The 2022 NFL Draft was one of the most dramatic and surprising drafts in recent memory. With high-profile players slipping to the second round and off-the-radar players getting picked in the first, NFL fans were scratching their heads after night one.
After watching hours of film and assessing each player individually, I have some very bold predictions for this upcoming season. Some of these first-round picks may not even touch the field at all. With that being said, this draft was studded with stars on both sides of the ball, and this class should send a shockwave throughout the league with their potential.
32. Lewis Cine, S, Minnesota Vikings: 21 Tackles, 1 INT, 2 PD
With Minnesota trading with divisional rival Detroit Lions to obtain this pick, the Vikings better hope they made the right selection. However, after getting some starting reps during camp, Cine may see himself getting some good playing time.
Cine is a long, fast safety that led his team in pass deflections in college (9). He breaks on the ball well and puts himself in a position to make a play. With that being said, being on defense behind veterans Harrison Smith and Camryn Bynum, he may have to fight for time on the field. However, in Ed Donatell’s defense, there may be some 3 safety sets, and having all three of these players on defense will be a nightmare for the NFC.
31. Daxton Hill, S, Cincinnati Bengals: 32 Tackles, 1 INT, 1 PD
Similar to Cine, Hill is an explosive and fast safety who can play both laterally and vertically. His situation is ideal, in a defense controlled by Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell. He will find himself some solid rotational minutes.
He impressed everyone during Rookie Minicamp, with his athleticism and incredible burst. Although he may be a great safety for the future, he has two experienced and talented veterans in front of him. I see him getting about 250 defensive snaps.
30. George Karlaftis, EDGE, Kansas City Chiefs: 5 Sacks, 45 Tackles, 8 TFLs
Karlaftis was an absolute steal in his draft, falling into the hands of a talented KC squad. With Frank Clark and Chris Jones manning the line, Karlaftis is in a position to win himself a starting spot.
He’s impressing staff during camp with his explosiveness and energy, going full speed every play of practice. He’s large, powerful, and a very talented player that the Chiefs will be happy to have.
29. Cole Strange, G, New England Patriots: 3 Sacks Allowed, 4 TFLs allowed
Cole Strange has become something of a joke across the internet during his draft selection, even being clowned by Sean McVay. This selection may seem unusual, but I’m in the minority in thinking Cole Strange was one of the best offensive line prospects in this draft.
At 6’5” 305 lbs, Cole ran a 5.03 40 time, put up 31 bench reps, had a 120 broad jump, and ran a 4.5 20-yard shuttle. This man is a freak athlete. His top-end and lateral speed will make him a threat on the pull, and his power is ridiculous. Not only this, but he is impressing Patriots leaders with his motivation, drive, and flare. He has been taking consistent reps on the first team, and I see him having a successful rookie season.
28. Devonte Wyatt, DT, Green Bay Packers: 35 Tackles, 1 Sack, 7 TFLs
Devonte Wyatt is an interesting player. He’s big and very fast for his position, running a 4.77 40. His hand placement is pretty good and he has a high motor.
According to Packers Defensive Line coach Jerry Montgomery, Devonte has “Some things you can’t teach, you just naturally have.” He has a high twitch, he makes great reads on the ball, and he’ll be a great first and second down option for Green Bay.
27. Devin Lloyd, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars: 77 Tackles, 4 Sacks, 12 TFLs
After an unexpected drop in the draft, Jacksonville got a lot of second-level help with Devin Lloyd. A big, explosive, and vertical linebacker, he fills some much-needed holes in this Jaguars run defense.
Lloyd is one of the best reactionary players in the draft, and his run-reads are unmatched. He can contribute to a young Jaguars defense, and may be one of the best defensive selections in the draft.
26. Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, New York Jets: 54 Tackles, 7 Sacks, 11 TFLs
Another unexpected fall in the draft, Johnson is an incredibly versatile player for the Jets. He is a dominant athlete, and one of the fastest edge rushers in the draft, even while standing at 6’5” and 254 lbs. His ability to get to the passer, along with his flexibility in the defensive scheme, will help him dearly.
Johnson, playing for JUCO, Georgia, and FSU, has learned and played through some very different and very good defenses. Along with this, he has strived at every level. Johnson is going to be a plug-and-play starter for the Jets, and can only make a positive impact barring injury.
25. Tyler Linderbaum, C, Baltimore Ravens: 1 Sack Allowed, 2 TFLs Allowed
Easily the best center in the draft, Tyler has every piece in place to succeed. Filling a dire need for the Ravens and protecting an elite quarterback will more than help his resume. With a draft grade of 6.70 by the NFL (best so far), he has a long career ahead of him.
The tale of the tape is what excites me the most. Although small for a stereotypical lineman in the NFL, Tyler has incredible fundamentals and hand movement. His steps are incredible, his punches have a purpose, and he moves the second level like a big skill. He may be in a similar position to Creed Humphries where he makes an impact like a veteran in his first year.
24. Tyler Smith, T, Dallas Cowboys: 7 Sacks Allowed, 8 TFLs Allowed
Smith was not my favorite tackle prospect for this position in the draft. I have some worries about him for this season, but I know he’s going to find himself time on the field.
Simply put, Smith is a phenomenal athlete, he just lacks the basic fundamentals for the position. At 6’5”, he needs to maintain leverage, yet he stays tall on every pass rep. He has bad hand placement, he leaves his chest open, and he’s a penalty machine.
What worries me the most, however, is his horrid game against Houston edge rusher David Anenih. He was blown away, and Anenih went undrafted, signing with the Titans. If Smith can’t keep up with an undrafted player, how will he fare against the best in the league?
23. Kaiir Elam, CB, Buffalo Bills: 22 Tackles, 2 INT, 4 PD
Kaiir Elam wasn’t originally my favorite pick, but his play in camp has impressed me. I actually considered him a second-day player, but he has proven me wrong.
His ability to hit a second and third gear and make plays on the ball after getting beat is fun to watch. He is keeping up against the first-team receivers and making it difficult for Josh Allen to make the best throw. His motor has impressed Buffalo’s coaching staff, and his work ethic will keep him on the field, whether it be on defense or special teams.
22. Quay Walker, LB, Green Bay Packers: 33 Tackles, 1 Sack, 3 TFLs
I wasn’t a huge fan of this pick at the time. A stiff, rush linebacker that doesn’t have a massive presence in coverage is not something the linebackers need. If anything, their coverage needs the most help. However, if used correctly, I can see positive minutes for him.
Walker is almost like a dollar store Micah Parsons. A player with the athleticism of a linebacker, but plays best off the edge. Walker is good on the rush and makes great plays shooting his gaps, and seeing him almost as a blitz-centric walk-up linebacker could be a good situation for him.
21. Trent McDuffle, CB, Kansas City Chiefs: 19 tackles, 0 INT, 1 PD
Although this pickup was great for team value, I only see McDuffle getting slot or nickel reps this coming season. This is no indication of how I feel about him as a player, as I see incredible potential in him. His size, speed, and tracking abilities are good, but the other variables need improvement.
20. Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: 1900 yards, 8 TDs, 11 INTs
Kenny is a phenomenal player and was my pick for the Heisman. He’s an all-around, playmaking QB, and he makes college defenses look silly. However, I don’t think he will enter the season as a guaranteed number 1.
Mitch Trubiski is my pick for the starter on opening day. I could see Pickett making his way into the starting role after some bad games, but I wouldn’t count him out. He played in a mediocre Bears scheme, and now on a well-formulated offense run by Mike Tomlin, Trubiski may have the starting spot in the bag.
I don’t think it will last due to Pickett’s potential. I think Pickett will get reps during the season and find his way onto the turf, but I don’t see a special season out of him.
19. Trevor Penning, T, New Orleans Saints: 6 Sacks Allowed, 9 TFLs Allowed
Trevor Penning was one of my least favorite picks in the entirety of the first round. Now, this doesn’t mean he’s bad, he just needs significant improvement. Trevor was constantly holding, causing penalty yards on the offense every single game.
Trevor is a great athlete, I’ll give him that. He is also a smart dude, picking up the playbook. However, every NFL player is expected to have those traits. What needs to be brought onto the plate are fundamentals and mentality, neither of which he has yet.
18. Treylon Burkes, WR, Tennessee Titans: 29 Receptions, 350 Yards, 1 TD
Treylon struggled to stay on the field during his first NFL practices due to his battle with Asthma. And as much as this does worry me, I don’t see it affecting his production. Treylon, although showing limited film during OTAs, is going to give the offense a good deep threat and a first down machine.
17. Zion Johnson, OL, Los Angeles Chargers: 3 Sacks Allowed, 2 TFLs Allowed
I don’t have much to say on Johnson. He seems pretty good in camp, but he’s not outstanding. His versatility is nice, and being able to fill many positions on the offensive line is good. He doesn’t stand out to me, but he will get some starter reps this season, but he may find his way into a 6th man on the line.
16. Jahan Dotson, WR, Washington Commanders: 55 Receptions, 750 Yards, 4 TDs
Dotson was one of my favorite wide receivers in the draft, even if his testing didn’t say so. He was above average in most athletic categories, but his film is the only evidence that shows his ability goes beyond the paper.
Dotson is impressing his teammates with his motivation and work ethic during practice, and according to his teammates, he’s forming a great connection with starting quarterback Carson Wentz. Having the starting quarterback get you the ball is nothing to complain about, and his impact will be great.
15. Kenyon Green, OL, Houston Texans: 3 Sacks Allowed, 4 TFLs Allowed
A big, physical lineman, Green is an offensive lineman with Hulk-like power. His hands are heavy and he makes contact, moving defensive lineman at all levels. I think he’s a bit on the slower side and could be better laterally, but he should be a solid pickup for the Texans.
14. Kyle Hamilton, S, Baltimore Ravens: 65 Tackles, 1 INT, 5 PD
Kyle Hamilton slipped down the boards during the days leading up to the draft as his hype slowly faded. He’s an amazing twitch player with easily the best reactionary play in the draft.
Although he does play safety, he plays much better vertically and could see him in the box often. He reminds me of a more versatile Jamal Adams and could make a similar impact to him.
13. Jordan Davis, DT, Philadelphia Eagles: 45 Tackles, 5 Sacks, 16 TFLs
This guy is a FREAK. He’s huge, one of the biggest players in the draft, and he ran a sub 4.8 40. He keeps up with most quarterbacks in the game, it’s almost as if he’s a real-life version of Superman. He will leap over NFL offenses in a single bound, and make your team’s quarterback cry in the locker room and contemplate his life choices.
12. Jameson Williams, WR, Detroit Lions: 74 Receptions, 940 Yards, 10 TDs
Jameson was the perfect pickup for this Lions offense. Taking over the number one role and moving impressive sophomore Amon-Ra St. Brown to the two, Jameson could break out this season.
Jared Goff is no laughing stock quarterback, catching fire in his last couple of games. Dan Campbell has reignited his playing flame, and Goff is going to play like a pro bowler. With Jameson’s route running ability and quick burst, Detroit will be fun to watch this year.
11. Chris Olave, WR, New Orleans Saints: 48 Receptions, 450 Yards, 5 TDs
Olave is a solid receiving prospect, but I think he was a bit overhyped. His highlights were great and he made college defenses look silly, but in a spread offense with free room to play, the Saints won’t give him that flexibility.
Olave is not going to see the targets he wants, but that doesn’t make him a bad player. Jameis Winston will get him the ball and put him in a position to make a play after the catch, but in the scheme they run, it may not be that often.
10. Garret Wilson, WR, New York Jets: 70 Receptions, 645 Yards, 3 TDs
The Wilson to Wilson connection will be so much fun to watch in the 2022 season. What I’m most worried about isn’t either of the Wilsons’ playing abilities, but I fear their opportunities to take advantage of those openings will be slim.
Zach Wilson has great arm talent, but with a still shallow offensive line, he may not have enough time to get the ball off deep to Garret. However, in the short game, they will be one of the best duos in the league, which is why I see Garret averaging less than 10 yards per catch.
9. Charles Cross, OT, Seattle Seahawks: 2 Sacks Allowed, 4 TFLs Allowed
This was a boring and bad pick by the Hawks. Cross is a capable top 10 pick for sure, but not for Seattle. They had much more important needs than OT. I do see a run-heavy scheme in action for Seattle, giving Cross the ability to flex his downfield blocking muscles. Regardless, not a perfect situation for either player.
8. Drake London, WR, Atlanta Falcons: 68 Receptions, 750 Yards, 12 TDs
Despite the concern, I actually love this London pick. Being a former basketball player with great length and athletic ability, London may quickly solidify himself as one of the league’s best red-zone threats.
With him and Kyle Pitts on different parts of the field, defenses are going to need to key in on both. Alongside Mariota and Ridder, two capable fade ball throwers, these two guys are in a position to light up the NFC.
7. Evan Neal, OT, New York Giants: 1 Sack Allowed, 1 TFL Allowed
An early contender for the number one overall pick, seeing him drop to seven seems criminal. With the Giants pledging to give Daniel Jones the protection he needs, this pick fits them perfectly. Neal not only has the ability to stand out on a not-so-great offensive line, but he will probably protect Jones’s backside and give him the ability to make plays.
6. Ikem Ekwonu, OT, Carolina Panthers: 2 Sacks Allowed, 3 TFLs Allowed
Although I personally would have traded down from this position, Carolina found one of the most surefire OT prospects in recent memory. His size, lateral movement ability, and high motor make him a force on any offensive line.
He will make an immediate impact on the offense, a plug-and-play player. The only reason I have his stats as worse than Neal’s is due to the worse quarterback play.
5. Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, New York Giants: 66 Tackles, 11 Sacks, 19 TFLs
This is an incredible pick by New York. This guy is an all-around weapon, a master of all trades. He can stop the run, play cross-field, and rush the passer.
He is an absolute win of a draft pick barring injury. I see him leading a Giants front seven to a surprise season, sparked by his effort and leadership.
4. Sauce Gardner, CB, New York Jets: 45 Tackles, 5 INTs, 8 PDs
Sauce came off of an incredible college career, not letting up a single touchdown in coverage. Although that is sure to change, having a defensive-minded head coach Robert Saleh is going to only help him in the long run. This is a pro bowl caliber player, even in his first year.
3. Derek Stingley Jr., CB, Houston Texans: 39 Tackles, 3 INTs, 11 PDs
The 3rd and 4th picks are almost interchangeable. Stingley is one of the most athletic corners in the game, and his ability to track the ball is unmatched. Although his college resume isn’t as strong as Sauce, he makes a strong case for rookie of the year.
2. Aiden Hutchinson, DE, Detroit Lions: 72 Tackles, 9 Sacks, 14 TFLs
Aiden Hutchinson is the perfect pick for a Dan Campbell team. I don’t know why, but I feel as if he is going to feed off of Campbell’s aggressive and relentless energy. There was no better situation for Aiden and he will find immediate success.
He’s another player that’s a master of all trades. He may not have tested as well as some other players, but Hutchinson’s tape is clearly the best. He is one of the smartest defensive linemen in the draft and will prove so during a strong rookie campaign.
1. Travon Walker, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars: 45 Tackles, 6 Sacks, 10 TFLs
I do not think Travon Walker was a number one pick. Top 10? Yes. Top 5? Maybe. His testing looks amazing and his explosiveness looks to be the best in the draft, but I worry the label of pick number one will put him into some dangerous water.
He is very much a prospect. If developed correctly, Walker could be an All-Pro level defender at the next level. With Josh Allen with him on defense, I see this as a possibility. But if he isn’t taught correctly or to a certain standard, I could see a bust label being put on his back. I don’t want that to happen, and I have high hopes, but I expect a lukewarm rookie campaign for him.