During the intensity of the NFL draft, it’s sometimes tough to see the forest through the trees. Now that the 2022 NFL Draft is over, I’ve taken a step back to identify my favorite picks from the three-day event.
There were so many excellent selections, though, that I limited myself to three in each round. While compiling the list, I discovered I had picked representatives from each position group. So I threw in one more player to the list to finish off a “starting 22.”
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- 2022 NFL Draft Debrief: A.J. Brown trade fallout; draft winners and losers; rookie WR projections
Drafted: No. 13 overall
I projected the Eagles would trade up for Davis, because of his ridiculous athleticism at 341 pounds (his 4.78-second 40-yard dash bested some players weighing 100 pounds less), and because Philly gave up 18 rushing touchdowns in 2021 — and that’s exactly what they did, moving into No. 13 to draft him on Thursday. Tackles and sacks don’t capture Davis’ full impact; he controls the line of scrimmage by setting aside single blocks and anchoring against doubles. That will not only make running between the B-gaps difficult for the Eagles’ opponents, but it will also free up veteran tackle Fletcher Cox and the team’s linebackers to make plays.
Drafted: No. 25 overall
After acquiring Arizona’s first-round pick (No. 23 overall) for Marquise Brown, the Ravens moved down to 25 in a swap with the Bills, then grabbed Linderbaum to take over for departed starter Bradley Bozeman. Some teams might not have selected the former Iowa star because of his lack of size (6-foot-2, 296 pounds) and length. Linderbaum’s mobility, toughness and intelligence were first-round worthy, however, and the team’s success picking another Hawkeye lineman, Marshal Yanda (who made eight Pro Bowls over 15 seasons in Baltimore), made this a natural fit.
Drafted: No. 30 overall
Karlaftis will have an even better career than his draft position portends, because of his strong base, excellent hand usage and non-stop motor. He might not be the most “bendy” edge player, but power and effort are crucial attributes for rushing the passer in the NFL. I projected him to Kansas City in my first four-round mock draft because of their dire need at the position, and because of the fact his game reminds me of former Chief Jared Allen.
Drafted: No. 46 overall
I loved this pick because of Paschal’s obvious talent and character, as well as the fact that, four years after he was diagnosed with (and subsequently beat) melanoma in his right foot, NFL team doctors had no apparent cause for concern regarding his health. Now the Lions have an active, strong defender who can play outside or wreak havoc between the tackles on a three-man front or in pass-rush sub-packages.
Drafted: No. 54 overall
Last year, the Chiefs got two second-round bargains in center Creed Humphrey and linebacker Nick Bolton. They hit second-round paydirt again by landing Moore after exchanging picks with the Patriots. His quickness and long speed are evident, and his strength at the catch-point and tough running-after-the-catch ability belie his size (5-10, 195 pounds). He’ll be quite productive catching passes from Patrick Mahomes in 2022 and beyond.
Drafted: No. 63 overall
While the Bills have been a pass-heavy team (as evidenced by the fact that only one player, Devin Singletary, logged more rushing attempts than quarterback Josh Allen’s 122 carries last season), Cook’s ability to begin in the backfield and move to slot receiver before the snap gives their offense flexibility. He won’t be known as “Dalvin Cook’s little brother” for long, because his speed makes him a big-play threat as a runner, as well, and he improved his strength running through contact last season.
Drafted: No. 83 overall
Medical concerns and a lack of size (5-11, 229 pounds) hurt Dean during the evaluation process, but those issues didn’t dissuade Eagles general manager Howie Roseman. Dean’s instincts helped him close faster than maybe some other linebackers with pure speed, however, and the kind of secure tackling he practices should be coveted. A leader on a national title-winning defense, it’s tough not to root for him after he fell into the third round.
Drafted: No. 99 overall
We knew Bell wasn’t going to show great speed at the NFL Scouting Combine, and his 4.65 40 backed up that belief. His route-running and reliable play-making at Purdue, though, made him a solid top-100 pick for the Browns. Bell should have as strong a career as other “slow” veterans Jarvis Landry (whom he may replace, if Landry does not end up returning to Cleveland), James Jones and Allen Robinson.
Drafted: No. 67 overall
Ezeudu did not receive a lot of publicity coming into the draft, but I thought he was going to be a solid Day 2 pick. Though the Giants signed veteran guards Mark Glowinski and Max Garcia in the offseason, I expect this rookie will earn playing time by the end of the year. He’s not an elite athlete, but he is a smooth mover who possesses nice length. Ezeudu also displayed versatility shifting between tackle and guard in-game when North Carolina struggled finding a fifth reliable lineman.
Drafted: No. 106 overall
Otton was my top senior tight end coming into the 2021 season, but things didn’t work out as expected last fall. Washington did not have an efficient passing attack; meanwhile, Otton fought COVID-19 issues, then suffered a broken fibula toward the end of the year. Even if Rob Gronkowski returns for 2022, though, the Bucs needed to add another tight end, and Otton’s pass-catching and run-blocking skills were worth making him the top pick of Day 3.
Drafted: No. 108 overall
Teams are understandably concerned about Winfrey’s inconsistent film, but he should have been off the board on Day 2 because of his quickness off the snap and his aggressiveness. Cleveland desperately needed a 3-technique that gets upfield in a hurry, so they had to be thrilled to find Winfrey still available in Round 4.
Drafted: No. 113 overall
Two years ago, Washington found a seventh-round steal in Kamren Curl — but this year, the Commanders couldn’t wait quite that long to secure a complementary free safety. Butler’s speed and hard-hitting attitude allow him to cover a lot of ground and lay the wood when he arrives. This guy will be making plays as a rookie.
Drafted: No. 114 overall
Like the Commanders with Butler above, the Giants also found a perfect fit for their secondary in this round, on the very next pick. Belton is very much a Jabrill Peppers-type hybrid defender who can work in the box yet still make quarterbacks pay for mistakes in the intermediate passing game. The team frankly needed any warm body at safety, but Belton was the best fit on Day 3.
Drafted: No. 144 overall
The Commanders’ selection of Howell after trading for veteran Carson Wentz earlier this offseason reminded me of the Seahawks drafting Russell Wilson in the third round in 2012 after signing veteran Matt Flynn. We all know what happened there. Howell’s delivery, strong arm, willingness to run if needed and on-field leadership also remind me of Wilson. The former North Carolina star could very well be starting for the Commanders in 2023 — or sooner.
Drafted: No. 153 overall
It’s tough to imagine a corner prospect who is more of a Pete Carroll type. Woolen’s 6-4, 205-pound frame and 33-inch-plus arms are perfect tools to maintain leverage on the sideline and bother receivers trying to bring in passes. He fell to the fifth round despite possessing 4.26 40 speed because he’s still learning the position, having begun his college career as a receiver. I think Seattle’s defensive staff will mold his raw traits into those of a starter-caliber player over the next couple of seasons.
Drafted: No. 145 overall
Kinnard lacks great recovery ability and is not a fluid athlete on the edge. His new teammate in Kansas City, former third-rounder Orlando Brown, has shown those issues aren’t always a harbinger of doom. Kinnard’s long arms and massive, strong hands are major assets, because defenders aren’t getting away once he’s locked on. As a likely starter uncovered in the fifth round, Kinnard looks like yet another bargain for the Chiefs.
Drafted: No. 201 overall
James Conner played well for the Cardinals in 2021, but finding a dual threat to replace Chase Edmonds, who signed in Miami this offseason, was necessary. Ingram has the rushing and receiving skills to fit the bill. He’s adept at setting up defenders in the hole or in the open field and accelerating past their advances, as well as squaring his shoulders and running through contact. I suspect he’ll see a lot of work as a rookie and will step in if Conner misses time due to injury.
Drafted: No. 214 overall
The Chargers needed help at the nickel corner position and found a truly competitive, athletic player to take that spot. He played some slot at Wake Forest, even though he primarily started outside, and has the physicality and change-of-direction skills to handle two-way routes.
Drafted: No. 184 overall
The Vikings were looking for help at tackle and found one of the better Day 3 options in this draft class. Lowe’s athleticism test results weren’t off the charts, but he’s a fluid mover who is tough to beat off the edge. His 35-inch-plus arms and movement skills can land him a starting job at some point in the future, and it would not shock me if he played well as an injury replacement early in his career.
Drafted: No. 230 overall
Paul started at RT the past two seasons at Tulsa because he was their best option, but he served as the team’s right guard in 2018 and left guard 2019, using his lower-body power, length and aggressive nature to move people. I loved this pick for Washington immediately; the Commanders will appreciate his lunch-pail effort and pass protection skills inside.
Drafted: No. 223 overall
Though not as athletic as Oklahoma teammate Nik Bonitto, who ended up being an early second-round selection, Thomas was a constant pain in the neck for opposing offenses. He is sturdy in the run game and always seems to find his way to the quarterback despite not having elite speed. Plus, he uses his hands well and is effective shifting inside — he could beat out a couple of veterans for a back-up role in 2022 and become a starter in Year 2 or 3.
Drafted: No. 224 overall
Goode always seemed to be around the football when I watched Cal, so I was a bit surprised he was not talked about more before the draft. He proved his athleticism at the school’s pro day, though (logging a 4.63 40, a 39-inch vertical and a 6.91 three-cone at 232 pounds), causing the Dolphins to grab him before he became an undrafted free agent. He has inside/outside versatility and should excel on special teams as a rookie with his length and speed.
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