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Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2022 Mock Draft 10.0: Final Predictions

The Buccaneers land another edge rusher for their rotation as the quarterbacks fall and players in the trenches dominate the top seven picks

Mock Draft

There's not much need for a preamble. The week of the actual, honest-to-goodness NFL Draft has arrived and there's time for just one more crack at predicting what's going to go down on Thursday night. This is even harder than usual because there's little consensus on all but a small handful of prospects and, most important, no quarterbacks who are even certain top-10 picks.

This is even more unusual than you may realize. If the Jaguars, Lions and Texans all pass on the position to start the draft and choose not to trade down, it will mark the first time since 2013 that there won't be at least one quarterback among the top three picks. In fact, it would be just the third time that happened in the last 25 drafts (1998-2022); the only other occurrence was in 2000.

It's been something you can count on since I joined in with the ranks of mock drafters some years back: The quarterbacks always rise in the end. That may not be the case this year, but I still found the placement of those passers to be what took up most of my time in putting together this final mock draft. Specifically, I spent days trying to decide whether the Carolina Panthers would or would not, as General Manager Scott Fitterer said, "take a shot" at finding a long-term answer at quarterback at pick number six. In the end…well, read on. (Or return to the top since the first thing you probably did was scroll down to pick number 27 to see who the Buccaneers got.)

This is the 10th mock draft we've posted on, beginning back in February. Some were straightforward first-round run-downs, but some of them had different rules or different areas of focus. You can check out the previous mocks out here:

Mock Draft 1.0 (Carmen Vitali's final contribution.)

Mock Draft 2.0 (My first attempt, without trades.)

Mock Draft 3.0 (A mock dedicated solely to the Bucs' 2022 draft picks.)

Mock Draft 4.0 (My second straight mock, still without trades.)

Mock Draft 5.0 (In which I am required to make at least six trades.)

Mock Draft 6.0 (Another straight first round, but with trades allowed.)

Mock Draft 7.0 (Predicting the second round based on the first round from 6.0.)

Mock Draft 8.0 (Traditional first-round mock shaken up by one real trade and one imagined one.)

Mock Draft 9.0 (In which teams cannot select any players they've taken in my previous mocks.)

I did allow myself to make trades but ended up executing just one. The truth is, if you're trying to get as many picks right as possible, you're only raising the level of difficulty on your self by predicting trades. I have Pittsburgh trading up for a quarterback, but even if that does happen the chances of me predicting the exact team and spot for the trade are slim.

So here we go one last time. Oh, and one last note. This is the mock draft that counts. If for some reason a prediction I made in a mock two months ago proves true but I've since changed the pick multiple times, you won't find me bragging about that bit of ancient history.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: EDGE Travon Walker, Georgia

Usually one can at least feel fairly confident in the first pick of the draft, but that's not even the case this year. I've generally had Jacksonville taking Aidan Hutchinson, but all the tea leaves of the last week or so have Jaguars GM Trent Baalke enamored of Walker. I do thing Walker and Hutchinson are the first two picks, so with my luck it will be Hutchinson here after all and I'll miss out on two easy hits.

2. Detroit Lions: EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan

IF Jacksonville does go with Walker, this is probably the easiest pick in the whole thing. Hutchinson gives the Lions everything they need: production, a grinder attitude that will thrill Dan Campbell and a built-in home state fan base. Hutchinson is often described as having the "highest floor" of all the pass-rushing prospects this year, but that's probably selling him a little short. The Lions will be dreaming about Hutchinson's ceiling, which could be in the Chase Young/Bosa brothers range.

3. Houston Texans: T Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State

At one point earlier in this offseason, it looked like the Texans were headed for a divorce with left tackle Laremy Tunsil. They stayed together for now, but Houston still isn't married to Tunsil long term. Ekwonu is the first of three tackles that are about to come off the board in rapid-fire fashion, though some prefer Alabama's Evan Neal. Ekwonu is versatile enough to start out at right tackle, with Tytus Howard kicking back inside to guard, and eventually switch to the left side if and when Tunsil moves on.

4. New York Jets: EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon

The fall for the player once considered the odds-on favorite to be the top pick doesn't end up being too far, as the Jets are badly in need of pass-rush help and Thibodeaux offers tantalizing potential. I don't think the Jets will be concerned about questions regarding the Oregon star's work ethic or commitment to football. Thibodeaux has the explosiveness, pursuit speed and array of moves to become one of the NFL's most dangerous edge rushers. With Carl Lawson returning from the Achilles tendon injury that wiped out his first season in New York, the Jets could turn a weakness into a strength very quickly.

5. New York Giants: T Evan Neal, Alabama

If the Giants have Neal as clearly the better prospect over Cross, then they would need to pull the trigger her and not at pick number seven because the Panthers are definitely in the tackle market if they don't go quarterback. There are some rumblings that New York does, in fact, like Cross quite a bit, but that doesn't mean they have him rated above Neal. At Alabama, Neal bounced around the line from season to season and performed well at every position, proving his versatility, but the Giants will lock him into right tackle opposite 2020 first-rounder Andrew Thomas. New York taking a tackle with one of these two picks seems inevitable, as the depth chart is pretty bare after Thomas.

6. Carolina Panthers: T Charles Cross, Mississippi State

And here we are. I started working on this late last week and have changed my mind at this spot multiple times (which then requires the redo of several later picks). There is that "take your shot" line from Fitterer I reference above, but now let's take a look at the whole quote from which it was excerpted:

"This will be interesting because the tackles will be the best players on the board. But we do need a quarterback, and at some point you have to take a shot, especially in the top 10. You hate to force it, because when you force it, you could make a mistake. It's a unique quarterback class, because there's not a clear number one, number two, number three. Like, who's the proven starter who can come in and play for you? That'll be the conversation we have for the next month — quarterback or left tackle."

The tackles will be the best players and the QB class is "unique," which seems like a bit of a euphemism in that context. Since I have to finally make a decision here, I'll choose to believe that Fitterer will go with the best player and get the tackle Carolina desperately needs and figure out quarterback later, perhaps with a post-draft trade for Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo. The ideal scenario for Carolina would be to trade down four or five spots and still get Cross, but I'm not convinced they'll find a taker.

7. New York Giants (from Chicago): CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati

Gardner has started popping up in the top four of mock drafts recently, so maybe he's not available here, but I think this is probably as far as he would fall. The Giants have a decent-sized need at cornerback that would become a lot bigger if they go through with reported plans to shop James Bradberry and his big contract. An edge rusher would be a thought, too, but I like the value here more than, say, Jermaine Johnson.

8. Atlanta Falcons: WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State

I don't think the Falcons are thinking quarterback, either. Frankly, the pass-catching ranks are so thin behind tight end Kyle Pitts than it would be rookie abuse to throw a quarterback into that situation. Plus, Atlanta gets to pick first at a position that has a lot of intriguing top-end talent but not a ton of consensus as to which ones are the very best. Wilson ran quite fast at the combine, has a knack for getting open and can do some special things with the ball in his hands.

9. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver): CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU

Sill no quarterback? Still no quarterback. Maybe the Seahawks are successfully putting up a Drew Lock-shaped smokescreen to keep teams from trading up with Atlanta to get Malik Willis, but this is another team that I think is content to wait one more year and see if they're still in the quarterback market in 2023. Stingley has risen up draft boards as various analysts have decided they don't care that he didn't play much the last two seasons after his sublime rookie campaign. The Legion of Boom is a distant memory at this point and the Seahawks need some fresh talent at cornerback.

10. N.Y. Jets (from Seattle): WR Jameson Williams, Alabama

Yes, there's a chance that Williams won't be ready to go at the start of the 2022 season after tearing an ACL on January 10, but can't the Jets afford to be a little bit patient? There only in Year Two of the head coach and QB combination of Robert Saleh and Zach Wilson. Even if Williams misses some time, he'll eventually provide a huge boost for Wilson with his blazing speed, instant acceleration, wide catch radius and open-field moves. He could possibly add extra value as a return man, too.

11. Washington Commanders: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame

The Commanders could certainly use a receiver to pair with Terry McLaurin (and potentially take over as the top guy if the team can't keep McLaurin around on a second contract), and Darke London is distinct possibility here, but they just can't pass on Hamilton. Widely-regarded as a top-five overall prospect in this draft, Hamilton only slipped out of the top 10 due positional value. However, I think Washington would end up finding a ton of value in being able to move this versatile and wildly-talented defender all over the field.

12. Minnesota Vikings: CB Trent McDuffie, Washington

Minnesota might be the first team to start taking calls from Pittsburgh, which is sitting at 20 and has its eyes on Malik Willis. But if Gardner and Stingley are the clear top tier at cornerback it looks like McDuffie is alone in the next tier. The Vikings really need a corner and don't want to risk missing out on their guy with too big of a trade down. Minnesota could use a third receiver to go with Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen but there is enough depth in this draft to pick up one in the second round.

13. Houston Texans (from Cleveland): EDGE Jermaine Johnson, Florida State

This is a dream scenario for the Texans, who opted for Ekwonu over Thibodeaux with the third-overall pick but still get a dynamic addition to their edge-rushing group. Houston finished 22nd in sacks per pass play on defense last year and had one player (Jonathan Greenard) with more than four. As it stands now, their starter opposite Greenard would probably be former Ram Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, who has 4.5 career sacks in three seasons of play. Johnson ran a 4.58 40-yard dash at the Combine and has the production to back up his excellent measurables.

14. Baltimore Ravens: DL Jordan Davis, Georgia

I think the Ravens run up to the podium with this card. At the very least, Davis will make Baltimore's run defense much more stout on first and second down and will eat up double teams to help the Ravens' edge rushers, and if he can play some three-technique and turn his otherworldly athleticism into actual pass-rush production, this pick will be a home run.

**TRADE ALERT**: Pittsburgh trades pick number 20, a 2022 third-round pick (#84) and a 2023 fifth-round pick to Philadelphia for pick number 15.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (from Miami through Philadelphia): QB Malik Willis, Liberty

This is where Pittsburgh finds a willing trade partner and a spot where the draft capital they have to surrender isn't too painful. The trade value chart suggests a pick in the top third of the third round as compensation and since the Steelers are a little farther down they have to toss in a fifth from next year, too. Given what he can add with his legs, Willis could offer value right away even as he polishes his passing game at the NFL level, or the Steelers can just roll with Mitchell Trubisky for 2022. Either way, they have their succession plan for Ben Roethlisberger, who had made the QB position a non-issue for Pittsburgh for more than a decade and a half. They'll be lucky if Willis can do something similar.

16. New Orleans Saints (from Indianapolis through Philadelphia): T Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa

Three NFC South teams that could use fresh blood at quarterback, three teams passing at the position…at least for the moment. The first action item on the agenda for the Saints, who always prioritize offensive line strength in the draft, is to find a replacement for the departed Terron Armstead. Had Charles Cross fallen a little farther, I might have been tempted to have the Saints trade up a bit to get him, but Cross went very early, leaving Penning as the next best option. The Northern Iowa product is 6-foot-7 and 325 pounds and he tested extremely well at the Combine. He also shows off a nasty streak that a lot of coaches love.

17. Los Angeles Chargers: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State

The Chargers can pick from Olave or USC's Drake London but they already have a lot of size in receiver Mike Williams and Keenan Allen and by going with the Ohio State star they get a speedy player who runs great routes and pretty much does everything well. Los Angeles did a great job of helping their young star quarterback, Justin Herbert, with the 2021 additions of linemen Rashawn Slater and Corey Linsley, and they could still probably use an upgrade or two up front. But another great way to help Herbert is to give him a new target who is adept at getting open.

18. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans Saints): WR Drake London, USC

The Eagles, meanwhile, have invested a first or second-round pick at receiver in each of the last three drafts, but that won't stop them from going back to the well again. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is moving to tight end and Jalen Reagor hasn't worked out thus far, so the Eagles need a complement to 2021 first-rounder Devonta Smith. Smith is dynamic but slight, so the big-bodied London, who is a contested-ball stud, would be a great complement.

19. New Orleans Saints (from Philadelphia): QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh

When the Saints made their convoluted trade with the Eagles that essentially converted a 2023 first-round pick into an extra one in this year's opening frame, some thought the eventual endgame was to package those two picks to move up for a quarterback. As it turned out, the Saints didn't have to do that, still got their much-needed tackle and can now take a shot at a new franchise passer. Not everyone is sold on Pickett's future as a standout NFL quarterback, but at this point in the draft it's worth the risk. Yes, the team re-signed Jameis Winston, but the only guaranteed money in the deal is in Year One. There would be about $11 million in dead money if the Saints moved on from him after one year, but teams deal with that kind of hit all the time these days.

20. Philadelphia Eagles (from Pittsburgh): LB Devin Lloyd, Utah

If the Eagles have a cornerback they really like – maybe Kyler Gordon? – that could be the pick here, but Lloyd likely represents better value and off-ball linebacker is definitely a need for Philadelphia. Cornerback can potentially be addressed on Day Two, perhaps with the extra third-round pick they got in the aforementioned deal with New Orleans. Lloyd is an all-over-the-field playmaker and the Eagles could use that kind of juice between a strong defensive front and a secondary with several standouts.

21. New England Patriots: LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia

Dean is the third Georgia defender off the board (and there's more to come) but he was the biggest playmaker last year on that incredible Bulldogs defense. Dean just gets to the football before anyone else, and at some point that's got to count for something. This feels like the type of player for whom Bill Belichick and company can get the most out of his talents.

22. Green Bay Packers (from Las Vegas): WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas

I don't think the Packers are going to have to package their two picks to move up for what is by far their biggest need, a number-one wide receiver. However, if Burks had come off the board before this pick they would then be turning to the likes of Jahan Dotson, George Pickens or Christian Watson. There's reasons to like all of those players, but Burks has a chance to be special in a Deebo Samuel kind of way. If the Packers decide to get him some work in the slot, you can count on Aaron Rodgers to get the ball into his hands in a way that will allow him to use his speed and power to beat opposing defensive backs.

23. Arizona Cardinals: DL Devonte Wyatt, Georgia

I've seen a lot of corners, guards and edge rushers here, but Arizona's depth chart at interior defensive line isn't exactly loaded. An edge rusher would definitely be nice to make up for the departure of Chandler Jones, who was pretty much 10 guaranteed sacks a year, but maybe the Cardinals can generate more pressure in a different way. At this point, Wyatt is more of a pass-rusher than his Georgia teammate, Jordan Davis, and he brings good speed and athleticism to the position. The Cardinals will be hoping that a healthy J.J. Watt will juice up their pass rush in 2022, and Wyatt's presence would help with that plan.

24. Dallas Cowboys: G Zion Johnson, Boston College

The Cowboys took some hits along their offensive line after the 2021 season, and even if Terence Steele can ably replace La'el Collins at right tackle they still have a question mark at left guard. Connor Williams left in free agency, which moves Connor McGovern up to the top spot, but McGovern didn't necessarily perform well enough last year to indicate that is a good long-term plan. Johnson would probably win the job to start the season, putting McGovern back into a reserve role.

25. Buffalo Bills: RB Breece Hall, Iowa State

This is the first time in any of mock drafts that I've had a running back in the first round, but like I said above, this is the mock that counts and I'm now convinced this would be a good idea. The Bills' depth chart has few holes – a cornerback would be tempting – so they can go with the luxury here of pumping up an already potent offense around Josh Allen. I won't argue that it's generally not a good value move to draft a running back in the first round in today's NFL. However, if a good runner is joining an already strong team and he is certain to play a lot of snaps, it can make sense. And I think Hall is very good. Like, Jonathan-Taylor-we-wish-we-would-have-taken-him-in-the-first-round good.

26. Tennessee Titans: G Kenyon Green, Texas A&M

If you're going to center your offense around Derrick Henry it makes sense to continue investing in your offensive line. Green played a bunch of different positions for the Aggies and thus offers some flexibility to the Titans as they put together their best starting five, but he would likely slide into the left guard spot at first over 2020 undrafted free agent Aaron Brewer.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: EDGE Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State

With Davis and Wyatt off the board, the Buccaneers could pivot to another interior lineman like UConn's Travis Jones, but that may not fit into Jason Licht's efforts to have need and best player available intersect at the highest possible level with this pick. Defensive line is a need, to be sure, but there are other ways to address it, as Licht said last week, including potentially in the second round. Meanwhile, edge rusher is another need, particularly with Jason Pierre-Paul remaining unsigned. The Bucs are in win-now mode, and one way to get a 2022 impact out of their first-round pick is to add to a rotational position like edge rusher. Ebiketie could mix in immediately with Shaq Barrett, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Anthony Nelson, and if his play merited it he could see his snaps increase as the season goes along. The Penn State product shined at the Senior Bowl back in January but it took a little time for analysts to start pushing him up their draft boards. Now he's a common sight in first-round mocks. Ebiketie has a long wing span, uses his hands very well, has explosion off the line and can turn a tight bend around the edge. He also hopefully has some untapped potential after starting his football career late and only stepping up to Big Ten competition (where he had 9.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss) last season after transferring from Temple.

28. Green Bay Packers: EDGE David Ojabo, Michigan

It would not be shocking to see Green Bay double up on first-round receivers here, or to get some help for the offensive line, but I think here they give in to the temptation to add a very talented player who won't be able to make an impact right away. Ojabo suffered an Achilles tendon tear at his Pro Day in March, and even though Cam Akers' stunning return from the same injury in six months last year has everyone redefining their recovery timelines, there's a chance the former Wolverine won't play at all in 2022. There's also a chance he's back by midseason and by the playoffs can be a force off the edge. It's reasonable for the Packers to believe they will be in the playoffs, and this pick could end up being a time-delayed bonus.

29. Kansas City Chiefs (from San Francisco via Miami): CB Kaiir Elam, Florida

The Chiefs need a cornerback, particularly after Charvarius Ward's departure, and this pick could trigger a little mini-run at the position that extends into the top of the next round. Elam answered a lot of questions about his game at the Combine and now looks like he has a very good shot to invade the first round. He brings good size to the position, was clocked at 4.39 in the 40-yard dash and has shown he can make plays on the ball.

30. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Christian Watson, North Dakota State

Receiver looks like a target for the Chiefs with one of these two picks, even after the additions of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. No prospect in this draft is going to be a one-for-one replacement for Tyreek Hill, whom the Chiefs traded to Miami to avoid his soon-to-be exorbitant price tag, but Watson does at least check the blazing-speed box. Watson didn't play against top competition and may have to polish his game a bit in the NFL, but Andy Reid's team seems like a perfect spot to make that transition.

31. Cincinnati Bengals: C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa

Despite being universally regarded as one of the best center prospects to come along in a while, Linderbaum slipped to the end of the round due to positional value and the reality that his game is probably best suited to teams that emphasize zone running schemes. But that all works just fine for the defending AFC Champions, thank you very much. By adding Alex Cappa, La'el Collins and Ted Karras in the offseason, the Bengals were able to walk into the draft unburdened from the absolute need of taking an offensive lineman with their first pick (and maybe their second and third). I'm not convinced they'll take another tackle, like Bernhard Raimann, here if he's available. But Linderbaum is too good to pass up. The Bengals can plug him in at the pivot and then decide whether Karras or Jackson Carman is their best answer at left guard.

32. Detroit Lions (from L.A. Rams): QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

Desmond Ridder was a winner at Cincinnati and he's got good size, decent arm strength, poise and some elusiveness in the pocket and on scrambles. He is by no means a perfect quarterback prospect, with accuracy and consistency issues, but this isn't exactly the draft class – or the spot in the draft – to find a perfect prospect. I think Dan Campbell would appreciate Ridder's leadership skills, and with Jared Goff still under contract for two more years there's time to work on some of the young quarterback's flaws. And by making this pick here, the Lions get that helpful fifth year of team control on Ridder's rookie contract, which will be worth a lot of he does turn into a long-term answer at the position.

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