2022 NFL Draft Awards

By Charlie Campbell.
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With the 2022 NFL Draft in the books, it is only fair to dish out some awards for a job well done by a number of teams across the NFL. It also doesn’t hurt to look at which teams may have made regrettable picks.

Best Value Pick Round 1
Seattle Seahawks: LT Charles Cross
The 2022 NFL Draft was considered to not have a lot of elite talent plus lacking quarterback talent for the top of the draft. That made it a difficult year to pick a best first-round value seletion. Cross stood out because he could end up the offensive tackle from this draft class and a better pro than his draft classmates the Panthers’ Ikem Ekwonu and the Giants’ Evan Neal. Cross is the most natural left tackle of the three and was the best pass protector in this draft class. Cross’ strength should translate best to the passing-obsessed nature of the modern NFL. He is a superb athlete with excellent quickness alongside size. Cross is built for the long term, and it would not surprise me if goes to many Pro Bowls during a long, productive NFL career. At the ninth-overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, I think Cross was a very good value for the Seahawks.

Honorable mentions: Atlanta Falcons WR Drake London, Detroit Lions WR Jameson Williams, New Orleans Saints OT Trevor Penning, Tennessee Titans WR Treylon Burks, Dallas Cowboys OT Tyler Smith and Jacksonville Jaguars LB Devin Loyd.

2021 Winner: Justin Fields, Bears
2020 Winner: CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys
2019 Winner: Quinnen Williams, Jets
2018 Winner: Derwin James, Chargers
2017 Winner: Malik Hooker, Colts

2016 Winner: Laremy Tunsil, Dolphins
2015 Winner: Todd Gurley, Rams and Malcom Brown, Patriots
2014 Winner: HaHa Clinton-Dix, Packers
2013 Winner: Sharrif Floyd, Vikings
2012 Winner: Riley Reiff, Lions

Best Value Pick Day 2
Atlanta Falcons: DE Arnold Ebiketie
This pick was a tough choice, but many around the league thought Ebiketie would be a first-round pick, and I believe he will out perform his draft slot. As a pass rusher, Ebiketie can burn tackles with a speed and also is strong enough to fight them off with his hands. After his quick first-step to get upfield, Ebiketie uses his hands and feet at the same time nicely and possesses the agility to redirect to the inside or sink his hips while running the loop on the outside. Ebiketie could stand to improve as a run defender, but in the passing-driven NFL, I believe Ebiketie will end up as a starter and could be a potential double-digit sack defender. I think Ebiketie will be a Yannick Ngakoue-caliber defender, and that would make him a big steal for the Falcons in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Honorable mentions: Tennessee Titans CB Roger McCreary, Lions DL Joshua Paschal, Giants WR Wan’Dale Robinson, Colts WR Alec Pierce, Tampa Bay Buccaneers G Luke Goedeke, Colts OT Bernhard Raimann, Philadelphia Eagles LB Nakobe Dean, Cleveland Browns CB Martin Emerson and Detroit Lions S Kerby Joseph.

2021 Winner: Trevon Moehrig, Raiders
2020 Winner: Cam Akers, Rams
2019 Winner: Greg Little, Panthers
2018 Winner: Derrius Guice, Redskins
2017 Winner: Dalvin Cook, Vikings

2016 Winner: Myles Jack, Jaguars
2015 Winner: Jaelen Strong, Texans
2014 Winner: Carlos Hyde, 49ers & Louis Nix, Texans
2013 Winner: Eddie Lacy, Packers
2012 Winner: Janoris Jenkins, Rams

Best Value Pick Day 3
Houston Texans: RB Dameon Pierce
Pierce slid in the 2022 NFL Draft because of a slow 40 time, but he was an excellent runner in the SEC and played faster at the Senior Bowl than he timed. With his skill set, Pierce (5-9, 220) is a sleeper back who could have three-down starting potential. Pierce is a hard-nosed runner who runs angry and often brings pain to defenders who try to tackle him. Coming downhill, Pierce shows serious aggression to run through defenders and power through them to continue to add yards. Even though Pierce is a powerful running back, he is not a slow plodder, possessing some quickness. Pierce also can serve as a decent outlet receiver in the passing game. He is smooth in space and has soft, reliable hands. As a pro he could be a solid contributor as a receiver and should be a treasure as a blocker. At the Senior Bowl, Pierce put on display his superb blocking ability. I think he could turn into a good starter for the Texans and be a massive steal as a fourth-round pick.

Honorable mentions: Dallas Cowboys LB Damone Clark, Steelers WR Calvin Austin, Chiefs OT/G Darian Kinnard, Ravens TE Charlie Kolar, Ravens TE Isaiah Likely, Chargers RB Isaiah Spiller and Buccaneers TE Cade Otton.

2021 Winner: Chuba Hubbard, Panthers
2020 Winner: Albert Okwuegbunam, Broncos
2019 Winner: Mack Wilson, Browns
2018 Winner: Nick Nelson, Raiders
2017 Winner: Caleb Brantley, Browns

2016 Winner: Andrew Billings, Bengals
2015 Winner: Jay Ayayi, Dolphins
2014 Winner: Justin Ellis, Raiders
2013 Winner: Philip Thomas, Redskins
2012 Winner: Bobbie Massie, Cardinals

Best Trade
Detroit Lions: WR Jameson Williams
This was an easy choice because the Lions landed a potentially elite No. 1 receiver who could present a speed threat similar to Tyreek Hill and they did it at massive discount while ripping off a division rival. When the 12th pick rolled around, it was shocking to see Detroit pop up as on the clock. The franchise absolutely ripped off the Vikings in trading up 20 spots by essentially only giving up a third-round pick. The Lions then used No. 12 to take the speedster Williams, who could be their long-term No. 1 receiver and add a game breaker to their offense. Once healthy, Williams instantly will be among he fastest wideouts in the NFL, and he is a true threat to score on any play. Williams is a good route-runner, tough, very good after the catch, and loves football. He has massive upside, and he could be a huge building block in the organization’s rebuild.

Honorable mentions: New York Jets trading up for DE Jermaine Johnson and Jacksonville Jaguars trading up for LB Devin Lloyd.

2021 Winner: Justin Fields, Bears
2020 Winner: Kenneth Murray, Chargers
2019 Winner: Montez Sweat, Redskins
2018 Winner: Lamar Jackson, Ravens
2017 Winner: Tre’Davious White, Bills

2016 Winner: Myles Jack, Jaguars
2015 Winner: Maxx Williams, Ravens
2014 Winner: Louis Nix, Texans
2013 Winner: Alec Ogletree, Rams
2012 Winner: Justin Blackmon, Jaguars

Biggest Reach Round 1
New England Patriots: G/C Cole Strange
This was an easy choice because taking Strange late in first round was the most shocking pick of the 2022 NFL Draft. It was considered a reach of epic proportions around the NFL. Sources from five different NFL teams told WalterFootball.com that none of them had Strange with a first-round grade. One team had him in Round 2, and they had only moved him up there recently because of his flexibility for playing guard or center. Three other teams said they had Strange as a third-rounder, and the fifth team said they had Strange graded in Round 4.

Strange could easily become a quality pro starter, but as an interior offensive linemen, he won’t impact the game as heavily as other positions New England passed on. The Patriots took Strange over much better available players. Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis could have been a starting defensive end to help the pass rush. Georgia safety Lewis Cine is a solid safety prospect who could end up a long-term starter. North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson has No. 1 receiver traits like size and speed. Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary is a future starter and a very good cover corner. All of those players would have been better picks than Strange.

Honorable mentions: Texans G Kenyon Green, Commanders WR Jahan Dotson and Chargers G Zion Johnson.

2021 Winner: Payton Turner, Saints
2020 Winner: Damon Arnette, Raiders
2019 Winner: L.J. Collier, Seahawks
2018 Winner: Rashaad Penny, Seahawks
2017 Winner: Corey Davis, Titans

2016 Winner: Josh Garnett, 49ers
2015 Winner: Stephone Anthony, Saints
2014 Winner: JaWuan James, Dolphins
2013 Winner: Travis Frederick, Cowboys
2012 Winner: Bruce Irvin, Seahawks

Biggest Reach Day 2
New England Patriots: CB Marcus Jones
Jones is very undersized, and other NFL teams felt his value was as a returner. They thought he was a dangerous player on special teams, but easily could end up not translating to cornerback. Thus, many teams had him graded on Day 3 of the 2022 NFL Draft. The Patriots, however, took Jones in Round 3, and he will give the other team a size mismatch and could be limited to be a special teams player only.

Honorable mentions: Bills LB Terrel Bernard, Browns WR David Bell, 49ers RB Tyrion Davis-Price and Cowboys DE Sam Williams.

2021 Winner: Brady Christensen, Panthers
2020 Winner: Jalen Hurts, Eagles
2019 Winner: Jalen Hurd, 49ers
2018 Winner: Connor Williams, Cowboys
2017 Winner: C.J. Beathard, 49ers

2016 Winner: Roberto Aguayo, Buccaneers
2015 Winner: Jordan Richards, Patriots
2014 Winner: Jack Mewhort, Colts
2013 Winner: Duron Harmon, Patriots
2012 Winner: Bryan Anger, Jaguars

Best Undrafted Free Agent Signing
Detroit Lions: CB Jermaine Waller
Waller had two good seasons of ball production at Virginia Tech, totaling 15 passes broken up and seven interceptions over his final two full seasons. At 6-foot, Waller has good height, but he is a very skinny 175 pounds, which leads to him getting pushed around. The weight and strength issues could be correctable, however, and Detroit is an excellent spot for Waller to start his career.

The Lions entered the 2022 NFL Draft needing cornerback talent, but they did not select one until the late rounds. Former general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia selected Jeff Okudah with the third-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, but Okudah has been a massive disappointment and may not even make the team for 2022. Aside from Okudah, the Lions only have one established starter in Amani Oruwariye. But even Oruwariye has an uncertain future with the organization because he is in the last year of his contract. All that adds up to Waller having landed with a team that has a wide open competition for playing time and roster spots. He also benefits by signing with an excellent coach to learn from in defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, who had very good NFL career as a cornerback. Waller might need a year to develop physically and get stronger, but he has a real opportunity to stick in the NFL with the Lions.

Honorable mentions: Lions WR Corey Sutton, Bears RB Master Teague, Seahawks S Joey Blount, Seahawks S Bubba Bolden, Ravens LB Zakoby McClain, Colts RB Max Borghi, Saints TE Lucas Krull, Eagles CB Josh Jobe and Bills TE Jalen Wydermyer.

2021 Winner: Paris Ford, Rams
2020 Winner: Trey Adams, Bills
2019 Winner: Elijah Holyfield, Panthers
2018 Winner: J.C. Jackson, Patriots
2017 Winner: Fish Smithson, Redskins

2016 Winner: Geronimo Allison, Packers
2015 Winner: Akeem Hunt, Giants
2014 Winner: Antonio Richardson, Vikings
2013 Winner: Chase Thomas, Saints
2012 Winner: James Brown, Bears

Best Draft Class
New York Jets
My favorite draft classes were the Jets and Ravens as the clear top two. In the next tier, I felt the Lions, Colts, Buccaneers and Falcons all did really well in the 2022 NFL Draft. I ended up going with the Jets because I feel they landed more high-end talent than the Ravens. Baltimore looks to have put together an excellent draft that will yield some solid starters and good rotational depth, but the Jets’ draft class could produce some very good players who have more potential to be Pro Bowlers.

This was the draft that general manager Joe Douglas was building for with all the trades his organization had made over recent years to load up with draft picks. The Jets were able to come through with good talent at premium positions to really upgrade the roster. Gardner gives the Jets a No. 1 corner who is a great scheme fit for press-man coverage under Robert Saleh. Wilson can be the team’s No. 1 receiver and is a speedy wideout to stretch defenses vertically. Johnson fills a need for a pass rusher across from Carl Lawson and should help improve an edge rush that has been lacking for years.

On the second day of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Jets landed the top running back with Iowa State’s Breece Hall early in the second round. Not only is Hall a tough runner with size, speed and instincts, but he is a superb receiver as well. Hall will give second-year quarterback Zach Wilson a nice check-down weapon and help produce better down-and-distance situations through some easy passes. In the third round, the Jets landed a quality blocking tight end with some receiving potential in Ohio State’s Jeremy Ruckert. Their pick high in the fourth round, La.-Lafayette tackle Max Mitchell, could be a nice depth blocker who is valuable backup at a few spots.

I really love the values the Jets achieved at each pick because they didn’t reach and really improved the talent on their roster. They also addressed some big needs, landing a potentially game-breaking receiver in Wilson, a No. 1 corner in Gardner, a solid starting edge rusher in Johnson, and a potential very good starting running back in Hall. Therefore, I think the Jets could end up having the most difference makers to show for the 2022 NFL Draft, and they are my pick for best draft class this year. If Wilson improves significantly in his second NFL season, the Jets could be off and running to becoming a legit playoff contender.

Honorable mentions: Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles.

2021 Winner: New York Giants
2020 Winner: Dallas Cowboys
2019 Winner: Washington Redskins
2018 Winner: Denver Broncos
2017 Winner: Washington Redskins

2016 Winner: Buffalo Bills
2015 Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars
2014 Winner: Houston Texans
2013 Winner: Green Bay Packers
2012 Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers

Worst Draft Class
New England Patriots
Clearly, I blew it with the 2012 award for Seattle, and to a lesser extent with the Cowboys in 2013. On the other hand, the Chiefs’ 2014 class, the Panthers’ 2015 class, and the Patriots’ 2016 class were underwhelming. Five years ago in this space, I ripped New England for the Cyrus Jones pick, and that was proven valid. I thought Arizona’s 2017 draft class was terrible, and that has been the case thus far thanks to those players disappointing. The Cowboys’ 2018 class was not horrible, but not good. Bill O’Brien’s 2019 draft class with the Texans yielded one decent pick, but six other busts, including two second-rounders that were wasted. It’s too early to pass judgement on the Packers’ 2020 draft but it looks like they wasted their pick on Jordan Love.

The Patriots, in my opinion, put together the worst 2022 NFL Draft in the league. As stated above, Cole Strange was a massive reach in the first round. They followed it up with two questionable picks on Day 2 in Tyquan Thornton and Marcus Jones. We dug into Jones above, but Thornton was questionable as well. Thornton is a speed receiver, and while there is no doubt he is extremely fast, he is extremely skinny and struggles to get off jams. Getting away from corners will only be a bigger problem in the NFL due to the larger strength disparity. On Day 3 of the 2022 NFL Draft, New England took a pair of running backs despite already having a crowded backfield. It could be difficult for both Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris to make the team, and especially the Harris pick could end up being wasted. The Patriots also used a fourth-round pick on Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe even though they have a young starter in Mac Jones. It would have made more sense to take a player like Memphis speedster wide receiver Calvin Austin, nasty Kentucky tackle/guard Darian Kinnard, or UTSA big-upside cornerback Tariq Woolen. After taking some reaches on Days 1 and 2, it looks like New England may have wasted some picks on Day 3.

Bill Belichick clearly knows more about football than I do, but he has had some ugly drafts in recent years. I would not be surprised if this draft ends up being underwhelming or terrible when we look back at it in a few years.

2021 Winner: New Orleans Saints
2020 Winner: Green Bay Packers
2019 Winner: Houston Texans
2018 Winner: Dallas Cowboys
2017 Winner: Arizona Cardinals

2016 Winner: New England Patriots
2015 Winner: Carolina Panthers
2014 Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
2013 Winner: Dallas Cowboys
2012 Winner: Seattle Seahawks

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