We’re almost there. The first round of the 2022 NFL Draft unfurls Thursday, April 28, then the rest of the selecting continues through the next two days in Las Vegas.
The top of the first round will be all about three teams: the New York Giants, New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants and Jets have a pair of top-10 picks, while the Eagles have a pair in the top 20 following their pre-draft trade with the New Orleans Saints.
Here’s a stab at predicting the first round:
1. Jaguars – Edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
The elite edge rushers are the focus of this draft’s top 10, and I’m taking Thibodeaux first because I get tired of seeing Aidan Hutchinson’s name here. Sorry, Aidan, you’ll be fine.
2. Lions – Edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
See Aidan? You get to go to a home-state team. Told you I’d take care of you.
3. Texans – Edge rusher Travon Walker, Georgia
It’s the strength of the draft, so let’s go 1-2-3. Texans need pretty much anything.
4. Jets – Cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati
Great player, creates turnovers, has to go somewhere in the top five to me, so let’s make him a Jet.
5. Giants – Offensive tackle Evan Neal, Alabama
The rebuilding process gains a solid building block.
6. Panthers – Quarterback Malik Willis, Liberty
Just because you’re desperate for a quarterback doesn’t mean you have to take a quarterback in a bad QB year, but to me, Willis fits the profile of a guy the league will like a lot more when he starts throwing touchdown passes.
7. Giants – Cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
Too high? No, you’re too high, with recreational marijuana becoming legal in NJ I would bet on this exceptional talent, if I had a good handle on his medical questions.
8. Falcons – Wide receiver Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
Calvin Ridley is suspended, Julio Jones long gone, seems like a good time to draft a top wideout.
9. Seahawks – Offensive tackle Ickey Ekwonu, NC State
Seattle has suffered some big draft misses the past several years. This shouldn’t be one.
10. Jets – Edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II, Fla. State
Good fit? I dunno, but he deserves to be in the top 10.
11. Commanders – Safety Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
Despite the disappointing test numbers, a guy who will play a lot and play well.
12. Vikings – Offensive tackle Charles Cross, Mississippi State
Might not be there at 12, but if he is, very much a good value.
13. Texans – Wide receiver Jameson Williams, Alabama
This is a team with a long road ahead back to contention, that can afford to take a great player coming off an ACL injury.
14. Ravens – Offensive tackle Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
Good protection for Lamar Jackson.
15. Eagles – Wide receiver Chris Olave, Ohio State
AGAIN? Yes, again. Needed to get a quality wideout in free agency, weren’t able to do it. So, here we are.
16. Saints – Wide receiver Treylon Burks, Arkansas
Good wideout draft, big need for New Orleans.
17. Chargers – Linebacker Nakobe Dean, Georgia
Lots of people think they want Penning, the right tackle, but I have the Ravens taking him, so they’ll have to trade up, or maybe consider a really versatile linebacker with great coverage ability.
18. Eagles – Defensive tackle Jordan Davis, Georgia
Freaky athlete, little bit of a question mark as a pass rusher, but should be a fit for Jonathan Gannon’s system. Fletcher Cox replacement plan.
19. Saints – Defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt, Georgia
They might have preferred Wyatt’s teammate, Davis, but I had the Eagles take him, so the Saints go BAB – best available Bulldog. Three selections in a row here for the national champs!
20. Steelers – Quarterback Kenny Pickett, Pitt
Might not happen, but it’d be a great story. Hey, his parents already know the way from Ocean Township to Pittsburgh.
21. Patriots – Cornerback Trent McDuffie, Washington
JC Jackson is gone and ex-Eagle Jalen Mills is the Pats’ top corner. Good for Jalen, but let’s add some help.
22. Packers – Wide receiver Drake London, USC
He might be gone by this point, but I felt like giving Aaron Rodgers another weapon.
23. Cardinals – Wide receiver Jahan Dotson, Penn State
Fast and NFL-ready, maybe he’ll help heal the team’s rift with Kyler Murray.
24. Cowboys – Center Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
A once-vaunted o-line needs a facelift, and I’d start here.
25. Bills – Wide receiver Christian Watson, North Dakota State
A jet-powered Cole Beasley. Too early to take him? I don’t think so.
26. Titans – Edge rusher George Karlaftis, Purdue
Wasn’t a sack monster in college, but will be in the NFL, a lot of people think.
27. Bucs – Guard Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
Ali Marpet has retired and protecting Tom Brady seems like a pretty big deal to me.
28. Packers – Tight end Trey McBride, Colorado State
Big position of need. Yes, I’m giving Rodgers two weapons in the first round.
29. Chiefs – Cornerback Andrew Booth, Clemson
Ought to be able to play right away.
30. Chiefs – Edge rusher Boye Mafe, Minnesota
A first-round reach? Hey, we’re not really in the first round at 30, if you’re talking about the value teams assign to prospects. Lots of quickness and potential.
31. Bengals – Guard / center Zion Johnson, Boston College
The Bengals tried to revamp their o-line in free agency, but Joey Burrow could still use help inside.
32. Lions – Safety Dax Hill, Michigan
Yes, I have the Lions taking two Michigan guys in the first round. No, that probably won’t happen. But both picks make sense to me, and it’s my mock draft; you’re free to go make your own.
– – – Local journalism needs your support. Subscribe at nj.com/supporter.
Thank you for relying on us to provide the journalism you can trust. Please consider supporting us with a subscription.
Les Bowen is a freelance columnist who covers the Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL for NJ Advance Media.