Every NFL team’s best 2022 Draft pick: Cardinals to Chiefs
In a two-part series, AS’ Iván Pirrón looks at the best selections made by each NFL franchise in April’s 2022 Draft in Las Vegas.
Cameron Thomas, DE, San Diego State
Third round, 87th overall pick
Thomas will be used as an outside linebacker in Arizona’s 3-4 defence, and will compete at training camp with Markus Golden. In his last season with the Aztecs, Cameron registered 10.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss.
Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Third round, 74th overall pick
The Falcons were patient, waiting until the third round to recruit a player who is probably their next franchise quarterback. Ridder, however, isn’t yet ready to be a starter in the NFL. For the moment, Marcus Mariota will be first-choice QB, until the Cincinnati product acquires greater accuracy and learns to stop missing so many routine passes.
Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
First round, 25th overall pick
The Ravens’ offensive line has a new leader. Linderbaum is an athlete whose technique and speed have led to comparisons with former Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, a nine-time Pro Bowler who was named in five All-Pro teams.
James Cook, RB, Georgia
Second round, 63rd overall pick
Cook adds depth to the Bills’ options at running back, and offers quarterback Josh Allen a new passing target. Cook caught 67 passes in his last season with the Bulldogs, registering 730 yards and six touchdowns.
Matt Corral, QB, Mississippi
Third round, 94th overall pick
Just like Atlanta, the Panthers bided their time to recruit Corral, who in his first year in the NFL could be used as a ‘gadget quarterback’ - i.e., for certain situations and with the option of running the ball. In his final season with Ole Miss, he ran for 614 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
Second round, 39th overall pick
Gordon and the safety Jaquan Brisker (second round, 48th pick) should be starters in the Bears’ defence from the get-go in the regular season. Gordon is considered one of the best and most complete athletes in the class of 2022, and because of that he can also play in the slot.
Zachary Carter, DT, Florida
Third round, 95th overall pick
It’s true that the safety Daxton Hill (first round, 31st pick) could displace Vonn Bell as a starter, but Carter will be a highly valuable part of the Bengals’ rotation. In his last season with the Gators, he accrued 11.5 tackles in the backfield and seven sacks. BJ Hill is the starter, but Carter will earn his game time and the team will reap the rewards.
David Bell, WR, Purdue
Third round, 99th overall pick
Bell, who registered 93 receptions, 1,286 yards and six touchdowns in his last year with the Boilermakers, is the perfect foil for Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones in the Browns’ revamped group of wide receivers, who are now under the orders of Deshaun Watson. It’s likely Bell will be used in the slot, as he doesn’t have the speed to play on the opposite side to Cooper.
Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama
Third round, 88th overall pick
After losing Cooper in the free-agency period, Jerry Jones had to find a WR2 to accompany CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup. Tolbert completed two spectacular years with the Jaguars, where he amassed 2,560 yards and 16 touchdowns. His selection could well go down as one of the masterstrokes of the 2022 Draft.
Nik Bonitto, LB, Oklahoma
Second round, 64th overall pick
Bonitto will struggle to be a starter in September (he has Randy Gregory in front of him), but defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero could use him in straight-passing situations. In his last two seasons with the Sooners, he accumulated 26.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks.
Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
First round, second overall pick
The Jacksonville Jaguars could regret not using their first overall pick to select Hutchinson, who registered 14 sacks and 16.5 tackles for the Wolverines in 2021. He’ll be a starter in the Detroit defence right from training camp, and will form a promising partnership with Michael Brockers, who joined the Lions in 2021 via a trade with the Los Angeles Rams.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia
First round, 28th overall pick
Together with ILB Quay Walker, also a Bulldogs product, the Packers found two new defensive starters in the first round of the Draft. Wyatt, who picked up five sacks in Georgia, could play as an end in the 3-4 Green Bay defence, with Kenny Clark at nose tackle and Dean Lowry on the other side.
Jalen Pitre, DB, Baylor
Second round, 37th overall pick
In CB Derek Stingley and G Kenyon Green, the Texans have recruited two potential starters, but Pitre has caught my eye because the Bears used him as a safety, in the slot and even as a kind of outside linebacker to pressure the quarterback. He finished the 2021 season with 18.5 tackles for loss and seven passes defended. Coach Lovie Smith ought to have a plan to make the most of this defensive back’s versatility.
Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati
Second round, 53rd overall pick
The Colts were one of the nine teams that didn’t have a first-round pick, but in the second they opted to give veteran Matt Ryan a new target. Pierce can be expected to start the regular season on the opposite flank to Michael Pittman. In his final year with the Bearcats, he caught 59 passes for 884 yards and eight touchdowns. His speed makes him Indianapolis’ new deep threat.
Travon Walker, LB, Georgia
First round, first overall pick
Walker, who typically played as a defensive lineman in Georgia, will be used as an outside linebacker in the Jacksonville defence. It’s a position he isn’t unfamiliar with, having also operated in the role with the Bulldogs. His numbers aren’t spectacular, however: he managed just 9.5 sacks in three years in Georgia, including six in 2021.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue
First round, 30th overall pick
Karlaftis is expected to be a starter right from training camp, next to Chris Jones and Frank Clark. In the two complete seasons he played with the Boilermakers, he registered 27 tackles in the backfield and 12 sacks. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo could also use him as a defensive tackle if needed.