The 2022 NFL draft is finally over after three days of surprise picks, shocking developments, and a slew of trades. The draft, like free agency, can give every fan base the opportunity to dream big and aspire for improved results for the upcoming season by adding new talent to their favourite team. But if they were to maintain that favourite status they would need to play their cards right here. That being said, not every team makes the most of its opportunity, leaving fans and observers scratching their heads dumbfounded by their decisions. Other franchises, on the other hand, surprise everyone with unexpected stellar signings, nailing their draft class with a fantastic blend of maximising player value and meeting their most pressing needs with rookie talent. This draft was no exception to that rule with sides falling well short of their lofty ambitions and others hitting the proverbial jackpot. So who seized opportunity and who squandered it?
The Eagles, Ravens and Jets all flying high
The 2022 NFL Draft will go down as one of the strangest and most unpredictable drafts in recent memory. There were teams who put dents in their Super Bowl dreams before they got off the ground and others that took significant strides to getting hold of the Vince Lombardi trophy. No more than 12 hours after the LA Rams were crowned Super Bowl champions were Buffalo Bills and Kansas City named as the two frontrunners for next year’s title according to these betting sites. This draft was one of the first times in the last few years that nobody knew who would be selected first overall until the day of the draft. Some teams benefited from allowing the draft to come to them and are in much better positions, three such teams being the Eagles, Ravens and Jets.
The Baltimore Ravens are always one of the most consistent and well-run offices in the NFL. GM Eric DeCosta continues to prove himself worthy of the torch passed to him by the legendary Ozzie Newsome, reloading his roster with tons of talent and value on both sides of the ball. The Ravens are known for drafting the best player available regardless of need, and it typically proves to be beneficial for them, and they kept the same philosophy with this draft. Baltimore’s first pick was Notre Dame Safety Kyle Hamilton, who a month ago was projected to be a top-five pick. Baltimore added a ton of value with nearly every pick, getting a steal in Iowa’s center Tyler Linderbaum at 25th overall, as well as their next two draft picks being first-round worthy in Michigan edge David Ojabo and UCONN’s defensive lineman Travis Jones.
After a disappointing campaign in 2021, the Jets look primed to improve off the back of a great 2022 draft. Joe Douglas entered the draft with two top ten picks and managed to leave with three of the top eight players on many expert’s boards, taking advantage of the sudden fall of Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson. The trio of first-rounders, which also included wide receiver Garrett Wilson and cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, was a strong start to a draft that also saw the Jets add running back Breece Hall. Those could all become quality starters, making this an excellent draft for Gang Green.
The Philadelphia Eagles had their pick of the litter with three first-round picks. After trading with the Saints, it dropped down to two by gaining a first-round pick next season. They took one of the best prospects in defensive lineman Jordan Davis out of the University of Georgia and then pulled off a shock by trading out of pick 18 for superstar wide receiver AJ Brown from the Titans. The trade was by far the biggest splash of the draft, giving Jalen Hurts a top-tier receiver. Philadelphia proceeded to have a great draft, selecting Cam Jurgens out of Nebraska and taking the first-round talent Nakobe Dean in the third round, fixing a desperate need at linebacker.
Only time will tell whether these picks will pay off but the early indication is that these three are going to pose a real threat in 2022.
The Patriots’ confusing draft
There were plenty of early contenders for the most controversial picks of the draft. The Washington Commanders’ trade that saw them miss out on both Chris Olave and Jameson Williams, when in desperate need of help at wideout drew many questions. The Arizona Cardinals trading their first-round pick for Marquise Brown and the 100th overall pick was seen as an overpay. But top of the list for teams that missed out must be the New England Patriots.
Easily the most confusing pick of the first round was Cole Strange who was almost nailed on the go on Day 2 at the earliest but ended up being taken 29th overall. It was followed up with another odd choice in Tyquan Thornton who was expected to go on Day 3.
Analyst Matt Bowen was particularly perplexed saying: “WR Tyquan Thornton to the Patriots at No. 50. Thornton has the vertical juice to stretch defenses down the field and the foot quickness to create route separation. But given the wide receiver talent on the board at No. 50 — including George Pickens, Alec Pierce and Skyy Moore — I felt the Patriots reached a little here to draft Thornton.”
Despite having nine selections in total they failed to address the key issue of an off-ball linebacker come the end of proceedings, a decision that will surely leave them short-changed in the season to come. New England has previous in the draft of finding value in players that no one else can, squeezing the coal and forming a diamond but even for them, this will be difficult. The odds are not in their favour and they will surely struggle to claim their record-breaking seventh Super Bowl crown in 2023.