As explained in my Mock Draft 1.0, I always look to maximize each selection according to win-share value added for the upcoming season. Of course, my approach simultaneously factors in the free agency/trade acquisitions that have already occurred, as well as those that could be coming down the pike. And no, I do not allow myself to trade picks.
With all of that in mind -- and with the flurry of activity that has already reshuffled rosters across the NFL -- I had something pretty interesting happen in this first-round simulation, something that's never happened before in all the years I've been modeling drafts in this manner:
Zero quarterbacks are selected in the following 32 picks.
Admittedly, this is HIGHLY unlikely to occur on April 28. This league is just too quarterback-obsessed, with a number of teams looking for a long-term solution at the position. In fact, my models -- which estimate where players will actually go -- put the odds that at least three quarterbacks are drafted in the first round at 71.1 percent, and four at 58.6 percent.
But in the following exercise, the game's most important position is completely absent from Round 1, providing a different-looking rundown than you're accustomed to -- which is fine! Use this mock as an opportunity to weigh short-term vs. long-term strategies.
Since my first mock draft came out in February, the Jaguars have franchise-tagged tackle Cam Robinson and signed guard Brandon Scherff in free agency, increasing the value of the O-line and shifting the optimal win-share selection to the best edge rusher available (Hutchinson). Last season, no team forced fewer turnovers than the Jags (nine). Hutchinson turned in three games this past season with at least three sacks, including the Ohio State game. Pairing him with Josh Allen could work wonders for the Jaguars' defense.
I had an edge rusher here (Hutchinson) in my last mock, so I realize it might seem odd that I now have Detroit taking a safety -- a position often regarded as ranking outside of the top five in terms of priority (QB, pass rusher, LT, WR, CB). But my second-ranked pass rusher (Kayvon Thibodeaux) doesn't offer the same win-share value for the Lions as Hamilton does in 2022. Hamilton's versatility makes him the best selection for Detroit at No. 2 overall, as he has the potential to impact several phases of the game and areas of the field. My favorite Hamilton stat? Computer Vision shows he ranks in the 95th percentile in body control (eight-year sample) in plays that resulted in the following: interceptions, pass breakups, effective blitzing and shutting down outside pass catchers and slot pass catchers.
Lining up with Laremy Tunsil on the left and Neal on the right changes the tackle box for a team with a laundry list of needs. Neal is my model’s highest-rated tackle, especially on passing downs. The Texans are flush with draft capital after trading Deshaun Watson, so it's not hard to imagine them moving all over the board.
New mock, same pick. And yes, even with the secondary additions of corner D.J Reed and safety Jordan Whitehead in free agency.
Another duplicate pick here from Mock 1.0, especially with the Giants front office telling us they aren't shopping Saquon Barkley. Ekwonu’s 18 big-time blocks in the run game, per Pro Football Focus, were seven more than the next-closest Power Five offensive lineman.
The Mississippi State tackle allowed just 16 pressures on 719 pass-blocking snaps in 2021, per Pro Football Focus. Cross is a great fit for a Panthers O-line that just finished 31st on PFF's year-end rankings.
After posting just 34 sacks last season (tied for 22nd), the Giants could pounce on the high-upside pass rusher out of Oregon.
Walker is an interesting selection, considering the Falcons have a glaring need at wide receiver and could have their pick of the litter here. But snatching up Walker -- while continuing to hit WR in free agency -- adds more to the bottom line than the top receiver prospect would. My favorite Walker note comes from Computer Vision: In all alignments and situations he was used in last year at Georgia, his burst (first 3 yards traveled off the line) never eroded in speed. Walker blew up the NFL Scouting Combine, as well. And his upside is comparable to that of Thibodeaux, with a safer floor due in part to versatility.
Another edge rusher! Seattle's roster has needs everywhere, but the Seahawks could definitely use an explosive edge rusher to pressure the talented quarterbacks in the NFC West.
What are the chances that it takes until pick No. 10 for a wide receiver to come off the board? According to my models, a very low 17.5 percent. Wilson remains my top-rated receiver in this draft. His ability to produce both outside and from the slot helps differentiate him from many other top pass catchers in this class.
PFF charted Stingley's LSU career completion percentage allowed at 41.1. That kind of sticky coverage would be a huge boon to a Commanders defense that just allowed a 100.8 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks in 2021. Pairing Stingley with Kendall Fuller, who was the bright spot of this secondary last season, creates the most value.
I had Stingley here in Mock 1.0. With him off the board, the Vikings grab another CB. Stingley and McDuffie aren't interchangeable -- especially with their different body types/skill sets -- but the discrepancy in win-share value between the two is very minimal.
Sometimes, my own models surprise me -- and that's the case here. While the Texans have PLENTY of needs on both sides of the ball, I would've guessed the model would favor a defensive player here, with Houston addressing the offensive line at No. 3 overall. However, with the dwindling pool of free-agent WRs available, taking a big-bodied, contested-catch machine adds the most wins to this team in 2022.
At his pro day, Karlaftis told NFL Network's Stacey Dales that his self comp is Khalil Mack. The Ravens would be ecstatic if he ended up being 75 percent of Mack. I am high on Karlaftis, primarily due to his power rush.
I know we talked a lot about his Georgia teammate, Jordan Davis, at the combine, but Wyatt is a darling of Computer Vision metrics, showing explosive traits in pads. While the Eagles did re-sign Fletcher Cox, it's a one-year deal for a 30-something DT who has shown regression in recent seasons. Adding to this spot creates the most value should Philly not trade out of this pick or the next.
The Eagles' receiving corps benefits most from adding a consistent vertical threat. Watching all 11 of Burks' receiving touchdowns last season -- and using Computer Vision to characterize them -- I saw his ability to dominate from the line of scrimmage quite clearly.
I love this pick for two reasons:
- Davis' raw talent offers so much immediate upside for the Bolts, especially when it comes to stopping the run.
- Teaching is a huge key for incoming NFL players, and this is a situation where Brandon Staley could help craft a very, very special DT.
This past season, Penning posted the highest run-blocking grade ever charted by Pro Football Focus (going back to 2014 for college grading), though it should be noted that it primarily came against FCS competition. With Terron Armstead now a Dolphin, Penning would be a Day 1 starter for New Orleans, manning the blind side opposite special bookend Ryan Ramczyk.
Linebackers are some of the hardest players to forecast in terms of fit and win share, but Lloyd stands out from the pack, especially with his ability to blitz and cover. The Eagles could definitely win the NFC East, but upgrading the defense is a big key to making that happen.
Same pick as last time around in this slot. Especially with more certainty at the quarterback position, addressing the line is the biggest win-share mover for the Steelers.
If this happens, it'll mark the second year in a row where the board falls the Patriots' way in Round 1, allowing them to fill a glaring need without the need for even a small draft-day trade. With uncertainty about Dont'a Hightower's return, my model has Dean sliding right into a crucial part of New England's defense.
Anyone shocked seeing a receiver here? To me, Green Bay's history of not drafting first-round wideouts is more of a fun note than a predictive one. Ultimately, it will likely be the Packers' job to select whichever top wideout they like most, though they might have to move up the board to get him.
If Williams hadn't torn his ACL in the national title game, he would have slightly edged out Garrett Wilson for top WR on my board. But he did, and although the 'Bama product says he's "ahead of schedule" in his rehab, it's still an uncertainty. The Cardinals get DeAndre Hopkins back from injury, but Christian Kirk's in Jacksonville and A.J. Green remains a free agent. Williams' route running and speed forecast could nicely complement Hopkins and change the Cardinals' pass-catching potential.
Pedigreed interior O-linemen -- especially ones with projected profiles that suggest at least above-average (if not elite) production -- pair well with what we have seen Kellen Moore call. Linderbaum becomes above-average or better in 30.4 percent of outcomes, per my models. Think of 25 percent as a very high number.
I know the Bills are matching OG Ryan Bates' offer sheet from the Bears, but the value of adding Johnson in the first -- and then reinforcing other positions (like RB) later -- creates the most wins. However, if any of the corners who are already gone in this exercise remain available on draft night, a switch makes sense.
The more the Titans convince opposing teams that they can pass the ball, the better for the offense as a whole. Dotson would help Tennessee do just that as a nice complement to A.J. Brown and Robert Woods.
Computer Vision shows that Mafe's burst (speed off the line of scrimmage) ranks in the top 20 of all edge rushers in the past eight draft classes.
I was really hoping to get another wideout here, for fun. But nah. The Packers are likely to rely on runs from Aaron Jones/A.J. Dillon and shorter passes -- at least for some time. Davante Adams is my top-rated WR in the league; losing him necessitates an adjustment period, even for the back-to-back MVP. Give Aaron Rodgers a rugged blocker to blow open running lanes and provide time in the pocket.
Pass-stopping defensive pieces might matter most in this loaded AFC West. So, even though the Chiefs have already replaced Tyrann Mathieu with Justin Reid, both this pick and the very next one address the back end of Kansas City's defense. Hill offers plenty of versatility, to boot.
To be honest, the margin between Elam and Clemson corner Andrew Booth is razor thin. Though Booth did recently have core muscle surgery.
There are defensive areas on this roster that must be addressed, but rounding out a complete overhaul of the interior O-line (after adding Ted Karras and Alex Cappa in free agency) could be a huge boon to the Bengals, who will play a first-place schedule in 2022.
Ojabo slides in this mock due to the torn Achilles suffered at his pro day. Considering that I am selecting for wins in 2022, the fact that he's still a first-rounder says a lot about how much my model believes in his raw ability, because it is uncertain how many games he will be able to play as a rookie.