Some of the most important work in the NFL Draft comes in the second and third round. Historically teams have knocked it out of the park with their day one picks, and whiffed on the rest of the draft — and long-term success eluded them. The best teams that are able to make it to the playoffs on a regular basis find key starters at this point in the draft, and with a little luck, find a star.
The big story entering Friday night was the lack of quarterbacks taken in the first round and where they might end up, and that dominated the conversation until they started to come off the board. We’ll get to that, but for now let’s look at the teams who killed it on Friday, and who came away lacking.
Winner: The Jets … again
I cannot express how bizarre it is to love a Jets’ draft like this. The Jets only had two picks on Friday, but maximized their value to get two great players that fill key needs. It began with the aggressiveness to move up in the second round and select running back Breece Hall, who I honestly thought would be taken in the back-end of the first round.
Hall is the only workhorse three-down back in this draft worth taking early, and I think his combination of speed and power is going to be a huge asset to take pressure off Zach Wilson and diversify the offense.
Then, with their second pick of the night the Jets took tight end Jeremy Ruckert from Ohio State, an underrated player who went later than I expected. He’s not much of a big play receiver, but he fights for the ball and does the little things that make a quarterback’s life easier. In terms of a chain mover there wasn’t a better tight end for that role, and I think it was a great choice.
Loser: The Steelers selecting Kenny Pickett at No. 20
This is a selection that kept looking worse as the draft moved on. It’s not necessarily about Pickett as a player, but rather how the rest of the league valued this quarterback class, and the value of taking him with their first round selection.
As it played out the next quarterback wasn’t taken until pick No. 74, and the Steelers had been on the clock 22 picks earlier. It’s impossible to imagine Pickett wouldn’t have been there at No. 52, which would have freed up the Steelers to address another position earlier in the draft.
The bright side is that Pittsburgh had a very night Day 2 overall, picking up George Pickens and DeMarvin Leal, both value at their picks. However, that No. 20 might still look large and leaving people wondering what could have been,
Loser: The Vikings … again
I am utterly mystified by what Minnesota’s motivations were ahead of this draft and their execution during it. I’m left honestly wondering if they didn’t help the rest of the NFC North get better than they got in the draft, and that’s very ugly.
We’ve already taken a deep dive into how bad their trade in the first round was, but the upside was that they were amassing more picks in a deep draft. The issue is that they then traded away the No. 34 pick to the Packers of all teams, allowing them to take big-play wide receiver Christian Watson, correcting their biggest issue.
Minnesota reached on their next two picks, taking LSU guard Ed Ingram in the second, when he had a 5th round grade from most experts, then linebacker Brian Asamoah in the third — and he had a 4th round grade.
The Vikings moved back to get more picks, which should have resulted in them getting more value. They didn’t.
Winner: The Ravens … again
I don’t know how Baltimore got away with their heist in the 2022 NFL Draft. Each of their four picks have been killer, and that continued into the second and third rounds with two brilliant selections.
David Ojabo was a legitimate Top 15 talent until he tore his Achilles at Michigan’s pro day. That mean he’ll basically take a redshirt year, but who cares? It’s not like the Ravens need him to contribute immediately, and this was a huge value pick in the second round. I think he’ll be a monster at outside linebacker when he returns, and this was basically a free pick.
While there’s nothing hugely remarkable about Travis Jones’ game, he’s a classic, bruising nose tackle who can disrupt the point of attack and manipulate his opponent. I think he was a solid second round talent, potentially even a late first round pick — and Baltimore got him in the third. This was a really great pick as well.
So, when you look at this in totality there’s a very real chance the Ravens came away with four first round talents across three rounds.
This was an absolutely phenomenal day for the Titans. Their decision in round one to take Treylon Burks and trading away A.J. Brown raises some questions, but these are totally erased with the day this team had.
We’re talking value, value, value across the board. Roger McCreary was a great selection at the top of the second round who helps solidify their secondary. Nicholas Petit-Frere was one of the best pass blocking offensive tackles in this draft, though he needs some time to work on his aggressiveness, I think he can become a quality player.
Let’s be real though, grabbing Malik Willis was the triumph of all this. Willis was my No. 1 quarterback in this class, and he was phenomenal value in the third round. It gives him a place where he can sit, without much pressure, and learn the offense. I think this is going to be the best pick in the draft, period — and this is truly a great fit.
I like this day two for a lot of the same reasons I like what the Titans did. From the jump let me say that I’m not a huge fan of Troy Anderson or DeAngelo Malone, who I think were both reaches at their positions — but the other two picks really countered that.
Arnold Ebiketie was a perfect mix of value and need, netting a pass rusher this team desperately needed and could have been taken earlier. Ebiketie has a an amazing first step, and great motor for getting after the quarterback.
The decision to take Desmond Ridder over Malik Willis will be under the microscope for some time, but in isolation it was an amazing pick. If I had to speculate I’d imagine they did more homework on Ridder, thinking there was a greater chance he’d be available at their second round pick — so they were more comfortable. In the third he was really good value and offers them a really solid option moving forward.
It’s been a very good draft from Atlanta who put major work into putting themselves back into relevance in the NFC South.