NFL Draft Grades 2022: First-Round Recap & Grades for Each Team

The first round of the NFL Draft is in the books, and I have you covered with analysis on all of the crazy moves that happened on Thursday night. This article includes a grade for each team involved and an overall analysis on their decision-making. Check back tomorrow for our Day 2 pick tracker and more analysis on the top players available!

Atlanta Falcons:

Team Draft Grade: B

It was a relatively quiet night for the Falcons outside of their first draft selection, and the team addressed their significant need at wide receiver as expected. Drake London was the second-ranked wide receiver on my big board and my #14 player overall, so they got decent value with the selection. London is a dominant contested-catch player who will be part of a formidable duo with Kyle Pitts as the Falcons look to build for their future on offense.

Arizona Cardinals:

Team Draft Grade: C+

Mere minutes after the Eagles acquired A.J. Brown for the 18th overall pick and a third-round pick, the Cardinals acquired Marquise Brown for a similar package with the 23rd overall pick and a third-round pick. With the wide receiver market exploding, it’s a safe assumption that Marquise Brown will be set for a significant contract extension – A.J. Brown got a 4-year, $100 million extension from Philadelphia.

Wide receiver was a need for Arizona after Christian Kirk joined the Jaguars in free agency, but trading two Day 1 and 2 picks for the right to pay Brown a large salary seems like a shortsighted move. The Cardinals still have significant needs along the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and now they have two fewer picks to use to address those needs. Kyler Murray will be excited about being reunited with his college teammate, but it wasn’t worth the steep cost.

Baltimore Ravens:

Team Draft Grade: A-

It’s hard to view tonight as anything but a roaring success for the Ravens. Baltimore recouped excellent value by trading away Marquise Brown as they selected him with a first-round pick, got a few great years out of him, then traded him for a first-round and a third-round pick before he became cost-prohibitive to their roster. With Rashod Bateman ready for a massive leap in his sophomore season and other young talents on the roster, Brown became expendable.

With their first selection at #14, the Ravens took advantage of Kyle Hamilton’s slide down the board – he’s my #4 player overall in the class. Pairing him with free agency addition Marcus Williams and a healthy Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey gives Baltimore arguably the best secondary in the NFL. Next, the Ravens picked up another mid-round pick to trade down with the Bills and drafted Tyler Linderbaum, my #11 overall prospect, at #25.

While the positional value may not be there with Hamilton and Linderbaum, they are two of the most polished prospects in this class who will make an immediate impact on this roster. There are two reasons the Ravens get an A- instead of an A. They didn’t address the edge position despite projected top-ten pick Jermaine Johnson falling to them twice and they will have to contend with the fact that Lamar Jackson is clearly upset. Still, adding two top-12 prospects to this roster is an incredible feat.

Buffalo Bills:

Team Draft Grade: B+

The Bills finally spent premium draft capital on a position of need in cornerback when they selected Kaiir Elam, and his presence on the roster is incredibly important with All-Pro corner Tre’Davious White recovering from his ACL injury. Elam’s upside is immense with his combination of size, strength, wingspan, and speed, and he has elite press coverage potential. Elam wasn’t incredibly consistent at Flordia and his technique needs work across the board, but the Bills have shown an ability to develop secondary talent and Elam is a great high-upside player at a position of need. I had Andrew Booth Jr. ranked higher by a few spots on my big board, but it’s easy to see why Buffalo fell in love with Elam.

Carolina Panthers:

Team Draft Grade: A-

I had been mocking a quarterback to Carolina all offseason, and I’m quite impressed that their front office had the resolve to avoid over-drafting a passer given their dire situation at the position. The Panthers’ offensive line is in bad shape, and Ikem Ekwonu was seen by many as the highest-upside offensive lineman by a decent margin. I had Evan Neal rated higher due to his polished pass protection and consistent production against elite competition in the SEC, but Panthers fans can’t complain about this pick. A trade down could have been explored, but it’s hard to know what offers were on the table.

Cincinnati Bengals:

Team Draft Grade: B+

I expected the Bengals to be targeting a cornerback or edge player at #31, and with Andrew Booth Jr. still on the board, I’m surprised they didn’t go that direction. However, they’re getting a dynamic talent in Daxton Hill who’s a highly versatile defender and an elite athlete. Hill has drawn favorable comparisons to players like Budda Baker and Minkah Fitzpatrick. With his elite athletic profile, discipline in coverage, and nose for the football, it’s easy to see Hill making a massive impact in the Cincinnati defense this year.

Dallas Cowboys:

Team Draft Grade: A-

The Cowboys drafted one of my favorite first-round prospects at #24, and it was a brilliant move for their franchise. They need to get younger upfront with Tyron Smith and Zack Martin both on the wrong side of 30, and Tyler Smith is arguably the highest-upside lineman in the draft. He has a powerful frame with a violent demeanor and nasty playstyle, and he’ll immediately be a force in the run game. With his athletic profile and lateral movement, he can hold up at tackle long-term. Smith just turned 21 this month and I love his long-term trajectory.

Detroit Lions:

Team Draft Grade: A

Field Yates put it best on Twitter when he said that it’s rare to find a “massive value at pick number 2 overall” but Aidan Hutchinson fits the bill. With his insatiable drive for success, Hutchinson has turned his high-end athleticism into a refined all-around game. Hutchinson had a whopping 15 pressures in Michigan’s win over Ohio State last year and will help reset the culture on defense for the Lions.

Detroit also made an aggressive trade-up with the Vikings to draft Jameson Williams. The Lions can afford to be patient with Williams as he works his way back from his ACL injury, and he would have been the consensus top receiver on the board if he were healthy. Williams represents a field-stretching speed element to the Detroit offense that compliments Amon-Ra St. Brown, D’Andre Swift, and T.J. Hockenson perfectly. The Lions also got great value in the trade, and it’s exactly what they should be looking to do with their additional draft compensation.

Green Bay Packers:

Team Draft Grade: C-

Some of this grade is due to the massive run on receivers leaving Green Bay with limited options to rectify the loss of Davante Adams, but I didn’t quite understand their draft plan. Quay Walker is great in coverage, but linebacker is a non-premium position and this linebacker class is very deep – Nakobe Dean and Leo Chenal are highlighted in my best players available for Day 2. I had Walker ranked as my fourth linebacker overall, and I believe the Packers could have gotten better value on Day 2.

Using another first-round pick on Devonte Wyatt was also curious. Wyatt is a dynamic pass-rusher and an elite athlete overall, but he’s not as powerful as you’d hope and he has average length. He’s also going to be 24 years old at the start of the season and has some questionable off-field concerns. Wyatt at his best can be a great addition to the defensive line that needed to replace some pass-rush productivity after losing Za’Darius Smith, but I didn’t love these choices with premium choices for the Packers.

Houston Texans:

Team Draft Grade: C

The Texans started the draft with an excellent selection in Derek Stingley Jr. who is arguably the highest upside player in this entire class. The medical evaluations clearly checked out and if he can regain his 2019 form in the NFL, he will be a dominant cornerback talent. In a draft without many surefire high-level talents, I thought landing Stingley was a good use of resources. I also loved the move to acquire some additional draft capital through their trade with the Eagles.

However, the choice of Kenyon Green at #15 was a head-scratcher. I thought Green’s middling athletic testing would knock Green out of the first round, and I would have had him as the fourth-best option on the interior of the offensive line at #15 with Tyler Linderbaum, Zion Johnson, and Tyler Smith still available. With a Texans’ roster fairly devoid of talent and plenty of high-end talents at premium positions still available, I would have gone in a different direction with that pick.

Jacksonville Jaguars:

Team Draft Grade: B

The Jaguars’ selection of Travon Walker at #1 overall wasn’t terribly surprising given the way the betting odds have trended, and only time will tell whether or not Jacksonville’s defensive coaching staff can get the most out of a player who has an undeniably elite athletic profile. Walker’s production was nowhere close to Aidan Hutchinson’s in college, though, and Hutchinson will have every bit of motivation to prove he should have been the #1 pick.

With Devin Lloyd sliding down the board, the Jaguars traded up with the Buccaneers and sent picks #33, #106, and #180 to Tampa Bay. Lloyd was my 20th-ranked prospect overall, so grabbing him at #27 represented good value. His all-around skill set will help him be an immediate contributor across the board. I don’t love the overall decision-making by Trent Baalke, though – linebacker depth is strong in this draft and the team already invested a hefty contract in free agency to Foyesade Oluokon.

Kansas City Chiefs:

Team Draft Grade: A+

With the wide receiver talent flying off the board, the Chiefs found market inefficiencies elsewhere and landed my #12 and #13 overall prospects in the draft. Trent McDuffie helps reset the team’s identity in the secondary after losing Tyrann Mathieu and should become a captain sooner rather than later with his natural leadership and intangibles. After losing Charvarius Ward in free agency, the Chiefs needed another cornerback, and they got solid value in the trade.

I still can’t believe George Karlaftis actually fell to the 30th pick – I had been mocking Boye Mafe or David Ojabo to the Chiefs in that spot. Instead, they get a high-end talent in Karlaftis who doesn’t take plays off and consistently made a massive impact for Purdue both in the pass-rush and run defense. With his standout strength and power profile, Karlaftis has an incredibly high floor and should be a starter for Kansas City this year.

Los Angeles Chargers:

Team Draft Grade: A

I’m a huge fan of Zion Johnson between his excellent athletic profile – his RAS came in at 9.74 – as well as his intelligence and high-level collegiate production. Unlike Kenyon Green, Johnson has the athleticism to stick it out at tackle, and the Chargers have a significant need at right tackle with Bryan Bulaga not working out as a free agency add a couple of years ago. Johnson has an extremely high floor as a plug-and-play Pro Bowl guard and his upside is considerable as well.

Minnesota Vikings:

Team Draft Grade: D+

The Vikings made a risky trade with the Lions that could set them up for ridicule for years to come if Jameson Williams becomes the dominant alpha receiver I believe he can be. Minnesota picked up an extra second and third-round pick, which fits Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s analytically-driven approach to add as many draft picks in the first two rounds as possible. However, if you use the trade value chart on Drafttek, the Vikings lost the trade by 330 points which amount to an additional late second-round pick.

To compound matters for the Vikings, Malik Willis was sitting there at #32 and they passed on him in favor of drafting safety Lewis Cine who they likely could have drafted at #34. The fifth-year option on quarterbacks and receivers is highly valuable, and it’s hard to imagine there was no trade interest for the Vikings at #32. Cine is an excellent prospect who is a great fit for their defense next to Harrison Smith, but the trade activity by the Vikings doesn’t add up and they could get burned for passing on Williams.

New England Patriots:

Team Draft Grade: D

I thought I was fairly high on Cole Strange and I had him as my 66th-ranked prospect. Evidently, Bill Belichick was much higher on Strange, and he made the puzzling decision to draft him in the first round. There’s plenty to like about Strange – his 9.95 RAS was the best in his position group, he has a great feel for the game, and he only allowed five pressures on 311 pass-blocking snaps last year per PFF. However, those things made him enticing as a late Day 2 prospect for me. Strange is going to be 24 years old before the start of his rookie season and still has work to do in refining his technique. Trading Shaq Mason for a fifth-round pick and drafting Strange in the first round is a poor use of capital.

New Orleans Saints:

Team Draft Grade: C-

Plenty of people will disagree with me, but I didn’t like this haul for the Saints. It’s not surprising to see the Saints trade up – they’ve down so 24 times in the past 16 drafts – and they had been heavily linked to Olave throughout the pre-draft process. However, trading away two mid-round picks for the right to select a player who I had ranked 21st overall in this class with the 11th pick is a tough look for me. Olave is a very refined route-runner, but there’s nothing particularly special about his athletic profile, ball skills, or YAC creation. He’s a potential high-end WR2 for me.

I also haven’t made it much of a secret that I’m not a big fan of Trevor Penning. It was extremely unsurprising to see the Saints draft him given their need at left tackle after losing Terron Armstead in free agency as well as their general obsession with athletic scores – Penning’s RAS came in at 9.96 out of 10. However, Penning’s pass-protection tape was lacking discipline (he was flagged 16 times) and overall technical refinement, and that was against FCS competition. His Senior Bowl showing was rough and I have long-term concerns about him against NFL-level edge talent.

New York Giants:

Team Draft Grade: A+

If you told the Giants in December that they could get Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal, two consensus top-three talents in this draft, without a trade, they would have signed up for that on the spot. It’s hard to believe we got to this point with each of their respective values. Thibodeaux at #5 could be an absolute steal with his high-end athletic traits, explosive first step, and ideal physical build for an edge defender. His elite speed-to-power rushing potential is going to be fun in tandem with Azeez Ojulari.

Evan Neal was the player the Giants were circling all offseason, and he was my #2 overall prospect. They got him with the seventh overall pick, and that could wind up a massive steal. Neal produced at an elite level against top-end SEC competition and has starting experience at three different positions on the line. His massive frame, athletic traits, and high-end pass-protection make him an excellent fit across from Andrew Thomas.

New York Jets:

A+

As the draft was unfolding, I was surprised that the Jets didn’t take an edge defender with either their #4 or #10 selection. Their front office was reportedly infatuated with Jermaine Johnson to the point that they reportedly told him they would make sure to draft him. It took longer than expected, but they did exactly that with a surprise trade back into the first round to end Johnson’s slide. He was a top-ten prospect for many top draft pundits with his dominant pass-rushing skill set, and landing him at #26 was a massive steal.

Ahmad Gardner adds a dominant press coverage cornerback to the secondary along with veteran D.J. Reed and up-and-coming talents Bryce Hall and Michael Carter. Gardner’s skill set is a great fit for Robert Saleh’s defense which dials up the blitz and depends on consistent one-on-one coverage on the back-end. Finally, the Jets landed Garrett Wilson, many individuals’ WR1 overall, at #10 which gave Zach Wilson an elite receiving tandem with Wilson and Elijah Moore. Three top-ten talents on the Athletic’s consensus media big board in one draft. Not too shabby, Joe Douglas.

Philadelphia Eagles:

Team Draft Grade: A

When the Eagles first made their trade up, I thought they were going after Trent McDuffie. However, they coveted Jordan Davis’s unicorn profile. Davis tested with a ridiculous 10.0 RAS as he ran a 4.78-second 40-yard dash at 6’6”, 342 lbs. There will be some concerns about his lack of consistent workload at Georgia and overall stamina, but that’s fixable over time. He will also improve as a pass-rusher over time with that linear athleticism. With Javon Hargrave and Fletcher Cox both hitting free agency in 2023, Davis is an elite prospect at a position of need.

The Eagles also made an aggressive trade to acquire A.J. Brown and pay him a four-year, $100 million contract. Even with that contract on the books, the Eagles are projected to have some salary-cap flexibility in the coming years. Brown is one of the best wide receiver talents in the NFL and he’s just entering his prime. That’s the luxury of having a quarterback on a rookie contract, which they will likely have whether or not Jalen Hurts is the long-term answer. With Brown on board and DeVonta Smith entering his second season, the Eagles will have every opportunity to see if Hurts can be the guy moving forward.

Pittsburgh Steelers:

Team Draft Grade: B

I boosted this grade a bit because I commend the Steelers for not making an aggressive trade-up for a quarterback class that is fairly weak overall. The Steelers also drafted Kenny Pickett, the top quarterback in this draft on my big board, over Malik Willis, the consensus higher-upside option, which came as a shock to many. Pickett’s accuracy at all three levels, poise in the pocket, and nimble footwork help his profile as the most pro-ready passer in this draft. Questions will persist about his long-term upside, but this is the right draft range for him and he can be Pittsburgh’s starter for at least the duration of his rookie contract while they build up the rest of the roster.

Seattle Seahawks:

Team Draft Grade: A-

It’s hard to know what type of offers the Seahawks were fielding for potential trades, but they had been one of the teams to watch for a potential trade down. Instead, they stay put and draft Charles Cross who is the top offensive tackle in this class for some people, including PFF. Cross’s pass-protection is the most refined of anyone in the class with his agile lower body and strong base combining to help him be an elite player in mirroring and setting the edge. Cross helps rectify a Seattle offensive line that has become one of the league’s worst in recent years.

Tennessee Titans:

Team Draft Grade: F

Tonight will forever be remembered by Titans fans as the night that they lost their franchise wide receiver, A.J. Brown. Tennessee’s salary cap situation is untenable and led to their inability to pay Brown’s contract – they’re already slated to be over the cap in 2023 before making any new signings. They’re paying Bud Dupree a whopping $20 million per year through to 2025 and Ryan Tannehill over $36 million per year in each of the next two years – neither player is even close to the top ten at their respective positions. Derrick Henry is also making $15 million per year in each of the next two years and Robert Woods will count for somewhere between $10-17 million against the cap until 2025. No wonder the Titans couldn’t pay Brown!

The Titans proceeded to draft Treylon Burks with the #18 overall pick, a player who ranked as my 40th overall prospect. I’m considerably lower on him than most – he’s at #21 on the Athletic’s media consensus big board – so allow me to explain. Burks is a menace in the open field with 4.55 speed at 6’2”, 225 lbs, but I’m not sure if he’ll ever be more than a gadget player. He tested in the 9th percentile for the 3-cone drill and had a RAS of just 5.81 overall. Burks’s closest athletic comps on MockDraftable include Laquon Treadwell, Brian Quick, and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Buyer beware!

The Titans were able to recoup some value with their later trade with the Jets in which they acquired picks #35, #69, and #163 in exchange for #26 and #101, which is important as their second-round pick belongs to the Falcons from the failed Julio Jones trade. Nonetheless, I don’t agree with the long-term direction of this franchise and I see tonight as a massive failure.

Washington Commanders:

Team Draft Grade: C-

The night started off well enough for Washington with a smart trade in which they received picks #16, #98, and #120 in exchange for #11. However, they proceeded to reach on a receiver in Jahan Dotson at #16 and I have a bad feeling they will convince themselves Terry McLaurin is expendable because of Dotson’s presence on the roster. Dotson has some great qualities as a three-level threat with suddenness in and out of his breaks. He’s also an excellent YAC player. However, he struggled against press coverage and had just a 41.7% contested-catch rate last year with only five total contested catches per PFF. He’s also already 22 years old and didn’t break out until his junior year. His college yards per reception of 13.0 ranked in the 26th percentile per PlayerProfiler.

I had Dotson as my 51st-ranked prospect overall and the Athletic consensus media big board had him at #31. I have George Pickens and Skyy Moore ranked higher, both of whom are still available. The Commanders had more pressing needs than receivers, and I don’t understand why they felt pressured to reach on the position with that pick.

I've been writing about sports for Lineups since the beginning of 2020 and on my own website since 2018. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. With my educational background in the sports business and a strong knowledge of the inner workings of professional and collegiate sports, I hope to tell enthralling stories about the world of sports as it unfolds around me.

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