On Feb. 18, I wrote my first top-36 mock draft for Big Blue View. It was only two months ago, but it seems like an eternity by pre-draft standards. The free agency period initiated the process of the new league year, and many teams found veteran answers to their roster holes.
The 2022 NFL Scouting Combine took place, and the accurate measurables - both physically and athletically - were proven. Specific teams’ front office Pro Day attendance also helped glean possible interest in certain players. The New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles pulled off a trade that lessoned the Eagles’ first-round selections from three to two while giving the Saints an extra first-rounder.
Other trades around the NFL have also significantly impacted the draft. Davante Adams to the Raiders! Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins! DeShaun Watson to the Browns! Matt Ryan to the Colts! Carson Wentz to the Commanders?? And those were just some of the major offensive moves. It seemed like significant NFL news was daily for about two weeks straight.
It’s safe to say many things have changed since my first mock draft. As for the New York Giants, they added several veteran interior offensive linemen, a journeyman tight end, a solid rotational running back, a hybrid EDGE/DL, and a nose tackle, among other players who will fight for roster spots in camp. Logan Ryan was unexpectedly released, and Adoree’ Jackson was extended.
GM Joe Schoen and the Giants did what they could in an almost unmanageable financial situation. Saquon Barkley and James Bradberry remain Giants - for now. The Giants are in need of just about every position, but the more prominent needs are right tackle, EDGE, and cornerback.
This mock draft will be predictive. It’s not what I would do, but what I think could happen. Without further ado, here’s my mock draft 2.0.
(There will be no trades for this exercise)
EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
Hutchinson is a high-floor prospect with impressive pass-rushing tools. He isn’t the bendest at the top of his arc, but he’s an exceptional athlete with crafty hands and is quick to challenge tackles with his lateral agility and movement skills outside of their frame. Hutchinson had a 99th percentile 3-cone drill, a 94th percentile short-shuttle, and he’s in the 96th percentile of height (6’6⅝).
One concern with Hutchinson as an EDGE rusher is his lack of length. Hutchinson has 32⅛-inch arms, which rank in the 7th percentile all time for EDGE rushers. Rumors have circulated about Georgia EDGE rusher Travon Walker possibly being the No. 1 selection. Walker has 35½-inch arms (95th percentile). From a production standpoint, it makes little sense; from a traits standpoint, few players are built like Walker. However, Hutchinson isn’t deficient in much other than a lack of desirable arm length.
I still believe Hutchinson will be the first pick, but Walker is a name to monitor, as is an offensive player.
Previous selection: OT Evan Neal, Alabama
2). Detroit Lions
EDGE Travon Walker, Georgia
The meteoric rise of Travon Walker could ascend to the first overall selection, but I have him here to Detroit.
There aren’t many people who are this big and athletic, but it’s safe to say Walker is more than just an athlete. I would agree that his pass-rushing ability needs development, but the lack of production wasn’t only due to his raw nature. Georgia’s defensive philosophy is incredibly team-oriented - sounds obvious for any football team, right?
On a team with several five-star athletes, players like Walker don’t necessarily have to be the focal point. The defense was more about opening lanes for blitzing linebackers, occupying blockers, and executing run assignments. There aren’t many snaps of Walker rushing from a wide-9 position with an advantageous angle to the quarterback where he can dip, bend, and rip through a tackle’s outside shoulder.
Walker finished the season with just 34 pressures and six sacks in 596 total snaps. His floor is a dominant run defender, but his upside is through the roof.
Previous selection: EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
3). Houston Texans
OT Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State
With Walker and Hutchinson off the board, the Texans would likely want to trade down with a franchise that wants to jump the New York teams for a tackle. That could be unlikely to find. Houston needs just about everything. They have another selection at No. 13; by that time, the top three tackles will be off the board.
Ekwonu played left tackle and left guard in college, so he has some positional versatility, but his mentality, approach, and physical demeanor are what could entice the Texans. Ekwonu is an intellectual with a positively infectious personality. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil has a potential out built into his contract at the end of the season; if that out isn’t exercised, he’s set to be a free agent after the 2023 season.
Right tackle Tytus Howard played admirably last year, but a decision on his fifth-year option must be made by the beginning of May, just after the draft. Selecting Ekwonu may ultimately lead to that decision, but adding him provides the Texans with a dominant run blocker with plenty of room for growth as a pass protector. He is a culture-changing type of selection for a team that needs a change in many areas.
Previous selection: EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
4). New York Jets
EDGE Jermaine Johnson II, Florida State
You’re probably saying, “why not just get him at 10!” Frankly, I don’t know if Johnson will be available at 10 with EDGE needy EVEN front teams like the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks selecting in front of them. I think Kayvon Thibodeaux makes sense here, too, but something about Johnson’s length, physicality against the run, active hands at the top of the arc, and frame scream Robert Saleh defender.
Saleh and GM Joe Douglas are known for their appreciation of the trenches. In San Fransisco, Saleh had a strong rotation of defensive lineman and EDGE rushers to keep his EVEN front defense fresh. The secondary isn’t as big of a priority to Saleh as the pass-rush. The Jets signed a few edge defenders in free agency; former 2013 third-overall selection by the 49ers Solomaon Thomas, John Martin, and they re-signed Nathan Shepherd. None of these moves significantly address their need for pass-rush.
Johnson II, alongside Carl Lawson and veteran edge defender John Franklin-Myers, make a formidable trio. It’s a bold take, but it isn’t unbelievable, especially if Thibodeaux’s attitude turns off teams.
Previous selection: OT Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State
5). New York Giants
OT Evan Neal, Alabama
I hope this transpires. Landing a versatile, long, physical offensive lineman like Neal at No. 5 is precisely what Schoen and Brian Daboll need to help turn this dilapidated ship around. The combination of Neal and Andrew Thomas would be one of the better young tackle duos in the NFL. Neal can slide into the right tackle position and give Daniel Jones peace of mind after the beating he’s taken over the last three seasons.
Schoen’s offseason so far was centralized around upgrading the offensive line in an interior manner. New York signed Matt Gono and Chigbo Roy Mbaeteka (of the International Player Pathway); neither figures to be a starter, so right tackle is a pressing need. I’m never one to pigeonhole a position to a draft slot. However, if the Giants retain both these top-10 picks, with three quality tackle options in the draft, I’d hope one of five or seven is a tackle.
I’m interested to see what the Giants will do at five if Neal goes to the Texans and Ekwonu and Charles Cross are on the board. Matt Miller of ESPN reported that the Giants love Cross, which seemed evident at Cross’ Pro Day, where Bobby Johnson worked him out extensively at right tackle. Ekwonu has a higher ceiling, and his floor is also high because he could be a great guard, but his pass protection needs work. I wonder if the Giants would select Cross over Ekwonu because of Ekwonu’s issues in pass protection. It’s a passing league and the Giants - in recent history - are all too familiar with tackles who aren’t great in pass protection.
The Panthers pick next, and the Giants find themselves in a golden position to land either Oregon pass-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux or Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. Let’s see what the Panthers do.
Previous selection: OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State
QB Malik Willis, Liberty
The Panthers are desperate with little draft capital after the Sam Darnold trade where the Jets fleeced Carolina. They also parted ways with a Day 2 pick for cornerback C.J. Henderson from Jacksonville. The Panthers don’t pick again until 137 in the fourth round. The roster isn’t great; head coach Matt Rhule’s seat’s been sitting in the Arizona desert during August, and owner David Tepper isn’t shy about quarterback investments.
I can see the Lions going Willis at two and completely throwing a curveball at everyone. In this scenario, he’s here for Carolina, and he has the upside to be dynamic. Willis needs a lot of work coming from Liberty’s system. I get that Rhule recruited Kenny Pickett to attend Temple before Rhule left to go to Baylor, and Tepper is a Pitt alum, but Willis has the traits to be a top quarterback in the league, and traits go a long way in today’s NFL.
Previous selection: QB Malik Willis, Liberty
7). New York Giants
CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati
I think this is my dream scenario for the Giants, and it’s not unrealistic. Neal at five, Sauce at seven (no trades). James Bradberry remains on the roster for now, but his status is uncertain. Regardless of Bradberry’s presence, Gardner is an excellent addition to this team whose skill-set perfectly fits the philosophy that Don “Wink” Martindale wants to employ.
Gardner is a true outside press-man cornerback. His length is rare, and his fluidity in space is excellent for a player of his size. Gardner had nine interceptions and 17 passes defended through three seasons in college. Adding Gardner gives the Giants a good overall one-two combination with Gardner and Jackson on the outside (provided that Bradberry is no longer a Giant).
This allows Aaron Robinson to kick into the slot or STAR position with Darnay Holmes as a slot player. Jarren and Rodairus Williams can be backup boundary players, and Robinson can also play on the boundary if something happens to the top two players. It’s a solid overall cornerback group. However, for Martindale’s defenses to be maximized, true man-coverage cornerbacks who can press are necessary. Adding Gardner is a step in the right direction.
The selections of Neal and Gardner are excellent for the Giants if they do not trade down. Not only do they fit, but they’re both dependable players - something that Schoen stressed throughout the pre-draft process. Other players in consideration for this selection would be Oregon pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton.
Previous selection: CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
8). Atlanta Falcons
EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
The Falcons desperately need wide receiver help, but they’re also in grave need of edge defenders. Atlanta finished last in the NFL with only 18 sacks in 2021, 11 behind the Philadelphia Eagles, who finished 31st. In a deep wide receiver class, having Thibodeaux fall into Atlanta’s lap is a gift.
Thibodeaux will join ex-Giant Lorenzo Carter to form a solid pair of pass-rushers.
Previous selection: SAF Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
9). Seattle Seahawks
OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State
The Seahawks enter a new era without franchise quarterback Russell Wilson. Their potential signal-callers include Drew Lock, Geno Smith, or Jacob Eason - not an ideal situation. However, reports indicate that Seattle could be higher on Lock than many presume. One way to ensure that a developing quarterback will fail is not to protect him.
Seattle has 2021 sixth-round pick Stone Forsythe and 2021 undrafted free agent Jake Curhan as their starting tackles with little depth behind the players. Seattle is desperate for tackle help. They should count their lucky stars that they land one of the big three tackles at the backend of the top 10.
Previous selection (Denver Broncos): EDGE Jermaine Johnson II, Florida State
10). New York Jets
WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
These may not be the two most popular picks for the Jets, but they make sense. Johnson II is a perfect fit for Saleh’s defense as a physical edge setter with pass-rushing traits. Jameson Williams offers the speed element the Jets need at wide receiver.
The jury is still out on second-year quarterback Zach Wilson, but his tape showed impressive arm talent and an ability to extend plays. His receivers did not bail him out. Adding Williams gives the Jets a bonafide number one receiver with elite speed. The major concern with Williams is the torn ACL suffered in January. By many accounts, he’s ahead of schedule on his recovery. He may not be ready for Week 1, but he’s a dangerous weapon for the Jets’ second-year signal-caller once he’s healthy.
Previous selection: Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson
11). Washington Commanders
WR Drake London, USC
The wide receiver run begins! London’s 2021 season was cut short by an ankle injury, but he was the engine that kept the USC offense relevant. London is a 6’5, 210-pound wide receiver who has wiggle in space; USC constantly used him creatively with quick screens to get the football in his hand, but his most dynamic trait is his contested catch ability downfield.
Few receivers have the box-out/above-the-rim type of ball skills like London, a former basketball player at USC. London shouldn’t be expected to take the top off of defense’s, but he wins in a multitude of ways and would complement Terry McLaurin very well in Washington.
Previous selection: QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss
12). Minnesota Vikings
CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
Stingley Jr.’s slide stops here. The Vikings have a new coaching staff led by an offensive coach in Kevin O’Connell. The defensive coordinator is Ed Donatell - a disciple of Vic Fangio. — who needs long coverage cornerbacks. Stingley has a complete skill-set and is one of the best press-man cornerbacks in the draft. His foot injury appears to be behind him after his Pro Day.
Previous selection: CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner
13). Houston Texans
S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
The Texans are ecstatic in this situation. Hamilton was a serious option for them at three but I decided to go with one of the tackles in hopes of landing a critical defensive weapon with the 13th pick. Ekwonu and Hamilton in the top-15 is an excellent way for GM Nick Caserio to rebuild the roster.
Previous selection (Cleveland Browns ): WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
14). Baltimore Ravens
DT Jordan Davis, Georgia
Former Ravens’ assistant coach, and 2021 Michigan defensive coordinator, Mike McDonald takes over for Wink Martindale. The systems are similar, but Martindale may be a bit more aggressive. Regardless, the Ravens’ defensive line has aged over the years. Justin Ellis signed with the Giants, and Brandon Williams is no longer with Baltimore.
Michael Pierce is on his second stint with the team, Calais Campbell re-signed, and Derek Wolfe isn’t getting any younger. Baltimore could use trench help to pair with 2020 third-rounder Justin Madubuike. Davis is built like a nose tackle but has the athletic ability to align from a 4i-inside. He wasn’t used often as a pass-rusher in Georgia’s defense, but his tape suggests there’s some upside there.
Previous selection: David Ojabo, Michigan
15). Philadelphia Eagles
LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
Philadelphia traded one of its three first-round selections for future assets. The Eagles spent two first-round picks on wide receivers over the past two drafts. They could use defensive trench help and a new linebacker, albeit GM Howie Roseman and the Eagles seem averse to selecting linebackers high.
But not here! Roseman bucks the trend and selects linebacker Devin Lloyd out of Utah. Lloyd was versatile and reportedly has an insatiable work ethic and attitude toward football. He can be used on the edge on passing downs but shouldn’t be confused with Micah Parsons; he’s not as athletic or explosive. Lloyd provides coordinator Johnathan Gannon with a similar defensive centerpiece that he had in Indianapolis with Darius Leonard.
Previous selection: EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue
16). New Orleans Saints
OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
I’m still not sure exactly why the Saints traded with the Eagles. They may think they’re two pieces away from competing at a high level; those two pieces - presumably - would be left tackle with Terron Armstead in Miami and wide receiver. Or, the trade was for 2021 ammunition to trade up. For this exercise, there are no trades, so tackle is the pick.
I’m not as high on Penning as many who cover the draft. He needs a lot of work from a technical standpoint, but that can be refined with coaching. He won a lot at the FCS level with strength which won’t translate as consistently in the NFL. Former Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone is the offensive line coach with the Saints, so he’ll be tasked to fix the issues that plagued Penning at a lower level of competition. Despite my gripes, Penning’s upside is obvious with his size, length, and temperament, as long as he doesn’t take unnecessary penalties.
Previous selection (Philadelphia Eagles): OC Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
17). Los Angeles Chargers
OT Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan
The Chargers upgraded their defense in free agency but still need to find a tackle to pair with Rashawn Slater. The big three tackles are far off the board, and Penning was selected one pick earlier. Storm Norton is slated to play right tackle, which isn’t desirable. This is a need pick, and there are better players on the board, but Raimann makes some sense.
Yes, he’s older, and his arms aren’t very long - similar to Slater with the latter point - but he’s super light on his feet and plays balanced within his frame. He’s still new to the position since he was recruited to play tight end at Central Michigan. Offensive line coach Brandon Nugent did an excellent job developing many offensive linemen for nine years in New Orleans. He’ll be tasked to do the same under Brandon Staley.
Previous selection: G Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
18). Philadelphia Eagles
CB Trent McDuffie, Washington
The Eagles doubled up with defense by adding one of the brightest defensive players in the class. It seems unlikely with an offensive coach like Nick Sirianni, but this bolsters Gannon’s unit at two positions of need. McDuffie isn’t the longest or biggest, but his instincts and spatial awareness in zone are excellent.
Previous selection (New Orleans Saints): WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
19). New Orleans Saints
WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
Olave is a precise route running vertical threat who was very productive throughout his Ohio State career. The Saints need playmakers on their roster; outside of Alvin Kamara, there are no dynamic offensive weapons for quarterback Jameis Winston. Olave is arguably the best route technician in the class.
Previous selection (Philadelphia Eagles): WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
20). Pittsburgh Steelers
QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
By this point in the draft, Kenny Pickett and Willis will more than likely be selected, but there are no trades in this mock. Pickett makes sense from a geographical standpoint; he makes sense for the Panthers at six because of his relationship with Panthers’ brass, but he still remains on the board. I like the Ridder to Pittsburgh fit.
Ridder might actually be the most pro-ready quarterback. He goes through his progressions well, knows how to read a defense instantly, and he reacts well to defensive adjustments pre to post-snap. The Steelers reportedly love Willis, but I can see a scenario where Ridder is the pick.
Previous selection: QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
21). New England Patriots
LB Quay Walker, Georgia
I think Walker will go before many expect. He’s long, rangy, with all the athletic ability in the world. Will it be this high? Probably not, but tell me he’s not a perfect fit for Bill Belichick. The Patriots’ defense at the second level lacks speed. Sure, the Patriots could go with the undersized - more productive - Nakobe Dean, Walker’s teammate, but I will be bold and plug Walker in at 21 here. I wouldn’t be shocked to see New England trade down with a team attempting to jump the Packers and Cardinals for a wide receiver.
Previous selection: EDGE Travon Walker, Georgia
22). Green Bay Packers
WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
The Packers need help at wide receiver with the departure of Davante Adams. Those are big shoes to fill. Wilson had a phenomenal 2021 season. He’s not the biggest, but he’s a good route runner with the ball skills and big-play ability to assist Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. I trust that Matt Lafleur would best utilize his skill-set, and he’d have a significant impact as a rookie.
Previous selection (Las Vegas Raiders): CB Trent McDuffie, Washington
23). Arizona Cardinals
EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue
The Cardinals need to replace edge defender Chandler Jones and WR Christian Kirk. I thought about selecting Penn State wide receiver Jahan Dotson here, but I ultimately decided on Karlaftis. The productive Purdue pass-rusher has a high floor as a solid run defender; he lacks the length that Jones had, but he is a relentless power-rusher who can play alongside J.J. Watt and eventually take over his role in the defense. Both their skill-sets can co-exist, and they’re not carbon copies, as some would suggest.
Previous selection: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
24). Dallas Cowboys
WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
He just couldn’t help himself. Despite Texas A&M’s Kenyon Green and Boston College’s Zion Johnson sitting on the board, Jerry Jones selected one of the greatest wide receivers in his alma mater’s history. The trade of Amari Cooper and the departure of Cedrick Wilson opened up a need for wide receiver. Michael Gallup’s injury history also makes this selection understandable, albeit the Cowboys have some holes on their roster. Burks will join Gallup and CeeDee Lamb to form a big, physical, 11 personnel package.
Previous selection: LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia
25). Buffalo Bills
CB Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson
Booth Jr. falls to the Bills due to core muscle surgery performed in March. He played a lot of zone coverage at Clemson but has the skill-set and fluidity to play man. Bills’ defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier runs a lot of zone coverage, and there’s a need for a cornerback after Levi Wallace left the team in free agency to Pittsburgh.
Previous selection: LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
26). Tennessee Titans
G Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
The Titans go with my second highest-graded offensive lineman available; I like Boston College’s Zion Johnson more than Green. Green fits the downhill rushing attack that Tennessee features. He’s versatile, strong, nimble enough to get lateral in zone, and powerful enough to be effective in DUO and power/gap. Green can play either right or left guard next year over.
Previous selection: OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
27). Tampa Bay Buccaneers
G Zion Johnson, Boston College
Tom Brady returned to the Buccaneers, but some key offensive pieces are no longer with the team. Shaq Mason was acquired via trade from the Patriots, which sures up the right guard spot, but the left guard position is still in question. Johnson would slide into the left guard position and keep this already effective offensive line great.
Previous selection: G Zion Johnson, Boston College
28). Green Bay Packers
EDGE Boye Mafe, Minnesota
The Packers addressed their need at wide receiver by selecting Garrett Wilson earlier. They could go in several directions here. They currently have two stud safeties, but the decision to pick up Darnell Savage’s fifth-year option looms, and safety Adrian Amos is only under contract for one more year. I can see them going with their top safety left on the board; maybe Penn State’s Jaquan Brisker, Michigan’s Daxton Hill, or Georgia’s Lewis Cine.
I also wouldn’t be shocked if they select a defensive lineman. The Packers value that position highly, and UCONN’s Travis Jones is on the board and would make an excellent addition alongside Kenny Clark. Instead, Mafe joins forces with Rashan Gary and Preston Smith now that Za’Darius Smith is no longer a Packer.
Previous selection: WR Drake London, USC
29). Kansas City Chiefs
S Daxton Hill, Michigan
These two picks could be used as ammunition to move up and select a fast wide receiver or a versatile defensive player. Instead of a speedy receiver, the Chiefs select Daxton Hill. Hill’s one of the more athletic players in the draft. In Don Brown’s defense in 2020, he played post safety and some two-high. In McDonald’s defense last season, he was primarily the overhang defender in the slot.
Kansas City has a quality young cornerback in L’Jarius Snead, who plays the nickel well. I don’t think Hill has to be relegated to that position. I think he is versatile enough to play any safety position, the nickel, or possibly even be developed into an outside cornerback. He’s excellent in man coverage and a threat coming downhill in run support. Steve Spagnuolo would love the versatility of a player like Hill, and he would help replace the loss of Tyrann Mathieu, even though that loss was filled with the Justin Reid signing.
Previous selection (Miami Dolphins): OT Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan
30). Kansas City Chiefs
WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State
The Chiefs double up on Big-10 players and find a receiver to help fill the massive void left after the Tyreek Hill departure. Dotson doesn’t possess Hill-like speed - few people on the planet do - but he is a very efficient route runner who does a great job adjusting to footballs away from his frame. The AFC West is the most competitive division in football, so reliable football players must be added. I thought about Michigan edge defender David Ojabo at this selection but ultimately decided against it because the Chiefs are in their winning window in this very competitive division.
Dotson ran a 4.43 40-yard-dash at the Combine (76th percentile) with a 1.55 10-yard-split (57th percentile). He aligned mainly outside but will find an easier time as a slot receiver in a potent passing offense. However, his release is clean enough to defeat press, so I believe he can align outside despite his less than ideal measurables (5’10, 178 pounds). Adding Hill and Dotson in back-to-back picks significantly helps each side of the football for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Previous selection: CB Daxton Hill, Michigan
31). Cincinnati Bengals
S Lewis Cine, Georgia
I thought about plugging Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum into this spot, but the Bengals did a good job upgrading their offensive line through free agency. Cincinnati added La’el Collins to play right tackle, Alex Cappa as the right guard, and Ted Karras to play center. Their defense was a strength last season, but how long will that last?
The Bengals picked up the fifth-year option of Jessie Bates III. I think defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo would love to retain Bates III, but the Bengals may not be able to swing that finically since he’ll probably reset the safety market. In 2023 Bates III and Vonn Bell will be free agents, and the Bengals could use a long-term solution to that impending problem.
Cine is the solution. He won’t ride the bench or not be relevant in year one; he is a versatile safety who can handle many responsibilities. His presence can allow Anarumo to use more three safety looks which allows Michael Thomas to focus more on special teams. Cine is a great football player who will help an already strong defense maintain its high level of play.
Previous selection: OT Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio State
32). Detroit Lions
QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
Yeah, there’s no shot that Pickett is lasting this long in the draft. With no trades, I’m not going to pigeonhole him into a fit that doesn’t make sense. I honestly wouldn’t be shocked if Detroit went Malik Willis at two. If I was Brad Holmes, and I loved Willis or a quarterback, I would be handling the situation in the exact same manner to prevent a team from leap-frogging to the Jaguars’ pick. Pickett can sit behind Jared Goff for a year and acclimate to the NFL until he is ready to take over.
Previous selection: SAF Jaquan Brisker, Penn State
33). Jacksonville Jaguars
C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
The Jaguars steal Linderbaum with the top pick in the second round. The Iowa center is one of the best technicians in the draft, but his measurables were terrible. He was a shade over 6’2, 296 pounds, with 31-inch arms and a wingspan that was 75⅝ inches, which both ranked in the first percentile. Teams will be scared off of those measurables.
Linderbaum is very good on tape and excellent in a zone system which may be employed with Doug Pederson as the head coach. Giants fans unfortunately know Pederson leaned on the athletic ability of his offensive line in Philadelphia. Linderbaum is frequently compared to Jason Kelce - an undersized athletic center. Linderbaum will start day one.
Previous selection: DT Jordan Davis, Georgia
34). Detroit Lions
WR Christian Watson, North Dakota State
The Lions drafted their quarterback of the future and Travon Walker, and they now turn to add receiver help. Detroit signed DJ Chark in the offseason and has Kalif Raymond, Josh Reynolds, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Quintez Cephus on the roster. It’s an adequate group with question marks, but Watson adds explosiveness, speed, and versatility to the group.
Watson is a raw route runner who didn’t necessarily dominate at the FCS level, albeit he played in a run-oriented offense. However, few players have his size and speed measurables.
Towards the end of the season last year, Campbell used rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown in a Deebo Samuel type of role. A lot of handoffs, quick-hitting screen passes, and jet-sweeps. Watson was used this way in college, and his explosiveness, acceleration, and ability to turn and get vertical were very good. There will be a developmental curve for Watson - and he’s not my top receiver on the board - but his fit with the Lions makes sense.
Previous selection: WR David Bell, Purdue
35). New York Jets
LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia
The Jets selected edge defender Jermaine Johnson II and wide receiver Jameson Williams with their first two selections. Here, they select linebacker Nakobe Dean, who falls out of the first round and into the Jets’ lap. Dean can initially start as the WILL linebacker and eventually take over for CJ Mosley, who has a potential out in his contract after the 2023 season.
Reports are glowing about Dean’s leadership, but his measurables and lack of testing may lead to some questions that can ultimately drop him out of the first round. He is an excellent penetrator and a smart player who can drop into coverage and play with great pursuit. He’s another asset for Saleh’s defense.
Previous pick: WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State
36). New York Giants
EDGE Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State
There are a lot of great choices here. For starters, Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker would make an excellent complement to Xavier McKinney. Wide receivers Skyy Moore (Western Michigan) and George Pickens (Georgia) would help the team, and the Giants could start the running back or tight end run - I think it’s too early for that. An edge defender just makes too much sense. Ojabo is still on the board, but the wildcard of selecting a player with one year of true college experience - who struggled to defend the run - off an Achilles injury is too many red flags at the 36th pick.
Ebiketie is one of the bendest and most explosive pass-rushers in the class. He transferred from Penn State to Temple for his senior season. He recorded eight sacks and 52 pressures with the Nittany Lions. He was a pass-rushing force who was solid against the run, albeit there’s room for improvement in that area.
Like Azeez Ojulari, he has built-in leverage at a shorter height with almost 35-inch arms. The Ravens, with Martindale as defensive coordinator, selected Odafe Oweh out of Penn State last season; Ebiketie isn’t Oweh, but he would join Ojulari to form an explosive duo of pass-rushers. Martindale loves to rotate his pass-rushers and use them in various ways; Ebiketie is fluid enough to drop into space, dangerous coming forward with an array of pass-rushing moves, and he’s a good finisher while cornering into the pocket. Coming away from this draft with Neal, Sauce, and Ebiketie with the first three picks is an excellent way to start the Joe Schoen era.
Previous selection: Boye Mafe, Minnesota
In my first mock draft, I had the Giants selecting an OT, CB, and an EDGE. I have the same order in this mock draft, only different players. I don’t believe New York is forced to select this trio of positions, but the value of the board fell in a manner that significantly benefits what the Giants are attempting to build.
New York gained a franchise right tackle with positional versatility, a shut-down man coverage cornerback with elite length and good fluid hips, and an explosive edge defender who threatens tackles up the arc and with a dangerous inside counter move in the top 36 picks.
The Giants would still need to look at safety, linebacker, wide receiver, tight end, possibly interior offensive linemen, and if they could realistically double up at edge or cornerback. There are still plenty of good draft assets available that I couldn’t squeeze into the top 36. Hopefully, some fall to the Giants at 67.