The 2022 NFL Draft is now in the rearview mirror and rosters have properly begun to take shape ahead of offseason workouts and the road to Super Bowl LVII.
Now, as is pro football tradition, it is the time to prematurely grade the winners and losers from the draft – before these rookies have even played a single down in the NFL…
What a draft the Baltimore Ravens had as they let the players fall – in the most part – to them rather than go chasing talent.
They picked up a premium talent in safety Kyle Hamilton at #15, before sitting tight at pick #45 to select another top-10 calibre player in the form of EDGE rusher David Ojabo – albeit he is coming off a torn Achilles and could be forced to ‘red-shirt’ his rookie season.
The Ravens also secured a premium price for former first-round wide receiver Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown, getting the #23 overall pick from the Arizona Cardinals in return. With that pick they took Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, who has the talent to be the best player in draft.
It total, the Ravens secured 11 draftees – including six players in the fourth round – but perhaps their glaring need now is to secure receiving talent to help Lamar Jackson.
The Philadelphia Eagles came into the draft with 10 draft choices, but general manager Howie Roseman – known for his wheeling and dealing – drafted just five players in total.
Roseman gave up three late-round picks to move ahead of the aforementioned Ravens to secure the services of the 6’6”, 340lb monster that is Georgia DT Jordan Davis. Davis fills an immediate need for the Eagles and is arguably the most freakish prospect ever drafted in terms of metrics.
Philly then traded its other first-round pick to Tennessee for Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Brown, who at age 24 is a proven commodity in the NFL. In Round 2 the Eagles picked up their replacement for Jason Kelce at centre – Cam Jurgens – before taking Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean in round three. Dean was a consensus first-round pick until draft day when a shoulder issue reportedly caused him to call.
The Eagles also own multiple first-round picks in the 2023 Draft, should they need to move up to secure a quarterback. For a team which made the play-offs in 2021, they’ve certainly improved this offseason.
The 2021 National Champion Georgia Bulldogs certainly enjoyed the draft – especially the defensive players who were draft-eligible. EDGE Travon Walker went first overall, while defensive tackles Jordan Davis (#13) and Devonte Wyatt (#28), linebacker Quay Walker (#22) and safety Lewis Cine (#32) were also selected on Thursday evening.
Wide receiver George Pickens was the first offensive player off the board at pick #52 to the Pittsburgh Steelers, joined by running back James Cook – brother of Minnesota Vikings superstar Dalvin Cook – at pick #63 to the Buffalo Bills.
Star linebacker Nakobe Dean dropped all the way to #83 but his selection means that is eight Bulldogs taken in the first three rounds of the draft. Overall, 15 Georgia players had their names called over the weekend – the largest number of players from one school in NFL history.
The 2023 QB Class
Teams were extremely non-committal on the quarterback class in the 2022 draft. Kenny Pickett was the only quarterback selected in the first round, by the Pittsburgh Steelers, with the remainder of the class scooped up in the later rounds.
Desmond Ridder was the second QB taken in round three, closely followed by Malik Willis [pictured] and Matt Corral. Bailey Zappe went in round four and Sam Howell was selected early in the fifth.
Meanwhile, the likes of Philadelphia, Houston, Seattle, Detroit and Miami all have the draft capital to move up for a quarterback next year. The 2023 class looks full of high-end talent – Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis and Tyler Van Dyke could go in the top 10 – with a number of starting berths likely to be open.
The Giants and Jets both enjoyed stellar draft hauls – although it does help when you have multiple first-round picks.
The Jets owned picks #4 and #10 and ended up moving back into the first round at #26. They selected premier cornerback Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner, a top receiver in Garrett Wilson and a projected top-10 EDGE rusher in Jermaine Johnson II.
Early in the second the Jets added the #1 RB in the class in Breece Hall, before grabbing a strong tight end in Jeremy Ruckert and filling other holes in their roster the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, the Giants selected two #1 overall-calibre talents in the form of OT Evan Neal and EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, strengthening both offensive and defensive lines with premium talent.
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I say this from experience that mock drafting this first round may have been the most difficult in history. Mock Draft 5.0 came in at just 27% accurate, with 40% being a good benchmark in previous years.
In 2021, it was quite easy to predict the top of the draft: Trevor Lawrence was always #1, Zach Wilson #2 and Trey Lance or Mac Jones #3. Kyle Pitts, Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle and Penei Sewell were also high probabilities in the top 10.
In 2022, the Jaguars considered various options at #1, with Aidan Hutchinson to Detroit the only sure thing in the top 10 if he was passed over by Jacksonville.
Coupled with the fact there were double-digit traded picks within the first round, mock drafts soon fell by the wayside – including my own.
Green Bay Packers
Oh to be a fly on the wall in the Green Bay war room as Drake London, Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Jameson Williams were all selected between #8 and #12. Everyone knew the Packers needed WR help, but they were unable to get one of the top talents in the draft.
Even Treylon Burks and Jahan Dotson – both selected in the teens – didn’t fall to the Packers, who had to wait for their chance at #22. In the end, the Pack took Georgia linebacker Quay Walker and defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt – doubling down on National Championship winning defensive talent.
In reality, the Packers had a good draft – they did secure North Dakota State WR Christian Watson at #34, Nevada pass catcher Romeo Doubs at #132 and Nebraska talent Samori Toure in round seven.
With reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers still under center, it’s conceivable that one of these trio will become a star over the next few seasons – but missing out on the premium pass catchers earns them a spot on the losers list.
We mentioned this already, but NFL teams just didn’t like the 2022 draft class at all. Kenny Pickett was selected #20 overall, but he even has question mark surrounding his hand size and translation to the NFL.
Teams generally, if they have full belief in the quarterback they are drafting, will try to ensure they take said player in the first round – it allows the drafting team to secure a fifth-year option on the draftee.
Baltimore traded into pick #32 in 2018 to secure the services of Lamar Jackson as the premium example of this practice, so if a team really had wanted Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder, Sam Howell or Matt Corral the opportunity was there.
As for day-one starters in the group, Pickett is likely to take the helm in Pittsburgh but could be usurped by former #2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky who was picked up in free agency. Ridder could bypass Marcus Mariota with a strong camp in Atlanta.
Willis, Corral and Howell face uphill battles to get the starting jobs.
Riddle me this, why would you trade with your in-division rival to allow them to select a potentially game-changing wide receiver in the form of Jameson Williams. The Detroit Lions moved up from #32 to #12 to select the Alabama star, giving up #32 and #34 and #66 in exchange for Williams and pick #46.
Minnesota could have secured a top-10 talent in the form of safety Kyle Hamilton or defensive tackle Jordan Davis, who could have improved their run defence immeasurably. They then traded #34 to ANOTHER in-division rival in Green Bay to allow the Packers to select a much-needed wide receiver.
The Vikings helped a pair of division rivals – who they face twice each year – get better instead of taking much-needed talent themselves.
The Arizona Cardinals traded their #23 overall pick to the Baltimore Ravens for WR Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown, a receiver with 195 receptions, 2,361 yards and 21 touchdowns in three seasons, not too shabby you think.
Well, when you compare that to Philadelphia’s trade with Tennessee for A.J. Brown – who has 185 receptions, 2,995 yards and 24 touchdowns with Ryan Tannehill throwing him the ball rather than former NFL MVP Lamar Jackson. With those numbers in mind, the #23 overall pick for ‘Hollywood’ may have been too high a price.
A.J. has proved to be a top-10 talent at his position in the NFL, whereas ‘Hollywood’ would be top 20 at best. The Cards gave up a lot for a good, not great player.