It’s been a while, but the official PML Mock Draft is back! This time, we are going to have two users make every pick so that we can see more than just my opinion on the draft. I am joined by our Colts user for the 2022 edition of the PML Mock Draft. The playoffs and the draft are the two most exciting times of the year, so why not give everyone something to look forward to. With the Super Bowl looming, everyone will soon turn their focus to the off-season. Some teams will throw big money at players in free agency, while others will opt to build through the draft and conserve cap space. This class is filled with talent at just about every position, meaning that great players will fall. Some teams struggled that had a good first season, while others find themselves picking high once again. If a front office wants to turn around the direction their team is going in, it starts with the draft. Let’s get started:
1.Las Vegas Raiders
Bacon’s Pick: Sam Howell, Quarterback, North Carolina
Moving to Sin City has not treated the Raiders well. Following a solid season that saw them come close to playoff contention, they now will likely finish season two without a win, joining the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns as the only teams to do so. There is no shortage of talent on this roster– Henry Ruggs and Rondale Moore are two of the most electrifying offensive weapons in the league. Pair them up with a strong offensive line and a bruising running back in Josh Jacobs, and you have the makings of a top-five offense. Not to mention Darren Waller, one of the most athletic tight ends in the league. Despite having a team that does well between the hashes(top-18 in every defensive yardage category and 12th best passing offense), this team has struggled where it matters most, with the 31st scoring offense and 28th scoring defense. Quarterback Derek Carr has been a gunslinger for this team and hasn’t performed too poorly, but if a team finds themselves picking this high, a change needs to be made.
This is where Sam Howell steps in. A true playmaker at the quarterback position, he has the makings of a franchise quarterback. He has an extremely strong arm, is accurate with the ball, and most importantly, makes very good decisions with the ball in his hands. However, he is not just a pocket passer. Though he is not necessarily anything to be feared running the ball, he is fast and tough enough to tuck his head down and scramble for a first down when he needs to. He also excels out of schedule and does a great job getting out of the pocket and finding the open man. One of the biggest contributors to the Tarheels’ resurgence in college football, Howell is a quarterback who can do anything a team asks of him. If you give him elite weapons such as those in Las Vegas, he can be an easy Rookie of the Year candidate, and maybe even MVP candidate. The question is, will the Raiders stick with Derek Carr, or will they look to find a new signal-caller?
Oklahoma under Lincoln Riley has churned our quarterback after quarterback and Rattler will be no different. Some have Howell slightly ahead of Rattler on their board, but the Raiders have been known to fall in love with speed in the draft. Rattler who ran a 4.6 40 in high school should test well at the combine and that will put him over the edge. The Raiders have explosive players everywhere it seems on offense with the fastest Wide receiver Tight end combo between Henry Ruggs, Rondale Moore, and Darren Waller, adding a quarterback who can navigate the pocket and tuck the ball away and run will be a nightmare for the rest of the AFC West. With the recent history of Oklahoma quarterbacks coming to the NFL and having success early on, the Raiders will feel comfortable pulling the trigger on the new face of the franchise. Spencer has regularly played in high leverage games for the Sooners including top level bowl games which should have him mentally prepared to take the leap and take on NFL talent weekly. Rattler hopes to follow in the footsteps of Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray and the way we see it he will join them as number 1 overall picks.
2. Los Angeles Rams
Bacon’s pick: George Pickens, Wide Receiver, Georgia
Normally, I’m a believer in taking the best player available in a spot like this. The Rams are coming off of an abysmal season that saw a change in leadership, and seem to lack direction. Despite their terrible offense, Los Angeles actually managed to have a pretty strong defense. They did well in terms of yardage but gave up as many points as anyone due to lackluster offense that gave their opponents a short field. For all of their shortcomings this year, this team is in a position to reach for a need. This team has some pieces to work with in Kyle Pitts and Cam Akers. Pitts is a dynamic young tight end who can hold down the position for as long as they need him to. A dominant force in the middle of the field, he is going to continue growing as a player and will slowly become the go-to guy for whoever winds up under center in this offense. Akers is an every down back with a blend of speed and strength that makes him a guy a coach can focus their game plan around. They have some speed on the perimeter at wide receiver but lack a consistent player. Robert Woods is a solid veteran option, but they are going to need someone dynamic if this offense wants to contend in the NFC West. Not often do you see a wide receiver go in the top two picks, but this is the perfect storm of team need and talent level.
George Pickens is a unique threat at wide receiver who boasts a large frame and is capable of bullying defenders. He makes highlight plays throwing cornerbacks off of him at the line of scrimmage and has very impressive body control when catching the ball. He is crafty when it comes to putting himself in position to make the catch, and makes jaw-dropping plays when the quarterback gives him a chance. He is the kind of guy who quarterbacks can throw it to and just say, “screw it, Pickens has to be somewhere.” Making highlights with great contested catch ability, he has enough speed to get behind the defense. He may not be a true deep threat, but he keeps defenses honest, something this offense needs. An offense with two of the best receiving options in the SEC in recent memory, Pitts and Pickens would be great weapons for a young offense. If I had to compare him to an NFL player, I would say he plays similarly to Davante Adams.
Greens pick: Evan Neal, Right Tackle, Alabama
The Rams have plenty of needs after another sub-par season. Some may pencil in a Quarterback here, but with two on the roster that they invested high draft capital into already, it seems they will go another direction. With Building blocks on Defense such as Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald, the offensive side of the ball needs help. If they are going to commit to one of their quarterbacks then they better protect him. That’s where Neal steps in. Coming from Alabama and playing in the vaunted SEC you know he has faced top athletes week in and out and has the proper techniques down to succeed at the next level. Neal is as imposing as any player at either level, standing 6’7 and weighing in at 360 pounds he is a brick wall when defending the quarterback. He has quick feet to slide and protect from speed rushers and has unbelievable strength so when he gets a hand on you, he wins. If they don’t see success on the offensive side of the ball with top first or second rounders across the offense, then they will take a Quarterback next year.
3. Green Bay Packers
Bacon’s pick: Derek Stingley, Cornerback, LSU
Again, I think Kayvon Thibodeaux is the best player on the board here, but this Packers defense is loaded with edge rushers. With one of the best defensive rosters in the league, Green Bay struggled defensively, failing to rank in the top half of the league in any category despite their talent. Bringing in a new head coach, this is a situation where new management is going to make a statement. I think with this pick, they are going to let the league know that they want to dominate on defense and make life easy for a struggling offense. Jaire Alexander is one of the best cornerbacks in the league and has an elite safety duo behind him in Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage, not to mention their loaded front seven that has Za’Darius and Preston Smith, Kenny Clark, and Micah Parsons. There is serious talent at every level of this defense, but don’t have any great corners behind Alexander. With this pick, the Packers assemble one of the best defenses on paper in the league.
Derek Stingley is the next elite cornerback to come through LSU and is one of the best to do so in recent memory. He is a shutdown corner with elite athleticism that allows him to shadow a team’s number one receiver and erase him from the game. Not only is he a smothering presence as a press-man corner, but he also has serious football IQ that makes him elite in zone coverage. Though he is primarily used in man, he has the traits that could translate into Marcus Peters-Esque plays in zone coverage. Being able to remove a team’s top two receivers from the game combined with one of the best front sevens in the league, gives you the makings of a truly special defense.
Greens pick: George Pickens, Wide Receiver, Georgia
The Packers have underachieved for two consecutive years and have needs on both sides of the ball. Devante Adams has been the team’s go-to threat for years, and just finished a campaign where he hauled in 14 touchdowns. He’s turning 30, and it’s to be seen if the Packers will be able to lock him up and allow him to retire in Green Bay. Either way, they need to start thinking of a replacement and that’s exactly what they find here in Pickens. He is a freak standing at 6’3 who like Adams, wins off the line of scrimmage. He doesn’t have elite game-breaking speed, but the packers have seen that speed isn’t everything at the Wide Receiver position. When looking at a top Wideout sometimes you see character concerns, that’s where Pickens really separates himself from the rest of the pack. He truly just loves to outwork his competition and play football. He has the Blue Collar mentality Packer fans will love for years.
For yet another pick, I go against my “best player available” mantra in favor of picking for team need. Sam Darnold is clearly not the answer in New York, coming off of a season in which they finished as the worst offense in the league. The offensive line is a major question mark, but the Jets have some good young receivers: DeVonta Smith and Denzel Mims. Both of these guys can get open and make great catches when they need to. It is going to take a large amount of work to get this offense to a point where they can contend with the top dogs of the league, but it is doable. That offensive turnaround starts with the quarterback position. It doesn’t matter who your weapons are if you don’t have a quarterback who can get them the ball.
There is no figure more polarizing in this draft than the Rattler out of Oklahoma. Garnering a reputation after being on Netflix show QB1, fans either love him or hate him. Fans of his love his swagger and confidence, while his detractors wonder where his priorities are. Think what you want about him, but there is no denying his talent. He can make some truly special plays as quarterback, and he has all of the tools necessary to grow into a Pro Bowl passer. With a very weak offensive line in New York, he will still be able to survive and thrive due to his strength making plays outside of schedule. Don’t sleep on his ability to stay in the pocket and make great throws downfield either. Stepping into an offense with young talent and a coach willing to play to his strengths, he can be an early Offensive Rookie of the Year with the right combination of coaching and development.
Greens pick: Sam Howell, Quarterback, North Carolina
This pick can go in a wide variety of ways as the new GM took over a team with needs across the board. We go Quarterback here as the Sam Darnold experiment comes to an end in New York. New Regimes usually means new Quarterbacks, and the Jets are lucky to have someone as talented as Howell fall into their laps. He can step in right away, and earn the trust of his teammates and coaching staff. Everyone who’s coached this kid has loved him and praised his coachability. He’s for a rocket for an arm and can make every throw a pro is expected to make. He has under the radar athleticism and can escape pressure when needed. When being scouted he was compared to Baker Mayfield, and the Jets would be thrilled if that’s who they got here as they missed out on Baker a few years back. Standing at 6’1 would have been an issue a decade ago but as many quarterbacks continue to have success with less than ideal height it will not hurt his draft stock here. The Jets will absolutely need to build pieces around him if they want to see him develop quickly.
Thibodeaux’s tumble finally comes to the end as the Falcons get an absolute steal with the fifth overall pick. Arguably the most talented player in the draft, he will join a struggling defense in Atlanta that truly needs his help. Finishing in the bottom ten of every defensive category, this team needs playmakers on that side of the ball in the worst way. Luckily for the Falcons, this is the first of three first round picks. If they want to overhaul their roster in one season, this is one of the best ways to do so. However, if they want to return to NFC South contention, they are going to need to hit on all of their picks. They have no margin of error to draft a bust. Dante Fowler led the team with ten sacks last year, but no other player was able to rack up more than four. Getting pressure on the quarterback is key to winning games, and a true number one pass rusher would allow one of the most athletic linebacker corps in the league to make plays all over the field. This is a young team that is in rebuilding mode, capable of turning things around very quickly with the right picks.
An elite edge rusher, Thibodeaux has an impressive combination of speed and strength. He can beat blockers with a quick pass rush move or overpower him with a bull rush. Despite mostly being viewed as a pass rusher, he can get in the backfield on run plays without any problems. He is a complete player capable of doing whatever the defense asks of him coming off the edge in either a 3-4 or 4-3. He may not be Khalil Mack or Von Miller, but few are. He can easily become a top edge player in the league with the right development, and I believe that the Falcons are going to do what it takes to help him be as successful as possible. If I’m Atlanta’s head coach, I am ecstatic to start the draft with a pick like this.
Greens pick: Derek Stingley, Cornerback, LSU
The Falcons seem to have their quarterback of the future, so we look for them to add a dynamic defensive playmaker. Stingley is rated as one of the best Defensive back prospects in years. Standing 6’1 195 lbs he has ideal size and speed for the position. He is an absolute ball hawk, who competed at the highest level as a true freshman in 2019. He comes highly decorated with multi All- American honors in college. The Falcons also need a running back in this draft, but Stingley has just too much upside to pass on here. Stingley has routinely been asked to play the best player on opposing teams, and he should be able to do that from day one for Atlanta as well. Covering Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley in practice should accelerate his time to get up to speed facing NFL competition.