Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
When you have two first-round picks, it can be easy to look good, and Detroit did that. The Lions, however, went above and beyond with a brilliant trade-up in the first round. At No. 2 overall, they landed a long-term feature edge rusher in Aidan Hutchinson to build their team around. Many other franchises viewed Hutchinson as the safest pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
When the 12th pick rolled around, it was shocking to see Detroit pop up on the clock. They absolutely ripped off the Vikings in trading up 20 spots and essentially only giving up a third-round pick. The Lions then used the 12th pick to take Williams, a speedster who could be their long-term No. 1 receiver, and add a game breaker to their offense. The Lions were a big rebuilding project when they hired general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell. After two drafts, they are off to a great start, adding premium talents with first-round picks Penei Sewell, Aidan Hutchinson and Jameson Williams.
Drake London, WR, USC
The Falcons made an excellent selection taking London with the 8th-overall pick. Atlanta needed a long-term No. 1 receiver after Julio Jones aged out, Russell Gage left in free agency, and Calvin Ridley was derailed with off the field issues. Adding the massive London to go with superstar tight end Kyle Pitts and the Falcons just created dynamic mismatch problems for many years to come. London and Pitts are versatile big receivers that can run and are always a threat to make catches over defensive backs. They will be a tremendous combination in the red zone and the Falcons made a superb pick to pair some elite talents together that can lead the team to more wins in the long-term.
Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans
The Eagles started off their first round by jumping the Baltimore Ravens to land Davis. He will give them a massive run-stuffing presence for many years to come and will immediately pay off against division rivals who can stifle the ground attacks led by Ezekiel Elliott, Antonio Gibson and Saquon Barkley.
Even better than the Davis pick was Philadelphia trading its other first-rounder for Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown. Brown is one of the top young receivers in the NFL and a proven commodity. Pairing him and DeVonta Smith together could give the Eagles a lethal receiving duo. Now the challenge will be for Jalen Hurts to get them ball, but Hurts has the tools needed to be successful with that tandem. Philadelphia was one of the most immediately improve teams from the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Ravens entered the 2022 NFL Draft needing to improve their pass coverage and their offense line, so to come away with the draft’s best safety and best center was excellent. With veteran Marcus Williams added to be their free safety, Hamilton will be at home at strong safety and could be a real playmaker in the middle of the field for the Ravens. Linderbaum should be a plug-and-play starter at center who could be an All-Pro center early in his NFL career. Trading an underwhelming and disgruntled receiver in Marquise Brown for Linderbaum was an excellent move by Baltimore. These two draft picks should pay off for many years to come.
New York Jets
Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State Jermaine Johnson, DE, Florida State
This was the draft that general manager Joe Douglas was building for with doing all his trades over recent years to load up his franchise with picks. The Jets were able to come through with good talents at premium positions to really upgrade their roster. Gardner gives them a No. 1 corner who is a great scheme fit as a press-man corner for Robert Saleh. Wilson can be their No. 1 receiver and a speed wideout to stretch defenses vertically. Johnson fills New York’s need for a pass rusher across from Carl Lawson and will help improve an edge rush that has been lacking for years. This draft class could be superb for the Jets. If second-year quarterback Zach Wilson improves significantly in his second year, the Jets could be off and running to becoming a playoff contender.
Lewis Cine, C, Georgia
The Vikings aren’t losers because of their selection of Cine. He is a tough safety who is well-rounded and looks like a very safe choice to turn into a good starter. Minnesota took Cine with the 32nd pick, however, because the organization’s trade down with the Lions was horrific, letting Detroit general manager Brad Holmes take the Vikings to the cleaners. Detroit jumped up from No. 32 to No. 12 and the only additional pick Minnesota really got for that massive drop down was a third-rounder. The second-round pick moved up 10 spots, which ended up being minimal. The Vikings dropping 20 spots in the first round would typically cost at least a first-round pick in the next year’s draft, if not more.
On top of the trade being lopsided from a value perspective, the Vikings helped a division rival get a potential No. 1 wide receiver and game breaker in Jameson Williams. Williams is a speed demon with rare explosive playmaking ability. Helping the Lions to acquire him and now having to cover Williams twice a year for many years to come are both inexcusable. The trade was an awful start for the new regime and rookie general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.
New England Patriots
Cole Strange, G/C, Chattanooga
The selection of Strange late in the first round was the most shocking pick of the 2022 NFL Draft. After the selection was made, I texted sources from five different NFL teams, and none of them had Strange with a first-round grade. One team had him in Round 2 and said they only had moved him up there recently because of his guard/center flexibility. Three other teams said they had him as a third-rounder, and one team said they had Strange graded in Round 4.
Strange could easily become a quality 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 who helps the pass rush. Georgia safety Lewis Cine is a solid safety prospect who could have been a long-term starter. North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson has No. 1 receiver traits of 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.
When you have two first-round picks, it can be easy to look good, but Green Bay managed to avoid that by taking two flawed prospects. Walker has an excellent skill set with size, speed, and athleticism. he was not that productive in college, however, and a reason for that was a lack of instincts. Some sources at other teams that needed linebacker help were lukewarm on Walker because of the lack of instincts.
Wyatt was an uncharacteristic pick for the Packers because he has major character issues, including multiple domestic violence incidents in the past. Multiple teams dropped him from their boards because of the character. Aside from the off-the-field problems, Wyatt was not that productive in college despite seeing constant one-on-one blocks thanks to Jordan Davis eating up the double teams. I think Wyatt could be a Datone Jones-caliber pick for Green Bay.
Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens
The Cardinals traded a first-round pick for a receiver who has been very average in the NFL. Brown has topped 800 yards once in his three seasons, and even though he possesses great speed, his seasonal averages of 12.7, 13.3, and 11.1 yards per touch illustrate that defenses have kept him from being a game breaker. The Cardinals could have drafted better receivers with more upside, like North Dakota State’s Christian Watson. Brown also is entering the back half of his contract and won’t be cheap for much longer. It appears acquiring Brown was an attempt to appease disgruntled quarterback Kyler Murray, but it was a reach for first-round pick, and Arizona could have improved its roster with better talent instead.