With just two regular-season games left for most FBS teams, we're steamrolling towards the beginning stages of NFL draft season with my first mock draft. Postseason all-star game invitations have begun to surface, and conference championship teams are close to being finalized. The College Football Playoff race is still wide-open, and teams are fighting to strengthen their résumés in order to be one of the four hopefuls that will play for a national title.
With the Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine Bowl and other all-star games set to kick off before the combine in March, there will be a lot of tweaks and changes over the course of the next five months before the 2022 draft takes place in Las Vegas (April 28-30).
In the latest 2022 rankings from Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, there have already been several risers and fallers since the season began. In my first mock draft of the cycle, there are many familiar names that match up with their new rankings, but there are also prospects you might not recognize -- yet. There will be lots of prospects who shuffle in and out, which is customary of the draft process. We still have a long way to go until we learn more about testing numbers and things beyond what shows up on tape.
The first-round order I'm using below is determined by the ESPN Football Power Index (FPI) projections, which performs 10,000 simulations to predict the final standings. This order is based on how expects the season to finish, not how the current order looks now.
Let's get into my early projections for Round 1, where the strength of the class on the offensive side is at offensive tackle and wide receiver, but on defense, it's the talent at edge rusher and cornerback. (Underclassmen are denoted with an asterisk.)