NFL 2022 Big Trades Shake Up the Draft Order

Our latest projection includes five deals, in additional to all the picks that already changed hands in blockbusters for Russell Wilson, Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill. Since my last mock draft, posted right before the start of free agency, three more teams have traded away their first-round picks in the 2022 draft. Blockbuster trades have led to new homes for Deshaun Watson, Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill, and now eight of the NFL’s 32 teams don’t have a pick in the first round this year.

As Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer notes, “It’s a unique quarterback class, because there’s not a clear number one, number two, number three.” The comment is even more interesting given that the Panthers control the earliest pick of teams most often linked to first-round quarterbacks.

Draft-day trades during the first round often involve quarterbacks, and the lack of clarity at the position adds to the level of complexity. But I will attempt to project trades in this iteration of my two-round mock draft. This mock features five trades, two of which involve quarterbacks.

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1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson, edge, Michigan

The Jaguars designated tackle Cam Robinson with the franchise tag, signed guard Brandon Scherff to a three-year deal in free agency and are high on second-year, second-round tackle Walker Little, who could beat out Jawaan Taylor to start at right tackle. Even if we can’t rule out Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu, it’s likely that the Jags will go in a different direction from one of the top two offensive tackles here.

Hutchinson is the top-ranked prospect on my top 100 big board and set Michigan’s single-season sack record (14) in 2021. His 10-yard split (1.62) was better than his 40-yard dash time (4.74) at the combine, but he posted elite agility numbers. Not only did he lead all defensive ends this year in the three-cone (6.73) and 20-yard shuttle (4.15), but his three-cone time trails only Bruce Irvin (6.70 in ’12) all-time among defensive ends. He’s as safe as it gets due to his combination of leadership, athleticism, nonstop motor, polish and production.

2. Detroit Lions: Travon Walker, edge, Georgia

If Hutchinson isn’t the top pick, the local prospect would be an easy choice for the Lions, but Walker isn’t just a consolation prize. In fact, it’s possible that the former Bulldog will end up being Jacksonville’s choice over Hutchinson. Already an outstanding run defender, Walker’s elite combination of strength, length (35½” arms) and athleticism (4.51 40-yard dash at 272 pounds) should allow him to develop into a more productive pass rusher at the next level than he was asked to be on Georgia’s star-studded defense.

3. Houston Texans: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

Laremy Tunsil and the Texans agreed to a restructured contract despite speculation earlier this offseason that the two sides could part ways. While there is a potential out in 2023 on Tunsil’s contract, the Texans also released Marcus Cannon recently.

Neal started at a different position—left guard and both tackle spots—in each of his three seasons at Alabama. The versatile lineman could immediately bookend Tunsil, allowing the team to kick Tytus Howard inside, and provide the Texans with the long-term upside to start at left tackle should the team change directions next year. The former five-star recruit has size and tremendous power but also the movement skills of a much lighter player.

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4. New York Jets: Kayvon Thibodeaux, edge, Oregon

The Jets met with Thibodeaux at the combine, and the former top high school recruit felt that meeting went really well. At the combine, he showed an impressive combination of speed (4.58 40-yard dash) and strength (position-high 27 bench press reps). With an ideal frame, explosive first-step quickness and closing burst, double-digit sacks should become the norm for Thibodeaux relatively early in his NFL career.

5. New York Giants: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State

Left tackle Andrew Thomas played better in 2021 than he did as a rookie in ’20, but the Giants still had one of the league’s worst offensive lines last season. A mauler in the run game, Ekwonu has high-end traits to continue developing as a pass blocker, as well as the experience and versatility to play either tackle or guard.

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