Teams That Improved the Most Through the 2022 NFL DraftMay 1, 2022
Teams That Improved the Most Through the 2022 NFL Draft
The 2022 NFL draft has ended, and many teams should feel good about their rookie haul.
However, whether because of a volume of selections, a number of high picks or finding great value at positions of need, some teams improved more over the last three days than others. Here, we'll examine the six franchises that improved the most—with the caveat that draft classes can't be truly evaluated for at least a couple of years.
We'll focus on factors such as prospect upside, team needs, selection volume and draft value and will use our Scouting Department's big board as a guideline.
First, though, let's revisit how draft weekend unfolded.
2022 NFL Draft Results
Added: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame; Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa; David Ojabo, Edge, Michigan; Travis Jones, DT, UConn; Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota; Jalyn Armour-Davis, CB, Alabama; Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State; Jordan Stout, P, Penn State; Isaiah Likely, TE, Coastal Carolina; Damarion Williams, CB, Houston; Tyler Badie, RB, Missouri
The fact that the Baltimore Ravens traded 1,000-yard receiver Marquise Brown limits their improvement some. However, Baltimore also deserves credit for getting a first-round pick back for a good-not-great receiver with just two years remaining on his rookie deal.
While Brown did reach 1,000 yards for the first time in 2021, he also provided a passer rating of only 87.9 when targeted. Baltimore dealt him, traded down again and still landed Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum.
He fills an immediate need at center, as 2021 starter Bradley Bozeman departed for the Carolina Panthers in free agency.
Baltimore's first pick, Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton, fills less of an immediate need but was the best player available at No. 14. He was the seventh-ranked prospect on the B/R board and should boost a pass defense that ranked last in the league, if only on a rotational basis initially.
Last season, Hamilton amassed 34 tackles, two tackles for loss, four passes defended and three interceptions.
In Round 2, the Ravens scooped up Michigan pass-rusher David Ojabo. While he suffered a torn Achilles during his pro day and may not be ready early in 2022, he is a Round 1 talent and a potential future star. Even with the injury, he was the 40th-ranked prospect on the B/R board.
Connecticut defensive tackle Travis Jones was the 50th-ranked prospect on the B/R board, and Baltimore snagged him in Round 3. That pick gave the Ravens three immediate contributors and a long-term building block before the end of Day 2.
"Round 1 talent goes in Round 3. Ravens just continue to steal the biggest baddest dudes on the planet," ProFootballTalk's Chris Simms tweeted after the Jones pick.
Baltimore got more tremendous value in fourth-round pick Daniel Faalele. The former Missouri offensive tackle was the 53rd-ranked player on the B/R board and could work his way into the starting lineup relatively quickly.
Also on Day 3, the Ravens rounded out their draft with potential depth pieces such as tight end Isaiah Likely and cornerback Jayln Armour-Davis. Punter Jordan Stout was scooped up to compete with and potentially replace Sam Koch.
In all, it was a great three days for the Ravens, who made 11 picks and landed both high-end talent and possible steals throughout.
Added: Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan; Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama; Josh Paschal, DE, Kentucky; Kerby Joseph, S, Illinois; James Mitchell, TE, Virginia Tech; Malcolm Rodriguez, LB, Oklahoma State; James Houston IV, LB, Jackson State; Chase Lucas, CB, Arizona State
The Detroit Lions stood pat at No. 2 and landed Michigan pass-rusher Aidan Hutchinson—a prospect some believed would go No. 1. He's a high-floor, instant-impact sack artist and a local product who was excited to join Detroit.
"For the whole draft process, I wanted them to pick me. I am so grateful I went No. 2 to them," Hutchinson said, per Robin Murdoch of Fox 2 Detroit.
Hutchinson, who had 14 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss last season, will be an immediate difference-maker in coordinator Aaron Glenn's defense.
Then, the Lions traded up to No. 12 to land Alabama wideout Jameson Williams. The move cost them picks Nos. 32, 34 and 66 with the Minnesota Vikings (they got back No. 46), but Williams has perennial All-Pro upside.
Williams might not make a Week 1 impact, as he's recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the national title game. However, he should pair with Amon-Ra St. Brown to form one of the most exciting young receiver duos in the NFC.
St. Brown caught at least eight passes in each of his final six games and provided a passer rating of 104.0 when targeted as a rookie.
In Round 2, the Lions snagged Kentucky defensive end Josh Paschal. He has room to grow as an edge-rusher, but he's ready to contribute now.
"Paschal already has the strength and run-defense chops to hang as a pro. Pair that together with his explosiveness, and it isn't hard to see how Paschal could be an effective starter once he settles into a position," B/R's Derrik Klassen wrote.
A Detroit pass rush that logged only 30 sacks in 2021 now looks quite scary with Hutchinson and Paschal.
In Round 3, Detroit grabbed Illinois safety Kerby Joseph. He should be an early asset as a rotational defensive back who can play deep or in the slot.
Detroit did a wonderful job of adding depth pieces on Day 3, including Virginia Tech tight end James Mitchell and Arizona State cornerback Chase Lucas. The Lions might have also gotten a steal in Oklahoma State linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was named the biggest sleeper at linebacker on the final B/R board.
Detroit added high-end starters early and did a great job of finding value and addressing needs throughout the draft. The Lions are shaping up to be a problem for opponents in 2022.
Added: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU; Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M; Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor; John Metchie III, WR, Alabama; Christian Harris, LB, Alabama; Dameon Pierce, RB, Florida; Thomas Booker, DT Stanford; Teagan Quitoriano, TE, Oregon State; Austin Deculus, OT, LSU
The Houston Texans might have surprised a few people when they took LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. third overall. While he had elite game tape in 2019, he was less consistent and battled injuries over the next two seasons. An ankle injury limited him to only three games in 2021.
However, Stingley has All-Pro potential and was the fourth-ranked prospect on the B/R board. He'll quickly become a centerpiece of the Texans defense.
Houston then added fourth- and fifth-round picks in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles while only moving back two spots. At No. 15, Houston grabbed Texas A&M guard Kenyon Green. He'll provide an immediate boost to an offense that allowed 44 sacks and ranked dead last in yards per rush last season.
The Texans came back in Round 2 to grab Baylor safety Jalen Pitre, who logged 75 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and a fumble recovery in 2021. He's a versatile playmaker who will join Stingley in revamping a pass defense that ranked 30th in yards per pass allowed last season.
Like Williams, Alabama receiver John Metchie III is coming off a serious injury—his, a torn ACL in the SEC Championship game. It will take him time to return to form, but he will make an impact once healthy.
"Overall, Metchie can be a contributor on Day 1 (pending injury) for most NFL offenses as a Z receiver who can bump inside and out because of his well-rounded skill set and feel for space," B/R's Nate Tice wrote.
Once healthy, Metchie will provide a reliable target for developing quarterback Davis Mills.
Houston landed Metchie in the mid-second round and then added former teammate and linebacker Christian Harris in Round 3.
Harris, the 32nd-ranked prospect on the B/R board, can become the captain of Houston's defense and will further bolster a unit that ranked 31st in yards allowed last season.
In Round 4, Houston found a promising piece for its backfield in Florida running back Dameon Pierce. A stout 5'10", 218-pound runner with burst, he should further support Mills in his second season. The Texans continued addressing both sides of the ball on Day 3 with Pierce, Stanford defensive tackle Thomas Booker and LSU offensive tackle Austin Deculus.
The Texans did a wonderful job of picking elite talent early and then filling needs and addressing depth throughout the weekend. They may not be ready to push for the playoffs just yet, but they should pressure their division rivals this season.
Kansas City Chiefs
Added: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington; George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue; Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan; Bryan Cook, S, Cincinnati; Leo Chenal, LB, Wisconsin; Joshua Williams, CB, Fayetteville State; Darian Kinnard, G, Kentucky; Jaylen Watson, CB, Washington State; Isaih Pacheco, RB, Rutgers; Nazeeh Johnson, S, Marshall
The Kansas City Chiefs entered the 2022 draft with extra first- and second-round picks thanks to the Tyreek Hill trade. While they didn't replace Hill, they added a potential playmaking receiver in Western Michigan's Skyy Moore and added some significant pieces on defense.
Kansas City traded up to land both Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie and Purdue pass-rusher George Karlaftis in Round 1. McDuffie should step in to replace departed starter Charvarius Ward, while Karlaftis, the eighth-ranked prospect on the B/R board, has elite pass-rushing potential.
"Karlaftis has the size, explosiveness and run-pass versatility to be one of the most disruptive players in the NFL in a few seasons," B/R's Derrik Klassen wrote.
Karlaftis is a big get for a defense that produced just 31 sacks in 2021.
Moore, Kansas City's first second-round pick, is a versatile inside-outside receiver with great after-the-catch ability and solid route skills. He isn't Hill, but he can give Patrick Mahomes a reliable and dangerous complementary option out of the gate.
Kansas City went back to the defense in the late second and third rounds, taking Cincinnati safety Bryan Cook and Wisconsin linebacker Leo Chenal. Cook logged 57 tackles, five tackles for loss, a sack and two interceptions last season, while Chenal tallied 115 tackles, eight sacks and two forced fumbles.
According to ProFootballTalk's Chris Simms, Cook and Chenal were the best players at their respective positions left on the board entering Round 2.
Kansas City's strategy for the first two days was sound and should pay off. The offense will be dangerous as long as Mahomes is under center. A Kansas City defense that ranked 27th overall last season was much better on Saturday morning than it was on Wednesday.
On Saturday afternoon, the Chiefs addressed depth by adding Kentucky guard Darian Kinnard and Washington State cornerback Isaih Pacheco.
Kinnard, in particular, could be a valuable rotational piece in front of Mahomes. He was the 100th-ranked prospect on the B/R board and a great value at pick No. 145.
This was exactly the sort of draft Kansas City needed to remain near the top of the AFC entering 2022. Yes, the Chiefs traded one of their biggest weapons, but they look to be a more balanced, deeper team than a year ago.
New York Jets
Added: Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati; Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State; Jermaine Johnson II, Edge, Florida State; Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State; Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State; Max Mitchell, OT, Louisiana; Michael Clemons, DE, Texas A&M
The New York Jets might have improved more than any team in the draft, and not only because they came in with several significant needs.
In 2021, New York posted a 4-13 record while ranking 26th in total offense, 28th in scoring and dead last in both yards and points allowed. The good news is the Jets landed immediate contributors with each of their first five selections.
Cincinnati cornerback Sauce Gardner has the potential to be one of the league's best man corners sooner than later. Ohio State's Garrett Wilson is a high-upside receiver prospect who will quickly make life easier on second-year quarterback Zach Wilson.
"Wilson can consistently create yards out of nothing on underneath throws and on wide receiver screens," B/R's Nate Tice wrote. "Overall, he is an exciting player with the ball in his hands who projects as an outside-only option that teams will love to dial up screens and designed runs for as well."
New York then traded up for a third first-round pick, taking Florida State pass-rusher Jermaine Johnson III—who totaled 11 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss in 2021. It was a terrific end to opening night for New York.
"Never in a million years would I have thought there was a way for the #Jets to come out of this draft with Sauce Gardner, Garrett Wilson and Jermaine Johnson," Connor Hughes of The Athletic tweeted. "Not just three first-round picks. Those are three top-10 talents."
On Day 2, the Jets made Iowa State's Breece Hall the first running back off the board and then came back in Round 3 to snag Ohio State tight end Jeremy Ruckert. Wilson, Hall and Ruckert significantly upgrade Wilson's supporting cast, while Gardner and Johnson add some much-needed teeth to a defense that was the league's worst a season ago.
The Jets only added two picks on Day 3: Louisiana tackle Max Mitchell and Texas A&M defensive end Micheal Clemons. Neither was an overwhelmingly great value, but both players should provide depth for a team that needs it.
The strength of New York's draft class came in the first two days, which the Jets nailed. This was a wonderful class and one that could quickly help the franchise turn around its fortunes in the AFC East.
Added: A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans; Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia; Cameron Jurgens, IOL, Nebraska; Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia; Kyron Johnson, LB, Kansas; Grant Calcaterra, TE, SMU
The Philadelphia Eagles earn a spot on this list thanks in no small part to their acquisition of Tennessee Titans receiver A.J. Brown. Yes, Philadelphia had to give up the No. 18 pick and the 101st selection, but Brown is a star and still only 24 years old.
He is a two-time 1,000-yard receiver and was a Pro Bowler in 2020. He was limited to 13 games this past season by a chest injury but still finished with 869 receiving yards and five touchdowns. The addition of Brown alone makes the Eagles a better team and will do wonders for the development of quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Before acquiring Brown, Philadelphia traded up to grab Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis. The sixth-ranked prospect on the B/R board, Davis will contribute early and will eventually become a consistent game-wrecker in the Eagles defense.
He logged 32 total tackles, 17 solo stops, two sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss last season.
In Round 2, Philadelphia snagged Nebraska interior lineman Cameron Jurgens. While he is a tad light at 6'2" and 303 pounds, he should be an early starter at guard and could one day replace Jason Kelce at center.
"He is still relatively new to the offensive line, with excellent athletic ability, explosiveness and competitive toughness to offer as a high-end developmental center with starter potential," B/R's Brandon Thorn wrote.
Philadelphia then stopped the slide of Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean in Round 3—who apparently fell because of medical concerns.
"Per source, Georgia LB Nakobe Dean declined surgery on his shoulder, and it's now a major concern/medical red flag," Austin Gayle of Pro Football Focus tweeted.
Dean, the 21st-ranked prospect on the B/R board, could prove to be an absolute steal if he can stay healthy long term.
Like the Jets, the Eagles only added two players on Day 3. In the sixth round, Philadelphia grabbed Kansas linebacker Kyron Johnson and SMU tight end Grant Calcaterra. Neither should play a huge role early, though Calcaterra could create the occasional mismatch as a receiving tight end and complement to Dallas Goedert.
Philadelphia added a ton of rookie upside and a proven No. 1 receiver in Brown. That's enough to make the Eagles big winners of draft weekend by just about any metric.
Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference.