2022 NFL Draft Day Surprises

Chris Sanzo examines his biggest surprises coming out of the NFL Draft.

The 2022 NFL Draft is in the books, and not only did it live up to the hype, but it easily surpassed any expectations. This draft was a race you watched because you wanted a crash and instead, it devolved into a demolition derby. In the first two days alone, more than 20 trades were completed, including some star power on the move. There were massive reaches, missing persons reports for the majority of the QBs, and a sophomore class of quarterbacks that were left scratching their heads.

 

The Rise of Kenny Pickett and the Fall of Malik Willis

 

Quarterback is typically regarded as the most important position in sports, yet despite having immediate and glaring needs under center, most teams simply chose to pass, unlike their future game plans. The Detroit Lions will play out the string on Jared Goff‘s contract and the Indianapolis Colts do not yet have anyone in place for when Matt Ryan‘s arm falls off. Teams in similar situations like the Saints and Seahawks, and fringe teams like the Eagles, Giants, and Texans all decided they had better options in-house. Good luck with that.

Kenny Pickett‘s ascension is not the shocker of the draft, but it was shocking that he became the only QB drafted within the first two rounds when Pittsburgh selected him at 20th overall.  The Steelers were most commonly linked to Malik Willis, it was just left to be seen if he would be available to them.

 

 

Willis is this class’ Konami Code and the name that every fan of a QB needy team wanted to hear called to the podium. Adhering to the theme of the 2022 draft, he suffered the largest drop in value. Entering the day, it was still possible he was Detroit’s choice at two. It was practically guaranteed he wouldn’t make it past Pittsburgh at 20. Surely, after Detroit was forced to take Aidan Hutchinson once the Jaguars selected Travon Walker, this would be Detroit’s chance to either draft him at pick 32 or “get their guy” and move up in the 1st to do so. Under no circumstances would he be a third-round pick.

So of course, when that exact thing happened, it was easier to accept that he wasn’t even the first quarterback taken in the round. Desmond Ridder would have that honor at pick 74 to Atlanta, 12 picks ahead of Willis who would wind up in Tennessee alongside first-round WR Treylon Burks.

 

 

Rounding out the possible starters, Matt Corral was drafted by Carolina where he’ll have to beat out Sam Darnold for the starting job; so now we know at least one of these guys will be starting. Sam Howell, the highest-graded of the class per PFF, was left on the bench until the 5th round at pick 144 when the Commanders chose him to be the heir apparent to Carson Wentz. Possibly. With all the quarterbacks failing to secure proper draft capital, they are going to be forced to beat out veterans with large contracts and will need to do so quickly and decisively.

 

 

Sophomore QBs Get Very Little Help

 

It wasn’t just quarterbacks that toppled down the board. There was top 100 talent readily available throughout the entire draft, and some teams even did their best work in the UDFA pool. The 49ers drafted arguably a bottom ten class after addressing positions of little need in DE, WR, and RB. It seemed John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan were becoming willingly negligent in terms of protecting Trey Lance. That is until they drafted Spencer Burford out of UTSA, a project tackle that will need to transition to guard. Inspiring stuff.

Luckily for them, Dohnovan West, the 80th ranked player on the PFF Big Board and a third-round prospect, was overlooked by every NFL team. They also signed Jason Poe, a fifth-round prospect and 163 on the Big Board. If Trey Lance wants to play a full season, he should start watching tape on “Scrambling” Fran Tarkenton.

The Chicago Bears were without a first-round pick and yet chose to address defensive needs with their first two picks and then with Velus Jones Jr. in the third, who may be older than the Bears GM, Ryan Poles. Chicago finally started addressing the offensive line in the fifth round and ended on a quantity over quality approach.

The Patriots drafted third-round guard prospect Cole Strange at pick 29 and third-round flier Tyquan Thornton at 50. Strange earned a near-perfect RAS score that puts him comfortably in the top 10 of all linemen ever to be graded by this metric and Thornton scored the fastest 40 of all WRs. While these picks may represent a shift in New England’s philosophy, Mac Jones should not have to rely on day three prospects.

Jacksonville did almost nothing to support Trevor Lawrence, taking a single offensive lineman, Luke Fortner from Kentucky, in the third round.

The teams offering the most support for their new franchise quarterbacks were the Jets and the Texans, one of which wasn’t even guaranteed to keep their current QB, Davis Mills.

 

NFC Contenders Don’t Make Waves

 

Despite all the wild picks and fun trades like AJ Brown going to the Eagles, the most shocking development was the lack of urgency by any top contender to bring in immediate difference-makers in a wide-open NFC. Green Bay may still make a play for DK Metcalf or a similar player, but Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs somehow became an elite haul by comparison.

San Francisco drafted depth or project pieces and has zero projected starters from their draft class.

Dallas likewise drafted projects after losing La’el Collins, Connor Williams, and Randy Gregory. Sam Williams is a one-dimensional pass rusher with promise and a mean streak which can also be said of new rookie lineman Tyler Smith, a now-former left tackle that has no idea how to pass protect.

The NFC has a strong possibility of being another showdown between Tom Brady and Matt Stafford and it’s as if the rest of the NFC just shrugged its shoulders collectively in acceptance.

 

 

Featured image by Shawn Palmer (@Palmerdesigns_ on Twitter)

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