It’s time for one of my favorite annual traditions. After reading dozens of NFL mock drafts without a single trade in sight, I’m compelled to go way too far in the opposite direction. I present the 2022 mock draft of trades, where I’ll provide a plausible (to me) swap for each of the 32 picks in the first round.
Of course, if a mock draft of picks is hard, a mock draft of trades is nearly impossible. It would be a surprise if even one of these deals comes to fruition over the next couple of weeks. The realistic goal of this piece isn’t to predict the future; it’s to try to get a handle on draft value, where teams could look to move to address their weaknesses given who picks when and discuss some of the veterans who might be trade candidates in the months to come.
I’ve tried to look at both the historical value of how each NFL decision-maker has approached the draft and how much it has cost to move around in years past to inform these deals. Naturally, teams are willing to pay over the odds for quarterbacks, but given this draft class, the deals are more modest than they might have been a year ago. While most teams now rely upon independent versions of a draft value chart, I used the classic jimmy johnson chart to objectively measure these deals, since teams still use that as a common language.
One important thing to keep in mind: Each of the trades exists in its own universe, so you’ll see a pick dealt more than once or a team move up or down in multiple deals. I’ll also suggest scenarios in which a player comes off the board at different points in a round or where teams approach picks in various ways. Picks in the 2022 draft will be notated with the round and the overall selection, so “2-47” would be the 47th overall pick, which comes off the board in the second round. Future picks are notated with their year and round.
Let’s start with the top pick, where I suspect the Jaguars would be open for business if anybody wanted to call:
Jump to a pick:
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | eight
9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | sixteen
17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24
25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jaguars get: 1-4, 1-10, 2-38, 5-146
Jets get: 1-1, 2-33, WR Laviska Shenault Jr.
Most years, the trade for the No. 1 overall pick is the most difficult (or most nonsensical) deal of them all. When there’s a franchise quarterback available for a team that desperately needs one, there’s no deal that makes any sense. Last year, with the Jaguars able to select Trevor Lawrence at the top of the draft, I had to pitch a deal in which the Chargers sent Justin Herbert and Derwin James to Jacksonville in return for the pick. It was more of an exercise in what Lawrence was worth than a realistic trade proposal.
This year, the needle has moved all the way in the other direction. It’s difficult to conceptualize a trade for the No. 1 pick because there really doesn’t appear to be much interest. Without a franchise quarterback or a clear best prospect in the class, this is probably the least valuable top pick since 2013, when the Chiefs took Eric Fisher ahead of the Jags, who took Luke Joeckel at No. 2. Neither player turned out to be the best offensive tackle in that class, as Lane Johnson (No. 4 to the Eagles), Terron Armstead (No. 75, Saints) and David Bakhtiari (No. 109, Packers) ended up as better options.
With three edge rushers atop Todd McShay’s most recent mock, there are only a couple of logical moves to be had here. One would be for the team picking second or third to move up and grab the pass-rusher of its choice if it thinks the Jags will take that player. The other would be for a team outside the top three to move up to grab that superstar ahead of the teams at Nos. 2 and 3.
Enter the Jets, who pick fourth and finished 30th in the league in pressure rate a year ago. At its best, Robert Saleh’s defense in San Francisco was built around a deep, devastating group of defensive linemen. Even after the 49ers had used first-round picks on Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas while trading for Dee Ford, general manager John Lynch still used the No. 2 overall pick on Nick Bosa in 2019. That move worked out well.
The Jets have begun to follow that path. John Franklin-Myers plays the Armstead role. Quinnen Williams, Sheldon Rankins and Thomas — who signed with the team last month — will be in the rotation at defensive tackle. General manager Joe Douglas spent big on Carl Lawson last offseason, only for Lawson to tear an Achilles and miss the season. Lawson will be back, but the 27-year-old has no guaranteed money left on his deal after this season. If Saleh wants to build a 49ers-caliber line — and he thinks there’s a guy like Bosa at the top of the draft — this would be his chance to move up and get that edge rusher.
So here, the Jets use their extra picks from the Jamal Adams and Sam Darnold deals to move up to the top spot, where they could get Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, who is Sportzshala’s consensus top prospect. They also move up five spots in the second round and add another wide receiver to the mix with Shenault, who was buried by Jacksonville’s barrage of additions at the position this offseason. This deal values him as being worth a pick in the middle of the fourth round by the Jimmy Johnson chart.
The Jags would miss out on Hutchinson, but they would add a second top-10 pick and still be in position to land a player such as left tackle Ikem Ekwonu (NC State) as a long-term replacement for franchise-tagged tackle Cam Robinson. (Robinson could become trade bait for a team needing a left tackle, including Carolina or Seattle.) Teams are often overconfident about their ability to identify the best player in a draft, and that should be even more true given the makeup of the 2022 class . Jacksonville isn’t one player away, and it can still address its own concerns on the edge as this draft goes along.
Do I think this trade would actually happen? It’s more plausible than most of the usual trades for this pick, but it’s not particularly likely. The Jaguars will likely take an edge rusher, but there’s a decent chance that the Lions or Texans go off-script or make a deal of their own for someone to grab a player at another position. The Jets could very well stay put and end up with Hutchinson, Travon Walker (Georgia) or Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon) at No. 4.
If these two teams were going to make a deal, though, the Johnson chart pegs this as a reasonable price, especially in a market in which the top pick isn’t as valuable as usual.
2. Detroit Lions
Lions get: 1-1
Jaguars get: 1-2, 2-34, 2023 fourth-round pick
And as a bonus this year, let’s throw in a second possible swap for the No. 1 pick. The Lions are probably on the edge rusher train after recording just 30 sacks a year ago (30th in the NFL), and there has to be at least some local sentiment for going after Aidan Hutchinson, who grew up in Plymouth, Michigan, and played his college ball at the University of Michigan. He already has talked about how much he admires Lions coach Dan Campbell.
Of course, there’s a chance the Lions can stay put and land Hutchinson if the Jaguars prefer Travon Walker or Kayvon Thibodeaux among the top edge rushers. With Hutchinson the betting favorite, though, the evidence seems to point towards Jacksonville taking him. If the Lions want Hutchinson, they can hope the Jags are bluffing or that the public is wrong, but are they willing to pay to guarantee keeping him in-state?
We’ve seen teams trade up for this sort of move in the past. In 2017, the Bears sent two third-round picks and a fourth-rounder to the 49ers to move up from No. 3 to No. 2 to draft Mitch Trubisky. San Francisco hadn’t yet traded for Jimmy Garoppolo at that point, so it was plausible that the 49ers could pick a quarterback or trade that pick to a team that wanted Trubisky. San Francisco general manager John Lynch was able to leverage that fear into three midround picks, which eventually yielded the two best players in the deal in Alvin Kamara (in a separate deal with the Saints) and Fred Warner.
With this trade, the Lions send their second-round pick and a future fourth-rounder to move up and lock in their guy. This doesn’t feel like much to move down one spot, but it’s a win on both the Johnson and Stuartchart for the Jaguars, who would still be able to take Walker. This deal won’t look good if Hutchinson turns into the best edge rusher in the class, but given how overconfident teams typically are at the top of the draft, the Jags are better off moving down a spot and adding a valuable selection at the top of the second round.
Texans get: 1-16, 1-19, 2-49
Saints get: 1-3, 4-107
When the Saints made their deal with the Eagles to get an additional first-round pick in this draft, the easy assumption was to believe that they were gathering ammunition to go after a quarterback. It’s possible that the Lions or Texans could take one, but the most likely landing spot for the first passer off the board is the Panthers at No. 6. The Saints might only need to move up to No. 5 to land a passer, but if the Texans play their cards right and scare New Orleans into thinking another team might be willing to trade up to No. 3, the Saints might have no choice but to move up there.
The Texans could use one of the defensive linemen or cornerbacks at the top of this class, but after trading away so much draft capital during the Bill O’Brien era, they need to amass extra selections. They’ve been linked to Ikem Ekwonubut with Laremy Tunsil on the roster for two more seasons, it would be curious to draft a college left tackle and move him to the right side.
4 New York Jets
Jets get: 1-9, 3-72, WR DK Metcalf
Seahawks get: 1-4, 2-35, 3-69, WR Corey Davis
The Jets went after Tyreek Hill in their search to find Zach Wilson a superstar wideout — and struck out. Here, they make an alternative move. Metcalf is a different sort of receiver, but he would give the Jets the sort of X receiver…