With the Super Bowl over and done, all eyes are now on the 2022 season which means… draft content! I know you all have been eagerly anticipating our Buccaneers.com mock drafts and far be it from Senior Writer Scott Smith and I to keep you waiting. We will be alternating full first-round mock drafts each week until the draft itself and I have the pleasure of kicking us off.
This first iteration comes with a lot of pressure for yours truly. After spending nearly two paragraphs last year talking about how picking at 32 would make it impossible to keep my streak of being correct on my initial try, I ended up being correct with my initial try. I had the Bucs picking Joe Tryon with the 32nd pick. Let me be clear – it was nothing more than a lucky guess – but after three years of being correct now, the pressure is on. However, given that the Bucs aren't picking much higher than 32 this year and have a ton of question marks in free agency, I fully expect the 'Buc' to stop here. See what I did there? And you'll see what I did later in this article. Spoiler alert: I took the best player at a potential position of need that was available. That's all you can do.
For these first couple weeks, Scott Smith and I will not be doing trades, as is customary. These are mainly just to introduce you to some team needs across the league and see how the board could potentially shake out by the time the 27th pick comes around.
Without further ado: here we go!
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: OT Evan Neal, Alabama
Tackles are finally getting their due with a good class and a lot of need to go around. We love an OL top pick moment.
2. Detroit Lions: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
Super high for a safety but the Lions need the help and this won't be their only pick in this round, anyway.
3. Houston Texans: CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
Throw a dart at a wall full of prospects and the Texans will gladly take whoever you land on.
4. New York Jets: OT Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
Speaking of teams that will be picking multiple times in this round, the Jets get in on the tackle class with their first pick of the draft.
5. New York Giants: EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
The other New York team also has multiple (high) first-round picks and they grab the consensus top pass rusher to help build up their lackluster defense.
6. Carolina Panthers: QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
Another year and the Panthers still don't have a handle on the quarterback position. We've seen owner David Tepper get more and more involved and I think he steps in to take the prospect from his alma mater. I still can't get over that Pickett wears gloves all the time, though. It just looks strange.
7. New York Giants: OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
The only thing better than a top 10 tackle pick? A small school top 10 tackle pick. The Giants go to the opposite side of the ball as they make two picks within three slots.
8. Atlanta Falcons: DL Jordan Davis, Georgia
The Georgia product stays home as the Falcons look to answer some question marks they have along the defensive line.
9. Denver Broncos: QB Malik Willis, Liberty
Willis' skillset is where the league is trending. He's versatile and mobile with some actual speed to him in the backfield. The Broncos' new head coach Nathaniel Hackett is employing three first-time coordinators in Denver. Justin Ouitten takes control of the offense after being Green Bay's tight ends coach and we'll see how he and Hackett tailor their new offense. Willis would make it easy.
10. New York Jets: EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
You didn't think Thibodeaux was getting out of the top 10, did you? The Jets use their second top 10 pick thanking their lucky stars the star pass rusher was still available.
11. Washington Commanders: WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
Washington could use a quarterback but I think there's more of a chance they go the free agency route to fill the position while using the draft to load up on weapons.
12. Minnesota Vikings: CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
The Vikings aren't alone in their need for corners and they know it, so they take one early knowing there likely won't be any top talent left by the time they pick again.
13. Cleveland Browns: QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss
Have we seen the end of Baker Mayfield in Cleveland? If the Browns draft a quarterback at No. 13, you'd have to think so. Then again, this isn't the most robust quarterback class we've ever seen and with two already gone, maybe Cleveland just feels like they have no other option.
14. Baltimore Ravens: CB Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson
Oh hey, Ravens could use a corner too and the fact that Gardner is already off the board triggers a sense of urgency for Baltimore.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: EDGE Jermaine Johnson, Florida State
Back to the pass rush. The Eagles' defense is getting older and bringing in a bright-eyed, bushy tailed edge player could help a Philly team that ranked 31st in sacks last season.
16. Philadelphia Eagles: OL Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
Back to back picks and while I'm tempted to give the Eagles ANOTHER pass rusher because they need the help, let's go to the other side of the ball and shore up an interior that's also aging with one of the best and most versatile offensive line prospects in the draft.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: EDGE David Ojabo, Michigan
Another good edge rushing prospect coming out of Michigan this year. His former teammate, Kwity Paye, had a solid season for the Colts, starting all 15 games he played in and recording 4.0 sacks and 32 total tackles. Ojabo could pair well with Joey Bosa over in Charger land.
18. New Orleans Saints: WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
Who knows what this new Sean Payton-less team will even end up looking like next season with all the cap challenges they have. One thing is for sure though, they were already hurting at wide receiver this last year so chances are that'll be a priority.
19. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Trent McDuffie, Washington
Is it just me or do a lot of teams have repeat picks this year? Philly goes back to defense to help out the back end this time with the All-Pac-12 corner who was also utilized in punt returns for Washington.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State
Another good tackle off the board as the Steelers look to protect… whoever it is that will be under center.
21. New England Patriots: CB Roger McCreary, Auburn
The Pats had the second-best pass defense in the regular season and if they want to keep that up, they're going to need more defensive back reinforcements.
22. Las Vegas Raiders: WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
Whether or not the Raiders stick with quarterback Derek Carr is irrelevant if they don't have reliable wideouts for their signal caller to throw to – Hunter Renfrow can't do everything. They round out a trio of weapons between Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller with the former Buckeye.
23. Arizona Cardinals: EDGE Travon Walker, Georgia
Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt aren't getting any younger so the Cards could use some help along their defensive front and especially in getting to opposing quarterbacks.
24. Dallas Cowboys: DL Devonte Wyatt, Georgia
I think it's a definite possibility the Cowboys prioritize offensive line here but they could use some help on the other side of the trenches and a prospect from the national champions this year is a good get for anyone this late in the round.
25. Buffalo Bills: DL DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M
The Aggies have prospects on both sides of the trenches and though it was better this year, the Bills still need some additional help with their defensive front.
26. Tennessee Titans: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
The Bucs were eyeing another wide receiver named Chris but hopefully by the time the draft actually rolls around, they'll have OG Chris (Godwin) locked up and Tennessee swooping Olave out from under them won't matter.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue
The strategy here for the Bucs isn't drastically different from their strategy last year when they picked 32nd: pick the best player available. Tampa Bay was able to retain their entire Super Bowl starting roster for this past season but we already know that's not a possibility for 2022. The Bucs could be moving forward without Jason Pierre-Paul, who is a free agent and was non-committal after the season ended with what his future in football held. It's already a position that thrives on a rotation and the 6'4 Karlaftis could provide a big boost to it. So yes, two years in a row, the Bucs get an EDGE.
28. Green Bay Packers: DL Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma
The Senior Bowl MVP finally showed what many had hoped he'd be in college. The Packers take a chance on that as they shore up their defense.
29. Miami Dolphins: WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State
We'll see what the future holds for a Mike McDaniel-led squad. McDaniel did a lot of good things on offense for San Francisco so I have to think the Dolphins emphasize that side of the ball in the draft.
30. Kansas City Chiefs: S Daxton Hill, Michigan
The Chiefs' defensive unit was much improved this year and they continue to get better by adding some back level help.
31. Cincinnati Bengals: OG Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
I mean, did you see Sunday?
32. Detroit Lions: LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
The Lions with the 32nd pick? Yeah, that's because it was included in the Matthew Stafford trade package. Detroit isn't close to earning the last pick of the draft anytime soon.