Analyzing a team’s draft picks immediately following the event is necessary in order to avoid revisionist history. It’s only fair (and fun) to evaluate the draft class at the time we view these players at the time. It’s also fair to evaluate the teams themselves and grade how well or poorly we believe these franchises have set-up their future. I won’t be doing a grading system and going through each pick meticulously (minus the top ten picks), but I will be giving you my top three steals and reaches. With that, let’s get started.
Steals of the Draft:
Kyle Hamilton (No. 14) Safety
The run on wide receivers early in the draft benefited the Baltimore Ravens greatly when the best player on Notre Dame fell to them at 14. His skills in the secondary will continue the Ravens’ tradition of a staunch defense and he’s a young player that’s ready to start Day One.
Baltimore stood its ground and was rewarded with one of the best overall players in this draft. Yes, the Ravens could have taken wideout Jahan Dotson or Treylon Burks but Hamilton is a better player overall and will keep the secondary steady.
Abraham Lucas (No. 72) Offensive Tackle
The Seattle Seahawks seem to have awoken from their fever dream of the past five years and realized they need to fix their offensive line. The Seahawks made their feelings known immediately by drafting Charles Cross 9th overall. They followed up by taking Lucas in the 3rd round to fill out the line on the right side most likely.
Lucas was the highest graded pass-blocking tackle in the Pac-12 in 2021 and although he’ll have to work on his run blocking game, this pick brings a foundational piece to a team that desperately needs it as they transition to a new era of football without quarterback Russell Wilson. His play may not have a big impact this upcoming season, but if the Seahawks make the right moves here, Lucas will be a huge part of their success.
Jermaine Johnson II (No. 26) DE
Jermaine Johnson II, Defensive End: After being hyped all offseason, Johnson saw his draft stock plummet on Day One. The two edge rushers taken before Johnson were inside the top five (Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux) and it was fair to assume that Johnson wouldn’t be far behind.
Then the NFL went mad on the wide receivers and left Johnson on the shelf. The Jets immediately jumped on the chance to take the FSU product at 26 by trading back into the first round. The Jets might be cooking something here.
Reaches of the Draft:
Cole Strange (No. 29) Offensive Guard
The New England Patriots seem to always make at least one bizarre move in the draft every year and this year was no exception. Every sensible mock draft, if such a thing exists, had Strange going at the end of the 2nd round. However the Patriots decided to reach for him and used the 29th overall pick to snatch the UT-Chattanooga player. It must be said, Strange is a starter, but there isn’t anything in his tape that says “first round talent”. He’s a solid guard who the Patriots seem to believe will be a generational talent. The rest of the league disagreed.
Kenny Pickett (No. 20) Quarterback
Yes, the Pittsburgh Steelers need a quarterback to lead the post-Ben era. No, Pickett is not the answer. I don’t care that he played at Pitt so the Steelers know him well. He is a 5-year starter who didn’t do much until last season. I don’t even care about the hand size thing. What really worries me is his timing and decision-making. His improvement from his rookie year is impressive, but it has to again be pointed out he is a five-year college player. For where he was drafted at 20 overall, this is a reach.
I can only assume the Pickett defenders are in love with his arm strength and while that’s a good trait to have in the NFL, it never signifies immediate success. There are plenty of quarterback prospects who had big arms and became backups or were out of the league within five years. I’m not crowning Pickett the savior of Pittsburgh until I see results.
Alontae Taylor (No. 49) Cornerback
New Orleans does need a corner, but Taylor was projected to be a mid-round prospect rather than the 49th overall pick. However the Saints just could not help themselves and reached to grab Taylor. They honestly could have traded down, collected some picks, and still landed Taylor later in the draft.
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