The NFL is an offensive league. You still need some defenders to slow down all the great offenses in the league.
The 2022 NFL draft was short on star power, especially at quarterback, and that led teams to lean heavily on defense at the start of the draft.
The first five picks of the draft were all on the defensive side of the ball. It was the first time since 1991 that the first five picks of the draft were all defensive players. In 1991, the first six picks were all defenders (and it should be noted, none turned out to be big stars).
Last time NFL Draft opened with four straight defensive picks? Goes back to 1991, when first six picks were all on defense: Russell Maryland, Eric Turner, Bruce Pickens, Mike Croel, Todd Lyght, Eric Swann.
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) April 29, 2022
The Jacksonville Jaguars started the draft by taking Georgia edge rusher Travon Walker. Then the Detroit Lions rushed up their pick: Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson. The Houston Texans went for cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. with the third overall pick and the New York Jets went back-to-back cornerbacks by taking Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner fourth overall.
All of those teams passed on some elite offensive tackle prospects to go defense. When the New York Giants went on the clock with the fifth overall pick, they had to be torn. They need offensive line help and NC State tackle Ikem Ekwonu and Alabama’s Evan Neal are considered top prospects. But the Giants kept the defensive streak going by taking Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux with the fifth pick.
The run on defensive players ended with the sixth pick. The Carolina Panthers selected Ekwonu with the No. 6 pick. The Giants ended up getting their tackle with the seventh pick when they took Neal.
The NFL is a passing league and the first five picks reflect that, in a way. There were three pass rushers and two cornerbacks, who will be tasked with helping to slow down Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and the other great quarterbacks in the league. Teams would probably prefer some offensive punch in the top five, but defense is where the top talent was in the 2022 draft.
For the first time in 31 years, the top five picks all came on the defensive side of the ball. It might be a while before that streak is matched.