Patience pays off for Ravens, Bears do little to build around Fields – The best and worst 2022 NFL Draft classes

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The 2022 NFL Draft is in the books and this latest crop of rookies will soon get their first taste of life in the league as their new teams incorporate them into offseason programs.

With the NFL clearly having a very low opinion of the quarterback class, to the extent that only one signal-caller was drafted in the first two rounds, it is debatable whether this draft will come to be viewed as having much influence on the league in the coming years.

But even hitting on one or two members of a draft class can have a transformational impact on the fortunes of a franchise, while an inability to unearth and develop gems can count against coaches and general managers when the franchise hierarchy comes to review the end of a disappointing season.

Evaluating a rookie class in the immediate aftermath of a draft is an extremely difficult thing to do but, with the help of advanced data, here Stats Perform looks at the teams that put themselves in position to improve with a strong class and those who should have cause for concern after their picks in Las Vegas.

TOP OF THE CLASS

Baltimore Ravens

Round 1, Pick 14: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Round 1, Pick 25 (from Buffalo): Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Round 2, Pick 45: David Ojabo, LB, Michigan
Round 3, Pick 76: Travis Jones, DT, UConn
Round 4, Pick 110 (from N.Y. Giants): Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota
Round 4, Pick 119: Jalyn Armour-Davis, CB, Alabama
Round 4, Pick 128 (from Arizona): Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State
Round 4, Pick 130 (from Buffalo): Jordan Stout, P, Penn State
Round 4, Pick 139: Isaiah Likely, TE, Coastal Carolina
Round 4, Pick 141: Damarion Williams, CB, Houston
Round 6, Pick 196 (from Philadelphia): Tyler Badie, RB, Missouri

The Ravens did what they always do. They stuck to their board and refused to panic when teams jumped ahead of them for players who may have been on their radar.

When the Philadelphia Eagles traded up ahead of Baltimore to get Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis, a seemingly excellent fit for the Ravens defense, general manager Eric DeCosta simply took the best player on the board, and that happened to be Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton.

Hamilton was seen as the best player in the draft by some and will join an already extremely talented Ravens safety group featuring Chuck Clark and recent free-agent signing Marcus Williams.

The former Notre Dame star can offer the Ravens significant defensive flexibility with his ability to excel against the pass and the run from the deep middle, the box and the slot. Hamilton can also become an immediate playmaker in the secondary through his awareness and athleticism that belies his disappointing 40-yard dash time. Hamilton's eight interceptions between 2019 and 2021 were the fifth-most among FBS safeties during that period.

After trading wide receiver Marquise Brown for the Arizona Cardinals' 23rd overall pick and then trading down with the Buffalo Bills, the Ravens were still able to acquire Tyler Linderbaum, the top center in the draft. Coming from a zone-blocking scheme, Linderbaum is not a perfect fit for Baltimore but his stoutness in pass protection should greatly help an offensive line that was 17th in pass protection win rate last year.

The Ravens could afford to take a chance on Michigan edge rusher David Ojabo after he tore his Achilles. Ojabo, whose 7.6 per cent adjusted sack rate led the 2022 draft class last season, reunites with college defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, who also gets to work with a defensive tackle in Travis Jones who had 19 tackles for loss in three seasons.

Charlie Kolar (756) and Isaiah Likely (912) were in the top five among FBS tight ends for receiving yards last season, while the latter was second with 12 touchdowns.

Detroit Lions

Round 1, Pick 2: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
Round 1, Pick 12 (from Vikings): Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Round 2, Pick 46: Josh Paschal, DE, Kentucky
Round 3, Pick 97: Kerby Joseph, S, Illinois
Round 5, Pick 177: James Mitchell, TE, Virginia Tech
Round 6, Pick 217: James Houston, LB, Jackson State

Similar to the Ravens, the Lions didn't overthink after the Jacksonville Jaguars took Travon Walker, sticking to their board and keeping Aidan Hutchinson in Michigan.

The Lions, 27th in pass rush win rate last season, will hope he can transform their front seven, having registered the second-best pressure rate (30.8 per cent) in the 2022 edge class.

An impact player against the run, Hutchinson also racked up 17 tackles for loss in 2021, two more than second-round pick Josh Paschal, who brings inside-out versatility up front.

Trading up from 32 to 12 for Jameson Williams was extremely aggressive, but it is a move that will pay dividends if he can replicate his sole season at Alabama, in which he registered a burn – a play where he was targeted and won his matchup with a defender – on 74.6 per cent of targets, leading the receiving class in that metric and in burn yards per route (4.91) and burn yards per target (19.34).

Jameson Williams
Jameson Williams

With D.J. Chark already on the roster on a one-year deal, the Lions won't necessarily need Williams to be ready to return from his torn ACL immediately in 2022. Williams is a player drafted with a view towards becoming their long-term deep threat for whoever they eventually pick as their quarterback of the future.

Safety Kerby Joseph will be tasked with improving an often dismal secondary after recording five interceptions in 2021 for Illinois. Only two FBS defensive backs had more. The Lions got better at every level of a bad defense in this draft, and will be more explosive on offense when Williams is healthy again.

New York Jets

Round 1, Pick 4: Ahmad "Sauce" Garner, CB, Cincinnati
Round 1, Pick 10 (from Seattle): Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Round 1, Pick 26 (from Tennessee): Jermaine Johnson II, DE, Florida State
Round 2, Pick 36 (from N.Y. Giants): Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
Round 3, Pick 101 (from New Orleans via Philadelphia and Tennessee): Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State
Round 4, Pick 111: Max Mitchell, OT, Louisiana
Round 4, Pick 117: Micheal Clemons, DE, Texas A&M

Expectations are likely to be sky-high for the Jets in the Big Apple after general manager Joe Douglas orchestrated a draft for which they have received deserved widespread plaudits.

New York boosted a much-maligned secondary by selecting cornerback Ahmad 'Sauce' Gardner fourth overall. Gardner gave up just one burn for a touchdown in three college seasons and should pair nicely with Bryce Hall, who had the lowest combined open percentage (14.61) allowed across man and zone coverage of all corners in the NFL with at least 100 coverage matchups in 2021.

A trade for Deebo Samuel did not materialise so the Jets settled for a receiver in Garrett Wilson who trailed only Williams and Alec Pierce (72.9 per cent) with a burn rate of 71.6 per cent with the 10th overall pick. They capped a stellar first round with edge Jermaine Johnson, who lasted until pick 26 despite posting 17 adjusted sacks in 2021, just one fewer than Hutchinson.

Second-round running back Breece Hall had the most scrimmage touchdowns (23) in the Power 5 last year, while fourth-round tight end Jeremy Ruckert averaged 11.9 yards per reception in his final season with Ohio State. With more weapons around him and supported by what should be an improved defense, the pressure is firmly on last year's second overall pick, Zach Wilson, to deliver at quarterback.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

Jacksonville Jaguars

Round 1, Pick 1: Travon Walker, DE, Georgia
Round 1, Pick 27: Devin Lloyd, ILB, Utah
Round 3, Pick 65: Luke Fortner, C, Kentucky
Round 3, Pick 70 (from Carolina): Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming
Round 5, Pick 154 (from Commanders via Eagles): Snoop Conner, RB, Ole Miss
Round 6, Pick 197 (from Philadelphia): Gregory Junior, CB, Ouachita Baptist
Round 7, Pick 222: Montaric Brown, CB, Arkansas

Betting on traits over production is something a lot of general managers do at some point in the NFL Draft, just often not with the first overall pick.

Trent Baalke did so by taking a phenomenal athlete in Georgia edge rusher Travon Walker. Walker had just 9.5 sacks in college and a 2021 pressure rate of only 12 per cent.

Maybe Walker can harness his physical gifts on a more consistent basis in the pros but, given the Jaguars' track record, it's tough to see the gamble paying off and it's tough to look past that decision when evaluating their mediocre draft.

Having already given a lucrative contract to an off-ball linebacker, Foyesade Oluokun, in free agency, the Jags then traded up to take another, Utah's Devin Lloyd, at 27 overall.

Lloyd is an excellent prospect and had an FBS-high four interceptions last season, but the allocation of resources to a non-premium position – which they addressed again with the pick of Chad Muma in the third round – is difficult to understand.

The Jags might be better in 2022 but this draft doesn't leave much reason for excitement about a team who, by landing Trevor Lawrence last year, acquired perhaps the most exciting quarterback to come out of college in the 21st century.

Arizona Cardinals

Round 2, Pick 55: Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State
Round 3, Pick 87: Cameron Thomas, DE, San Diego State
Round 3, Pick 100: Myjai Sanders, DE, Cincinnati
Round 6, Pick 201: Keaontay Ingram, RB, USC
Round 6, Pick 215: Lecitus Smith, OG, Virginia Tech
Round 7, Pick 244: Christian Matthew, CB, Valdosta State
Round 7, Pick 256: Jesse Luketa, LB, Penn State
Round 7, Pick 257: Marquis Hayes, OG, Oklahoma

Arizona's big move was to reunite Kyler Murray with former college team-mate Brown. Maybe their rapport from their time at Oklahoma quickly returns, but trading the 23rd pick for a receiver who was the 25th pick in 2019 and has a single 1,000-yard season in three years is not good business, thought it is a little more understandable in the wake of the DeAndre Hopkins suspension.

On the surface, getting John Mackey Award-winning tight end Trey McBride with the 55th pick is good value, however, the Cardinals already have Zach Ertz and Maxx Williams at tight end and very rarely play two-tight end sets under head coach Kilff Kingsbury. Unless Kingsbury is planning to change that in 2022, McBride's pick makes little sense for the immediate future.

The selections of Cameron Thomas, who had 17 adjusted sacks last year, and fellow edge rusher Myjai Sanders – 20.4 per cent pressure rate in 2021 – should help the defensive line in the wake of Chandler Jones' departure.

However, by using a first-round pick in a trade for a receiver and waiting until day two to address edge rusher, the Cardinals attacked their needs in the wrong order.

Chicago Bears

Round 2, Pick 39: Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
Round 2, Pick 48 (from L.A. Chargers): Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State
Round 3, Pick 71: Velus Jones Jr., WR, Tennessee
Round 5, Pick 168 (from Buffalo): Braxton Jones, OT, Southern Utah
Round 5, Pick 174 (from Chicago): Dominique Robinson, DE, Miami (OH)
Round 6, Pick 186: Zachary Thomas, DT, San Diego State
Round 6, Pick 203 (from Buffalo): Trestan Ebner, RB, Baylor
Round 7, Pick 207 (from San Francisco via New York Jets): Doug Kramer, C, Illinois
Round 7, Pick 226 (from New York Giants via Cincinnati Bengals): Ja'Tyre Carter, OG, Southern
Round 7, Pick 254 (from L.A. Chargers): Elijah Hicks, S, Cal
Round 7, Pick 255 (from L.A. Chargers): Trenton Gill, P, NC State

There's nothing wrong with building on a strength, Chicago adding cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker to a secondary that was already arguably the class of a weak roster.

But this is more about what the Bears didn't do. Chicago failed to get quarterback Justin Fields anything resembling significant help to improve an offense that was 27th in yards per play (4.86) last year.

Third-round receiver Velus Jones Jr. will be 25 by the time the season starts and was known more for his return ability than his receiving prior to scoring seven scrimmage touchdowns in 2021.

The Bears also did not address a pass rush that lost Khalil Mack this offseason until the fifth round with edge rusher Dominique Robinson and it is increasingly difficult to see how Fields is set up for success in his sophomore season.

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