Mel Kiper Jr. released his latest two-round mock draft on Wednesday morning with just slightly more than two weeks until the big day.
The 2022 NFL Draft presents a ton of intrigue. It’s the first year in a long time where there’s not a clear-cut number one choice at the top of the draft, with a couple of players having a realistic shot of going number one overall to Jacksonville. This year the quarterback class is also notably weak in relation to what we’ve seen recently, but that’s not going to stop teams from reaching for a signal-caller if they’re desperate, with Kiper projecting that two QBs will be off the board in the first round, though only one of them will be gone in the top 10 picks.
That one QB is Malik Willis from Liberty. There’s general consensus that Willis has the highest upside by far of any quarterback available in this season’s class, but he’s undoubtedly a project. Kiper has him going sixth overall to the Carolina Panthers, a team that needs some reassurance at QB fast. He also has Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, probably the most pro-ready QB in the draft, sticking around Pittsburgh after getting selected by the Steelers. Desmond Ridder (R2, Pick 40) is slated to get selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the second round and Ole Miss QB Matt Corral would be heading to the New Orleans Saints just nine picks later.
Alright, that’s quarterbacks out of the way. Now to talk about the real eye-popping stuff in this mock. Kiper has the Jacksonville Jaguars taking Aidan Hutchinson, a DE from Michigan, first overall. The pick makes a ton of sense and most believe the choice is between him and Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux to be grabbed at the top of the draft. But after the Hutchinson pick, Kiper makes a hard left turn. He has the Detroit Lions selecting Amhad Gardner, a CB from Cincinnati second overall. “Sauce” as he’s known, is a fantastic corner who didn’t give up a single touchdown during his college career, but he was projected more in the 7-15 pick category and we’ve rarely seen him in the top 5 picks of any mocks until right now.
He has another defensive back, Kyle Hamilton from Notre Dame, falling quite a bit further down boards than we expected. He’s got Hamilton picked by the Washington Commanders 11th overall. That fall out of the top-10 is due in large part to his 40 time, but he’s shown on the field the kind of range he has in the defensive backfield.
Something else that’s a bit wild in this mock is that Kiper has the New York Jets trading into the first round for a third time in a swap with the Cincinnati Bengals for the 31st overall pick. In the mock, the top-rated center in the class, Tyler Linderbaum, is still on the board. It’s a spot the Jets desperately need help and if he’s still around that late in the first round, then it wouldn’t be shocking to see them pull the trigger.
The final notable part of this mock is that he has 12 wideouts being selected in the first 64 picks. This isn’t particularly shocking info, it just shows how absurdly deep the class is at that position. Garrett Wilson from Ohio State looks to be the first pass-catcher off the board in Kiper’s mock, going eighth overall to the Atlanta Falcons. An even more impressive feat of positional depth is that there are four edge rushers taken in the top 10 of the draft, including three in the top five picks.
Here’s a look at the first 10 picks of Kiper’s newest two-round mock draft.
- DE Aidan Hutchinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
- CB Sauce Gardner, Detroit Lions
- DE Travon Walker, Houston Texans
- DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, New York Jets
- OT Ikem Ekwonu, New York Giants
- QB Malik Willis, Carolina Panthers
- DE Jermaine Johnson II, New York Giants
- WR Garrett Wilson, Atlanta Falcons
- OT Evan Neal, Seattle Seahawks
- WR Drake London, New York Jets