- Jacksonville Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
2. Detroit Lions: Travon Walker , DE, Georgia
The Lions will investigate both top quarterbacks. If they fall in love with one of them, they will draft that signal-caller; no questions asked. Whether or not they become smitten with Kenny Pickett or Malik Willis is the big question. Willis was solid at the combine, but I don't know if he quite did enough.
I had slotted Drake London here since the combine, and he was in the lead for the No. 2 pick. Now, Travon Walker has become the favorite. There's a chance Walker may not even be here, given that Jacksonville believes he has more upside than Aidan Hutchinson. Walker got off to a hot start during the 2021 season. Walker has great size and athleticism, and he was one of the top performers at the combine. So Walker is also a possibility.
3. Houston Texans: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
The Texans missed out on the top two edge rushers, so it'll come down to their preference between Ahmad Gardner and one of the offensive tackles. I've had Evan Neal mocked here the past couple of updates, but a former Texans front office personnel man told me that he believes Houston is targeting Gardner. This may not mean anything, or it could mean everything.
Ahmad Gardner is a 6-foot-2 cornerback with great length, and he just enjoyed a terrific combine.
4. New York Jets: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
The Jets haven't possessed a great edge rusher in quite some time. That appeared to change in the wake of the Carl Lawson signing, but he suffered a season-ending injury. Even with his return next year, the Jets could use another player who can put great pressure on the quarterback on the opposite side.
Kayvon Thibodeaux terrorized Pac-12 backfields with his great pass-rushing ability. There's some question now about his passion for football, but this might be FUD spread by other teams who want Thibodeaux to fall to them.
5. New York Giants: Evan Neal, OT/G, Alabama
Andrew Thomas struggled to begin his career. He has improved, but right tackle is a big problem because Nate Solder is a shell of his former self.
Evan Neal is a 360-pound lineman who can move very well, which almost seems impossible.
6. Carolina Panthers: Malik Willis , QB, Liberty
Matt Rhule believes he's the Jay-Z of NFL head coaches, but he's more Silkk the Shocker than Jay-Z at the moment. For Rhule to truly be Jay-Z, he needs his Beyonce, but he doesn't have a better quarterback option than Sam Darnold , who is basically Rebecca Black. The Panthers whiffed on all the quarterbacks they could've obtained via trade, so they almost have to use this selection on a signal-caller, given that this is the only pick the team has in the top 100. As of right now, I believe the Panthers are deciding between Malik Willis and Ikem Ekwonu (assuming Evan Neal won't be available.) It really sounds like they're trying to sell themselves on selecting Willis. General manager Scott Fitterer discussed the excitement in the building during Willis ' pro day, and owner Axe Tepper wants the team to make a home-run play with this pick. That won't happen with any tackle. Willis can provide the sort of energy Carolina has been lacking since the first time Cam Newton departed.
Willis has a huge arm and great mobility, but struggles to process information and see the field very well. Still, he has the upside to be chosen as high as No. 6 overall.
7. New York Giants: Derek Stingley, CB, LSU
The Giants have an excellent secondary, but that won't be the case once they trade James Bradberry, which seems inevitable right now. Once Bradberry is gone, the Giants will sorely need a No. 1 cornerback.
Derek Stingley had a freshman campaign for the ages, completely erasing one side of the field despite having no experience entering the year. He has great size (6-1, 190) and athleticism, but could fall in the 2022 NFL Draft because of some major injury concerns.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, N.C. State
The Falcons could opt to take a quarterback with this pick. If they like either Malik Willis or Kenny Pickett , they should. If not, they should tank for next April (I have three quarterbacks in the top three picks in my 2023 NFL Mock Draft.) Regardless, the Falcons will otherwise pick the best player available between edge rusher, cornerback, offensive lineman and wide receiver. Their blocking has been miserable lately, but Ikem Ekwonu would change that. Ekwonu has gotten rave reviews from talent evaluators. Some projected him as a late-first-round pick to start the 2021 season, but he has made major strides and is now a potential top-five choice.