When looking back at early 2022 mock drafts, most projections were only able to peg 12 prospects or less who would ultimately be taken in the first round. A lot can change over the next 11-plus months and it would be foolish to think prospects have already hit their peaks when so many are still developing physically. Today's thought exercise is more of a watch list than it is a projection of who will hear his name called next April in Kansas City.
The draft order below was determined using SportsLine's Super Bowl odds but in reverse order. We know folks are going to be very angry about why we have their team picking so high, but it's not our fault! These are your team's odds of winning a Lombardi Trophy.
Round 1 - Pick 1
C.J. Stroud QB
Ohio State • Jr • 6'3" / 215 lbs
Prior to the 2021 season, there was some buzz out of Columbus that the Buckeyes had their next Justin Fields. Stroud was criticized for his struggles early in the season but settled in to throw for 4,435 yards, 44 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Davis Mills would really have to blow away the organization this season for them to pass on a quarterback at No. 1 overall.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Alabama • Jr • 6'4" / 243 lbs
Even if Zach Wilson struggles this season, I am not convinced New York would jump ship. Edge rusher is not exactly a position of need with Carl Lawson returning and the selection of Jermaine Johnson II. The reasoning is that there is no way to know how Lawson is going to look this season and the team has an affordable out in his contract after the season.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Will Levis QB
Kentucky • Sr • 6'3" / 232 lbs
Levis has good size for the position with elite arm strength and plus mobility. There are aspects of his game that need work, but while few have the traits to be taken this high in the draft, the Penn State transfer does. Detroit moves on from Jared Goff and saves a significant amount of salary cap space in doing so.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Jalen Carter DL
Georgia • Jr • 6'3" / 310 lbs
Over a two-year period, Jacksonville will have added Travon Walker, Devin Lloyd, Chad Muma and Carter to a defensive front that already had Josh Allen. The Jaguars should have a formidable front seven in a few years. Carter stood out on a Georgia defensive line that had three first-round picks.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Tony Grimes DB
North Carolina • Jr • 6'0" / 195 lbs
Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner and Derek Stingley Jr. were off the board before the Giants came on the clock last month. They made the most of their choices but many felt that was a landing spot for a cornerback given James Bradberry's then imminent and now complete release. Grimes has good size and speed. He has the makings of a lockdown cornerback.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Northwestern • Jr • 6'4" / 315 lbs
Chicago will have zero idea of Justin Fields' potential after the upcoming season because of how little they have done to help him this offseason. The team is bereft of pass catchers and offensive linemen. Wide receiver could be an option, but they snag a lineman from up the road.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Bryce Young QB
Alabama • Jr • 6'0" / 194 lbs
The selection of Matt Corral in the third round is not going to prevent Carolina from taking another quarterback in the top 10. Young has a smaller frame, but his leadership and impromptu playmaking ability will once again lead him to be must-see TV this fall.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Clemson • Jr • 6'3" / 230 lbs
Gone are the days of massive run-stuffing, head-rolling capable linebackers in the first round. Simpson would be traditionally undersized, but he is perfect in the modern game with his ability to shoot gaps to make plays in the backfield or drop into coverage.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Miami (FL) • Soph • 6'4" / 224 lbs
Van Dyke is a bit more limited in regards to his mobility, but he has good size and throws with touch down the field. Seattle, to this point, has not been desperate in pursuit of a quarterback for the upcoming season. If Drew Lock and Geno Smith are the team's quarterbacks entering the season, then a top 10 QB selection is likely in the team's future.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Kelee Ringo DB
Georgia • Soph • 6'2" / 205 lbs
There is an opportunity for Washington to get out of William Jackson's contract after the season. He will turn 31 prior to the 2023 season. Ringo has great size and speed to play on the boundary. The Commanders continue investing in defense.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Oklahoma • Jr • 6'5" / 315 lbs
Pittsburgh is set among the skill positions, but the offensive line remains under construction. Harrison physically looks the part of an NFL left tackle.
From New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 12
Texas A&M • Jr • 6'3" / 200 lbs
Johnson has been almost exclusively a box player for Texas A&M. He has a quick key and trigger to support his physical style of play. Philadelphia should value his versatility to drop into coverage or essentially serve as another linebacker.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Jaquelin Roy DT
LSU • Jr • 6'4" / 315 lbs
Las Vegas is in need of long-term interior defenders and Roy happens to be stepping into a more significant role for the Tigers. With edge rushers B.J. Ojulari and Ali Gaye working on the edge, Roy should be free to push the pocket up the middle.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Eli Ricks CB
Alabama • Jr • 6'2" / 190 lbs
Philadelphia used its two first-round picks on defensive tackle Jordan Davis and wide receiver A.J. Brown. They add safety Antonio Johnson and now Ricks to totally revamp that secondary.
Round 1 - Pick 15
LSU • Jr • 6'0" / 205 lbs
Boutte is a physical wide receiver who has some similarities to Ja'Marr Chase. Even with Tyquan Thornton and DeVante Parker, New England's wide receivers do not particularly excite me. There is an opportunity to shed some salary cap. Nelson Agholor is a free agent after the season, while Kendrick Bourne and Parker are slated to hit free agency a year later.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Ohio State • Jr • 6'0" / 198 lbs
Adam Thielen is not going to play forever so Minnesota adds Smith-Njigba, who is not an ideal compliment to Justin Jefferson but it is moreso an indicator of the team's thought process.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Alabama • Sr • 6'2" / 228 lbs
Tennessee fans do not believe they need a linebacker and maybe they do not, but that will become clear after the upcoming season. There were points in the season where To'oTo'o looked better than Christian Harris, who was just drafted in the third round.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Noah Sewell LB
Oregon • Soph
The younger brother of Lions offensive tackle Penei Sewell sets out to make a name for himself in Miami.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Myles Murphy DE
Clemson • Jr • 6'5" / 275 lbs
J.J. Watt's contract voids prior to the 2023 season so Murphy could stand in as a bigger edge rusher who is able to win with speed and power.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Ohio State • Jr • 6'6" / 310 lbs
As a former offensive guard moving to left tackle, Johnson has versatility at the next level. Indianapolis took a chance on Bernhard Raimann on Day 2 of the 2022 draft, but there is no certainty that pans out and it was a relatively cheap investment.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Notre Dame • Jr • 6'4" / 251 lbs
Joe Burrow can always use more weapons. Mayer is from Independence, Kentucky, which is about 15 minutes outside of Cincinnati. The Bengals bring the Irish tight end home.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Josh Downs WR
North Carolina • Jr • 5'10" / 175 lbs
After trading Hollywood Brown, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Baltimore's wide receiver room. Downs is a prospect who can make plays after the catch for Lamar Jackson.
Round 1 - Pick 23
BYU • Jr • 6'8" / 305 lbs
Whether it is Tyron Smith or Terence Steele, there is a path for Dallas to need help at offensive tackle. The belief is that this year's first round selection, Tyler Smith, is going to begin his career at left guard before eventually taking over at left tackle. If Tyler Smith excels in that spot, but the team still wants to replace Tyron Smith, then this becomes an option.
From Cleveland Browns
Round 1 - Pick 24
Kansas State • Jr • 6'4" / 255 lbs
Anudike needs to continue developing a pass rush plan, but his ability to win with power and relentlessness is off the charts. Houston adds another rusher off the edge.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Arik Gilbert WR
Georgia • Soph • 6'5" / 248 lbs
Gilbert is a big unknown at this point. After showing some promise with LSU in 2020, Gilbert transferred to Florida and then Georgia. He missed the 2021 season in its entirety. On a parallel note, it is hard to fathom a tight end room having more talent than Brock Bowers, Darnell Washington and Gilbert.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 26
Bryan Bresee DT
Clemson • Soph • 6'5" / 300 lbs
From a physical standpoint, Bresee stands out as a player who could develop into a first-round pick. Seattle added a quarterback earlier in this projection and now gets another pass rusher.
From San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 27
Texas • Jr • 6'0" / 220 lbs
Miami has a lot of bodies at running back, but they are missing that feature element. It is a running back friendly scheme but, more than anything, I just wanted to get a few talented running backs on this list.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 28
TCU • Jr • 6'4" / 212 lbs
Although lean, Johnston is unique at 6-foot-4. His production has been limited, but he is only scratching the surface of what he could become. Detroit is able to go three wide with Jameson Williams, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Johnston with Will Levis under center.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Alabama • Sr • 6'1" / 206 lbs
Adrian Amos' contract voids after the coming season so there is a need for another safety. Battle would step in next to Darnell Savage in that secondary.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Cam Smith DB
South Carolina • Jr • 6'0" / 188 lbs
Kansas City took Trent McDuffie in the first round, but may not be done at cornerback. Smith is one of the players who could be justified in the first round and there should be more attention on him this season.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Jahmyr Gibbs RB
Georgia Tech • Jr • 5'11" / 200 lbs
Let's assume Tom Brady is back and the team wants to make a luxury choice. The reality is that I like Gibbs' game, think he is going to be an exciting player this fall and wanted to add him to this list.
Round 1 - Pick 32
USC • Soph • 6'6" / 305 lbs
There are not 32 players right now who are clearly first-round caliber players. It is easy to squint and see Ford becoming a big-time player with his immense size.