If Houston is picking this high it means either Watson chose to sit out, got suspended after being accused of harrassing women he got massages from, or the Texans came to the realization that Watson wanted out and just wouldn't budge. Houston hasn't had a first round pick since the 2019 NFL Draft when they took Tytus Howard out of Alabama State as a right tackle before surrendering two first round picks to the Miami Dolphins for Laremy Tunsil.
The 2022 NFL Draft may be deeper at quarterback than 2021. The problem is this class lacks a blue chip quarterback prospect outside of Sam Howell, and after rewatching some of Howell's tape, there's certainly some people who will make the argument that Howell may not be that guy.
The 6-1 225 lb Sam Howell is the only quarterback in this draft that I've seen make up to 6-progressions on tape. He's also the only quarterback I've seen on film to complete a 1-step, 3-step, 5-step, and 7-step drop. That doesn't make Howell a complete prospect despite his outstanding intangibles. One issue with Howell is that he drifts too much by moving out of the pocket in a diagonal motion rather than staying in the pocket waiting for the play to develop.
Sam Howell came into North Carolina and won the starting quarterback job as a true freshman in 2019. Sam Howell had 3,641 passing yards, 38 passing touchdowns, 7 interceptions, a 61.4 completion percentage, and a 160.2 passer rating in 2019. Sam Howell had 3,586 passing yards, 30 passing touchdowns, 7 interceptions, a 68.1 completion percentage, and a 179.1 passer rating in 2020 while showing the ability to scramble.
One example of Howell scrambling was a play where he made Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah miss a tackle on a rushing touchdown. With Sam Howell, I see a quarterback who reminds me of Baker Mayfield, the Cleveland Browns quarterback that they drafted first overall out of Oklahoma. Howell is cleaner off the field than Baker, but his completion percentage is not on par with what Baker Mayfield did during his sophomore redshirt and junior redshirt seasons at Oklahoma.
Sam Howell had some sloppy sophomore moments in games against Florida State, Notre Dame, and Texas A&M in the 2021 Orange Bowl on Film where he went 18/31 in a 41-27 loss, but the good outweighs the bad with Howell. In Sam Howell's defense he no longer has to worry about Trevor Lawrence or Ian Book. DJ Uiagalelei, Phil Jurkovec, D'Eriq King, and Kenny Pickett are the next best ACC quarterbacks after Howell, and Uiagalelei is the only one who can warrant a case as to why he may be better than Howell.
I can empathize with Houston Texans fans who say the teams needs to keep Deshaun Watson at any cost because the earliest Houston can move Watson without having to pay a huge dead cap penalty is 2023, and the $40-million dollars from his extension with the Houston Texans kicks in starting in 2022. However, in the event that Watson doesn't play and the Texans end up with the top pick, taking Howell is the smartest thing the Houston Texans can do because Howell can play in a balanced run first offense, a west coast offense, a shotgun spread offense, or a vertical offense. He's one of a few quarterbacks that knows all four offensive philosophies and he's the most consistent since he's the only quarterback with back-to-back seasons with 3,500 passing yards at North Carolina.
Sam Howell will have a great supporting cast in the event that the Houston Texans move on from Watson. He'll have both offensive tackles Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard back. He'll have Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, and Nico Collins as his starting wide receivers with Brevin Jordan as the teams tight end. Unlike Tyrod Taylor and David Mills, Sam Howell is a viable replacement if Houston moves on from Watson.
If Houston cannot play Watson in 2021 and somehow manages to keep Watson without trading him, they could go defense and take Oregon pass rusher Kayvon Thibdeaux, LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., or Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton. For now Sam Howell is the first pick in my very first 2022 NFL Mock Draft.
The Detroit Lions had an outstanding 2021 NFL Draft. Unfortunately they don't have enough weapons for Goff to succeed in Detroit yet despite adding Penei Sewell as a right tackle to compliment left tackle Taylor Decker, center Frank Ragnow, left guard Jonah Jackson, and right guard Logan Stenberg.
Detroit followed that up by using day 2 picks on Levi Onwuzrike and Alim McNeil who both compliment Michael Brockers in both a 4-3 and 3-4 defensive scheme. Adding Ifeatu Melifonwu as a nickel cornerback to compliment Amani Oruwaryie and Jeffery Okudah was a great way to top off day 2 before Detroit got Amon-Ra St. Brown a receiver with a second round grade on my board in the fourth round.
Honestly, I think the Trojanman Brad Holmes drafted may be better than Breshad Perriman, Tyrell Williams, or Kalif Raymond. Those guys may be ahead of Amon-Ra St. Brown on the depth chart at the moment, but that will not last. If it does, then I could honestly see Detroit picking this high unless tight end T.J. Hockenson and running back DeAndre Swift just absolutely go off for Fantasy owners like they did on my Fantasy team last year.
Many Lions fans would assume they will cut Jared Goff in this scenario if they pick this high. Cutting Goff in 2022 only saves the Detroit Lions a meager $650,000 dollars. Brad Holmes could save more money by switching to Geico. They could get a receiver to compliment their fourth round pick, but they got bigger needs on defense to address plus there are three blue chip defensive prospects on the board who I mentioned in the final paragraph of my Houston Texans writeup with the first pick and Detroit is taking one of those guys at 2.
The 6-5 249 lb Kayvon Thibodeaux can play 4-3 right end with his hand in the dirt, but also has the size to line up at 3-4 right outside linebacker. He will make the opposing left tackle quiver in fear regardless of what scheme you line him up in. Dan Campbell discussed a set with 3 defensive linemen following day 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft in a press conference so that could mean that Detroit plans to transition to a 3-4 defense rather than run a 4-3 defense.
Kayvon Thibodeaux had 14 tackles for a loss and 9 sacks as a true freshman in 2019. He didn't do as well in 2020 due to a shortened PAC 12 season thanks to Covid-19, but he stepped up big time embarassing Alijah Vera-Tucker in the 2020 PAC 12 Championship game.
Right now Kayvon Thodeaux is the top edge rusher in this draft. He'd give Detroit a blue chip pass rusher off the edge regardless of whether Dan Campbell sticks with the 4-3 or moves to a 3-4 defense.
Philadelphia got Jalen Hurts a number one target. The thing is Philadelphia will be dependant on their offense to be at full health if they want to win games this season. If Andre Dillard, Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, or DeVonta Smith gets injured than this team could easily be picking in the top 5 of the 2022 NFL Draft since they ignored some glaring needs at linebacker, cornerback, and safety.
The 6-1 194 lb Derek Stingley Jr. had 21 deflections for pass breakups in 2019 on LSU's National Championship team that went 15-0 two years ago. He only had 5 in 2020 following the departure of safety Grant Delpit and cornerback Kristian Fulton. Teams realized how lethal Stingley was so they gameplanned around LSU's defense by throwing it to the cornerback across from Stingley.
Derek Stingley Jr. is the only cornerback in this mock that I believe has an A+ grade in man coverage, zone coverage, and press coverage. That's what makes Stingley a special corner because he's a guy who could push Kayvon Thibedeaux and Sam Howell to be the top prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft. Not even Jeffrey Okudah who went third overall two years ago was that dominant in coverage on film.
Now he plans on changing his number from 24 to 7. Patrick Peterson, Grant Delpit, an Leonard Fournette all wore 7 at LSU.
Philadelphia could get a quarterback at 3, but every quarterback in this draft feels like a boom or bust prospect after Sam Howell. Grabbing Derek Stingley Jr. to pair with Darius Slay fixes Philadelphia's cornerback issue for good. Also, if Philadelphia fans want a quarterback in 2022, you're not going to like how my first mock turns out.
Indianapolis signed Eric Fisher at left tackle. If he recovered from his torn ACL in the AFC Championship game and plays then the Colts could be picking a lot higher than this. Otherwise, if Fisher misses time due to injuries, we could see Carson Wentz, Jacob Eason, and maybe even Sam Ehlinger play some games in Indianapolis.
The only way Indianapolis would be picking in the top 5 is if Fisher is injured, and all three quarterbacks fold under center with Sam Tevi at left tackle. While this isn't a likely scenario, it's certainly a possible one.
If none of the three quarterbacks step up in the event that Eric Fisher cannot play, then drafting a quarterback seems like the most likely move for the Indianapolis Colts. The 6-4 215 lb Carson Strong is my favorite quarterback not named Sam Howell.
There's more to the first sophomore redshirt to win Mountain West Player of the year than his curveball in 45-degree weather in California. Strong does hold onto the ball too long, but he completed 70.5 percent of his passes in 2020, and picked apart Tulane in Nevada's Bowl game despite facing a formidable edge rusher tandem of Patrick Johnson and Cam Sample.
To top that off, Carson Strong is a player I did three film cuts on and he may have gone where Mac Jones did if he declared for the 2021 NFL Draft as a sophomore redshirt. Carson Strong is my second best quarterback for the time being, but that could change depending on what happens this season because this entire quarterback class feels like a crapshoot after Sam Howell at the moment.
I posted a film cut of Nevada quarterback Carson Strong VS UNLV. This is one of three film cuts of Strong that I posted, but in this film cut you see him putting together a nice show at Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders against the UNLV Rebels. One person who commented on our video described Strong as promising.
The 6-4 219 lb Kyle Hamilton is a special player who is versatile enough to play nickel cornerback, strong safety, or free safety with his versatility. He plays man coverage, zone coverage, and tackles effectively. You'd like to see him press more when lining up in the nickel, but I can look past that if a team wisely opts to play him at safety.
Marcus Maye enters a contract year. Neither one of the safeties that the Jets drafted in 2021 can fill the void that Maye has if he leaves the Jets. The one player who may fill that void to a point where he reminds New York Jets fans of Jamal Adams is Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton.
Courtland Sutton has raved about Drew Lock taking his football IQ to a whole new level sounding like an NFL announcer. Also Jerry Jeudy has looked excellent in offseason practices. There is a chance Denver could be the second best AFC West team if Sutton is speaking the truth on Lock. The NFL fan in me is hoping Sutton is speaking the truth.
Unfortunately in this mock Denver is picking at six, it means both Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater have failed despite bringing in competition for the 2019 second round pick out of Missouri. In this scenario, one of the Big 12 quarterbacks whether it be Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler or Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy may be in play here.
Spencer Rattler is favored to go first overall according to a lawyer on NBC Sports named Mike Florio who is also the founder of Pro Football Talk. Rattler has mechanical flaws where he shows flashes of Ryan Mallett. He's also got the best arm talent and duel threat ability of any quarterback since Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes which is why Rattler feels like a boom or bust pick at the moment.
If Rattler fixes his accuracy, mechanics, footwork, and progressions he will be the first pick. Sometimes he doesn't point his hips at his teams wide receivers. Rattler has Charleston Rambo and Marvin Mims, Denzel's younger brother as receiving targets.
Maybe winning the 2021 Heisman Trophy will be enough for him to leapfrog Sam Howell to be the first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft despite the hype he received. I'm not sure if Rattler manages to correct all of that in one year, but if he does he will be the top pick. Lincoln Riley transformed Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray into Heisman winners that became the first overall draft pick in their draft years.
Rattler's early struggles against Kansas State and Iowa State caused him to get benched for the first half against Texas. Ever since then, Rattler hasn't lost a game despite making numerous bad throws on film. He even defeated Iowa State to avenge that early season loss to the Cyclones before clobbering the Florida Gators in the most recent Sugar Bowl.
Spencer Rattler is the toughest quarterback I've ever evaluated because I see mechanics about as bad as Ryan Mallett. At the same time I see the arm talent and duel threat ability of Patrick Mahomes without the intangibles that Mahomes had. Things can change in 2021 with a strong sophomore redshirt season, but for now Spencer Rattler goes to the Denver Broncos at 6.
If New York is picking at seven, it may be the end of the Daniel Jones era. At this point, a year ago heading into 2020, Brock Purdy was my third best quarterback behind Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields as I foolishly ranked Purdy ahead of Trey Lance. I had this guy from Iowa State ranked ahead of Trey Lance before I swapped BYU quarterback Zach Wilson with Purdy in my quarterback rankings. I posted a screenshot of my Brock Purdy SWOT report from a year ago that's no longer on our website if you don't want to take my word.
Ok, it's clear I overhyped the f out of Iowa State's Brock Purdy after typing this report around May 27, 2020 prior to Justin Herbert winning rookie of the year and staying healthy. Everyone should be happy for Justin Herbert since he showed leadership traits without an elite left tackle prior to the Chargers taking Rashawn Slater at 13, and now it's time to resume our conversation about Purdy. The Brock solid Cyclone have a lot of tools you want an NFL quarterback to possess. The biggest problem is he's so inconsistent on film.
If you don't believe I overhyped Purdy I posted a film cut of the game where Lousiana upset Iowa State. That was probably Purdy's worst game on film and to be fair it's probbaly the biggest reason why most mock drafts are hesistant to put Purdy in the first round, but he did end the year on a high note beating Oregon and outplaying their former quarterback Tyler Shough in the Fiesta Bowl before Tyler Shough transferred to Texas Tech which happens to be one of Iowa State's Big 12 rivals.
The 6-4 255 lb Drake Jackson is the only other blue chip edge rusher in this draft outside of Kayvon Thibedeaux. New York selects him with the pick they got from Justin Fields. It's still a pretty deep edge group if you cannot land one of these two.
New York now has Drake Jackson and Azeez Ojulari off the edge with their returning cornerbacks on the secondary. There are zero excuses for the New York Giants moving forward. Otherwise Joe Judge may see judgement day assuming the new regime taking over for GM Dave Gettleman keeps him around.
D.J. Chark the number one receiver on the Jacksonville Jaguars enters a contract year. Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault Jr. are good complimentary receivers, but is either a number one target at this point for Trevor Lawrence in the scenario where Chark tests Free Agency? Probably not, as much as it pains me to say that.
If Justyn Ross stays healthy in 2021, he could be the man who re-unites with former Clemson teammates Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne in Jacksonville. The 6-4 205 lb Justyn Ross was once considered the front runner to be the first receiver drafted ahead of Ja'Maar Chase and DeVonta Smith prior to a congenital fusion condition of his neck and spine which caused him to miss the entire 2020 season.
Justyn Ross had two dominant seasons at Clemson in Trevor Lawrence's first two seasons at Clemson prior to his injury in 2020 including a freshman year where he had 1,000 receiving yards and 9 receiving touchdowns in the season where Lawrence whopped Alabama 44-16 before having a team high 66 receptions in 2019. If Ross dominates in 2021 without Lawrence, I could see Jacksonville taking Ross as a replacement if Chark demands too much money.
This draft has four good offensive tackles in Zion Nelson of the Miami Hurricanes, Evan Neal of the Alabama Crimson Tide, Rasheed Walker of the Penn State Nittany Lions, and Nick Broeker of the Ole Miss Rebels. These four offensive tackles are good enough to get picked in the first round. The problem is none of these guys have the upside that someone like Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, Christian Darrisaw, or Alex Leatherwood had.
The 2022 offensive tackle class could still be a good one. However, in terms of star power and talent it's a notch below last years class.
The 6-5 316 lb Zion Nelson is the first offensive tackle to be picked in my 2022 NFL Mock Draft as well as Tony Mario's 2022 NFL Mock Draft that he emailed me. It's too early to crown Nelson the top offensive tackle in this draft, but at this point he's my favorite to be the first offensive tackle to be picked next April since he's a two year starter at left tackle for the Miami Hurricanes.
New Orleans will need to draft a quarterback at 11 if the trio of Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston, and Ian Book does not pan out. My top two quarterbacks left on the board are Liberty quarterback Malik Willis and Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder. To be honest, I'm not sure which guy is the better fit for Sean Payton's offense, but if the Saints are picking at 11 they may finally draft a quarterback in 2022 to fill the void that Drew Brees left after retiring.
The 6-1 215 lb Malik Willis is a former Auburn quarterback that transferred to Libery. Malik Willis has the throwing power and accuracy you want a starting quarterback to have. He just needs to develop his progressions, footwork, and continue to display the proper mechanics. Willis can put himself in the discussion to be one of the top three quarterbacks to be drafted if he does these things at Liberty in 2021 after showing immense promise while leading Liberty to a road win and upset over Virginia Tech.
The 6-4 216 lb Desmond Ridder has nice touch and accuracy on his throws when you give him a clean pocket. He can make 3 to 4 reads on his progressions so his progressions are at an intermediate level, but not an advanced level. He's the guy who led Cincinnati to an undefeated regular season in 2020. If he does that again in 2021, there's no reason to think he won't be a first round quarterback.
One quarterback coach who teaches people about mechanics on his Youtube channel believes Ridder has the worst arm strength of any quarterback in this draft despite his impressive football IQ where he made some good throws against Richie Grant and Aaron Robinson when Cincinnati faced Central Florida. He avoided interceptions against Georgia's cornerback tandem too. He's a first round talent, but if he improves his arm strength in 2021, he could move into the top three quarterback conversation. That's how wide open this quarterback class is.
The 6-7 365 lb Evan Neal played left guard in 2019 complimenting Alex Leatherwood and Jedrick Wills. In 2020, Neal took over for Wills at right tackle. Now he's set to be the blindside for Alex Leatherwood. A strong season from Neal along with improved patience on his blocks could lead to him being an upgrade at left tackle over Greg Litle and Brady Christensen.
Even if Neal cannot win the left tackle job, he will still be a solid right tackle. Taylor Moton is in a contract year at right tackle with the Carolina Panthers.
Los Angeles got their left tackle for Justin Herbert. I'm no longer worried about the Los Angeles Chargers long-term status of the offense because this offense has enough talent to get the Chargers to the playoffs. The Chargers failed to replace Melvin Ingram at defensive end, but they may have confidence in Jerry Tillery at defensive end with Linval Joseph and Justin Jones at defensive tackle. If that's the case then the Chargers get a corner to pair with Asante Samuel Jr. who they just drafted in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
The 6-2 193 lb Kaiir Elam is the son of Abram Elam. His uncle is former Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam. Kaiir does well in man and zone coverage. He still needs to improve his press coverage. Kaiir Elam is a better run stuffer and tackler than C.J. Henderson who went in the top ten two years ago. Kaiir Elam is considered the top cornerback in this draft not named Derek Stingley Jr.
I would give Kaiir Elam an A- grade in man coverage, an A grade in zone coverage, and a B+ grade in press coverage at the moment. Elam can improve his coverage grades in these categories since he's a better run stuffer and tackler than C.J. Henderson when you watch glimpses of his 2020 film.
If the Los Angeles Chargers keep Chris Harris on their roster after his contract expires in 2022, they will have a deadly cornerback trio with Kaiir Elam and Chris Harris on the outside with Asante Samuel Jr. playing nickel cornerback. That cornerback trio could limit the offensive production of other AFC West squads if the Chargers can find a way to keep Derwin James and Nasir Adderley healthy at both safety spots. Asante Samuel Jr. is very talented, but he may be limited to a nickel role at 5-10, so if Harris leaves the Los Angeles Chargers get Kaiir Elam taking the best cornerback on the board at 14.
Philadelphia got this pick in the trade where Miami moved up from 12 to 6 in the 2021 NFL Draft to select Jaylen Waddle. Philadelphia traded up to keep the New York Giants from landing DeVonta Smith who I had graded ahead of Waddle. Miami is talented enough to push a few teams like the Las Vegas Raiders and the New England Patriots for the final AFC wild card spot because I feel skeptical about Jaylen Waddle and Jaelan Phillips dominating as rookies, even though both could have very good careers in due time.
Anthony Harris and Rodney McLeod, the two starting safeties on the Philadelphia Eagles enter contract years in 2021. Bubba Bolden forced a fumble against Trevor Lawrence and is an effective tackler on tape. He covers well taking up a lot of space in zone coverage as well. Bubba Bolden seems like the best pick for Philadelphia even though they could also consider a linebacker, tight end, or quarterback if they weren't sold on Jalen Hurts after seeing him in 2021.
The New York Jets got this pick from Seattle in the Jamal Adams trade. New York gets their 4-3 left end to replace Vinny Curry. The 6-5 270 lb George Karlafits is the best edge rusher to play for Purdue since Ryan Kerrigan. He shows a lot of promise in his freshman year with 17 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks as a freshman in 2019 before Covid-19. He also has good rip and swim moves that could be great if he shows he can take the next step in 2021. I haven't seen him show the same intensity Kerrigan showed at Purdue. At the same time he would fill a position of need for the New York Jets.
George Karlafits has the floor of A.J. Epensa and the ceiling of Ryan Kerrigan. In this extremely deep edge rusher group that may all he needs to be picked in the first round. I could see Robert Saleh attempting to mold this young man into the New York Jets version of Nick Bosa if the Jets happen to miss out on one of the top two PAC 12 edge rushers.