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Andrew Erickson’s 2022 NFL Mock Draft 5.0

Apr 14, 2022


 
NFL Free Agency is long gone, which means NFL rookie mock draft season is FULL ON. The 2022 NFL Draft is just two weeks away, so there’s no better time to unveil NFL Mock Draft 5.0.

The NFL team needs have changed drastically with all the transactions in free agency, impacting how they approach the top prospects in the draft. Some teams that looked to be in the market for certain positions among the 2022 NFL rookie class may be going in a different direction than earlier in the pre-draft process.

Hence, I’ve created the 2022 NFL Draft Needs For All 32 NFL Teams Post-Free Agency as my guide to align this latest mock draft with what NFL teams will do when they are on the clock.

We’ve also had another blockbuster trade go down since my latest mock draft between the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles – further shaking things up within the top-32 picks.

Here we go.

Andrew Erickson Mock Draft

*Per usual, this mock draft is based on what I think will happen, not necessarily what I would do in each team’s position.*

1. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Aidan Hutchinson (Edge – Michigan)

The odds-on favorite to be selected No. 1 is Michigan pass-rusher Aidan Hutchinson (-280). His 2021 PFF defense grade (94.5) is the highest among any edge defender entering the NFL since Washington Commander Chase Young (DE – WAS).

Hutch’s pressure rate above expectation (10.9%) ranks second in the class and is nearly double that of Kayvon Thibodeaux’s (DE – Oregon) third-placed rate (6.6%), per Sports Info Solutions.

Because the Jaguars took care of addressing their team needs in free agency, they can select the No. 1-ranked player on my 2022 NFL Draft Top-100 Big Board. Hutchinson and defensive end Josh Allen (DE – JAC) will form a scary pass-rush duo in DUVAL.

2. DETROIT LIONS: Travon Walker (Edge – Georgia)

Only the Atlanta Falcons boasted a worse pressure rate on defense than the Lions did a season ago. It seems only fitting that Georgia edge defender Travon Walker is the pick to provide a spark to the knee-cap hungry Detroit defense.

Walker led the Georgia Bulldogs No. 1-ranked defense in total pressures this past season, with 13 coming during their playoff run.

His rare agility at 6-foot-5 and 272 pounds will be a significant issue for opposing offensive lines. The former Bulldog flashed his rare speed/bend at the NFL Combine with a 4.51 40-yard dash (98th percentile) and a 6.89 3-cone drill (93rd percentile).

With 35 1/2 inch arms to boot, Walker possesses rare traits that make him worthy of the No. 2 overall pick. He’s the betting favorite at +250 to go be second off the board.

3. HOUSTON TEXANS: Ahmad Gardner (CB – Cincinnati)

Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton (S – Notre Dame) has been my pick for the Texans through my first three mock drafts, but the reality is starting to sink in that he will fall in Round 1. Reports are swirling that with his sluggish 40-time at his school’s pro day (4.70), he could fall out of being a top-10 selection. But even though the rest of the media and I are higher on him – No. 5 on my updated Big Board – real NFL teams are making the same mistake they did when Derwin James (S – LAC) fell in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Instead of taking the do-it-all safety, the Texans pivot to a different defensive back that has seen his draft stock skyrocket throughout the pre-draft process.

Houston goes with cornerback Ahmad (Sauce) Gardner from Cincinnati.

General manager Nick Caserio stems from the New England Patriots system – notorious for valuing pass coverage in favor of pass rush – so the Texans opt for a lock-down cornerback.

Gardner never allowed a touchdown in coverage during his college career and gave up just 0.6 receptions per game – the best mark in the draft class.

4. NEW YORK JETS: Kayvon Thibodeaux (Edge – Oregon)

The Jets have many holes on their roster, especially on defense, so they look to bolster that side of the ball with elite pass-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux. The Oregon product generated 48 pressures in 11 games his junior season – 4.4 per game, and that mark ranked 10th among the 2022 edge class.

He also generated a 19% pressure rate – a metric that considers the percentage of pass rushes that resulted in a quarterback hurry, hit, knockdown, or sack provided by Sports Info Solutions. Only Oklahoma’s Nik Bonitto (LB – Oklahoma) boasted a higher pressure rate last season (22%).

Pairing their 2021 prized free-agent acquisition, Carl Lawson (DE – NYJ), with Thibodeaux will help form a dynamic pass-rush duo for Gang Green.

Thibodeaux also checks off many prospect boxes that Joe Douglas typically drafts. He went to a Power Five school and looked the part as an athletic specimen. Thibodeaux’s 4.58 40-yard dash ranks in the 93rd percentile, and his 10-yard split ranks in the 87th percentile.

He also showcased his athleticism at Oregon’s Pro Day on April 1st, bolstering his case as the Jets’ pick at No. 4 overall.

5. NEW YORK GIANTS: Evan Neal (OT – Alabama)

Out with the old, in with the new. Big Blue cleaned house this offseason, hiring Brian Daboll as head coach and Joe Schoen as general manager. Both guys spent their last several seasons with the Buffalo Bills. Management/ownership understands they need to put Daniel Jones (QB – NYG) in a position to succeed this season to identify him as their long-term answer at quarterback.

The easiest way to achieve that goal is to add protection upfront in the form of offensive lineman Evan Neal. The Alabama tackle finished top-10 in his draft class with the lowest pressure rate allowed (2.4%) as a full-time left tackle in his first season.

Neal should help fortify PFF’s third-worst offensive line that will be without Nate Solder (OL – FA), Will Hernandez (OL – ARI), and Billy Price (OL – FA) due to free agency. The Giants did add interior help through the veteran marketplace, but tackle is a must in the draft.

6. CAROLINA PANTHERS: Kenny Pickett (QB – Pitt)

The Panthers and Matt Rhule are in quite the sticky situation. They have a solid ready-to-compete roster and glaring holes at the two most important positions: quarterback and offensive tackle. And what makes things so critical with the No. 6 overall pick is that they don’t select again until the draft enters outside the top-100.

Rhule doesn’t have the luxury of running it back with Sam Darnold (QB – CAR) or waiting on Jimmy Garoppolo (QB – SF)/Baker Mayfield (QB – CLE) to become available. So the quarterback-needy team selects the most pro-ready and seasoned rookie quarterback in Kenny Pickett.

Pickett finished third in PFF passing grade from a clean pocket (94.3) and first in his class in adjusted completion percentage (79%) during his 2021 breakout season.

Carolina finished 32nd in the league last season in completion percentage. #FreeDJMoore.

7. NEW YORK GIANTS: Jermaine Johnson (Edge – Florida State)

The Giants cannot pass up on Jermaine Johnson from Florida State at pick seven. The Georgia transfer tied Aidan Hutchinson with 14 sacks to lead the 2022 NFL Draft class, despite playing in fewer games.

The former Georgia edge defender averaged one sack per game and earned more offensive holding calls than any other pass-rusher in the class.

8. ATLANTA FALCONS: Ikem Ekwonu (OL – NC State)

The Falcons are in full-on tank mode. The team is taking a whopping $40.5 million dead cap hit after trading Matt Ryan (QB – IND) – the largest dead cap hit in NFL history – setting the franchise back from where they were a season ago.

They have to play the long-term game to get back in contention for 2023/2024, starting with building from the inside out. More specifically, not putting a fringy rookie quarterback in a bad situation, whether that player is someone they draft this season or next season.

They have left tackle Jake Matthews (OL – ATL) locked up, but right tackle Kaleb McGary (OL – FA) is a free agent in 2023. It might be wise to invest in blocking now to protect the rookie quarterback they draft in the future.

Ikem Ekwonu gives them the flexibility to use him at tackle or guard to ensure their future franchise quarterback gets the protection he needs.

Ekwonu allowed zero quarterback hits in 2021. He’s also an absolute mauler in the run game – PFF’s fifth-highest graded run-blocker in his final season at NC State.

9. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Malik Willis (QB – Liberty)

A forward-thinking team doesn’t trade away a 33-year-old franchise quarterback unless they have a tentative contingency plan. And no, that plan does not feature Drew Lock (QB – SEA) as the Seattle Seahawks starting quarterback.

All the buzz out of Indianapolis was that Seattle loved Malik Willis, so I’d imagine that he is the rookie quarterback they envision selecting at this spot. Willis impressed teams at the combine with overall offensive knowledge, ability to retain offensive info, and play-calls for the position.

He also showcased his big arm at Liberty’s pro day with several NFL executives and coaches closely watching. Willis finished the 2021 season as PFF’s fourth-highest graded passer on throws of 20-plus air yards.

His dual-threat ability – he averaged nearly 100 rushing yards per game over the last two seasons – mimics a younger Russell Wilson (QB – DEN), so it’s no wonder why Seattle is so high on the incoming rookie quarterback.

10. NEW YORK JETS: Drake London (WR – USC)

The Jets saw the Bengals’ offense take off in year two after they paired their second-year quarterback with a dynamic rookie wide receiver. If they want Zach Wilson (QB – NYJ) to take a similar leap in year two, New York needs to give him more offensive weapons. And the fact that the Jets were all-in on going after Tyreek Hill (WR – MIA) is a tell-tale sign that one of their first-round picks will be a WR.

Insert Drake London. The USC product boasts all the skills to be an alpha possession receiver at the next level.

The 6-foot-4 and 219-pound towering wide receiver only played in eight games in 2021 due to an ankle injury but made every game count. He commanded a 38% target share and led all WRs in contested catches (19). The former Trojan’s 68% contested-catch rate ranked No. 1 in the class.

Last year’s leader in the same category? The Jets’ second-round pick Elijah Moore (WR – NYJ) (73%). And like Moore, London was a reception/yardage machine catching 11 balls for 135.5 receiving yards per game.

He’s also been a force since he first stepped onto USC’s campus, as he hauled in five touchdowns and 567 receiving yards as a true freshman while sharing the field with future NFL wide receivers Michael Pittman Jr. (WR – IND), Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR – DET), and Tyler Vaughns (WR – PIT). It’s utterly impressive considering London was just 18 years old at the time.

Still yet to turn 21 years old entering the NFL, his game as a big-bodied wideout echoes a spry Michael Floyd.

11. WASHINGTON COMMANDERS: Garrett Wilson (WR – Ohio State)

Poor quarterback play prevented Washington from taking a step forward in 2021. Their offense trotted out the league’s seventh-worst offense per PFF. As the newly-named Commanders, they needed to upgrade.

Veteran quarterback Carson Wentz (QB – WAS) is far from perfect – but he’s still an improvement from what Washington was thrusting under center in 2021. The next step is adding talent around Wentz to get the most use of him. So they bring in Garrett Wilson to pair with fellow former Buckeye Terry McLaurin (WR – WAS).

Last year’s third-rounder Dyami Brown (WR – WAS) did not flash as a rookie, and injuries plagued Curtis Samuel’s (WR – WAS) first season in the nation’s capital. Wilson’s addition addresses a “need” while also creating a friendly environment for a future quarterback should the team move on from Wentz in 2023.

Wilson finished the 2021 season first in Sports Info Solutions’ expected points per game added metric – despite playing among extremely high-level competition.

12. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Derek Stingley (CB – LSU)

The Vikings ranked fifth in most passing yards allowed this past season and have a glaring hole at cornerback. Patrick Peterson (CB – MIN) isn’t getting any younger and Mackensie Alexander (CB – FA) remains unsigned. That leaves just Cameron Dantzler (CB – MIN) as a starter surrounded by less-than-ideal options.

The Vikings fill the void by selecting Derek Stingley Jr., who was seen as a can’t-miss option after his freshman season. The LSU product has regressed some the past two years, but the talent showcased in 2019 – PFF’s highest-graded corner – is worth it.

Anticipate that Minnesota probably has a solid read on Stingley’s profile heading into the draft, based on them hiring former LSU defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach Daronte Jones.

He also dismayed any doubt surrounding his current health after testing at LSU’s pro day. He ran a 4.44 40-yard dash (72nd percentile), jumped 38.5″ in the vertical (80th percentile), and leaped 122″ in the broad jump (51st percentile).

13. HOUSTON TEXANS: Charles Cross (OT – Mississippi St.)

With their secondary shored up, the Texans look to the offensive side of the ball to bolster protection for second-year quarterback Davis Mills (QB – HOU). With Laremy Tunsil (OL – HOU) locked in at left tackle, the Texans can draft Charles Cross, who showed at his pro day he is more than capable of playing on the right side.

The team has been non-committal about picking up the fifth-year option on OL Tytus Howard (OL – HOU), so his days may be numbered. They also seem to prefer playing him at guard than at tackle, opening the real chance this pick is indeed Cross at No. 13.

The Mississippi State Bulldog was elite from Week 4 onward as PFF’s second-highest graded pass-blocker (87.6).

He also showed up against the most substantial competition allowing just two combined pressures in four SEC matchups against Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, and Auburn.

14. BALTIMORE RAVENS: Kyle Hamilton (S – Notre Dame)

Uh-oh. Did the Ravens just draft the next coming of Ed Reed? Yup.

Because the Kyle Hamilton slide stops in Baltimore.

Hamilton is a top-end defensive talent and provides recourse against ever-evolving NFL offenses. With so much to offer – strong tackler, desired length/size, and coverage ability – he fits the profile for a team that is just looking to draft the best player available, which could also benefit from extra help in the secondary.

The Ravens – a renowned franchise for valuing safety play in a defensive scheme more than most – are the perfect fit for the Notre Dame safety alongside newly acquired veteran safety Marcus Williams (S – BAL).

No safety forced more broken passes per game than Hamilton did in 2021.

15. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Trent McDuffie (CB – Washington)

Trent McDuffie was PFF’s fifth-highest graded 2022 draft-eligible cornerback in 2021, allowing no more than 39 receiving yards in any game. With the aptitude to play both zone and man coverage, the former Washington Huskie can become a significant immediate contributor to an NFL secondary.

He sticks to wide receivers like glue evidenced by his No. 1 rank in fewest yards after the catch allowed per reception (0.9) and third-ranked yards allowed per game (11.8) as provided by Sports Info Solutions.

The Eagles need to replace free-agent cornerback Steven Nelson (CB – PHI), so drafting McDuffie also helps plug a hole on defense. Pairing him opposite Darius Slay will provide the Eagles with one of the top cornerback duos in the league.

16. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Chris Olave (WR – Ohio State)

Even with Michael Thomas (WR – NO) back in the fold, there’s still a major gaping hole at the wide receiver position in the Big Easy. Long-time general manager Mickey Loomis has had zero issues spending high-end draft capital on WRs in the past, making Chris Olave the selection here.

The former Buckeye doesn’t offer the same skill set as Thomas, but he can separate from defenders at an elite level downfield. Olave wrapped up his 2021 season in the 96th percentile in separation versus single coverage and caught seven touchdowns on throws of 20-plus air yards.

He further cemented himself as a top-20 selection by blazing a 4.39 40-yard dash (90th percentile) at the NFL Combine.

Olave draws parallels to Calvin Ridley (WR – ATL) with his route running ability. But like Ridley coming out of school, Olave doesn’t offer much after the catch.

His forced broken and missed tackle rate ranked 43rd among 43 qualifying wide receivers in the class. His yards after the catch per reception (4.2) ranked 37th.

CTAs

17. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: Trevor Penning (OT – Northern Iowa)

The Chargers made out like bandits when tackle Ra’Shawn Slater fell to them at No. 13 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. And they strike gold once again, with Trevor Penning falling into their laps at No. 17 overall.

The Northern Iowa tackle’s draft stock has increased since the Reese’s Senior Bowl, and his NFL Scouting Combine performance pushed him further up draft boards.

The 6-foot-7 and 325-pound behemoth ran a 4.89 40-yard dash (97th percentile) and blazed a 7.25 in the 3-cone drill (96th percentile) – tied for the fastest time of tackles that tested.

With a prospect profile that draws parallels to former first-round tackle Nate Solder, Penning won’t need to wait long to hear his name on draft night. Penning’s 97.3 overall PFF grade and 99.9 run-blocking grade both ranked first in all of Division 1 college football in 2021.

He’s an immediate upgrade over right tackle Storm Norton (OL – LAC) – PFF’s worst-graded pass-blocking tackle in 2021.

18. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Devin Lloyd (LB – Utah)

The crux of the Eagles’ problems on defense last season can be traced back to their porous linebacker play. T.J. Edwards (LB – PHI) is a solid starter, but he is still slow, and it’s bare-bones behind him on the depth chart, hence why Devin Lloyd is the pick. The Utah product is a do-it-all linebacker with the ability to cover tight ends, generate pressure, and play on all downs.

He finished the 2021 season with eight sacks and 90 solo tackles – ninth-most in the FBS. Lloyd should mitigate the damage that tight ends inflicted on the Philly faithful last year. He had the most pass breakups among draft-eligible weak-side linebackers.

19. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Tyler Smith (OT – Tulsa)

The Saints needed to replace left tackle Terron Armstead (OL – MIA) after he got paid big money to sign with the Dolphins. Linebacker Kwon Alexander (LB – FA) also remains unsigned, opening the possibility that New Orleans drafts a linebacker.

With linebacker depth available in the later rounds, the Saints opt for offensive tackle Tyler Smith. The Tulsa product can be a future franchise left tackle.

He has played over 1,700 snaps from the left side in his college career and finished 2021 as PFF’s fourth-highest graded tackle. Smith also finished second in Sports Info Solutions’ expected points added on a per-game basis (3.4) – trailing only Charles Cross.

20. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Matt Corral (QB – Ole Miss)

The Steelers have not been shy about making their draft plans known to the media and the other 31 teams. Last year everybody knew they were going to select Najee Harris (RB – PIT), and this year it seems so obvious they will draft a quarterback at some point – most likely at pick No. 20.

Head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert have been highly involved in Pro Days featuring this year’s top rookie quarterbacks.

So with the 20th overall pick, Pittsburgh selects Matt Corral as their future franchise quarterback. Pour one out for Mitchell Trubisky (QB – PIT).

Corral rallied Ole Miss to a 10-2 record while finishing third in the SEC in passing yards (3,343) and 11th in the nation in PFF passing grade from a clean pocket (91.6). Corral’s expected throw air time is the lowest in the class, which is a reflection of his quick release and imposing arm strength.

He also rushed for nearly 750 yards and 11 scores. It’s that exact dual-threat ability that fantasy football dynasty managers should be looking to invest in for years down the line. He could make some noise in an offense littered with playmakers.

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada thrives on designing offensive plays around RPOs, bootlegs, and pre-snap motion, which align perfectly with what Corral did at Ole Miss.

21. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Zion Johnson (G – Boston College)

Zion Johnson is a solid starting guard from Day 1 and would be an immediate plug-in-play option for the Patriots after losing Shaq Mason (OL – TB) and Ted Karras (OL – CIN) this offseason. Johnson allowed just two quarterback hits and six total pressures in his final season at school.

The local BC Eagle tested exceptionally well at the NFL Combine, posting top marks in the shuttle (4.46, 93rd percentile), 3-cone (7.38, 92nd percentile), bench press (38, 97th percentile), and vertical jump (32″, 91st percentile).

22. GREEN BAY PACKERS: Jameson Williams (WR – Alabama)

No Davante Adams (WR – LV). No Marquez Valdes-Scantling (WR – KC). No problem. Green Bay addresses their glaring hole at wide receiver by adding Alabama speedster Jameson Williams. He can be the spark plug that the Packers need after a monster season as the Crimson Tide’s No. 1 receiver.

Williams commanded a 31% dominator rating by hanging 1,561 receiving yards, 20 yards per reception, and 15 touchdowns – all achievements that ranked top-three among his 2022 NFL Draft class. His gargantuan yardage totals were fueled by his ability to create yards after the catch and downfield. He finished top-seven among all college-wide receivers in yards after the catch per reception (9.3) and receiving yards on 20-plus air yard throws.

Williams has shades of Will Fuller V (WR – FA) and Mike Wallace to his game, a big play waiting to happen.

Williams’s speed is exactly what head coach Matt LaFleur is looking for.

23. ARIZONA CARDINALS: Jordan Davis (DT – Georgia)

The defensive line is a great area of need with NT Corey Peters (DT – FA) a free agent and OLB pass-rusher Chandler Jones (DE,LB – LV) in Las Vegas. The Cardinals were a bottom-10 run defense in terms of yards per carry in 2021, and Jones led the squad in total pressures.

At the next level, Jordan Davis can be an elite run-stuffer after wrapping up 2021 third in the class in defensive run-stop rate.

But he has the athletic profile to become an absolute game-wrecker versus the passing game. His 4.78 40-time at 341 pounds is the best weight-adjusted time among 487 interior defenders to run at the combine.

24. DALLAS COWBOYS: Treylon Burks (WR – Arkansas)

The wide receiver position needs to be addressed on offense after the team lost Amari Cooper (WR – CLE) and Cedrick Wilson (WR – MIA) this offseason. Enter Treylon Burks.

The Arkansas Razorbacks’ wideout finished first in his class in yards per route run (3.57) while also ranking No. 1 in yards per route run when lined up outside (6.08) among all receivers. It’s an encouraging sign that a size-speed specimen delivered when aligned on the perimeter, as he spent 77% of his career in the slot.

His 8.5 yards after the catch rank 14th among 169 qualifying wide receivers (92nd percentile) over the past two seasons, which caters perfectly to the Dallas offense. Big D finished ninth in YAC in 2021.

And we all know that Jerry Jones can’t resist drafting from his ‘ol alma mater.

25. BUFFALO BILLS: Breece Hall (RB – Iowa State)

NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah is one of the most accurate mock drafters in recent seasons due to how plugged in with NFL circles. He recently mocked Breece Hall to Buffalo at No. 25, and I understand the process behind the selection.

The Bills don’t have many holes on their roster, so they can “afford” a luxury selection by taking a running back in the first round.

And it’s no secret that Buffalo’s front office has been trying to upgrade the position, specifically with a running back capable of excelling in the passing game. They tried to sign J.D. McKissic (RB – WAS) this offseason and were heavily rumored to be in the market for Travis Etienne Jr. (RB – JAC) in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The fact that they are sniffing around for other running backs constantly despite having Devin Singletary (RB – BUF) on the roster suggests that his last season surge – fantasy RB3 over the last six weeks – might not be sustainable.

Hall represents an immediate upgrade in all facets.

The Iowa State product measured in at 5-foot-11 and 217 pounds at the NFL combine, slightly different from his listed playing size in school (6-foot-1, 210 pounds).

But his slightly stockier build did nothing to impede the Iowa State Cyclones’ on-field performance because he lit the testing drills ablaze: 4.39 40-yard dash (93rd percentile), 40″ vertical jump (94th percentile), and 126″ broad jump (91st percentile).

Hall’s 116.85 size-adjusted speed score was nearly identical to former Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray.

Pairing Hall’s athleticism with an off-the-charts college production profile – over 4,500 yards from scrimmage and 50 touchdowns – makes him my 1.01 in dynasty rookie drafts.

Hall provides immediate fantasy football appeal, considering his abilities as a slick receiver out of the backfield – 82 catches over three seasons, just two drops in his last two seasons. He has the requisite size and tools to be a three-down running back who never leaves the field.

26. TENNESSEE TITANS: Skyy Moore (WR – Western Michigan)

The Titans are still in dire circumstances at the wide receiver position with virtually no depth behind A.J. Brown (WR – TEN) and Robert Woods (WR – TEN) coming off a season-ending injury. They neglected to address WR last season with any high draft capital and won’t make the same mistake twice.

Tennessee adds Western Michigan wide receiver Skyy Moore to fill the void. It might seem like a reach here in the first round, but Tennesse doesn’t pick again until 90. They remain aggressive to get their guy who has skyrocketed up draft boards during the pre-draft process. If they can’t trade back, Tennessee will have to snag him at 26.

His 3.40 yards per route run in 2021 ranked in the 99th percentile among 2022 draft-eligible wide receivers over the past three seasons. The slippery playmaker – tied for first with 26 forced missed tackles – should hear his name called no later than the early second round after an impressive combine outing.

Moore ran a 4.41 40-yard dash (82nd percentile) at 195 pounds. He also jumped 125″ in the broad jump (77th percentile) and 34.5″ (38th percentile) in the vertical jump.

His athletic numbers were better than expected, and the way he plays bigger than his measurables would suggest is eerily similar to former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith.

Titans general manager Jon Robinson has never been shy about investing high-end draft capital into the wide receiver position, with his highest-drafted wideout (Corey Davis (WR – NYJ), 5th overall) also from the Western Michigan program.

27. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: George Karlaftis (Edge – Purdue)

Tampa has yet to re-sign Ndamukong Suh (DT – FA), Jason Pierre-Paul (Edge – FA), and Steven McClendon (DT – FA) in free agency; they need to inject more youth across their defensive line alongside 2020 first-rounder Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (LB – TB).

Purdue’s George Karlaftis fits the mold in a Todd Bowles 3-4 scheme. As a freshman in 2019, Karlaftis generated the tenth-most pressures in the FBS. After a truncated 2020 season due to COVID-19, the Boilermaker edge rusher finished 2021 11th in the nation in pressures per game (4.5) and fourth in team pressure share – a rate that captures individual pressures made by the defender compared to the whole team.

28. GREEN BAY PACKERS: Tyler Linderbaum (C – Iowa)

The Packers have some question marks on their offensive line with Dennis Kelly (OL – FA) unsigned and Billy Turner (OL – DEN) released. Elgton Jenkins (OL – GB) is also coming off a late-season torn ACL suffered in Week 11. Projected starting center, Josh Myers (OL – GB), graded out as PFF’s seventh-worst center in seven games played in 2021.

So instead of another wide receiver, they boost the offensive line with Tyler Linderbaum. He has graded out as PFF’s No. 1 center in the nation over the last two seasons.

Linderbaum also owns the second-highest run grade among all OL in the nation, which bodes well for him in the Packers’ run game. The dude is a mauler.

29. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Christian Watson (WR – North Dakota State)

The Chiefs have a significant hole at wide receiver after losing Tyreek Hill, Byron Pringle (WR – CHI), and Demarcus Robinson (WR – LV) this offseason. The team signed Marquez Valdes-Scantling to stretch the field on the outside and JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR – KC) in the slot, but I doubt they are done adding to the position.

KC adds North Dakota State’s Christian Watson to fill the void.

Watson was the talk of the town as a standout in the 2022 Senior Bowl. The North Dakota State prospect showed that his 35% dominator rating and No. 1-ranked 4.33 yards per route run were no fluke, even if they came against an easy schedule of opponents.

And he continued on his draft stock ascension with a blazing 4.36 40-yard dash (92nd percentile) during on-field testing. That speed at Watson’s size is ludicrous.

Combine that with his 38.5″ vertical (84th percentile) and 136″ broad jump (98th percentile) – all that’s left is calling the dude a certified stud that has likely earned Round 1 draft capital.

He looks like DeVante Parker (WR – NE) on the field before all the lower-body injuries. There’s also a blend of Martavius Bryant to his game.

Either way, it will be fun to watch him play with Patrick Mahomes (QB – KC).

29. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Devonte Wyatt (DT – Georgia)

In the defensive trenches, the Chiefs have to find a way to draft talent before the start of the 2022 season. Alex Okafor (DE – FA) and Melvin Ingram (DE,LB – FA) are free agents. Defensive tackle Jarran Reed (DT – GB) signed with the Packers.

Ingram was the team’s second-most efficient pass-rusher behind Chris Jones (DT – KC) and the highest-graded run defender. Reed played the most snaps along with the interior of the defensive line.

They add Devonte Wyatt with their second first-round selection to shore up the defensive line.

The Georgia Bulldogs finished the 2021 season as PFF’s highest-graded interior defensive lineman as the central force of the No. 1 defense in the nation. He’s been overshadowed by all the other talent for the Bulldogs entering the draft – most notably fellow DT Jordan Davis – but it’s undeniable that Wyatt was the better pass-rusher at Georgia.

He is the only interior defensive lineman in the class to rank top-6 in both PFF run and pass-rush grades last season. His true pass-rush grade ranked first on the Georgia defense.

With 4.77 40-yard dash wheels (97th percentile) and 111″ broad jump (82nd percentile) to boot, Kansas City will have an immediate impact player by drafting Wyatt.

31. CINCINNATI BENGALS: Kyler Gordon (CB – Washington)

With the offensive line revamped during free agency, Cincinnati can shift focus to finding another starting perimeter cornerback. Chidobe Awuzie (CB – CIN) and Mike Hilton (CB – CIN) are solid, but another strong piece could help the defense tremendously. Eli Apple (CB – CIN) was brought back in free agency, but his up-and-down play is not a long-term answer at the position.

At 5-foot-11 and 194 pounds, cornerback Kyler Gordon is the perfect target for Cincy.

Gordon’s PFF coverage grade ranked fourth in FBS in 2021 (89.6) and was superior to his highly-touted teammate McDuffie (89.3).

KG was also elite in man coverage, allowing the nation’s second-lowest passer rating (12.8).

Expect Gordon to be in the Round 1 conversation after Washington’s pro day on March 29th. His lackluster 4.52 40-yard dash combine time doesn’t accurately depict Gordon’s true athleticism.

The pro day numbers prove that to a tee.

32. DETROIT LIONS: Desmond Ridder (QB – Cincinnati)

Jared Goff (QB – DET) will still be in the plans for the Lions in 2022 with a $15.5 million roster guarantee this season. But it seems most likely he will be the opening day starter while the team grooms a rookie franchise quarterback behind him. Goff has a potential out in his contract before the 2023 season. Detroit also desperately NEEDS a quarterback competition to stir up drama for HBO’s Hard Knocks.

With the fifth-year rookie quarterback option in mind, the Lions select Desmond Ridder with the 32nd overall pick.

Ridder made a strong push around NFL circles during his senior season, leading Cincinnati to the College Football Playoff against Alabama. PFF’s seventh-highest-graded 2022 draft-eligible quarterback then turned heads at the 2022 Senior Bowl, showcasing accuracy and polish.

Ridder also offers juice with his legs, having rushed for over 2,700 yards during his four-year career (58 per game). His athleticism was at the forefront of his testing at the NFL combine.

The Bearcats quarterback ran a 4.52 40-yard dash (96th percentile) and jumped a 36″ vertical (92nd percentile) and 127″ broad jump (98th percentile).

From speed to predictive passing metrics working in his favor – 97th percentile passer on early downs per PFF (91.0) – the Cincinnati product possesses all the ingredients to become a fantasy-friendly quarterback at the next level.

CTAs


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