The NFL calendar officially recognizes the offseason for eighteen teams in less than a week. While players are off for rest and relaxation, front offices will be turning their attention to free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft. The playoffs are a good distraction over the next month and a half as free agency slowly creeps up. In today's thought exercise, we explore some of the quarterback-needy teams and their thought processes.
The 2022 NFL Draft order was determined with the updated strength of schedule and win-loss records, via Tankathon.com.
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Round 1 - Pick 1
Evan Neal OL
Alabama • Soph • 6'7" / 350 lbs
Offensive line is really the only position that I see Jacksonville considering beyond edge rusher. Offensive line is more of a need, and protecting Trevor Lawrence is the top priority. There is a lot to sort out in Duval County, but Lawrence is that piece who can make a lot of wrongs look right.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Michigan • Soph • 6'7" / 264 lbs
Detroit is going to take the best prospect available in its mind, and that leads me to Hutchinson. Culturally, I think he is a great fit for how Dan Campbell is trying to build that team. Romeo Okwara and the Michigan product would form a respectable tandem.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Oregon • Soph • 6'5" / 258 lbs
J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Mario Williams: Houston is no stranger to investing significant draft capital into that edge rusher position. Thibodeaux can be that imposing presence for the defense moving forward, assuming the Texans give Davis Mills another season at quarterback. Cornerback and offensive line could also be targets.
Round 1 - Pick 4
LSU • Soph • 6'0" / 195 lbs
With two of the top edge rushers off the board, New York's decision comes down to taking the best cornerback (Stingley), the third best edge rusher (Purdue's George Karlaftis) or the second best offensive lineman (Mississippi State's Charles Cross or N.C. State's Ikem Ekwonu). In this scenario, the Jets take the first cornerback off the board, allowing the young depth they cultivated this season to slide into more suitable roles.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Purdue • Soph • 6'4" / 263 lbs
The Giants have been searching for that elite edge rusher for years, and Karlaftis might finally be the answer. He is a strong, mature player who should be able to come in and contribute immediately. I do not think he gets enough attention.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Ikem Ekwonu OT
NC State • Soph • 6'4" / 320 lbs
Ekwonu is a local guy in terms of where he has been playing college football. He has the versatility to play offensive tackle or offensive guard, and the reality is that Carolina needs both. I think the team would try him at tackle before making the change because it is difficult to find quality offensive tackles.
From Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 7
Alabama • Soph • 6'1" / 179 lbs
Williams may not be as polished as some of the other wide receiver options, but he brings explosive playmaking ability to the table; that much has been evident throughout the season. The Jets have a quality young player in Elijah Moore, but they need that alpha moving forward. Williams can be that outlet for Zach Wilson.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 8
Notre Dame • Soph • 6'4" / 220 lbs
Safety is not a high priority for many teams in the top 10, but when a team has two first-round picks, a need at the position and arguably the best player in the draft is still available, you have to take that opportunity. New York is strapped for cash and Jabrill Peppers is scheduled to be a free agent.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Matt Corral QB
Ole Miss • Soph • 6'2" / 205 lbs
The pick was Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross until news came down that the team was signing Charles Leno to an extension. Leno was great this season, but it was unclear how comfortable the team was investing in a player at this stage of his career. Now, we know. I swapped in Corral, but I am not convinced Washington moves on from Taylor Heinicke just yet.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Pittsburgh • Soph • 6'3" / 220 lbs
No one expected Atlanta to be in playoff contention late into the season, so hat tip to the coaching staff for getting that turned around. There's not much exciting the fan base for the future but Pickett might. Regardless of your feelings on the Pittsburgh product, a first-round quarterback invigorates a franchise. Arthur Smith's recent history is lined with quarterbacks like Ryan Tannehill and Matt Ryan, so Pickett, playing in a dome, is a natural transition.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Devin Lloyd LB
Utah • Soph • 6'3" / 235 lbs
Jonathon Cooper has shown me enough to warrant a longer look opposite Bradley Chubb, so I pivoted to linebacker. Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell have played well when healthy, but Lloyd offers much more upside. He can drop into coverage and make plays in the box.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Cincinnati • Soph • 6'3" / 200 lbs
Minnesota has taken a number of swings at the cornerback piñata over the years but the candy has not fallen out. The team needs edge rush help and maybe a long-term replacement for Adam Thielen, but it takes "Sauce" Gardner to fill a need on the boundary.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 192 lbs
Cleveland's issues at wide receiver have been well-documented this season. I would expect the Browns' decision to come down to Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum and Wilson in this scenario. One week, I might have them taking Linderbaum and the next Wilson. The quarterback situation needs to be sorted out this offseason, but Wilson is a lynchpin for whoever ends up taking snaps under center in 2022.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 14
Iowa • Soph • 6'2" / 305 lbs
Jason Kelce is not going to play forever, but the Philadelphia organization and its fans are happy to allow him to do so until that time comes. If anyone is going to come close to what the Eagles have received from Kelce, Linderbaum is that guy. He is an athletic interior lineman who can make plays in space and put opponents into the dirt.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Malik Willis QB
Liberty • Soph • 6'1" / 219 lbs
I think New Orleans is going to be in the market for a veteran quarterback because it correctly believes it is in a title window right now. However, it would be naive to think that is a certainty, and that could lead them to searching for a replacement in the draft. Willis would give Sean Payton a unique skillset with which he can work.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Kenyon Green OL
Texas A&M • Soph • 6'4" / 323 lbs
I pivoted from Northern Iowa OT Trevor Penning in this spot after the team re-signed Patrick Mekari, and moved on to Green. He can play immediately or sit behind Kevin Zeitler for a year. In a pinch, he can play offensive tackle, which would seem to be a valuable commodity for Baltimore given events in recent years.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Mississippi State • Soph • 6'5" / 311 lbs
I really do think Najee Harris can be a great player for Pittsburgh. He was great this season despite offensive line deficiencies. Cross is regarded as a potential top-10-caliber player, so the Steelers are fortunate to get him at this point.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Drake London WR
USC • Soph • 6'4" / 213 lbs
Hunter Renfrow has earned a role on this team long-term, but the Raiders could use a bigger outside threat to draw eyes from he and Darren Waller. Drake London is a jump ball specialist with great tracking ability and body control.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Nakobe Dean LB
Georgia • Soph • 5'11" / 231 lbs
The 2022 NFL Draft could challenge Eagles fans. While it will be fun having so many first-round picks, I think the team could target some positions it is not accustomed to taking, like safety and linebacker. It took Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum with the first of three picks and now takes the game-wrecking linebacker from Georgia.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Jordan Davis DL
Georgia • Soph • 6'6" / 336 lbs
Los Angeles has been susceptible to getting gashed in the run game this season. When a team has that big of a weakness, it is not an exaggeration to think it will be a top priority this offseason. Davis is an animal who can free up teammates to make plays, like Vita Vea in Tampa Bay.
From Indianapolis Colts
Round 1 - Pick 21
USC • Soph • 6'4" / 273 lbs
Derek Barnett is a free agent, and the team is going to move on from Brandon Graham eventually. For a team that has always had pride in getting strong play out of the trenches, Jackson would continue that narrative. I think he is a more well-rounded player than Michigan's David Ojabo right now, but Ojabo has more upside as a pass rusher.
From San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 22
Northern Iowa • Soph • 6'7" / 325 lbs
Miami needs to upgrade its offensive line this offseason. To the Dolphins' credit, they have invested in that unit but it just has not really come to fruition. Penning is more ready to play as a rookie than Austin Jackson was in 2020.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • Soph • 6'1" / 189 lbs
New England has gotten good value from Kendrick Bourne this year, but the team wants to give Mac Jones more at the position. When looking at the Venn Diagram of talent and trustworthiness, you will find Olave in that crossover area.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Washington • Soph • 5'11" / 193 lbs
Arizona went all in on a potential title run this year. There is some calibration that has to happen before the Cardinals run it back in 2022, but cornerback is an obvious position to upgrade. McDuffie was great this season and can upgrade the secondary.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Kaiir Elam CB
Florida • Soph • 6'1" / 191 lbs
Buffalo is building depth in its secondary with the addition of Elam. He is a big-bodied cornerback who can be moved around to fill a number of different roles.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Clemson • Soph • 6'0" / 194 lbs
Cincinnati has gotten better production from its cornerbacks than I would have expected, but it could use a player who occupies the position for the next decade. I think Booth is one of the players who has that ability.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Texas A&M • Soph • 6'4" / 290 lbs
Dallas has been lauded for its usage of Micah Parsons this season, and Leal would allow the team to be even more versatile. He is predominantly an interior player on the next level but can play on the edge in certain situations.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Jahan Dotson WR
Penn State • Soph • 5'11" / 182 lbs
Chris Godwin is a free agent and the Antonio Brown situation played out in a not surprising fashion. Dotson is a fast player who has shown an ability to win at all three levels this year.
Round 1 - Pick 29
David Ojabo LB
Michigan • Soph • 6'4" / 255 lbs
Melvin Ingram has been a suitable option on the edge, which allowed Chris Jones to move back inside to a more natural role. Ingram will turn 33 years old in the spring, so Ojabo would be a welcomed youthful infusion as Kansas City looks for a suitable future.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 30
Arkansas • Soph • 6'2" / 225 lbs
Burks has lined up in the slot quite a bit, but he has the size and athletic profile to transition to the boundary. It is not an ideal fit, but Detroit needs help at the position and Burks has the best chance of being that No. 1 wide receiver among available options.
Round 1 - Pick 31
South Carolina • Soph • 6'4" / 258 lbs
Dupree has battled injury since signing with Tennessee, and Harold Landry III is a pending free agent, plus he has cooled off over the last month and a half. The Titans cannot reasonably get out from under Dupree's deal until after the 2022 season, so he will be back. Enagbare is either asked to start immediately or works his way into a rotation and takes over the following year.
Round 1 - Pick 32
Georgia • Soph • 6'3" / 200 lbs
Green Bay does not often take a wide receiver in the first round, but the team could make some sacrifices to keep Aaron Rodgers around and happy. Pickens is a deep ball threat to play along with Davante Adams.