NFL Draft

By Terrance Turner

April 28, 2022

Today, the NFL Draft commenced in Las Vegas. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell opened the proceedings (to customary boos), joined by Las Vegas Raiders including quarterback Derek Carr and tight end Darren Waller. Another member of Raider Nation was there: rapper and actor Ice Cube, who came onstage to warm up the crowd.

“With the first pick in the NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select Travon Walker,” announced Goodell. A kid from Thomaston, Georgia — and former trombone player — Walker is the first non-QB to be selected No.1 with only one season as starter. Walker is also the second consecutive No.1 pick for the Jaguars (who selected quarterback Trevor Lawrence last year).

Walker learned of his selection while at home in Georgia, surrounded by his parents. His father served four years in the Marines in Operation Desert Storm. His mother “has been in the school system every since I can remember,” he said. Walker thanked her for making sure he did well academically and credited his father for “being so hard on me” and pushing him to succeed.

Walker (6’5″, 270 lb.) Walker had a breakout season with the Georgia Bulldogs. started all 15 games for the national champion Georgia Bulldogs in 2021, recording 37 stops, 7.5 for loss with six starts, and two pass breakups. The Bulldogs pulled off a stunning upset against Alabama to win the championship in January, thanks partly to their blue-chip defense — and Walker helped them get there.

2021 was Walker’s first year as starter. According to ESPN, “Walker played his best football of 2021 during the College Football Playoff. He had 10 of his 29 pressures in the two games, including a season-high seven in Georgia’s title game victory over Alabama. He had sacks in each game, giving him a career-high six in 2021, after having only 3.5 sacks in his two previous seasons combined.” Walker further impressed at the NFL Combine, running a 4.51 on the 40-yard dash and posting a 35-inch vertical jump.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAR 04: Travon Walker #DL48 of the Georgia Bulldogs speaks to reporters during the NFL Draft Combine at the Indiana Convention Center on March 4, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

With the second pick, the Detroit Lions select defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. It’s a special pick for Hutchinson; he’ll get to stay in his home state. He was born in Plymouth, Michigan and went to high school in Dearborn. He played DE for the Michigan Wolverines. Hutchinson (6’5″, 270 lb.) had 14 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss (a school record) this season.

Hutchinson shined in Michigan’s epic battle against Ohio State in November 2021. After a raucous on-field fight, Michigan prevailed to win 42-27. It was Michigan’s first win versus Ohio State since 2011 and their first win against a Big 5 opponent since 2006. It was also Coach Harbaugh’s first-ever win versus Ohio State. He shouted out Hutchinson (who had three sacks) and Michigan running back Hassan Haskins for “carrying this team all year,” adding that the Wolverines “played their hearts out.”

Hutchinson got the draft call while in Vegas, surrounded by family. He embraced his family before making his way to the stage and bear-hugging Roger Goodell. Clad in what appeared to be a simple black suit, Hutchinson had a message hidden on the inside. According to his mother, Aidan, been journaling since he was four years old. In his journal, he wrote down goals like becoming a Heisman finalist. His mother sewed those words into the lining of his suit jacket.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – APRIL 28: (L-R) Aidan Hutchinson poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell onstage after being selected second by the Detroit Lions during round one of the 2022 NFL Draft on April 28, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

With the third pick, the Houston Texans select Derek Stingley, Jr. a cornerback from LSU. “This is a wildly talented guy,” said an ABC commentator. He’s also genetically primed for football: his grandfather Darryl was a first round pick in the 1973 NFL draft. He played five seasons as a wide receiver for the New England Patriots. But in 1978, he was paralyzed after an in-game hit by Oakland Raiders safety Jack Tatum. Though Stingley eventually recovered some use of one arm, he was left a quadriplegic. Derek was only five when his grandfather died in 2007.

Stingley (6’0,” 190) is “sensational on paper”, according to NFL.com. “However, there are questions aplenty surrounding Stingley, who played just three games in his 2021 junior season due to an injured left foot and was never able to follow up a phenomenal freshman season. As a true freshman, Stingley had 38 tackles, six interceptions and 15 pass breakups in 15 starts; all those numbers would stand as LSU career highs. He failed to tally another interception in his following two seasons.” But the Texans rolled the dice and chose Stingley; it’s a rare example of the Texans using a first-round pick on an offensive player.

Advertisements

The New York Jets also selected a cornerback: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, who has 33″ arms and never gave up more than 15 receiving yards in a game. He had nine career interceptions at Cincinnati. According to SBNation, the 21-year-old Gardner “never allowed a touchdown pass in his college career” and is able to thrive in both man and zone coverage.

In 2021 Gardner played 14 games and allowed just 131 passing yards in coverage, an average of less than 10 yards per game. He allowed a passer rating of 22.6 in 2021. According to Gardner, he got his nickname from his little league coach: “I was saucy with the juke moves,” he said, per Cincinnati.com.

Advertisements

The fifth pick was announced by Sam Prince, a lifelong Giants fan and Make-a-Wish kid. Sam recently received a heart transplant, and now his wish to announce the pick has come true. The New York Giants selected Kayvon Thibodeaux, the defensive end from Oregon. He had 7 sacks and 11 tackles for loss this past season, per ABC.

The Carolina Panthers selected Ikem Ekwonu (full name Ikemefuna, an Igbo name which translates to “My effort will not be in vain”). An offensive tackle out of North Carolina State, Ekwonu (6’4″, 310 lb.) stayed at left tackle for all 12 games in 2021, garnering first-team Associated Press All-American and all-conference honors, as well as being named a finalist for the Outland Trophy. Ikem’s fraternal twin brother, Osita, is a linebacker at Notre Dame. per NFL.com. “My cup runneth over. I have no words,” said his mother upon learning the news. His father added “He’s a good kid […]so proud of him.” He’s also an academic standout: Ekwonu passed up scholarship from Harvard and Yale to play for North Carolina.

With the seventh pick, the Giants selected offensive tackle Evan Neal, from Alabama. Neal (6’7″, 337 lb.) One of eight siblings, Neal played left tackle this season but also played right tackle in 2020. Neal is a super-sized edge blocker with natural skills as a left tackle. The 6-7, 337-pounder is a patient technician with the length to stymie pass rushers off the edge and the power to blow defenders off the ball,” wrote NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks.

With the eighth pick, the Atlanta Falcons selected Drake London, a wide receiver from USC. He played both basketball and football while in college; he missed the end of the 2021 season with a fractured right ankle but led his squad with 88 receptions and 1,084 receiving yards (12.3 per rec.), tying for the team lead with seven scores in just eight starts.

Advertisements

For the ninth overall pick, the Seattle Seahawks selected offensive tackle Charles Cross, who played for Mississippi State (his home state). Brooks raved: “Cross is a technical marvel with the athleticism, hand skills and anchor to dominate one-on-one matchups against premier pass rushers off the edge.”

The New York Jets selected WR Garrett Wilson (5’11”, 183 lb). From Austin, TX, Wilson (selected No. 10) initially played basketball before quitting because “he just wasn’t growing”. Despite his slender size, Wilson shined at Ohio State; he averaged 15.1 yards per reception last season — 70 catches for 1,058 yards. Of his 12 touchdowns, six came on vertical routes, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The only knock is that he dropped six balls.

The Washington Commanders traded their pick to the New Orleans Saints, who selected wide receiver Chris Olave at No. 11. “To have my family here means so much to me,” Olave said. His teammate Garrett Wilson was selected one pick ahead of him. When asked about the trade, Olave said: “I’m glad for him; we always in the same room. And we both wanted to be the best receivers in the country. I’m glad he went there, and I can’t wait for Jameson to get drafted, too.”

As if on cue, Goodell announced the next pick. Telling the crowd that the Minnesota Vikings had traded their 12th pick to the Detroit Lions. “The Detroit Lions select Jameson Williams,” Goodell announced. Williams caught 79 passes for 1,572 yards with 15 touchdowns while adding two additional scores on kickoff returns, per Al.com. He was a standout wide receiver until tearing his ACL in Georgia’s championship loss to Georgia.

The Houston Texans traded their pick to the Philadelphia Eagles, who chose Georgia defensive end Jordan Davis at No. 13. Despite his massive size (6’6″, 341 pounds), Davis ran a 4.78 40-yard dash; that time is the fastest in the NFL Network era (since 2003) for a combine participant of 310 pounds or more, per Next Gen Stats. NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said: “Davis is an enormous defensive tackle prospect with surprising quickness and athleticism.”

According to Yahoo! Sports, Davis put up “terrific numbers during his four seasons at Georgia […] He had 11.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 41 college games.” Davis was later joined by his Georgia teammate Nakobe Dean, a talented linebacker who won the Butkus Award for being the best college linebacker last season. But he’s coming off pectoral and knee injuries, which played a role in his fall down the draft list.

Advertisements

UPDATE (April 30, 2022): The Georgia Bulldogs set a record on Thursday night by having seven defensive players selected in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft. That’s the most by any college football team in the common era (since 1967), according to NBC Sports. Today, the Georgia Bulldogs set an NFL record with 15 players selected in the first seven rounds 2022 NFL Draft.

Caoch Kirby Smart said he thought such a high number was “unrealistic“. But defensive end Travon Walker (first round, Jaguars), defensive tackle Jordan Davis (first round, Eagles), linebacker Quay Walker (first round, Packers), defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt (first round, Packers), safety Lewis Cine (first round, Vikings), receiver George Pickens (second round, Steelers), running back James Cook (second round, Bills), linebacker Nakobe Dean (third round, Eagles), linebacker Channing Tindall (third round, Dolphins), running back Zamir White (fourth round, Steelers), punter Jake Cammarda (fourth round, Bucs), offensive guard Justin Shaffer (sixth round, Falcons), offensive guard Jamaree Salyer (sixth round, Chargers), cornerback Derion Kendrick (sixth round, Rams) and tight end John FitzPatrick (sixth round, Falcons) all have heard their names called during the three-day draft.

 Save as PDF

Leave a Reply