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2022 NFL mock draft: Who are the top edge rushers and which teams will invest in one?

Edge rusher will be one of the more prominent positions in this year’s NFL Draft. Which prospects will hear their name called in the first round?

Syndication: The Register Guard Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK

Wild Card weekend in the NFL is just about over and that means it’s time for another 2022 NFL mock draft.

Edge rusher is setting up to be well represented at the top of the draft as potentially four of these prospects could hear their name called in the Top 10. With this draft class not necessarily being the strongest for quarterbacks, teams are going to want to fortify their defenses with a game-breaking force that will be a nightmare for opposing offenses to account for.

With their franchise quarterback already secured, the Jacksonville Jaguars have two pass rushing options they could nab with the No. 1 overall pick. First is Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux. The 6’5”, 258 pound defensive end has long been projected as the potential top pick in this year’s draft and with good reason. In three years in Eugene, OR, he compiled 123 total tackles, 35.5 TFLs, 19 sacks, and seven pass deflections, leaving the program as a multi-time All-American.

The other option at No. 1 is Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, who exceeded the already high expectations of what he’d accomplish as a senior this past season. The 6’6”, 265 pound native of Plymouth, MI, was a wrecking ball that helped lead the Wolverines to the program’s first conference championship since 2004 and a College Football Playoff appearance. His 62 tackles and program record 14 sacks earned him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Opposite Hutchinson in Ann Arbor was David Ojabo, who could see his name called in the Top 10. He earned All-American honors by racking up 36 tackles and 11 sacks this season. Also coming out of the Big Ten is Purdue’s George Karlaftis, who established himself as a potential top pick with a strong junior campaign with the Boilermakers.

Other potential first-round edge rushers include Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson and Georgia’s Travon Walker depending on where he lines up on the line.

Here’s our latest 2022 NFL mock draft with Super Wild Card weekend wrapping up.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux — Oregon

Needs: WR, OT, DL

The Jaguars were below average in every pass rushing metric this season, ranking fifth-worst in adjusted sack rate despite blitzing fifth-most in the league. They need individuals who can hurry the quarterback without bringing extra defenders.

2. Detroit Lions: Edge Aidan Hutchinson — Michigan

Needs: QB, CB, OG, DL, WR

The Lions ranked second to last in pass rush win rate and QB hits in 2021 and tied for second-worst in adjusted sack rate. They have plenty of holes to fill defensively, but getting to the quarterback is priority one.

3. Houston Texans: OT Evan Neal — Alabama

Needs: QB, WR, CB, DL

If you are drafting this high, there is a good chance your team can’t get to the quarterback and that needs to be remedied. The Texans are bottom 10 in all pass rush metrics and they need to improve in a big way.

4. New York Jets: CB Derek Stingley Jr. — LSU

Needs: CB, OL, DL, EDGE

The Jets allowed the second best QB rate in the league this season while being below average statistically at getting to the quarterback. They weren’t quite as bad as the teams ahead of them in the draft, but they need help getting a hand on the quarterback.

5. New York Giants: OT Charles Cross — Mississippi State

Needs: QB, DL, OL

The Giants are yet another bad team that can’t get to the quarterback. For some reason those two things go together. They were third-worst in pressure and fourth-worst in knock down rate.

6. Carolina Panthers: QB Kenny Pickett — Pitt

Needs: QB, OL, DL

The Panthers pass rush was one of their better attributes this season, as they were fifth-best, 10th-best in hurry percentage and third-best in adjusted sack rate. They did blitz early and often, but were successful in doing so.

7. New York Giants (from Bears): Edge George Karlaftis — Purdue

Needs: See above

8. Atlanta Falcons: Edge David Ojabo — Michigan

Needs: QB, EDGE, LB, RB, WR

The Falcons had the worst pass-rush in the league, ranking dead last in adjusted sack rate, total sacks and percentage of pressure. There really wasn’t another team close to their level of futility.

9. Denver Broncos: QB Matt Corral — Ole Miss

Needs: QB, EDGE, OT, OG

The Broncos defense was good this season, but they did have some trouble getting to the quarterback. The loss of Von Miller and injuries to Bradley Chubb were a big part of that. Getting a healthy Chubb for next season would help a bunch.

10. New York Jets (from Seahawks): Safety Kyle Hamilton — Notre Dame

Needs: See above

11. Washington Football Team: QB Malik Willis — Liberty

Needs: QB, OT, CB, WR

Washington’s defense didn’t live up to its talent level, as Chase Young had trouble getting to the quarterback and then tore his ACL in Week 10. Overall, they were average to above average in getting to the quarterback and they will get a healthy Young back next season. They have bigger fish to fry than a pass rusher early in the draft.

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

Needs: EDGE, OG, CB

The Vikings were second in total sacks with 51 and were above average in pressure percentages, but they could lose both Everson Griffen and Sheldon Richardson to free agency.

13. Cleveland Browns: WR Garrett Wilson - Ohio State

Needs: EDGE, DT, WR

Myles Garrett is a monster, but the Browns could lose Jadeveon Clowney and Takk McKinley in free agency and Garrett can’t do it all by himself.

14. Baltimore Ravens: OT Ikem Ekwonu — NC State

Needs: OT, EDGE, DT, LB

The Ravens were tied for the second-worst adjusted sack rate this season, while ranking sixth overall in blitz rate. They have Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams both as possible free agents this off season. They’ll need help on the edge.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (from Dolphins): CB Kaiir Elam — Florida

Needs: EDGE, CB, WR

The Eagles had the second fewest sacks, but also were second to last in blitz percentage. They have two EDGE defenders set for free agency, with Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett.

16. Philadelphia Eagles (from Colts): WR Chris Olave — Ohio State

Needs: See above

17. Los Angeles Chargers: DT DeMarvin Leal — Texas A&M

Needs: DT, OT, EDGE

The Chargers have a strong base with Joey Bosa on the edge, but their defense was one of the worst in the league this season and they need bodies to stop the run up front and outside.

18. New Orleans Saints: CB Ahmad Gardner - Cincinnati

Needs: QB, WR, CB

The Saints defensive line is always stout and Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport are a great pair of EDGE defenders.

19. Philadelphia Eagles: Edge Jermaine Johnson - Florida State

Needs: See above

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Sam Howell - North Carolina

Needs: QB, OT, OG, CB, DT

The Steelers need help stopping the run, but all-world EDGE rusher T.J. Watt makes up for any trouble at getting to the quarterback. Add in Cameron Heyward and finding pass rushers isn’t a priority for Pittsburgh.

21. New England Patriots: LB Nakobe Dean - Georgia

Needs: CB, WR, DT, LB

The Patriots, as usual, were able to put an above average defense on the field even without big name players. Matthew Judon was the main man when it came to getting to the quarterback and he should remain as the sack leader moving forward.

22. Las Vegas Raiders: DT Jordan Davis — Georgia

Needs: OG, WR, DT

The Raiders blitzed the least of any NFL team this season, but were able to keep pressure on the quarterback with Yannick Ngakoue and Maxx Crosby. They likely don’t need a big upgrade at EDGE.

23. Arizona Cardinals: OT Trevor Penning — Northern Iowa

Needs: CB, OG, OT, C, DT

Markus Golden and Chandler Jones both topped 10 sacks this season, but Jones will need to be re-signed, as his contract is up. Overall, the Cardinals were above average at pressuring the quarterback and if they can retain Jones and J.J. Watt can give them anything, they could probably wait on another EDGE rusher.

24. Dallas Cowboys: Edge Travon Walker— Georgia

Needs: DT, EDGE, LB, S

The Cowboys were above average at getting to the quarterback this season and much of that can be attributed to rookie Micah Parsons, who played in multiple positions on his way to 13 sacks. Demarcus Lawrence was also a huge presence, while Randy Gregory got the job done as well. Gregory is a free agent, but overall this Cowboys front is good.

25. Cincinnati Bengals: OT Nicholas Petit-Frere — Ohio State

Needs: CB, C, OT, OG

The Bengals pass rush was above average in 2021, with Trey Hendrickson leading the way with 14 sacks. He could use help to beef up the pass rush, but they likely won’t go after an EDGE defender unless they fall into someone they love.

26. Miami Dolphins (from 49ers): OL Tyler Linderbaum — Iowa

Needs: OT, OG, C, RB

The Dolphins were one of the better teams at getting to the quarterback in 2021, as they were Top 5 in adjusted sack rate, total sacks, pressure percentage and QB knock down percentage. They did blitz at a 39 percent rate, second in the league and their top pass rusher, Emmanuel Ogbah, is a free agent.

27. Buffalo Bills: LB Devin Lloyd — Utah

Needs: LB, DT, WR, OG

The Bills have a lot of young talent on the defensive line and as a team were the best at hurrying the quarterback.

28. Detroit Lions (from Rams): OG Kenyon Green — Texas A&M

Needs: See above

29. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Jameson Williams - Alabama

Needs: CB, WR, LB, S, EDGE

The Chiefs had just 31 sacks on the season, but were sixth in pressure percentage, third in hurry percentage and eighth in QB knock down percentage. They need more than Chris Jones, but they still end up getting the job done.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Treylon Burks — Arkansas

Needs: DT, WR, CB

The Buccaneers had the highest blitz rate in the league, but were also Top 10 in all the relevant pass rush metrics. Shaq Barrett remained one of the best pass rushers in the league, while Vita Vea manhandled teams in the middle.

31. Tennessee Titans: CB Trent McDuffie — Washington

Needs: CB, EDGE, WR, LB

The Titans were middle of the pack in pass rushing metrics this season despite free agent pickup Bud Dupree not living up to expectations. They were able to get the job done for the most part without blitzing that often, but some help on the edge is in order.

32. Green Bay Packers: Edge Kingsley Enagbare - South Carolina

Needs: OT, WR, DT

Za’Darius Smith was injured in the first game of the season and is just now getting back in the playoffs. His absence hurt the pass rush, but they held their own for the most part.