Welcome to PFF draft week! Just like you, we are excited to get back to football.
With just hours remaining until the start of the 2022 NFL Draft, I take my best pass at Round 1. I have three quarterbacks coming off the board in the first round: Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis and Sam Howell.
Please join us over on PFF’s YouTube channel before, during and after the draft for a complete analysis of every pick. Here we go!
This pick will likely be Aidan Hutchinson or Walker, but nothing would surprise me here. Hutchinson is the safe play, but Walker has felt like Trent Baalke’s play all along — Baalke loves great athletes and the potential for greatness. Walker has a little more of that than Hutchinson and is the likely choice.
2. Detroit Lions: EDGE AIDAN HUTCHINSON, MICHIGAN
If Hutchinson is there, they will draft the hustling Michigan product to stay home. However, quarterback, edge or cornerback would not surprise.
Malik Willis is the most gifted of the QBs, but he is far from ready to play despite his great upside. I could see the Lions loving Willis' playing style and hoping they could teach the rest while he develops. However, I could also see them loving Sam Howell just as much, and they might get him in the second round.
“Best player available” will be the buzzphrase for the entire Houston draft. Deshaun Watson is now with the Browns, and it sounds like Houston is committed to Davis Mills. So, the best players on the board are tackles, Kayvon Thibodeaux or one of the cornerbacks.
This is just a guess as to who the Texans have ranked the highest, but I will go with Neal. He has as much upside as any offensive lineman, and there aren’t a lot of human beings on earth built like him. The Texans have time to wait for the upside.
4. New York Jets: EDGE KAYVON THIBODEAUX, OREGON
Edge and corner are both possible. And I think they will wait for a wide receiver at 10. The San Francisco 49ers team Robert Saleh had success with was built around the defensive line. A great defensive line allows you to play a less risky brand of football in the secondary. Thibodeaux makes the most sense — I think there is a gap after the top three edge rushers, so the 6-foot-3, 254-pounder is the pick.
Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner would be a nice replacement for James Bradberry in Wink Martindale’s defense, but Joe Schoen would love to trade back and get more picks in his first draft. If he cannot, Cross fits perfectly.
People love maulers on the offensive line, but the NFL is all about pass protection. Cross has great feet and is a better pass protector than Evan Neal and Ikem Ekwonu. Kenyon Green might be even better than Cross, but Schoen will likely take the tackle who won’t get him booed.
The Panthers would also love to trade down. Otherwise, their next pick is in the fourth round.
The Panthers and coach Matt Rhule must feel trapped. They have to start winning games right away, and Pickett gives them the best chance to win in the short term. General manager Scott Fitterer may not feel as trapped, as this is just his second draft, but with no second-round picks, they almost have to take a QB here to have a chance next year.
Pickett will play in a division with Tampa’s sunshine and two domes, so his small hands will be less of a factor in December and January.
7. New York Giants (via CHI): CB AHMAD “SAUCE’ GARDNER, CINCINNATI
The Giants get their replacement for James Bradberry anyway.
I love the way Gardner jams receivers off the ball. In a league where quarterbacks get 2.5 seconds to throw, Gardner could get a QB to look away from his receiver with a good jam. He also has the Richard Sherman length at 6-foot-3 to discourage deep throws. That doesn’t leave many options for throwing at Gardner, which is why nobody did in college. He uses a lot of Darrelle Revis-type strategy with his play.
The Falcons aren’t going to win anything this year anyway, so if they have to wait a year on Williams, so be it. Matt Ryan goes off to Indianapolis, Marcus Mariota takes over for one year and then the Falcons address their QB needs next year.
Williams was the no-brainer best wideout in this class before his knee injury in the National Championship Game. He averaged 20 yards per catch on 78 receptions — that is sick.
The 6-foot-1 pass-catcher's unique speed will always create space for him on shorter throws. But he also knows how to run routes and can change speeds, get down in cuts with explosive intent after the catch, and his double moves stick out. Williams will help recruit QBs for 2023.
9. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN): T IKEM EKWONU, NORTH CAROLINA STATE
Ekwonu will be drafted in the top 10, but I have concerns with his pass-blocking skills. He is a nasty run-blocker and has real athletic skills (he ran a 4.95-second 40-yard dash). Still, playing tackle in the NFL is about pass protection, and I would rank Kenyon Green far ahead of Ekwonu in protection. I was surprised, given how strong he looks as a run-blocker, that he got bull-rushed as much as he did. Pete Carroll will want to run the ball more now that he is without Russell Wilson — Ickey feels like the Seattle tackle to me.
10. New York Jets (via SEA): WR DRAKE LONDON, USC
One of my favorite fits in the draft. London's ability to win at the catch point is dazzling. It is really hard to get open in the NFL, but London doesn’t have to get open — he will just catch it regardless of where Zach Wilson throws it.
If teams don’t double him as the X receiver, the Jets will just throw jump balls all day. And if they do double him, he will give everybody else one-on-one opportunities. The USC product has some wiggle to his routes and uses his 220 pounds to get off the ball and work inside when he wants to do it.
General manager Martin Mayhew and Ron Rivera got their QB in the Carson Wentz trade with the Colts and added $28 million in cap reduction. They need weapons, and Wilson is the most complete receiver left. He has some Cooper Kupp in-route wiggle that Chris Olave doesn’t have. He also uses multiple moves within the route to get separation. With the moves and the 4.38 speed, he is the most complete package at receiver this year.
The first pick of the Kwesi Adofo-Mensah-Kevin O’Connell era.
Stingley could be the choice of Seattle at No. 9, but he is two years removed from his best football as a freshman. He's played fewer than 600 total snaps the last two years, but you still see potential greatness in him. He was more physical than expected and is very comfortable in press-man. Stingley at No. 12 would be a steal.
13. Houston Texans (via CLV): DI DEVONTE WYATT, GEORGIA
Edge is always the easy pick, but I think Wyatt can change the game inside. At 6-foot-3 and 304 pounds with a great first step, he is so quick that he is almost impossible to cut off on zone running plays. He has a knack for turning his shoulders sideways and gaining the edge, and his acceleration once he gets that edge makes him incredibly difficult to block.
He's played around 400 snaps a season since 2019, but he tore it up when cut loose at the Senior Bowl. He corners like a sports car and freed linebackers for their blitzes at Georgia. I won’t be surprised if he gets 10-sack seasons in the NFL.
A hammer on the edge who would destroy any strong side runs if planted over the tight end. But the former Seminole also showed a nice one-armed stab and spin move.
Johnson transferred out of Georgia and had 14 sacks at FSU. He has 4.58 speed, but his 6-foot-5 frame and stride length make him look slower. He is not a twitchy guy, but he will work his way to 10 sacks per season and hammer the run at all times.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA): S KYLE HAMILTON, NOTRE DAME
The Eagles are doing backflips to get Hamilton here. His 4.59-second 40-yard dash knocks him down a bit, but his in-game range is something you would never question. I think that is why that time surprised people.
Hamilton's size will allow him to cover any tight end, but he also played man coverage on the slot receivers at Notre Dame. He never seemed to struggle in the slot, even against the smaller, quicker wideouts.
He must be careful with tackles to the head, which may be a height issue. It was tough for the QB to throw over or around him when he blitzed off the edge.
16. New Orleans Saints (via IND through PHI): G KENYON GREEN, TEXAS A&M
Green is 6-foot-4, 323 pounds and can play every position but center. His 5.24-second 40-yard dash didn't dazzle, but he has great feet and doesn’t separate on blocks. I think he could easily be the best lineman out of this draft. Plus, he has shown that he can displace people as a run-blocker — including Alabama’s defensive line.
He gets his hands wrapped around the rusher some, but that is rarely called in the NFL anymore. He can even stay on second-level blocks against linebackers. He is a perfect fit in New Orleans after the Saints lost Terron Armstead.
A smooth glider of a route-runner who broke only nine tackles in his career. He plays slight but can run behind any defense and is especially good at the deep overs. He isn't one of those feisty receivers who battles for yards after the catch; he is just smooth and pretty, and the minute you focus on somebody else, he is standing in the end zone with the ball. The chargers just keep adding weapons for QB Justin Herbert.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (via NO): DI JORDAN DAVIS, GEORGIA
Davis is 6-foot-6, 341 pounds, and an amazing athlete for someone so large. He runs a 4.78-second 40, and his biggest limitation is that he will only play on first and second down.
Still, this is a league of light boxes. And when you have that, you need to be able to stop the run on early downs with a big defensive lineman so you can add a defensive back in coverage. Davis is a unique talent inside who is still athletic enough to add some pressure on early downs. His lateral steps make blockers whiff. He is a bull-rusher and run-stuffer you will never regret having on your team.
19. New Orleans Saints (via PHI): S JALEN PITRE, BAYLOR
It's hard to explain everything he does, but he's a 4.46 guy who throws his body around, whether rushing the QB, playing in the box or lining up deep. He is just relentless with his effort.
Troy Polamalu had to be his favorite player. If he has one flaw, he can sometimes be too aggressive trying to make plays. I would take him on my team all day.
This is too good to be true for both Pittsburgh and Malik Willis.
The Liberty passer has an incredibly strong arm and is a great runner who broke 146 tackles in his career. He will learn to read defenses and throw the ball quicker — he averaged 3.3 seconds to throw in college — but his raw skills are as good as any QB currently playing in the league.
I think he can be fixed by limiting his reads to one side of the field in his first year. I watch him trying to survey the field, swinging his head left and right, but he sees little. Just focus on one or two reads and then grow into the look-off throws and grow. There is about a 35% chance that he could be a star, which may be enough.
Without J.C. Jackson or Stephon Gilmore, the Patriots need to target the cornerback position. McDuffie isn’t the fastest or the biggest at 5-foot-11 and 193 pounds, but he doesn’t miss tackles and is so violent and aggressive on receiver screens.
He can get a little “grabby” on routes and may need boxing gloves to train, but he is very quick with his change of direction. He is the third-best corner in this draft.
22. Green Bay Packers (via LV): WR SKYY MOORE, WESTERN MICHIGAN
It's a really tough call on receivers here. Jahan Dotson, Treylon Burks and Christian Watson are all possible and may be taken by the Packers at Pick No. 28. But Skyy Moore fits Aaron Rodgers: He is tough, has huge hands for a 5-foot-10 guy and plays like Julian Edelman after the catch. He just plays with an attitude the Packers need to put Green Bay and Rodgers over the top.
They get their slot here and pick up their outside receiver in a few picks.
Dotson carries a football with him everywhere he goes. He is one of the smartest receivers I have seen in a while. Armed with 4.43 speed and an incredible catch radius for a 5-foot-11 guy, he will read defenses like Larry Fitzgerald and give Kyler Murray somewhere to go on every play.
The Penn State pass-catcher is not a burner but played outside. Still, I would play him in the slot to help Murray with all the hot reads. Against OSU and Michigan, Penn State just kept feeding him the ball in the biggest moments.
Jerry Jones has watched him a lot. Burks is not a replacement for Amari Cooper, as he is a big body who ran a 4.55-second 40-yard dash, but he never got caught on big plays in the SEC. He is an X power receiver, and if you leave him one-on-one and give him a jump ball, he is likely to come down with it.
Booth is coming off core surgery, but he is the toughest of all these cornerbacks: He is 6-foot and 194 pounds but throws his body into people.
He goes for big hits and misses at an alarming rate, but it is violent when he does make contact. He is pretty cautious in coverage, but that fits the Bills, who need help after losing Levi Wallace in free agency and with Tre’Davious White coming off an ACL injury.
The 6-foot-7, 325-pounder right in front of Derrick Henry is a pleasant thought for Titans fans. Penning isn’t a great pass-blocker, as he just plays too high and is a little clumsy. But, playing inside at guard, he would get a chance to do what he does best — maul people.
He is not happy until he has humiliated his opponent and driven him into the ground. He adjusts well to stunts and loops. He has this way of pulling one shoulder down on blocks and pushing up on the other to pin guys. Mike Vrabel will love him.
Just the best player available. Lloyd isn't blazing fast, but he is just so smart and will be a great replacement for Lavonte David when needed. He is so good at so many things, but I love his pass rush the most. He does everything well and will lead this defense for a decade.
When you have Aaron Rodgers, you give him a chance. So, both first-round picks are spent on receivers.
Watson is big. He blocks and can really run at 4.36. He will be the replacement for Marquez Valdes-Scantling, but he will also be under tremendous pressure — he has a history of drops, and Rodgers is not the most patient guy.
But, if there is an inside-outside possibility at WR, Moore and Watson give Rodgers the chance of at least hitting on one.
29. Kansas City Chiefs (via SF through MIA): EDGE BOYE MAFE, MINNESOTA
The Chiefs need defense: edge rushers, safeties and cornerbacks. Like the Peyton Manning Colts team, it will always be a shootout, and so they need athletes on the edge.
Mafe runs a 4.53 and is a slithery pass-rusher. He can also sink inside if needed, although Chris Jones has that covered. Mafe has a nice one-armed stab move and is much better against the run than I thought. His handwork in the pass rush is pretty sophisticated, and he is stout enough to take on pullers in the run game. He is the best of what is left on the edge.
Elam is 6-foot-2 and 191 pounds and runs a 4.39. He is a good press player who looked like he was still recovering from his knee injury, which is likely why he committed too many penalties. His holding could be comical at times, but he looks like a pro, and my gut is that he will return to his second-year form — and that looked competitive with Gardner and Stingley.
The Jessie Bates III negotiations are stretching on, and the price of signing a safety is going up. Hill runs a 4.38, and all his quickness drills at the combine were top of the class. He has proven that he can play in the slot or deep. He is not afraid to hit, and with his versatility, he can play any role (including corner) if needed. His position versatility and protection with the Bates negotiations make him a solid pick for the AFC champs.
32. Detroit Lions (via LAR): QB SAM HOWELL, NORTH CAROLINA
If the Lions pass on Malik Willis at Pick No. 2 and get Sam Howell at Pick No. 32, this will have been one great draft for them. Both Howell and Willis are projects, but Howell brings that same tough running style with a big arm that Willis does. And at Pick 32, there is much less risk.
The North Carolina product will look like Tim Tebow to fans, but he is a better passer. He has quick feet in the run-pass option game. He will need to tighten up his motion, but he had a 68% completion percentage his first two years before that dropped to 61.5% last year without his top receivers.