2022 NFL Mock Draft: Christian Watson, Trevor Penning among top picks in small-college only mock

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It’s that time of the draft cycle where we’ve reached 86 top-10 picks, 55 first-round locks and “all 32 teams will look to trade down out of the first round completely because next year’s draft class is stacked!”

2022 NFL Mock Draft: Christian Watson, Trevor Penning among top picks in small-college only mock
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We know the draft is more than 32 players long, and we also know there are players from outside the first round who’ll make an impact on their respective teams in 2022. We also understand that undrafted free agents play a significant role in a team’s draft strategy, so a lot of the players that we’ll talk about during the season will have come via that route, as opposed to being drafted.

So let’s have some fun here by taking a look at my Small-College Only Mock Draft.

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Here are the rules:

  1. Definition of “small college”: Prospects from the FCS, Division II, Division III, NAIA and USports Canadian Colleges. Prospects who are from the non-Power 5 FBS do not qualify as small colleges. (They are called mid-majors.)
  2. Picks will be based off of how I view these players (www.footballgameplan.com/2022draftguide) and what I view the team needs to be, based off of their current roster.
  3. It’s only a mock draft, so relax, chill, have some fun and learn about some of the sleepers in this draft class.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars

CB Zyon McCollum, 6’2 200, Sam Houston: McCollum checks all the boxes you want for top-tier corner prospects: length, ball skills, press ability and athleticism.

2. Detroit Lions

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DE Isaiah Chambers, 6’4 260, McNeese: Chambers is one of the more underrated pass rushing prospects in this draft class. He’s versatile enough to play with his hand in the dirt or off the ground and has a variety of ways to get to the QB.

3. Houston Texans

LB Troy Andersen, 6’3 243, Montana State: Andersen is the closest linebacker I’ve seen to Brian Urlacher, and how fitting is it that the Texans head coach is Lovie Smith, who coached Urlacher in Chicago. Andersen gives them an athletic move piece who is capable of playing all three linebacker positions.

4. New York Jets

WR Christian Watson, 6’4 211, North Dakota State: With the first of two top-10 selections, the Jets nab the best FCS wideout in the draft class in the speedy, athletic Watson. The Tampa native can stretch the field vertically, and would give Zach Wilson another stud at the position.

5. New York Giants

CB Decobie Durant, 5’9 180, South Carolina State: An Eric Allen clone, Decobie Durant is one of the best all-around corners in the class. He’s got excellent athleticism and explosiveness, capable of playing man and zone, press or off-coverage, while also having inside/outside capability.

6. Carolina Panthers

QB Cole Kelley, 6’7 260, Southeastern Louisiana: The Panthers address their QB needs with Kelley. While he has the arm strength to throw the football through someone’s life, he’s also very capable on the ground, finishing his career with 29 rushing touchdowns.

7. New York Giants

(From Chicago Bears)

OT Trevor Penning, 6’7 330, Northern Iowa: Back on the clock with their second top-10 pick, the Giants address the offensive line with Penning, who had a stellar week at the Reese’s Senior Bowl. He’s consistent in the run game and plays with a mean streak that gets under a defender’s skin.

8. Atlanta Falcons

WR Dai’Jean Dixon, 6’2 203, Nicholls: The Falcons need help on the perimeter, and they get it with the talented and athletic Dixon. He’s got very good hand-eye coordination and is explosive after the catch. He played big this season vs. Memphis and Louisiana, as well as during the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.

9. Seattle Seahawks

(From Denver Broncos)

OT Braxton Jones, 6’5 306, Southern Utah: Having Drew Lock currently in the fold saves the Seahawks from going QB here at pick No. 9. So, they address a major need up front with Jones, who has good fundamentals and was more than able to hold his own down at the Reese’s Senior Bowl.

10. New York Jets

(From Seattle Seahawks)

FS Cory Rahman, 6’2 195, Tennessee State: Rounding out the top 10, the Jets make the ball-hawking Rahman the pick. Rahman is a mistake-eraser type with great range and ball skills. He’s got the football IQ you want and plays the center field safety position exactly how it’s supposed to be played.

11. Washington Commanders

WR Lance McCutcheon, 6’2 205, Montana State: Adding a big-bodied wideout of the caliber of McCutcheon would just help expand the Commanders’ passing game. For a taller receiver, McCutcheon does a great job getting in and out of his breaks and has top-notch body control as well.

12. Minnesota Vikings

CB Joshua Williams, 6’3 195, Fayetteville State: For a taller corner, Williams plays with fantastic pad level and body control. He’s able to match up with bigger wide receivers, tight ends and running backs. In addition to his defensive exploits, Williams is a core special teams player, making him easily a Day 1 impact player.

13. Houston Texans

(From Cleveland Browns)

RB Pierre Strong Jr., 5’11 205, South Dakota State: Strong is instant offense, and he would almost immediately give the Texans a true home-run threat in the backfield. He is capable of affecting the game as a runner, receiver and also as a return specialist.

14. Baltimore Ravens

DL Keyshawn James, 6’2 283, Fayetteville State: James is versatile enough to play any one of the techniques up front and would give the Ravens a pass-rushing presence on the defensive interior. The 2021 CIAA Defensive Player of the Year is coming off an outstanding All-Star game circuit, which included the Tropical Bowl, College Gridiron Showcase and HBCU Legacy Bowl.

15. Philadelphia Eagles

(From Miami Dolphins)

WR Jequez Ezzard, 5’9 191, Sam Houston: Ezzard is a master of putting the ball in the paint, with 35 total touchdowns to his credit as a collegian. He plays way bigger than his listed size and reminds me a lot of former Carolina Panther/Baltimore Raven Steve Smith.

16. New Orleans Saints

(From Philadelphia Eagles)

OT Nick Zakelj, 6’6 316, Fordham: When the Saints made the trade to move up in the draft and acquire an additional first-round pick, it became obvious they wanted to make a move for a left tackle. Zakelj is one of the more technically sound prospects at the position who plays with great body lean and fundamentals on a consistent basis. His game this season vs. Nebraska was a good glimpse as to what he could potentially be as an NFL player.

17. Los Angeles Chargers

NT Noah Elliss, 6’4 343, Idaho: This dude has ridiculous power and core strength. He’s built like the state of Texas and does a fantastic job of owning gaps up front like Michael Strahan. Someone with the ability of Elliss would go a long way in helping the Chargers fix their run defense, which was faulty last season to put it nicely.

18. Philadelphia Eagles

(From New Orleans Saints)

DB Elvin De La Rosa, 6’1 207, Fayetteville State: De La Rosa would give the Eagles a gameday matchup player capable of lining up at either corner spot and also safety. While studying his teammate Joshua Williams, his tape was excellent as well. He was also one of the standouts at the HBCU Legacy Bowl.

19. New Orleans Saints

(From Philadelphia Eagles)

WR Isaiah Weston, 6’3 210, Northern Iowa: The Saints have two glaring needs: offensive tackle and wide receiver. With the second of two first-round picks, they address the latter with Weston. He’s got excellent leaping ability at the catch point and plays like he’s a 6’7 stretch forward out there on the perimeter.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers

QB Aqeel Glass, 6’3 236, Alabama A&M: With the unfortunate and tragic passing of Dwayne Haskins, who, in my opinion, was slated to win that starting QB job this season, Pittsburgh needs a young prospect at the position. Glass, who was the 2021 Black College Player of the Year, gives the team just that. He will hang tough in the pocket, plays well off play action, and has the right amount of aggressiveness you look for at the position, showing a willingness to throw for the sticks and convert the first down. He’s got the right makeup from the neck up to make a seamless transition to the NFL.

21. New England Patriots

CB KiShawn Walker, 6’2 180, Kentucky Wesleyan: Walker would be a very nice addition to a Patriots secondary that lost J.C. Jackson in free agency. He’s got both quickness and explosiveness, and is around the football as frequently as you’d want your corners to be.

22. Green Bay Packers 

(From Las Vegas Raiders)

WR Luke Little, 6’3 227, University of Mary: Little knows how to get open. His releases off the line of scrimmage are as consistent as they come. He’s a big-bodied wideout who can play inside or outside, and is a devastating blocker in the run game. An underrated player who has a lot of tools in his toolbox to help out this Packers’ passing game.

23. Arizona Cardinals

OL Cole Strange, 6’5 307, Chattanooga: Strange had a really good week of work at the Reese’s Senior Bowl, showing the ability to play multiple positions up front. Looking at the Cardinals’ offensive line situation, they brought in Will Hernandez at guard. To me, that could be a spot where someone like Strange could step in and help strengthen them on the interior.

24. Dallas Cowboys

LB Daniel Hardy, 6’2 239, Montana State: I could’ve gone with offensive line help or receiver help, but I went to the defensive side of the ball with Hardy. He’s another super athletic defender who really came into his own this season as a pass rusher. He’s got tremendous upside. Hardy can play as an off-ball linebacker or as a situational pass rusher/blitzer.

25. Buffalo Bills

CB Sam Webb, 6’0 202, Missouri Western: Buffalo looks to strengthen its secondary with Webb, who has the versatility to play anywhere in the secondary, which seems like something the Bills coaching staff covets. Fun fact: Webb also blocked four kicks in his collegiate career.

26. Tennessee Titans

LB James Houston, 6’1 230, Jackson State: Houston is a dynamic athlete who can play either with his hand in the dirt or as an off-ball linebacker. He’s essentially another Harold Landry while also having the capability of playing inside backer as well.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

DL Sam Roberts, 6’4 287, Northwest Missouri State: Roberts was excellent during his Bearcat career. He’s a powerful, point-of-attack player who can play across the defensive front. New Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles loves versatile defensive linemen, and Roberts, with his 47 tackles for loss and 18.5 career sacks, would fit right in.

28. Green Bay Packers

OT Matt Waletzko, 6’7 310, North Dakota: Quietly, the Packers have some questions to answer up front, and Waletzko would give them a player who can use his length rather well on both ends of the offensive line. He is also very impressive in the run game for such a tall tackle.

29. Kansas City Chiefs 

(From Miami Dolphins)

DE De’Shaan Dixon, 6’4 251, Norfolk State: The Chiefs have back-to-back selections in the first round, so I addressed their pass-rushing needs with their first pick. Dixon has good overall natural ability. He’s strong at the point of attack, and is a lengthy player who has enough burst and acceleration to string out the outside run while also being able to collapse and close to the quarterback.

30. Kansas City Chiefs

CB Joshua Flowers, 6’2 200, Winston-Salem State: Sticking with the defensive side of the ball, adding a prospect like Flowers only strengthens them on the back end. Flowers is cut from the same cloth as L’Jarius Sneed, having the ability to play anywhere in the secondary.

31. Cincinnati Bengals

CB Dallis Flowers, 6’1 198, Pittsburgh State: I’m a big fan of Flowers’ game and ability because he can legit score the ball on either defense or in the return game. He also gives the Bengals another press-man corner with above-average athleticism.

32. Detroit Lions

(From Los Angeles Rams)

QB Chris Oladokun, 6’2 195, South Dakota State: With the final pick of the first round and their second pick, the Lions address the quarterback position with Oladokun of South Dakota State. He’s got a smoothness about his game that allows him to never look rattled out there on the field. He can create, both in the pass game and run game, and has the above-average field vision you want from your signal-caller.

Teams without first-round picks

Chicago Bears

WR Shemar Bridges, 6’4 207, Fort Valley State: Bridges is a big wide receiver with position versatility. He can play inside or outside, and will fight for the football, helping out his quarterback on virtually every pass attempt. He’s able to quickly work himself open, and would help give Justin Fields another dependable target on the perimeter.

Cleveland Browns

DE Michael Badejo, 6’2 255, Texas Southern: Versatile player who has lined up across the defensive front at Texas Southern, and is coming off a strong week at the HBCU Legacy Bowl. He would help bolster the depth on the edges for the Browns.

Denver Broncos

TE Nolan Givan, 6’2 248, Southeastern Louisiana: How about adding yet another offensive weapon for new quarterback Russell Wilson? Givan would be the perfect compliment to Albert Okwuegbunam, helping offset the loss of Noah Fant via the Wilson trade. Givan is a fluid athlete who has above-average hands and route-running ability.

Indianapolis Colts

CB Julius Faulk, 6’0 211, Delta State: I believe the Colts could use more help in the secondary, and Faulk can provide that help, especially on the perimeter as a press corner. He’s someone who could also end up at safety in the pros, but either way, you want someone of his caliber locked into your secondary.

Miami Dolphins 

LB DeJaun Cooper, 6’2 240, South Dakota: Cooper is a phenomenal athlete who can play across the second level. Pairing him up next to Jerome Baker would give the Dolphins a strong duo at linebacker. He’s got the fluidity to be a problem as a pass rusher, and is athletic enough to run with both running backs and tight ends.

Las Vegas Raiders

LB Jamal Holloway, 6’3 245, Central State: Holloway is a talented player with good, natural football ability. He’s a backer who could also double as a pressure player because of how well he uses his hands at the point of attack and how quickly he’s able to get off the ball. 

Los Angeles Rams

OT Andrew Rupcich, 6’6 319, Culver-Stockton: Future HOF offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth retired, so it’s time to replenish the depth with another dominant tackle prospect in Rupcich. He has the most dominant tape I’ve seen for an offensive tackle since Orlando Pace. Granted, he’s coming from the NAIA ranks, so it’s not a true 1:1, but having watched him compete at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl back in January, he’s more than ready for the jump to the NFL level.

San Francisco 49ers

CB Gregory Junior, 5’11 200, Ouachita Baptist: Junior is a very patient and savvy corner who can press really well. He’s also an active participant in run support and should be a core special teamer from Day 1. He’s got good overall awareness for the position as well.

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