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What We Learned From Round 1 of the N.F.L. Draft


The Jacksonville Jaguars kicked off the 2022 N.F.L. draft with a dangerous, counterintuitive selection that might mire the franchise at the underside of the standings for years if it backfires.

In other words, it was a typical begin to a typically unpredictable first round.

The Jaguars chosen Georgia edge rusher Travon Walker with the No. 1 overall pick within the draft. Walker recorded a mere six sacks within the 2021 season for the College Football Playoff champions, but his 35.5-inch arms and outstanding ends in athletic tests just like the three-cone drill impressed scouts in the course of the pre-draft process, prompting the Jaguars to decide on him over higher-rated, more-accomplished prospects.

Walker may possibly have a deep reservoir of long-range potential, though the Jaguars will not be the very best franchise to tap it. Until the team proves otherwise, if opponents protect their quarterbacks by stashing him behind cones or atop a high bookshelf, the Jaguars are set.

Walker’s selection set the tone for what became an enormous night for edge rushers, offensive linemen, cornerbacks and wide receivers but a really quiet one for quarterbacks.

Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson, who’s incrementally less athletic than Walker but had 14 sacks in 2021, fell to the Detroit Lions on the second pick. The Lions later traded as much as twelfth overall to pick Alabama receiver Jameson Williams. Ultra-macho Lions Coach Dan Campbell couldn’t have been happier with the outcomes of the primary round if he dropped a nine-point buck using nothing but a determined scowl.

Louisiana State cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. and Texas A&M guard Kenyon Green were chosen third and fifteenth overall by the Houston Texans, as close as a prospect can come to being trapped on the underside rung of a multilevel marketing scheme.

The Jets and Giants, each with two selections among the many top 10, shockingly got through the evening without making any glaring, potentially catastrophic mistakes. The Jets chosen Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner fourth and Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson tenth, then traded up for Florida State edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II at twenty sixth overall. The Giants chosen Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux fifth and Alabama guard Evan Neal eighth.

Gardner is 6-foot-3, runs the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds and has a cool nickname, Sauce, the three prerequisites of a top-tier N.F.L. cornerback. Wilson combines pure speed with route running that’s two parts Cooper Kupp and one part Bob Fosse. If Wilson needs three jukes to get open, he makes three jukes, but some evaluators worry because when Wilson needs one juke to get open, he makes three jukes. Johnson recorded 11.5 sacks in 2021 after transferring from a Georgia program that produced five first-round selections on Thursday.

Thibodeaux was a consensus All-America selection in 2021 and certainly one of the highest defenders within the nation for 3 years. The N.F.L.’s gossipmongers took an unexplained dislike to him this off-season, nonetheless, causing him to tumble below Walker and Hutchinson on the draft board. Justin Herbert, now a Pro Bowl quarterback for the Los Angeles Chargers, faced similar vague whispers when leaving Oregon in 2020. It’s value noting that N.F.L. scouting departments are still stuffed with men who think that anyone who chooses to play within the Pacific Northwest over Alabama or Texas have to be a grimy hippie.

Neal is a typical top-tier offensive line prospect who looks and moves like a video game boss. He should have the ability to guard Daniel Jones from anything but himself.

Rounding out the highest 10:

  • The Carolina Panthers chosen North Carolina State tackle Ikem Ekwonu at No. 6: a surprising decision, since the Panthers were expected to pick a quarterback to switch Cam Newton, who proved to be a poor substitute for Sam Darnold, who was a poor substitute for Teddy Bridgewater, who was a poor substitute for Cam Newton.

  • The Atlanta Falcons, who needed a salary cap write-off so badly that they donated longtime quarterback Matt Ryan to 1-877-QBS-4-COLTS, chosen 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, chosen Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross ninth overall to dam for Drew Lock, Geno Smith or whomever they’ll rustle up in later rounds.

A flurry of trades involving receivers marked the center of the primary round, with the Arizona Cardinals acquiring Marquise Brown from the Baltimore Ravens for the twenty fifth overall pick, and the Philadelphia Eagles trading the 18th overall pick to the Tennessee Titans for receiver A.J. Brown. San Francisco receiver Deebo Samuel was not dealt despite openly looking for a trade.

The Recent Orleans Saints traded a number of picks over the following three years in a series of deals to maneuver up the board to pick Ohio State receiver Chris Olave at No. 11, then added Northern Iowa tackle Trevor Penning with the nineteenth pick. The Saints also spent their way out of salary cap purgatory this off-season by turning lots of their veterans’ contracts into upside-down mortgages. By 2024, Olave and Penning would be the only players the team can afford to maintain.

One team that neither traded for nor drafted a receiver was the Green Bay Packers, which chosen Georgia linebacker Quay Walker and Georgia defensive end Devonte Wyatt with the twenty second and twenty eighth picks, the primary of which they acquired by trading Davante Adams to Las Vegas in March. That rumbling you hear on the horizon is Aaron Rodgers’s temper.

Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett finally became the one quarterback chosen when the Pittsburgh Steelers made him the twentieth overall pick. He can be the heir apparent to the retiree Ben Roethlisberger if he can wrest a starting job away from the journeyman Mitchell Trubisky. That’s each a low bar and an enormous “if.” Liberty’s Malik Willis was not drafted on Thursday night, despite speculation that he is perhaps a top-10 pick.

Most analysts considered this 12 months’s quarterback crop to be sparse, which is why many N.F.L. teams filled the position in creative ways earlier this off-season: trading for Wilson, Deshaun Watson or Carson Wentz (we said creative, not necessarily advisable); mortgaging their budget and dignity for Rodgers; procrastinating on filing Tom Brady’s retirement paperwork; finding peace and acceptance with Jones for one more 12 months.

Noticeably absent from Thursday night’s proceedings: the Rams themselves, who don’t plan to select in the primary round again until the draft is held at a colony on Mars.

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