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NFL Draft

2022 NFL draft: Grades and analysis for all 32 picks in the first round

After months of speculation and evaluation, the first round of the 2022 NFL draft is in the books.

To help make sense of it all, The Baltimore Sun offers its grade for each of the first 32 selections.

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Note: These grades are not entirely about the player, but rather reflect value (both position and pick), team needs, opportunity cost and other team-building factors.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia

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The Jaguars are betting on Walker’s freakish athletic traits to help transform one of the worst defenses in the league. He wasn’t as productive in college as some of the other top edge rushers in this class, but he wasn’t unleashed as a pass rusher in Georgia’s unique defense. He has the ability to become a dominant defender, and the Jaguars deserve credit for taking a chance on him. Grade: B+

2. Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

For sentimental reasons alone, this pick deserves a high mark. The Michigan native returns to his roots after a breakout senior season with the Wolverines and is a perfect culture fit with blue-collar coach Dan Campbell. The Lions need pass-rushing punch, and Hutchinson is ready to provide it from Day 1. Grade: A

3. Houston Texans: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

After all the talk about how disappointing Stingley’s sophomore and junior seasons were, he still winds up as a top-three pick. That’s how good his 2019 tape was as a true freshman for the national champion Tigers. The Texans need building blocks, and Stingley has the talent to be a shutdown corner as soon as his rookie season. New coach Lovie Smith should be happy. Grade: A

4. New York Jets: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

The Jets entered the draft with free-agent signing D.J. Reed and some unproven players at corner, and now they might have one of the best young secondaries in the league. Gardner famously didn’t allow his touchdown his entire college career, showing the kind of press coverage ability the Jets haven’t seen since Darrelle Revis was in town. Grade: A

5. New York Giants: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

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In January, Thibodeaux was considered one of the favorites to go first overall. For the Giants to get what could be the best pass rusher in the class at No. 5 overall is a coup for new general manager Joe Schoen. The Giants defense has quietly performed well over the past few seasons, and now coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale gets a versatile defensive lineman to create some havoc in the backfield. Grade: A+

6. Carolina Panthers: Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State

There was speculation that the Panthers would reach for a quarterback like Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett or Liberty’s Malik Willis, but they did the prudent thing and fortified one of the league’s worst offensive lines. Ekwonu is a dominant run blocker and has the size and athleticism to be a strong pass protector. Star running back Christian McCaffrey should have some big holes to run through next season. Grade: A

7. New York Giants (via Bears): Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

The Giants needed to come away with an offensive lineman, and they might have landed the best tackle in this class. The 6-8, 337-pound Neal was once considered the favorite to go No. 1 overall to the Jaguars, so there’s no questioning the value of this pick. After not picking up Daniel Jones’ fifth-year option, all the pressure is on the young quarterback to prove his worth to the new regime. Better protection should provide a fair evaluation. Grade: A

8. Atlanta Falcons: Drake London, WR, Southern California

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Last year’s trade of Julio Jones and the yearlong suspension of Calvin Ridley left the Falcons’ receiver room barren. The 6-4, 219-pound London forms an imposing duo with last year’s No. 4 overall pick Kyle Pitts, the 6-6, 246-pound tight end. Now there are at least some playmakers for veteran Marcus Mariota and whoever plays quarterback in 2023. The only question is whether London is truly the best of a tightly bunched group of wide receivers. Grade: B+

9. Seattle Seahawks (via Broncos): Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

Give credit to the Seahawks for pouncing on one of the top-rated players in this class to fill a major position of need. With veteran Duane Brown still a free agent, the Seahawks entered the draft with unproven options at tackle. Cross, the No. 9 player on the consensus big board, provides some stability as one of this year’s best pure pass protectors. For the first time in awhile, the Seahawks didn’t reach for a player in Round 1. Grade: A+

10. New York Jets (via Seahawks): Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

The Jets needed to give second-year quarterback Zach Wilson help, and it arrived with free-agent guard Laken Tomlinson and now Garrett Wilson. The dynamic receiver can make contested catches and pick up yards after the catch, giving the Jets a solid receiving corps that includes Corey Davis and 2021 second-round pick Elijah Moore. Grade: A

11. New Orleans Saints (via Commanders): Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

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The Saints really needed a receiver, but was it worth trading a first- (No. 16), a third- (No. 98) and a fourth-rounder (No. 120) to move up five spots? A run on pass catchers was inevitable after the Jets picked one, but there’s a good chance New Orleans could have grabbed one at No. 16 (the Commanders did). Olave is talented enough to make an early impact, but this is a lot to give up for one player. Grade: C+

12. Detroit Lions (via Vikings): Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

The first truly stunning move of the draft arrived with a rare interdivision trade. By adding Williams at the price of two second-round picks (Nos. 32 and 34) and a third-rounder (No. 66), the Lions completed their offseason overhaul of their wide receiver room. Williams, a big-play threat with elite speed, joins standout rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown and free-agent signing D.J. Chark to form one of the more well-rounded groups of pass catchers in the league. Now, if only the Lions could do something about upgrading at quarterback. Grade: B+

13. Philadelphia Eagles (via Texans, via Browns): Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

It was a safe bet that Eagles general manager Howie Roseman was going to make a deal, and this wasn’t even his biggest of the night. At the price of a first-round pick (No. 15) along with a fourth-round pick (No. 124) and two fifth-rounders (Nos. 162 and 166), Philadelphia jumped Baltimore to add the uber-athletic 6-6, 341-pound nose tackle, who posted one of the best raw athletic scores in NFL scouting combine history, regardless of position. The Eagles needed to get younger on the defensive line, and now they have one of the most imposing run-stuffers in the league with plenty of room to grow. Grade: A-

14. Baltimore Ravens: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

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The Ravens always seem to come away with a highly ranked player at a surprising spot. Hamilton was a consensus top-five prospect in this class thanks to his size and instincts, combining rare length with incredible range. His disappointing 40-yard dash might have dropped him down some draft boards, but it’s to the Ravens’ benefit. He can line up anywhere in the secondary or near the line of scrimmage, giving new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald a versatile chess piece to deploy alongside star free-agent addition Marcus Williams. Grade: A

15. Houston Texans (via Eagles, via Dolphins): Kenyon Green, G/T, Texas A&M

There’s no doubt the Texans believe in Green’s ability, taking him 10 spots higher than his consensus ranking. He helps solidify the interior of the offensive line, but is that really worth a top-15 pick when there are so many other areas of need to address? General manager Nick Caserio deserves credit for trading down, but this pick is a little too safe for a team that needs to take some big swings. Grade: C

16. Washington Commanders (via Saints, via Colts): Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State

The Commanders did well to pick up a first-round pick (No. 16), a third-rounder (No. 98) and a fourth-rounder (No. 120) from the Saints, even if it meant losing out on perhaps a more favorable target in Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave. Dotson might not be as polished as Olave, but the Nittany Lions star catches nearly everything thrown his way and will take some pressure off No. 1 target Terry McLaurin. This is still a bit of a reach for a prospect the consensus board had ranked as a fringe first-rounder at No. 32 overall. Grade: C+

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Zion Johnson, G/C, Boston College

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After the Chargers made a big splash this offseason by acquiring edge rusher Khalil Mack and signing cornerback J.C. Jackson, this is a relatively modest addition. But there aren’t too many nits to pick here. Johnson is ranked No. 20 on the consensus board and should be a plug-and-play option as a rookie. This isn’t the splashy move for a wide receiver or corner some expected, but it’s solid nonetheless. Grade: B

18. Tennessee Titans (via Eagles, via Saints): Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

After sending star receiver A.J. Brown to the Eagles in a shocking trade, the Titans immediately found his replacement. The 6-2, 225-pound Burks is eerily similar in both body type and play style to Brown, routinely breaking tackles in the open field. It’s asking a lot of Burks to fill Brown’s big shoes, especially as a rookie, but adding a similar player with five years of team control on a relatively cheap contract — especially with the receiver market exploding — is sound business. Grade: B-

19. New Orleans Saints (via Eagles): Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

The Saints had a big hole at left tackle after the departure of Terron Armstead in free agency, and they didn’t waste much time filling it. The 6-7, 325-pound Penning is going to be a work in progress after beating up on FCS-level competition in college — where he earned the reputation of a nasty run blocker who perhaps goes a bit too far after the whistle — but he has the athleticism and size to grow into a dependable blindside protector. It just might take some time. Grade: C

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

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In the end, the Steelers didn’t need to trade up for their quarterback of choice. Despite his obvious ties to the team, it’s still surprising to see Pickett chosen over Liberty’s Malik Willis, a dual-threat dynamo with a rocket arm. Pickett was the media’s consensus No. 2 quarterback behind Willis and doesn’t offer the same upside, especially as a runner. He produced just one elite college season, and his small hand size (8 1/2 inches) is pretty much unheard of for an NFL starter. He’s going to need to prove himself early to justify this pick. Grade: C

21. Kansas City Chiefs (via Patriots): Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

The Chiefs moved up eight spots to solidify their secondary, trading their first-round pick (No. 29) along with a third- (No. 94) and fourth-rounder (No. 121) to take McDuffie. The Washington star is a versatile defensive back who can play in the slot, out wide or even at safety. With Tyrann Mathieu and Charvarius Ward gone, the Chiefs simply need playmakers in the backend of the defense to replenish what should be a championship-caliber roster. Grade: B+

22. Green Bay Packers (via Raiders): Quay Walker, LB, Georgia

Walker’s late rise culminated in the 6-4, 241-pound Georgia star being the first linebacker off the board. And with good reason, considering his strength and sideline-to-sideline speed. Walker will be a nice fit next to All-Pro De’Vondre Campbell, but there’s no question the Packers reached here; he’s the No. 52 overall player on the consensus board. And for as athletic as he is, he isn’t going to catch passes from Aaron Rodgers anytime soon. Grade: B-

23. Buffalo Bills (via Ravens, via Cardinals): Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

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The Bills ultimately parted with a fourth-rounder (No. 130) to move up two spots and take Elam, a quick and aggressive press corner who can fill starter Levi Wallace’s role after he left in free agency. Buffalo resisted the urge to take the top running back and instead opted to fill one of their few areas of need. That should make plenty of analysts happy, including this one. Grade: A

24. Dallas Cowboys: Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa

Smith still needs to refine his technique, but the 6-5, 324-pound tackle has all the makings of becoming a dominant lineman. He can fill in at guard or right tackle before potentially taking over for left tackle Tyron Smith, giving the Cowboys a much-needed infusion of youth up front to better protect Dak Prescott and reinvigorate the running game. Grade: B+

25. Baltimore Ravens (via Bills): Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

Say what you want about the Ravens not choosing an edge rusher or cornerback on Day 1, but they came with two players ranked in the top 15 on the consensus big board. The 6-2, 296-pound Linderbaum isn’t the prototypical size for an interior lineman, but his athleticism and wrestling background allow him to win at the point of attack and make plenty of impressive blocks at the second level. They needed a center, and the Iowa star is considered one of the best to enter the draft in years. It might not be a sexy pick, but it’s what the Ravens need to continue being the best rushing team in the league. Grade: A-

26. New York Jets (via Titans): Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE, Florida State

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The Jets were rewarded for their patience. After speculation earlier this week that they could take Johnson as high as No. 4 overall, they waited until the end of the first round to trade up for their prized pass rusher. New York had to part with a second- (No. 35), third- (No. 69) and fifth-round pick (No. 163) to get it done, but they were able to land a player ranked No. 11 on the consensus big board and still have a second-rounder (No. 38) to work with. If Johnson is the player they hope he can be, this will look like a shrewd move. Grade: B

27. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Buccaneers): Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

The Jaguars traded back into the first round at the price of a second-round pick (No. 35), a fourth-round pick (No. 106) and a sixth-round pick (No. 180) to take Lloyd, the consensus top linebacker in the class and No. 16 overall prospect. Coaches raved about Lloyd, calling him “an elite player” in college football insider Bruce Feldman’s mock draft. The Jaguars need help just about everywhere but quarterback, so it’s a bit surprising to see them trade up for a player — especially when plenty of good linebackers will be available on Day 2. But if Lloyd is as good as the college coaches think, it’s worth the price. Grade: B

28. Green Bay Packers: Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia

Is it really that surprising that the Packers didn’t draft a wide receiver? They haven’t done it since 2002, and they’ve taken just one offensive player in the first round since 2012. That was quarterback Jordan Love. Wyatt was overshadowed by his Georgia teammates, but the 6-3, 304-pound lineman might be a better pass rusher than top-15 pick Jordan Davis. Grade: B

29. New England Patriots (via Chiefs, via 49ers): Cole Strange, G, UT-Chattanooga

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The Patriots’ scouts certainly don’t lack confidence. Strange is ranked No. 76 on the consensus big board, sitting behind six other linemen who were not selected in the first round. This pick even drew a hearty laugh from Rams coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead. Bill Belichick might have the last laugh, however, if the 6-5, 307-pound lineman can put his elite athleticism to good use. Grade: C

30. Kansas City Chiefs: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

This was a very Ravens-esque pick for the Chiefs, who grabbed a player ranked No. 18 on the consensus big board all the way at the end of the first round. The 6-4, 266-pound Karlaftis, a former water polo player in his native Greece, is a strong, explosive pass rusher who can line up almost anywhere on the defensive front. The Chiefs needed to bolster their front four, and they got great value here. Grade: A

31. Cincinnati Bengals: Daxton Hill, DB, Michigan

The Bengals could use some help at corner and might need some insurance at safety if negotiations with Jessie Bates III fall through. Enter Hill, a versatile defensive back who can fill just about any role in the secondary. Hill – the brother of Ravens running back Justice Hill – is great value as the No. 26 player on the consensus board. He’ll play a big role for an ascending defense that’s looking to get back to the Super Bowl. Grade: A

32. Minnesota Vikings (via Lions, via Rams): Lewis Cine, S, Georgia

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It was a little surprising to see the Vikings take a safety in the first round. Cine is a hard-hitting, athletic prospect who can make an immediate impact, but new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah had a chance to take a big swing on a quarterback like Malik Willis or even a wide receiver like George Pickens or Skyy Moore. This might be a pick they regret in a few years, especially when star wideout Justin Jefferson is due for a big raise. Grade: C+


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