NFL Draft – It only feels right that one of the most chaotic offenses in recent memory had an equally chaotic draft process. Despite the draft process being more analytically informed and intelligently dissected than ever, this class still lacked a consensus top overall prospect, had anywhere from zero to five quarterbacks projected to go in the first round, and a record eight teams with multiple picks on Day 1.
The Las Vegas setting felt like the perfect location for this draft. In the American capitol for random chance, where anything could happen, anything DID happen. The normalcy lasted all of ten picks before veteran wide receivers moved across the country, surefire top prospects slid down boards, and University of Tennessee of Chattanooga made their first-ever appearance in the first round.
Now that the dust has settled and we’ve all had a few days to digest all 262 selections made this past weekend, it is time for us to get to the fun part: wild speculation. We have consolidated draft grades from the most prominent sports sources and football minds all into one place. Today, we’ll break down the consensus best, worst, and most polarizing draft classes of 2022. This is … the 2022 Draft Report Card Report.
Previous NFL Draft Report Card Reports can be found here: (2021), (2020), (2019), (2018), (2017), (2016), (2015), (2014), (2013), (2012), (2011), (2010), (2009), (2008), (2007), (2006), (2005), (2004).
As always, let’s go through our panel of football minds. For the first time in five years, our steady growth in grader aggregation has finally plateaued. The one and only Evan Silva from Establish the Run has returned to the fold after a one-year hiatus. We have just one new grader to this year’s Report Card Report: Football Outsiders’ very own Mike Tanier! He very specifically does not call his evaluations “grades,” but rather Preliminary Performance Assessments (PPAs for short). Tanier uses an A-through-F evaluation system; if it look like a draft report card and quacks like a draft report card, you can bet it’s going in this list.
Along with the new additions come some changeups and departures. Bleacher Report’s revolving door of draft graders keeps on spinning, with Alex Ballentine replacing Brad Gagnon. Ryan Gosling (not that one) has taken over grading duties for Ben Rolfe at Pro Football Network. Andrew Erickson now grades for Fantasy Pros, taking over for Mike Tagliere who tragically passed last October. Rest in peace, Mike.
Charles McDonald and Steven Ruiz have both left For the Win, with Ruiz joining The Ringer and McDonald joining Underdog Fanasy. McDonald submitted his own version of grades for Underdog this year, but his use of a non-letter-based grading format unfortunately disqualifies him from this year’s Report Card Report. In their absence, For the Win has yet to post comprehensive draft grades. The Draft Network has taken a different direction this year, posting team grades in individual articles instead of one large list. To save us all from clicking through 32 hyperlinks, I have unfortunately left them out of this year’s tabulations.
These new graders join our usual cast of characters, adding up to a total of 20 sets of grades:
Highest Draft Grades
1. Baltimore Ravens
GPA: 4.04 (Highest GPA since Cincinnati, 2012)
Highest Grade: A+ (9 total)
Lowest Grade: B (Tanier)
Baltimore becomes just the third team in Report Card Report history to cross the 4.0 GPA threshold, joining the 2012 Cincinnati Bengals and 2008 Kansas City Chiefs, and might have done it in spite of the competition around them. The Ravens kicked things off Day 1 by taking one of the most talented prospects in this class in Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton at 14 overall. Baltimore then pulled off what may have been the heist of the weekend, flipping the last year of Hollywood Brown’s rookie contract to the Arizona Cardinals for a chance to re-enter the first round. They turned that pick into Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, stopping yet another strong prospect’s fall. Hitting on sliding players was the theme to the Ravens’ draft, with Day 2 selection Travis Jones and Day 3 selections Daniel Faalele and Jalyn Armour-Davis falling into that camp as well. They even walked away with Michigan’s David Ojabo, who was a surefire first-rounder before rupturing his Achilles just six weeks before the draft.
There’s a reason this is Baltimore’s third straight year in the top five of the Report Card Report. Their front office’s ability to consistently identify talent for value and turn it into on-field production is second to none in this league. This year, however, they didn’t need to do much identifying. The talent simply fell into their laps. It made it even better that players such as Hamilton, Ojabo, and Jones perfectly fit the M.O. of the Baltimore Ravens defense.
Reports suggest Brown requested a trade because of the Ravens’ current offensive structure. The Ravens heard that and leaned into it like their life depended on it. Linderbaum is a skilled-yet-undersized center prospect, but Baltimore added the beef in Day 3 by picking up 6-foot-9, 379-pound Faalele along with tight ends Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar, whose frames could land them on a football field or an NBA frontcourt.
2. New York Jets
Highest Grade: A+ (4 total)
Lowest Grade: B+ (Kapadia, Silva)
When you have three first-round picks, it’s difficult not to crack the top five of the Report Card Report. The New York Jets earned their spot atop this list this year, though, walking away with potential starters at four positions of need. Drafting for need is a risky game; conventional draft logic suggests it’s best to take the best player available. For the Jets, the best players available every time they were on the board were their positions of need. A team entrenched in a rebuild usually has that luxury, but it rarely pans out the way it did for the Jets.
The Jets let Kayvon Thibodeaux slide past them to take Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, opting to fill their desperate need at cornerback over their moderate need at edge rusher. After landing Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson to bolster the wide receiver room, Joe Douglas filled that need at edge anyway by trading back into the first round and plucking the third-best edge off the board. Dealin’ Douglas made one last move near the top of the second round, landing the top running back in the draft in Breece Hall.
Four day-one ready players in this draft, three of whom are considered by some to be the best in the class at their respective positions. Even their fourth-round selection, Louisiana offensive tackle Max Mitchell, has the upside to end up in a starting role. A best-case scenario from this draft class could be revolutionary for a team that has hovered in a state of rebuilding limbo since the days of Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan. All the pieces are falling into place, but it all might be for naught if a certain draft pick from last year doesn’t hit.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
Highest Grade: A+ (Kelly, PFF)
Lowest Grade: B (3 total)
*Aaron Paul GIF* They can’t keep getting away with this!!
The Kansas City Chiefs were faced with their first speed bump of the Patrick Mahomes era this offseason. With Tyreek Hill officially a Miami Dolphin and Tyrann Mathieu seeking work elsewhere, many were left to wonder if this was the year we see Kansas City take a step back. The rest of their division—and the AFC at-large—took notice, all loading up for a shot at the throne.
In a three-day stretch, Kansas City seemingly rebuilt their roster in a new image, ready to re-conquer the league.
Entering the draft with 12 picks, the Chiefs used that capital to trade up and land Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie. After that, the board couldn’t have fallen better for them. Purdue edge George Karlaftis fell into their lap at 30, as did Western Michigan wide receiver Skyy Moore at 54. They continued to reload their secondary with the likes of Bryan Cook and Joshua Williams, adding hyper-athletic Wisconsin linebacker Leo Chenal in between them.
In all, seven of the Chiefs’ 10 draft picks went to the defensive side of the ball; four of those were specifically spent on corners. The defense got a much-needed infusion of youth, and Patrick Mahomes got a new shiny toy to throw to in Moore. The Chiefs may not ever truly be a defensive-led team with Mahomes at quarterback, but this might be as close as the two sides have been during his still-young tenure. Reports of Kansas City’s death were greatly exaggerated.
Side note: I don’t know if the Patriots wrote Kansas City an I.O.U. after the overtime situation in the 2019 AFC Championship Game, but it was officially paid back in full this past weekend. New England served as the Chiefs’ trade partners twice this weekend: once so Kansas City could move up and take McDuffie, then again so the Patriots could move up to take a wide receiver not named Skyy Moore.
4. Philadelphia Eagles
Highest Grade: A+ (3 total)
Lowest Grade: B+ (4 total)
The Eagles’ draft class is so much more than the players they walked away with. They entered the draft with three first-round picks, used one, and still managed to walk away with A.J. Brown, a 2023 first-rounder, and a 2024 second-round pick. Hats off to Howie Roseman. Veteran players and future draft picks don’t factor into every grader’s evaluation, but it had to be mentioned that Philadelphia came out of this with a haul.
That haul includes the players they actually drafted. Say what you will about trading up to draft a run-stopping defensive tackle, but there are only so many Jordan Davises on Planet Earth. No man should move the way Davis does at his size; it would almost be irresponsible not to draft him if given the right chance. He will be joined by fellow Bulldog Nakobe Dean, whose medical concerns led to a shocking slide out of the first two rounds. If Dean can return to form, that practically makes up for one of the two firsts Philadelphia traded away.
Beyond the high-risk, high-reward plays made on Georgia players, the Eagles also made some very sound drafting decisions. The Eagles took Nebraska center Cam Jurgens in the second round, hand-picked by Jason Kelce for the similarities they share in their game. They also double-dipped at linebacker, adding Kansas’ Kyron Johnson to a once anemic position group.
5. Detroit Lions
Highest Grade: A+ (PFF)
Lowest Grade: C (Tanier)
After the Jacksonville Jaguars opted for Travon Walker first overall, Dan Campbell got his kneecap biter in Aidan Hutchinson. Things could not have fallen better. Hutchinson’s high motor and set of pass rush moves earned him the distinction of being the top overall prospect in this class for stretches, so landing him at No. 2 overall is a blessing. The Michigan-to-Detroit storyline also makes this a feel-good story.
The Lions didn’t stop there, trading up using the pick acquired in the Matthew Stafford trade to get Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams. Is it a big leap for a non-quarterback? Sure, but this roster needed a venti-double-shot-iced-coffee’s worth of talent injected into it. Once Williams heals from his ACL tear, the game-breaking potential he brings alongside Amon-Ra St. Brown and T.J. Hockenson is exciting to say the least.
Beyond Hutchinson and Williams, Detroit poured resources into the defense during Days 2 and 3 of the draft. Kentucky edge Josh Paschal pairs nicely as a heavy-handed dominator alongside Hutchinson. Kerby Joseph fills a major hole in the Lions roster at safety at No. 97 overall.
Lowest Draft Grades
32. New England Patriots
Highest Grade: B- (Orr, Prisco)
Lowest Grade: F (Erickson)
At this point, we’ve all seen our fair share of Belichick-ian drafts. No draft would be complete without the Patriots drafting a Rutgers defensive back or a way-too-early special teamer. It’s a common rhetoric at this point that New England’s draft big boards are just different from the rest of the NFL. They consist of 20 players—not 200—and apparently evaluate players different than other teams and prognosticators alike. A “reach” to most was a “steal” to the Patriots front office, and Belichick would justify it by coaching in the AFC Championship Game almost every year.
The Patriots turned that up to 11 in this year’s draft. New England kicked things off by trading out of the pick that would eventually go to cornerback Trent McDuffie and giving UT-Chattanooga their first-ever first-round selection in guard Cole Strange. They then traded up to draft speedy Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton while Georgia’s George Pickens and Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore were still on the board. They addressed their need at cornerback by drafting two—one 5-foot-8, one 5-foot-10, both with the last name Jones. They double-dipped at running back despite already having five on the roster and spent a Day 3 pick on likely-backup-quarterback Bailey Zappe. This draft class lacked any sort of cohesion or plan beyond the fact these players were great athletes in one regard or another.
No one knows what goes on inside the mind of Bill Belichick, but after a string of middling draft returns, the mystique of the New England draft strategy is waning.
31. Chicago Bears
Highest Grade: A- (Reuter)
Lowest Grade: F (Tanier)
Free Justin Fields. That’s it, that’s the grade.
The trade that helped Chicago land Fields put them out of the first round, meaning Chicago had to get creative in how they used their later round picks. Instead, they focused almost exclusively on the defense and offensive line. Chicago took cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker in the second round with the likes of George Pickens, Skyy Moore, and Alec Pierce on the board. Instead, they opt to take Tennessee’s Velus Jones Jr., who turns 25 soon and is poised for a role primarily as a return man. Unable to find an early solution for their offensive line struggles last year, Chicago spent post of their Day 3 picks picking up late-round linemen.
Chicago is deep in a rebuild. Their needs are everywhere. But their needs are most glaring at receiver and offensive line. The Bears’ defense was at least pedestrian last year by DVOA standards, ranking 12th against the pass and 24th against the rush. Chicago’s receiving corps is currently a combination of Jones, Darnell Mooney, Byron Pringle, and Equanimeous St. Brown. Giving Fields that to work with after the rookie season he dealt with and expecting him to develop is cruel and unusual. It wastes the assets of multiple drafts’ worth of picks to have Fields fail.
Chicago will appear later in the Most Polarizing Drafts section of this list, but the near-total disregard for offensive improvement spoiled what was a decent defensive draft
30. New Orleans Saints
Highest Grade: B+ (Ballentine)
Lowest Grade: D- (Tanier)
The New Orleans Saints have been in a constant state of semi-contention: not good enough to push for a Super Bowl, but not bad enough to blow it all up. So they don’t, instead pushing cap down the road and making splashes to punch their Wild Card Weekend ticket every season. This Draft was no exception, highlighted by the Saints’ multiple trades in the first round. New Orleans moved up to land Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave at 11 overall, then took tackle Trevor Penning at 19.
The issues mainly lie in the process, bot the players. This was as good a year as any to stockpile and build for the future. New Orleans answered needs at wide receiver and tackle, but moving up is tough to swallow. Some consider Penning an over-draft at 19, and the pressure to replace Terron Armstead is daunting. After the Saints moved a third and a fourth-round pick to get Olave, New Orleans made just one more selection inside the top 150, getting in at the end of a cornerback run and selecting Alontae Taylor.
29. Washington Commanders
Highest Grade: B+ (Prisco, Davis)
Lowest Grade: D- (Nystrom)
The sentiments regarding the Washington Commanders’ draft class aren’t angry, faulting Washington for bad picks or poor decision-making. The comments are resigned, apathetic to Washington’s perfectly average draft.
The Commanders didn’t quite need a receiver, but seeing the fates of A.J. and Hollywood Brown—knowing Terry McLaurin is due for a payday this offseason—it would certainly be nice to have one under control. Instead of making a splash, drafting Chris Olave at 11, they trade back and let the Saints do that for them. Washington took Jahan Dotson, who by all accounts is a solid prospect. He just doesn’t have the upside of Chris Olave or Jameson Williams who were available at Washington’s original slot, nor does he have the unique size attributes of a Treylon Burks taken two picks after Dotson.
Alabama defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis is in a similar boat, a promising rotational player but unlikely to be the best in his position group. Washington took the powerful bruising running back Brian Robinson, who will share carries with Antonio Gibson and whose role could have been filled by any number of free agent veterans. The Commanders had need at Safety, but took until the fourth round ot do so. The most intriguing pick of the bunch is UNC quarterback Sam Howell, the sixth quarterback off the board.
28. Los Angeles Rams
Highest Grade: A (Davis, Reuter)
Lowest Grade: F (Nystrom)
The Rams are fresh off a Super Bowl victory. The phrase “F**k them picks,” was emblazoned on the t-shirt worn by general manager Les Snead during their parade. Snead and head coach Sean McVay yucked it up during their press conference held at their rental draft mansion during the first round. This year, they even released a blockbuster trailer for the momentous occasion.
The real blockbuster of the offseason.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) April 26, 2022
Their first pick of the weekend? 104 overall.
Los Angeles has figured out a system that works for them: spend the big picks on proven veterans, restock the cupboards with late-round depth. For some, that’s enough to give them a pass. A handful of graders even factored in players like Matthew Stafford, Troy Hill, and the already-absconded Von Miller into the grade given this year. Others are not as kind, unafraid to point out that there is next to no high-end upside for this crop of mostly Day 3 picks.
Most Polarizing Grades
1. Los Angeles Rams
Highest Grade: A (Davis, Reuter)
Lowest Grade: F (Nystrom)
What a transition!
Those who appreciate the Rams philosophy factored the veterans heavily into their draft grades. Davis goes as far as to cite the Snead t-shirt quote and use Stafford’s extension as a reason for their A grade. Sheil Kapadia might have given it a B for the trailer alone. Tanier at least made some talent evaluations, citing the versatility of cornerback Decobie Durant and guard Logan Bruss as reason enough to give out a C grade. Nystrom saw next-to-no upside in this group, going as far as calling out Los Angeles’ “lack of scouting effort” resulting in what he sees as “a lot of summer cuts.” The only real question surrounding personnel choice came over fifth-round running back Kyren Williams simply because of the presence of Cam Akers and Darrel Henderson.
2. Chicago Bears
Highest Grade: A- (Reuter)
Lowest Grade: F (Tanier)
Pete Prisco labeled Chicago’s lone receiver addition their worst pick of the draft. Tanier called the refusal to draft offensive weapons “spiteful malpractice.” Evan Silva said “the new regime is setting up Fields to fail.” We know why the Bears ended up as one of the consensus worst draft classes. Some graders, however, at least acknowledged the picks they made at the behest of the offense weren’t terrible. Kapadia at least gave Chicago credit for drafting in volume. The Touchdown Wire crew praised the selections of Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker, as did Chad Reuter. Both parties were also higher on Velus Jones than others.
3. Seattle Seahawks
Highest Grade: A (Nystrom, Touchdown Wire)
Lowest Grade: D (Silva)
The Seattle Seahawks will be a team in transition for the next several years; the inaugural haul of the post-Russell Wilson era would be better had they not made the deal for Jamal Adams a couple years back. The Seahawks are drafting for now and the future, and graders skewed based on which means more to them. The selection of Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross ninth overall was almost universally praised, while the second-round pick spent on Kenneth Walker was simply chalked up to “typical Seahawks.” Boye Mafe is well-liked among graders, but opinions about whether he is an immediate-impact player or a developmental project vary. Not drafting Malik Willis became a point of contention among some graders. For Nystrom, that didn’t stop him from loving Seattle’s haul. For Silva, it was “egregious.”
4. Houston Texans
Highest Grade: A (Kelly)
Lowest Grade: F (Nystrom)
The Houston Texans have been in a holding pattern for over a year, signing veterans to short-term contracts in an attempt to wait out the Deshaun Watson trade. Now that he officially not their problem anymore, the team’s first draft trying to find new direction was met by mixed reception. Kelly said it hard to poke holes in. Most cite Derek Stingley Jr., Kenyon Green, and Jalen Pitre as starting-caliber players with John Metchie as a role player. Nystrom, however, has grave concerns about using these players as the base to build a future. Nystrom specifically cites Stingley’s Lisfranc injury and Metchie’s ACL tear as big red flags.
5. Carolina Panthers
Highest Grade: A (Nystrom, PFF)
Lowest Grade: C- (Prisco)
The division in the Carolina Panthers’ draft consensus has little to do with the actual players Carolina selected. Their biggest addition—N.C. State tackle Ickey Ekwonu—received universal praise as one of the top two tackles in this class. The selection of Matt Corral was either dubbed a steal by optimists or a miraculous turn of events by doubters. Most of Carolina’s detractors harped on their lack of draft capital. The Panthers had no second- or fourth-round picks because of the Sam Darnold acquisition last year, then spent additional picks to go draft Corral. Very few even bothered to mention fourth-round linebacker Brandon Smith, but Reuter praised the potential of sixth-round picks Amare Barno and Cade Mays.
Over the course of the last few seasons, we have observed an uptick in the number of “extreme” grades given out. 2020’s Report Card Report saw 13 A+’s and 5 Fs, while last year’s group handed out a whopping 24 A+’s and 5 Fs. This year, we saw a slight pivot away from the extreme with 4 Fs and 19 A+’s. The mode grade handed out was a B, led by 14 from Mel Kiper. Teams seem to be getting slightly better at drafting, or they at least have a better sense of positional value.
The average GPA fell ever so slightly for the first time in a few years. The GPA rose from 2.88 in 2019, to 2.91 in 2020, then to 2.93 in 2021. This year’s GPA, 2.87, is back to where the average was in 2018. The average standard deviation fell somewhat significantly from 0.81 to 0.77.
Chris Reuter continues to be the most generous grader, retaining his title for a fourth-straight season. However, Reuter has reigned in his ever-generous GPA, which fell from 3.59 in 2021 to 3.42 this year. Reuter handed out 11 As but refrained from issuing a single A+; only four teams earned lower than a B- on Reuter’s report card. Evan Silva’s return to the Report Card Report doubles as his return to title-holder for shrewdest grader. His average GPA of 2.33 is just four one-hundredths lower than two-time reigning champion Thor Nystrom, who handed out two of the four F grades in the report. Our own Mike Tanier delivered a shrewd performance for his first go-around, finishing with a 2.42 GPA. Despite losing the title of harshest grader, Nystrom remains the grader with the widest standard deviation. His 1.26 SD is the only standard deviation over 1, and he cleared it by a wide margin.
Click the image below and it should bring up a graphic with all the grades from all the graders for all the teams.
As always, Football Outsiders’ 2022 NFL draft coverage is presented by Underdog Fantasy.