2022 NFL Draft Day 1 Recap

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Titans and Eagles overshadow the rookies with stunning A.J. Brown swap

The Titans’ front office decided they didn’t want to pay A.J. Brown and that was that. A team known to be desperate for receiver help in Philadelphia landed an established option instead of a first-round lottery ticket for the highly-reasonable price of a first- and third-round pick. Who cares about the $100 million contract when the quarterback is still on his rookie deal? Going from one run-heavy offense with shaky play under center to another, AJB’s fantasy prognosis might change less than people think. He is still going to be a WR1 spiked week waiting to happen whenever healthy. As for the players around him, it’s a different story. Brown’s arrival is devastating for DeVonta Smith coming off his uneven rookie campaign, while Dallas Goedert’s forecasted targets increase yet again might not come to pass. The Titans? More on that in a minute.

Titans immediately attempt to replace AJB with Treylon Burks

If you are going to swap out A.J. Brown for a rookie, you might as well do so with Burks, an AJB-ian talent with instant speed and ferocity after the catch. 6-foot-2 Burks is like a Darren McFadden who can actually find the edge. Instinctual and oh-so-strong, Burks and his 4.55 speed could prove to be a gear too slow at the NFL level, but his unique skill-set was every bit worth betting on for a team that just traded a YAC monster in Brown. Burks will be of great fantasy intrigue in 2022 drawing looks in this hyper-thin skill corps.

While the Eagles were giving up No. 18 for a proven star receiver, the Cardinals were giving up No. 23 for unproven fourth-year pro Marquise Brown

If you ask Brown, he’ll say he was held back by Greg Roman’s passing-hostile system. He favorited a tweet to that effect following his trade. If you ask anyone who has watched the Ravens, they will say Brown has tantalized but made just as many mistakes as big plays. Drops may be a noisy stat, but they have remained legion for Brown, especially in the end zone. It is unclear what problem he is solving for the Cardinals, as Brown would not be capable of carrying the mail were DeAndre Hopkins to again miss extended time with injury. Brown could, of course, greatly benefit from the lighter looks he will face as a role-playing No. 2 instead of a miscast No. 1. A top-24 fantasy finish will be within the range of outcomes. So will falling out of the top 40. That is Hollywood for you.

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Steelers make Pitt’s Kenny Pickett the first — and only — quarterback off the board at No. 20

The last time the first quarterback was taken this late was 1997. That it was Pickett and not Malik Willis was not necessarily a surprise, though it was a choice befitting of this class. Instead of opting for Willis or Matt Corral’s ceiling, the Steelers kept the safety on with Pickett, a player whose selection prompted an immediate hand size conversation amongst the ESPN desk. That was the layman’s first sign this might not be the highest-wattage pick. A team that reloads instead of rebuilds, the Steelers are betting Pickett’s floor will be high enough to prop up what remains an impressive skill corps. We have our doubts, but it has rarely been profitable to question outgoing Steelers GM Kevin Colbert. At the very least, Pickett is talented enough to lock onto Diontae Johnson. It is more mixed without outside dynamo Chase Claypool, as Pickett’s arm strength does not exactly recall Ben Roethlisberger in his prime.

Falcons begin to pick up the pieces at receiver with USC’s Drake London

The Falcons already had one of the league’s most talent-bereft receiver corps before Calvin Ridley’s indefinite suspension and Russell Gage’s departure in free agency. After, it was difficult to even call it expansion level. An expansion draft, after all, would have at least netted a starter or two. London is the first of the pieces to be picked up. A mountainous 6-foot-4, 219 pounds, London plays up to his frame. That is both good and bad. Although he is an adept box-out artist, London was not an elite separator in the PAC-12. He needed every inch of his size to secure the ball. NFL defenses will be far better equipped to match London’s style than Oregon State or Utah. London is shifty and fluid once the ball gets in his hands — he was a fixture on screens in Los Angeles — it’s just a matter of getting it there. Ideally, he would not be an instant No. 1, but that pressure will be on with the rebuilding Falcons. As for fantasy, despite the space concerns, London’s prowess on quick outs and designed looks will make him a candidate for a huge rookie receptions total in this targets-desperate offense. WR3 is a realistic projection.

Jets go chalk at No. 10, continue to build receiver corps with Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson

The Jets are not making the same mistake twice. After failing to find weapons for would-be franchise player Sam Darnold, they are surrounding Zach Wilson with all the pass catchers they can find, and doing so with versatile, complementary skill-sets. Whereas Corey Davis is a classic sideline artist and Elijah Moore is a middle-of-the-field menace, Wilson is somewhere in the middle of his new teammates in terms of both size and role. Capable of playing inside and out, Wilson also boasts 4.38 wheels. He was a consistent producer in crowded Buckeyes offenses. There is more rawness to his game than you might like at 10 overall, but he has enough special traits that he is worth the bet. As for fantasy, Wilson could have trouble compiling enough counting stats to crack the top 36 as a rookie as the Jets search for their offensive identity in what is becoming a crowded skill group.

Saints trade up in attempt to fix receiver corps, pair OSU speed demon Chris Olave with Michael Thomas

First things first: Anecdotally, it feels like the Saints have more all-time first-round trade ups for non-quarterbacks than the rest of the league combined. This time it was for Buckeyes burner Olave, a perfect complement to the “slant king” Thomas and a desperately — and we do mean desperately — needed infusion of talent in a receiver corps that had no answers with Thomas on the sideline most of the past two years. A body contortionist who finds the soft spots between levels of the defense, Olave is a smooth operator who explodes off the line and boasts excellent ball skills. He also runs a 4.39 40-yard dash, which comes highly recommended for an NFL wideout. Already capable of getting loose down the field with his elite speed, Olave profiles as a strong fit with deep-ball demigod Jameis Winston, though he has the game to be more than a one-trick pony. Even with target monster Thomas finally healthy, there will be looks for the taking in New Orleans, making Olave instantly fantasy relevant.

In search of weapons, Lions land upside freak Jameson Williams

The fourth of four receivers off the board between picks 8-12, Williams arguably offers more upside than any of the wideouts taken ahead of him. There are just two minor details: He is recovering from a torn ACL and will be catching his rookie passes from Jared Goff. Although Goff’s deep-ball aversion might cap Williams’ 2022 upside, his long-term potential remains a Tyreek Hill-ian weapon who will be the fastest player on most fields. He was also ludicrously productive for a typically-loaded 2021 Alabama squad, and would probably have a national championship ring had he not injured his knee in the first half against Georgia. No one would laugh if you made Williams the first pick in your dynasty rookie draft.

Commanders keep the wide receiver run going with PSU’s Jahan Dotson

Good as he is, Terry McLaurin is not special enough to sustain a receiver corps all by himself. Enter Dotson, who boasts NFL level quicks and field sense, but is a wafer-thin 5-foot-11, 178 pounds. Just like new Falcons WR Drake London, Dotson looks as small on film as London does big. The looks can be deceiving with Dotson, as he is capable of making plays “above the rim” as NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein terms it. The 2022 question is, will Carson Wentz ever throw it there? Playing behind a true NFL alpha with a bad quarterback under center, Dotson will have trouble crashing the top-40 scene as a rookie fantasy wideout.