building block on the opposite side of the ball.
Thibodeaux stands out as one of the most talented edge rushers to play college football in recent years. He is a lengthy, freakishly athletic, high-motored, diverse pass-rusher whose sky-high ceiling projects him as arguably the best pure prospect in the 2022 draft.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Though the Bengals made some moves to upgrade their offensive line this offseason, it would be tough for them to pass on a potential star at offensive tackle.
Neal is a high-ceiling prospect with a massive frame at 6-foot-7 and 360 pounds, a nasty edge in his game and impressive athleticism for his size. If developed properly, he holds a Pro Bowl ceiling at offensive tackle at the NFL level.
The Jaguars acquired a potential superstar in Trevor Lawrence this past draft, and if they pick in the top-5 next year, the odds are strong that they can secure one of the best cornerback prospects in recent memory.
Stingley broke out with 6 interceptions and 15 pass deflections as a true freshman in 2019. He possesses the length, fluidity, ball skills, physicality and instincts needed to make him a potential superstar at one of the most important positions in football.
With as many as three potential first-round picks in 2022, the Eagles have the chance to make a massive turnaround next year. That flexibility should make it easy for them to take the best player available, regardless of position.
A 6-foot-4, 219-pound behemoth at safety, Hamilton is more than just a stereotype big-bodied, hard-hitting linebacker hybrid — he is also a fundamentally sound cover safety with very good ball skills and impressive overall athletic ability.
Death, taxes, and the Raiders needing a defensive tackle. Though they upgraded at edge rusher by signing Yannick Ngakoue, they could still use a pass-rushing threat along the interior.
Leal is a versatile defender who offers elite strength if projects as an edge rusher and elite athletic ability if project as an interior defender. His three-down value and physical attributes could make him a headache for opposing offenses to plan for at the next level.
8. Carolina Panthers: Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M
As tempting as it is to draft a quarterback for the Panthers here, they likely didn’t give up as much draft capital as they did for Sam Darnold to be a one- or two-year rental. They might as well protect him to the best of their abilities.
Few offensive linemen in the nation can match up with Green’s play strength and sound technical prowess. He does a great job of getting low, landing accurate strikes and physically overwhelming defenders at the point of attack.
The Giants would save $14 million in cap space by cutting Nate Solder next offseason. Finding a replacement for him along the offensive line seems like a no-brainer.
Cross stands out as one of the most athletic offensive tackles in the 2022 class, offers great acceleration climbing to the second level and commendable agility in pass protection. He also plays with good hand placement and is an intelligent blocker when looking for work.
10. Atlanta Falcons: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
The Falcons passed on the chance to draft a Matt Ryan successor in 2021, but they could do so next year with a quarterback whom many have compared to Michael Vick.
He only has one season of play at a smaller FBS school, but Willis’ ceiling is sky-high. An unreal athlete at quarterback with dual-threat upside, a rocket arm and flashes of intriguing ball placement, he is a swing for the fences who could find himself high in demand in the 2022 draft.
11. Washington Football Team: Carson Strong, QB, Nevada
With a dominant defense and some solid offensive pieces, Washington’s hole at quarterback is obvious. It wouldn’t be shocked for them to take an early shot on a signal-caller next year.
Though he has some kinks to iron out in his game, Strong is a fascinating long-term developmental pick at quarterback. He has arguably the strongest arm in college football, has shown fantastic anticipation and has made plenty of highlight-worthy throws in his two seasons starting for Nevada.
12. New York Giants (via Chicago): Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
After trading back with the Bears in April, there is a legitimate chance that the Giants could end up with two top-15 picks in the 2022 draft.
He doesn’t offer much value against the run yet, but Jackson is an athletic specimen whose first-step quickness, fluidity in space and ability to turn the corner sharply give him a very high ceiling as a pass-rusher down the line.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers: Zion Nelson, OT, Miami (FL)
The Steelers have a strong defense in place, but their offense could end up holding them back in 2021. Their offensive line stands out as a massive weakness.
Nelson is raw in terms of his pad level and maximizing the strength in his frame, but he is already a fantastic pass protector whose athletic ability, football IQ and coordination give him plenty to like as a first-round talent.
14. Minnesota Vikings: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
When the Vikings traded for Yannick Ngakoue last offseason, they did so with the intention of finding a pass-rushing complement alongside Danielle Hunter. That experiment didn’t work out, so they could intend on taking another shot on one in 2021.
He’s very much a hand-in-the-dirt edge rusher, but Karlaftis should be a football purist’s favorite edge rusher in the 2022 draft. He is a technically-sound defender with a hulking frame, a diverse arsenal as a pass-rusher and solid first-step quickness, and a healthy 2021 season could propel him even further up draft boards.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
The Cardinals have a lot to like on their roster, but arguably their biggest weakness is the cornerback position.
Another prospect from a long line of highly-touted Florida defensive backs, Elam had two interceptions and 11 pass deflections in 2020. He complements a 6-foot-2 frame with impressive movement skills, high route recognition and the ability to track the ball down well in the air.
16. Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
Justin Herbert’s stellar rookie year has the Chargers sitting pretty going forward, and after an offensive-minded offseason, they could look to make some defensive upgrades next year.
Harris is widely seen as the best linebacker prospect in the 2022 draft. He’s an incredibly athletic defensive prospect with sideline-to-sideline range as a tackler, impressive fluidity in coverage and an ability to take precise angles in pursuit against the run.
17. New England Patriots: John Metchie III, WR, Alabama
The Patriots spent significant money on wide receivers this offseason, but none of the players they added stand out as top targets. Why not bring in a talented wide out whom Mac Jones already has chemistry with?
2021 could serve as a breakout year for Metchie, who already had 916 yards last year in a complementary role to DeVonta Smith and, for a portion of the year, Jaylen Waddle. The incoming junior is a route-running technician who is crisp out of his breaks, diverse in his release package and can make defenders miss in space.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami): Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State
After boosting their secondary with the first pick, the Eagles could look to address an edge rusher position that currently has both starters on track to hit free agency next year.
Though heavily a rotational pass-rusher to this point, Harrison has the chance to explode in a bigger role for Ohio State this year. He is an insane athlete who ran a 4.47 40-yard dash coming out of high school, and his burst, flexibility and flashes as a technician could see him put together an incredible performance in 2021.
19. New Orleans Saints: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
If neither of Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston work out in 2021, the Saints would be wise to consider drafting a quarterback next year. However, they could also look to add another weapon to complement Michael Thomas.
Olave likely would have been an early pick had he declared for the 2021 draft, but he returns as one of the best wide receivers in next year’s class. He is a crafty route runner with the deep speed needed to stretch the field vertically and reliable hands.
20. Dallas Cowboys: Adam Anderson, EDGE, Georgia
The Cowboys aggressively attacked their defensive needs in the draft this year, but they could still look to add another pass-rusher early in 2022.
Anderson is a skinny prospect who has played mostly as a rotational pass-rusher thus far, but there’s a lot to like in his game. His burst off the ball, incredibly fluid hips and flexibility while turning the corner projects him as a potentially dangerous defender if he can pack on some more muscle.
21. Tennessee Titans: Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M
A.J. Brown and Julio Jones project to be an elite wide receiver duo in 2021, but the Titans lost Jonnu Smith and didn’t make a significant move at tight end this offseason.
Wydermyer has 12 touchdowns through his first two collegiate seasons, and with his 6-foot-5, 265-pound frame, physicality at the catch point, reliable hands and vertical speed, it’s easy to see why he is widely considered as the best tight end in college football heading into 2021.
22. New York Jets (via Seattle): Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State
After adding a blue-chip edge rusher with their first Round 1 pick, the Jets could also look to invest in a cornerback early next year.
Though still developing his instincts, Banks has the physical attributes needed to succeed along the boundary in the NFL. He is a lengthy cornerback at 6-foot-1 who blends size, speed, fluidity and physicality through a receiver’s stems and at the catch point.
23. Philadelphia Eagles (via Indianapolis): Owen Pappoe, LB, Auburn
An offensive pick could be intriguing with the conditional pick Philadelphia received in the Carson Wentz trade, but if Jalen Hurts plays well and is complemented by DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor and a healthy offensive line, the Eagles could add much-needed youth to their defense.
Pappoe may be a bit smaller for a linebacker, but his athleticism makes him a great fit for today’s game of football. He offers fantastic closing speed, fluidity in coverage, sideline-to-sideline range and some potential in terms of his instincts as a run defender between the tackles.
24. Denver Broncos: Perrion Winfrey, DL, Oklahoma
The Broncos are likely given such favorable Super Bowl odds because of Aaron Rodgers trade rumors, but if they do end up this low in the draft order, a defensive lineman could be a wise investment for their roster.
Winfrey is still a work in progress, but the flashes he has shown look the part of a future NFL starter. Though he hasn’t converted it to production at Oklahoma yet, he offers great pass-rushing value with his burst off the ball, athleticism in space and a diverse arsenal in his hands that blends both power and finesse.
25. Green Bay Packers: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Although the Packers drafted Amari Rodgers in Round 3 this year, they could still be benefitted if a standout wide receiver falls to them late in the first round in 2022.
Wilson falling this far would be a dream come true for a receiver-needy team like the Packers. A polished route runner with very good lateral quickness after the catch, he has the ability to get open and extend the play that can go up against just about any other collegiate receiver in the nation.
26. Cleveland Browns: David Bell, WR, Purdue
The Browns don’t seem to have too many glaring needs, but if they ship out Odell Beckham Jr. next offseason, they could use another talented, cheaper wide receiver for their offense.
If you liked Rashod Bateman in this year’s draft cycle, odds are you’ll also like Bell. He, like the Ravens’ first-round pick, is a nuanced route runner who can break press with a variety of releases and offers consistent hands and a lengthy frame at 6-foot-2.
27. Miami Dolphins (via San Francisco): Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
A running back in Round 1 is somewhat of a luxury pick, but given the way the board played out here, the Dolphins could pursue a talented back if one falls to them.
Hall is, from a physical perspective, the ideal modern NFL running back. He has the speed needed to break through a hole and run for a big gain, the lateral quickness needed to make defenders miss in space, and a 6-foot-1, 215-pound frame that allows him to keep his legs churning through contact.
28. Baltimore Ravens: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
The Ravens have some good short-term pieces along the offensive line, but their long-term prospects currently seem to be up in the air.
Iowa has done a good job of producing quality offensive linemen, and Linderbaum seems to be the next man up. Though a bit undersized, his consistency in terms of pad level, weight distribution and hand usage allow him to regularly beat bigger defenders at the point of attack.
29. Detroit Lions (via L.A. Rams): Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
After securing a potential franchise quarterback earlier, the Lions would be wise to add a potential No. 1 wide receiver for Howell to throw to.
He may be raw as a route runner, but Burks is a massive receiver at 6-foot-3 and 232 pounds who offers vertical speed, great agility for his size, toughness after the catch and physicality at the catch pounds. His physical gifts should have him highly on teams’ boards over the next 10 months.
30. Buffalo Bills: Jahleel Billingsley, TE, Alabama
The Bills don’t have many holes on their roster, so they could afford to take a shot on a high-upside prospect to boost their offense.
Though he only has 303 collegiate receiving yards and isn’t incredibly big or physical, Billingsley offers incredible upside as a pass-catcher. He is a crafty route runner who has impressive acceleration off the snap, reliable hands and the ball skills needed to serve as a reliable red-zone threat.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Though they’re coming off of a Super Bowl win and are returning all 22 starters this year, they have a few key starters on track to hit free agency next offseason.
Booth hasn’t had a full season as a starter yet for Clemson, but he has so much untapped potential to work with heading into 2021 and beyond. He is an athletic cornerback with the ball skills of a wide receiver, consistent physicality in man coverage and urgency in the run game.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama
The Chiefs aren’t necessarily weak at the cornerback position, but adding an intriguing talent like Jobe could be beneficial to their defense going forward.
Jobe broke out in 2020 and has another season to showcase his skills against some of the top competition in the nation. He is a physical cornerback who blends his willingness at the catch point with very good fluidity, deep speed and reliability in the run game.
33. Houston Texans: Nik Bonnito, EDGE, Oklahoma
34. Detroit Lions: Brandon Joseph, S, Northwestern
35. New York Jets: Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State
36. Cincinnati Bengals: Avery Young, CB, Rutgers
37. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
38. Philadelphia Eagles: Isaiah Likely, TE, Coastal Carolina
39. Las Vegas Raiders: George Pickens, WR, Georgia
40. New York Jets (via Carolina): Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M
41. New York Giants: Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
42. Atlanta Falcons: Myjai Sanders, EDGE, Cincinnati
43. Washington Football Team: Jarrett Patterson, C, Notre Dame
The Bears have a handful of young cornerbacks on their roster, but until one of them proves capable of being a full-time starter alongside Jaylon Johnson, the position projects as arguably their biggest need heading into 2021.
Hodges-Tomlinson is a bit undersized at 5-foot-9, but his fluidity, route-recognition, ball skills and athleticism stand out on tape. A shutdown cornerback who plays with a scrappy edge in man coverage, he would bring an element of swagger and a high football IQ to Chicago’s secondary.
45. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kedon Slovis, QB, USC
46. Minnesota Vikings: Tiawan Mullen, CB, Indiana
47. Arizona Cardinals: Jaxson Kirkland, OT, Washington
48. Los Angeles Chargers: Tyler Davis, DT, Clemson
49. New England Patriots: Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson
50. Miami Dolphins: Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
51. New Orleans Saints: Justin Eboigbe, DL, Alabama
52. Dallas Cowboys: Bubba Bolden, S, Miami (FL)
53. Atlanta Falcons (via Tennessee): Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
54. Seattle Seahawks: Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State
56. Denver Broncos: Kaleb Eleby, QB, Western Michigan
57. Green Bay Packers: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
58. Cleveland Browns: Kingsley Enagbare, EDGE, South Carolina
59. San Francisco 49ers: Martin Emerson Jr., CB, Mississippi State
60. Baltimore Ravens: Obinna Eze, OT, TCU
61. Los Angeles Rams: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
62. Buffalo Bills: Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame
63. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Darian Kinnard, OG, Kentucky
64. Kansas City Chiefs: Ty Fryfogle, WR, Indiana