We have reached the end of a unique draft, arguably one of the strangest in recent times. Teams have doubled down on their desire to draft raw athleticism and gamble on future talent at almost every key position, but suddenly shied away from projecting raw athleticism at the quarterback position.
What gives? What does it mean?
A few months back, Sports Illustrated ran a story about the evolution of quarterback play. Aaron Rodgers and, later, Patrick Mahomes, altered the way private coaches and tutors thought about the position. Those changes creeped their way into the modern game and made the NFL accessible for quarterbacks with unique talents we’ve never seen before. A few months later, I talked to some pass-rush coaches who noticed a similar trend with edge rushers. Big and stiff? Small and speedy? It really doesn’t matter, as long as you get to the quarterback.
Imagine our surprise, then, when someone like Travon Walker goes No. 1 overall, almost completely because of the parts of his game we cannot yet see. Then, someone like Malik Willis goes No. 86, despite having a high ceiling at the position. Imagination continues to be a key factor for general managers and coaches when it comes to most positions. This year, it failed to become part of the equation for players under center. Is it the Rams-Buccaneers effect, seeing how quickly mercenary QBs can change your fortunes, leaving teams averse to the roller coaster that comes with developing unique young QBs? Was this class of passers really just awful? (We don’t think so, as you’ll see below).
All of these thoughts—and more—have factored into our grading of each team’s 2022 draft class. Who filled needs? Who took the best kinds of calculated risks? Who left good talent on the table, and who made the most of their situations? Of course, these are a joy to revisit as time goes on. (Raise your hand if you punished the Bengals for taking Ja’Marr Chase over Penei Sewell.)
Every year, it’s about what we can see, what we want to see and what we refuse to see. Let’s jump in and discuss how we feel about the class of 2022. (Note: Teams are in rank order of grades.)
- Round 1, Pick 14: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
- Round 1, Pick 25 (from Buffalo): Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
- Round 2, Pick 45: David Ojabo, LB, Michigan
- Round 3, Pick 76: Travis Jones, DT, UConn
- Round 4, Pick 110 (from N.Y. Giants): Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota
- Round 4, Pick 119: Jalyn Armour-Davis, CB, Alabama
- Round 4, Pick 128 (from Arizona): Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State
- Round 4, Pick 130 (from Buffalo): Jordan Stout, P, Penn State
- Round 4, Pick 139: Isaiah Likely, TE, Coastal Carolina
- Round 4, Pick 141: Damarion Williams, CB, Houston
- Round 6, Pick 196 (from Philadelphia): Tyler Badie, RB, Missouri
ANALYSIS: Watching this draft unfold was like falling in love with your favorite characters over the course of a long-running sitcom. Every development warmed the heart. Every pick caused us to raise our hands and wonder why it seemed certain players just sifted through the mud and into their hands. The Ravens got one of the best safeties to appear in the draft in years. They got the best center to appear in the draft in years. Ojabo is a rehab player worth waiting for—with obvious first-round upside—and Jones is a defensive tackle we liked as a first-round prospect. Watch Jones late in meaningless UConn games as he tosses people around like it’s the Super Bowl. Our radar is up on the addition of Faalele, the 6' 9" tackle who is nearly 400 pounds. Baltimore wins with size and does an excellent job of plucking large human beings and deploying them in the ultimate market inefficiency. They are also back on the tight end grind, amassing some stylistically different bodies who can work in and out of the backfield. Lamar Jackson is at his best with a complement of heady, medium-range receivers at his disposal. Hollywood Brown wanted to leave Baltimore because of the system; he didn’t say the system was faulty, it just didn’t necessarily set him up as well. If Likely is working in the pass game against a middling coverage linebacker this year, he’ll be able to make a mark in the league right away.
- Round 1, Pick 13 (from Cleveland via Houston): Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
- Round 2, Pick 51: Cam Jurgens, C, Nebraska
- Round 3, Pick 83: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
- Round 6, Pick 181 (from Detroit): Kyron Johnson, LB, Kansas
- Round 6, Pick 198 (from Pittsburgh via Jacksonville): Grant Calcaterra, TE, SMU
We’re only giving out two A-plusses in this draft, so kudos to the Eagles for netting one of them. Obviously, the A.J. Brown trade should be factored into this haul. While teams were jockeying over unproven talent, the Eagles went out and got a player who, if he were in this year’s draft, may have gone in the top three. Jurgens, selected with the blessing of long-time center Jason Kelce, is a clone of the legendary Eagles center. Pull up some Nebraska tape from this year and watch Jurgens fly off the ball on some athletic pulling maneuver, or whip downfield on a screen pass. There is a reason Kelce has been able to thrive as a sixth-round pick for as long as he has, and Jurgens has that same athletic core in spades. Davis was one of our favorite players in this draft and, paired with Fletcher Cox for at least one season, he makes up a formidable inside-rush tandem that will haunt the quarterbacks of the NFC East. Dean is worth a flier despite the Eagles not really suited for taking risks at the moment. The Georgia linebacker dropped in the draft, reportedly because of a handful of injuries that he denies are serious. We’ve seen other players, such as Myles Jack, drop for similar reasons and go on to have successful careers. Dean is agile and, despite being on the smaller side, makes up for his lack of heft with some noticeable smarts. There were certainly some plays at Georgia that popped off the screen while having nothing to do with the all-star cast in front of him.
- Round 1, Pick 2: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
- Round 1, Pick 12 (from Vikings): Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
- Round 2, Pick 46: Josh Paschal, DE, Kentucky
- Round 3, Pick 97: Kerby Joseph, S, Illinois
- Round 5, Pick 177: James Mitchell, TE, Virginia Tech
- Round 6, Pick 217: James Houston, LB, Jackson State
ANALYSIS: GM Brad Holmes had us swooning the moment he jumped back into the thick of the first round to land arguably the best wide receiver in the class. He had us blindly supporting any and every future move with the addition of Paschal. As much as we heralded Hutchinson as the consummate Dan Campbell player, Paschal may be the more ideal fit. He can line up in multiple positions and he plays every down like an oversized toddler kicking his way through a playpen full of block towers—it’s pure joy and destruction. The Lions may be the most improved team in the NFL next year by virtue of this class. With one slate of picks, both head coach and quarterback feel supported and pacified. There isn’t much more a GM can do.
Green Bay Packers
- Round 1, Pick 22 (from Las Vegas): Quay Walker, ILB, Georgia
- Round 1, Pick 28: Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia
- Round 2, Pick 34 (from Detroit via Minnesota): Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
- Round 3, Pick 92: Sean Rhyan, OG, UCLA
- Round 4, Pick 132: Romeo Doubs, WR, Nevada
- Round 4, Pick 140: Zach Tom, OL, Wake Forest
- Round 5, Pick 179 (from Indianapolis via Denver): Kingsley Enagbare, DE, South Carolina
- Round 7, Pick 228 (from Chicago via Houston): Tariq Carpenter, LB, Georgia Tech
- Round 7, Pick 234 (from Cleveland via Detroit and Denver): Jonathan Ford, DT, Miami
- Round 7, Pick 249: Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State
- Round 7, Pick 258: Samori Toure, WR, Nebraska
ANALYSIS: I’ll use this space to continue my rant from Thursday. It befuddles me that we depict Aaron Rodgers as this Wizard of Oz-ian character sitting behind the curtain bellowing about the team’s lack of wide receiver talent. Rodgers has been incredibly blessed throughout his career to work with a bevy of talented wideouts supplied to him by the Packers’ front office. Their process has expertly identified high-upside players in the second round and beyond. So when Green Bay took their Davante Adams haul and used it toward patching up the defense, why would he be upset? Wyatt is going to add a fascinating upfield interior pressure component to the Packers defense. A true run disruptor, he’ll help Green Bay become less reliant on their exceptional linebacker play. And, lo and behold, they still end up with Watson, who, in the FCS, looked a little like the 6' 5" kid on the 9-year-old AAU team, completely dominant in an effortless sort of way. The Packers have succeeded with this big-bodied receiver profile before.
- Round 2, Pick 53 (from Las Vegas via Green Bay and Minnesota): Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati
- Round 3, Pick 73 (from Washington): Jelani Woods, TE, Virginia
- Round 3, Pick 77 (from Minnesota): Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
- Round 3, Pick 96 (from L.A. Rams via Denver): Nick Cross, S, Maryland
- Round 5, Pick 159: Eric Johnson, DT, Missouri State
- Round 6, Pick 192 (from Minnesota): Andrew Ogletree, TE, Youngstown State
- Round 6, Pick 216: Curtis Brooks, DT, Cincinnati
- Round 7, Pick 239: Rodney Thomas, S, Yale
ANALYSIS: I’m going to crib some advanced statistics from Pro Football Focus on Brooks: He had the best pass-rush win rate in the class, the best run defense stop rate in the class and the best pass-rush grade in the class. Chris Ballard makes his money finding valuable contributors in the later rounds. Despite being a GM fighting one-handed, having to consistently sacrifice draft capital to find a long-term answer at quarterback, Ballard may have come out of this year’s draft with a handful of starters. Raimann was discussed as a first-round pick. The athletic project out of Austria started his football career as a tight end, with his transition to tackle yielding a fascinating strand of tape. Raimann can get beat from time to time but still has the holdover recovery speed from his pass-catching days.