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NFL Draft Countdown: OutKick Predictions

Just a few days ago, Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke assured reporters his team had not decided whom they were picking with the No. 1 overall selection of Thursday’s NFL draft.

“That’s still a work in progress,” Baalke told reporters. “We still have several meetings
to go through, a lot of discussion between the coaching staff, the personnel staff.

“We’re continuing to dig up [information] and do research on these guys. The pick doesn’t have to be made today, so there’s no sense in forcing it right now. We’ve got plenty of time. We’re ahead of last year’s schedule in terms of preparation.

“We’ve worked hard to get there. The decision doesn’t have to be made right now, so why make it?”

Well, the Jaguars will eventually make it and we at OutKick have decided to help using the best intelligence our staff could muster.

What follows is the OutKick mock draft of which there will be only one — because we got it as close to right as we could the first time we tried.

1 Jacksonville: GM Trent Baalke has a history for picking pass rushers to attack the quarterback and that’s what we think he’ll do — with the debate raging about Aidan Hutchinson, Travon Walker or Kayvon Thibodeaux. Someone as complete and as explosive as Chase Young is not available this draft, but it’s a deep position and we think Baalke does the safe thing by picking a player who isn’t dynamic but will perform at a high level for the next five years. The Pick: Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan.

2 Detroit: Their history suggests the pick won’t produce right away because he’ll either be injured (Jeff Okudah) or be asked to play out of position (Penei Sewell), but in this draft stocked with solid pass rushers, the Lions may find it hard to mess this up, assuming they don’t pick a QB here. The Pick: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon.

3 Houston: The OutKick consensus has the Texans picking North Carolina OT Ickey Ekwonu, but this mock was not written by the consensus. Rather, it was written by the guy who believes Nick Caserio loves emerging SEC defensive linemen who played great en route to winning a national championship. The Pick: Travon Walker, Georgia.

4 New York Jets: They’ve taken phone calls about a possible trade for LT Mehki Becton, so if that happens, they’ll be looking at the top offensive tackles on the board. Fact is they might be doing that anyway. But if Becton remains in their plans, the top available player should also fill a need — CB, WR, Edge — and he does. The Pick: CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati.

5 New York Giants: While most mocks have Alabama’s Evan Neal and North Carolina State’s Ickey Ekwonu as the leading offensive tackles, the Giants don’t quite agree, even as they use this selection to get some protection for quarterback Daniel Jones. The Pick: OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State.

6 Carolina: The dilemma here is whether to pick a QB who may or may not be any better than Sam Darnold. GM Scott Fitterer knows Matt Rhule loves Kenny Pickett, but he’s going to do what’s best for the organization, which is not take a gamble on a hit-or-miss QB. The Pick: OT Ickey Ekwonu, N.C. State.

7 New York Giants (from Chicago): They’re trying to trade CB James Bradberry for salary cap purposes, and doing so would create a significant void at the position, so new GM Joe Schoen fills the need right here. The Pick: CB Derek Stingley, LSU.

8 Atlanta: They resist the temptation, acknowledge the truth about the QBs in this draft, and brace for a bad season that clears cap space and sets them up for a better QB draft in 2023. Meanwhile, the Falcons collected 18 sacks a year ago, and that was the fewest in the NFL. The Pick: DE Jermaine Johnson, Florida State.

9 Seattle (from Denver): They’ve left the door open to re-signing Duane Brown, who is 2,356 years old. But this selection pretty much closes that door because the Seahawks have a new starting LT. The Pick: LT Evan Neal, Alabama.

10 New York Jets (from Seattle): QB Zach Wilson showed some promise late last season, and the Jets want to build off that so they get him a dynamic weapon on the outside. The Pick: WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State.

11 Washington: They allowed the fourth-most passing yards in the NFL last year, and their defense, the soul of the team in 2020, didn’t perform to expectations. This pick helps bigtime. The Pick: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame.

12 Minnesota: The interior offensive line was no bueno last season, and the team is committed to the success of QB Kirk Cousins. So let’s pick a versatile cornerback! It actually makes sense, considering Patrick Peterson is 31 years old. The Pick: CB Trent McDuffie, Washington.

13 Houston (from Cleveland): They desperately need to address the defensive backfield, but the truth is the Texans need to address the defensive backfield, the defensive line, the linebacker corps, the receiver corps, tight end and the offensive line — assuming they really are content with QB Davis Mills for now. The Pick: DT Jordan Davis, Georgia.

14 Baltimore: Ronnie Stanley has played seven games the past two seasons, including only one last season. That, the trade of Orlando Brown Jr., and the retirement of Alejandro Villanueva must be addressed. This pick is so Ravens, Edgar Allen Poe might have predicted it in 1838. The Pick: OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa.

15 Philadelphia (from Miami): The Eagles love QB Jalen Hurts — for now. So they’re going to give him as many weapons as possible to succeed so they don’t have to draft a QB in 2023 — they hope. The Pick: WR Drake London, USC.

16 New Orleans (from Indianapolis through Philadelphia): If they feel desperate to replace left tackle Terron Armstead, they might reach for Tulsa’s Tyler Smith. But reaching doesn’t feel like a Saints thing to do. The Pick: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State.

17 Los Angeles Chargers: The Chargers still need more help on defense. But the temptation to pluck a potential WR1 for the future (because he’s not ready now due to a knee injury) to keep QB Justin Herbert rolling is too much to resist. The Pick: WR Jameson Williams, Alabama.

18 Philadelphia (from New Orleans): It’s going to be hard for the Eagles to be unhappy at the end of the first round on Thursday night, and they definitely won’t be if they get a playmaking receiver and find a three-down defender who will eventually be the leader of the unit for years to come. The Pick: LB Devin Lloyd, Utah.

19 New Orleans (from Philadelphia): Once again they have to be thinking offensive line because that left tackle spot is looking a little thin and starting quarterback Jameis Winston is coming off ACL surgery. Winston would love a blindside security blanket. But the Saints are going to make him really unhappy. The Pick: QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh.

20 Pittsburgh: The worst kept secret of the 2021 draft was that the Steelers were going to pick a running back to help their running game. The worst kept secret of the 2022 draft is the Steelers are picking a quarterback. The Pick: QB Malik Willis, Liberty University.

21 New England: The Patriots are a slow, plodding team on both sides of the ball, so this pick has to start changing that. Bill Belichick loves versatile players, and he gets one to help QB Mac Jones. The Pick: WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas.

22 Green Bay (from Las Vegas): They need to find a way to make QB Aaron Rodgers stop crying after losing Davante Adams in the trade to Las Vegas. And they get a receiver to wipe away his tears. The Pick: Jahan Dotson, Penn State.

23 Arizona: Chandler Jones is gone and J.J. Watt’s history doesn’t suggest he’ll play 17 games, so the Cardinals pluck a pass rusher, even though they also want offensive line and outside receiver help. The Pick: DE George Karlaftis, Purdue.

24 Dallas: It’s been a rough offseason for the Cowboys, losing receiver talent left and right. Meanwhile, the offensive line that was the best in the business about five years ago is no more. Time to rebuild. The Pick: C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa.

25 Buffalo: They could use a cornerback, but the Bills don’t value them this early. The offensive line is still a work in progress and with Rodger Saffold signing only a one-year deal to play right guard, the Bills have to look to the interior of their line. The Pick: OG Kenyon Green, Texas A&M.

26 Tennessee: It’ll be a big WR or OL, but Mike Vrabel downplayed the connection to Zion Johnson he has as a result of his son, Tyler, being a teammate at Boston College. Well, he wasn’t just a teammate, he was a roommate — for two years. The Pick: Zion Johnson OL, Boston College.

27 Tampa Bay: On the day he was introduced as the new head coach, Todd Bowles lamented the loss of safety Jordan Whitehead in free agency. Well, time to replace Jordan Whitehead. The Pick: S Dax Hill, Michigan

28 Green Bay: The Packers can go in a number of directions here, including offensive line, defensive line, receiver (again) and linebacker. They select the player who offers the most immediate impact, which is wise for a team with a 38-year-old quarterback. The Pick: DT Devonte Wyatt, Georgia.

29 Kansas City (from San Francisco through Miami): It’s next to impossible to find a receiver who runs a 4.29 like Tyreek Hill does. So the Chiefs go a little slower with a player who runs a 4.36 but is way, way bigger at 6-foot-4. The Pick: WR Christian Watson, North Dakota State.

30 Kansas City: The luxury of the extra pick allows the Chiefs to make a reach for a potential defensive pass rushing closer who is going to need time to recover from the ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered at his Pro Day last month. The Pick: OLB David Ojabo, Michigan.

31 Cincinnati: Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo is a big fan of Eli Apple, but he’s also a big fan of actually winning the Super Bowl so he’ll be thrilled to add to the cornerback room. The Pick: CB Andrew Booth, Clemson.

32 Detroit (from Los Angeles Rams): A lot of mocks have the Lions picking Matt Corral here. And we get it, he’s got the “it” factor. But he’s also got the project factor, and that doesn’t feel like a first-round trait for a one-read QB. The Lions can come back to him in two picks, No. 34 overall, if they wish because the Jaguars aren’t going there. The Pick: CB Kyler Gordon, Washington.

Follow us on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero @PaulKuharskyNFL @HuttonOutkick @TheChadWithrow @OhioAF

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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