Home non category NFL draft 2022: Pros and cons for every first-round pick

NFL draft 2022: Pros and cons for every first-round pick

NFL draft 2022: Pros and cons for every first-round pick

The 2022 NFL draft begins Thursday and continues through Saturday (ABC/ESPN/ESPN App). The Jacksonville Jaguars have the first pick of the draft and are one of eight teams to have two picks in the first round, joining the Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles.

Without a consensus quarterback, there are more divergent opinions about how the top 20 picks will go when talking to scouts, coaches and general managers. Only four times in the past 15 drafts has a quarterback not been the No. 1 pick — Myles Garrett to the Cleveland Browns in 2017, Jadeveon Clowney to the Texans in 2014, Eric Fisher to the Chiefs in 2013 and Jake Long to the Miami Dolphins in 2008.

We will track all 262 picks for Rounds 1-7, and you also can see all of the best available draft prospects.

The draft continues with Rounds 2-3 on Friday (7 p.m. ET) and concludes with Rounds 4-7 on Saturday (noon ET).

Here is the first round of picks, analyzed by our ESPN NFL Nation reporters.

Travon Walker, LB, Georgia | Highlights

Why they picked him: Walker’s draft stock shot up after the combine, but the Jacksonville Jaguars were already intrigued by the Georgia standout because of his versatility. He lined up at defensive end, defensive tackle and linebacker in 2021, and the Jaguars can move him around to get the best matchup. He’s athletic enough to drop into coverage, too, if the Jaguars want to get creative with him. It was notable Walker played his best football in the two College Football Playoff games; he’s a guy who ratchets things up when it matters most.

Biggest question: Walker had a career-high six sacks in 2021 after 3.5 total in his previous two seasons, so there is concern about a one-year surge. Walker also didn’t stand out as the best player on the Bulldogs’ defense – that was linebacker Nakobe Dean – so this pick is more about the Jaguars projecting what Walker can become. Every pick is made with that in mind to a degree, but the Jaguars passed up a player most draft analysts agree will make an immediate impact and be a perennial double-digit sack guy (Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson) for a player who has 9.5 career sacks. — Mike DiRocco

Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan | Highlights

Why they picked him: The Michigan player will stay at home. But let’s be real, that isn’t the only reason behind this pick. The Lions are in desperate need of game-changers, especially on the defense, and Hutchinson checks all of the boxes. He’ll be ready immediately – and he’s already built a local fan base which should bring folks to Ford Field. This is a smart pick and it falls in line with what the Lions are trying to accomplish in their rebuilding process.

Biggest question: Hutchinson was a 2021 consensus first-team All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist, but will that success carry over to the next level? As great as Hutchinson was during the regular season, he struggled against Georgia in national semifinal loss. Will his production be silted against better competition? Only time will tell. — Eric Woodyard

Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU | Highlights

Why they picked him: Coach Lovie Smith made it clear earlier in the month that the Texans’ can’t play football the way they want to without improving at cornerback. The Texans have since added veteran Steven Nelson, but drafting Stingley Jr. with the No. 3 pick shows Houston’s commitment to the position. Stingley Jr., who earned first team All-America honors in 2019 and 2020, will thrive in Smith’s defensive system. Stingley Jr. is coming off an injury — he had surgery in September 2021 after he tore a ligament in his left foot — but was able to participate in LSU’s pro day workout earlier this month and said he felt “fine.”

Biggest question: Should the Texans have given quarterback Davis Mills more help instead? Let me preface this by saying there was no bad pick at No. 3 because the Texans have so many holes to fill on their roster. Although there was certainly a need in the secondary, Houston also needs to set Mills up to succeed. Taking either offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu or Evan Neal would have given Mills some reliable protection alongside left tackle Laremy Tunsil. The good news for the Texans? They have a second pick at No. 13 to add another impact rookie. — Sarah Barshop

Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati | Highlights

Why they picked him: Gardner is a terrific talent who plays a position of need. The game is played on the perimeter – see all the star receivers scoring big contracts — and Gardner will give the Jets to compete against the elite playmakers in the AFC East. Gardner should start opposite free-agent addition D.J. Reed, a huge upgrade from the Bryce Hall-Brandin Echols tandem last season. Gardner has the traits that should make him an ideal fit in coach Robert Saleh’s scheme – long body (6-foot-3), long arms (33 ½ inches) and 4.41 speed in the 40. He was dominant in college. Get this: He allowed zero touchdown passes in his career (1,103 coverage snaps). Quarterbacks were afraid of him, as he was targeted only three times per game in 2021. His ball skills (nine interceptions in three years) will be a welcome addition to a secondary devoid of playmakers.

Biggest question: What about an edge rusher? The Jets had their choice of Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson and Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux. Saleh’s defense is predicated on pass rush, but Gardner was the right move because Thibodeaux and Johnson would’ve been reaches at No. 4. As for Gardner, the big question is, can he cut down on the penalties? He was handsy in college, committing nine penalties over the last two seasons (including seven pass-interference and holding calls). He’s such a long athlete that one scouting source wondered, “I don’t think he can handle quick, speedy guys. Rich Cimini

Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon | Highlights

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