The opening night of the 2022 NFL Draft was full of drama and excitement, with the New York Jets stealing the show, the Philadelphia Eagles making a swoop, and all but one of the quarterback prospects being left on the board.
Nobody would have predicted that by the end of the first-round of the 2022 NFL Draft that the Jets would have Sauce Gardner, Garrett Wilson and Jermaine Johnson II, a serious injection of defensive talent for Robert Saleh after his team were ranked 32nd in 2021.
On offense, it was the Eagles who soared. After selecting the physical behemoth, Jordan Davis, the Eagles were able to package their other first-round pick in a deal for A.J. Brown with the Tennessee Titans.
However, it was a night to forget for the quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft. Only Kenny Pickett went off the board as he was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers. There was no run on the position as many expected, with teams left uneasy over their evaluations of the talent on offer.
But how did the rest of the teams fare?
NFL Draft 2022: Round 1 Pick Grades
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Travon Walker, DE, Georgia (B+)
Jacksonville did it. They opted for upside rather than production, choosing Travon Walker instead of Aidan Hutchinson. Walker has had an outstanding NFL Draft process and will need to utilize his immense physical skills to bring sacks to Jacksonville.
2. Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan (A+)
Detroit was able to take the best football player in the 2022 NFL Draft and was in no mood to delay their pick. Hutchinson gets to stay in Detroit and revolutionize a stagnant defense.
3. Houston Texans: Derek Stingley Jr, CB, LSU (C)
This is a considerable reach, especially for a team that needs to bolster its O-Line. Stingley is a promising corner with perhaps the highest potential in the 2022 NFL Draft class, but this seems like a selection that could have waited.
4. New York Jets: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati (A)
New York football just got its newest star. Sauce Gardner is the most NFL-ready cornerback in the 2022 NFL Draft and will be able to adapt to the media pressure of the Big Apple perfectly.
5. New York Giants: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon (B+)
The only thing that can stop this pick from being a success is Thibodeaux’s work ethic. He has the natural edge-rushing talent to transform a miserable Giants defense, and the Sauce/Kayvon rivalry in New York could be one for the ages.
6. Carolina Panthers: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State (A+)
The Panthers were able to pick the no.1 offensive linemen in the 2022 NFL Draft. This is sensational value for a lineman with violent hands and impressive solidity. His upside allows Carolina to plan for a new QB in 2023 or trade for Baker Mayfield in the coming days.
7. New York Giants: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama (A)
The Giants addressed a huge need at right tackle with Evan Neal. He has swift feet and will protect Daniel Jones, who has to prove himself in 2022. Expect Neal to make use of his big frame effectively in New York.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Drake London, WR, USC (B+)
Drake London is a physical monster, perhaps the most unique in the 2022 NFL Draft. While the Falcons had other needs, they simply couldn’t pass on a talent like London. He gives them extra-catch radius and will dovetail nicely with Kyle Pitts. London’s ceiling is Julio Jones.
9. Seattle Seahawks: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State (B-)
The Seahawks needed help at tackle, and in Charles Cross, they took perhaps the most polished offensive lineman in the 2022 NFL Draft. He may need to develop a violent side, especially if the Hawks are to establish a power run-first franchise, but his balance is extraordinary.
10. New York Jets: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State (A)
Garrett Wilson will quickly become Zach Wilson’s favorite target. Going against Sauce Gardner in practice every day will do wonders for them both. Wilson is a sensational playmaker, and his athleticism makes him a big-play option to flip games on their head in New York.
11. New Orleans Saints (via trade with Washington): Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State (B+)
Chris Olave has tremendous potential, and the New Orleans Saints offense will be a lot more explosive with him on offense. He is the most intelligent receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft, even if he isn’t the fastest. I like this pick a lot, despite initial reservations about Olave.
12. Detroit Lions (via trade with Minnesota): Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama (C)
Jameson Williams is a speed demon and has an explosive first step. I don’t like the Lions moving up 20 picks to make this choice, although it was a response to the run on receivers. This could be a reach, especially with an injury likely to keep him out until October.
13. Philadelphia Eagles (via trade with Houston): Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia (A)
Jordan Davis could be the best defensive player in the 2022 NFL Draft. He has weaknesses in fundamental aspects of defensive line play, but his athletic attributes for a man of his size are generational. This was the perfect player for the Eagles to trade up for, and he can learn from Fletcher Cox.
14. Baltimore Ravens: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame (A)
Kyle Hamilton shouldn’t have fallen this far in the 2022 NFL Draft class. Hamilton was the best available player at #14, and the Ravens will be delighted to take the backfield star. He has significantly excellent game tape and was a consensus top-5 talent. This could be the bargain of the night.
15. Houston Texans (via trade with Philadelphia): Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M (B-)
While not the outstanding offensive line selection the Texans could have made, Kenyon Green adds a lot to Houston’s offense. He will be perfect for bolstering their run game.
16. Washington Commanders (via trade with New Orleans): Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State (B+)
While this pick is much the result of the wide receiver run in the middle of the first round, I like Jahan Dotson as a player. It may be a reach for his talent, but he has a high ceiling and pure speed to burn. A reliable catcher and a player who makes a lot of space could develop into a WR1.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Zion Johnson, G, Boston College (C+)
Zion Johnson surged in late pre-draft speculation as his NFL Draft stock rose brilliantly. He is a player who will immediately plugin at right guard for an already impressive Chargers offense. He only allowed three sacks in 3 seasons with Boston College.
18. Tennessee Titans (via trade with Philadelphia): Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas (B-)
It’s difficult to judge this pick without looking at what the Titans gave up. A.J. Brown is an elite receiver that the Titans didn’t want to pay. Treylon Burks is a big-bodied playmaker similar in style to Brown and is a cost-effective solution to their problem. His ability to run takes some pressure away from Ryan Tannehill.
19. New Orleans Saints: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa (B+)
It’s evident that the 2022 quarterback class didn’t convince teams. The Saints desperately need a quarterback but opted to take a solid starter at left tackle. Penning impressed with his violent streak giving him the edge in one-on-one encounters. He will give Jameis Winston a lot of time to throw the ball. Another excellent value pick.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh (B)
Kenny Pickett is the most balanced quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft class. Concerns about his small hands have proved minimal after some early combine concerns, and he will walk into a great situation with the Steelers. Mike Tomlin did his homework here, and I think he can be a successful starter from midway through the 2022 season.
21. Kansas City Chiefs (via trade with New England): Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington (C+)
Kansas City moved up in the draft to secure an option in the backfield, which was important after Tyrann Mathieu’s departure. Not a wow-pick but a solid selection.
22. Green Bay Packers: Quay Walker, LB, Georgia (B-)
Walker is a versatile prospect out of an excellent Georgia defense. He can play in space and is a fantastic athlete on blitz plays. Fans will be disappointed more of an effort wasn’t made to replace Davante Adams.
23. Buffalo Bills (via trade with Arizona/Baltimore): Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida (A)
This is another pick with fantastic value. The Bills needed a cornerback and have secured a genuine shutdown presence with the Florida prospect. Given how good Buffalo’s offense is, and the value of this pick, this is another excellent forward step for the Bills.
24. Dallas Cowboys: Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa (C+)
As Jerry Jones suggested weeks before the 2022 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys selected an offensive lineman in the first-round. Having enjoyed an excellent career with Tulsa, this is a plug-and-play pick for a big, athletic tackle. However, I think there was better value on the O-Line with Linderbaum.
25. Baltimore Ravens (via trade with Buffalo): Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa (A+)
Tyler Linderbaum is the best center in the 2022 NFL Draft. He has really quick hands and feet and will be a feature on Baltimore’s O-Line for years to come. His upside is that of a generational prospect and will add wonderful protection for Lamar Jackson. This is my pick of the night.
26. New York Jets (via trade with Tennessee): Jermaine Johnson II, DE, Florida State (A-)
Nobody saw Jermaine Johnson dropping this far in the first-round. The New York Jets will feel very happy indeed about their 2022 NFL Draft, with Johnson being a real presence on their defensive line.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (via trade with Tampa Bay): Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah (B)
The Jaguars get good value here, adding another defensive presence to what is shaping up to be a young nucleus along with Travon Walker. He’s a complete linebacker, can blitz effectively and has versatility to play in multiple positions.
28. Green Bay Packers: Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia (B)
With the value for wide receivers simply not there at pick #28, the Packers add a great playmaker to their defensive line. Devonte Wyatt will secure the middle against the run, and was part of a dominant Bulldogs defense.
29. New England Patriots (via trade with Kansas City): Cole Strange, G, Chattanooga (C-)
Bill Belichick has earned the trust of New England fans, and his 2022 NFL Draft selection of Cole Strange at pick #29 is another example of his strategy. While most had a third-round grade on Strange, the Patriots know talent.
30. Kansas City Chiefs: George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue (B+)
George Karlaftis represents good value this late in the first-round. He was a monster in college football with Purdue and gives the Chiefs a further defensive option. He has a dominant bull rush and allows the Chiefs to shuffle other defensive pieces around. A real good work-ethic.
31. Cincinnati Bengals: Daxton Hill, S, Michigan (B+)
The Bengals unsurprisingly added to their defense after a stellar season where they reached the Super Bowl. Hill is a fine athlete and hits with power and will add a measured amount of toughness to a team that has moved on from the Vontaze Burfict era of uncontrolled physical defense.
32. Minnesota Vikings (via trade with Detroit): Lewis Cine, S, Georgia (C)
Cine is a big hitter and was a leader on the Georgia Bulldogs defense. I don’t like his inability to keep to coverage assignments and he will need to improve on that. The Vikings could get reasonable value here But time will tell.