2022 NFL mock draft (Version 1.0): First-round projections with top 18 picks locked in

With the conclusion of Week 18, it’s officially draft season for more than half the NFL.

The top 18 picks are solidified, with the Jacksonville Jaguars claiming the No. 1 overall selection for the second year in a row. Here are The Baltimore Sun’s initial projections for the first round, which begins April 28 in Las Vegas:

Note: Picks 19 through 32 are projected from the ESPN Football Power Index.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

There’s no consensus top player in this year’s draft class, which makes the No. 1 pick a bit of a toss-up. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Thibodeaux, the former No. 2 overall prospect in the country, recorded 19 sacks in three seasons for the Ducks and finished with a 91.3 pass-rushing grade as a senior, according to Pro Football Focus. He’d be a cornerstone piece for a Jaguars defense that ranked 31st in Football Outsiders’ DVOA.

2. Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

The 6-6, 265-pound Hutchinson also has a strong case to be the No. 1 pick. The Heisman Trophy finalist put together a monster senior season, recording 14 sacks and 16 ½ tackles for loss. Ranked No. 2 on Bruce Feldman’s 2021 “Freaks List,” he’s expected to put up some impressive athletic testing numbers.

3. Houston Texans: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

With the uncertainty surrounding Deshaun Watson’s legal situation and Davis Mills’ up-and-down rookie season, the Texans could be thinking quarterback here. But with no consensus top signal-caller, it might make more sense to trade down or take the best player available. Neal dominated at left tackle for the Crimson Tide and has rare athleticism for a 6-7, 350-pound lineman.

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4. New York Jets: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

Will coach Robert Saleh look to upgrade on defense or try to give young quarterback Zach Wilson more help? The Jets had one of the worst collections of cornerbacks in the league this season, so adding the 6-1, 195-pound Stingley, a lockdown defender in man coverage who flashed elite ability as a true freshman, is a no-brainer.

5. New York Giants: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State

The Giants will have a new general manager and coach to guide their draft after parting ways with Dave Gettleman and Joe Judge following a disastrous 4-13 season. The 6-4, 320-pound Ekwonu, a dominant run-blocker, would immediately upgrade a porous offensive line. He recorded the most big-time blocks in the country over the past two seasons, according to PFF.

6. Carolina Panthers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

If coach Matt Rhule wants to stick around in Carolina, he needs a better quarterback than Sam Darnold or Cam Newton. The 6-3, 220-pound Pickett is far from a sure-thing after breaking out in his fifth college season, but his experience and poise in the pocket could be just what the Panthers need to get the most out of a talented offense.

7. New York Giants (via Chicago Bears): George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

If the Giants want to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016, they need to start winning …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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