LAKE FOREST – So what was the biggest story of the first round of the 2022 NFL draft?
Even though we knew, or at least strongly suspected they were coming, it has to be the trades. With press deadlines and the round not close to complete as I write here, I haven’t had a chance to research it but 10 trades in the first 27 picks – and all between 11 and 27 – has to be a record of some kind.
We knew coming in this was one of the most unpredictable drafts ever. It didn’t disappoint.
And it wasn’t just the trades, but some of the reasons they happened.
Anyone who says they saw the Titans trading wide receiver A.J. Brown to the Eagles for the 18th pick plus a third rounder could never pass a lie detector test.
It got that much more interesting when they used the pick to take Arkansas wideout Treylon Burks, absolutely the closest comp to a Brown or Deebo Samuel-type weapon in this draft.
It was a salary cap move, plain and simple, and will probably prove to be a test case for the next eight or nine drafts until the current CBA expires.
Brown was a Pro Bowl bird in the hand. While Burks has the same traits, it’s a real gamble they’ll translate to the next level as Brown’s did.
But keeping Brown would have cost Tennessee so much money that it would certainly also have cost them other good talent they might not be able to afford to lose. Burks’ rookie deal will allow them to acquire some additional high-end talent, but can he replace Brown’s production?
Tennessee didn’t move Brown because they didn’t want him; they did it because they couldn’t afford him, much like the position the Bears found themselves in with Khalil Mack.
Another major storyline was in what everybody believes has become a pass-happy, offense-first league, the first five players off the board were all on defense.
Of course, the fact that three (Travon Walker, Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux) were pass rushers and two (Derek Stingley and Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner) were corners may just tell us teams were more focused on stopping those high-powered offenses than building one.
I also found myself thinking about former Bears Hall of Fame General Manager Jim Finks a good part of the evening as five of the first seven players and 10 of the first 19 all work in the trenches on offense or defense.
Finks got to Canton preaching you build up front first if you want to go to Super Bowls, and 50 years later it’s apparently still true.
For me, the best values of the night were Evan Neal to the Giants at No. 7, Kyle Hamilton to the Ravens at No. 14 was grand larceny, and Jermaine Johnson II to the Jets at No. 26 when he might have gone top 10.
The biggest reaches were Jahan Dotson to the Commanders at No. 16 when I thought he belonged at the top of the second round, and Kenny Pickett to the Steelers at No. 20, which felt like a decision based just because everybody thought they had to more than he actually fit there.
How did it all affect the Chicago Bears? Obviously that’s impossible to say until Friday night, but on first blush I’d say not much.
It was really disappointing to see both Tyler Smith to the Cowboys at No. 24 and Kenyon Green to the Texans at No. 15 go because I thought one or both could fall to the Bears at 39, but that’s why I was hoping they would fall.
The wide receivers didn’t go in the order I expected but none of the kids I have my eye on for the Bears at 39 or 48 are gone, and there is still plenty of talent on the O-line to consider at 39.
So what should we expect on Day 2 for the Bears?
Ryan Poles said three times Tuesday he hopes to be able to trade down and acquire more picks.
It looks like he will have no shortage of partners to play let’s make a deal with.