The 2022 NFL Draft was a boon to a handful of teams' Super Bowl chances, whereas others did little but tread water or even moved backward over the course of the offseason when factoring in opportunity cost or trading away high-impact players.
Here are the biggest winners of the 2022 NFL Draft:
- Best pick: Round 3 (83), LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia
- Biggest reach: Round 6 (181), EDGE Kyron Johnson, Kansas (-106 vs. PFF Big Board)
If you factor in the A.J. Brown trade, which seems like a very fair thing to do given when it happened, the Eagles absolutely nailed this draft. Brown is likely a better receiver than anybody in this class, and they were able to secure him for a mid-first-round pick. They can afford to pay him his new contract because the rest of that receiver room is on very modest rookie contracts. Brown not only provides Philadelphia with the dominant No. 1 receiver it was missing but also complements DeVonta Smith perfectly from a skill set point of view.
Jordan Davis has sky-high potential and joins a defensive line with the talent to allow him to rotate and maximize his impact. He also meshes perfectly with an undersized linebacker crew that needs all the protection upfront it can get. Cam Jurgens gives the team a succession plan to Jason Kelce without needing him to play right away, and Dean in the third round is one of the steals of the draft.
Dean slipped reportedly due to medical concerns, but his size and lack of a 40 time in the pre-draft process can’t have helped. Turn on the tape of Georgia’s defense, however, and you will see him look like the best player on a defense loaded with first-round talent. He will still have big bodies like Davis keeping him clean, and his ability to read and diagnose plays is second to none. If the ex-Bulldog is healthy, this is the best value in the draft.
- Best pick: Round 1 (10), WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
- Biggest reach: Round 4 (117), EDGE Micheal Clemons, Texas A&M (-54 vs. PFF Big Board)
The Jets had the kind of first round that can transform a franchise. With two picks in the top 10, they were always likely to be well-positioned, but the board also fell in an advantageous way, allowing them to get the No. 1 cornerback and receiver on their board, Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and Wilson.
Gardner didn’t allow a single touchdown in college, and he allowed a lower passer rating in coverage than what comes of simply throwing the ball at the turf on every play. He is labeled as a press-man corner because of his unusual length and body type, but he might be better in zone and fits perfectly within Robert Saleh’s system.
Wilson may not have elite traits in any area but is very good in all of them. That leads many to believe his ceiling isn’t that high, but his skill set can still turn him into an elite NFL player.
The team was reportedly very high on Jermaine Johnson II and considered drafting him with one of its first-round selections. Though that would have been seen as a reach relative to PFF’s big board and his college production, to capitalize on him sliding a little and trading back into the round to secure him at No. 26 overall gives the team three players all consistently mocked to them inside the top-10 pre-draft.
Lower down, the Jets made a move to draft Breece Hall, a workhorse running back who should upgrade that position in a big way, even if the value is in question. Max Mitchell is a really technically sound offensive lineman battling physical limitations at the next level. This was an excellent draft that could propel the Jets a long way forward.
- Best pick: Round 3 (74), QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
- Biggest reach: Round 6 (213), TE John FitzPatrick, Georgia (Not ranked on PFF Big Board)
The Falcons had a phenomenal draft from start to finish. They were could have taken a quarterback in the first round, which in hindsight seems like madness, but they took the top receiver on their board in Drake London instead. London has some question marks about speed but is a contested-catch monster, leading the nation in that category with 19 despite playing in just eight games in 2021. He isn’t just great at the catch point but is spectacular at reading and tracking the flight of the ball, making adjustments to put himself in position to win as well as just dominating physically only when the ball arrives. He will add an interesting mix of skills alongside 2021 first-rounder Kyle Pitts and the rest of that offense.
Arnold Ebiketie on the edge and Troy Anderson at linebacker represent legitimate athletes and very productive college players to help a defense badly in need of an overhaul. Getting Ridder in the third round knocks the value out of the park. Ridder may be the most NFL-ready of the quarterback draft class, and he has a chance to showcase from the bench that he can take over from Marcus Mariota in a year’s time and be part of the future in Atlanta.
PFF really liked almost all of Atlanta's 2022 NFL Draft picks, with only FitzPatrick seen as any kind of reach relative to the big board.
- Best pick: Round 3 (76), DI Travis Jones, Connecticut
- Biggest reach: Round 4 (130), P Jordan Stout, Penn State (-203 vs. the PFF Big Board)
The Ravens just do this better than most teams. One of the shrewdest and most data-driven franchises in the NFL, Baltimore came out of the first round with two players of positions with limited value — safety Kyle Hamilton and center Tyler Linderbaum — which seems counterintuitive until you factor in the precise spot each was selected at. Hamilton was being talked about as a potential top-five player until average 40 times poisoned his standing, and Linderbaum is the best center prospect to enter the league in a decade — a player who could easily be good enough to change the dynamics of his position's value.
Baltimore also pounced on the fall of edge rusher David Ojabo, a first-round talent who slid into the second after unfortunately blowing out his Achilles during his pro day. Jones is one of the best value picks of the draft and goes to a team with a better track record than anybody at maximizing Travis Jones-shaped defensive linemen. The Ravens will also hope to recreate their success of developing Orlando Brown Jr. with the similarly gargantuan Daniel Faalele. The only real quibble with this draft was how high they took a punter. Even that pick still netted them the best-graded player at his position in the nation in 2021.
- Best pick: Round 2 (54), WR Skyy Moore, Western Michigan
- Biggest reach: Round 7 (259), S Nazeeh Johnson, Marshall (Not ranked on PFF Big Board)
The Chiefs looked like they were using the PFF Big Board to draft, picking players at a lower spot than their rank on the board for seven of their first eight selections. Some of those picks were massive values by that measure.
Kansas City chose to wait on a wide receiver despite a major need at the position having traded away Tyreek Hill. The team was rewarded for that patience with Moore, a massively underrated receiver who could be a stud in this offense. Moore has better tape and was a higher-ranked prospect than Jahan Dotson, who went No. 16 overall in the first round.
The Chiefs kept hitting major bargains all the way down, with linebacker Leo Chenal too much value to pass up in the third round despite the team having no real need at linebacker. They then selected Darian Kinnard, who could potentially push to start for them, in the fifth round. Kansas City had some work to do in this draft, and the front office secured a bevy of value selections.
- Best pick: Round 3 (94), QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss
- Biggest reach: Round 6 (200), T Cade Mays, Tennessee (-31 vs. the PFF Big Board)
Sometimes, the draft is about getting yourself out of the hole you dug beforehand, and the Panthers were in the unfortunate position of having no picks between No. 6 and No. 137 overall despite a desperate need at quarterback and no player worthy of that first selection. They chose to roll the dice, eschewing passer with the sixth pick and taking Ikem Ekwonu instead, a tackle atop many draft boards who was in the running to be drafted No. 1 overall at one point.
From that point, all the Panthers could do was wait and hope they had a chance at a quarterback in a year when the class won't be coveted by the rest of the league. Late in the third round, they eventually decided they were in range to trade up and grab Corral, who had been expected to go in the second round or even sneak into the bottom of Round 1.
Corral has a lot of questions about his game — his college offense ran RPOs on upward of 40% of his dropbacks — but in the third round, he provides a legitimate alternative to Sam Darnold. And Carolina didn’t have to use its only significant asset at the top of the draft to get him.
Later on, the team added some legitimate athletes with upside, but this draft is about the first two picks. Whether by luck or by design, the Panthers were able to come out of this draft with an elite player at No. 6 overall and a quarterback with starting potential. That’s not something that seemed possible heading into the event.