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A Mock Draft of the Top 10 Selections
Jarrod Thurman @JarrodChiefsFCS Chiefs Focus @Chiefsfocus
The NFL Draft is here. This week 262 NFL dreams are going to be fulfilled, while several others will have their dreams crushed. Players have been training since their college season ended and the training is about to pay off.
Every year leading up to the draft, countless NFL analysts will do mock drafts. Some of these mock drafts are spot on, some are just flat awful. I’m going to do a mock draft of the top 10 selections. While there is likely going to be at least one trade in the top 10, for the sake of simplicity, I will not include any trades in my mock draft. I will also include a brief explanation of why I chose each selection. My thought process behind my selections is I made these picks as if I was the GM of each of these teams, not necessarily a prediction. There are reports of Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke liking a different edge rusher than who I have them picking.
1st Overall: Jacksonville Jaguars
Aidan Hutchinson, Edge – Michigan
Hutchinson is easily the best prospect in the draft. Additionally, the Jaguars are in a position where, outside of quarterback, they can select about anybody. Josh Allen is their best pass rusher currently. Hutchinson paired with Allen could make a dangerous defensive line combined with a young quarterback with a bright future in Trevor Lawrence. The Jaguars could be set for years to come.
2nd Overall: Detroit Lions
Derek Stingley Jr., Cornerback – LSU
Stingley is the latest defensive back from the program affectionately called “DB-U”. LSU has consistently produced top-level defensive backs. He is the top defensive prospect not named Aidan Hutchinson as well. The Lions are in desperate need of a defensive back after giving up the 9th most passing yards in 2021 and the 8th fewest interceptions. In his only full season with the Tigers as a freshman, he recorded 6 interceptions helping lead LSU to a National Championship. He could plug into the Lions’ defense immediately and start helping defend the pass. The only concern with Stingley is there is minimal tape on him because he only played 3 games during the 2021 season and 7 games in the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season. However, with the tape that exists, there is enough to know he is a talented cornerback.
3rd Overall: Houston Texans
Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB – Cincinnati
The Texans are the very definition of a team in rebuilding mode. More so than any other team at the top of the draft, they are in a position that requires them to take the best available player regardless of position. For me at 3rd overall, that is “Sauce” Gardner. Gardner helped lead Cincinnati to become the first non-Power Five school in the College Football Playoff. He is a tall but fast cornerback that can make a difference in the Texans’ defense. Gardner recorded 3 interceptions in each of his 3 seasons at Cincinnati. This is one of 2 selections for the Texans in the first round.
4th overall: New York Jets
Charles Cross, Offensive Tackle – Mississippi State
While the Jets have more important needs than the offensive line, I’m not sure they’ll be able to resist taking the top offensive lineman in the draft. Cross ran a 4.95 40-yard dash at the combine. He was consistent in pass protection with the Bulldogs. The Jets already have a couple of solid pieces on their line with Mekhi Becton and Laken Tomlinson, but Cross will give them protection to give Zach Wilson plenty of time to throw the ball. A young quarterback needs protection and Cross will give it to him and will help improve the Jets line that gave up the 4th most sacks in 2021.
5th Overall: New York Giants
Ikem Ekwonu, Offensive Tackle – NC State
The Giants were a team in the middle of the road in terms of sacks allowed. They gave up the 16th most sacks in the league in 2021. However, despite this, they still need a better offensive line. Their line is full of holes. Ekwonu will help fix this. Nicknamed “Ickey” after former Bengals running back Ickey Woods, he will help the team on and off the field. His wrestling background shows on the field when blocking. He is also quick which will help with faster edge rushers. He’s got great speed for his size. Giants quarterback Daniel Jones has struggled a bit so far in his career. Ekwonu can help make sure a lack of protection isn’t to blame.
6th Overall: Carolina Panthers
Evan Neal, Offensive Tackle – Alabama
The Panthers continue the streak of tackles. Neal is a proven winner winning a National Championship at Alabama. The Panthers have a need at offensive line and he will fill that. Neal is a big lineman at 6’7” and 337 pounds. Having spent his entire college career in the SEC and playing in the college football playoff all but 1 year of his career, he has played top-level talent his entire career. Neal could even go even higher than 6th but no way he falls lower than 6th. He’s got everything you look for in an NFL offensive lineman. Can you call a 6th overall selection a steal? I think you can and that’s what the Panthers get. The Panthers allowed the 5th most sacks in the NFL in 2021 and he will change that.
7th Overall: New York Giants (from Chicago)
Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge – Oregon
With their 5th overall selection, the Giants filled a need on offense. Here, they fill a need on defense taking the 2nd best edge rusher available with Thibodeaux. Thibodeaux had 7 sacks in 10 games with the Ducks in 2021. He is fast running a 4.58 40 at the combine. The Giants had the 9th fewest sacks in the league in 2021 Thibodeaux will help turn that around. Thibodeaux is another player that could go earlier but if he falls to 7th, there’s no way the Giants pass him up again.
8th Overall: Atlanta Falcons
Trent McDuffie, CB – Washington
The Falcons’ pass defense had moderate success in 2021 but it could be improved. There are better players available but not necessarily at positions the Falcons need, so they draft the best player available at a position they need and that is McDuffie. Despite being an average-sized cornerback, he plays with a level of aggressiveness and fearlessness you need playing in the NFL. He ran a 4.44 40-yard dash at the combine, which, as is the case with his size, is about average. He only allowed 16 catches in 2021 at Washington. He can also help defend against the run too. The Falcons get a top 5 cornerback prospect in a good year for corners.
9th Overall: Seattle Seahawks (from Denver)
George Karlaftis, Edge – Purdue
With the pick they received by trading Russell Wilson, the Seahawks fill their need for an edge rusher. While hardly a sack artist at Purdue, he did cause issues for opposing offenses with his relentless motor. The Seahawks’ defense is a far cry from the “Legion of Boom” defense from the early to mid-2010s, but Karlaftis can help the Seahawks get some of their swagger back and make it a feared defense again, which is needed in a division with Aaron Donald and Nick Bosa.
10th Overall: New York Jets (from Seattle)
Jameson Williams, Wide Receiver – Alabama
The 2021 draft class is one of the deepest in recent memory at wide receiver. The Jets need a receiver desperately. Williams is the pick here. Williams had 1,572 yards (5th in the nation) and 15 touchdowns (tied for 3rd in the nation) in 2021. Williams has big-play ability as well as he had 11 touchdowns of 30+ yards in 2021, which was 1st among FBS players. He was a hurdler on his high school’s track team meaning he can jump too. Williams will be a huge addition to the Jets’ offense with a young quarterback. We saw the difference Ja’marr Chase made with Joe Burrow and the Bengals. Can Williams do the same thing with the Jets?
The NFL draft can be unpredictable. There’s a possibility I got every single one of these wrong because of the unpredictability of the draft. What will happen? Who knows. It will be worth watching.