The 2022 NFL Draft is in the books. Teams packed in plenty of surprises over those three days, everything from a flurry of wide receiver trades to a sudden change in heart about this year’s quarterback class. A handful of the players picked this weekend are going to have an immediate impact with their new teams. For others, it might be a season or two before they find their way into a starting lineup. And some won’t even make final roster cuts out of camp. It makes it tough to judge how well teams did during the draft, but we’re going to do it anyway.
Here are a few of our picks for the winners and losers from this year’s NFL Draft.
2022 NFL Draft winners
In one weekend, the Ravens brought in a handful of cornerstone defensive players. Getting Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton with the 14th pick still ranks as the draft’s biggest steal. David Ojabo, who the Ravens snagged in the second, is a phenomenal pass rusher, and would have been an easy first-round pick if not for a torn Achilles. He’ll be a stud after a red shirt year. Nose tackle Travis Jones has a ceiling on par with Haloti Ngata, a keystone in the middle of that defense line who can’t be moved. Getting him in the third round was tremendous.
The Ravens were just as productive on day three. With six picks in the fourth round, they drafted two underrated cornerbacks. Alabama’s Jalyn Armour-Davis is a big, physical kind of player with the speed to be a starter in the NFL. Houston cornerback Damarion Williams has some questions about his speed, but he’s a gamer who loves to mix it up as a nickel corner.
Don’t overlook the offensive players Baltimore drafted. Center Tyler Linderbaum, the 25th pick, should be starting this season out of camp, anchoring that line for a long time. Fourth-round offensive tackle Daniel Faalele is a mauler who has the raw talent to develop into a bookend on the right side. And even though the Ravens already have one of the NFL’s best tight ends in Mark Andrews, the addition of Charlie Kolar from Iowa State gives them a pair of reliable hands for the end zone.
Trading Marquise Brown leaves a huge question mark on offense, but this defense alone is enough to put them back on top in the AFC North.
My, how the world has changed that we’re excited about a Jets draft. This offense should be a lot of fun to watch. Garrett Wilson gives them a bona fide No. 1 on the outside, and with Elijah Moore in the slot and Corey Davis on the other side, it’s going to give defenses a fit. While Michael Carter looked like a pretty solid running back, Breece Hall is even better just because he’s more of the total package. Together, they’ll make New York’s run game dynamic. Ohio State tight end Jeremy Ruckert is a solid addition to the depth chart.
The only question now is whether or not Zach Wilson can turn into a legitimate franchise quarterback, but at least with these kind of players around him, he has every chance to get there.
The defense got a huge boost as well. First-round cornerback Ahmad Gardner should start right away and could grow into a shutdown corner within a season. Edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II, their third first-round pick, He’ll be a key part of an aggressive defense. Michael Clemons, a defensive end they drafted on day three, could develop into a another pass rushing threat.
Teams continued to shower receivers with cash. AJ Brown got $100 million from the Eagles. The Cardinals picked up Marquise Brown’s fifth-year option, and it stands to reason that he’s going to cash in soon enough.
Rookie wide receivers benefitted too. For the first time ever, six were taken in the first 20 picks of the draft—Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Jameson Williams, Jahan Dotson and Treylon Burks. Seven more receivers went in the second round. And you have to go deep into the day-three picks before you start to find any wideouts who don’t have a good shot at making an NFL roster.
I can’t think of a better pairing than Moore in Kansas City’s offense. The Western Michigan prospect was one of the more underrated receivers in the draft this year, maybe it’s because of the small school or maybe it’s because he wasn’t one of the 6-foot-2 guys (Moore is 5-foot-10.) But size doesn’t always matter. Moore does everything so well—quick and fast, able to change directions better than just about anyone in the draft. He’s also got great hands. He’ll thrive with the Chiefs. A year from now, don’t be surprised if people aren’t asking why he didn’t get picked in the first round.
The Giants used a pair of first round picks to beef up in the trenches. Don’t be surprised if Kayvon Thibodeaux, the fifth overall pick, ends up being the best pass rusher to come out of this draft. Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal, the seventh player picked, completes a vastly upgraded offensive line, bookending things on the right side. They even padded the depth chart with day-two pick, North Carolina guard Joshua Ezeudu, who’s shown the versatility to play on the outside as well.
San Diego State tight end Daniel Bellinger could be the reliable red zone weapon the Giants need. LSU cornerback Cordale Flott may not be ready to start this year, but he’s got the kind of talent to turn into an above average starter in the near future, which is one thing this defense really needs. The Giants snagged a pair of inside linebackers on day three who could end up paying big dividends sooner rather than later. Micah McFadden, a fifth-round pick, and Darrian Beavers, a sixth-round pick, are both instinctive run defenders who’ve also shown a knack for coverage in the middle.
Matt Araiza, Punt God
Why he wasn’t the first punter taken will confuse us for the rest of our days. San Diego State’s special teams deity downed 40 punts inside the 20 last season, adding kickoff and place kicking duties to his resume. He even made six tackles last year. Not bad for a guy who lost his job in 2020. The Buffalo Bills took him in the sixth round, which is funny because with the Bills’ offense, the punter isn’t exactly the busiest guy on the roster. Still, just one more advantage for Buffalo when they do need to punt.
2022 NFL Draft losers
What a brutal draft for quarterbacks. Steelers’ pick Kenny Pickett was the only one to go in the first round, and he’s arguably a fringe first-round talent. The guy everyone had ranked higher, Malik Willis, didn’t hear his name called until the third-round. He’ll benefit from a clipboard year behind Ryan Tannehill. Desmond Ridder was the second signal caller taken, but he didn’t go until the third round either, to the Falcons, where he might get rushed to start too soon since Marcus Mariota is the only one in front of him. Matt Corral, taken near the end of the third by the Panthers, might be the one to watch from this group. How long is Carolina really going to be content watching Sam Darnold play?
The biggest problem for all of these guys, outside of Pickett, is that their teams don’t have to be patient with them given the day two investment. So they could all end up looking for work after a season if they don’t show some potential right away, and of the bunch, Willis is the only one with a high ceiling.
Sure, Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt are both good players, but these were two positions, inside linebacker and defensive tackle, that the Packers could have easily addresses later in the draft. They used two first-round picks on guys who aren’t top-flight offensive skill players or pass rushers.
They got their wide receiver pretty quickly on day two, trading up to the second pick in the second round for North Dakota State’s Christian Watson. He’s got the potential to be an above average outside receiver, but the fifth-year senior in college, for now, looks more like a possession guy. I like their fourth-pick, Nevada receiver Romeo Doubs, a lot as a deep threat with the potential to grow into more. Still, even with Aaron Rodgers under center, this is a team with Super Bowl aspirations right now betting on two players to develop in a hurry.
Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears
Fields had it rough in Chicago as a rookie, but thing had to get better in his second year, right? It’s not looking that way. The Bears really needed to find Fields some help at wide receiver and on the offensive line. They let several potential superstars slip by them with the seventh pick in the second round, including Skyy Moore and George Pickens. They didn’t draft a receiver until the third, settling for Tennessee’s Velus Jones Jr., who at 25 is one of the oldest players in the draft. They could have done better with that pick too, perhaps using it for a wideout like Khalil Shakir or Jalen Tolbert. They didn’t take a lineman until the fifth round, going for Souther Utah’s Braxton Jones, a developmental right tackle prospect.
It’s been a tough offseason for the Bears.
Kenny Pickett and the Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers are rightfully getting heat for using the 20th overall pick to nab a quarterback when the rest of the league was content to wait until late on day two to find their guy. They would have been better served going for some of the blue chip defensive backs still on the board at that point, like Florida corner Kaiir Elam or Michigan safety Daxton Hill.
For Pickett, the pressure’s on. Mitchell Trubisky isn’t long for a starting job, so you can expect fans and everyone else demanding a switch by October, if not sooner. And is Pickett ready for that? It’s hard to believe that he is. It’s been a long time since anyone with a yellow towel has had to watch their team chase third place in the division, but that’s exactly how this season is shaping up for the Steelers.