There are three big storylines from the 2022 NFL Draft. When will New York Jets actually become good? The Green Bay Packers appear to be flipping the script and building a defense-first team. Why are teams ignoring quarterbacks but spending on receivers?
Post-2022 NFL Draft Storylines to Pay Attention to
The Green Bay Packers are Building Something Special… On Defense
Green Bay Packers fans waited for 21 selections to pick a wide receiver at 22. In reality, they had been waiting even longer. For years, fans have been screaming from the rooftops about not getting Aaron Rodgers more weapons. They watched as the Packers continued to draft defensive stalwarts Rashan Gary, Eric Stokes, Darnell Savage, or even his replacement, Jordan Love, with their first-round picks.
Not this offseason, though. This year, the Packers were flush with draft capital, needed a receiver above all else and the draft had a bounty of top-flight wideouts. Cheeseheads from coast to coast were on the edge of their seats as anticipation mounted.
With the 22nd pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers selected…run-stuffing linebacker Quay Walker. He’s not going to be catching passes from Rodgers anytime soon. “That’s okay,” the state of Wisconsin tells themselves, “we have the 28th pick. We’ll definitely be picking up a receiver there.”
By now, you know the rest of the story. The Packers live and die by the best player available on draft day. They don’t reach for a position of need if they don’t deem whoever is left worthy. So, instead of drafting someone like Georgia receiver George Pickens, they drafted his teammate, defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt.
While we all wonder what the Packer’s plan is on offense, it looks like they know their plan on defense. They’re quietly putting together one of the most ferocious defenses in the NFL. In 2021 they were PFF’s third-ranked defense, fifth in Air Yards per Attempt, eighth in Completion Percentage, and sixth in Interceptions. That was all without their all-pro cornerback, Jaire Alexander, and all-pro pass rusher, Za’Darius Smith. Smith has walked the same path as many ex-Packers and signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Alexander will be 100% for the start of next season.
Green Bay’s defense had a weakness though, and it was a familiar foe: run defense. They gave up 4.7 yards per attempt on the ground, good for 30th in the league. Achilles heel in perpetuity. So what did they do? They signed free-agent Jarran Reed and drafted two of the best run stoppers in college football in Wyatt and Walker.
Their pedigree is high. They come from the Georgia Bulldogs, who boasted an all-time defense in college football and just won a national championship, shutting down Alabama’s vaunted offense. Not only did they walk the walk in that Bulldog’s defense, but their measurables are also off the charts. They primarily shut down the run in college but have the athleticism to make plays all over the field.
They’re stepping into a defense with some of the best players at each position. Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell is an all-pro, Savage and Adrian Amos make up one of the best safety duos in the league, Rasul Douglas became Pacman when the lights were brightest, and he lines up across from a top-three cornerback in Alexander. Kenny Clark remains one of the best nose tackles in the league, a monster of a man who constantly eats up double teams. Rashan Gary and Preston Smith have become premier pass rushers in Joe Barry’s system.
There’s no better defense in the league to step into, they’re stacked from front to back, and everybody they’ve added this offseason will only bolster this unit. The only thing they’re missing now is a rotational pass rusher, even asking for that feels greedy. Aaron Rodgers may not have a great or even average collection of pass-catchers, but they won’t need to score many points anyway. This year will be all about the defense in Green Bay.
New York Jets Won the Offseason Again…When Will it Show on the Field?
Joe Douglas and the New York Jets couldn’t have dealt themselves a better hand if they were stacking the deck. Their first round was like hitting a full house and four-of-a-kind on back-to-back hands. Then just when you thought your luck ran out as you watched everyone else play for a while, you completed a flush on the river. That’s how it feels drafting Sauce Gardner, Garrett Wilson, and then trading back into the first round to pick up Jermaine Johnson. They got the most productive pass rusher in the entire draft, in the 20s, after picking up arguably the best defensive back and one of the top receivers. The New York Jets’ first round was an embarrassment of riches.
As they say, the games aren’t won on paper. All of Joe Douglas’ drafts have been considered a win, full of home run swings and late-round value. Robert Saleh was considered a good hire, and the haul he got for Sam Darnold was universally lauded. So when do all these wins show up in the team’s record? I can’t argue that Douglas hasn’t been making smart moves, but it has to start showing up on the field soon, right?
He’s 3-0 in the offseason and 13-36 on the field since he’s been hired, and that’s okay. The Jets had been a dumpster fire prior to his arrival, and a proper rebuild takes a while. They will need Zach Wilson to take a step forward for this rebuild to start bearing fruit, though. After a terrible start where he threw nine interceptions through five games, Wilson managed to rein in the turnovers, throwing just two picks over the last seven games. Unfortunately, that’s about the only area he improved; he remained inaccurate (54% on completions) and took too many sacks (25) through the last seven games as well.
The Jets have put plenty of draft capital into the offensive line, wide receivers, and running backs. Suppose the offense doesn’t take a step forward in efficiency by the end of the upcoming season. In that case, they’ll have to start asking questions about their offensive coordinator (Mike LaFleur) or quarterback. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to the Jets season, which people haven’t been able to say for a while.
Receiver Has Become the Most Important Position
I’m kidding, of course. However, it is intriguing that two quarterback-needy teams, New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions, traded into the first round to draft receivers instead (Chris Olave and Jameson Williams, respectively). It appears the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Commanders have punted on rookie quarterbacks altogether for this season, while the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons tempted fate, waiting for their guys to drop to them in third.
It goes against everything we’ve seen in the last ten years. Teams haven’t just reached for subpar quarterbacks, but they’ve even traded up for them. Whether it was Josh Rosen, Mitchell Trubisky, Brandon Weeden (never forget he was 28 years old!), or Blaine Gabbert, we’ve continuously seen GM’s reach. Not this year; after the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Kenny Pickett at 20, we watched Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder, and Matt Corral go into a freefall, with none getting picked until the third round.
Six receivers all went before Pickett, and then another nine wideouts were selected before Ridder was drafted in the third. Even though some would argue quarterbacks often get overvalued, this seems crazy. Ridder and Willis have apparent holes in their games, but they’re not so bad they wouldn’t be worth a 2nd rounder. I applaud teams for not mortgaging their future for a quarterback they’re unsure about, but it is interesting how much teams have started giving up for receivers.
Whether it was the Arizona Cardinals trading away the 23rd pick for Marquise Brown, the Saints trading their 16th pick, third-rounder, and fourth-rounder, to move up for Olave, or nobody making a move for Baker Mayfield, the NFL seemed to zag this year and go all-in on receiver. Maybe teams are getting wise and understand they should have an established offense before throwing a rookie to the fire, maybe they really didn’t value the available quarterbacks highly, maybe it’s just a blip. We won’t know for sure, but it’ll be interesting seeing how the careers of Pickett, Willis, Ridder, and Corral play out against Olave, Williams, and Jahan Dotson.
2022 NFL Draft Storylines
Those are my favorite storylines from the 2022 NFL Draft. Other fun stories to keep an eye on are the Philadelphia Eagles are going all-in with Jalen Hurts, the quarterback battles of the Falcons and Steelers, and how Travon Walker works out as the first overall pick for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
I’m also interested to see who the best quarterback in this year’s draft class turns out to be, I thought Desmond Ridder was the best quarterback in this year’s class. His poise in the pocket and ability to read through progressions across the entire field was impressive. He also has a pretty strong arm, and I’m surprised he fell so far. Every year the NFL Draft surprises and this year was no different.