May 21, 2022 10:44 pm

2022 NFL Draft: Grades For All 32 First-Round Picks

After the first five picks all went to defensive players, blockbuster trades caused chaos on Day 1 of the 2022 NFL draft. The Saints, Lions and Eagles all traded up for high-profile talent. Then the Ravens dealt receiver Marquise Brown and the Titans traded away wideout A.J. Brown, both for more draft capital.

A run on receivers saw some teams pick up steals later in Round 1, while some late-round offensive line picks looked like reaches. Here are Kevin Hanson’s complete draft grades for each first-round selection.

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1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Travon Walker, DE, Georgia

Jaguars GM Trent Baalke “sees a lot of Aldon Smith in Walker.” Given the early success he had in San Francisco with Smith (33 ½ sacks in his first two seasons), Baalke is hoping a bet on Walker’s traits and upside will pay off like it did back in 2011. While I would have preferred Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson here and Walker a few spots later (as my eighth-ranked prospect overall), no edge rusher in my top 262 has longer arms (35 ½”) than Walker, who also ran an unreal 4.51 40-yard dash at 272 pounds. His pass-rush production has been modest (9 ½ sacks in three years), but he’s an outstanding run defender. Former first-rounder K’Lavon Chaisson has underwhelmed (two sacks in 31 games), so Walker will provide a significant upgrade opposite Josh Allen if he reaches his potential.

2. Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan

Not only is he my top-ranked prospect, but Hutchinson is also the type of prospect Dan Campbell will appreciate due to his relentless energy, leadership and intangibles. In addition, he fills one of the team’s biggest needs as only two teams had fewer sacks than the Lions (30) in 2021. New York Giants Jersey Hutchinson was productive (school-record 14 sacks) and is polished at this stage of his development, but he doesn’t get enough credit for his athleticism. His combine times in the 3-cone (6.73) and 20-yard shuttle (4.15) ranked sixth and fourth, respectively, regardless of position. The son of a former Michigan captain, Hutchinson’s football character, relentless motor combined with his physical traits, polish and production make him one of the safest picks in the draft.

GRADE: A+

3. Houston Texans: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

The Texans have lots of needs, so they just need good football players. No draft-eligible cornerback had a better individual season than Stingley, and it’s impressive that it was when he was an 18-year-old true freshman during LSU’s title run. Unfortunately, his past two seasons have been marred by injury and/or play not up to that elite 2019 level. The 20-year-old Stingley has the speed, athleticism and fluidity to thrive on an island in addition to outstanding ball skills (six INTs in ’19). If he stays healthy, Stingley immediately boosts the Texans’ pass defense, and he has the upside to develop into one of the league’s best cornerbacks.

GRADE: B

4. New York Jets: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati 

Ideally suited for press coverage, Gardner is a lanky corner with elite length (33 ½” arms), toughness and confidence. When asked at the combine how he’ll react to giving up an NFL touchdown, Gardner said “I don’t have plans on giving one up.” “Sauce” has ended each of his three seasons in Cincinnati with three interceptions. The Jets needed an upgrade at corner, and he has the chance to become one of the best. The AFC East has Tyreek Hill and Stefon Diggs, and he immediately helps to slow them down some.

GRADE: A-

5. New York Giants: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon Thibodeaux left Oregon with solid production—19 sacks and 35.5 TFLs over three seasons—but he has an impressive combination of speed (4.58 40-yard dash) and strength (position-high 27 bench press reps at the combine). With his explosive first step and closing burst, double-digit sacks should become the norm for Thibodeaux relatively early in his NFL career, and he gives the Giants another talented young pass-rusher to pair with Azeez Ojulari, who had eight sacks as a rookie last season. He’s a top-three prospect, so the Giants get some good value here.

GRADE: A

6. Carolina Panthers: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State

The Panthers’ two biggest needs heading into the draft were offensive tackle and quarterback. Instead of reaching for a quarterback, they get their choice of offensive tackle and keep Ekwonu in North Carolina. Ekwonu is arguably the best run-blocking offensive lineman in this draft Las Vegas Raiders Jerseys and over the past few drafts. Powerful at the point of attack with his nimble feet and movement skills, Ekwonu has been dubbed “Mr. Pancake” (due to the volume of his pancake blocks). Even though he occasionally oversets in pass protection, he possesses the traits, intelligence and character that should allow him to continue to make significant strides in that aspect.

GRADE: A

7. New York Giants: Evan Neal, OL, Alabama

Neal offers the Giants versatility, as he started at left guard, right tackle and left tackle over the past three seasons, respectively. The former five-star recruit has an impressive combination of size, length and power, but he’s a smooth mover for a prospect his size. Neal is a freakish athlete who topped Bruce Feldman’s annual freaks list for The Athletic. Left tackle Andrew Thomas improved in 2021 from his rookie season, but the Giants’ offensive line needed an upgrade at right tackle, and Neal provides that on day one. Neal was my top-ranked offensive linemen and fourth-ranked prospect.

GRADE: A+

8. Atlanta Falcons: Drake London, WR, USC

A former USC basketball player, London uses his large frame well to box out defenders. His wide catch radius and strong hands help him dominate at the catch point. London is a young prospect (turns 21 in late July), but he was highly productive—88 receptions for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns in just eight games—last season. He’s a big-bodied receiver that fits the type that Arthur Smith prefers, and he fills an immediate void at receiver, as Calvin Ridley is suspended for 2022 and Russell Gage signed with the Bucs.

GRADE: B+

9. Seattle Seahawks: Charles Cross, OL, Mississippi State 

Cross has had tons of pass-blocking reps over the past two seasons, and the former five-star recruit showed significant improvement from 2020 to ’21. The two-year starter has plus length (34 ½” arms), athleticism, balance and hand placement. All of his starts have been at left tackle, and he provides the Seahawks with an immediate upgrade there as a day one starter. Cross was my ninth-ranked prospect, but many expected him to be off the board before this.

GRADE: B+

10. New York Jets: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

While the Jets missed out on a trade for Tyreek Hill, they get help for Zach Wilson with my top-ranked receiver in this class and seventh-ranked prospect overall. Wilson has outstanding body control, ball skills and is dynamic after the catch. Quick and elusive, Wilson ran a faster-than-expected 40-yard dash (4.38) in Indianapolis. He’s a complete receiver that finished 2021 with 70 catches for 1,058 yards and 12 touchdowns.

GRADE: A+

8. Atlanta Falcons: Drake London, WR, USC

A former USC basketball player, London uses his large frame well to box out defenders. His wide catch radius and strong hands help him dominate at the catch point. London is a young prospect (turns 21 in late July), but he was highly productive—88 receptions for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns in just eight games—last season. He’s a big-bodied receiver that fits the type that Arthur Smith prefers, and he fills an immediate void at receiver, as Calvin Ridley is suspended for 2022 and Russell Gage signed with the Bucs.

GRADE: B+

9. Seattle Seahawks: Charles Cross, OL, Mississippi State 

Cross has had tons of pass-blocking reps over the past two seasons, and the former five-star recruit showed significant improvement from 2020 to ’21. The two-year starter has plus length (34 ½” arms), athleticism, balance and hand placement. All of his starts have Boston Red Sox Jerseys been at left tackle, and he provides the Seahawks with an immediate upgrade there as a day one starter. Cross was my ninth-ranked prospect, but many expected him to be off the board before this.

GRADE: B+

10. New York Jets: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

While the Jets missed out on a trade for Tyreek Hill, they get help for Zach Wilson with my top-ranked receiver in this class and seventh-ranked prospect overall. Wilson has outstanding body control, ball skills and is dynamic after the catch. Quick and elusive, Wilson ran a faster-than-expected 40-yard dash (4.38) in Indianapolis. He’s a complete receiver that finished 2021 with 70 catches for 1,058 yards and 12 touchdowns.

GRADE: B

13. Philadelphia Eagles: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

It’s not surprising to see Howie Roseman use a first-round pick on the defensive line. Physically imposing and stout at the point of the attack, Davis immediately provides a shot in the arm to Philadelphia’s run defense. His impact is not always felt in the box score, but he opens up opportunities for those around him to make plays. While he may primarily be utilized as a two-down run stuffer to begin his career, his elite mobility (4.78 40-yard dash at 341 pounds) should enable him to develop into a more disruptive player on passing downs.

GRADE: B

14. Baltimore Ravens: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

The Ravens get a steal with my second-ranked player overall. Hamilton’s timed 40-yard dashes—4.59 at the combine and in the 4.7 range at Notre Dame’s pro day—disappointed, but he has outstanding range. With a rare combination of size and length at the position, Hamilton’s athleticism, fluidity, smarts and instincts allow him to make plays all over the field against the run and pass.

GRADE: A+

15. Houston Texans: Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M

Green started at right guard in 2019, left guard in ’20 and then made starts at all offensive line positions except center in ’21. Green is ideally suited to play guard, although his added versatility is a plus. Improved hand usage will help cut down on holding penalties, but the former five-star recruit has a powerful lower half, outstanding length and is at his best in the run game. Green was my 30th-ranked prospect, so this is a bit of a reach here.

GRADE: C

16. Washington Commanders: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State

The Commanders had only one receiver (Terry McLaurin) with 400-plus yards last season and will benefit from adding a talented receiver like Dotson. Creating separation with his nuanced route-running and quickness, Dotson has outstanding hands and is elusive in the open field even though he won’t break a lot of tackles. Dotson adds value as a punt returner and finished his final season at Penn State with 91 catches for 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns. Dotson was 28th-ranked player overall.

GRADE: C

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College

The Chargers hit with last year’s first-round pick (Rashawn Slater) and continue to boost their protection for Justin Herbert with Johnson. Johnson is smart and polished, plays under control and with good balance. Including his two seasons at Davidson, Johnson has double-digit starts at three different positions—left guard, right tackle and left tackle—and took reps at center during Senior Bowl week. While he can handle a spot start at tackle if necessary, he’s ideally suited to the play guard for the Chargers.

GRADE: B

18. Tennessee Titans: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

After trading A.J. Brown to the Eagles, the Titans replace him with a big, physical wide receiver. Burks plays faster than his timed speed with the acceleration to run away from defenders. Due to his physicality, run-after-catch prowess and how the Razorbacks varied his alignments, it’s easy to see how the Titans could use Burks similarly to how the 49ers use Deebo Samuel. Burks finished 2021 with 66 receptions for 1,104 yards, 14 carries for 112 yards and a total of 12 touchdowns. Burks is the sixth receiver off the board and my fourth-ranked receiver.

GRADE: B

19. New Orleans Saints: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

The Saints fill their need at left tackle now that Terron Armstead is in Miami. Penning plays to the echo of the whistle and has the tenacity and nasty demeanor that will endear him to New Orleans’s coaches. He has prototypical size and length, outstanding strength and athletic feet. Plus, he has primarily started at left tackle (31 of 33 starts).

GRADE: B+

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Kenny Pickett

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

While the Steelers won’t need to start Pickett right away after signing Mitchell Trubisky, he gets to continue playing his home games at Heinz Field, where he started for Pitt. He is a four-year starter who broke Deshaun Watson’s ACC record for most passing touchdowns (42) in a season while cutting down on interceptions (seven) in 2021. Per PFF, 25 of those touchdown passes were against the blitz. He has good (not elite) arm strength and mobility, moves quickly through his progressions and is accurate to all three levels.

GRADE: B-

21. Kansas City Chiefs: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

The Chiefs lost Charvarius Ward and Mike Hughes in free agency, so McDuffie will help address that need in their secondary. Although he has just average size and lacks length (sub-30″ arms), he’s aggressive and physical in run support and limits yards after the catch. He has outstanding short-area quickness, fluid hips and is rarely out of position. McDuffie is at his best in zone coverage, but he’s scheme-diverse and has the versatility to play outside, in the slot and even some safety. He is my 16th-ranked prospect.

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