Round 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft is in the books. And while we won't truly know the full impact of this draft for some time, we can highlight the teams that maximized the value of the picks at their disposal.
As I've done in previous years, I'm looking to quantify the impact of each pick through a model I developed that projects future player performance. This means mapping out a new NFL player's possible production according to team personnel, coaching philosophies and future opponents.
Below, you'll find my model's five best values from Round 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft, weighing the players' projected output against where they were selected:
Before the picking even started Thursday night, my models rated Hamilton as the prospect in this year's class most likely to become an All-Pro. Then he became a Raven at No. 14 overall, and the fit created a noticeable win-share lift. A very good rookie safety win-share increase -- looking over a 10-season sample -- is 0.58 wins. Had Hamilton gone to a team like the Cowboys, who have many solid pieces but need a safety, he would have provided a projected win-share increase of 0.74. But on the Ravens? The win-share increase is 0.78, the highest possible mark for Hamilton on any team. The flexibility of multiple safety looks, which have become increasingly valuable in recent years as defenses attempt to stop guys like Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes, gives Baltimore a huge advantage. Hamilton is just the fourth safety in the Next Gen Stats era (since 2016) to earn a 90-plus production score and 90-plus overall score in his college career. And once more for the people in the back: Don’t worry about his 40 time! Computer Vision shows he ranks in the 95th percentile in body control (eight-year sample) in plays that resulted in the following: interceptions, pass breakups, effective blitzing and shutting down outside pass catchers and slot pass catchers.
The Ravens got my ninth-ranked player at No. 25 overall, hitting the Vegas jackpot (I had to!) again in Round 1. Factoring in the team's run-heavy scheme, Linderbaum's arrival in Baltimore adds a win-share value of 0.52 wins, which compares favorably to one of the NFL's top centers, Creed Humphrey, who added 0.53 wins as a rookie last season. An average center adds about 0.44 wins. Linderbaum allowed just two sacks in 1,144 pass-protection snaps during his college career, per Pro Football Focus.
The Jets added my model’s No. 12 overall player near the bottom of the first round, which is really only a fraction of the value they added tonight. All three of Gang Green's first-round picks (which also included Sauce Gardner at No. 4 and Garrett Wilson at No. 10) came at positions with top-five values, helping the franchise add a whopping 2.25 wins -- the most for any team (QBs excluded) in the first round in 10 seasons. Johnson had the second-most QB pressures (46) in the ACC in 2021, per PFF. The Jets will be counting on the rookie to generate that type of production as a pro, after the team ranked 30th in QB pressure rate (22.7%) last year, per NGS.
McDuffie was my third-ranked corner and my eighth-ranked player overall ahead of the draft. Comparing his résumé blindly to the results of the previous 10 drafts, his range would have fallen between pick Nos. 9 and 15 -- and many of those drafts included multiple top-tier QBs. PFF shows that McDuffie did not allow a TD in coverage in either 2020 or '21, and that he gave up just 111 receiving yards last season, which was the fewest in FBS (min. 30 targets). He also allowed just 3.1 yards per target last season, the best mark in the FBS. My models liken him to Jaire Alexander, which is a lofty comp, but -- in the AFC West, especially -- that makes him quite a tantalizing choice.
My 17th-ranked player goes at No. 28 overall and joins Kenny Clark, Preston Smith and Rashan Gary on the Packers' defensive front. While Wyatt isn't the same type of player as Za'Darius Smith (who left the Pack for the Vikings in free agency), the Georgia lineman's net value to Green Bay in terms of win share is 0.68 wins, which is about 0.14 more than the average rookie interior defender. Wyatt's 90.3 PFF grade was the highest among FBS interior defenders last season.