The 2022 NFL Draft was a bit of a roller coaster ride, with teams moving up and down the board to acquire blue-chip prospects. Although it takes a few years to determine whether the players selected on draft day were ultimately worth the gamble, it is never too early to make some bold proclamations about some of the players in this year's class.
Given some time to evaluate the entire 2022 draft, I decided to make a list of my favorite selections over the weekend. Here are 10 perfect fits, listed according to draft order:
Drafted: No. 5 overall (Round 1)
This marriage could be a match made in heaven. Setting aside the pre-draft narratives -- what he called "misinformation" -- surrounding the Oregon standout's focus, the 6-foot-4, 254-pounder is a five-star pass rusher with a blockbuster game that could explode coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale's defensive scheme. Thibodeaux's exceptional first-step quickness and burst complement a dazzling array of pass-rush maneuvers and counters that will make him hard to handle on the edges. Moreover, Martindale's experience with big personalities (like Terrell Suggs, Marcus Peters and Matthew Judon in Baltimore, among others) could help him find the right words to inspire Thibodeaux to play at a breakneck pace for 60 minutes. If that happens, the Giants' defense could be a nightmare to deal with in 2022 and beyond.
Drafted: No. 14 overall (Round 1)
The Ravens have a long history of drafting Pro Bowl-caliber players in the first round, particularly on defense. The tradition should continue after the best defender in the draft fell to them at pick No. 14. The arrival of marquee free-agent safety Marcus Williams earlier this offseason did not prevent Baltimore from taking the best player available in the middle of the first round. Hamilton's size (6-4, 220 pounds), versatility and play-making skills could prompt the Ravens to utilize more three-safety looks, with Williams, Hamilton and Chuck Clark spending time together on the field in a variety of sub-packages. Considering how the Chargers' Derwin James and other versatile defenders are making their mark as super-sized box safeties, it's possible the Ravens landed the league's next defensive superstar -- and they didn't even have to move around the board to get him.
Drafted: No. 30 overall (Round 1)
Placing the Purdue standout on a front line that already features Chris Jones and Frank Clark could help push the Chiefs' defense into the ranks of the elite. As a power player with heavy hands and a non-stop motor, Karlaftis complements the speed-rushing prowess of Clark and the "beat 'em up" approach employed by Jones at the line of scrimmage. Moreover, he brings a little attitude and nastiness that will raise the bar for a group that responded well to Pro Bowler Melvin Ingram's enthusiasm and physicality after he was added during the 2021 season. With Karlaftis poised to step into Ingram's shoes, the Chiefs' defense should close the gap on the competition in the AFC.
Drafted: No. 34 overall (Round 2)
The Packers have a history of developing non-first-round wideouts -- and Watson could become the next pass-catcher to climb to the top of the charts as an ultra-productive playmaker. The North Dakota State product is a big-play machine with the size (6-4, 208 pounds) and speed to dominate one-on-one battles on the perimeter. Although it might take some time for the small-school standout to adjust to the speed and rhythm of the NFL, Watson could join a growing list of second-round pass catchers (SEE: Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown, DK Metcalf and Michael Thomas) who quickly outshined their draft status to earn all-star honors. With Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball his way, the rookie is my dark-horse contender for 2022 Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Drafted: No. 36 overall (Round 2)
It is hard to find a better scheme fit than Hall's electric one-cut style and the Jets' zone-based running game. The Iowa State star is a crafty runner with the balance, body control and vision to consistently identify and explode through cracks at the point of attack. In addition, Hall is a sticky-fingered pass-catcher with receiver-like route-running ability out of the backfield. Although he will likely split time with Michael Carter to start the season, it is possible that Hall emerges as the kind of workhorse back this team has been looking for over the past decade.
Drafted: No. 47 overall (Round 2)
The Commanders seem to love shopping for defensive linemen from Tuscaloosa, who display a pro-ready nature and high-end skills at the collegiate level. Mathis will join fellow Crimson Tide products Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne on a front that should dominate with its individual and collective talent at the line of scrimmage. An underrated pass rusher with A+ run-stopping skills, Mathis should make immediate contributions as a 300-plus rotational defender for Jack Del Rio's four-man front.
Drafted: No. 56 overall (Round 2)
The ultra-explosive pass rusher from Ole Miss is exactly what the Cowboys need in the rotation to replace some of the energy and disruption that left the building when Randy Gregory signed with the Broncos. Williams is a productive sack artist with a résumé that features impressive numbers at the JUCO and collegiate levels, including a 12.5-sack effort last season against SEC competition as a pass-rushing freak in a three-man scheme. If coordinator Dan Quinn can carve out a role for Williams to maximize his athleticism and pass-rushing talents as a "super-sub" off the Cowboys' bench, complementing Micah Parsons and Demarcus Lawrence, the rookie will add another dimension to a defense that could overwhelm opponents with its collective speed and athleticism.
Drafted: No. 70 overall (Round 3)
As a versatile traffic cop with exceptional instincts, awareness and diagnostic skills, Muma is an ideal "green-dot" candidate for the Jaguars. Not only is the Wyoming standout capable of making the calls on defense, but he could become a primary playmaker early in his career. Whether Muma registers his production as a starter, a rotational defender or a special teams demon in Year 1, it is only a matter of time before he assumes a huge role on a defense that could feature a number of young, athletic freaks in the lineup.
Drafted: No. 86 overall (Round 3)
Willis' surprising slide might end up being a blessing in disguise for the Liberty standout. As a rookie stepping into an organization with a former Pro Bowl quarterback (Ryan Tannehill) at the helm, Willis will have a chance to learn the game as an apprentice instead of being rushed onto the field. The patient approach will not only enable him to refine his game as a passer from the pocket, but the reps on the practice field will help him understand the complexities of NFL blitzes and coverage. Remember that the late Steve McNair, who was named to three Pro Bowls and won MVP in 2003, didn't become the franchise's full-time starter until his third pro season; the organization could experience a bit of deja vu in a few seasons when Willis takes over.
Drafted: No. 123 overall (Round 4)
Despite coming off the board in the fourth round, Spiller could become an essential piece to the Chargers' offensive puzzle as a potential RB1. The Texas A&M standout is a dynamic runner with the size (6-0, 217 pounds), speed and big-play potential to occupy a lead role for a team that needs more pop from the running game. If Spiller is capable of handling the responsibilities of being the lead back, it would enable Austin Ekeler -- who is tied for 21st in the NFL in yards per carry (4.48) in the two seasons since he became the Bolts' top ball-carrier -- to reprise his role as a change-of-pace weapon in the rotation. With more diversity in the RB corps, the Chargers could attack opponents with a multi-faceted offense that alleviates some of the pressure on Justin Herbert and Co. to carry the load with the passing game.