Mel Kiper 2022 NFL Mock Draft 1.0: ESPN Guru Gives Early Look Ahead of Full Release

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. teased his first 2022 NFL mock draft ahead of its release Wednesday.

Kiper mentioned at the 7:02 mark Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson as having a “slight edge” for the Jacksonville Jaguars for the No. 1 overall pick, with Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux falling to the Detroit Lions at No. 2.

Thibodeaux and Hutchinson are co-favorites at DraftKings Sportsbook to come off the board first.

Kiper told ESPN colleague Field Yates that “it gets really interesting” starting with the third overall pick, which belongs to the Houston Texans.

He highlighted how the New York Giants and New York Jets both have two top-10 selections and a wide array of needs across their rosters. He called this draft “vital” toward the Giants and Jets moving toward playoff contention.

Alabama’s Jameson Williams is one of this year’s bigger wild cards. He caught 79 passes for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns in his only season with the Crimson Tide and looked like a surefire first-rounder.

That was before Williams suffered a torn ACL in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Kiper said at the 15:43 mark that prior to his injury, Williams was on track to becoming “a guaranteed top-10 pick.”

Williams’ stock may not have slipped too much since Kiper said the New England Patriots should think about taking him if he remains available at No. 21.

North Carolina State offensive lineman Ikem Ekwonu is the No. 2 player on Bleacher Report’s big board. The junior saw his stock soar in 2021.

Kiper responded “definitely yes” at 18:54 when asked whether Ekwonu can challenge Alabama’s Evan Neal as the best left tackle and warrant a top-five pick.

“He is a mauler, and he’s got really good feet and balance in pass protection,” Kiper said. “… This is a kid who wants to be great. He’s worked hard. Really passionate about the game of football.”

Quarterbacks always dominate the draft discourse, but the 2021 class lacks a true can’t-miss signal-caller. Kiper said at 26:13 that he expects a “maximum of four” and a “minimum of three” in the first round.

Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett was projected inside the top 15, but Liberty’s Malik Willis could leapfrog Pickett because of his raw talent. Kiper compared Pickett to Derek Carr and Andy Dalton to illustrate how the Panthers star could have a limited ceiling in the NFL.

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