Just a little over one month ago, 262 college football players transitioned into NFL players when they heard their name called during the 2022 NFL Draft. Becoming NFL players is something these football standouts have dreamed of ever since they were a kid, but now it’s a reality.
Over the next few months, these newly-drafted NFL players will fight for a spot on their team’s 53-man roster – and if not that, then the team’s practice squad. Getting drafted is often just the beginning – the first step – in hopefully becoming long-term, starting, productive NFL players.
While not all newly-drafted NFL players will crack the roster and a majority of them won’t even make the practice squad, some of these players will have a standout rookie year and others will turn that immediate success into sustained success throughout the length of their pro careers.
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Which Rookie NFL Players Could Surprise Us?
Aside from doing whatever possible to help their team win the Super Bowl, rookie NFL players have a little bit more to play for when it comes to the Offensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year awards. It’s an award you only have one shot at in your career.
Last year, it was Ja’Marr Chase that was named Offensive Rookie of the Year and Micah Parsons that was named Defensive Rookie of the Year. They both had incredible seasons in 2021 and are primed to be successful and productive NFL players for many years to come.
Of course, that begs the question – which rookie NFL players are primed for success in 2022? Which ones are being put in the best situation as they begin their NFL career? We can’t predict the future, but we can go over some of the rookie NFL players fans should keep their eyes on.
15. Malik Willis – Tennessee Titans
Malik Willis was drafted 86th overall in the third round by the Tennessee Titans. After two years of minimal playing time at Auburn University, he transferred to Liberty University and recorded 5,107 passing yards, 1,822 rushing yards, and 74 touchdowns over the next two seasons.
Many NFL analysts had Willis pegged as a first round draft pick, but he ended up falling to the third round. He won’t be the starting quarterback Week 1 and might not start all season long, but Ryan Tannehill is one losing streak away from losing his starting role – which Willis would take.
14. Desmond Ridder – Atlanta Falcons
Desmond Ridder was drafted 74th overall in the third round by the Atlanta Falcons. He spent four years as the starting quarterback at the University of Cincinnati, recording 10,239 passing yards, 2,180 rushing yards, and 116 total touchdowns in 50 career games at the college level.
The Falcons traded away Matt Ryan this offseason, ending an era that spanned 14 seasons. Although they waited until the third round, the Falcons believe they’ve found their future franchise quarterback. He still has to win the starting position, but he’s in a pretty good position to do so.
13. James Cook – Buffalo Bills
James Cook was drafted 63rd overall in the second round by the Buffalo Bills. He was a four-year running back at the University of Georgia, where he recorded 1,503 rushing yards, 730 receiving yards, and 20 total touchdowns in 46 games at the college level in a limited role.
The Buffalo Bills needed a running back that could be useful as a receiver and that’s exactly what they got out of Cook. He’s the brother of Dalvin Cook and he’s built for the NFL. He’ll fit in nicely next to Devin Singletary and Josh Allen as the Bills’ second most-used running back.
12. Skyy Moore – Kansas City Chiefs
Skyy Moore was drafted 54th overall in the second round by the Kansas City Chiefs. He was a three-year wide receiver at Western Michigan University, where he recorded 171 receptions, 2,482 yards, and 17 total touchdowns in 30 games. He once had four touchdowns in a game.
The Kansas City Chiefs traded away their No. 1 receiver in Tyreek Hill this offseason. While Moore isn’t the only receiver addition they’ve made as a response, many are pegging Moore as one of the steals in the draft. It won’t take long before he’s Patrick Mahomes’ favorite target.
11. Breece Hall – New York Jets
Breece Hall was drafted 36th overall in the second round by the New York Jets. He was a three-year running back at Iowa State University, where he recorded 3,941 rushing yards, 734 receiving yards, and 56 total touchdowns in 36 games. He was a touchdown-scoring machine.
Hall isn’t the only Jets’ draft pick on this list – in fact, there are two more and we didn’t even include Sauce Gardner. The Jets had a monster draft and it will either be the start of something new or the same old thing we’ve seen from the Jets in recent years. Either way, Hall has upside.
10. Christian Watson – Green Bay Packers
Christian Watson was drafted 34th overall in the second round by the Green Bay Packers. He was a four-year wide receiver and return specialist at North Dakota State University, where he recorded 105 receptions, 2,140 receiving yards, and 14 receiving touchdowns in 52 games.
The Packers traded away their No. 1 receiver in Davante Adams this offseason, leaving Aaron Rodgers with little help. Watson might not have the stats as some of the other wide receivers in this draft, but he has something they don’t – one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever live.
9. Cole Strange – New England Patriots
Cole Strange was drafted 29th overall in the first round by the New England Patriots. He was a five-year offensive guard at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he played in 49 games and started 44 of them. He graduated with a degree in Psychology back in 2020.
When the Patriots drafted Strange, it was – for lack of better words – strange. He’s a player that many people were hoping to grab in a later round, but the Patriots hopped on him early, surprising everyone. With that comes expectations, especially on a Bill Belichick-led franchise.
8. Jermaine Johnson III – New York Jets
Jermaine Johnson III was drafted 26th overall in the first round by the New York Jets (our second Jet on this list). He was a three-year linebacker and defensive end for the University of Georgia and Florida State. He had 18.0 sacks and 24.5 tackles for loss in 28 college games.
Many people thought Johnson III might go to the Jets in the top-ten, but they managed to take him later in the first round – making him a ‘steal’ candidate. He’s stepping into a situation to showcase his skills early as the Jets look for immediate help on the defensive side of the ball.
7. Kaiir Elam – Buffalo Bills
Kaiir Elam was drafted 23rd overall in the first round by the Buffalo Bills. He was a three-year cornerback at the University of Florida, recording 78 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 5 interceptions, 20 passes defensed, and 1 fumble recovery in 30 games at the college level.
Elam stole the show when his name was called, telling the Bills’ owner on the phone to ‘put the playbook on the plane.’ It’s a testament to how ready and willing this young man is to work hard and learn from some of the best. He’ll be a No. 2 corner and is in a position to win a Super Bowl.
6. Kenny Pickett – Pittsburgh Steelers
Kenny Pickett was drafted 20th overall in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was a five-year quarterback at the University of Pittsburgh, where he recorded 12,303 passing yards, 81 touchdowns, 32 interceptions, and a 32-20 record in 52 games. He’s got the experience.
When longtime Steelers’ starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger announced his retirement this offseason, Pittsburgh was left with a glaring hole on their roster. Pickett will have to earn the starting spot with several ‘bridge’ quarterbacks ahead of him, but he can step in at any moment.
5. Kyle Hamilton – Baltimore Ravens
Kyle Hamilton was drafted 14th overall in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens. He was a three-year safety at the University of Notre Dame, where he recorded 138 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 8 interceptions, and 1 defensive touchdown in 31 games. The Ravens got lucky.
Many analysts had Hamilton pegged as a top-five player in this draft. Baltimore snagged him in the middle of the first round, which is shocking. He makes an immediate impact for a team in need of defensive help and he draws heavy comparisons to Ed Reed – a Ravens’ legend.
4. Garrett Wilson – New York Jets
Garrett Wilson was drafted 10th overall in the first round by the New York Jets – our third and final Jet on this list. He was a three-year wide receiver at Ohio State University, where he recorded 143 receptions for 2,213 yards and 23 touchdowns in 32 games at the college level.
Last year, the Jets drafted Zach Wilson with hopes of him being their franchise quarterback. His first year didn’t go super well, but he has tremendous upside. With a lot of help around him this year – including Wilson – it’ll be interesting to see if the Jets’ experiment this season works.
3. Kayvon Thibodeaux – New York Giants
Kayvon Thibodeaux was drafted No. 5 overall in the first round by the New York Giants. He was a three-year defensive end for the University of Oregon, where he recorded 126 tackles, 19.0 sacks, 35.5 tackles for loss, 7 passes defensed, and 3 fumble recoveries. He was a beast.
Thibodeaux will step into the 2022-23 season as one of the Giants’ starters on the edge. He will be expected to produce and will be in a position to put up massive numbers. Of course, he has to execute and put the work in, but he has all the tools to shock the NFL as a rookie this season.
2. Aidan Hutchinson – Detroit Lions
Aidan Hutchinson was drafted No. 2 overall in the first round by the Detroit Lions. He was a four-year defensive lineman at the University of Michigan, where he recorded 156 tackles, 17.5 sacks (14.0 sacks in 2021), 27.5 tackles for loss, 10 passes defensed, and 5 forced fumbles.
For most of the year, analysts had Hutchinson pegged as the clear No. 1 overall draft pick. Things changed in the weeks leading up to the draft, which was totally okay for the Detroit Lions – who got a franchise player to add to their defensive line. Expect huge things from Hutchinson.
1. Travon Walker – Jacksonville Jaguars
Travon Walker was drafted No. 1 overall in the first round by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was a three-year defensive lineman at the University of Georgia where he had 61 tackles, 13.0 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 1 interception, 3 passes defensed, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 forced fumble.
Most people thought Hutchinson would be a Jaguar, but it’s Walker that gets to wear the black, gold, and teal. Walker might not have the stats as some of the other defensive lineman, but the Jaguars think he has the best upside and are enlightened by his versatility on the football field.
Second-Year NFL Players to Keep Your Eye On This Season
You can expect great things from the rookie NFL players listed above. They’re going to give it their all and while it’s unknown whether that will translate to production on the field, it’s enough for us to keep our eyes on them. The truth is they’ll either surprise us or prove to be a bust.
With that said, there are several second-year NFL players – besides Chase and Parsons – that are primed for big things in 2022. Some names are Nick Bolton, Gregory Rousseau, Rashod Bateman, Kwity Paye, Rondale Moore, Kyle Pitts, Zach Wilson, and Amari Rogers.
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It’s a great time for young NFL players in the league as they start to showcase their skills. With a lot of the game’s all-time greats retiring every year, it’s good to know that the NFL is in good hands – especially with NFL players like T.J. Watt, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, etc.
20 Best Moments to Come From the NFL Draft
The 2022 NFL Draft was one of the history books as it made its mark on the Las Vegas Strip. The festivities began with the NFL Draft Experience at 12:00PM on Thursday, April 28th – fit with mini games, food, beverages, merchandise, autograph sessions, and a Super Bowl ring display.
The first round of the 87th edition of the annual NFL Draft began later that night at 8:00PM ET with the Jacksonville Jaguars slotted with the No. 1 pick. The second and third round took place the following night (Friday) and rounds four through seven proceeded on Saturday morning.
It was the first time the NFL Draft took place in Las Vegas. In fact, it was supposed to happen in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused the NFL to change its plans. It all worked out though, since Las Vegas was also the home of the 2022 Pro Bowl that took place on February 6, 2022.
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20 Moments That Sum Up the 2022 NFL Draft
It seems like every year, the NFL Draft is put on a bigger spotlight as thousands of people watch the event live and take part in the festivities. Of course, that doesn’t include the millions of others that tune in online or in front of their television to watch their favorite team make their picks.
This year’s rendition of the NFL Draft was no different and it might’ve been the biggest draft to date. It was full of moments that fans, players, coaches, and front office members won’t forget anytime soon. It seems like there’s never a dull moment when watching the NFL Draft.
Some of those moments were funny, some were hilarious, some were emotional, and some were moments that only Las Vegas could provide. Whether you missed out on the fun or are looking to reminisce about some of the best moments, we’re going to share them with you!
20. With the First Pick in the 2022 NFL Draft…
The Jacksonville Jaguars finished the season with the league’s worst record at 3-14-0, giving them the No. 1 pick in this year’s NFL Draft. For most of the season, it seemed as though Aiden Hutchinson was the obvious pick at No. 1, but things started to change leading up to the draft.
The Jags ended up selecting Travon Walker, a three-year defensive lineman with the Georgia Bulldogs, with the first pick. He played 29 games at Georgia and recorded just 61 tackles, 13.0 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
19. Roger Goodell Loves the Boos From the Crowd
If there’s one thing fans can expect at every NFL Draft, it’s the amount of boos that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell receives pretty much every time he walks out on stage. Things were no different this year, most notably when he walked out to announce the Cowboy’s pick.
Goodell is always under heavy criticism by NFL fans, largely due to his inconsistent fines and suspensions. Of course, it also has to do with the rule changes that happen every year and the amount of money he makes for doing, well, nothing. Honestly, fans just love booing Goodell!
18. Ice Cube & Derek Carr Welcome Everyone to the Draft
There were two people at the start of the NFL Draft that weren’t booed – Derek Carr and Ice Cube. The two were on-stage to kick off the draft and they didn’t disappoint. Cube, a lifelong Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders’ fan, was loud enough for the entire city of Las Vegas to hear.
Carr, the current quarterback of the Las Vegas Raiders, wanted to welcome everyone to his city. Last season, despite plenty of drama in Sin City, Carr helped lead the depleted Raiders to the playoffs. He threw for 4,804 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions in the regular season.
17. 65 SEC Players Get Drafted in Total
The Southeastern Conference (SEC) has emerged as the place to be for future NFL draft picks over the past decade. Last season, during the 2021 NFL Draft, the SEC saw a record 65 players drafted into the league – beating their previous record of 64 players the year prior.
While they didn’t beat their record this year, they did tie it with another 65 players drafted. The 14 teams in the SEC include Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, and Texas A&M.
16. Sean McVay and Les Snead Laugh at the Patriots’ Pick
With the 29th overall pick in the NFL Draft, the New England Patriots selected offensive guard Cole Strange out of Chattanooga. It was a pick that caused everyone to gasp, not because he’s a bad player, but because many football analysts had him slated for the second or third round.
It wasn’t just analysts that were surprised, though. Considering this sound bite from Los Angeles Rams’ head coach (Sean McVay) and General Manager (Les Snead), personnel from around the league were just as surprised. McVay was hoping to draft him in one of the later rounds.
15. Atlanta Falcons Draft Their Matt Ryan Replacement
The 2022 NFL Draft wasn’t very kind to quarterbacks, which is something that can’t be said in previous years. Not only did it take 20 picks before the first quarterback was taken (more on that later), but it took three rounds for Desmond Ridder to finally hear his name at the podium.
Many analysts had Ridder projected to be a first round pick and others had him listed as the top quarterback in this draft. The Atlanta Falcons thought so, but didn’t draft him until Round 3, Pick 74. The quarterback out of Cincinnati might not be a Day 1 starter, but we’ll see him eventually.
14. Connor Heyward Gets Drafted by Brother’s Team
Connor Heyward was listed as the top fullback in the 2022 NFL Draft, but he plays more like a running back. He spent five seasons at Michigan State and recorded 825 rushing yards, 711 receiving yards (96 catches), and 16 total touchdowns in 45 career games with the Spartans.
Heyward ended up being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the sixth round (No. 208), which is fitting considering his older brother, Cam Heyward, is one of their captains. Cam, a former first round pick, plays on the defensive line and has 68.0 sacks in 11 seasons with the Steelers.
13. Put the Playbook on the Plane!
The Buffalo Bills are used to picking in the lower half of the draft, but that has changed in recent years thanks to the culture and talent assembled in recent years – Bills Mafia can credit Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane with that. This year, they picked at No. 23 after trading up.
With the 23rd pick in the draft, they selected cornerback Kaiir Elam out of Florida. During the phone call with Bills’ personnel, he kept saying “Put the playbook on the plane,” which they did. You can tell this man is motivated and driven to be the best player he can possibly be in Buffalo.
12. Six Receivers Drafted Between #8 and #18
We mentioned how the 2022 NFL Draft wasn’t very kind to quarterbacks, but boy was it kind to young wide receivers. It took eight picks for the first one to get drafted, but that started a domino effect that ended with six wide receivers being picked between the No. 8 pick and No. 18 pick.
The six receivers were Drake London at No. 8 (Falcons), Garrett Wilson at No. 11 (Jets), Chris Olave at No. 12 (Saints), Jameson Williams at No. 13 (Lions), Jahan Dotson at No. 16 (Commanders), and Treylon Burks at No. 18 (Titans). There were 7 more in the second round.
11. Georgia Bulldogs Have 15 Players Selected in Draft
Earlier, we talked about the 65 players drafted out of the SEC – tying the previous record set by the SEC. What’s even more incredible was that 15 of those players came from one school – the University of Georgia Bulldogs. It tied a previous record for most draftees from a single school.
Five of those players were taken in the first round, two in the second round, two in the third round, two in the fourth round, and four in the sixth round. The LSU Tigers had the second-most picks with 10, while the Cincinnati Bearcats had nine and the Penn State Nittany Lions had eight.
10. Criss Angel Wows the Crowd
It’s hard to picture the Las Vegas scene without Criss Angel, who has been a staple in the city’s entertainment industry for over a decade. In fact, he used to be one of Las Vegas’ biggest tourist attractions and continues to ‘wow’ people with his magic tricks and illusions around the world.
Before the second round opened with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ No. 33 draft selection, Criss Angel opened up the second day of the NFL Draft in style. Dangling from the rafters upside down in a straight jacket, Angel somehow freed himself while making everyone very dizzy.
9. Packers Finally Draft a WR in the 2nd Round
One of the biggest storylines leading up to the draft was what the Green Bay Packers were going to do with their draft picks. They had two first round picks (No. 22 and No. 28) after trading their No. 1 receiver Davante Adams to the Raiders – which they should’ve used on a receiver.
Instead, they chose to draft a linebacker and defensive tackle (both from Georgia) with those picks and waited until the second round to give Aaron Rodgers some much-needed help. With the 34th pick in the draft, the Packers traded up to draft Christian Watson (North Dakota State).
8. Lions Trade Up for Jameson Williams
Speaking of teams that were on the lookout for a wide receiver, the Detroit Lions got their guy amidst that crazy six-receiver run in the middle of the first round. The difference between the Lions and the Packers is that Detroit wasn’t willing to wait – in fact, they traded up to get theirs.
The Lions were already having a good draft day after selecting Aiden Hutchinson with the No. 2 overall pick, but that wasn’t enough. They traded No. 32, No. 34, and No. 68 to the Vikings for No. 12 and No. 46. With the 12th pick, they drafted WR Jameson Williams out of Alabama.
7. James Cook Doesn’t Look Happy When Drafted
After trading up for CB Kaiir Elam, as we discussed earlier, the Buffalo Bills were ready to draft another game-changer in the second round – this time on offense. It was clear their run game wasn’t living up to the standard in Buffalo, but they changed that with their No. 63 selection.
They went with James Cook out of Georgia, which is a solid pick for a team that should be on their way to the Super Bowl this season. And while it looked like he wasn’t happy when he got the phone call, he later explained that he was distracted because his son was crying at the time.
6. Ravens Trade WR Marquise Brown to the Cardinals
There were two major draft-day trades that shook the entire NFL and one of them involved the Baltimore Ravens, the Arizona Cardinals, and a proven wide receiver in Marquise Brown. The receiver quietly asked for a trade (behind the scenes) and was granted that wish on draft day.
The Ravens ended up trading Marquise Brown and a third-round draft pick to the Cardinals for the No. 23 pick in the NFL Draft. The Ravens later traded the No. 23 pick to the Bills for the No. 25 pick (which they used to draft a reliable center) and the No. 130 pick – using it on a punter.
5. No Quarterbacks Taken Until No. 20
Alright, let’s talk about quarterbacks. For those that are frequent watchers of the NFL Draft, it might’ve been weird to see the first 19 picks go by without a quarterback being selected. Well, that’s what happened in 2022 with Kenny Pickett going to the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 20.
Pickett was a five-year player at Pittsburgh. In 52 career games played, he threw for 12,303 yards, 81 touchdowns, and 32 interceptions. The next quarterback taken was Desmond Ridder to the Atlanta Falcons at No. 74 and then Malik Willis to the Tennessee Titans at No. 86.
4. Mike Vrabel Isn’t Happy About the A.J. Brown Trade
Speaking of the Tennessee Titans, they were the subject of the other major draft-day trade – remember, we said there were two. This one involved the Titans, the Philadelphia Eagles, and an extremely talented wide receiver in A.J. Brown. It was one of the most shocking moments.
When the trade was announced, Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel didn’t look too pleased – which makes sense because Brown had 185 catches, 2,995 yards, and 24 touchdowns in 43 games played. The Titans received the No. 18 pick and No. No. 101 pick, but it was still a big loss.
3. Ed Marinaro Takes Way Too Long to Announce Pick
In 1972, the Minnesota Vikings selected Ed Marinaro with the 50th pick in the second round of the NFL Draft. The running back went on to play four years with the team and six years total in the league. He finished with 1,319 rushing yards, 1,176 receiving yards, and 13 touchdowns.
On the second day of the 2022 NFL Draft, he was chosen to announce the Vikings’ second round draft choice – which he did, but only after a two-minute speech. It took so long that an NFL producer had to come on-stage and tell him to hurry up – it was a priceless moment.
2. Sauce Gardner Gets Lost On His Way to Goodell
Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner is one of the biggest personalities in this year’s draft, so it’s only fitting that he was drafted by the New York Jets with the fourth overall draft pick this past weekend. In 33 games at Cincinnati, he had nine interceptions, 3.5 sacks, and two defensive touchdowns.
After his name was called, he started to make his way to the podium – much like everyone else that was invited to the draft. With Sauce, though, he went the opposite way of everyone else and quickly realized it before turning around and hustling up to the podium – he’s definitely a Jet.
1. Kyle Brandt… That’s All That Needs to Be Said
Kyle Brandt was asked to announce the Buffalo Bills’ third round draft choice on the second day of the NFL Draft and while he didn’t take as long as Marinaro, he pumped the crowd up more than any other announcer. He matched the energy that Bills Mafia brings every Sunday.
Brandt has become a major ambassador for the Bills in recent years. He loves Josh Allen (quarterback), he loves the culture, he loves the Buffalo wings, he loves Sean McDermott (head coach), he loves Brandon Beane (general manager), and he loves to get a sip of that “process juice.”
Which NFL Teams Won the 2022 NFL Draft?
Every year, there are several teams that clearly improve their roster from a season ago – which is the ultimate goal of the NFL Draft. At the same time, other teams aren’t as fortunate and make some questionable picks. After all, not all 262 players drafted this year will make an NFL roster.
The five teams that had the best 2022 NFL Draft were the Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Detroit Lions. The Buffalo Bills, Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks, and New York Giants also had a successful NFL Draft this offseason.
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Of course, that doesn’t mean anything until we see these former college players on an NFL field. Just because their selections look good on paper, doesn’t mean it’ll transition that way to the field. I guess only time will tell which teams won the draft, but that’s what makes it exciting.
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