The 2022 NFL Draft has finally arrived! The first round was as exciting as advertised. It was wilder than many expected. The first round was filled with a lot of shocking selections and a few blockbuster trades. Some fans will be thrilled with their team’s selections and others are left scratching their heads wondering what their team wants to do. Here are the 2022 NFL Draft: First round grades and reactions.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Travon Walker, DL, Georgia
In recent days speculation that the Jaguars could choose Travon Walker over Aidan Hutchinson started to pick up steam. After months of wondering who the Jaguars would take they officially took Travon Walker. His combine performance boosted Walker from a potential first-round pick to a potential top-10 pick. From there Walker found his way onto the conversation to be taken first overall.
Walker is an athletic freak that could line up at defensive end, defensive tackle, and even drop back into coverage. He is an outstanding run defender but needs to work on rushing the passer. Walker is extremely raw as a pass rusher which is why this is a reach. He has all the tools to be an outstanding player at the next level. However, Walker likely won’t be the immediate gamechanger the Jaguars needed to add to their defense.
There were multiple other prospects that the Jaguars could have taken that would have been safer selections with the high ceiling Walker possesses. Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke has a nitch for pass rushers with high traits that may not have produced at the college level to the level most teams would be comfortable with. He grabs another one here with the first overall pick.
2. Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
Many draft analysts said that if Aidan Hutchinson was available for the Detroit Lions with the second overall pick that they would run the card up. That is exactly what happened. It didn’t take Detroit long to come to a decision on who they were selecting. They get the consensus best player in the entire draft with the second overall pick. Hutchinson will be a massive boost to a Lions pass rush that is lacking a player capable of posting double-digit sacks. He was the best defensive player in the country this past season and is arguably the best defensive player on the Lions roster right now. For the second season in a row, Brad Holmes drafts the best player on the board in the first round and adds a potential Pro Bowler/All-Pro to their trenches.
3. Houston Texans: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
After his pro day, Derek Stingley Jr. worked his way back to being a top-10 selection in this draft. Rumors started to swirl that the Texans were going to make a surprise selection with the third overall pick and they did just that. Stingley Jr. has as much upside as any player in this entire draft. His freshman tape is considered one of the greatest seasons ever by a cornerback. He was not only a lockdown cornerback but he was a ballhawk. The risk with this selection comes with the fact that he has dealt with injuries and hasn’t played up to that level since. If Stingley can stay healthy in the NFL he will be an outstanding foundational piece to this rebuilding Texans franchise that is lacking outstanding players on both sides of the ball.
4. New York Jets: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
This was the dream scenario for the New York Jets. They had their pick from Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Kayvon Thibodeaux, and all the top tackles in this year’s class. They ultimately chose Gardner which gives them a shutdown cornerback. During his time at Cincinnati Gardner did not give up a single touchdown. Even after signing D.J. Reed, the Jets needed another cornerback now that they will be playing both Stefon Diggs and Tyreek Hill twice a year. He is a great addition to a Jets defense that needed to add a lot more help this offseason. New York’s secondary looks a lot better after adding Gardner, Reed, and Jordan Whitehead this offseason.
5. New York Giants: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Many thought the New York Giants were going to take the top tackle on their board here. Instead, the Giants get arguably the best player in this entire draft in Kayvon Thibodeaux. When healthy it is hard to argue against Thibodeaux being the best player in the draft. He dropped due to questions surrounding his commitment to football. However, the Giants get a much-needed edge rusher with Pro Bowl potential. If reaches his potential the Giants will have added a player capable of putting up double-digit sacks every season. The Giants now have an outstanding front-four in Thibodeaux, Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawerence, and Azeez Ojulari. Thibodeaux brings a swagger that the Giants lack and could be a great foundational piece to this rebuild under Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll.
6. Carolina Panthers: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, N.C. State
It was very clear that the Carolina Panthers tried to trade out of this selection letting time wind down to around 3:00 remaining before making their selection. However, rather than reaching for a quarterback, the Panthers have decided to take the best tackle on their board. For the second year in a row, they take a prospect who played his college ball in one of the Carolinas and take N.C. State tackle Ikem Ekwonu. Since Jordan Gross retired in 2014 the Panthers have stared a different player at left tackle every single season.
They finally get a franchise left tackle in Ekwonu who is the best run blocker in this draft. He is a major upgrade over Brady Christiensen who was slated to start at left tackle. He should open up larger running lanes for former All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey and give Sam Darnold more time in the pocket to make plays for Carolina’s offense.
7. New York Giants (via Chicago Bears): Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
The New York Giants make another slam dunk pick two picks after taking Kayvon Thibodeaux. They grab arguably the best offensive tackle in this class in Evan Neal. He can line up anywhere on the offensive line and play at an elite level whether it be guard, right tackle, or left tackle. New York finally has bookend tackles in Andrew Thomas and Evan Neal. The Giants have desperately needed to upgrade both tackle spots for about a decade. Now they finally have two trustworthy starting tackles. Neal should be the Giants’ best offensive lineman next season and should make his presence known on this rebuilt Giants offensive line very soon in his NFL career.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Drake London, WR, USC
Seeing how the board fell the Falcons were almost guaranteed to take a wide receiver here. It was just a matter of which one they would take. They decide to make Drake London the first receiver off the board. For the second year in a row, the Falcons take a massive pass catcher. London is without a doubt the Falcons’ best receiver. When he was healthy he was by far the best receiver in college football. Atlanta landed a receiver with the potential to be a star in the league if used correctly in their offense. They must understand London will be limited as a separator but should win most 50/50 balls that come his way. There were other receivers that had higher floors than London available for the Falcons to take. But London fills a massive need for Atlanta and helps soften the blow of losing Calvin Ridley to suspension.
9. Seattle Seahawks (via Denver Broncos): Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
In past years the Seattle Seahawks have made head-scratching selections early in the draft and been aggressive when it comes to moving down the draft board. But instead, they stand pat and address a massive need on their roster by taking Charles Cross. Former Pro Bowl tackle Duane Brown likely wasn’t coming back to Seattle which left a massive hole at left tackle for Seattle. Cross is considered the best pass protector in this draft and should have no problem slotting into this offensive line and protecting the blindside of the Seahawks’ starting quarterback. Cross could be a Pro Bowler but if not he could be a solid left tackle for the Seahawks for the next 10-12 years.
10. New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks): Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
After selecting Ahmad Gardner who many people thought was the best cornerback in the class, the Jets take Garrett Wilson who is considered by many to be the best receiver in the class. He may not be Deebo Samuel, but Wilson is an outstanding route runner who is a threat to make plays on every level of the field. Wilson also has underrated speed that he showed off during his time at Ohio State separating from defenders. He should emerge as New York’s number one receiver in the near future. The Wilson to Wilson connection should be a popular one for Gang Green for the next half-decade-plus. New York has done everything in its power to give Zack Wilson the offensive help he needs to take a major jump in year two.
11. New Orleans Saints (via Washington Commanders): Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
The New Orleans Saints traded the 16th overall pick, a third-round pick, and a fourth-round pick to move up to the 11th overall pick to select Chris Olave. He is the perfect complement to what the Saints have in Michael Thomas. When healthy Thomas is one of the best receivers at making plays over the middle of the field. Olave is a deep threat that could stretch the field for New Orleans. Saints quarterback Jameis Winston has played at his best when he has a legitimate deep threat to throw the ball down the field. Olave may not have the highest ceiling of the receivers left on the board, but he is the safest pick among the receivers overall in this draft class. He is a perfect fit for this offense and should have a major impact on New Orleans early on in his career.
12. Detroit Lions (via Minnesota Vikings): Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
The Detroit Lions make a major move up the draft board trading the 32nd overall pick, 34th overall pick, and 66th overall pick to the Minnesota Vikings for the 12th overall pick and the 46th overall pick. When a team makes a major trade like this it is usually for a quarterback. However, Detroit added a playmaker to their offense in Alabama wide receiver Jamison Williams. Now the Lions have two dynamic young playmakers in Williams and Amon-Ra St. Brown to go along with former Pro Bowl receiver D.J. Chark and former Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson. When Williams returns healthy he will be well worth the move up the board to acquire him. Prior to tearing his ACL during the College Football Playoffs, many had Williams penciled in as the top wide receiver in the class. Detroit has added two game-changers to both sides of the ball with both of their first-round selections.
13. Philadelphia Eagles (via Houston Texans from Cleveland Browns): Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
When the Philadelphia Eagles traded ahead of the Baltimore Ravens it was clear that they wanted to get Jordan Davis. They traded the 15th overall pick along with a fourth, and two fifth-round picks to move up two spots to select Davis. It seems unlikely that Davis will make an immediate impact on this Eagles defense. There is a better than solid chance he doesn’t even start. He is joining a crowded interior defensive lineman room that already has Fletcher Cox, Pro Bowler Javon Hargrave, and 2021 third-round pick Milton Williams. The addition of Davis should create a rotation between him and the veterans in the locker room. This is a great long-term addition for Philadelphia to draft a physical freak to put in the middle of their defensive line in Davis. Both Cox and Hargrave are slated to be free agents next offseason. Eagles fans should not have high expectations from Davis in his rookie season because he won’t have a massive role with them in his first season.
14. Baltimore Ravens: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Baltimore definitely was disappointed to see the Eagles jump them for Jordan Davis. However, somehow they were able to land a top-5 player on most scouts’ boards here with the 14th overall pick in Kyle Hamilton. Prior to Hamilton’s pro day, he was a consensus top-10 pick. However, after a slow 40 time, Hamilton began to drop down draft boards. The Ravens have a knack for having great football players land in their laps when they pick in the first round. They didn’t need another safety, especially after signing Marcus Williams to a five-year $70 million deal. But it was hard for Baltimore to pass on a player in Hamilton who was such an x-factor for Notre Dame this past season. Baltimore’s secondary that was burned often last season has now added two Pro Bowl level safeties to go with their Pro Bowl cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters. This is the type of selection people will look back on and people will wonder how 13 teams passed on Hamilton and allowed him to land in Baltimore.
15. Houston Texans (via Philadelphia Eagles from Miami Dolphins): Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M
After trading back with the Philadelphia Eagles the Houston Texans decided to keep Kenyon Green in the state. This selection should allow former first-round pick Tytus Howard to move back to right tackle which is his natural position. This may feel like a slight reach for a team with multiple needs that could have been addressed by better players. However Green is a rock-solid interior offensive lineman that is now another nice addition to this Texans offensive line that looks closer to being a finished product than it did prior to the beginning of the offseason.
16. Washington Commanders (via New Orleans Saints from Philadelphia Eagles originally from Indianapolis Colts): Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
For the latter part of the draft process, many pegged Kyle Hamilton to the Commanders at 11th overall. However, after moving back it was unclear which direction they would go in. Washington decided to take the top wide receiver on their board in Jahan Dotson. This feels like a slight reach and is a puzzling selection because they had the opportunity to add better receiver prospects in Chris Olave or Jamison Williams with the 11th overall pick. Instead, they traded down five selections to add a third and fourth-round pick to limit their options at wide receiver. Dotson is a talented receiver who will be another nice receiver for Carson Wentz and a solid number two to Terry McLaurin. For the second year in a row, the Commanders forced a selection based on need and overdrafted the player they took in the first round.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Zion Johnson, IOL, Boston College
The Los Angeles Chargers have had an outstanding offseason which started off with adding J.C. Jackson, Khalil Mack, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and resigning Mike Williams. They didn’t have many needs to address after their active free agency. Los Angeles decided to add offensive guard Zion Johnson in the first round. Johnson is a great run blocker who will likely fill in for Matt Feiler who is expected to make the move to right tackle. The Chargers have prioritized protecting their star quarterback Justin Herbert after taking offensive linemen in the first round in back-to-back drafts. Johnson has a high floor and could be a solid starter on the interior of this offensive line that could have Pro Bowl potential.
18. Tennesee Titans (via Philadelphia Eagles from New Orleans Saints): Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
One of the two blockbuster trades that happened Thursday night involved the Tennesee Titans trading former Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles for the 18th overall pick and a third-round pick. Tennesee then used the 18th overall pick to replace Brown by taking Treylon Burks.
Many scouts used Brown as Burks’ pro-player comparison. They have similar body types and could stretch the field despite not having elite speed. This would be riskier for the Titans if they didn’t happen to acquire Robert Woods from the Rams for a sixth-round pick. The expectation for Burks isn’t to be A.J. Brown because Woods is a capable number one receiver. Tennessee could figure out how to take advantage of Burks’ niche skillset to allow him to excel in this offense and eventually take over as the team’s number one receiver.
Tennesse also gets a player whose ceiling is A.J. Brown for a fraction of the price that they would have had to pay to extend him next offseason.
19. New Orleans Saints (via Philadelphia Eagles): Trevor Penning, OT, Nothern Iowa
It was shocking to see Trevor Penning fall to the New Orleans Saints here at 19th overall. Both the Los Angeles Chargers and Tennessee Titans have needs at right tackle that could have been addressed by taking Penning. Instead, New Orleans takes him to fill the void left by Terron Armstead. Coming out of Northern Iowa, there is going to be a learning curve for Penning when he reaches the NFL. He likely won’t be the elite left tackle Armstead was. However, he should be able to fill this void on a Saints offensive line that features now four former first-round picks.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
Having all the quarterbacks available at the 20th overall pick isn’t too shocking. However, there was some risk involved for the Steelers to wait and let the quarterback board fall to them. There was a likely scenario where both Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett get taken earlier and Pittsburgh is selecting the third quarterback on the board. The Steelers decided to keep Kenny Pickett in the building by making him the 20th overall pick.
Even though Pickett played at the University of Pittsburgh, which shares a facility with the Steelers, this pick sent some shockwaves to those following the Steelers quarterback situation. After signing Mitch Trubisky to a two-year deal it seems extremely likely that Pittsburgh would target Liberty quarterback Malik Willis who may be more of a project than Pickett, but has a higher ceiling.
The Steelers are getting a quarterback in Pickett that should be able to compete with Trubisky for the team’s starting quarterback job right away and have a shot at winning it. However similar to Mac Jones last year, Pickett will likely reach his peak as a pro within his first two years in the league. In a division that features Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, and Deshaun Watson the Steelers clearly have the fourth-best quarterback in the division and that likely won’t change now for a long time. This feels like a missed opportunity to take a quarterback with superstar potential to compete with the Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback in the division.
21. Kansas City Chiefs (via New England Patriots): Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
One player lost in all the craziness of the earlier selections of the first round was Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie who felt like a lock to go in the top-20. McDuffie falling to the 21st overall pick felt like when someone is writing up a mock draft and forgets about a top prospect and just gives the prospect to the next team that has a need at their position. The Kansas City Chiefs traded the 29th overall pick along with a third and fourth-round selection to the Patriots to move up to this selection.
After years of mocking a cornerback to the Chiefs in the first round, they finally take one in 2022. Kansas City lost both Charvarius Ward and Mike Hughes this offseason. McDuffie may be smaller than a typical NFL cornerback, but he is one of the most intelligent defenders in the draft who projects to be a solid starting cornerback at the next level. Kansas City will likely start McDuffie’s career playing in the nickel and then transition him to outside corner eventually. McDuffie has Pro Bowl potential if he reaches his peak. If that were to happen this could be a huge get for the Chiefs’ defense.
22. Green Bay Packers (via Las Vegas Raiders): Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
It is hard to imagine anyone expecting the Green Bay Packers to select a receiver here in the first round with the way the board fell. They decided to address other needs on their roster and took Georgia linebacker Quay Walker. Despite not being the most productive of the Georgia linebackers, Walker’s physical tools intrigued the NFL enough to be the first off-ball linebacker off the board. Walker is versatile enough to lineup at off-ball linebacker and rush the passer off the edge. Green Bay likes versatile defenders who can lineup at multiple positions. Now that Green Bay has drafted Walker in the first round and resigned All-Pro De’Vondre Campbell the Packers finally have a great duo of inside linebackers in the middle of their defense to help their abysmal run defense.
23. Buffalo Bills (via Baltimore Ravens from Arizona Cardinals): Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
There was a lot of speculation this week that the Buffalo Bills were going to take a running back in the first round. The Bills did not have a lot of needs on their roster and could be viewed as a star running back away from reaching a Super Bowl. Instead, the Bills address their lack of cornerback depth by taking Kaiir Elam. This is a great pick in the short-term and long-term. Elam will likely have to cover opposing teams’ number one receiver until Tre’Davious White returns from his torn ACL. Then when White comes back healthy they’ll have two former first-round pick man-coverage cornerbacks lining up opposite the dangerous receivers in the AFC. An improved pass defense could be the difference between the Bills winning the AFC or not. Elam should improve Buffalo’s outstanding secondary and provides more upside than Levi Wallace who was a solid starter during his time with the team.
24. Dallas Cowboys: Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa
It seemed that no matter how the draft board was going to fall it wasn’t going to go favorably for the Dallas Cowboys. They have major needs at wide receiver, offensive line, and pass rusher. Those are the strengths of the draft. But unfortunately, many of the players who were expected to be available at this range at those positions were selected early. This resulted in the Cowboys taking offensive tackle Tyler Smith. At barely 21 years of age, Smith is an extremely raw prospect for the Cowboys. He has shown flashes of great upside that he could have later in his career as a pro. Plus his size suggests that he’ll develop nicely over time. The only issue with this pick is that Smith won’t likely make a major impact on this roster right away. He will likely replace Connor Williams at left guard and could eventually replace Tyron Smith at left tackle.
25. Baltimore Ravens (via Buffalo Bills): Tyler Linderbaum, IOL, Iowa
Baltimore acquired their second selection in the first round after trading Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and a third-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals for their first-round pick. They then traded that selection to the Buffalo Bills for the 25th overall pick and a fourth-round selection. The Ravens used that selection to land their second elite prospect of the night in center Tyler Linderbaum. Their starting center Bradley Bozeman left the team in free agency and left a void in the middle of the Ravens’ offensive line. Baltimore landed a massive upgrade in Linderbaum late in the first round. He dropped in draft rankings due to being injured for most of the draft process and because his size makes him very scheme specific. However, Baltimore lands a Pro Bowl-caliber center late in the first round to upgrade an offensive line that did not play great a season ago.
26. New York Jets (via Tennessee Titans): Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE, Florida State
One of the players with the widest ranges in rankings among scouts in the NFL media was Florida pass rusher Jermaine Jonhson. Some had him as a top-10 prospect and others barely had him inside of their top-30. That is why is was shocking that he fell all the way to the 26th overall pick. The New York Jets were likely surprised with Johnson falling this far which is why they traded the 35th overall pick, 69th overall pick, and 163rd overall pick to the Titans for the 26th overall pick along with the 101st overall pick. New York used that selection on Johnson whom they reportedly were very interested in and could have selected in the top-10.
Johnson produced at a high level during his lone season at Florida State. Looking deep at the analytics there are some red flags in Johnson’s game. However, his upside makes this an outstanding selection late in the first round. New York gets a potential double-digit pass rusher to line up opposite Carl Lawson and to add to this deep defensive line group. Jets head coach Robert Saleh is going to love coaching Johnson and scheming plays for him to get after the quarterback.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Tampa Bay Buccaneers): Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Jacksonville traded three of their picks to Tampa Bay in order to pick again in the first round. The Jaguars traded the 33rd, 106th, and 180th selection to take linebacker Devin Lloyd with the 27th overall pick. Many considered Lloyd to be the best linebacker in this year’s draft class. After adding Foyesade Oluokun this offseason the Jaguars needed another athletic linebacker to pair with him in the middle of the field. Lloyd is a great compliment to what Oluokun brings to the table. Lloyd could be the stout run defender that blitzes on passing downs while Oluokun could drop back into coverage. The draft broadcast kept acknowledging the kind of leader Lloyd was at Utah this past season and how adding a young player with the ability to lead to this young Jaguars team is huge for the team’s culture going forward.
28. Green Bay Packers: Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia
Instead of taking a wide receiver with their second of two first-round picks, the Green Bay Packers took their second Georgia Bulldog of the night in defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt. The Packers had a need for an interior defensive lineman next to Pro Bowler Kenny Clark. Age and off the field concerns likey move Wyatt down draft boards but his production this past season was enough for the Packers to take him late in the first round. He has all the tools to be a great interior defensive lineman at the next level and playing on a talented defense like Green Bay’s should allow him to develop without facing much pressure or attention from opposing offenses. It was concerning that Wyatt only had one great season of production and is an older prospect in this year’s draft class.
29. New England Patriots (via Kansas City Chiefs from San Francisco 49ers): Cole Strange, IOL, Chattanooga
The first real shocking selection of the night game was 29th overall by the New England Patriots. After trading down with the Kansas City Chiefs, New England selected Chattanooga interior offensive lineman Cole Strange. Many had a third-round grade on Strange and viewed his ceiling to be later in the second round. Instead, he was selected in the top-30 selections. It seems New England cared more about addressing their need at guard which they created when they traded Shaq Mason to the Buccaneers for only a fifth-round pick. There were plenty of other prospects available that could have addressed their needs at linebacker, cornerback, or receiver. New England could have then selected Strange in the second round if they wanted to ensure they got him.
30. Kansas City Chiefs: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
It was shocking to see George Karlaftis fall to the Kansas City Chiefs late in the first round. There were plenty of teams that selected ahead of them that could have been interested in his services. The Chiefs needed a player that could line up on the edge and pressure opposing quarterbacks. Putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks is what Karlaftis does best. He was one of the best in the nation at putting pressure on quarterbacks despite not having great sack numbers. Karlaftis won’t feel the pressure to lead the team in sacks anytime soon with Pro Bowlers Chris Jones and Frank Clark on the roster. But Karlaftis will be able to replace what Melvin Ingram was for this team down the stretch of the season after acquiring him from the Steelers.
There are a lot of parts about Karlaftis’ game that is easy to like and at the same time, he is extremely raw as a football player considering he has only lived in the United States for eight years. This means that there is a ceiling to Karlaftis that could make this pick look like a steal if he reaches it.
31. Cincinnati Bengals: Daxton Hill, CB/S, Michigan
Cincinnati addressed its biggest need early and often in free agency. They were able to patch their holes on the offensive line to address a smaller need here in the draft. The Bengals added versatile defensive back Daxton Hill with their selection in the first round. His versatility to line up at outside corner, nickel-corner, and safety is why the Bengals took him here. They would prefer for him to replace Eli Apple on the outside next season. However, he can also be an insurance option in place in case Second-Team All-Pro safety Jessie Bates leaves in free agency next offseason. There were better outside cornerback options on the board but the Bengals prioritized taking the best defensive back on the board.
32. Minnesota Vikings (via Detroit Lions from Los Angeles Rams): Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
The Minnesota Vikings added a lot of draft capital to move down to the final pick of the first round from the 12th selection. Based on how the board fell, it was smart for them to trade out of 12 and add capital to add to their talented roster. However they. likely could have gotten more from their division rival the Detroit Lions to move up 20 picks. They decided to take Georgia safety Lewis Cine to add to their secondary. Minnesota has veterans Patrick Peterson and Harrison Smith in place but they need some young blood in this secondary that could make an impact. Cine is a great addition to this defensive backfield and gives the Vikings a great duo of safeties on the backed of their rebuilding defense.