By Jason McIntyre
FOX Sports Betting Analyst
The 2021 NFL Draft is in the books, so naturally, it’s time for a way-too-early 2022 Mock Draft.
Why do we do this exercise? For starters, it’s fun, and fans devour it. When we did this last April after the 2020 NFL Draft, we correctly projected 13 of the 32 first-round picks, including direct hits on Justin Fields to the Bears and Micah Parsons to the Cowboys.
But we also do it because it starts the process of analyzing the upcoming college football season. More than anything, it begins our annual deep dive into figuring out who needs what in the NFL.
So let’s jump in. The draft order is a combined projection of season win total over/unders and educated guesses on who finishes where, and seven quarterbacks in the first round would set a record. But first, we’ll start with No. 1.
1. Detroit Lions: JT Daniels, QB, Georgia
The Lions tore the house down to the studs, and the rebuild began this past weekend, with lots of work in the trenches. I’m not sure they’ll reach their projected win total of five, but they will be much tougher physically than last year.
2. Houston Texans: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
A year ago, nobody had Zach Wilson going second in the daft. A year before he was drafted first, nobody had Joe Burrow going there. A year before going first, nobody had Kyler Murray going there. Ridder has three years as a starter under his belt, and I expect big things.
3. Philadelphia Eagles: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
He isn’t in the Chase Young/Bosa Brothers stratosphere, but Thibodeaux’s size (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) and speed make him the most terrorizing pass-rusher in the draft.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: Evan Neal, LT, Alabama
He’s 6-foot-7, 360 pounds, but the only question will be if he has the agility to play LT – in which case he goes here – or RT, which would mean he’d be a late first-/early second-rounder.
5: Las Vegas Raiders: Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
Lincoln Riley has a decent history of setting up QBs to go first (Kyler Murray, Baker Mayfield). Rattler started 11 games last year and threw 28 touchdowns. The biggest question will be if he has the size (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) to go this high.
6. New York Jets: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
He has been starting since he was a true freshman, and if you look up “college lockdown corner,” you see his photo. Stingley will instantly be the best cornerback for the franchise since Darrelle Revis.
7. New England Patriots: DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
He plays inside and outside for the Aggies. At 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, Leal has registered 12.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 22 games through two seasons.
8. New York Giants (via Chicago Bears): Zach Harrison, DE, Ohio State
Don’t be fooled by the 5.5 sacks through one-and-a-half seasons. Harrison was a top-25 recruit in high school and reportedly has run a 4.47 40 while weighing 243 pounds.
9. Tennessee Titans: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
The two-year starter has thrown 68 TDs. In games against ranked teams, he has 11 TDs and just one interception. Howell is a thick 225, as opposed to, say, Zach Wilson, who is very thin, and will be in contention to go first overall.
10. Carolina Panthers: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
The 2022 receiver class isn’t nearly as strong as 2021’s. Ohio State might have two of the best receivers in the draft, though, due to an injury you’ll hear about later.
11. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami): Thayer Munford, OL, Ohio State
Pro Football Focus gave Munford a 91.8 grade at left tackle last year, which would be the fourth-best in the Big Ten of any left tackle in the past five years.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Drake Jackson, Edge, USC
Jackson has tallied 7.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss in two seasons.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
The Steelers drafted linemen in the third and fourth rounds, but as of now, they’ll still go into the season with major questions at both tackle spots and center.
14. New Orleans Saints: Jayden Daniels, QB, Arizona State
Daniels had an impressive true freshman campaign (17 TDs) but threw only 84 passes in the COVID-impacted 2020 campaign. Although he lacks polish, he is a terrific athlete and at times looks like RGIII effortlessly throwing passes from the pocket.
15. Dallas Cowboys: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
After playing sparingly as a true freshman, the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder started in 2020, made All-ACC and is on track to be the highest-drafted safety since Jamal Adams.
16. Los Angeles Chargers: Rasheed Walker, LT, Penn State
In a strong class of left tackles, Walker has the size (6-foot-6, 312 pounds), credentials (All-Big Ten) and career starts (22) to be in the first-round discussion.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars: Tyler Davis, DT, Clemson
After a monster 2019 campaign (10.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks), Davis was quieter in seven games in 2020. But he is an ideal fit in a 4-3 defense.
18. Atlanta Falcons: Chris Hinton, DT, Michigan
When your father is an All-American, goes in the first round and plays in seven Pro Bowls, yeah, there are expectations.
With only nine games under his belt, this is firmly a projection on Hinton (2.5 TFL, 1 sack).
19. Washington: Carson Strong, QB, Nevada
Yes, I believe Ryan Fitzpatrick and Taylor Heinicke will fall short of the playoffs. Strong was the Mountain West POY in 2020; he’s a sneaky candidate to make a quantum leap as a pro prospect in 2021.
20. New York Jets (via Seattle): Xavier Thomas, DL, Clemson
Thomas was an elite high school recruit who was supposed to slay 2020 and be a first-round pick in 2021. Then he got COVID, lost a lot of weight and redshirted.
21. Denver Broncos: Kedon Slovis, QB, USC
Sixteen QBs were rated ahead of him coming out of high school (including Howell), but in two seasons, Slovis has thrown 47 TDs, and he’s completing 70% of his passes. Yes, this is Denver projected in the playoffs – without Aaron Rodgers.
22. New York Giants: Kaiir Elam, DB, Florida
His father played for Notre Dame and then in the NFL. His uncle Matt was a legend at Florida and a first-round pick of the Ravens.
23. Miami Dolphins (via San Francisco): Cade Mays, OL, Tennessee
Some way-too-early projections are based on high school rankings – and Mays was the No. 3-ranked LT in the Class of 2018 when he picked Georgia before transferring to Tennessee.
24. Indianapolis Colts: Zion Nelson, LT, Miami
The Hurricanes have a veteran offensive line, and the 6-foot-5, 310-pound Nelson is the leader. He has been a starter at Miami since his days as a true freshman – though he permitted nine sacks that year.
25. Arizona Cardinals: Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State
I’m not putting Banks in the class of Denzel Ward, Jeff Okudah, Damon Arnette and Marshon Lattimore, but Ohio State has a nose for elite CBs. Banks has flashed big-play ability, yet has some work to do to get into the first round.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Ty Fryfogle, WR, Indiana
Fryfogle will be 23 years old before the draft. He has great size (6-foot-2, 214 pounds), and we’ll see how he runs.
Just remember when you look at his modest stats (13 TDs in 32 games) that he isn’t playing with a first-round-caliber QB like many of the other receivers here.
27. Cleveland Browns: Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State
Nine of his 28 career receptions have gone for TDs, but it’s his size/speed combo that’s tantalizing. At 6-foot-5, 253-pounds, Ruckert has supposedly run a 4.6 40.
28. Green Bay Packers: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
He came back to school to up his value, and he would probably have been lost in the loaded 2021 receiver class. Now, he will be firmly in the mix for the first round. Obviously, this Packers prediction is with Aaron Rodgers under center in 2021.
29. Buffalo Bills: Nick Broeker, OL, Mississippi
Seven offensive linemen in the first round is a huge number. At 6-foot-4, 295 pounds, it’s unclear if Broeker has the size for left tackle. But he definitely has the skill.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: George Pickens, WR, Georgia
Pickens tore his ACL in March, putting his 2021 campaign in jeopardy, but he should be 100 percent for the combine, should he elect to leave Athens early. In 20 games, he has 85 receptions and 14 TDs. He has been compared to A.J. Green, mostly due to his size (6-foot-3, 200 pounds).
31. Kansas City Chiefs: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
The Huskies have had seven defensive backs taken in the past five years. McDuffie might be the best cornerback in the Pac-12 this year after earning second-team All-Pac 12 honors as a sophomore.
32. Detroit Lions (via LA Rams): George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue
Born in Greece, Karlaftis got a late start on football, but he has been dominant at Purdue, racking up 7.5 sacks as a true freshman. He played only three games in 2020 due to COVID, but there’s a chance that he turns heads next season.
Jason McIntyre is a FOX Sports betting analyst, and he also writes about the NFL and NBA Draft. He joined FS1 in 2016 and has appeared on every show on the network. In 2017, McIntyre began producing gambling content on the NFL, college football and NBA for FOX Sports. He had a gambling podcast for FOX, “Coming Up Winners,” in 2018 and 2019. Before arriving at FOX, he created the website The Big Lead, which he sold in 2010.
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