2022 NFL Mock Draft: B/R NFL Scouting Dept.'s Post-Super Bowl Picks
Super Bowl LVI served as a fascinating case study between completely opposite approaches to team-building.
The Cincinnati Bengals' success centered around 2020 No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow and 2021 No. 5 overall pick Ja'Marr Chase. The Bengals rounded out their roster with plenty of free-agent signings, but the recent investments in Burrow and Chase helped them unexpectedly reach the Super Bowl this season.
Meanwhile, the Rams went all-in via multiple trades for Matthew Stafford, Von Miller and Jalen Ramsey. They haven't made a first-round pick since trading up for quarterback Jared Goff in 2016, but they've done an excellent job mining for talent in the later rounds.
Either approach works, but the draft still serves as the through line.
Every other franchise is now looking to unseat these two squads, and the 2022 NFL draft will serve as an opportunity to get significantly better now and in the long term.
Bleacher Report's scouting department of Brandon Thorn, Brent Sobleski, Cory Giddings, Derrik Klassen and Nate Tice looked ahead to project the first three rounds of April's draft and see where every squad can improve.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: OT Evan Neal, Alabama
The Jacksonville Jaguars might be inclined to take an offensive tackle with the first overall pick to protect quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick in 2021. However, Alabama's Evan Neal shouldn't be considered a reach at that spot.
"Neal has prototypical physical traits, with ideal size, length, athletic ability and the proven versatility to play on either side," Thorn said. "He is exceptionally smooth and agile for someone who's 350 pounds, and he has the play strength to create consistent movement in the run game.
"Also, Neal won't turn 22 until September, giving the Jaguars an important runway for needed refinement to occur in his use of leverage, pad level and hands.
"Lawrence is the centerpiece of the Jaguars franchise, so fortifying the line in front of him to enhance his development is a top priority. Neal would provide Lawrence and the team with an instant-impact starter whom the line can build around while simultaneously making the entire front five better."
The Jaguars have spent top-10 picks in recent years on premium positions such as quarterback (Lawrence), cornerback (C.J. Henderson) and linebacker (Josh Allen). They can round that out with an offensive tackle at the top of this year's draft.
2. Detroit Lions: Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
The Detroit Lions could benefit from the Jaguars needing to protect their investment in Trevor Lawrence.
Evan Neal is an elite talent and ranks among the best prospects in the class. However, Oregon edge-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux has separated himself as Bleacher Report's top-rated prospect throughout the predraft process.
"Thibodeaux is still the best pass-rusher in this draft class," Klassen stated. "He has the most enticing blend of size (6'5", 258 pounds), speed and power, and the Lions desperately need some real juice on the outside. Thibodeaux would be a great complement to all of the young interior defensive linemen whom the Lions invested in last year."
Detroit selected Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill in the second and third rounds of last year's draft, respectively. They're the future along the defensive interior. The Lions have the Okwara brothers to rush the edge, but neither presents the same package of Thibodeaux, whose talent level falls somewhere close to previous No. 1 overall picks Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.
Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson may be tempting at this slot, but Thibodeux has more upside.
3. Houston Texans: Edge Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
Based purely on his 2021 film, Michigan edge-rusher Aidan Hutchinson should be in the conversation for this year's No. 1 overall pick. The 6'6", 265-pound defender set a program record with 16.5 sacks and completely dominated certain contests.
However, Hutchinson didn't perform as well against the Georgia Bulldogs in the Orange Bowl. And questions about his overall potential remain.
Hutchinson isn't as explosive off the edge as Kayvon Thibodeaux, who's more of a traditional edge-rusher. Purdue's George Karlaftis may even present more upside. Where Hutchinson ultimately lands is dependent on how teams view his long-term capabilities.
In this case, the Houston Texans need a consistent and reliable top talent at a premium position. Hutchinson may be the safest pick in the entire draft.
"Like the Detroit Lions, the Texans need a threat off the edge," Klassen noted. "Jacob Martin and Jonathan Greenard were surprisingly good for them last season, but Greenard is more of a second or third pass-rusher, and Martin is set to hit the free-agent market. Hutchinson provides a degree of quickness and elite hand usage that would instantly improve Houston's pass rush."
4. New York Jets: Edge George Karlaftis, Purdue
The New York Jets already have a pair of talented edge defenders in Carl Lawson, who's coming off a season-ending injury, and John Franklin-Myers. Some may consider another significant investment at the position as overkill.
However, the addition of Purdue's George Karlaftis would provide them with flexibility.
"Getting Lawson back from injury next season will do a lot to fix New York's outside pass-rushing woes, but it will not be enough," Klassen said. "Karlaftis, with all of his explosiveness and smooth movement skills, would be a great pairing with the returning veteran. Karlaftis is already a sharp run defender, too, which would make him a welcome addition to a Jets front that struggled to defend the run last season."
At 6'4" and 275 pounds with the power to overwhelm offensive tackles and explosiveness to beat interior blockers, Karlaftis can move up and down the line to exploit potential weaknesses in opponents' blocking schemes.
Jets head coach Robert Saleh once built the San Francisco 49ers defense around Nick Bosa. He could do similar things with Karlaftis in the lineup.
The Jets' pressure packages could thrive with Lawson, Franklin-Myers and the rookie on the field at the same time in sub-packages.
5. New York Giants: OL Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State
The New York Giants fielded the NFL's 30th-ranked offensive line this past season, according to Pro Football Focus. Aside from Andrew Thomas, who grew into his role as the left tackle, they might need to rebuild the rest of their front five from scratch.
North Carolina's Ikem Ekwonu would be an ideal fit for the Giants. He can play either tackle or guard, and his physicality would set a different standard among the position group.
"Ekwonu's blend of size (6'4", 320 pounds), explosive power and quickness would provide New York with elite talent, plus address a major need along the offensive line," Thorn said. "With Thomas already in place, Ekwonu would likely need to learn a new position at right tackle or potentially move inside to guard.
"Having to learn a new position is not ideal for maximum, immediate impact. But 'Ickey' has such rare ability as a run-blocker that he would likely still give the Giants a significant return on investment with the fifth overall pick, even as he irons out the finer aspects of his technique in pass protection.
"The Giants have a quality line coach in Bobby Johnson to guide and work with Ekwonu and a gifted offensive play-caller in Brian Daboll, who brings a track record of putting his players in positions to succeed."
6. Carolina Panthers: OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State
The Carolina Panthers might be inclined to reach on a quarterback here, but there's still too much other elite talent on the board at premium positions.
Instead, the Panthers could turn to Mississippi State offensive tackle Charles Cross and immediately improve their pass protection for whomever starts behind center.
"Cross is among the best pass-protectors in the class," Thorn wrote. "He has polished hand usage, leverage and footwork to consistently mirror and stay in front of a variety of alignments and pass-rushers.
"The Air Raid system that Cross comes from helps make the job of offensive linemen easier with the increased splits and quick passes. But he also played against excellent competition in the SEC to somewhat mitigate that concern.
"Cross' quantity of run-blocking reps is also comparatively low, but the quality is noticeably high. He has good play strength and physicality, bucking the trend of most Air Raid linemen."
Carolina inexplicably signed Cam Erving to a two-year, $10 million deal last offseason, and he started nine games as the team's blindside protector. Cross would be a massive upgrade over Erving.
7. New York Giants (from Chicago): WR Drake London, USC
New head coach Brian Daboll may be the perfect hire to maximize quarter Daniel Jones' long-term potential. To do so, the New York Giants need the proper weapons to fully implement Daboll's system.
With Daboll as their offensive coordinator last year, the Buffalo Bills ranked among the top five in 11 personnel usage, per Sharp Football's Warren Sharp. In fact, the Bills had three or more wide receivers on the field 80 percent of the time.
The Giants have already made significant investments in Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard. However, USC's Drake London is a different type of prospect.
"London would combine with Toney and Golladay to give the Giants a formidable receiver room with an ideal blend of skill sets," Tice noted. "At 6'5" and 210 pounds, London brings excellent size. But there is more to his game than just being a big ball-winner.
"London is a refined route-runner with the athleticism to run a real route tree. Between that, his good hands and his wide catching range, he has the potential to be a true mismatch nightmare."
8. Atlanta Falcons: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
The Atlanta Falcons are hunting unicorns.
Last year, they spent the fourth overall pick on tight end Kyle Pitts with the fourth overall pick, who redefined how we look at a modern tight end prospect. The same could apply to Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton.
The Falcons would be fortunate to land Hamilton at No. 8. He's the fifth-ranked overall prospect on our latest big board.
"Since the Falcons went offense and took Pitts last year, they'll likely turn their attention to their defense this year," Gidding rationalized. "Hamilton is one of the most versatile players in the draft and would immediately help their secondary."
The selling points are obvious. Hamilton presents ridiculous range from a 6'4", 220-pound defensive back.
Bigger safeties are typically known for their physicality and play near the line of scrimmage. However, Hamilton allowed the lowest passer rating in coverage since the start of the 2019 campaign, per Pro Football Focus.
Aside from a slight knee injury that derailed the last month of his 2021 campaign, Hamilton is the best all-around safety prospect since the late, great Sean Taylor.
9. Denver Broncos: QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
Some team is bound to reach on a quarterback in this year's draft. The position is too valuable not to do so, and the NFL's rookie wage scale prevents a poor choice from turning into a franchise-crippling one.
Here, the Denver Broncos pull the trigger on arguably the class' most pro-ready quarterback, Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett.
"The Broncos have a talented crop of skill-position players in Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick and Noah Fant who would greatly benefit from an accurate quarterback like Pickett," Tice said. "The reigning Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner would allow them to create yards after the catch.
"Pickett might not have the upside other recent top quarterback prospects, but he understands how to run an offense and has the added benefit of being able to create plays off-script and make throws off-platform."
Teddy Bridgewater limited the Broncos' offense too much last year. Drew Lock is far too erratic. If the Broncos don't acquire a veteran solution in free agency or via a trade, Pickett would be the safe pick here.
They could have gone with another quarterback here with better overall potential. Instead, Denver lands an orchestrator and the offense will run through him, even though his physical upside isn't on par with others.
10. New York Jets (from Seattle): DL Jordan Davis, Georgia
After adding Purdue edge-rusher George Karlaftis with the fourth overall pick, the New York Jets double down on their defensive front at No. 10, giving the franchise a clear identity.
Georgia's Jordan Davis is different than everyone else in the class. The reigning Outland Trophy winner is a piledriver along the defensive interior, with the potential to become even more.
"With Folorunso Fatukasi likely out the door in free agency, the Jets may need to replace him along the interior," Klassen noted. "Davis is a behemoth in the middle, showcasing both the fortitude to be a space-eater as well as some shocking explosiveness for a player his size.
"While Davis' pass-rushing skills are undeveloped right now, he is a special run defender and has enough athleticism for there to be a path toward valuable pass-rushing reps down the line."
Davis is already a difference-maker as a two-down defender. But his potential to collapse the pocket on a regular basis, particularly at his size, would turn him into an elite prospect.
11. Washington Commanders: QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
The Washington Commanders have a new identity. The rebranding of the organization should continue with the acquisition with a long-term solution behind center.
Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder didn't put on a show recently at the Senior Bowl, but his performance didn't change his status as Bleacher Report's QB1. The little things are what separate Ridder from an otherwise muddled quarterback class.
"Ridder improved greatly throughout the 2021 season, and here, Washington bets that he still has more growth potential," Tice suggested. "His footwork and understanding of concepts would allow him to potentially start early in his career, but has the athleticism and work ethic to take another leap in the NFL.
"Ridder can have some accuracy issues early in contests, but he settles in as games go along and has the ability to deliver throws at all three levels."
Kenny Pickett may be the safest pick among an unsteady quarterback crop, and Liberty's Malik Willis has the rawest potential. Ridder falls between those two points as the best combination of working from the pocket with the ability to create beyond designed plays.
12. Minnesota Vikings: CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
After spending first-round picks on cornerbacks in 2015, 2018 and 2020, the Minnesota Vikings go back to the well here. In this case, such a move is both practical and laden with value.
"With an aging Patrick Peterson, this might be the best time to get a younger lockdown cornerback, such as LSU's Derek Stingley Jr.," Giddings suggested. "Cameron Dantzler played well this past season, and the potential pairing of him and Stingley could create a strong tandem for years to come."
As a true freshman, Stingley looked like a future top-five pick. He played as well as any defensive back ever has at his age during LSU's national championship run.
However, potential concerns over a slight downturn in performance and a foot injury that prevented him from playing in all but three games this past season add a certain amount of risk.
The Vikings wouldn't necessarily ask Stingley to step in and cover an opponent's top receiver right away. Peterson could serve as an excellent mentor for Stingley if the Vikings re-sign him, helping the 20-year-old establish the right habits and learn how to be a professional at the onset of his NFL career.
13. Cleveland Browns: WR Chis Olave, Ohio State
Whomever starts under center for the Cleveland Browns next season will need help. The Browns currently sport one of the NFL's worst receiving corps.
"The Browns' desperate need for receiver talent gets answered here by the most polished and pro-ready receiver in the draft," Tice said. "Ohio State's Chris Olave already has an advanced route tree along with the athleticism and hands to create big plays on routes at all three levels.
"He has more than enough dynamism to not only serve as a safety net for Baker Mayfield, but he can create explosive plays on anything the Browns ask him to run."
Cleveland already moved on from Odell Beckham Jr. during the regular season, much to the Los Angeles Rams' delight. Jarvis Landry may be next in line since the Browns can save $14.9 million by releasing him.
That would leave Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz as the Browns' top two receivers still signed through 2022.
Peoples-Jones and Schwartz could develop into excellent targets down the road, but they aren't right now. Drafting a prospect like Olave, who should be an immediate contributor, is the logical path forward to help a suspect quarterback situation.
14. Baltimore Ravens: CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
Almost every year, a top prospect somehow falls to the Baltimore Ravens in the first round, and the organization's experienced front office gladly swoops him up and improves the roster.
Patience is an often overlooked aspect of drafting. Organizations that don't panic and let the draft come to them usually do the best job, because they understand exactly what they're looking for to fit their culture.
Cincinnati's Ahmad Gardner is exactly the type of talent—specifically at cornerback—that the Ravens prefer.
"The Ravens' secondary was hit with the injury bug this past season, and this could be the year to add quality depth," Giddings noted. "Gardner is a versatile player who can play in multiple schemes and techniques. With Jimmy Smith heading into free agency, Gardner would be a great pick at this slot."
Like other Baltimore corners, Gardner is a big (6'3", 200 pounds) and physical defender who can lock up receivers in man coverage. He'd add a little extra juice to a group already expecting Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters back from season-ending injuries.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami): CB Kaiir Elam, Florida
Other than the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, every other team in the league should be envious of how the Philadelphia Eagles are set up this offseason.
The Eagles overcame their offensive limitations, found a new identity midseason, built around a talented young quarterback and made the playoffs despite being in the midst of a semi-rebuild. Thanks to their wheeling and dealing last year, they're now set up with three first-round picks to kick their roster-building plan into overdrive.
They should start at cornerback, one of their biggest weaknesses. At 6'2" and 196 pounds, Florida's Kaiir Elam would instantly add a different element to Philadelphia's secondary since Darius Slay, Avonte Maddox and Zech McPhearson are all 6'0" or shorter.
"This pick is a great time for the Eagles to add length to their secondary," Giddings said. "Though Maddox played well this past season as a nickel cornerback, he's small at 5'9". Elam would give them a longer body who can match up against some of the bigger receivers in the NFC East."
Steven Nelson is a pending free agent, making cornerback an even bigger concern for the Eagles.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (from Indianapolis): Edge David Ojabo, Michigan
After snagging a cornerback at No. 15, the Eagles make back-to-back investments at premium positions by taking Michigan edge-rusher David Ojabo at No. 16.
"Derek Barnett is set to hit free agency, and Brandon Graham is coming off of a season-ending Achilles injury at age 34," Klassen stated. The Eagles need to add some fire off the edge.
"Though Ojabo may be a bit thinner than their usual type at a listed 250 pounds, he brings arguably the best speed and bend in the class. Ojabo will need to beef up a bit and hone his run-defense skills, but he should be an effective outside pass-rusher right out of the gate."
Those traits Klassen discussed make Ojabo a wild card in this year's class. His upside is immense because of his physical tools, but he's still a raw prospect since he didn't start playing football until his junior year of high school.
Ojabo's fluidity off the edge should make him a consistent headache for opposing quarterbacks. He might not have received the same attention as teammate Aidan Hutchinson, but the 21-year-old has the natural gifts to develop into an elite pass-rusher.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: DL Devonte Wyatt, Georgia
The Los Angeles Chargers failed to make the playoffs because they couldn't make a stop against the Las Vegas Raiders' ground attack to force a draw in overtime.
That one play served as a microcosm for the entire season. Defensively, the Chargers finished 30th leaguewide in total rushing yards allowed and 28th in yards per attempt allowed.
Although the NFL is now a pass-first league, opponents will take full advantage when a team can't stop the run in crucial moments. The Chargers are a glaring example.
"There may not be a team in the league that needs interior defensive line help more than the Chargers," Klassen said. "Georgia's Devonte Wyatt is the perfect pick here, in large part because he can play a little all over the line."
"Wyatt, an explosive player with a more than respectable anchor, could find a home at nose guard just as easily as he could at 3-technique. He could kick outside a bit to play 4i or 5-technique if need be.
"Wyatt's presence would go a long way in fixing the backbone of this Chargers defense."
18. New Orleans Saints: WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
How comfortable any organization will be with selecting Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams in the first round should depend almost entirely on medical evaluations.
Williams suffered a torn ACL in January's national championship game. The injury is rather routine in today's sports landscape and no longer the death sentence it once was. However, the timing of Williams' malady in combination with his reliance on elite speed makes matters slightly more complicated.
Before then, Williams could have been the first receiver off the board thanks to his production and blazing-fast speed. Because the receiver can still bring a completely different dynamic to an offense, the New Orleans Saints may jump at the opportunity to select him in the opening frame. The organization plans to retain Michael Thomas' services, but it needs more in the passing game than Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harris can offer.
"The Saints need an injection of speed among their skill players, and Williams has the game-breaking ability to provide just that," Tice stated. "Even after an ACL injury, Williams should have the speed to be a threat to score on deep throws and take shorter throws the distance. These skills would open things up for whoever starts at quarterback for the Saints in the near and distant future."
19. Philadelphia Eagles: IOL Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
Iowa's Tyler Linderbaum is simply too enticing for the Philadelphia Eagles to pass on at this point.
The center prospect can be considered an elite talent, though his positional value and specific skill set may not be quite as attractive to all teams. For Philadelphia, the Rimington Trophy winner is an ideal replacement for Jason Kelce, who is contemplating retirement this offseason.
"A better fit may not exact between prospect and team than Linderbaum to Philly," Thorn said. "Linderbaum's value is diminished a bit as an undersized (6'3", 290 lbs), center-only prospect. But his trump card comes as a run-blocker because he's special enough to still warrant high first-round consideration.
"Linderbaum is a compact wrecking ball in the run game with the quicks to pick off and dominate second-level targets. In Philly, he will have the luxury of being protected by bigger, hulking guards in pass protection just like Kelce, which will help mitigate his chief concern and maximize what he does well."
Kelce's possible return doesn't spoil this selection, either. He turns 35 in November and is entering the last year of his contract. Besides, the Eagles have three first-round picks. They shouldn't pass on a top talent and great fit simply because he may not become a full-time starter in Year 1.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Malik Willis, Liberty
A wry smile slowly forms on Mike Tomlin's face. The Pittsburgh Steelers get their guy.
Pittsburgh's interest in Liberty quarterback Malik Willis might be the NFL's worst-kept secret. Either that or the Steelers are doing an awesome job at misdirecting everyone in and around the league.
Tomlin and Co. should love all of the quarterback prospects this year because the Steelers are desperate to find a replacement for the retired Ben Roethlisberger. In Willis' case, he presents the most potential to reach elite status if placed in the right situation to nurture his natural gifts.
"The Steelers select the most toolsy quarterback in the draft to take the torch from Roethlisberger," Tice mentioned. "Willis lacks polish and refinement but has the strongest arm and true game-breaking ability when using his legs. He will take some time and coaching to get the most of his ability, but he's a home run swing that will turn into a grand slam if the Steelers connect."
Mason Rudolph is still on Pittsburgh's roster if Willis isn't immediately ready to take the reins.
21. New England Patriots: WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
The New England Patriots shouldn't be done at wide receiver simply because the organization signed Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor prior to last season.
"The Patriots added players at skill positions in the 2021 free-agency period, and head coach Bill Belichick tabs Arkansas' Treylon Burks as the cherry on top to fill out their receiver room," Tice said. "Burks has very good size (6'3", 225 lbs) and playmaking ability with still enough upside to give quarterback Mac Jones a different type of weapon than they currently have."
Burks is unique because he's built differently than any other receiver in the class, and it shows in his performance. A certain level of physicality is found in his game, which allows him to consistently beat single coverage and create yards after the catch. In both categories, Burks is counted among the best.
A bigger, more physical target who can consistently beat his man and bust free after the catch will quickly become a security blanket for Jones as the quarterback continues to develop. Burks is exactly what the Patriots wanted in N'Keal Harry all along.
22. Las Vegas Raiders: CB Trent McDuffie, Washington
Despite some of the baffling draft decisions by the Las Vegas Raiders in recent years, the organization still pieced together a talented secondary with Trayvon Mullen Jr. and Nate Hobbs at cornerback and Johnathan Abram and Trevon Moehrig at safety.
Veteran Casey Hayward Jr. may be the key to this selection, though.
"Washington's Trent McDuffie is a West Coast guy, which would have given the Raiders plenty of time to see him throughout the season," Giddings mentioned regarding the scouting process. "As a versatile player, the first-team All-Pac-12 performer would give Las Vegas some consistency and athleticism in its secondary. Since Hayward is a free agent this offseason, the team might look to replace him through the draft."
Even if Hayward returns, the idea of building a better secondary should be a priority since the organization hired Josh McDaniels as head coach and Patrick Graham as defensive coordinator. Both coaches' previous stops emphasized building back-to-front with their defense. Besides, Hayward turns 33 later this year.
Mullen paired with McDuffie on the outside and Hobbs over the slot would give the Raiders one of the league's better corner trios.
23. Arizona Cardinals: IOL Zion Johnson, Boston College
The average age across the Arizona Cardinals offensive line that finished the 2021 regular season will be 32 by the end of the '22 campaign. Left tackle D.J. Humphries is the youngest of the bunch, and he turns 29 in December.
An infusion of youth and talent is absolutely necessary if the Cardinals are ever going to be anything more than early-round postseason flameouts. Boston College's Zion Johnson can immediately step in and start at any of the three interior spots.
"Johnson's addition would give them a well-rounded, technically sound tone-setter at guard who should be a good player from day one," Thorn stated. "Arizona's offense has been heavily reliant on quarterback Kyler Murray to make plays outside of structure and overcome shoddy protection while also relying on a creative run game to ease the burden on Murray's shoulders.
"The first-team All-American fits into what the Cardinals need and like to do well, with years of tape executing similar concepts as a run-blocker at Boston College. Johnson is also patient with a stout anchor to create firm pockets for Murray, which is important for a QB of smaller stature so he can more easily find passing windows without having to scramble."
24. Dallas Cowboys: S Jaquan Brisker, Penn State
The Dallas Cowboys enacted a defensive overhaul during last season's draft. The team's first six selections and eight of its 11 total picks fell on that side of the ball.
Obviously, the franchise struck gold with reigning and unanimous Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons. Maybe going back to the well and investing in another Penn State defender isn't a bad idea.
"The Cowboys made a concerted effort to draft for defense last year. Although they may not be as defense-heavy this year, Jaquan Brisker's potential selection will beef up their secondary," Giddings said. "With Parsons in the middle and creating havoc all over the defensive front seven, Brisker's addition to the back end will make the defense even stouter."
While the Dallas D showed significant improvement under Dan Quinn's supervision, the unit still finished 16th or worse against the run and pass. The group remains a work in progress. The Cowboys are also entering an offseason in which both starting safeties, Jayron Kearse and Damontae Kazee, are set to become free agents. Brisker provides a long-term solution to the back line.
25. Buffalo Bills: WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State
As previously noted, the Buffalo Bills love to operate out of three- and even four-wide receiver sets. Quarterback Josh Allen with multiple weapons helped elevate the Bills' entire offense.
But the unit is reaching the point where a slight transition needs to be made, since Emmanuel Sanders is a free agent and Cole Beasley enters the final year of his current deal (Buffalo can save $6.1 million with the veteran's release).
"With Beasley nearing the end of his time in Buffalo, the Bills get a truly dynamic receiver in Penn State's Jahan Dotson to work inside and outside for Allen," Tice noted. "Even with the emergence of Gabriel Davis and Isaiah McKenzie, Dotson gives them the speed and polish that can keep the Bills offense among the league's best. His ability to take the top off of defenses will pair well with Allen's big arm, but he still presents a full three-level route tree as a natural catcher of the football."
Dotson is an excellent example of a wide receiver who plays much bigger than his listed size. Technically, he's a 5'11", 184-pound target. But Dotson's combination of explosiveness, catch radius and strong hands makes him far more difficult to handle than his frame indicates.
26. Tennessee Titans: WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
Adding yet another elite wide receiver talent to the Tennessee Titans roster is frightening.
"The Titans have A.J. Brown and traded for Julio Jones before the 2021 season but get a different type of receiver in Ohio State's Garrett Wilson," Tice said. "Wilson is a big play waiting to happen who can take screens and underneath throws the distance with flashes of true route-running ability. As Jones reaches the latter stage of his career, Wilson can continue to grow and refine his game and will pair with Brown to give the Titans an incredible pair of playmakers for years to come."
Jones' acquisition certainly wasn't a long-term solution, since the future Hall of Fame inductee already turned 33, and Tennessee's offense can't be The Derrick Henry Show forever.
Wilson may not be as polished as Chris Olave, as physical as Treylon Burks or as big or athletic as Drake London. However, he presented himself as a game-breaker from the moment he stepped onto Ohio State's campus.
Tennessee's identity doesn't need to change by adding Wilson. At the same time, his inclusion will make the offense more potent.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DL Logan Hall, Houston
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are about to undergo significant roster changes that extend well beyond Tom Brady's retirement.
The defensive front is of particular concern, because Ndamukong Suh, William Gholston, Steven McLendon and Jason Pierre-Paul are impending free agents. Besides, all four will be 31 or older to start the 2022 campaign.
General manager Jason Licht started preparations for this transition with Joe Tryon-Shoyinka's selection in last year's first-round and Vita Vea's long-term contract extension. Those are two excellent steps to rebuild on the fly. The addition of Houston's Logan Hall provides another.
"Hall to the Bucs is one of the best potential pairings in this entire class," Klassen mentioned. "Hall sports a long, lean build for a 278-pounder. He plays with as much violence and strength as anyone in the class and is already well ahead of the developmental curve in terms of reading blocks for someone who only recently moved inside during his time at Houston. Hall could play anywhere from 3-tech to a strong-side base end for the Bucs."
28. Green Bay Packers: LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia
The Green Bay Packers may do the unexpected by investing a high-round pick in a linebacker. In fact, the organization hasn't drafted a first-round off-ball linebacker since A.J. Hawk in 2006.
The idea of Green Bay taking its pick among the top prospects at the position late in the first round, coupled with the possibility of De'Vondre Campbell not returning based on the team's current financial standing, turns the unexpected into a strong possibility.
"The Packers do not typically invest in linebackers through the draft, but they might not have much of a choice this offseason," Klassen reiterated. "Campbell and backup Oren Burks are both on their way to free agency, leaving Krys Barnes as the only halfway competent option left on the team. Georgia's Nakobe Dean would bring the same speed and physical demeanor that made Campbell a surprise star in Green Bay, as well as a rare knack for navigating trash near the line of scrimmage."
Campbell is a first-team All-Pro. At the same time, Dean allows the team to get younger while potentially costing far less, even as a first-round pick.
Brian Gutekunst must pick his spots, and Campbell might be third on the general manager's list of priorities behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Davante Adams.
29. Miami Dolphins (from San Francisco): OT Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan
While Brian Flores' firing came as a surprise, the coaching change could help the Miami Dolphins' woeful offensive line. New head coach Mike McDaniel brings an offensive mindset, a new system and a different offensive line coach, which should make a significant difference. But the pieces need to be in place so the unit can jell and grow together.
Central Michigan's Bernhard Raimann adds yet another talented young option to the mix.
"Miami needs stability on its offensive line that has to come from the top first through competent coaching," Thorn said, "but adding Raimann would give them an ascending player with a lot of room to grow despite being an older prospect (24).
"Raimann has just 18 starts at left tackle, as a tight-end convert who came to the United States as an Austrian foreign exchange student. He displays the body control, play-strength and quickness needed to consistently sustain blocks at the pro level.
"Some significant technical refinement needs to be addressed, which the new Dolphins staff must help him attain. But the zone run game and play-action-heavy philosophy McDaniel employs is a young lineman's dream scenario."
30. Kansas City Chiefs: CB Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson
The Kansas City Chiefs quietly maximized a hodgepodge of defensive back talent over the last few seasons.
Aside from Tyrann Mathieu, who is a three-time Pro Bowl selection and one of the game's best hybrid defenders, the rest of the Chiefs secondary can be construed as a ragtag bunch with no major investments made among the remaining parts.
"The Chiefs are in need of good secondary play. With L'Jarius Sneed previously selected in the fourth round and Charvarius Ward being an undrafted player, it makes sense for them to invest in a cornerback at this juncture," Giddings noticed. "Also, both Ward and Mike Hughes are free agents this offseason. Clemson's Andrew Booth Jr. will give them a high-level athlete with length (6'0", 200 pounds) and physicality."
Kansas City hasn't selected a cornerback in the first or second round since Marcus Peters in 2015. Sneed and Rashad Fenton have been excellent mid- to late-round finds. At the same time, the addition of a significantly more talented option entering the league should help a pass defense that finished 27th this season.
Booth can thrive in either man or zone coverage and displays excellent ball skills.
31. Cincinnati Bengals: OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
Is there really any question about which area the Cincinnati Bengals should pursue?
Joe Burrow became the NFL's most sacked quarterback this season. Last year's No. 1 overall pick faced constant duress. His pocket presence, mobility and ability to create outside of structure helped the Bengals reach unexpected heights.
Still, something must be done about Cincinnati's trenches, starting with the nastiest blocker in this year's draft class, Northern Iowa's Trevor Penning.
"The Bengals will likely bump Penning over to right tackle in this scenario with Jonah Williams established at left tackle, thus giving them a much different player and solid pairing overall," Thorn mentioned.
"Penning has a towering frame (6'7", 330 pounds) with very good natural power and a junkyard dog mentality to wear on the psyche of defenders. These quality traits can be relied upon early in his career while he works on improving his inconsistent hand usage and leverage.
"The Bengals have a quality line coach in Frank Pollack and Burrow to mask weaknesses where Penning would likely be afforded the leeway and environment he needs to maximize his considerable ceiling."
Most importantly, Penning can be the physical tone-setter the Bengals front five currently lacks.
32. Detroit Lions (from LA Rams): WR Justyn Ross, Clemson
Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross has a significant injury history, specifically his neck, which must be medically cleared. Also, a first-round evaluation is built around an understanding that Clemson's quarterback play severely hampered his play in 2021.
Both of those things aside, the potential previously seen in Ross' game translates as one of the class' better wide receiver prospects.
"Ross has battled injuries throughout his college career but oozes the athleticism and enough route-running polish to be a true X-receiver at the NFL level," Tice noted. "If the Detroit Lions think Ross' medicals are OK, he is a home run swing worth taking for a Lions team that needs speed at the receiver position with a skill set that will pair nicely with last year's rookie standout Amon-Ra St. Brown."
The Lions are in an odd position because of their current slotting.
The addition of Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux is an excellent start to Detroit's class, since he's this year's No. 1-rated prospect. But the organization might be forced to take a chance on someone like Ross later in the first round to address its woeful wide receiver corps.
33. Jacksonville Jaguars: Edge Jermaine Johnson II, Florida State
34. Detroit Lions: QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss
35. New York Jets: LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
36. New York Giants: IOL Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
37. Houston Texans: DL Travon Walker, Georgia
38. New York Jets (from Carolina): TE Trey McBride, Colorado State
39. Chicago Bears: WR Alec Pierce, Cincinnati
40. Denver Broncos: Edge Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State
41. Seattle Seahawks: CB Derion Kendrick, Georgia
42. Washington Commanders: IOL Darian Kinnard, Kentucky
43. Atlanta Falcons: WR Khalil Shakir, Boise State
44. Cleveland Browns: DL Phidarian Mathis, Alabama
45. Baltimore Ravens: LB Christian Harris, Alabama
46. Minnesota Vikings: Edge Drake Jackson, USC
47. Indianapolis Colts: WR John Metchie III, Alabama
48. Los Angeles Chargers: LB Chad Muma, Wyoming
49. New Orleans Saints: QB Sam Howell, North Carolina
50. Miami Dolphins: RB Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State
51. Philadelphia Eagles: S Jalen Pitre, Baylor
52. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Daniel Faalele, Minnesota
53. Las Vegas Raiders: LB Darrian Beavers, Cincinnati
54. New England Patriots: DL DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M
55. Arizona Cardinals: CB Martin Emerson, Mississippi State
56. Dallas Cowboys: Edge Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati
57. Buffalo Bills: IOL Jamaree Salyer, Georgia
58. Atlanta Falcons (from Tennessee): DL Travis Jones, Connecticut
59. Green Bay Packers: WR George Pickens, Georgia
60. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Breece Hall, Iowa State
61. San Francisco 49ers: TE Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio State
62. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Christian Watson, North Dakota State
63. Cincinnati Bengals: DT Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma
64. Denver Broncos (from L.A. Rams): DL Neil Farrell Jr., LSU
65. Jacksonville Jaguars: TE Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M
66. Detroit Lions: WR Wan'Dale Robinson, Kentucky
67. New York Giants: TE Greg Dulcich, UCLA
68. Houston Texans: CB Roger McCreary, Auburn
69. New York Jets: CB Coby Bryant, Cincinnati
70. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Carolina): IOL Ed Ingram, LSU
71. Chicago Bears: OT Rasheed Walker, Penn State
72. Seattle Seahawks: Edge Micheal Clemons, Texas A&M
73. Washington Commanders: WR Skyy Moore, Western Michigan
74. Atlanta Falcons: RB Tyler Allgeier, BYU
75. Denver Broncos: S Bryan Cook, Cincinnati
76. Baltimore Ravens: Edge Josh Paschal, Kentucky
77. Minnesota Vikings: IOL Marquis Hayes, Oklahoma
78. Cleveland Browns: TE Cade Otton, Washington
79. Los Angeles Chargers: Edge Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma
80. Houston Texans (from New Orleans): IOL Dylan Parham, Memphis
81. New York Giants (from Miami): Edge Kingsley Enagbare, South Carolina
82. Indianapolis Colts: OT Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio State
83. Philadelphia Eagles: IOL Lecitus Smith, Virginia Tech
84. Pittsburgh Steelers: WR David Bell, Purdue
85. New England Patriots: S Lewis Cine, Georgia
86. Las Vegas Raiders: WR Jaivon Heiligh, Coastal Carolina
87. Arizona Cardinals: RB Jerome Ford, Cincinnati
88. Dallas Cowboys: IOL Luke Goedeke, Central Michigan
89. Buffalo Bills: CB Mykael Wright, Oregon
90. Tennessee Titans: LB Brandon Smith, Penn State
91. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Edge Sam Williams, Ole Miss
92. Green Bay Packers: Edge Boye Mafe, Minnesota
93. San Francisco 49ers: IOL Cade Mays, Tennessee
94. Kansas City Chiefs: OT Tyler Smith, Tulsa
95. Cincinnati Bengals: RB Kyren Williams, Notre Dame
96. Denver Broncos (from L.A. Rams): LB Quay Walker, Georgia
97. Detroit Lions (compensatory): Edge Cameron Thomas, San Diego State
98. Cleveland Browns (compensatory): OT Max Mitchell, Louisiana
99. Baltimore Ravens (compensatory): IOL Justin Shaffer, Georgia
100. New Orleans Saints (compensatory): RB Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M
101. Miami Dolphins (from San Francisco): IOL Luke Fortner, Kentucky
102. Kansas City Chiefs (compensatory): TE Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina
103. Los Angeles Rams (compensatory): IOL Cole Strange, Chattanooga