You’ve gotten your fill of team draft grades, how about a more micro angle with them? Instead of providing a grade for the entire draft class, let’s highlight the best pick made by every franchise in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Here are the best individual picks for all 32 teams. Value was slightly factored in, as was opportunity for said draft pick to produce in the NFL. I also included an honorable mention.
Sanders was one of the most powerful edge rushers in this class on film. Not joking, even though 247 pounds was the highest the 6-foot-5 defender weighed at any point during the pre-draft process. He exudes speed-to-power conversion. While not as bendy as his frame would suggest, Sanders isn’t stiff, and there’s advanced hand work in his repertoire. The Cardinals had to address the gaping hole left by Chandler Jones‘ departure, and in time, Sanders can be a high-level pass-rusher who brings it when needing to set the edge against the run too.
For what seems like years now, in articles on this website and in radio spots, I’ve mentioned the Falcons need for more defensive playmakers. There’s Grady Jarrett and the burgeoning A.J. Terrell. Post Super Bowl run, it’s been a defense devoid of stars. Ebiketie can be one. He was a “box-checker” prospect for me. Everything I look for in an edge rusher, he checked the box. Burst, bend, pass-rush moves, high motor. Plus, he was productive for multiple seasons in college and already made a jump — from Temple to Penn State — and actually improved his efficiency getting after the quarterback.
Mark Andrews was my pre-draft comparison for Kolar. Imagine that. Everything about his ability on the field feels like it will translate immediately to the NFL. Kolar’s a decently explosive, noticeably savvy route runner. He catches everything in his vicinity, regardless of whether he’s open or there’s a linebacker in tight coverage. And he provides some juice after the catch. He’s the chef’s kiss GIF of tight end prospects. To get him in Round 4 was thievery and embodied what’s become a classic Eric DeCosta pick. Kolar will learn from Andrews and supplement him perfectly early in his pro career. Kolar went over 40 catches and 575 yards in each of his final three seasons at Iowa State and caught a grand total of 20 touchdowns in that span. He’s going to be good.
Despite fielding one of the most dynamic offenses in football for majority of the 2021 season, the Bills actually finished with the second-lowest yards-after-the-catch-per-reception averages in football. Nuts, right? Shakir is going to boost those efforts in Buffalo. He forced 14 missed tackles on 77 receptions — one every 5.5 grabs — which was slightly better than Jameson Williams‘ average. Of course, Shakir doesn’t have Williams’ speed but did run 4.43 at the combine and also made ridiculous, acrobatic catches down the sideline seem routine in 2021. In Round 5, to get a well-rounded wideout like Shakir, was a massive steal for the Bills.
The Panthers draft was rough, so this wasn’t easy. Mays in Round 6 was a saving grace for Matt Rhule and Co. A former Georgia Bulldog, Mays transferred to Tennessee and didn’t lose an ounce of nastiness in the transfer portal. On film, he routinely finished through the whistle and has legitimate offensive guard size and length and 6-4 and 311 pounds with arms over 34-inches long. He’s the type of battler Carolina desperately needs up front. In fact, Mays form quite the “bouncer” duo with Ikem Ekwonu if he’s plugged in at left guard.
Jones had no business being available in the fifth round. Not when considering the NFL’s shortage of trustworthy offensive tackles. Sure, Jones faced lesser competition in college playing at Southern Utah. But he flat-out dominated that competition on run and pass plays, over and over and over. Plus, Jones looks like an NFL tackle at 6-5 and 310 pounds with arms nearly 36 inches long. It didn’t feel like the Bears were too interested in building offensive weaponry around Justin Fields in this draft. But constructed the protection unit in front of him is just as vital. Jones has the film and athletic profile — plus his mean streak jumps off the film — to eventually be a very valuable Bears employee.
The Bengals have envious depth at edge rusher, particularly when 2021 second-round pick Joseph Ossai — who plays like he was shot out of cannon — returns this season. That doesn’t make the selection of Gunter any worse. In fact, given the surplus of ridiculously good QBs in the AFC, possessing an abundance of edge-rushing talent has maybe never been more important than in the 2022 AFC. Gunter, at nearly 6-5 and 260 pounds, tested like an above-average athlete and demonstrated a advanced and varied pass-rushing skill set at Coastal Carolina over the past two seasons. His high-energy play is infectious too. He should’ve been picked much earlier than No. 252 overall.
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Edge rushers who stand 6-5 and weigh 270-plus pounds with vines for arms who move like they’re significantly smaller are not easy finds in every NFL Draft. And Wright’s high-level reps are of first-round caliber. Seriously. Burst, bend, power, some hand work. It’s all there. He just happens to only flash those high-end reps and is not yet a deft run defender. If anyone can teach him how to become a quality, three-down player at his towering size, it’s Myles Garrett.
Sam Williams, EDGE (Round 2, No. 56 overall)
Honorable mention: Matt Waletzko, North Dakota
Williams had the heaviest hands of any defensive end in the 2022 class. I really believe that. And he’s explosive off the board. Had there not been off-field concerns with him, Williams would’ve probably been picked in the first round. His traits are that stellar on film. And I like that in Dallas, with Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence ahead of him, Williams won’t be trust into a No. 1 edge role. Also, his legitimate three-down ability makes him more useful than if he was only an asset in obvious pass situations.
Bonitto can’t do anything about his relatively short arms. But the only other weakness to his draft profile was a lack of strength, and power is easily built in NFL strength and conditioning programs. If Bonitto was 6-4 and 258 pounds with 34-inch arms instead of 6-3 and 248 with 32 1/2-inch arms, he would’ve been picked in the first round. His pass-rush arsenal is dazzling. There’s a case he had the best blend of burst and bend in the class, and he fluidly crosses over like a young star in the NBA as a deadly counter. His combination of explosiveness and legitimate pass-rush moves made him incredibly productive at Oklahoma. Opposite Bradley Chubb, Bonitto is going to flourish in the Broncos defense.
Malcolm Rodriguez (Round 6, No. 188 overall)
Honorable mention: Josh Paschal, EDGE
Rodriguez is a former safety who converted to linebacker. I love safeties who converted to linebacker in college. Because, naturally, they enter the NFL better in coverage just about all of their positional contemporaries. At 5-11 and 232 pounds, Rodriguez flies — as evidenced by his 4.52 in the 40 and 40-inch vertical — but plays like he’s 6-2 and 240 pounds against blockers. Such an advanced block-defeater. The Lions aren’t a club rife with linebacker talent, which makes me believe Rodriguez has a fine opportunity to carve out a vital role as a sub-package asset.
Tom was such a classic Packers pick later in the draft. Athletic, versatile blocker with squeaky-clean film. Felt a lot like David Bakhtiari. Tom has to pack on 10-15 pounds to play any line position in the NFL — he was under 300 pounds at the combine — but I have never scouted an offensive lineman with better short-area quickness than Tom. That’s paramount in today’s NFL with the amount of freaky athletes playing up and down the line. There may not be a clear path to a starting job as a rookie for Tom. But I’d bet he’ll on the field sooner than later because of how athletically capable and balanced he is.
Derek Stingley, CB (Round 1, No. 3 overall)
Honorable mention: Dameon Pierce, RB
Stingley is one of the few first-round picks in this article. He’s just that good, and cornerback was that big of a need for the Texans. My No. 2 overall prospect in this class, Stingley has it all. Perfect size for a modern-day outside corner. He’s fast. He’s fluid, springy, with stellar awareness and ball skills. He tackles exceptionally well too. This is the type of alpha defender the Texans have needed in their secondary since prime Johnathan Joseph. The Texans didn’t overthink it at No. 3 overall and got the best cornerback in the class.
Jelani Woods, TE (Round 3, No. 73 overall)
Honorable mention: Bernhard Raiman, OT
This is not hyperbole: Woods has a chance to be the best tight end from this class. At 6-7 and 253 pounds with 4.61 speed, major hops, and sharp breaks in his routes, Woods is genuinely a matchup nightmare for any defense he faces. And during his long career, Matt Ryan has established strong connections with pass-catching tight ends like Tony Gonzalez and Austin Hooper. Woods can be the next in line to get plenty of looks from the established quarterback. What I like about Woods too — he began his career as a blocking-only tight end at Oklahoma State then blossomed into a dynamic, three-level receiver after transferring to Virginia. Getting that type in Round 3 was nice value for Indianapolis.
This was one of two Jaguars selections I liked in the 2022 draft. Conner is a chiseled, one-cut-then-run-through-your-face type of back, and he was severely underutilized at Ole Miss. He only toted the rock 304 times for the Rebels and averaged a hefty 5.2 yards per carry in his college career. Round 5 is typically nice value for an explosive power back.
My word this is a tremendous pairing and a downright frightening one for opposing defenses. I had a first-round grade on Moore thanks to his complete game and athletic juice. The Chiefs moved back and were still able to get him as the sixth wideout selected in the second round. Moore does it all — he gets off press with ease, is a contact-balance monster after the catch, plays with a gigantic catch radius and has low 4.40 speed. He’s not going to be Tyreek Hill 2.0, but he’s one of my favorite Rookie of the Year candidates with Patrick Mahomes throwing him the football and jobs open in the Chiefs receiver room.
Spiller deserved to go earlier than this, although I’m a believer that most backs should start to get picked in the third round and correct value for them in general is Round 4. There are concerns with Spiller’s long speed. I get that. He ran 4.64 at the epically slow Texas A&M Pro Day — where essentially every Aggies prospect tested slower than expected. But in watching his film, Breece Hall’s film, and Ken Walker’s film back-to-back-to-back, I thought Spiller’s stacked up. And his on-field traits are just as impressive as the other’s. Sure, he won’t be the featured runner immediately, but his presence could help prolong Austin Ekeler’s career and allow him to take more snaps in the slot.
Bruss is that inconspicuous offensive line selection the Rams make later in the draft no one pays attention to who eventually becomes a high-level component of Sean McVay’s offensive front. He was a reach-blocking extraordinaire at Wisconsin, which likely piqued the interest of GM Les Sean and McVay given how much they prioritize agility in the team’s zone-blocking scheme. He plays with outstanding knee bend too, so he’s rarely outleveraged. For the cherry on top, Bruss starred at tackle in 2021 but manned the right guard position in the previous season. He’ll thrive somewhere on the Rams front for a long time.
Butler is a hell-raising defensive lineman with an angry disposition on the football field. With Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby flying around the edges, the Raiders needed a defensive tackle worth game-planning for in this draft and got one with the former Tennessee standout. Now, of course Butler won’t demand double teams instantly, but it won’t take long for his length and energy to be noticed by opposing offensive coordinators.
Goode was one of my favorite sleepers at the edge position in this class. At 6-2 and 232 pounds he has off-ball linebacker size but demonstrated serious burst and bend around the corner and converts speed to power well at the point of attack. The Dolphins re-signed Emmanuel Ogbah this offseason but are otherwise severely lacking at the edge-rusher spot. Now, am I expecting Goode to come in and register 10 sacks as a rookie? No, but that 6.91 three cone and 39-inch vertical indicate he has the requisite athletic traits to be an occasionally impactful contributor as a pass-rushing specialist early in his career.
Lewis Cine, S (Round 1, No. 32 overall)
Honorable mention: Andrew Booth, CB
The Vikings got Cine after a sizable trade back from No. 13 overall, and they landed a legitimate three-down safety who truly excels against the run by way of doling out monstrous hits and against the pass thanks to smooth change-of-direction ability, high-end ball skills and freaky explosiveness. What I love about this pick too — Cine won’t be asked to be the team’s eraser on the back end instantly. He’ll get at least one season to learn from underrated do-everything safety Harrison Smith.
Would I have picked Thornton ahead of George Pickens and Skyy Moore? No. But did the Patriots get a darn-good receiver prospect in Thornton? Absolutely. First off, he’s uniquely sized at nearly 6-3 and under 200 pounds with sub 4.30 speed. Dude flies. Beyond that, Thornton runs crisp routes and catches the ball away from his frame very naturally. He’s precisely the type of receiver Mac Jones needs in New England.
Jackson is another 2022 draft pick in an exquisite mentee situation. Learning from All-Pro Demario Davis will work wonders for him as he progresses into an eventual full-time role on the Saints defense. Jackson possesses above-average short-area quickness and displayed play-making skills in coverage — HUGE! — to go along with his blitzing efficiency and tenacious play against the run. Saints fans will learn soon enough, Jackson was a steal.
Taking the layup here. Let me explain. Neal’s film was good in 2021. It was even better in 2020 when he played right tackle, which is precisely where he’ll be plugged in — opposite Andrew Thomas — with the Giants. And with Neal, New York knows it’s getting a high-floor blocker. Multiple seasons of productivity in the SEC strongly suggests that. But at 6-7 and a rocked-up 340 pounds, there’s tremendous Hall of Fame level upside with their second first-round pick in this draft.
Ruckert was my TE1 in this class. He’s big, with long arms, big hands, seam-stretching speed, deceptive athleticism after the catch, and he’s a bulldozing blocker to boot. In building around Zach Wilson, the Jets picked Garrett Wilson in Round 1 and add CJ Ozumah in free agency. Ruckert has the tools to eventually be better and more well-rounded than the veteran.
Jurgens doesn’t necessarily have a starting job on the Eagles offensive line right now. He is ideal Jason Kelce insurance. With a season spent in the weight room Philadelphia won’t see much of a drop off going from Kelce to Jurgens next season. The youngster is that explosive of an athlete who plays with a methodically mad style as a blocker. That type of tenacity is key as a movable piece up front in the Eagles offense.
George Pickens, WR (Round 2, No. 52 overall)
Honorable mention: DeMarvin Leal, DL/EDGE
Pickens has WR1 capabilities. He just barely played in 2021 due to a March 2021 torn ACL, and there were some maturity concerns before the draft. At close to 6-3 with sub 4.50 speed and an enormous catch radius that pairs awesomely with twitchy routes, Pickens is going to be another Day 2 star at receiver in Pittsburgh. Because he may be a little rusty on the field, it’s perfect scenario to initially have Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson ahead of him on the depth chart to begin his career.
Castro-Fields shouldn’t have been available in Round 6. A prospect who’d been on the draft radar for years due to his quality play at corner early in his Penn State career, Castro-Fields has the size, route-recognition ability, and suddenness in his lower half to mirror wideouts down the field with relative ease.
Smith, like most Ohio State edge rushers, is a sophisticated defender. He understands angles, how to use offensive linemen’s momentum against them and how to quickly counter what blockers show in their pass sets. There’s quality — albeit unspectacular — burst and bend to his game too, and he was wildly productive generating pressure in his collegiate career. There’s plenty of opportunity to emerge as a frequently used edge rusher in Seattle’s defense too.
Logan Hall, DT (Round 2, No. 33 overall
Honorable mention: Zyon McCollum, CB
The tall, long, penetrating Hall next to Vita Vea in Tampa Bay. My goodness. Unfair. Hall was tied with Devonte Wyatt as my No. 1 interior defensive lineman this class mostly because of how dynamic he is out of the gates and his tremendous pass-rush move arsenal. Hall is a sneaky good pick for Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2022.
Malik Willis, QB (Round 3, No. 86 overall)
Honorable mention: Roger McCreary, CB
Had to go with Willis. Had to. My QB1 landed in Tennessee about two rounds later than I — and just about everyone else — expected. Look, he needs to learn the nuances of deciphering coverages and understanding where they dictate he should go with the football. Those are vital elements of playing quarterback in the NFL. His physical skill set is through the roof. Don’t be shocked when some big-play flashes he makes at Titans camp generate serious buzz.
Washington Football Team
Phidarian Mathis, DL (Round 2, No. 47 overall)
Honorable mention: Brian Robinson, RB
Mathis is one of my favorite Alabama defensive tackle prospects I’ve ever scouted. Why? Because he’s not just an overwhelmingly strong two-gapper. He gets up the field in a hurry and tosses blockers en route to the quarterback. Having legitimate three-down ability will help Mathis get on the field early in his career, and he looks like he lived in the Alabama weight room, so dealing with powerful professional blockers won’t be too much of a hurdle for him.