2022 NFL Mock Draft: RJ Young on why Spencer Rattler is No. 1
By RJ Young
FOX Sports College Football Writer
With the 2021 NFL Draft in the books, here’s a way-too-early look at what the 2022 NFL Draft could look like in the first round.
In reverse order of FOX Bet’s odds for winning Super Bowl LVI.
Deshaun Watson wants out, and the Texans might be inclined to finally give him what he wants, given recent off-the-field issues around the franchise QB. It's time to go looking for another one.
Rattler is the best quarterback in this draft, but he’ll have to prove it in a year when Oklahoma is built to win its first national title in more than 20 years.
With a season that ends with an invitation to the Heisman ceremony, there’s little doubt that Rattler will be the first quarterback off the board.
Jared Goff looks like a bridge quarterback for the Lions. If that’s the case, Howell is the second-best quarterback in this draft, and he set records at UNC as a true freshman.
With 3,500 or more yards passing and at least 30 TDs this season, he’ll secure this spot.
Stingley is the best non-quarterback in this draft and perhaps its most versatile player. He returned punts and started at corner for LSU’s 2019 national title team.
Wilson is the most talented receiver in one of the most talented wide receiver rooms in the country. If he plays like he has the past two years, this will look like an easy selection, on-par with Ja’Marr Chase in 2021.
The Jags are going to find out there are more holes in their two-deep even after taking a quarterback No. 1 overall in 2021. Adding another pass-rusher to the rotation makes sense.
Thibodeaux is a natural hunter at defensive end. At 6-foot-5, 249 pounds, he’s long and quick. In just seven games last year, he notched 9.5 tackles for loss, with three sacks and three pass breakups.
The Giants ranked dead last in pass-rush win-rate in 2020. They can address that by walking into Buckeyes assistant Larry Johnson’s defensive line room and picking the best player available.
Expect that to be Zach Harrison. Harrison has been billed as the heir to Chase Young and the Bosa brothers' success since his arrival. 2021 will be the year that comes to fruition.
The Eagles still lack a dominant presence at safety. Hamilton has been just that at every level, and he’ll feature in Marcus Freeman’s first year as defensive coordinator at ND.
Assuming Denver figures out the quarterback position in the next 12 months, the Broncos should make a move to bolster their defensive line with McDonald.
McDonald’s name ought to be one you hear a lot in 2021. He finished second in the country with 10.5 sacks in 2020 and was the only Power 5 player inside the top five in total sacks, as well as one of just two underclassmen on the All-Big 12 First Team defense.
Leal can help right away. As a sophomore, he ranked fifth on the team in tackles and picked off a pass in A&M’s 2020 game against Bama.
Through the last quarter of the 2020 season, Daniels showed the ability to push the ball downfield and throw receivers open. Pair Daniels with Terry McLaurin, and let him go to work.
After they picked up the steal of the 2021 draft in Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, the Bears' pick goes to the Giants. And I don’t think Daniel Jones is their guy.
If that’s the case, go get King. He was a 3,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher at Houston. And before losing to UNC in 2020, Miami looked the part of a New Year’s Six team.
If King returns in time, gets the start against Alabama and puts up numbers, this isn’t going to feel like a stretch at all for Joe Judge and Dave Gettleman.
The Panthers boast a pair of lights-out safeties in Jeremy Chinn and Tre Boston, but they need some help at the corners. Jobe could offer that immediately.
Jobe took on the responsibility of being challenged on every pass play because so many offensive coordinators chose not to challenge former Tide corner Pat Surtain II. With Jobe taking over as the No. 1 corner in the secondary, expect him to mature into one of the great SEC corners of 2021.
The Falcons are not great at putting the quarterback on the ground, and they’ll need to address that.
They can with Karlaftis, who led the Boilermakers with 17 tackles for loss, including 7.5 sacks, as a true freshman.
Assuming the Vikings part with Danielle Hunter, they’ll need to fill that need at defensive end. Although he’s 6-foot-4 and weighs 255 pounds, USC defensive lineman Jackson can do that.
In two seasons, he has logged 66 tackles, including 17 for loss. In six games in 2020, he notched 5.5 sacks.
Pickens fits the bill. He’s a large target who was the most capable receiver on an offense that, at times in 2019 and '20, looked one-dimensional. He’s coming off an ACL injury, but if he looks the part when he tests, it’s easy to see him playing home games in Glendale, Arizona.
The Chargers addressed some of their offensive line issues this offseason, and they had to. They have the reigning rookie of the year at quarterback in Justin Herbert.
Now they have to build a foundation that protects him. Adding a versatile player such as Neal can do that. He earned a freshman All-American selection at left guard. As a sophomore, he was right tackle on the Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line that gave up just 11 sacks of quarterback Mac Jones in 13 games.
The Patriots have drafted just one wide receiver in the first round with Bill Belichick as head coach: former Arizona State product N’Keal Harry. Expect them to do that again in 2022 to bolster their passing attack with tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.
Clemson wideout Cornell Powell made waves with 53 catches in 12 games. But Bell caught 53 passes, too — in just six games. Buy stock in the Boilermaker wideout.
They need help on the offensive line, too, and Munford has demonstrated his prowess at Ohio State blocking for a 2,000-yard tailback (J.K. Dobbins), the single-game rushing record-holder (Trey Sermon) and two first-round picks at QB (Dwayne Haskins, Justin Fields). At 6-foot-6, 321 pounds, he has the size and speed to play right away.
Tennessee ranked 28th out of 32 teams in passing yards per game, and that’s with a ball-control offense led by Derrick Henry. The Titans have to be better if they want to contend for a Super Bowl.
Elam was the most underrated cornerback in the SEC, with two picks and 11 pass breakups opposite Marco Nelson. At 6-foot-2, he’s long enough to challenge when the ball’s in the air, and he can help the Titans return to the form that got them to the AFC title game in 2020.
After using a first-round pick on Heisman winner DeVonta Smith, expect the Eagles to look for a defensive back. Joseph was the best in the Big Ten in 2020, proving it in the 2020 Big Ten title game against Justin Fields and the Buckeyes.
Even before that, he became the first Big Ten player to pick off at least three passes in the first three games of the season since Ohio State defensive back Malik Hooker. He had a total of six INTs in nine games last season.
I don’t expect the Saints to draft a quarterback. I expect them to beef up that receiving corps. Find someone who strikes as much fear into defenders as Michael Thomas did in 2019.
That’s what Clemson wideout Justyn Ross has done his entire career. His injury history makes the move one you have to feel confident about, and that might be the reason he’s still available at No. 21, despite his awesome tape.
After missing on Patrick Surtain in 2021, the Cowboys must add a versatile defensive back.
Hill is exactly that. He leaps off film, and he became a difference-maker at Michigan right away. He had 11 tackles against Wisconsin last year and picked off two passes against Rutgers, too. He’s a natural center fielder at free safety, with speed to return punts and kicks.
With Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett as bookends, the Browns are set at Edge like Ivory Christian running a Texas Stunt on fourth down against the Carter Cowboys. Now, pair those two physical freaks with each other — Alabama defensive tackle D.J. Dale.
Dale was so good when he arrived at Alabama that he earned a starting job at nose tackle as a true freshman. His injury history might precipitate a drop to the Browns here, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out we’re talking about him the way we were talking about Javon Kinlaw two years ago.
Opposing quarterbacks completed 69% of their passes and threw for 4,409 yards and 34 TDs against the Jets, who intercepted those QBs just 10 times last season. Yikes.
Ohio State cornerback Sevyn Banks didn’t have the best 2020, but he’s expected to be the leader in that Buckeye secondary in 2021. Ideally, he's a cornerback who can help you get back to the days when Darrelle Revis wasn’t even challenged.
The Colts ranked in the middle of the pack in pass rush win-rate in 2020, at 15th, winning 42% of the time. You gotta get those numbers up. Those are rookie numbers.
So go get yourself Hutchinson, a rookie who will contribute to being among the best, even if you manage to leap up the standings in this metric in 2021 and end up drafting near the end of the first round.
In 2019, the man had his best year. Not unlike Stingley Jr., many need him to prove that he's that good once again. At 6-foot-6, 269 pounds, if he tests well, he’ll rocket up the board. He also has tremendous pedigree; his father is former Michigan defensive tackle and captain Chris Hutchinson.
Assuming the 49ers are contenders next year and the Dolphins' pick lands somewhere in this range, Miami could do with adding a player who can help keep the lid on a defense that might get as abused through the air as the 2020 squad.
The Dolphins gave up more than 252 yards passing per game (and are still trying to fill a Minkah Fitzpatrick-sized hole), despite boasting one of the NFL’s best corners last year in Xavien Howard, who picked off 10 passes by his lonesome. Pair that man with Hodges Tomlinson, and shut down half of the field.
Hodges was one of two underclassmen selected at corner on the All-America Second Team — the other was Cincy CB Ahmad Green — and though he has yet to record an interception, he doesn’t get picked on much, either. Consider Gary Patterson’s ability to put defensive backs in the NFL, and you can see how he’ll rise up draft boards next spring.
The Ravens have a need in the middle of the defense.
This season, they re-signed Tyus Bowser to a four-year $22 million contract. Twelve million of that is guaranteed. It's a steep price, but only when you don't know that Bowser was the only linebacker in the league to record at least three sacks and three interceptions.
What if you could add that kind of versatility in a rookie?
Enter 6-foot-3, 234-pound hybrid linebacker Nik Bonitto – a late bloomer with burst, power and speed like a Walmart cashier at the sliding door closing time.
Metchie continues in what is becoming a tradition of Alabama wideouts being drafted in the first round. As the third option on the 2020 national title team, he caught 55 passes for 916 yards.
Pair him with Howell, and let the rookies try to lead the Lions back to respectability.
You need an all-purpose vehicle to run with those Decepticons Stefon Diggs (127 catches in 2020) and Cole Beasley (82). They were Josh Allen's top pass-catchers last season. Next best? Running back Devin Singletary with 38.
Billingsley was so cold as a sophomore of the Tide’s national title team that Nick Saban let him return kicks. He caught just 14 passes for 287 yards in 2020, but he could be the best tight end prospect out of Tuscaloosa since O.J. Howard.
The Packers should be looking for a replacement and perhaps running mate for Mr. Two Beers — "Utah, give me two!" Get you a bruh who ain't afraid to throw the hooks and show pass-rushers how that ground looks.
Not only can Walker walk 'em down like Nancy Sinatra in a new pair of boots, but he's also a super senior. That extra year of football is going to be a separator.
Now is a good time to spend draft capital on a defensive tackle. Oklahoma has one that fits in Perrion Winfrey. At 6-foot-3, 297 pounds, he has tremendous size and speed.
Nothing hurt Chiefs fans more than watching Patrick Mahomes running for his life in this year’s Super Bowl against a Tampa Bay defense that was feasting on an offensive line he later called out.
Kansas City has to keep investing in the protection of its half-billion-dollar CEO at quarterback, and Cross, a former five-star recruit, is a great way to do that.
RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young. Subscribe to "No. 1 Ranked Show w/ RJ Young" on YouTube and wherever you get your podcasts. He is not on a StepMill.