Mike Tanier's 2022 Draft Not-Grades

Buffalo Bills DB Kaiir Elam
Buffalo Bills DB Kaiir Elam
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Draft - The New York Jets earned an A. The Chicago Bears earned an F. The Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs clearly helped themselves. The New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers did not. The Los Angeles Rams barely showed up.

We'll be throwing a lot of A-through-F letters around over the next few thousand words. But these are NOT "draft grades," dear reader. Heaven forbid. Instead, these are Football Outsiders' exclusive Preliminary Performance Assessments (PPAs)!

Everyone knows that draft grades are silly clickbait and have very little correlation with the actual success of the draft class. PPAs, however, are scientifically valid initial evaluative benchmarks designed to gauge whether teams met predetermined expectations and to guide further conversation on each team's overall progress and goals. Totally different. Indisputably data-driven and meaningful. If you disagree, please leave a long complaint in the comment thread, then return early and often to engage other readers in a spirited debate about the relative value of draft grades and PPAs with other readers.

One other bit of housecleaning before we start: draft-day trades are baked into these grades PPAs, but past trades are not. That's because "Russell Wilson is awesome, so the Broncos get an A" or rehashing the Sam Darnold mistake is boring, while the various Wide Receiver Brown deals are still timely and had an immediate bearing on draft-weekend decisions.

As always, Football Outsiders' 2022 NFL draft coverage is presented by Underdog Fantasy.

Underdog Fantasy

And with that, let's assess.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

Improved Roster: B
Used Resources Well: B+
Met Needs: A+
FINAL PPA: A

A probable starter at a high-leverage position of need in Kaiir Elam. The running back Bills fans have been clamoring for in Georgia's James Cook, who should break off two or three huge gains per month in this offense. A dynamic YAC producer with WR2 upside in the fifth round in Boise State's Khalil Shakir. Oh, and Punt Deity Matt Araiza in the sixth round, which is the type of flier a team with few needs or available roster spots can afford to take.

The Bills draft probably wasn't splashy enough to crack many top-five lists, but it deserves a chef's kiss.

Miami Dolphins

Improved Roster: C
Used Resources Well: C
Met Needs: C-
FINAL PPA: C

Third-round pick Channing Tindall may end up having a better career than Georgia teammate Quay Walker, whom the Packers selected in the first round. Fourth-round receiver Erik Ezukama is a toolsy DeVante Parker lookalike/replacement, but how many footballs do the Dolphins really have to go around now that Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are their top targets? The offensive line rebuild is far from complete, there's no true EDGE1 on the roster, and the Dolphins had too many needs and too few picks to go chasing project wide receivers and seventh-round quarterbacks.

New England Patriots

Improved Roster: C-
Used Resources Well: D
Met Needs: D
FINAL PPA: D+

When the Eagles selected 27-year-old Baylor guard Danny Watkins with the 23rd pick in the 2011 draft, it was a bellwether that the Andy Reid era had truly run its course: Reid had lost so many front-office sounding boards and coaching lieutenants that he was starting to make objectively bad decisions, a situation which was temporarily masked in 2010 by a quarterback change.

What that old yarn has to do with the Patriots' selection of soon-to-be 24-year-old Tennessee-Chattanooga guard Cole Strange is left to the class as an exercise.

The Bailey Zappe selection should cause some delightful cognitive dissonance among the cheerleaders in the New England media. Mac Jones remains 100%, no-doubt-whatsover Tom Brady Junior! But Zappe was also a genius pick, because we will trade him like Jimmy Garoppolo, even though he will never get a chance to play! Don't you DARE suggest that this franchise has ever or will ever make a misstep!

Rest assured that both Jones and Zappe will develop smoothly under the tutelage of offensive coordinator, um, nobody.

Also, it's hard to give the Patriots that much credit for trading down to obtain extra picks when they spent fourth- and sixth-rounders on even more running backs.

On the plus side, the Patriots now have three cornerbacks and a quarterback named Jones, and at least two of them will probably be really good.

New York Jets

Improved Roster: A+
Used Resources Well: A-
Met Needs: A
FINAL PPA: A

The Jets picked up FO 40 CB1 in Sauce Gardner, our WR1 in Garrett Wilson, and a prospect who could be EDGE1 in a typical year in Jermaine Johnson, plus my RB1 and the top player on the fantasy FO 40 in Breece Hall. Also, Jeremy Ruckert has Jimmy Graham-like traits: not bad for a guy the Jets will be able to stash on the bench for a year.

Hall may be the most controversial of the Jets top selections, what with being a running back that they traded up to select and so forth. A few years of Jonathan Taylor-like production can help a team stabilize other positions while remaining competitive (see: the Colts), so it feels like a quibble to fret about his relative value in the second round, after three other starters with Pro Bowl upside have already been added.

To anticipate the comment thread criticism from Patriots and Bills fans: The Jets get A's on their draft report card every year, and look how it turns out, hardy-har-har. Yes indeed, the Jets have been bad for a long time. But that does not mean they will be bad forever, any more than the Patriots will be great forever. Also: no one was giving the Jets good grades when they were drafting Darron Lee and Christian Hackenberg or Calvin Pryor and Jace Amaro. This Jets offseason really does feel a little different.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

Improved Roster: A+
Used Resources Well: A-
Met Needs: C
FINAL PPA: B

The Ravens drafted two top-10 talents in Kyle Hamilton and Taylor Lindebaum in the first round and two first-round values in Michigan edge rusher David Ojabo and UConn defensive tackle Travis Jones on Day 2. They pulled off these coups by gobbling up prospects who fell to them because of positional value, injuries, slow 40 times, or size concerns, and by remaining patient while other teams panicked and traded three years of assets to draft potential WR2s. They then made 1,978 selections in the fourth round due to compensatory tricks and clever trading. The Ravens have done this sort of thing for decades and deserve kudos for it.

Also, the Ravens traded top receiver Marquise Brown away because he was weary of being a 180-pound run blocker; they will enter minicamp with Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay, and James Proche as their top three receivers. So let's not pretend that everything they touched this weekend turned into diamonds.

Cincinnati Bengals

Improved Roster: B
Used Resources Well: B
Met Needs: B
FINAL PPA: B

Dax Hill, Cam Taylor-Britt, and Tycen Anderson are all versatile, max-effort reinforcements for a secondary that was already pretty solid. The Bengals must be making sure that they not only have enough defensive backs to survive playoff shootouts with the Bills, but enough open-field aggressors who can take away the Steelers' YAC game and fight through blockers while chasing Lamar Jackson & Friends as well.

I would have added more on the edge than Florida's Zach Carter (who is more of a wave defender) and a seventh-rounder and more along the offensive line than North Dakota State's Cordell Volson. But the Bengals appear to have entered the offseason with a plan and stuck to it, something newly minted contenders often struggle to do.

Cleveland Browns

Improved Roster: B
Used Resources Well: C-
Met Needs: C-
FINAL PPA: C

When the Browns fall off the analytics wagon and go on their biannual bad-decision benders, things can go south in a hurry. Like, kicker-in-the-fourth-round south. If you needed any more evidence that the Browns crashed through their beloved guardrails when they traded for Deshaun Watson, it's Cade York, who doesn't even kick off for heaven's sake.

The Browns then added Cincinnati's Jerome Ford with the pick after York, because nothing screams "coherent, data-driven plan" like adding a fourth running back when you have two veterans under second contracts and a former UDFA who had several huge games behind your star-studded offensive line. (Please spare me any explanations of a long-range success plan at running back by a team that has zero depth at other, more critical positions).

Martin Emerson is a fine third-round value as a big-body cornerback. Alex Wright has long arms and not much else, which is how I interpret "moldable traits" on a defender who did nothing to impress me on tape and didn't work out at the combine or a pro day. David Bell is a slower Jarvis Landry, but I liked him in the third round, and I am a huge fan of Oklahoma defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey.

All of this will just be quibbling if Deshaun Watson turns out to be non-suspended and awesome on the field. But let's stop pretending that the Browns are doing anything this offseason except flying by the seat of Jimmy Haslam's pants.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Improved Roster: B-
Used Resources Well: C+
Met Needs: C+
FINAL PPA: C+

Kenny Pickett is fine. George Pickens will provide Pickett and Mitch Trubisky with a capable downfield target; Calvin Austin will do the same as a fun, dynamic, YAC jitterbug. DeMarvin Leal would be an uninspiring selection for most teams, but he fits the Steelers' system as a two-gapping 5-technique type. The choice to add zero reinforcements along the offensive line was odd, even factoring in free-agent additions, and the lack of wheeling-dealing, while on brand for the Steelers, was uninspiring for a team in a state of radical transition.

Overall, a sturdy, professional final draft for Kevin Colbert, but not one that charts the course for the next Steelers era, unless Pickett is FAR better than anyone suspects.

AFC South

Houston Texans

Improved Roster: A
Used Resources Well: B+
Met Needs: B
FINAL PPA: B+

The vestiges of The Patriots Way can still be seen in the way Nick Caserio struts around the war room in his performance fleece and plays the draft board like a Stratocaster, sliding up and down in search of maximum value and turning the Deshaun Watson picks into as many goodies as possible. If only Caserio was still paired with Bill Belichick and not a goofball who plans to fast-track Josh McCown into a head coach and wishcast Davis Mills into Justin Herbert while spending draft weekend playing with his Noah's Ark popup books. Sadly, Caserio is now Paul McCartney, wasting his talents on twee noodling, while Belichick spent the weekend letting Yoko Ono screech into the microphone.

Derek Stingley Jr. has All-Pro upside that we haven't seen since before the pandemic. Kenyon Green is a great guard but a guard. I'm a fan of swift, aggressive nickel safety Jalen Pitre; thudding central-casting Alabama linebacker Christian Harris; and dog-loving, tackle-shedding Florida running back Dameon Pearce. And Caserio added lots of quantity to go with some impressive quality.

Caserio engineered a very strong draft, but not one that gives the Texans any sense of direction or forward propulsion. Unfortunately, direction and propulsion are not his departments.

Indianapolis Colts

Improved Roster: B-
Used Resources Well: B+
Met Needs: A-
FINAL PPA: B

Chris Ballard did a fine job finding workable solutions to the Colts' problems given meager draft resources. Thin at wide receiver? Alec Pierce is a viable boundary threat to serve as Matt Ryan's Julio Jones cosplayer. No left tackle? Central Michigan's Bernhard Raimann is an older B-tier prospect, but he's quick, strong, and ornery. Likely to be run-heavy for another year? Virginia's Jelani Woods is a mammoth tight end who will cause mismatch headaches on RPOs and play-action. Maryland safety Nick Cross, like Pierce, Raimann, and Woods, is distinctly toolsy: the late third round is a fine time to invest in raw size-speed-enthusiasm.

The late third round of this draft would also have been a swell time to invest in a quarterback of the future, but why bother when Kirk Cousins will ripen into Colts age by the time Ryan is ready to join Philip Rivers' high school coaching staff?

Jacksonville Jaguars

Improved Roster: B+
Used Resources Well: D+
Met Needs: C
FINAL PPA: C

It would be easier to trust Trent Baalke's instincts with Travon Walker if Baalke wasn't also obsessively hoarding off-ball linebackers. I really like Devin Lloyd and Chad Muma, and Foye Oluokun was a solid free-agent acquisition, but the only team with a use for all three of them might have been the 1977 Denver Broncos.

No, Baalke is on a Vertigo kick to recreate the 2012 49ers, and he needed his new Justin Smith AND his Patrick Willis AND his NaVorro Bowman this weekend. Baalke will prove he's the better man than Jim Harbaugh even if it takes burning down a rainforest, or turning the Jaguars into the second-weirdest vanity project in the AFC South.

On the other hand, center Luke Fortner was a fine pick in the third round.

Tennessee Titans

Improved Roster: D+
Used Resources Well: C-
Met Needs: D+
FINAL PPA: C-

The Titans now have one foot in Super Bowl contention and the other in a rebuilding cycle. Swapping A.J. Brown for Treylon Burks is a net negative for at least 2022, and while Malik Willis may have been a prudent third-round addition, he'll be of no use to a team ostensibly trying to Win Now.

In the AFC South, the Titans can remain competitive while Ryan Tannehill plays out the string and everyone pretends that the Curse of 370 hasn't claimed Derrick Henry because he goes 28-117-2 against the Jaguars twice per year. The Titans can then turn things over to the Willis-Burks-Hassan Hankins Experience while the Texans are in Year 4 of their culture change. But that's simply not an optimized strategy, and it may be an example of how dominating a weak division can turn into a mixed blessing.

On the plus side, I like Ohio State tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere as a prospect and need fit and just adore him as a person. He gives off the same vibe as fellow former Buckeyes star Terry McLaurin.

AFC West

Denver Broncos

Improved Roster: B
Used Resources Well: A-
Met Needs: C+
FINAL PPA: B

This is an impressive haul for a team that spent a hefty chunk of draft capital on Russell Wilson. Nick Bonitto is a toolsy, speedy, little one-dimensional edge rusher. Greg Dulcich is a worthy successor to Noah Fant that the Broncos nabbed with a hot potato of a third-round pick. The rest of this draft class is soup stock, but there's a lot of it, which should create depth at defensive tackle and add competition for bottom-of-the-roster spots.

Kansas City Chiefs

Improved Roster: A
Used Resources Well: B-
Met Needs: A
FINAL PPA: B+

This draft was all Chiefs fans could hope for in the wake of Tyreek Hill's departure. Trent McDuffie, George Karlaftis, and Leo Chenal will all contribute right away and will keep the Chiefs defense from falling too far below average. All appear to be fine Steve Spagnuolo scheme fits, with McDuffie built physically and mentally for press coverage and Chenal suited to a role as a situational Sam blitzer.

Skyy Moore is no Cheetah. But he caught a zillion passes on RPO slants at Western Michigan, and the Chiefs run more RPOs than you might think. Sherman-sized Fayetteville State cornerback Joshua Williams headlines a giftbag full of late-round cornerback lottery tickets, and Rutgers running back Isaih Pacheco proudly represents both the 856 and the top of the speed score chart.

The Chiefs did part with third- and fourth-round picks to move up for McDuffie, and the loss of Tyreek is hard to overlook, but this was a fine haul.

Las Vegas Raiders

Improved Roster: C
Used Resources Well: C+
Met Needs: C+
FINAL PPA: C+

Dylan Parham could start right away at guard, which is great news. That means Alex Leatherwood will remain at right tackle, which is bad news, but beyond the scope of the draft evaluation of a team with no first- or second-round picks. Neil Farrell, 330 pounds of pure run-stuffing, was a fine fourth-round acquisition. Zahir White didn't get enough predraft hype, but Brittain Brown is a collegiate committee back who turns 25 in October, and the Raiders aren't nearly so stacked elsewhere that they can splurge on two running backs.

After the Gruden-Mayock era, a C+ draft despite limited capital is a sign of progress.

Los Angeles Chargers

Improved Roster: B
Used Resources Well: B
Met Needs: C
FINAL PPA: B-

The tastemakers have adopted the Chargers as the NFL's Next Big Thing, and therefore all of their decisions are hailed as brilliant 4D chess maneuvers. I like Zion Johnson but cannot endorse the selection of a first-round center/guard when the Chargers entered the draft needing a right tackle, upgrades on their interior defense, and some skill-position depth. Similarly, J.T. Woods is a speedy free safety who should allow Derwin James to play in the box more frequently, but he was neither an outstanding value nor fills an obvious need.

Johnson, fellow guard Jemaree Salyer, running back Isaiah Spiller, and Football Outsiders Draft Livestream favorite Zander Horvath (fullback, seventh round, Purdue) should add a few percentage points to the Chargers' fourth-and-short conversation rate, so this draft was by no means a total loss. I'm just not ready to get swept up in ChargersMania just yet.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

Improved Roster: A
Used Resources Well: B
Met Needs: C
FINAL PPA: B

I admire the Cowboys' bourbon-drenched, draft-board-peepshow approach. It's suboptimal and silly, but the Cowboys rarely reach for needs or outsmart themselves into taking bad players.

Tyler Smith is a year away from starting but has Pro Bowl left tackle traits. Second-round pick Sam Williams and fifth-rounder John Ridgeway have exceptional pass-rushing and run-stuffing tools, respectively. Jalen Tolbert is a viable boundary threat to help offset the loss of Amari Cooper, while Wisconsin's Jake Ferguson is more Dalton Schultz.

Needs? Goals? Plans? Jerrah is just draftin' ballplayers, y'all. It ain't fancy rocket science. None of this year's picks will help the Cowboys reach a Super Bowl in 2022, but a few will likely form the core of Jerrah's next batch of almost-contenders.

New York Giants

Improved Roster: A
Used Resources Well: A+
Met Needs: A
FINAL PPA: A

Kayvon Thibodeaux (the top-ranked player on the FO 40) and Evan Neal speak for themselves. I'm also a huge fan of Kentucky wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson, who should develop quickly into a more explosive, less burned-out-by-the-franchise version of Sterling Shepard. I am also an extra-huge fan of picking 10 times in the first five rounds when the goal for 2022 isn't to compete to but to rinse as much Gettleman as possible off the soles of the roster.

Philadelphia Eagles

Improved Roster: A
Used Resources Well: B-
Met Needs: A-
FINAL PPA: B+

The Eagles four-pronged master plan for 2022:

  • remain playoff competitive;
  • find successors for Fletcher Cox and Jason Kelce;
  • accurately appraise Jalen Hurts; and
  • maintain enough draft capital to either replace or further support Hurts in 2022.

Such a complex agenda is only feasible because other general managers get drunk and rain extra draft picks on Howie Roseman in criminally lopsided trades once or twice per year. Still, it's a delicate juggling act.

Jordan Davis could be Cox Redux, Cam Jurgens is a low-risk Kelce replacement, A.J. Brown provides a veteran go-to receiver while eliminating potential excuses, and Nakobe Dean could be an all-time draft steal if those turn out to be the radiologist's thumbprints on his X-rays. But a lot can go wrong with a plan that has this many moving parts, and adding $100 million to the payroll while all-but punting on Day 3 comes with its own parcel of risks.

Also, the Eagles added Carson Strong, the human embodiment of the Nick Foles statue outside of Lincoln Financial Field, as a UDFA, and I already have a migraine from anticipating what the local sports talk station will think of him.

Washington Commanders

Improved Roster: B
Used Resources Well: C
Met Needs: C
FINAL PPA: C+

Carson Wentz contains within him a multitudes of paradoxes. One of them is that any team which acquires Wentz desperately needs a reliable backup, if only because Wentz forever bounces from one minor injury to the next, but any perceived threat to his starting job causes Wentz to curl into the fetal position.

In that respect, pairing Wentz with a rookie challenger with a knack for sacks and YOLO bombs who was only successful when surrounded by a top-notch supporting cast is quite a choice. Maybe putting Wentz in a room with Sam Howell will be like placing a mirror in a parrot's cage to keep it from dying of loneliness.

The Commanders' draft class is full of players I was not very high on: Jahan Dotson was a second-rounder in my book, Phidarian Mathis a B-tier defensive tackle by Alabama standards (Washington already drafted most of the S-tier and A-tier in past years), Brian Robinson a garden-variety thumper, Howell a better prospect in theory than on film, Cole Turner a pumped-up wide receiver with lots of end zone targets. Maybe the franchise will prove me wrong, but they have had 20 years to do so in the past and have never quite pulled it off.

NFC North

Chicago Bears

Improved Roster: D
Used Resources Well: F
Met Needs: F-
FINAL PPA: F

Doubling up on second-round defensive backs while surrounding Justin Fields with a USFL offense borders on spiteful malpractice. Ryan & Matt 2.0 essentially abandoned Fields on the convent steps with this draft, sinking Fields' cost of two first-round picks while keeping the Bears offense so weak that the next quarterback prospect will also probably be stuck with a fourth-rate support system.

Adding Velus Jones, an overaged afterthought who projects as a solid return man and WR4, when George Pickens and Skyy Moore were sitting on the board for the Bears to pluck in the second round is almost an insult-to-injury situation. And instead of taking a few more swings at receiver in later rounds, the Bears added punters and linemen from Southern and Southwest Utah State, because everything is going so hunky-dory that the Bears can afford to futz around with Day 3 projects.

This was one of the worst draft performances I have ever seen.

Detroit Lions

Improved Roster: B
Used Resources Well: C
Met Needs: C-
FINAL PPA: C

Aidan Hutchinson, Jameson Williams, and Josh Pascal will all be starters. But … not even a die-roll at quarterback, not even when Malik Willis and others were sitting there in the third round? No help at wide receiver except a guy who won't be healthy for training camp? A trade that dumped a lot of much-needed draft capital into a division rival's lap?

Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes drafted like they think the new-regime honeymoon will last forever and that they can afford to spend another year pointing to backdoor covers as a sign that they are building a new culture. Lions history and NFL history both suggest that they should be operating with a little more urgency.

Green Bay Packers

Improved Roster: B
Used Resources Well: C
Met Needs: D
FINAL PPA: C-

As often noted in past Walkthroughs, wide receiver denial must be a tantric BDSM sex thing between Aaron Rodgers and the organization. It's now getting icky, like watching swingers neck in a crowded restaurant. Rodgers sounded rather chill about the Packers' decision to replace Davante Adams through half-measures; perhaps Elon Musk has offered Rodgers his own Twitter feature where he can burst unbidden onto all of our timelines and berate all of society for our inadequacies or something.

Quay Walker was a silly reach in the first round. Christian Watson was overvalued by #DraftTwitter and came too late and at too high a cost of draft capital (two second-round picks for one small-program scouting combine darling). Devonte Wyatt can be an immediate starter somewhere on the line, the Packers grabbed some late-round bargains, and four seventh-round picks should help flesh out a top-heavy roster. But while the Chiefs took two steps away from the Super Bowl in trades/free agency but at least one step forward in the draft, the Packers took two steps back in trades/free agency, then stood with their arms folded and declared, "We meant to do that."

Wow. I am ripping the NFC North teams. The best draft grade in the division cannot possibly go to…

Minnesota Vikings

Improved Roster: B-
Used Resources Well: A
Met Needs: B-
FINAL PPA: B

Trading back in the first round and rebuilding the secondary ain't exactly sexy. But as is often noted at Walkthrough: the Vikings don't do sexy. Their greatest need is to overturn their Lost in the Late 2010s roster, and there's some wisdom to doing so from the bottom up, especially in a division where their veterans could easily buoy them in wild-card contention for yet another year. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah also rolled the Day 3 dice on some high-upside injury cases (Mizzou cornerback Akayleb Evans, Michigan State receiver Jalen Nailor), a reasonable tactic at the start of a rebuild.

A dip into the Day 2 quarterback pool and/or an earlier-round receiver would have made this draft class much more interesting and encouraging, but the Vikings are at least starting to steer their longboat in a new direction.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

Improved Roster: B
Used Resources Well: B
Met Needs: B
FINAL PPA: B

Sitting still and selecting Drake London at No. 9 overall was like using the insurance money on a new sound system for a car that was just T-boned by a freight train. Trading UP for Arnold Ebiketie when they have more holes than a spaghetti strainer also made little sense for the Falcons; Ebiketie fills a need but is not a gotta-get-him talent. But Desmond Ridder's third-round arrival saved the Falcons draft class—Derrik Klassen likes him, and there's a slim-but-measurable chance that he becomes their Dak Prescott—and the late addition of BackCAST fave Tyler Allgeier was a nice bonus.

Carolina Panthers

Improved Roster: C+
Used Resources Well: C-
Met Needs: C
FINAL PPA: C

Matt Rhule is lucky that Ikem Ekwonu fell to the Panthers and that Matt Corral wasn't snapped up earlier in the third-round quarterback run. Ekwonu is a potential All-Pro left tackle who will stabilize the Panthers offense. And while I am no Corral fan, he's better than the nothing that the Panthers almost ended up with.

Corral cost the Panthers a third-round pick next year, in addition to a fourth-rounder that became Bailey Zappe, so the Panthers are still spending future resources to compensate for past mistakes. The roster remains paper-thin at most positions after the Panthers made just six selections, and Rhule is really banking on last year's draft class to get healthier and make a huge impact this year. But the Panthers did not get significantly worse over the weekend, so there's that.

New Orleans Saints

Improved Roster: C+
Used Resources Well: F
Met Needs: B
FINAL PPA: D+

The Saints traded a 2023 first-rounder, 2024 second-rounder and 2022 third-rounder for the 16th overall pick. Then they traded that pick, their compensatory 2022 third-rounder and a fourth-rounder to move up for Chris Olave. That's five selections in the top four rounds for Olave, a solid prospect at a position of need, but also the WR3 in the Ohio State offense (behind Garrett Wilson and underclassman Jaxon Smith-Njigba) last year.

Trevor Penning fills a need at left tackle. I love the kid, but the Saints need an immediate starter, and they're placing a lot of hope on his Senior Bowl sizzle instead of his so-so small college film.

The Saints also added a developmental size/speed/hustle cornerback in Alontae Taylor and … that's about it. The team with the aging defense, super-maxed future payroll, and no first-rounder in 2023 made zero third-, fourth-, or seventh-round picks.

I know I sound like a broken record. I know Saints fans will claim victory when they ride four Falcons/Panthers wins to the seventh playoff seed. But the Saints need an intervention before they end up getting relegated to the USFL in 2024. They are in danger of building a stars 'n' scrubs roster without any stars, and they are a year away from even running out of scrubs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Improved Roster: C
Used Resources Well: C+
Met Needs: C
FINAL PPA: C+

Trading out of the first round was a shrewd little move. Houston defensive end Logan Hall can help right away as a rugged, versatile wave defender along the line. Washington tight end Cade Otton is a sturdy potential Gronk surrogate. "Ko Kieft" is a fun thing to say. Nothing the Buccaneers did this weekend was going to matter after the Brady Rapture, so finding guys who can help right away while fluffing the bottom of the depth chart is as good as this draft was going to get.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals

Improved Roster: A
Used Resources Well: B+
Met Needs: D+
FINAL PPA: C+

The Cardinals are building an NFL Blitz 2000 team. I won't be making any Super Bowl wagers on them, but I cannot wait to watch them, and there's something to be said for steering deeper into the skid and becoming even more Cardinals-like. Steve Keim must have thought, "f*ck that dude, we'll be able to score points with anybody running this offense" as he assembled the Cardinals' new DeAndre Hopkins/Marquise Brown/A.J. Green/Trey McBride/Zach Ertz/Rondale Moore receiving corps. Whether "that dude" is Kyler Murray or Kliff Kingsbury remains to be seen.

Edge rushers Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders will help offset the loss of Chandler Jones and ease J.J. Watt into retirement. And who needs upgrades along the offensive line when you not-so-secretly dislike your own quarterback?

Los Angeles Rams

Improved Roster: C-
Used Resources Well: B
Met Needs: C
FINAL PPA: C

South Carolina State cornerback Decobie Durant is a classic Day 3 Rams pick. Durant is undersized but ultra-fast, feisty, and capable of finding the ball: perfect for a well-defined slot-corner role. The Rams also brought veteran cornerback Troy Hill back from the Browns for a 2023 fifth-round pick, a logical move for a team in Repeat or Die Tryin' mode.

Wisconsin guard Logan Bruss is a classic Day 2 Rams pick: he did not arrive until the very end of the third round and is not all that interesting but can back up three positions on the cheap.

Any Day 1 Rams pick would truly be a classic, because it last happened 25 years ago.

San Francisco 49ers

Improved Roster: C+
Used Resources Well: B
Met Needs: C-
FINAL PPA: C+

Drake Jackson will start his career as a versatile wave defender on an already fearsome defensive line once he decides whether he's a burly bull rusher/run defender or a quick little corner presser. After that, the 49ers made lots of idiosyncratic selections (mid-major wonder with track-star legs and hands Danny Gray; Shanahan Brand X running back Tyrion Davis-Price; future Texans offensive coordinator Brock Purdy), but at least they made a lot of selections.

Neither the Jimmy Garoppolo nor Deebo Samuel situations were settled this weekend, and thank heavens, because sportstalk shows need something to talk about for the next three months.

Seattle Seahawks

Improved Roster: B+
Used Resources Well: C+
Met Needs: D-
FINAL PPA: C-

The Seahawks draft started out abnormally normal. Since when do the Seahawks draft left tackles to play left tackle (Charles Cross) or edge rushers around their expected draft position (Boye Mafe)?

Then they started doing Seahawks stuff: a completely unnecessary running back (Kenneth Walker); the latest effort to recreate the Legion of Boom on the cheap (Coby Bryant, Tariq Woolen); a selection with a confusing name (did we mention Coby Bryant?); and, of course, one glaring roster need completely unaddressed (quarterback, this time). The Seahawks did add Western Michigan quarterback Kaleb Eleby as an undrafted free agent. Eleby, an accurate RPO machine, could conceivably outperform Drew Lock and Geno Smith. Their Day 3 haul was full of too many players I like—Woolen in the fifth round, Rutgers receiver Bo Melton in the seventh—for me to roast them too hard.

The "surrender at quarterback, rebuild elsewhere, go Bryce Young fishing with two 2023 first-rounders" strategy has some merit. But if that's what the Seahawks are doing, why bother with a second-round running back? Why wait until the seventh round for Melton when a second-rounder could be developed into Young's Deebo or McLaurin this year?

Stare too long at a Seahawks draft class and Germain Ifedi stares back at you. We're about to see what Pete Carroll and John Schneider's decision process looks like without Russell Wilson to smooth over their mistakes.

The quarterbacks atop the 2023 draft board should start worrying now.

Comments

184 comments, Last at 08 May 2022, 4:38pm

55 Miami's front office is so hot and cold

Chris Grier remains an all eggs in one basket type of GM. He doesn't seem to be able to focus on the draft, free agency, and trades all in one offseason. If he goes all in on one, then usually the other is completely bare. Last year they drafted well, but did poorly in free agency, and trades. This offseason they did okay on free agency and trades, but essentially punted on the draft. Yes, next years draft should be better, and they have Hill who is perhaps the best player on this team since Wake. But the 2022 season is still Tua, Tua, Tua. Hence, I guess the WR pick. Every fan is tired of seeing Ford play because all the other WRs get hurt every season. Parker is finally gone, but WR 4-6 is very much in the air. And Miami ends up using those guys a lot as WR is a snake bitten position for this team for years now. 

56 Yeah

For me I don't like that last QB pick. You don't need a QB3 of significance but could address something like you mentioned. I was thinking maybe OL to just make sure that no stone was unturned.

60 For me I don't like that…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

For me I don't like that last QB pick.

Here's someone who does: https://mattwaldmanrsp.com/2022/02/28/matt-waldmans-rsp-twitter-vids-qb-skylar-thompson-kansas-st-is-legit/

Matt Waldman has been right about quarterbacks a lot more than most people including you and me.  Guys he was right on: Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahommes.  He didn't like Josh Allen, but neither did anyone else.  As a Jets fan, I'm not happy about that Dophins pick.

74 He won't get much of a chance

Miami has only kept 2 QBs the last couple years so most of the time is going to newcomer Teddy and still young Tua. 

Might have been better if you dont sign Teddy 🤷 but they gave him too much guaranteed.

84 Can't have a rookie 7th…

Can't have a rookie 7th rounder as your backup, though. If they like Skylar, they'll have to carry three and give him a chance to develop. The practice squad is a possibility, of course, but he'd be liable to be poached at any time. Too risky, if you really like him.

88 Why not though?

Youre already taking a hit if youre starting QB goes down. And if were honest half the league is taking a hit WITH their starting QB lol. Maybe surprise the opposition that doesn't have any/little game tape on that guy.

And if he goes to the practice squad that'll just confirm they didn't see enough good (for whatever reason). And backup QBs aren't really useful in other areas like ST in the meantime.

69 The real problem with the draft

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Is that they had so few picks. When you need to land a year 1 starter in round 7, you're in trouble because there aren't many year 1 starters coming then. They're staking the offseason on making  their former number 1s more productive, and their free agents and traded players. With only 4 picks and none in rounds 1 or 2, there is likely no one making a year one impact from this draft. 

58 Great Article

Good analysis, and the snark was laid back.

66 The most amazing thing about the Jets' draft

The most amazing thing about the Jets' draft is that Joe Douglas ran it. We've heard the "new era Jets" stuff before, but there was a lot of risk in players like Zach Wilson and Mekhi Becton, for example; there's relatively little risk in the trio of Sauce Gardner, Garrett Wilson, and Jermaine Johnson. It's like a different regime made the picks. Why wasn't it this simple for Gang Green's FO before?

77 Green Bay has a type

Let's look at all of the WR draft picks of the Brian Gutekunst era, shall we?

  • J'Mon Moore: long, tall, straight-line fast, not a great route runner
  • Marquez Valdes-Scantling: long, tall, straight-line fast, not a great route runner
  • Equanimeous St. Brown: long, tall, straight-line fast, not a great route runner
  • <two year gap with no(!!!) WRs selected>
  • Amari Rodgers: slot jitterbug
  • Christian Watson: long, tall, straight-line fast, not a great route runner
  • Romeo Doubs: long, tall, straight-line fast, not a great route runner
  • Samori Toure: long, tall, straight-line fast, not a great route runner

Other than Amari Rodgers, they pretty much just draft variations on the same guy. That doesn't seem great to me! None of these guys get open unless they run past people, which isn't always an option.

79 Yeah...

They also grabbed Lazard from Jacksonville at the end 2018. 

They're starting to diversify but leaving it bare for 2 straight years was bad process. 

Honestly teams should be drafting a WR and DB almost every year.

106 Not only does Gutey have a…

Not only does Gutey have a type he does not value the position the same way Wolf and Thompson (and even Sherman) did. I have a long post about that with reply 61 here (https://www.footballoutsiders.com/open-discussion/2022/2022-nfl-draft-night-2-open-discussion#comments) so I won't go into it deeply again. But you're looking at 4th, 5th, 6th, 3rd, 2nd, 4th, 7th for the rounds those trees were picked in.

ImNew mentioned Lazard as a FA fitting that mold. Other FA signings are close as well. Watkins is fast though not as tall. Funchess who did the COVID opt-out before not making the team last year is 6'4'' though he was only a 4.71 40 at the combine so not fast. Cobb doesn't count because he was brought back for Rodgers. Winfree is a 6'1'' 4.53 40 guy who isn't know as a route technician either (mentioned because he's got about as good a shot as the draftees of making an impact this season).

So while the room got a little more diverse I agree they have a type and I'm not sure it works. I get the idea that the Shannahan school of coaching believes that scheme or some luck with top end speed can get receivers open and that if you have Rodgers as your QB that should be enough to get you the shots you need. If they had a proven track record of making those guys better route runners like they have with turning former college tackles into solid guards and centers I wouldn't be as worried. Well if they still had Adams I wouldn't be either.

I think this will be the last draft where they are still paying for the evaluation mistake that lead to trading up and drafting Love. They've got some process issues for sure and the link at the end of the post I linked here goes into that. It does feel like they might be at worst an average front office and at best a bit above average (45 - 70 in a 0 to 100 ranking). We've been blessed that Wolf (70 - 95 range) and Thompson (at least before his health really affected him at the end 60 - 85 range) were above average and that the very below average 4 years of Sherman (15 - 40 range) didn't derail things for too long. So even dropping back to average doesn't feel good. Clearly it's hard to evaluate because you need time and there aren't enough data points to begin with. But even given a HoF QB 13 wins for three years in a row does say something is going right. Gutekunst feels like the big splashes are misses (Love pick, letting Adams go) or neutral (only 2 seasons from Z. Smith) but the little things are often solid wins. That's different from most of the previous success where the big splash moves tended to be wins (inital trade for Favre, White FA, Rodgers pick, letting Favre go, Woodson in FA, etc). But again hiring LaFleur, getting the Smith brothers, picking Alexander and Stokes, getting Amos in FA. Those aren't the biggest splashes but they have had good results so little wins. So I know that my cognitive biases make me want to constantly downgrade this front office because most of my life as a fan (I say most because I was a fan when Starr, Corricky/Harlan, Gregg/Hutchison, and Braatz were the GMs/personnel decision makers and that was mostly not good but it was wiped out by 9 years of Wolf and 13 years of Thompson with only a little PTSD triggered by Sherman. Gutey is better than Sherman and better than anything after Lombardi and before Wolf, I'm sure of that. But I also know Rodgers can cover for a lot of mistakes (as Favre did) and that it takes some really big mistakes for it to really show in the W-L results when you have a HoFr under center so the worries never go away.

The way they deal with WR is one of those worries. But then the shotgun approach of throwing a lot of resources (draft and FA) at something for a season or 2 then ignoring it for a season or three might work out just fine. It's just very different from the continually trying to restock with moderate resources that I got very used to.

91 The Bears draft is weird to…

The Bears draft is weird to evaluate - on the one hand I'm tempted to say it was a disaster, but on the other hand if they'd just drafted a different WR in round 3 (like Jalen Tolbert) I'd consider it a pretty good draft. And how much difference should taking the wrong WR at pick 72 really make?

96 My immediate reaction to the…

My immediate reaction to the Bears draft was negative, but F seems pretty harsh when even the Saints escaped with a D+. It does come down a lot to need vs best player available. If the defensive backs they took in the 2nd turn out to be among the best players available when they drafted, well, they do need help in the secondary and it's not like they took a running back. If nothing else this puts more pressure on Poles to have been right; he will face a lot more criticism if one or both of them bust compared to if he'd taken WRs and they busted.

I do think that the Bears are in a disastrous situation with Fields and will probably finish the first 50% of his rookie contract not really knowing how good he is. I hesitate how much to blame Poles for not doing better with the very slim assets and disastrous cap situation he was given. There are potential trades that I as a fan would have liked to see (Robert Quinn for just about anything, Roquan Smith for maybe a late first-round pick) but I have no way of knowing the extent to which he explored them.

117 I seem to be in the extreme…

I seem to be in the extreme minority but I thought the Bears actually had a pretty good draft, in and of itself (and I'm not saying that in a snarky "good for the Packers LOLLL" way). They absolutely needed to improve their secondary; it's a passing League, and they share a division with two of the better passing teams around and a third that's trying awfully hard to join them. They also needed to improve their o-line. They... needed to improve most areas, honestly. And they did! At first blush it looks like they drafted a bunch of players who will improve the roster in the short- and medium-terms, and any draft that does that is successful.

A second-round receiver likely wasn't going to make or break Justin Fields in 2022. A 6th-round receiver definitely wasn't.

Now if the argument is that they should have used some of those picks to get one of the receivers that changed teams up to/during the draft, that I think has more merit. Likewise, that they should have done more for Fields in free agency than Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown. An F for the offseason as a whole, that I kind of get (though I might go more D+).

136 I liked the two defensive…

I liked the two defensive backs; they're good players and will probably work out for them.  The receiver they picked is super fast but really raw, probably not a good pick.  The two linemen picked later score in the high 8s in RAS, so they might be good picks.  

I think teams get killed when they don't have a lot of draft capital, and/or don't draft for need.  Having no draft capital isn't good, but that's not the fault of the current regime and they didn't give away anything from the upcoming draft.  Drafting for need is how you end up passing on good players for busts.   Draft the player, not the position.

149 "Drafting for need is how you end up passing on good players"

Except they passed on consensus player #36 Bernhard Raimann (9.87 RAS OT) thrice for #39, #42, and #139(!!!) while they're going to start 2nd year players with 61.4 (65th/83 T) and 47.5 grades (not enough to qualify) last year in Borom and Jenkins respectively (and 3 years of Whitehair left, looking to the future as well). And they can't chalk it up to an age thing since Velus (their only WR, also sus) is 5 months older!

And like Mike mentioned selecting a P, especially with so many holes, is just malpractice The 4 OL was something but they're all 5th+ rounders, so shots in the dark. If you aren't taking in need you don't do that (even though you do inherently take in need otherwise that's how the Bills end up with Malik Willis. 

109 NFL Draft 6 Years Later

Did I miss this year's "NFL Draft: 6 Years Later" article?  The latest one I could find is from 2020:

https://www.footballoutsiders.com/nfl-draft/2022/2016-nfl-draft-six-years-later

These Bryan Knowles articles are always some of my most fun reads on this website.  I love going back and time and reading the pre-draft hype, and seeing how things shaked out.

 

 

129 Looking forward to next year's article!

In reply to by Vincent Verhei

2017 was probably the standout of an uneven but generally solid drafting performance profile by Kevin Colbert. Tj watt, juju Smith Schuster and James Connor in the first 3 rounds. Granted, 2 or 3 years ago this looked even more spectacular, but still...

177 Thank you Vincent!  I did…

In reply to by Vincent Verhei

Thank you Vincent!  I did see that article a few weeks ago, but I mistakenly thought it was just going to be a Dak and Zeke review.

111 Your piece on scouting kickers & punters

Mike, FYI your piece from 2015 on scouting kickers & punters is referenced (linked) in a post-draft article in The Athletic today, by Arif Hasan: "Biggest NFL Draft steals and reaches".

It's not the one I remembered, which was "A punter could kick your ass", it was a more serious one.

138 Third Round QBs

Surprised to see Mike dinging Indianapolis and Detroit (and praising Carolina and Atlanta - Ridder "saved" the latter's class apparently) for not taking/taking mid-round QBs.

I can kind of see the attraction if someone graded higher falls to you there, but it doesn't seem to have been a very successful betting strategy in the past. 

Also for Detroit and Willis in particular, it would seem to massively complicate the process next year. It seems like most teams think he would need to sit a year (or only play very lightly) - so then what do you come the next draft? Are you going to risk not taking a first round QB next year because you think Willis has developed reasonably well? Or take one anyway, in which case why waste a 3rd rounder this year?

141 The truth is, there is no…

In reply to by LondonMonarch

The truth is, there is no right answer to what the Colts should draft in the situation they are in. QB is an obvious need so the first blush response is why not? But then, taking a flyer on an iffy prospect has severe costs in terms of wasted years. 

With Russ and Dak and Brady and Romo and Warner, we are getting a skewed impression of the expected value for late round QBs. The reality is, the majority of Brady's contemporaries in that draft were quickly out of the league. We just never remember the legions of QBs that are never heard from again and that's for a reason.

Brady is the most egregious example imo. I just don't think you can look at Tom Brady the prospect and ever find the reason why he became what he did. I doubt even Brady himself ever thought he was capable of the career he had. Sometimes, there are weird prodegies out there. 

146 I tend to think of Romo and…

I tend to think of Romo and Warner as bigger outliers. Brady was at least a two-sport HS star who was recruited by a bunch of Power-5 schools. Romo and Warner were nothing prospects coming out of HS and were nothing prospects coming out of FCS. No one had ever expressed signing interest in them. Brady at least had a pedigree.

150 What all those QBs have in…

What all those QBs have in common is they went into good situations (albeit good for differing reasons). Given that the Colts appear to have a good  overall roster, and at worst solid/stable coaching, the likelihood of any young QB prospering increases. You've got Matt Ryan; why not at least let a young guy come in and compete?

154 I'm not against it, I just…

I'm not against it, I just think it's pretty marginal. One issue that crops up is, if he plays wellish, you are still not quite sure what you have. When first round picks experience linear growth in their play, it's expected as normal.  But lower picks, u just have no idea. Maybe they become Romo or maybe they become Minshew, or Cassel, or Fitzpatrick in the mildly optimistic case

167 I mostly agree to be honest,…

I mostly agree to be honest, was just playing Devil's Advocate. Certainly if the Colts didn't rate any the QBs in this draft, I wouldn't suggest taking a flyer for the sake of it. The likelihood of finding the next Prescott/Romo is tiny, as you say.

One area where I do think QB needy teams could be more progressive in their thinking is in drafting athletic QBs beyond the first round, with the idea of running them into the ground during their rookie contracts (assuming they are viable - there is obviously a base level of competence that must be reached in order to start). And on the small chance they develop as a passer - great. The Eagles are kind of onto this with Hurts. That was why I was surprised Willis slid as far as he did. Without knowing much about him as a prospect, everything I read suggested he could be an elite runner/scrambler, which offers a floor for a QB needy team that is prepared to adapt. And heck, it's fun to watch. 

171 I'm glad you made this point…

I'm glad you made this point. I had a similar thought, mostly when it came to backups but it also applies to situations where you have no obvious answers at quarterback. Even scramble only Josh Allen brought more value by his athleticism. It ensures a decent floor at the very least.

173 One area where I do think QB…

One area where I do think QB needy teams could be more progressive in their thinking is in drafting athletic QBs beyond the first round, with the idea of running them into the ground during their rookie contracts (assuming they are viable - there is obviously a base level of competence that must be reached in order to start).

The Nathan Peterman Line.

184 Okay, you've filled out the…

Okay, you've filled out the newest assessment form.  But are you prepared to "teach to the test" to maximize your own retrospective assessment?

That the Raiders earned a grade as high as C+ indicates that the grown ups did not allow Josh McDaniels to have any role in the process.

Two snarks in one.  Now, that is value.