National Football League
2022 NFL Mock Draft: Edge rushers dominate, QBs slide
National Football League

2022 NFL Mock Draft: Edge rushers dominate, QBs slide

Updated Feb. 15, 2022 2:59 p.m. ET

By Rob Rang
FOX Sports NFL Analyst

While Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp delivered the dramatic, game-winning touchdown connection to give the Los Angeles Rams a 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI, the biggest takeaway for many NFL scouts was the dominant pass rushes for both clubs. 

The Rams and Bengals combined for nine sacks (seven by Los Angeles), with both star quarterbacks seeing time on the training table after absorbing wicked hits from the opposing pass rush. 

The NFL has long been a copycat league, and you can be sure that every club will try to replicate the Rams’ ferocious pass rush next season, especially as the game is increasingly dedicated to the pass.


Fortunately for pass-rush-needy teams, the 2022 draft class is full of dynamic pass-rushers. The draft is likely to tip off with one, in fact, and my latest projection sees half of the top-10 teams hoping to get an "edge" on the competition by taking advantage of the rich crop. 

The quarterbacks, meanwhile, slip, with the first one not coming off the board until nearly halfway through the draft’s opening round. 

Let's get to the picks.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan

The Jaguars face a more difficult decision at No. 1 this year than they did last year. Protecting the investment made in QB Trevor Lawrence with a burly blocker would seem to make the most sense — but only if he is a verifiable star. 

Hutchinson is the best and safest prospect in this draft, and the immediate impact he could have on and off the field makes him the smartest move. The problem in Jacksonville is less about talent than it is about culture. With the lone exception of 2018, the Jaguars have "earned" a top-10 pick each year since 2007. 

2. Detroit Lions: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

The Lions need a dynamic edge rusher and have a unique perspective on Kayvon Thibodeaux because last year’s top pick, Penei Sewell, faced him every day for two years at Oregon. 

Thibodeaux is arguably the most gifted rusher in this draft, but the inconsistency and injuries that characterized his college career are the antithesis of the traits Detroit GM Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell prioritize. As such, should the local hero, Hutchinson, be off the board, don’t be surprised if the Lions address their defense with Hamilton, the most unique talent in this class. 

3. Houston Texans: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon

Inconsistent or not, Thibodeaux won’t have to wait long before hearing his name called in this draft — edge rushers rank behind only quarterbacks in terms of importance. 

Speaking of QBs, if there were a bankable star in this class, Houston might nab him here. But the defensive-minded Lovie Smith will recognize Thibodeaux’s upside and push to make the native Texan Houston's top choice.

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

Branded a defensive guru, Jets coach Robert Saleh has to be upset that his team surrendered four times as many touchdown passes as it intercepted, the worst ratio in the league. The long-armed, silky smooth "Sauce" Gardner has the frame, name and game built for Broadway.

5. New York Giants: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

With first-round picks spent on their quarterback (Daniel Jones), running back (Saquon Barkley), wide receiver (Kadarius Toney) and tight end (Evan Engram), the Giants have invested far too much in skill position players to have scored an NFL-worst 22 touchdowns last season. 

Okwonu is a bit raw, but he is a brawler who would help restore some of the girth and nastiness missing up front for Big Blue.

6. Carolina Panthers: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

While plenty of questions remain at quarterback in Carolina, there is no question that the Panthers must get better up front. If Neal, a legitimate No. 1 overall candidate, slips out of the top five, the Panthers might have the easiest choice yet. 

Massive and shockingly athletic, Neal could be the difference-maker needed along the line of scrimmage to help Sam Darnold (or another QB) and RB Christian McCaffrey make a playoff push. 

7. New York Giants (via Chicago Bears): Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

As their roster is currently constructed, the Giants have significantly bigger needs than cornerback. Veteran James Bradberry is viewed as a potential cap casualty, however, as he is coming off a disappointing season and is due for a massive salary bump to just under $22 million. 

Having played just 10 games (with zero interceptions) in the two years since he dominated college football as a true freshman for the national champion LSU Tigers, Stingley is a scary evaluation for some. The tape shows a dominant player, though. At this point in the draft, he’s too good to pass up — especially considering the receiver talent in the NFC East. 

8. Atlanta Falcons: Jermaine Johnson, Edge, Florida State

The Falcons finished dead last in the NFL in sacks in 2021, and it wasn’t close, as they took down opposing quarterbacks just 18 times in 17 games (the Eagles were next on the list with 29 sacks). With the top-rated edge rushers (Hutchinson and Thibodeaux) long gone by this point, Atlanta faces a fascinating decision here, as this class is talented and deep but not limitless. 

The Falcons certainly know Johnson well, as he signed as a highly touted prep with the Georgia Bulldogs before transferring and starring at Florida State and, more recently, in the Senior Bowl.   

9. Denver Broncos: David Ojabo, Edge, Michigan

No one knows better than the Broncos that to contend in the arms race that is the AFC West, this club must get better play at quarterback. The draft class does not offer that kind of immediate impact, however, so expect Denver and new coach Nathaniel Hackett to try to acquire a veteran QB (Aaron Rodgers?). That would be better than gambling away a top-10 pick that could be used to restock a pass rush that is lacking due to the trade of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb’s durability struggles. 

Ojabo is raw but even more gifted athletically than his former teammate and the projected No. 1 overall pick, Hutchinson.

10. New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks): Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia

After using their two first-round picks on offense last year (QB Zach Wilson, OG Alijah Vera-Tucker), the Jets should focus on the other side of the ball in this defensive-loaded draft. Walker’s flashes were star-bright for the Bulldogs, but he wasn’t the consistent dominator that his size and athleticism suggest. 

This selection in the top 10 is certainly a roll of the dice, but Saleh was brought in to develop talents like Walker. If he hits, the UGA and Senior Bowl standout could be the star off the edge to turn a good linebacker corps into the AFC East’s best.

11. Washington Commanders: Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M

With nearly half the roster currently slated for free agency, the Commanders are likely to undergo major changes next season, perhaps including at quarterback. Coach Ron Rivera has shown a preference for veterans rather than rookies at the game’s most important position, so instead, one of the most versatile (and effective) offensive linemen in the draft is the pick for now. 

Green is a rare interior blocker worthy of top-10 consideration, and he’d be a much cheaper alternative should Brandon Scherff be lured elsewhere in free agency. 

12. Minnesota Vikings: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

Despite a talented roster, the Vikings finished a disappointing 30th in the NFL in overall defense, largely due to a secondary that was consistently torched by opposing passing attacks. 

Booth does not receive the hype of some of the other cornerbacks in this class, but he’s a legitimate top-15 talent who is just as physical in run support as he is sticky in coverage. 

13. Cleveland Browns: Drake London, WR, USC

This one makes too much sense to not happen, should the draft play out like this. The Browns feature one of the most dominant running games in the NFL. A big, sure-handed bully of a receiver such as London to feast off of play-action could be all that Cleveland is missing on offense. 

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

The Ravens are always one of the more fascinating clubs on draft day, sprinkling in surprises while filling key areas of concern. On paper, the Ravens appear well stocked along the offensive line, with multiple early draft picks and key free agents invested there, including with left tackle Ronnie Stanley and right tackle Alejandro Villanueva

Stanley’s struggles with injuries, however, could open the door for a surprise early selection of a tackle, and there is no denying that Penning plays with the kind of ferocity that GM Eric DeCosta and John Harbaugh love up front. Penning distanced himself from the other senior tackles in this class with a commanding performance at the Senior Bowl, likely cementing a top-15 pick. 

15. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami Dolphins): Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

Depending on which statistics you subscribe to, the Eagles either already have their quarterback of the future or are desperately in need of one. On the one hand, the team started to soar in 2021 once it committed to Jalen Hurts and his ability to impact the game as both a passer and a runner. On the other hand, he is 9-10 as a starter and still lacks the anticipation and accuracy that most want at quarterback. 

With three first-round picks to play with, GM Howie Roseman might opt to trade for a veteran, add real competition via this draft class or build around Hurts with picks spent at other positions. Corral is viewed by many as this year’s best combination of potential and pro-readiness. At this point, he’d likely make too much sense for the Eagles to fly by.

16. Philadelphia Eagles (via Indianapolis Colts): Boye Mafe, Edge, Minnesota

With their pick of the QB class made, the Eagles can address their biggest concern on the defensive side of the ball here. Like at quarterback, the Eagles’ pass rush offers more name recognition than actual game production, with Philadelphia collecting just 29 sacks last year (second-fewest in the NFL). 

Plus, starters Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett are among four edge rushers set to hit free agency. Mafe flashed first-round traits at Minnesota and was dominant at times at the Senior Bowl. 

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Sean Rhyan, OL, UCLA

The Chargers’ future looks bright with young quarterback Justin Herbert taking his game to another level this past season. A huge part of Herbert’s success was the immediate impact made by last year’s first-round pick, Rashawn Slater, a plug-and-play star at left tackle. 

Rhyan, one of the more underrated blockers in this class, starred on the blindside himself for the Bruins but has the frame and physicality to project nicely at right tackle or even inside at guard. With injuries and inconsistency again hampering the Chargers on the right side of their line in 2021, L.A. might opt to go back to the draft for reinforcements, perhaps finding that a local product would be the perfect addition.

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

Whether it be Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston or someone else taking snaps at quarterback, the Saints need to add some juice at receiver. Wilson might just be the most polished receiver in this class. 

His body control and sticky hands would make him the perfect complement to another former Buckeye, Michael Thomas, whose healthy return would be a big help to the Saints’ offensive production. 

19. Philadelphia Eagles: Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State

The Eagles’ secondary played well overall in 2021, jumping to 11th in the league in pass defense after ranking 14th in 2020 and 22nd the year before. 

GM Howie Roseman has plenty of options to get younger at safety, where starters Anthony Harris and Rodney McLeod are both free agents and on the wrong side of 30. Brisker is a local favorite and a natural playmaker who would make a lot of sense in Philadelphia if the club’s bigger concerns at quarterback and pass-rusher are suitably filled. 

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

With Ben Roethlisberger retired and general manager Kevin Colbert expected to move on, the Steelers could be hardly recognizable in 2022. If the rebuild is, in fact, coming, don’t be surprised if Pittsburgh goes all-in on it, especially should a quarterback with Willis’ upside still be on the board. 

Willis is the most gifted quarterback in this class, but he’s also quite raw and will require plenty of patience.

21. New England Patriots: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

Throughout much of the Bill Belichick era, the Patriots have boasted one of the NFL’s best linebacker corps. His group is facing a potentially significant transition in 2022, however, with longtime standouts Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins among a handful of free agents at the position. 

Lloyd lacks the bulk of most of the previous New England linebackers, but his instincts and playmaking ability are definitely befitting the Patriot Way. 

22. Las Vegas Raiders: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

Olave has the big-play ability and blinding speed that the Raiders love. He would give QB Derek Carr another offensive weapon and properly protect current Vegas playmakers Darren Waller, Josh Jacobs and Hunter Renfrow.

23. Arizona Cardinals: Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State

Despite what the naysayers might say, at least one running back has been selected in the first round of the past seven NFL drafts, as the position typically offers immediate impact potential. 

The Cardinals enjoyed just such an impact a year ago, with free-agent addition James Conner, but he could see big dollars if allowed back on the open market after his one-year, prove-it deal with Arizona. With Kyler Murray and the Cardinals fizzling out the past two years, Arizona could see a finisher such as Walker as the missing piece. 

24. Dallas Cowboys: Daxton Hill, S/CB, Michigan

Given that the Cowboys led the NFL with 26 interceptions in 2021, investing their top pick in a defensive back might seem unnecessary — until, that is, you realize that three of the four safeties on the roster are unrestricted free agents, including starters Damontae Kazee and Jayron Kearse

Hill, frankly, is better in coverage than either, possessing the fluidity and speed to be moved all over the field at Michigan.

25. Buffalo Bills: Jordan Davis, NG, Georgia

The Bills surrendered 19 touchdowns on the ground last season. To put that in perspective, the four teams that allowed more — the Lions, Chargers, Jaguars and Jets — lost an average of 12 games. 

Defensive-minded coach Sean McDermott might appreciate a monster in the middle, such as the massive Davis to help shore up one of the few glaring holes for this Super Bowl contender.

26. Tennessee Titans: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

As long as the Titans are going to rely on a downhill power running game and Ryan Tannehill taking deep shots off of play-action, adding speed on the perimeter should be a top priority. 

Given that he tore his ACL in the national championship game last month, Williams could fall down the board further than he should. The Titans won big by trusting their preinjury grade on defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons and might see this as a similar high-upside gamble. 

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

As if the retirement of Tom Brady weren't enough, the Bucs are facing massive turnover at virtually every other position group, with 24 pending free agents. As such, this is a team that could take the "best player available" approach. 

If Pickett — the most polished quarterback in this class — happens to fall to them, however, Bruce Arians might push for a reset at the position, even after the Bucs invested the 64th overall pick in Kyle Trask a year ago. 

28. Green Bay Packers: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

For years, Packers fans (not to mention their quarterback) have clamored for Green Bay to add a dynamic receiver to pair with star Davante Adams. With Adams now set for free agency, the Packers face the possibility of having to replace him, rather than complementing the five-time Pro Bowler. 

29. Miami Dolphins (via San Francisco 49ers): Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

When healthy, former third-round pick Michael Deiter has solidified the middle of Miami’s offensive line. However, Deiter played in just five games last season and might be viewed as more of a stopgap solution or guard-center combo than as a potential future Pro Bowler like Linderbaum, who is easily the top center in this class. 

30. Kansas City Chiefs: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

As long as Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense are lighting up the scoreboard, Kansas City is going to want to keep adding playmaking defenders. Tall, long and fast, Elam possesses the traits preferred in Kansas City’s press-heavy scheme, and he’s battle-tested, projecting as an immediate contributor. 

31. Cincinnati Bengals: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

One of the few blights in an otherwise brilliant season was the play up front in Cincinnati, where Joe Burrow continued to get pummeled. 

Cross has the light feet, active hands and length that scouts prioritize at left tackle but isn’t as forceful in the running game. He could slip further down draft boards than his media hype suggests, as the track record of blockers out of Mike Leach’s offense is discouraging. 

32. Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams): Nakobe Dean, ILB, Georgia

The Lions' top two tacklers at linebacker, Alex Anzalone and Jalen Reeves-Maybin, are pending free agents and might not be priorities to re-sign as the roster rebuild continues. The reigning Butkus Award winner would be an ideal replacement should he still be on the board. 

Second-round prospects and prospective team matches

39. Chicago Bears: Darian Kinnard, OL, Kentucky

With only two picks in the first four rounds due to the trade for QB Justin Fields a year ago, the Bears can't afford to take fliers in the 2022 draft. Kinnard's experience, size and power would give Chicago plenty of flexibility along an offensive line full of pending free agents. 

41. Seattle Seahawks: Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn

While most of the attention paid to the Seahawks nationally centers on their beleaguered offensive line (for good reason), the fall-off of a once-storied defense was as much to blame as anything else for the team's failure to make the playoffs. In 2021, Seattle finished 31st in the NFL against the pass. 

With starting cornerbacks D.J. Reed and Sidney Jones both pending free agents, the Seahawks could look to the draft for a replacement. The 6-foot, 190-pound McCreary lacks the height and length Pete Carroll prefers, but he’s fluid and tenacious and would offer premium value at this point in the draft.   

47. Indianapolis Colts: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State

If the Colts expect QB Carson Wentz to make strides, they need to surround him with playmakers. Dotson might prove to be a steal if he falls into the second round, and he’d be an ideal fit with the Colts, given Jonathan Taylor’s dominance in the running game and Michael Pittman Jr.’s emergence as a dependable split end. 

62. San Francisco 49ers: Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington

GM John Lynch has plenty of work to do on a roster featuring a league-high 29 pending free agents, including eight in San Francisco’s secondary. Gordon was a good player at Washington, and his physical traits suggest that he is only scratching the surface of his potential.

Third-round prospect and prospective team match

101. Los Angeles Rams: Dylan Parham, OL, Memphis

Given where the Lions are selecting and the fact that the Rams just won the Super Bowl, it is obvious which team won the swap of former No. 1 overall picks at quarterback. 

When Matthew Stafford has struggled in Los Angeles, however, it has often been while facing pressure right up the middle — something that rarely happened in Detroit with All-Pro center Frank Ragnow. While still a little raw, Parham showed at the Senior Bowl that he could handle a jump in competition, with the ability to help all three interior positions along the offensive line.

One of the most recognized names in the industry, Rob Rang has been covering the NFL Draft for more than 20 years, with work at FOX, Sports Illustrated,, USA Today, Yahoo, and, among others.


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