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NFL Draft

Grading Every First-Round Pick of 2022 NFL Draft

  • Jack McKessy
  • April 29, 2022
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The first night of the 2022 NFL Draft has concluded and after the first 32 picks, we’ve got a better sense of where most teams stand ahead of the final two days. Not every team got to pick though and of the ones that did have a first-round pick (or several), not all of them knocked it out of the park.

Just as there’s a spectrum of success with each first-round pick, there’s also a range of shock value we got from each team’s selection on night one. Some of these first 32 picks were very predictable, but we also saw (more than) a few shocking moves before the night ended.

Now that the first night is over, here are my grades for each of the first 32 picks in the 2022 NFL Draft.


  1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Travon Walker – EDGE, Georgia

Georgia’s Travon Walker is a great athlete and draft prospect, but I’m not totally sold on him being a better selection than Aidan Hutchinson with the first overall pick. Even so, Walker’s ability to rush the passer from pretty much anywhere on the defensive line makes him a dangerous weapon in this Jacksonville defensive front. Pairing him alongside fellow pass-rusher Josh Allen could bring some fireworks to Duval County. The Jaguars needed a top player at a premium position to build around on the defense after locking in their quarterback last year, and they got one here.


Grade: A-


  1. Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson – EDGE, Michigan

Aidan Hutchinson is one of the greatest athletes in the 2022 NFL Draft class and the Lions did not hesitate to grab him once the Jaguars took Walker. From pretty much any standpoint, Hutchinson is a perfect fit for Detroit. The Lions keep him in the state of Michigan to begin his professional career, and they get an excellent defensive cornerstone to build around in this rebuilding period. Having him fall to the second overall pick almost feels like a steal for Detroit.


Grade: A


  1. Houston Texans: Derek Stingley Jr. – CB, LSU

Derek Stingley’s ceiling is a perennial All-Pro cornerback, but I’m concerned about the decline in his play on tape since 2019. The Texans need a lot of things, so taking the best player available at a premium position makes a lot of sense. If Stingley plays closer to his ceiling than his floor, he is going to be a monster addition to the Houston secondary and the Texans absolutely will not regret taking him with the third overall pick. If he doesn’t play up to that ceiling though, Houston is going to look back and wonder if they maybe should have gone for an offensive tackle or edge rusher.


Grade: B+


  1. New York Jets: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner – CB, Cincinnati

Don’t get me wrong, Sauce Gardner is an incredible athlete. This spot for the Jets felt like one in which they needed to fill a need in the trenches, specifically at offensive tackle. If Mekhi Becton has truly already played his final snap with the New York Jets, replacing him on the offensive line should be a big priority, especially to keep their young quarterback protected. New York had their pick of the litter.


Grade: B


  1. New York Giants: Kayvon Thibodeaux – EDGE, Oregon

This is a home run pick. The Giants have needs all over the roster, but the best way to start a rebuild is to grab top-tier cornerstones in the trenches. New York stood pat and took the best edge rusher available to them. Now they’ve got a very formidable defensive front that includes Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Azeez Ojulari and now Kayvon Thibodeaux. Quarterbacks in the NFC East should watch out.


Grade: A


  1. Carolina Panthers: Ikem Ekwonu – OT, NC State

With their pick of the litter of all top offensive tackles on the board, the Panthers knocked it out of the park with the best left tackle in this draft class. Ikem Ekwonu is a total bully up front. By locking down an incredible offensive tackle with their only top-100 pick in this NFL Draft, it really feels like the Panthers might be just a quarterback away from contending. Outstanding pick here.


Grade: A++


  1. New York Giants: Evan Neal – OT, Alabama

After upgrading their trenches on one side of the football with the fifth overall pick, the Giants move to the other side of the ball and take one of the best tackles in the class. Evan Neal will be able to swing over to right tackle opposite former first-rounder Andrew Thomas and now New York has locked in very strong protection for quarterback Daniel Jones. This is a second-straight great top-10 pick for the Giants; the Joe Schoen era is off to a very good start.


Grade: A


  1. Atlanta Falcons: Drake London – WR, USC

The Falcons desperately needed to bring in pass-catching weapons to help out newcomer quarterback Marcus Mariota. As the board fell, Atlanta got the chance to draft whoever their favorite receiver was with the eighth overall pick. Drake London is a great athlete with some incredible big-play potential once he gets the ball in his hands. He isn’t my favorite receiver in this draft class though, so I knocked off a half-point for not snagging a guy I like better, namely Jameson Williams.


Grade: A-


  1. Seattle Seahawks: Charles Cross – OT, Mississippi St

Had the Jets taken an offensive tackle with the fourth overall pick, the NFL Draft top 10 looks completely different, and tackle Charles Cross almost certainly isn’t available for Seattle. The Jets didn’t take an offensive tackle though, leaving the Seahawks in a great spot for Cross to fall into their laps with the ninth pick. Seattle has gone so long without addressing their offensive line, just ask Russell Wilson, but they finally set themselves (and their future quarterback) up for success by taking one of the top tackles in the 2022 NFL Draft class.


Grade: A


  1. New York Jets: Garrett Wilson – WR, Ohio St

Look, the Jets are a team that needed help on the outside to give Zach Wilson dynamic weapons to work with. However, they’re not a team that is built up enough in the trenches to pass up on both opportunities in the top 10 to get help at tackle or edge rusher. I really like Garrett Wilson as a receiver, but this class is so deep in receiver talent. The Jets have an early second-round pick to get help there, but the drop-off in offensive tackle talent after Trevor Penning is scary. Fortunately, one edge rusher’s fall allowed them to trade back into the first round and fill one of those trench spots.


Grade: B


  1. New Orleans Saints: Chris Olave – WR, Ohio St

Two of the Saints’ biggest needs in the first round of this draft were a wide receiver and an offensive tackle. After the rival Atlanta Falcons started a run of receivers a few picks earlier, New Orleans didn’t sit and wait. Instead, they traded up and snatched one of the most talented route-runners in the 2022 class.


Grade: A


  1. Detroit Lions: Jameson Williams – WR, Alabama

Like the Saints, the Lions were not about to wait around and hope a top receiver slid. Detroit made a big leap up from the 32nd pick to take the guy who very well could end up being the best receiver in this NFL Draft class. If Jameson Williams didn’t tear his ACL in the National Championship, he likely wouldn’t have even fallen this far. The Lions got their defensive cornerstone in Aidan Hutchinson and now they’ve given quarterback Jared Goff some big help at receiver.


Grade: A


  1. Philadelphia Eagles: Jordan Davis – IDL, Georgia

Interior defensive linemen didn’t seem like the biggest need for Philadelphia in this year’s NFL Draft, but many of the top wide receivers flew off the board early. Before the Eagles went big and traded for A.J. Brown, I was ready to go lower on this pick while wondering why they didn’t try to trade up for a top receiver to pair with DeVonta Smith. After looking at their loss of Hassan Ridgeway and with Fletcher Cox playing on an expiring contract in 2022, it didn’t seem quite as bad a pick. That said, moving up to draft Jordan Davis still seemed a little unnecessary. Cornerback and interior offensive lineman were other needs they could have waited to address with their own picks later on.


Grade: B+


  1. Baltimore Ravens: Kyle Hamilton – SAF, Notre Dame

Kyle Hamilton is the best athlete in the 2022 NFL Draft class, full stop. He may not have had the best testing numbers at the NFL Combine back in March, but his football instincts, playmaking ability and versatility is unmatched. The Ravens will be able to ask Hamilton to do whatever they need on defense: play two-high looks next to Marcus Williams, drop into the box and help stop the run or even walk up to the line of scrimmage and help pressure the quarterback. He can seriously do it all and Baltimore’s defense is going to be extremely well-equipped to stop other offenses in the AFC North.


Grade: A


  1. Houston Texans: Kenyon Green – IOL, Texas A&M

For rebuilding teams that have needs everywhere, trenches should always be a primary focus. The Texans opted to take their best player available with cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. at No. 3 but moved to the opposite side of the ball to address their offensive front with their second first-round pick. They also built up some Day 3 draft capital in the process by trading back with the Eagles. Offensive guard Kenyon Green gives young quarterback Davis Mills some better protection up front.


Grade: A-


  1. Washington Commanders: Jahan Dotson – WR, Penn St

Wide receiver Jahan Dotson is a speed demon that will be able to take the top off opposing defenses with the natural separation he creates. He is a big play waiting to happen and pairing him with Terry McLaurin, at least for one year, will give quarterback Carson Wentz some nice weapons to work with in his new digs. That said, the 16th overall pick feels a little rich for Dotson, and it’s hard not to question whether they panicked after trading back and missing out on wide receiver Chris Olave, who they were reportedly very interested in, at No. 11.


Grade: B+


  1. Los Angeles Chargers: Zion Johnson – IOL, Boston College

Interior offensive lineman Zion Johnson played guard and tackle in college and even took some reps at center at the Senior Bowl. Giving quarterback Justin Herbert better protection up front was a must for the Chargers in the first-round of the NFL Draft. They got him just that by standing pat and taking the very strong Johnson as their sole pick on Day 1.


Grade: A


  1. Tennessee Titans: Treylon Burks – WR, Arkansas

BLOCKBUSTER. The Titans traded away premier wide receiver A.J. Brown to secure another first-round pick and they use it to take another receiver to immediately fill the hole Brown leaves behind. It always felt like his departure could have been imminent with the current state of the wide receiver market, but letting a veteran as accomplished as Brown walk and trying to replace him with a rookie is a big risk. 


Grade: C+


  1. New Orleans Saints: Trevor Penning – OT, Northern Iowa

What a fantastic draft for the New Orleans Saints. After trading up for a top receiver, the Saints were able to fill their other big need on the first night with Trevor Penning, one of the best offensive tackles in this NFL Draft class. He could have been worth a top-10 pick himself, so New Orleans should be ecstatic with their two first-round picks.


Grade: A


  1. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett – QB, PITT

‘QB1’ finally came off the board with the 20th overall pick in the draft. Rather than betting on Malik Willis reaching his high ceiling in the NFL, the Steelers take Kenny Pickett, the quarterback with the highest floor in this class. All of the momentum was toward Pittsburgh taking a quarterback in the first round, so their decision to take one wasn’t a huge shock. The big surprise is their decision to take Pickett, a guy who could be a day-one quarterback in the NFL, after already having signed Mitch Trubisky. The Steelers were a perfect landing spot for Willis because they had the flexibility to keep him on the bench for a year and develop behind Trubisky. Now, we’ll have to wait and see who starts for Pittsburgh in Week 1.


Grade: B


  1. Kansas City Chiefs: Trent McDuffie – CB, Washington

Trent McDuffie is a sneaky great pick for the Chiefs. Coming into tonight, Kansas City seemed to be in a very similar spot to the Packers, needing a wide receiver and an edge rusher. However, in an AFC West that is stacked with quarterback (and receiver) talent, the Chiefs are smart to upgrade their secondary. As big a loss as Tyreek Hill was, this is a class that still has plenty of talented receivers available in the second round. McDuffie is a baller in man and zone coverage and will be a stud in that Kansas City defensive backfield.


Grade: A


  1. Green Bay Packers: Quay Walker – LB, Georgia

Ummm… okay? The flurry of trades up for wide receivers left the Packers out of drafting one of the top guys in this NFL Draft class. Why they weren’t in on that flurry, we can’t be sure, but Green Bay really, really needed to draft a wide receiver. They needed pass-catching help even before Davante Adams left and that need is even more pressing now. Instead of taking one of the receivers still available with their first of two first-round picks, they continue their streak of not giving Aaron Rodgers any help on Day 1. Quay Walker is talented with some room for growth and may end up being a great player, but the Packers needed a receiver.


Grade: D


  1. Buffalo Bills: Kaiir Elam – CB, Florida

Buffalo needed a cornerback with Levi Wallace gone and Tre White returning from an ACL tear. Like many of the other teams in this first round, they weren’t going to wait around to draft one. The Bills get an immediate starter to replace Wallace in Kaiir Elam, and his abilities in press coverage with the ball skills he shows off in zone coverage should make him a dominant addition.


Grade: A


  1. Dallas Cowboys: Tyler Smith – IOL, Tulsa

Rebuilding the offensive line had to be a top priority for the Cowboys in this year’s first round. That would both give quarterback Dak Prescott improved protection in the passing game and could get running back Ezekiel Elliott back to producing at a higher level. Tulsa interior offensive lineman Tyler Smith can generate a ton of power and has a high motor, both important characteristics for an offensive lineman to have. I docked some points for Dallas though since they let Jermaine Johnson fall, despite needing an edge rusher. Plus, if they were thinking of taking an offensive lineman or secondary defender—made possible given Buffalo’s trade up— they could have been more aggressive and traded up.


Grade: B+


  1. Baltimore Ravens: Tyler Linderbaum – IOL, Iowa

Baltimore has hit a home run so far in this draft by absolutely nailing their two first-round picks. Eleven picks after taking the best athlete in the 2022 NFL Draft class, the Ravens get a phenomenal athlete on the opposite side of the ball. Baltimore needed a center after Bradley Bozeman departed in free agency and they got the best one in the class to replace him in their offensive front.


Grade: A


  1. New York Jets: Jermaine Johnson – EDGE, Florida St

Wow. What a great value pick for the Jets. For my money, I had Jermaine Johnson heading to New York in the top 10. Once they saw Johnson slip out of the top 25—and after not taking a guy in the trenches with their two top-10 picks—trading back up into the first round to take Johnson became a no-brainer. This is really a phenomenal pick for the Jets and it completely elevates their overall Day 1 performance in this draft.


Grade: A+


27: Jacksonville Jaguars: Devin Lloyd – LB, Utah

Here at The Draft Network, our message to teams is to draft good players. By trading back up into the first round for one of the best linebackers in the class after taking a very talented edge rusher, the Jaguars did that twice over on Day 1. Now, Jacksonville has two studs that they can continue to (re)build around.


Grade: A


  1. Green Bay Packers: Devonte Wyatt – IDL, Georgia

Yet another defensive player in the first round, and Aaron Rodgers has got to be scratching his head. The Packers needed a receiver (see Pick 22 analysis). They also needed an edge rusher. Green Bay didn’t get a player at either position in the first round of this draft. Devonte Wyatt is a great player on the defensive front, but I didn’t foresee an interior defensive lineman as a major need for the Packers. Wyatt could still be a solid impact player for Green Bay, but I don’t love the pick considering the roster’s needs elsewhere.


Grade: C+


  1. New England Patriots: Cole Strange – IOL, UT-Chattanooga

Interior offensive lineman Cole Strange would have been a terrific second-round option for New England at his position. The Patriots just needed a big upgrade at wide receiver or cornerback, and they didn’t get an upgrade at either position. New England’s hesitance to draft another receiver in the first round makes sense given how many times they’ve swung and missed. A lot of the top receivers were also long gone by the 29th overall pick. However, after losing J.C. Jackson in free agency after already having a hard time stopping Josh Allen, the Patriots really could have used a cornerback. Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon and Auburn’s Roger McCreary have fallen to Day 2 now and either one of them would have felt like a better pick than Strange.


Grade: F


  1. Kansas City Chiefs: George Karlaftis – EDGE, Purdue

This year presented quite the solid first round for the Chiefs. They upgraded their defense twice over with cornerback Trent McDuffie earlier in the night before taking edge rusher George Karlaftis with the 30th pick. The McDuffie pick filled a sneaky cornerback need in an AFC West with plenty of passing talent and Karlaftis filled a true need as an edge rusher. Kansas City should have a very strong pass defense in 2022 now that they’ve got a new cornerback and another pass rusher alongside Frank Clark and Chris Jones.


Grade: A-


  1. Cincinnati Bengals: Daxton Hill – SAF, Michigan

In an ideal world, center Tyler Linderbaum would have fallen to 31 and the Bengals take him to complete their complete facelift of the offensive line. This is not an ideal world, but Cincinnati did get some needed help in their secondary. Safety Daxton Hill is a versatile defender that can play anywhere in the secondary. With fellow safeties Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell playing on the franchise tag and getting a recent extension, respectively, Hill will likely drop down and play as an extra outside corner for Cincinnati. If the Bengals’ goal was to get a guy to play cornerback though, there were still some guys available. Washington’s Kyler Gordon and Auburn’s Roger McCreary come to mind. Hill’s versatility is most likely what ultimately gave him the edge over other secondary defenders.


Grade: A-


  1. Minnesota Vikings: Lewis Cine – SAF, Georgia

The Vikings needed help in their defensive secondary and they got it at the very end of the first round. Safety Lewis Cine, like the other safety taken immediately before him, is a versatile player that can line up in several different looks. He does need to show off better ball skills and produce more at the next level, though. Minnesota’s trade was also a bit of a strange move, as they could have stayed at 13 to take a highly touted cornerback like Trent McDuffie. Cine is still a very solid pick, and they’ve got an earlier pick in the second round and tacked on an extra third-rounder to make additions elsewhere on Day 2.


Grade: B

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Jack McKessy