After three days full of surprise picks, shocking developments, and a truckload of trades, the 2022 NFL draft is finally complete.
Just like free agency, the draft can give every fan base the chance to hope for better results for the upcoming season, thanks to the addition of new talent for their favorite team. That said, not every team takes full advantage of their opportunities, leaving fans and analysts alike scratching their heads.
Other teams end up surprising everyone for the best of reasons, though, nailing their draft class with a stellar combination of maximizing player value, and filling their biggest needs with rookie talent.
Who falls in each of those categories this year?
Here are our picks for the biggest winners and losers from the 2022 NFL draft:
WINNER | Baltimore Ravens
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Death, taxes, pizza rolls burning the roof of your mouth, and the Baltimore Ravens absolutely crushing the draft. GM Eric DeCosta continues to prove himself worthy of the torch passed to him by the legendary Ozzie Newsome, reloading his roster with tons of talent and value on both sides of the ball.
Stealing Kyle Hamilton at No. 14 overall got things off to a strong start, and turning Marquise Brown into Tyler Linderbaum was a smooth move. David Ojabo lands in the perfect spot to patiently return to his top-15 ability, and Travis Jones was a steal that fills a huge need. Daniel Faalele could be the next Orlando Brown, too.
When you’ve nailed seven picks already and you’re still in the fourth round, you’re allowed to take a punter, I guess.
WINNER | New York Jets
Syndication: The Record
You’d like to think it would be hard to lose when you’re got a pair of top-10 picks, and two more high second-rounders, but the Jets haven’t been too trustworthy over the years. GM Joe Douglas appears to be reversing that trend, following up last year’s promising class with an even better haul this time around.
“Sauce” Gardner and Garrett Wilson were a fantastic 1-2 punch in the top 10, but landing Jermaine Johnson II with a trade back into the first round at No. 26 was one of the biggest steals of the entire draft. Breece Hall gives them a three-down back to pair with Michael Carter, and Jeremy Ruckert gives Zach Wilson a well-rounded tight end who can make an immediate impact.
WINNER | Kansas City Chiefs
Kirby Lee – USA TODAY Sports
Another team that did a fantastic job of meeting need with value, the Chiefs filled their biggest needs on defense with their pair of first-round picks, landing two of the most polished and pro-ready prospects in the entire draft in Trent McDuffie and George karraftis Replacing Tyreek Hill is impossible, but Skyy Moore was a fantastic step in that direction.
Bryan Cook and Leo Chenal make the defense more athletic and physical, while Darian Kinnard and Jaylen Watson were both huge bargains in the later rounds. Throw in a couple of high-upside sleepers like Isaih Pacheco and Joshua Williams, and you’ve got a grand-slam class for a Super Bowl contender.
LOSER | Justin Fields
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
After a frustrating rookie year in which he got little help from his supporting cast (coaches and players alike), Fields probably hoped new management and an offseason of reloading the offense with more talent would give him a chance to succeed in 2022. After a fairly quiet free agency period, the Bears didn’t do much more in the draft to make that happen.
After spending both of their second-round picks on defensive backs (really good ones, for sure), the Bears finally took a wide receiver in the third round. But Velus Jones Jr. is too close to what Chicago already has in Darnell Mooney, turns 25 years old this month, and was expected by most to be a Day 3 pick. Fifth-round offensive tackle Braxton Jones has some promise, but the rest of their picks on offense were uninspiring.
WINNER | QB Stealers
Kirby Lee – USA TODAY Sports
If you thought the Steelers landing Kenny Pickett at No. 20 was a bargain (and it was), the rest of this year’s quarterback class took things to a completely different level. Malik Willis (Titans), Desmond Ridder (Falcons) and Matt Corral (Panthers) all lasted until the third round, while Sam Howell (Commanders) fell all the way to the fifth round. All three of those teams got ridiculous value at the game’s most important position, something that just doesn’t happen in the draft.
Throw in the fact that all five of these quarterbacks landed in ideal situations for many different reasons, and you’ve got a recipe for turning a quarterback class with more questions than answers into one that could produce quality starters across the board, and even a couple of superstars.
WINNER | Pittsburgh Steelers
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Speaking of Pickett and the Steelers, that was just the beginning of a stellar swan song for longtime GM Kevin Colbert. It’s rare that a team can sit as late as No. 20 overall and still land a franchise quarterback who can start right away, but that’s exactly what the Steelers did with Pickett. He’s an immediate upgrade over Mitchell Tribusky, and obviously a better long-term solution.
Colbert has a knack for finding the perfect fit at wide receiver on Day 2, and landing George Pickens in the second round might be the best example yet. DeMarvin Leal in the third round was another fantastic match of need and value, and Calvin Austin III brings much-needed elite speed to the passing game. Reuniting Connor and Cam Heyward, the third set of brothers on this roster, was the cherry on top of a fantastic weekend.
WINNER | Matt Ryan
Syndication: The Indianapolis Star
Many wondered if the Colts would spend an early pick on Matt Ryan’s eventual successor, especially as the top quarterbacks tumbled down the board, a development that could be a huge win for a team without a first-round pick. Instead, Indy spent their top selections to make sure Ryan has everything he needs to succeed in the short-term, and they nailed them all.
Alec Pierce and Jelani Woods are both athletic playmakers with tons of potential, while Bernhard Raimann could be their Week 1 starter at left tackle as a third-round pick. The Colts filled the biggest needs around Ryan with players who could make an immediate and significant impact, passing on the chance to take his replacement instead.
LOSER | New England Patriots
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Easily the most puzzling draft class in the entire league, the Patriots made the uh, strangest, pick of the first round. Cole Strange was pegged my most as a mid-Day 2 selection, but the Pats liked enough to take him at No. 29 overall. Similarly, second-rounder Tyquan Thornton is more track star than football player at the moment, and was expected to go on Day 3.
Despite an already crowded depth chart at the position, New England spent two picks on running backs. They spent a fourth-rounder on another quarterback, and despite having nine selections total, failed to address their needs for an edge rusher and an off-ball linebacker with any of them.
WINNER | Seattle Seahawks
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Maybe the Seahawks finally realized how much Russell Wilson has bailed them out of bad drafts for years, because they picked a really good time to knock one out of the park. Aside from passing on Malik Willis in the second round in favor of another running back (and Kenneth Walker II is a really good one), the ‘Hawks smashed just about every pick, getting great value and filling their biggest needs outside of quarterback.
They now have two top-shelf starting tackles in Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas, stole the pass rusher they needed in second-rounder Boye Mafe, got back-to-back Day 3 bargains at cornerback with Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen, followed by two more value picks in Bo Melton and Tyreke Smith. This could easily end up being their best class since 2012, when they landed Wilson and Bobby Wagner.
WINNER | Tom Brady
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The Bucs came into this draft with few glaring needs, but they did a fantastic job of filling them, and giving the GOAT everything he needs to make one more Super Bowl run. They landed a nasty mauler who could win the left guard job in Luke Goedeke, a well-rounded tight end prospect in Cade Otton, an explosive pass-catching specialist at running back in Rachaad White, and even the perfect “I’m just here to destroy people in the running game” tight end in Ko Kieft.
Throw in some added help for the defense in Logan Hall and fifth-round steal Zyon McCollum, and an elite punter in Jake Camarda, and the Bucs have surrounded Brady with the additions necessary to make the most of what could be the last season of his legendary career.
WINNER | Teams that had to wait a while
(AP Photo/Doug Benc)
Eight teams came into this year’s draft without a first-round pick, while others had to wait even longer to make their first selections. Most of those clubs ended up making the most of what they did have, though, hitting on their biggest needs and getting great value in the middle and later rounds.
Channing Tindall (Dolphins), Perrion Winfrey (Browns), Matthew Butler (Raiders), Derion Kendrick (Rams), Drake Jackson (49ers), Nik Bonitto (Broncos) Cameron Thomas (Cardinals), and Dominique Robinson (Bears) were among the selections that gave teams great value at positions of need, helping these teams mitigate the absence of a first-round selection.