The 2022 NFL Draft’s Boom and Bust Players

The case for and against 32 first-round picks trying to be on the right side of their team exercising their fifth-year option after the 2024 season.
Johnson, Gardner and Wilson will all likely have their fifth-year options picked up by the Jets.
Johnson, Gardner and Wilson will all likely have their fifth-year options picked up by the Jets. / Anne-Marie Caruso / USA TODAY NETWORK

Every year, the NFL draft gives teams hope, especially first-round selections.

Each April, teams take a player on that Thursday night and hope to have found a cornerstone, someone to build around and hopefully see play on a second contract.

Of course, that doesn’t always happen. In fact, it’s a relative 50–50 whether the player will even see his fifth-year option exercised. Of the 96 players drafted from 2019 to ’21, only 49 of them have had their option exercised.

Going into the 2024 campaign, there are 32 players trying to be on the right side of that split come next offseason. Let’s look at each case and break down which ways things are currently leaning.

Atlanta Falcons: Drake London, WR

Prediction: Yes

London hasn’t gone over 1,000 receiving yards in a season, but he’s racked up 141 catches, 1,771 yards and six touchdowns. Additionally, he’s done so without good quarterback play or another wideout who could help draw coverage away. With Kirk Cousins (and Michael Penix Jr.) in the fold, he should see an increase in production.

Baltimore Ravens: Kyle Hamilton, S |  Tyler Linderbaum, C

Baltimore Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton
Hamilton earned first-team All-Pro honors last season. / David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction: Yes for both

The Ravens had a pair of first-round picks in the 2022 draft, and they didn’t waste them. Hamilton has a strong argument as the league’s best safety having earned first-team All-Pro honors last season, while Linderbaum was named to the Pro Bowl in ’23. Both should see significant second contracts.

Buffalo Bills: Kaiir Elam, CB

Prediction: No

Elam has been nothing short of a disaster for the Bills. Taken out of the University of Florida, Elam was supposed to pair with Tre’Davious White to form a dynamic duo in Buffalo. Instead, White sustained a torn ACL and ruptured Achilles tendon over the past two years, while Elam has often been a healthy scratch.

Carolina Panthers: Ickey Ekwonu, OT

Prediction: No

A top-10 pick, Ekwonu was ideally going to hold down the blindside for Bryce Young as the two brought success to Carolina for the next decade. Unfortunately, it isn’t working out that way. Ekwonu has struggled through his first two seasons, yielding 11 sacks while being flagged a dozen times. That said, Ekwonu could salvage his Panthers career with a rebound performance.

Cincinnati Bengals: Dax Hill, CB

Prediction: No

Hill was seen to be a versatile chess piece for Cincinnati defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo when taken out of Michigan. And last year, he played almost every defensive snap as a safety before being moved to corner with Geno Stone and Vonn Bell being signed in free agency. If Hill thrives in his new role, it could entice the Bengals to keep him long-term.

Dallas Cowboys: Tyler Smith, OT

Prediction: Yes

Smith has proven to be one of the best players of the 2022 draft class. Playing multiple spots on the offensive line, he earned second-team All-Pro honors for the Cowboys in ’23, starting 31 games through his first two seasons. With Tyron Smith now with the New York Jets, the third-year man will get the blindside assignment.

Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, DE | Jameson Williams, WR

Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson
Hutchinson has 21 sacks over his first two seasons. / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Predictions: Yes on Hutchinson, no on Williams

One of these calls was very easy. The other not so much. Hutchinson has turned into one of the league’s best pass rushers, amassing 21 sacks and 48 quarterback hits over his first two seasons. He’s already in the elite category. Then there’s Williams, who missed most of his rookie year with a torn ACL and has yet to make a big impact. Across 18 games, Williams has caught just 25 passes for 395 yards and three scores.

Green Bay Packers: Quay Walker, LB | Devonte Wyatt, DT

Prediction: Yes for both

Walker is a productive, versatile linebacker who can play both downhill and in passing lanes. He has four sacks, 10 passes defensed and 239 tackles, playing a key role in Green Bay’s defense. The unit has also benefited from Wyatt, who became a force inside last year with 5.5 sacks.

Houston Texans: Derek Stingley Jr., CB | Kenyon Green, G

Predictions: Yes for both

Stingley is an excellent cover corner, and Houston's best secondary player, as the team prepares to make a deep playoff run. In only 11 games last season, he notched five interceptions. As for Green, he’s a tough projection. After starting 14 games as a rookie, he missed all of last year with a shoulder injury. A bounce-back year would ensure his option getting picked up.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Travon Walker, LB | Devin Lloyd, LB

Predictions: Yes on Walker, no on Lloyd

Walker was a controversial No. 1 pick, but he’s proving to be a terrific player. The edge rusher totaled 10 sacks in his second year, forming an elite duo with Josh Allen. However, Lloyd hasn’t excelled to that level. Seen as a versatile talent, he has a pair of 100-tackle seasons but rarely makes game-changing plays.

Kansas City Chiefs: Trent McDuffie, CB | George Karlaftis, DE

Kansas City Chiefs defensive end George Karlaftis
Karlaftis had 10.5 sacks for the Chiefs last season. / Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Predictions: Yes for both

In 2022, the Chiefs revamped their defense with a single draft, and no two players embody that more than McDuffie and Karlaftis. The former has turned into a first-team All-Pro slot corner who can also shut down star receivers on the outside. Karlaftis—a Purdue product—has 16.5 sacks in two years, including 10.5 last season. He’s Kansas City’s best edge rusher.

Los Angeles Chargers: Zion Johnson, G

Prediction: No

Johnson enters a new scheme with Greg Roman’s run-heavy offense coming to Los Angeles. Perhaps that benefits the former first-rounder, who has struggled to consistently be a plus-starter in the NFL. With the Chargers investing once more in the offensive line this offseason with tackle Joe Alt, Johnson has a chance to be part of the group if he can improve under Roman.

Minnesota Vikings: Lewis Cine, S

Prediction: No

Cine simply didn’t make a positive impact under coordinator Ed Donatell or his successful replacement, Brian Flores. The biggest reason? He never plays. Cine has suited up for 10 games across two years and played a grand total of 10 defensive snaps. This is one of the easier decisions on the board.

New England Patriots: Cole Strange, G

Prediction: No

Strange was a … strange pick at the time when New England tabbed him in the first round. Since then, he’s floundered, whether it be getting benched last season or failing to execute while on the field. As the Patriots overhaul their organization after the departure of coach Bill Belichick, Strange will have a tough time staying in New England.

New Orleans Saints: Chris Olave, WR | Trevor Penning, OT

New Orleans wide receiver Chris Olave
Olave has a pair of 1,000-yard receiving seasons. / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Predictions: Yes on Olave, no on Penning

Olave has turned into a top-tier receiver. Penning, unfortunately, hasn’t enjoyed the same success at left tackle. Olave has a pair of 1,000-yards seasons to his credit while Penning has only started six games over two years. With Taliese Fuaga being drafted in April’s first round, Penning’s days might be numbered in New Orleans.

New York Giants: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE | Evan Neal, OT

Predictions: Yes on Thibodeaux, no on Neal

Neal has been one of the biggest busts of the 2022 class, putting the Giants in a position to easily decline his fifth-year option. As for Thibodeaux, he was deemed a steal then and he’s only enhanced that opinion. The former Oregon star racked up 11.5 sacks and three forced fumbles last season. With the addition of Brian Burns, the Giants have a dynamic trio up front with Dexter Lawrence and Thibodeaux.

New York Jets: Sauce Gardner, CB | Garrett Wilson, WR | Jermaine Johnson II

Predictions: Yes on all three

This draft class is terrific. Gardner is a two-time, first-team All-Pro while Wilson has become one of the league’s best receivers, registering two 1,000-yard seasons. As for Johnson, he started slow as a rookie but had 7.5 sacks in 2023, showcasing his talent off the edge.

Philadelphia Eagles: Jordan Davis, DT | Kenny Pickett, QB

Prediction: No on both

The Eagles have two decisions, and yet no decisions at all. Pickett comes over from the Steelers and clearly isn’t more than a backup with low upside after struggling in Pittsburgh. In Davis, Philadelphia was hoping to get a space-eater who could collapse the pocket. Instead, he’s totaled 2.5 sacks and five quarterback hits in his young career.

Seattle Seahawks: Charles Cross, OT

Prediction: Yes

Cross was part of an excellent class for the Seahawks, including Riq Woolen, Abe Lucas and Boye Mafe, among others. At left tackle, Cross has 31 starts over two years, and should be a mainstay there beyond his first contract. Look for Cross to cash in on a second deal.

Tennessee Titans: Treylon Burks, WR

Prediction: No

Burks was loaded with talent coming out of Arkansas, but things haven’t gone according to plan. The wideout has struggled to stay on the field, playing in 22 games while amassing only 665 receiving yards and a single touchdown. With Ridley and DeAndre Hopkins on the roster, it’s unlikely Burks makes a compelling case to stay.

Washington Commanders: Jahan Dotson, WR

Prediction: Yes

On one hand, Dotson had lousy quarterback play over his first two seasons and still has been a quality player, amassing at least 500 yards in each campaign. Conversely, the Commanders might see Dotson as a complimentary player with a low ceiling. The 2024 season will determine which way to go on his option.


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Matt Verderame

MATT VERDERAME