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2022 NFL Draft Positional Breakdown

2022 NFL Draft Positional Breakdown

The 2022 NFL Draft is officially in the books, and what a whirlwind three days it was. Myriad storylines were born during the draft as players slipped, Pro Bowlers were dealt, and the fortunes of franchises were changed. Some of the most notable narratives surrounding the draft involved the abundance of some positions and neglect of others: the draft began with five straight defensive players (the most since 1991), a record six wide receivers went in the first 18 picks, nine offensive linemen were taken in the first round (the most since 2013), no running backs went in the first round since 2014, and no quarterback was selected until pick #20 while the second signal-caller wasn’t taken until pick #74 (the latest since 1997 and 1996, respectively). 

Below is a positional breakdown of how the 2022 NFL Draft shook out compared to the previous four drafts from 2018-2021. 

Offensive Skill Positions

Quarterbacks: After rampant speculation about where the signal-callers in this class would fall, with much of the conversation focused on the first round, just one quarterback was drafted in the first round — Kenny Pickett to the Pittsburgh Steelers – while none were drafted in the second round. Overall, nine quarterbacks were selected — a noticeable drop from the average of around 12 drafted per year from 2018-2021. 

Running Backs: A position that is seemingly losing even more luster as each day of the NFL calendar whirls by, just six of the 22 running backs taken in this year’s draft went prior to the fourth round. This number was the highest since 2019 but right in line with the average of around 21 running backs selected over the past four drafts. Two fullbacks were also selected as the Steelers draft selection of Connor Heyward pairs the former Michigan State Spartan with his brother, Cameron Heyward. 

Wide Receivers: Following a remarkable run of wide receiver classes the past three years, this year’s class once again raised the bar on draft day. The six first-round wideouts all went between picks #8 and #18 as Ohio State checks in with two of the top three. This year’s receiver class was very top-heavy, though, as just 11 went on Day 3 compared to a drastically higher average of 19 Day 3 receivers over the past four drafts. This lack of depth meant that 28 total receivers were drafted in 2022, a slight drop from the four-year average of 33. 

Tight Ends: One year after Kyle Pitts became the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history, no tight ends went until pick #55. However, this year’s class had significant depth and the 18 total selected greatly exceeded the average of 13.5 selected over the past four drafts. These 18 tight ends came from nine different conferences; interestingly, the SEC didn’t have one picked until the sixth round. 

Offensive Linemen

Offensive Tackles: Pass protection is crucial in today’s league, and this was clearly evident as three offensive tackles went off the board in the first ten picks and a total of five were drafted on Day 1. In total, 25 tackles were selected compared to an average of about 23 tackles taken in each of the previous four drafts. This was the first time three tackles were chosen in the top ten since 2013, when Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel, and Lane Johnson were all top-five picks. 

Offensive Guards: The guard position saw a significant climb from years past with 18 drafted this year including three in the first round. These three matched the total number of first-round guards from 2018-2021, and the 18 guards drafted was a sharp increase from the nearly 13 guards drafted on average during that time period. Cole Strange, the first-round pick of the New England Patriots, became one of the highest-drafted FCS players in league history.

Centers: Centers have continued moving down the priority list for teams, especially in relation to other offensive linemen. This year’s draft saw six centers drafted, with one in each round except for Round 4. This number is a touch below the previous four-year average of nearly eight centers drafted per year. 

Defensive Front Seven

Defensive Ends: With getting after the quarterback at a premium, three of the first five picks were defensive ends including first overall pick Travon Walker and second overall pick Aidan Hutchinson. Overall, 23 defensive ends were taken in this draft which is right in line with the four-year average of about 21 drafted per year. 

Defensive Tackles: This year’s defensive tackle crop was headlined by a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, Jordan Davis, and Devonte Wyatt, who were the only interior defensive linemen taken in the first round. As a whole, 19 defensive tackles were drafted this April which is just a bit lower than the average of 20.5 taken in each of the previous four drafts. The 2019 draft continues to stand alone as six defensive tackles were selected in Round 1. 

Linebackers: With outside and inside linebackers grouped together, a total of 30 were selected in this year’s draft, a near-exact match of the previous four-year average of 29 per draft. Second-round selection Troy Andersen out of Montana State was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons as the third linebacker off the board and became the highest drafted player from the Big Sky in the 21st century. 

Defensive Secondary

Cornerbacks: Two of the first four picks in the draft were cornerbacks (Derek Stingley Jr. to the Houston Texans and Sauce Gardner to the New York Jets), a resounding start for a position that saw 37 players taken. The previous four years saw an average of around 31 corners taken per draft, a number that climbed to 37 in 2021 as well. Nearly a third of teams took two cornerbacks: the 49ers, Bills, Broncos, Chargers, Jaguars, Patriots, Rams, Ravens, Seahawks, and Vikings, while the Chiefs tripled up at the position and traded for Lonnie Johnson Jr. two days after the draft. 

Safeties: After a three-year hiatus of first-round safeties, three went in the first round of this year’s draft. In total, 21 safeties were drafted in 2022, mirroring the average of around 20 safeties drafted annually from 2018-2021. The 21 safeties were from ten different conferences, including the first safety off the board in Kyle Hamilton from Notre Dame. 

Specialists

In total, five specialists were selected in the 2022 NFL Draft. The most notable was kicker Cade York, drafted in the fourth round by the Cleveland Browns – a rare early Day 3 pick used on special teams. Four punters were drafted, the most since 2018, though ‘Punt God’ Matt Araiza was only the third punter off the board. No long snappers were selected for the first time since 2014.

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