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2022 NFL mock draft: Lions, Panthers, Saints take QBs Round 1

The Bears don’t currently have a pick in Round 1, but what happens on the first day will have an impact on their strategy in Round 2 and beyond.

North Carolina v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

The 2022 NFL Draft is drawing nearer, and it’s been a while since we’ve done a Round 1 mock draft here at Windy City Gridiron.

Granted, the Bears don’t have a first-round pick because of their trade up for Justin Fields in 2021 that you might’ve heard about once or twice. That said, how the first round plays out will have a big impact on Chicago’s strategy in this year’s draft, so we might as well prepare ourselves for what may be ahead.

I think that the discussions about this class not being all that great are pretty hyperbolic. Sure, there isn’t a quarterback on the caliber of Trevor Lawrence or Joe Burrow as a prospect, and many of this year’s top players don’t play the sexiest of positions. Those things shouldn’t discredit how much defensive talent there is in the draft, as well as the loaded classes at both wide receiver and offensive tackle.

This year’s draft feels as unpredictable as any class we’ve seen in years, starting with the first overall pick. There isn’t much consensus among which teams which take which players, but that won’t stop me from trying to predict it anyway!

Here are my latest predictions for Round 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft, as well as some of the notable prospects who might be available for the Bears in Round 2 in this hypothetical scenario.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars - Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan: I wouldn’t rule out Neal here, but the Jaguars could use another pass-rusher alongside Josh Allen, and K’Lavon Chaisson hasn’t gotten off to the start they had hoped. Hutchinson is an explosive and technically-sound monster with a high floor and a Pro Bowl ceiling.
  2. Detroit Lions - Malik Willis, QB, Liberty: I’m writing this with little to no idea what the Lions will do at No. 2, as they could go in several directions here. That said, Jared Goff isn’t the long-term answer at quarterback, and Willis has the most upside of any QB in this draft by a landslide.
  3. Houston Texans - Evan Neal, OT, Alabama: The Texans are giving Davis Mills a fair shot to prove himself as a long-term starter, and doing that requires protecting their quarterback. Neal is a mammoth of a man whose mobility and play strength should see him translate well to the next level.
  4. New York Jets - Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State: Though I believe giving up on Mekhi Becton this early is premature, the Jets would be smart to bring in an offensive lineman of Ekwonu’s caliber to protect Zach Wilson. Ekwonu’s nasty edge, grip strength and raw athleticism can make him a road-paver for New York’s offense.
  5. New York Giants - Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia: It wouldn’t be shocking if the Giants looked to trade down from No. 5, but if they don’t, they’ll certainly give Walker a look. He’s a bit raw, but a player with his size, length, athleticism and motor has very high upside in the pros.
  6. Carolina Panthers - Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh: Sam Darnold isn’t the answer in Carolina. This team is still years away from competing, but getting an accurate and intelligent passer like Pickett could help give them a much-needed foundation.
  7. New York Giants - Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State: The Giants have had struggles along their offensive line for quite some time now, so the more high-end investment there, the better. Cross is a lengthy and super mobile pass protector who could start from Day 1.
  8. Atlanta Falcons - Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon: The Falcons need a lot of help on both sides of the ball. Thibodeaux has slipped down boards a little bit, but let’s not forget just how athletic and dominant he was at Oregon.
  9. Seattle Seahawks - Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati: A quarterback is a possibility for the Seahawks, but if they don’t trade up, they might not find great value at No. 9. They get a strong consolation prize in the form of Gardner, a lengthy and fluid cover corner with shutdown potential in the NFL.
  10. New York Jets - Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State: When was the last time the Jets had a great edge rusher? A wide receiver also makes a lot of sense here, but their defense needs an explosive pass-rusher like Johnson with a diverse arsenal to get into the backfield.
  11. Washington Commanders - Drake London, WR, USC: Terry McLaurin is one of the most talented wide receivers in the NFL, but he needs a running mate. London’s combination of size, deep speed and ball skills would pair very nicely with McLaurin and form a dominant 1-2 punch in Washington’s offense.
  12. Minnesota Vikings - Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame: It would be fitting for Harrison Smith to pass the torch down to another freakish Notre Dame product. Hamilton is a hard hitter, an intelligent coverage defender and a fluid athlete with elite ball skills and top-notch versatility on the defensive end.
  13. Houston Texans - Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU: Stingley hasn’t been able to top his 2019 campaign, but his tape still showcases elite hip fluidity, very good athletic tools and impressive ball skills. He was mocked to the Texans at No. 3 often a few months ago, so to get him at No. 13 is a steal.
  14. Baltimore Ravens - Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa: Bradley Bozeman is no longer on the Ravens, but luckily for them, they have a chance to replace him with one of the best interior offensive line prospects in recent memory. Linderbaum is essentially the total package and could be a Pro Bowler early on in his career.
  15. Philadelphia Eagles - Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State: If they’re going to make Jalen Hurts the guy, the Eagles would be smart to surround him with another dynamic weapon. Wilson’s skillset is a bit similar to that of DeVonta Smith, but adding another crisp route runner and dynamic athlete to the wide receiver room is never a bad thing.
  16. New Orleans Saints - Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati: Jameis Winston is the guy in New Orleans for the 2022 season, but the Saints may look for more long-term security at the quarterback position. Many scouts like Ridder for his arm, mobility and mental toughness.
  17. Los Angeles Chargers - Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia: Picture this: Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack and Jordan Davis all on the same defensive front. Enough said.
  18. Philadelphia Eagles - Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah: The Eagles have some pieces on defense, but they could use a stud off-ball linebacker to help complete the unit. Lloyd is a reliable tackler with good mobility, instincts and physicality in the box.
  19. New Orleans Saints - Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama: Michael Thomas is a great wide receiver when healthy, but the Saints could use an upgrade alongside him. Williams is a dynamic athlete and a precise route runner who should still be a first-round lock after a season-ending injury.
  20. Pittsburgh Steelers - Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa: The Steelers will surely bring in some form of competition for Mitchell Trubisky, but I’m not sure they do so in Round 1. Penning is a tone-setter up front with elite length and athleticism who has a sky-high ceiling at offensive tackle.
  21. New England Patriots - Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson: With both J.C. Jackson and Stephon Gilmore no longer on the roster, the Patriots could use some help at cornerback. Booth is a ballhawk with loose hips and the potential to develop into a playmaker along the boundary.
  22. Green Bay Packers - Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State: The Packers can go in so many different directions at the wide receiver position in the draft, but they would be wise to take someone there Round 1. Olave is one of the best route runners in the draft, and he’s a well-rounded talent who should be a good player in the NFL.
  23. Arizona Cardinals - George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue: Karlaftis may not fit the prototypical stand-up edge rushing mold, but he’s a versatile defender with elite power, quickness off the ball and refined hands. The Cardinals could move him around their defensive front and have him learn from J.J. Watt.
  24. Dallas Cowboys - Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College: The Cowboys still have a strong offensive line, but the departure of Connor Williams could be filled very well with a technically-sound interior blocker with very good body control like Johnson.
  25. Buffalo Bills - Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas: Burks is a powerful YAC machine with great hands who can make defenders miss and box them out at the catch point. Buffalo would be a fantastic landing spot for him to take on a complementary role as he rounds out his route tree.
  26. Tennessee Titans - Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia: The Titans have talented units on both sides of the ball, but they still feel like they’re a star or two away from crossing that Super Bowl threshold. Getting an explosive linebacker with sideline-to-sideline range like Dean could help them get closer to that.
  27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M: With Ali Marpet having retired, the Buccaneers have a glaring hole at left guard. Green is a powerful, mean and refined lineman who could be a staple for their offensive line for years to come.
  28. Green Bay Packers - Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan: For the concerns that come with Raimann’s profile, he’s still a lengthy and athletic offensive tackle who has improved exponentially in a short amount of time playing offensive line. The Packers have shown a willingness to take a shot on athletic specimens with early-round picks in the past.
  29. Kansas City Chiefs - Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan: Tyreek Hill is no longer on the Chiefs, and given that they clearly love speed at the wide receiver position, a sparkplug like Moore who offers elite YAC ability could help ease that loss a little bit.
  30. Kansas City Chiefs - Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington: There’s a good chance McDuffie goes higher than No. 30, so to get him here would be a steal for the Chiefs. His fluidity, deep speed and versatility in both man-heavy and zone-heavy scheme should see him overcome his shorter wingspan.
  31. Cincinnati Bengals - Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington: After spending a boatload of money to address the offensive line, I can see the Bengals going defense in Round 1. Gordon’s explosiveness and overall fluidity in coverage could see him drafted higher than where some expect him to.
  32. Detroit Lions - Lewis Cine, S, Georgia: The Lions pick again at No. 34 in the second round anyway, and I think it’s interchangeable whether they take a wide receiver or defensive player here. Cine plays like his hair is on fire and brings enticing athletic tools to the table.

Notable Bears targets available in Round 2:

  • Georgia WR George Pickens
  • North Dakota State WR Christian Watson
  • Tulsa OG Tyler Smith
  • Oklahoma DL Perrion Winfrey
  • Georgia DL Devonte Wyatt
  • Auburn CB Roger McCreary