Every NFL Team's Early Top Target in the 2022 NFL Draft

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 8, 2021

Every NFL Team's Early Top Target in the 2022 NFL Draft

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    With tight playoff races in the AFC and NFC, most NFL players probably aren't thinking too much about the looming offseason. Front-office decision-makers are, though, as it's never too early for them to plan for the future.

    The draft is, of course, one of the biggest events of the offseason and the reason some franchises stockpile picks. While there are no guarantees in the draft, few things can positively impact a roster quite like getting a young player entering his prime on a rookie deal.

    We're a long way out from the 2022 draft, which is scheduled to kick off on April 28. However, we're going to take our own early look at the projected crop of prospects.

    Below, you'll find our top target for each team based on current needs, expiring contracts and prospect potential. Draft range will also be considered, using the Bleacher Report Scouting Department's latest big board as a guide.

    A lot will inevitably change before and during free agency, but these are the players teams should be keeping an eye on heading into the final five weeks.

    For variety's sake—and to help provide a broader picture of the draft class—each prospect will be paired with one team only. Teams are listed in alphabetical order.

Arizona Cardinals: Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State

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    The Arizona Cardinals, who hold the top spot in the NFC, are likely to pick near the bottom of Round 1. There, this championship-caliber team should be able to go with the best player available. That player might be Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III.

    The top running back on B/R's big board, Walker is a powerhouse of a runner who could add some physicality to Arizona's inside running game. He has tallied 1,646 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground through 12 games and possesses the skill set and build (5'10", 210 lbs) of a future Sunday star.

    While the Cardinals have a serviceable running back tandem in Chase Edmonds and James Conner, they rank just 25th in yards per attempt. Edmonds has been sidelined by an ankle injury, and both he and Conner are scheduled to be free agents in 2022.

    Giving quarterback Kyler Murray another weapon in the form of Walker would help the Cardinals gunslinger continue his rise to MVP territory.

Atlanta Falcons: Drake London, WR, USC

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    The Atlanta Falcons may consider targeting Matt Ryan's successor at quarterback in 2022. However, wide receiver is a far more immediate need. Julio Jones was traded this past offseason, and budding star wideout Calvin Ridley is taking time away from football to focus on his mental health.

    With Ridley out of the lineup, Atlanta's passing game has sagged. Atlanta ranks just 24th in yards per pass attempt.

    Southern California's Drake London would be a perfect target to pair with Ridley upon the latter's return. At 6'5" and 210 pounds, London has the size needed to win contested catches on the perimeter, complementing Ridley's deep-ball ability.

    The top-ranked wideout on B/R's big board, London caught 88 passes for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns in just eight games. He missed USC's last four games with an ankle injury—and that will warrant monitoring—but London is a terrific candidate to be Atlanta's second consecutive first-round pass-catcher.

Baltimore Ravens: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

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    The Baltimore Ravens are still in first place in the AFC North despite experiencing some recent struggles. They'll likely land a playoff spot and pick near the back end of the first round.

    Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie would be a terrific target for Baltimore, due in no small part to the team's recent rash of injuries at the position. Marlon Humphrey was recently lost for the year to a torn pectoral muscle, and Marcus Peters suffered a torn ACL before the season even started.

    Peters could be a possible cap casualty in the offseason, as he is set to carry a cap hit of $15.5 million in 2022—only $5.5 million in dead money remains on his deal.

    McDuffie, the No. 3 corner on B/R's board, would provide Baltimore with an excellent insurance plan at the position while being a future mainstay in the secondary. The 5'11", 195-pound defender accumulated six passes defended, four tackles for loss and a sack in 11 games this season.

Buffalo Bills: Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia

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    The Buffalo Bills should be focused on reloading their defensive line early and often during the offseason. While the defense has been solid for most of the season, it has been gashed on the ground in recent weeks.

    In Week 11, the Bills surrendered 264 rushing yards to the Indianapolis Colts. On Monday night, the Bills gave up 222 ground yards to the rival New England Patriots.

    Additionally, the Bills defensive line is set to see Mario Addison, Jerry Hughes, Vernon Butler and Harrison Phillips hit free agency.

    The Bills should consider trading up for Georgia's Jordan Davis. The seventh overall prospect on B/R's board, Davis isn't likely to fall to the Bills, who currently hold the No. 7 seed in the AFC. With his size (6'6", 340 lbs), Davis could change the complexion of Buffalo's front seven.

    He has 28 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks in 13 games this season.

Carolina Panthers: Ikem Ekwonu, OL, North Carolina State

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    There's a very real chance that the Carolina Panthers will look to draft their quarterback of the future next April. The team exercised the fifth-year option on trade acquisition Sam Darnold, but he has not played well enough. Cam Newton is on the roster, but he is playing on a one-year deal.

    Carolina has options at quarterback, though. The Panthers may bring back Newton or give Darnold another opportunity. They may also look into acquiring another veteran like San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

    Regardless of who is under center, the Panthers need to solidify their offensive line. Carolina has surrendered 31 sacks and is averaging a modest 4.0 yards per carry on the ground. This is where NC State offensive lineman Ikem Ekwonu enters the equation.

    "Explosive power into contact in the run game," the Draft Network's Joe Marino wrote of Ekwonu. "Generates a strong initial surge into blocks and routinely re-sets the line of scrimmage in the run game. Features a stout anchor, and pass-rushers aren't going to find success trying to play through him."

    Ekwonu, who has experience playing left tackle and guard, would be a perfect pick to help protect Carolina's quarterback and open holes for running back Christian McCaffrey.

Chicago Bears: John Metchie III, WR, Alabama

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    The Chicago Bears have their quarterback of the future in Justin Fields. What they don't have is a 2022 first-round pick after trading up to acquire Fields.

    It's going to take work for the Bears to adequately replace pending free agent Allen Robinson II at receiver, but Chicago will benefit from a deep receiver class. Alabama wideout John Metchie III, for example, has the potential to be a No. 1 NFL receiver but will likely be available in Round 2.

    The 37th-ranked prospect on Bleacher Report's board, Metchie was already trending as a high second-round pick. He's now out with what Nick Saban described as a "significant" ACL injury, which may secure his place outside of the first round.

    Before the injury, though, Metchie was superb. He caught 96 passes for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games. While it may take time for Metchie to regain pre-injury form, he would form a terrific tandem with budding Chicago standout Darnell Mooney.

Cincinnati Bengals: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

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    The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the NFL's most complete rosters, but they could use help in the secondary. The Bengals rank 27th in passing yards per game allowed and are set to see multiple cornerbacks—including Eli Apple, Vernon Hargreaves, Jalen Davis and Tre Flowers—hit free agency in the offseason.

    Cincinnati should be quick to target Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam in Round 1—even if that necessitates a trade up.

    The second-ranked corner on B/R's board, Elam has the length (6'2") and the physicality needed to mesh with defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo's system. The Bengals feature an aggressive and opportunistic defense, and Elam projects as an ideal fit.

    In nine games this season, Elam has tallied 15 solo stops, five passes defended and an interception. He had 28 solo stops, 11 pass breakups and two picks the previous year.

Cleveland Browns: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State

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    The Cleveland Browns were in need of a legitimate No. 1 receiver even before the release of Odell Beckham Jr. Beckham and quarterback Baker Mayfield never quite clicked, and this left Cleveland with an underwhelming receiving corps.

    Tight end David Njoku leads the Browns with a mere 407 receiving yards.

    Cleveland needs to target a No. 1-caliber receiver in the first round, and Penn State's Jahan Dotson should be a prime candidate. Though a bit undersized at 5'11" and 184 pounds, he has the speed and ball skills to be a top outside target.

    "He has good sideline awareness and concentration to take advantage of accurate throws in tight spaces on out-breaking patterns and when targeted on the back shoulder on vertical targets on the perimeter," Kyle Crabbs of the Draft Network wrote.

    Through 12 games this season, Dotson has amassed 91 receptions, 1,182 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns.

Dallas Cowboys: David Ojabo, Edge, Michigan

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    Though the Dallas Cowboys recently got DeMarcus Lawrence (foot fracture) back in the lineup, they could use help in the pass-rushing department. The Cowboys have relied on an opportunistic defense to complement their explosive offense, and an improved pass rush would help continue racking up the turnovers.

    Dallas has a middle-of-the-pack 26 sacks on the season, though again, Lawrence has missed all but two games.

    Rookie linebacker Micah Parsons has been great at getting to the quarterback, already having 10 sacks and 38 quarterback pressures. Still, it would be smart for the Cowboys to nab a young bookend across from Lawrence on the defensive line. Trading up for one of the top pass-rushers is probably out of the question, but Michigan's David Ojabo could be a fine target for Dallas.

    The 20th-ranked prospect on Bleacher Report's big board, Ojabo should be within range for the Cowboys, even if they have to move up a few spots. He's a productive edge defender who could help replace impending free agent Randy Gregory at defensive end. Gregory and Parsons are the only two Cowboys defenders with at least five sacks this season.

    Ojabo has 11 sacks and 12 tackles for loss in 13 games.

Denver Broncos: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

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    The Denver Broncos will be examining all quarterback options in the offseason. Teddy Bridgewater beat out Drew Lock for the starting job in camp but has been little more than a high-end game-manager this season.

    Bridgewater has a passer rating of 95.0 but has struggled with consistency and pushing the ball down the field. He ranks 19th in yards per completion among qualifying quarterbacks. He's also set to be a free agent in the spring.

    Denver should take a long look at Cincinnati signal-caller Desmond Ridder, the top-ranked quarterback on the B/R board. Ridder has helped carry the Bearcats into the College Football Playoff and could carry the Broncos back into AFC relevance.

    "More of a bundle of traits before this season, Ridder improved on his consistency and overall polish," Nate Tice of the B/R Scouting Department wrote. "He is asked to make legitimate NFL passes in a Cincinnati offense that requires him to progress and layer throws at all three levels, which he is more than willing and able to do."

    Through 13 games, Ridder has passed for 3,190 yards with 30 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He has also rushed for 361 yards and six scores.

Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon

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    The Detroit Lions won their first game in Week 13, but they're still in line to "earn" the No. 1 overall pick. While the Lions will likely look to move on from quarterback Jared Goff in the not-too-distant future, there isn't a signal-caller currently worthy of the top selection—though the pre-draft process could always change that.

    The Lions should take the best player in the draft, and that's Oregon pass-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux. He is the top-ranked prospect on B/R's board and about as close to a can't-miss prospect as there is in this class.

    The 6'5", 258-pound defender is a terror off the edge and can disrupt the run game as well. In 11 games this season, he has totaled seven sacks, 25 solo stops, 12 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.

    Drafting Thibodeaux would also fill a huge defensive need for Detroit. The Lions have struggled to pressure opposing passers and have notched just 19 sacks.

Green Bay Packers: Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson

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    The Green Bay Packers may have some huge shoes to fill at the receiver position next spring, as top receiver Davante Adams is scheduled to hit the open market.

    Even if the Packers manage to keep Adams—possibly through the use of the franchise tag—they should look to add a receiver early in the draft. The depth behind Adams has long been questionable, and he's the only receiver on the roster with more than 375 receiving yards.

    It's also worth noting that Marquez Valdes-Scantling will be an unrestricted free agent, while Allen Lazard and Equanimeous St. Brown will both be restricted free agents.

    Enter Clemson's Justyn Ross, the 25th-ranked prospect on Bleacher Report's big board. Ross is a big (6'4", 205 lbs) physical possession receiver who would perfectly complement Adams' ability to stretch the field vertically.

    In 10 games this season, Ross has accumulated 524 yards and three touchdowns on 46 receptions. He had foot surgery in November, but head coach Dabo Swinney said that shouldn't affect his training for the NFL combine. 

Houston Texans: Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan

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    The Houston Texans will likely be searching for a new franchise quarterback in the offseason. Deshaun Watson hasn't played this season and faces 22 civil lawsuits and 10 criminal complaints from women who have accused him of sexual assault and misconduct. He also requested a trade in the offseason.

    The Texans also need a pass-rusher, though, and if they continue to hold one of the top selections, that's the route they should look to take. Houston parted ways with longtime star J.J. Watt in the offseason and released Whitney Mercilus in October.

    As a team, the Texans have just 26 sacks this season.

    Aidan Hutchinson of Michigan would be an ideal target for Houston. While he's the No. 4 prospect on the B/R board, he's the top prospect of ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.

    Hutchinson, who has amassed 14 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss, has the potential to completely revitalize Houston's pass rush.

Indianapolis Colts: David Bell, WR, Purdue

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    The Indianapolis Colts have been surging thanks to the hard running of Jonathan Taylor, the resurgence of quarterback Carson Wentz and the emergence of second-year wideout Michael Pittman Jr.

    While Pittman is developing into a solid top target for Wentz, the Colts could use a high-end complement on the perimeter. Pittman is the only player on the roster who has 350 or more receiving yards. Zach Pascal is the only other wideout with at least 300 yards.

    The Colts aren't likely to have a first-round selection because of the Wentz trade. They gave the Philadelphia Eagles a conditional second-round pick that will become a first if Wentz plays at least 75 percent of the offensive snaps or 70 percent with a playoff berth. Wentz has played 98 percent of the snaps.

    The Colts might be able to find their next playmaker in the second round, though, by taking Purdue's David Bell. B/R's 35th-ranked prospect, Bell might require a trade up, but he'd be worth the move. A dangerous downfield threat, Bell has racked up 1,286 yards and six touchdowns on 93 receptions this season.

Jacksonville Jaguars: George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue

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    David Bell isn't the only Purdue product who's likely to hear his name called early on draft weekend. Pass-rusher George Karlaftis is currently the No. 2 prospect on Bleacher Report's big board.

    The two-win Jacksonville Jaguars may still have a shot at the No. 1 pick and Kayvon Thibodeaux, but Karlaftis should be viewed as more than just a consolation prize if they don't. A blue-chip edge-defender in his own right, Karlaftis has the potential to significantly upgrade Jacksonville's pass rush.

    The Jaguars have notched only 20 sacks so far this season, which is tied for 28th leaguewide. Josh Allen is the only Jaguars defender with more than five sacks.

    Through 12 games, Karlaftis has produced five sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles. He would pair with Allen to give Jacksonville one of the better young pass-rushing duos in the AFC.

Kansas City Chiefs: Drake Jackson, Edge, USC

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    While the Kansas City Chiefs defense has been carrying the team over the past few weeks—and just might carry them on a deep playoff run—Kansas City should still be thinking edge-rusher in the 2022 draft.

    The Chiefs have logged only 20 sacks on the season. Chris Jones, who recently moved back inside to defensive tackle, has been responsible for 6.5 of those. Kansas City acquired Melvin Ingram before the trade deadline, but he's playing on a one-year deal.

    Even if Ingram starts impacting the pass rush—he has only a half-sack and 11 quarterback pressures in six games with the Chiefs—he probably won't be around long-term.

    If the Chiefs continue winning and end up with a late first-round pick, USC's Drake Jackson could be an ideal target. A productive defender who should end up in Kansas City's draft range, Jackson has produced five sacks, 22 solo stops and eight tackles for loss in 11 games this season.

Las Vegas Raiders: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

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    The Las Vegas Raiders will have a new head coach in 2022—possibly interim coach Rich Bisaccia—and it bears watching how they look to build their roster moving forward. While they may have a different philosophy than they did under Jon Gruden, they'll need to find a replacement for wide receiver Henry Ruggs III.

    Las Vegas released Ruggs in early November after he was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor and four felonies, including reckless driving and driving under the influence of alcohol resulting in death.

    While Ohio State's Garrett Wilson is not a burner like Ruggs, he is more than capable of making big downfield plays. He's a precise route-runner who will create separation both in space and on the perimeter.

    A physical 6'0", 192-pound pass-catcher, Wilson isn't afraid to fight for the ball, either. While he isn't likely to wow with his speed at the scouting combine, he has the tools to complement Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow as one of Derek Carr's go-to targets.

    In 11 games this season, Wilson has caught 70 passes for 1,058 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Los Angeles Chargers: Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M

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    The Los Angeles Chargers desperately need to address their run defense this offseason. They currently rank 31st in rushing yards per game and 30th in rushing touchdowns allowed.

    However, this draft isn't particularly loaded along the defensive line or at linebacker. Instead, the Chargers should look to spend an early-round pick to upgrade the offensive line in front of quarterback Justin Herbert.

    Herbert has been sacked 25 times this season and has struggled with pressure on the interior.

    Guard Matt Feiler has been responsible for four penalties and four sacks allowed, according to Pro Football Focus. Fellow guard Michael Schofield is playing on a one-year deal.

    Texas A&M interior lineman Kenyon Green could help solidify the interior of L.A.'s line for the long term. The 18th-ranked prospect on B/R's board, Green would help keep Herbert clean while powering the interior ground game.

Los Angeles Rams: Braxton Jones, OT, Southern Utah

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    The Los Angeles Rams have left tackle Andrew Whitworth under contract through 2022. However, Whitworth will turn 40 on Sunday, and there's no guarantee that he'll be back next season.

    Even if he is, it's time for L.A. to start thinking about a succession plan. However, the Rams don't have a first- or a second-round pick in the 2022 draft.

    Finding a quality offensive tackle late on Day 2 can be difficult, but the Rams might get one by targeting Southern Utah's Braxton Jones. A big (6'7" and 310 lbs) and physically gifted prospect, Jones has the upside of a premier developmental prospect—and the work ethic to match.

    "My desire to be detail-oriented on and off the field makes me a top prospect," Jones told Damond Talbot of Draft Diamonds. "This is an important trait as an offensive lineman because the small details like your footwork and hand placement is an important factor that can lead to a win or loss."

    The 76th-ranked prospect on Bleacher Report's big board, Jones could be the tackle of the future in Los Angeles.

Miami Dolphins: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

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    The Miami Dolphins are armed with the San Francisco 49ers' first-round selection after giving their own to the Philadelphia Eagles to move up and snag Jaylen Waddle. With the 49ers' pick likely to be in the middle of Round 1, Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. is a logical target.

    The 21st-ranked prospect on Bleacher Report's board, Booth is a quality cover corner who should fit on the back end of defensive coordinator Josh Boyer's unit.

    While cornerback isn't a dire need for the Dolphins—which ranks 12th in net yards per pass attempt allowed—they would be wise to target the position. Starting corner Xavien Howard requested a trade this past offseason but eventually settled for a reworked contract.

    Howard also received "assurances" from Miami that it will renegotiate a new deal in late February or early March following the 2021 season, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.

    Drafting Booth would potentially give Howard a high-upside running mate in the secondary or would provide insurance if Howard again seeks a departure.

Minnesota Vikings: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

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    LSU's Derek Stingley Jr. is the top-ranked cornerback on the Bleacher Report big board, and he should be the Minnesota Vikings' top target next April.

    The Vikings have struggled to defend the pass in 2021. They currently rank 23rd in yards per game allowed. Minnesota also might have multiple corners depart in free agency, as Patrick Peterson, Mackensie Alexander and Bashaud Breeland are all set to hit the open market.

    Stingley, a physical 6'1", 195-pound cover man, has the potential to be the lockdown corner that Minnesota lacks.

    "He's a physical player in every component, whether that is competing to get off blocks, at the line of scrimmage in press coverage, at the catch point, or as a tackler," Joe Marino of The Draft Network wrote.

    The main concern with Stingley is that he's been out since October following foot surgery. His recovery will need to be monitored, but he should still be a top option for Minnesota.

New England Patriots: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

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    The New England Patriots have gotten a tremendous inaugural campaign out of quarterback Mac Jones thus far. Jones has played smart, efficient football—he has a passer rating of 97.0—and he's helped raise the level of New England's patchwork receiving corps.

    The Patriots rank sixth in yards per pass attempt.

    While receivers Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne have been more than serviceable this year, the Patriots still lack a go-to No. 1 receiver. Targeting Jameson Williams could help change that.

    Williams, the 19th-ranked prospect on Bleacher Report's draft board, has legitimate No. 1 receiver potential. With a long (6'2", 189 lbs) frame and plenty of quickness, Williams has shined as the Crimson Tide's latest big-play pass-catcher.

    In 13 games this season, Williams has caught 68 passes for 1,445 yards and 15 touchdowns. The Patriots should be willing to trade up to get him.

New Orleans Saints: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

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    Like the Patriots, the New Orleans Saints lack a true No. 1 receiver—at least, they do with Michael Thomas (ankle) on injured reserve. With Thomas sidelined through all of 2021, the Saints have struggled to move the ball through the air consistently.

    New Orleans ranks 25th in yards per pass attempt, while Deonte Harris leads the team with just 523 receiving yards.

    The Saints should go back to the Ohio State well (Thomas is a former Buckeye) and grab wideout Chris Olave. The No. 2 receiver on Bleacher Report's big board, Olave is a 6'1", 188-pound pass-catcher who can attack all areas of the field.

    Like Thomas before him, Olave has risen to prominence as one of the country's best route-runners. While not a true speedster, Olave consistently finds space in the secondary. In 12 games this season, he has caught 65 passes for 936 yards and 13 touchdowns.

New York Giants: Tyler Linderbaum, IOL, Iowa

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    The New York Giants may decide to move on from quarterback Daniel Jones this offseason. Whether they keep him or not, the Giants need to upgrade their offensive line to give their passing game a chance.

    While Jones has been sacked a reasonable 22 times, he's been under pressure on 23.3 percent of his dropbacks. A lot of that pressure has come from the interior. Guard Will Hernandez, for example, has been responsible for eight penalties and six sacks, according to Pro Football Focus. Center Billy Price has four penalties and one sack allowed, per PFF.

    Price and Hernandez are both slated to be free agents in 2022.

    The Giants would be wise to target Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum. An athletic 6'3", 290-pound prospect, Linderbaum is the fifth-ranked player on the B/R board and the top interior offensive lineman. While drafting a center rarely generates fan buzz, taking Linderbaum could help secure New York's offensive interior for the next decade.

New York Jets: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

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    This may seem like an unconventional choice. Alabama's Evan Neal is the top-ranked lineman on Bleacher Report's draft board and projects as a premier left tackle. The New York Jets, meanwhile, already have a solid young left tackle in Mekhi Becton—though, he's been out since Week 1 with a knee injury.

    However, Neal has experience starting at both tackle spots, and he shined on the right side in 2020.

    "Neal is a massive right tackle, yet he has surprisingly nimble feet and quickness. He varies his pass sets, occasionally jumping/attacking edge-rushers and eliminating their runway," NFL Media draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah wrote in June.

    Pairing Neal with Becton would give New York arguably the best young tackle duo in football. That would be a huge development as the Jets look to continue developing up-and-down rookie quarterback Zach Wilson for the long haul.

Philadelphia Eagles: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

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    Thanks to trades with the Colts and Dolphins, the Eagles are likely to have three first-round selections in April. This gives Philadelphia the flexibility to move around the opening round as it sees fit.

    The Eagles should try to target versatile Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton early on opening night. They have been solid against the pass—they rank in the top 10 in yards per attempt allowed—but starters Rodney McLeod and Anthony Harris are scheduled to reach free agency.

    Hamilton projects as a free safety, but he has experience playing multiple positions and roles.

    "He can play as a high safety, a force player in the box or match up one-on-one with tight ends," Jeremiah wrote. "He has excellent anticipation and takes ideal angles to the ball versus the run and the pass."

    Hamilton should slot right in as a starter at either safety position and provide the Eagles with a defensive building block for many years to come.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers appear headed toward L.A.B.B. (life after Big Ben), as longtime starter Ben Roethlisberger is expected to retire in the offseason.

    "Roethlisberger privately has told former teammates and some within the organization that he expects this to be his final season playing quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers," ESPN's Adam Schefter reported.

    The Steelers should look close to home at Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett for Roethlisberger's replacement. The 6'3", 220-pound Pickett has good size for the NFL, and he's flashed more than enough ability.

    In 13 games this season, Pickett has thrown for 4,319 yards with 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has also rushed for 233 yards and five more scores.

    While Pickett is the 30th-ranked prospect on the B/R board—and the No. 2 quarterback—the Steelers may still have to trade up to acquire him, given the importance of the position. And they should.

San Francisco 49ers: Martin Emerson, CB, Mississippi State

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    The San Francisco 49ers have navigated multiple injuries again in 2021, several of them at cornerback. Jason Verrett was lost to a torn ACL in Week 1, while Emmanuel Moseley was recently sidelined by a high ankle sprain.

    While San Francisco may be healthier in 2022, it will also need to restock the cornerback position. Verrett, Josh Norman, K'Waun Williams and Dontae Johnson are among San Francisco's pending free agents.

    The 49ers don't have a first-round pick due to their trade up for Trey Lance, but they should still be able to land a quality corner in a deep class. Mississippi State's Martin Emerson, the 36th-ranked prospect on the Bleacher Report big board, might be the perfect Round 2 target.

    The 6'2", 200-pound Emerson has the size to thrive on the perimeter in the physical NFC West. He can win against bigger receivers, and he's more than willing to contribute in run support. In 12 games this season, Emerson has compiled three passes defended, three tackles for loss and 31 solo stops.

Seattle Seahawks: Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota

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    The Seattle Seahawks should be heavily focused on addressing their offensive line. Russell Wilson and Geno Smith have already been sacked a combined 39 times this season, and there's a good chance that left tackle Duane Brown will depart in free agency.

    Brown, who is in the final year of his contract, wanted an extension in the offseason but didn't get it. Instead, Seattle reworked his deal to get him on the field for 2021.

    Even without a first-round pick, Seattle may be able to land a long-time starter in Minnesota's Daniel Faalele. The 43rd-ranked prospect on B/R's big board, Faalele is a bit raw—he transitioned from Australian rugby—but has tremendous upside.

    "Faalele is a freakishly large athlete for the game and moves with more agility and grace than you'd ever expect from a man of his stature," Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network wrote. "Add in his raw size and it is clear that Faalele offers the 'unteachable' dynamics of the position and will likely be coveted as a result of having all the tools in the toolbox."

    It may take a little time, but Faalele could become a long-term fixture on Seattle's line.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have some serious rebuilding to do at receiver in the offseason. Antonio Brown is in the midst of a three-game suspension for obtaining a fake COVID-19 vaccination card, and he may not return to the team at all.

    "One source said no decision has been made on whether Brown will return to the team after his suspension," NFL Network's Ian Rapoport wrote.

    Brown, tight end Rob Gronkowski and star wideout Chris Godwin are among the Buccaneers pass-catchers who are scheduled to reach free agency. If veteran quarterback Tom Brady returns for another season, reloading at receiver should be Tampa's top priority.

    Arkansas receiver Treylon Burks would be an ideal target, even if it takes trading up to land the 15th-ranked prospect on the B/R board.

    Burks is a versatile pass-catcher who thrives in the slot and would be a natural replacement for Brown in that role. In 12 games this season, he has caught 66 passes for 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Tennessee Titans: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

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    Pass protection has been a significant issue for the Tennessee Titans, especially with star running back Derrick Henry (foot) on injured reserve.

    The Titans have had to rely heavily on quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has already been sacked 33 times. Right tackle David Quessenberry has allowed eight of those sacks, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Mississippi State's Charles Cross has played primarily at left tackle, but he has the length (6'5", 310 lbs) to slot in opposite Taylor Lewan on the right side.

    "His athleticism is often able to shine, as he's a B+ athlete that has enough springiness and explosion out of his stance to match edge rushers that attempt to threaten him up the field," Jordan Reid of The Draft Network wrote.

    Having Lewan and Cross as bookend tackles should help allow Tannehill to get back to Pro Bowl form.

Washington Football Team: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

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    The Washington Football Team is back in the playoff mix, largely thanks to a turnaround by the team's defense. While Washington has allowed 21 or fewer points in each of its last five games, cornerback should still be a position of concern.

    On the season, Washington has allowed the third-most passing yards per game and the league's most passing touchdowns.

    The Football Team should benefit from a deep cornerback class, and Cincinnati's Ahmad Gardner—the 26th-ranked prospect on the B/R big board—could be there for the taking in the mid-to-late first round. While Cincinnati isn't widely regarded as an NFL factory, the Bearcats have stormed into the College Football Playoff this season.

    The play of Gardner has helped Cincinnati emerge. The 6'3", 200-pound pass-defender has notched four pass breakups, three interceptions and 26 solo stops during Cincinnati's undefeated season. He could quickly become a huge asset on the perimeter of Washington's defensive backfield.


    Contract information via Spotrac. Advanced NFL statistics from Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted. College statistics from CFBStats.com.