The NFL draft gives teams the chance to improve their roster, but not all of them choose wisely.
While it’s still too early to fully judge the success of the draft, we can look back and see which picks appear to have been the best. Here are some of the leading contenders.
Travon Walker – The Jacksonville Jaguars
The very first pick in the first round went to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and they chose the outside linebacker Travon Walker. He went to college at Georgia and helped the Bulldogs beat the Alabama Crimson Tide 33-18 at the 2022 Playoff National Championship. Following that win, he declared himself for the NFL draft.
There, he was chosen by Jacksonville, who had the first pick this time around. His statistics in college football are good and he became the fifth Georgia player to get the honor of being picked first. According to the latest NFL spreads, the Jaguars are still underdogs in the majority of their games but can Walker provide the solidity they need in defense?
Aidan Hutchinson – The Detroit Lions
Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson was the second pick, and he headed to the Detroit Lions. This came after a successful college career where he played for the University of Michigan and set the Wolverines’ single-season sack record at 14. He had missed most of his junior season due to injury but made up for it with a terrific senior season where he ended as runner-up for the prestigious Heisman Trophy.
Will his move to Detroit boost the Lions’ chances of having a memorable season? 2021 didn’t go as planned but a reasonably strong end to the season has raised hopes of better times ahead. The defense was their biggest problem and that’s why six of their eight draft picks went on defense, with Hutchinson expected to make the biggest impression.
Derek Stingley Jr – The Houston Texans
The third pick in the draft went to the Texans, and they chose Derek Stingley Jr. This cornerback played his college football for Louisiana State University and was a starter for the Tigers right from his freshman season. He helped them to win the College Football National Championship and posted excellent stats that saw him lead the SEC.
Selected as an All-American, Stingley Jr was unable to repeat the success of that season due to injuries. But he was still confident enough to declare for the 2022 draft. Can the new head coach Lovie Smith lead the Texans to their first Super Bowl with Stingley in the team? Most predictions for the upcoming season suggest that they’ll have another tough season following last year’s 4-13 season.
Sauce Gardner – The New York Jets
The fourth pick in the 2022 NFL draft went to the New York Jets. They decided to use it to get cornerback Sauce Gardner, whose trash-talking earned him his nickname. He played as wide receiver and cornerback for his high school team in Detroit before heading to the University of Cincinnati to play college football for the Bearcats.
He was the only freshman selected for the All-American Conference’s first team. He then had a successful junior season that led to him declaring for the draft this year. As for the Jets, their 4-13 record from last season confirms how tough it was for them. Predictions for this season vary widely, and if Gardner has the impact they hope for, he could help them to improve their performances.
Kayvon Thibodeaux – The New York Giants
Chosen as fifth pick in the draft by the New York Giants, Kayvon Thibodeaux is an outside linebacker who was chosen by USA Today as the High School Defensive Player of the Year a few years ago. After this, he went to the University of Oregon as the nation’s second-highest ranked player in his class. His time with the Ducks saw Thibodeaux enhance his reputation further.
A Morris Trophy winner in 2020 and a pick for the All-America Team in 2021, the player decided to enter the 2020 draft rather than stay in Oregon for his senior year. The Giants have struggled to win games in the last couple of seasons and have a 4-13 record in 2021. They hired Brian Daboll as their new head coach at the start of 2022 and he’ll be hoping to see Thibodeaux add some strength to the team.
Let’s not forget that the top picks in the draft don’t always have the best careers. For example, Tom Brady was famously picked in 199th place by the New England Patriots.
At the other end of the scale, Terry Baker and JaMarcus Russell were first picks who didn’t fulfil their potential. So, it makes sense to wait a little bit longer to decide which of this year’s draft picks are the best or worst.