NFL draft winners and losers: Demand in WRs is at an all-time high

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It's a good time to be a receiver.

There is a land rush to get receivers, which became very clear over the first two days of the NFL draft. Star receivers are being given enormous second contracts, causing some teams to make trades they don't want to make. To get ahead of paying a receiver $25 million per year, plenty of teams are hoping to hit one in the draft.

Or teams looked at the 2021 Cincinnati Bengals, who drafted Ja'Marr Chase fifth overall when they already had two good receivers, and realized there's no such thing as too many receivers in the modern NFL.

It has already been an unprecedented draft for receivers, with four rounds to come on Saturday.

There were six receivers taken in the first 18 picks on Thursday night, a new record for the NFL draft. Then Friday started with the Green Bay Packers trading up for the second pick of the second round and taking North Dakota State's Christian Watson. A big receiver run followed shortly after. Seven of them went in the second round, bringing the total to 13 through two rounds. According to ESPN, that tied a record set in 2020 for most receivers taken through the first two rounds of the draft.

Fittingly, the third round ended with the San Francisco 49ers picking SMU receiver Danny Gray. He was the 17th receiver taken in the first three rounds, tying a record for the common NFL draft era.

When Skyy Moore went to the Kansas City Chiefs with the 54th pick, nearly one of every four players drafted to that point was a receiver. The 13 receivers were drafted by 13 different teams. There were two notable trades on Thursday featuring receivers (A.J. Brown to the Eagles, Marquise Brown to the Cardinals), and two trades involving first-round picks and receivers before Thursday (Davante Adams to the Raiders, Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins). That meant more than half of the NFL — 17 of 32 teams — invested a top-54 draft pick in a receiver this offseason.

There's a debate over which position is the most valuable other than quarterback. Edge rushers, left tackles and cornerbacks always get mentioned. Receiver is quickly moving up the list. Based on this draft and the contracts being given to star receivers, maybe it has taken the spot right behind QB.

Receiver was one of the positions that was undeniably deep in this draft class. That's part of the reason they were flying off the board. But it also is a sign: The receiver revolution is on.

Georgia Bulldogs WR George Pickens (1) was one of 13 receivers taken in the first two rounds of the NFL draft. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Georgia Bulldogs WR George Pickens (1) was one of 13 receivers taken in the first two rounds of the NFL draft. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Here are the other winners and losers from the second day of the NFL draft.

WINNERS

Pittsburgh Steelers' passing game: It was a bit funny that Chase Claypool announced the Steelers' second-round pick of Georgia receiver George Pickens. If the reports of the Steelers' dissatisfaction with Claypool are true, it's possible Pickens will replace Claypool in the offense at some point.

Pickens is a talented player who should pair very well with quarterback Kenny Pickett, the Steelers' first-round pick. Pickens has the skillset to be a very good NFL receiver and Pittsburgh taking him at No. 52 overall might end up being a great value. Pickett might not jump into the starting lineup right away, but when he does he will have a potentially explosive receiver in Pickens to throw to, along with receiver Diontae Johnson and tight end Pat Freiermuth (and perhaps Claypool too).

The Steelers have a good defense and an exciting young running back in Najee Harris. Maybe the picks of Pickett and Pickens will pay off in the passing game, and sooner than expected.

Any shaky QB outside of Mitchell Trubisky: When a team drafts a quarterback in the first round, he's going to start at some point soon. When they take one in the second round, he might play early on. Anything after that, no guarantees.

There are a lot of quarterbacks breathing easier after the first two days of the draft. Mitchell Trubisky, signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers, saw his job threatened when the Steelers took Kenny Pickett in the first round. But even Pickett isn't considered a day one starter. Then no other quarterback went in the first two rounds.

Guys like Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Jared Goff and Drew Lock all have clear paths to start in Week 1, without worrying about a highly drafted rookie being forced into the lineup. All quarterbacks on the fringe can ask for is a chance, and a handful of shaky starters have fewer worries after the first few rounds of the draft.

LOSERS

Seattle Seahawks: Again, the Seahawks did their own thing.

The most unpredictable franchise in the NFL was at it again Friday. After making a pretty conventional pick in the first round, taking left tackle Charles Cross ninth overall — though a run-first team taking a tackle who played in a college Air Raid offense might not be a great fit — they had two picks in a row in the second round and a huge need at quarterback.

And the Seahawks, after taking Minnesota linebacker Boye Mafe, took running back Kenneth Walker III with the second of those picks. Seattle might be the only team in the NFL that values a running back over a quarterback when they have a serious need at the latter. Though it's not like any other team liked this quarterback class.

Seattle has had plenty of success over the past decade doing unconventional things. Maybe this will work out too. But taking a running back over a quarterback when the projected starter is Drew Lock was on brand for the Seahawks.

Tight ends: There aren't a lot of impact tight ends in the NFL. And based on the draft capital of this year's tight end class, there won't be an immediate infusion of talent to the position.

It took until the 23rd pick of the second round for a tight end to be taken. That's when the Arizona Cardinals selected Colorado State's Trey McBride. The last time a tight end wasn't taken in the first two rounds was 1987, and the McBride pick saved this year's class from matching that. The next tight end picked was Virginia's Jelani Woods, with the ninth pick of the third round.

Receivers are all the rage, but teams would still love to have a chess piece tight end to create mismatches on offense. They've just been hard to find lately.

Nakobe Dean: On Thursday night, Georgia made history by having five defensive players go in the first round. Then the second day of the draft started, and one of their teammates kept slipping.

In every draft there's a player or two who surprisingly falls, and among non-quarterbacks in the 2022 draft, that faller was Dean. The oft-injured linebacker, considered by many either the No. 1 or 2 inside linebacker prospect in the draft, was still available after the second round was over. PFF's Austin Gayle said that Dean declined surgery on his shoulder, which scared off teams. Dean also is a bit undersized for the position.

Dean's slide ended in the third round when the Philadelphia Eagles took him 83rd overall. That could end up being a good value over time. Dean presumably wanted better news during the draft, but he'll have a shot to prove every other team wrong.

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