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NFL draft: Jaguars take Travon Walker No. 1; Drake London goes to Falcons

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USC wide receiver Drake London stands with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
USC wide receiver Drake London stands with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being chosen eighth overall by the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL draft Thursday.
(John Locher / Associated Press)

The NFL’s next generation of stars took the stage in Las Vegas on Thursday. Here’s a rundown of every pick from the first round of the 2022 NFL draft.

LAS VEGAS — After months of anticipation and countless mock drafts, 32 players found out which NFL teams they’ll be playing for this season. Thursday’s NFL draft ushered in a new class of players poised to be game-changers for their respective teams for years to come.

The first round of the draft is over. The second and third rounds will take place Friday, with rounds four through seven set for Saturday.

Here’s what you need to know

Thirty-two takeaways from the first round of an unusual NFL draft

USC wide receiver Drake London and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stand on the draft stage.
USC wide receiver Drake London, left, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stand on the draft stage after London was selected eighth overall by the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday.
(Steve Luciano / Associated Press)

LAS VEGAS — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell figured this draft would be a return to normalcy in terms of major sporting events.

In a sense it was — precious few masks in sight on a balmy Nevada evening — but there was very little that was normal about the first draft in Sin City.

Five defensive players in a row to start the night?

A record six receivers in the first 20 picks?

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Chargers surprise with first-round NFL draft pick to protect Justin Herbert

Boston College offensive lineman Zion Johnson stands with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on the draft stage.
Boston College offensive lineman Zion Johnson stands with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by the Chargers with the No. 17 pick of the NFL draft.
(John Locher / Associated Press)

The Chargers drafted their starters at quarterback and left tackle in the first round of the NFL draft in 2020 and ’21, respectively, both Justin Herbert and Rashawn Slater earning Pro Bowl honors last season.

On Thursday, they think they drafted another big-time starter — even if the fanfare was a little more muted.

“Guards are people, too, right?” general manager Tom Telesco said, smiling. “I know it’s not the sexiest pick in the world.”

Not sexy, no, but significant, the Chargers selecting Boston College’s Zion Johnson at No. 17.

Johnson is expected to take over as the starter at right guard as the team continues to bolster its offensive front for playmakers such as Herbert, running back Austin Ekeler and wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.

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Rams spend first night of NFL draft in familiar territory

Rams general manager Les Snead walks on the SoFi Stadium field.
Rams general manager Les Snead walks on the SoFi Stadium field before a game against the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 7.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

For the sixth consecutive year, the Rams did not have a first-round pick in the NFL draft.

But general manager Les Snead’s phone was buzzing Thursday with calls from general managers whose teams also did not have first-round picks.

They were not calling Snead to talk trades. They sought advice about how to spend the day.

“So, I said, ‘If it’s not too late rent a really, really, really cool house in the Hollywood Hills,’ ” Snead said. “ ‘Other than that, I don’t have any advice for you.’ ”

With a spectacular panorama of city lights twinkling below, Snead, seated alongside coach Sean McVay, made his comments during a news conference from the Rams’ palatial draft house high above the Sunset Strip. Coaches, scouts and other members of the organization spent the afternoon enjoying food, drink and the view while watching the first round of the draft play out in Las Vegas.

There was much conjecture about who the Chargers would take with their first pick in the NFL draft, but they could not ignore a shaky offensive line and selected Boston College’s Zion Johnson.

April 28, 2022

“It’s great to be able to enjoy it, spend some time, feel like you’re a fan,” McVay said. “We’ve really enjoyed this.”

The Rams, without first- and second-round picks, are not scheduled to be on the clock until late Friday. Their first pick is near the end of the third round, pick No. 104.

They also have one pick in the fourth round (No. 142), one in the fifth (No. 175), three in the sixth (Nos. 211, 212 and 218) and two in the seventh (Nos. 238 and 253).

“There’s a lot of time, and so I think we’ve got some time to let it sort itself out,” McVay said.

Edge rushers, cornerbacks, offensive linemen and tight ends are among the position groups the Rams are expected to consider.

The final picks of the first round were being made when McVay and Snead addressed reporters.

“You’re realistic,” McVay said. “All these guys that are going, we knew that there was no chance that we were going to be able to acquire them at 104.

“So, what’s going to be interesting, once you get to 75 and from that point on to 104.”

The Rams don’t have a pick on the first night of the 2022 NFL draft, but that hasn’t stopped them from trying to make a “steal” heading into draft night.

April 28, 2022

McVay, however, could barely contain himself when the New England Patriots chose Tennessee Chattanooga offensive lineman Cole Strange with the 29th pick.

“How about that,” McVay quipped. “And we wasted our time watching him thinking he’d be at 104, maybe.”

Snead said the Rams would begin to focus during the second round Friday.

“When it gets into some of those scenarios of if you were to trade back, things like that,” he said.

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Vikings take Georgia safety Lewis Cine with final pick of first round

Georgia defensive back Lewis Cine runs the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine on March 6.
(Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

Safety Lewis Cine, Georgia — An All-SEC selection, Cine led the Bulldogs with 73 tackles last season, along with an interception and eight pass breakups.

Sam Farmer’s take — So the first round ends safety-safety. The Buccaneers really liked Cine, too, and were probably betting he’d be around when they traded back.

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Bengals take Michigan safety Daxton Hill at No. 31

Michigan defensive back Daxton Hill pursues on defense against Indiana in November.
Michigan defensive back Daxton Hill pursues on defense against Indiana in November.
(Carlos Osorio / Associated Press)

Safety Daxton Hill, Michigan — Hill was mostly a slot corner last season. He had 69 tackles, two interceptions and eight pass breakups.

Sam Farmer’s take — The Bengals signed three offensive linemen in free agency so they could afford to turn their attention to their defense.

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Chiefs draft edge rusher George Karlaftis at No. 30 overall

Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis (5) readies to make a tackle against Wisconsin in October.
(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)

DE George Karlaftis, Purdue — Was probably most dominant as a freshman at Purdue but fell off a bit in subsequent years. Had 14½ career sacks in 27 games.

Sam Farmer’s take — The Chiefs need to build depth at defensive end, and Karlaftis can be more than that for them. He can play inside or outside on that line.

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Patriots take guard Cole Strange at No. 29

Guard Cole Strange, Chattanooga — The Patriots bolster their offensive line with the highest-selected player in University of Tennessee-Chattanooga history.

Sam Farmer’s take — Strange is the highest-drafted player in the history of his school — and it’s a school that produced Terrell Owens.

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Packers select Georgia defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt at No. 28

Georgia defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt runs a drill ahead of the Senior Bowl.
Georgia defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt runs a drill ahead of the Senior Bowl.
(Butch Dill / Associated Press)

DT Devonte Wyatt, Georgia — Junior college transfer who didn’t make a lot of starts at Georgia but was a steady contributor in the defensive tackle rotation. Had an excellent senior season.

Sam Farmer’s take — Another Georgia Bulldog defender for the Packers, who will have to find another way to replace some of Davante Adams’ production.

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Jaguars select Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd at No. 27

Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd readies for the next snap.
Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd was front and center in the Utes’ defense.
(Bryan Byerly / Utah Athletics)

LB Devin Lloyd, Utah — Lloyd was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year last season and had 43 tackles for loss in 33 career games. The Jaguars made a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to land the No. 27 pick.

Sam Farmer’s take — With Josh Allen already there, and Travon Walker and Lloyd on the way, the Jaguars are going to be imposing up front.

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Jets trade up to take Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson II at No. 26

Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson II rushes the passer against Notre Dame in December.
(Gary McCullough / Associated Press)

DE Jermaine Johnson II, Florida State — A junior college transfer who then went to Georgia, Johnson found his game at Florida State and collected 11½ sacks last season. The Jets traded their 35th, 69th and 163rd picks to the Tennessee Titans for Nos. 26 and 101.

Sam Farmer’s take — Edge Jermaine Johnson II, Florida State – The Jets haven’t had a premier edge rusher since trading John Abraham in 2006. Johnson is excellent.

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Ravens draft Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum at No. 25

Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum blocks against Illinois in November.
(Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

Center Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa — Widely regarded the best center in the draft, Linderbaum is known for his quickness of the snap, allowing him to cut off linebackers and pull to open up running lanes.

Sam Farmer’s take — Linderbaum is strong and versatile, and he’s especially good in the run game. A great high school wrestler and best center in this class.

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Cowboys take Tulsa offensive tackle Tyler Smith at No. 24

Tulsa offensive lineman Tyler Smith runs a drill at the NFL scouting combine on March 4.
(Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

OT Tyler Smith, Tulsa — A high-energy lineman known for his athleticism and energy, Smith will be tasked with protecting Dak Prescott for years to come in the Cowboys’ offense.

Sam Farmer’s take — The Cowboys have multiple needs on their offensive line. Left tackle Tyron Smith is 31 and can take the Tulsa rookie under his wing.

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Bills select Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam at No. 23

Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam readies for a play against Samford in November.
Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam readies for a play against Samford in November.
(John Raoux / Associated Press)

CB Kaiir Elam, Florida — Intercepted three passes and playing in all 13 games as a freshman, kicking off a highly successful college career. Son of former NFL safety Abram Elam. The Bills moved up to No. 23 after sending the 25th and 130th picks (fourth round) to the Baltimore Ravens.

Sam Farmer’s take — The Bills have just about everything, but with Tre’Davious White recovering from knee surgery, they needed another star corner.

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Packers draft Georgia linebacker Quay Walker at No. 22

Georgia linebacker Quay Walker participates in a drill at the NFL scoring combine on March 5.
(Steve Luciano / Associated Press)

LB Quay Walker, Georgia — A versatile pass rusher who can play in space with his strong athletic ability. A bit of a surprise considering many prognosticators felt the Packers would select a wide receiver for Aaron Rodgers.

Sam Farmer’s take — A receiver would have been nice, but the elite ones were off the board. The Packers needed a talented inside backer to pair with De’Vondre Campbell.

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Chiefs trade up to pick cornerback Trent McDuffie at No. 21

Washington defensive back Trent McDuffie gets ready to defend  against Colorado in November.
Washington defensive back Trent McDuffie gets ready to defend against Colorado in November.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

CB Trent McDuffie, Washington — The latest in a long line of excellent Husky defensive backs, McDuffie was a lockdown corner who didn’t see a lot of passes coming his way. He had two interceptions in 27 career games. The Chiefs traded up from No. 29 in a deal with the New England Patriots to select McDuffie.

Sam Farmer’s take — Despite losing Tyreek Hill, cornerback was Kansas City’s biggest area of need. Look at the quarterbacks around the AFC West.

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Steelers take first QB of draft in Kenny Pickett at No. 20

Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) passes against Clemson in October.
Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) passes against Clemson in October.
(Keith Srakocic / Associated Press)

QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh — Pickett set school records for career passing yards (12,303) and total touchdowns (102). Some have questioned his slightly-smaller-than-ideal hand size, but he’s widely regarded as the quarterback most ready to make the step up.

Sam Farmer’s take — Pickett gets to stay in town, even though many people projected he wouldn’t be around at No. 20. That’s a night-spoiler for Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph.

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Saints draft offensive tackle Trevor Penning at No. 19

Northern Iowa offensive lineman Trevor Penning (70) gets set for a play against Southern Illinois in October.
Northern Iowa offensive lineman Trevor Penning (70) gets set for a play against Southern Illinois in October.
(Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa — The massive Penning (6-7, 330) played sparingly in his first two seasons at Northern Iowa but started all 15 games in his third season.

Sam Farmer’s take — The Saints must feel good about Jameis Winston, because they passed on a quarterback and buttoned down their left tackle for (they hope) years to come.

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Titans trade A.J. Brown to draft Treylon Burks at No. 18

Arkansas receiver Treylon Burks runs to the end zone after a catch against Missouri in November.
Arkansas receiver Treylon Burks runs to the end zone after a catch against Missouri in November.
(Michael Woods / Associated Press)

WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas — A big, muscular receiver who earned all-conference honors three years in a row. Set a school record with six 100-yard receiving games.

The Titans moved up to No. 18 and received the 101st overall pick from the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for wide receiver A.J. Brown, according to multiple reports. Brown gives the Eagles the big-time wide receiver they really need in the Jalen Hurts-led offense. Brown reportedly received a four-year contract with $57 million guaranteed from Philadelphia as part of the deal.

Sam Farmer’s take — The burly Burks is a replacement — a much less expensive one — for A.J. Brown, sent to the Eagles for this selection.

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Chargers draft Boston College guard Zion Johnson at No. 17

Boston College offensive lineman Zion Johnson is projected to play guard or center in the NFL.
Boston College offensive lineman Zion Johnson is projected to play guard or center in the NFL.
(Mary Schwalm / Associated Press)

Guard/center Zion Johnson, Boston College — Although relatively short at 6-3, Johnson seamlessly made the move from left guard to left tackle. Could play multiple positions in the NFL but most likely an interior lineman.

Sam Farmer’s take — Johnson should be able to step in at right guard, replacing Michael Schofield. Chargers keep it rolling with young offensive linemen after taking Rashawn Slater last year.

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Commanders take Penn State receiver Jahan Dotson at No. 16

Penn State wide receiver Jahan Dotson celebrates a touchdown catch against Villanova.
(Associated Press)

WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State — A speedy route-runner that has a similar build to DeSean Jackson, Dotson might have the best hands in the draft. He has the potential to be a huge after-the-catch threat in the Commanders’ offense with his potential for acrobatic catches.

Sam Farmer’s take — This is good news for both new quarterback Carson Wentz and receiver Terry McLaurin, who needs some of the defensive heat taken off him.

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Texans take Texas A&M guard Kenyon Green at No. 15

Texas A&M offensive lineman Kenyon Green kneels before an October game against Alabama.
Texas A&M offensive lineman Kenyon Green mentally prepares before an October game against Alabama.
(Sam Craft / Associated Press)

Guard/center Kenyon Green, Texas A&M — A two-time All-American, Green started 35 games at four different positions on the line. Extremely strong. Probably a guard in the pros.

Sam Farmer’s take — Houston couldn’t run and couldn’t protect the quarterback last season. They need to rebuild that line. Green can play any one of four positions – just not all at once.

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Trade! Cardinals reportedly acquire Marquise Brown in trade with Ravens

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown was reportedly traded to the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday.
(Nick Wass / Associated Press)

The Ravens traded wide receiver Marquise Brown and the 100th overall pick to the Arizona Cardinals for the No. 23 overall pick, according to multiple reports.

The trade reunites Brown with former Oklahoma teammate Kyler Murray. It also takes a 1,000-yard wide receiver out of Lamar Jackson’s passing attack.

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Ravens take Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton at No. 14

Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton get in position against Cincinnati in October.
Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton get in position against Cincinnati in October.
(Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

Safety Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame — Best safety in this class. A team captain at Notre Dame, he had 35 tackles, three interceptions and four pass breakups last season. He missed five games due to a knee injury suffered against USC.

Sam Farmer’s take — The Ravens might have been looking for a defensive tackle, but the ultra-athletic Hamilton was too good to ignore. The Ravens do know their safeties.

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Eagles trade up to get defensive tackle Jordan Davis at No. 13

Georgia defensive lineman Jordan Davis watches during warm ups before the Orange Bowl against Michigan.
(Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

DT Jordan Davis, Georgia — Won both the Outland Trophy and the Chuck Bednarik Award last season. Big enough to blot the son, and take on double-teams of course. Great run stopper. The Eagles moved up from No. 15 into the No. 13 spot in a trade with the Houston Texans.

Sam Farmer’s take — The Eagles leapfrogged Baltimore to get to this versatile defensive lineman. Among players who weigh 315, he had the fastest combine 40 time since 2003.

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Chargers will play Chiefs in prime time in Week 2

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert throws against the Kansas City Chiefs in September.
(David Eulitt / Getty Images)

The Chargers will play at Kansas City on Sept. 15, the Thursday night of Week 2, the NFL announced Thursday.

The matchup was revealed during television coverage of the draft.

The game will mark the first-ever Thursday night broadcast exclusively on Prime Video. The game also will be shown live on over-the-air TV in the Los Angeles market.

The rivalry between the Chargers and Chiefs has become a marquee showdown for the league over the past two years because of the presence of Justin Herbert. He and Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes already have produced great theater.

The NFL will announce its full schedule May 12.

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Lions draft wide receiver Jameson Williams at No. 12

Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams runs down the sideline on a long pass reception against New Mexico State in November.
(Vasha Hunt / Associated Press)

WR Jameson Williams, Alabama — A transfer from Ohio State, Williams had 79 catches for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. The Lions traded up to No. 12 in a deal with the Minnesota Vikings, who received the Nos. 32, 34 and 66 picks. The Lions also got the Vikings’ 46th overall pick.

Sam Farmer’s take — The Lions moved up 20 spots to get a receiver, when it appeared they might be taking a quarterback to eventually replace Jared Goff.

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Saints trade up to select Ohio State’s Chris Olave at No. 11

Ohio State receiver Chris Olave catches a touchdown pass against Michigan State in November.
Ohio State receiver Chris Olave catches a touchdown pass against Michigan State in November.
(Jay LaPrete / Associated Press)

WR Chris Olave, Ohio State — Onetime favorite receiver of Justin Fields, now quarterback of the Chicago Bears, Olave thrived without him too. He had 65 catches for 936 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. The Saints moved up to No. 11 in a trade with the Washington Commanders. Washington received the 16th overall pick and a third- (98th overall) and fourth-rounder (No. 120) from New Orleans.

Sam Farmer’s take — The Saints have a complement to Michael Thomas who can get down the field and draw defenders away. Olave ran a 4.39 40 at the combine.

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Jets take Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson at No. 10

Ohio State receiver Garrett Wilson breaks free against Michigan State in November.
(Jay LaPrete / Associated Press)

WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State — After hauling in a combined 73 catches in his first two seasons, Wilson nearly matched that with 70 in his third year. He had 1,058 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.

Sam Farmer’s take — Jets pick up two blistering-fast players in Wilson and Gardner. Big night for quarterback Zach Wilson, who has another young target to join Elijah Moore.

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Seahawks take offensive tackle Charles Cross at No. 9

Mississippi State offensive lineman Charles Cross (67) sets up to pass block against Arkansas in November.
(Michael Woods / Associated Press)

OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State — Superb pass blocker who was excellent against SEC competition. Needs to work on his run blocking.

Sam Farmer’s take — A quarterback might have been tempting, but the Seahawks need to rebuild their offensive line. Cross is a left tackle, and now Seattle is looking for a right one.

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Falcons take USC wide receiver Drake London at No. 8

 USC wide receiver Drake London heads to the end zone against Utah in October.
USC wide receiver Drake London heads to the end zone against Utah in October.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

WR Drake London, USC — The 6-foot-4 London was Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year despite suffering a fractured ankle eight games into the 2021 season.

Sam Farmer’s take — The Falcons have lost Russell Gage and Calvin Ridley so they needed to restock the receiving shelves. London is a big jump-ball receiver who can play outside or in the slot.

Ryan Kartje on Drake London and his quest to make an impact on draft day after sustaining a season-ending ankle injury last year:

USC’s Drake London lacks lightning speed, but here’s why he’ll go fast in NFL draft

USC’s Drake London tries to silence his NFL draft doubters with some fancy footwork

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Giants select Alabama OT Evan Neal with No. 7 pick

Alabama offensive lineman Evan Neal (73) blocks Mississippi State defensive end Randy Charlton in October.
(Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press)

OT Evan Neal, Alabama — Earned the starting left tackle job for the Crimson Tide as a freshman. Was named a team captain as a junior, then a first-team All-American. Started 40 games, missing only one.

Sam Farmer’s take — The 6-7, 350-pound Neal can play either side, but the Giants can put him at right tackle immediately. He is a good fit for Brian Daboll’s offense.

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Panthers take tackle Ikem Ekwonu at No. 6 overall

North Carolina State's Ikem Ekwonu (79) prepares to block against Clemson in September.
(Karl B DeBlaker / Associated Press)

OT Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State — Nicknamed “Ickey” after former Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods. Ekwonu, an aggressive tackle who often plays through the echo of the whistle, racked up 10 penalties in his career.

Sam Farmer’s take — Not a quarterback worth taking here, so Panthers get protection for the guy they have. Ekwonu is a great run blocker for Christian McCaffrey.

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Giants pick Oregon pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux at No. 5

Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) lines up against Stanford in October.
Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) lines up against Stanford in October.
(Jed Jacobsohn / Associated Press)

Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon — Has drawn comparisons to Chase Young of the Washington Commanders. From his freshman season at Oregon was projected by many to be the No. 1 overall pick.

Sam Farmer’s take — Overlooking their need at offensive tackle, the Giants take an edge rusher to get the quarterback. Team is extremely young at the position.

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Jets take cornerback Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner at No. 4

Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner pursues against Tulane in October.
(Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)

CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati — Cornerback did not allow a touchdown reception in his entire college career. at Cincinnati. Last season, he didn’t allow a single catch in the red zone and surrendered just 117 yards in receptions in 11 games.

Sam Farmer’s take — With Tyreek Hill going to Miami and all the pyrotechnics of Buffalo’s offense, the Jets needed to step up in the secondary. Gardner is big and tough.

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Texans select LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. at No. 3

Cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. warms up before a Louisiana State game last season.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU — From the moment he picked off the first pass thrown his way in the LSU spring game, Derek Stingley Jr. was a standout. Durability is a question, and he played in a combined 10 games the past two years.

Sam Farmer’s take — Texans juke everyone who thought they would take an offensive tackle. Plus, Stingley went before corner Sauce Gardner, another upset (at least publicly).

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Lions draft Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson at No. 2

Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson (97) fights off a Northwestern blocker in October.
(Carlos Osorio / Associated Press)

DE-OLB Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan — Heisman Trophy runner-up last season and son of former Michigan defensive lineman Chris Hutchinson. Aidan Hutchinson bounced back in 2021 after suffering a fractured ankle in 2020.

Sam Farmer’s take: The Lions were 31st in third-down defense last season and 30th in sacks. Hutchinson will immediately upgrade them in that department.

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Jaguars select Georgia DE Travon Walker at No. 1

Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker (44) lines up against Arkansas in September.
(Michael Woods / Associated Press)

DE Travon Walker, Georgia — Broke out as a junior after two under-the-radar seasons. Had 36 quarterback hurries last season and logged more playing time than any other defensive lineman on a star-studded unit.

Sam Farmer’s take: Run stopper is first Georgia Bulldog to be selected No. 1 overall since Detroit used the top pick on Matthew Stafford in 2009.

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How NFL will paint a new picture on first-round draft picks

Pop art painter Rob Prior, right, shows his work to Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon.
Pop art painter Rob Prior, right, shows his work to University of Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon. Prior will be creating instant portraits of NFL draft picks as their names are called Thursday.
(Sam Farmer / Los Angeles Times)

LAS VEGAS — A picture is worth a thousand words?

The portraits created by Southern California-based pop artist and painter Rob Prior are worth a lot more than that, some of them commanding as much as $1 million at auction.

For the first time Thursday night, Prior will be on stage at the NFL draft, painting at hyper speed and creating portraits of the players as they’re selected. He plans to be working on three canvases at the same time.

“As they’re coming up, I’m just going to blast through it,” said Prior, 57. “I’m an ambidextrous painter, so I’ll probably have a couple of things up at one time.”

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Ten Easter eggs you might have missed from ‘On the Clock: The House Always Wins’

Rams’ summer blockbuster spoof trailer ‘On The Clock: The House Always Wins’

LAS VEGAS — The Rams don’t have a pick in the first two rounds of this draft, but they already have made a splash with “On the Clock: The House Always Wins,” a spoof trailer for a summer blockbuster that doesn’t actually exist.

The three-minute video, which was released this week and already has more than 2.5 million views on various social media platforms, has the feel of “Oceans Eleven,” and stars Josh Holloway as general manager Les Snead, Scott Eastwood as coach Sean McVay, Tyrese Gibson as defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, and Dennis Quaid as owner Stan Kroenke.

Among the players who make appearances are Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and several others. Rams staffers were used as extras.

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Chargers have drafted well in first round under GM Tom Telesco, but look at the rest

Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater, right, holds a team jersey.
Rashawn Slater holds a Chargers jersey with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after the Northwestern offensive tackle was taken in the first round last year.
(Tony Dejak / Associated Press)

The Chargers have missed the playoffs in each of the last three years, are seven games below .500 since the end of the 2018 season and finished 2021 by losing three of four.

But when it comes to the NFL draft, their two most recent top picks were three-touchdown victories.

Justin Herbert and Rashawn Slater represent two of the greatest personnel triumphs of general manager Tom Telesco’s career. Two of most fortunate, as well.

In 2020, Miami could have drafted Herbert at No. 5 — one spot ahead of the Chargers — but instead opted for Tua Tagovailoa.

A year later, Slater still was available — for a team that desperately needed a game-ready left tackle — at No. 13, the Chargers’ patience rewarded dramatically and emphatically with the addition of a rookie Pro Bowler.

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Cooper Kupp is best example of how Rams have hit it big in third round of NFL drafts

Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp makes a touchdown catch in front of Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Eli Apple.
Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp makes a touchdown catch in front of Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Eli Apple during Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in February.
(Adam Hunger / Associated Press)

No first-round pick. No second-round pick.

No worries.

That is the mindset among the Super Bowl champion Rams’ front office on the eve of the three-day NFL draft, which begins Thursday in Las Vegas.

The Rams have valid reason not to fret.

During the Sean McVay era, which began in 2017, the third round has proved bountiful for a franchise that aggressively signs or trades for star players and then surrounds them with mid- to late-round contributors.

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Las Vegas provides ‘incredible canvas’ for a different NFL draft

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, left, poses with Raiders owner Mark Davis and a "Draft Drive" ceremonial street sign.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, left, poses with Raiders owner Mark Davis and a “Draft Drive” ceremonial street sign in Las Vegas on Thursday.
(Gregory Payan / Associated Press)

LAS VEGAS — This is no ordinary NFL draft.

The league is getting into the full Vegas vibe and considers this a dry run for the Super Bowl here in early 2024.

What’s more, commissioner Roger Goodell sees this as the first major sporting event that represents a return to normalcy, even as vestiges of the COVID-19 pandemic linger.

“I think this is going to be the biggest coming-out party in sports,” Goodell told the Los Angeles Times. “I really believe people are going to come together in a way we haven’t seen in a while. You saw it at the Super Bowl, but I think this is going to be bigger as far as the total number of people over the three days.”

Peter O’Reilly, who oversees major events for the NFL, said Las Vegas provides “an incredible canvas” to make this draft different.

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Here’s why USC’s Drake London will go fast in NFL draft

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and USC wide receiver Drake London talk.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, left, and USC wide receiver Drake London talk during a pre-draft event in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
(John Locher / Associated Press)

When he decided earlier this month to skip the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, Drake London understood there would be questions. His speed was the only serious concern for NFL scouts, the only nit to pick in an otherwise sterling draft profile and now the former USC star wideout was opting out of his final chance to offer evidence in his favor.

Months into the process, London had heard quite enough of those doubts. Anyone who still had questions, he suggested, should “just watch film.”

“Don’t really have to blow by guys to catch a ball,” he said. “I can at the end of the day, but I really don’t have to.”

T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the former NFL wideout training London for the draft, went one step further.

“Speed,” Houshmandzadeh declared, “is overrated.”

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Why a record eight teams without first-round picks are not worried

Cleveland Browns fans cheer a touchdown by cornerback Denzel Ward in 2019.
(David Richard / Associated Press)

Call them the Idle Eight.

A record one-quarter of the NFL’s 32 teams will be spectators Thursday when the league stages the opening round of its annual draft, the first in Las Vegas.

Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Miami, San Francisco and the Rams will be watching from the sidelines, assuming they don’t try to trade back into the round.

Six of those traded their first-round picks to acquire quarterbacks, including the Rams, who haven’t selected in the opening round since 2016, when they packaged picks to move up to take Jared Goff first overall.

The Rams in particular have reaped the benefits of trading picks for proven talent, winning the Super Bowl with seasoned acquisition Matthew Stafford at the helm.

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‘I don’t care what round’: After ups and downs, SoCal stars await NFL draft call

Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux plays in a game.
Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux
(Andy Nelson / Associated Press)

Blood, sweat and tears. That’s just the minimum amount of sacrifice required by anyone taken on NFL draft day. It’s so difficult to convince an NFL team to make the decision, but when it happens, it really is time to celebrate with screams, shouts, hugs and high-fives.

This weekend, Romeo Doubs, a 22-year-old graduate of Los Angeles Jefferson High, founded in 1916, is expected to hear his name called. Projections say that might not happen until the fourth round.

He doesn’t care when his phone rings, just that it does.

“Whether I climb up and go in the third round or fall to the fifth round, I still have an opportunity to play,” he said. “I don’t care what round I go in. It’s just a blessing.”

There are four former high school players from Southern California who could be first-round picks — defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux (Westlake Village Oaks Christian), receiver Drake London (Moorpark), quarterback Matt Corral (Long Beach Poly) and defensive back Trent McDuffie (Bellflower St. John Bosco).

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Three picks Chargers will consider, if still available at 17

Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave catches a touchdown pass in front of Clemson cornerback Derion Kendrick.
The speed of Ohio State’s Chris Olave is impressive, the receiver shown catching a touchdown pass behind coverage by Clemson cornerback Derion Kendrick in the Sugar Bowl.
(Butch Dill / Associated Press)

He arrived as the projected starting left tackle, a polished technician who still had to answer questions about his size and the fact he hadn’t played the previous season.

Rashawn Slater then spent his rookie year never coming close to not being the Chargers’ starting left tackle, playing every offensive snap in his 16 games (he missed one week on the COVID list) and earning Pro Bowl recognition.

Still, looking back, general manager Tom Telesco said drafting Slater a year ago guaranteed nothing, despite the glowing results that followed.

“Even with Rashawn, it wasn’t like he was a slam-dunk guy,” said Telesco, who took Slater at No. 13. “There are no slam-dunk players in the draft.”

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Without a pick until third round, champion Rams shoot for another Hollywood ending

Last year, the Rams' NFL draft headquarters was a house in Malibu and they ended up winning Super Bowl LVI.
(Gary Klein / Los Angeles Times)

The star-studded Super Bowl champion Rams are basking in their Hollywood image.

On Tuesday, ahead of Thursday’s NFL draft in Las Vegas, the team released a slickly produced pseudo movie trailer entitled “On the Clock.” The three-minute video featured several Rams players, and actors playing owner Stan Kroenke, general manager Les Snead, coach Sean McVay and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris.

“Les and I both felt pretty good about it,” McVay said during a videoconference with reporters, “and I know Raheem Morris certainly feels really good that Tyrese Gibson played him.

“So, he’s been walking around with his chest out all day.”

The Rams won’t have marquee billing in the draft — they are without a first-round pick for the sixth year in a row — but they will continue their Hollywood theme by conducting business and making their picks from a palatial Hollywood Hills home.

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Top prop bets for the 2022 NFL draft

Liberty quarterback Malik Willis runs through passing drills during Liberty's pro day on March 22.
(Kendall Warner / Associated Press)

A hot debate going into last year’s NFL draft centered on the Cincinnati Bengals, who needed to find immediate help for quarterback Joe Burrow: Would it be wiser for the team to use the No. 5 overall pick on an offensive lineman or wide receiver?

The Bengals opted to run with Ja’Marr Chase, Burrow’s former favorite target at LSU, and the rookie receiver was a catalyst in Cincinnati’s first Super Bowl appearance since 1988.

A year after the first three picks of the draft were used on quarterbacks, wide receivers will grab the spotlight when the first round plays out on Thursday, April 28 in Las Vegas.

“This is the first year in a long time that you’re not talking about a quarterback going in the first five or maybe first 10 picks, and that’s the biggest storyline to me,” Red Rock sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said. “A lot of teams need dynamic wide receivers, and I think you’re going to see six — and maybe seven — go in the first round.”

A week ago, in my first mock draft for Point Spread Weekly, I projected seven receivers to go in the first round and recommended Over 5.5 (-165) -- the opening number at DraftKings -- as a best bet. The price has moved to -250.

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NFL draft best bets: Bookmakers face big odds

Michigan defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson runs a drill at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis on March 5.
(Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

Aside from a few long-shot plays that I would be surprised to win — LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. to be No. 2 pick (30-1) and No. 3 pick (100-1); the Saints to draft Liberty quarterback Malik Willis (+ 900) — here are my top prop bets:

  • Wide receivers drafted in the first round: Over 5.5 (-165)
  • Quarterbacks drafted in the first round: Under 3.5 (-175)
  • Aidan Hutchinson to be the No. 2 pick (+ 220)
  • Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett draft position: Over 10.5 (-185)
  • Malik Willis (-160) drafted before Kenny Pickett
  • Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner draft position: Under 7.5 (-200)
  • Derek Stingley Jr. draft position: Under 11.5 (-150)
  • USC wide receiver Drake London draft position: Over 10.5 (-110)

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NFL mock draft: Will Georgia’s Travon Walker be first pick?

Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker runs a drill at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis on March 5.
(Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

LAS VEGAS — Everybody is looking for that sure thing, especially in this town.

But this year, with the NFL draft being held in Las Vegas for the first time, there’s no consensus on who the No. 1 pick should be.

Most likely, it will be someone who can topple a quarterback like tumbling dice — a pass rusher such as Georgia’s Travon Walker, Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux or Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson — someone who can help the Jacksonville Jaguars bully their way back to relevance.

“I’ve been playing football for a decade and now it’s like, bro, I don’t care where I get drafted, I don’t care what happens,” Thibodeaux said. “It’s just got to happen.”

The only player from a Southern California school likely to be selected in Thursday’s opening round is former USC receiver Drake London, potentially a top-10 pick.

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NFL mock draft: 28 team reporters make their first-round picks

Step aside national NFL prognosticators.

This mock draft is locals only.

As has been tradition for nearly two decades, the Los Angeles Times turned to beat writers, the people who cover these teams on a daily basis, to make the first-round picks in an imaginary draft. They know the tendencies and needs of their respective teams, and have been writing about them for months.

Below, the reporters make a selection and give a rationale for it.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars | DE-OLB Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan

Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson (97) fights off a Northwestern blocker in October.
(Carlos Osorio / Associated Press)

There’s a lot of need across the board, but Hutchinson is a safe pick. Hutchinson could really help opposite Josh Allen, and this team needs a better pass rush.” — John Reid, Florida Times-Union

2. Detroit Lions | DE-OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon

Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) lines up against Stanford in October.
Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) lines up against Stanford in October.
(Jed Jacobsohn / Associated Press)

There are valid concerns about how Thibodeaux will mesh with Dan Campbell, but one of Campbell’s strengths is embracing his players’ unique personalities and Thibodeaux can be an impact player at a major position of need for the Lions.” — Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press

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