The NFL playoffs aren’t over yet, but the 2021-2022 campaign ended for the Jacksonville Jaguars after the victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the regular season finale on Jan. 9. The Jaguars are still in need of a head coach for the 2022 season and beyond, and need a talent infusion for the team’s roster.
With that in mind, Mel Kiper, the longtime veteran NFL Draft analyst at ESPN, dropped his first 2022 mock draft on Wednesday (ESPN+ subscription requited).
Personally, I don’t put much stock in mock drafts before the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine, pro days, individual interviews, etc., and again, the Jaguars don’t even have a head coach at this juncture. A lot of things can and will change between now and April 28. However, the Jaguars have the No. 1 overall pick in the draft for the second consecutive year, so things are a little more intriguing. Jacksonville has an opportunity to select any player it wants in the 2022 NFL Draft.
So, who does Kiper think the Jaguars will select with the first overall pick? Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson.
Here is Kiper’s reasoning for slotting Hutchinson to Jacksonville at No. 1 overall:
Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
At this time last year, the Jags were starting a rebuild under a new coach and...they’re back at the same spot. Urban Meyer didn’t even last a full season. I wrote last January that this wasn’t going to be a quick fix, and they’re not much closer to contending, hence back-to-back No. 1 picks. I do think they have their quarterback, even though Trevor Lawrence had a mostly abysmal rookie season.
So if the Jaguars get first dibs on any prospect in this draft, I’d go with Hutchinson; I have him ranked slightly ahead of Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux. Hutchinson, who finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, is a dominant and consistent pass-rusher who can put up double-digit sacks as a rookie. He’s a safe No. 1 pick. They can play him on the other side of Josh Allen, who is a really nice player. Now, there could be some talk about the Jags taking a left tackle here, but I’m not buying that over the value of having a truly great edge rusher. Yes, left tackle might be more of a “need,” but they should take the best prospect, not fill the biggest need.
Kiper calls Hutchinson a “safe pick” and notes that he has him ranked slightly higher than Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, who is also in the mix to be the top pick.
During the 2021 season, Hutchinson won the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award and finished second in Heisman Trophy voting (with Alabama’s Bryce Young taking home the Heisman). He also was first-team All-Big Ten and a consensus All-American selection. Hutchinson helped Michigan win its first Big Ten title since 2004, and was a key reason why the Wolverines earned a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Hutchinson recorded 62 total tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, three passes defended, two fumbles forced and one fumbled recovered during the 2021 season. Overall, he played in 43 career games at Michigan, amassing 160 total tackles, 28 tackles for loss, 18.5 sacks, nine passes defended, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Who should Jacksonville select with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft?
This poll is closed
Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
Evan Neal, OT, Alabama