The NFL Draft has come and gone. Which teams found the game changers they needed? Here are bold predictions for every team’s draft.
Welcome to the NFL Draft Recap for the Say It Again Network. For those of you that followed my Mock Draft series throughout the year, I genuinely thank you. This draft season was one of the more unpredictable ones in quite some time, and it was cool to take a prediction-only spin on the draft process.
However, now we get into the nitty-gritty; seeing what players have the best chance to succeed based on the situations they went to. Some call their draft recap articles “Draft Grades,” but that concept is, forgive me for being blunt, inherently stupid. Anyone’s draft grades are strictly based on their own evaluation of players and team needs. It doesn’t take into account a player that you disliked going to a perfect situation or vice versa. In short, draft grades are just the biases of the draft analyst showing up in article form.
This is why my recap articles on the NFL Draft look a little different. I’m not giving silly letter grades to show who I think had a successful draft and who did not. Instead, I’ve created a bold prediction for each team based on the players they have selected.
Now you’ll get my draft thoughts in the breakdown of each team. However, I wanted to create a draft recap article where there was no confusion about how I came to my conclusions. Unlike my mock draft, these are my predictions based on my thoughts on players and where they wound up.
In short, draft grades don’t prognosticate which players stand the best chance to be successful at the next level. This NFL Draft Recap will do just that.
Buffalo Bills: Kaiir Elam, James Cook, Terrel Bernard, Khalil Shakir, Matt Araiza, Christian Benford, Luke Tenuta, Baylor Spector
The Prediction: The Bills Have a Hall of Famer in This Class; Matt Araiza
The Bills addressed their two primary needs in rounds one and two. Kaiir Elam solves the need for a cornerback opposite Tre’ White. Elam’s length and ball skills should help him succeed in head coach Sean McDermott’s defense.
The selection of James Cook is more questionable because he’s not a true “do-it-all,” back. Having said that, he does things the Bills’ offense needs. Cook is excellent in space and catches the ball out of the backfield. His balance through contact isn’t stellar, but Cook should be a weapon if Buffalo can find ways to get him into space.
The one lock in this class for Buffalo is Matt Araiza. In 2021 Araiza set the single-season FBS record for yards per punt at 51.2. He also led the FBS in punts downed inside the 20 with 40. On top of that, Araiza is also a kicker. He didn’t have the best year last year but he made 22 of 26 in his freshman year. Chances are Araiza sticks to punting, and many expect him to be a pro bowler in that position. However, how cool would it be to see Araiza throw it back and succeed at both spots?
This is one of the more tame “bold predictions.” Araiza has the makings of a punter that changes games. He should be a mainstay in the league for a long time. The only portion of this that’s “bold,” would be Araiza succeeding as a kicker and a punter, but what a sight that would be.
Miami Dolphins: Channing Tindall, Erik Ezukanma, Cameron Goode, Skylar Thompson
The Prediction: Skylar Thompson has a Successful Career as a Backup Quarterback
The Dolphins chose to mortgage their draft in order to get Tua Tagovailoa a true number one receiver. Tyreek Hill is the game-changer this offense needs. While it would’ve been unfair to center the bold prediction around a non-draft pick, allow me to offer one; Hill doesn’t have the impact people expect.
A lot of Hill’s big plays in Kansas City came on crossing patterns and deep shots. My guess is Miami looks to get him the ball in the 0-10 yard window a lot more because of Tagovailoa’s inability to push it down the field. Defenses will be more successful in containing him because of this.
As far as the draft class goes, keep an eye on Skylar Thompson. His tape is extremely inconsistent, but Thompson was once viewed as a potential early pick. He’s good outside of the pocket and actually has decent touch on the ball. He just has a tendency to be wild because of average arm strength and technique issues.
To be a backup though, Thompson has a lot of qualities you look for. He can manage games, he can get the ball out quickly, and he makes plays outside the pocket. If he can clean up some mechanical issues when he’s trying to drive the ball down the field, he could be a quality backup, which is stellar for a seventh-round selection.
New England Patriots: Cole Strange, Tyquan Thornton, Marcus Jones, Jack Jones, Pierre Strong Jr., Bailey Zappe, Kevin Harris, Sam Roberts, Chasen Hines, Andrew Stueber
The Prediction: Cole Strange Might’ve Been Picked Early, But He Becomes a Quality Starter
Look, this draft isn’t pretty. That’s been well documented by the big networks. Tyquan Thornton was picked too early, and he’s not an ideal scheme fit. Marcus Jones and Jack Jones are two gambles in the secondary, and for some reason, the Patriots shot for a backup quarterback with an early day three selection.
The strangest pick, no pun intended, was the Patriots trading backward in round one and selecting an offensive lineman that many had pegged for later on day two. Strange is a mover in the run game and he plays with a high motor. He’s the kind of prospect the Patriots have had success with because his deficiencies are from a technique standpoint. Strange has a tendency to lunge in pass protection instead of keeping his feet moving. This is something the Patriots should be able to clean up quickly.
Overall, it’s a very subpar group. Having said that, Cole Strange should be a successful selection, even if it surprised us at the time of the pick.
New York Jets: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Garrett Wilson, Jermaine Johnson II, Breece Hall, Jeremy Ruckert, Max Mitchell, Michael Clemons
The Prediction: The Jets Found Future Pro Bowlers in this Draft, but Jeremy Ruckert Becomes the Star
The Jets draft was one of the best in 2022 according to most. They used the fourth overall selection on a game-changing man-to-man corner that many feel will be a star in head coach Robert Saleh’s defense. The Jets then selected Garrett Wilson, whose route running and ability to make plays with the ball in his hands should provide an immediate spark to the Jets’ offense. General Manager Joe Douglas then traded up for an edge rusher that can do it all in Jermaine Johnson, and Breece Hall, who has terrific vision between the tackles and the speed to create big plays. Saying the Jets found pro bowlers early in this draft is not particularly bold. However, calling a late third-round selection a future pro bowler is; but that’s how I feel about Jeremy Ruckert.
Ruckert is an excellent blocker, a red zone threat, and a significantly better route runner than people realize. He didn’t get a ton of chances at Ohio State, but he always made the most of his opportunities. Ruckert is 6’5’’ with a really quality catch radius. He’s tailor-made for the LaFleur/Shanahan offense. If you question his ability to be an All-Pro down the line, remember that this offense turned an excellent blocking tight end with the ability to stretch the middle into a star already. That tight end, who also didn’t see a ton of collegiate targets, was George Kittle.
It might be bold to put Ruckert into that category, but that’s why the series is titled “32 Bold Predictions for 32 Teams.”