What was often a breathless first round of the 2022 NFL draft – delivering the trades of picks and players and the annual smattering of risers and fallers that make this event so captivating – has been put to bed following a very memorable night in Las Vegas.
Forging ahead after a scant bit of shuteye – Vegas, baby – time to attempt a forecast of how Friday’s second round could unfold. It’s likely to be headlined by quarterbacks since only one, Pitt’s Kenny Pickett (Steelers), was selected in Round 1. However plenty more quality players are available at a point where teams that scout well can leverage the depth of talent.
33. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from Jacksonville Jaguars) – DL Logan Hall, Houston: A versatile lineman who could play base end for the Bucs yet give them a valuable interior rush presence on passing downs. Even if veteran free agent Ndamukong Suh returns to Tampa, he’s now 35.
34. Minnesota Vikings (from Detroit Lions) – CB Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson: The Vikes, who took Georgia S Lewis Cine at the end of Round 1, continue refitting their secondary with a talented corner who gets to learn the ropes from veteran Patrick Peterson.
35. Tennessee Titans (from New York Jets) – QB Malik Willis, Liberty: thursday’s trade of WR AJ Brown suggests this could be a franchise in transition. That could also occur at quarterback in light of Ryan Tannehill’s inability to elevate this team in the postseason crucible. Enter Willis, who will remind Nashville fans of former Titans league MVP Steve McNair. With a year of seasoning behind Tannehill, Willis, an Auburn transfer whose 74 combined TDs (pass/rush) were the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision over the past two seasons, should be ready to rock.
NFL DRAFT WINNERS, LOSERS:Jets, Giants flourish as Steelers stumble in first round
10 MOST INTRIGUING NFL DRAFT MOVES:Steelers on an island with Kenny Pickett pick
36. New York Giants – CB Kyler Gordon, Washington: This defense could definitely use another corner, particularly one who can play outside or in the slot. Adding a player of Gordon’s caliber would also make it easier to move on from expensive veteran James Bradberry.
37. Houston Texans – LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia: Yes, he’s undersized at 5-11, 229 pounds. That didn’t prevent Derrick Brooks from becoming a Hall of Famer under coach Lovie Smith’s watchful eye. Dean is a smart, instinctive, first-rate leader whose tape should trump perceived physical limitations.
38. Jets (from Carolina Panthers) — OLB/DE Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State: After transferring from Temple last season, he burst onto the scene in Happy Valley by posting 9½ sacks and 18 tackles for losses. He’s not the stoutest guy (6-2, 250) and might benefit by focusing early on what he does best – hunt quarterbacks – as a sub package stud alongside DL Quinnen Williams and fellow rookie pass rusher Jermaine Johnson.
39. Chicago Bears – WR Christian Watson, North Dakota State: A 6-5, 208-pound target with 4.36 speed would be a gift to second-year QB Justin Fields and a nice alternative to the slight but equally swift Darnell Mooney.
40. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver Broncos) – DE/OLB David Ojabo, Michigan: Despite the Achilles tear he suffered at his pro day, his upside is too much to pass up – especially for a Seattle defense shifting to a 3-4 front that will probably suit Ojabo better. And a redshirt year would likely benefit him anyway given he made one tackle as a sophomore in 2020. A native of Nigeria who grew up in Scotland, Ojabo (6-4, 250 pounds) exploded for 11 sacks last season.
41. Seahawks – QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati: With Russell Wilson gone, perhaps no club has a bigger question under center than Seattle. Ridder is a renowned leader, winner and worker – plus a very good athlete to boot. Sound a bit like the guy he would replace in this scenario?
42. Indianapolis Colts (from Washington Commanders) – OT Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan: Indy turns to the Austrian exchange student as its new blind side protector for aging QB Matt Ryan.
43. Atlanta Falcons – DE Boye Mafe, Minnesota: He had seven sacks in 2021, and his quick first step was partially quantified by the 6-4, 261-pounder’s 4.53-second 40-yard dash at the combine. The Falcons could definitely use those traits after posting (by far) a league-worst 18 sacks last year.
44. Cleveland Browns – DT Travis Jones, Connecticut: Coming off his career with the Huskies, when he posted 8½ sacks and 19 TFLs in three seasons, Jones was a standout at the Senior Bowl before the 6-4, 325-pounder tested well at the combine – highlighted by a 4.9-second 40 The Browns can definitely use that kind of talent on a depleted line that needs to give DE Myles Garrett help.
45. Baltimore Ravens – DT Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma: The Senior Bowl MVP, who had 5½ sacks and 11 TFLs for the Sooners last year, injected a shot of youth and depth into Baltimore’s front.
46. Lions (from Vikings) – QB Sam Howell, North Carolina: Adding a guy who’s got a great arm but also showed how effective he is on the move last season gives Detroit another option under center but doesn’t necessarily preclude the organization from drafting a passer in Round 1 next year, when the team owns a pair of first-round selections.
47. Commanders (from Colts) – S Jalen Pitre, Baylor: Comfortable covering in the slot or roaming the box, he’d give this team what recently released S Landon Collins couldn’t.
48. Bears (from Los Angeles Chargers) – OT Abraham Lucas, Washington State: In the selection obtained in the trade of OLB Khalil Mack, GM Ryan Poles continues to support Fields with an upgrade at right tackle.
49. New Orleans Saints – RB Breece Hall, Iowa State: For a team that appears focused on winning immediately in a depleted NFC, it makes sense to add a backfield juggernaut to lessen the toll on Alvin Kamara. Hall, who has sub-4.4 speed, had 3,526 yards from scrimmage and 46 TDs during his last two seasons with the Cyclones. He’d provide more juice than aging Mark Ingram.
50. Kansas City Chiefs (from Miami Dolphins) – WR George Pickens, Georgia: He suffered an ACL tear in spring practice a year ago but made it back in time to participate in the Bulldogs’ 2021 championship drive, averaging 21.4 yards on five catches. A 6-3, 195-pounder with sub-4.5 speed offers plenty of intrigue and has even been mentioned favorably in the same breath as former Dawgs legend AJ Green. Imagine that kind of impact on a KC offense trying to move forward without its Cheetah.
51. Philadelphia Eagles – CB Roger McCreary, Auburn: Philly improves its corner depth with a reliable player who should hold up decently against teams who throw away from Darius Slay.
52. Pittsburgh Steelers – DT Phidarian Mathis, Alabama: A team captain for the Tide who seems like a perfect addition to a defense that values long linemen who can two-gap and shut down run lanes. The 6-4, 310-pounder also showed he could get to quarterbacks in 2021, erupting for nine sacks.
53. Green Bay Packers (from Las Vegas Raiders) – WR Skyy Moore, Western Michigan: Departed Davante Adams was also selected 53rd overall (in 2014), an indicator of the Pack’s ability to find receiving gems in Round 2. Moore (95 catches for 1,292 yards and 10 TDs in 2021) is a quick, shifty type who can operate out wide or from the slot and broke an FBS-high 26 tackles last season. He might at least replicate a healthy fraction of Adams’ lost production. And given Allen Lazard’s inconsistency, Randall Cobb’s decline – both are free agents next year – and Amari Rodgers’ lack of impact (4 receptions) as a rookie, GM Brian Gutekunst can’t wait much longer.
54. New England Patriots – LB Leo Chenal, Wisconsin: An all-Big Ten performer who can get to the quarterback and running backs with aplomb. The Pats could use the help with veteran LBs Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy all unsigned.
55. Arizona Cardinals — OLB Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma: The Cards need to replace the production of departed Pro Bowl pass rusher Chandler Jones. With 16 sacks and 26½ TFLs since 2020, Bonitto would have a shot to make up a chunk of the shortfall.
56. Dallas Cowboys – WR John Metchie III, Alabama: Like former Tide teammate Jameson Williams, he’s on the comeback from a torn ACL. But Metchie, who had 96 grabs for 1,142 yards and eight scores last season, might serve as a nice replacement for Amari Cooper in the long run.
57. Buffalo Bills – RB Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State: It’s strongly worth considering. Buffalo hasn’t had a 900-yard rusher since QB Josh Allen was drafted in 2018, and he’s had to shoulder too much of the run game’s responsibilities. For a team that appears primed for a Super Bowl run, especially amid KC’s loss of WR Tyreek Hill, why not add one more difference maker? Walker (5-9, 211 pounds) could be an early down option whose 4.38 speed could bust many games open while reducing wear and tear on Allen. In his lone seasons with the Spartans, the Wake Forest transfer rushed for 1,636 yards and 18 TDs.
58. Falcons (from Titans) — QB Matt Corral, Mississippi: He isn’t big (6-2, 212 pounds), though it might be a different story if you could measure his heart. He’s also got sizable arm strength and athleticism and might be the kind of guy you want to invest in for a year – or at least part of a season – before unleashing him. And learning behind a similar, if more mature, player like Marcus Mariota could be just what Corral needs to develop. He will need to dial back his devil-may-care approach, which won’t work so well when he breaks the pocket to take on NFL defenders.
59. Packers — WR Alec Pierce, Cincinnati: Gutekunst may as well double down in a bid to offset the void created by Adams’ move to Vegas. Pierce offers tremendous size (6-3, 211 pounds), speed (4.4-second 40-yard dash) and intelligence – he studied mechanical engineering – a combination that would differentiate him from Moore and maybe quickly endear him to QB Aaron Rodgers.
60. Buccaneers — S Nick Cross, Maryland: Big guy (6-0, 212 pounds), big-time speed (4.3-second 40-yard dash time), big hitter. Tampa Bay could use a long-term solution after losing Jordan Whitehead to the Jets in free agency.
61. San Francisco 49ers — DE/OLB Drake Jackson, USC: The Niners value a deep group upfront. The 6-3 Jackson needs to figure out what his ideal playing weight is – 255? 275? – But he could provide a nice change of pace opposite Nick Bosa.
62. Chiefs-S Jaquan Brisker, Penn State: With Tyrann Mathieu evidently not returning, makes sense to add a DB with the ability to pick up some of the Honey Badger’s myriad duties.
63. Cincinnati Bengals – TE Trey McBride, Colorado State: The 2021 All-American and Mackey Award winner as college football’s top tight end is an exceptional possession receiver (91 catches for 1,125 yards last season) who’s also the increasingly rare dual threat able to serve as an effective blocker. Cincy doesn’t need much, but he’d be a nifty supplement to QB Joe Burrow’s arsenal.
64. Broncos (from Los Angeles Rams) – FROM Josh Paschal, Kentucky: A three-time team captain who can move up and down a line that needs to replenish its depth.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism