NFL Draft 2022: Instant grades for every first round pick

After months of speculation and postulation, it’s all come down to this. The first round of the NFL Draft is taking place on Thursday night, and we’re here to break down every pick as they happen, as well as grade each selection as it comes in from Las Vegas.

A deep, talent-rich draft, the 2022 class is lacking the top-end talent (particularly at quarterback) that normally shapes the class. This is a line-deep group of prospects who might not seem sexy on draft night, but could shape the NFL for years to come. So let’s dive in.

No. 1: Jacksonville Jaguars: Travon Walker, EDGE — Georgia

I like the player, I don’t like the pick. Personally, I’m extremely excited to see Walker in the NFL and witness whether his phenomenal athletic ability translates into a perennial All Pro career, but this was a huge risk. The Jaguars just took a guy with 9.5 career sacks with the No. 1 overall pick, and they’re not in a position to whiff on this if they’re trying to build sustained success. I certainly hope this all works out for both Jacksonville, and NFL fans — because Walker being legit would be amazing, but there’s a huge chance he flames out as well.
Grade: C

No. 2: Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE — Michigan

This was a no-brainer, despite some late smokescreen about Kayvon Thibodeaux. Hutchinson stays in Michigan, and this was an extremely simple decision for them. The Lions need reliable pass rush, and get the most-reliable lock defensive end in this draft. Hutchinson might not have the ludicrous ceiling of Travon Walker or Thibodeaux, but he’s going to be a 10+ year force and anchor Dan Campbell’s pass rush. The Jaguars’ mistake is Detroit’s gain.
Grade: A+

No. 3: Houston Texans: Derek Stingley Jr., CB — LSU

There was really a tossup between Stingley Jr. and Sauce Gardner for best cornerback in this draft, but it seems Houston wasn’t scared off because of Stingley’s injury. For a long time the LSU cornerback was seen as the top defensive back in this class, and the rise of Gardner overtook him. A classic, ideally-framed CB, Lovie Smith seems to have gone with football IQ over athletic potential, which was really the difference here.
Grade: B

No. 4: New York Jets: Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner, CB — Cincinnati

I think Sauce Gardner will be the best cornerback from this draft when the dust settles. He’s got phenomenal size, great instincts, and let’s face it — he never allowed a touchdown in college. There are some discipline issues with how he plays, as he likes to grab and give up some dumb penalties from time to time, but that’s not a concern for me. We’re talking about a guy with Darrelle Revis skills in Richard Sherman’s body. I love it.
Grade: A

No. 5: New York Giants: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE — Oregon

This one is a huge surprise. It’s not that I didn’t think the Giants would want Thibodeaux, it’s that they took him with the No. 5 pick. One has to wonder if they were afraid Carolina would trade their pick, so they made the jump now — and they’re happy with another offensive tackle at No. 7. There have been questions about Thibodeaux’s drive, but all that is stupid. The guy is a monster, he can play a variety of positions on the field, and some believe this was the best player in the draft … period. That said, I don’t love not taking Ikem Ekwonu here, who seemed like a natural pick.
Grade: B+

No. 6: Carolina Panthers

No. 7: New York Giants

No. 8: Atlanta Falcons

No. 9: Seattle Seahawks

No. 10: New York Jets

No. 11: Washington Commanders

No. 12: Minnesota Vikings

No. 13: Houston Texans

No. 14: Baltimore Ravens

No. 15: Philadelphia Eagles

No. 16: New Orleans Saints

No. 17: Los Angeles Chargers

No. 18: Philadelphia Eagles

No. 19: New Orleans Saints

No. 20: Pittsburgh Steelers

No. 21: New England Patriots

No. 22: Green Bay Packers

No. 23: Arizona Cardinals

No. 24: Dallas Cowboys

No. 25: Buffalo Bills

No. 26: Tennessee Titans

No. 27: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

No. 28: Green Bay Packers

No. 29: Kansas City Chiefs

No. 30: Kansas City Chiefs

No. 31: Cincinnati Bengals

No. 32: Detroit Lions

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