The 2022 NFL Draft has come and gone with many picks that pundits deemed home runs and others that left fans and experts alike scratching their heads. As with any draft, the NFL Draft is not an exact science. One can try to predict what happens all they want, nearly anything is as unpredictable as the NFL Draft.
Here are the six biggest surprises from this year’s draft:
1. A Second QB Not Being Selected Until Pick 74
It has been well documented that this quarterback class may be the weakest one since 2013, but there were still two quarterbacks expected to be picked in the first round. However, after the Pittsburgh Steelers used the 20th overall selection on Kenny Pickett, there were no QBs selected until the Atlanta Falcons selected University of Cincinnati Desmond Ridder with the 74th overall pick.
On our big board, Ridder was the fifth-ranked quarterback as his accuracy issues and susceptibility to consistent pressure kept him from being ranked higher. Malik Willis was ranked ahead of Ridder by our scouts and is projected as a starting QB because of pending development in a misdirection-based on an offense that emphasizes YAC.
Ridder, on the other hand, is seen as a backup QB currently. With all the speculation about who would go higher between Willis and Pickett, it was certainly a surprise to see Ridder as the second QB off the board.
2. Patriots and Cowboys Taking Big Gambles in the First Round
The New England Patriots have never been known as conventional drafters during the Bill Belichick era. It caught a plethora of people by surprise when the Patriots decided to use their first round pick on UT-Chattanooga guard Cole Strange.
On our big board, Strange was the No. 3 guard, but was our No. 60 overall prospect. While it is certainly possible that Strange can step in and become a solid contributor on the Patriots’ offensive line, the timing of the pick seems questionable currently given the players who were still on the board.
Moreover, the Cowboys, five picks earlier than the Patriots, decided to select Tulsa OT Tyler Smith who is seen as a high upside player with a lot of raw ability. Considering that Smith will be asked to contribute early, this seems to be a player the Cowboys may have wanted to take with a later pick and draft a OT who is more prepared to take on the rigors of the NFL right away.
3. Nakobe Dean Falling to the Eagles in the Third Round
The fact that the Eagles were able to get Nakobe Dean from Georgia in the third round has to be one of the biggest surprises of the entire draft. Dean came into the draft as our second-best linebacker and No. 15 overall prospect.
Not only is Dean a tremendous player on the field at Georgia, he is also an even better person off of the field. Rumors are spreading about Dean declining to get surgery on his shoulder, which is part of the reason why he fell.
However, with Dean’s high intelligence, leadership ability, outstanding closing speed, and outstanding change of direction, he had the making of a clear first round pick. This made his falling to the Eagles that much more surprising.
4. A.J. Brown and Marquise Brown Getting Traded
With all eyes on the Deebo Samuel situation in San Francisco, former Tennessee Titan A.J. Brown had seemingly become an afterthought in trade rumor talks. He would turn out to be the first 2019 receiver to get traded as the Eagles decided to trade one of their two first round picks to acquire him in addition to other picks.
Tennessee lacks a true No. 1 receiver now, and even with the selection of Treylon Burks, the loss of Brown may be felt early and often this upcoming season. Another trade that came as a surprise was the Ravens parting ways with 2019 first round pick Marquise Brown.
The Ravens already had a need at receiver and depleted that group even more with this trade. Without Hollywood, they now lack a true deep threat to push teams on the perimeter who also happened to be one of star QB Lamar Jackson’s favorite targets.
5. Matt Araiza Being the Third Punter Off the Board
Araiza was the nation’s top punter in 2021 as he was named a unanimous All-American and won the Ray Guy Award. He did it all for San Diego State, and it seemed like he would be the first specialist off the board.
This was not the case, but the Bills were able to get good value for this pick as they picked up their punter of the future. He will be an extremely valuable asset when it comes to flipping the field, and he will have the chance to prove himself this upcoming season.
6. Travis Jones Lasting to the Third Round
Even though this wasn’t the deepest defensive tackle class, UConn DT Travis Jones still made headway at the Senior Bowl and the pre draft process. Heading into the draft, we had Jones ranked as the second-best DT in this draft and the No. 31 overall prospect in large part due to his explosive, compact frame that allows him to generate immense power at the POA and anchor very effectively while having serviceable flexibility to split gaps and occasionally be effective on passing downs.
He was projected by many to go in the first round, and the Ravens continued a strong draft by being able to get him with the 76th overall selection. Although the Ravens signed Michael Pierce this offseason, Jones figures to be a better long-term solution at defensive tackle, especially against the very much improved AFC as a whole.