The first night of the NFL Draft started with five straight defensive players, and the rest of the night went all to heck! Nine trades went down, the most in a round ever, and big-name WRs Hollywood Brown and A.J. Brown have new homes. But we aren’t here to talk about them fireworks, those of us who love defense had some of our own.
1.01 Jacksonville Jaguars select Travon Walker, DE Georgia
There was speculation that it was Walker, some rumblings suggested otherwise, but in the end – the Jags selected the beastly specimen from Georgia. The first of five Bulldog defenders to hear his name called, Walker is the perfect fit to begin revamping an abysmal defense.
GOOD MORNING pic.twitter.com/eKwmeRvrHt— UGA Hoops Mafia (@UGAHoopsMafia) April 28, 2022
Walker destroyed the combine, running a 4.51 40-yard dash and leaped 35.5” at 6’5” and 272 pounds, showcasing rare athleticism for that size. Despite meager production, perhaps from being surrounded by so much talent, the traits and upside were too much to pass on.
I like Walker from an IDP standpoint, but I am not sure he will have the production we love. His versatility may have him playing inside some, even dropping back in coverage, and Walker won’t be asked to pin his ears back and destroy QBs all the time. Still, I believe he will have a safe floor and consistently be in the 40-50 tackle range with 7-8 sacks. Walker will be an excellent NFL player, and the jury is a bit out for me as far as IDP.
1.02 Detroit Lions select Aidan Hutchinson, DE Michigan
A player who will be asked to destroy QBs, the Lions kept Hutchinson close to home. He will be the anchor for this Lions’ defense for a long time. For the resurgent Wolverines in 2021, Hutchinson set the team record with 14 sacks and 51 hurries. He also was invited to New York as a Heisman finalist. Hutchinson has an impressive speed-to-power combination and will be a handful on the EDGE for many tackles.
Hutchinson will be one of the top IDPs selected in your rookie drafts, and he will get the stats you are looking for as a DE1/EDGE player. He’s going to figure in with tackles; he was able to help with run defense and isn’t a liability in that area. And Hutchinson will get you those shiny, sexy stats like sacks and forced fumbles. Detroit will not be taking him out, and he will be a contender for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
1.03 Houston Texans select Derek Stingley Jr., CB LSU
The Texans had the first surprise pick of the night and continued the defensive trend by selecting Stingley with the third pick. It shouldn’t have been such a surprise with the talent he has displayed in his limited time in college. Stingley is an insanely quick corner with good instincts and loves to tackle. He was an All-American as a freshman and has the potential to be a shutdown CB.
To glance at his IDP prospects, he could be a solid contributor as a corner. As mentioned previously, he will get targeted, and Stingley isn’t afraid to tackle. Rookie corners take some time to develop fully, and I could see him being a CB2/CB3 his first few seasons. If he is a shutdown corner, his IDP value isn’t quite as good as we all know.
1.04 New York Jets select Sauce Gardner, CB Cincinnati
The other corner in the class with enough upside to be taken this high, the Jets began their phenomenal first-round haul by taking this ex-Bearcat. In the same division as Tyreek Hill and Stefon Diggs, Gardner will be tested early, but he will eventually prove up to the task. He’s got great size at 6’3” and 190 pounds but moves like a smaller, more agile corner. Famously, Gardner hasn’t allowed a TD since high school, but the NFL is going to be a massive test. He hasn’t faced as many elite receivers as other corners, like Stingley, but Gardner has all the tools and the attitude you want from your CB1.
IDP – I am shying away from the Sauce, for now, I think he will be tested more, and I don’t view him as good of a tackler as Stingley or a few other CBs in the class. I like his aggressiveness, Gardner will get a few INTs and tackles, but I don’t feel like he is a corner I am targeting in rookie drafts.
1.05 New York Giants select Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE Oregon
The last time defensive players went one through four was 1991, so the Giants brass thought they would go ahead and make it five in a row to set a new precedent. Thibodeaux was my top player entering the draft, and the Giants wisely snapped up one of the top pass rushers in the class. Thibodeaux has the most potential but questions about consistent effort, and he has aspirations to market himself to bigger things. Will The Big Apple feed that or distract him too much?
DE Kayvon Thibodeaux to the #Giants…— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) April 29, 2022
Quicks off the ball. Speed to power. Do think the Giants can create some interior matchups here with Martindale’s multiple fronts/pressures. @NFLMatchup pic.twitter.com/8no0K1CuOM
Thibodeaux is my top EDGE defender for IDP, I love his upside so much, and I think he will answer a lot of doubters. I understand the distractions and lack of effort questions, but to achieve all he wants, Thibodeaux will first have to put it all on film. His get off the line and speed to power conversion is ridiculous. He may not have as big an impact on day one as Hutchinson, but I love his long-term outlook. In my opinion, Hutchinson is closer to his ceiling now, and Thibodeaux still has more growth space to hit his.
INTERMISSION – The NFL realizes there are offensive players too!
1.13 Philadelphia Eagles select Jordan Davis, DT Georgia
Another freak defender goes off the board after our intermission, and the Eagles trade up to take massive DT Davis to man the middle of their aging defense. Fletcher Cox has been there since we had Bill Clinton in office, and now, a player who can have his type of impact will be groomed to take over. Davis is a monster, used mostly in rotation, will crazy athletic scores in a 6’6” and 341-pound package. I love this from an NFL standpoint.
As far as IDP, if you have balanced scoring and DT scoring is a bit ‘enhanced,’ Davis could be a DT1 early, even if used in a rotation. He creates pressure up the middle and chips in tackles in run defense. I love his upside, and Cox was a force for many years in IDP from the interior – I expect the same from Davis.
1.14 Baltimore Ravens select Kyle Hamilton, S Notre Dame
Thank goodness I didn’t write this last night. I am a Bengals fan, and the NFL let one of the best safeties in the last decade of drafts fall to pick 14. I had a few choice words for every team before this.
So now I have to live with Hamilton lurking in the defensive backfield of our rivals for the next dozen years. He has the versatility you want in a safety and will team with Marcus Wiliams to give the Ravens a nasty duo. Hamilton covers massive amounts of field, can cover, tackle, and be a leader on and off the field. He was my second overall ranked defensive player, and I love this fit. Even if I hate it personally.
S Kyle Hamilton to the #Ravens— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) April 29, 2022
Scheme fit in a very multiple system. Explosive, forward ability. Play top-down on the ball. Be disruptive at different levels.
Baltimore signed Marcus Williams in free agency, too. Adding playmakers in the secondary here. @NFLMatchup pic.twitter.com/WNugndRNor
He’s my top safety in the class, but I wonder if his versatility hinders his IDP ceiling. We love those safeties that get in the box and get 100 tackles. Hamilton may not be in the box as much as we like due to his versatility. He can thump, though – he tackles and gets after QBs. Hamilton will be great in the NFL and an S1/S2 in fantasy. I love him and am targeting him. I am not sure he gets to the production level of Derwin James and Jamal Adams, but he is in that stratosphere as far as talent.
1.21 Kansas City Chiefs select Trent McDuffie, CB Washington
The Chiefs moved up to grab one of the top CBs left on the board and possibly the team’s biggest need. McDuffie has good cover skills and is an intelligent corner from a program producing top corners for a while. The fit for K.C. is perfect, and he will be thrust into the starting lineup right away.
McDuffie will see a mess of targets, and tackle opportunities will follow. He should see tackles and pass deflections and be a solid IDP asset as far as CBs go. I like the choice by the Chiefs and will be adding him to a few rosters as a startable CB2/3 option.
1.22 Green Bay Packers select Quay Walker, LB Georgia
Another Bulldog defender is gone, and the Packers gain a versatile LB who can do a little of everything. I had seen Walker mocked as high as pick eight, and the Packers got a significant upgrade to an LB unit that severely needed it. Walker fits the mold of modern LBs. He has phenomenal range and recognizes plays quickly. Coverage is not an issue, and he can get after QBs too. Walker has excellent size at 6’4” and 241 pounds and can play any LB spot.
Just got back to the room anddddd I guess we’re watching some UGA film!— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) April 29, 2022
Quay Walker 👀 pic.twitter.com/LSdiW9QsHC
Look at how much ground he covers and that speed! Walker should be one of the top LBs taken in rookie drafts, but I am unsure where he will fall as far as IDP production. D’Vondre Campbell will rake in loads of tackles, but Walker can get his. The Pack may play him more off the ball, and his stats could never be what we hope for an LB1.
1.23 Buffalo Bills select Kaair Elam, CB Florida
The Bills moved up a few picks to take the former Gator, and Elam should be a phenomenal corner to start opposite Tre’Davious White. Elam has length and speed, 6’1” and 190 pounds with a 4.39 40-yard, with NFL bloodlines and an excellent pedigree. The Bills had the number one defense but were a bit exposed in the playoffs, although White was out. Corner depth is critical in this league.
I like Elam as a source of tackles for IDP purposes, and I love his aggressiveness in going after the ball. He will be targeted A TON when White returns, and although not a phenomenal tackler, Elam does wrap up well. He will have the opportunity to produce from IDP stats for us degenerates.
1.26 New York Jets select Jermaine Johnson, DE Florida State
The Jets finished their first-round coup by moving up a taking a player many had in their top ten. Johnson was ACC Defensive Player of the Year and then had a great Senior Bowl and combine, showcasing phenomenal athleticism at 6’5” and 262 pounds. This may have been one of the best picks of the first day, and I love his upside in the NFL.
Although maybe not as refined of a pass rusher as Hutchinson or Thibodeaux, Johnson has a good variety of moves and is solid in run defense. I project him as a solid DE2/EDGE defender with a good floor for tackles and a player who can still flirt with double-digit sack numbers. I love his motor, and we may be only seeing glimpses of what he could be.
1.27 Jacksonville Jaguars select Devin Lloyd, LB Utah
The Jags trade up and add another impact player to a defense that sorely needed it. Walker patrols the line, and now Lloyd instantly slots in and leads the defense from the middle of the LB corps. Lloyd is an older prospect, but he is intelligent and can be a three-down, green-dot-wearing player from day one. He is rangy and tough. Lloyd will give the Jaguars’ defense a new identity instantly.
IDP – yes, please give me all the Devin Lloyd if I don’t already have it. He was one of my favorite players coming in and landed in a perfect place for IDP production. Lloyd is going to rake in tackles and never leave the field. I wouldn’t be surprised if he flirts with LB1 numbers in 2022 and fills the role Myles Jack vacated perfectly.
1.28 Green Bay Packers select Devonte Wyatt, DT Georgia
The Packers added another Georgia defender to the earlier Quay Walker pick, and Wyatt will give them a solid quartet to rotate on the DL. Wyatt can move all over, with the size to get push inside and enough speed to get around the end and set the edge when needed.
As far as IDP, this is a much better pick from the NFL standpoint, and I’m not expecting much from Wyatt. He may have some value if he gets DT designation, but as a DE, I would only roster him as depth. Wyatt is an excellent fit in the NFL for the Pack, but I am not seeing much value in IDP.
1.30 Kansas City Chiefs select George Karlaftis, DE Purdue
The Chiefs address defense again, despite the entire world mocking them WRs. Karlaftis will team with Frank Clark and Chris Jones to give the Chiefs a ferocious pass rush. The former Boilermaker is relentless and powerful, perhaps not as nuanced. He does not give up. The Chiefs likely will groom him in case they can’t afford Clark in 2023 and the team needs to move on.
I like Karlaftis as a solid depth DE/EDGE guy in my IDP leagues, but I don’t believe he has the upside as Hutch, Thibo, or Jermaine. Karlaftis can get sacks, but I don’t love him in run defense or as an overall defender. I like him as a spot starter and a depth guy, but I fear we may have already seen his ceiling, and he won’t be much more in the NFL.
1.31 Cincinnati Bengals select Daxton Hill, S Michigan
While it’s not Hamilton, my Bengals get a heckuva consolation prize in the former Wolverine safety. Hill is a player with sub-4.4 speed and versatility to cover from the slot or even come up in the box and get after the QB. The Bengals didn’t have many “needs,” but Hill will fill in all over the secondary and give them an option if they decide to move on from Jessie Bates.
#Michigan safety Daxton Hill— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) March 9, 2022
Fluid, sudden. Transition speed + range. Long frame. Disruptive in the slot. Multi-dimensional traits/versatility in a pro secondary. @NFLMatchup pic.twitter.com/JTgrrvN35u
Once again, I hate when players are phenomenal NFL assets, but for IDP, it’s hard to value them. But Hill could fit that bill. His versatility will get him on the field, but his role will be hard to pin down. He will get some tackles in run defense, a few sacks, some pass deflections, and possibly a few turnovers. However, how that adds up for IDP is very hard to gauge. I have him as an S2/S3 with upside to give you a few really strong weeks.
1.32 Minnesota Vikings select Lewis Cine, S Georgia
It’s fitting to end the first round with another Bulldog defender, and Cine is my favorite of the bunch from an IDP standpoint. He’s a violent defender, and his highlights are littered with plays of him blowing up poor offensive players. Cine has the range to cover as a deep safety but excels operating near the line of scrimmage, covering the slot, or in the box in support.
Despite his versatility, I project Cine to be good for IDP rosters. He plays enough in the box or near the line to make an impact and will be a good source for tackles. Cine gets downhill in a hurry and recognizes plays, and his instincts will be on full display in Minnesota. Pairing him with Harrison Smith is actually pretty unfair.
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