The 2022 NFL draft began Thursday and continues through Saturday (ABC/ESPN/ESPN App). The Jacksonville Jaguars have the first pick of the draft and are one of eight teams to have two picks in the first round, joining the Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles.
Without a consensus quarterback, there are more divergent opinions about how the top 20 picks will go when talking to scouts, coaches and general managers. Only four times in the past 15 drafts has a quarterback not been the No. 1 pick — Myles Garrett to the Cleveland Browns in 2017, Jadeveon Clowney to the Texans in 2014, Eric Fisher to the Chiefs in 2013 and Jake Long to the Miami Dolphins in 2008.
We will track all 262 picks for Rounds 1-7, and you also can see all of the best available draft prospects.
The draft continues with Rounds 2-3 on Friday (7 p.m. ET) and concludes with Rounds 4-7 on Saturday (noon ET).
Here is the first round of picks, analyzed by our ESPN NFL Nation reporters.
Why they picked him: Walker’s draft stock shot up after the combine, but the Jacksonville Jaguars were already intrigued by the Georgia standout because of his versatility. He lined up at defensive end, defensive tackle and linebacker in 2021, and the Jaguars can move him around to get the best matchup. He’s athletic enough to drop into coverage, too, if the Jaguars want to get creative with him. It was notable Walker played his best football in the two College Football Playoff games; he’s a guy who ratchets things up when it matters most.
Biggest question: Walker had a career-high six sacks in 2021 after 3.5 total in his previous two seasons, so there is concern about a one-year surge. Walker also didn’t stand out as the best player on the Bulldogs’ defense – that was linebacker Nakobe Dean – so this pick is more about the Jaguars projecting what Walker can become. Every pick is made with that in mind to a degree, but the Jaguars passed up a player most draft analysts agree will make an immediate impact and be a perennial double-digit sack guy (Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson) for a player who has 9.5 career sacks. — Mike DiRocco
Why they picked him: The Michigan player will stay at home. But let’s be real, that isn’t the only reason behind this pick. The Lions are in desperate need of game-changers, especially on the defense, and Hutchinson checks all of the boxes. He’ll be ready immediately – and he’s already built a local fan base that should bring folks to Ford Field. This is a smart pick, and it falls in line with what the Lions are trying to accomplish in their rebuilding process.
Biggest question: Hutchinson was a 2021 consensus first-team All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist, but will that success carry over to the next level? As great as Hutchinson was during the regular season, he struggled against Georgia in the national semifinal loss. Will his production be stilted against better competition? Only time will tell. — Eric Woodyard
Why they picked him: Coach Lovie Smith made it clear earlier in the month that the Texans’ can’t play football the way they want to without improving at cornerback. The Texans have since added veteran Steven Nelson, but drafting Stingley with the No. 3 pick shows Houston’s commitment to the position. Stingley Jr., who earned first-team All-America honors in 2019 and 2020, will thrive in Smith’s defensive system. Stingley Jr. is coming off an injury — he had surgery in September 2021 after he tore a ligament in his left foot — but was able to participate in LSU’s pro day workout earlier this month and said he felt “fine.”
Biggest question: Should the Texans have given quarterback Davis Mills more help instead? Let me preface this by saying there was no bad pick at No. 3 because the Texans have so many holes to fill on their roster. Although there was certainly a need in the secondary, Houston also needs to set Mills up to succeed. Taking either offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu or Evan Neal would have given Mills some reliable protection alongside left tackle Laremy Tunsil. The good news for the Texans? — Sarah Barshop
Why they picked him: Gardner is a terrific talent who plays a position of need. The game is played on the perimeter — see all the star receivers scoring big contracts — and Gardner will give the Jets a chance to compete against the elite playmakers in the AFC East. Gardner should start opposite free-agent addition D.J. Reed, a huge upgrade from the Bryce Hall–Brandin Echols tandem last season. Gardner has the traits that should make him an ideal fit in coach Robert Saleh’s scheme – long body (6-foot-3), long arms (33 ½ inches) and 4.41 speed in the 40. He was dominant in college. Get this: He allowed zero touchdown passes in his career (1,103 coverage snaps). Quarterbacks were afraid of him, as he was targeted only three times per game in 2021. His ball skills (nine interceptions in three years) will be a welcome addition to a secondary devoid of playmakers.
Biggest question: What about an edge rusher? The Jets had their choice of Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson and Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux. Saleh’s defense is predicated on pass rush, but Gardner was the right move because Thibodeaux and Johnson would’ve been reaches at No. 4. As for Gardner, the big question is, can he cut down on the penalties? He was handsy in college, committing nine penalties over the last two seasons (including seven pass-interference and holding calls). He’s such a long athlete that one scouting source said, “I don’t think he can handle quick, speedy guys.” — Rich Cimini
Why they picked him: They needed a dominant edge rusher. This is how the Giants were always built, and they’ve had just one edge rusher (Markus Golden) record double-digit sacks since 2015. Thibodeaux played through an ankle injury and still produced. His 17.8% pressure percentage was third in the FBS. He also can be used all over the field in new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s scheme. Thibodeaux and last year’s second-round pick Azeez Ojulari (8.0 sacks as a rookie) give the Giants two young and dangerous edge rushers. It gives their defense an entirely different look.
Biggest question: How will Thibodeaux handle the Big Apple? There was some talk about Thibodeaux’s effort and motivation throughout the draft process. Some said he was too concerned about his brand instead of football. Obviously the Giants didn’t think that was a problem. They didn’t hesitate and made the Oregon edge rusher their first of two first-round picks. — Jordan Raanan
Why they picked him: Other than perhaps trading down to add second-day picks, this couldn’t have turned out better for the Panthers. They’re trying to build a foundation and the biggest missing piece other than a franchise quarterback is a franchise left tackle. Ekwonu (6-foot-4, 310 pounds) checks all the boxes for a team that hasn’t drafted a tackle in the first round since Jeff Otah with the 19th pick in 2008. Left tackle has been a revolving door since Jordan Gross retired after the 2013 season. And Ekwonu is a Charlotte native who played at at Providence Day. Go ahead and pencil Ekwonu in at left tackle on a line that general manager Scott Fitterer has spent the offseason rebuilding.
Biggest question: The biggest question is how did he fall to No. 6? No tackle in this draft sticks with blocks longer and has a nastier attitude at the position. Not only can Ekwonu play tackle, he can play left guard if needed there while working on pass protection and technique. While he’s considered a great run-blocker, which offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is seeking, Ekwonu’s been inconsistent at times in pass protection. But overall, it’s nothing that can’t be fixed. And Ekwonu has a great story. A youth coach nicknamed him “Ickey” because he looked like former Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods. Shuffle him into a starting role. — David Newton
Why they picked him: The Giants need offensive line help and wanted to add a tackle early in this draft as long as the board fell accordingly. Neal, who was at the top of my list of most likely players to be selected by the Giants at pick No. 5, has a massive frame (6-7, 360) and moves well, a prerequisite in coach Brian Daboll’s system. He also has experience playing right tackle at Alabama having played there during the 2020 season. It’s the position he is expected to hold down for the Giants, giving them bookend tackles along with Andrew Thomas to protect Daniel Jones or whomever might be their quarterback in the future. Neal allowed only one sack last season, which came in the national title game against the University of Georgia. His run block and pass blocking improved each of his three years at Alabama, according to Sports Info Solutions.
Biggest question: There isn’t a ton to nitpick in his game, but several scouts suggested he’s on the ground too often. Much of that was at the second level. It’s something scouts believe can be rectified with more experience and patience. It’s not a physical or athletic limitation. Neal has the power to dominate as a run-blocker and hold firm against bull rushers. His quickness and footwork for his size allow him to reach that second level. — Jordan Raanan
Why they picked him: The Atlanta Falcons really — I mean, really — needed a wide receiver. Julio Jones was traded last year. Calvin Ridley is suspended for gambling. Russell Gage is in Tampa Bay. So the Falcons had to find receiver talent in this draft. Add to that, head coach Arthur Smith likes big-bodied receivers and the 6-foot-5 wide receiver makes a whole bunch of sense.
Biggest question: There aren’t many. London makes a ton of sense for Atlanta at a position where the premium has gone up in the past few months because of the monster contracts given to Tyreek Hill, Christian Kirk and others. But the question remains for the Falcons — who is going to be rushing the passer? It’s something they have to figure out on Day 2. — Michael Rothstein
Mike Clay’s 2022 projection: 110 targets, 70 receptions, 904 yards, five TDs
Why they picked him: Offensive tackle was easily the Seahawks’ biggest need. Duane Brown and Brandon Shell are both unsigned, and Seattle has just three tackles under contract, none of whom have extensive starting experience. But it goes well beyond immediate need. GM John Schneider has long talked about how hard star offensive lineman are so hard to find in today’s NFL, especially when you’re routinely picking late in the first round like the Seahawks have for most of the last decade. A top-10 pick left them with a rare chance to get that guy, and it was too good to pass up.
Biggest question: The immediate question is which side Cross will play. The left side seems more likely given his background — he played on the left side in college — and how that’s a much more valuable position than right tackle. Jake Curhan, a 2021 UDFA, played well last season while filling in for Shell at right tackle. Longer-term, the question is whether Cross will be the better pick than Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson II, perhaps the best edge rusher still available at No. 9. That’s also a need spot for the Seahawks, but they must have figured that edge rusher — and any other needs — will be easier to fill in the second round than tackle would have been. — Brady Henderson
Why they picked him: In case you haven’t been paying attention the last few weeks, the Jets have been on a mission to find a WR1. In Wilson, they have a potential star, a player who can grow with QB Zach Wilson, WR Elijah Moore and RB Michael Carter. He will bring much-needed explosiveness to the offense. Not only does he have excellent speed (4.38 in the 40), but he has elite separation ability and body control. He improved each year at Ohio State, finishing with a monster year – 70 catches, 1,058 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s the Jets’ first first-round receiver since Santana Moss in 2001.
Biggest question: Can he take the pounding? A shade under 6-feet, listed at 183 pounds, Wilson is on the smallish side. The last thing the Jets need is another injury-prone receiver from Ohio State. (See: Devin Smith, second-round pick, 2015.) Only one of their top four receivers is over 6-feet – Corey Davis (6-foot-3). Wilson also had some trouble with dropped passes (six last season). Another question: What becomes of Denzel Mims, their 2020 second-round pick? At best, he’s the WR5. It wouldn’t be a shock if he’s traded. — Rich Cimini
Clay’s 2022 projection: 108 targets, 67 receptions, 852 yards, five TDs
Why they picked him: This was one of the most obvious cases of filling a glaring need in the NFL Draft to this point after the Saints finished 32nd in the league in passing offense last year. They had to move up from No. 16 to No. 11 to do it, but they only had to give up a third- and fourth-rounder. Obviously getting WR Michael Thomas and QB Jameis Winston back from injuries will help, but the Saints needed another dynamic pass catcher – and they got one in the 6-foot, 187-pound Olave. The Saints have insisted all offseason they don’t plan to rebuild under new coach Dennis Allen. And they proved it by making two aggressive trades over the past month to add an instant-impact player.
Biggest question: The Saints obviously passed on a quarterback here (like the rest of the NFL). And they have now used up a lot of draft capital with their two trades (they traded away next year’s first-round choice among others to acquire the Philadelphia Eagles’ 16th pick in the first place). But they have now given Winston a much better chance to succeed. — Mike Triplett
Clay’s 2022 projection: 101 targets, 60 receptions, 843 yards, four TDs
Why they picked him: One of the biggest needs on this current roster was the wide receiver position and the Lions regime was aggressive with taking a swing on Jameson Williams by trading up for the 12th overall spot. Lions receivers caught 24.5% of their tight-window targets last season per NFL Next Gen Stats, which was third-worst in the NFL. By adding Williams, they get another speedster who can be a strong weapon for quarterback Jared Goff.
Biggest question: How will Williams recover from a torn ACL? It’s certainly a risk to take a chance on a guy who is recovering from injury and will likely miss part of the season, but his on the field talent can’t be denied. Williams made eight touchdown catches of 50+ yards in 2021, which tied for the most in a single season by FBS player over the last 15 seasons. — Eric Woodyard
Clay’s 2022 projection: 83 targets, 51 receptions, 707 yards, five TDs
Why they picked him: The Eagles traded the 15th,124th,162nd and166th overall picks to select Davis, the 6-foot-6, 340-pound anchor of Georgia’s championship defense. He has rare measurables — he ran a wild 4.78-second 40-yard dash at the combine — and will serve as the offensive-line wrecking, pure nose tackle defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon coveted for his hybrid scheme.
Biggest question: He didn’t play on third down much in college, leading to questions about whether he will only be effective on this level as a run-stuffer. The Philadelphia brass believes he has the skill set to be a disruptive force in the passing game, and that the only reason he was taken off the field was because of the immense talent on the defensive side of the ball for Georgia. — Tim McManus
Why they picked him: Kyle Hamilton was clearly the best player on the Baltimore’s board by a wide margin because there is really no other reason for this pick. Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta has insisted that he takes the best player available, and he backed that up with this pick, which was a curveball. Hamilton was rated as the No. 4 prospect by Mel Kiper Jr. This is a surprising pick because the Ravens’ biggest free-agent splash was safety Marcus Williams. Now, Baltimore follows that up by using its highest pick in six years on another safety. Hamilton is versatile and can line up at nickel, where the Ravens have a void. His eight interceptions since 2019 are tied for the fifth-most among Power 5 players in that span. Hamilton will immediately help a Ravens defense that ranked last in the NFL in passing yards (4,986) and recorded the fifth-fewest interceptions (nine) last season.
Biggest question: Why didn’t the Ravens address a more pressing need? Baltimore’s two biggest holes on the roster are at pass-rusher and cornerback, and the Ravens had an opportunity to get a top-four prospect at those positions. The Ravens passed on the draft’s fourth-best pass-rusher (Jermaine Johnson II) and the third-best cornerback (Washington’s Trent McDuffie). Baltimore has always put a premium at loading up in the secondary, and that certainly hasn’t changed with Joe Burrow and Deshaun Watson in the division. — Jamison Hensley
Why they picked him: The Texans’ top priority in 2022 has to be figuring out just how good quarterback Davis Mills is and adding help on the offensive line is a step in the right direction. Last season, Houston’s offensive line ranked 27th in pass block win rate, according to ESPN Stats & Info, and the team finished last in the NFL in rushing yards. Adding Green gives Mills some more reliable protection and helps put him in a better spot to succeed in 2022.
Biggest question: Where does Green fit on the offensive line? When asked earlier in the week about where offensive linemen Tytus Howard would line up next season, Smith said he’s just focused on getting the best five offensive linemen on the field at once and he wasn’t focused on the individual positions. Green started at four spots on the offensive line for Texans A&M in 2021 and could be Houston’s right tackle or play inside for the Texans next season. — Sarah Barshop
Why they picked him: The Commanders’ haven’t finished in the top 10 in offense in yards or points since 2016 so offense was needed. They now have a fast, dynamic receiving crew with Dotson, Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown. There’s also versatility with this group as each can line up anywhere. Dotson can play inside or outside; Washington coach Ron Rivera loved his playmaking ability. Dotson can make plays at any level, taking short passes for long gains and winning down the field with athletic grabs. He also can return punts if Washington wants to use him in this role.
Biggest question: Play strength. At 178 pounds, there is concern over his ability to handle physical coverage in the NFL, though Washington can help by spreading teams out with good talent around him. He’s best at working outside the hashes, which isn’t a problem because others can but it does limit Dotson a little bit. Washington still could use a physical receiver to complement the speed wideouts. But Washington’s coaches have long liked Dotson because of his playmaking ability. — John Keim
Clay’s 2022 projection: 80 targets, 49 receptions, 640 yards, four TDs
Why they picked him: Finding more protection for quarterback Justin Herbert was a priority for the Chargers entering the draft. They solidified the left side of their offensive line a year ago when they used a first-round pick to select left tackle Rashawn Slater. Now they use their 17th overall selection to snag Johnson, who was ESPN’s top-rated guard prospect in the 2022 draft class. The 6-foot-2, 312-pound Johnson will be able to immediately start on the right side of the line.
Biggest question: With Johnson expected to step in at right guard, who will start at right tackle? The Chargers have struggled to find a solution at the spot after signing veteran Bryan Bulaga in free agency last year, only to see him play in one game due to injuries, followed by his release after the season. Storm Norton started 15 games at right tackle, but it’s unclear if Norton will win the job going forward or if the Bolts will consider moving Matt Feiler from left guard to right tackle, a position he played with the Pittsburgh Steelers — Lindsey Thiry
Why they picked him: Selecting Burks gives the Titans a wide receiver to replace A.J. Brown, who was traded to the Eagles in exchange for the No. 18 overall pick. Brown did not report to Phase 1 of offseason activities in hopes of securing a new contract. The Titans didn’t want to pay Brown top dollar. Burks has drawn comparisons to Brown because of his ability to generate yards after the catch. The Titans rely heavily on the play-action passing game and have found success getting the ball to Brown across the middle. Burks has the same kind of sturdy frame to bounce off of tackles and gain extra yards. He was a highly productive player at Arkansas as shown by his 11 touchdowns including a 91-yard catch and run.
Biggest question: Trading Brown means the Titans are losing one of their most explosive playmakers on offense. Burks will be asked to fill big shoes as a rookie. Although the play styles are similar, it’s a tall order. The Titans are taking a big risk but they will save upwards of $20 million per season by trading Brown. Ryan Tannehill targeted Brown more than any other receiver during their time together. Now Tannehill has to develop the same level of trust with Burks and do it quickly. — Turron Davenport
Clay’s 2022 projection: 99 targets, 62 receptions, 835 yards, six TDs
Why they picked him: New Orleans went two-for-two on Thursday night when it came to filling obvious needs. Penning will get a chance to step in immediately as the Saints’ starting left tackle after they lost perennial Pro Bowler Terron Armstead in free agency. And instead of replacing quarterback Jameis Winston in this year’s draft, they supported him with Penning and a much-needed wide receiver in Chris Olave. Receiver Michael Thomas‘ return from an ankle injury will help an awful lot, too.
Biggest question: Penning will have to make the leap from a lower level of competition at Northern Iowa, so this isn’t quite the same “sure thing” as the three offensive tackles who went inside the top 10 on Thursday night. And there is no way he can live up to the immense void left by Armstead right away.But the 6-foot-7, 325-pounder was able to display toughness and back up his film with strong showings in pre-draft workouts. This helped make him the consensus choice as the next best offensive tackle in this year’s class. — Mike Triplett
Why they picked him: The Steelers didn’t want to let another franchise quarterback from Pitt escape like Dan Marino in the 1983 draft. Pickett is a well-rounded prospect with mobility — a trait coveted by the Steelers in their next franchise quarterback — along with accuracy, size and a strong vertical game. With his confidence, leadership and aggressive play, Pickett has the swagger of a franchise quarterback, something especially necessary as he comes in to replace Ben Roethlisberger.
Biggest question: After throwing 13 touchdowns in each of his two previous seasons and 12 the year before that, Pickett shot up NFL draft boards with 42 in a Heisman finalist 2021 campaign. Can he sustain and replicate that success on the NFL level? And when will he be given the reins to the Steelers offense? The Steelers signed Mitch Trubisky to a two-year deal in free agency and have Mason Rudolph under contract, too. Pickett is the most NFL-ready quarterback in the class, but will he complete with Trubisky to start in 2022 or will he sit a year? — Brooke Pryor
Clay’s 2022 projection: 213 of 349, 2,312 yards, 11 TDs, 9 INTs; 31 carries, 124 yards, one TD (10 starts)
Why they picked him: The Chiefs were short at cornerback after losing Charvarius Ward to free agency and they felt strongly enough about McDuffie to move up from the 29th pick. The Chiefs gave up three picks in return, so McDuffie needs to be a starter from Day 1.
Biggest question: Did the Chiefs ignore big needs at wide receiver and defensive end? The Chiefs needed help at cornerback without question. But with DE Jermaine Johnson available, will the Chiefs regret not picking him to improve a pass rush that was 29th in the league in sacks last season? — Adam Teicher
Why they picked him: With six receivers already off the board, the Packers believed the value was better with Walker than whomever they had as WR7 on their board. Tennessee trading A.J. Brown to the Eagles ruined any chance of the Packers getting the last of the top receivers; the Titans took Arkansas receiver Treylon Burks at No. 18. He was the sixth receiver taken between pick Nos. 8 and 18. This gives the Packers a running mate for De’Vondre Campbell in the middle of their defense. Campbell would rather not have to cover tight ends and backs, and Walker matches up well in coverage. GM Brian Gutekunst has continued the Packers’ penchant for drafting defense in the first round — 10 of the Packers’ last 11 first-round picks have been on that side of the ball.
Biggest question: Why didn’t the Packers trade up for a receiver? It doesn’t mean they didn’t try. Gutekunst has not been afraid to wheel and deal in the first round. In his previous four drafts, he’s traded in the first round in three of them. — Rob Demovsky
Why they picked him: Cornerback was one of the weakest positions on a talented Bills roster entering the offseason. With Levi Wallace leaving in free agency and Tre’Davious White continuing to recover from a torn ACL, adding Elam gives the Bills defense a starting-caliber corner who will only make the No. 1 defense in 2021 even better. The 6-foot-1, 191-pound corner allowed a 35.3% completion rate as the primary defender in coverage over the last two seasons, fourth best in FBS (min. 50 attempts). Buffalo was aggressive in addressing the defensive line in free agency and now invests heavily in the defensive backfield for the first time since drafting White 27th overall in 2017.
Biggest question: There’s no doubt that the Bills needed help at cornerback, but with Clemson’s Andrew Booth still on the board, was trading up to get Elam the right decision? The Bills felt that way as Elam was the last player on their board with a first-round grade. Elam’s final college season wasn’t perfect, but he certainly doesn’t lack speed. He ran a 4.39 40-yard dash, which should pair well with the number of talented receivers now in the AFC East and the rest of the conference. As far as obvious major concerns, there are none here. — Alaina Getzenberg
Why they picked him: Offensive line is a major need for the Cowboys after they cut right tackle La’el Collins and saw left guard Connor Williams sign with Miami as a free agent. The Cowboys have not added an offensive lineman in free agency, so Smith could come in as a left guard right away and potentially move to tackle. Mike McCarthy had a history of taking college tackles and making them guards in Green Bay (T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton). The Cowboys had only 14-16 first-round grades on players, so they were likely wiped out by the 24th pick and could not find a trade they were willing to make.
Biggest question: Williams was the most-penalized lineman in the NFL last year (15 total, 12 accepted). Smith had 16 penalties (12 holding calls) last year at Tulsa. Smith is considered a good athlete but he could need time to develop. The Cowboys have a track record of success with first-round linemen lately with Tyron Smith (2011), Travis Frederick (2013), Zack Martin (2014). Can he continue that streak, and can offensive line coach Joe Philbin develop him? — Todd Archer
Why they picked him: The Ravens fill their void at center with Tyler Linderbaum, one of the best prospects at this position in recent memory. Baltimore had a hole in the middle of its offensive line after the team declined to re-sign Bradley Bozeman, last year’s starter at center. Linderbaum should provide stability for Baltimore, which has had five starting centers over the last five seasons. How much did the Ravens like Linderbaum? He’s the first center drafted by the Ravens in the first round in their 27-year history, and this pick was acquired in a deal that sent wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown to the Arizona Cardinals.
Biggest question: Once again, when are the Ravens going to address their biggest needs? Despite having two first-round picks, Baltimore chose not to fill its top three holes on the roster: pass-rusher, cornerback and offensive tackle. The Ravens now have a need at wide receiver as well after trading Brown. It was surprising to see Baltimore select Linderbaum because general manager Eric DeCosta said in the pre-draft news conference that the team wanted bigger players at center. At 290 pounds, Linderbaum is now the smallest linemen on the Ravens and the only one under 300 pounds. — Jamison Hensley
Why they picked him: The Jets considered Johnson a top-10 talent. When he slipped to 26, they traded up with the Titans. It cost them second-, third- and fifth-round picks. They got back a third-rounder. In Robert Saleh’s defense, it’s all about the pass rush — and the Jets finished 25th in sacks and 30th in pressure percentage. That’s a big reason they allowed a franchise-record 504 points. Johnson’s dynamic 2021 season, coupled with an outstanding performance at the Senior Bowl, vaulted him from a late first-rounder to the fourth pick. Talk about rapid ascents. After transferring from Georgia, Johnson dominated the ACC in his only season at Florida State, with 12 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. He plays hard and works hard, an ideal culture fit for Saleh. He’s their first first-round edge rusher since Vernon Gholston in 2008.
Biggest question: Why did he slip? Pass-rushers usually get scooped up quickly, so it makes you wonder. One reason is that some talent evaluators viewed him as a one-year wonder. His personality rubs some people the wrong way, according to multiple scouting sources, but his football character is good. He plays hard, with a chip on his shoulder. — Rich Cimini
Why they picked him: The Jaguars needed to replace Myles Jack, who they cut in March, on the inside of the defense to play alongside Foye Oluokun. Lloyd, the 2021 AP Defensive Player of the Year, has drawn comparisons to Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard in his ability to diagnose plays and quickly get to the ball. He’s also athletic and fast enough to play outside as well, so he and Oluokun, who led the NFL in tackles last season with Atlanta before signing with the Jaguars in March, give the Jaguars a pair of three-down linebackers. They didn’t have that last season. The Jaguars have done a good job of adding pieces on the front seven in free agency and the draft so far: first-round pick Travon Walker, Oluokun, Lloyd and defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi. It’s a much stronger unit than it was when the season ended.
Biggest question: It cost the Jaguars their second-round pick (33rd overall) to move up to draft Lloyd. They do have two third-round picks, so will they be willing to put together a package to move back into the second round to still address some major needs at interior offensive line and safety? Receiver and tight end are positions to monitor as well. — Michael DiRocco
Why they picked him: The Packers have one star on the defensive line, but Kenny Clark could use some help. While Dean Lowry has long been a solid sidekick, they now have a pair of first-round picks on the line. Clark was the 27th overall pick in 2016, and that pick has turned out well with Clark on his second contract. Clearly, the Packers believe that Georgia plays the kind of defense that will translate to the NFL given that they picked his teammate Quay Walker at No. 22 and last year’s first round pick was Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes. The Packers are the first team in the common draft era to take two defensive players from the same school in the first round of the same draft..
Biggest question: What does this mean for Lowry? He was one of the few veterans that didn’t have his contract restructured this offseason. He has a cap charge of $7.922 million this season and they could gain $5.8 million in cap space if they released him after June 1. — Rob Demovsky
Why they picked him: The Patriots traded down from No. 21, receiving No. 29 and also third-round (94) and fourth-round (121) picks. So a big part of their Day 1 strategy was to add those midround chips, and then navigate the eight-pick drop and land a player they hope will be a Day 1 starter. Strange, whom several draft analysts projected more as a second- or third-round pick, projects as a plug-and-play starter at left guard. Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy, a former New England scout, had identified him before the draft as an ideal fit for the Patriots. “Great-looking, trim, good athlete. He’s physical. Really strong hands. A really tenacious player,” he said.
Biggest question: Will the Patriots regret trading out of No. 21, where the Chiefs selected Washington CB Trent McDuffie, who plays arguably New England’s greatest position of need? — Mike Reiss
Why they picked him: The Chiefs were 29th last season in sacks, and one of their top pass-rushers, Melvin Ingram, is a free agent. In addition, this could be Frank Clark‘s final season with the Chiefs. So they needed to replenish on the edge, and Karlaftis was a productive player at Purdue.
Biggest question: Do the Chiefs have enough pass-rush punch? In Chris Jones, Clark and Karlaftis, the Chiefs have a nice start? But is it enough? The Chiefs clearly weren’t productive enough last season and they need Karlaftis to be a significant addition from the start. — Adam Teicher
Why they picked him: Secondary depth was a big point of emphasis for the Bengals. While cornerback was the glaring need, Cincinnati also could use a safety given the roster situation. Jessie Bates III is playing on the franchise tag and Vonn Bell is on an expiring deal, leaving both without a contract after 2022. Hill gives the Bengals an option as a long-term starter.
Biggest question: There isn’t a lot of downside for Hill with the Bengals. He has been healthy and productive in three seasons at Michigan. Cincinnati could have opted for a cornerback to slot behind Eli Apple and Chidobe Awuzie, but the Bengals instead opted for someone who should give Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo the schematic flexibility the team has enjoyed with Bates the last four seasons. — Ben Baby
Why they picked him: The Vikings have short- and long-term needs at the safety position. Xavier Woods departed via free agency, and Harrison Smith — while he is still playing at a high level — will be 33 this season. The Vikings could save $8 million in cap space if he isn’t on the roster in 2023. Second-year player Camryn Bynum said recently that he expects to win Woods’ starting job, but clearly the Vikings had other ideas. Cine got experience at both safety and slot cornerback during his time at Georgia
Biggest question: There will be plenty said and written about the Vikings’ decision to trade down from No. 12, where they could have selected Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton, to No. 32. On paper, there is a dropoff from Hamilton to Cine. Is the gap small enough to justify the improved positioning the Vikings got via the trade? That question could take a few years to figure out. One thing we know for sure: Cine adds speed to the Vikings’ defense after running a 4.37 in the 40-yard dash. — Kevin Seifert