NFL Draft 2022: Round 1 Grades for Every Pick2022-04-28 19:59:26

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    The glitz and glamour of Las Vegas aside, the 2022 NFL draft will be unlike any we’ve seen. 

    Since the turn of the century, this year’s draft figures to be only the sixth time that a quarterback won’t go No. 1 overall. A quarterback still found his way into the top three picks in four of those instances. 

    The likes of Liberty’s Malik Willis, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett and Ole Miss’ Matt Carrol may not hear their names called as early as their predecessors. Instead, this year’s class will be defined by trench play. 

    The last two Super Bowls proved that teams must properly protect their quarterbacks and/or find ways to consistently rattle opposing signal-callers with pressure. As a result, prospects who affect quarterback play are more valuable than ever. 

    Follow along as Bleacher Report provides updates, analysis and grades for every single pick of the 2022 draft.

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Travon Walker, DL, Georgia

    Strengths: Premium athlete, versatility, sudden and violent, readymade run defender

    Weaknesses: Nonexistent pass-rush plan, poor hand usage, inconsistent when disengaging from blocks

    Courtney Brown, Mario Williams, Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett set the stage as the last four edge-defenders to hear their names called with the No. 1 overall pick. Travon Walker has now joined this select group. 

    The Georgia Bulldogs defense was so loaded with talent that Walker may have been the team’s fourth- or fifth-most discussed NFL prospect, even though he’s more physically gifted than anyone not named Jordan Davis among the group. 

    Walker’s raw data is staggering. 

    The 21-year-old prospect stands 6’5″ and weighs 275 pounds with 35½-inch arms. At that size, Walker posted a 4.51-second 40-yard dash, 35.5-inch vertical, 10’3″ broad jump, 6.89-second three-cone drill and 4.32-second short shuttle. He finished top-four among defensive ends in the 40-yard-dash and both change-of-direction drills. 

    To better understand just how athletic Walker is for a man of his stature, consider that he posted the second-highest relative athletic score of any defensive end since 1987, according to Pro Football Network’s Kent Lee Platte

    Typically, a prospect profile requires more detail than just athletic testing. In this case, Walker’s raw upside drives his value, because his combination of size, wingspan and movement skills are rare. To his credit, the defensive lineman does play with a certain level of viciousness. He simply needs to put it all together by honing his craft and improving his technique.

    Only 9.5 career sacks is scary, though.

    “Testing-wise, he’s better than Myles Garrett,” an anonymous defensive coach told The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman. “He’s a freak and he is aggressive. With Myles, we didn’t really know how much he wants to set the edge against the run. His motor was up and down. This guy is an animal. He was playing on such a loaded team, but when the production isn’t really there, it does kind of scare you.”

    The Jaguars are clearly banking on Walker’s potential. The physical tools are special. The next step is harnessing those capabilities and getting them to consistently translate to the field.

    As a system fit, Walker should excel in Mike Caldwell’s scheme. It’s similar to the one Georgia employed. The new No. 1 overall pick can line head up on an offensive tackle or even in a 4i. The versatility is part of the reason he topped the board.

    Yet the continued questions of whether Walker will ever become a game-changer as an edge-rusher can’t be overlooked. 

    Grade: C

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    Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan

    Strengths: Relentlessness, power at point of attack, varied pass-rushing plan, instant-impact run defender

    Weaknesses: Somewhat stiff edge-rusher, inconsistent pad level, lacks top-end burst, short arms

    Everyone knows what Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson brings to the table. He’s a 6’6“, 260-pound defender who will give everything he has while serving as an excellent locker room addition. 

    The biggest question surrounding the reigning Ted Hendricks Award and Lombardi Award winner is how much growth potential he presents. As previously mentioned, he’s a high-motor guy and excellent leader. His physical tools might be limited compared to other prospects at the position, though. 

    Despite being a potential first-round pick in 2021, Hutchinson returned to Michigan for another season last year. He then helped guide the program to its first College Football Playoff appearance while setting the school’s single-season record with 14 sacks.

    There’s minimal downside to this selection, but the same could be said about his upside. Therein lies the rub: Scouts question both his athletic upside and ability to define a defense with the level of dominating play expected of a top pick. 

    “He’s more of a technician,” an anonymous scout told Go Long’s Bob McGinn. “… The guy’s strength is going up the field. I don’t know how much he can improve. Guys with better hips and flexibility might be able to improve more.”

    Another said, “Not the most gifted athletically but he maximizes everything he’s got.” 

    Hutchinson has arguably the fewest drawbacks out of any prospect this year. However, he may never develop into a difference-maker. 

    The Detroit Lions keep Hutchinson in-state. The speed with which the organization chose to make this decision says how highly general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell think of the Michigan product.

    Hutchinson brings the type of attitude that fits beautifully within Campbell’s “biting kneecaps” mentality. The defensive lineman helped elevate a Michigan program that had been stuck in a lull. His production, tenacity and leadership set the tone for everyone else.

    What is Hutchinson’s ultimate upside? This question is what takes this selection from a slamdunk ‘A’ to just outside of that range, because Hutchinson may never develop into one of the league’s elite pass-rushers. But he’s exactly what the Lions need.

    Grade: B+

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    Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

    Strengths: Fluid hips to sink and turn, burst to close space and drive on routes, hair trigger with route recognition, ball skills are evident

    Weaknesses: Injury history, engagement, consistency within coverage when not regularly tested and run support

    Derek Stingley Jr. was a star from the moment he stepped onto the LSU campus. During the Tigers’ 2019 national championship run, he earned first-team All-SEC honors and was a consensus All-American. 

    A few issues arose over the last two seasons, though. According to ESPN’s Matt Miller, NFL scouts have serious concerns about the 6’0″, 190-pound cornerback staying healthy and “locked in” at the professional level. 

    Stingley did require Lisfranc surgery and played in only three games last year. In fact, he participated in only 10 games over the last two seasons combined. However, he fully recovered from his foot injury and participated in LSU’s pro day three weeks before the draft.

    When healthy and on point, Stingley has shutdown potential. He flourishes in man coverage, though he’s also comfortable with zone principles. 

    At his very best, Stingley sizzles with outstanding ball skills. In 2019, the defensive back snagged six interceptions and defended 15 passes. He’ll need to be that version of himself in the NFL on a weekly basis to return positive value on this selection.

    Stingley is never going to be the most physical or engaged participant on the field, particularly against the run. He doesn’t need to be as long as his coverage remains top-notch. 

    Star power is exactly what the Houston Texans needed. The franchise has been sorely lacking it since the transition under the supervision of general manager Nick Caserio began.

    Prior to Stingley’s selection, the Texans’ cornerback room consisted of Lonnie Johnson Jr., Desmond King II, Steven Nelson, Tremon Smith and Tavierre Thomas. The entire defense lacked a true difference-maker. Stingley changes everything in how the Texans are being built. Houston’s defense will be built from back to front, as the franchise is set to face Matt Ryan, Ryan Tannehill and Trevor Lawrence twice per season.

    An elite cover corner who has the tools to completely lock down a top receiver changes a team’s entire defensive approach. This won’t be the same old Lovie Smith defensive scheme.

    Grade: A

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

    Strengths: Rangy defender, shutdown coverage in press, zone flexibility, burst to drive onto passes, steps up against the run

    Weaknesses: Questionable change-of-direction movement skills, grabs too much, too many technique breakdowns

    In early April, Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner proclaimed himself to be the best player in this year’s draft class. 

    That declaration shouldn’t be viewed as brazen or even unrealistic. His confidence is exactly what a team should want from a top-rated cornerback who’s expected to cover the NFL’s best receivers in a pass-friendly league. 

    More importantly, the consensus All-American can back up his statement. 

    Gardner never allowed a touchdown reception during his collegiate career, according to Pro Football Focus. His career quarterback rating allowed into coverage was lower than if the quarterback intentionally threw incomplete passes his way, per PFF. He surrendered only one pass completion over 10 air yards during the 2021 campaign, per ESPN’s Seth Walder. Recruiting Analytics also noted Gardner allowed only 1.8 yards of separation. 

    The reigning AAC Defensive Player of the Year leaves college football as a truly dominant cornerback. He has the physical tools every team wants at the position, too. 

    Gardner is 6’3″ and 190 pounds with 33½-inch arms and 4.41-second 40-yard-dash speed. He’s an aggressive press-cover corner who plays a physical brand of football, which can be a potential pitfall at the next level. 

    While Gardner has spent the majority of his career in press coverage, he excels in zone as well. However, he must refrain from getting overly handsy and rely more on his technique since NFL pass interference rules are far stricter than they are in college.

    With the Houston Texans selecting Derek Stingley Jr. one pick earlier, the New York Jets pulled the trigger on Gardner maybe a little earlier than expected.

    Gardner isn’t a reach at this juncture by any means. He almost certainly wouldn’t have been on the board with the 10th overall pick. But the opportunity to upgrade the secondary had to come now. The Jets knew they had to upgrade last year’s secondary after finishing 30th in pass defense, especially when they face the Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen and Miami Dolphins’ explosive wide receivers on the regular.

    Gardner’s physicality is a dream for Robert Saleh’s defensive scheme in which he can beat up wide receivers near the line of scrimmage like Richard Sherman once did.

    Grade: A

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    Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon

    Strengths: Tailor-made NFL edge-rusher, explosive, lateral agility, flexibility

    Weaknesses: Inconsistent pass-rush plan, hand usage, on-field commitment?

    Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux had the potential to be the preseason No. 1 overall prospect–which he was in most cases–and stay there until the draft began. Instead, he hit a few road bumps. 

    Thibodeaux has the physical tools every team wants in a modern pass-rusher. The 6’4″, 254-pound defender presents the explosivity and quickness to blow by offensive tackles. He did so regularly. 

    Unfortunately, the edge-defender suffered an ankle injury that hampered him throughout the first half of the 2021 campaign. As a result, his overall production didn’t match the hype. He managed seven sacks, and four of those came in two games. 

    Also, NFL evaluators question Thibodeaux’s competitive fire. Some may view this as predraft posturing to drive down a top talent’s value, but others may think there are legitimate concerns about his commitment.

    Whatever the case, if Thibodeaux maximizes his growth potential, he could very well be one of the game’s best pass-rushers in short order. 

    Bleacher Report never wavered on Thibodeaux’s potential. He’s been the highest-ranked player by the site’s scouting department throughout the entire process. 

    The ability and traits aren’t in question. Obviously, other factors came into play. But Thibodeaux will now be placed in Don “Wink” Martindale’s aggressive scheme. He can play from a two- or three-point stance. His versatility is ideal for the system. 

    Thibodeaux opposite Azeez Ojulari gives the Giants two highly athletic and explosive ends to pair with a big and physical defensive front to set the tone in the NFC East.

    Grade: A+

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    Chris Seward/Associated Press

    Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State

    Strengths: Bulldozing run-blocker, punch packed with dynamite, lateral agility, inside-out versatility

    Weaknesses: Oversets, hand placement can be all over the place

    North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu has some Incredible Hulk in him.

    As a result, NFL offensive line coaches won’t be able to help but fall in love with the 310-pound blocker. Ekwonu is aggressive on the field and has a level of violence in his blocks not often seen from line prospects. Off the field, Ekwonu brings an affable personality, which invites everyone to congregate around him. 

    Of any offensive line prospect in this year’s class, the unanimous All-American posted the most dominant performance. Ekwonu buried opponent after opponent, particularly in the run game. His fearsome demeanor derives from overwhelming power at the point of attack. Ekwonu can crush defenders or just wash them completely down the line. His highlights from the 2021 campaign are something to behold. Bodies fly everywhere. 

    Athletically, Ekwonu is such an easy mover. The Wolfpack employ a zone-heavy scheme in which the line prospect excelled with his ability to reach and destroy defenders at all three levels. His movement skills showed up at the NFL combine, where he ran a 4.93-second 40-yard dash and floated through the position-specific drills. 

    Issues arise with the fact that Ekwonu is so athletic yet unrefined. Sometimes, his athleticism allows him to reach landmarks quicker than he should based on the opponent. He must become more patient in pass protection and far more sound with his overall technique. If an offensive line coach can harness his skills, a dominant force will emerge at the NFL level. 

    A little home cooking can certainly help in Ekwonu’s development. Situations matters. Those on the outside forget these are young men in new situations and new systems. They have to deal with new coaches and newfound fame and riches. It can be a lot.

    For Ekwonu, the transition should be a little smoother than it is for a typical rookie since the Charlotte native gets to play close to home.

    The Panthers rightly passed on a quarterback. The team didn’t need to force the selection of a signal-caller in what’s clearly a weak position group. Instead, the organization now has a complete offensive line to protect whomever is behind center.

    Carolina’s addition of this year’s sixth overall pick, as well as veterans Bradley Bozeman and Austin Corbett, should significantly elevate the Panthers’ trench play. 

    Grade: A

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

    Strengths: Massive frame, extraordinary athlete, excellent working in space, plays low and drives defenders off the ball

    Weaknesses: One year at left tackle, inconsistent hand placement, can get caught playing over toes

    At one time, an elite tackle prospect was the closest to a sure thing the NFL draft could produce. 

    Between the 1993 and 2000 drafts, the tackles selected among the top 10 consisted of Willie Roaf, Lincoln Kennedy, Tony Boselli, Jonathan Ogden, Willie Anderson, Orlando Pace, Walter Jones, Kyle Turley and Chris Samuels. Five of them—Roaf, Boselli, Ogden, Pace and Jones—went on to become Hall of Famers.

    Since then, the likes of Leonard Davis, Robert Gallery, Jason Smith, Matt Kalil and others evened out the batting average a bit. But the 2022 NFL draft class should veer much closer to the former than the latter.

    Alabama’s Evan Neal represents what an NFL tackle should look like. He stands 6’7½” and weighs 337 pounds. His frame naturally holds his bulk, and he looks like he could easily add 50 pounds while not being overly burdened. 

    Neal has slimmed down a bit over time. Alabama listed him at 350 pounds. But his current build is a testament to the work he’s done since joining the Crimson Tide.

    The board couldn’t have set up better for the New York Giants. First, they chose the highest-rated player in the class with the Kayvon Thibodeaux selection. Neal’s addition might even be better simply because he’s the top-rated offensive tackle, per Bleacher Report’s Scouting Department. The Giants desperately needed to upgrade their offensive line, which trumped every other need. 

    Neal had been in the discussion for the No. 1 overall pick. What makes him so valuable at this juncture is the fact he’s an NFL-ready blocker who can immediately slide into right tackle opposite Andrew Thomas.

    Some may sneer about a top-10 pick at right tackle, but the position is more valuable than ever. Elite edge-rushers come off both sides. Defensive coordinators find the weak link and place them there. There’s no longer a weak link at offensive tackle in the Giants’ lineup.

    Grade: A+

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    Drake London, WR, USC

    Strengths: Nimble feet for a bigger target, sinks hips in and out of routes, basketball background is evident, massive catch radius, good body control, plays big

    Weaknesses: Questionable top-end speed, coming off a season-ending fractured ankle, inconsistent run-blocker

    Whenever an oversized wide receiver comes up through the ranks, the same old argument is often used against him: He can’t separate. 

    Despite numerous examples on film to prove otherwise, that knock hounded Drake London throughout the predraft process. Upon closer inspection, though, he’s an elite target with a series of traits that should delight his new quarterback. 

    From a physical standpoint, the former USC basketball player brings a little hardwood to the gridiron. His footwork belies his 6’4″, 219-pound frame. London also sinks in and out of his routes. He isn’t some stiff who uses his large frame to overwhelm defensive backs. 

    From a statistical standpoint, London ranks first in the entire wide receiver class in percentage of targets per route run against man coverage, per Pro Football Focus’ Dwain McFarland. He consistently got open and got fed the ball when teams tried to lock him down with a single corner. 

    London missed four of the Trojans’ games after suffering a season-ending fractured ankle and still won Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year. In fact, his average of 135.5 yards per game would have ranked second overall last season had he qualified.

    London is never going to be a burner, but he’s 20 years old with only one full year of purely concentrating on football. He’s a special talent. 

    Like the Carolina Panthers before them, the Atlanta Falcons decided quarterback wasn’t worth a top-10 selection. London certainly is.

    Now he’ll play alongside Kyle Pitts, who pieced together one of the best rookie campaigns ever for a tight end. The duo is a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators, because they simply won’t be able to match up with that much size and athleticism in the passing game. 

    Sure, the Falcons still need a triggerman to take full advantage of these elite targets. Maybe Marcus Mariota surprises. Or, the Falcons are setting up for their next franchise quarterback, whomever it may be. Whatever the case, the cockpit is now exceptional with a true WR1 on the roster.

    The Falcons certainly couldn’t go into this season with Olamide Zaccheaus as their top target.

    Grade: A

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

    Strengths: Natural athlete in pass protection, long, better at point of attack than collegiate system indicates

    Weaknesses: Limited run-blocking snaps, sometimes bites outside moves to weaken post leg

    Entering the predraft process, Mississippi State’s Charles Cross may have been considered a tick below Alabama’s Evan Neal and North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu as a top-tier offensive tackle prospect. Yet Cross also deserves the designation as the class’ most natural pass protector. 

    Some probably expected the previous statement, considering Cross played in Mike Leach’s Air Raid scheme. Of course, pass protection is of the utmost importance, and the 6’5″, 307-pound left tackle became a wall as the Bulldogs’ blindside protector. 

    Two things should be taken into account when contextualizing Cross’ standing as an elite pass-blocker, though. 

    First, he’s not a product of the system. Translatable traits are readily apparent. The offensive lineman displays superb fluidity in his lower body to mirror in his pass set. His long arms (34½”) help to ward off speed-rushers. Cross is usually patient and sound in his technique.

    Secondly, the Bulldogs didn’t originally recruit Cross to play in Leach’s scheme. The offensive tackle came in under former head coach Joe Moorhead in 2019, and he deserves credit for his physicality in the run game. 

    Furthermore, the collegiate left tackle worked out at right tackle during the leadup to the draft, giving him a little more position flexibility.

    The Seattle Seahawks probably didn’t expect Cross to be available with the ninth overall pick. He certainly looked like a strong option for other franchises earlier in the process. But the first offensive tackle didn’t come off the board until the sixth overall pick, which pushed Cross down the board.

    This selection isn’t just good value. The Seahawks couldn’t have gone in any other direction. The previous statement may seem hyperbolic, yet both of Seattle’s starting tackles remain available in free agency. Maybe Brandon Shell returns, but Duane Brown certainly won’t after general manager John Schneider drafted the veteran left tackle’s replacement.

    Obviously, quarterback remains in question. The Seahawks don’t have an answer at the game’s most important position. But the Seahawks now know they can protect whichever quarterback takes snaps this fall.

    Grade: A

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    Noah K. Murray/Associated Press

    Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

    Strengths: Big-play potential with every touch, plays much bigger than frame indicates, extends to routinely make catches away from body

    Weaknesses: Inconsistencies within route running, releases and footwork can be sloppy

    In some ways, Garrett Wilson is Jaylen Waddle to Chris Olave’s DeVonta Smith. 

    The Alabama tandem both heard their names called in the top 10 of last year’s draft. Waddle went higher than Smith because he was viewed as the more explosive option, whereas Smith had the reputation of a more developed and nuanced player. 

    Like Waddle, Wilson is the big-play threat. He has been since the moment he stepped onto Ohio State’s campus as a 5-star recruit. The 21-year-old averaged 15.5 yards per reception throughout his collegiate career. 

    At 6’0″ and 183 pounds, Wilson isn’t the most physical wide receiver. But he instantly creates after the catch thanks to an impressive combination of short-area burst and long speed. In fact, his 4.38-second 40-yard dash and accompanying 10-yard and 20-yard splits are considered elite. That quickness regularly showed up on film. 

    Wilson’s size isn’t a major hindrance, either. He regularly fought for 50-50 balls and made catches outside of his frame. Ohio State liked to use him on fade routes in the end zone. 

    An NFL wide receivers coach will help clean up his release, particularly when working against the jam. That will make Wilson even more dangerous as he further refines his overall game.

    The New York Jets pass offense ranked among the bottom half of the league last season. Wilson can step in and develop alongside last year’s second overall pick, quarterback Zach Wilson.

    General manager Joe Douglas spent the last two years building up the trenches. He’s now shifted course with a concentration on winning outside the numbers. Cornerback Sauce Gardner gives the team a potential shutdown corner for Robert Saleh’s defense. Wilson adds some dynamism to an offense that grew stagnant at times last season.

    Corey Davis hasn’t lived up to his contract status yet. He still could. But the Jets are better off with Wilson, Davis and Elijah Moore as a trio to make sure they’re more explosive in their franchise quarterback’s second year. The only question is whether someone like fellow Ohio State product Chris Olave might have been a better fit, because he’s a more polished option. Regardless, the Jets needed another weapon in the worst way.

    Grade: B+

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    Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

    Strengths: Class’ best route-runner, knows how to play with tempo, effective from slot and outside the numbers, soft hands

    Weaknesses: Slight frame, shorter arms, provides little after the catch

    Jerry Rice, Isaac Bruce, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne became top-10 all-time NFL receivers despite not being the biggest, fastest or most physically impressive targets. But they were smooth.

    To play the wide receiver position at a high level, the goal is simple: get open.

    Ohio State’s Chris Olave enters the NFL as a polished route-runner. He’s a ready-made receiving threat with the ability to play multiple roles, much like he did for the Buckeyes. 

    In three seasons, Olave never served as the focal point of Ohio State’s passing attack because of how much talent the team boasted. Despite that, the two-time first-team All-Big Ten wideout led the program with 163 receptions and 2,505 yards over the last three seasons. His 32 touchdown receptions are the most in the Big Ten Conference during the same period. 

    That production is a byproduct of Olave’s reliability. Others within the scheme might have created splashier plays or posted bigger overall numbers, but Ohio State’s coaching staff knew exactly where the ball was going when it mattered most. 

    “You see that against some of the best players we played against, the best competition’s when he played his best games,” Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day told reporters. “He was clutch, a very good route-runner.”

    The New Orleans Saints weren’t waiting to see if Chris Olave would fall to them with the 16th overall pick. Instead, general manager Mickey Loomis chose to trade up five spots and give away third- and fourth-round picks to make sure they land the class’ most pro-ready receiver.

    Olave with fellow Ohio State alum Michael Thomas is a dangerous pairing. The incoming rookie has legit sub-4.4 speed to go along with polished route-running skills. If Thomas returns to form as one of the game’s best wide receivers, quarterback Jameis Winston now has a dynamic duo working on the outside after the Saints struggled to generate a consistent aerial attack in 2021.

    Granted, part of the issues stemmed from injuries to Thomas and Winston. But the Saints couldn’t find themselves in the same position as last year when they had no one on the outside to pick up the slack.

    If not for the extra picks the Saints spent to trade up, the Olave pick would have been perfect.

    Grade: B+

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    Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

    Strengths: Speed, speed and more speed, knows how to tempo his routes to take full advantage of said speed, sinks into his routes and explodes through his stems

    Weaknesses: Torn ACL recovery, one year of high-level production, sub-180-pound receiver

    Alabama’s Jameson Williams didn’t have an opportunity to prove just how fast he is during the predraft process. He’s continuing to recover from a torn ACL that he suffered during this year’s College Football National Championship Game.

    Let’s just say, he’s pretty darn fast. 

    “I just know nobody could run with me,” Williams told reporters at the NFL combine. “I don’t know no 40 time. I just know nobody could run with me. Just say whatever the fastest 40 time here is–I’m faster.”

    For posterity’s sake, Baylor cornerback Kalon Barnes ran the fastest 40-yard dash in Indianapolis with a 4.23-second effort.

    Williams’ on-field acceleration is more than enough to support his argument. The 21-year-old transferred from Ohio State to Alabama this past year and torched the nation’s most talented defenses. The first-team All-SEC selection caught 79 passes for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns after getting out of Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson’s shadow. 

    Williams also earned SEC Co-Special Teams Player of the Year. His average of 35.2 yards per kick return led the nation among those with 10 or more opportunities. 

    To ease any concerns about the injury, Williams told NFL Network’s James Palmer that he’s “shooting for” being ready and cleared medically by the start of training camp. 

    The run on wide receiver hit full tilt. The Detroit Lions moved all the way up from the 32nd overall pick, also giving up second- and third-round picks, to land Williams.

    The trade itself may seem a little desperate, but it’s not. The Lions made a massive leap and gave up the haul. Yet Williams may have been the first wide receiver drafted had he been fully healthy. Obviously, he’s not. The Lions rightly didn’t care.

    Detroit fielded the league’s worst wide receiver corps last season. If not for fourth-round pick Amon-Ra St. Brown emerging as a rookie, the group could have been even worse.

    Williams tilts the field unlike any other wide receiver prospect in the class. His aforementioned speed affects everything offensively and how opposing defenses must account for him at all times.

    The Lions may have to wait a little while before their new WR1 gets onto the field. Totally worth it.

    Grade: B+

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    Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia

    Strengths: Consistently resets line of scrimmage, stack-and-shed machine, first-step quickness, powerful lower body and uses long arms well

    Weaknesses: Usage rate, unrefined pass-rushing technique

    Jordan Davis is unlike anything anyone has ever seen along the defensive interior. He’s simultaneously an immovable object and an elite athlete. 

    Sure, defensive tackle Aaron Donald left mouths agape when he demolished his predraft workout and then went on to have a Hall of Fame career. While Donald’s unbelievable effort at the 2014 scouting combine was somewhat expected, he weighed 285 pounds. What Davis accomplished this year at 341 pounds was nothing short of staggering. 

    The Outland Trophy winner ran a 4.78-second 40-yard dash and posted 32-inch vertical and 10’3″ broad jumps. That means he’s taller than Rob Gronkowski, heavier than Jason Peters, faster than Patrick Mahomes and quicker than Jarvis Landry, per NFL Research. The 22-year-old unanimous All-American is the most athletic big man in NFL history.

    When Davis took the field, he served as a legitimate difference-maker along Georgia’s defensive interior. He didn’t play an expansive role in the Bulldogs’ defensive rotation, though. The coaching staff didn’t need him to play more than 35-45 percent of the snaps since Georgia’s defense was so loaded.

    Davis’ projections may be limited based on usage, but his ability is certainly evident if he’s asked to become a focal point. At worst, he’s an elite run defender. At best, he’s a three-down, one-man wrecking crew.

    Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman believes in building through the trenches. As such, he felt compelled to jump ahead of the Baltimore Ravens and make sure the Eagles landed a truly unique talent in Davis.

    The trade-up was only two picks, but Roseman clearly felt Davis was the Ravens’ guy. So he manipulated the draft to his team’s benefit.

    Davis will benefit Philadelphia by adding a massive interior talent to a group that already features Javon Hargrave and Fletcher Cox. The pick feels like a setup to eventually move beyond Cox, who turns 32 this year. Roseman is simply preparing for the inevitable by making a move for a unicorn at the defensive tackle position.

    Grade: B+

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    Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

    Strengths: Instincts, range, length, smooth backpedal and change of direction, shutdown tackler, affects game at all three levels

    Weaknesses: Lacks top-end speed, can struggle when covering smaller targets

    Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton may not be the fastest safety when he’s asked to run a straight line during non-football activities. But his performance when he takes the field makes him the unicorn of the 2022 class. 

    Like Florida tight end Kyle Pitts and Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson before him, Hamilton’s level of play supersedes the value often placed upon his position group. The consensus All-American is part of a new breed of defensive backs capable of playing at all three levels. 

    As a deep safety, Hamilton is adept at reading a quarterback’s eyes, tracking the ball and covering a large expanse of space thanks to his rangy 6’4″, 220-pound frame with 33-inch arms. He can then move up and play linebacker in certain packages. He’s also capable of playing near the line of scrimmage and slicing his way into opposing backfields. 

    Hamilton’s biggest drawback is that he lacks a true top gear. He ran a 4.59-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, and he couldn’t improve upon that number at Notre Dame’s pro day.

    Instead, he performed worse with a pair of 4.7-second efforts

    A player’s feel for the game is far more important than straight-line speed, though. Despite his athletic limitations, Hamilton is one of the class’ best players.

    The Baltimore Ravens may have missed out on Georgia’s Jordan Davis, if the Philadelphia Eagles’ hunch was correct. The Ravens clearly didn’t panic and landed one of the best players in the entire draft class.
    Baltimore is so consistent in how it approaches the draft. General manager Eric DeCosta lets the board come to him and simply takes whichever top talent remains available.

    The Ravens invested in Marcus Williams during free agency. Hamilton is the perfect complementary piece. Alongside Chuck Clark, Baltimore can flex the rookie into multiple different positions and provide different looks in big nickel to confuse opposing quarterbacks.

    New defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald now has a defensive chess piece. Hamilton could and should be employed in both safety roles, sub-package linebacker, nickel corner and blitzing off the edge. Constant movement will make Hamilton and the Ravens defense downright dangerous.

    Grade: A+

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    Sam Craft/Associated Press

    Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M

    Strengths: Athletic profile and experience start at guard or tackle, wide base generates power to move defenders off the ball, strong anchor in pass set, long arms (34⅛ inches)

    Weaknesses: Handle placement, wrestles too much, athleticism can be a detriment when oversetting against athletic pass-rushers

    Kenyon Green needs to find a positional home. The 5-star high school recruit started at every position along the Texas A&M Aggies’ offensive front other than center. 

    His development will go a long way just by settling into one spot. 

    Green’s ability to play all of these positions at a relatively high level says quite a bit about him. This past season, the Aggies were forced to shuffle their offensive front numerous times. He wound up starting seven games at left guard, two at right guard and one at left tackle after opening the season as Texas A&M’s right tackle. 

    While Green has the athleticism to remain at tackle, guard may be his natural position. He’s spent the most time along the interior, with 32 two career starts between the two guard spots. Despite all of the shuffling, Green graded out as the SEC’s second-best guard this past season, per Pro Football Focus.

    Versatility is a wonderful trait for any prospect, but his professional maturation can be hampered without a proper developmental plan.

    The Houston Texans chose to pass all of the top offensive tackle prospects with the third overall pick only to double back and overdraft Kenyon Green with the 15th overall pick.

    Two things save this selection from being an outright failure. 

    First, Green’s versatility shouldn’t be downplayed. He could immediately step in and start at multiple spots. Though the previous statement is an indictment of the current state of Houston’s roster.

    Second, the Texans did trade down two spots before ultimately drafting Green. The difference between the 13th and 15th pick may not seem like much, but general manager Nick Caserio managed to add extra assets before making this reach.

    Grade: D

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State

    Strengths: Slippery and explosive throughout route tree, larger-than-expected catch radius, creative after the catch

    Weaknesses: Small stature/lacks length, suspect play strength

    Jahan Dotson’s size shouldn’t fool anyone, because he plays much bigger than his 5’11”, 178-pound frame indicates. 

    “When I get the ball in my hands, it’s exciting,” he told reporters at the NFL combine. “I’m very fast. I can take the top off defenses.”

    For some, where he lines up may be in question. His stature doesn’t automatically equate to him being a slot receiver, though. 

    First, Dotson isn’t a slouch in the speed department. The first-team All-Big Ten performer posted a 4.43-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine to work down the field and outside the numbers. Second, only 16.4 percent of his snaps came from the slot, according to Pro Football Focus’ Austin Gayle.

    Maybe the most impressive aspect of Dotson’s skill set is how he battles to make catches outside of his frame. Despite 30¾-inch arms, he can go up and pluck the ball out of the air. His 36-inch vertical jump helps in these situations. 

    Granted, Dotson shouldn’t be viewed as a traditional X-receiver with the physical tools to dominate defenders. But he’s a creative playmaker when asked to work in space and allowed to go and get the ball. In today’s game, that kind of player is extremely important to any offense.

    The Washington Commanders are now building around quarterback Carson Wentz. The commitment to the quarterback comes with an investment in the passing game to make sure he succeeds.

    Washington isn’t on the best terms at the moment with its star wide receiver Terry McLaurin. But Dotson’s selection should have no bearing whatsoever on McLaurin’s status because the two should complement each other well.

    A healthy Curtis Samuel can work from the slot and over the middle of the field while McLaurin and Dotson are found outside the numbers.

    Overall, the Commanders are more explosive in an attempt to improve upon a bottom-half-of-the-league passing attack. 

    Grade: B



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