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NFL Draft 2022: Instant grades for every first round pick

Grading every pick from the first round.

2022 NFL Draft - Round 1 Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

After months of speculation and postulation, it’s all come down to this. The first round of the NFL Draft is taking place on Thursday night, and we’re here to break down every pick as they happen, as well as grade each selection as it comes in from Las Vegas.

A deep, talent-rich draft, the 2022 class is lacking the top-end talent (particularly at quarterback) that normally shapes the class. This is a line-deep group of prospects who might not seem sexy on draft night, but could shape the NFL for years to come. So let’s dive in.

No. 1: Jacksonville Jaguars: Travon Walker, EDGE — Georgia

I like the player, I don’t like the pick. Personally, I’m extremely excited to see Walker in the NFL and witness whether his phenomenal athletic ability translates into a perennial All Pro career, but this was a huge risk. The Jaguars just took a guy with 9.5 career sacks with the No. 1 overall pick, and they’re not in a position to whiff on this if they’re trying to build sustained success. I certainly hope this all works out for both Jacksonville, and NFL fans — because Walker being legit would be amazing, but there’s a huge chance he flames out as well.
Grade: C

No. 2: Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE — Michigan

This was a no-brainer, despite some late smokescreen about Kayvon Thibodeaux. Hutchinson stays in Michigan, and this was an extremely simple decision for them. The Lions need reliable pass rush, and get the most-reliable lock defensive end in this draft. Hutchinson might not have the ludicrous ceiling of Travon Walker or Thibodeaux, but he’s going to be a 10+ year force and anchor Dan Campbell’s pass rush. The Jaguars’ mistake is Detroit’s gain.
Grade: A+

No. 3: Houston Texans: Derek Stingley Jr., CB — LSU

There was really a tossup between Stingley Jr. and Sauce Gardner for best cornerback in this draft, but it seems Houston wasn’t scared off because of Stingley’s injury. For a long time the LSU cornerback was seen as the top defensive back in this class, and the rise of Gardner overtook him. A classic, ideally-framed CB, Lovie Smith seems to have gone with football IQ over athletic potential, which was really the difference here.
Grade: B

No. 4: New York Jets: Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner, CB — Cincinnati

I think Sauce Gardner will be the best cornerback from this draft when the dust settles. He’s got phenomenal size, great instincts, and let’s face it — he never allowed a touchdown in college. There are some discipline issues with how he plays, as he likes to grab and give up some dumb penalties from time to time, but that’s not a concern for me. We’re talking about a guy with Darrelle Revis skills in Richard Sherman’s body. I love it.
Grade: A

No. 5: New York Giants: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE — Oregon

This one is a huge surprise. It’s not that I didn’t think the Giants would want Thibodeaux, it’s that they took him with the No. 5 pick. One has to wonder if they were afraid Carolina would trade their pick, so they made the jump now — and they’re happy with another offensive tackle at No. 7. There have been questions about Thibodeaux’s drive, but all that is stupid. The guy is a monster, he can play a variety of positions on the field, and some believe this was the best player in the draft ... period. That said, I don’t love not taking Ikem Ekwonu here, who seemed like a natural pick.
Grade: B+

No. 6: Carolina Panthers: Ikem Ekwonu, OT — N.C. State

The Panthers have to be foaming at the mouth with how this all went. I honestly don’t think they expected Ekwonu to be on the board at No. 6, and end up getting the best offensive tackle in this draft without question. Fans can breathe a sigh of relief that this team didn’t get monumentally stupid and draft Kenny Pickett at No. 6, instead fixing their woeful offensive line and get an absolute anchor. Great luck, great pick, this one is easy.
Grade: A+

No. 7: New York Giants: Evan Neal, OT — Alabama

I don’t hate this at all. I personally would have preferred Thibodeaux and Ekwonu for the Giants, which would have gotten the highest marks possible, but this is still really good. Neal was garnering No. 1 overall pick buzz as early as last month because of his length, athleticism, and room to grow. There is no doubt Neal has huge upside at offensive tackle, and the flexibility to move all over the line. This has been a hell of a draft for the Giants so far.
Grade: A-

No. 8: Atlanta Falcons: Drake London, WR — USC

It’s a bold move to secure your receivers before knowing who will be throwing the ball long term is interesting. The fact is, the way this draft was shaping up it kind of make this a necessity — but the primary issue is that I don’t really know how this makes the Falcons a better team in the short, or medium term. When they finally get a quarterback there will be passer-friendly targets with London and Kyle Pitts, but man... I just don’t know how long that will take. If the Falcons suck in 2022 and draft Top 5 in a year, then we’re onto something. If not, this is going to be ugly for a while.
Grade: B-

No. 9: Seattle Seahawks: Charles Cross, OT — Mississippi State

This felt like a really obvious choice. The Seahawks were always going offensive tackle here if one of the big three were on the board, and they likely ended up with the one they preferred. Cross is not nearly as well-rounded as Ekwonu or Neal, but he is the best pass blocker in this draft. That doesn’t mean anything right now, because Drew Lock is the QB — but it bodes well for whoever steps in next to have such a reliable left tackle. Seattle didn’t overthink this process, and that’s the biggest thing here.
Grade: A

No. 10: New York Jets: Garrett Wilson, WR — Ohio State

Wilson’s was my favorite WR in the draft. A smooth, do-everything receiver who can make a quarterback’s life easier — and that’s just what Zach Wilson needs. There are still major concerns about the protection in New York, but at least they now have a legitimate player who can make the QB look better. Garrett Wilson’s catch point, his ability to catch difficult passes, and work in tight spaces is everything this team needs.
Grade: A

** TRADE** The New Orleans Saints trade up to the No. 11 pick, giving the No. 16, 98 and 120 to the Washington Commanders.

No. 11: New Orleans Saints: Chris Olave, WR — Ohio State

This ain’t it. I like Chris Olave just fine — he’s a fluid, nice route runner with a lot of skill, but I am mystified why the Saints felt the need to move up. I really don’t think there was a huge WR risk between now and the No. 16 pick, so giving up more assets in a deep draft feels off to me. It feels a lot like the Saints played themselves into making this pick and giving up picks to make it.
Grade: C+

** TRADE** The Minnesota Vikings trade the No. 12 and No. 46 picks to the Detroit Lions for the No. 32, 34 and a fourth round pick.

No. 12: Detroit Lions: Jameson Williams, WR — Alabama

I am absolutely stunned. Jameson Williams is a brilliant player, but I did not peg the Lions to be looking for a WR at all. This was a significant move too, as Detroit gave up their final pick of the first round, and a high second round pick to jump up. Even following an injury in the National Championship game he’s going to be a great player in the NFL who will win now, and in the future.
Grade: B+

** TRADE** The Philadelphia Eagles trade up to the No. 13 pick, giving the Texans the 15th overall pick, a 2022 4th round pick and two 2022 5th round picks.

No. 13: Philadelphia Eagles: Jordan Davis, DT — Georgia

Davis is a force in the middle who I absolutely saw as a potential Ravens target. This made the jump necessary in my opinion, and they get an anchor at DT. Davis’ athleticism as a 300+ pound tackle is ridiculous, and while he’s not a penetrating pass rusher, he can shove a lineman back into a QB’s pocket and make life difficult.
Grade: A-

No. 14: Baltimore Ravens: Kyle Hamilton, S — Notre Dame

I don’t care about position, Kyle Hamilton was one of the Top 5 players in this draft. With unnatural football IQ and leadership potential, Hamilton is destined to become the next great Ravens safety. I really think he could have gone anywhere from No. 3 onwards and it would have been justified, but this is an absolute steal. I love this selection, and this happened because of the trades for the two wide receivers.
Grade: A+

No. 15: Houston Texans: Kenyon Green, OG — Texas A&M

I really like Kenyon Green, but this was very early. Very, very early. I’m a little mystified why you take an interior offensive lineman when Jermaine Johnson II is on the board and you need a pass rusher. The trade back gives Houston some depth picks, but this was not an impact selection.
Grade: C

No. 16: Washington Commanders: Jahan Dotson, WR — Penn State

Another incredibly early pick. I had Dotson going in the late 20s to a playoff team, not at No. 16. I know he has speed, and there’s been a run on WRs, but this is so early. Getting weapons for Carson Wentz isn’t a recipe for success in my opinion, and there were much, much better players on the board at positions of need for this team.
Grade: D

No. 17: Los Angeles Chargers: Zion Johnson, OG — Boston College

This draft has been a bit of a nightmare for the Chargers who miss out on basically every top receiver by waiting. Johnson is a solid player, and bulks up their offensive line — but it’s a very bland pick. It’s not really the team’s fault based on how the board shaped up, however this absolutely feels like a consolation pick made out of necessity.
Grade: C-

** TRADE** The Tennessee Titans trade WR A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles for the 18th overall pick and a third round pick.

No. 18: Tennessee Titans: Treylon Burks, WR — Arkansas

The receivers are FLYING off the board and the Titans need a replacement after dealing A.J. Brown. Burks is a strong, body receiver who’s actually a lot like ... A.J. Brown. Seriously, that’s the best player comparison here, and this deal and pick feels like an acknowledgement that this team has some big retooling to do.
Grade: B-

No. 19: New Orleans Saints: Trent Penning, OT — Northern Iowa

I like this pick a whole lot. Penning is a nasty, country strong lineman with a big-time mean streak. Offensive tackle was a need for the Saints, and they get the best one left on the board. Penning will likely never be a true left tackle, but can be a mauling right tackle that fans fall in love with. When an OT has a highlight reel you know he’s something good.
Grade: A

No. 20: Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett, QB — Pitt

Okay then. Well. Yeah.

Look, this was the long set pick and I guess they really like him? The thing is, long-term I think Kenny Pickett is going to be a middle, unremarkable QB in the NFL. Malik Willis was the dude with the potential for greatness, and I think would have been a much better swing at No. 20. Obviously they felt differently, and this isn’t a terrible pick considering the way the draft was going, but I personally don’t love it.
Grade: C-

** TRADE** The New England Patriots trade the No. 21 pick to the Kansas City Chiefs for the No. 29 pick, as well as a 3rd and 4th round pick in 2022

No. 21: Kansas City Chiefs: Trent McDuffie, CB — Washington

McDuffie is much, much better than this position dictates and without the wild WR run I see him going a lot earlier. I’m stunned that the Patriots didn’t take him instead, but likely view this group of second tier cornerbacks a lot closer than I do. McDuffie is a smaller, ballhawk corner who loves to make plays, and he’s gifted at playing the man and making tackles bigger than his size might suggest.
Grade: B

No. 22: Green Bay Packers: Quay Walker, LB — Georgia

This has been a disaster for the Packers who missed out on not just the WRs, but impact defensive players too. Walker is a curious player, a reach and I’m really not sure what the Packers see here. I don’t think he’ll be a top-level player, and will instead be a decent starter at best. I’d almost just suggest they should have reached for a WR here, rather than take a linebacker.
Grade: D

** TRADE** The Arizona Cardinals trade the No. 23 pick to the Baltimore Ravens for WR Hollywood Brown and a third round pick

** TRADE** The Baltimore Ravens trade the No. 23 pick to the Buffalo Bills for No. 25 and No. 130

No. 23: Buffalo Bills: Kaiir Elam, CB — Florida

Elam was the last of the cornerbacks I had a first round grade on, and I think he’s really talented. A long ballhawk with an amazing ability to locate the ball in the air, he will punish quarterbacks who make ill-advised throws in his area.
Grade: A

No. 24: Dallas Cowboys: Tyler Smith, OT — Tulsa

This will come off like a shock, but maybe it shouldn’t be. The Cowboys really need offensive line help, and Smith will not be available at the back-end of the second round. That said, this is a big reach. He has a nasty streak and will be a decent player, but I think there were better players on the board.
Grade: C

No. 25: Baltimore Ravens: Tyler Linderbaum, C — Iowa

For a long time I had the Ravens taking Linderbaum at No. 14, so moving back, making trades and getting here here is a huge steal as far as I’m concerned. Linderbaum is the most talented center to come along in a very long time, and I think he’s going to be a 10+ year Pro Bowl player. He’s incredible, and I love the value here.
Grade: A+

** TRADE ** The Tennessee Titans trade the No. 26 pick to the New York Jets for No. 35, 69 and 153.

No. 26: New York Jets: Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE — Florida State

I do not understand how Johnson lasted this long. It makes no sense. Here was a guy who at the worst was going in the teens in almost every mock draft, and he plummets to No. 26. I love the aggression and the pickup here, and he adds to the big haul from the Jets. The former ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Johnson will immediately bolster the pass rush.
Grade: A+

** TRADE** The Tampa Bay Buccaneers trade the No. 27 pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for No. 33, 106 and 180

No. 27: Jacksonville Jaguars: Devin Lloyd, LB — Utah

I love Devin Lloyd. He’s not the bulkiest dude in the world, but makes up for it with mammoth football IQ and instinct. In a lot of ways he reminds me of Luke Kuechly or Bobby Wagner with how he plays the game, and has great length to interfere with passes. Lloyd will add leadership and reliability to the center of the field, and I don’t think the Jags gave up the world to move up.
Grade: A

No. 28: Green Bay Packers: Devonte Wyatt, DT — Georgia

I hope Aaron Rodgers likes throwing the ball to a running back. I don’t get it. Wyatt good player who will be a staple at DT, but he’s not a penetrator, he’s not a game changer — he’s simply really reliable. I cannot fathom not taking someone like George Pickens at WR. It feels like this team is trolling Rodgers.
Grade: D

No. 29: New England Patriots: Cole Strange, OG — Chattanooga

This is the most Patriots pick ever, selecting a dude a round early nobody was expecting and probably turning him into a star. Strange is big, strong and intelligent. He’s kind of everything the Patriots value in their linemen. I don’t have extremely strong feelings on this other than being a little surprised by it all, but that’s par for the course when it comes to New England drafting.
Grade: C

No. 30: Kansas City Chiefs: George Karlaftis, DE — Purdue

This is a huge value pick this late in the draft. Many had Karlaftis as a Top 20 pick, so getting him at this point is value. Karlaftis is a high-pressure, effort defensive end who uses power moves to beat his man. This is a solid pick, though questions remain about their long-term plans at WR.
Grade: B+

No. 31: Cincinnati Bengals: Daxton Hill, S — Michigan

Hill is a really solid player who represents the best available on the board at this point. Safety might not be the biggest need for the Bengals’ secondary, he’s really a hybrid who can match up in the nickel in coverage. I like taking Hill over reaching for a CB with a lower grade. This is another smart move in a serious of good moves by the Bengals.
Grade: A

No. 32: Minnesota Vikings: Lewis Cine, S — Georgia

I really like Cine. This was the correct spot for him to go, albeit the team is a little surprising. Defensive back was a big-time need for Minnesota, and their huge trade back from 12 to 32 forced their hand a lot. Cine is a good player, but man... I hate the talent Minnesota missed out on by making this drop back and not getting a great return for it. Trent McDuffie, Kaiir Elam, Daxton Hill — all better DBs and all gone because of this trade. Unless the Vikings get something incredible with the No. 34 this was an awful trade.
Grade: C