1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Travon Walker
All the talk surrounding the No. 1 pick was the rising status of the Georgia edge rusher. After a month of “will they, won’t they?”, Jacksonville brass pulled the trigger on the surprising pick. Of course, Walker is a tremendous athlete with high upside. If it works out, the Jaguars may have the next Myles Garrett on their hands. However, Walker wasn’t overly productive during his Georgia career — despite playing for one of the top defenses in all of college football. With so many proven pass rusher on the board, we can’t help but think this pick will come back to haunt the Jaguars down the road.
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2. Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson
The Lions could not wait to get their pick submitted after hearing Walker’s name. Within minutes of the announcement, “Detroit is on the clock,” Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson was announced as the team’s selection. Hutchinson is coming off a remarkable season with the Wolverines, registering 14.0 sacks in 14 games. The Plymouth-born defender will be a fan favorite amongst Lions fans. For all the talk about the athleticism of the other edge rushers, Hutchinson is a strong athlete in his own right. His 6.73-second three-cone drill is the fastest time for a defensive lineman over 6-foot-5 in 20 years.
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3. Houston Texans: Derek Stingley Jr.
Most experts believed this is where the draft could get interesting. Leading up to Thursday, it was all but certain that Walker would be going No. 1 and Detroit would respond by taking Hutchinson with the second pick. The direction the Texans were potentially headed was a bit more of a mystery. Opting to stand pat at three, Houston snagged one of the top-two corners in the draft in LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. The lockdown CB is a special talent who shined as a freshman for the Tigers. However, Stingley has been hampered by injuries the last two years. While his skills as a lockdown defensive back are evident, he certainly comes with a bit of risk given his checkered injury history.
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4. New York Jets: Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner
We knew that the Jets would look to bolster their secondary one way or another, and they accomplished that in a big way by selecting Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner with the No. 4 pick. Gardner was in contention with Stingley Jr. as the top corner in the draft. Gardner is coming off one of the best seasons for a defensive back in NCAA history. In 2021, Gardner was targeted 31 times and allowed just eight receptions for a measly 60 yards. He could potentially transform a defense that ranked dead last in the NFL last year.
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5. New York Giants: Kayvon Thibodeaux
It wasn’t too long ago that Oregon’s Thibodeaux was projected to be the first overall pick. Concerns over his off-field interests caused him to slip a bit, and the New York Giants reaped the benefits. Make no mistake about it, Thibodeaux is an explosive pass rusher with a unique set of tools. He boasts the quickest first step in the class and is equally adept at rushing the passer as he is at stopping the run. This is a home run pick for the new Giants front office.
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6. Carolina Panthers: Ikem Ekwonu
Some speculated the Panthers would go with a quarterback here. Instead, they decided to bolster the protection for the QB they already have (Sam Darnold). Ekwonu was one of the top offensive lineman in the draft and will be an instant starter for a Carolina team that hopes to take a giant step offensively in 2022. He boasts prototypical size and strength for a franchise left tackle, but also has quick feet and short-area burst to be potentially dominant in the run game.
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7. New York Giants: Evan Neal
The Giants…made smart decisions? It truly is the dawn of a new age in New York, as the G-Men nailed both of their first-round picks on Thursday. Alabama’s Evan Neal was in contention for the No. 1 draft pick, and the Giants were able to swoop him with the No. 7 pick. Neal is enormous – 6-foot-8, 340-pounds – and uses his size to dominate defenders in pass protection. He will fit in perfectly as the team’s starting right tackle opposite 2020 first-round pick, Andrew Thomas.
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8. Atlanta Falcons: Drake London
The Falcons appear to have put their faith in current starting QB Marcus Mariota (for now) by eschewing a QB selection in favor of a pass catcher. USC receiver Drake London is the most physical wideout in the class, utilizing his 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame to bully smaller defensive backs. Atlanta badly needed to upgrade its receiver room following the loss of Russell Gage in addition to the season-long suspension doled out to Calvin Ridley. While they’ll still need to address the quarterback spot at some point, the pass catching duo of London and TE Kyle Pitts is not a bad foundation to build upon.
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9. Seattle Seahawks: Charles Cross
This was arguably the most intriguing pick in the top-10. Seattle opted to pass on all of the QB prospects in favor of bolstering the offensive line. That’s fine – there’s no reason to reach for a quarterback if none of the available options are appealing. However, the particular offensive lineman they decided to go with was a bit puzzling. Charles Cross is a solid talent with intriguing athletic traits. However, he’s a far more polished pass protector than he is run blocker. Are we suddenly going to see the Seahawks adopt a pass-heavy approach after trading away Russell Wilson? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…
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10. New York Jets: Garrett Wilson
After securing a lockdown corner with their first pick, the Jets secured an exciting pass catcher for their young quarterback. Garrett Wilson is a dynamic wideout who has all the tools to be one of the league’s best in short order. His speed and route-running will make life immensely easier for Zach Wilson — last year’s No. 2 overall. New York entered the draft with a clear plan, and executed it perfectly. The Wilson-to-Wilson connection will light up NFL scoreboards for years to come.
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11. New Orleans Saints: Chris Olave
Now, let’s make this perfectly clear: Chris Olave is a very good football player. He posted strong production at Ohio State, collecting 35 touchdowns over his four years as a Buckeye. However, we have to knock the process in which the Saints employed. New Orleans essentially traded up twice to snag Olave with the No. 11 pick. Giving up excess draft capital for a non-QB is a puzzling decision. That being said, Olave will provide a boost to a WR corps that desperately needs it. He’s a gifted route-runner with a knack for making plays down field.
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12. Detroit Lions: Jameson Williams
Just like the Saints did before them, the Lions traded multiple picks to secure one of the draft’s top pass catchers. Surrendering multiple picks for a player who doesn’t play quarterback is always a risky proposition. However, Williams does possess the one skill every team desperately needs – game-breaking speed. Williams is breathtakingly fast and can take the top off a defense in an instant. Detroit was in dire need of a player who could stretch the field and pick up yards after the catch. While we don’t love the trade (the Lions gave up picks No. 32, 34, and 66 for No. 12 and 46), we love the fit.
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13. Philadelphia Eagles: Jordan Davis
Those pesky Eagles did it again. No GM in the NFL has a better understanding of other team’s draft boards than Howie Roseman. A year after leaping the Giants for DeVonta Smith, the Eagles jumped Baltimore to snag a player the Ravens highly-coveted. That player was Georgia defender Jordan Davis — by far the best interior defensive lineman prospect in the draft. Davis is a game-changing run stopper with uncanny athleticism for a player of his stature (6-foot-6, 340-pounds). While the price may seem steep to some (the Eagles gave up No. 124, 162, and 166 to move up two spots), it’s a modest payment for a player who could potentially transform Philadelphia’s entire defense.
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14. Baltimore Ravens: Kyle Hamilton
According to several reports, the Ravens were all-in on DL Jordan Davis. After the Eagles jumped them to secure the Georgia defender, Baltimore was forced to pivot in another direction. The best safety in the draft is a solid consolation prize. Hamilton is a versatile defender with elite ball-skills. He likely would have been a top-6 pick had he posted a better 40-time at the NFL Combine (4.59). However, Hamilton plays fast on the field and has the ability to play multiple positions. Adding Hamilton gives the Ravens arguably the best secondary in all of football – with Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters at corner and free agent acquisition Marcus Williams at safety.
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15. Houston Texans: Kenyon Green
Houston executed a quality trade with the Eagles to secure this selection. By moving down just two spots, the Texans added a trio of mid-round picks which can help them bolster one of the weakest rosters in football. However, using pick No. 15 on a player who likely projects to be a guard was a bit puzzling. Green will certainly bolster Houston’s leaky offensive line, but we aren’t overly enamored with the value here. It will be interesting to see what the Texans can pull off with the extra picks – No. 124, 162 and 166.
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16. Washington Commanders: Jahan Dotson
After some rumblings of potentially taking a QB at No. 11, the Commanders opted to trade down five picks in a deal with the Saints. In the trade, Washington collected picks No. 98 and 120 which they could use to fill up their various holes on both sides of the ball. With pick No. 16, the Commanders added some more help on the outside for new QB Carson Wentz. While Washington does have a handful of gifted pass catchers, only Terry McLaurin has proven he can stay on the field consistently. Penn State’s Dotson has the best pair of hands in the pool and could develop into one of the league’s most dangerous slot options.
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17. Los Angeles Chargers: Zion Johnson
Johnson makes a ton of sense for the Chargers. When you’ve got a franchise quarterback as talented as Justin Herbert, you’ve got to protect him at all costs. It’s the most important investment any football team can make. Johnson is an athletic player with the versatility to play both center and guard. He should be plugged in right away as a starter. Nice grab by the Chargers.
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18. Tennessee Titans: Treylon Burks
Here’s your A.J. Brown replacement. Tennessee clearly had reservations over giving Brown a gigantic extension. As such, he was flipped for a cheaper, younger option in Burks. The Arkansas athlete is a beast — standing at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds (running a 4.55 in the 40). Burks will be given a chance to start from the jump. While he’s a talented player, it’s tough to rationalize trading away your star receiver when all indications point to Brown wanting to remain a Titan.
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19. New Orleans Saints: Trevor Penning
This is all about filling a need for the Saints. Barring a gigantic trade up the board, there was no shot New Orleans was going to nab one of the top guys at the position. Penning was drafted about where most expected him to be selected. He’s a lean 6-foot-7 with good lateral quickness and has experience playing both inside/outside. Penning projects as a left tackle initially for the Saints.
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20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett
Pickett’s selection surprised more than a few people. Many projected Malik Willis to land in Pittsburgh. Instead, the Steelers opted for the hometown kid in Pickett. Pickett had a fantastic 2021 season in which he threw for over 40 touchdowns. He’s also a threat to make plays with his legs, and many give him the ‘gamer’ tag. However, some worry Pickett may have been a ‘one year wonder’ based upon his career. Additionally, there are concerns over his historically small hands from a ball security standpoint.
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21. Kansas City Chiefs: Trent McDuffie
McDuffie has been one of the better corners in the pass-happy Pac-12 for the past few seasons. He’s an intuitive player with terrific ball skills. McDuffie is also quite advanced when it comes to reading the play and reacting accordingly. This was a solid pick for Kansas City, which needs an injection of secondary talent considering the firepower currently situated in the loaded AFC West.
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22. Green Bay Packers: Quay Walker
Green Bay failed to grab a receiver at this spot — though we don’t completely blame them. The run on receivers earlier in the draft left a big gap between first-round talents and the following group. It would’ve been a reach for them to take someone at that spot. As such, Walker was a smart pick. He’s got a terrific defensive pedigree (as he hails from Georgia). Walker is fast, aggressive, and good enough to start for Green Bay from the jump.
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23. Buffalo Bills: Kaiir Elam
The Bills could always use more depth in the secondary considering the murderer’s row of quarterbacks they’ll face in the AFC (Justin Herbert, Derek Carr, Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Ryan Tannehill). Elam got dinged earlier in the process for having short arms/small hands. With that said, he’s clearly battle-tested having competed in the SEC. Elam is also a very good athlete who excels in coverage downfield.
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24. Dallas Cowboys: Tyler Smith
Dallas went for functionality over talent. We’ve seen them roll the dice on players who were not clean fits in the past. They’d opt for ability over need. In this case, they passed on some of those guys (Jermaine Johnson most notably) in favor of Smith. It was the smart play, considering that Dallas’ offensive line is aging. Remember — it also lost La’El Collins and Connor Williams in the offseason. Smith will be penciled in at right tackle, and will immediately endear himself to the fanbase with a violent style of play (particularly in the run game).
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25. Baltimore Ravens: Tyler Linderbaum
This is a classic Baltimore pick. The Ravens were able to nab a tough, physical, smart player from a program (Iowa) known for producing good offensive linemen. Linderbaum is a terrific athlete, and is quite special when moving up to the second level in specific blocking schemes. This should work very well with Lamar Jackson.
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26. New York Jets: Jermaine Johnson II
Johnson fell much further down the board than many projected. On the surface, the Jets nabbed a top-10 talent towards the end of the first round. This alone makes it a very good value pick. Johnson is long, athletic, and versatile. He can rush off the edge with his hand in the dirt, and he can drop in coverage when need be. Robert Saleh will be salivating over the prospect of developing Johnson. This is a home run pick for the J-E-T-S.
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27. Jacksonville Jaguars: Devin Lloyd
This was a fantastic pick by Jacksonville. Lloyd is the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. He was exceptionally well-coached by Kyle Whittingham. You’ve got a player fully capable of crashing down towards the line of scrimmage in the run game (hint: running backs want to avoid this collision). Lloyd is also exceptionally proficient in space when pursuing ball-carriers. When you further throw in his high character/strong leadership skills, Lloyd could be a fixture within this defense for years to come. At the very least, he’s a nice replacement for Myles Jack.
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28. Green Bay Packers: Devonte Wyatt
The Packers went back to SEC land and nabbed a second player from Georgia. Wyatt flew off the screen whenever you saw the Bulldogs play. He plays with terrific pad level, and has insanely quick, powerful hands. Wyatt’s ability to disengage from offensive linemen makes him a very effective player when rushing the passer. If you’re Green Bay, pairing him with Pro Bowler Kenny Clark makes a ton of sense.
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29. New England Patriots: Cole Strange
Strange hails from Chattanooga, and is the highest player drafted from the school since Terrell Owens. This is a classic New England pick. Bill Belichick isn’t conventional when selecting guys, and Strange is no exception. It was said that the versatile OL was a target of many teams…but was pegged with a third-round value. New England didn’t want to wait — and instead took the plunge on him late in the first. We’ll see whether this was a reach or not. Remember, the Pats made a similar-type pick with Logan Mankins years ago (and that turned out exceptionally well). Strange will take over for Shaq Mason at RG.
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30. Kansas City Chiefs: George Karlaftis
A native of Greece, Karlaftis flew onto the scene after some productive years for the Boilermakers in West Lafayette. He plays with a ton of energy off the edge. The Chiefs won’t ever have to worry about his effort when pursuing the quarterback. In a sense, he sort of reminds us of former NFL great Jared Allen. Karlaftis is constantly collapsing the pocket, and the Chiefs will need that ability given the division they play in.
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31. Cincinnati Bengals: Daxton Hill
Hill is a perfect fit for the Bengals. Most notably, his versatility in prowling all around the secondary will be utilized. You can play him as a nickel safety in most packages. He can play as a traditional safety in a two-deep look. Also, you can employ Hill closer to the line of scrimmage as somewhat of a ‘mini-backer’. He’s explosive when pursuing ball carriers, and is very smart across the board when diagnosing plays.
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32. Minnesota Vikings: Lewis Cine
Traditionally, Minnesota loves taking secondary players in the first round. Cline may end up being a big steal when we look back at the draft. He balled out during the National Championship Game. Cline flew all over the field — breaking up passes and making tackles in space. Some think he may be the most gifted safety in the draft. With Harrison Smith getting a bit long in the tooth, Cline’s ability to cover in space makes him a nice fit next to the future Hall of Famer.
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