NFL draft biggest questions from Round 1

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Things certainly got interesting in a hurry on Thursday night during Round 1 of the 2022 NFL draft. We saw five defenders off the board to kick off the draft, starting with Georgia’s Travon Walker to the Jaguars. Then came a run on offensive tackles, followed by a run on wide receivers. And we waited until pick No. 20 for the first — and only — quarterback, with the Steelers taking Pitt’s Kenny Pickett. But the story of Day 1 was probably the trades, trades and more trades — including a few for big-name NFL receivers. In all, there were nine trades in on Thursday night.

Some teams aced their picks and their moves up or down the board. A bunch of teams with multiple picks improved their rosters. But as always, there were some confusing selections too. Who had the Patriots taking Chattanooga’s Cole Strange?

So as the dust settles on an exciting opening night, let’s take a look at the biggest lingering questions from the first 32 picks of the draft and make some sense of what happened, including how teams with multiple first-round selections fared, which trades stand out and how the quarterbacks fit with their new teams. We also will take a quick look ahead to Rounds 2 and 3, which get underway Friday at 7 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN/ESPN App). Here’s our snap reaction to Day 1.

Who was the best pick of the night?

Todd McShay: Jermaine Johnson II, DE to the New York Jets. I’m amazed that the Jets managed to land three prospects whom I had 92-plus grades on. I thought Johnson might be a top-10 pick, so I absolutely love New York trading back into the first round to get him at No. 26. Johnson has a great first step, a strong motor and an arsenal of pass-rush moves. He’ll immediately help the Jets’ edge rush.

Matt Miller: Tyler Linderbaum, C to the Baltimore Ravens. It’s hard to pick between safety Kyle Hamilton and Linderbaum going to the Ravens, after they picked up an extra first-rounder by trading Marquise Brown to the Cardinals. But Linderbaum is an immediate starter at center and has the agility, toughness, instincts and high character to be a team captain. At pick No. 25, he’s potentially the steal of the draft.

Jordan Reid: Ikem Ekwonu, OT to the Carolina Panthers. They desperately needed offensive line help, and Ekwonu was seen as one of the top options in this year’s group — and the Panthers saw him slide all the way to them at No. 6. The former NC State blocker doesn’t have to move far, traveling right down the road from Raleigh to Charlotte, where he will be touted as the team’s starting left tackle from Day 1.

Which pick left you shaking your head?

McShay: Cole Strange, G to the New England Patriots. Yes, it was early. Strange was my No. 77 prospect, and the Patriots snagged him at No. 29. He is relentless and strong as a run-blocker, but he is often overaggressive and lunges. I’m sure Bill Belichick will turn him into an All-Pro, but the value was eyebrow-raising.

Miller: Kenny Pickett, QB to the Pittsburgh Steelers. I like Pickett, and I like the Steelers drafting a quarterback, but I don’t understand drafting Pickett over Malik Willis when they don’t need a quarterback to play right away. Willis’ upside, arm strength and mobility are the future of the NFL. Pickett’s accuracy and in-the-pocket play are what they already have in Mitch Trubisky.

Reid: Quay Walker, ILB to the Green Bay Packers. Linebacker was one area where the team didn’t have a pressing need, and the selection of Walker seemed premature. There were better players on the board at the time, and the Packers could have selected edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II or a wide receiver at No. 22 overall. Instead, they elected to stay with their philosophy of not taking a receiver on Day 1.

Which of the teams with multiple first-rounders did the best on Day 1?

McShay: New York Jets. I touched on it earlier, but man, the Jets did well on Thursday. Three high-level starters in cornerback Ahmad Gardner, receiver Garrett Wilson and, as mentioned, Johnson. And the Jets pick again at No. 38! New York played the board really well and can walk away confident it improved the roster in more than one way.



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Miller: Detroit Lions. I absolutely love what they did by being aggressive in the draft and trading up for receiver Jameson Williams (No. 12) after selecting defensive end Aidan Hutchinson at No. 2 overall. The Lions drafted building-block, blue-chip players at premium positions. And while Williams is recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee, as soon as he’s back on the field, he’ll be special.

Reid: New York Giants. Coming away with edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and offensive tackle Evan Neal was the best case scenario for GM Joe Schoen. New York was in need of improvement in the trenches, and both players will be Day 1 starters who completely change the outlook on both sides of the ball. It’s clear that the new regime wants to build the team from the inside-out.

Which team best addressed a glaring need — or needs?

McShay: Baltimore Ravens. They lost center Bradley Bozeman in free agency, but landing Linderbaum was the ideal solution. Linderbaum’s wrestling background shows in his on-field play — he is light on his feet and has strong hands. And he fits the Ravens’ run-heavy scheme. All that said, the Ravens probably created another need on Thursday to solve this one, though. Sending Brown to Arizona means Baltimore’s top receiver is now Rashod Bateman.

Miller: New York Giants. They came into the night with a chance to own the board at Nos. 5 and 7. And Schoen walked away with arguably the top players at two key positions of need: pass-rusher and offensive tackle. Both Thibodeaux and Neal were pegged as potential No. 1 overall picks earlier this year. Now they’re new teammates in New York.

Reid: New York Jets. They arguably had the best night of any team across the board. Adding three first-round picks in Gardner, Wilson and Johnson was an unforeseeable outcome entering Thursday. All three positions needed a boost, and each prospect was seen as a potential top-10 selection. But Johnson somehow tumbled all the way to the 27th overall selection and right into the lap of the Jets.

What was your favorite trade of the night?

McShay: Detroit Lions trading up for WR Jameson Williams. The Lions badly needed receiver help, and Williams is a burner with soft hands and elusiveness with the ball in his hands. Detroit started the night by getting my No. 1 overall prospect in Hutchinson, and then they were able to move way up from No. 32 to No. 12 without dealing an additional first-rounder. That’s fantastic work. And it’s a great landing spot for Williams, too. No need to rush him back from the torn ACL in his left knee. Sit back and wait, and get ready for big plays for years to come.

Miller: Philadelphia Eagles trading out for WR A.J. Brown. To get Brown — one of the premier wide receivers in the NFL and a perfect scheme fit for the Eagles — for a first- and third-round selection is amazing value for GM Howie Roseman and the Philadelphia offense. There wasn’t a player available at pick No. 18, Philadelphia’s second pick of the night, who will have the impact that Brown brings.

Reid: Baltimore Ravens trading up, then down, for C Tyler Linderbaum. General manager Eric Decosta worked the order of the draft just like he’s accustomed to doing. Getting Hamilton at No. 14 overall was great, but then acquiring the No. 23 overall selection and an extra fourth round pick from the Cardinals and turning it into Linderbaum (at No. 25) was savvy navigation of the board.

Which contender helped itself the most?

McShay: Kansas City Chiefs. They didn’t add a receiver, as many thought they might, but they did walk away with a pretty good haul. Trent McDuffie is probably the best tackling cornerback in the class, and he has the speed and recognition skills to take away top receivers. And then George Karlaftis will help the Chiefs’ edge rush, where the team needed a difference-maker. Karlaftis has a nasty bull rush, converting take-off speed to power with ease. Kansas City needed a big night, and I think it accomplished the goal.

Miller: Philadelphia Eagles. They made a surprising playoff push last year and have now loaded up with the best defensive tackle in the draft (Jordan Davis) to anchor the defense and somehow pulled off a trade for superstar wide receiver A.J. Brown. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has the supporting cast around him on the offense, and now the defense has a run-stuffer who has untapped pass-rush potential that could push them to the top of the NFC East.

Reid: Kansas City Chiefs. Being aggressive and trading up for McDuffie at No. 21 overall and then staying put at No. 30 to select Karlaftis solidified two areas of need. McDuffie is likely to remain on the outside, while Karlaftis is a natural power rusher who consistently generates pressure. In order to stay atop the NFC West, GM Brett Veach felt he needed to improve the roster defensively. And he did just that during the first round.

Which first-round receiver will have the best rookie season?

McShay: It has to be Chris Olave with the New Orleans Saints. He’s a smooth route runner who can take the top off the defense, and considering the Saints lacked a single 700-plus-yard receiver last season, he’s likely in line for a big role right out of the gate.

Miller: Drake London has a great situation in Atlanta with defenses focusing so much on tight end Kyle Pitts. His ability to dominate in the red zone while posting up smaller defensive backs makes him a huge Day 1 impact player. And with quarterback Marcus Mariota looking to remind folks why he was the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft, he will be looking London’s way often.



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Reid: Treylon Burks would be my pick, considering the volume of touches now available with A.J. Brown off to Philly. Burks steps into a situation where he will be forced to be the top option right away. Brown was seen as a comp for Burks, and now the rookie will be responsible for replacing the 2019 second-rounder’s production.

What is the best Day 2 fit for Malik Willis?

McShay: Seattle Seahawks. They pick at Nos. 40 and 41, so the draft capital is there. And while Seattle could ride with Drew Lock under center for a year, it needs another option. This wouldn’t exclude the Seahawks from drafting a quarterback next season if they end up with a high pick, but at this value, Willis to Seattle makes a lot of sense. He has a huge arm and a ton of mobility, which fits with what the Seahawks like to do on offense. Plus, there’s no need to rush him onto the field.

Miller: Tennessee Titans. They picked up the No. 35 pick as part of a trade with the Jets and have a situation where Willis can sit, learn and acclimate behind Ryan Tannehill for one season before the current starter is set to hit free agency. With Willis’ arm strength, running ability and high character, he fits as a future captain and leader in Tennessee.

Reid: Seattle Seahawks. With picks at Nos. 40 and 41, the Seahawks should consider moving up to acquire Willis. They already landed Charles Cross to satisfy their need at offensive tackle, and getting Willis in the second round would be a great start to the draft for GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll. Being in a run-centric offense like the one Seattle runs could help ease his transition and get him involved in the QB-designed run game, while also designing big-play passing concepts around his strong arm.

Besides Willis, who are you most shocked to see still on the board?

McShay: Nakobe Dean, ILB, Georgia. There was buzz that he might slide into Round 2, but he’s the clear best player available in my opinion. Dean was No. 19 on my board, while he is a little undersized at 5-foot-11 and 229 pounds, he is rangy, instinctive, versatile and relentless. He could be a true Day 2 steal.

Miller: Nakobe Dean, ILB, Georgia. The night went largely as expected, with 25 of my top 32 players getting drafted. But it is still a surprise that a team didn’t overlook the smaller stature of Dean and draft the leader of the Georgia defense. Yes, he is undersized and didn’t test in the pre-draft process because of an injury, but he’s a future starter in the league and will one day wear the “C” on his jersey.

Reid: Boye Mafe, OLB, Minnesota. Considering the explosiveness and pass-rushing prowess that he brings to the table, I thought he would be a late-first-round pick. That didn’t prove to be the case, but he likely won’t be waiting long on the second day of the draft. Mafe’s first-step quickness and ability to finish make him an appealing Day 2 option.

Make one prediction for Day 2.

McShay: Georgia receiver George Pickens will be the first wide receiver off the board. He adjusts to the ball in the air so well, and I love the way he tracks the deep ball. He missed most of last season with a torn ACL in his right knee, but he is healthy and ready to make a big impact in the NFL.

Miller: A run on quarterbacks will come early. With just one QB selected in the first round, teams will be lining up to select Willis, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, Ole Miss’ Matt Corral and UNC’s Sam Howell, with the franchise-quarterback expectations removed.

Reid: I think we will continue to see wide receivers go early and often. Pickens, Christian Watson (North Dakota State) and Skyy Moore (Western Michigan) are three pass-catchers who I expect to fly off of the board very quickly in the second round.

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