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Grading the 2022 NFL draft class by position

Glendale, AZ, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back Breece Hall (28) against the Oregon Ducks in the Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

NFL free agency is winding to a close, so all attention turns to the 2022 NFL Draft, which is the last meaningful chance for teams to address holes in the roster before the new season gears up.

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Many of the moves that were already made during this crazy NFL offseason have seemed like a reflection of how teams view the upcoming draft class. While quarterbacks went with the first three selections a year ago, people are debating whether any belongs in the top 10 this year.

PFF’s big board provides a detailed breakdown of the top prospects in this draft, and the draft guide will give even more insight. For now, here is a quick view of the draft class' strengths and weaknesses as a whole, broken down by position.

QUARTERBACK | POSITION GROUP GRADE: C-

It’s not a strong quarterback class, and that lack of quality is present all the way down the list of prospects — not just limited to the top. At one point last season, there were discussions that five quarterbacks could be off the board with the first six selections. Ultimately, they all went by pick No. 15. This year, there’s debate about whether any of them belongs in the first 10 selections.

There is no sure thing at the position, and even upside seems vaguely limited, as Liberty’s Malik Willis obviously displays the kind of mouth-watering tools that get teams to lose grip on rationality when it comes to draft time.  

While it might not be a great year for quarterbacks, it’s not a disastrous one, either. Teams might not be in love with the idea of any of these players at the very top of the draft, but neither are they looking at the group and saying none belong in the first round, as they did back in 2013. 

Drafting and developing quarterbacks is still far more art than science, and inevitably one or two of these players will end up working out at the next level, making a lot of pre-draft analysis look foolish. All we can do at this point though is evaluate them as they sit, which is shy of last year’s group. If your team needs a new starter in the draft (Carolina, Seattle…), you will be feeling very nervous about the selection.

RUNNING BACK | POSITION GROUP GRADE: C

For some reason the top backs in this class — Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III and Iowa State’s Breece Hall — aren’t being talked about in the same light as the top backs from last year’s draft class, but it’s not immediately obvious why that’s the case. Both Walker and Hall have impressive tape and statistics to back it up. Walker led the nation with 89 broken tackles in 2021 while Hall has scored at least 20 touchdowns in each of the last two seasons.

Both players showed they possessed elite athleticism at the combine — something that had been doubted by some — leaving very little reason for them not to be seen as first-round talents relative to players such as Najee Harris from last year.

After the top players, there is a notable drop off at the position, however, as just four running backs in total rank inside the top-100 players on PFF’s big board, which is usually more kind to the position than the draft consensus.

There are a lot of productive players with various question marks available in the mid-rounds and given everything we know about how running back production functions at the NFL level, many of those players are likely to make an impact in the league.

WIDE RECEIVER | POSITION GROUP GRADE: A-

Perhaps the only criticism of this year’s receiver draft class is that it doesn't have a superstar prospect. A season ago, Ja’Marr Chase was the fifth overall pick to the Cincinnati Bengals, and he set the league on fire during his rookie campaign. Chase was a prospect with virtually no flaws, and the reason you know that is because the “negative” side of his analysis was generally couched in vague terms of things he wasn’t necessarily ‘special’ at. 

This year’s group doesn’t have a Chase in it, but the depth is incredibly strong, and there are going to be impact players throughout the early rounds of the draft.

USC's Drake London from USC, Ohio State's Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, and Alabama's Jameson Williams represent the top players on most draft boards, and they also a diverse collection of styles. London is a big-bodied receiver who moves incredible well for his size. He can be a high-volume receiver as well as a contested-catch guy. Wilson and Olave are both elite route runners who specialize in creating separation for their quarterback. Williams is the premier deep threat in the draft but is coming off a torn ACL.

Beyond those players, there are still receivers who have elite potential such as Treylon Burks from Arkansas, George Pickens from Georgia, Skyy Moore from Western Michigan and Christian Watson from North Dakota State. The current trend of elite receiver classes entering the NFL doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon, and it’s another excellent year to need receiver help.

TIGHT END | POSITION GROUP GRADE: C

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