The draft is a difficult event to predict a few days in advance, so it’s almost impossible a year in advance. Every year, a Zach Wilson or a Joe Burrow (or Travon Walker) will emerge from the shadows, while other players will crumble.
The TDA editorial team had tried the experiment a year ago, with relative success. Throwback to a 2022 mock draft carried out in May 2021. Our choice and below where the player was selected. Our predictions were sometimes close to reality, sometimes not at all!
1 – Houston Texans: Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma, QB
Real choice: return to college, transfer to South Carolina
The first, and perhaps the most terrible choice. While the end of the 2020 season had hinted at a bright future for Rattler, the quarterback collapsed to the point of losing his starting spot to the flamboyant Caleb Williams. Logically, he chose to try to regain value by staying in college, choosing South Carolina to “live again” in the eyes of NFL scouts.
2 – Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon, EDGE
Actual pick: New York Giants, 5th place (1st round)
Unlike Rattler, Thibodeaux’s value hasn’t changed much in a year. Projected as the best defender of the vintage, he fell a little for behavioral reasons but remains one of the best pass rushers this year.
3 – New York Jets: Derek Stingley, LSU, BC
Actual pick: Houston Texans, 3rd place (1st round)
And it’s BINGO. Despite struggling with injuries, Stingley won over the scouts with his insane athletic potential and playmaking skills. Announced later in the mocks all season, he recovered the “momentum” at the best time.
4 – Cincinnati Bengals: Zion Nelson, Miami, OT
Real choice: return to university
If Nelson still has the possibility of being in the first round of the 2023 draft, his 2021 season has not been good and the tackle has preferred to return to university. Logic for an athletic monster who is slow to develop physically.
5 – Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Neal, Alabama, OL
Real pick: New York Giants, 7th place (1st round)
Another good choice. Unlike Nelson, Neal has proven he deserves the “hype” around him. The mountain from Alabama shone at the tackle position, and showed enough technical progression to make him a top 10.
6 – Philadelphia Eagles: Sam Howell, North Carolina, QB
Real pick: Washington Commanders, 144th position (5th round)
Like all the other quarterbacks except Kenny Pickett, Sam Howell has fallen heavily in a year. Unable to recover from the loss of his four targets in 2021, he shone more on the ground than in the air. Catastrophic during the opening match, he has never progressed frankly since his first good year. He will be fine in the NFC East, but not in the expected team.
7 – Denver Broncos: Dillon Gabriel, UCF, QB
Real choice: return to college, transfer to Oklahoma
THE risk of this mock did not pay off, even if Gabriel had a decent season before getting injured. He will have the daunting task of turning Oklahoma around in 2022, which is a risk but also a tremendous opportunity to shine in the eyes of NFL scouts.
8 – New York Giants: Charles Cross, Mississippi State, OT
Real pick: Seattle Seahawks, 9th place (1st round)
Another bet, but winning this one! Charles Cross has indeed continued to develop, both physically and technically. Incredibly reliable at left tackle, he will have the opportunity to protect a quarterback in Seattle. Bad news: it’s not Russell Wilson.
9 – Carolina Panthers: Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame, S
Real pick: Baltimore Ravens, 14th place (1st round)
Unsurprisingly, the phenomenon Kyle Hamilton remains in the top 15. Outstanding physique, speed and Football IQ, he lacks nothing. What to follow in the footsteps of Ed Reed? Nothing is impossible for the former Notre Dame.
10 – Atlanta Falcons: Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati, BC
Real pick: New York jets, 4th place (1st round)
6/10, an unprecedented success in the top 10. Already expected in 2022? Gardner did more than consolidate his place: he imposed himself as a “shutdown” corner. Having conceded no touchdown in his college career, Gardner is expected as a savior in Gotham.
11 – New York Giants (from Bears): Christian Harris, Alabama, LB
Real pick: Houston Texans, 75th place (3rd round)
It’s becoming a habit, Alabama linebackers are falling. The latter is however softer for Harris, who remains in the top 100. If he is complete, Harris failed to convince on his ability to “playmaker”, which made him a less attractive choice than Devin Lloyd.
12 – Washington Football Team: Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati, QB
Real pick: Atlanta Falcons, 74th position (3rd round)
Chosen just before Christian Harris, Desmond Ridder finished 2nd quarterback of the vintage, but very far from the first round. Author of a great season with Cincinnati, he remains a diamond to polish, and must work on his precision. He will have the opportunity to prove it in Georgia.
13 – Arizona Cardinals: David Bell, Purdue, WR
Real pick: Cleveland Browns, 99th position (3rd round)
Another third round, this time for receiver David Bell. Possession receiver, David Bell has not progressed so much in 2021, leaving doubts about his ability to progress. All the same top 100, he is however seen today rather as a number 2 receiver.
14 – Las Vegas Raiders: Tiawan Mullen, Indiana, BC
Real choice: return to university
Another player returning to university after a complicated season. too often out of position, unable to compensate for his size deficit, he will have to do much better to dream again in the first round.
15 – Pittsburgh Steelers: Rasheed Walker, Penn State, OT
Actual Pick: Green Bay Packers, Pick 249 (7th Round)
It took a few picks for him to end up undrafted, but Walker finally got the chance to join the Packers. Ticking all the athletic boxes, he crumbled in all the big matches, sending his value plummeting.
16 – Los Angeles Chargers: Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M, TE
Actual pick: undrafted, signed by the Bills
Failed season + catastrophic athletic tests: not drafted. Here is the summary of the terrible last 12 months of the Texas A&M tight end. In free fall in all the boards, he will have to prove to the camp that he can have his place in the NFL.
17 – Minnesota Vikings: Drake Jackson, USC, EDGE
Actual pick: San Francisco 49ers, 61st pick (3rd round)
Small fall for USC’s EDGE, who like other players on his team was restrained by the Californian defensive system to the point of falling in the second round. He will still have the opportunity to demonstrate his talent in NFC West, with a versatile profile that should work wonders in San Franscico.
18 – Tennessee Titans: Chris Olave, Ohio State, WR
Actual pick: New Orleans Saints, 11th pick (1st round)
After a surprise return to university, Chris Olave finally won his bet: he established himself as a top receiver for this vintage, drafted even higher than expected a year before. An outstanding track runner, his mission will be to follow in the footsteps of other players with the same profile, such as Keenan Allen.
19 – Philadelphia Eagles (from Dolphins): Kaiir Elam, Florida, BC
Actual pick: Buffalo Bills, 23rd pick (1st round)
Another player who has confirmed his potential. If his weakness in the tackle and his “gambler” side closed the doors to him in the top 20, he remains an athletic and talented player who can glean a starting place in the first season.
20 – New Orleans Saints: Justyn Ross, Clemson, WR
Actual pick: Undrafted, signed by Chiefs
Here’s the most predictable “fall” on this list. His selection in the first round was conditional on a return to form after a serious injury. Unfortunately, he was never able to regain his level, and his season looked like a long way of the cross.
21 – New England Patriots: George Pickens, Georgia, WR
Actual pick: Pittsburgh Steelers, 52nd pick (2nd round)
The “social case” George Pickens has recovered well from his injury, to the point of obtaining a selection in the second round. The talent is there, it remains to be seen whether the mentality will be compatible with the NFL. Pittsburgh decided to take the risk, and he’s going to get some playing time.
22 – Philadelphia Eagles (via Indianapolis Colts): George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue
Actual pick: Kansas City Chiefs, 30th pick (1st round)
The buffalo from Greece is good in the first round, and Kansas City is rubbing its hands. A player more powerful than mobile, he has the weapons to become a starting player capable of pounding the line for 60 minutes.
23 – New York Jets (from Seahawks): DeMarvion Overshown, Texas, LB
Real choice: return to university
Here’s a new player back in college, but he’s not doing it to make up for a bad season. Flamboyant in Texas, he takes his time before coming to the NFL, where his versatile profile will be able to seduce.
24 – Dallas Cowboys: Wanya Morris, Oklahoma, OT
Real choice: return to university
The move to Oklahoma did boost Morris’ value, but not enough to make him feel ready for the NFL. In a theoretically weaker class in 2023, he should be able to claim the first round again if he continues his progress.
25 – Green Bay Packers: John Metchie, Alabama, WR
Actual pick: Houston Texans, 44th pick (2nd round)
John Metchie failed to succeed Devonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle in the top 10, but he remains a safe bet. Chosen at the start of the second round, he will have plenty of opportunity to show himself to the Texans.
26 – Cleveland Browns: DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M, EDGE
Actual pick: Pittsburgh Steelers, 84th pick (3rd round)
Sometimes versatility can cause a player to lose credit. Good everywhere but great nowhere, Leal had to wait until the third round to find a new home. The good news for him is that Pittsburgh seems like one of the perfect destinations for him, the coaches will find a way to use him properly.
27 – Baltimore Ravens: Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa, C
Real pick: Baltimore Ravens, 25th position (1st round)
Good team, and almost good position except for two choices. Linderbaum confirmed in 2022 that he is a phenomenon at centre, and he arrives in the perfect team to express his talent. Center are people too!
28 – Buffalo Bills: Breece Hall, Iowa State, RB
Actual pick: New York Jets, 36th pick (2nd round)
First runner as expected, Hall did not get the first lap. Not a big fall though, for a solid and reliable runner who can apply for the starting position in year 1. An excellent runner, he will also be a safety valve for Zach Wilson.
29 – Miami Dolphins (from 49ers): Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M, RB
Actual pick: Los Angeles Chargers, 123rd pick (4th round)
Still a high predicted runner, but the reality was a little different for Spiller. Versatile but less decisive and incisive than Hall, Spiller will surely have a more limited role in the NFL. However, he falls into a good situation, in a committee that will need him next to Austin Ekeler.
30 – Detroit Lions (from Rams): Garrett Wilson, Ohio State, WR
Actual pick: New York Jets, 10th pick (1st round)
Expected at the end of the first round, Garrett Wilson did much better than expected. Carried by the rush on the receivers after the contracts given on the market, he had the luxury of being selected in 10th position. A complete player with no major flaws, he has produced more than expected and is so complete that he has a great chance of having a good career.
31 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Haskell Garrett, Ohio State, DL
Actual Pick: Undrafted
Playing injured most of the season, Garrett has been a shadow of himself. But seeing him undrafted is a huge surprise. Is the reason medical? We will know more in the coming weeks but he should have his place in a camp.
32 – Kansas City Chiefs: Sevyn Banks, Ohio State, BC
Real choice: return to college, transfer to LSU
Another player who hasn’t managed a season, and who is looking for a new lease of life. With a transfer to LSU, Banks will try to find the “hype” he had a year ago. It will have to be much better.