The Jacksonville Jaguars entered the 2022 NFL draft with a risky, counterintuitive pick that could sink the franchise to the bottom of the standings for years if it fails.
In other words, it was the typical start to a typically unpredictable first round.
The Jaguars selected Georgia running back Travon Walker with the first overall pick in the draft. Walker recorded just six sacks in the 2021 season for the college football playoff champions, but his 35.5-inch arms and outstanding results on athletic tests like the three-cone drill impressed scouts during the pre-draft process, which led the Jaguars to draft him. on better qualified and more successful prospects.
Walker may well have a great reservoir of long-range potential, though the Jaguars may not be the best franchise to take advantage of it. Until the team proves otherwise, if opponents protect their quarterbacks by hiding them behind cones or on top of a tall rack, the Jaguars are ready.
Walker’s selection set the tone for what became a big night for running backs, offensive linemen, cornerbacks and wide receivers, but very quiet for quarterbacks.
Michigan running back Aidan Hutchinson, who is increasingly less athletic than Walker but had 14 sacks in 2021, fell to the Detroit Lions with the second pick. The Lions later traded 12th overall to select Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams. Lions ultra-macho coach Dan Campbell couldn’t have been happier with the results of the first round if he’d dropped a nine-point dollar using nothing more than a determined frown.
Louisiana State cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. and Texas A&M shooting guard Kenyon Green were picked third and 15th overall by the Houston Texans, the closest a prospect can come to being stuck on the bottom rung of a multilevel marketing scheme.
The Jets and Giants, each with two top-10 picks, surprisingly got through the night without making any glaring and potentially catastrophic mistakes. The Jets selected Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner fourth and Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson 10th, then traded Florida State running back Jermaine Johnson II 26th overall. . The Giants selected Oregon running back Kayvon Thibodeaux fifth and Alabama shooting guard Evan Neal eighth.
Gardner is 6-foot-3, runs the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds and has a cool nickname, Willow, all three prerequisites of a top-tier NFL cornerback. Wilson blends raw speed with road racing that is two part Cooper Kupp and one part Bob Fosse. If Wilson needs three jukes to open, he takes three jukes, but some evaluators worry that when Wilson needs one juke to open, he takes three jukes. Johnson posted 11.5 sacks in 2021 after transferring from a Georgia program that produced five first-round picks on Thursday.
Thibodeaux was a consensus All-America selection in 2021 and one of the best defenders in the nation for three years. However, NFL gossips took an inexplicable dislike for him this offseason, causing him to fall below Walker and Hutchinson on the draft board. Justin Herbert, now a Pro Bowl quarterback for the Los Angeles Chargers, faced similar vague rumors when he left Oregon in 2020. It’s worth noting that NFL scouting departments are still full of men who think anyone that he chooses to play in the Pacific Northwest over Alabama or Texas must be a filthy hippie.
Neal is a typical top-tier offensive line prospect who looks and moves like a video game boss. He should be able to protect Daniel Jones from anything but himself.
Completing the top 10:
The Carolina Panthers selected North Carolina State tackle Ikem Ekwonu at No. 6: a surprising decision, because the Panthers were expected to select a quarterback to replace Cam Newton, who turned out to be a poor replacement for Sam Darnold, who he was a poor replacement for Teddy Bridgewater, who was a poor replacement for Cam Newton.
The Atlanta Falcons, so badly in need of a salary cap reduction that they donated veteran quarterback Matt Ryan to 1-877-QBS-4-COLTS, selected Southern California receiver Drake London with the eighth pick.
The Seattle Seahawks, who became a quarterback-needy team after trading Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos, selected Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross ninth overall to block Drew Lock, Geno Smith or whoever. whether they can recruit in later rounds.
A flurry of trades involving wide receivers marked the middle of the first round, with the Arizona Cardinals acquiring Marquise Brown from the Baltimore Ravens for the 25th overall pick, and the Philadelphia Eagles trading the 18th overall pick to the Tennessee Titans. by receiver AJ Brown. San Francisco wide receiver Deebo Samuel was not traded despite openly seeking a trade.
The New Orleans Saints traded a string of picks over the next three years in a series of deals to move up the board to select Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave at No. 11, then added Northern Iowa tackle Trevor Penning with the 19th selection. The Saints also spent their way out of salary-cap purgatory this offseason by turning many of their veterans’ contracts into reverse mortgages. By 2024, Olave and Penning may be the only players the team can afford to keep.
One team that did not trade or draft a receiver was the Green Bay Packers, who selected Georgia linebacker Quay Walker and Georgia defensive end Devonte Wyatt with the 22nd and 28th picks, the first of which they acquired by trading Davante Adams to Las Vegas in March. . That rumble you hear on the horizon is the temper of Aaron Rodgers.
Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett eventually became the only quarterback selected when the Pittsburgh Steelers selected him 20th overall. He will be the heir apparent to retiree Ben Roethlisberger if he can wrest a starting job from journeyman Mitchell Trubisky. That’s both a low bar and a big “if.” Liberty’s Malik Willis was not drafted Thursday night, despite speculation that he could be a top-10 pick.
Most analysts considered this year’s quarterback crop slim, which is why many NFL teams filled the job creatively earlier this offseason: trading for Wilson, Deshaun Watson or Carson Wentz. (we said creative, not necessarily advisable); mortgaging his budget and dignity to Rodgers; postpone filing of Tom Brady’s retirement papers; finding peace and acceptance with Jones for another year.
Notably absent from Thursday night’s proceedings: the Rams themselves, who don’t plan to make a first-round pick again until the draft takes place in a colony on Mars.