2022 First Round Grades

I have no idea how to grade what I just saw. 2019 stands out in my memory as the wildest first round but last night was chaos. We were told to brace for players going in spots we’d never expect, but that, coupled with a trading spree involving players and picks made Thursday night dizzying. Georgia set a record with five first round defenders. The Patriots set a record with dumbest thing I’ve ever seen.

My mock draft was shit thanks for asking.

#1 Jacksonville Jaguars – Edge Travon Walker, Georgia – C

There’s nothing more to add about this selection or grade. It’s a reach. It’s a swing on upside. He will be a good run defender but you don’t draft that first overall.

#2 Detroit Lions – Edge Aidan Hutchinson – B+

Hutchinson is probably the best player in this draft and the Lions got him at 2. It’s good value but I want to level set for the rest of this write but that A grades are reserved for great value/maneuvering/both. We don’t just hand them out.

#3 Houston Texas – CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU – B

I’m really torn on this. I love Stingley and have him as a top 3 player in this draft. I think the 2020/2021 stuff is overblown and if his career played out in reverse, or if he was allowed to just leave after 2019, him falling out of the top 3 would never have been imaginable in the first place.

I do think, however, I would have opted for an offensive tackle. The Texans had an opportunity to create an elite bookend duo and it’s possible they move on from Tunsil in 2024. Mills/whoever they (potentially) draft in 2023 needs to stay upright. Stingley is incredible though.

#4 New York Jets – CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati – B

I’m honestly just mad. I was the first person to put Gardner to the Jets at 4. He perfectly fits that system and is an outspoken, long-limbed alpha, a mixture of characteristics Saleh is pretty familiar with. Anyway, this is a good pick. This immediately makes this defense better. The Jets now run at least three if not four deep at corner. There is no such thing as too many corners.

The only thing is they’re doubling down on Becton. I mean, they obviously know more than we do regarding his conditioning so I’ll digress to their judgement. However, I would not be surprised if they grab Raimann if he makes it to 38 tonight.

#5 New York Giants – Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon – A-

The first A range grade. I think Thibodeaux is a top 3 player and has an argument for best in the class, so getting him at 5, in a year when quarterbacks aren’t pushing players down the board, is good value. I also think this shows poise and preparedness from this new Giants regime. None of the offensive tackles came off the board and both corners did right in front of the Giants.

No panic, they calmly played the board perfectly. With every tackle available they could afford to pass at 5 and still grab one at 7. Therefore, they stop Thibodeaux’s slide here. Perfect. Martindale’s defense is predicated on elite coverage and then scheming up pressure, but with both corners off the board that route wasn’t an option. I’m assuming Thibodeaux was the best player on their board and they gladly took him knowing they had an offensive tackle in the bag two picks later. A grade well earned.

#6 Carolina Panthers – OT Ikem Ekwonu North Carolina State – B

I almost gave this a B+ grade because I’m grading the Panthers on a curve. Taking a quarterback would have been a disaster, but I’ve come to expect nothing less from this franchise. However, while I don’t know what trade offers were made for #6, I would have sold this to the highest bidder since the Panthers have no Day 2 picks.

I don’t have Ekwonu as the best tackle in this class, but obviously he’s tier 1 so it doesn’t much matter. I would have expected Carolina to have Ekwonu OT1 since Rhule wants to run the ball 30 times a game and Ekwonu is the best run blocker of the top 3.

#7 New York Giants (F/CHI) – OT Evan Neal, Alabama – B

As the Texans neglected to do, the Giants are trying to create an elite bookend duo to protect Daniel Jones/whoever they draft in 2023. There’s just not a lot else to say about this grade.

#8 Atlanta Falcons – WR Drake London, USC – B

This was the first pick where I was like, meh. I mean, sure, if you have London as the #1 receiver in this class I won’t argue. I have him 3, but just like the tackles, he’s tier 1 so whatever. If the Falcons think London is the next Michael Thomas I can’t exactly blame them for taking him 8th overall.

Part of me feels like they should have taken advantage of the depth at receiver in this class and went after another position here, but given who was available I’m not sure who I’m campaign for them to take. I suppose Cross because I think this class had a big 7 and Cross made it to Atlanta, but I know they’re still hoping McGary still pans out, despite this not being the regime that drafted him.

#9 Seattle Seahawks (F/DEN) – OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State – A

The last of my big 7 and Seattle got him at 9 and it plugs a huge need. Great all around. The one thing I will say is Cross is a raw run-blocker and Carroll wants to run it every down. I don’t know if this is the best team-player fit, but there’s nothing in Cross’s profile to suggest he can’t become a quality run blocker.

#10 New York Jets (F/SEA) – WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State – B+

Wilson is my WR1 so to get him as the second receiver off the board and at 10 is pretty good. I think Wilson fits well with Davis and Moore as Wilson is a Diontae Johnson/Stefon Diggs type receiver. Most importantly, Zach Wilson cannot fail, so I’m glad the Jets passed on their Jermaine Johnson love affair here to secure a wideout.

#11 New Orleans Saints (F/WAS) – WR Chris Olave, Ohio State – C+

This is the first grade I’m worried about aging terribly. I didn’t like it last year when Howie threw away a third to go get Devonta Smith but I’m pretty sure he’s totally fine with it. That’s what happened here. The Saints sent 16, 98, and 120 for 11. According to the Chase Stuart draft chart, Washington effectively netted a profit of the 75th pick. Also, given how many future picks the Saints have just thrown away, their cap constraints, and roster needs, it’d be more prudent to utilize as many draft picks as possible to get some cheap talent on the roster.

On the other hand, Olave is a tremendous plug and play #2 receiver. He’s going to be impactful week 1. I believe the Ohio State connection with Michael Thomas matters as well (we’ve seen veterans take rookies from their alma mater under their wings). So when Olave ends up having a great rookie season no one will care about 98 and 120. I care though. I care.

#12 Detroit Lions (F/MIN) – WR Jameson Williams, Alabama – A

I was expecting to really dislike the trade the Lions struck before actually doing the math. It seemed like they were just giving away pick 66. However, the Lions only lost 3.5 points worth of draft capital, which is the equivalent of the 133rd pick of the draft. I may insist on caring about 98 AND 120 above, but to come this far up the board (from 32) to get Tyreek-speed, then, fuck it.

I absolutely love what this new Detroit regime has been doing. They heavily invested in the trenches last year, found a steal in St. Brown, have a tremendous offensive line, and now added defense-breaking speed on the cheap. We know the Lions are going to target a quarterback next year (assuming they don’t take someone Day 2 tonight), and that dude is perfectly set up for success. This grade is well earned.

#13 Philadephia Eagles (F/HOU) – DT Jordan Davis, Georgia – C+

The Eagles sent 15, 124, 162, and 166 to Houston for this pick. In total they traded away the 74th pick in order to move up two spots. If you want to say, eh, 162 and 166 don’t reallllly have that much value, and they just gave away 124, I won’t fight you. But that coupled with the fact I don’t think Davis should go top 20 leads me to not like this pick.

The Eagles jumped Baltimore to lock up the run-stuffer who isn’t an elite run-stuffer. Complain about PFF grades all you want, but for what it’s worth, compared to other jumbo run stuffing defensive tackles that have gone in the first round, Davis doesn’t match their level of play:

For as dominant as he can be, Davis never earned truly dominant PFF grades at Georgia, even as a run defender. He was consistently very good, with three out of four seasons clearing 80.0 marks, but steady dominance eluded him. Using [Vita] Vea as a comparison again, the Washington product cleared a 90.0 PFF run-defense grade in each of his final two seasons, topping out at 94.7 in his last year.

Dexter Lawrence — another behemoth defensive tackle who went in the first round — averaged an 88.0 run-defense grade over three years at Clemson. PFF College data includes only the last season of Danny Shelton’s college career, but that campaign earned him an 89.8 run-defense grade.

While Davis is being sold as a peerless presence on run downs, his PFF grade doesn’t stack up to other run-stuffing specialists entering the draft in recent years.

Then you add in, ya know, the fact he doesn’t add any pass production and the legitimate questions about how many snaps per game he can play, and I can’t rationalize spending a top 20 pick on him, let alone trading up to do so. I’m not saying Davis is going to be bad, I just disagree with this strategy of team building. Call me an idiot if you want.

#14 Baltimore Ravens – S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame – A-

It’s just the most Ravens thing ever for this to happen. It seemed to be an open secret they were going to take Jordan Davis, but then just pivoted to someone who shouldn’t have been available. In all fairness, looking at the first 12 picks I can understand each team taking the guy they did as opposed to Hamilton. But, I think this speed concern is dumb and Hamilton is going to be a great player in the NFL.

On the NFL Network broadcast (please boycott ESPN, their trauma porn is deplorable), David Shaw talked about how their strategy going into the Notre Dame game was to go at Hamilton in coverage and halfway through the first quarter realized it was a huge mistake. He then went on to say the timed speed doesn’t matter because his instincts and anticipation are off the charts. He doesn’t need 4.4 speed because he takes off two steps earlier than everyone else. He said his dad calls it “stealing second.” He just knows when to go.

#15 Houston Texans (F/PHI) – OG Kenyon Green, Texas A&M – B-

I’m giving the Texans a lot of leeway here because they traded down first and I can’t quite blame them for investing in the offensive line. I think this is a reach, and I think you need to be a DeCastro level guard prospect to warrant a top 20 pick at the position, which Green is not. However, in a draft hailed as not-that-great it’s unsurprising to see a team opt of an “off the wall double” as opposed to swinging for upside.

Green also brings a lot of positional versatility so Houston can just figure out their five best offensive lineman and get them on the field.

#16 Washington Commanders (F/NO/PHI) – WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State – C

This was the first pick where I went “are you for real?” At least Washington traded down first. I like Dotson and believe he will be good but this is just such a reach. It seems like the Commanders were locked into a wide receiver in the first round no matter what, and then when the consensus top 4 were all off the board, AND Kyle Hamilton was gone, they just went “fuck it, who is next on our receiver list?”

#17 Los Angeles Chargers – OL Zion Johnson, Boston College – B-

Again, in a draft hailed as bad the Chargers opted for a safe pick. Zion Johnson is a plug and play guard and I’m sure he will be good. But again; position value and this is a reach. Without a second rounder this year I’m curious if the team even explored trading down. Or maybe with the Patriots, at the time Cardinals, and Cowboys not far behind they feared losing Johnson. I think I would have preferred they went with McDuffie here to run deeper at corner. On the other hand, Johnson has a lot of positional versatility so maybe he will end up at right tackle, which is why I’m giving them leeway with the grade.

Which brings me to another point. It’s interesting to me that Green and Johnson went ahead of Penning. Everyone figured due to the tackle position falling off a cliff after Penning he would get pushed up the board and definitely go before the guards. Given Green and Johnson both have experience at tackle and went before Penning, I wonder if teams viewed them as the next best tackle prospects after the Big 3, and not Penning.

#18 Tennessee Titans (F/PHI/NO) – WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas – C+/B-

I honestly have no idea how to evaluate this. This new world wide receiver economy has teams panicking left and right. I can understand the Packers and Chiefs not wanting to shell out $25 million a year over four or five years for a receiver pushing 30. But A.J. Brown is 24. Also, the Packers and Chiefs got a first and second, and then some for their receivers. The Titans got a first and a late third. Adams and Tyreek are better right now, sure, but A.J. Brown is 24. I just don’t get it.

Look, I can understand from a roster management standpoint Tennessee not wanting to give a receiver $25 million a year when they (probably) can draft a quality receiver and pay him like $5 million a year over his first four seasons. But I just think teams are wrong about running for the hills in regards to these receiver contracts. Teams are still willing to wildly overpay offensive lineman just to get someone that’s decent (see Robinson, Cam), but when it comes to elite playmakers they won’t cut a check? There’s five premium positions and receiver is one of them. Do you really think the Bengals or Vikings are going to tell Chase or Jefferson to kick rocks when it comes time to pay them? Of course not. Offensive lineman keep teams on schedule. Wide receivers are game changers. Figure it out you fucking boomers.

ANYWAY, Treylon Burks was often comped to A.J. Brown so it’s unsurprising he was the selection here. The Titans are basically hoping they pull off a Vikings, trading Diggs for the pick used on Jefferson. Which, after the above rant, I’m sure will happen so that I look stupid. I think 18 is a reach for Burks, but screw it, they need this dude and can be deployed in Brown’s role.

#19 New Orleans Saints (F/PHI/MIA) – OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa – B-

I think Penning is overrated as a prospect and that this is a reach. However, no one expected him to make it to 19. The Saints pulled of that weird (read; terrible) trade with the Eagles to get a receiver and offensive tackle for 2022. Mission accomplished.

#20 Pittsburgh Steelers – QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh – B-

First off, I am going to take a victory lap regarding my mock draft because I was the only person with 1 first round quarterback, and that quarterback going to Pittsburgh, without Pittsburgh trading up. I just got the specific quarterback wrong.

The grade is because, sure, shoot your shot on a quarterback you believe it. I’m just not huge on Pickett, but who knows how any of these dudes will pan out. I would have much preferred they take Willis. The Trubisky signing set them up perfectly to sit Willis for a year. And given the way the league has trended at the quarterback position, Willis has the traits to develop into the type of quarterback to contender with the absurd AFC QB landscape. But what do I know? (nothing)

#21 Kansas City Chiefs (F/NE) – CB Trent McDuffie, Washington – B+/A-

I will also be taking a victory lap for projecting a 21/29 swap between the Patriots and Chiefs and having the Chiefs move up for a cornerback. Sure, I got the trade parameters wrong and didn’t project McDuffie specifically, but eat my shorts. It’s grade A prognosticating.

Kansas City sent 29, 94, and 121 for 21 and the Patriots netted the value of the 67th pick in total. I’d typically be against trades up but as I mentioned in my final mock, the Chiefs came into the draft with 12 picks and they’re no fitting 12 rookies on this roster. Brett Veach admitted to having 16-18 first round grades on players in this class, so if one slipped far enough he figured to get aggressive.

McDuffie should not have fallen this far. Complain about his size all you want, this guy is good. He can be a plug and play starter for this defense who is in win-now mode for the next 15 years. Corner was always a huge need area, and with the Mahomes extension kicking in Kansas City needs cost controlled talent.

#22 Green Bay Packers – LB Quay Walker, Georgia – C

I know everyone fell in love with Walker due to his ridiculous athleticism, but I wasn’t one of them. Sure, he’s fine, but linebacker is arguably the deepest position in this draft and the Packers could have gotten someone good enough with one of their two second rounders. I’m not saying they should have forced a receiver, that would have been dumb. But I would have respected them taking Elam as you can never have too many corners, or Jermaine Johnson or George Karlaftis, as you can never have too many rusher.

#23 Buffalo Bills (F/BAL/ARI) – CB Kaiir Elam, Florida – B

VICTORY LAP INCOMING: All y’all put Breece Hall to Buffalo in the absolute lock category and I’m the only one that said no, this regime has never done something that stupid, they’re going to take a corner.

Buffalo gave up 130 in order to move up two spots from 23 to 25. You know what? Screw it, I’m not even going to do the math. I don’t know that Buffalo *needed* to jump Dallas to get their corner, but if they just didn’t want anyone else to jump them for Elam and all it cost was 130, then fine, whatever.

If the Bills want to win the AFC, they need as many coverage players as possible. They saw what life without White was like last year and don’t want to relive that. Also, they didn’t take a running back, so that’s a win.

#24 Dallas Cowboys – OT Tyler Smith, Tulsa – C

Third round tackles with incredible traits going round one; a tale as old as time. I get Dallas investing in the offensive line after the losses they sustained but I can’t get on board with Smith going round one. He’s just too raw and this never works out. Maybe he won’t go the way of Austin Jackson or Tytus Howard, and I’m rooting for everyone’s success, but the NFL just can’t help itself.

#25 Baltimore Ravens (F/BUF) – C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa – A-

The Ravens traded Hollywood and 100 for 23 then dropped down to 25. Everyone is dragging the Cardinals for the trade, which I can understand, but I don’t know how I feel about it from their perspective yet.

As for the Ravens, Brown requested a trade and said the offensive system just isn’t a good fit for his talents. He’s not wrong. You know what offense does fit his talents? The one where Kyler bombs it to him. Anyway, good on the Ravens for doing him a solid. I also think the concern about Linderbaum’s size was overblown and he’s worth better than the 25th pick. Of course he fell to the Ravens here. Of course.

#26 New York Jets (F/TEN) – Edge Jermaine Johnson, Florida State – B+

The Jets traded 35, 69, and 163 to the Titans for 26 and 101. The Jets gave up the equivalent of the 149th pick in order to come get their guy. Oh, and by the way, I had the Titans trading down from 26 in my final mock.

There was a ton of talk the Jets were considering Johnson at FOUR and they get him here at 26. I think he got really overrated as a prospect as far as him being a top 12 guy (he’s 11 on The Athletic’s consensus board) but I’m fine with this. For what it’s worth, I like so many of the edge rushers that are going to go on Day 2 that I think I’d rather have stayed at 35, took who fell to me, and still kept 69, but whatever.

Can the Jets please stop making me grade them well?

#27 Jacksonville Jaguars (F/TB) – LB Devin Lloyd, Utah – B-

Jacksonville sent 33, 106, and 180 for 27. The Bucs netted 5.1 points of draft capital, equal to the 102nd pick of the draft. I like Lloyd as a prospect, and he was 16th on The Athletic’s consensus board, so this is good value, but in such a deep linebacker class I can’t reconcile moving up for one and basically just throwing away 106. The Jaguars are not Devin Lloyd away from making the playoffs. The one thing I’ll grant them is this dude does seem like a locker room culture setter type player so, given how miserable this franchise has been since (checks notes) forever, that should count for something.

#28 Green Bay Packers – DT Devonte Wyatt, Georgia – A-

I actually think Devonte Wyatt was the best defensive tackle in this draft. Slander me all you want but I value pass rushing ability and Wyatt is just better than Davis in that regard. How well will that skill be deployed on early downs in the Packers base 3-4 defense? Not sure. But when they move into Nickel and the Packers are coming at you with Preston Smith, Rashan Gary, Kenny Clark, and now Devonte Wyatt? Jesus Christ.

#29 New England Patriots (F/KC) – OG Cole Strange, Chattanooga – F

The only thing keeping this grade from being an F minus is that the Patriots traded down first. What an abomination. This is a classic Belichick smartest guy in the room pick. Strange was a third round prospect the Patriots just haddd to take at 29. He finished 76th on The Athletic consensus board, 73rd on Dane Brugler’s big board, 86 on the PFF board, and 91 on The Draft Network’s big board. Sean McVay said how he was hoping Strange might get to 104.

Also, the Patriots used to have the best guard duo in the league with Thuney and Mason. You know where they found them? The mid-rounds. Ever since Mankins the Patriots have routinely found interior offensive lineman late in the draft, or even in UDFA, and turned them into quality starters. Andrew Booth, Kyler Gordon, and George Karlaftis were all just sitting here at this pick. Cool.

#30 Kansas City Chiefs – Edge George Karlaftis, Purdue – A

Put me in the Karlaftis fan club. I think he should have gone much higher and my tier 2 edge rushers were him, Travon Walker, and Jermaine Johnson. This is exceptional value and hits a big need.

#31 Cincinnati Bengals – CB/S Daxton Hill, Michigan – B+

If you have concerns Hill can’t play outside, fine, whatever, but he’s just good. Slot corner, safety, slot/safety hybrid, I don’t care. The Bengals need help in their secondary, and just like the Chiefs and Bills before them, they’re loading up on cover guys to counteract this ridiculous AFC offensive artillery.

#32 Minnesota Vikings – S Lewis Cine, Georgia – B+

The Vikings gave up a change to take Jameson Williams to fall down to pick 32, but they moved up 12 spots in the second round and added the 66th pick as well. They then land one of my favorite players in the draft. I think Cine is going to be phenomenal and should have easily went first round, instead of just squeaking in.

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