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NFL Mock Draft 2022: Mel Kiper, Todd McShay latest ESPN projection

NFL: Houston Texans at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have published a joint 2022 NFL Mock Draft, projecting the early picks for next week’s college prospect selection process. McShay made the odd number picks for the mock, while Kiper made the even selections. The rules of the mock did not allow the two to communicate their intentions (as they wrote, “No deals that even hint at ‘I won’t take Player X if you don’t take Player Y.’”) and there were no trades allowed in the mock.

The mock draft started with the Jacksonville Jaguars using the first pick, according to McShay, to select Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. Kiper then used the second pick to give the Detroit Lions Georgia defensive end Travon Walker. The run of pass rushers continued with the third pick, with McShay adding Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux to the Houston Texans’ roster. Kiper made the first non-pass rusher pick, but stayed on the defensive side of the ball as the New York Jets selected Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner. The first offensive pick was made with the fifth selection as McShay gave the New York Giants NC State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu.

The first quarterback off the board came with the sixth pick in this projection, with Kiper using the Carolina Panthers’ selection to pick Liberty quarterback Malik Willis.

Jumping to the Miami Dolphins first pick, we have to keep scrolling through the first round, past the second round, and, in a rarity, there is actually a third-round to this mock draft. McShay and Kiper made all 105 picks through the first three rounds, which means the Dolphins’ 102nd pick, their first time on the clock this year, is in the projection.

With the 102nd overall pick, Kiper sees the Dolphins adding Penn State linebacker Brandon Smith. He writes of the selection:

Since this is Miami’s first pick of the draft, I’m going to follow my board and take the best prospect available. Smith has some limitations in coverage, but he will seek and destroy running backs. If the Dolphins are serious about stopping the run in 2022, Smith will help.

Even with just following his board, Kiper could have a perfect selection for the Dolphins. Adding a run-stuffing linebacker to man the middle of the defense, potentially allowing Jerome Baker to play more outside, could be exactly the route Miami takes. Smith is probably a higher risk prospect, given his struggles last year at Penn State, but if the Dolphins can unlock the athleticism and potential that is there, they could have a high reward player on their hands. He is the type of player who just needs to be attacking the ball all the time, with little worry about anything else. In Miami’s defensive system, he could be a perfect fit.