We've hit the final month of the 2021 NFL regular season, and college football's bowls are ready to kick off. This is when we really start to heat up the conversations around the 2022 NFL draft, and I'm kicking it off with my first mock draft of April's first round, predicting how the picks will fall and which teams land a potential franchise quarterback on Day 1.
It's not going to be a typical draft. Quarterbacks have gone No. 1 overall in six of the past seven drafts, but we might not even see one in the top 10 in 2022 for the first time since 2013, when EJ Manuel led the signal-callers at No. 16 overall. That doesn't mean there won't be first-round QBs, though -- I have a handful in this mock. But the defensive talent in this class is fantastic, and we could see edge rushers and defensive backs dominate the high picks. In all, 30 of the top 32 players in my rankings right now make the first-round cut.
Of course, it's still early. Bowl season, the College Football Playoff, the Senior Bowl, the combine and all of the other pre-draft events lie in the coming months. There will be risers and fallers, and NFL teams' needs will shift entirely. We don't even have a final draft order yet. For this exercise, we used ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) to project the order of the picks, 1-32.
Let's get to it. Here is my current prediction of how the first round of the 2022 draft will play out, beginning with a toss-up at No. 1 for the one-win Lions. (And be sure to check out our SportsCenter mock draft special.)
Note: Underclassmen are noted with an asterisk. And the draft order projection is through Sunday's Week 14 games.