With all the picks in the 2021 NFL Draft complete, there’s one natural thing to do next: Project what the picks might look like a year from now in the 2022 NFL Draft.
It’s never too early for a way-too-early mock draft. Consider this a watch list of top prospects, one that is bound to change several times over the next 12 months as the college football season will provide a lot more answers on the players and the NFL season will bring several more questions about every team.
For now, based on the talent we have seen and potential to grow, here’s matching those players with the teams. Sporting News’ 1-32 first-round draft order is based on early upcoming record and playoff projections:
NFL DRAFT BIG BOARD: Ranking the top 50 prospects in 2022
NFL mock draft 2022
1. Houston Texans
- Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
The Texans are headed to splitting with Deshaun Watson in some form and they will quickly find that Davis Mills isn’t the answer. For a QB-needy team, the best place to start is with the latest athletic dual threat from Lincoln Riley’s offense.
2. Detroit Lions
The Lions will be looking for their future at the position beyond Jared Goff in 2022. Slovis should have a breakout season as an efficient and accurate passer ahead.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars will find they need to upgrade their pass protection for Trevor Lawrence going into Year 2. Neal is a pass-protecting force and a rock for the running game, too.
4. New York Jets
- Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Once Robert Saleh gets a good idea of the impact pieces on his rebuilding defense, he’ll realize he needs to find his version of Nick Bosa. He should already thinking about Thibodeaux wreaking havoc from his front seven.
5. Denver Broncos
- Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
Barring the Broncos pulling off a blockbuster for Aaron Rodgers, they won’t be too happy with whatever comes from Drew Lock vs. Teddy Bridgewater. Howell, Rattler and Slovis will have a great battle ahead to see who emerges as the top QB.
6. Las Vegas Raiders
- Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Stingley, despite the past family connection to the franchise, has some Jalen Ramsey-like shutdown coverage and big-play potential to boost a pass defense that will still be reeling outside in 2021.
7. Cincinnati Bengals
- Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
The Bengals did well with second-rounder Jessie Bates II and can give him plenty of support against pass and run with this rangy tackler with a good nose for the ball.
8. Carolina Panthers
- Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
The Panthers failed to address offensive tackle well and Cross should have plenty of appeal as a natural pass protector, whether it’s Sam Darnold or someone else at QB.
9. Atlanta Falcons
- DeMarvin Leal, DT/DE, Texas A&M
The Falcons could use a versatile disruptor for their front four on either side of Grady Jarrett and Leal would be ideal.
10. Washington Football Team
- Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Washington was fine passing on quarterback with Ryan Fitzpatrick as the bridge and it will be happy to know it will be better positioned for a rising first-round dual threat in 2022.
11. Philadelphia Eagles
- Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M
The Eagles still may try to move Zach Ertz but it’s unlikely as they didn’t draft a tight end with any of their nine recent picks. They should be more comfortable moving on from his next year with Wydermer about to shoot up his stock as a receiver.
12. New York Giants
- Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
The Giants will be interested in some second-leave mass cleanup for Patrick Graham and Harris is developing into the following class’ Micah Parsons.
13. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals ignored the pass rush early despite having a present and future need, so they should get to know Jackson as a prospect pretty quickly.
14. New England Patriots
- Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
The Patriots worked to reshuffle their wide receiver corps a little in relation to the big splurge at tight end. Olave can be a much better potential No. 1 with combination of big-play ability and red zone flair than N’Keal Harry was as a first-rounder.
15. New York Giants (from Bears for Justin Fields trade up)
The Giants felt OK putting off finding a better candidate for left tackle after using a more right-side tailored Andrew Thomas in 2020. They will be eager to replace Nate Solder with this extra first-rounder.
16. New Orleans Saints
- Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
The Saints didn’t go after the flashy field-stretching receiver for the outside to better complement Michael Thomas. They should be comfortable going back to the Buckeyes to land him.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
- Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State
The Steelers did invest later picks on offensive linemen as they transition up front, but there’s a good chance they will seek a rock for left tackle to better protect Ben Roethlisberger or someone else.
18. Tennessee Titans
- George Pickens, WR, Georgia
The Titans did get an intriguing receiver in Dez Fitzpatrick but they should make the position a higher priority to further complement A.J. Brown.
19. New York Jets (from Seahawks for Jamal Adams)
- Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma
The Jets once again will double up on the first round and Saleh wouldn’t mind having this quick, backfield-disrupting force who has some DeForest Bucker and Javon Kinlaw in him.
20. Philadelphia Eagles (from Dolphins)
The Eagles did address their secondary a little this year but they should be more in the reliable starting cornerback market. This big ballhawk could be huge for them outside.
21. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts brought back T.Y. Hilton for one more season to hold off addressing the need for No. 1 big-play receiver. Ross would be a great fit with Carson Wentz.
22. Minnesota Vikings
- Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State
The Vikings can’t expect Patrick Peterson to be a long-term solution outside so going back to this position in the first-round with size from a familiar program makes sense for now.
23. Los Angeles Chargers
- John Metchie, WR, Alabama
The Chargers didn’t think about upgrading wide receiver as much as they needed for Justin Herbert so Metchie would a strong first-round follow to Rashawn Slater.
24. Dallas Cowboys
- Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State
The Cowboys didn’t focus their defensive haul much on the pass rush in 2021 so Harrison needs to be an early consideration.
25. Baltimore Ravens
- Jordan Battle, S, Alabama
The Ravens tabled upgrading their playmaking ability at this position but tapping into of their favorite programs for a solid solution makes sense.
26. Detroit Lions (from Rams for Matthew Stafford)
- Aidah Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
The Lions, after using their early pick to replace Goff, should be locked into more defensive help here. The edge should call after they solidified tackle in the 2021 draft.
27. Green Bay Packers
- George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
The Packers should know the Smith “Brothers” — Za’Darius and Preston — will soon creep into their thirties and are only signed through 2022. Karlaftis can help the team get ahead of replacing one of them in their 3-4.
28. Cleveland Browns
- Cade Mays, G/C, Tennessee
The Browns got some tackle depth in James Hudson. They could benefit from getting more versatility and contingency for the interior with Mays.
29. Miami Dolphins (from 49ers for Trey Lance trade up)
- Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M
The Dolphins have done pretty well addressing the tackles for Tua Tagovailoa but they likely will need to turn their attention to the interior line more next year.
30. Buffalo Bills
- Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M
The Bills once took a running back named Spiller with OK results early in the first round. They didn’t draft an alternative to Devin Singletary and Zack Moss in 2021, which can set up the positional need to be more pressing next year.
31. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs held off any one major corner upgrades for the outside this year but that should make them interested in the services of the nice-sized Jobe.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers addresse some defensive depth in the 2021 draft, but they need to think about grooming a successor to Lavonte David, who will turn 32 next January.