Grading the Top Picks of the 2022 NFL Draft


John Locher

Here is the newest Detroit Lion, Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, and his reaction after being taken with the second overall pick in last week’s NFL draft in Las Vegas.

Chris Carr, Contributing Writer

This year’s draft was truly unlike any other draft that I had seen before. Many NFL fans believed that this draft would be boring without any surefire superstar talents or top-tier quarterbacks on the board, but I believe that was what made it exciting. This draft was extremely unpredictable, even at the number one overall pick, and very enjoyable for the fans to watch. We saw absolutely everything on draft night, from superstars trading cities, no quarterbacks taken until the 20th pick, and even an offensive lineman that was ranked just outside the top 100 players in the entire class by many experts taken in the first round. Now, without further ado, I give you my 2022 NFL Draft grades for the top ten picks. 


1. Jacksonville Jaguars: EDGE Travon Walker – Georgia – C

Coming in as the number one pick, Travon Walker already faces extremely high expectations from the fans in Jacksonville. Last year, the Jaguars were in the same exact position and came away with a former national championship quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, who looks to be a future superstar. Now, while this draft class was not as accomplished as past years, Walker was still one of the top players available. Unfortunately for Walker, he was part of an absolutely stacked Georgia Bulldog defense with 5 first round picks this year. Despite being the number one overall pick, Walker was not an extremely productive college player and wasn’t even the best on his own defense in college. For months, the number one pick seemed to be Aidan Hutchinson or an offensive lineman, however, with his amazing combine performance, Walker’s stock skyrocketed. Walker is an extremely versatile athlete but the Jaguars are banking on his potential, which is extremely risky. While this losing franchise does need to take risks, the number one pick is not the right time to do such a thing, and in my opinion they missed out on much better options. 


2. Detroit Lions: EDGE Aidan Hutchinson – Michigan – A+

Like I said earlier, there was no real slam dunk pick in this draft class, but if I had to pick one, it would be Aidan Hutchinson. Everyone is aware that Hutchinson is one of the best on the field, but what surprised me was how well he handled himself off the field. Hutchinson is a great locker room guy and after the draft, it was clear, Hutchinson was proud to be a lion and play for Dan Campbell while also remaining close to where he played in college, the University of Michigan. The Lions desperately need a defensive game-changer who will impact the quarterback, Hutchinson is that guy. He has terrific size and and nose for the quarterback at all time. While he is not extremely big or powerful, Hutchinson has an array of pass rushing moves in his bag off the edge and can produce in many different ways at the NFL level. I have no doubt in my mind that the best player in the draft will fit in perfectly in Detroit


3. Houston Texans: CB Derrick Stingley Jr. – LSU – A-

While this is an extremely hit-or-miss pick for the Texans, I appreciate their efforts. This franchise has almost nothing going for them, especially on defense. However, when healthy, Stingley Jr. is one of the best players in this draft. However, when Stingley is healthy and playing on the field is a rare sight. Many traditional NFL fans criticize teams for taking cornerbacks early, but in today’s NFL, they are much more valuable as they have to match up versus receivers that are more skilled than ever. Houston is starting by building up their secondary, a very smart move by GM Nick Caserio who is following his former New England Patriot ways. Their new head coach, Lovie Smith, is also a defensive specialist and Stingley will be a great scheme fit in Houston, if healthy. Overall, I like that this franchise is taking risks and don’t mind the pick at all even though there were a variety of better options left in my opinion.


4. New York Jets: CB Ahmad Gardner – Cincinnati – A-

Better known as “Sauce” Gardner in reference to his childhood playing days and athletic ability, I believe he was the best cornerback in this class by a great margin. The Jets desperately needed to build up the defense for head coach Robert Saleh, and Kayvon Thibodeaux or Gardner were two great options for the Jets to choose from. I believe they made the right decision. Gardner is a true lockdown corner, not even allowing a passing touchdown in college. He was so dominant at the college level that all fans are left to do is question why his ability won’t translate to the NFL. It’s very tough to pinpoint a reason as even though he played below average competition at Cincinnati, even Alabama head coach Nick Saban went away from him in the college football playoff game. I cannot wait to see Gardner pair with Bryce Hall on the outside to form a great young duo that will be in New York for years to come.


5. New York Giants: EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux – Oregon – A

Even since his high school playing days, Kayvon Thibodeaux has always been a highly-touted prospect, but that has caused many fans and scouts to overlook his abilities and try to tear him down from the top. Thibodaux is gifted with phenomenal physical traits and an NFL body. He is extremely NFL ready and will impact the quarterback immediately while drawing most of the attention from opposing offensive lines. Thibodeaux is powerful and athletic with a boatload of pass rushing moves, but he tends to win dur to his natural ability and freaky raw athleticism. My only knock on this pick is that the Giants could have realized that Carolina would likely take  an offensive lineman behind them and then the Giants could have attacked their offensive line need at this pick while waiting for Thibodeaux at their 7th pick. However, they got their guy and he will work opposite another young pass rusher in Azeez Ojuklari to form a dynamic and balanced pass-rushing duo in New York.


6. Carolina Panthers: OL Ikem Ekwonu – NC State – A

This was a complete slam dunk pick for the Panthers as they snag Ekwonu at 6, the top offensive lineman in the draft. While many around the league thought the Panthers might attack their need at quarterback, Ekwonu is a “can’t miss” type of prospect who will set up whoever their future quarterback is for success. Not only was he the best, but also the most versatile lineman at the top of the class as he was extremely capable at both guard and tackle spots during his time at NC State. Ekownu is a large and powerful force who simply bullies defensive lineman and it leads me to believe that with his size, that power will translate to NFL sized defenders. 


7. New York Giants: OT Evan Neal – Alabama – A+

The Giants did a fantastic job of shoring up the trenches on both sides of the ball with their two first round picks. Now with Neal, the Giants can protect Daniel Jones to see if he is the long-term answer at quarterback. Jones’s fifth year option was recently declined by the Giants, so he enters this year with lots of offensive weapons and an improved offensive line at his disposal. Jones has absolutely no excuses for his “prove it” 2022 season. Offensive line has been a lingering problem in the Giants organization for years now and it seems to always stay the same no matter who they draft. However, Neal is all about consistently, coming from his days as a 3 year starter at the nation’s most prestigious college football program, Alabama. Neal has prototypical size for a lineman, and my only knock on him is the awkward bend of his body at times, but once he grows more comfortable opposite recently drafted Andrew Thomas, this line will improve significantly


7. Atlanta Falcons: WR Drake London – USC – C

I don’t believe that the Falcons intended on leaving this draft with Frank Darby and Oladmide Zaccheaus remaining as their leading receivers. Instead, they attempted to fill their hole with Drake London, a bit of surprise pick. London came off the board earlier than most experts predicted, mostly because this year was stacked with loads of top-tier talent at the receiver position. London has great size at the receiver position, but it could potentially hold him back at the NFL level. London was great at contested catches in college, but the reason he had so many of them was due to his lack of separation. However, London can box out defenders on short routes and is very versatile, which is the reason I believe he will provide a nice safety blanket for Marcus Mariota while seeing tons of opportunity in an empty Atlanta offense. The Falcons had needs all over their roster, and it’s not a bad start with London here, but there were a few better options at the receiver position available.


8. Seattle Seahawks: OT Charles Cross – Mississippi State – B+

This pick came from the Denver Broncos as a part of the Russell Wilson trade. It seems like the Seahawks are in full rebuild mode and building up their interior is by no means a bad start. It looks like Pete Carrol is rolling with Drew Lock at the quarterback position, which I don’t mind as this years’ QB class was not very talented. This offensive line has been atrocious in Seattle for years, and protecting Lock is vital. In a loaded offensive lineman group, Cross is another powerful blocker  with a terrific combination of agility, strength, and power. Overall, I would have hoped for better or more exciting outcomes at the start of the Seahawks rebuild, but this is a solid pick at a position of need that is necessary for their team’s success. 


9. New York Jets: WR Garrett Wilson – Ohio State – A+

In my opinion, the Jets grabbed the best receiver on the board in Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson, and this was another successful pick in the top 10 by a New York team. The Jets attacked both sides of the ball on the outside with talented skill position players in their first two picks. The addition of Garrett Wilson here will help GM Joe Douglas decide if recently drafted Zach Wilson is there quarterback of the future. The Jets have surrounded him with a plethora of young weapons and a solid o-line, the rest depends on Zach Wilson’s development. Garret Wilson is a do-it-all type of receiver who screams with WR1 potential. He fills a hole at a desperate position of need and the Jets get their guy at pick 10, who was also in their considerations at the 4th overall pick.