Ikem Ekwonu, Ahmad Gardner headline surprise-filled draft

The 2022 NFL Draft is approaching quickly and after a flurry of trades involving first-round picks, the Pro Football Network Mock Draft Simulator (MDS) picks all 32 first-round selections. PFN’s MDS gives the first insight into what the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Commanders may do after trading away Russell Wilson and acquiring Carson Wentz, respectively.

2022 NFL Mock Draft | Picks 1-16

Washington acquired a quarterback while Seattle shipped one out. Does that mean either team is still in the market for a signal-caller come April? The MDS doesn’t think so.

1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

This one continues to be a no-brainer for the Jacksonville Jaguars: Protect Trevor Lawrence at all costs. That means bringing in Evan Neal as his blindside protector. The big man did everything he needed to at the NFL Combine and impressed in the process. Neal is the answer for an offensive line that is devoid of top-notch talent and represents an upgrade over franchise-tagged Cam Robinson at left tackle.

2) Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

Despite what some reports say, the fact remains that Kayvon Thibodeaux returned to Oregon after an injury during his final season when he could have very well sat out the rest of the year. Thibodeaux is a tremendous athlete with a great football IQ. His instincts set him apart from the rest of this class as much as his athletic ability does.

3) Houston Texans: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Mich.

Power-rushing off the edge for the Houston Texans defense, Aidan Hutchinson will blow up run plays and get after the quarterback with ease against most NFL tackles. He’s a physical monster at the point of contact and presents a challenge to stop both against the run and in pass protection.

4) New York Jets: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

Perhaps the draft class’ top overall player, Kyle Hamilton heads to the New York Jets. Hamilton can close space better than most recently-drafted safeties and has a massive frame to lay the lumber. Hamilton eats up that space in coverage, blanketing an entire side of the field with ease.

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

Needing to improve pass protection as well as pave some lanes for their rushing attack, the New York Giants opt to select Ikem Ekwonu with their first of two top-seven picks. Ekwonu, known as the Pancake King for a reason, will maul in the run game and stand stout in pass protection. Ekwonu and Andrew Thomas should anchor a much-improved offensive line in 2022 and beyond.

6) Carolina Panthers: Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M

The Carolina Panthers can go in a variety of directions with pick No. 6. Here, they elect to secure one of their biggest needs on the interior of their offensive line. Kenyon Green can slide into either guard spot or play center. Either way, he’s an upgrade for Carolina’s dilapidated interior.

7) New York Giants (from CHI): Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

The first cornerback off the board is Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, as the long corner from Cincinnati heads to the Giants. New York selects a lockdown cornerback to rejuvenate their secondary. Gardner didn’t allow a touchdown in his coverage in three seasons at Cincinnati.

8) Atlanta Falcons: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

George Karlaftis heads to the Atlanta Falcons as the third edge defender taken in the first eight picks. Karlaftis does his best work from the edge but can slide inside a bit, as he presents a massive frame and incredible strength. He’ll immediately improve a Falcons’ defensive front that was missing an all-around rusher like Karlaftis.

9) Seattle Seahawks (from DEN): Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

Despite trading away Russell Wilson, the Seattle Seahawks don’t opt ​​to draft a quarterback with their newly-acquired ninth overall pick. Instead, they secure Duane Brown’s replacement in Charles Cross.

An incredibly gifted athlete, Cross doesn’t have the prototypical Pete Carroll background, but he has shown in flashes that he’s more than ready to be an NFL road-grader. Combine that with the fact that he’s incredibly sound in pass protection, and the left tackle spot is covered for some time in Seattle.

10) New York Jets (from SEA): Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia

The Jets secure a solution for another top need in the top 10 by selecting Georgia’s Travon Walker. A versatile player off the edge, Walker can drop back in coverage, rush the passer, and shut down the run. Combining his addition with the return of Carl Lawson gives the Jets one of the league’s most feared EDGE duos.

11) Washington Commanders: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

Carson Wentz will have a plethora of targets to get the ball to with the Washington Commanders. After trading for Wentz, the Commanders grab another Ohio State WR as Garrett Wilson join Terry McLaurin and Co. in the receiving corps. Wilson blazed during the Combine and has no attribute that could be considered anything short of far-above-average.

12) Minnesota Vikings: David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan

One of the most athletically-gifted edge rushers in this class, David Ojabo heads to the Minnesota Vikings as the fifth EDGE to come off the board in the first 12 selections. Ojabo has the class’ best spin move and gets home with pressure incredibly quickly. He’s still adjusting to the speed of the game, but he’s faster and stronger than most NFL tackles.

13) Cleveland Browns: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

Originally, Chris Olave beat his teammate in the 40-yard dash at the Combine. After the results were official, however, Wilson barely topped him. And that happens here as Wilson comes off the board just two selections before Olave. The career touchdowns leader at Ohio State heads north on I-71 to join Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns with a chance to quickly develop into their WR1.

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

The Baltimore Ravens need help on the offensive line and who better than a mean, nasty, road-grader in the run game. Trevor Penning will need a bit of seasoning to acclimate to the NFL speed, but that can happen at the same time as he learns to play right tackle. Penning is stout in pass protection but moves incredibly well on the move in the rushing attack.

15) Philadelphia Eagles (from MIA): Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

The Philadelphia Eagles have three picks over the next five selections, and they grab Derek Stingley Jr. with their first. Stingley may not have lived up to his 2019 prowess, but he’s more than capable of playing at a high level when healthy. Stingley will have to rebound from two lackluster years at LSU, but he has the athletic ability to do so.

16) Philadelphia Eagles (from IND): Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

The future is here for the Eagles. With their second of back-to-back picks, they grab matt corral as the first quarterback off the board. Corral has all the arm talent to lead an NFL team as well as an incredible athleticism to make something happen with his legs. What separates him from the rest of this class is his ability to launch pinpoint passes from any platform.

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