Each year, there are a series of moves that shape what happens in the first round of the NFL draft. The trades involving first-round picks are low-hanging fruit -- they obviously impacted the outcome of the draft. There were other deals that addressed a team's position of need but did not exactly fulfill it. For example: Cleveland's trade for Amari Cooper was a much needed addition to the wide receiver room but it did not necessarily pull the Browns out of the market. If they had maintained their first-round pick, it was likely that they would have taken a wide receiver in the first round. A similar scenario is true of Tampa Bay's trade for offensive guard Shaq Mason.
Here are moves that did greatly impact how events could transpire on draft night:
Deshaun Watson trade
The Watson trade is not listed here because the Browns lost their first round pick or because the Texans gained another first-rounder. Rather, it is listed because it maintained Carolina's need at the quarterback position while also creating one for the Falcons. Matt Ryan was disappointed by how the team's pursuit transpired publicly, and it led to a parting of ways. Indianapolis filled a need at the position by acquiring Ryan but they were without a first-round pick anyway.
Carolina and Pittsburgh are striking as most likely landing spots for a quarterback in the first round. Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett and Liberty's Malik Willis are the two names most commonly mentioned, but do not sleep on Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder.
Jaguars place franchise tag on Cam Robinson
The Jaguars placed the franchise tag on the left tackle for the second consecutive year. While it does not entirely remove the AFC South franchise from the equation for an offensive lineman at No. 1 overall, it would be unreasonable to ignore the shift in momentum. Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson and Georgia edge rusher Travon Walker are garnering all of the discussion right now. Alabama's Evan Neal, NC State's Ikem Ekwonu and Robinson could play guard or right tackle for a year before allowing the latter to walk next offseason. By signing the franchise tag, Jacksonville does have the option to trade Robinson, but that seems less likely given the financial commitment.
Russell Wilson trade
The events of the offseason in the NFC, headlined by the Wilson trade, have a few teams gaining hope and potentially altering plans. The expectation was that new Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah would come into the organization, trade away valuable assets and try to reset the salary cap. The contract extension for quarterback Kirk Cousins and signing of edge rusher Za'Darius Smith indicate they went down a more competitive path. They are going to make a push for the playoffs on the backs of an NFC talent drain that has seen the likes of Khalil Mack, Davante Adams, Sean Payton, Matt Ryan, Chandler Jones and others leave the conference. New Orleans must have seen an equal opportunity to make the move to acquire a second pick inside the first round. The Saints are expected to address a few specific needs with offensive tackle and wide receiver chief among them. Long-time starting left tackle Terron Armstead signed with Miami in free agency.
Davante Adams trade
Adams wanted to go to Las Vegas and the contract that he was asking for would have hampered the team long-term. Combined with the draft compensation received, the trade is something that had to be done from Green Bay's perspective. While the Raiders may no longer have a need at the position, the Packers should have some urgency addressing the position. In addition to Adams, the Packers lost Marquez Valdes-Scantling, leaving them with Amari Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Sammy Watkins, Chris Blair, Juwann Winfree and Rico Gafford. Aaron Rodgers had developed a twin-like mental connection with Adams. The ball was arriving as Adams was coming out of his break and that allowed the team to move the chains in critical moments over the years. He is not going to be able to build that connection with a new receiver overnight, so they need to add a top talent capable of creating opportunities for himself.
Chargers fill defensive needs through trades and free agency
The Chargers added cornerback J.C. Jackson, defensive tackles Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Jackson, along with Mack this offseason. Those big moves allow the team more flexibility through the draft and will likely direct them to one of a few positions in the first round: offensive tackle, wide receiver and linebacker. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow had a lot of success with three wide receiver sets but perhaps the Chargers already feel confident in their group. In that instance, right tackle would seem like an obvious position to address as they round out the roster.
Bengals address the offensive line
Cincinnati did not overthink its own needs this offseason. Everyone under the sun knew of the team's interest in upgrading the offensive line. The Bengals signed offensive guard Alex Cappa, center Ted Karras and offensive tackle La'El Collins to go along with left tackle Jonah Williams. It is no longer a pressing need. If Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum fell to them at No. 31 overall, the franchise would be wise to invest in a long-term solution. In the event that he does not, cornerback and defensive tackle stand out as the biggest needs for the Bengals.
The 2022 NFL Draft is scheduled to take place from April 28-30 in Las Vegas, Nevada.