New EnglandPatriots

2022 NFL Mock Draft: Patriots land perfect fit on the edge


A flurry of transactions over the last couple of days has changed the landscape of the NFL.

The New England Patriots made their first big move of the offseason by releasing veteran linebacker Kyle Van Noy to save salary cap space. They also opted not to place the franchise tag on star cornerback J.C. Jackson. 

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Elsewhere, quarterback Aaron Rodgers announced he will be back with the Green Bay Packers in 2022. The Seattle Seahawks sent QB Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos in a massive deal, and the Indianapolis Colts shipped QB Carson Wentz to Washington.

After all of those moves, now seems like a good time for a new mock. Here's our latest NFL Mock Draft as we look ahead to free agency.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

Jacksonville just franchised tackle Cam Robinson. If they aren't going with a tackle here, they should go with Hutchinson.

2. Detroit Lions: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

The Lions just need to hit on cornerstone pieces. Would be hard to go wrong with a massive athlete who has competed at the highest level.

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: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

If the Jets can come away with two stars at premium positions with picks No. 4 and 10, they'd have to be over the moon. Nabbing Thibodeaux -- long thought to be a top-three talent -- here would be a good start. 

5. New York Giants: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

The Giants are now operating under a Bills regime. They know how important it is to surround a young quarterback with talent. Given how deficient the Giants are up front, Cross -- who may end up the top tackle in this class if his technique catches up with his raw ability -- is an easy choice. 

6. Carolina Panthers: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

Panic move? Maybe. The Panthers, it's been reported, seem set on drafting a tackle here. But with no long-term answer at quarterback, they go with a great athlete who has big-time potential at the position. 

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 AJ 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: Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

And ... things are starting to get a little wild! Corral isn't considered a first-rounder at this point, but Seattle may fall in love with his arm talent and athleticism to make him a high-end pick. The connection between Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin and Pete Carroll -- Kiffin assisted Carroll at USC -- may help drive an eventual marriage between the Seahawks and their choice as Russell Wilson's successor.

10. New York Jets: 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, that will be Robert Saleh's gain. He'll be perfect for Saleh's defensive scheme. 

11. Washington Commanders: Drake London, WR, USC

Now that we know the Commanders have traded for Carson Wentz, we also know that they're going to have to get him some help. After showing an affinity for a big-bodied wideout out of USC last season (Michael Pittman), maybe Wentz can keep Washington afloat with another Trojan with a massive catch radius.

12. Minnesota Vikings: Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

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

13. Cleveland Browns: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

Odell Beckham is gone. Jarvis Landry could be, too. Time to add a piece who can threaten defenses through the air. Burks had a disappointing combine, but there's no faking the production he posted in the SEC. 

14. Baltimore Ravens: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

Baltimore still hasn't come to a long-term contract agreement with Lamar Jackson, but they're trying to make him feel as comfortable as possible with this draft choice. Penning plays with a mean streak that will help him fit right in in the AFC North.

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: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

Philly has had a tough time finding wideouts early in drafts. 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. 

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

This might be the best fit in the entire mock to this point. The Chargers need help up front to allow them to run the two-high safety shells coach Brandon Staley loves. No better option for them in this draft than Davis, who put together maybe the most impressive combine in combine history last week. 

18. New Orleans Saints: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

Feels like a complete rebuild in New Orleans. Williams may need some time to get all the way back to full health after tearing his ACL. If you're not really looking to compete until 2023 anyway, getting Williams here would qualify as a steal. 

19. 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. 

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt

Pickett's hands are small. He has to wear gloves. He's had fumbling issues in college. But he looks ready to go from an accuracy and processing standpoint. The Steelers have a roster that, if they hit on the quarterback spot, is ready to compete. 

21. New England Patriots: Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State

The reaction inside the war room at One Patriot Place is always relatively subdued after picks have been submitted. But there would be cause for dancing in the streets of New England if Johnson were to fall to No. 21 overall. 

One of the best edge fits for the Patriots in this class, Johnson checks in at 6-foot-5, 254 pounds with 34-inch arms and almost 10-inch hands -- all marks the Patriots typically like in their edge rushers. He's also an excellent athlete, having posted a 4.58-second 40 time and a 10-foot-5 broad jump at this year's combine. Match up those numbers with his play style -- a physical end who can play on all three downs because of his relentless demeanor in both running and passing situations -- and you have a Prototypical Patriot. Add in the fact that he was a force against top-flight competition at the Senior Bowl, something the Patriots value highly, and this feels like the kind of pick Bill Belichick wouldn't have to mull long. (Have a look at this Twitter thread from Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy for an idea of why Johnson impressed down in Mobile, Ala.)

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The Patriots have a logjam of young players at this position (Josh Uche, Chase Winovich, Anfernee Jennings), but they just released Kyle Van Noy, and Johnson looks like an immediate starter opposite Matt Judon. This pick could also signify a bit of a shift in philosophy for Belichick. If the Patriots are going to be less talented in the secondary after the presumed departure of free agent J.C. Jackson, they may be better suited trying to make up for his loss by bothering quarterbacks in the pocket rather than hoping to find a replacement at corner who can immediately replicate Jackson's production.

Corner could have been an option here with both Florida's Kaiir Elam and Clemson's Andrew Booth available. Receiver, too, with Ohio State's Garrett Wilson and Penn State's Jahan Dotson still on the board. But corner feels like an area the Patriots need to address in free agency just so they aren't backed into a corner at that position on draft weekend. And the receiver position is so deep in this year's draft class, they may be able to get an impact player there on Day 2. 

Projections vary on Johnson -- who has an average ranking in the 20s, according to a consensus from top draft analysts -- but he certainly feels like Belichick's type. Here's what Belichick was looking for from outside linebackers when he met with his scouts in Cleveland back in the 1990s. 

"Big, rangy guy who can run if you can get them," a report dug up by NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah reads. "They're usually the first-round picks. Settle for guys who can stay on the line. Long arms, quick hands. The 6-2 OLBs are hard to like even if they can run upfield. They're small with no range. OLBs need size, speed and athletic ability."

That's Johnson.

22. Las Vegas Raiders: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

Josh McDaniels said multiple times when he was introduced as Raiders head coach that he wants to build a team that's "explosive." Wilson fits the bill there. He and Derek Carr will have to find some chemistry quickly to keep up with the explosive passing offenses in the AFC West. 

23. Arizona Cardinals: 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. 

24. Dallas Cowboys: Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia

This pick might not have the type of sizzle that Jerry Jones is looking for in the first round, but the size and power Wyatt provides to Dallas' front will make the rest of Jones' defense better. Immediately. 

25. Buffalo Bills: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

In Sean McDermott's defensive scheme, this would play. McDuffie can handle man or zone coverages, but he may be better built to play zone where his instincts and tackling ability will have an opportunity to shine. With Tre'Davious White on the opposite side of the field, and two great safeties on the back end, Buffalo will have its version of a No Fly Zone secondary. 

26. Tennessee Titans: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

Do the Titans believe Ryan Tannehill is the one to carry them to a Super Bowl? How he performed last postseason should have Tennessee on the hunt for their next guy. Ridder has some Tannehill-type qualities to him with his height and athleticism, but he would give the Titans some upside at the most important spot on the roster. He'd also provide them a long-term plan with the guaranteed money running out soon on Tannehill's deal.

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. 

28. Green Bay Packers: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State

Even though the Packers will have officially locked up Aaron Rodgers by the time the draft rolls around, they'll still be trying to make him happy. Giving him a dynamic athlete who can play all over Packers formations, despite being undersized, should make Rodgers even more eager to hit the field in 2022. 

29. Miami Dolphins: Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan

The Dolphins will continue to take big swings at their offensive line until they finally hit. They're due. Raimann has all the size and athletic traits they'll want to play either tackle spot. 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. 

30. Kansas City Chiefs: David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan

Patrick Mahomes will have his guys on the offensive side of the ball. It's time for the defense to hit on a few studs to complement Chris Jones. Frank Clark hasn't done enough for them given the money he's made, but maybe another Michigan edge rusher can help give their pass rush a little more bite.

31. Cincinnati Bengals: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

Protect Joe Burrow at all costs. That should be the motto in Cincinnati this offseason. Linderbaum would be a good place to start as the best center in this year's draft class. Were his position a more highly-valued one across the league, he might've ended up a top-10 pick. 

32. Detroit Lions: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

Take a shot. What do you have to lose? The Lions have plenty of holes to fill, but by landing Howell -- who stands only 6-1, 218 pounds but has a big arm and runs as hard as a running back when he has the opportunity to scramble -- in the first round, they'll have the opportunity to hold onto him for as many as five years on his rookie deal. 

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