Jets, Giants flourish as Steelers stumble

Jets, Giants flourish as Steelers stumble

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The highly anticipated opening round of the 2022 NFL draft is complete – and what a whirlwind Round 1 was.

Thursday was a banner night for the defense of college football’s 2021 national champions but not so much for the guys who break the huddle and throw the ball. The first round featured a flurry of trades – deals that included picks and players, though maybe not the guy some expected to be dealt.

And it could all be prelude to an eventful Friday, one that’s sure to feature a lot of good players in Round 2 and perhaps more action around the league before the draft resumes.

But for now, let’s focus on the first round’s winners and losers:

NFL DRAFT TRACKER: Analysis on every pick in the first round

MORE: The 10 most intriguing moves of the 2022 NFL draft

BEST AVAILABLE PLAYERS: Who are top options on the board entering Day 2?

Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected as the fourth overall pick to the New York Jets during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater.

WINNERS

New York: The Big Apple cleaned up in Sin City. Since the start of the 2017 season, the Jets and Giants have both gone 22-59, tied for the NFL’s worst record over that span. But Thursday might mark a course correction for both franchises, each benefiting from a pair of top-10 picks. The Giants came away with Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux and Alabama OT Evan Neal, two players who seemed to be under consideration for the No. 1 pick at varying points of the pre-draft process. The Jets snagged Cincinnati CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson, highly regarded prospects who addressed primary needs for Gang Green. However GM Joe Douglas’ move back into Round 1 to end Florida State pass rusher Jermaine Johnson II’s slide at No. 26 might be the stroke that renders the Jets the big winners of this draft.

University of Georgia defense: The first round began with the Jacksonville Jaguars making Bulldogs DE Travon Walker the No. 1 overall pick. It ended with Dawgs S Lewis Cine going to the Minnesota Vikings. In between, DT Jordan Davis (Eagles), LB Quay Walker (Packers) and DT Devonte Wyatt (Packers) were all called, giving Georgia an NFL common draft record (since 1967) five defenders enlisted in Round 1. And LBs Nakobe Dean and Channing Tindall will almost certainly hear their names called Friday. Let’s also give an honorable mention to Johnson, who played for Georgia in 2019 and 2020.

A.J. Brown: He got traded from the Tennessee Titans to the Philadelphia Eagles but gets a four-year, $100 million extension ($57 million guaranteed) to assuage the aggravation of relocation. He should pair quite nicely with DeVonta Smith, and the duo ought to provide QB Jalen Hurts every opportunity to thrive in 2022.

Wide receivers: A half-dozen came off the board between slots eight and 18 – also the first time six wideouts were taken within a draft’s first 20 selections. Ohio State’s Wilson and Chris Olave (Saints) went back-to-back at the 10th and 11th spots. Meanwhile, A.J. Brown and Marquise Brown (Cardinals) were traded. Such a run on the position provides further evidence that receiver has elevated into the NFL’s second-most important position … as if the financial commitments to the likes of A.J. Brown, Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill weren’t proof enough.

Amazon: Perhaps you’ve heard of the quaint internet commerce company? If not, the NFL shone a spotlight on it by revealing in the middle of the draft that the Chiefs will host the Chargers on the first Thursday night game streamed on Prime Video on Sept. 15.

Colts: The Carson Wentz Experience cost them their spot in the first round, but it sure looked like the gap between Indianapolis and Tennessee, which has won the past two AFC South crowns, narrowed – perhaps significantly – with A.J. Brown exiting the division.

Packers track record: They still haven’t picked a wideout in Round 1 since Javon Walker in 2002. Here’s hoping they can find another Adams, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson or Greg Jennings in the second round.

Defense: For the first time since 1991, the first five players drafted did not come from the offensive side of the ball. The Panthers broke the streak at No. 6 by taking N.C. State LT Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu.

Michigan: Whether you’re a fan of the Wolverines or Lions, you had to be pretty stoked to see DE Aidan Hutchinson move from Ann Arbor up the road to Detroit with the No. 2 pick. Expect the Plymouth native – is it wrong to compare a UM guy to Ohio State’s Bosa brothers? – to bring some needed juice into Ford Field for the next decade. (And if Hutchinson needs help getting his new fan base revved up, game-breaking former Alabama WR Jameson Williams ought to make up the difference.)

Derek Stingley Jr.: Perceived as a future top-five pick after his scintillating freshman season at LSU in 2019, he turned out to be exactly that – going No. 3 to the Houston Texans and surprisingly the first cornerback chosen – despite a rocky injury road that derailed Stingley the past two seasons in Baton Rouge.

Chaos: The picks began furiously exchanging hands midway through Thursday evening. Once the dust settled, the top three selections of Round 2 were under new ownership. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will select first Friday, followed by the Vikings and Titans. The Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers are slated to make their 2022 draft debuts in the second round.

LOSERS

Deebo Samuel: While A.J. Brown was moved and paid, and Marquise Brown shifts to a more pass-centric offense as he’s trying to build a case he’s a top-shelf target, Samuel’s desire to be liberated from the Niners will apparently not be fulfilled. Time for some marriage counseling.

Cardinals: Parting with a first-round pick for Hollywood Brown, much as it might please his former Oklahoma teammate, QB Kyler Murray, is pretty rich for a receiver who’s been good but not great in three NFL seasons. Perhaps Brown explodes after being unshackled from Baltimore’s run-centric offense, but it’s quite a gamble by GM Steve Keim.

Rookie quarterbacks: Only one, Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, was taken. The last time there were that few in Round 1 was 2013. The 20th player selected, it was the longest wait for a draft’s QB1 since Jim Druckenmiller lasted until No. 26 in 1997.

Veteran quarterbacks: With Liberty’s Malik Willis, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, Ole Miss’ Matt Corral and North Carolina’s Sam Howell still on the board, probably diminished chances veterans like the 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo and Browns’ Baker Mayfield see their 2022 situations resolved Friday since so many moving pieces remain.

Steelers: Given they share their training facility with the Pitt Panthers, no NFL team had better visibility on Pickett … so Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin and retiring GM Kevin Colbert certainly deserve the benefit of the doubt. But the burden will shift to Pickett to prove he’s a superior prospect to Willis, whose upside looks significantly higher. And considering the Steelers already had veteran Mitchell Trubisky on the roster, the selection of Pickett just seems to land like a bit of a lateral move.

Terrell Owens: The Patriots’ stunning selection of OL Cole Strange at No. 29 means T.O. is no longer the highest-drafted player from Tennessee-Chattanooga. Owens, who became a Hall of Famer, was the 89th pick in 1996.

Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers: The run on receivers left Mahomes’ Chiefs and Rodgers’ Packers – Kansas City traded Hill this offseason, while Green Bay offloaded Adams – out in the cold and eyeing other positions with their multiple first-rounders. Quality pass catchers will be available in Round 2, where the Pack have historically found them, but the former league MVPs will hit the pillow no longer dreaming of Williams, Olave or Wilson.

Running backs: Not a single one was called in the first round for the first time since 2014.

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Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2022 NFL draft first-round winners, losers: Jets, Giants nail picks



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