The 2021 NFL season is rapidly drawing to a close, with only two teams left standing.
While the Bengals and Rams are certainly focused on Super Bowl LVI, the league's 30 other clubs are looking ahead to the offseason.
Of course, that means the annual NFL Scouting Combine and Draft are on the horizon.
This year's class of top prospects is notably different from the last two years, when the first round was stacked with star wide receivers in 2020, and 2021 marking the year of the quarterback.
The class of 2022, by contrast, projects to be heavy on players in the trenches -- on both sides of the ball -- as well as defensive backs.
The presence of a handful of top cornerbacks and safeties on most mainstream big boards underscores the importance of defending the pass in the modern game.
Without further ado, here's a look at our first-round mock draft, pre-Super Bowl edition.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars - Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
2. Detroit Lions - Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
3. Houston Texans - Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
4. New York Jets - Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
5. New York Giants - Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
The Jags and Lions go back-to-back on stud defensive ends here. The Lions would probably love to get their hands on Hutchinson, the local guy coming off a 14-sack breakout season, but most big boards seem to give him the nod over Thibodeaux. Hutchinson was dominant in 2021 (14 sacks), but he was less of a force earlier in his career, and missed most of 2020 due to injury. Thibodeaux has more sacks (19) than Hutchinson (17.5) in 12 fewer career games. If they do in fact go 1-2, it will set up a fascinating comparison for the duration of their careers.
The Texans seem to be set at tackle with Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard, so we've given them versatile stud safety Hamilton in a close call over Alabama behemoth Neal. ... The Jets' pass defense was a mess last season, so Stingley, a third-generation star, seems like an obvious fit after a strong career at LSU. ... The Giants would do well to snag Neal at No. 5, with some mocks having him going to the Jaguars first overall. Neal played both left and right tackle in Tuscaloosa, and would presumably plug in on the right side in New York, opposite 2020 first-rounder Andrew Thomas.
6. Carolina Panthers - Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
7. New York Giants - Tyler Linderbaum, OL, Iowa
8. Atlanta Falcons - Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
9. Denver Broncos - George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue
10. New York Jets - Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
The Panthers desperately need a quarterback, but they've chosen the wrong draft class to be in that spot, so we're giving them Cross, with the idea that he'll bring some much-needed protection to whoever ends up starting under center. ... Meanwhile the Giants make it 2-for-2 on offensive linemen by taking Linderbaum, a center at Iowa who was tagged with a PFF score of 95 for his exploits in 2021.
The Falcons take the draft's first skill-position player in Garrett, who will be tasked with rejuvenating a receiving corps that has lost Julio Jones and, potentially, Calvin Ridley in consecutive offseasons. ... Like their crosstown rivals, the Jets are all in on one position so far, going for another stud corner in Gardner, who is actually ranked ahead of Stingley on some big boards.
11. Washington Commanders - Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
12. Minnesota Vikings - David Ojaba, Edge, Michigan
13. Cleveland Browns - Drake London, WR, USC
14. Baltimore Ravens - Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
15. Philadelphia Eagles - Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
The Commanders have a couple areas of need, including potentially at quarterback, but they can alleviate some of that concern by adding a mauler in the run game like Ekwonu, who by some accounts is the best run blocker in his class. ... The Vikings appear set on offense with a well-balanced attack, and could use a potential game-changer in the pass rush such as Ojaba, who is shooting up a lot of big boards and mock drafts.
The Browns could use another wide receiver and seem to covet oversize targets, given their use of two-tight end sets, potentially making the physical, 6-foot-5 London a strong fit. Last season, he exploded for 88 catches and over 1,000 yards through 8 games before going down with a season-ending injury. ... The Eagles' defense wilted in big spots last season, but the heady, versatile Lloyd could quickly become an anchor of consistency.
16. Philadelphia Eagles - Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
17. Los Angeles Chargers - Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
18. New Orleans Saints - Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
19. Philadelphia Eagles - Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
20. Pittsburgh Steelers - Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt
The Eagles make it back-to-back defensive picks, tabbing the tough and physical Elam to help bolster the secondary. ... Do the Saints take a quarterback at 18? It's hard to say given that they don't currently have a head coach, but with Michael Thomas potentially on his way out and Marquez Callaway presumably stepping into Thomas' role as the lead guy, the speedy Olave could play the part of dynamic field-stretcher.
At 19, the Eagles look for another weapon for QB Jalen Hurts, this time snagging Williams. The former Ohio State wideout exploded with Alabama last season after transferring following the 2020 campaign, and could be a major steal in the late teens. ... Pickett, who finished third in Heisman voting, is the first quarterback off our board, with the Steelers reaching into their own backyard as they look to move on from Ben Roethlisberger. The knock on Pickett is his track record, as he failed to distinguish himself very much before his monster 2021 campaign.
21. New England Patriots - Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
22. Las Vegas Raiders - Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
23. Arizona Cardinals - Travon Walker, DL, Georgia
24. Dallas Cowboys - Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson
25. Buffalo Bills - Arnold Ebiketie, Edge, Penn State
26. Tennessee Titans - Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
Patriots starting right tackle Trent Brown could be in for a big payday in free agency this offseason, meaning New England might prefer to move on. Raimann, a converted tight end, dominated in the MAC. ... The Cowboys' defense was much improved in 2021, but it still broke down in some big spots. Booth has prototypical size and athleticism for the position, and he graded out strongly (78 by PFF) despite getting burned a few times. ... The Bills surprisingly took defensive ends with their first two picks last year -- do they dare take another this early? Gregory Rousseau showed promise as a rookie, but Boogie Basham struggled. Ebiketie excelled in Happy Valley after transferring from Temple, and there is a sense among scout types that he is being overlooked after just one year in the Big Ten. Just ask the Giants teams that twice knocked off Tom Brady in the Super Bowl whether you can have "too many" pass rushers.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia
28. Green Bay Packers - Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
29. Miami Dolphins - Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
30. Kansas City Chiefs - Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
31. Cincinnati Bengals - Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
32. Detroit Lions - Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
What holes do the Chiefs have? Not many, but they are a bit thin in the secondary. Cine may not be the splashiest name from Georgia's national title team, but he has a track record of solid play, both defending the pass as well as in run support after three years in Athens. ... The Lions may not have been very good in their first year under head coach Dan Campbell, but they did play hard, pesky football as he promised. McCreary seems to fit the ball of a grinder. He is experienced (39 career games at Auburn) and touted as a hard worker who improved each year. With prototypical size and speed, he's projected to go a little earlier than No. 32, so Detroit would do well to snag him here.