What we learned from the 2022 NFL Draft

Most analysts agreed that the 2022 NFL Draft featured the lowest crop of quarterbacks in at least a decade. But few teams expected quar...


Most analysts agreed that the 2022 NFL Draft featured the lowest crop of quarterbacks in at least a decade. But few teams expected quarterback needy teams to be almost historically unimpressed:

  • The Atlanta Falcons entered the draft having already signed Marcus Mariota as a starting quarterback. Mariota is so fragile that he falls on the injured reserve if he bumps into a porcelain vase. Still, the Falcons didn’t pick a potential replacement for him until Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder in the third round.

  • Sam Darnold was rejected by the Jets after the 2020 season and has been losing ground since, but his current team, the Carolina Panthers, waited until the third round before selecting Mississippi’s Matt Corral as a possible successor.

  • The Seattle Seahawks’ starting quarterback is Drew Lock, who the Denver Broncos tossed Russell Wilson’s trade like an extra packet of honey mustard with an order of chicken nuggets. With Geno Smith as a backup, the Seahawks did not select another challenger for the position. Neither did the Detroit Lions for Jared Goff, the quarterback’s equivalent of a seat at an awards ceremony.

University of Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, chosen 20th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers to supplant journeyman free agent Mitchell Trubisky, was the only quarterback drafted in the first two rounds. The last time the draft had such a quarterback drought was in 2000, when the Jets selected Chad Pennington with the 18th overall pick and the next quarterback (Giovanni Carmazzi of Hofstra) was chosen. 65th.

Liberty’s Malik Willis, who has first-round talent but fell in the third round due to lack of short-program preparation, will apprentice under Ryan Tannehill for the Tennessee Titans as few teams top the draft command could afford to invest in a quarterback who may not be ready to play until his coaches are fired.

Multiple teams can be counted on most years to freak out and achieve unimpressive quarterback prospects, so it’s unclear why the league was so sour on this particular group. Maybe GMs learned their lesson by drafting players like Goff first overall, Mariota and Trubisky second, and Darnold third: Get a quarterback too high, and you’ll get to him again in a few years.

Or maybe the teams got distracted by a new problem.

The NFL operates on its own chaos theory: Just as a butterfly’s wings can change the course of a tornado, a brash decision by the Jacksonville Jaguars in March engulfed this weekend’s draft in a tsunami.

When the Jaguars signed mid-level receiver Christian Kirk to a four-year, $72 million deal at the start of free agency, it looked like a simple case of a mismanaged franchise mismanaging its payroll. . Instead, it set off a chain reaction. All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams wanted his own contract extension at the best price, prompting the cap-strapped Green Bay Packers to trade him to the Las Vegas Raiders, who signed Adams to a $140 million deal. dollars over five years. Tyreek Hill immediately wanted an Adams-style deal, forcing Kansas City to trade him for the Miami Dolphins. Soon, every big-name receiver in the league seemed to be demanding either a bigger contract or a trade.

Thursday evening, the The Titans traded AJ Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Baltimore Ravens traded Marquise Brown to the Arizona Cardinals, each in exchange for a first-round pick. The Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints, meanwhile, traded extra picks to advance to the first round and select Alabama’s Jameson Williams and Ohio State’s Chris Olave, creating a race on receivers. who will be signed for rent-controlled rookie contracts.

The sudden rise in the salaries of receivers is currently a problem of major global importance; until the market balances out, playoff teams like Green Bay and Kansas City might not be able to appease their favorite superstar quarterbacks and point guards. In that regard, a small shake-up may be a welcome change, as the league’s privileged class have become a bit haughty lately.

Most NFL teams in the early 2020s can be grouped into two categories: Forever Rebuilders and Live Fast/Die Broke Contenders.

The Rebuilders collect all the first-round picks they can muster, then spend them wisely, often in search of golden quarterback tickets. The jet-set Contenders, meanwhile, are scrambling to trade their top picks for established veterans so they can nap during the early rounds. Fast forward a few years, and the Rebuilders are mostly finding themselves in the same rut, while the Contenders are performing a little salary cap wizardry and continuing to enjoy their lavish lifestyles.

The league’s achievement gap reached absurd proportions this year: A record eight teams entered the draft with multiple first-round picks, while 10 teams ended up skipping first. The Jaguars took first place overall and twice in the first round, for the second year in a row. (They picked Georgia edge rusher Travon Walker and Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd.) The Jets and Giants each picked two of the top 10 picks (each behaved well in an unusual waywhatever good it may do).

At the other extreme, the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams’ brain trust held a press conference Thursday night where they grilled other teams for their selections like dissolute aristocrats placing bets on squabbling peasants. bread.

Not every team with two first-round picks was an eternal doormat: Kansas City and the Packers each picked twice following trades from Hill and Adams. For every contender looking for bargains at the thrift store, however, there was a team like the Lions, stuck with two first picks in a draft without a quarterback.

The only proven way to escape the rebuilder caste is to acquire a franchise quarterback. A handful of successes, like the AFC champion did with the Cincinnati Bengals Joe Terrier. A team that risks too much on such a prospect, however, can end up like the lowly Chicago Bears, who traded this year’s top pick for Justin Fields last year and now lack the resources to build a proper offense around. him. Bad franchises get the first dibs on top prospects, who fail because they’re trapped in bad franchises, and the depressing metaphor of late-stage capitalism continues.

Similarly, it takes years of decadent spending and arrogant drafting for a candidate to fall back into the ranks of the Reconstructors. We’ll come back to the New England Patriots on that next year.

A team has to be both well-managed and a bit lucky to escape an endless rebuilding cycle, which brings us back to that quarterback class of 2000. Pennington led the Jets through one of their few skill periods, and most others were as unsuccessful as expected. The real treasure of this nearly empty barrel draft was a skinny boy selected in the sixth round by the Patriots.

There’s almost certainly no Tom Brady lurking at the bottom of the 2022 class, but in the days following the NFL Draft, everyone is allowed to dream.

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