Why provide instant grades on the selections of prospects who have yet to take an NFL snap? Well, you’re reading this, aren’t you? Considering the makeup of every roster and the factors surrounding each pick, Gennaro Filice and Dan Parr rank the 2022 draft classes, 1-32. Keep in mind that these grades are based on draft hauls alone — picks traded for veteran players were not taken into account.
Grade: A | Total picks: 11
- Round 1: (No. 14) Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame; (25) Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
- Round 2: (45) David Ojabo, Edge, Michigan
- Round 3: (76) Travis Jones, DT, UConn
- Round 4: (110) Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota; (119) Jalyn Armour-Davis, CB, Alabama; (128) Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State; (130) Jordan Stout, P, Penn State; (139) Isaiah Likely, TE, Coastal Carolina; (141), Damarion Williams, CB, Houston
- Round 6: (196) Tyler Badie, RB, Missouri
PARR: Oops, they did it again. In what is seemingly an annual tradition, the Ravens put on an exhibition when it comes to accumulating talent and finding value in the draft. Also, we should mention they were able to acquire a first-round pick for Marquise Brown (no Pro Bowl nods, average of 787 receiving yards per season), even though we’re not evaluating trades involving veteran players in these grades. There’s a case to be made that they should have drafted a receiver after parting with Brown, but aside from that, general manager Eric DeCosta filled the team’s biggest needs. Using NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s prospect rankings as a guide, no team added more top-150 talent than Baltimore. The squad’s first pick of the draft set the tone for what was to come. Hamilton’s stock wasn’t helped by his timed speed at the NFL Scouting Combine and his pro day, but he was NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein’s highest-graded prospect this year. Jeremiah ranked him fifth overall. Landing him at No. 14 could prove to be a steal. The Ravens then selected the top center in the draft (Linderbaum), a player who was considered a likely top-15 pick prior to tearing his Achilles during his pro day (Ojabo) and one of the most dominant performers from the Reese’s Senior Bowl (Jones). Their record six fourth-round picks yielded the massive Faalele, who could become a starting right tackle, and more good value in Armour-Davis, Kolar and Likely. Some people might not love going with a punter in Round 4, but I’m not going to argue about specialists with a team that has demonstrated it knows what it’s doing in that department. Baltimore might have just walked away with six or seven future starters. The Ravens let the board come to them and might just end up with an embarrassment of riches in a few years.
Grade: A | Total picks: 7
- Round 1: (No. 4) Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati; (10) Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State; (26) Jermaine Johnson II, DE, Florida State
- Round 2: (36) Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
- Round 3: (101) Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State
- Round 4: (111) Max Mitchell, OT, Louisiana; (117) Michael Clemons, DE, Texas A&M
PARR: With six wins in the past two seasons combined, the Jets needed a home run draft in the worst way. It appears general manager Joe Douglas swung for the fences and easily cleared them. He landed three of NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s top nine prospects, including Johnson (ranked ninth) with the 26th overall pick, and might have come away with the best players available at cornerback, wide receiver and running back. That is good work. Head coach Robert Saleh was clearly elated to add some Sauce to the Jets’ roster at No. 4, as he should have been. Gardner brings shutdown potential and some much-needed swagger to the backend of Saleh’s defense. Jeremiah’s comp for Wilson: Stefon Diggs. That has to be music to Zach Wilson’s ears, and there’s nothing wrong with adding a potential future starter like Ruckert at a position where the Jets have been lacking for a while now. I like that the team addressed its three biggest needs with its first three picks and didn’t have to reach to do it. Yes, it did take trades to be in position to land Johnson and Hall, but it’s hard to argue with the value in both cases. After all the maneuvering, the Jets were left with just four picks outside of Round 1, which reflects the club’s sense of urgency. They needed immediate contributors and went for it on the first two days. It might have been nice to add a potential left tackle earlier in the draft given the uncertainty about what Mekhi Becton will be able to provide in Year 3. Mitchell was taken in Round 4 despite earning a Round 6 projection from NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein, but that’s my one quibble. The Jets are in a much better position to compete than they were before the draft started.
Grade: A | Total picks: 10
- Round 1: (No. 21) Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington; (30) George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue
- Round 2: (54) Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan; (62) Bryan Cook, S, Cincinnati
- Round 3: (103) Leo Chenal, LB, Wisconsin
- Round 4: (135) Joshua Williams, CB, Fayetteville State
- Round 5: (145) Darian Kinnard, OG, Kentucky
- Round 7: (243) Jaylen Watson, CB, Washington State; (251) Isiah Pacheco, RB, Rutgers; (259) Nazeeh Johnson, CB, Marshall
PARR: With their division rivals making a lot more noise than the Chiefs did in free agency, the pressure was turned up on Kansas City to make good use of the rich collection of draft capital it possessed this year after parting with Tyreek Hill. General manager Brett Veach and head coach Andy Reid did not disappoint. I identified receiver, edge rusher and cornerback as their three biggest needs entering the draft, and they addressed those positions with their top three selections, finding solid value with each pick. There was some handwringing when McDuffie’s arm measured shorter than 30 inches at the NFL Scouting Combine, but a couple NFL.com draft experts didn’t sour on him: Daniel Jeremiah called him one of the safest players in the draft and Lance Zierlein likened him to Packers Pro Bowl CB Jaire Alexander. Sign me up for that. Jeremiah’s comp for Karlaftis is Ryan Kerrigan, another former Boilermaker and a guy who consistently produced double-digit sacks in his prime years. Karlaftis is not considered the biggest playmaker versus the run, but there’s no doubt about his motor and he’s here to get after passers anyway. On Day 2, finding Moore waiting for them at No. 54 was a bit of a surprise and a major boon for Kansas City. NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund locked in Moore as the best value pick of Rounds 2-3. The Chiefs added three more potential future starters on defense before the fourth round was over, nabbing a couple hard-hitting enforcer types in Cook and Chenal and a long corner with good instincts in Williams. Don’t sleep on the Chiefs’ seventh-round RB, either. Pacheco is an all-gas, no-brakes runner. Overall, it was an excellent draft weekend for a team looking to fend off some very hungry challengers to the AFC West throne.
Grade: A- | Total picks: 8
- Round 1: (No. 2) Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan; (12) Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
- Round 2: (46) Joshua Paschal, DL, Kentucky
- Round 3: (97) Kerby Joseph, S, Illinois
- Round 5: (177) James Mitchell, TE, Virginia Tech
- Round 6: (188) Malcolm Rodriguez, LB, Oklahoma State; (217) James Houston, Edge, Jackson State
- Round 7: (237) Chase Lucas, CB, Arizona State
FILICE: When it comes to drafting, Brad Holmes is a man of conviction. Serious conviction. Remember last year, after he took Penei Sewell with his first pick as a general manager? The guy joyfully rampaged across the Lions’ draft room like a kid in a candy store possessed by a bull in a china shop. One year later, after Jacksonville turned in the card to officially make Travon Walker the No. 1 overall pick and put Detroit on the clock for the first time, Holmes was champing at the bit once again. In fact, the Lions GM got the pick in so quickly that he was already on the phone with Hutchinson when Roger Goodell took the podium to announce the Walker selection. Holmes simply couldn’t contain himself. And who could blame him? Hutchinson’s a local product who fills a serious Lions need and fits Dan Campbell’s culture to a T. Oh, and he just so happened to be the top overall prospect on many, many boards, including those of NFL Media draftniks Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks. Just a slam-dunk pick for the Lions. Then Holmes poured it on with a long-range bomb 11 picks later, dispensing a completely tolerable amount of draft currency to move up 20 slots and pounce on the most electric receiver in this draft class. Williams averaged a whopping 19.9 yards per catch last season. Shoot, he averaged 47.6 yards per touchdown — and the man scored 15 times! Also, with the franchise in the midst of a true rebuild, Detroit can allow Williams all the time he needs to fully recover from his ACL tear in the national title game. On Day 2 of the draft, the Lions continued to fortify their pass rush with a versatile power player (Paschal) and then nabbed a deep safety with great ball skills (Joseph). Don’t be surprised if both contribute immediately, especially Joseph, who could seriously push for the starting safety spot opposite Tracy Walker.
Grade: A- | Total picks: 5
- Round 1: (No. 13) Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
- Round 2: (51) Cam Jurgens, C, Nebraska
- Round 3: (83) Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
- Round 6: (181) Kyron Johnson, LB, Kansas
- Round 6: (198) Grant Calcaterra, TE, SMU
FILICE: The most notable move GM Howie Roseman made over draft weekend was, undoubtedly, flipping a mid first-rounder and a late third for A.J. Brown. But as the three of you fine human beings who diligently read the intro atop this file already know, these grades are based on draft hauls alone — picks traded for veteran players were not taken into account. And yet, even discounting the enormous impact of that blockbuster trade, the Eagles still landed in the “A” range, thanks to inspired drafting with the three premium picks they made. In the first round, Philadelphia leapfrogged Baltimore to snatch Davis. Wise move, considering everyone and their brothers from other mothers had mocked the 6-foot-6, 341-pound freak show to the Ravens. And with Fletcher Cox re-signed on a one-year deal in Philly, Davis will learn how to bull rush from a man who’s made six Pro Bowls pushing pockets. That’s not the only valuable mentorship set up by this draft haul, either. In Round 2, the Eagles pounced on Jurgens, an athletic pivot who essentially was handpicked by incumbent center Jason Kelce. “The Eagles have been using me to evaluate some of the centers coming out,” Kelce said Friday on Bleacher Report’s live draft coverage. “And of all the guys that I’ve looked at like for the past two to three years, out of all the guys that compare the most to myself, this guy is him.” Should make for a nice transition once Kelce, who pondered retirement before re-signing on a one-year deal, hangs ’em up. In Round 3, Roseman rescued Dean from a surprising free fall, grabbing the highly decorated linebacker about 40-to-50 picks later than most anticipated he’d be available. Even if reported health issues ultimately cause him to miss significant time in 2022, the man is well worth the 83rd overall pick. After all, he was the alpha dog on that all-time Georgia defense that just rewrote NFL draft record books.
Grade: A- | Total picks: 9
- Round 1: (No. 9) Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
- Round 2: (40) Boye Mafe, Edge, Minnesota; (41) Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State
- Round 3: (72) Abraham Lucas, OT, Washington State
- Round 4: (109) Coby Bryant, CB, Cincinnati
- Round 5: (153) Tariq Woolen, CB, Texas-San Antonio; (158) Tyreke Smith, Edge, Ohio State
- Round 7: (229) Bo Melton, WR, Rutgers; (233) Dareke Young, WR, Lenoir Rhyne
FILICE: No, the Seahawks did not draft a quarterback. Yes, they still earned a lofty draft grade. How? Well, let’s take an honest look at where this franchise stands right now. While everyone in the building — from the general manager to the head coach to the players — continues to avoid the word “rebuild” like it’s the third rail of football, Seattle’s actions speak loud and clear. The Seahawks just traded their decade-long offensive quarterback and released their decade-long defensive quarterback. Two of their top three sack leaders from last season are gone, as is three-fifths of the starting offensive line. The ‘Hawks don’t want to call this rebuilding? OK, let’s be kind and say they’re retooling. And in this process, there’s no need to prematurely draft a quarterback just to draft a quarterback. Does anyone seriously believe Seattle’s poised to compete in 2022, playing in a division with the reigning Super Bowl champions and two other double-digit-win playoff teams? No. Just draft good players. And that’s exactly what the Seahawks did, filling numerous high-need areas along the way. Cross and Lucas — two athletic tackles with significant pass-blocking experience in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense — could be the team’s bookend combo for years to come. Mafe’s an explosive edge bender with raw tools to develop into a prolific QB hunter. And at corner, the ‘Hawks added a battle-tested four-year starter in Bryant and a super-sized athletic freak in Woolen. I haven’t even mentioned Walker, a dynamic back who could quickly work his way to the top of a crowded backfield, with Pete Carroll and Co. looking to pound the rock even more than before. All in all, this feels like the most well-rounded Seahawks draft haul since the peak “Legion of Boom” years.
Grade: A- | Total picks: 8
- Round 1: (No. 8) Drake London, WR, USC
- Round 2: (38) Arnold Ebiketie, Edge, Penn State; (58) Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State
- Round 3: (74) Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati; (82) DeAngelo Malone, Edge, Western Kentucky
- Round 5: (151) Tyler Allgeier, RB, BYU
- Round 6: (190) Justin Shaffer, OG, Georgia; (213) John FitzPatrick, TE, Georgia
FILICE: March was a tough month for the Falcons. First, WR1 Calvin Ridley was suspended through at least the 2022 season for betting on NFL games. Then WR2 Russell Gage and LB Foye Oluokun — a pair of sixth-round picks from the 2018 draft who blossomed into key cogs in Atlanta — cashed in elsewhere in free agency, with Gage joining the rival Buccaneers. And the final blow: After the failed public pursuit of Deshaun Watson understandably alienated 14-year franchise face Matt Ryan, the Falcons traded the former league MVP for a third-round pick. With all of that coming on the heels of a fourth straight losing season, it felt like bottom for the franchise, suddenly featuring one of the most talent-poor rosters in the league. But nothing lifts NFL spirits like a well-executed draft — and at least according to this grader, that’s exactly what second-year GM Terry Fontenot provided. Entering last Thursday with a receiving corps headlined by Olamide Zaccheaus and Auden Tate, Atlanta sensibly took the first dip in the WR prospect pool, snatching up London. Combining the 6-foot-4, 219-pounder with 6-6, 245-pound Kyle Pitts is either exhilarating or terrifying, depending on your rooting interests. In Round 2, Fontenot jumped up five spots to address another crying need, adding Ebiketie to a pass rush that finished dead last in QB pressures and sacks in 2021. In fact, with just 18 sacks in 17 games, Atlanta had 11 fewer than any other team. No wonder the Falcons doubled down on edge rushers, taking Malone with their second pick of Round 3. Of course, their first pick of that round stole all the headlines, as Atlanta became just the second team to take a quarterback in this draft. A four-year starter with a 43-6 record at Cincinnati, Ridder lifted the program to unprecedented heights. While there are concerns about the athletic quarterback’s accuracy, no one questions his intangibles and leadership skills. Throughout the pre-draft process, team evaluators fell all over themselves praising Ridder’s beyond-his-years maturity and ability to command the room. As reported by colleague Cameron Wolfe, head coach Arthur Smith expects free-agent signee Marcus Mariota to open the season as the starter, but Ridder could push for playing time as the season goes on. Lastly, quick shout-out to Andersen, a mega athlete who starred at Montana State as a quarterback and running back in his first two seasons, before fully concentrating on linebacker and becoming the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year. Just a fun prospect. Oh, and at the NFL Scouting Combine, he blazed a 4.42 40-yard dash at 243 pounds.
Grade: B+ | Total picks: 9
- Round 1: (No. 3) Derek Stingley Jr., CB; (15) Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
- Round 2: (37) Jalen Pitre, DB, Baylor; (44) John Metchie III, WR, Alabama
- Round 3: (75) Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
- Round 4: (107) Dameon Pierce, RB, Florida
- Round 5: (150) Thomas Booker, DT, Stanford; (170) Teagan Quitoriano, TE, Oregon State
- Round 6: (205) Austin Deculus, OL, LSU
PARR: The 2022 NFL Draft was a big moment for the Texans, who had made a first-round pick only once in the four drafts between 2018 and 2021. Trades for veteran players by the previous regime put the team in a purgatory of sorts, with limited resources to build a young core of talent. That time has come to an end. After trading Deshaun Watson to the Browns for a package of picks, general manager Nick Caserio might have delivered five future starters to the franchise with his work over the three days of selections, although Houston’s class does have a little bit of a boom-or-bust element to it. Three of the first four players the Texans drafted were picked significantly higher than they were ranked by NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah: Stingley (third overall pick; ranked 12th), Green (15th overall pick; ranked 36th) and Metchie (44th overall pick; ranked 73rd). If Stingley gets back to playing like he did as a freshman at LSU in 2019, there will be no debate over whether Caserio made the right call with the initial first-round pick of his tenure. Green has a chance to be a dominant road grader right off the bat, so I’m not going to quibble with taking a guard of his caliber so early. The Texans need players like him to take pressure off young quarterback Davis Mills, who will also benefit from eventually having Metchie, who is coming off an ACL tear, available in the slot. There was certainly solid value in the selections of Pitre, Harris and Pierce, who each have a good shot to become starters early in their careers. With so many needs, Houston had to take a best-player-available approach, and it did a nice job of finding prospects who can help push the team in a better direction.
Grade: B+ | Total picks: 6
- Round 1: (No. 6) Ickey Ekwonu, OT, N.C. State
- Round 3: (94) Matt Corral, QB, Mississippi
- Round 4: (120) Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State
- Round 6: (189) Amare Barno, Edge, Virginia Tech; (199) Cade Mays, OG, Tennessee
- Round 7: (242) Kalon Barnes, CB, Baylor
FILICE: Going back to his college days at Baylor and Temple, Matt Rhule has always bet big on traits. And when those traits intersect with value and need, that’s a formula for success. Despite entering draft weekend with just six selections, including only one in the first three rounds, Carolina left with four prospects ranked in Daniel Jeremiah’s top 140. Of course, it helps when the board falls your way like it did for the Panthers, starting with their very first selection. Coming into Thursday night, there was some question as to whether any of the top three offensive tackles would be still be available at No. 6 overall. As it turned out, Carolina had its pick of the litter, and the Panthers pounced on the Charlotte native. Ekwonu’s game still needs some polish, particularly in pass pro, but the explosive tools are plain to see in the O-line porn that is his highlight reel. The only real downside to taking the tackle in Round 1 was the widespread perception that it’d prevent the QB-needy Panthers from scoring a signal-caller who could push Sam Darnold for snaps. But alas, the board again fell in Carolina’s favor, with the bottom falling out of the draft’s QB market after Kenny Pickett‘s first-round selection. The Panthers traded into Round 3 and stopped Corral’s slide at No. 94. While the Ole Miss product is a polarizing eval, on and off the field, he offers plus athleticism and the quickest release in this class. Darnold remains the incumbent starter, but Corral’s simple presence on the roster makes this team more interesting. On Day 3, Carolina went FULL RHULE, collecting three freak athletes in Smith, Barno and Barnes, the last of whom ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash in combine history (4.23).
Grade: B+ | Total picks: 9
- Round 2: (No. 64) Nik Bonitto, Edge, Oklahoma
- Round 3: (80) Greg Dulcich, TE, UCLA
- Round 4: (115) Damarri Mathis, CB, Pittsburgh; (116) Eyioma Uwazurike, DT, Iowa
- Round 5: (152) Delarrin Turner-Yell, S, Oklahoma; (162) Montrell Washington, WR, Samford; (171) Luke Wattenberg, C, Washington
- Round 6: (206) Matt Henningsen, DT, Wisconsin
- Round 7: (232) Faion Hicks, CB, Wisconsin
PARR: The Broncos ranked toward the bottom of the league in 2022 NFL Draft capital after dealing away their first- and second-round picks as part of the Russell Wilson trade, but they managed to put together a nice haul relative to the selections that were still in their possession. General manager George Paton was able to fill needs and find significant value with his first three picks. Using NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s Top 150 prospects as a guide, Bonitto (ranked 44th, picked 64th), Dulcich (ranked 60th, picked 80th) and Mathis (ranked 99th, picked 115th) netted a value of +56. Dulcich was NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks’ No. 2 tight end in the draft and he fills a major void at the position for Denver after it traded Noah Fant to Seattle in the Wilson swap. The former UCLA star isn’t going to help much as a blocker, but he averaged 17.6 yards per catch during his collegiate career and brings it in the hair department. Obviously, the Broncos decided to add primarily to the defense in the draft — re-signing Melvin Gordon prior to the draft last week might have helped make that so – and they spent wisely with their first pick. Bonitto has the potential to be a force off the edge versus the pass early in his career and could develop a more well-rounded game if he adds strength. They landed another exceptional athlete in Mathis, who posted an 11-foot-1 broad jump and a 43 1/2-inch vertical at the Pitt pro day (the top vertical at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine was 42 inches). Uwazurike was a sneaky-good addition to the depth of the defensive line. The Broncos did not address their need at inside linebacker in the draft, but there’s not a lot to quibble with here.
Grade: B | Total picks: 11
- Round 1: (No. 5) Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon; (7) Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
- Round 2: (43) Wan’Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky
- Round 3: (67) Joshua Ezeudu, OG, North Carolina; (81) Cordale Flott, CB, LSU
- Round 4: (112) Daniel Bellinger, TE, San Diego State; (114) Dane Belton, S, Iowa
- Round 5: (146) Micah McFadden, LB, Indiana; (147) DJ Davidson, DT, Arizona State; (173) Marcus McKethan, OG, North Carolina
- Round 6: (182) Darrian Beavers, LB, Cincinnati
FILICE: When the first round ended on Thursday night, the Giants essentially fielded flower bouquets from across the football world — and rightfully so. Having entered the draft with serious needs at edge rusher and offensive tackle, New York ticked those boxes in spectacular fashion. During the roller-coaster ride of rumors, innuendo and unnamed scouts that is the pre-draft process, Thibodeaux and Neal each spent time as the odds-on favorite to go No. 1 overall. Ultimately, Big Blue landed them both, at Pick Nos. 5 and 7. Two impact starters at two premium positions with the team’s first two selections … Huzzah! But wait a second: With that kind of sizzling start to the draft, how did the G-Men end up with a B? Well, they made five more picks over the next three rounds, and the returns weren’t nearly as inspiring. The second-round selection, in particular, stood out as a curious move on multiple levels. Robinson feels like a smaller, less-explosive version of last year’s first-round gadget selection, Kadarius Toney. And while Toney’s brief tenure in New York hasn’t exactly gone smoothly, leading to trade rumors, GM Joe Schoen contemptuously shut down that line of questioning in the wake of the Robinson pick: “We’re not shopping Kadarius Toney.” Some will dispute how unequivocal that statement might be, but even taking Toney out of the equation, what kind of raw value did the Giants collect with the No. 43 overall pick? NFL Media draft guru Daniel Jeremiah had 18 wide receivers ranked in his top 150 overall players. The 5-foot-8 Robinson was not among them.
Grade: B | Total picks: 9
- Round 1: (No. 18) Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
- Round 2: (35) Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
- Round 3: (69) Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State; (86) Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
- Round 4: (131) Hassan Haskins, RB, Michigan; (143) Chigoziem Okonkwo, TE, Maryland
- Round 5: (163) Kyle Philips, WR, UCLA
- Round 6: (204) Theo Jackson, CB, Tennessee; (219) Chance Campbell, LB, Ole Miss
PARR: The Titans were at the center of two of the most shocking developments of draft weekend. First, they traded Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Brown to the Eagles, a blockbuster move but one we are not evaluating here under the prospect-focused parameters in this exercise. Then they ended up landing Willis — who might be the best quarterback in the class — late in Round 3. Given the former Liberty QB’s upside, that selection has a chance to go down as the best pick of the entire draft. It remains puzzling to me that Willis slid out of the top 85 in an era where we’re used to seeing passers get pushed up the board – including those who need time to develop at the next level — because of the premium placed on the position. Even if he never develops into a quality QB1 after backing up Ryan Tannehill early on, the pick was well worth the risk at No. 86 overall. To give his quarterbacks a chance to succeed, general manager Jon Robinson absolutely had to draft a receiver in the first round after sending Brown to Philly. Burks has drawn comparisons to Brown. The fit made a lot of sense. McCreary went earlier than I expected but does provide nice depth at a marquee position, while Petit-Frere has been labeled as a high-ceiling/low-floor prospect and might not be able to challenge for a starting job right away. Tennessee did find the RB depth it needed on Day 3 in Haskins, who fits the brand as a back who brings some thump when he has the ball in his hands. I’m not sure the Titans nailed every pick, but my optimism about Willis long-term helps push this grade up a bit.
Grade: B | Total picks: 11
- Round 1: (No. 22) Quay Walker, LB, Georgia; (28) Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia
- Round 2: (34) Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
- Round 3: (92) Sean Rhyan, OL, UCLA
- Round 4: (132) Romeo Doubs, WR, Nevada; (140) Zach Tom, OL, Wake Forest
- Round 5: (179) Kingsley Enagbare, Edge, South Carolina
- Round 7: (228) Tariq Carpenter, S, Georgia Tech; (234) Jonathan Ford, DT, Miami; (249) Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State; (258) Samori Toure, WR, Nebraska
FILICE: The Packers just extended their run of not drafting a first-round receiver to 20 years, but who’s counting? Oh, that’s right: E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. Despite entering the draft with a pair of first-round picks and a serious need at the position in the wake of Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling‘s exits, Green Bay didn’t trade up, missed out on a receiver run and exited Round 1 with this notorious streak intact. All hail Bucky Brooks, who predicted this inconceivable outcome in March and then doubled down in April. So, how did Aaron Rodgers react? Well, he struck a Zen tone while watching the draft live as a guest on — what else? — The Pat McAfee Show, revealing that he’d been in contact with team execs throughout the night. And the Pack did trade up in Round 2 to take a buzzy size/speed YAC monster (Watson), then grabbed a downfield playmaker (Doubs) in Round 4. Will this ultimately pacify — and sufficiently support — the two-time reigning MVP? That’ll depend on how quickly the newbies can get up to speed, with Rodgers having little patience for rookie mistakes. On the plus side, GM Brian Gutekunst gave Rodgers two more blockers — Rhyan and Tom — who provide the kind of positional versatility Green Bay covets on the offensive front. But at the moment, the happiest man in Titletown could be defensive coordinator Joe Barry. Not only did he get a pair of disruptive, athletic specimens (Walker and Wyatt) from the vaunted Georgia defense in Round 1, but he also scored a fifth-rounder in Enagbare who’s routinely comped to offseason departure Za’Darius Smith. Quite fitting that the South Carolina edge defender — who led all Power Five players with 16 QB hits last season, per Pro Football Focus — has adopted Z’s No. 55.
Grade: B | Total picks: 8
- Round 1: (No. 17) Zion Johnson, OL, Boston College
- Round 3: (79) JT Woods, S, Baylor
- Round 4: (123) Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M
- Round 5: (160) Otito Ogbonnia, DT, UCLA
- Round 6: (195) Jamaree Salyer, OL, Georgia; (214) Ja’Sir Taylor, DB, Wake Forest
- Round 7: (236) Deane Leonard, DB, Mississippi; (260) Zander Horvath, RB, Purdue
PARR: My apologies to those who prefer to see these analytical blurbs move in linear fashion, but we need to start in Round 6 for the Chargers. That’s where they might have found one of the steals of the draft. Salyer started all 21 games he played for Georgia over the past two seasons, including 11 at left tackle for the national champions in 2021. He was the No. 120 prospect on NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s draft board. Yet, there he was, still waiting to hear his name called at Pick 195. General manager Tom Telesco shrewdly stopped his slide, coming away with incredible value for a player who will likely play inside as a pro. Offensive line was the team’s biggest need, so it made plenty of sense to double down on the front five after the Chargers drafted Johnson, a plug-and-play guard, with their first pick. Some folks will argue L.A. should have gone with the best potential right tackle available in Round 1 — in this case, Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning — but it seems like the Bolts went with the safer choice early, and that’s understandable. The Bolts saved their gamble for Round 3 (they traded their second-round pick in the Khalil Mack swap). Woods has the tools to become a playmaker in the secondary, but NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein cited “too many busted assignments” in his scouting report on the Baylor safety and wrote that “he’ll need to prove that his run support and tackle finishing are on a functional level for the pro game.” If Woods puts it all together, the Chargers could end up looking back at this draft class very fondly. I would not have minded seeing a wide receiver added to the mix, but that was closer to a luxury to a necessity for this team, and Spiller was worth a shot in Round 4.
Grade: B | Total picks: 7
- Round 1: (No. 20) Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt
- Round 2: (52) George Pickens, WR, Georgia
- Round 3: (84) DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M
- Round 4: (138) Calvin Austin III, WR, Memphis
- Round 6: (208) Connor Heyward, TE, Michigan State
- Round 7: (225) Mark Robinson, LB, Mississippi; (241) Chris Oladokun, QB, South Dakota State
PARR: The Steelers selected a quarterback in Round 1, which means retiring general manager Kevin Colbert’s final draft with the organization will largely be judged based on how Pickett fares in the NFL. For now, the decision to use the 20th overall pick on a passer seems fine. No one from this year’s QB class made evaluators swoon. Pickett was the only one selected in the first two rounds. Perhaps Pittsburgh could have addressed a different need in the first round and taken Desmond Ridder or Malik Willis on Day 2. I would not have been against that idea, but the former Pitt star was considered the best of the bunch at the position and no team should have more intel on him than the Steelers, given that they share a facility with the team he’s played for over the past five seasons. NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein’s comp for Pickett is prime Andy Dalton. That might not be elite, but it’s definitely not bad. Hopefully nothing occurs in the seasons to come that reignites the discussion of his hand size. Anyhow, the team did make other picks. There’s a lot to like about the receiver selections. Pickens was getting first-round buzz leading up to the draft but was still available late in Round 2, and the undersized Austin has the quickness to become a playmaker in the slot. The 84th overall pick was a good spot for Leal, who could end up outperforming his draft slot if Pittsburgh can help him develop into a more explosive player. I might have invested a pick at cornerback or the offensive line at some point, but this is a decent haul for Mike Tomlin and Co.
Grade: B | Total picks: 6
- Round 1: (No. 31) Daxton Hill, DB, Michigan
- Round 2: (60) Cam Taylor-Britt, CB, Nebraska
- Round 3: (95) Zachary Carter, DT, Florida
- Round 4: (136) Cordell Volson, OL, North Dakota State
- Round 5: (166) Tycen Anderson, S, Toledo
- Round 7: (252) Jeffrey Gunter, Edge, Coastal Carolina
PARR: Fresh off an AFC title, Cincinnati’s most pressing needs heading into the draft were in the secondary, and the Bengals took two big swings at the defensive backfield with their first two selections. They even made a rare trade up the board to nab a cornerback late in Round 2. I can’t argue with the strategy. It’s going to take a stronger secondary than the team had last year to make a similarly deep postseason run in the loaded AFC. Hill should help in that effort as a hybrid safety/nickel back with a nose for the football. Taylor-Britt offers the speed and intangibles as a former team captain to compete for playing time right away. I can’t say I was blown away by the Bengals’ decisions in the middle rounds. It seemed like there was better value available in Rounds 3 and 4, including at the tight end position, which I identified as a top-three need for the squad. They could have gone with Ohio State’s Jeremy Ruckert in Round 3 or Coastal Carolina’s Isaiah Likely in Round 4, but instead Cincy chose Carter and Volson, who can, at least initially, provide quality depth in the trenches. The team’s last two picks, Anderson and Gunter, are scrappy defenders who will need to carve out roles on special teams to make the roster. The draft class is on the smaller side and won’t do much to help the offense but there’s no doubt the Bengals gave the defense a lift here, which was the main task on the to-do list.
Grade: B | Total picks: 8
- Round 1: (No. 23) Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
- Round 2: (63) James Cook, RB, Georgia
- Round 3: (89) Terrel Bernard, LB, Baylor
- Round 5: (148) Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State
- Round 6: (180) Matt Araiza, P, San Diego State; (185) Christian Benford, CB, Villanova; (209) Luke Tenuta, OT, Virginia Tech
- Round 7: (231) Baylon Spector, LB, Clemson
PARR: This draft class might seem to be more solid than spectacular at the moment, but give the Bills credit for being aggressive. Cornerback was their biggest need with Tre’Davious White coming off injury and Levi Wallace departing in the offseason, so they traded up to fill it with Elam. Some folks had other available CBs higher on their boards — NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks did not have the former Gator among his top five prospects at the position — but it became clear late in the process that Elam was likely to go in Round 1, even though he didn’t have his best season in 2021 (missed three games due to a knee injury). Buffalo might have reached a bit on Day 2, though. Running back and linebacker were both areas of need, but NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah had Cook (63rd overall pick) rated 96th overall and Bernard (89th overall pick) did not make his top 150. Cook could wind up as a great fit as a change-of-pace rusher and pass-catcher out of the backfield. Bernard will fill a void on defense and special teams if durability concerns don’t become an issue in the league. My favorite pick from the Bills’ draft class came on Day 3, when Shakir, a Reese’s Senior Bowl standout, was still available in Round 5. General manager Brandon Beane might have added the next Amon-Ra St. Brown to Josh Allen’s arsenal. Then again, perhaps getting the Punt God with the first pick in Round 6 will go down as the steal of the draft. This is the stuff Rich Eisen’s dreams are made of.
Grade: B | Total picks: 8
- Round 2: (No. 53) Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati
- Round 3: (73) Jelani Woods, TE, Virginia; (77) Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan; (96) Nick Cross, S, Maryland
- Round 5: (159) Eric Johnson, DT, Missouri State
- Round 6: (192) Andrew Ogletree, TE, Youngstown State; (216) Curtis Brooks, DT, Cincinnati
- Round 7: (239) Rodney Thomas, DB, Yale
PARR: The Colts have been crushed for trading their 2022 first-round pick for Carson Wentz (now a member of the Washington Commanders after a disappointing ’21 campaign), but we won’t be piling on here since we’re not including trades for veteran players in our draft grades. General manager Chris Ballard did a decent job with the remaining capital he had at his disposal. He addressed the need opposite Michael Pittman Jr. with his first selection, landing a physical wideout in Pierce. The former Cincinnati star went a little earlier than I expected — Indy passed on Skyy Moore, who went to Kansas City with the next pick — but he has the potential to become a quality WR2 for Matt Ryan. It was wise to keep the focus on adding help for the 36-year-old quarterback with the first two of their three third-rounders. Woods is an ascending talent and Raimann was an excellent value. He might have fallen a bit because he’ll be an older rookie (turns 25 in September) but he has the tools to become a good starter at a marquee position. The defense finally got a jolt with the team’s final third-rounder. Cross could be an enforcer from the safety position for Indianapolis. Ballard plucked a postseason riser in Round 5. Johnson will be intriguing to monitor in camp as he makes the jump from Missouri State. I thought corner was one of Indianapolis’ top three needs this year, so it was a little disappointing to not see the team address the position. For the most part, though, the Colts made the most of their picks.
Grade: B | Total picks: 9
- Round 3: (No. 68) Martin Emerson, CB, Mississippi State; (78) Alex Wright, DE, UAB; (99) David Bell, WR, Purdue
- Round 4: (108) Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma; (124) Cade York, K, LSU
- Round 5: (156) Jerome Ford, RB, Cincinnati
- Round 6: (202) Mike Woods, WR, Oklahoma
- Round 7: (223) Isaiah Thomas, Edge, Oklahoma; (246) Dawson Deaton, C, Texas Tech
PARR: Cleveland did not have a first-round pick this year, and Browns fans should get used to the feeling of a late start in the draft. The team currently does not hold another Round 1 selection until 2025 after dealing away three first-rounders in the Deshaun Watson trade. Keep in mind that the swap is not accounted for in this grade, as we’re evaluating each team’s picks relative to their draft capital and needs. General manager Andrew Berry did an adequate job by those standards. He traded out of the second round in a deal with the Texans and ended up with three third-rounders. I didn’t love that the Browns took Emerson — NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s 125th-ranked prospect — with the 68th overall pick, although I do subscribe to the theory that you can never have enough good corners. The price was just a bit rich for my taste. There was a quick recovery, though. Cleveland addressed its most pressing needs with the next three selections, beefing up the defensive line and adding depth at wide receiver. Wright will likely need some time to hone his skills, but he has an intriguing collection of tools that could make him a starter one day, and Bell has a chance to be the type of player who makes teams regret downgrading him for his athletic testing. Winfrey, the Reese’s Senior Bowl MVP, was an excellent value early in Round 4 and fills a void in the D-line rotation. Before Day 3 was over, the Browns added the best kicker in the draft, fortified a position of strength at running back and took a shot on a developmental edge rusher in Thomas. They ended up with a respectable draft class despite their limited capital.
Grade: B | Total picks: 6
- Round 3: (No. 90) Dylan Parham, OG, Memphis
- Round 4: (122) Zamir White, RB, Georgia; (126) Neil Farrell, DT, LSU
- Round 5: (175) Matthew Butler, DT, Tennessee
- Round 7: (238) Thayer Munford Jr., OT, Ohio State; (250) Brittain Brown, RB, UCLA
PARR: In a way, the Raiders’ 2022 NFL Draft was the anti-Vegas draft. There was very little gambling here, but that’s not a bad thing. New general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels only had one pick in the top 100 after trading their first- and second-round selections to the Packers for Davante Adams, and they addressed their biggest need with that pick. Parham came off the board in the range his skills merited and he should compete to start at guard right away. On Day 3 (Rounds 4-7), the Raiders did a nice job of identifying value. White, a powerful runner, was a top-100 talent who went 122nd and Butler, a gritty interior defender, was a good find late in Round 5. The decision to add help at running back made plenty of sense after the team declined the option on Josh Jacobs’ rookie deal, and the interior D-line was a top-three need for the club. Munford, who some projected as a fourth-round pick, might have been the best value of all in the middle of Round 7. The Raiders left one top need unaddressed, failing to pick an inside linebacker, but with limited capital, this was a solid first entry for the franchise’s new decision-makers.
Grade: B | Total picks: 4
- Round 3: (No. 102) Channing Tindall, LB Georgia
- Round 4: (125) Erik Ezukanma, WR, Texas Tech
- Round 7: (224) Cameron Goode, OLB, California; (247) Skylar Thompson, QB, Kansas State
PARR: This draft was all about Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill for Miami. After shipping off a package of selections to the Chiefs in the March deal for the three-time first-team All-Pro receiver, the Dolphins decided to stick and pick with the four selections they had heading into the proceedings in Las Vegas, and came away about how you would expect for a team in such a position. They failed to address every need — the interior O-line being the most significant unchecked box — but did a fine job of finding value with their top pick. Inside linebacker has long been crying out for an upgrade. Tindall might make his first start since high school for the Dolphins. Yes, he never started during his career on a stacked Georgia defense, but he still finished third on the team in tackles last season (67). He should help on special teams immediately and has the sideline-to-sideline ability to make a lot of stops for the Miami defense whenever he gets his opportunity. It might have been a surprise to see the team draft a receiver given the investments it has already made in the position, but the price was right for Ezukanma in Round 4 and Tua Tagovailoa could use all the help he can get if he’s going to lead an offense aiming to close the gap on the AFC’s best. In Round 7, the highly productive Goode was worth a flyer, and I’m never going to complain about taking a shot on a QB with one of the last picks in the draft.
Grade: B- | Total picks: 7
- Round 1: (No. 1) Travon Walker, DE, Georgia; (27) Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
- Round 3: (65) Luke Fortner, C, Kentucky; (70) Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming
- Round 5: (154) Snoop Conner, RB, Ole Miss
- Round 6: (197) Gregory Junior, CB, Ouachita Baptist
- Round 7: (222) Montaric Brown, CB, Arkansas
PARR: The Jaguars took NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks’ No. 4 edge rusher in the draft with the first overall pick. Obviously, that leads to some questions. Walker’s clearly a special talent. His stock skyrocketed after the college football season, as he shined brighter in workouts than he did during his time at Georgia, which fueled a classic debate on how to weigh a prospect’s game tape versus his athletic testing. I’m just not particularly confident that general manager Trent Baalke landed the best player available. Time will tell if Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux would have been a better choice. One thing we can be certain of: The Jaguars are now loaded at off-ball linebacker, a spot that some teams have seemed to not prioritize in recent years. After signing Foye Oluokun to a three-year, $45 million deal this offseason, Jacksonville traded back into Round 1 to nab Lloyd and then took Muma, who was unquestionably a value early in Round 3. Brooks believes Muma-to-Duval was one of the best player-team fits in the entire draft. I like both Lloyd — the 2021 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year — and Muma, but it just seemed a bit odd to go so heavy at LB when the team has needs elsewhere. Baalke did address the need for more offensive line help by adding a potential starting center in Fortner. He came off the board a bit earlier than I expected. I know the Jaguars spent a lot of money on skill-position players in free agency, but I was a little surprised they didn’t invest in more weaponry for Trevor Lawrence earlier. Perhaps Conner will become a key contributor as a short-yardage back in Doug Pederson’s offense.
Grade: B- | Total picks: 10
- Round 1: (No. 32) Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
- Round 2: (42) Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson; (59) Ed Ingram, OG, LSU
- Round 3: (66) Brian Asamoah, LB, Oklahoma
- Round 4: (118) Akayleb Evans, CB, Missouri
- Round 5: (165) Esezi Otomewo, DL, Minnesota; (169) Ty Chandler, RB, North Carolina
- Round 6: (184) Vederian Lowe, OT, Illinois; (191) Jalen Nailor, WR, Michigan State
- Round 7: (227) Nick Muse, TE, South Carolina
FILICE: First-year Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is a former Wall Street trader with economics degrees from Princeton and Stanford, so you had to figure he’d be a wheeler-dealer in the draft. That certainly was the case last week, as Minnesota executed six trades, bouncing up and down the draft board with noticeable chutzpah. But your loyal draft grader — who admittedly has zero economics degrees and has never even seen the movie Wall Street — had serious trouble understanding the rationale behind Adofo-Mensah’s opening salvo, a rare intradivisional deal with the Lions:
- Detroit received: Pick Nos. 12 and 46.
- Minnesota received: Pick Nos. 32, 34 and 66.
I know the various trade charts spit out various judgments on the move, but let’s get down to brass tacks here: Essentially, for the price of the No. 34 overall pick, the Lions got to move up 20 spots on Day 1 and 20 spots on Day 2. I’ll take the Detroit side of that trade all day long. Odd. Putting this procedural gripe aside, though, the Vikings did address a series of needs, starting with a serious infusion of talent into the secondary. Cine never got the pre-draft love he truly deserved because A) he played on the most loaded college defense in memory and B) Kyle Hamilton sucked up all the air in the safety room. But the speedy, instinctual deep-half defender is a heat-seeking missile against the run and a savvy zone processor against the pass. Booth’s a highly pedigreed cornerback with the physical tools to excel in press-man coverage; he could’ve been a first-round pick if not for core muscle surgery in March. Ingram could be a Day 1 starter at guard, a position that’s befuddled the Vikings for years. And Asamoah’s a rangy modern linebacker who should benefit greatly from serving an apprenticeship under Eric Kendricks.
Grade: B- | Total picks: 9
- Round 1: (No. 24) Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa
- Round 2: (56) Sam Williams, Edge, Mississippi
- Round 3: (88) Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama
- Round 4: (129) Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin
- Round 5: (155) Matt Waletzko, OT, North Dakota; (167) DaRon Bland, CB, Fresno State; (176) Damone Clark, LB, LSU; (178) John Ridgeway, DT, Arkansas
- Round 6: (193) Devin Harper, LB, Oklahoma State
PARR: In the grand spectrum of draft grades, the Cowboys’ mark generally seems to boil down to what you think of Dallas’ polarizing first-round pick. We know how Jerry Jones feels, as the inimitable owner busted out the Cowboys’ draft board before the assembled media to show reporters how highly the team had Smith rated. (Never change, Jerrah. The content machines NEED you.) So, how does your loyal NFL.com grader feel? Conflicted. Having entered the draft as a redshirt sophomore out of Tulsa, Smith’s technique is sushi raw. In related news: He racked up a whopping 16 penalties in 2021 alone. But the explosive, unteachable traits packed into that 6-5, 324-pound frame are something special. As one of the younger prospects in this draft class, Smith’s a ball of clay. The Cowboys could start the athletic mauler at left guard this season, while grooming him to eventually take over for aging LT Tyron Smith. With the way the board fell in Round 1, Dallas didn’t have many instant-impact options at other areas of need. So, personally, I don’t mind taking the long view on a naturally gifted blocker who received plenty of first-round buzz as the pre-draft process played out. Two more picks I’d like to spotlight for a quick moment: Tolbert in Round 3 and Clark in Round 5. Tolbert, a smooth route runner out of South Alabama, dismissed any small-school concerns by cooking all comers at the Senior Bowl. With the offseason departures of Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson, Tolbert could get serious burn in the Cowboys’ receiver rotation, especially with Michael Gallup on the mend from ACL surgery. Clark, meanwhile, might not see the field at all in 2022, having undergone spinal fusion surgery in March. Without that setback, the physical, athletic linebacker’s long gone by the time the Cowboys are picking at No. 176. Look at this as a draft-and-stash move — basically a lower-stakes version of the Jaylon Smith selection in 2016.
Grade: B- | Total picks: 8
- Round 2: (No. 33) Logan Hall, DL, Houston; (57) Luke Goedeke, OG, Central Michigan
- Round 3: (91) Rachaad White, RB, Arizona State
- Round 4: (106) Cade Otton, TE, Washington; (133) Jake Camarda, P, Georgia
- Round 5: (157) Zyon McCollum, CB, Sam Houston State
- Round 6: (218) Ko Kieft, TE, Minnesota
- Round 7: (248) Andre Anthony, Edge, LSU
FILICE: With a championship-caliber roster devoid of many pronounced needs, the Buccaneers immediately addressed the two softest spots with their first two picks. With Ndamukong Suh‘s contract up, Tampa had an opening on the defensive front. Tossing the high-cut Hall next to beefy bull rusher Vita Vea makes for an intriguing arrangement, as the Houston product’s more of a quick, agile disruptor with a toolbox full of pass-rushing maneuvers. Hall generated plenty of first-round buzz in recent months, ultimately just missing out as the opening selection of Round 2. Twenty-four picks later, Jason Licht went fishing for a left guard to replace suprise retiree Ali Marpet. A former tight end who played offensive tackle at Central Michigan, Goedeke is a projection as an NFL guard, but he seems to have the right demeanor for interior trench warfare: “I’m a nasty guy,” the former Chippewa told the Detroit Free Press. “Like, there’s not much greater feeling I get than imposing my will on another grown man and driving him into the dirt.” Alright then. The Bucs actually filled one last serious need in the back half of the fourth round, even if the position targeted took some by surprise. It’s debateable whether spending a top-150 pick on a special teamer is good business, but there’s no question Bradley Pinion was one of the league’s worst punters last season. So welcome about, Mr. Camarda. And don’t tell him punters aren’t athletes — the man ran a 4.56 at the combine. Todd Bowles knows! Among the depth pieces Tampa added, McCollum stands out for a couple reasons. First of all, in a sign of COVID times, he was the rare five-year starter in college. Secondly, the 6-2 corner put up freakish testing numbers across the board in Indy, leading all combine participants in the three-cone drill (6.48) and short shuttle (3.94), while also posting the sixth-fastest 40-yard dash (4.33).
Grade: C+ | Total picks: 5
- Round 1: (No. 11) Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State; (19) Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
- Round 2: (49) Alontae Taylor, CB, Tennessee
- Round 5: (161) D’Marco Jackson, LB, Appalachian State
- Round 6: (194) Jordan Jackson, DT, Air Force
FILICE: One thing is clear in New Orleans: The Saints genuinely believe they’re competitors. Despite losing franchise faces Drew Brees and Sean Payton over the last couple years, nobody’s talking about rebuilding or restarting or even retooling. The “re-” prefix has no place in NOLA! This franchise just forges forward like it’s operating in a championship window, with last year’s playoff absence attributed to a ravenous injury bug. Right or wrong, it’s admirable. But is it wise? Mickey Loomis continues to draft with the urgency of a general manager whose roster is just a piece or two away, as opposed to stockpiling a nice core of young, cheap talent to build around. He grows fond of certain prospects, and then seemingly does whatever it takes to GO GET ‘EM! Four years ago, the Saints gave up two first-round picks and a fifth-rounder to move up 13 spots and grab raw edge rusher Marcus Davenport. While Davenport’s developed into a solid QB hunter when healthy, he’s missed at least three games due to injury in all four of his pro campaigns, sitting out 11 total games over the past two years. Not sure the aggressive 2018 trade-up has worked as planned. But I digress — let’s get back to this year. Re-signing Jameis Winston and bringing aboard Andy Dalton signaled that New Orleans was out on the draft QBs. So in the wake of the free agency frenzy, the Saints had two glaring needs above all others: wide receiver and left tackle. In early April, New Orleans made a trade with Philadelphia that gave the Saints two top-20 picks. Then on draft night, after receivers started coming off the board, Loomis vaulted from Pick No. 16 to No. 11 to snag Olave, the Ohio State wideout the Saints had been connected with throughout the pre-draft process. At Pick No. 19, they plucked Penning to replace Terron Armstead on the blind side. Two picks in, Loomis had filled the team’s two biggest needs, but at what cost? Here’s the tally:
TOTAL DRAFT CURRENCY TRADED TO ACQUIRE OLAVE AND PENNING
- Round 1, No. 16 overall
- Round 1, No. 18
- Round 3, No. 98
- Round 3, No. 101
- Round 4, No. 120
- Round 7, No. 237
- Round 1
- Round 2
That’s pretty steep for two non-quarterbacks. (Well, OK, three non-quarterbacks, including DT Jordan Jackson, who was acquired via an extra sixth-rounder netted in the Philly trade.) It could work out in New Orleans’ favor, but Loomis just continues to leave himself little margin for error.
Grade: C+ | Total picks: 9
- Round 2: (No. 61) Drake Jackson, Edge, USC
- Round 3: (93) Tyrion Davis-Price, RB, LSU; (105) Danny Gray, WR, SMU
- Round 4: (134) Spencer Burford, OG, Texas-San Antonio
- Round 5: (172) Samuel Womack, CB, Toledo
- Round 6: (187) Nick Zakelj, OT, Fordham; (220) Kalia Davis, DT, UCF; (221) Tariq Castro-Fields, CB, Penn State
- Round 7: (262) Brock Purdy, QB, Iowa State
FILICE: If there’s one thing I know about these 49ers, it’s that they can develop D-line talent. If there’s another thing I know about these 49ers, it’s that they can’t stop collecting running backs. With their two top-100 picks, San Francisco showcased two of the current regime’s defining traits. The D-line focus actually predates Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, as the Niners have now spent their first pick on this position group in six of the past eight drafts. I’m cool with this. Give defensive line coach Kris Kocurek some pass-rushing traits, and he’ll maximize ROI. Jackson’s a twitchy edge rusher who flashed major talent as a true freshman at USC, but his development stalled as the Trojans deteriorated under Clay Helton. Tasked with alternating assignments, Jackson’s impact and playing weight ebbed and flowed. Still just 21 years old entering San Francisco’s pass-rush factory, Jackson seems like a promising prospect whose best football’s in front of him. Meanwhile, Davis-Price joins the crowded conveyor belt of Niners backs. I get that Shanahan sets up his entire offense with a multi-faceted running game, but the 49ers just saw sixth-round steal Elijah Mitchell nearly hit the 1,000-yard mark in just 11 games as a rookie. Given the roster’s more pronounced needs elsewhere (SEE: defensive backfield and offensive line), was this really the best use of the No. 93 overall pick? What does it mean for last year’s No. 88 overall pick, RB Trey Sermon? I don’t get it. The Niners’ second third-round pick made a lot more sense. Having blazed a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, Gray could provide the receiving corps with the electric-speed element San Francisco’s largely lacked since Marquise Goodwin‘s 962-yard campaign in Shanahan’s first year on the job. One potential sleeper to watch: Castro-Fields, a traitsy size/speed cover man who came off the board with the last pick of Round 6 at No. 221. NFL Media draft guru Daniel Jeremiah saw much more value in the Penn State product, ranking him as the No. 118 overall player in the class.
Grade: C+ | Total picks: 8
- Round 3: (No. 104) Logan Bruss, OG, Wisconsin
- Round 4: (142) Decobie Durant, CB, South Carolina State
- Round 5: (164) Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame
- Round 6: (211) Quentin Lake, S, UCLA; (212) Derion Kendrick, CB, Georgia
- Round 7: (235) Daniel Hardy, Edge, Montana State; (253) Russ Yeast, S, Kansas State; (261) A.J. Arcuri, OT, Michigan State
FILICE: With zero selections in the top 100, the Eff Them Picks Rams finally went on the clock late Friday night in the penultimate draft slot of Round 3. And no, much to Sean McVay’s chagrin, Cole Strange was not still available. The reigning Super Bowl champs did scoop up a guard, though. And in the wake of the team’s insanely produced, big-budget draft trailer, it was quite amusing to see Los Angeles use its first pick on the least sexy position in the sport. HOLLYWOOD!! Bruss actually spent significant time at right tackle during his Wisconsin career, but he projects as an interior blocker at this level. NFL.com draft profile maven Lance Zierlein comped him to Royce Newman, who started 16 games as a rookie for the Packers last season. That’d do. After the free agency departure of Austin Corbett, the Rams have an opening at right guard. Will Bruss join fellow Wisco O-linemen David Edwards and Rob Havenstein in the starting lineup? In Round 4, L.A. added Durant, a speedy, undersized slot corner who immediately became a depth piece when the Rams brought back Troy Hill via Saturday trade. One round later, Los Angeles boosted the backfield with Williams, who could develop into a premium third-down back with his well-rounded game and pass-pro polish. Then, late in Round 6, the Rams did what seemingly every NFL team felt the need to do this draft: take a bite out of the Georgia apple. Kendrick was a celebrated recruit who landed at UGA after being dismissed by Clemson, starting all 15 games for the national champion Bulldogs last season. Could this be Les Snead’s latest Day 3 find who makes instant draft graders look stupid? Man … Eff them picks.
Grade: C | Total picks: 11
- Round 2: (No. 39) Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington; (48) Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State
- Round 3: (71) Velus Jones, WR, Tennessee
- Round 5: (168) Braxton Jones, OT, Southern Utah State; (174) Dominique Robinson, Edge, Miami (OH)
- Round 6: (186) Zach Thomas, OG, San Diego State; (203) Trestan Ebner, RB, Baylor; (207) Doug Kramer, C, Illinois
- Round 7: (226) Ja’Tyre Carter, OG, Southern; (254) Elijah Hicks, DB, Cal; (255) Trenton Gill, P, N.C. State
FILICE: Does this new Bears regime want Justin Fields to succeed? OK, that’s a flippant question. Of course the answer is yes. But Chicago’s offseason activity (or lack thereof) definitely raises an eyebrow. After the No. 11 overall pick’s uneven rookie campaign — in an admittedly unfavorable environment — Fields lost his No. 1 receiver (Allen Robinson), his best young offensive lineman (James Daniels) and the veteran tackle who competently protected his blind side (Jason Peters). In free agency, the Bears went the contemporary Texans route, signing a bunch of low-wattage vets on short-term deals. And then in the draft, Chicago used its top two picks on defense before adding a soon-to-be 25-year-old wideout with one year of solid college production and tossing a series of Day 3 darts at a depleted O-line board. First-year GM Ryan Poles says he’s not done improving the roster, but at this point, how many impact guys remain available to help foster Fields’ development? Now, it must be noted that Poles inherited a roster with serious shortcomings. And it also must be noted that Gordon and Brisker feel like fine pieces for Matt Eberflus’ defense. “They bring playmaking ability into your secondary, and that’s huge,” the first-time head coach said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. “Big, long players create takeaways, and they do a great job of playing the ball. And that’s what we’re excited about. Those guys will fit right in.” But still, the expectations for young quarterbacks on rookie contracts have never been higher. Does Fields have the supporting cast to make serious strides in Year 2? What happens if he struggles? In today’s NFL, when it comes to the game’s most important position, patience is not a virtue.
Grade: C | Total picks: 8
- Round 1: (No. 16) Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
- Round 2: (47) Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama
- Round 3: (98) Brian Robinson, RB, Alabama
- Round 4: (113) Percy Butler, S, Louisiana
- Round 5: (144) Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina; (149) Cole Turner, TE, Nevada
- Round 7: (230) Chris Paul, OG, Tulsa; (240) Christian Holmes, CB, Oklahoma State
FILICE: It’s the one word you never want to hear as a fantasy drafter. The judgmental utterance that, when hurled in your direction, instantly elicits pangs of remorse and self-doubt. REACH!! In the wake of last week’s reality draft, Commanders brass have taken an R-word onslaught for a number of their picks. Adding fuel to the fire: Washington’s first two picks were both caught off guard by how highly they were taken. Dotson was watching the NBA playoffs and “couldn’t believe it at first” when he got the call from Ron Rivera. “We were kind of thinking later first, early second,” the No. 16 overall pick said, per NBC Sports Washington. Washington’s second-rounder was even more surprised: “Oh, man — I was thinking at least third, somewhere in the third or fourth round,” Mathis said, via The Athletic. “That was just feedback we were getting. So, it most definitely wasn’t expected early.” Well, alright then. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the Commanders’ value assessment — coming from the draftees themselves! Washington GM Martin Mayhew has heard the REACH chorus, and he’s not having it: “We understand our needs and what we need as a football team much better than people on the outside looking in.” One value pick we can all agree on: Howell at No. 144. Heading into the 2021 college season, the North Carolina quarterback was being discussed as a potential top-10 pick. But without the services of Javonte Williams, Michael Carter, Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome — all of whom went in the 2021 NFL Draft — Howell and the Heels didn’t enjoy the kind of season many predicted. That said, Howell was still the only FBS quarterback to eclipse 3,000 yards passing and 800 yards rushing in 2021. For a franchise that still has serious questions at the game’s most important position, taking a fifth-round stab on a 21-year-old with 37 college starts under his belt is smart drafting.
Grade: C- | Total picks: 8
- Round 2: (No. 55) Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State
- Round 3: (87) Cameron Thomas, Edge, San Diego State; (100) Myjai Sanders, Edge, Cincinnati
- Round 6: (201) Keaontay Ingram, RB, USC (215) Lecitus Smith, OG, Virginia Tech
- Round 7: (244) Christian Matthew, DB, Valdosta State; (256) Jesse Luketa, LB, Penn State; (257) Marquis Hayes, OG, Oklahoma
FILICE: As noted at the top of this file, these grades are based on draft hauls alone — picks traded for veteran players were not taken into account. So this isn’t the place to debate the Marquise Brown trade. But I do have a bone to pick with Steve Keim in regard to the team’s top selection … Whether you agree with the decision or not, the Cardinals re-signed tight end Zach Ertz on a three-year, $31.65 million deal back in March. A few days later, Arizona re-upped blocking TE Maxx Williams, spawning this headline on the team website: “Maxx Williams Returns To Cardinals To Complete Tight End Duo.” Complete? Not so fast! On Friday night, with their first pick of the draft, the Cards went right back to the TE well, becoming the first team to select a player from a position group widely viewed as one of this class’ least talented. Did I miss the memo on Kliff Kingsbury’s offense suddenly transforming into a tight end sanctum? Is Arizona planning to wear out 13 personnel during DeAndre Hopkins’ six-game suspension? I’m confused. After swinging superfluously in Round 2, Keim did double-dip on a big area of need in Round 3, grabbing a pair of edge rushers. Obviously, no one should expect Thomas and/or Sanders to fill the immense void left by Chandler Jones‘ departure in free agency, but at least the Cardinals replenished the OLB coffer. Honestly, my two favorite picks in this haul might have come in Round 6. With Chase Edmonds now in Miami, Ingram could push for early playing time behind James Conner. Smith’s an athletic, experienced guard who adds depth to an Arizona offensive line that showed improvement last season but remains far from airtight.
Grade: D | Total picks: 10
- Round 1: (No. 29) Cole Strange, OG, Tennessee-Chattanooga
- Round 2: (50) Tyquan Thornton, WR, Baylor
- Round 3: (85) Marcus Jones, CB, Houston
- Round 4: (121) Jack Jones, CB, Arizona State; (127) Pierre Strong, RB, South Dakota State; (137) Bailey Zappe, QB, Western Kentucky
- Round 6: (183) Kevin Harris, RB, South Carolina; (200) Sam Roberts, DT, Northwest Missouri State; (210) Chasen Hines, C, LSU
- Round 7: (245) Andrew Stueber, OT, Michigan
PARR: After a respite in 2021, the 2022 Patriots class seems like it could be a return to the franchise’s struggles of the past decade when it comes to drafting players. This might come as a surprise given the team’s reputation, but New England hasn’t selected a first-team All-Pro on offense or defense since Rob Gronkowski in 2010, per NFL Research. Perhaps Strange will be the guy to snap that streak — he certainly has the potential to do it — but taking NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s No. 74 overall prospect with the 29th overall pick seems like a questionable move. If the Logan Mankins comparisons prove to be correct, critics like me will be roasted on Twitter for eternity. Bill Belichick’s trolling of draft media continued in Round 2 with the selection of Thornton, a blazing-fast receiver who was selected 50th overall after not making the cut in D.J.’s top 150 and drawing a Rounds 3-4 projection from NFL.com draft guru Lance Zierlein. Things seemed to be moving in a better direction for the Patriots when they picked a dynamic kick returner/corner in Jones and a highly productive RB from the FCS level in Strong, but then they mystified again by choosing Zappe when the far more highly touted Sam Howell was still available. Perhaps they unearthed a late-round gem in Harris, Roberts, Hines or Stueber, but the Patriots didn’t spend any of their 10 picks on one of their biggest areas of need, linebacker. Picking up a 2023 third-round pick in a Day 3 trade with the Panthers might ultimately prove to be a great swap for New England, and I realize Belichick’s goal in the draft is not to match up with how the media views prospects, but based on what I know now, the Patriots made a series of reaches that could come back to haunt them.