Mock Draft season is alive and well, and the godfather of NFL Draft coverage, Mel Kiper Jr., has a brand new mock draft for the internet to eviscerate.
As you almost certainly know, the Jacksonville Jaguars hold the number one overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. In Kiper's previous mock draft, the Jaguars selected offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu at the top of the draft. Ekwonu is a big, mean, athletic, run-blocking dynamo. While I don't personally value Ekwonu at the top of the draft — due to his pass pro still needing a fair amount of development — plenty of teams see Ekwonu as one of the best prospects in the class.
What does Kiper have the Jaguars doing with the first pick this time around?
When I did my previous mock draft, before the combine, I started off my write-up for this pick with this: "Offensive tackle or edge rusher here? I don't think the Jaguars are set either way." Well, things change quickly in the NFL. Jacksonville decided to franchise tag left tackle Cam Robinson for the second straight year, taking away its need for a top-tier blindside protector (at least for a year) for quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Now, Hutchinson is the heavy favorite to go to the Jags -- barring a desperate team trading up.
Hutchinson, my top-ranked prospect in this class, could get double-digit sacks playing on the other side of Josh Allen in new coordinator Mike Caldwell's defense. The Jaguars made a few big-money moves in free agency, but there's still a huge hole at defensive end.
Kiper isn't breaking ground with this prediction. No, whether you're following the betting lines or the NFL Draft experts, Michigan defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson is the clear-cut favorite for the Jaguars at one. And it does make sense. With his combination of size, strength, athleticism, run defense, and pass rush, Hutchinson is the most polished and safest EDGE in this class. He locks down his side of the line against the run, has the speed to threaten the edge as a rusher, and power and hand tech to cross the face of offensive tackles and attack the pocket.
The Jaguars didn't use any of their salary cap space this offseason to address edge rush, leaving them with a bit of a hole across from former seventh-overall pick Josh Allen. Sure, Dawuane Smoot is serviceable, but deploying him as a starter puts you behind the eight-ball. Then we've got the fact that Jaguars' general manager Trent Baalke loves drafting defensive linemen in round one (see his last two drafts with San Francisco), and the stars are beginning to align for Aidan Hutchinson to Duval.
The Jaguars were the only team that had a private workout scheduled with Hutchinson, but after his college teammate David Ojabo suffered a torn-achilles at Michigan's Pro Day, Hutchinson understandably decided to hold off on any more pre-draft workouts. And the second-generation Michigan pass rusher did more than enough to show teams what he's all about. He dominated during his senior season — both on and off the field — and had one of the most impressive combines I've witnessed.
I wouldn't be overly critical of the pick. Outside of elite bend and length, Hutchinson has everything you could possibly want from an edge rusher. He's my third-overall prospect at this moment behind Alabama OT Evan Neal and Notre Dame S Kyle Hamilton. While I'd still be in favor of the Jaguars bolstering their offensive line with the most talented player in the class, I can understand the desire to add Aidan Hutchinson to a defense in desperate need of playmakers.
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