Ranking the 7 Best Moves in the 2022 NFL Draft

Ian Wharton@NFLFilmStudyFeatured Columnist IVMay 2, 2022

Ranking the 7 Best Moves in the 2022 NFL Draft

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The 2022 NFL draft concluded Saturday evening after 262 players had their dreams come true. The flurry of trades made this one of the most dramatic and unpredictable drafts in recent memory. Some teams did so well pairing their needs with the right talent that we don't need time to digest what we just saw.

    Amid all of the deals and drama, seven moves stole the show. We expected the top-10 picks to be good decisions because the standard for those selections is so high, but it's the front offices that either made shrewd trades or identified great fits that are deserving of more praise. The chances of finding a long-term quality contributor dips as the draft progresses, so we're looking at decisions made after the top 10.

    Over the next few years we'll see other brilliant decisions reveal themselves with hindsight.

    Starting with the seventh-best move, we'll dive into what made each belong on our list.

7. Minnesota Vikings: Trading Down from No. 12

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    Lewis Cine
    Lewis CinePhelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    New regimes often take over situations that need an injection of fresh blood and talent. One of the safest bets entering the draft was the Minnesota Vikings exploring trades in the first round. New general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah spent years with two analytically savvy front offices in San Francisco and Cleveland and likely learned the value of extra draft picks.

    The Vikings made the boldest trade down in the first round after the Detroit Lions called. Minnesota traded the 12th and 46th picks for Nos. 32, 34 and 66 from the Lions. The rare interdivisional trade was a win-win as Minnesota wanted to gather assets and Detroit wanted to land a star receiver (more on that later).

    The Vikings selected Georgia safety Lewis Cine at No. 32 and then traded No. 34 to the Green Bay Packers for the 53rd and 59th overall picks. Finally, the Vikings traded the 53rd, 77th and 192nd overall picks to the Indianapolis Colts for No. 42 overall. 

    In total, the Vikings turned No. 12 and No. 46 overall into Cine, Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. (42nd pick), LSU guard Ed Ingram (59th pick) and Oklahoma linebacker Brian Asamoah (66th pick)

    Subsequent deals with the Las Vegas Raiders resulted in Adofo-Mensah getting two fifth-rounders. They turned into Minnesota defensive end Esezi Otomewo and North Carolina rusher Ty Chandler

    Cine is the primary prize from this class. He was a late riser in the draft process but offers many of the same skills as the safety Minnesota passed up by trading down: Kyle Hamilton. The two safeties will forever be linked as their careers unfold.

    Adofo-Mensah inherited a good Vikings team that needed to overhaul several defensive positions with youth. He accomplished that with this draft, and the Vikings will benefit in 2022 and beyond. 

6. Tennessee Titans: Moving Up for QB Malik Willis

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    Malik Willis
    Malik WillisJames Kenney/Associated Press

    The most shocking free fall was that of Liberty quarterback Malik Willis.

    He fits the mold of recent high draft picks such as Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson as incredible athletes with great arm strength. The Bills and Ravens selected them in the first round, as they were willing to work through their accuracy concerns. 

    Willis didn't receive the same benefit of the doubt from teams. He fell until the 86th overall pick, where the Tennessee Titans traded up four picks to secure him. Most Day 2 quarterbacks never receive the time needed for proper development, but the Titans are a stable franchise with head coach Mike Vrabel in place for the foreseeable future. 

    If Ryan Tannehill's 2021 performance is any indicator, Willis may be able to challenge for the starting job after 2022. The 33-year-old saw a dramatic drop in touchdowns per attempt (4.0 percent) and a rise in interceptions per attempt (2.6 percent). Willis' rare ability to create chunk plays out of structure and evade pressure gives him the upside the Titans need to compete with the unprecedented number of playmaking quarterbacks in the AFC.

    This was as close to a low-risk, high-reward pick as possible for Tennessee. The Titans avoided a first-round commitment to a quarterback but now have an affordable backup for four years in the worst-case scenario.   

5. Arizona Cardinals: Trading for WR Hollywood Brown

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    Marquise Brown
    Marquise BrownNick Wass/Associated Press

    The Arizona Cardinals needed to solidify their receiving corps. And they did just that with a sure thing. Trading for Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and the No. 100 overall pick in exchange for the No. 23 overall pick was a home run. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and Brown are reunited after the two played at Oklahoma together from 2017 to '18. 

    Brown had asked for a trade after the 2021 season concluded due to dissatisfaction with the Ravens' conservative scheme. With two years left on his contract, Brown is surely hoping to post more impressive numbers with Murray in a vertical passing attack. 

    The Cardinals now have an elite receiving unit with DeAndre Hopkins, Brown and Rondale Moore. 

    The trade, which was agreed to before the draft, looked even better in hindsight. Six receivers were taken with the first 18 picks. Had the Cardinals kept the 23rd pick, they would have struck out on the top-tier draft options. 

4. Detroit Lions: Adding Jameson Williams

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    Aidan Hutchinson
    Aidan HutchinsonSteve Luciano/Associated Press

    In 2021, the Detroit Lions lacked playmakers on both sides of the ball beyond their running backs and rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. This draft haul clearly focused on changing that.

    Grabbing edge-rusher Aidan Hutchinson No. 2 overall was a no-brainer considering his high athletic ceiling and impressive motor. He's a high-floor, solid-ceiling prospect who fits the Lions' culture perfectly with his leadership and hustle. Detroit then added another high-character playmaker from a winning program when it traded up from No. 32 to No. 12 for receiver Jameson Williams

    Williams was the best receiver in the class due to his blend of extreme speed, smooth route running and ability to get yards after the catch. Detroit will slowly bring him back from his torn ACL and maximize his return over time. The payoff will be massive.

    Cashing in on their assets for Williams will hopefully prove to be the cherry on top of this remade offense. St. Brown proved to be a bargain fourth-rounder in his rookie campaign, and then the Lions shrewdly picked up DJ Chark from Jacksonville in free agency. Chark is a great vertical threat, but Williams' skill set is dynamic enough to push Chark into a more natural complementary role.

    General manager Brad Holmes wants to give quarterback Jared Goff another season to prove his value to the Lions long-term. Williams is a big part of the effort to create a balanced and dangerous surrounding cast. If Goff fails, Detroit has quickly become an attractive situation for any quarterback to take his place. 

    Make no mistake, Williams will become the centerpiece of this offense sooner than later.   

3. Kansas City Chiefs: Taking Skyy Moore in the 2nd Round

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    Skyy Moore
    Skyy MooreAl Goldis/Associated Press

    The Kansas City Chiefs justly received criticism for their lack of free-agency moves. Losing star receiver Tyreek Hill and cornerback Charvarius Ward without acquiring similarly talented players afterward created uncertainty as to whether the Chiefs were going to take a sizable step backward. They wouldn't be bad as long as Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes led the team, but the margin for error had shrunk as their peers in the AFC West each improved.

    Kansas City netted excellent fits with its first three selections after maneuvering around. Trading up from No. 29 overall for Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie landed a premier coverage corner. General manager Brett Veach added two more likely contributors and possible immediate starters in Purdue edge-rusher George Karlaftis (No. 30 overall) and Western Michigan receiver Skyy Moore (No. 54 overall). 

    Moore was especially notable even if McDuffie and Karlaftis start right away. The early receiver run could have influenced Kansas City to force its hand into trading up for him, but the Chiefs boldly moved down from No. 50 to No. 54 before taking him. Kansas City picked up No. 158 overall, which was used in a trade to acquire the 145th pick that became offensive tackle Darian Kinnard.

    Seven receivers went between Washington's selection of Jahan Dotson at No. 16 and Moore.

    This was shocking based on how well Moore's agility and ability to create separation should translate to the NFL. He's the best candidate to outperform the majority of the receivers drafted ahead of him when we look back in several years. Landing with Reid and Mahomes only solidifies confidence in Moore's outlook.    

2. New York Jets: Trading Up for Jermaine Johnson II

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    Jermaine Johnson III
    Jermaine Johnson IIIIcon Sportswire/Getty Images

    No one should be surprised to see the New York Jets named as the 2022 NFL draft's biggest winner after pulling off a haul with four players often mocked in the first round. General manager Joe Douglas addressed key needs on both sides of the ball without giving up future assets. The Jets consolidated their assets to make all seven of their picks by the middle of the fourth round.

    Their additions are impressive. Fourth overall pick Ahmad Gardner and 26th overall pick Jermaine Johnson II are ideal fits into Robert Saleh's system with their blend of size, explosiveness and production. Both should start right away and make an immediate impact.

    Trading up for Johnson was the best decision of the night for Douglas. Mocked anywhere between fourth overall to the Jets and as low as the late teens entering the week, the Florida State prospect wasn't supposed to still be available. He's a polished player who plays a premier position.

    With Tampa Bay, New England, Kansas City, Cincinnati and Minnesota right behind the Titans at No. 26, New York couldn't have waited any longer to execute the deal since they all had the need for an edge talent who could play in year one. There's also the benefit of having the fifth-year option for 2026 if Johnson proves to be a foundational piece for this defense, and that wouldn't have been available had Gang Green selected a player with its original pick at No. 35. 

    Overall, the Jets were rewarded for passing on edge-rushers with their two top-10 picks when Johnson fell far enough for them to trade up for him.

1. Philadelphia Eagles: Landing WR A.J. Brown

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    A.J. Brown
    A.J. BrownWesley Hitt/Getty Images

    The other hands-down winner of the 2022 draft along with the New York Jets was the Philadelphia Eagles. The first round started well enough with a trade up (from No. 15 to No. 13) to secure massive defensive tackle Jordan Davis from Georgia. Davis has unbelievable disruption ability for someone his size (6'6", 341 lbs).

    Shortly after grabbing Davis, the Eagles struck gold Thursday night when they moved the 18th overall pick (and a third-rounder) for star receiver A.J. Brown. After weeks of the Tennessee Titans shooting down speculation that Brown could even be available, the Eagles solved a huge question mark for their offense. Giving Brown a four-year, $100 million extension was the cherry on top for both parties.

    Brown will completely change how the Eagles offense operates. His bowling-ball play style is almost exclusive to him since so few playmakers have the combination of coordination and sheer power he creates. Philadelphia desperately needed more toughness in a unit that struggled to fight through aggressive coverages with its smaller receivers.

    Head coach Nick Sirianni can now be more creative knowing he has a reliable and impactful player in Brown. Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins left far too many plays on the field. Adding Brown will push those two into lesser, more fitting roles.

    The move will also either help Jalen Hurts develop more into a star or show the Eagles they must address the position in the near future. Brown starred with an anticipatory and accurate passer in Ryan Tannehill. Hurts lacks in those two areas but makes up for those limitations in his own ways. Hopefully Brown can help Hurts round into a more consistent pocket presence as he also learns to trust his receivers when there's not as much separation as he prefers.