2022 NFL Mock Draft: Patriots dip into Michigan pool for speed on D

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A lot can change in 20 days.

Since our last mock in early March, NFL teams got busy in free agency and on the trade market. Tyreek Hill is on the Miami Dolphins; Davante Adams, Chandler Jones and several ex-Patriots are joining Josh McDaniels' Las Vegas Raiders and Von Miller is headed to the Buffalo Bills.

The New England Patriots have been a bit less active, opting to re-sign veteran leaders like Devin McCourty and James White and making minor moves to acquire linebacker Mack Wilson, cornerback Terrance Mitchell, wide receiver/running back Ty Montgomery and safety Jabrill Peppers. 

Perry: NFL exec describes Patriots' lack of speed as 'concerning'

With those moves in mind, it's time to fire up another mock. Here's our latest NFL Mock Draft with the 2022 NFL Draft about a month away.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

Jacksonville has made moves to solidify the tackle spot. If they aren't going with one here, they should go with Hutchinson.

2. Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

Landing Thibodeaux here -- in the range where he’s long been presumed to go -- would be a good start for the Lions, who need star power at premium positions.

3. Houston Texans: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

Looks like Nick Caserio is rolling with a young quarterback. He's going to want a running game that his offense can lean upon. No better prospect to run behind than Ekwonu.

4. New York Jets: Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

The Jets are going to need a playmaker on the outside to handle the weaponry that now resides in the AFC East. Gardner has the length and athleticism to give high-end wideouts fits.

5. New York Giants: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

The new regime in New York will want to make sure it lands some cornerstone pieces with their first draft class. Neal qualifies. He also should help Daniel Jones have a better shot at approaching his ceiling.

6. Carolina Panthers: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

The Panthers should consider a quarterback here. Or a trade down and take a quarterback later. Instead, they seem set on a tackle. Cross -- who may end up the top tackle in this class if his technique catches up with his raw ability -- isn’t a bad choice. 

7. New York Giants: Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia

When you blow up the combine as Walker did, you're going to be perceived as a "riser" in the draft. Walker posted freaky 40 (4.51 seconds) and three-cone (6.89 seconds) times at 272 pounds. 

8. Atlanta Falcons: Derek Stingley, CB, LSU

The Falcons have all kinds of needs but land a potential lock-down corner to play across from the already-impressive A.J. Terrell, taken in the first round last year. Going to be hard to throw on Atlanta for the foreseeable future if it plays out this way. 

9. Seattle Seahawks: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

Penning plays with a mean streak that Pete Carroll — whose program is all about competing — will appreciate. This could be a spot for a quarterback, but it’s still a little early for this year’s class.

10. New York Jets: Drake London, WR, USC

Time to get Zach Wilson some help. London, whose release package and contested-catch ability are pro-ready, would be his young quarterback’s new best friend. Great complement for slot dynamo Elijah Moore.

11. Washington Commanders: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

This isn't a premium position. But Hamilton is a premium player. If he falls in the draft because of a 40-yard dash time that was on the slower end in Indy -- and didn’t get any better at his pro day -- that will be Ron Rivera’s gain. 

12. Minnesota Vikings: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

New regime in Minnesota. Similar approach here. The Vikings have taken three first-round corners since 2015. They get a versatile one here who looks like he could be a legitimate No. 1. 

13. Houston Texans: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

Wouldn’t it be the ultimate Patriots move to take a Vince Wilfork-sized nose tackle in the top half of the first round? Nick Caserio knows what a specimen like Davis could do for a defense, and it’d come as little surprise if he didn’t hesitate here.

14. Baltimore Ravens: Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State

A physical end who can play on all three downs because of his relentless demeanor in both running and passing situations, Johnson feels like a Ravens type -- which oftentimes, thanks to former GM Ozzie Newsome being part of the Bill Belichick tree, feels like a Patriots type.

15. Philadelphia Eagles: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

Howie Roseman loves building up talent in the trenches, and he gets one of the best pass-rushers in the class here with the relentless Karlaftis. 

16. Philadelphia Eagles: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

It's fun to picture Lloyd, a 6-foot-3 linebacker with range, coming into the league and making a Darius Leonard-style impact. If that's what Philly gets here, they'll be thrilled.

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan

Raimann has all the size and athletic traits the Chargers will want to play right tackle. His technique may need some refining as he's still relatively new to the position, but with time he should be a starting-caliber player opposite a first-round hit last year in Rashawn Slater.

18. New Orleans Saints: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

Jameis Winston is who he is. He’s going to turn it over. But he’s also going to take shots down the field. Wilson is so explosive and coordinated that he could turn some Winston misfires into chunk gains.

19. Philadelphia Eagles: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

Linderbaum would be a good place to start to prepare for life after all-time undersized center Jason Kelce. If Linderbaum were bigger (6-foot-2, 296 pounds), and were his position a more highly-valued one across the league, he might've ended up a top-10 pick. 

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

The Steelers have made it very clear: Even though they signed Mitchell Trubisky, that doesn’t mean they won’t be on the hunt for their next great quarterback. Willis has the traits to take a gamble with a top-20 choice here.

TRADE: NE sends No. 21 to KC; KC sends No. 29, No. 94 and No. 135 to NE

 

21. Kansas City Chiefs: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

How’s this for a Tyreek Hill replacement? Kansas City has some speed ready to go in free-agent pickup Marquez Valdes-Scantling, but Williams would be the long-term answer for Patrick Mahomes and Co. His burst off the line and second (and third… and fourth…) gear make him worthy of a trade up. 

The Patriots, meanwhile, are happy to move back, collect picks, and try to fill out their roster with selections from a draft class that is thought to have starting-caliber players through the fourth round. They’ll see who falls to them at No. 29 and go from there.

22. Green Bay Packers: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

Need to keep Aaron Rodgers happy? Might as well go with a guy who seems like one of the safest in this class thanks to his top-end speed (4.39 40-yard dash at the combine) and polished route-running ability.

23. Arizona Cardinals: Zion Johnson, OL, Boston College

Clean, clean, clean. This may be the least flashy pick of the bunch to this point. But Johnson shined at the Heights and the Senior Bowl (where he was voted practice player of the week), and he looks like a good-to-go 10-year pro at guard.

24. Dallas Cowboys: Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M

Jerry Jones didn’t exactly hide his intentions at the league meetings this week when he told reporters how important it will be to add offensive line help through the draft. In this slot, the Cowboys grab Green to play guard and bump him out to tackle in a pinch when needed.

25. Buffalo Bills: Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson

Length. Athleticism. Toughness. A willingness to tackle. Booth has it all. He just didn't get a chance to show it all that much for the Tigers. Last season was his first as a full-timer, and Clemson played him frequently in off coverage.

26. Tennessee Titans: Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan

Tennessee swung and missed on Julio Jones. Might they find their AJ Brown running mate via the draft? Moore is a burner with excellent stop-and-start ability.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

The Bucs were constantly searching for sound corner play last season. They could lose Carl Davis to free agency. Elam would give them a physical and speedy (4.39-second 40) cover man on the outside. As the Patriots’ pick approaches, that’s one potential fit off the board.

28. Green Bay Packers: Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota

The Packers look OK at outside linebacker with Preston Smith and Rashan Gary. But Gary is in the final year of his rookie deal and Smith just signed a lucrative extension. If the team can’t keep Gary, drafting a wildly athletic pass-rushing prospect here makes all kinds of sense. 

29. New England Patriots: Daxton Hill, DB, Michigan

More than a decade after drafting Devin McCourty in the first round (2010), in this scenario the Patriots have found a potential McCourty type in the first once again. Hill hails not from Rutgers but from another favorite program of the Patriots: Michigan. 

He’d join fellow Wolverines defenders already on the roster like Josh Uche, Cam McGrone and newly-acquired versatile safety Jabrill Peppers -- all of whom played for a friend of Bill Belichick’s in the coaching ranks, UMass head coach and former Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown.

How would Hill fit the Patriots defense? He’d be a classic “the more you can do” pick. He’s played safety, slot corner and boundary corner for Michigan. Hill also served as a gunner on the punt team, and he proved he could be a terror as a blitzer when called upon. He’s considered a highly instinctive player by evaluators and easily coachable.

Hill would fit right into what it appears Belichick is building at the moment, which is a faster defense that has a plethora of versatile options to mix and match depending on the opponent’s collection of passing-game threats.

If “positionless football” is the future, this pick would help the Patriots be ahead of the curve. Mixed in with McCourty, Peppers, Jonathan Jones, Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger, Hill could function in a variety of roles.

He could be tried as an outside-the-numbers corner, even though the majority of his experience came as a safety and in the slot in Ann Arbor. He’s certainly big enough (6-feet, 191 pounds) and athletic enough (4.38 40-yard dash, 6.57 three-cone, 4.06 shuttle) to play out there. And if the Patriots are about to play more zone than they have in 2022 and beyond, Hill will help the secondary be able to exchange responsibilities mid-play in a blink.

No matter where Hill projects best -- even with a big and athletic receiver from the SEC still on the board here -- this feels like it would be the kind of fit that would be hard for Belichick and his staff to pass up. There’s an affinity for Hill and his diverse skill set at One Patriot Place, as I understand it, and if Belichick believes Hill could be a core member of future title contenders, the number of multi-purpose defensive backs already on the roster shouldn’t be a deterrent to drafting him.

With some added draft capital after trading down, the Patriots still have plenty of opportunities to add a receiver, another corner, an offensive linemen and more through the first four rounds (picks No. 53, No. 85, No. 94, No. 123 and No. 135).

30. Kansas City Chiefs: Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia

This pick might not have the type of sizzle that Williams provided them at No. 29, but the size and power Wyatt provides would give Kansas City one of the most formidable interior defensive line duos in the league.

31. Cincinnati Bengals: Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn

Now that the offensive line has been addressed via free agency, it’s time for the Bengals to take a good long hard look at their secondary. McCreary doesn’t have the size to shut down opposing No. 1s, but he could be a pest in the slot for years to come. 

32. Detroit Lions: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

Time to add a piece who can threaten defenses through the air -- for whomever ends up the long-term quarterback in Detroit. Burks had a disappointing combine, but there's no faking the production he posted in the SEC. 

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