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NFL

NFL Draft 2022: Who is the best player at each position and which team will take them?

Draft week is here! Let’s take a look at the arguably best players at each position and which teams will take them in which round.

Jennifer Bubel
Update:

This year’s NFL draft may be one of the most unpredictable we’ve had in a while. But I’m going to try and predict a few things here anyway. What I want to look at first is who is the best player at each position, in my opinion. Does that mean that player will be the first at his position to be drafted? Not necessarily. Those things don’t always correlate. Then we’ll look at which team is likely to take that player and when.

This is obviously very subjective, so let me explain what I mean by “best”. In this case, I am going with “best” as the player who could do the most work right away, but also has future potential.

This is tough to decide, especially at the quarterback position. This year’s QB class is just plain not that good, and I don’t see any franchise players at the position or anyone who will make a huge difference, especially right away. Plus, there’s not a significant difference amongst the top QBs in this class, so drafting in the first round wouldn’t gain any team much. Yet, it wouldn’t be a big shock either way. So, let’s evaluate.

Best quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft

Malik Willis, Liberty

I do not truly expect Malik Willis to be a franchise quarterback, but I do see a lot of potential in him. The main concern for most with Willis is his ability to compete at the NFL level, coming from a small school and lacking experience. However, my main concern is the amount of sacks he’s endured - 51 in 13 games last season. Then again, look at Burrow’s sack track record, and he’s a Super Bowl quarterback. Am I seriously comparing Burrow and Willis? No, not seriously. But let’s talk about his positive traits and why he’s the best (besides the fact that he’s best amongst one of the worst QB draft classes in years).

His clear best quality is his strong arm. You can look at his highlight reel and see that, and he just showed it off even more during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine and then again recently at the Liberty Pro Day. The arm strength is a talent that cannot be taught. Take a look:

That combined with his ability to make the throws from inside and outside the pocket make him without question the most athletic quarterback in the draft class. He’s fast, aggressive, physical, and with a little bit of molding and a good supportive cast, he has the potential to bring a team to the playoffs within a few years.

Who takes Malik Willis and when?

Atlanta Falcons, first round, pick no. 8

Though there are several possibilities here, I think the most likely is the Atlanta Falcons scooping him up first. They’ve got the eighth pick in the first round, and I think that’s when they take him.

General Manager Terry Fontenot said on Tuesday, “we could come out of this draft with a quarterback.” That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll take one at number eight in the first round nor that Willis is who they have their eye on. But let’s look at what they did in the offseason. They traded away Matt Ryan to the Colts and picked up Marcus Mariota, who was unimpressive at best passing for the Titans and has a history of injuries. I could see them starting the 2022 season with Mariota before handing it over to Willis in 2023, but I could just as easily see them switching between the two when Mariota turns out to be a disappointment.

Best running back in the 2022 NFL Draft

Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State

Kenneth Walker III went from being relatively unknown to the best RB in the county after leading college football in broken tackles with a whopping 89. He’s got the potential to be a starter right off the bat considering his explosiveness and unpredictable style of play which allows him to burst through the holes and has the speed to get to the outside. After having that breakout season at MSU, he further proved his abilities at the combined running a 4.36 40-yard dash and performing in the top 10 at all other drills. He is tough to bring down and can turn any missed tackle into a touchdown.

Who takes Kenneth Walker III and when?

Buffalo Bills, second round, pick no. 57

Josh Allen needs a runner, badly. Even though the Bills are a top team in the AFC, they often had to rely on passing or letting Allen himself be the runner last season. With Walker, they would significantly improve their run game. Going with a running back in the first round is risky though, so I think they wait for the second, though it’s possible they could miss out, being number 57. I think they take a cornerback first and then, if Walker is available, I have them going with him in the second to add a much more consistent rushing element to their offense.

Best wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft

Jameson Williams, Alabama

I am not concerned by Williams’ torn ACL. Those things can be fixed. And when they are, whatever team has Williams will be lucky to have him. Unlike any of the quarterbacks in the draft class, I see Williams being a star in the NFL. He had a breakout season last year for Alabama with 1,562 yards and 15 touchdowns on 79 receptions. He’s one of those players who can make the game-changing big plays. Just look what he did at the SEC Championship game against Alabama - seven catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns. He will recover from the ACL, and he will be a breakout player.

Who takes Jameson Williams and when?

Philadelphia Eagles, first round, no. 15 pick

Without a doubt, Williams goes in the first round. The Eagles will pair him up with DeVonta Smith to give Jalen Hurts two receiving weapons on offense. We have seen that they have a particular affection for receivers, having taken one in the first round the last two years in a row. He would add a lot to their offense, despite having to wait for him to recover.

Best tight end in the 2022 NFL Draft

Trey McBride, Colorado State

Trey McBride, named top tight end in the nation, had 1,125 yards on 91 catches in 12 games last season, which accounted for a third of the team’s passing yards. He caught eyes with his pass-catching abilities but can’t be overlooked as a blocker either. Many tight ends can catch a ball, but not many of them can do a lot after that. McBride can. He creates the yardage after the catch that makes the difference, especially considering his above-average speed. I see him as a starter going into the 2022 season.

Who takes Trey McBride and when?

Green Bay Packers, second round, no. 53 pick

McBride’s abilities as a run blocker and in the passing game could be just what the Packers need. Aaron Rodgers is officially going to be part of the team for the next two seasons at least, and he’s in need of a strong supporting offense. They are lacking at the tight end position and as long as McBride is still on the board in the second round, I can’t see them passing on him.

Best offensive tackle in the 2022 NFL Draft

Charles Cross, Mississippi State

This was not easy, as Charles Cross, Evan Neal, and Ickey Ekwonu are all solid, talented players. Cross, to me, is the best pure pass blocker of the bunch. All three will go quickly in the first round. Cross only allowed 16 pressures on 719 pass-block snaps last season, which was a significant improvement from his 2020 season. His footwork is incredibly impressive, quick, and controlled. Not only is he quick (especially for a 307-pound OT), but he recovers quick, too. His pass-blocking abilities can’t be denied, but he’s got talent in the run-block as well. He locks on to his defenders and doesn’t give up. The reason I take him above the others as the best though, is the pass-block abilities, a skill that can’t be overlooked in the NFL.

Who takes Charles Cross and when?

New York Giants, first round, no. 5 pick

If the Giants take Cross, they’ll put him at right tackle since they have Andrew Thomas at left. Yet, Cross always played left at Mississippi. But recently, the Giants met with Cross during his pro day to do some reps at right tackle to see if he’d be a good fit. I think they take the opportunity to complete their o-line as soon as possible. If Cross is on the board, they take him first and go for a cornerback at no. 7.

Best interior offensive lineman in the 2022 NFL Draft

Tyler Linderbaum (Center), Iowa

Linderbaum is accurate and clean with his snaps at center and has an awareness in pass protection that makes him a first round pick. He is a starter right out of the draft. He has a background in wrestling and it shows. He’s able to block, he’s quick in the run game, and he can gain leverage with efficient footwork.

Who takes Tyler Linderbaum and when?

Cincinnati Bengals, first round, no. 31 pick

The Bengals are rebuilding their o-line to protect Joe Burrow from those dreaded sacks. They’ve already loaded up on veteran blockers in the free agency and Linderbaum would complete it. Though a bit small for his position, he’s got the grip strength and footwork to be perfectly capable of blocking and protecting Burrow. I could easily see him having a breakout season if he’s with the Bengals.

Best interior defensive lineman in the 2022 NFL Draft

Devonte Wyatt, Georgia

Though Wyatt and his teammate Jordan Davis are nearly equally talented players, Wyatt is just more explosive as a pass-rusher. I see him doing well at the professional level due to his size and speed. With Georgia, he had the opportunity to move around a lot, molding him into the versatile player he is today. At the combine, he showed off with a quick 4.77 in the 40-yard dash and a 29-inch vertical leap and 9-foot-3 broad jump. For a 300-plus-pound player, that’s impressive.

Who takes Devonte Wyatt and when?

Pittsburgh Steelers, first round, no. 20 pick

I think the Steelers are going to miss out on the best CBs and safeties, and will go with the best available player for their needs at the 20th pick, which could very well be Devonte Wyatt. They have already covered most of their needs in free agency (besides quarterback, but I don’t see them taking the risk if the top two are off the board at that point), but are still lacking on the defensive line, and Wyatt’s versatility could be just what they need to help defend against the run.

Best edge defender in the 2022 NFL Draft

Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan

Aidan Hutchinson could very well go first overall in the draft. He’s a complete defender who does well against the run and the pass. He had a huge breakout season in 2021 with 16.5 tackles for a loss, 14 sacks, two forced fumbles, and three passes defended. That’s what made his name start showing up on all the draft boards. He’s a tough and focused defender who can be quick in the rush. There’s been talk that Travon Walker is the new big man, but I would still take Hutchinson over any other edge defender, and I think any NFL team would be wise to as well. He ran his three-cone drill in 6.73 seconds. That’s fast, and critical for an edge rusher. I don’t see him as a safe pick. I see him as a breakout star in the NFL.

Who takes Aidan Hutchinson and when?

Jacksonville Jaguars, first round, no. 1 pick

If they’re smart, they take Hutchinson. Hutchinson is coming off of a huge season and the Jaguars are in desperate need of help in the pass rush. If they let him slip and the Lions get him, they’ve done Detroit a huge favor and themselves a huge disservice. They need that pass rusher to keep opposing quarterbacks from doing what they did to them last season.

Best linebacker in the 2022 NFL Draft

Devin Lloyd, Utah

Devin Lloyd is a versatile linebacker who can cover, block, and blitz. He’s got 43 tackles for a loss over three seasons and produces in every other area as well. He looks like a professional when he plays and would make a strong starter for any team. He’s physical, determined, and clever as a rusher.

Who takes Devin Lloyd and when?

New England Patriots, first round, no. 21

Devin Lloyd just fits with Bill Belichick’s scheme. He could be used in so many different ways for the Patriots, who could use a defensive player with his speed and physicality.

Best cornerback in the 2022 NFL Draft

Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati

I see Sauce being a star in the NFL. He shut down every single opposing receiver in Cincinnati - literally. He didn’t allow a single touchdown over three seasons with the team. He’s got the athleticism and length you want in a cornerback. When you watch his highlights, you can see that he’s not just physically capable, but also intelligent, often able to cover his opponent while still managing to figure out exactly what the quarterback will do. Sauce is a breakout player.

Who takes Sauce Gardner and when?

New York Giants, first round, no. 7 pick

After going with Cross at the no. 5, the Giants move their focus to Sauce. Their defensive coordinator Wink Martindale would love to have a fearless player like Gardner on his blitz-heavy defense. It’s looking like James Bradberry is gone, so a cornerback would make sense for the Giants. It fits their needs and it’s top tier talent.

Best safety in the 2022 NFL Draft

Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame

Hamilton is versatile and strong. He had three picks and three pass breakups in his first seven games with Notre Dame before a knee injury had him out for the rest of the season. He is admittedly not the fastest, but he’s got the ability to read offensive setups and play from the deep half put him at the top of his class.

Who takes Kyle Hamilton and when?

Washington Commanders, first round, no. 11 pick

The Commanders were at the bottom of every pass-defence category last year, and they need all the help they can get. Their defense allowed more than 25 points per game in the 2021 season. A versatile safety like Hamilton would help the whole defensive front so that Carson Wentz and the offense don’t have to carry the whole team.

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