The first-round of the 2022 NFL Draft is in the books. It’s cliche to say it was the wildest draft ever, but this one certainly had its moments to qualify among the top entrants in that category. There were plenty of trades, including two big ones involving wide receivers, which was surprising because of who got moved (AJ Brown and Marquise Brown) AND because there were no deals involving quarterbacks. Speaking of quarterbacks, only one got drafted in the first round, Pitt’s Kenny Pickett going to the Pittsburgh Steelers, more on that one below. Like a most of us thought, it was a round heavy on defensive players and offensive linemen, with a special run on wide receivers in the middle of it.
We’ll get a much better sense of how each pick will turn out once they actually put on pads and hit the field this fall. In the meantime, here are some early reactions to which teams had a good night and which teams might just come to regret what they did.
Day 1 Winners
There are some who would argue that safety Kyle Hamilton was the best player in the draft. And the Ravens snagged the Notre Dame safety with the 14th overall pick. In college Hamilton made passing hell for opposing quarterbacks with an opposing passer rating sitting south of 30 during his three years with the Irish. Like Ed Reed before him, Hamilton will be the heart and soul of Baltimore’s secondary. The Ravens have once again proven that being patient has its rewards.
Baltimore also snagged another first-round pick for wide receiver Marquise Brown, the 23rd (which they later traded), in a deal with the Arizona Cardinals. It hurts this offense to lose Brown, but they were able to draft a quality offensive lineman later in the first with center Tyler Linderbaum.
The most shocking move of the night might not have been any of the actual picks themselves, but the Titans shipping AJ Brown to the Eagles for the 18th pick. Tennessee used that to nab Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks. The rookie got compared to Brown a lot coming into the draft. One big difference: Burks will make about $14 million over the course of four years. The Eagles gave Brown a $100 million contract. Trading away Brown for an unproven rookie comes with some risk, but this move looks good on paper for the Titans.
Obviously, the Brown trade is a huge win for Philly. Jalen Hurts now has DeVonta Smith and Brown as his top two receivers. That wasn’t the only big addition the Eagles made on the night, literally. They took Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis, a mountain of a man, with the 13th pick. Davis will make it impossible for opponents to run on this defense.
We’ll preface this by noting that Jared Goff is still, as of this writing, Detroit’s starting quarterback. Still, what the Lions did in the first round of the draft goes a long way toward making up for that. With the second pick on the night, the Lions snagged a stud pass rusher in Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson. He should be starting in Week 1 and threatening quarterbacks right away. Later in the night, they moved up 20 spots in a deal with the Vikings that maximized the value of their picks. With the 12th pick in hand, they selected Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams, who might have been the first receiver off the board if not for an injury late last season.
With needs across the board, it would have been hard for the Jets NOT to take a player who filled one of those spots. However, they ended the night with three picks in the first round, and all of them look like a great fit for Gang Green. First, they took cornerback Ahmad Gardner, who’s play style immediately drew comparisons to Darrell Revis. With the 10th pick, they gave their offense another playmaking wideout in Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson. Despite some questions at quarterback, the skill players on that side of the ball make up a pretty impressive group. With the 26th pick, they took defensive end Jermaine Johnson II out of Florida. An up-and-coming pass rusher, he gives the Jets another defensive playmaker.
Day 1 Losers
It’s not really fair to judge a quarterback until he’s had a season or two under his belt, much less a guy who’s only been in the NFL for a matter of hours. But, drafting Kenny Pickett feels like a reach for Pittsburgh, maybe even a whiff of desperation. He could easily beat out Mitchell Trubisky in camp this year, but that’s not saying much ... and he might not be doing himself any favors getting throw into the mix right away.
There was nothing flashy about picking Tulsa offensive tackle Tyler Smith with the 24th selection. He’ll most likely start his career as a guard, where Dallas can lean on his downhill power blocking while the rest of his game develops. It’s hard not to think that the Cowboys could’ve just found an actual guard later on the second day of the draft.
The Saints needed a wide receiver, almost more than any other position on their roster, except maybe quarterback. It’s probably good they didn’t reach for a signal caller in this year’s class, but trading the 16th pick and two later-rounders to move up to the 11th spot for Chris Olave is a reach. Jahan Dotson and Treylon Burks were both still on the board at No. 16, just to name a couple of possibilities. With perpetual cap trouble and more than a few offensive needs, the Saints could have used those picks.
Tough night to be Aaron Rodgers. With a wide receiver depth chart headlined by Allen Lazard, the Packers declined to take a wideout to help replace Davante Adams. Instead, they used the 22nd pick on Quay Walker, an inside linebacker from Georgia with just one year as a starter under his belt. It’s a need they could have easily addressed on day two. And with the 28th pick, they took another defensive player from Georgia, defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt. It’s a good thing Green Bay’s defense will be better this season — they’ll need it.
For what it’s worth, Rodgers put on a brave public face about his team not picking a receiver.
Rodgers said the Packers had first-round grades on six WRs this year and because they were all gone (by 18), he seems understanding that they didn't take one.— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) April 29, 2022
"It doesn't seem like, from what I heard, that there was maybe a Justin Jefferson in this draft."
We’ll see how that sentiment holds up come November.
If you sat down and cooked up a scenario for Bill Belichick, it probably went something like this. The Patriots traded down (obviously) to the 29th pick with a third- and fourth-rounder thrown in (picks that will undoubtedly turn into starters in the near future). With the 29th selection they grabbed Cole Strange. Who’s that you ask? He’s an offensive guard from Tennessee Chattanooga. Was he worthy of a first-round pick? Some say he was; others disagree. In short, he was very much a Belichick pick, and he’ll probably be a very good interior lineman during his NFL career.
In reality, this the Patriots were neither a winner or a loser for what they did here. It’s just a weird, but also kind of predictable move given how this team operates during the NFL Draft.