Here are our final AFC team-by-team grades — we did the same for the NFC — for the 2022 NFL draft (picks listed by round and overall pick):
Picks: 1-23: Florida CB Kaiir Elam; 2-63: Georgia RB James Cook; 3-89: Baylor LB Terrel Bernard; 5-148: Boise State WR Khalil Shakir; 6-180: San Diego State P Matt Araiza; 6-185: Villanova CB Christian Benford; 6-209: Virginia Tech OT Luke Tenuta; 7-231: Clemson LB Baylon Spector
Favorite pick: Elam
We actually gave a higher instant grade to Bernard, and Cook might add instant juice on third downs to an already dangerous offense. But Elam’s selection dispels the notion that the Bills don’t value the CB2 that highly, and he has a very good chance to step in early. Tre’Davious White’s torn ACL will heal, but adding a long, highly athletic corner to the mix is a smart call. The Bills traded up a few spots to make it happen, knowing Elam could be sniped before he got to No. 25. Good GM-ing, Brandon Beane.
Least-favorite pick: Cook
There’s not much to hate about the selection, which is a reflection on how solid to very good every pick felt. And in this offense, my goodness, Cook could be the fuel injector with his third-down ability and home-run hitting prowess. If there’s a knock on the pick, it’s that he’s a bit of a specialist on offense with a small build, might not have a natural role on special teams and has had some immature moments in the past. For teams close to Super Bowl titles, as the Bills appear to be, we’re not too upset with a luxury selection (this also technically applies to Araiza).
Overall: The Bills have a sound, professional approach to the draft, routinely building depth and addressing needs — but not sacrificing the big picture to do so. We can easily envision the first five selections contributing to the squad in 2022, even though the Bills’ loaded roster might limit some of their immediate duties. That’s a good problem to have, and there was no pick they made that was out of line with what the team needs to continue seeking a championship.
Picks: 3-102: Georgia LB Channing Tindall; 4-125: Texas Tech WR Erik Ezukanma; 7-224: California EDGE Cameron Goode; 7-247: Kansas State QB Skylar Thompson
Favorite pick: Tindall
Tindall emerged last season as a playmaker on a super talented defense after spending most of his career prior to that on special teams. He's not yet facile in coverage and will need help getting lined up at times, but the top-shelf athleticism will ease his development. Miami can use more athletes like this to groom, and this was a need position. Really good value where they got him.
Least-favorite pick: Ezukanma
He was relatively consistent and productive year to year, and even made more downfield catches than you might imagine. But with average length and athleticism, he appears to have little upside, and good teams appeared to have little trouble taking Ezukanma out of games if they wanted to. It'll be an uphill climb to dent the WR depth chart.
Overall: Having used many of their picks as ammunition to acquire veteran talent, namely Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill, this was never going to be a massive draft class for the Dolphins. So we’re factoring in the trade activity as a big piece of this puzzle. Adding value and athleticism with Tindall, that’s about where the actual draft excitement ended for Miami. Big picture, this was an important utilization of assets to make Miami better in head coach Mike McDaniel’s first season at the helm.
Picks: 1-29: Tennessee-Chattanooga OG Cole Strange; 2-50: Baylor WR Tyquan Thornton; 3-85; Houston CB Marcus Jones; 4-121: Arizona State CB Jack Jones; 4-127: South Dakota State RB Pierre Strong Jr.; 4-137: Western Kentucky QB Bailey Zappe; 6-183: South Carolina RB Kevin Harris; 6-200: Northwest Missouri State Sam Roberts DT; 6-210: LSU C Chasen Hines; 7-245: Michigan OT Andrew Stueber
Favorite pick: Marcus Jones
It wasn’t a massive value, as Jones came off right about where we suspected he would. He offers incredible gas (nine career return TDs) to the return game and could step in very early as the team’s primary nickel. Jones isn’t big — at all — but his competitiveness belies his mass, and he averaged almost one pass defended per game in college and picked off 10 passes. He could be a fan favorite in time. Good, tough, smart and fast player in the Patriots mold.
Least-favorite pick: Strange
Look, we’re not going to pile on here — and fans felt Logan Mankins was a similar-caliber reach a generation ago. That said, Strange doesn’t have anywhere close to Mankins’ strength and nastiness. Strange has a chance to be an early starter, and his throwback style and absolute refusal to back down during Senior Bowl matchups was endearing. It’s just that the value of taking him at No. 29 was absurd (even if it really wasn’t much higher than they took Kyle Dugger). The Patriots don’t care one iota about outside opinions. They do business their way, and their track record can’t be ignored.
Overall: The Patriots traditionally have a small draft board, we’ve been told, and as time goes on they’ve tended to go for more high-floor prospects higher in the draft. Round 2, however, is their annual high-risk round, and Thornton is a classic boom-bust pick. They haven’t had a receiver like him in forever, so we have no clue how well he’ll fare. As a rule of thumb, most of their picks — other than Marcus Jones — were taken about a round higher than we would have liked, and there was repetition (Jack Jones, Bailey Zappe) to pieces they have already on the roster. Grabbing a 2023 third-rounder from Carolina was maybe their best move of the weekend.
Picks: 1-4: Cincinnati CB Sauce Gardner; 1-10: Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson; 1-26: Florida State EDGE Jermaine Johnson II; 2-36: Iowa State RB Breece Hall; 3-101: Ohio State TE Jeremy Ruckert; 4-111: Louisiana OT Max Mitchell; Texas A&M EDGE Micheal Clemons
Favorite pick: Hall
There wasn’t a pick they made that was disliked, and most we loved. Hall was our favorite from a value perspective, a top-25 talent on our board. He easily could have gone in Round 1, as we assumed the teams that regretted passing on Jonathan Taylor a few years ago would have paid attention. Hall is Taylor Lite, a hard-churning home-run threat who lacks Taylor’s size or rare speed. On the flip side, Hall is not a fumbler; he had only four on 800 college touches. The Jets’ offense has gotten more dangerous, and a Hall-Michael Carter duo will be very good for offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur.
Least-favorite pick: Mitchell
This wasn't a reach. And as a three-year starter with a blue-collar approach, he’s the kind of player GM Joe Douglas typically targets in this range. Mitchell just isn’t anything special athletically, might be only a right tackle and could take a year to marinate. Basically, we had to nitpick with this year’s crop — it looks that good.
Overall: The first four selections made total sense, addressed immediate and long-term voids and added injections of life on both sides of the ball. Hall could be an early Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite, but his running mate, Wilson, can’t be overlooked as a much cheaper alternative to trading for a veteran wideout. Gardner will be challenged to take on the AFC East’s best receivers right away and Johnson adds to a much-needed pass rush unit. Ruckert also profiles as the better-pro-than-college-player type after being roundly underused as a receiver at OSU. Clemons and Johnson are a pair of tough guys who add some gristle to Robert Saleh’s defense. All in all, it's a haul that inspires hope for the rebuild.
Picks: 1-14: Notre Dame S Kyle Hamilton; 1-25: Iowa C Tyler Linderbaum; 2-45: Michigan EDGE David Ojabo; 3-76: Connecticut DT Travis Jones; 4-110: Minnesota OT Daniel Faalele; 4-119: Alabama CB Jalyn Armour-Davis; 4-128: Iowa State TE Charlie Kolar; 4-130: Penn State P Jordan Stout; 4-139: Coastal Carolina TE Isaiah Likely; 4-141: Houston CB Damarion Williams; 6-196: Missouri RB Tyler Badie
Favorite pick: Hamilton
Picking your favorite Ravens pick is like picking your favorite child. So we’ll go with the “first born” Hamilton, who was our No. 3 player regardless of position. The speed questions stemming from a pro-day 40 time (4.7) were silly. His gameday speed is what matters, and Hamilton’s rare instincts allow him to break on balls earlier than most current NFL safeties. He’s a do-it-all safety who can be used creatively and should start immediately for a defense that was 29th in the NFL in interception rate last season. When value marries with need, it’s a gorgeous thing. The Ravens are masters at this.
Least-favorite pick: Likely
It was hard to find one we didn’t like, but Likely profiles as a slightly less athletic Ed Dickson. If that’s what Likely becomes then using a late fourth-rounder on him is perfectly reasonable. He’s not really that effective a blocker and must be used in a specific way to maximize his effectiveness.
Overall: Critics will ask: Hey, if the Ravens are so good at this draft thing, why aren’t they winning the Super Bowl every year? We hear you, but they do have the NFL’s fifth-best record since 2008 and have made the playoffs nine times since then. They know how to find talent and value in the draft, as this year once again shows. Hamilton, Linderbaum, Jones and Stout should factor in right away, and Ojabo, Faalele and Armour-Davis are terrific players who fit their mold to groom for the long term. We’d have loved to see more WR help, but every selection they made had thought and sense behind it.
Picks: 1-31: Michigan S Dax Hill; 2-60: Nebraska CB Cam Taylor-Britt; 3-95: Florida DE Zachary Carter; 4-136: North Dakota State OG Cordell Volson; 5-166: Toledo S Tycen Anderson; 7-252: Coastal Carolina EDGE Jeffrey Gunter
Favorite pick: Hill
Sign me up. After hammering the offensive line in free agency, it was clear that the Bengals were eyeing the secondary as the next target zone. Was there luck in Hill (a top-20 prospect on our board) slipping to them? Sure. But whatever works. The Bengals kept their trademark patience and nailed the pick. Hill can play multiple roles in Lou Anarumo’s defense and give Cincinnati another playmaker to pair with Jesse Bates. Along with the Taylor-Britt pick, that secondary got better by a clear measure.
Least-favorite pick: Volson
Volson doesn’t offer too much that’s exciting other than his length. Landing him on Day 3 makes this criticism more muted, but we viewed him as a late-pick value. Still, the o-line can always use more talent. We shall see if Volson can handle edge speed at tackle or if he might be tried inside, where he’d be among the taller guards in the league.
Overall: The Bengals did really well, and we even saw a rare (albeit short) trade up to land Taylor-Britt, another favorite of ours. With him, Hill and Anderson, the secondary and special teams are in far better shape, even if there’s some overlap in their skills. It follows a Bengals pattern: killing mosquitoes with sledgehammers. (Translation: Throw as many possible solutions at a problem area and pick the best options.) The Bengals addressed needs and didn’t reach badly on any of their picks; even their seventh-rounder, Gunter, was a nice pluck. The smallest scouting staff in the NFL did some work with this class.
Picks: 3-68: Mississippi State CB Martin Emerson; 3-78: UAB DE Alex Wright; 3-99: Purdue WR David Bell; 4-108: Oklahoma DT Perrion Winfrey; 4-124: LSU K Cade York; 5-156: Cincinnati RB Jerome Ford; 6-202: Oklahoma WR Michael Woods; 7-223: Oklahoma EDGE Isaiah Thomas; 7-246: Texas Tech C Dawson Deaton
Favorite pick: Bell
Landing our No. 76 prospect at the 99th pick isn’t going to cause us to lose our minds, but it was a smart selection at a needy spot. Bell isn’t terribly different than Jarvis Landry, really, and could be productive if used correctly as a third wheel alongside Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones. The opportunity will be there for Bell to contribute early, just as he did as a true freshman at Purdue, so getting him late in the third feels like a worthy investment.
Least-favorite pick: Emerson
He’s a physically gifted player with the length you love to see at the position, but he felt like a Day 3 pick. His feel for coverage is unnatural, he wasn’t a ballhawk in college and was way too grabby. Memphis and Alabama went after him and had success. So while there are traits to develop, we’re not exactly sure what Emerson’s realistic ceiling will be.
Overall: Their first- and fourth-rounders (and more) helped land Deshaun Watson; obvious risk with that move aside, that value could prove to be a franchise changer. And after moving back and accumulating more selections, the Browns were able to add depth on defense at positions of need. They also added help at receiver in the underrated Bell and landed a kicker who nailed a late-game 57-yarder in 2020 in heavy fog. The Watson move is a big part of this grade and that carries some volatility given his unresolved off-field troubles.
Picks: 1-20: Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett; 2-52: Georgia WR George Pickens; 3-84: Texas A&M DT DeMarvin Leal; 4-138: Memphis WR Calvin Austin III; 6-208: Michigan State TE Connor Heyward; 7-225: Mississippi LB Mark Robinson; 7-241: South Dakota State QB Chris Oladokun
Favorite pick: The two receivers
Pickens comes with maturity questions, but the Steelers have taken on similar types at this position before (ahem) and have had vastly more successes than failures. Few teams draft and develop talent quite like they do at receiver, and Pickens will have every chance to become a down-the-road WR1 for Pickett if the Georgia product can mature and buy into tough coaching. Austin in Round 4 was an inspired choice and appears to be an upgrade for the Ray-Ray McCloud role. Austin, who also is a quality punt returner, can be a surprising contributor if he tightens up his hands.
Least-favorite pick: Pickett
It’s entirely possible that Pickett will prove to be a very good — and a very Steelers-ish — pick later in Round 1. He’s experienced, tough, competitive and athletic enough to make plays out of structure. There’s no rush to start him immediately, but you know he’s going to get that chance sooner than later. Our biggest gripe is that in a division with Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson, the Steelers clearly have the fourth-best QB — and that isn't changing anytime soon. Pickett provides a moderately high floor, even if he’s not the can’t-miss prospect some would have you believe. Will he ever be great? That’s the biggest question overall.
Overall: In GM Kevin Colbert’s final draft with the team, he made smart decisions almost across the board. Head coach Mike Tomlin admitted to getting antsy as their pick approached, worried that Pickett might not be there. But having seen the rest of the QB class sink dramatically in the draft, that likely was never a real concern. In hindsight, maybe taking Desmond Ridder a round lower than they took Pickett would have presented more opportunities, but they had no way of knowing it would play out that way. The WR additions and the Leal pick all made sense, and Pickett’s readiness gives him a shot to start right away. You can question the QB selection for the long term, but this crop has some appeal at first blush.
Picks: 1-3: LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr.; 1-15: Texas A&M OL Kenyon Green; 2-37: Baylor DB Jalen Pitre; 2-44: Alabama WR John Metchie III; 3-75: Alabama LB Christian Harris; 4-107: Florida RB Dameon Pierce; 5-150: Stanford DT Thomas Booker; 5-170: Oregon State TE Teagan Quitoriano; 6-205: LSU OL Austin Deculus
Favorite pick: Pitre
We’re completely biased here, but the widespread appreciation for Pitre in league circles made him this year’s easiest All-Juice Team selection — by a country mile. He’s a Texas kid with a workmanlike approach, will wear a number of hats on defense, should be an immediate tone setter for the team culture and should be a special teams fixture. He's a terrific player, even if his size is limiting. Adding Stingley and Pitre changes the entire dynamic of the Texans’ back end.
Least-favorite pick: Green
A tiny gripe here, as we didn’t like him as much as Boston College’s Zion Johnson. Green is likely a guard for Houston, but he has vast experience starting at tackle, including an admirable pinch-hit performance at left tackle vs. Bama last year. Ultimately, there were too many penalties and mental errors on his tape for a 35-game starter for us to fall in love with Green, but there is a good lineman prospect in there to be molded.
Overall: A strong draft here one year after squeezing surprising value out of their 2021 class, despite lacking first- and second-round picks (all six selections played nine or more games; two started, including QB Davis Mills). The Texans have good scouting talent, and it showed in their 2022 haul. Stingley has bust potential, but there's strong reason to believe in his elite talent and competitive mentality. Stingley, Green, Pitre, Pierce — and possibly Harris and Booker — figure to factor heavily into the Texans' plans this season, and Metchie gives them down-the-road promise.
Picks: 2-53: Cincinnati WR Alec Pierce; 3-73: Virginia TE Jelani Woods; 3-77: Central Michigan OT Bernhard Raimann; 3-96: Maryland S Nick Cross; 5-159: Missouri State DT Eric Johnson; 6-192: Youngstown State TE Andrew Ogletree; 6-216: Cincinnati DT Curtis Brooks; 7-239: Yale DB Rodney Thomas
Favorite pick: Raimann
It was a tossup between Raimann and Woods, as we loved both. With positional value breaking the tie, Raimann takes the cake as he absolutely can start from Day 1 at left tackle if the Colts don’t add more veterans there. He’s a bit older and isn’t the most powerful blocker in this class, but he’s a quick study, has make-it traits and attitude, and will at the very least be a high-floor performer.
Least-favorite pick: Pierce
There were some other receivers we liked more at that stage, such as Skyy Moore (who went the next pick) and Jalen Tolbert, but Pierce was by no means a bad selection. He has surprising speed, good length and flew below the radar during the pre-draft process. But we don’t quite see the Eric Decker comparisons some folks lobbed out there and wonder whether Pierce will transform this WR unit.
Overall: Lacking a first-round pick from the ill-fated Carson Wentz trade, the Colts were undeterred, snagging four strong picks on Day 2 to set the table for a quietly strong class. If there’s a gripe, we’d have loved to see another cornerback added to the mix, but that’s one of the few need positions they didn’t address despite the shorter deck of selections. Woods, Raimann, Cross and Pierce all figure to have notable roles next season, so there is immediate help and some long-term upside with Woods, Cross, Johnson and Brooks.
Picks: 1-1: Georgia DE Travon Walker; 1-27: Utah LB Devin Lloyd; 3-65: Kentucky C Luke Fortner; 3-70: Wyoming LB Chad Muma; 5-154: Mississippi RB Snoop Conner; 6-197: Ouachita Baptist CB Gregory Junior; 7-222: Arkansas CB Montaric Brown
Favorite pick: The two LB selections
Doubling up at one position is not an uncommon draft tactic, but it doesn’t always feel as successful and complementary as the picks of Lloyd and Muma appear to be. Lloyd should settle in at the “Will” and Muma at the “Mike” in what could be a reincarnation of the great Jags LB units of a few years back. The front seven is in a far better place than it was a few days ago, and the Jaguars had to make big fixes. Lloyd and Muma each have a nose for the ball and three-down ability, so we love the pairing.
Least-favorite pick: Walker
This is strictly a gripe about who they passed on. Walker’s traits are elite; he was undoubtedly a top-10 prospect on most teams’ boards, if not all of them. That we don’t know for certain. But what our heart and our head tells us is that Walker was a risky call at No. 1 given that Aidan Hutchinson — a better player in college, with clear NFL traits — was in this class. If arm length was the reason why Walker went ahead of Hutchinson, it’s a strangely specific tiebreaker. We’ll eat crow if Walker turns out to be a Pro Bowler, but if we’re betting on who the better career will belong to, our money remains on Hutchinson.
Overall: Taking Walker over Hutchinson aside, we liked what the Jaguars did. They feasted on high-character, high-floor prospects and physical tone setters who can help the locker room rebuild in Duval. The first four picks have excellent chances to start right away, and though there’s a case to be made that Trevor Lawrence could have used more help, most of the work they did in free agency addressed that. If Walker doesn’t pan out, it certainly will mar this class’ overall value, but it’s hard to imagine him being a flop. At the very least, he’s an athletic bully up front who can control the line of scrimmage and make a few athletic plays with his rare traits.
Picks: 1-18: Arkansas WR Treylon Burks; 2-35: Auburn CB Roger McCreary; 3-69: Ohio State OT Nicholas Petit-Frere; 3-86: Liberty QB Malik Willis; 4-131: Michigan RB Hassan Haskins; 4-143: Maryland TE Chigoziem Okonkwo; 5-163: UCLA WR Kyle Philips; 6-204: Tennessee CB Theo Jackson; 6-219: Mississippi LB Chance Campbell
Favorite pick: Willis
Why the heck not? Recent 86th picks include Mark Andrews, Kareem Hunt, David Johnson, and if you go back farther, that slot has produced four Hall of Famers (Joe Schmidt, Morten Andersen, Andre Reed and Jackie Slater) and other really good players, such as Marshal Yanda and Tedy Bruschi. Maybe there’s something about that draft position, as none of those players — or Willis — should have fallen that far. There are also busts picked there, and Willis feels like he could be a star or never quite fit in. For that cost, it was well worth the Titans paying it to find out. Ryan Tannehill isn’t losing his job tomorrow, but Willis will be someone fans want to see. There is no comp for him, but we see some Steve McNair-like skills in his bag of tricks.
Least-favorite pick: Burks
He was our No. 26 overall prospect, so this is more about the fit and the pressure of having to maybe step in immediately following the trade of A.J. Brown. The economics of that decision is understandable. But no one should expect a one-for-one replacement in Burks, even though he was occasionally comped to Brown during the pre-draft process. Spoiler: They’re not the same player. At all. Burks had a lot of his touches schemed up at Arkansas and was predominantly a big slot when he wasn’t lining up in the Wildcat and whatnot. The feeling among some scouts was that Burks could have a learning curve with a more advanced passing game, even though he’s highly competitive and big enough to win physical battles now.
Overall: The loss of Brown hurts, and though the Titans received fair return in the trade, some of their selections were uninspiring. Yet with the Willis pick, they kept an ace in their pocket that could turn this class upside down. There was a high measure of risk, with Burks, Petit-Frere and Willis feeling like boom-or-bust picks, and just a few safer-feeling prospects in McCreary, Haskins and Philips. In three years, this class could be graded an A or an F and we wouldn’t be surprised by either. So split the difference here.
Picks: 2-64: Oklahoma EDGE Nik Bonitto; 3-80: UCLA TE Greg Dulcich; 4-115: Pittsburgh CB Damarri Mathis; 4-116: Iowa State DT Eyioma Uwazurike; 5-152: Oklahoma S Delarrin Turner-Yell; 5-162: Samford WR Montrell Washington; 5-171: Washington C Luke Wattenberg; 6-206: Wisconsin DT Matt Henningsen; 7-232: Wisconsin CB Faion Hicks
Favorite pick: Dulcich
He grew on us throughout the draft process, especially with a solid Senior Bowl and a very good scouting combine performance. After trading Noah Fant, the Broncos needed another weapon at tight end, and they got a self-made player with shocking speed and YAC ability that was on display the past two seasons. Dulcich will give Russell Wilson a nice option down the seam even if he might never be a volume target.
Least-favorite pick: Washington
Full disclosure: We watched tape of him only after the pick was made. In checking with a few other teams, Washington was not considered a fifth-round value on their boards. He had a ton of production at Samford, running, catching and throwing, as well as returning three combined kicks and punts for touchdowns last year. Washington also ran well at his pro day, with a 20-yard split (2.48 seconds) that puts him in strong company. But at 5-9 and 180 pounds, he likely will have to make it as a returner.
Overall: Their first five selections all fell close to where we had them ranked, so it was a businesslike, solid haul for a team that traded away first- and second-round picks for Wilson. We like the defensive additions from a depth perspective and feel Bonitto and Mathis have shots to become starters, perhaps even next season. On offense, Dulcich is the standout, but even he isn’t a complete player yet. They also couldn’t do enough to help the offensive line. But overall, this was a solid crop to complement the Wilson acquisition.
Picks: 1-21: Washington CB Trent McDuffie; 1-30: Purdue EDGE George Karlaftis; 2-54: Western Michigan WR Skyy Moore; 2-62: Cincinnati S Bryan Cook; 3-103: Wisconsin LB Leo Chenal; 4-135: Fayetteville State CB Joshua Williams; 5-145: Kentucky OG Darian Kinnard; 7-243: Washington State CB Jaylen Watson; 7-251: Rutgers RB Isaih Pacheco; 7-259: Marshall CB Nazeeh Johnson
Favorite pick: The first seven?
Seriously, we’ve been staring at this list of picks and trying to find a favorite. There’s not one that has us foaming at the mouth, but all of them are strong. This could be one of the stronger top-to-bottom groups in the Brett Veach era. Chenal outside the top 100 is wild; he can’t cover, but he does everything else great. Williams is a fascinating Chiefs-y DB with length and some fight in his game. Kinnard is a nasty cat who will start games in the NFL. Great collection here.
Least-favorite pick: Cook
It’s funny because this is a player I appreciate. You may have seen me suggest on Twitter that he was somewhat overlooked on a strong Bearcats defense. But if there’s one of that first septet of Chiefs picks that we think might turn out the least exciting of the bunch, it’s Cook. His game has limitations that might keep him in a third- or fourth-safety role, which is a tad spendy for the 62nd overall pick.
Overall: There’s not much to complain about here. Perhaps McDuffie doesn’t fit the traditional Chiefs mold at the position, but they like the guy and he was one of our favorite DBs to watch this year. Karlaftis will be the energy guy they need, and Moore was a clever way to fill the WR void, even if he’s a different style of receiver than what the team lost in Tyreek Hill. The biggest theme to this class: toughness and grit. The dirty little secret is that the Chiefs looked soft at times late last season. They seemed to lose their edge. Incoming is a draft class loaded with hungry, intense competitors. Chenal is so much like this that it’s almost a caricature.
Picks: 1-17: Boston College OL Zion Johnson; 3-79: Baylor S JT Woods; 4-123: Texas A&M RB Isaiah Spiller; 5-160: UCLA DT Otito Ogbonnia; 6-195: Georgia OL Jamaree Salyer; 6-214: Wake Forest DB Ja'Sir Taylor; 7-236: Mississippi DB Deane Leonard; 7-260: Purdue FB Zander Horvath
Favorite pick: Spiller
We loved the Johnson pick, too, but nabbing Spiller at No. 123 was a nice pull for a player who seemed to be unfairly dinged for his so-so workout times at the scouting combine. Spiller isn’t a speedster, and his game isn’t predicated on that. His natural feel for patiently letting holes open and contact balance make him a candidate to grab the early-down work and occasionally spell Austin Ekeler on third downs. Spiller won’t turn 21 until August, has low milage and the kind of all-around game to become a very good NFL back.
Least-favorite pick: Woods
He’s darned intriguing, with his ability to snipe passes out of nowhere, but Woods also comes with a caveat emptor or two. On paper, he looks damned nice at 6-foot-2 with 33-inch arms and a 4.36-second 40-yard dash on his résumé. Also don’t overlook his underrated Senior Bowl week (and game-sealing INT). But Woods isn’t a positive factor in the run game, is a poor tackler in space and he has a thin build. If your center fielder can’t tackle, that’s an issue. Woods has ability, no doubt, but he was a giveth-taketh player in college.
Overall: GM Tom Telesco is known in the industry as one of the keener talent evaluators, even if he’ll make a curious pick or two. The Chargers always take a measured approach to the draft, and some of their against-the-grain picks have worked out well. This group feels very much in line with that. Johnson could make a sneaky-big impact in Year 1, taking the o-line up another notch, and Salyer was silly late value for more interior depth. Those parts, plus the Spiller selection, make this a solid hit — even with some wait-and-see choices.
Picks: 3-90: Memphis OG Dylan Parham; 4-122: Georgia RB Zamir White; 4-126: LSU DT Neil Farrell Jr.; 5-175: Tennessee DT Matthew Butler; 7-238: Ohio State OT Thayer Munford Jr.; 7-250: UCLA RB Brittain Brown
Favorite pick: White
They really like the guy, sources tell us. The Raiders have Josh Jacobs, but the team declined his fifth-year option in the same week it took a player who could cut into his workload. Jacobs is the better receiver and all-around back right now but White is a hard-bodied, hard-running force who seems to fit the type of back McDaniels thrived with in recent years in New England. White never seemed to get enough credit for what he did at Georgia.
Least-favorite pick: Brown
The Duke transfer was solid with the Bruins but racked up a bunch of yards vs. a bad Arizona defense and lacks NFL athleticism for the position. His ticket to make it in the league might be on special teams. If we’re picking on the 250th player selected in the draft, you can tell we liked the rest of Vegas’ limited selections.
Overall: The Davante Adams trade gives this class some heft before a pick was even made. And once the Raiders were on the clock, GM Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels went after a few problem areas (offensive and defensive line), added backfield depth and generally got good bang for their buck. Parham figures to start somewhere on the interior. White will get carries. Farrell, Butler and Munford all were picked after where they should have been. That, along with Adams, makes this a fruitful weekend for the draft host-city’s team.