Thursday, May 26, 2022

2022 NFL Draft reaction: Predicting Rookies of the Year, bounce-back teams, 2023 No. 1 overall pick and more

After months of speculations, NFL teams have made their draft selections and actual situations can be evaluated rather than making projections. I called fellow CBS Sports draft writers Ryan Wilson and Chris Trapasso to the virtual table to explore impact rookie performers, the teams now in a position to bounce back from a poor season and much more in a series of questions below. 

Enjoy!

1. Who had the most success during the 2022 NFL Draft?

Wilson: Chiefs – “The Chiefs crushed it with every single pick, starting with Trent McDuffie, followed by George Karlaftis, Skyy Moore, Bryan Cook, Leo Chenal, Joshua Williams, Darian Kinnard and Jaylen Watson (and they still had two more selections in the seventh round!). There’s no replacing Tyreek Hill, but the draft capital they got in return arguably made this team better.

We’ll also mention the Panthers here — we loved what they did, first by not overdrafting a quarterback at No. 6 overall and instead fixing the biggest hole on the team at offensive line. Then they were able to get Matt Corral, our QB1, in the third round, in addition to a couple of high-upside, traits players on Day 3, starting with Brandon Smith and Amare Barno.”

Trapasso: Titans – “Yes, the team that traded away A.J. Brown during Round 1 had the best draft. Malik Willis in Round 3 was a major steal. To slide back from No. 26 overall — after picking Treylon Burks inside the top 20 — then land lockdown cornerback Roger McCreary, an athletic developmental right tackle in Nicholas Petit-Frere, and super-quick slot receiver Kyle Philips was wizard-level draft navigation by GM Jon Robinson.”

Edwards: Ravens – “The Ravens were able to turn Hollywood Brown into what amounted to the No. 29 overall selection. They selected two of my top 10 players without having a top 10 choice. Jokes were made about Philadelphia leap frogging them for Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis and then Baltimore responds by taking Travis Jones in the third round.”

2. Who had the worst/most underwhelming draft class?

Wilson: Bills – “The Bills are among the favorites to make a Super Bowl run next season, and we think Kaiir Elam is a perfect fit for that defense, but we didn’t quite get the James Cook selection. We like his game but weren’t as high on him as other draft-media folks or, apparently, the Bills, who took him at the bottom of the second round. We’re all for the idea of a running back, even this high, but aren’t Cook and Devin Singletary similar players? Especially with Dameon Pierce and Isaiah Spiller still available.”

Trapasso: Jaguars – “As someone down on Travon Walker from the jump, naturally I was lower than most on the Jaguars draft. But it goes deeper than that. It wasn’t just the Walker pick at No. 1 overall. Trading back into the first round for linebacker Devin Lloyd then picking another linebacker, Chad Muma, who I actually had graded higher than Lloyd, felt like a strange obsession with the linebacker position coming to fruition on draft weekend.”  

Edwards: Dolphins – “Without a pick in the top 100 and only four selections total, it was going to be difficult to find impact performers. It is reasonable to call Miami the most underwhelming draft, all things considered. Factoring in the Tyreek Hill trade, I personally would not have made that commitment.”

3. Who will be the Offensive Rookie of the Year?

Wilson: Kenny Pickett, QB, Steelers – “Kenny Pickett is the easy choice so we’ll go with that. He has to beat out Mitch Trubisky, and if he can’t perhaps that’s reason enough for concern since Pickett is almost 24 and unlike, say, Malik Willis, is probably pretty close to his ceiling.”

Trapasso: Treylon Burks, WR, Titans – “The Titans have to replace 67% of their targets from 2021, that’s the highest rate in the league. Sure, they’re going to run it a ton with a presumably 100% healthy Derrick Henry, but Burks does have Brown-esque qualities after the catch and down the football field. There’ll be ample opportunity for him to load the stat sheet as a rookie, and he will.”

Edwards: Kenny Pickett, QB, Steelers – “I was torn between Pickett and Burks so I will split the difference. Although the wide receiver should be fed targets lost in the A.J. Brown trade, quarterback has the upper hand when it comes to winning awards. The Pittsburgh product could be starting in Week 1 based on comments from head coach Mike Tomlin.”

4. Who will be the Defensive Rookie of the Year?

Wilson: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Giants – “Kayvon Thibodeaux, because it would make for a great story in light off all the nebulous off-field concerns which, as best we can tell, had to do with ‘his brand.’ On the field, the dude can ball, especially as a pass rusher, and we wouldn’t be surprised if he approached double-digit sacks as a rookie.”

Trapasso: Kaiir Elam, CB, Bills – “With Tre’Davious White set to return from a torn ACL, Elam will see his fair share of targets, and in Sean McDermott’s defense is very conducive to quality cornerback play. Just ask Levi Wallace and Dane Jackson. Elam has high-caliber traits, the Bills should be stingy defensively, and Von Miller should force plenty of hurried throws for the quarterbacks Buffalo faces in 2022, leading to even more interception opportunities for the first-round corner.”

Edwards: Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE, Jets – “There are positions that stand a better chance to take home honors. Defensive Rookie of the Year often goes to an edge rusher that has at least nine sacks. Do I see that from any of this year’s rookies? Not necessarily, but Johnson is stepping into a good situation. Some of the pressure should come off his shoulders through the presence of Carl Lawson and Quinnen Williams.”

5. Which rookie is most likely to be a Pro Bowl selection in Year 1?

Wilson: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan – “Aidan Hutchinson was the No. 1 player on our board dating back to the fall and that hasn’t changed. He’ll likely be a Day 1 starter and has the motor and technique to have an early impact in the NFL.”

Trapasso: Evan Neal, OT, Giants – “This dude is ready. And the Giants offensive line has been porous for a while now, so his addition up front will be widely considered the main reason New York gets sturdier in the trenches in 2022. And it’ll be true.”

Edwards: Zion Johnson, OG, Chargers – “Interior offensive line seems to have the most turnover year-to-year on the Pro Bowl team so that is the direction I am going. Johnson will slide in to a solid offensive line with a quarterback that should be able to relieve some of the pressure.”

6. Who is the most impactful selection outside of the first round?

Wilson: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina – “Sam Howell lasted until the fifth round and while we know some teams wished he had returned to school, he’s now in a pretty good spot in Washington. Is Carson Wentz the answer? He wasn’t in his last two stops, and you could argue that both Philly and Indy are better teams than what he has around him in Washington.”

Trapasso: Logan Hall, DT, Houston – “Hall was almost a first-round pick, but I’ll go with the first selection in Round 2 because of his pairing next to Vita Vea in Tampa Bay’s defense. He’s a long, disruptive penetrator who finds himself in a luxurious situation as a rookie on a fine defense with a smart defensive-minded head coach.”

Edwards: Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan – “If this is a long-term question, then I am very intrigued by USC edge rusher Drake Jackson landing with Kris Kocurek in San Francisco. He is a young player that has not been cut loose to attack the quarterback, which appears to be his strongest trait. Instead, I will focus more on the present and say Moore. There are a lot of mouths to feed in that offense but Moore is the most dynamic player on that roster. With his route-running, Patrick Mahomes should be able to trust him early and that is going to lead to yards after the catch opportunities in Andy Reid’s offense.

7. Which team with a top-10 selection is most likely to contend for a playoff spot?

Wilson: Jets – “We’ll go with the Jets, though it all comes down to how much Zach Wilson progresses in Year 2. But he has a big-time playmaker in Garrett Wilson and the defense got both Sauce Gardner and Jermaine Johnson in the first round, and the Jets will also get Carl Lawson back after he missed all of 2021 with an injury. Then there’s the addition of Breece Hall, who will join Wilson in the backfield, along with tight end Jeremy Ruckert, who will be a better pro than college player, where he was pretty good for the Buckeyes.”

Trapasso: Lions – “The fighting Dan Campbells were not fun to play in most of their games last season, and the roster is markedly better in 2022. By the time Detroit will be making a playoff push in the watered-down NFC, Jameson Williams should be at or close to 100%. Speaking of Williams, the Lions had one of the better drafts in the league.”

Edwards: Lions – “I will split the tie again because it would come down to the Lions and Jets. New York plays in a stronger division. If something were to happen to Aaron Rodgers in the NFC North, that division is wide open. Jacksonville will take a step forward and they are not in the strongest division but there are still too many holes on the roster.”

8. Who will be the No. 1 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft?

Wilson: Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama – “If Will Anderson was in the 2022 NFL Draft, he would’ve been the first player taken. Of course, a year ago, Kayvon Thibodeaux was the slam-dunk, write-it-in-Sharpie No. 1 overall player and then Travon Walker came on the scene late. Whatever happens on April 27, 2023, Anderson is a special talent and was dominant for Alabama last season.”

For a deeper dive, here’s a look at Wilson’s full 2023 way-too-early mock draft.

Trapasso: Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama – “He would’ve been a first-round pick in 2022 and everything he’s done in his first two seasons with the Crimson Tide suggest he’s in for another monster season in Nick Saban’s defense.”

Edwards: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State – “He has good size for the position to go along with elite production. With so many teams still with a need at the quarterback position and what was considered a down market this year, I would expect there to be a lot of interest in the top ten next year. It looks like the talent will be there but no one will know until the upcoming season plays out.”

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