2022 NFL Draft Grades: How the NFC fared on draft weekend

May 4th 2022

Charles McDonald

This is a bit of a different spin on most draft grades you'll see. As someone who was perpetually a C- student, who am I to put designate the success of something on a letter grade?

Instead, this will focus on whether teams are moving in the right direction, treading water or doing something different altogether.

Here's a quick recap on the draft classes in the NFC.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons: Moving in the right direction

For where the Falcons are (very bad, no likelihood of immediate hope, start of a long rebuild), this has the chance to be a solid foundational draft as they finally exit their last offseason of heavy cap restrictions. Their rebuild efforts still started a season too late, but they were able to grab a quarterback prospect with starting potential in the third round with Cincinnati starter Desmond Ridder.

Ridder will compete with Marcus Mariota for the starting job, which is good enough for now. His status as a third round pick won't prevent the Falcons from acquiring a superior prospect in the future, but he has the chops to be a starter in the NFL.

The Falcons kicked off their draft by selecting USC wide receiver Drake London, who immediately slots in as the team's best traditional wide receiver (Kyle Pitts is still unmatched in overall receiving ability, which is no slight to London.) For a team that wants to be play action-heavy — and Arthur Smith getting back to his roots of having a functional play action passing game — the Falcons need tough, physical receiver that can make plays after the catch. London might not have the game-breaking speed of Jameson Williams or Chris Olave, but he's a strong fit for what the Falcons are trying to be on offense. He'll make a dynamic duo with Pitts in the redzone (if Smith comes to his senses and gets Pitts more active in the redzone.)

Penn state edge defender Arnold Ebiketie and Montana State linebacker Troy Andersen filled out the rest of the premium picks for this draft class. Ebiketie is already the team's best pass rusher without taking a snap (yes, very low bar). Andersen is a complete project at linebacker. He has all the athleticism in the world, but is insanely raw when it comes to fitting the run and being physical in general.

Andersen likely won't do much as a rookie, but it's not the worst home run swing for a rebuilding team to take.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Moving in the right direction

The Buccaneers drafted one of the most talented interior linemen in the entire draft in Houston's Logan Hall. Hall was born to play in this defense. He can play anywhere from 3-technique to defensive end and has the movement skills to keep the Buccaneers' front diverse and aggressive.

The Luke Goedeke pick was interesting partly because they've already got two hefty investments at offensive tackle, which means he'll likely be kicking into guard and competing with Aaron Stinnie for the starting job.

This draft wasn't that flashy, but did enough to keep the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl conversation for another season.

Carolina Panthers: Treading water

The Panthers draft, to me at least, really depends on what you think about Matt Corral. If you think Corral can become the future of this franchise, or at least a better quarterback than Sam Darnold has been, then this is a strong draft class. Personally, I think Corral is far enough away as a quarterback that he might not get the chance to grow considering his status as a third round pick.

They did find a potential franchise left tackle in Icky Ekwonu at sixth overall and picked a potential diamond in the rough with Cade Mays later in the draft. Mays is a talented offensive lineman that fell underneath the radar, but he was a former five start recruit and played at Georgia before transferring to Tennessee. These are quality offensive line upgrades that will help them today and in the future.

There weren't many opportunities for them considering their lack of draft picks, but the Panthers are still in the same position they were entering the draft: needing a quarterback.

New Orleans Saints: Doing Saints Things

The Saints really can't help themselves. No team is more committed to being themselves than the Saints. Their "all-in" approach showed up again by trading for an extra first round pick in the draft and trading up again to select Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave. With their second first rounder they took Northern Iowa tackle Trevor Penning. Penning is a project from a technical standpoint, but did test well at the NFL Combine so maybe he has enough functional athleticism to reach his ceiling.

They needed a receiver in a bad way, even with Michael Thomas coming back. The Saints don't have a pick in the first round in 2023 now so they need Olave and Penning to hit the ground running.

Perhaps the Saints are higher on Jameis Winston than everyone else, but it is kind of funny they're being so aggressive with Winston as the starting quarterback. It's fun and funny at the same time.

To me, at least.

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles: Moving in the right direction

Jordan Davis. Nakobe Dean. Go Dawgs.

Seriously though, the Eagles might have acquired a tool that will be immensely valuable for the next evolution of NFL defenses. If the Eagles want to be a team that values speed and coverage ability and versatility in the front seven, it helps to have an ass-kicking nose tackle in the middle doing the dirty work. It's even better if that player has the potential to be a pass-rushing threat at 341 pounds.

Dean gives the Eagles a linebacker with star potential in the middle and having his old college running mate eating blockers in front of him will help him get up to speed quickly against bigger NFL linemen.

They traded their second first round pick for A.J. Brown, gave him a $100 million contract and now have a deadly 1-2 punch with Brown and second year wide receiver Devonta Smith. Whether it's Jalen Hurts or someone else moving forward, the Eagles have playoff-caliber receiving options.

New York Giants: Moving in the right direction

It's hard to mess up the top of the draft, but the Giants have done it a few times in recent seasons.

This year feels different in their first season under new general manager Joe Schoen. They beefed up their trenches with Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal. Neal slide in right across from Andrew Thomas and create a young, talented bookend tackle duo for the Giants moving forward.

Wan'Dale Robinson was a bit of a head scratcher in the second round because his role seems to overlap with what Kadarius Toney is supposed to do for the Giants offense — unless they do actually wind up trading him.

The rest of their draft were filled with dice rolls in the front seven, secondary and offensive line. The Giants ended up making nine picks after their two first round selections. Surely one of them has to hit in a meaningful way.

This offense, barring injury, has the talent for a bounce-back season under Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka — and is set up well for their next quarterback if Daniel Jones underperforms this season.

Dallas Cowboys: Moving in the right direction

I think the Cowboys got a great offensive tackle prospect in Tyler Smith from Tulsa. He can slide in at right tackle and has the upside to provide the same impact that La'el Collins did for the Cowboys for so many years.

Sam Williams is a risk from a character standpoint, considering he had a charge for sexual battery in 2020, but the NFL has shown they fundamentally don't care about those issues. He's a pass rusher for a team that needed one with the departure of Randy Gregory.

Dallas found what should be a competent starting receiver in Jalen Tolbert and if Dak Prescott improves another year removed from his horrific leg injury, then the Cowboys will have a wide receiver trio capable of putting up points again.

Washington Commanders: Treading water

I don't think anything changed about the Commanders' fortunes with this draft. Jahan Dotson is a nice wide receiver prospect, but taking him at 16 was a bit of a surprise. If Curtis Samuel can become the player they signed him to be, Washington has a dangerous wide receiver trio with Dotson, Samuel and star Terry McLaurin.

Washington continued to add former Alabama players to their roster with defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis and running back Brian Robinson Jr. These felt like reaches to me, but both players have a chance to bring physicality to their respective sides of the ball.

The most interesting pick of the inaugural Commanders' draft might have come in the fifth round when they selected North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell. Howell has a live arm with the upside to be a starting caliber quarterback in the future, but his stock slipped after a down year at North Carolina.

Luckily, he only has to wait out a Carson Wentz implosion to become a starter again.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers: Moving in the right direction

The Packers are about to have one of the most rugged defenses in the league after this draft. They double dipped on the mighty Georgia Bulldogs defense and added linebacker Quay Walker and defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt — who comes with character concerns of his own following his time at Georgia.

Those two will give the Packers one of the toughest fronts in the NFL when combined with Kenny Clark, De'Vondre Campbell, Preston Smith and Rashan Gary. They added two wide receivers in the draft as well in North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson and Nevada wide receiver Romeo Doubs. Watson is raw, but has all the athletic potential in the world if the Packers can refine areas of his game.

They also took a few swings along the offensive line that has the upside to become starters down the round. Sean Rhyan , Zach Tom and Rasheed Walker all have attainable potential as starters.

A good team got better. Boring. It'll make the incoming playoff loss even funnier.

Detroit Lions: Moving in the right direction

The Lions added two potential franchise cornerstones in Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams. They were able to trade up with a division rival without trading away a future first rounder and secured a second rounder in return. Hutchinson is an NFL-ready pass rusher and Williams is a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball.

In the second round they drafted Kentucky defensive lineman Josh Paschal who is a bruiser of a pass rusher. Think about the type of players the Ravens had all across their defensive line with guys like Pernell McPhee and Zadarius Smith. Paschal is the same type of rusher that can win with power from a variety of techniques.

No quarterback this year for the Lions, but they must not have had any of the quarterbacks rated highly to pass on all of them. Outside of Williams, the only other offensive player they drafted was James Mitchell out of Virginia Tech.

A defense heavy draft for the Lions, but they grabbed two impact pass rushers and speedster at wide receiver. Not a bad haul at all — and they still have the ammunition to get their quarterback in 2023.

Minnesota Vikings: Treading water

The Vikings had a lot of picks in this draft, starting with Georgia safety Lewis Cine. Cine can do it all for the Vikings defense and will form a solid duo immediately with veteran Harrison Smith.

The Vikings added two more players with potential to start immediately in Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth and LSU guard Ed Ingram so this isn't a low impact class despite the trade back from 12 to 32. However, this draft class didn't put them over the hump in the NFC North in terms of immediate impact.

Chicago Bears: Committing treason

The Bears seem committed to Justin Fields as their long term quarterback, but it's hard to tell that from this draft class. After entering the draft with arguably the worst offensive supporting cast in the NFL, they didn't do much to change that. Opportunity was there with two second round picks, but they opted to draft Washington corner Kyler Gordon and Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker.

Both of those players should make for quality starters in the NFL, but it doesn't fix the Bears' biggest issue. The only wide receiver they added was Tennessee's Velus Jones Jr, who will join Darnell Mooney, Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown as Fields' primary receivers for the season.

Hm. Sure.

The Bears went on a spree of offensive line late Day 3, just hoping someone sticks. They certainly need one of those players to stick or else Fields and running back David Montgomery are going to spend a good chunk of this season cleaning Soldier Field turf out of their facemasks.

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks: Moving in the right direction (and being honest)

It's understandable why some Seahawks fans are upset with their draft, but it's a solid draft from the standpoint of this team finally being honest about their need to rebuild. Charles Cross has the chance to be an All-Pro level pass protector and Boye Mafe should be an immediate starter on the edge for the Seahawks.

The most Seahawks pick of the draft was taking Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III in the second round after the Mafe selection. While it was a completely on-brand selection for the Seahawks in a way that was funny, it's not necessarily a bad pick. To me, at least. They get a stable presence at running back for the next few years and can keep that position group strong as Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny move on in the near future. Walker will also be a weapon for the Seahawks' future quarterback of the future.

Offensive tackle Abraham Lucas and cornerbacks Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen are all strong dice rolls with the potential to become long term contributors — if not immediate contributors. Think of this Seahawks draft like the Falcons draft. It's the first step of a rebuild and they added a lot of great talent in this class.

Next year's quarterback class looks better anyway. Not taking a swing this year isn't the end of the world.

San Francisco 49ers: Hilarious impulsive RB pick

The 49ers got a high-upside pass rusher without first round pick that happens to be a perfect fit in their defense. USC edge rusher Drake Jackson slides into a situation that's perfect for him playing across from Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead.

Then Kyle Shanahan couldn't help himself. The 49ers surprised a lot of people and drafted LSU running back Tyrion Davis-Price in the third round. Davis-Price trampled Florida to the tune of 287 yards (a school record) and three touchdowns, but had a fairly quiet college career outside of that. It's like Shanahan just wanted another shot at his Joe Williams pick. Hopefully this one works out.

It was a quiet draft for the 49ers, who took some depth swings at offensive line and cornerback later in the draft. Now, they need to settle their Jimmy Garoppolo and Deebo Samuel situations before the season kicks off in a couple months.

Los Angeles Rams: Treading water

Not a whole lot to say here considering they didn't make their first pick until the end of the third round. Considering how good they've been at scouting in the past I'm sure one of these Day 3 picks will hit.

Arizona Cardinals: Hay fever

The Ravens decided they were not going to get into the game of paying Hollywood Brown a market rate wide receiver contract, so the Cardinals potentially took on that responsibility. The reasoning behind trading a first round pick for Brown became a bit clearer when Deandre Hopkins was suspended for the first six games of the season. It's an overpay to me, but they were clearly desperate and needed some wide receiver talent while their Super Bowl window is still open.

Trey McBride was an interesting pick in the second round. The Cardinals tight end room became a bit crowded with Zach Ertz and Maxx Williams already in the fold, but McBride gives them a long term receiving option for Kyler Murray once Ertz moves on.

Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders will hopefully bring some edge rush to a team that could use it in the wake of losing Chandler Jones to free agency.

It mainly just tickles me that the Cardinals are going to feature a passing game with Kyler Murray, Marquise Brown and Rondale Moore for the first six weeks of the season.