Three Pac-12 stars projected in top 15 of Mel Kiper's new 2022 NFL mock draft
There has been a growing amount of buzz lately that Alabama offensive lineman Evan Neal could be in play for the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, picking first for the second year in a row, could be looking to add protection for last year’s top pick, Trevor Lawrence. But ESPN’s NFL Draft expert, Mel Kiper Jr., is sticking with a long-expected edge rusher at No. 1 in his newly updated mock draft.
Kiper has Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson going No. 1, but Oregon star Kayvon Thibodeaux is firmly in the mix. He has Thibodeaux going second overall to the Detroit Lions.
Here’s what Kiper wrote on Thibodeaux and his potential fit with Detroit:
The Lions finished with the same number of wins (three) as the Jaguars, but doesn’t it feel as if they’re in a much better position? Well, maybe not so fast. The defense allowed the second-most points in the league (27.5 per game), and the offense had major consistency issues, which led to coordinator Anthony Lynn’s firing. This is a roster that could use talent upgrades at several positions.
That’s why it’s a no-brainer to take Thibodeaux or Hutchinson here, whoever is still on the board. Thibodeaux, who was a No. 1 overall high school recruit, has elite upside. His get-off at the snap is lightning-quick, and though he’s still developing secondary pass-rush moves, he doesn’t need them when he can blow by offensive tackles before they’re out of their stance. Thibodeaux had half as many sacks (seven) as Hutchinson this season, but he had the second-best pressure rate in the country (17.8%). Charles Harris, who led Detroit with 7.5 sacks this season, is a free agent, which makes this even more of a problem position.
Moving on through the rest of the first round (Kiper isn’t projecting any trades… yet), he has two other Pac-12 standouts going in the first 15 picks and the Washington corner duo closing out the end of the first round.
Kiper has USC wideout Drake London being selected 10th overall by the New York Jets. The 6-foot-5 London, with a background in hoops, has a chance to be “a special outside receiver,” Kiper wrote. Before his season was ended by an ankle injury, London put up an 88-reception, 1,084-yard, seven-score season in eight games. Despite missing the last four games, he still led the Pac-12 in catches and yards and, per PFF’s data, led the country in contested catches.
London is the first wideout off the board for Kiper.
Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd is going 15th to the Philadelphia Eagles in Kiper’s mock. There’s some speculation the Eagles might use one of their three first-round picks on a quarterback, but Kiper said he’s not buying it—and Philly said recently Jalen Hurts is “our guy.” Instead, he has Lloyd as the team’s first selection, a player Kiper compared to Tampa Bay star Devin White.
With the 27th pick, Kiper has the Buffalo Bills taking Washington corner Trent McDuffie. He has McDuffie’s Husky teammate, Kyler Gordon, coming off the board five picks later, at No. 31 to the Tennessee Titans.
The Pac-12 had three first-round selections last season.
If Thibodeaux goes top-10, it’ll mark the third straight year Oregon had a player drafted in the first 10 picks.
London going in the first round would give USC three straight drafts with a first-round pick.
Lloyd has the chance to be Utah’s first first-round selection since Garrett Bolles in 2017.
Washington has had eight first-rounders since 2013. Both UW corners going in the first round would give UW a nice, round 10 first-round picks in 10 years.