The NFL Draft always includes some promising picks that fans applaud, but these are the best value selections in each round in 2022.
As each pick passed in the 2022 NFL Draft and some franchises continued to make head-scratching decisions, some very good players started to slip. It’s these types of scenarios that really make the draft interesting.
Each round included some remarkable steals — especially weighing the value of draft position against the NFL consensus draft board. Some rounds included several remarkable value picks, but I’ve narrowed the best down for you. Here are my favorite steals from each round of the 2022 NFL Draft:
Biggest 2022 NFL Draft steals:
First-round steal: C Tyler Linderbaum, Ravens
It’s hard to argue with this one. Despite finishing 16th on the consensus board (an average rank position of the top NFL Draft experts), Tyler Linderbaum continued to fall late into the first round. Eventually, the value became too good for the Baltimore Ravens to pass up, and they ultimately swapped WR Marquise Brown for the pick to land Linderbaum.
The star Iowa center no doubt slipped in the NFL Draft because of his underwhelming size and concerning length, but he’s an absolute stud who should be dominant in Baltimore. Linderbaum was the 13th-highest on my big board entering the draft.
Second-round steal: EDGE Nik Bonitto, Broncos
Nik Bonitto was one of my biggest draft crushes this year. Though he doesn’t have ideal size for a full-time edge defender, he has an elite calling card: his ability to get after the quarterback. Bonitto was both productive and athletic.
While he may be a situational pass-rusher at the next level, he has elite bend, quickness, and explosion to excel in this department. The Denver Broncos stole him with the final pick in the second round (64th overall). Bonitto was 28th overall on my draft board.
Third-round steal: LB Leo Chenal, Chiefs
There were several big steals in the third round. Others I considered going with included DT Travis Jones to the Ravens, QB Desmond Ridder to the Falcons, QB Malik Willis to the Titans, and DL DeMarvin Leal to the Steelers. However, I think this one takes the cake.
Leo Chenal isn’t built for every team, but he’s a bruising, downhill thumper at the linebacker position with incredible athletic traits. Chenal has a nose for the football and he earned the second-best run defense grade from a linebacker in the Pro Football Focus era (behind only Micah Parsons). He’s an absolute steal at pick 103 overall.
Fourth-round steal: WR Calvin Austin III, Steelers
I’m a Steelers fan, so call me biased here, but I really loved the Calvin Austin pick in the compensatory fourth round. Austin is bite-sized (5’7 3/4” and 170 pounds), but he’s a natural receiver and electric with the ball in his hands.
Last year, we saw a similar player in Tutu Atwell drafted 57th overall in the second round by the Los Angeles Rams. NFL teams reach for speed, and I was astonished to see worse football players like Tyquan Thorton and Velus Jones Jr. drafted ahead of him. Pittsburgh got terrific value in Austin — a player who should have been an early third-round pick, in my opinion.
Fifth-round steal: QB Sam Howell, Commanders
I don’t care what your opinion was on UNC QB Sam Howell entering the NFL Draft. It’s hard to argue that he wasn’t a major steal for the Washington commanders in the fifth round. Howell regressed in his junior season in 2021, but not to the point where he should have dropped from a projected top-10 pick all the way down to the 144th overall selection.
Howell might not ever be given a great chance to become a franchise quarterback, as a player’s opportunities are usually directly tied to their draft status. However, he’s a 21-year-old quarterback with a good arm, plus mobility, and a beautiful deep ball. If he becomes a starting QB, Howell could be the steal of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Sixth-round steal: LB Darrian Beavers, Giants
Like Leo Chenal, Cincinnati’s Darrian Beavers wasn’t going to be a fit for every NFL team. He’s a downhill linebacker who may not offer much in terms of coverage at the next level. Still, Beavers was remarkable value at this point and should have gone two rounds higher.
Strictly from a size and athletic standpoint, Beavers has a profile that is very similar to first-round pick, Devin Lloyd. It’s also worth noting that he was a centerpiece for one of the best defenses in the nation this past season. He has a chance to be a quality NFL linebacker despite being a sixth-round pick.
Seventh-round steal: EDGE Jesse Luketa, Cardinals
I don’t understand how Jesse Luketa nearly fell out of the 2022 NFL Draft entirely. Luketa’s stock first dropped when he tweaked his hamstring running the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine (4.89 on his first trial). However, the collection of traits, position flexibility, and pedigree was too good for him to slip this far.
The former four-star recruit was one of the leaders of Penn State’s impressive defense. Unfortunately, some teams must have viewed him as a tweener stuck in between an off-ball linebacker and an edge defender, and he doesn’t have the length that most teams look for. Still, Luketa could prove to be a very solid selection as a seventh-round pick.
There were some remarkable value selections from the 2022 NFL Draft. A few years down the road, we will probably be questioning why some of these players weren’t selected sooner.