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2022 NFL Draft: Grading every NFC franchise’s incoming draft class

By Emile Avanessian

Published: 14:46, 13 May 2022

With the 2022 NFL draft in the books, it’s time to register our snap judgments about how each NFL franchise fared. That’s right! It’s time for draft grades! Here, in the second of this two-article series, we’re breaking down the NFC.

You’ve got a lot of words ahead of you, so I’m going to keep this preamble fairly brief. By now, you probably know the mantra of this period in the NFL calendar: the draft is an imperfect science.

That being said, in the aftermath of the league’s annual job fair, it’s impossible to resist the urge to review the incoming talent for each NFL franchise, dream on development and potential fit, and render an immediate verdict on who won and lost

A couple of things to keep in mind as you go through these rankings:

  • A number of teams were down draft picks as a result of trades made for superstars. The incoming superstar is not being counted as part of the draft class. However, a class light on talent or depth is judged less harshly if a team brought in a superstar. And, if they still managed to fill some needs with later round picks, that’s a success!
  • I’ve tried to view each pick in a vacuum (i.e., ‘did team X get value?’), but there obviously must be some consideration given to a franchise’s place in its competitive cycle, the talent already on hand, and fit within the current roster.

Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get started! In this, the first of two such pieces, we’re doling out grades to the NFL incoming draft classes of the NFC’s 16 franchises.

Arizona Cardinals

Round 2, Pick 55: Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State

Round 3, Pick 87: Cameron Thomas, DE, San Diego State

Round 3, Pick 100: Myjai Sanders, DE, Cincinnati

Round 6, Pick 201: Keontay Ingram, RB, Southern California

Round 6, Pick 215: Lecitus Smith, G, Virginia Tech

Round 7, Pick 244: Christian Matthew, CB, Valdosta State

Round 7, Pick 256: Jesse Luketa, OLB, Penn State

Round 7, Pick 257: Marquis Hayes, G, Oklahoma

 

The Cardinals did not have a Day One selection, having traded their pick (#23 overall) to the Baltimore Ravens in order to reunite Kyler Murray with his college teammate, wide receiver Marquise Brown. They then used their first pick (#55 overall) on a talented, pass-catching tight end – not bad in a vacuum, but curious in light re-signing veteran tight end Zach Ertz as a free agent.

They then added a pair of tough, NFL-ready pass-rushers in the third round, before returning in sixth and seventh rounds, to add some depth, most notably on the offensive line.

The pass-rush help will be welcome, but with the trade for a talented-but-not-elite receiver who’s going to need a contract extension and the seemingly redundant tight end pick, it’s hard to get particularly excited.

Grade: C-

Atlanta Falcons

Round 1, Pick 8: Drake London, WR, USC

Round 2, Pick 38: Arnold Ebiketie, DE, Penn State

Round 2, Pick 58: Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State

Round 3, Pick 74: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

Round 3, Pick 82: DeAngelo Malone, EDGE, Western Kentucky

Round 5, Pick 151: Tyler Allgeier, RB, BYU

Round 6, Pick 190: Justin Shaffer, G, Georgia

Round 6, Pick 213: John FitzPatrick, TE, Georgia

There’s lots to love about the Falcons’ draft showing, which yielded a sure-handed and tough wide receiver to pair with ascending superstar tight end Kyle Pitts, a first-round-calibre edge rusher at #38, a pair of raw but high-upside front seven prospects and one of the top quarterback prospects in the draft, the University of Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder.

The Falcons are very much a rebuild, so these picks shouldn’t be judged in terms of the wins they’ll add to record in 2022. This season is about allowing London and Pitts to develop into a standout pass-catching pairing with veteran QB Marcus Mariota, while Ridder develops. As it stands, the Falcons got potential stars with each of their first two picks. If Ridder blossoms into the Falcons’ quarterback of the future, this class will be franchise-defining.

Grade: A

Carolina Panthers

Round 1, Pick 6: Ickey Ekwonu, OT, NC State

Round 3, Pick 94: Matt Corral, QB, Mississippi

Round 4, Pick 120: Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State

Round 6, Pick 189: Amaré Barno, DE, Virginia Tech

Round 6, Pick 199: Cade Mays, OT, Tennessee

Round 7, Pick 242: Kalon Barnes, CB, Baylor

The Panthers weren’t loaded with draft capital, with just two picks in the first 119. They used the first of those picks on an elite offensive tackle prospect. They came back on Day Three and grabbed high-upside prospects at each level of the defense. 

In between, of course, at #94, the Panthers nabbed Ole Miss QB Matt Corral, an explosive, dual-threat (but a bit undersized and a bit raw) prospect. On the one hand, for a franchise that traded its second- and third-round picks a year ago to acquire Sam Darnold, and has been rumoured as a potential suitor for Baker Mayfield, an undersized far-from-sure-thing QB prospect isn’t the ideal target.

At the same time, for a team that’s very clearly not eyeing contention, and this is a relatively low cost gamble on a potentially franchise-altering QB. There might have been safer picks and greater immediate value to be had at that spot, but for a team this desperately in need of a quarterback, this is a risk worth taking.

Grade: C

Chicago Bears

Round 2, Pick 39: Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington

Round 2, Pick 48: Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State

Round 3, Pick 71: Velus Jones Jr., WR, Tennessee

Round 5, Pick 168: Braxton Jones, OT, Southern Utah

Round 5, Pick 174: Dominique Robinson, DE, Miami, Ohio

Round 6, Pick 186: Zachary Thomas, OL, San Diego State

Round 6, Pick 203: Trestan Ebner, RB, Baylor

Round 6, Pick 207: Doug Kramer, C, Illinois

Round 7, Pick 226: Ja’Tyre Carter, OT, Southern

Round 7, Pick 254: Elijah Hicks, S, California

Round 7, Pick 255: Trenton Gill, P, North Carolina State

The Bears did strengthen their secondary in the second round. And they did add some interesting depth along the line of scrimmage on Day Three. However…

Much like the Jaguars, this organisation apparently doesn’t view surrounding a second-year quarterback from they traded significant resources just a year ago (Justin Fields) with high-end skill position talent as a priority. For 11 draft picks to only yield a speedy 24-year old receiver who didn’t put up numbers in college and a sixth round running back is disappointing. If Fields never develops, none of this other stuff will matter.

Grade: C-

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Dallas Cowboys

Round 1, Pick 24: Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa

Round 2, Pick 56: Sam Williams, DE, Mississippi

Round 3, Pick 88: Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama

Round 4, Pick 129: Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin

Round 5, Pick 155: Matt Waletzko, OT, North Dakota

Round 5, Pick 167: DaRon Bland, CB, Fresno State

Round 5, Pick 176: Damone Clark, LB, LSU

Round 5, Pick 178: John Ridgeway, DT, Arkansas

Round 6, Pick 193: Devin Harper, LB, Oklahoma State

The Cowboys nabbed a quality offensive line prospect – probably a guard initially, before (ideally) slotting in at left tackle, post-Tyron Smith – before returning on Day Two to add a pass rusher in Ole Miss’ Sam Williams and a downfield receiving threat.

Day Three was a day to add depth on defense, which the ‘Boys did, at each level – and with potential steals in LSU’s linebacker Damone Clark and Arkansas defensive tackle John Ridgeway. Not a lot of Day One starters or immediate-impact guys here, but a decent haul in terms of talent and upside.

Grade: B-

Detroit Lions

Round 1, Pick 2: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan

Round 1, Pick 12: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

Round 2, Pick 46: Josh Paschal, DE, Kentucky

Round 3, Pick 97: Kerby Joseph, S, Illinois

Round 5, Pick 177: James Mitchell, TE, Virginia Tech

Round 6, Pick 188: Malcolm Rodriguez, LB, Oklahoma State

Round 6, Pick 217: James Houston, LB, Jackson State

Round 7, Pick 237: Chase Lucas, CB, Arizona State

Of course, the Lions’ rebuild will remain in a holding pattern until they find a long-term solution at quarterback. It must be said, however, that the roster into which that quarterback will slot is coming along rather nicely.

In the first round alone, the Lions added a top-tier edge rusher and (after trading up) a potential big-play monster at wide receiver. They followed that up with the additions of another physical defensive end, before adding a potential playmaker at tight end (who’s currently rehabbing a torn ACL) and some much-needed depth in the secondary and at linebacker.

The ‘best of the NFL’s worst’ battled relentlessly for Dan Campbell in 2021. They look poised to jump a tier in 2022.

Grade: A

Green Bay Packers

Round 1, Pick 22: Quay Walker, LB, Georgia

Round 1, Pick 28: Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia

Round 2, Pick 34: Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State

Round 3, Pick 92: Sean Rhyan, OL, UCLA

Round 4, Pick 132: Romeo Doubs, WR, Nevada

Round 4, Pick 140: Zach Tom, OT, Wake Forest

Round 5, Pick 179: Kingsley Enagbare, DE, South Carolina

Round 7, Pick 228: Tariq Carpenter, LB, Georgia Tech

Round 7, Pick 234: Jonathan Ford, DT, Miami

Round 7, Pick 249: Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State

Round 7, Pick 258: Samori Toure, WR, Nebraska 

I don’t know if annoying Rodgers is now simply an organisational philosophy or if this is some sort of passive-aggressive payback for last year’s trade demands. Regardless, the Packers threw all the cash at Aaron Rodgers, and then proceeded to trade away all-universe receiver Davante Adams before… drafting a pair front seven defenders from Georgia in the first round. To be completely fair, Walker and Wyatt are likely to be immediate contributors and quality NFL players for years to come, but neither will help fill the void of a top-three receiver.

Brought in to do that is Christian Watson. The third-rounder from North Dakota State is speedy and a fantastic athlete, but the fact that he’s unpolished and has struggled with drop suggests that he’s not ready to do so either. Otherwise, the Pack took flyers on a couple of other receivers, while adding a good bit of quality offensive line depth.

The plan for the passing game isn’t exactly clear at this point, but the organisation may be making a statement of its own: as great as Rodgers and the offense have been in the regular season in recent years, home playoff games in the Green Bay winter clearly don’t lend themselves to tossing the ball around.

Grade: B+

Los Angeles Rams

Round 3, Pick 104: Logan Bruss, OL, Wisconsin

Round 4, Pick 142: Decobie Durant, CB, South Carolina State

Round 5, Pick 164: Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame

Round 6, Pick 211: Quentin Lake, S, UCLA

Round 6, Pick 212: Derion Kendrick, CB, Georgia

Round 7, Pick 235: Daniel Hardy, OLB, Montana State

Round 7, Pick 253: Russ Yeast, S, Kansas State

Round 7, Pick 261: AJ Arcuri, OT, Michigan State

For a team simply doesn’t do the early rounds, the Rams are pretty good at the whole ‘draft’ thing in general. Between pick #104 and #253, the defending Super Bowl champs grabbed an instant starter at right guard (from a school renowned for producing top-tier linemen), a tough, multi-talented running back to lighten Cam Akers’ workload, and added significant depth – some of which will contribute right away – in the defensive secondary. All in all, not bad considering the lack of premium draft capital on hand.

Grade: B

Minnesota Vikings

Round 1, Pick 32: Lewis Cine, S, Georgia

Round 2, Pick 42: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

Round 2, Pick 59: Ed Ingram, G, LSU

Round 3, Pick 66: Brian Asamoah, LB, Oklahoma

Round 5, Pick 118: Akayleb Evans, CB, Missouri

Round 5, Pick 165: Esezi Otomewo, DL, Minnesota

Round 5, Pick 169: Ty Chandler, RB, North Carolina

Round 6, Pick 184: Vederian Lowe, OT, Illinois

Round 6, Pick 191: Jalen Nailor, WR, Michigan State

Round 7, Pick 227: Nick Muse, TE, South Carolina 

After multiple trades with their NFC North division rivals, the Vikings wound up with 10 picks in the draft, four of which came in the first two days, seven of which were in the first five rounds.

With those top seven picks, the Vikings selected a pair of potential starters (Cine and Booth) to the secondary, added a depth piece at each level of the defense, bolstered the running game with a major program guard and a speedy pass-catching running back.

Functional, but with some upside. On the whole, a solid first draft for new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.

Grade: B 

New Orleans Saints

Round 1, Pick 11: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

Round 1, Pick 19: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

Round 2, Pick 49: Alontae Taylor, CB, Tennessee

Round 5, Pick 161: D’Marco Jackson, LB, Appalachian State

Round 6, Pick 194: Jordan Jackson, DT, Air Force

You have to wonder whether anyone ever points out to Mickey Loomis and the Saints that they’re not actually on the cusp of contention anymore.

I mean, trading multiple 2022 picks, a 2023 first, and a 2024 second to Philly to add an extra first-rounder this year (at the time they had #’s 16 and 19) is a move one would associate with a team that sees itself as being ‘one player away’ from something big. To then package that #16 pick with a third- and a fourth-rounder, just to jump up five spots and select Ohio State receiver Chris Olave – who is a talent, to be sure – in a receiver-heavy draft was aggressive to the point of being puzzling.

Then, with picks #19 and #49, the Saints grabbed a small school offensive tackle and cornerback, each of whom was projected to go at least a round later. Beyond that, the class consisted of a couple of front seven depth pieces on Day Three.

To be in the midst of a ‘re-tool’ (if not a rebuild) and only come away from a draft with five players, the top three of whom you seemingly over-drafted? This entire approach doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Grade: D-

New York Giants

Round 1, Pick 5: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon

Round 1, Pick 7: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

Round 2, Pick 43: Wan’Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky

Round 3, Pick 67: Joshua Ezeudu, G, North Carolina

Round 3, Pick 81: Cor’Dale Flott, CB, LSU

Round 4, Pick 112: Daniel Bellinger, TE, San Diego State

Round 4, Pick 114: Dane Belton, S, Iowa

Round 5, Pick 146: Micah McFadden, LB, Indiana

Round 5, Pick 147: DJ Davidson, DT, Arizona State

Round 5, Pick 173: Marcus McKethan, G, North Carolina

Round 6, Pick 182: Darrian Beavers, LB, Cincinnati

Had the Giants opted for a different receiver at #43 overall – the likes of John Metchie III, George Pickens, Skyy Moore, all of whom were still available – over the undersized Robinson, this draft haul would be totally bulletproof.

As things stand, the Giants crushed the first-round, coming away with Oregon pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux (the presumptive #1 overall pick for much of the pre-draft process) and arguably the best O-lineman in the draft in Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal at #’s 5 and 7, respectively. Those should be not only immediate difference-makers, but foundational stars around which each unit is built.

Beyond that trio, Big Blue added eight players, almost all with Power-5 conference pedigree, most with a chance of contributing early (if not starting) at each level of the defense and along the line of scrimmage on offense.

However the team chooses to handle the Daniel Jones/QB-in-general question, this is the type of draft that meaningfully moves a rebuild forward.

Grade: A+

Philadelphia Eagles

Round 1, Pick 13: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

Round 2, Pick 51: Cam Jurgens, C, Nebraska

Round 3, Pick 83: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

Round 6, Pick 181: Kyron Johnson, LB, Kansas

Round 6, Pick 198: Grant Calcaterra, TE, SMU

I know I just went in on Mickey Loomis and the Saints for aggressively dealing their way to a five-man draft class. However, despite only drafting five players themselves, the Eagles blew 2022 draft weekend out of the water.

As you may recall, the Eagles started out with three picks in this year’s first round. One of those was actually sent to the Saints in exchange for future assets. Those other two first-rounders became: 

  • (After a trade-up) Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis, who is as fast, quick and spectacularly athletic a 340-pound man as you’re going to find; and
  • Titans star receiver A.J. Brown, who is (at worst) one of the top-dozen receivers in the league, and whose gift for accumulating yards-after-catch will beautifully complement DeVonta Smith’s big-play ability, and make life easier for Jalen Hurts.

From there, the Eagles grabbed a solid, athletic center who’ll have the opportunity to learn from future Hall of Famer Jason Kelce, who’s approaching his 35th birthday.

As awesome as all of that is, the absolute THEFT of Georgia’s linebacking genius Nakobe Dean at #83 overall was probably my favourite move of the draft, period.

I am so excited to wildly overrate the Eagles in the coming months!

Grade: A+

San Francisco 49ers

Round 2, Pick 61: Drake Jackson, OLB, USC

Round 3, Pick 93: Ty Davis-Price, RB, LSU

Round 3, Pick 105: Danny Gray, WR, SMU

Round 4, Pick 134: Spencer Burford, OL, UTSA

Round 5, Pick 172: Samuel Womack, CB, Toledo

Round 6, Pick 187: Nick Zakelj, OT, Fordham

Round 6, Pick 220: Kalia Davis, DT, Central Florida

Round 6, Pick 221: Tariq Castro-Fields, CB, Penn State

Round 7, Pick 262: Brock Purdy, QB, Iowa State 

For a team with no picks in the first 60, the 49ers came away from the 2022 draft with a positionally diverse – and potentially excellent – draft class.

Late in the second round, the Niners nabbed somewhat raw but exceptionally athletic USC

pass rusher Drake Jackson. Then, late in the third, in an effort to add depth to the offensive backfield – and perhaps placate the most important player on the roster – they selected LSU running back Ty Davis-Price. After that they added a versatile receiver, a pair of offensive linemen, a pair of corners, a defensive and, for good measure, tossed a quarterback into the mix!

Though Jackson needs a bit of development, there’s little to dislike about his profile. If he learns quickly and the Deebo Samuel situation gets sorted out, the top trio here will be outstanding. If the final half-dozen picks yield a starting corner or offensive lineman (both perhaps??), this class is a home run.

Grade: B+

Seattle Seahawks

Round 1, Pick 9: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

Round 2, Pick 40: Boye Mafe, DE, Minnesota

Round 2, Pick 41: Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State

Round 3, Pick 72: Abraham Lucas, OT, Washington State

Round 4, Pick 109: Coby Bryant, CB, Cincinnati

Round 5, Pick 153: Tariq Woolen, CB, UTSA

Round 5, Pick 158: Tyreke Smith, DE, Ohio State

Round 7, Pick 229: Bo Melton, WR, Rutgers

Round 7, Pick 233: Dareke Young, WR, Lenoir-Rhyne

For a team that’s not just entering into a rebuild, but doing so with a new, young and, frankly, not very good quarterback replacing an unflappable decade-long starter, a plug-and-play left tackle is a great place to start. Following that up with solid picks of another offensive tackle, a defensive end and a cornerback from the undefeated (until they met Alabama) Cincinnati Bearcats is a great way to lay a foundation.

The selection of Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III is sure to get panned. Yes, the Seahawks could probably have waited a good bit past #41 and still gotten him. And yes, the Seahawks do already have Rashaad Penny, who looked like a star down the stretch last season. The opportunity cost of not selected someone at a high-value position has to be considered here, but Walker is an excellent player at the position, who will contribute.

Grade: B

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Round 2, Pick 33: Logan Hall, DE, Houston

Round 2, Pick 57: Luke Goedeke, G, Central Michigan

Round 3, Pick 91: Rachaad White, RB, Arizona State

Round 4, Pick 106: Cade Otton, TE, Washington

Round 4, Pick 133: Jake Camarda, P, Georgia

Round 5, Pick 157: Zyon McCollum, CB, Sam Houston State

Round 6, Pick 218: Ko Kieft, TE, Minnesota

Round 7, Pick 248: Andre Anthony, DE, LSU 

What do you get the team that seemingly has everything? How about more generally good stuff?

After trading out of the first round and winding up with five picks between the second and fourth rounds, the Bucs came away with a versatile and NFL-ready rotation defensive end, a solid guard from prime O-lineman country, a dual threat running back and a high-upside tight end that needs development. Barring a disaster, none of those guys will be leaned upon heavily right away, but every one will see the field in 2022, and likely contribute.

This (and Tom Brady choosing to play for you, not once but twice, thus enticing your free agents to stick around on cap-friendly deals) is how you build a sustainable winner.

Grade: A-

Washington Commanders

Round 1, Pick 16: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State

Round 2, Pick 47: Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama

Round 3, Pick 98: Brian Robinson Jr., RB, Alabama

Round 4, Pick 113: Percy Butler, S, Louisiana

Round 5, Pick 144: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

Round 5, Pick 149: Cole Turner, TE, Nevada

Round 7, Pick 230: Chris Paul, OL, Tulsa

Round 7, Pick 240: Christian Holmes, CB, Oklahoma State

The Commanders did perfectly acceptable job over draft weekend.

They traded from #11 down to #16. Rather than swinging for the fences with a potentially game-breaking receiver, they opted for a solid one. They then took an defensive tackle and a powerful running back, both from Alabama, both of whom will be no worse than ‘decent’, but probably aren’t future stars.

They spent Day Three, while they were adding depth in the secondary, the offensive line and at tight end, they tossed in a lottery ticket in the North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell, who’d been predicted to be long gone by pick #144.

Most, if not all of the non-QB members of this class will contribute, at some point – if not right away. Again, there’s probably not an All-Pro or a perennial Pro Bowler among this crew, but hauls like this are how bad teams get, well, not bad.

And there’s always a chance (no great, mind you, but existent) that Howell turns out to be an NFL-starter-calibre quarterback…

All in all, decent.

Grade: B-

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