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The Best Draft Classes of 2022

With the 2022 NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, it is time to assess the additions for each team. Given that this is a completely subjective exercise, this list is based on a team selecting players below where they were expected to go and filling positions of need and/or importance. While there is no way of knowing if these classes will turn out to be the best in the long run, here are the teams that I think did the best job of acquiring player value.

1) New York Jets – Pick #4: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati: Gardner has all of the tools you look for in a lockdown corner. He has never, not once in high school nor college, giving up a touchdown while in coverage. – Pick #10: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio St: Wilson is a little on the smaller size, standing just under 6 feet tall, but he is also the most complete receiver in this class. He wins with elite quickness, route running, contested catchability, and run after catch skills. – Pick #26: Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida St: There were rumblings that Johnson was under consideration for the Jets at BOTH picks #4 and #10. After an unexpected fall, the Jets moved back into round one to select the elite rusher. The ACC Defensive Player of the Year broke out in 2021 and showed the traits to be a very successful rusher at the next level. – Pick #36: Breece Hall, RB, Iowa St: The Jets moved up two spots to secure Hall, the clear-cut top RB in the draft. Hall possesses an elite blend of size, speed, agility, and power. In securing Wilson and Hall, the Jets are giving 2nd year QB Zach Wilson every chance to become the player the Jets envisioned when they selected him 2nd overall last year. – Pick #101: Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio St: The Jets added a pair of Tight Ends through free agency in CJ Uzomah and Tyler Conklin, but the value on Ruckert was great. An all-around tight end, many in the Jets organization believe Ruckert’s production was limited only because of the many skill players Ohio St had on the roster, not because of limited talent. If they are correct, the Jets may have a steal. – Pick #111: Max Mitchell, OT, Louisiana: Mitchell is a perfect developmental prospect for the Jets. He moves extremely well but needs to add some strength. If he can get a bit stronger, he has a chance to be an effective starter at either tackle or guard. – Pick #117: Michael Clemons, EDGE, Texas A&M: Clemons is an older prospect, having already turned 25 years old, and he has an injury history, as well as multiple arrests in his past. But, Clemons has the upside teams love to take chances on in the later rounds. GRADE: A+. The Jets nailed the first round of the draft with three players who could be stars at premium positions. Adding Breece Hall and Jeremy Ruckert could simply be the icing on this delicious cake for Joe Douglas and company. My favorite draft of any team.

2) Baltimore Ravens – Pick #14: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame: Hamilton is a true blue-chip prospect that fell slightly in the draft due to relatively disappointing athletic testing at the combine. I’m not buying it, however. Hamilton plays much faster than he ran in Indianapolis and the film is clear on this. He’s huge for safety and shows tremendous instincts and playmaking skills. This is a home run pick for Baltimore. – Pick #25: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa: Linderbaum began the draft process as a possible top 10 selection and the clear-cut top center prospect in the draft. However, teams were a little leery of his size and strength and his ability to anchor against bigger, stronger defensive tackles. The Ravens know that, despite being a little on the smaller size, Linderbaum plays with proper pad level, technique, and quickness. He has a chance to be among the best centers in the league almost immediately. – Pick #45: David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan: Ojabo was on a meteoric rise up draft boards until a ruptured Achilles Tendon at his Pro Day caused him to fall. The Ravens made this pick with the understanding that Ojabo will not play in 2022, but the long-term upside was too much to pass on here. A little on the raw side, Ojabo was able to win in college due to his sheer athleticism. If he can regain his form through rehab, Ojabo could be one of the biggest steals in the draft. – Pick #76: Travis Jones, DT, Connecticut: Jones had some hype as a possible late first-round pick. Somehow, he fell right into the lap of the Ravens in the middle of round 3. Jones is a monster of a man that shows plenty of pass-rushing ability. He joins a deep defensive line with the Ravens, so he may not be asked to play a huge role in year one, but he will be a key piece of this defense for the next 5+ seasons. Great pick. – Pick #110: Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota: Faalele is enormous, and that may be an understatement. Standing 6’8” and 380+ pounds, Faalele can simply overpower defensive linemen. Even with that size, he moves extremely well and has a chance to develop into an excellent tackle. Many were projecting Faalele to come off the board in round 2. Another great pick. – Pick #119: Jalyn Armour-Davis, CB, Alabama: Only injuries could cause a man this talented to fall this far. Armour-Davis stands 6’1” and roughly 200 pounds, but possesses sub-4.4 speed and above-average fluidity. If he can stay healthy, this is another steal for Baltimore. – Pick #128: Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa St: Kolar is mostly a receiving tight end that doesn’t hold up all that well as a pure blocker. He needs to get better in that area, but he provides excellent depth behind superstar Mark Andrews. – Pick #130: Jordan Stout, P, Penn St: The Ravens decided it was time to secure Stout, the punter with the enormous leg. For a team that plays good defense and can run it as well as Baltimore does, Stout could be a weapon in winning the field position battles each week. – Pick #139: Isaiah Likely, TE, Coastal Carolina: Likely is another pass-catching TE with the size necessary to win in the middle of the field. The film showed him as dynamic after the catch, even with relatively disappointing testing numbers at his pro day. – Pick #141: Damarion Williams, CB, Houston: Williams is a pure slot corner that is physical both at the line of scrimmage and in-run support. He uses his elite quickness to stay tight in coverage. This selection gives the Ravens more options on how to deploy Marlon Humphrey on a play-to-play basis. Williams could be an immediate contributor. – Pick #196: Tyler Badie, RB, Missouri: Badie joins an RB room with a lot of talent, but a lot of injury concerns. In an ideal world, he will simply provide solid depth, but there is a scenario where he sees the field early on. GRADE: A+. The Ravens added a ton of talent to a very good roster. Hamilton and Linderbaum are day one starters, while Ojabo, Jones, Faalele, and Williams could be impact players. I love what they did. You can never have enough talent in the NFL. 3) Detroit Lions – Pick #2: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan: Many pundits had Hutchinson as the #1 overall player on their board. At Michigan, he was a true game-wrecker for opposing offenses. He can win in any number of ways and create havoc. When he fell to #2, it was a near no-brainer selection for Detroit. – Pick #12: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama: The Lions made a big move up from #32 to land Williams, the most dynamic playmaker at the receiver position in the draft. Williams is coming off an ACL injury, but he should be back to 100% early in the season. Once he’s back, Williams adds an element to the offense that every team desires. Speed. Pure speed. Pairing with outstanding 2nd year WR Amon-Ra St. Brown and newcomer DJ Chark, the Lions’ WR corps has gotten better by leaps and bounds. – Pick #46: Josh Paschal, EDGE, Kentucky: A double-dip of sorts at the EDGE position, the Lions added Paschal to pair with Hutchinson. Paschal is another elite athlete that should give the Lions plenty of juice. – Pick #97: Kerby Joseph, S, Illinois: Joseph fills a huge need for the Lions as a playmaking centerfielder with terrific ball skills. He plays with great recognition and should eliminate a lot of plays on the back end of the defense. – Pick #177: James Mitchell, TE, Virginia Tech: Mitchell is coming off an ACL injury, otherwise he may have come off the board nearly 100 picks sooner. When healthy, he showed plenty of athleticism and receiving ability. He could make plays as the #2 TE behind TJ Hockenson. – Pick #188: Malcolm Rodriguez, LB, Oklahoma St: Rodriguez is an undersized LB, but he’s a great athlete. He is a developmental prospect that could eventually become a sub-package coverage LB. He also will be an immediate core special teamer. – Pick #217: James Houston, EDGE, Jackson St: Houston isn’t quite the athlete that the Lions seem to have been targeting with this draft class, but he was rather productive with 16.5 sacks this past season. There is a chance he sticks on the roster as a rotational rusher in year one, but the practice squad is more likely. Solid developmental pick. – Pick #237: Chase Lucas, CB, Arizona St: Lucas is another older prospect, already having turned 25, but he has some juice. An outstanding athlete, Lucas has a little versatility and could play either outside or in the slot. He’s destined for the practice squad, but this is the type of athlete teams love to take flyers on. GRADE: A-. Hutchinson is an easy pick to declare an A+, but adding Williams, Paschal, and Joseph as immediate starters is tremendous. They’ve gotten faster on both sides of the ball and will be a much-improved team in 2022 and beyond.

4) New York Giants – Pick #5: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon: Edge rusher may not have been the most pressing need for the Giants, but they could not pass on the player I ranked #1 overall in this draft class. Thibodeaux’s upside is out of this world and he could single-handedly change the outlook of a defense. – Pick #7: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama: At the beginning of the draft process, Neal was considered among the favorites to go #1 overall to Jacksonville. He’s a mountain of a man with the feet of a corner. There were rumblings of some medical concerns, but the Giants know that they needed to add talent to their offensive line. Incumbent LT Andrew Thomas played well this season, but either Thomas or Neal will make the move to RT and the Giants will be better off with having a pair of very good tackles. – Pick #43: Wan’Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky: This is an interesting selection with last year’s first-round pick Kadarius Toney still on the roster and Sterling Shepard expected back during the 2022 season. Robinson, however, is an elite talent with the ball in his hands and creates mismatches all over the field. The Giants have Daniel Jones returning and are trying to give him every chance to prove he can be their long-term answer at QB. – Pick #67: Joshua Ezeudu, G, North Carolina: Given the early third-round draft capital, Ezeudu has a chance to win the starting left guard spot from day one. He is a little undersized but has excellent feet and quickness. – Pick #81: Cor’Dole Flott, CB, LSU: Flott has the height and length that teams love in corners, but he’s only 175 pounds soaking wet. He profiles best as a slot corner due to his aggressive mentality and quickness. – Pick #112: Daniel Bellinger, TE, San Diego St: Bellinger is a good athlete for the position that could be a better pro than a college player. After Evan Engram departed in free agency, there is a chance Bellinger gets a chance to see the field sooner rather than later. – Pick #114: Dane Belton, S, Iowa: Belton is another great athlete with versatility. He can play all over the field and showcased 4.43 speed at the combine. He loves to get downhill and even lined up at linebacker a few times. This is an interesting selection that could pay dividends. – Pick #146: Micah McFadden, LB, Indiana: McFadden is a pure middle linebacker with excellent instincts and play diagnosis ability. His coverage skills, however, are a question mark and may relegate him to a backup/special teams role. – Pick #147: DJ Davidson, DT, Arizona St: Davidson is one of my favorite sleepers in the draft. He possesses excellent size and strength and should be an early-down contributor early on. I also believe there is some pass rush juice that can be tapped into. – Pick #173: Marcus McKethan, G, North Carolina: McKethan is the opposite of his college teammate and fellow Giants draftee, Ezeudu. He is huge. He plays with power. Depending on how the Giants decide to go with their line, McKethan could stick on the roster. – Pick #182: Darrian Beavers, LB, Cincinnati: Beavers love to get downhill and get after quarterbacks. He’s not great in coverage, but could still find his way on the field in obvious rush situations. He will also be a core special teamer early on. GRADE: B+. Any time you can add the best player in a draft at pick #5, it is a win. This draft really comes down to fixing the trenches with Thibodeaux and Neal, but those two, along with Wan’Dale Robinson could be immediate impact players. DJ Davidson could turn into a late round steal and give the Giants yet another good player in a strong line of defensive tackles.

5) Philadelphia Eagles – Pick #13: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia: A monster of a man, Davis is a perfect pairing with Fletcher Cox to give the Eagles one of the best inside tandems in the league. Davis simply cannot be moved in the run game and has unbelievable athleticism for a man of his size, leaving many wondering if there is untapped pass-rush juice. – Pick #18: AJ Brown, WR: Yes, I’m cheating. But, I have to include this trade as part of their draft class. They made the huge move to acquire Brown, the top-level WR formerly of the Titans. The Eagles immediately secured Brown with a 4-year contract, giving Jalen Hurts another elite option (who also happens to be one of Hurts’ best friends). I love this move for a team with being extremely competitive. – Pick #51: Cam Jurgens, C, Nebraska: The Eagles did extend long time center Jason Kelce for one more season, but Jurgens provides the next answer at the pivot. In last year’s selection, Landon Dickerson was a college center, but the Eagles love him at guard and this tandem should be excellent on the interior. – Pick #83: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia – Dean fell in the draft due to injury concerns, but he was a first-round talent. If he comes back healthy, this is an absolute steal, giving the Eagles a true sideline-to-sideline linebacker with playmaking ability. A true risk/reward pick, but one that has unlimited upside. Great pick. – Pick 181: Kyron Johnson, LB, Kansas: Johnson is a bit of a hybrid with the ability to play linebacker or on the edge. He reminds me a lot of Anthony Barr when he came out of UCLA, and Johnson will probably be a strong-side linebacker at the next level. – Pick #198: Grant Calcaterra, TE, SMU: Calcaterra will have a chance to earn some playing time early on behind Dallas Goedert. The depth in Philadelphia is not great, but Calcaterra has some intriguing traits as a receiver. GRADE: B+. Again, I know it’s cheating to include AJ Brown, but the addition is absolutely enormous for a team like Philadelphia. Adding him to DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert gives Philadelphia three legitimate weapons. Jordan Davis will be an immediate impact addition. Jurgens and Dean could both be elite players at their respective positions in the relatively near future. This is an excellent haul.

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