Photo courtesy of Grant Halverson/North Carolina athletics

Mock draft degenerates, the worst time of the year has come.

Post-draft depression is in full swing, and only one thing can cure it: 2022 NFL Mock Draft.

It’s way too early, but who cares?

Round 1, Pick 1: Houston Texans – Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma

Deshaun Watson is knee deep in legal trouble, and if he plays pro football again, he doesn’t want to play for the Texans. Unless Davis Mills has a heroic end of the season after taking over for Tyrod Taylor (inevitable – nobody let’s Taylor start all season), Houston is going to need a franchise quarterback. They take the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner, Spencer Rattler, with the No. 1 overall pick.

Round 1, Pick 2: Detroit Lions – Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

The Detroit Lions snagged the left tackle of the future in Penei Sewell, but now he needs someone to protect. If the Lions do this badly next year, they are going to want to replace Jared Goff. They take the best quarterback available in Sam Howell. Howell has a good chance of going first overall, but Rattler’s athleticism and decision-making improvements will help Rattler overtake Howell.

Round 1, Pick 3: New York Jets – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

The first non-quarterback comes off the board. Thibodeaux is the freak edge rusher that we didn’t have in 2021. There is a good chance he gets drafted first overall if a team with a young, franchise quarterback has the first pick. He’s 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, and athletic enough to run a 4.5-second 40-yard dash. He would have been the best edge rusher in the 2021 draft if he could have declared early.

Round 1, Pick 4: Cincinnati Bengals – Evan Neal, OL, Alabama

The Bengals elected to not protect Joe Burrow, drafting Jackson Carman as their top offensive lineman in the draft. Carman is much more likely to stick at guard than tackle. Cincinnati is going to need to upgrade the offensive line in the 2022 draft, so they take the best lineman in the draft. Two seasons in, Evan Neal has started at two different spots on Alabama’s offensive line: left guard in 2019, and right tackle in 2020. The guess is that he will replace Alex Leatherwood at left tackle in 2021. He is a mammoth (6-7, 360 pounds) and moves really well for his size. He has the makings of a franchise left tackle and Burrow’s new best friend.

Round 1, Pick 5: Jacksonville Jaguars – Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson

The Jaguars don’t have a true top receiver (sorry D.J. Chark), so they take one for Trevor Lawrence. They pull the Cincinnati Bengals special and draft a former running mate of their new franchise quarterback. While Justyn Ross’ injury may make him a reach here, he is immensely talented and comes with chemistry with his new quarterback. If Ross has a bounce-back year in 2021, he has the ability to make this a reality.

Round 1, Pick 6: Philadelphia Eagles – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

Other than Darius Slay, the Eagles’ cornerback room is looking pretty rough. Slay’s contract is set up so that he either will get cut in 2022 (with $15 million dead cap) or start making $22 million a year. Even if they decide to keep him, Philadelphia is going to need to get him a partner. Derek Stingley is the best cornerback in the 2022 NFL Draft, and it’s not really close. The Eagles would be all too happy to add him to their roster.

Round 1, Pick 7: Washington Football Team – J.T. Daniels, QB, Georgia

The Football Team can only get so far without a true quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to run out of magic at some point, and no other quarterback on this roster is capable of being the guy (sorry Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke). Even with a really good defense, Washington will have a top-10 pick in 2022 and will use it on the best quarterback available. J.T. Daniels is primed to have a big year at Georgia and should be the third-best quarterback in 2022.

Round 1, Pick 8: Denver Broncos – Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

Passing on Justin Fields because you have Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock is like passing on a Ferrari because you have a Toyota Camry. The Denver Broncos regret their decision and draft a quarterback the very next season. Unfortunately, the quarterback class is a little murky in 2022 after the top three. Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder has the athleticism and arm talent to emerge as the fourth best guy in a top-heavy draft class.

Round 1, Pick 9: New York Giants – Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M

The Giants are focused on the success of Daniel Jones, and after losing Evan Engram to free agency, they are going to be focused on adding a new tight end. Jalen Wydermyer is the best tight end in the 2022 NFL Draft. His 2021 success was overshadowed by another SEC tight end, but similar to Kyle Pitts, Wydermyer is going to emerge and be a top-10 pick in 2022. He has the size, speed, strength, and hands to be an NFL tight end. The Giants will be thrilled to add a tight end of his caliber to Jones’ cabinet of weapons.

Round 1, Pick 10: New York Giants (via Chicago Bears) – DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M

The Bears traded away this pick to move up and draft Justin Fields. They won’t regret not having this pick. General manager Dave Gettleman resisted his urge of taking a defensive tackle in 2021, but with back-to-back picks, couldn’t resist the urge any longer. With this selection, the Giants take the best defensive tackle in the class. Leal is a beast and is Gettleman’s type. This selection is a match made in heaven.

Round 1, Pick 11: Atlanta Falcons – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

The Falcons address a major need in their secondary by selecting the second-best cornerback in the draft. Elam is a long, physical cornerback, who would immediately become the best cornerback on the team. He will have to cover the likes of Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, and D.J. Moore in the wide receiver-stacked NFC South; however, he has the size and speed to hold his own physically. The Falcons would love to add Elam to their defense.

Round 1, Pick 12: Carolina Panthers – Christian Harris, LB, Alabama

The Carolina Panthers have yet to fill the void left by Luke Kuechly in the middle of their defense. Harris is not Kuechly, but he is the best linebacker in the draft. He is physically imposing in the run game, but also has good coverage skills. Denzel Perryman is on a two-year deal, but Shaq Thompson’s deal is set up so that he could get cut after this season if he does not improve. Drafting Christian Harris would increase the talent at a historically strong position for Carolina.

Round 1, Pick 13: Las Vegas Raiders – Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama

The Raiders love reaching for Alabama players, but this one isn’t a reach. Josh Jobe is the third-best cornerback in the draft, and he’s the best one still available. He has the length and speed to be an outside corner in the NFL. Jobe plays a physical brand of football that will be welcomed on the Las Vegas Raiders.

Round 1, Pick 14: New England Patriots – George Pickens, WR, Georgia

The Patriots have their franchise quarterback in Mac Jones, but now they need to surround him with weapons. George Pickens is the best receiver still available, and maybe even the best in the draft. He tore his ACL in March, but he will be fully recovered by the NFL Combine and his Pro Day at the latest. He would immediately be the best receiver that the Patriots have had in a while.

Round 1, Pick 15: Minnesota Vikings – Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

The fifth quarterback comes off the board, and the Vikings get their Kirk Cousins replacement. Malik Willis has a chance to shoot up the boards and into the first round this season. He is a dynamic player, who has underrated arm talent. In the NFL, he would no longer be the fastest player on the field, but he would still be able to utilize his athleticism to extend plays and get the ball to one of his talented wide receivers. Willis is a name to watch in 2021.

Round 1, Pick 16: Arizona Cardinals – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

Kyle Hamilton may go earlier, but safeties haven’t been drafted in the first round the last two years. Kyle Hamilton is an elite safety with speed, size, and strength. He is a freak athlete. Hamilton can match up well with Budda Baker to form an elite safety pair for the Cardinals.

Round 1, Pick 17: Los Angeles Chargers – Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama

It seems like every year Alabama has one of the top defensive tackles in the draft. 2022 is no different. Mathis will likely be the second-best defensive tackle in the draft, behind DeMarvin Leal. Mathis is 6-4 and 313 pounds. The Chargers need help on the interior of the defensive line. Mathis will help take up space and blockers, allowing Joey Bosa and company to rush the edge more freely.

Round 1, Pick 18: Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami Dolphins) – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

The Eagles drafted a cornerback with their own pick, but utilize the Dolphin’s pick to take the best receiver available. Even after acquiring a top wide receiver in DeVonta Smith in 2021, they still need more talent in their receiver room. Olave is an excellent route runner, who excels at creating space. He will take some attention away from Smith and provide Jalen Hurts with more help.

Round 1, Pick 19: Dallas Cowboys – Bubba Bolden, S, Miami

The Cowboys’ secondary needs help. Bubba Bolden is the second-best safety in the draft and would immediately start for the Cowboys. After transferring from USC to Miami, Bolden had a breakout year in 2020. He has the speed to cover sideline to sideline and could be utilized as a free safety or a strong safety at the next level.

Round 1, Pick 20: Indianapolis Colts – Zion Nelson, LT, Miami

The Colts didn’t take an offensive tackle in the 2021 NFL Draft, even after Anthony Castonzo retired. They will likely sign someone like Russell Okung for a one-year deal in 2021, but they are going to need to draft one in 2022. Zion Nelson has shown improvement throughout his time at Miami. If he takes another step forward next year, Nelson will shore up his status as a first-round pick in 2022.

Round 1, Pick 21: New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks) – Cade Mays, G, Tennessee

The Jets snag the best interior offensive lineman in the draft. After taking the best edge rusher and maybe the best player in the draft with their pick, the Jets utilize the Jamal Adams pick to improve their offensive line. Cade Mays has played tackle in college, but like Alijah Vera-Tucker, projects as a guard in the NFL. This pick would go a long way to ensure that Zach Wilson has one of the better offensive lines in the league.

Round 1, Pick 22: Pittsburgh Steelers – Kedon Slovis, QB, USC

The Steelers are going to have to move on from “Big” Ben Roethlisberger eventually. Kedon Slovis is an excellent candidate. The sixth quarterback selected in this draft, Slovis has a really good arm. He says that he “lost confidence” in his arm and accuracy during 2020, but if he regains his form and has a great year, Slovis has a chance to be a first-round pick in 2022. When he’s confident, he has great accuracy and ball placement.

Round 1, Pick 23: Miami Dolphins (via San Francisco 49ers) – Ventrell Miller, LB, Florida

The Dolphins’ weakness on defense is their linebacker corps at the moment. They utilize their pick from the 49ers to address that need. Miller is a tackle machine, flying all over the field. He has some weaknesses in coverage, but he should be able to improve in those areas. Miller has the makeup of a starting linebacker in the NFL and could be a force for the Dolphins for years.

Round 1, Pick 24: Tennessee Titans – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

A.J. Brown needs a running mate. Bad. The Titans passed on taking a receiver until the sixth round in 2021, but they won’t be able to wait that long in 2022. Defenses are going to be able to double team Brown, and without a true No. 2 receiver, the Titans won’t be able to punish the defensive weakness. Treylon Burks is a size, speed, strength receiver who could be a true outside threat to opposing teams. He could spread the field for the Titans, which would help Derrick Henry face less stacked boxes. It would also help Brown get open more often. The Titans would love to add Burks to their team.

Round 1, Pick 25: Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams) – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

The Lions snagged their franchise quarterback earlier in this draft. Now, they draft him a target. Garrett Wilson is the best receiver available. He’s crazy athletic and would immediately be the Lions’ best receiver. After adding their franchise left tackle this year (Sewell) and their franchise quarterback earlier in this mock (Howell), they now get their best receiver in Garrett Wilson.

Round 1, Pick 26: Cleveland Browns – Jadon Haselwood, WR, Oklahoma

The run on wide receivers continues. Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry aren’t getting any younger. Haselwood has dealt with some injuries in college, but finally looks healthy and ready for a breakout season. With Spencer Rattler throwing him the ball, Haselwood could be in line for a massive 2021. The Browns gain cap flexibility and plan for life after the LSU duo in Cleveland.

Round 1, Pick 27: New Orleans Saints – Zacch Pickens, DT, South Carolina

The Saints need help on the interior of the defensive line, so they take the best defensive tackle available. Zacch Pickens is a massive force on South Carolina’s defensive line, who will have a Javon Kinlaw-type impact in 2021. The former five-star prospect has continued to improve at the college level. As a junior, he is going to take his game up another level and disrupt offenses while eating space.

Round 1, Pick 28: Baltimore Ravens – Thayer Munford, OT, Ohio State

The Ravens signed Alejandro Villanueva to a two-year deal. This pick allows them to develop his replacement and potentially cut Villanueva next year for cap space. Munford has been a beast on the Ohio State offensive line and is hoping to take his game up to another level. He may be the most experienced offensive lineman in the Big Ten, having already played college football for four years. He’s 6-6 and 320 pounds and has developed good technique throughout his time at Ohio State. He has a very good chance of being a first-round pick in 2022.

Round 1, Pick 29: Green Bay Packers – Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC

The second-best edge rusher in the draft, Drake Jackson falls all the way to No. 29 in this mock. Earning the title of EDGE 2 in this draft is going to be a battle all season, but Jackson has what it takes. He is long, athletic, and has really good bend to get to the quarterback. No one knows what’s going on in Green Bay right now, but it would be hard for the Packers to pass up this pass rusher, no matter who is behind center.

Round 1, Pick 30: Buffalo Bills – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

The Bills drafted Gregory Rousseau in 2021, but need to keep getting younger off the edge. Hutchinson is a crafty edge rusher who has the moves to get after opposing quarterbacks. He would make Buffalo’s defensive line younger and stronger.

Round 1, Pick 31: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma

Four defensive tackles in the first round seems like a lot, but Perrion Winfrey is too good to pass up on. Ndamukong Suh is 34 years old and only on a one-year deal. If he retires after this season, this could be a seamless fit. While the top junior college recruit in the country, Winfrey chose Oklahoma over a host of other offers, including Alabama. He had an excellent 2020 campaign, where he seemed to progress as the season went along. Going from JUCO to the NFL in three years would be quite the accomplishment.

Round 1, Pick 32: Kansas City Chiefs – Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State

The Chiefs are in a good position to take the best player available. Luckily for them, the best player available also fits a need. Sevyn Banks is that guy. He was the best cornerback last year on a team that featured Shaun Wade. Wade’s draft stock fell before the draft, perhaps partly because his tape last year was overshadowed by the cornerback on the opposite side. Banks has the ball skills and athleticism to take off and have a big 2021.