Apr 28, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton after being selected as the fourteenth overall pick to the Baltimore Ravens during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens agree to deal with first-round pick DB Kyle Hamilton

The Baltimore Ravens signed first-round pick Kyle Hamilton to his rookie contract on Tuesday.

Hamilton, a defensive back from Notre Dame, agreed to a four-year contract and will receive a fully-guaranteed $16.3 million, plus a signing bonus just more than $9 million, according to multiple reports. The deal also includes an option for a fifth year.

The Baltimore Sun reported that it is believed to be one of the largest rookie deals in franchise history.

A two-time All-American at Notre Dame, the 6-foot-4 Hamilton racked up 138 tackles, eight interceptions and 16 pass breakups for the Irish across 31 games in three seasons. He has also impressed the Ravens in offseason workouts.

“He’s doing the things that we’re expecting him to do,” Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald told the Sun. “… He’s right on schedule, but we don’t tell him that — try to provide some sense of urgency for him. But he’ll get there. Really pleased with Kyle.”

The Hamilton deal comes five days after Baltimore signed its other first-round selection, center Tyler Linderbaum, who was the 25th overall pick.

The Ravens have now signed six of their 2022 draft picks. Five selections remained unsigned, including second-round pick David Ojabo, an outside linebacker from Michigan.

Across the NFL, quarterback Kenny Pickett remains the highest unsigned draft pick from this class. Baltimore’s divisional rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, selected him out of Pitt with the 20th overall pick.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) warms up before the start against the LSU Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Who’s No. 1? Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud atop ’23 draft odds

The lack of marquee quarterbacks contributed to the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft drawing the lowest television ratings in five years.

Network executives can feel far more bullish looking ahead to 2023 with Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud projected to battle for the Heisman Trophy before jockeying for position atop next year’s draft.

Caesars released its opening odds for the first overall pick on Tuesday, with Stroud and Young co-favorites at +225. The only other player with odds shorter than +1000 is Alabama defensive end Will Anderson Jr.

The same trio leads the way at DraftKings, where Stroud opened at +200 to be the No. 1 overall pick in 2023 followed by Young (+225) and Anderson (+330). Stroud is also being offered at +140 to be the first quarterback selected, followed by Young (+160), Boston College’s Phil Jurkovec (+1000) and Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke (+1200).

While next year’s draft class appears to be far better stocked with franchise quarterback prospects, it’s important to remember that this time last year Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler and North Carolina’s Sam Howell were projected to be top 10 picks.

Rattler now plays for South Carolina while Howell was selected by the Washington Commanders in the fifth round on Saturday. Rattler is still in the conversation for next year and is +1500 at DraftKings to be the first quarterback selected and +2000 to go first overall.

He has even shorter No. 1 overall odds at +1800 at PointsBet, where Rattler is behind only Young (+200), Stroud (+210), Anderson (+300), Ohio State offensive tackle Paris Johnson (+1100) and Van Dyke (+1400).

–Field Level Media

Apr 28, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected as the thirteenth overall pick to the Philadelphia Eagles during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL draft winners & losers: Eagles, Colts smiling after draft

On its own, the NFL draft doesn’t win Super Bowls. But the 2022 draft sure went a long way in potentially transforming a couple of teams that were 9-8 last season into legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

The AFC has a new and surprising contender in the Indianapolis Colts. The NFC suddenly has the same thing after a very active three days by the Philadelphia Eagles.

On the flip side, two teams (the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots) that previously were viewed as potential playoff contenders did not get any better. In fact, some teams that already were facing bleak futures missed out on golden draft opportunities and could end up being worse than they were before.

Let’s take a look at the winners and losers in the 2022 NFL Draft …

WINNERS

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: We won’t declare a solo winner in this draft. Instead, that honor is split evenly between the Eagles and Colts, who both used bold and calculated moves to make their rosters much better.

Philadelphia’s Howie Roseman had perhaps the best three days of his tenure as the general manager. The Eagles made the playoffs last season and promptly were bounced by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But Roseman’s moves have set the Eagles up for a much longer run this season.

Let’s start with the most significant move Roseman made over the last three days. The Eagles desperately needed a No. 1 wide receiver and he went out and got one. He traded with Tennessee for A.J. Brown, who is a proven commodity. Brown had over 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first two seasons. He would have made it three straight if he didn’t miss four games to injury last year.

The Eagles quickly signed Brown to a $100 million contract extension.

Roseman then got down to draft business and, at least on paper, all of his picks were home runs.

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, 31, is getting older and the Eagles needed a younger alternative. They got one with Jordan Davis, who they traded up to grab in the first round. At 341 pounds, Davis can clog the middle. But, in his days at Georgia, Davis did not get many chances to show he also can rush the passer. The Eagles believe he can and expect to reap the benefits.

Roseman then focused on Philadelphia’s most pressing needs.

In the second round, he got Nebraska center Cam Jurgens, who at best will be an immediate replacement for former Pro Bowler Brandon Brooks, who retired during the offseason. At worst he will be center Jason Kelce’s apprentice-in-waiting. In the third round, the Eagles got a steal on Nakobe Dean. Concerns about injuries and size were the only things that kept the Georgia linebacker out of the first two rounds.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: The Atlanta Falcons obviously thought Matt Ryan was done when they traded their former franchise quarterback to the Colts in the offseason. The Colts don’t share that view. It’s not going to take long to show the Falcons were wrong and the Colts were right.

Just adding Ryan, who still has plenty left in the tank, instantly made the Colts better than the team they were with Carson Wentz last year. Ryan has the leadership skills Wentz lacked and commands respect. The last few years in Atlanta were tough because Ryan didn’t have much around him.

That’s why Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard struck with surgical precision. Ballard’s first three picks were used on guys that will make Ryan’s life easier. Cincinnati wide receiver Alec Pierce and Virginia tight end Jelani Woods were brought in during the second and third rounds, respectively, to give Ryan more targets.

Central Michigan tackle Bernhard Raimann (third round, No. 77 overall) also was brought in to help protect Ryan, who never has been known for his mobility.

TENNESSEE TITANS: You can go ahead and throw the Titans in a category just after the Eagles and Colts. They already were starting on firm ground because they went 12-5 and won the AFC South last season.

Yes, the Titans traded away Brown, who had been one of their best players in recent years. But it was going to take up a lot of salary cap room to get him signed to a contract extension. It’s better to get something for a player before he walks away as a free agent. So, the Titans unloaded Brown and used a first-round pick on a guy (Arkansas’ Treylon Burks) who could end up being even better.

The Titans filled needs by getting cornerback Roger McCreary in the second round and offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere in the third. But the second of their two third-round picks (quarterback Malik Willis) and fourth-round choice (running back Hassan Haskins) could have the most long-term upside.

Willis slid a lot further than some people expected (No. 86 overall), but let’s be honest. He played against mediocre competition at Liberty and is nowhere near ready to step in as an NFL starter. The Titans have a steady veteran starter in Ryan Tannehill. But Tannehill will turn 34 before the start of the season and it’s time to start grooming an eventual replacement.

Derrick Henry is arguably the best running back in the league, but injuries limited him to eight games last season. Henry is 28, which is kind of old for a running back, and has carried the ball 1,401 times in his career.

The Titans were wise in letting Haskins fall to them and not reaching for a running back. History has shown you can get a good one in the middle rounds. Even if Henry is healthy in 2022, it might be smart to lighten his load a bit.

NEW YORK GIANTS: The Giants sent three clear messages with their draft. First, they took a more conventional approach to building a foundation by using their two first-round picks on Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal. They both play positions that often form the cornerstones of good teams.

Second, even though the Giants declined to pick up the fifth-year option on Daniel Jones’ contract, they’re still holding out hope he can be their quarterback for the long term. Neal and North Carolina guard Josh Ezeudu (third round, No. 67 overall) were drafted to give Jones better protection and Kentucky receiver Wan’Dale Robinson was added in the second round to give Jones a target.

Finally, the Giants sent a pretty clear message to receiver Kadarius Toney, who was a first-round pick last year, by taking Robinson. Toney wasn’t very productive last season. New general manager Joe Schoen and coach Brian Daboll didn’t draft Toney and don’t have any allegiance to him. With Robinson on board, they won’t hesitate to unload the second-year player.

Oh, also, a lot of people are saying the Jets had the better draft of the two New York teams. I don’t see it that way. Sure, the Jets had three first-round picks and that makes it easy to overrate a draft. But the Jets used their two top-10 picks on cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and wide receiver Garrett Wilson. They don’t play the positions that you build a franchise around.

ARIZONA CARDINALS: The Cardinals didn’t have a first-round pick, but they came out of the draft substantially better than they were before it. They wanted to get more weapons for quarterback Kyler Murray and they did.

The first part of that equation came when the Cardinals traded with Baltimore for receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, who had 91 catches for 1,008 yards last season. The move reunites Murray with a receiver he played with in college at Oklahoma.

The second part of the plan came when the Cardinals used their first pick (No. 55 overall) on Colorado State tight end Trey McBride. Sure, they have Zach Ertz, but you never can have enough good tight ends.

The Cardinals then took care of a big need in the pass rush by adding San Diego State defensive end Cameron Thomas and Cincinnati pass rusher Myaji Sanders, both in the third round.

LOSERS

NFL COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL: He clearly was out of his element and trying way too hard to be cool when he was on stage. Instead of looking like his bland predecessor (Paul Tagliabue) Goodell tried to play the combined role of master of ceremonies, cheerleader and hugger-in-chief.

It didn’t work. Not at all. The draft featured plenty of guests who filled those roles naturally when stepping in to announce picks. Goodell should stick to being a commissioner. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to not try to pretend to be someone you’re not. Smart people can see right through that.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: They were 7-10 last year and that’s not a great starting point. But the Seahawks took a huge step back earlier in the offseason.

They sent franchise quarterback Russell Wilson to Denver and did nothing to replace him. The Seahawks had a chance at getting Kenny Pickett in the first round — or Matt Corral, Desmond Ridder or Willis later on.

They passed.

A class that includes offensive tackle Charles Cross, edge rusher Boye Mafe, running back Kenneth Walker III and offensive tackle Abraham Lucas isn’t bad. But the Seahawks are in a tough spot.

The other three teams in the NFC West had double-digit wins last season. Seattle didn’t pull off any miracles in the draft.

The Seahawks are looking at a very real worst-case scenario of going to training camp with Drew Lock, Geno Smith and Jacob Eason as the only quarterbacks on the roster.

ATLANTA FALCONS: I understand why the Falcons had to let Ryan go. First, it was time because this team is several years away from winning. Second, and more importantly, they couldn’t keep Ryan and remain under the salary cap.

But the Falcons have taken a huge step backward and they’re starting almost from scratch. Defensive end Arnold Ebiketie, a second-round pick, brings back memories of former Atlanta pass rusher John Abraham and could be a nice building block.

First-round pick Drake London is an enormous talent and could bring the same type of receiver production the Falcons once had from Julio Jones. But who’s going to throw the ball to London?

In the short term, it’s going to be veteran Marcus Mariota. That’s not very comforting because Mariota is a more than a couple of notches down from Ryan. In the long term, the Falcons will turn to Ridder, who they drafted in the third round.

The good thing about getting Ridder at No. 74 overall is that he won’t face the early pressure and expectations that Ryan and Michael Vick did at the start of their careers. The bad news is things in Atlanta are going to get a lot worse than last year’s 7-10 season before they start to get better.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS: You can’t blame Minnesota general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah for the most embarrassing moment for the Vikings in this draft.

That came when Ed Marinaro, a mediocre former Vikings running back and a solid actor on “Hill Street Blues,” took the stage to announce one of Minnesota’s two second-round picks.

Marinaro showed more changes of direction than he ever did on the field as he rambled on for several minutes. You could almost hear Minnesota fans saying, “read the damn pick.” Finally and mercifully, an NFL official who was waiting on the edge of the stage, stepped up and ordered Marinaro to do just that.

The Vikings’ new regime made some pretty bland picks, led by safety Lewis Cline, cornerback Andrew Booth Jr., guard Ed Ingram and linebacker Brian Asamoah.

But Minnesota’s biggest blunder of the draft came in the second round. That’s when the front office made a move that could haunt the team for much longer than the Marinaro fiasco.

There is an unwritten rule in the NFL that you don’t make trades within your division. There is an even stronger rule that says you don’t help your biggest rival improve.

The Vikings badly broke both of those rules. In the second round, the Vikings made a trade with Green Bay to allow the Packers to move up to get a much-needed wide receiver in North Dakota State’s Christian Watson.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: For years, coach Bill Belichick’s success in the draft was unquestioned because of the results. The term “genius” was thrown around a lot. But it’s looking more and more like Belichick is past his prime.

Belichick drafted guard Cole Strange in the first round and wide receiver Tyquan Thornton in the second. In each case, the players almost certainly would have been available a round or two later.

The Patriots also made a questionable move in the fourth round when they took Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe. They already have Mac Jones, whom they drafted in the first round last year. You don’t normally find starting quarterbacks in the fourth round, especially when you don’t need one. You find guys that have a chance to contribute at other positions or play on special teams.

The only thing that prevented New England’s draft from being a total disaster came when the Patriots got good value and filled a need by taking cornerback Marcus Jones in the third round.

HOUSTON TEXANS: Speaking of disasters, there was no team worse off than the Texans before the draft. After it, nothing has changed.

If you thought things couldn’t get any worse after last year’s 4-13 record that was overshadowed by the Deshaun Watson saga, you’re wrong. For better or worse (almost certainly worse), the Texans made it clear they are going with Davis Mills as their quarterback.

In fairness to the Texans, there were no true franchise quarterbacks in this draft. But Houston could have taken a chance on a quarterback in the middle rounds. That at least would have given them an alternative to Mills, but they elected not to.

New coach Lovie Smith has a defensive background and the Texans added cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. in the first round, defensive back Jalen Pitre in the second round and linebacker Christian Harris in the third round.

In a best-case scenario (and that may be a stretch), those defensive picks will all work out. But the downside of that is the Texans will be what the Bears, Buccaneers and the University of Illinois were when Smith coached them — a team with a good defense and a very bad offense.

That’s not a winning formula.

— Pat Yasinskas, Field Level Media

Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy (QB12) goes through drills during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa State QB Brock Purdy earns ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ tag

Brock Purdy is the latest “Mr. Irrelevant” despite playing the most relevant position in football.

The Iowa State quarterback earned that tag by being the 262nd and final selection of this year’s seven-round NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday in Las Vegas.

“For me, I’m looking at it as ‘I got my foot in the door,’” Purdy told San Francisco-area reporters of being the final pick.

Purdy set school records of 12,170 passing yards and 81 touchdowns with the Cyclones but was downgraded due to his 6-foot height and average arm strength.

San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan identified something important during the evaluation process.

“He knows how to play the position well,” Shanahan told reporters.

The last pick receives more attention than any other seventh-round selection and the notoriety reaches its zenith when the player travels to Southern California to be honored during Irrelevant Week. Among the festivities is the awarding of the “Lowsman Trophy.”

The creator of Mr. Irrelevant, former NFL receiver Paul Salata, died at age 94 in October. Salata began the tradition in 1976.

The final selection of the 2021 NFL Draft was Houston linebacker Grant Stuard, who primarily played on special teams for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season.

–Field Level Media

Michigan State Spartans running back Kenneth Walker III (9) runs past Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Jerron Cage (86) during the first quarter of the NCAA football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021.

Michigan State Spartans At Ohio State Buckeyes Football

NFL Draft: Best available prospects entering Day 2

The 2022 NFL Draft is 32 picks old, but another 230 lie ahead across Friday and Saturday.

The draft resumes in Las Vegas on Friday at 7 p.m. ET with the start of the second round, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold the 33rd overall pick after a trade Thursday with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Here’s our overview of the best prospects who still remain on the board with Day 1 in the rearview mirror.

1. Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming
One of the most well-rounded players left in the draft, Muma is a do-it-all defender who has the athleticism to play in space and the physicality to take on blockers.

2. Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State
The top tight end in the class, McBride’s lack of elite receiving upside kept him out of Day 1, but he should hear his name called early on Day 2.

3. Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
A gunslinger with all-world tools but an extreme lack of polish. Willis makes a lot of sense as a developmental pick in the early second.

4. Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State
Workhorse backs don’t come around often, but Walker has the traits to be one. He is a savvy runner who can make defenders miss and create his own yardage.

5. Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
A blazing fast 4.44 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine matched the on-field showings from the uber-athletic Harris. His potential is sky high.

6. Drake Jackson, OLB, Southern California
Jackson is long and limber with the flexibility to slip past blocks. He could contribute immediately as a rookie pass-rusher.

7. Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Looming injury questions may be the root of Booth’s fall out of the first round. If he returns fully healthy, he could make teams regret passing on him.

8. Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
Gordon is a natural mover with great agility and body control for the position. His upside will likely draw a premium pick on Day 2.

9. Jaquan Brisker, SS, Penn State
Big, fast, and physical. Brisker isn’t an elite matchup piece, but he has the traits to be a long-term starter and mean run defender.

10. Logan Hall, DT, Houston
Tweeners who aren’t clear-cut defensive tackles scare some NFL teams, but Hall’s body control and refined pass-rush package are likely to get a bite.

11. Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
12. Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
13. Sean Rhyan, OL, UCLA
14. Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati
15. Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama
16. Nick Cross, FS, Maryland
17. Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State
18. David Ojabo, OLB, Michigan
19. George Pickens, WR, Georgia
20. Arnold Ebiketie, DE, Penn State
21. Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M
22. Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
23. Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
24. Greg Dulcich, TE, UCLA
25. DeMarvin Leal, DE, Texas A&M
26. Carson Strong, QB, Nevada
27. Brian Asamoah II, LB, Oklahoma
28. Jalen Pitre, SS, Baylor
29. Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama
30. Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

–By Mark Jarvis, Field Level Media

Apr 28, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson after being selected as the second overall pick to the Detroit Lions during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL draft winners and loser: Rare ‘W’ for Lions

The NFL is a copycat league in which teams borrow or flat-out steal concepts that have worked out well for other teams.

That never was more evident than on Thursday in the first round of NFL Draft. Some teams followed the new-age model the Los Angeles Rams used to win a Super Bowl last season. The Rams threw conventional wisdom to the wind as general manager Les Snead followed a win-now approach and gave away most of his draft currency.

In essence Snead traded for a Lombardi Trophy, and that’s something no team is going to turn down.

Some other teams quickly grabbed onto the Rams’ model. The Dolphins, for example, gave up a slew of draft picks to acquire wide receiver Tyreek Hill from the Kansas City Chiefs, so Miami had to sit out the first round.

But that doesn’t mean the old-school way of building a team through the draft has been forgotten. Not every team did what the Rams and Dolphins did. In fact, stockpiling picks may still be the preferred method.

An unprecedented eight teams had multiple picks in the first round, and first-round picks usually translate into instant starters. There were a lot of trades after the draft began, leaving many mock drafts looking useless.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the winners and losers in the first round.

DETROIT LIONS: Ordinarily, I would say a team drafting at No. 2 shouldn’t get too much credit for making an easy pick. However, given the embarrassing draft history of the Lions, nothing was out of the question. This time, though, Detroit got it right.

Although No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker might end up being a superstar in Jacksonville, the Lions lucked out when defensive end Aidan Hutchinson was available. First, he’s a Michigan kid, and that will play well at the box office. Second, Hutchinson can rush the passer, and the Lions were desperate for that. Third, Hutchinson doesn’t have the ceiling that Walker does, but he also doesn’t have the same kind of floor.

The Lions followed that up by trading up to take Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams at No. 12. That’s a coup because Williams might have been the best receiver in the draft. Yeah, he tore his ACL late last season and probably won’t be able to play until around midseason. That’s fine because the Lions aren’t expecting to turn things around immediately.

NEW YORK GIANTS: General manager Joe Schoen didn’t do anything exciting in his first draft, but that’s the exact approach he should have followed. After making questionable decisions on skill-position players in recent years, the Giants got back to basics.

With the fifth overall pick, the Giants took Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, and with the No. 7 selection, they drafted Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal. There is nothing exciting there, but that’s not a bad thing.

Thibodeaux easily could have gone at No. 1 or 2 because he can rush the passer. Neal will bring some much-needed protection for quarterback Daniel Jones. Thibodeaux and Neal will start right away, and the Giants might have come out of the first round as the NFL’s most improved team.

Think about it: During some of the best years in franchise history, the Giants were built around solid offensive lines and pass rushers such as Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan. The Giants walked out of the first round with two cornerstones.

CAROLINA PANTHERS: There was a school of thought around the league that Carolina owner David Tepper, who is not the most patient man, was going to force general manager Scott Fitterer to use the No. 6 pick on Liberty quarterback Malik Willis.

Maybe Tepper has more patience than anyone realized. Or maybe his thought process gave way to common sense. Whatever, the Panthers made the right call in drafting North Carolina State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu. That’s as solid a pick as the Panthers could have made. Ekwonu will give Carolina its first reliable left tackle since Jordan Gross retired after the 2013 season.

Yeah, that means Carolina fans can look forward (maybe that’s too strong a word in this case) to another year of Sam Darnold at quarterback. But that’s a better alternative than drafting Willis too early and surrounding him with a bad team.

Earlier this week, Tepper reminded the media he said he expected coach Matt Rhule would take five years to rebuild when he was first brought on board. Rhule is entering his third season. He still doesn’t have a solid quarterback, but at least he’s not stuck with a quarterback who would have set the rebuilding process back.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: General manager Mickey Loomis has never been afraid to gamble. That’s especially true now that coach Sean Payton is gone. The Saints entered the night with the 16th and 19th picks. Loomis traded up with the Washington Commanders to get the No. 11 pick.

The Saints used it on Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave. If Loomis hadn’t made the deal, Olave would have been gone and the Saints, who need to surround quarterback Jameis Winston with weapons, might have been out of suitable options because the wide receiver pool was drying up.

Loomis’ second pick of the night wasn’t as flashy, and some may question how quickly offensive tackle Trevor Penning can contribute because he played at Northern Iowa. But keep this in mind: Loomis once drafted guard Jahri Evans out of Division II Bloomsburg (Pa.). Evans turned out to be a four-time All-Pro and a six-time Pro Bowler.

LOSERS

GREEN BAY PACKERS: If ever a team was expected to address a certain position coming into a draft, it was the Packers and a wide receiver. After trading Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders, Green Bay was running extremely thin on wide receivers for Aaron Rodgers to target.

But, somehow, the Packers managed to come out of the first round without a wide receiver. Instead, they brought in two defensive players from the University of Georgia. Linebacker Quay Walker was drafted at No. 22 and defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt, who has had some off-field problems, was taken at No. 28.

Did the Packers whiff on getting a receiver? Maybe. Maybe not.

With receivers coming off the board at a rapid rate, the value just wasn’t there for the Packers. But a couple of things need to happen to straighten out a potential mess. The Packers need to get a receiver with some upside in the second or third round.

More important, Rodgers is going to have to make that receiver look good right away.

HOUSTON TEXANS: The history books say that 2002 was Houston’s expansion season. They might have been wrong. Look at Houston’s current roster. It’s actually worse than it was in 2002.

The Texans drafted LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. at No. 3 overall. That’s a violation of the cardinal rule that you don’t draft a cornerback in the first five.

Deshaun Watson is gone and Davis Mills is Houston’s current starting quarterback. There is a reason why Mills wasn’t taken until the third round in 2021. The Texans also entered the draft with the No. 13 overall pick. They traded it to Philadelphia and wound up with Texas A&M guard Kenyon Green at No. 15. Green may end up being a solid player, but has a guard ever turned around the direction of a franchise?

The Texans went 4-13 last season. They’ll be lucky to win four games this year.

NEW YORK JETS: Commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t get as many boos from Jets fans as he did back when the draft was held at Radio City Music Hall. He should have. The Jets had a chance to get Thibodeaux and fill their biggest need.

Instead, they made the same mistake the Texans did and drafted a cornerback too soon, taking Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner at No. 4. The Jets also veered off the track from their biggest needs at No. 10 when they chose Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson. He’s a nice player, but he doesn’t fill a huge need.

The Jets finally did get a pass rusher when they traded back into the first round to get Florida State linebacker Jermaine Johnson II at No. 26. He has lots of potential, but he’s far from a sure thing.

The Jets came into the draft with a great chance to improve. At the end of the night, they didn’t look much better.

BALTIMORE RAVENS: The Ravens drafted Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton at No. 14. That’s anywhere from five to 15 spots too high.

Yeah, Hamilton was a productive college player, but there are questions about his ability to be an impact player on the next level: What about that 4.7 time in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine? And is Hamilton a safety or a linebacker?

Baltimore’s biggest need heading into the draft was on the defensive line, where the Ravens haven’t used a first-round pick since Haloti Ngata in 2006. Coming out of the first night of the draft, defensive line still is Baltimore’s biggest need.

On a night when the Ravens made multiple trades, drafting Hamilton wasn’t their only puzzling move. They traded Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, a 1,000-yard receiver last year, to the Arizona Cardinals. At least the Ravens made one move that made some sense when they used the No. 25 pick on Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum. It’s hard to find a center that turns out to be a bust.

–Pat Yasinskas, Field Level Media

Former NFL draft analyst Rob Rang is now a scout for the BC Lions.

For Rob Rang, football scouting is a chosen language

It’s not uncommon for professional football talent evaluators to make the jump into the media.

In at least one case, the pipeline can also flow the other way.

Former NFL draft analyst Rob Rang is now on the other side of the fence. A prominent presence around the draft with multiple outlets, Rang is digging into this week’s event from a different perspective.

After years of writing player profile reports and evaluations for websites and magazines, Rang was hired by the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League in January. He’ll serve as a regional scout focusing on the Pac-12, Big Sky and Mountain West Conferences.

“We didn’t hire him because he is a nice guy, even though he is a very nice guy,’” Lions director of U.S. college scouting Ryan Rigmaiden said. “We hired him because he’s excellent at his job.’”

Rang, 46, has been writing scouting reports since his college days at Central Washington. It started when he and other potential teachers were in an introductory computer class in which the students could write about whatever they chose.

“Most of them were doing stuff on English, history or math,” Rang said. “I said, ‘Why not write about draft stuff?’ The professor told me I should pursue that because it was drawing a lot of traffic.”

From there, two careers were born.

Rang stuck to his plan of becoming an English and social studies teacher. He currently teaches at Mount Tahoma (WA) High School, the same school he graduated from.

But, through the years, Rang has built a niche for himself as a talent evaluator in his spare time. He first did it professionally near the end of his college days.

“I was approached by College Football Talk, which was part of what has grown into the monster that Pro Football Talk has become,” Rang said. “They asked me to go to the Senior Bowl and cover it.

“(Former Seattle Seahawks coach) Mike Holmgren was coaching in the game. I introduced myself to him and told him I wanted to be a teacher, but also wanted to evaluate players. Holmgren is a former teacher and we kind of hit it off. He introduced me to some NFL people and told me some other people that I should talk to.”

As Rang got into the media side of the business, he crossed paths with Rigmaiden, who was pursuing a similar career. Although they were writing for competing websites, a friendship quickly formed.

“I guess the best way to put it was that there was a lot of mutual respect,” Rigmaiden said. “I always admired Rob’s attention to detail and the accuracy of his reports in comparison to some of the other bigger names in the media business.”

Rigmaiden made the crossover from writer to scout in 2012 when he joined the Lions. He stayed with them through 2018, then spent 2019 and 2020 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers before returning to the Lions in 2021.

Rang stayed on the media side of things even though he said he had several offers through the years to work for NFL teams.

“I stayed with teaching because I love it,” Rang said. “I love working with students and helping them achieve their goals. I also like the stability of teaching. In football, you might be at a place for a year or two and the general manager gets fired and everybody that works for him gets fired. I never felt like I was ready to completely walk away from teaching.”

As it turned out, Rang didn’t have to give up teaching because Rigmaiden and the Lions came calling with a unique offer.

“We knew he was teaching and wasn’t about to give that up,” Rigmaiden said. “So we made concessions to make it work for him because we really wanted him on our team.”

The arrangement allows for Rang to stay in the classroom Monday through Friday. On Saturdays, he’ll be watching college football. On Sundays, he’ll watch NFL games to keep tabs on players that could end up in the CFL.

Rang also will tour NFL training camps during the summer.

“It’s the best of both worlds, really,” Rang said. “It’s something I had to do. If I didn’t take it, how could I tell my students to go for their dreams if I didn’t go for mine?”

In his new role, Rang will approach this year’s draft from a different perspective. Instead of devoting a lot of his focus to players that are expected to be taken in the early rounds, he’ll look in another direction.

“From a CFL perspective, we’ll be looking at guys from the fifth round and later and also potential undrafted free agents,” Rang said. “Some of those guys might not be available to the CFL for a couple of years, but we want to have scouting reports on them so we’re ready with information on them when the time comes.”

It will make for a busy weekend for Rang as he scrambles to present his bosses with evaluations on players that may be available. But, just like in his days as a media member, he’ll be writing on deadline.

“I’ll be back in the classroom first thing Monday morning,” Rang said.

–By Pat Yasinskas, Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2021; Eugene, Oregon, USA; Oregon Ducks defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) warms-up with players before play California Golden Bears at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

2022 NFL Draft: Where will Kayvon Thibodeaux land?

Where Kayvon Thibodeaux will be selected on Thursday night has turned into one of the great storylines ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft.

The former Oregon star spent all of last season as the favorite by PointsBet to be the No. 1 overall pick in 2022, and didn’t disappoint while leading the Ducks with 19 sacks in only 31 career games. He remained the favorite to go No. 1 until he was passed by Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson in mid-December.

The two pass rushers were viewed as jockeying for the top spot through much of the pre-draft process before offensive tackles Evan Neal from Alabama and N.C. State’s Ikem Ekwonu entered the conversation.

That was until Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker emerged earlier this week as the new consensus favorite to go No. 1.

Much of the fluctuation can be attributed to analysts trying to determine what the Jacksonville Jaguars intend to do with the top pick. They have a franchise quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, so how best do they want to build around him?

It now appears it won’t be with an edge rusher like Thibodeaux, who was compared by one Field Level Media draft analyst to the Washington Commanders’ Chase Young.

Thibodeaux’s Over/Under draft selection spot at BetMGM is now 4.5, with 58 percent of the bets and 68 percent of the handle backing the Under at -150. He is being offered at +300 to go No. 2 overall and +700 to go No. 3.

Detroit currently owns the second pick, followed in the top five by Houston, the New York Jets and New York Giants.

Hutchinson’s odds haven’t fallen quite as dramatically. He’s now +300 to go No. 1 but -200 to be the second name called on draft night. BetMGM is no longer offering an Over/Under on his exact draft selection spot.

How far Thibodeaux drops after the second pick promises to be one of the main storylines during the top 10.

He is viewed as a one-a-class type of athlete who comes off the edge with speed and a shocking amount of power to uproot offensive tackles. Thibodeaux is also athletic enough to drop back into coverage with running backs and get his hands up to disrupt passing lanes.

How well he can hold the edge in run defense is the primary question analysts have, and Thibodeaux will need to increase his repertoire of pass rush moves in the pros.

Thibodeaux was being offered at +700 to go No. 3 overall by BetMGM on Wednesday, behind LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. (+200). That could mean one of the New York teams — or another team eager to move up — could snag one of the draft’s top pass rushers far lower than Thibodeaux was expected to go just weeks ago.

–Field Level Media

Jan 30, 2020; Miami, Florida, USA; Artist rendering of the 2020 NFL Draft stage in Las Vegas on the lake in front of the Bellagio hotel with boats ferrying players and VIPs to the action on display at he Super Bowl LIV Experience at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jaguars on clock on eve of unpredictable NFL draft

For the second consecutive year, the Jacksonville Jaguars hold the cards atop the NFL draft.

Unlike the 2021 class, there are no sure things on the eve of the 2022 NFL Draft, which will air from stages in and around Las Vegas and the world beginning Thursday night.

“We worry about our board and how we have players valued,” Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke said. “I really don’t pay much attention to what other people are thinking or saying because you don’t know. You don’t know what’s fact. You don’t know what’s fiction at this point. This is a unique period where I think there’s a lot of guys that are valued very similar.”

Baalke and owner Shad Khan were in lockstep in April 2021 when Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence was their pick following months of in-person and Zoom conversations with the team. Those calls also included coach Urban Meyer, who was fired before the end of the season and replaced by Doug Pederson, a Super Bowl championship coach with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Khan and Pederson said a meeting Wednesday would be used to “solidify” the Jaguars’ draft board. The consensus No. 1 player available is Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. He rebounded from a leg injury to record 14 sacks for the Wolverines last season and carries himself with the “Everybody’s All-American” demeanor that attracted Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh to offer him a scholarship.

The separation between Hutchinson and the pack is tighter than previous years in part because there is no clear-cut pecking order among the quarterback class.

Field Level Media’s Mark Jarvis rates Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett and Liberty’s Malik Willis as first-round picks with Matt Corral (Ole Miss) and Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati) among the top 50 prospects available.

Jacksonville’s direction might alter the plans of the Detroit Lions at No. 2. Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, Cincinnati cornerback Sauce Gardner, Georgia defensive end Travon Walker and three offensive tackles — NC State’s Ike Ekwonu, Alabama’s Evan Neal and Charles Cross from Mississippi State — also carry top-10 grades.

Walker entered the discussion at No. 1 when he clocked a 4.51-second 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine at 6-foot-5, 272 pounds.

“I truly feel it’s a blessing just to be in a position that people talk about me No. 1 coming from a lot of people really sleeping on me,” Walker said Tuesday.

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said scouts are not new to the scene regarding Walker’s rare traits at his size. His 10-yard split of 1.54 seconds, faster than Hutchinson (1.61) and Thibodeaux (1.56), and Walker’s 36-inch vertical in Indianapolis opened eyes, too.

“He’s a freak,” Smart said, adding Walker’s 35 1/2-inch arm length also separates him from peers. “He’s got a lot of length. He’s an incredible athlete.”

Arm length has been the knock on Hutchinson, who measured 32 1/8 inches at the combine, but there are evaluators more focused on his on-field production.

Vegas odds shifted this week in Walker’s favor.

Neal and Ekwonu are coveted left tackles but the Jaguars signed Cam Robinson to a three-year deal and the Lions used their first-round pick on Penei Sewell last year.

That throws open the dart board for multiple teams behind the Lions, but the Houston Texans are set at left tackle with Laremy Tunsil and might be inclined to go with a defensive back or top remaining pass rusher depending on how the board falls for general manager Nick Caserio. He said six teams likely have six different players rated as the best at most positions.

“This draft, generally speaking, it’s a little bit of a crapshoot,” Caserio said. “I think there’s players that are all over the place. I don’t think there’s a consensus on any player.”

–New York, New York
The Jets are slated to pick fourth, one spot before the Giants in the first round. Both teams have multiple first-round picks and two selections in the top 10.

General manager Joe Douglas and the Jets are building around 2021 first-round pick Zach Wilson and targeting blocking help and skill-position weapons. But Douglas is known for coveting defense and applying a “best player available” strategy.

“There’s pressure every offseason, but obviously this year, having four picks in the top 38, if we do this the right way, it could really be special,” Douglas said.

The Giants reportedly met Wednesday to make a decision on the fifth-year option of quarterback Daniel Jones. Not picking up his 2023 salary would change the thinking of how new general manager Joe Schoen might invest his two top-10 picks. The Giants have picks No. 5 and No. 7 thanks to the 2021 draft-day trade with the Bears that netted quarterback Justin Fields for Chicago.

But that move, just like the Jones pick, were made by a different general manager and head coach.

Hired after helping rebuild the Buffalo Bills as assistant GM, Schoen was transparent in his desire to shore up the offensive line.

“If you want to build it up on both sides of the ball, build it up front. Offensive line, that’s very important,” he said.

–Receiver records
As many as seven wide receivers are considered first-round talents by Field Level Media and teams are likely to vary dramatically in their ranking of the order with Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and Southern California’s Drake London in the thick of that race.

Seven wide receivers were drafted in the first round of the 2004 draft, including Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals), Roy Williams (Lions) and Lee Evans (Bills).

Alabama’s Jameson Williams might be gone sooner than expected. Williams’ talent is not the question, but how teams view his draft value coming off of a torn ACL in the national championship game.

The Green Bay Packers traded Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders and are closely studying options to replace the All-Pro. Green Bay has two first-round picks.

“The last few have been pretty deep, and I think this one is another one,” Packers GM Brian Gutekunst said.

–Field Level Media

Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Liberty quarterback Malik Willis (QB16) goes through a drill during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Malik Willis favored over Kenny Pickett to be first QB taken in draft

The oddsmakers like Liberty quarterback Malik Willis to be the first quarterback selected in this week’s NFL draft.

The margin between Willis and Pitt’s Kenny Pickett is close, but Willis is the narrow favorite at multiple sportsbooks as of Tuesday, two days before the first round is held in Las Vegas.

Willis was the -190 favorite at DraftKings, with Pickett also owning reasonably short odds at +170. At BetMGM, Willis opened at -155 and Pickett was next at +130.

Then there is a considerable gap between them and the third option, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder. Ridder stood at +800 at BetMGM and +1000 at DraftKings. Matt Corral of Ole Miss was fourth (+1600 at BetMGM, +1800 at DraftKings).

Willis led the Flames in both passing and rushing in 2021, putting up 2,857 passing yards and 27 touchdowns while rushing for 878 yards and 13 more scores. He guided the Flames to an 8-5 record and a 56-20 victory in the LendingTree Bowl over Eastern Michigan.

Pickett burst onto the national scene in his senior season, leading Pitt to its first ACC championship and being named a Heisman Trophy finalist. He ranked fifth in the nation in passing yards (4,319) and third in passing touchdowns (42).

The top five teams in the draft order — the Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, New York Jets and New York Giants — are not expected to take a quarterback. The Carolina Panthers, at No. 6 overall, are the first team that may be interested in a quarterback.

The Atlanta Falcons (eighth overall) and Seattle Seahawks (ninth) are also in the market for a quarterback after trading away Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson, respectively.

–Field Level Media