For all the talk about the depth in the 2022 NFL Draft, you know what the first round will be remembered for? Urgency. There were nine trades on Thursday night alone. Add that to the 11 pick trades that were agreed to before the draft began, and it made for an exciting evening. The only thing happening faster than the swaps were the picks themselves, as most teams didn't spend much time deliberating their choices once they wound up on the clock.
It certainly constituted great theater. Even though there wasn't much star power at the quarterback position -- Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett was the only signal-caller selected, after five quarterbacks were taken in Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft -- there were plenty of stars to be had. All the trading added to the drama, heightening the sense that so many teams believed they could improve their chances with the right rookie (or rookies) joining their franchise. It was just another reason why this NFL offseason has been so wildly entertaining already.
There are still two more days to see what can happen next. As we wait for the next rounds, here's a special edition of The First Read, focusing on who should be happy after the first round and who should be disappointed ...
1) Joe Douglas: The Jets' general manager crushed it in the first round. He wound up getting Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner with the fourth overall pick. He landed Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson with the 10th overall selection. He then traded up to grab Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson II, a prospect considered by many to be a probable top-10 pick, with the 26th overall selection. Nabbing just two of those players would've made for a great night. Adding all three gives the Jets the type of optimism for the future that this franchise has long needed. They found two potential difference-makers for Robert Saleh's defense and a polished target for second-year quarterback Zach Wilson. Well done.
2) A.J. Brown: There was plenty of discussion about the trade that San Francisco 49ers Deebo Samuel badly wants; Brown, meanwhile, wound up getting exactly what he coveted in a deal that sent him from Tennessee to Philadelphia. The Eagles gave up the 18th and 101st overall picks in this draft in the swap for Brown, who also received a four-year, $100 million deal in the process. Brown was a great fit in the Titans' offense, logging 61.7 catches, 998.3 receiving yards and eight receiving TDs per year over his first three pro seasons. He'll be just as dangerous in Philadelphia, where he'll team with other talented targets like DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins and tight end Dallas Goedert. The Eagles have spent most of this offseason talking about how much they believe in third-year pro Jalen Hurts at quarterback. They just gave him a nice, supersized target in the 6-foot-1, 226-pound Brown.
3) Brad Holmes: The Lions GM had to be thrilled about how this first round played out for his franchise. Jacksonville's decision to take Georgia defensive end Travon Walker first overall left the Lions in position to take Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson at No. 2. That means Detroit snagged a great player with local roots and the ability to be a foundational piece in that organization. Holmes then traded up to the 12th overall pick to take Alabama's Jameson Williams, who's easily the most explosive wide receiver in this class, despite coming off a torn ACL suffered in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. The Lions needed more playmakers on their defense and in their passing game. They nailed it with this duo.
4) Kenny Pickett: It's hard to imagine a more ideal scenario for Pickett, the star Pittsburgh quarterback. The further Liberty QB Malik Willis fell, the more likely it seemed that only one quarterback would end up going in the first round. That player turned out to be Pickett, who gets to stay in Pittsburgh after the Steelers selected him with the 20th overall pick. For all the pre-draft talk about Pickett's hand size, the Steelers clearly saw the value in taking a player who literally worked out right next door to them. They also have the luxury of allowing Pickett the time to develop, since veteran QB Mitch Trubisky signed with the franchise earlier this offseason. Pickett had to be aware his Thursday night had the potential to go bad in a hurry. It wound up being a dream ending.
5) Joe Schoen: The Giants GM knew he was in a strong position, as he held the fifth and seventh overall picks in this draft. He made the most of those opportunities. The rise of cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. -- who ultimately went third overall to the Texans -- left the Giants in position to select defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux at No. 5. That also gave the Giants their shot at one of the two best offensive tackles, and they scooped up Alabama's Evan Neal at No. 7 after Carolina selected Ikem Ekwonu at No. 6. You can minimize these moves by saying the Giants would've had a hard time screwing this up. But plenty of teams have mystified with their utilization of high first-round picks. The Giants just added two players who, at varying points in the pre-draft process, were discussed as potential No. 1 overall selections. That's a pretty good night.
1) Malik Willis: No player had a worse night than Willis on Thursday. There was some chatter that the QB could've gone as high as second overall to the Lions. At the very least, the Carolina Panthers had to have serious interest at No. 6. But once the Steelers selected Pickett at No. 20, it was apparent that the only hope for Willis going in the first round involved somebody trading up to grab him. That didn't happen. Now the Liberty star has to return to the green room in Las Vegas for the second round on Friday, all the while knowing there will be plenty of cameras documenting his every move. It sucks for him. He's a talented player with a bright future, but the first round surely was a nightmarish experience -- even if his Twitter account suggests he took it in stride.
2) Aaron Rodgers: The Green Bay Packers came into this draft needing to upgrade the talent at wide receiver. They're still looking to do that after Thursday night, which can't sit well with their star quarterback. Yes, we understand there are still six rounds left, and that the All-Pro receiver the Packers just traded away (Davante Adams) was uncovered in the second round back in 2014. There also was a run on receivers earlier than expected, with five going in the first 16 selections. But let's not overlook the fact that the Lions made a bold move in trading up 20 spots to draft Williams. Even though the Packers selected a couple of promising defenders from Georgia (linebacker Quay Walker and defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt), it felt like they missed an opportunity to do more with an offense that sorely needs to improve its weaponry.
3) Jermaine Johnson II: Aside from Willis going undrafted in Round 1, Johnson's fall was the most surprising news of the night. All we heard leading up to the draft was how much depth there was at the edge rusher spot. There also was little doubt that Johnson was the fourth-best pass-rushing prospect in this class, after Walker, Hutchinson and Thibodeaux. However, multiple teams that needed edge rushers continually passed on him, including the Eagles, Ravens, Texans and Chiefs. These teams all secured players they liked with those picks. It was just stunning to watch a prospect perceived as a top-10 choice land at 26th overall.
4) Deebo Samuel: The Samuel story just became a lot more interesting. The 49ers didn't trade the veteran, who asked out of San Francisco recently. A.J. Brown scored a huge deal after the Titans traded him to the Eagles. A Samuel trade now seems less likely to happen because the 49ers would've needed at least a first-round pick in this draft just to start a discussion. So now we'll see just how badly Samuel wants to leave. He doesn't have a ton of options to voice his discontent, since holding out isn't the same tactic it used to be -- but he has to be miffed about what he watched play out on Thursday night. Two veteran wide receivers were traded (in addition to the A.J. Brown deal, the Ravens sent Marquise Brown to Arizona), and he wasn't one of them.
5) Nakobe Dean: Here's another prospect who came to Vegas looking for a celebration, only to end up in disappointment. Make no mistake, Dean is a baller. The Georgia star flies around the field and hits like a sledgehammer. It's just that linebacker is a position that wasn't moving the needle in this first round, especially with so many edge rushers, wide receivers and offensive tackles in the mix. Dean will find a home in the second round. He surely was happy to watch so many of his college teammates realize their dreams -- a record five George defenders went in the first round -- but now he's still waiting for his glorious moment to arrive.