The NFL Draft concluded close to a month ago and as teams have concluded their rookie minicamps, early OTA's are starting up. Teams are starting to see how their new draft selections are adjusting to life in the NFL and the competition at the next level. On top of that, free agency and trade acquisitions will also be adjusting to new locker rooms, schemes, and cities that they'll be playing in, in 2022. OTA's are the earliest implications for what a team may look like once the regular season rolls around, and if their offseason moves will unfold how they wished. That being said, let's look at the winners and losers from the 2022 NFL Draft.
New York Jets
Going into the draft, the Jets owned two picks in the top ten and four picks within the first forty selections. Considering the draft capital that the Jets and General Manager Joe Douglas had, along with the prospects they were able to select, the Jets had arguably the best draft of any team in the league. New York started the night addressing two of their biggest needs, Corner and Wide Receiver in prospects Sauce Gardner and Garett Wilson, both of which were viewed as the top players at their position by many scouts and analysts. The Jets were then able to trade back into the first round and select Jermaine Johson II who was expected to be drafted in the top fifteen. The Jets continued to add firepower to their offense by using their second-round pick on Running Back, Breece Hall, arguably the top back in this year’s class. Joe Douglas used his day three picks to add depth in the trenches, selecting an Offensive Tackle and Defensive End in round four. Overall, the Jets accomplished their goals of obtaining more weapons for Zach Wilson and boosting their abysmal defense, helping them potentially propel their rebuild.
Philadelphia was one of the teams that made a huge blockbuster trade during night one of the draft, packaging the eighteenth overall pick and a third-round selection for Tennessee's young star wideout, A.J. Brown. The Eagles decided to trade for a proven young wideout, and extend him rather than using one of their first-round selections on a receiver as most expected. On top of the A.J. Brown trade, Philadelphia also moved up to the thirteenth pick to select Georgia’s Jordan Davis, providing them another dominant interior force on the defensive side of the ball who will likely take over Fletcher Cox’s role when he decides to retire. Philadelphia also arguably got the steal of the draft in Linebacker Nakobe Dean, a projected late first-round player who drastically slid into the third round due to medical reports that came out leading up to the draft. Philadelphia was able to win during the draft by boosting their mediocre passing attack through the trade for A.J. Brown and using their later picks to add youth and depth at positions where they have veterans who are on their way out.
Heading into the draft Pittsburgh had one glaring hole on their team, the Quarterback position. Pittsburgh was able to sit back and wait at pick twenty and get their guy for the future in Kenny Pickett, as he was the only signal-caller taken in round one. Pittsburgh hasn’t had a change at the Quarterback position since 2004, making this the most important pick of their draft. With their other draft choices, Pittsburgh was able to draft young talent at positions in which they were hurt during free agency. Second-round receiver George Pickens had first-round potential before tearing his ACL last spring and missing most of the 2021 season, he’ll provide a big-body receiver for Pickett that has big-play potential and the ability to make difficult catches no matter if they’re contested or not. Fourth-round receiver Calvin Austin III is a different receiver than Pickens, but provides more speed and after-the-catch ability out of the slot. Pittsburgh was able to win through the draft because they were able to get their top QB without trading up and filling holes that were left after free agency.
Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City traded Pro-Bowl wideout, Tyreek Hill just before the draft which gave them more draft capital, but also left them with a huge gap to fill offensively. The Chiefs also came into this draft needing to add talent at corner and depth as well as youth for their pass rush. Kansas City was able to do all of the above and do it early in the draft. After trading up from twenty-nine to get Washington’s Trent McDuffie, they used their second first-round pick on edge rusher George Karlaftis, giving them two instant starters on day one of the draft. On day two the Chiefs went with Western Michigan receiver Skyy Moore, who was getting some first-round buzz leading into the draft. Moore won’t be able to replace Hill’s talent and production by himself, but it’s a step in the right direction for the 2020 Super Bowl winners. Kansas City possessed seven more picks throughout the draft and successfully added depth at a plethora of positions including Corner and Safety.
Georgia’s Football Program
After a historic 2021-2022 season, the Georgia Bulldogs continued their dominance at both the draft combine and the NFL Draft. Five Bulldogs were selected in the first round, including the number one overall pick, Travon Walker. Furthermore, Georgia had fifteen players from their National Championship roster selected in the NFL draft, and they set multiple records. The Bulldogs now hold the record for most players selected from one school, most defenders drafted in the first round, most defenders drafted in the first three rounds, and Georgia is now tied for the number one overall picks ever. Fitting that in their last night on the same team (for most) that this group of Bulldogs was once again dominant.
New England Patriots
New England and Bill Belichick made one of the more confusing selections on night one of the draft, going with Chattanooga Guard, Cole Strange. Strange is a great player obviously, it’s just that it felt as if New England could’ve easily waited to select him in the second or even the third round. However, you can’t fault the Patriots for securing one of the prospects that they had high up on their board. The Patriots then took speedy wideout Tyquan Thorton in the second round, once again reaching on a prospect that would’ve likely been available later in the draft. Receivers like George Pickens, Skyy Moore, and others were still available at the time of Thorton’s selection. The Patriots then did a great job of adding depth and talent at both Running Back and Corner with their next three picks, before another head-scratching decision to take Quarterback Bailey Zappe, who almost certainly will be a backup for the duration of his rookie contract. Another positive for New England from this draft is that they were able to add a third-round pick for 2023 when making a trade with Carolina that enabled the Panthers to select Matt Corral.
Close to a month ago, first-team All-Pro wideout, Deebo Samuel, expressed his desire to be traded from the San Francisco 49ers, as contract talks between him and the team haven’t progressed. After a draft and offseason in which we saw multiple receivers around the league be traded, and in A.J. Brown’s case received an extension, Deebo Samuel ended up being neither traded nor extended by the 49ers. Samuel wants to be among the league’s highest-paid wideouts, and deservingly so after watching his NFL counterparts Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill sign massive extensions after being traded. Samuel recorded 1,770 total yards a season ago along with fifteen total touchdowns. Samuel will get his payday at some point, the only question is will it be with the 49ers or another organization.
The Titans chose to trade their young star receiver A.J. Brown, rather than paying him the money he wanted in his contract extension. As a result, the Titans lost their leader in: receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns from the last three seasons, and their most explosive playmaker in the passing game in general. Even though Tennessee used the number eighteen pick on Arkansas’ Treylon Burks, he alone won’t be able to replace Brown’s production. On top of that, Tennessee also selected Liberty's Malik Willis in the third round, a QB that many scouts and analysts had as their top Quarterback prospect. Willis likely won’t see reps as the starting quarterback for the Titans in his rookie year, but there’s absolutely potential for Willis to take over in Tennessee in 2023 and years beyond. Furthermore, Tannehill has received a lot of backlash as of late for his response when he was asked about mentoring the rookie Quarterback. Tannehill said, “I don’t think it’s my job to mentor him… If [Willis] learns from me along the way, then that’s a great thing.” Tannehill’s comments created a lot of controversy and conversation in the media and among NFL fans however, Malik Willis assured that there was no reason to worry, saying “It was never anything negative.”
After another huge draft-night trade, the Ravens sent wideout Marquise Brown off to Arizona for the number twenty-three pick in the draft, which enabled Baltimore to trade back and draft Iowa Center, Tyler Linderbaum. In doing so, Baltimore traded away their best deep threat and most explosive pass catcher and weapon for Lamar Jackson. Brown was second in receptions, yards, and touchdowns for the Ravens in 2021 and led the team in yards and touchdowns in 2020, Brown was also clearly one of Lamar Jackson’s favorite receivers and teammates. Without Brown in the offense, Jackson will continue to rely on Tight End Mark Andrews, who had an incredible 2021 that resulted in him being selected as the First team All-Pro Tight End. As far as threats on the outside, the Ravens will be hoping that second-year pass-catcher, Rashod Bateman, will be able to stay healthy and fill the void that Brown’s departure leaves.
Texas’s Football Program
Texas is undoubtedly one of the blue blood programs of college football and has a fair argument for the best program in college football historically. However, for just the fourth time ever, and the first time since 2014, Texas had zero players selected during the entirety of the 2022 NFL Draft. After a 10-4 season and a Sugar Bowl victory against Georgia in 2018, it seemed as if Texas was getting on track and back to their winning ways after a rough stretch in which they suffered multiple losing seasons. But, after four consecutive bowl game victories, Texas went 5-7 in their first year under Head Coach Steve Sarkisian and had none of their draft-eligible players have their names called. This will present an uphill challenge going forward for Sarkisian and his staff, but on the bright side for the Longhorns, their 2022 recruiting class is currently ranked fifth by 247 Sports. Hopefully, the Longhorns can get back to competing with College Football’s elite, because college football is simply better when Texas is competitive.
*All stats were received from ESPN Stats & Info. Department