*This mock draft contains only the top 18 picks made by the team's that did not make the playoffs.
Pick 1 (Jacksonville Jaguars): Kayvon Thibodeaux EDGE) - Oregon
The Jaguars have a lot of needs that are not Quarterback which must be refreshing. That being said, they still need the value of the player to match the value of the #1 overall pick. Thibodeaux is a physical freak who plays with a mean streak when he hits the field. He projects to be a day one, plug and play starter and would compliment the Jaguars other pass rusher, Josh Allen well. This unit could be extremely intimidating for opposing Quarterbacks if the Jaguars hit on this pick.
Pick 2 (Detroit Lions): Aidan Hutchinson EDGE - Michigan
Hutchinson had the most impressive season of any defender in the country. He’s a proven game-wrecker with a relentless motor that will cause havoc for opposing offensive coordinators. The Lions front needs a star upfront to anchor this defense going forward. Hutchinson fits the Dan Campbell mold making no excuses, working hard and full passion for the game. Hutchinson is full of grit and embodies the knee biting culture that Dan Campbell is trying to build in Detroit.
Pick 3 (Houston Texans) [TRADE POTENTIAL]: Kyle Hamilton S - Notre Dame
The Texans were bottom ten in pass defense and bottom five in rush defense, so the defense must be addressed with this pick despite offensive woes. The likelihood of one of the top two edge rushers being available is low barring a crazy combine season, so Houston goes with the dynamic defensive back out of Notre Dame here. Some might say this pick is too high for a safety, but they pick a player who stands out and can make an impact wherever he plays. Hamilton at 6’4, 220 lbs. and will slide in nicely next to Justin Reid. Hamilton shines with a physical presence in both the run and pass game which addresses the holes in this defense.
Pick 4 (New York Jets): Derrick Stingley Jr. CB - LSU
The Jets invested in their offense last offseason by picking a potential franchise quarterback, a star wide receiver, a starting offensive lineman and a dynamic running back. Now this team needs to focus on defense and building up a unit worthy of their defensive head coach. This team had a bottom five defense this past season and Stingley would automatically elevate this secondary with his great coverage skills and tackling ability. The Jets haven’t had a stud cornerback since Darrelle Revis and Stingley projects to be a star lockdown corner in the Revis mold.
Pick 5 (New York Giants): Evan Neal OT - Alabama
There haven’t been many linemen like Neal in the draft in a while. The linemen similar to him have anchored lines for their entire careers. His strength and incredible foot quickness combine for a frightening force in the run and pass game. His versatility bodes well for a Giants team that dealt with a very disappointing season from their offensive line. He could step in and be a true wall of a left tackle, but a team with so many issues upfront could use him anywhere initially given his versatility.
Pick 6 (Carolina Panthers): Sam Howell QB - North Carolina
This is absolutely the biggest surprise pick in this way too early mock draft seeing Sam Howell fly off the board as the first quarterback taken. I believe Howell will be the biggest riser in the draft process this offseason because of his ability and starting quarterback attitude. Going into the year he was the top quarterback prospect, but with a drop-off in play and some injuries caused him to fall out of the national consciousness. Carolina needs a quarterback desperately after the debacle that was the 2021 season. Their owner has shown he'll take flyers on quarterbacks and the Panthers bring in the local kid here to save the franchise. Howell's consistency over three years as a starter with all the physical and mental tools teams look for in a franchise quarterback makes Howell the pick here for a team in need.
Pick 7 (New York Giants): George Karlaftis EDGE - Purdue
An elite pass rusher is something that the Giants have really been looking for the past couple of seasons and drafting Azeez Ojulari in the second round last year was absolutely a step in the right direction. They draft another piece for this defensive line and try to build on both sides of the trenches with both of their top ten picks. Like fellow Big Ten defender Aidan Hutchinson, Karlaftis plays with a high-motor and intensity ever single down. He has impressive athleticism and hands for a player who could stand up or put his hand in the dirt based on the scheme he's playing. What he lacks in sack numbers he makes up for with quarterback hurries and pressures which is more valuable to a team this high in the draft.
Pick 8 (Atlanta Falcons): Garrett Wilson WR - Ohio State
Kyle Pitts was an impressive first round addition last offseason and lived up to the billing with a 1,000 yard pro-bowl rookie season for the Falcons. The Falcons desperately need other playmakers on the outside especially after the unexpected departure of star wide receiver Calvin Ridley during the season. Wilson can come in and help pick up the slack immediately for this Falcons passing attack. His exceptional route running and savvy for finding open space makes him a fantastic outside receiver for a team that wants to get Pitts more involved in the middle of the field.
Pick 9 (Denver Broncos): Kenny Pickett QB - Pittsburgh
Pickett has become the next exciting quarterback prospect to have a tremendous rise after being virtually unknown nationally before this season, similar to Joe Burrow two years ago. The Broncos need a quarterback to pilot this team regardless of who they hire as head coach. Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock have proven not to be the solution this season. Pickett’s age and maturation coupled with his great skills would make him extremely coachable for anyone who takes the job. He would immediately help on a team that has a loaded and youthful skill group on offense and a defensive roster talented enough to have the potential to win now.
Pick 10 (New York Jets): Ikem Ekwonu OT - NC State
Offensive Line has been a struggle for the Jets frankly since Nick Mangold retired and they’ve steadily been trying to address it. Their first round pick two years ago Meckhi Becton has apparently been frustrating through his rehab process with his conditioning and commitment to getting back on the field, but they can’t deny the talent and ability he has. Last year they sured up their line further with Alijah Vera-Tucker and locking down Ekwonu has the potential to make one of the best young lines in the league. Developing a great line will only help their young quarterback Zach Wilson.
Pick 11 (Washington (Name Changing Soon)): Matt Corral QB - Ole Miss
Washington has dealt with its quarterback troubles since Robert Griffin III went down with a career altering injury as a rookie. This is a talented roster with skill position players, a solid defensive line and an offensive line that ranks top ten in the league. It’s time to go get the next guy at quarterback. Corral’s physical and athletic ability is undeniable. Some may say he is undersized or not durable, but he consistently grew each year as a starter playing in the SEC West which is arguably the toughest division in any conference in college football. Not only did his play develop, but so did his leadership and his ability to attack a defense. At first glance he may not be the biggest player, but his potential to be a great quarterback shouldn’t be in question.
Pick 12 (Minnesota Vikings): Trent McDuffie CB - Washington
The Vikings are probably faced with more turnover after firing their General Manager and Head Coach. Regardless of any more roster changes this secondary has been bad for a few seasons now. With Patick Peterson aging and limited depth, they need a solid young cornerback to build on for the future. They’re hoping to find it in the Washington product McDuffie who’s allowed a passer rating of just 52 to opposing quarterbacks each of the last two seasons. This isn't flashiest pick for a team looking to make big swings this offseason, but it’s the safe pick that they need for a team in transition.
Pick 13 (Cleveland Browns): Nakobi Dean LB - Georgia
The best linebacker and potentially the best defender in the class slides to 13 which I will admit seems unlikely. Cleveland lucked out here and after the success of Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah this season the Browns would have an incredible linebacking corps that is young and fast. He would make a very talented and young defense even better. People may say this isn’t the biggest position of need, but the value you get at 13 drafting the SEC Defensive Player of the Year is unmatched.
Pick 14 (Baltimore Ravens): Charles Cross OT - Mississippi State
A top ten talent in this draft, Cross slides to a team with many injuries and offensive line troubles. The Ravens moved on from Orlando Brown last offseason, so this team needs a solid right tackle opposite Ronnie Stanley to protect their franchise quarterback and help out for a team that loves running the football. The complement of Cross’ SEC experience and age is a home run here. Not only do you get the investment of a young tackle for the future, but you get a guy who is a ferocious run blocker and has a great punch on first contact in pass protection.
Pick 15 (Philidelphia Eagles): Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner CB - Cincinnati
The man named "Sauce" was one of the most solid players in the country all season long. His closing speed, length, and tackling ability make him versatile and a great matchup for most wide receivers. The Eagles could improve their secondary and this is great value for the Eagles and fills a position of need for this defense. Garder is 6’3 and plays angry, showing no fear to any opponent on the field. Pair him with 'Big Play' Darius Slay and you have yourself a great duo in Philly.
Pick 16 (Philidelphia Eagles): Devin Lloyd LB - Utah
In my mind this is the Jordan Brooks (Seattle Seahawks linebacker) of this draft class. Lloyd is a player with undeniable skill and ability, but he feels like an overlooked prospect coming out of Utah. Linebacker was a clear weak spot on the Eagles roster this past season. Lloyd amassed 111 tackles, 7 sacks, and 4 INTs last season and showed he’s an every-down versatile linebacker with impressive closing speed and coverage skills on tight ends and running backs. Lloyd also brings leadership intangibles that can elevate this defense.
Pick 17 (Los Angeles Chargers): Jordan Davis DT - Georgia
You can’t coach size and Davis definitely has that going for him. As a 6’6 340 lb defensive tackle, Davis is the immovable object that can anchor any run defense. His athleticism isn’t necessarily top level, his brute strength and presence alone will help out a Chargers team that got gashed between the tackles this year on defense. He does move well for a man his size and he may not be a sack machine, but he’s the best fit for the Chargers and he should be able to clog gaps and scare offensive coordinators years.
Pick 18 (New Orleans Saints): Jameson Williams WR - Alabama
This team needs a long term answer at quarterback, but I think they have the ability to bring in their guy in free agency or via trade. Based on how this mock has developed they shouldn’t reach for a quarterback here. Instead they add a speedy playmaker in Williams who immediately projects as this offense’s number one receiver. He is especially talented when it comes to taking the top off of a defense and this offense needs a playmaker outside of Alvin Kamara. There will be concerns about his ACL injury, but Williams is undeniably a first round talent and any team that takes a flyer on him will be happy with the result. This team needs receiver help which was evident all season and they get a steal with this pick if he comes back fully healthy.