2022 NFL Draft: Winners and losers from Day 3, final rounds

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2022 NFL Draft: Winners and losers from Day 3, final rounds originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

That’s a wrap on the 2022 NFL Draft.

After three days, 37 in-draft trades and 262 player selections, draft season is officially over. Now, it’s time to analyze every pick before players take the field for rookie minicamps over the next few weeks.

Day 1 is usually easier to judge. Once you get to the final day – rounds four through seven – the draft becomes much more of a crapshoot. For every Tom Brady, George Kittle and Tyreek Hill, there are hundreds of prospects who never even make an NFL roster. But that won’t stop me from jumping to snap conclusions – and I’m fully prepared to have these takes exposed some day.

Here are some winners and losers from Day 3 of the draft:

Loser: Justin Fields

Most of the first-round rookie quarterbacks last year were thrown into difficult situations. By year two, teams usually start to put the pieces around their young signal caller to enable him to improve. The Jaguars and Jets have clearly tried to do that for Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, while the Bears are leaving Fields to fend for himself.

On Day 3, Chicago drafted four offensive linemen, a linebacker, a safety, a running back and a punter. Getting those big bodies to block for Fields is nice, but it’s hard to ignore how thin his weapons are. Darnell Mooney is his top wideout, followed by the recently arrested Byron Pringle and former Packer Equanimeous St. Brown

New general manager Ryan Poles is making life difficult for his 23-year-old franchise QB. He hired a defensive-minded head coach, drafted just one WR (Velus Jones Jr., a soon-to-be 25-year-old third-rounder) and let Allen Robinson walk in free agency. If Fields performs with this group in 2022, he should be hailed as a king.

Winner: ‘Football is family’

This is one of the signature NFL sayings that nobody really understands. Well, it sort of made sense on Day 3 of the draft.

With the No. 208 overall pick, the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted tight end Connor Heyward. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Steelers defensive tackle Cameron Heyward is his brother. The elder Heyward has been in Pittsburgh since 2011, with five Pro Bowls and three First-Team All-Pros. He also had a priceless reaction to the pick:

After adding a second Heyward, the Steelers now have four sets of brothers – T.J. and Derek Watt, Terrell and Trey Edmunds and Carlos and Khalil Davis. Football truly is family in the Steel City, I guess.

Winner: Seattle Seahawks

It’s been a while since the Seahawks were considered draft winners. Since the famed 2012 draft that netted Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner on Day 2, Seattle has struggled to draft and develop talent. Now, after trading Wilson and cutting Wagner, Pete Carroll and John Schneider appear to be back to their old tricks.

Throughout the week, Seattle addressed their needs and filled holes with solid prospects. On Day 3 alone, the Seahawks picked two cornerbacks (Coby Bryant, Tariq Woolen), two receivers (Bo Melton, Dareke Young) and a defensive end (Tyreke Smith).

Now, it’s too soon to tell if the Seahawks have their next group of young stars. But the signs are promising. Bryant won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best corner in 2021. Woolen ran a blistering 4.26 40-yard dash. Melton was widely expected to be a late-round steal leading up to the draft. Seattle still needs a quarterback, but the 2022 draft could go down as a key step in developing the roster around the edges.

Loser: New England Patriots running backs

Twitter had plenty of fun at Bill Belichick’s expense after he drafted Cole Strange in the first round on Thursday. While it remains to be seen how Strange and the rest of the class will pan out, one thing became clear on Day 3: the Patriots love their running backs.

New England drafted RBs Pierre Strong Jr. (No. 127) and Kevin Harris (No. 183), and they’ll join a group that already includes Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, James White, Ty Montgomery, J.J. Taylor and Devine Ozigbo.

Depth is great, especially at running back, but it’s hard to justify adding two of them when the roster had other holes. When the Patriots got run off the field by the Bills in the playoffs, it wasn’t because they needed better backs. Belichick did add some secondary pieces on Day 2 and 3, but I’m left scratching my head as the team currently employs eight running backs.

Winner: Washington Commanders

The Commanders are Carson Wentz’s third team in as many years. And Washington gave up multiple Day 2 picks to acquire Wentz. But that didn’t stop them from adding a quarterback on Day 3.

North Carolina’s Sam Howell was a projected first-round pick prior to the 2021 season. After losing a handful of weapons to the NFL, he regressed statistically in his junior year – 530 less passing yards, six less passing touchdowns and two more interceptions. That dropped him in the draft, all the way to Washington at No. 144 – the first pick of the fifth round.

While Howell isn’t the sure-fire prospect that some once thought he was, it was well worth the dart throw at that stage of the draft. Wentz, 29, has shown that he’s unlikely to develop into a franchise quarterback. As a dual-threat QB, Howell is joining a great situation with head coach Ron Rivera.