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2022 NFL Mock Draft: Steelers draft a dynamic quarterback with top pick

It’s never too early to look ahead, and so here is a way-too-early mock draft after the 2021 season.

NCAA Football: Cure Bowl-Liberty vs Coastal Carolina Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

After getting more picks correct than both Mel Kiper and Daniel Jeremiah in the final 2021 mock, I am back with my first mock for the 2022 cycle. Many of you are probably getting sick of anything with the word “mock” in it, while others cannot get enough of it. If you fall into the second category, you have come to the right place.

We are still a long way from the 2022 NFL Draft, and many things will change between now and next April, but there are several things that stand out about the class already. The most notable thing is that next year’s quarterback class is going to be very, VERY deep. The names mentioned most often at the top are USC’s Kedon Slovis and North Carolina’s Sam Howell, but there are many other prospects who currently sit in the mid to late first round range and will have a chance to leap into the top ten with a solid season. Be sure to take a look at each quarterback in the mock draft, not just the one mocked to the Steelers. There is no consensus number one quarterback as of now, which means that no quarterback is off the table for a Steelers team that will hopefully be picking in the back half of the first round.

Here is more to think about when it comes to the first round quarterbacks. At this time last year, nobody expected Zach Wilson or Mac Jones to be first round quarterbacks. Two years ago, Joe Burrow was expected to be a day three selection at best. Three years ago, we thought that Kyler Murray was going to play baseball, and four years ago, Baker Mayfield was not considered a first round talent. This goes to show that even if the top of the draft may look thin at the quarterback position right now, there are going to be players that have breakout seasons and rise on draft boards. We just do not know who those players are yet.

Based on overall upside, I bet that Kedon Slovis will likely fall on boards while players such as Carson Strong, Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder, and Spencer Rattler rise as we approach the draft. Each of those prospects bring more upside than Slovis and are more likely to become elite quarterbacks.

Todd McShay and other pundits that do this exercise usually use the Vegas Super Bowl odds to create the draft order. I made my own order for my mock, but it is not meant to distract you from the actual prospects in the 2022 class. If you have any thoughts on these prospects, be sure to share them in the comment section below. Let’s get to the mock!

1. Texans- Kayvon Thibodeaux — EDGE — Oregon
The Texans drafted Davis Mills, but that will not take them out of the sweepstakes for a quarterback in 2022. However, Thibodeaux is currently the best player in the 2022 draft, and there is no consensus number one quarterback. Thibodeaux has the size, speed, and bend that you want in a edge rusher. The Texans lost J.J. Watt this offseason, but they may be able to find their next star pass rusher in Thibodeaux.
2. Lions- Sam Howell — QB — North Carolina
The Lions are coming off a solid draft led my new GM Brad Holmes. Holmes obviously had ties to Jared Goff in Los Angeles, but Goff is not the long-term answer for the Lions. Howell is a strong-armed pocket passer who flashes ability as a runner. His accuracy on intermediate throws and poise in the pocket have drawn comparisons to Baker Mayfield. Howell may be slightly more athletic than Baker, but he is the most reasonable comparison.
3. Eagles- Spencer Rattler — QB — Oklahoma
There are a lot of uncertainties when it comes to Jalen Hurts’ future with the Eagles. Perhaps they go back to Lincoln Riley’s Sooners and grab Rattler, who is arguably the most talented quarterback in the 2022 class. His elite arm strength combined with solid mobility will make him a hot name next year.
4. Raiders- Jayden Daniels — QB — Arizona State
Derek Carr has consistently put up nice stats for the Raiders, but if Jon Gruden is picking in the top five again, I would not be surprised if he grabbed a quarterback that has the potential to get the Raiders where they want to be. Daniels has been considered by some as a day two pick, while others see him as a guy who could have a shot at going number one overall. Herm Edwards has raved about this guy, and he has done so with good reason. Daniels brings a ton of upside both as a passer and as a runner, but he will need to refine his game technically if he wants to be a top ten pick.
5. Jets- Derrick Stingley — CB — LSU
The Jets seem to be in need of cornerback every year because they never address the position early enough, but 2022 could be their year to get a shutdown corner. Stingley struggled against DeVonta Smith this season, but he was still the strength of an LSU defense that had its share of struggles. We saw Jeff Okudah selected third overall in the 2020 draft, and Stingley’s tape is better then Okudah’s was coming out. Getting him with the 5th pick would be nice value.
6. Jaguars- Kyle Hamilton — S — Notre Dame
Jacksonville took Andre Cisco in the third round of the 2021 draft, but they could still use a dynamic player in the secondary. This may be slightly high for Hamilton, but he is an extremely athletic safety who has been one of the best coverage safeties in college over the past two seasons. He also improved as a run defender in 2020, which will only boost his overall value as a prospect. At 6-4, 220, Hamilton would bring a ton of potential to a secondary that has suffered since the departure of Jalen Ramsey.
7. Falcons- Kedon Slovis — QB — USC
Atlanta passed on the opportunity to draft a quarterback with the fourth pick in this past draft, but it seemed as if the Falcons would have only entertained it if Trey Lance was available. Matt Ryan may have a few years left, but Arthur Smith may want to begin grooming his own quarterback. Slovis is not a flashy prospect, but he possesses a strong arm and solid accuracy downfield.
8. Bengals- Evan Neal — OL — Alabama
Neal has only played at right tackle and left guard, but the 6’7”, 360 pound mammoth is expected to replace Alex Leatherwood as the left tackle for the Crimson Tide this fall. Despite what his size may indicate, Neal moves very well and has relatively clean footwork. He lunges too often and needs to improve his technique, but he is clearly the best prospect in a tackle class that will likely be weaker than the 2021 class.
9. Broncos- Christian Harris — LB — Alabama
We will see if Denver can land Aaron Rodgers, but it if they do not, it will be interesting to see how Drew Lock progresses. They could potentially take a quarterback, but Vic Fangio has not had an elite linebacker in the middle of his defense during his tenure in Denver. Harris is still raw, but he is a solid run defender and has a relatively high ceiling athletically. He is considered the top linebacker in next year’s class.
10. Saints- Treylon Burks — WR — Arkansas
The Saints could be in the market for a quarterback, but Sean Payton seems to like who he has right now. Maybe they opt to grab a weapon for whoever their quarterback is instead. Burks’ 40 time will likely determine how he he goes, but he is a big, physical receiver who shows impressive elusiveness in the open field.
11. Redskins- Desmond Ridder — QB — Cincinnati
After passing on a quarterback in the 2021 draft, Washington will definitely need to consider it next year. Ridder would have potentially been a late first round pick or early second round pick if he had entered the draft this year. He needs to learn to go through all his progressions before taking off and running with it, but he has the arm strength and athleticism to be a phenomenal quarterback in the NFL. There will be more on Ridder in a draft profile later this summer.
12. Giants- Ahmad Gardner — CB — Cincinnati
The Giants added Aaron Robinson in round three, but they could still use a boundary cornerback. Gardner is a long, speedy corner who displays excellent fluidity and tremendous instincts in coverage. If he can add a few pounds to his frame and add more functional strength, he could sniff the top ten next year.
**PROJECTED TRADE** (Titans receive Packers 1st and 3rd round picks)
13. Packers- Zach Harrison — EDGE — Ohio State
Za’Darius Smith is under contract through the 2022 season, but there is a potential out after this season. Harrison displays tremendous burst off the line, but he needs to become more consistent. However, we have come to expect Ohio State to develop pass rushers. With a breakout season, Harrison could easily be the first edge rusher taken.
14. Chargers- John Metchie III — WR — Alabama
When Jaylen Waddle was injured, Metchie stepped up and finished the 2020 season with over 900 receiving yards. He will be the primary target for Bryce Young this season, and he could easily become the top receiver in the class. He is fast and feisty, but he needs to become more well-rounded as a prospect. Route-running could still use some work. The talent is there, but he is still raw.
15. Jets (via Seattle)- Tyler Linderbaum — C — Iowa
The Jets have added pieces to the offensive line, but adding another interior lineman to pair with Alijah Vera-Tucker would be wise. Linderbaum may have been the first center off the board if he had entered the 2021 draft, but returning to school and adding some weight to his frame will only boost his stock. His athleticism and upside is better than most centers we have seen over the past few drafts. He has the versatility to play guard as well.
16. Giants (via Chicago)- Rasheed Walker — OT — Penn State
Both Andrew Thomas and Nate Solder have not worked out for New York thus far. I was high on Walker as a 2021 prospect, but he chose to return to school and attempt to boost his stock. In a weaker tackle class, Walker will likely do just that. He is an amazing athlete with ideal size (6’6”, 312), but he needs to become a better finisher as a run blocker. If he improves in that area, he could be off the board in the top 15 picks.
17. Titans- Jaylen Wydermyer — TE — Texas A&M
The Titans lost Jonnu Smith to the Patriots and did not find a viable replacement for him in the draft. Wydermyer is by far the best tight end in the 2022 class. His explosiveness is off the charts for a man his size, and his versatility allows him to line up either in the slot or in-line. His route-running ability and reliable hands will give Ryan Tannehill a nice security blanket underneath.
18. Cardinals- Kaiir Elam — CB — Florida
Malcolm Butler is only on a one year deal, Byron Murphy has been average at best, and Arizona did not use a draft pick on the position until day three. Elam is a long, fluid cornerback who can play in both man and zone coverages at high levels. Former Florida cornerback Marco Wilson would pair nicely with Elam in a secondary that is in dire need of a playmaking corner.
19. Patriots- Sevyn Banks — CB — Ohio State
Ohio State continues to develop stud cornerbacks, and Banks could be the next one. We have seen a lot of long corners enter the past few drafts, and this year appears to be no different. Banks’ 6’1” frame allows him to succeed in press man coverage, which is something that would appeal to New England. Stefon Gilmore’s future is unknown, which is why they will likely be looking to add more talent at that position next year.
20. Browns- Drake Jackson — EDGE — USC
Jadeveon Clowney and Takkarist McKinley are only on one-year deals. Jackson has the potential to become a top 5-10 pick, but he needs to become more consistent. He does not consistently win the battle for leverage at the line of scrimmage, but he has decent bend and burst around the edge. A pairing of Myles Garrett and Drake Jackson would be one of the scariest pass-rushing tandems in the league.
**PROJECTED TRADE** (Vikings receive Steelers 1st, 3rd, and 5th round picks)
21. Steelers- Malik Willis — QB — Liberty
We are going to see lots of quarterbacks mocked to the Steelers over the next year. I do not think the Steelers will, nor should they, force themselves into taking one. The one year extension for Mason Rudolph allows the Steelers to wait for an extra year if they so choose, but a talent like Willis would be hard to pass up. When you watch Willis play, he looks like Patrick Mahomes as a passer and Kyler Murray as a runner. The dude can sling it seventy-five yards down the field and will probably run a 4.4 in the 40.

What’s the catch? Fumbles. In ten games last season, Willis fumbled the ball 11 times. There is no denying that issue, but it is worth noting that Zach Wilson had turnover problems of his own, and he became the second overall pick in the 2021 draft. He does not protect the ball when he runs with it, and he needs to show improvement in that area this season. His 20 passing touchdowns to only 6 interceptions was a solid ratio considering that he faced a relatively difficult schedule that included Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, and Coastal Carolina. The only problem is that if he cuts back on the fumbles, he is going to be a top five pick and likely out of range for the Steelers, but as it stands right now, he is a high-upside prospect that needs to clean up his game in 2021. There will be more to come on Willis this summer in a draft profile.
22. Eagles (via Miami)- Zion Nelson — OT — Miami
Nelson has been somewhat inconsistent thus far in his collegiate career, but he has the chance to become the top tackle in the class. He does a good job winning the battle for leverage at the line of scrimmage, but his footwork and hand usage need to improve this season. Andre Dillard has not worked out, and Philadelphia lacks depth at the position. Getting Spencer Rattler a blindside protector should be their top priority.
23. Dolphins (via San Francisco)- Isaiah Spiller — RB — Texas A&M
I am not a fan of taking a running back in the first round, but teams that are only one piece away from a championship can justify it. Miami has done a great job building this roster, and they are ready to compete. Giving Tua Tagovailoa a reliable running back will help keep him upright. Spiller was behind a stacked offensive line this past year, but it is losing four of its starters. If Spiller can maintain his success this season, he will likely be the first running back taken.
24. Ravens- Jerrod Clark — DT — Coastal Carolina
Baltimore likes to keep the cupboard full when it comes to the front seven, and Clark is an under-the-radar prospect who could gain buzz if he improves as a pass rusher. Clark did record two sacks in 2020, but he needs to show burst off the line more consistently. The 6’4”, 335 pound nose tackle has added 100 pounds since he stepped on campus and has become a dominant run defender. If he can prove his three down potential, he could be a first round pick next April.
25. Cowboys- Charles Cross — OT — Mississippi State
After passing on Rashawn Slater, the Cowboys will need to address the offensive line early. Cross was solid at left tackle last season, displaying good mobility and nice footwork. His pad level needs to improve as a run blocker, but there is a lot of athletic upside to work with here.
26. Panthers- Chris Olave — WR — Ohio State
The Panthers selected Terrace Marshall, Jr. in the second round this year, but both Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore are free agents after this season. I am not a huge fan of Olave, but his twitchiness and excellent route-running ability will make him a nice fit in Joe Brady’s offense. Sam Darnold will finally have some exciting young weapons.
27. Eagles- Andrew Booth, Jr. — CB — Clemson
The Eagles did not address the cornerback position until day three despite their glaring need opposite Darius Slay. Booth is a former wide receiver whose combination of length, speed, and quickness allows him to match up against nearly any receiver. He has been inconsistent in almost every aspect of his game up to this point, but with Derion Kendrick transferring, he will have an opportunity to display his abilities as Clemson’s top cornerback in 2021.
28. Vikings- George Karlaftis — DL — Purdue
Karlaftis burst on the scene in 2019 with 7.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss, but Karlaftis could not stay healthy enough to repeat his success in 2020. At 6’4”, 270 pounds, it is unsure whether he will stay at that weight and become a 5-Tech or bulk up and become a 3-Tech, but Minnesota’s defensive line was awful last year, and they did not do much to address it in the 2021 draft. Adding the athletic Karlaftis would go a long way toward fixing the issue.
29. Buccaneers- DeMarvin Leal — DL — Texas A&M
Another athletic defensive lineman to keep an eye on for next year is DeMarvin Leal. The former five-star recruit maintains a solid pad level and displays excellent quickness off the snap. With a solid 2021 campaign, he could be exactly what Tampa Bay is looking for with Ndamukong Suh expected to hit free agency next year.
**PROJECTED TRADE** (Bills get Texans 2nd and 3rd round pick and a 2023 6th round pick)
30. Texans- Carson Strong — QB — Nevada
After passing on a quarterback at number one, Houston trades back into the first round to grab their guy. At 6’4”, 215 pounds, Strong displays good poise in the pocket and tremendous awareness. He also has a cannon for an arm, and his mobility inside the pocket is solid for a guy who is primarily a pocket passer. More will come on him in a draft profile this summer.
31. Lions (via Los Angeles Rams)- George Pickins — WR — Georgia
I believe that rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown can surprise some people, but the Lions are still thin at receiver. Pickins suffered a torn ACL this spring during practice, but if not for the injury, he would have been my highest rated receiver in the class. Pickins has a long frame and has enough speed to burn slower corners over the top, and his ability to track the ball downfield is as good as anyone you will find.
32. Chiefs- Thayer Munford — OT — Ohio State
The Chiefs just traded for Orlando Brown, but there is a good chance that he walks in free agency next year if another team offers him more money. Munford is an experienced starter for Ohio State who has good size and mobility, but he lunges too often. He maintains a solid pad level and displays flashes of power as a run blocker, but consistency will be key in 2021. There are some technical issues in Munford’s game, but he is a prospect that I like and expect to see great things from this year.

What did you think of this mock? How would you feel about Malik Willis as the next Steelers quarterback? What do you think of next year’s class as a whole? Be sure to light up the comment section with your thoughts on this mock and anything else related to the 2022 NFL Draft!