Projecting Every 2022 1st-Round NFL Draft Pick's Year 1 Impact

Ian Wharton@NFLFilmStudyFeatured Columnist IVMay 7, 2022

Projecting Every 2022 1st-Round NFL Draft Pick's Year 1 Impact

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    The 2022 rookie class wasn't considered to be the most talented by evaluators and analysts, but none of that matters after the picks are made. Every first-year player—the 262 NFL draft picks and the numerous undrafted free agents—enter the season with something to prove.

    Out of all those players, though, no one draws more Year 1 scrutiny than the 32 first-round selections.

    The cost justifies the expectations that are attached to first-rounders. Not all of them will be starters in their first few seasons based on the situations they're entering, and that's acceptable. Other teams need immediate production from their top picks. 

    Now that we've seen the draft play out, we're going to predict every first-round pick's Year 1 impact. Numerous factors go into why a rookie may be more or less productive than his peers, and we'll try to account for each of those.

    Our considerations will include the NFL readiness of the player's body and play style, whether their pathway to playing time will be impeded by an established veteran and whether the team is likely to show patience with rookie mistakes.

    We'll use past rookie performance as a barometer for what's realistic. It's not often we see rookies break records like Ja'Marr Chase did in 2021, so we'll keep our expectations more in line with similar prospects of prior years.

1. Travon Walker, Edge, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Stat prediction: 58 tackles, 6.5 sacks

    Collegiate production isn't always the best indicator of NFL success. The Jacksonville Jaguars opted against the easy, convenient pick of Aidan Hutchinson in favor of the uber-athlete from one of the best college football defenses ever assembled. No. 1 pick Travon Walker posted the third-best Relative Athletic Score among defensive ends since 1987, per Pro Football Network's Kent Lee Platte.

    Walker wasn't in a pass-rush focused role at Georgia, limiting him to just 9.5 career sacks. His hand usage technique and ability to string together moves is still underdeveloped right now, but his natural bend, speed and power make up for that.

    Jacksonville can afford to platoon Walker with veteran Arden Key and 2020 first-round pick K'Lavon Chaisson. He'll also have a solid surrounding cast that can free him for one-on-one opportunities.

    However, Walker will have a hard time reaching eye-popping sack numbers in Year 1. It doesn't help that the AFC South has excellent tackle play and a couple teams—the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts—that enjoy running the ball more often than most offenses.

2. Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Detroit Lions

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    Stat prediction: 55 tackles, 8.5 sacks

    Last year's rookie sack leader was Micah Parsons, who recorded a whopping 13 in 16 games. There's not a player in this year's class who mirrors Parsons' blend of explosiveness, size, and opportunity within the scheme to reach that sort of production. However, No. 2 pick Aidan Hutchinson is in line to lead this year's crop of edge-rushers.

    Unlike with Jacksonville and Travon Walker, the Detroit Lions will rely upon Aidan Hutchinson to be their bread-winner on the defensive front. Detroit's collection of edge-rushers has impressive depth now with the former Michigan Wolverine, second-rounder Josh Paschal and veterans Charles Harris and Romeo Okwara. But Hutchinson is easily the most-talented athlete of the group, and the Lions will need him to produce like it.

    Hutchinson's predicted stat line closely mirrors the numbers 2021 Miami Dolphins first-round pick Jaelan Phillips logged as a rookie. Both players have quality defensive coaches to scheme opportunities for sacks as well as great physical traits to create on their own.

    No one should be disappointed in Hutchinson if he can compile these numbers during his rookie campaign.

3. Derek Stingley Jr., CB, Houston Texans

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    Stat prediction: 65 tackles, 4 INTs

    The Houston Texans may have changed coaches, but their defensive style shouldn't change much with defensive coordinator Lovie Smith taking over as head coach.

    Smith no longer solely relies upon his outdated Cover 2 scheme, but he still favors physical corners who get involved in the run game. Unfortunately, No. 3 pick Derek Stingley Jr. wasn't the most active in run support while at LSU.

    Stingley will take the place of veteran corner Terrance Mitchell, who has always stuck his nose into rushing lanes and has demonstrated a willingness to finish tackles. Mitchell finished last year with 60 tackles in 14 games. Even if Stingley isn't as skilled as a finisher, the defense will filter opportunities to him, and he will only continue to play if he executes at a reasonable rate.

    The value Stingley brings is in coverage. He's a ballhawk with quick feet and great speed. He can lead this class of rookies in interceptions with four, just as Patrick Surtain II did in 2021.

4. Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner, CB, New York Jets

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    Stat prediction: 75 tackles, 3 INTs

    When it comes to skill set, expectations from the coaching staff and the mindset of the player, Sauce Gardner and the New York Jets represent the cleanest fit of the draft. Head coach Robert Saleh's defenses always produce cornerbacks with unusually high tackle numbers, with a smothering front seven that wants rushers to bounce outside to physical cornerbacks.

    Gardner embodies that physical mindset with his 6'2" frame. His length is his biggest asset, and he welcomes the challenge of ball-carriers heading his way. He's a set-the-tone type of presence in the secondary.

    Although Gardner doesn't quite play the ball like Derek Stingley Jr. does, he'll find a couple of opportunities against young quarterbacks in the AFC East. He has good hands and a great catch range, but he needs to make strides in locating the ball early so he can force turnovers more often. He's one of the next impact coverage corners in the NFL.

5. Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, New York Giants

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    Stat prediction: 35 tackles, 6.5 sacks

    Coaching tendencies and style play a massive role in individual outcomes. Former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale had great success with the organization, but the Ravens opted to go in a new direction after four seasons. He'll now be in charge of developing the young but talented New York Giants defense.

    Martindale creates chaos with his frequent blitz packages, but the strategy is better for team success than individual production. Baltimore ranked No. 1 in blitz rate in each of Martindale's first three seasons and sixth in 2021. The unit benefitted, but the scheme seemed to particularly hold Matt Judon back, as he finished his first season in New England with a career-high 12.5 sacks after averaging 7.5 in three seasons under Martindale in Baltimore.

    No. 5 pick Kayvon Thibodeaux is the best pure pass-rusher in this class, but he will suffer from similar scheme limitations. He'll often serve as the distraction on stunts and delays in order to open clear lanes for linebackers and slot defenders to rush through. Thibodeaux will still get solid numbers, but don't expect him to be a one-man wrecking crew early on.

6. Ikem Ekwonu, OT, Carolina Panthers

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    Stat prediction: 8 penalties, 7 sacks allowed

    Projecting an offensive lineman's performance is difficult because some of the numbers are out of their control. For example, having a quarterback who holds onto the ball too long or drops too far back after the snap sets tackles up for failure. The tackle doesn't see where the quarterback scrambles to, either, which can lead to penalties or sacks.

    Ikem Ekwonu is a talented tackle who can hold his own early in his career, but the Carolina Panthers don't have a quarterback situation that will allow him to shine. On top of the inevitable challenges that come with being a blindside protector, the Panthers' young group of quarterbacks lack the pocket poise and presence needed to avoid mistakes.

    Andrew Thomas, the New York Giants' 2020 first-round pick, is a good comparison for Ekwonu both in terms of quarterback play and the expected occasional loss to more experienced defenders. Thomas allowed 10 sacks but only had three penalties as a rookie. Ekwonu shouldn't have as many sacks allowed, but he will have growing pains.

7. Evan Neal, OT, New York Giants

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    Stat prediction: 6 penalties, 6 sacks allowed

    After spending time at both tackle positions and guard at Alabama, there wasn't a more pro-ready overall blocker in the class than Evan Neal. The mammoth but versatile Neal will help stabilize either tackle position depending on where new head coach Brian Daboll finds he and Andrew Thomas fit best. His projection doesn't change much either way.

    Neal is a refined technician with incredible length and power thanks to his 6'8", 337-pound frame. He's similar to New York Jets tackle Mekhi Becton in that his mistakes are more often the result of inexperience at the NFL level rather than talent issues.

    Becton allowed seven penalties and seven sacks as a rookie with the Jets. Neal is more polished and will benefit from the coaching difference between Adam Gase, Becton's coach as a rookie in 2020, and Daboll. We'll peg his production as slightly better.

8. Drake London, WR, Atlanta Falcons

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    Stat prediction: 68 receptions, 935 yards, 7 TDs

    No team entered the 2022 NFL draft with more holes than the Atlanta Falcons. They were able to freely select the player they believed to be the best available at No. 8 without too much concern about immediate impact. Their focus is on 2023 and beyond.

    Grabbing a big receiver with elite hands to go with Kyle Pitts could prove to be the perfect building block. Drake London is a contested-catch ace but can separate more than most big-bodied threats. He lacked an accurate quarterback at USC, and this led to more contested catches than what was necessary. 

    London's fit with Marcus Mariota isn't the cleanest since Mariota tends to throw to more open receivers than trusting covered targets. In Mariota's last full season as a starter in 2019, he ranked as a bottom-five quarterback in Next Gen Stats' aggressiveness rating. He avoided tight-window throws as frequently in 2017 and 2018

    However, the lack of options on the team, London's talent and the fact Atlanta will have to throw the ball often means he'll get enough opportunities.

    We'll use Tee Higgins' rookie production as the expectation for London because of their similar play styles and where each stood on their team's depth chart as a rookie.

9. Charles Cross, OT, Seattle Seahawks

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    Stat prediction: 10 penalties, 7 sacks allowed

    The cleanest overall pass blocker in the class landed with a team that sorely needs help rebuilding its aerial assault. Seattle allowed Duane Brown to depart in free agency and landed a great long-term fit in Charles Cross, a finesse pass-blocker with terrific athleticism and length.

    Like his first-round tackle peers, Cross will likely play with a subpar quarterback in 2022. The current mix of Geno Smith and Drew Lock will do him few favors as far as staying poised in the pocket and avoiding sacks. Cross' individual numbers will suffer because of that.

    We'll use 2020 Cleveland Browns first-round pick Jedrick Wills Jr. as a good comparison for Cross' projected performance. The tape will look better than the numbers, and the long-term outlook for Seattle's future at the position will be bright. But expect growing pains along the way, especially in a tough NFC West division.

10. Garrett Wilson, WR, New York Jets

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    Stat prediction: 62 receptions, 800 yards, 5 TDs

    There may not be an offense harder to predict than the New York Jets. Young playmakers like Elijah Moore, Breece Hall, and now Garrett Wilson will complement veterans Corey Davis, C.J. Uzomah, and Tyler Conklin. There's a lot of mouths for quarterback Zach Wilson to feed.

    At least one of those options is bound to suffer. Rookie Garrett Wilson is the best overall talent of the bunch and offers a unique ability to win with speed or vertical explosiveness over defenders. He'll produce, but there's certainly a cap on his production potential unless Zach Wilson transcends to a much higher level as a passer.

    We'll use 2019 first-round pick Marquise Brown's second-year production as a good baseline for Garrett Wilson. Both players are effortless playmakers, but their circumstances limited the volume of targets they saw. Wilson will be impressive and be ready for a larger role in 2023 as the Jets continue to hash out their best personnel groupings.

11. Chris Olave, WR, New Orleans Saints

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    Stat prediction: 79 receptions, 1,100 yards, 7 TDs

    The marriage between player, scheme, and surrounding cast is just right for Chris Olave to be the best rookie wide receiver. The New Orleans Saints are banking on both quarterback Jameis Winston and wide receiver Michael Thomas to be fully healthy after season-ending injuries in 2021. If they can both be on the field for the entire 2022 season, Olave will flourish.

    Despite being the second Ohio State Buckeye drafted, Olave is a more polished route-runner and established deep threat than his former teammate, Garrett Wilson. Olave's blazing-fast speed seemed to leave him always open in college. It's not hard to imagine New Orleans simply swapping out Deonte Harris for Olave and having an even more potent passing attack with Winston.

    Having a true No. 1 possession threat and a willing gunslinger like Winston puts Olave's floor and ceiling above anyone else in this class. His role is defined and the opportunity is clear. His projection would drop if Winston misses significant stretches of the season, though.

12. Jameson Williams, WR, Detroit Lions

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    Stat prediction: 45 receptions, 630 yards, 4 TDs

    It's hard to know exactly when Jameson Williams will return to the field. Detroit's second first-round pick tore his ACL in January's CFP National Championship and figures to be brought back slowly. There's not a huge rush for Williams to play considering Detroit's continued rebuilding phase.

    Assuming Williams misses at least one month of action, he'd still be in line for a quality rookie season with an improved surrounding cast. Quarterback Jared Goff was limited to short passes in 2021 because the unit lacked speed and downfield playmaking. Things should be different in 2022 after the Lions added Williams and veteran D.J. Chark this offseason.

    Young studs Amon-Ra St. Brown and T.J. Hockenson will still get their share of targets, and Chark is a talented big body who will eat into the target load as well. Expect Williams to see some manufactured touches but also make the most of what he's given. We'll project lower volume but higher efficiency from the former Alabama star in a shortened year.

13. Jordan Davis, DT, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Stat prediction: 25 tackles, 3 sacks

    The dirty work in the trenches rarely gets noticed because even the best players struggles to produce raw statistics for themselves. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Vita Vea is commonly considered an elite force at the nose tackle spot despite just 106 tackles and 11.5 sacks over four years. But he earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2021 because of how dominant he is at his role.

    Expect that same type of impact from Jordan Davis, the powerful athlete from Georgia set to plug into the middle of a talented Eagles defense. His primary job won't be to log sacks or make splash highlights. Instead, he'll occupy blockers and force running backs to his teammates to finish the play.

    While we don't expect Davis to ever see huge production numbers, we're projecting immediate success in his role. Davis is a force at 6'6", 341 pounds with tremendous speed off the snap. He'll give blockers, quarterbacks and rushers nightmares all season long.

14. Kyle Hamilton, S, Baltimore Ravens

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    Stat prediction: 62 tackles, 1 INT, 2 sacks

    The Baltimore Ravens were able to sit tight at No. 14 and land a player who was being mocked as high as No. 2 by ESPN's Mel Kiper earlier in the offseason. They always seem to get great value, and Notre Dame's Kyle Hamilton will surely flourish on a team loaded with secondary talent. Hamilton did it all for Notre Dame, making his projection to the NFL a safe bet.

    The 6'4", 220-pounder will likely have a nontraditional role in Baltimore, though. Their depth chart is already filled with proven veteran talent like Marcus Williams and Chuck Clark. There's room for Hamilton to earn playing time, but he may be more of a slot corner in some games and a blitzer in others.

    New Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald may opt to use Hamilton as a tight-end specialist because the AFC has several special talents. That's a big task for a rookie, but there's not an athlete on the team better qualified for that challenge than Hamilton.

    If Hamilton answers the bell, he'll prove to be a massive steal like Derwin James was for the Los Angeles Chargers.

15. Kenyon Green, OG, Houston Texans

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    Stat prediction: 4 penalties, 2 sacks allowed

    Offensive guards rarely go in the top half of the first round, but the Houston Texans were desperate to finally solve their issues on the offensive line. Despite sinking a considerable amount of assets into it, that unit has plagued them for years. Now, with 6'4", 323-pound Kenyon Green set to step in at left guard, the Texans boast a gigantic set of blockers.

    The Texans have one of the heaviest lines in the league, as only center Justin Britt is under 320 pounds. Houston is hoping the power behind that weight will help create an effective running game and protect quarterback Davis Mills.

    Green was one of the nation's top blockers throughout his Texas A&M career. He earned All-SEC Second Team honors in 2020 and made the All-SEC and AP All-America First Team honors in 2021. 

    He has all of the tools needed to be a Pro Bowl candidate early in his career. We expect minimal issues, and because of Green's polish, we project fewer combined penalties and sacks allowed compared to 2021 first-round guard Alijah Vera-Tucker.

16. Jahan Dotson, WR, Washington Commanders

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    Stat prediction: 63 catches, 681 yards, 5 TDs

    Using the 2021 Washington Commanders offense as a baseline for what will happen in 2022 is nearly impossible. The addition of Carson Wentz is a massive upgrade from Taylor Heinicke, even if he's not a great quarterback. The Commanders will hopefully be getting a full season of both Curtis Samuel and Logan Thomas as well.

    Adding Jahan Dotson to a receiving corps of Terry McLaurin, Samuel and potentially a developing Dyami Brown is a nice quartet of talent. Dotson has plenty of experience as an outside receiver, but his skill set appears best used in the slot. He's quicker than fast and possesses elite hands and toughness. 

    Wentz's willingness to get rid of the ball quickly on well-schemed plays should be good news for Dotson, because he's a different archetype than anyone else on the roster. We'll likely see Samuel get most of the manufactured touches since Ron Rivera utilized him that way in Carolina before coming to Washington.

    Leaving Dotson in a more traditional role would be for the best since he's more of a technical playmaker than explosive open-field athlete.

17. Zion Johnson, OG, Los Angeles Chargers

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    Stat prediction: 4 penalties, 3 sacks

    The Los Angeles Chargers have prioritized rebuilding their offensive line over the past two offseasons. Sitting at No. 17 with a top guard and tackle available, the Chargers opted for guard Zion Johnson. Johnson will now forever be linked to New Orleans Saints tackle Trevor Penning, who went two picks later.

    Johnson certainly appears to be the safer pick after an absolutely dominant collegiate career and Senior Bowl performance. He earned All-ACC Third Team and Second Team accolades in his two seasons at Boston College. ESPN's Todd McShay called him the most dominant player during Senior Bowl practices. 

    His huge 6'3", 312-pound frame gives him excellent power as both a run and pass blocker.

    His fit into an already top-notch offense and favorable scheme will help his transition to the pros. Johnson would benefit from the Chargers adding a veteran right tackle, but for now, he's the anchor on the right side of the line for Justin Herbert.

18. Treylon Burks, WR, Tennessee Titans

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    Stat prediction: 70 receptions, 1,050 yards, 7 TDs

    The Tennessee Titans decided against paying veteran receiver A.J. Brown the $100 million he earned from the Philadelphia Eagles, instead opting to replace him with the most similar playmaker they could find in the draft: Treylon Burks.

    Burks is a raw receiver, but his physical skill set is tremendous. He may only have a 4.55 40-yard dash time, but the 6'2", 225-pounder reached a max speed of 22.6 miles per hour in Week 3 last year. No play in the NFL featured a faster speed last season, and only two plays were faster in 2020.

    The Titans' plan for Burks should be to simply get him the ball in situations he can build up straight-line speed. Burks isn't nearly as reliable on in-breaking routes yet, but giving Burks manufactured touches like they did with Brown will ease him into the league while he develops.

    No receiver has as clear of a pathway to being the top dog on his team as Burks does. Tennessee has little talent at the position with veteran Robert Woods still recovering from a torn ACL. Expect Burks to see significant volume throughout the year and for him to be a better player as the playoffs near compared to Day 1.

19. Trevor Penning, OT, New Orleans Saints

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    Stat prediction: 11 penalties, 5 sacks

    As soon as the New Orleans Saints traded a package of picks that included their 2023 first-rounder and a 2024 second-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for a second first-round selection in 2022, it was clear the team was aiming to augment their offense. The question was whether the team was planning to further trade up for a quarterback or use both picks on other offensive positions.

    They opted to grab Chris Olave after a second trade up, and then they plugged their hole at left tackle by tackling Northern Iowa's Trevor Penning to replace cornerstone left tackle Terron Armstead.

    Penning is an incredibly gifted 6'7", 325-pound athlete. His ability to maul opponents is not only a result of his raw strength but also his nasty demeanor. He's an offensive line coach's dream with his mindset and tools.

    However, work is needed for Penning to be a reliable blocker without help. His hand usage and leverage are inconsistent, which cause him to reach too often on blocks. His nastiness also extends beyond the whistle at times, making him vulnerable to personal-foul penalties.

    The upside is tremendous, but expect this year to have growing pains. 

20. Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Stat prediction: (8 games) 62 percent completion rate, 1,600 yards, 10 TDs, 6 INTs

    This year's quarterback class was maligned entering the draft, and then the actual results confirmed how low the league was on the top names as Kenny Pickett was the only quarterback taken before the third round. Pittsburgh has a good situation for Pickett to be successful, but he has an uphill battle to win the starting job in 2022 against Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph.

    Pickett's lack of arm strength will stand out against Trubisky's velocity in training camp. While Trubisky is a flawed player, don't forget he went No. 2 overall in 2017 for a reason. Trubisky looked great in shorts during the predraft period thanks to impressive mobility and arm strength.

    We'll project Pickett starts the second half of the year after Pittsburgh realizes it needs a change in order to compete against the deep AFC North. Pickett has great short accuracy and will occasionally take deeper risks. That means we should expect lower yards per attempt and reasonably low turnovers as well as an inflated completion rate.

21. Trent McDuffie, CB, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Stat prediction: 75 tackles, 1 INT

    The early run on cornerbacks forced the Kansas City Chiefs to make a tough call: move up to snag one or wait and risk losing out. Kansas City cashed in on their extra assets and picked up Trent McDuffie, who has the right blend of experience in man and zone schemes for Kansas City to have confidence he can start right away.

    The Chiefs lost playmaking corner Charvarius Ward in free agency, and unfortunately for Kansas City, McDuffie won't be able to replicate Ward's ball skills. McDuffie had just two interceptions despite playing in a weak Pac-12, and his lack of arm length and laser focus on being a cover corner give him less playmaker upside.

    That being said, McDuffie is still a great fit for the Chiefs. He's active in the run game, and Kansas City's corners have racked up huge tackle numbers under defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. McDuffie's ability to competently cover veteran receivers right away should address a huge need for this defense.

22. Quay Walker, LB, Green Bay Packers

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    Stat prediction: 85 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT

    There were more productive collegiate linebackers who were drafted after Quay Walker, but few were surprised when Walker was the first second-level defender off the board. Walker possesses fantastic athleticism for a 6'3", 241-pound linebacker. His ability to run (4.52 40) was clear on tape, as Walker finished tackles from sideline to sideline and covered tight ends at Georgia.

    Walker needs experience with his run keys and working off blockers when they lay hands on him. Green Bay is one of the best landing spots for him because he'll start next to De'Vondre Campbell in base formations. Defensive coordinator Joe Berry could also keep Walker on third downs for either coverage or pass-rush purposes.

    This defensive unit is so talented that Walker won't have to work too hard to amass volume tackle numbers. Where Walker's true value shines through might not show up on the stat sheet, though. He'll need to flash the ability to lock down slot receivers and tight ends as well as apply pressure to quarterbacks.

23. Kaiir Elam, CB, Buffalo Bills

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    Stat prediction: 60 tackles, 3 INTs

    The Buffalo Bills did well over the past four seasons to mitigate their need for a No. 2 cornerback next to Tre White, but the journeyman route no longer worked after White went down with a torn ACL. Adding a legitimate second corner who has the potential to be a long-term starter at No. 23 was the right decision.

    Kaiir Elam is a perfect fit for the aggressive, big-corner mold Bills general manager Brandon Beane has favored. He also has the athleticism and confidence to be more than just a tall, fast body.

    Most 6'2" corners lack the fluidity and speed to turn and run with receivers. That's why they hedge while in off-coverage, leading to those frustrating, easy underneath completions that fans hate. Elam consistently broke on those routes in college, believing he would be able to recover even if he read the route incorrectly.

    He'll flourish in this favorable system for corners on a loaded defense. Look for him to push his peers as the best corner in the class.

24. Tyler Smith, G, Dallas Cowboys

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    Stat prediction: 12 penalties, 4 sacks allowed

    It's been an offseason of change for the Dallas Cowboys. They're hoping their reinvestment into the offense will be enough to sustain their top-five ranking last year. A big part of that is first-round guard Tyler Smith.

    The Tulsa tackle will move inside to left guard next to Tyron Smith and Tyler Biadasz. The 24th overall pick is an excellent athlete with an immense 6'5", 324-pound frame. He rarely loses because of power but does struggle with his pad level and grabbiness at times.

    The transition to guard won't be easy, but he's the type of player who should benefit from less space for defenders to attack. He had the most penalties of any drafted linemen, which is a major concern for his Year 1 impact. He's a boom-or-bust presence for a Cowboys team hoping to contend.

25. Tyler Linderbaum, C, Baltimore Ravens

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    Stat prediction: 3 penalties, 1 sack allowed

    The center position is rarely treated as a priority, but the Baltimore Ravens traded No. 1 receiver and Lamar Jackson's good friend Marquise Brown for the chance to land Tyler Linderbaum. Linderbaum is a phenomenal athlete but is undersized both in weight (296 lbs) and length (31⅛-inch arms). He needs to be in the right scheme to succeed.

    Baltimore is a great landing spot. The Ravens feature a ton of inside and outside zone running concepts with Jackson controlling the mesh point. Linderbaum can now offer Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman the unique ability to pull the center on lead block calls.

    Centers are rarely charged with sacks unless they play a dominant nose tackle. The AFC has some star defensive tackles but not many who will challenge Linderbaum one-on-one. The 22-year-old rookie should enjoy a long and successful career in Baltimore.     

26. Jermaine Johnson II, Edge, New York Jets

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    Stat prediction: 30 tackles, 4.5 sacks

    The New York Jets are hoping their edge-rushing position looks completely different in 2022. Getting 2021 free-agent addition Carl Lawson back from a ruptured Achilles should help but so should trading up for Florida State star Jermaine Johnson II. Johnson was a terrific run defender in college but broke out in 2021 with 11.5 sacks after transferring from Georgia.

    He'll enter a depth chart with some competition. Veterans John Franklin-Myers, Solomon Thomas and Vinny Curry can all play between the end and tackle. Johnson will need to be disciplined yet explosive in order to earn quality reps.

    Because there's no guarantee Johnson will even start, we'll keep expectations on raw numbers a bit low. Head coach Robert Saleh will also utilize the Jets' linebackers and defensive backs on blitzes. It's likely Johnson will outplay his sack number as a rookie because the scheme may ask for him to fulfill a role over simply pinning his ears back and getting after the passer.     

27. Devin Lloyd, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Stat prediction: 90 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT

    Going through another terrible season led to a major free-agent splurge once again from Jacksonville's ownership. This time, the Jaguars invested heavily into both the offensive line and defensive front seven.

    That mindset continued in the draft, when they selected Travon Walker at No. 1, Devin Lloyd at No. 27 and Chad Muma in the third round. Lloyd, a highly decorated star at Utah, will form a potent duo with former Atlanta Falcons breakout linebacker Foye Oluokun.

    Lloyd could do it all in college. His numbers were absurd. He racked up 111 total tackles, seven sacks, 22 tackles for loss and four interceptions in 2021 alone. He won't reach those numbers as a rookie in the NFL, but he's in a good position to roam freely and put forth an excellent 2022 campaign.   

28. Devonte Wyatt, DL, Green Bay Packers

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    Stat prediction: 45 tackles, 4 sacks

    Green Bay went right back to Georgia for its second first-round pick. With the defense needing just one more solid starter to be arguably the NFL's best unit, defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt was a clean fit. Wyatt is an ideal 5-technique next to Kenny Clark with his rock-solid 6'3", 304-pound frame.

    Wyatt is a good athlete who relies upon his first step to slip past blockers. He's not a space-eater who will open everything for his teammates, but he can get after the passer and win one-on-one blocks. Suddenly, the Packers have a multitude of front-seven players who can get after the quarterback.

    It's hard to project what Wyatt will produce since the Packers have so many blitz options. Veteran Jarran Reed also figures to play a steady number of snaps as a run defender, and Dean Lowry was productive in 2021 with 42 tackles, five tackles for loss, nine quarterback hits, four pass breakups and one fumble recovery.

    We'll go with an encouraging but not unreasonably dominant projection for Wyatt.

29. Cole Strange, G, New England Patriots

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    Stat prediction: 4 penalties, 4 sacks allowed

    In the moment, it seemed as though the New England Patriots made an unbelievable reach with Chattanooga offensive lineman Cole Strange, who had often been pegged by media members as a mid-round prospect. However, Mike Giardi of NFL Network reported after the draft that Strange potentially had suitors early in the second round. This wasn't a clear-cut case of the Patriots badly misreading his market.

    Now what matters is whether his elite athleticism will project well into a line that lost Shaq Mason via trade this offseason. New England has once again quickly overhauled an aging unit in a short time after unearthing Mike Onwenu in 2020, signing Trent Brown this offseason and drafting Strange.

    Expect some early hiccups considering the jump in competition from the FCS to the NFL. Second-year quarterback Mac Jones does a good job of mitigating pass rushes with his quick release, but Strange will have his hands full with a deep set of AFC East interior defenders. This pick will help now but pay off more in future years as he grows as a technician.   

30. George Karlaftis, Edge, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Stat prediction: 50 tackles, 7.5 sacks

    The Kansas City Chiefs are hoping their second first-round pick, George Karlaftis, ends up with a career as accomplished as the last Purdue defender drafted in the first round, Ryan Kerrigan.

    Karlaftis was tremendous throughout his career with the Boilermakers, overpowering blockers and overtaking games with his ability to get into the backfield. His 13.4 percent pressure rate since 2019 ranked fourth in the nation, according to Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports.

    His production was good but not elite, so whether he can finish more often while surrounded by better talent will be a big storyline for his first season. Creating pressure is great but so is finishing those opportunities with sacks. Karlaftis had 97 tackles, 29 tackles for loss and 14 sacks in 26 career games.

    Having Chris Jones for a full season is a promising start for Karlaftis' outlook. There's not another consistent pass-rusher on the Chiefs right now, so expect Karlaftis to have solid rookie numbers. He'll also benefit from Kansas City's explosive offense forcing opponents to play from behind and throw the ball more often.   

31. Daxton Hill, DB, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Stat prediction: 40 tackles, INT

    The lone first-round pick to not have a clear role for 2022 is Daxton Hill. The versatile defensive back out of Michigan has experience as a cornerback, slot defender and safety. A big part of his value as a prospect was his ability to be a Swiss army knife for a creative defensive coordinator.

    Landing with Cincinnati Bengals DC Lou Anarumo is a good match. He uniquely structures his defense to filter tackle opportunities to his safeties, which is why both Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates III finished last season in the top four on the team in tackles.

    Hill's best immediate path to play as a rookie is to challenge Eli Apple for a starting cornerback role. That might not be possible considering Hill's lack of consistent experience there and the fact that Apple has six years of experience to rely on. But Hill can get playing opportunities early on in a platoon role with Apple and as a third safety.

32. Lewis Cine, S, Minnesota Vikings

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    Stat prediction: 100 tackles, 2 INTs

    After selecting Georgia safety Lewis Cine following their trade down from No. 12 to 32, the Minnesota Vikings will boast an exciting pairing at safety right off the bat. Veteran Harrison Smith had another tremendous season in 2021 despite missing two games. After veteran Xavier Woods bolted for Arizona, the team was able to get a similarly versatile talent to Smith in Cine.

    Cine is a fierce and willing tackler despite being someone who has great range as a single-high deep safety. He was underrated throughout the draft process but has everything needed to be a potential All-Pro one day. Almost everything from his size (6'2", 199 lbs), to speed (4.37 40), to production (73 tackles) checks a box. The only thing we didn't see was high-level ball skills.

    New Vikings defensive coordinator Ed Donatell is coming from Denver, where he helped an entire secondary flourish. Having Cine as the next star-in-the-making will make his job easier in Minnesota. Expect Cine to put up terrific rookie production.