Answering One 2022 Draft Question for Every NFL Team

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2021

Answering One 2022 Draft Question for Every NFL Team

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    JASON DECROW/Associated Press

    We're still two weeks away from the NFL postseason and roughly four months away from the start of the 2022 NFL draft. Between the NFL playoffs, the College Football Playoff, the scouting combine and free agency, a lot is going to change between now and the start of Round 1.

    Once the draft officially kicks off on April 28 in Las Vegas, the draft picture will only evolve further. As prospects come off the board and teams execute trades, general managers and other draft decision-makers must be prepared to adjust on the fly.

    This doesn't mean that teams are going to wait until draft week to start doing their homework, of course—though it may feel like that occasionally. Teams spend months and even years dissecting prospects and gauging needs before draft day arrives.

    In other words, it's never too early for front-office members to ask themselves what positions they're looking to target, which prospects deserve a deeper dive and how much they value draft capital in a specific year.

    Here, you'll find one question each team should be looking to answer before or during the 2022 draft. We're looking less at prospect-specific questions here—again, draft boards are far from settled—and more at questions involving team needs, positional value, draft positions and franchise outlook.

    Teams are listed in alphabetical order.

Arizona Cardinals: How Aggressively Should They Target Pass-Rushers?

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    Oregon Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux
    Oregon Edge Kayvon ThibodeauxAssociated Press

    The Arizona Cardinals have been good at getting the opposing quarterback this season, totaling 39 sacks as a team. However, the Cardinals should be in the market for another sack artist in April.

    J.J. Watt is 32 years old and on injured reserve following shoulder surgery. Chandler Jones is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason, while Markus Golden will be a free agent in 2023. Drafting an edge defender who can start within the next couple of seasons is a near-must.

    How aggressively should the Cardinals pursue a pass-rusher? A lot will hinge on Jones' immediate future, but Arizona shouldn't be shy about it.

    Three pass-rushers are ranked within the top five on the Bleacher Report Scouting Department big board—Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux, Purdue's George Karlaftis and Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson. However, the pass-rusher class doesn't appear overly deep, with only six edge defenders ranked in the top 50.

    If Jones departs in free agency, Arizona must be prepared to pull the trigger on a replacement as early as Round 1 and to possibly trade up to get its man.

Atlanta Falcons: Is Now the Right Time to Draft Matt Ryan's Successor?

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    Falcons QB Matt Ryan
    Falcons QB Matt RyanAssociated Press

    At some point in the near future, the Atlanta Falcons are going to have to find a long-term replacement for quarterback Matt Ryan. The five-time Pro Bowler is 36 years old and part of a roster that needs a significant rebuild.

    Ryan is still capable of playing at a high level, but when aging quarterbacks hit the proverbial wall, they tend to hit it hard.

    Is now the right time for Atlanta to draft its next quarterback? Absolutely, unless franchise owner Arthur Blank is comfortable tanking in a 2023 bid for Alabama signal-caller Bryce Young.

    While no quarterback prospect appears worthy of the No. 1 overall selection—Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder is the top-ranked quarterback on the B/R board at No. 22—the lack of a can't-miss quarterback could work in Atlanta's favor.

    The Falcons would select 10th if the season ended today, and that might be high enough for the top quarterback in this year's draft. And if only one or two quarterbacks go in Round 1, Atlanta could still find a strong developmental option on Day 2.

    There's little sense in waiting to draft a quarterback just because Atlanta might be able to land one over a year from now.

Baltimore Ravens: Which Defensive Position Should Be Targeted First?

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    Cincinnati CB Ahmad Gardner
    Cincinnati CB Ahmad GardnerJeff Dean/Associated Press

    The Baltimore Ravens have been ravaged by injuries this season, notably at running back and cornerback. Season-ending injuries to cornerbacks Marcus Peters (ACL) and Marlon Humphrey (pectoral) have had a huge impact on Baltimore's struggling pass defense.

    The Ravens rank last in passing yards allowed per game and yards per attempt allowed this season. Peters is also a potential cap casualty, as Baltimore could save $10 million by releasing the soon-to-be 29-year-old.

    It would behoove the Ravens to take a cornerback early for depth purposes. However, the front seven cannot be entirely ignored. Defensive linemen Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams and Justin Houston are all pending free agents. So are linebackers L.J. Fort and Pernell McPhee.

    Baltimore is going to have defensive needs on draft day. But which position should they target first? The simple answer is to take the best player available. For a more in-depth answer, let's check the draft board.

    The top 32 prospects include six cornerbacks, four edge-rushers, one defensive lineman and zero linebackers. If the Ravens' final draft board has similar rankings, they're going to run much less of a risk of reaching for a corner in the mid-to-late first round than any other defensive position.

    If the right front-seven prospect falls into Baltimore's lap, it's worth pulling the trigger. However, the Ravens should head into April with their sights set on the first-round cornerback class.

Buffalo Bills: What Are Buffalo's Early Defensive-Line Options?

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    Georgia DL Jordan Davis
    Georgia DL Jordan DavisJohn Bazemore/Associated Press

    The Buffalo Bills should look to bolster their defensive front in the offseason. They rank 17th in rushing yards per carry allowed and have surrendered 130 or more rushing yards in five of their last six games.

    Additionally, the defensive front is set to see Mario Addison, Jerry Hughes, Vernon Butler and Harrison Phillips hit free agency in 2022.

    As previously mentioned, though, only one defensive lineman—Georgia's Jordan Davis—is projected as a first-round talent. The seventh overall prospect on the B/R board, Davis won't be available when Buffalo selects late in the first round.

    However, six defensive linemen are pegged as second-round talents (ranked Nos. 33-64) and another two are ranked inside the top 100. This means that the Bills should have options on Day 2.

    So for now, Buffalo's best course of action appears to be this: Be willing to trade up for Davis if he starts to slide into the teens but plan on targeting a defensive lineman in Round 2. Buffalo should not consider reaching for a second-round prospect late in Round 1 simply because it is a need.

Carolina Panthers: Should Carolina Target a Quarterback in the Top 10?

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    Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder
    Cincinnati QB Desmond RidderBrandon Wade/Associated Press

    Given the lack of blue-chip quarterback prospects in the 2022 class, the Carolina Panthers need to ask themselves if any justify a top-10 selection. If the season ended today, Carolina would hold the seventh pick in Round 1.

    On one hand, drafting a quarterback just to draft one is never a great idea. That's how teams end up with players like Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Johnny Manziel in the first round. On the other hand, passing on quarterbacks is how Carolina got into this position in the first place.

    The Panthers traded for Sam Darnold in the offseason and then passed on Justin Fields and Mac Jones to take cornerback Jaycee Horn eighth overall this past April. Darnold has vastly underwhelmed (passer rating of 70.8), leaving Carolina with another quarterback conundrum.

    Cam Newton has started the last five games, but Carolina hasn't won any of them.

    If the Panthers truly believe in a prospect like Ridder or Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett—and they can't be on the fence about it—they should turn in his draft card whenever they're on the clock. Trading down or trying to get their man in Round 2 just because that's what the "value" dictates would be a mistake. This isn't true with every position, but it's true for the game's most important one.

    This is especially true for the Panthers, whose in-house quarterback options are unappealing. Until Carolina has a reliable quarterback under center, it will remain largely irrelevant.

Chicago Bears: Should Chicago Consider Trading into Round 1?

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    Bears QB Justin Fields
    Bears QB Justin FieldsNam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bears don't have a first-round selection due to last April's trade-up to select quarterback Justin Fields. Right now, their first selection would be near the top of Round 2 at 39th overall.

    Heading into the draft, the Bears must decide if trading into the first round—and netting an extra year of team control via the fifth-year option—is a move worth making. The answer is "yes" if the Bears can land a quality offensive-line prospect.

    Going by the B/R big board, five offensive tackles and three interior linemen fall within the top 32 prospects. The Bears should be eager to land one of them because their offensive line is a mess.

    Chicago has surrendered 49 sacks in 2021, and Fields has been under pressure on 27.3 percent of his dropbacks. That's a huge problem if the Bears are hoping to develop Fields into a high-level starter—which is presumably the plan.

    The Bears can wait and hope that a prospect like Northern Iowa's Trevor Penning or Zion Johnson of Boston College falls to them at the top of Round 2. However, they should be very much prepared to move into the first round to ensure they don't miss out on a line prospect they love.

Cincinnati Bengals: Cornerback or Offensive Lineman in Round 1?

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    Clemson CB Andrew Booth Jr.
    Clemson CB Andrew Booth Jr.Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    The Cincinnati Bengals are in first place in the AFC North and are one of the more complete young teams in the NFL. They have their franchise quarterback in Joe Burrow, a slew of offensive skill players and the 13th-ranked scoring defense.

    To make things simple, Cincinnati is talented enough to go with the best player available in Round 1. However, two positions stick out as needs. The Bengals could use an offensive lineman to help keep Burrow upright—he has been sacked 47 times. They could also use a cornerback to bolster their 29th-ranked pass defense.

    With the 2022 class loaded with first-round cornerback and line talent, Cincinnati may ultimately base its decision on what's available in free agency.

    The Bengals have nearly $60 million in projected 2022 cap space and are looking at a free-agent class that includes Brandon Scherff, Jason Kelce, Duane Brown, Cam Robinson and current Cincinnati right tackle Riley Reiff.

    If Cincinnati is willing to spend, it should be able to strengthen its line in free agency. This leaves drafting a young cornerback prospect as a smart first option for the Bengals.

Cleveland Browns: Is Drafting a Receiver in Round 1 a Must?

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    Alabama WR Jameson Williams
    Alabama WR Jameson WilliamsBrynn Anderson/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Browns have to find a No. 1 wide receiver this offseason. The Odell Beckham Jr. experiment flamed out shortly after the trade deadline, and Donovan Peoples-Jones currently leads Cleveland with a mere 483 receiving yards.

    The Browns have one more year to evaluate quarterback Baker Mayfield, and that's going to be difficult without a true top target.

    But do the Browns need to force a receiver pick in the first round? Not necessarily. If a prospect like Alabama's Jameson Williams or Ohio State's Chris Olave is there for the taking, great. However, we've seen several receivers taken after Round 1 flourish in the NFL. Recent examples include Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown, DK Metcalf, Terry McLaurin, Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman Jr., Elijah Moore and Amon-Ra St. Brown.

    The B/R board lists 12 wide receivers as top-64 prospects and seven in the top 32. It's looking like another deep receiver class, and unless there's a serious run on receivers in the first round, Cleveland shouldn't feel obligated to spend a Round 1 selection to land a new top target.

Dallas Cowboys: Is It Time for Dallas to Reload the Offensive Line?

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    Cowboys G Zack Martin
    Cowboys G Zack MartinRoger Steinman/Associated Press

    The Dallas Cowboys have found their formula in 2021. With a potent offense and an opportunistic defense, Dallas is a complete team and a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

    The Cowboys should be making no panic picks in the 2022 draft and can instead focus on the long-term building process. Should part of the process involve reloading Dallas' vaunted offensive line? The short answer is "yes."

    Right guard Zack Martin and offensive tackle Tyron Smith may both be future Hall of Famers. However, both are 31 years old and have been impacted by injuries over the last two years. It's not necessarily time to move on from either player, but building depth should be a priority.

    The Cowboys may want to seek some alternatives on the interior too. Center Tyler Biadasz has been flagged nine times this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Left guard Connor Williams has been responsible for 13 penalties and one sack allowed, per PFF.

    The Cowboys invested $160 million in quarterback Dak Prescott this offseason. Keeping him safe and ensuring the running game can roll should be a long-term priority.

    Investing in the line this April would be a wise move, and with multiple tackle and guard prospects worthy of a first-round selection, Dallas could look to do so as early as opening night.

Denver Broncos: Is It Time to Draft a New Quarterback of the Future?

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    Broncos QB Teddy Bridgewater
    Broncos QB Teddy BridgewaterJack Dempsey/Associated Press

    The Denver Broncos have been searching for a new franchise quarterback ever since Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset. Like the Panthers, they passed on drafting a signal-caller this offseason and instead traded for a veteran.

    Teddy Bridgewater has been serviceable but not tremendous (passer rating of 94.9). He's also playing on a one-year deal. Drew Lock (rating of 69.3) has been less than serviceable.

    Again, a team should only target a quarterback early if it is completely sold on him. However, Denver could quickly fall in love with a QB prospect like Ridder.

    "Ridder's process on every snap, combined with his polish from the pocket, athletic traits and remaining upside make him more of a valid quarterback prospect than he's being given credit for at this time," Nate Tice of the B/R Scouting Department wrote.

    Denver has several key building blocks in place—a solid defense, multiple capable pass-catchers, a good ground game—but it won't compete for an AFC West title without a difference-maker under center. Unless an elite veteran like Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson becomes available on the trade market, quarterback should be Denver's No. 1 draft priority.

Detroit Lions: Do Any QB Prospects Have an Obviously Higher Ceiling Than Goff?

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    Lions QB Jared Goff
    Lions QB Jared GoffLon Horwedel/Associated Press

    If the season ended today, the Detroit Lions would own the No. 2 pick in the draft, and they're almost assured of a top-five selection. Might the Lions reach for a quarterback in the top five? It's possible, but the franchise would have to believe—without a shred of doubt—that there's a QB prospect clearly better than Jared Goff.

    Goff hasn't been great in his first Lions season, but like Bridgewater, he's been serviceable. He's thrown for 3,007 yards with 17 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 90.0 rating. Goff also hasn't enjoyed the same strong supporting cast that Bridgewater has. Detroit has played hard for head coach Dan Campbell, but it severely lacks talent.

    This is why Detroit cannot afford to miss on its first-round pick. It isn't a quarterback away from contention. The top five players on the B/R board include the three aforementioned edge-rushers, Alabama tackle Evan Neal and Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum.

    Landing one of the top three edge-defenders would make the most sense for the Lions, who have totaled just 25 sacks on the season. Passing on one for a quarterback who isn't clearly a cut above Goff would be a mistake.

    Goff is under contract through 2024, so Detroit could take a flier on a quarterback later in the draft and develop him. At this point in the predraft process, there isn't a QB prospect so blatantly better than Goff that Detroit should use its first-round pick on him. 

Green Bay Packers: Do the Packers Have to Draft a Receiver Early?

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    Arkansas WR Treylon Burks
    Arkansas WR Treylon BurksMichael Woods/Associated Press

    Ideally, the Green Bay Packers will have Rodgers back for another run in 2022. Whether it's Rodgers or Jordan Love under center, though, the Packers need to bolster their receiving corps. Top wideout Davante Adams is scheduled to be a free agent, and the depth behind him is lacking.

    Marquez Valdes-Scantling is the only other receiver on Green Bay's roster with more than 400 receiving yards through 16 weeks. He has 427.

    This means that Green Bay should target a receiver early, preferably within the first two rounds, even if Adams returns. The Packers cannot rely on patchwork options like Randall Cobb or projects like rookie third-round pick Amari Rodgers.

    Amari Rodgers has only seen the field for 72 offensive snaps despite Green Bay's lack of reliable receiver depth.

    Again, this is a deep receiver class, and the Packers don't necessarily need to use a first-round pick on a wideout. However, they also cannot wait until late Day 2 to scoop up whichever pass-catcher happens to be available.

Houston Texans: What Is the Final Asking Price for Deshaun Watson?

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    Texans QB Deshaun Watson
    Texans QB Deshaun WatsonJustin Rex/Associated Press

    Before the draft, the Houston Texans must determine the future of quarterback Deshaun Watson. He requested a trade in the offseason and still faces 22 civil lawsuits and 10 criminal complaints from women who have accused him of sexual assault and misconduct. 

    Houston tried to move Watson before the trade deadline but could not with his civil and legal cases still pending.

    "Multiple NFL teams offered packages including three first-round draft picks and two third-round picks for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson in talks with the Texans before last week's trade deadline, sources say," NFL Network's Tom Pelissero wrote. "The lack of resolution to Watson's legal situation scuttled the chances of finalizing a deal."

    A lot will hinge on Watson's ability to resolve his cases—either via settlements or in court. However, the Texans have to determine if they can move Watson before the draft and what sort of compensation they're willing to accept. Based on Pelissero's report, five selections within the first two days seems to be the market.

    That should be enough to get a deal done before the NFL heads to Las Vegas.

Indianapolis Colts: Can the Colts Find a Left Tackle Without a 1st-Round Pick?

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    Northern Iowa OT Trevor Penning
    Northern Iowa OT Trevor PenningCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    The Indianapolis Colts won't have a first-round selection due to the Carson Wentz trade. Wentz has played 98 percent of the offensive snaps with two games remaining. Barring some bizarre series of events over the last two weeks, Wentz will hit the 75 percent snap threshold needed to make Philadelphia's conditional second-rounder a first.

    Wentz recently landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, but it's hard to imagine the Colts rattling off enough offensive plays in two games to drop him below 75 percent of the total snaps.

    The question the Colts need to ask is if they can land a long-term starting left tackle in Round 2, even if it requires a trade. Longtime starter Anthony Castonzo retired in the offseason, and Eric Fisher has been average at best.

    Fisher has been responsible for eight penalties and six sacks allowed, according to Pro Football Focus.

    The Colts won't have a crack at Neal but might be able to trade up for a prospect like Penning or Central Michigan's Bernhard Raimann. Additionally, Ohio State left tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere and Arizona State left tackle Kellen Diesch project as top-64 prospects, according to the B/R board.

    If Indianapolis doesn't believe that it can land a long-term left tackle by maneuvering from its second-round pick (currently 54th overall), it will have to weigh its free-agent options, including Duane Brown and Fisher. With a little maneuvering, though, Indy should find the right tackle prospect.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Will Cam Robinson Be Back in 2022?

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    Jaguars LT Cam Robinson
    Jaguars LT Cam RobinsonGary McCullough/Associated Press

    Barring an upset of the Colts or the New England Patriots in the final two weeks, the Jacksonville Jaguars will again have the first pick in the draft. Trading out of that spot is always a possibility, but with no clear-cut top quarterback prospect, the return may not be what Jacksonville desires.

    If they stay put, the Jags will have to choose which of the top three pass-rushers—Thibodeaux, Hutchinson or Karlaftis—to take, or if Neal should enter the conversation.

    Keith Sanchez of the Draft Network compared Neal to Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Brown Jr., and Trevor Lawrence could do worse than having Brown on his blind side. However, before Jacksonville thinks seriously about taking a tackle No. 1 overall, it must first determine whether Cam Robinson will be back long-term.

    While the Jags have struggled early and often in 2021, Robinson has been consistently good. He's been responsible for only five penalties and one sack allowed through 856 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.

    However, Robinson is playing on the franchise tag and could be in demand in the offseason—he has a projected market value of $11.4 million annually. That's not a bargain-basement price, but it's one the Jags should consider paying.

    Jacksonville will have a tough decision to make at No. 1 regardless, but if it decides to keep Robinson, that choice should be just a little easier.

Kansas City Chiefs: How Early Should KC Target a No. 3 Receiver?

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    Boise State WR Khalil Shakir
    Boise State WR Khalil ShakirSteve Conner/Associated Press

    The white-hot Kansas City Chiefs don't have many glaring weaknesses right now, but their search for a reliable No. 3 receiver is ongoing. Byron Pringle has fewer than 500 receiving yards and is playing on a one-year deal. The flier Kansas City took on Josh Gordon has yielded four receptions, 27 yards and a touchdown.

    Of course, with Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman and tight end Travis Kelce on the roster, having a high-end No. 3 receiver is a bit of a luxury. The Chiefs aren't the Packers, who have no reliable second option and whose top target is headed to free agency.

    So how highly should Kansas City target a receiver? Somewhere on Day 2 seems logical.

    According to the B/R board, seven receivers have top-32 grades. Another 12 receivers have grades within the top 112. With compensatory picks and Resolution JC-2A selections (picks awarded for the departure of minority coaching candidates) included, Round 3 lasted through pick No. 105 in 2021.

    Barring a run at the position, Kansas City should be able to land a quality receiver prospect on Day 2 without reaching. At the same time, the need isn't big enough that the Chiefs need to go digging in Round 1.

Las Vegas Raiders: How Heavily Can the Raiders Invest in the Offensive Line?

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    Minnesota OT Daniel Faalele
    Minnesota OT Daniel FaaleleBruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    The Las Vegas Raiders completely revamped their offensive line in the offseason, trading away center Rodney Hudson, right guard Gabe Jackson and right tackle Trent Brown. They then reached for Alabama offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood in the first round.

    Now starting at guard, Leatherwood has disappointed more often than not. He's been responsible for 13 penalties and eight sacks allowed, according to Pro Football Focus.

    The new-look line has also disappointed. Quarterback Derek Carr has been sacked 35 times, while holes have been hard to find in the running game. Las Vegas ranks 28th in both yards per rush and rushing yards per game.

    Armed with $40.2 million in projected cap space, the Raiders should look to fill at least one starting spot through free agency. However, they should also look to bolster the line in the draft. How heavily should the Raiders invest in their line? Heavily.

    With eight line prospects falling in the top 32 on the B/R board, and another 14 linemen in the top 100, Las Vegas can and should find multiple quality linemen in the first two days of the draft. What the Raiders have put on the field this season simply hasn't been good enough.

Los Angeles Chargers: Is It Time to Draft a New Tight End?

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    Texas A&M tight end Jalen Wydermyer
    Texas A&M tight end Jalen WydermyerAssociated Press

    The Los Angeles Chargers had a young and talented pass-catching tight end in Hunter Henry, but they allowed him to get away in free agency. They called on 34-year-old veteran Jared Cook to help replace him, but Cook is playing on a one-year deal.

    The tandem of Cook and Donald Parham has been solid—they've combined for 674 yards and seven touchdowns—but with Cook set to depart, it's time to enter the TE draft pool. This is a great year to do so.

    "The incoming tight end crop may be the best in recent memory based on overall depth," Brent Sobleski of the B/R Scouting Department wrote. "The group lacks an elite slam-dunk first-round talent, but there are multiple prospects available to help an offense depending on scheme fit."

    Ensuring that quarterback Justin Herbert has a reliable option at tight end will only further aid in his development. The Chargers will have options to do exactly that.

    There may not be a tight end worthy of a high first-round selection, but L.A. could target a player like Texas A&M's Jalen Wydermyer or Colorado State's Trey McBride late in the first round or on Day 2 and fill its long-term TE need.

Los Angeles Rams: Can the Rams Find a Replacement for Andrew Whitworth?

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    Rams OT Andrew Whitworth
    Rams OT Andrew WhitworthRick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Earlier this season, Los Angeles Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth became the first NFL player to ever start at his position at age 40. Whitworth is still doing it at a respectable level too, having allowed just four sacks this season, according to Pro Football Focus.

    While Whitworth is under contract through 2022, there's no guarantee that Whitworth will return for another run. Even if he does come back for one more year, the Rams have to have a succession plan in place.

    The problem is that Los Angeles doesn't own a selection until the fifth round of the 2022 draft. There are several tackle prospects in the top 100 on the B/R board, but the Rams aren't likely to have a top-100 selection.

    Tankathon projects L.A. landing a third-round compensatory pick just outside the top 100, which may yield the Rams' best chance of finding a future starting left tackle in the draft.

    The Rams must determine if a Day 3 prospect can be a long-term answer at left tackle or if it's feasible to trade up in the draft. With just $5.3 million in projected cap space, they won't have many free-agent options.

    Given all of the options, Los Angeles will likely have to choose between trading up and pulling out all the stops to convince Whitworth to return again.

Miami Dolphins: Can Miami Justify Taking a Running Back in Round 1?

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    Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III
    Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker IIIAl Goldis/Associated Press

    The Miami Dolphins need to find themselves a quality running back. Miami is on a seven-game winning streak and could surge into the postseason. However, it isn't going to get there on the strength of its running game.

    The Dolphins rank last in yards per carry and 30th in rushing yards per game.

    Might the Dolphins look to draft a running back in the first round? Perhaps. Michigan State's Kenneth Walker III and Iowa State's Breece Hall are both projected as top-32 talents on the B/R board. Miami will have to think long and hard about tacking a first-round value to a running back, though.

    This past offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers looked to address their league-worst rushing attack by taking Najee Harris in Round 1. The Alabama product has been good as an offensive weapon (1,406 scrimmage yards, 9 TDs), but he hasn't exactly lifted the ground game.

    Harris has averaged 3.7 yards per carry, and Pittsburgh still ranks just 29th in rushing.

    Second-rounders like Derrick Henry, Jonathan Taylor and Nick Chubb have been thriving in the NFL, which should give Miami even more pause about taking a back Round 1. Unless the Dolphins fall full bloom in love with a prospect like Walker or Hall, it would be best not to force the issue on opening night.

Minnesota Vikings: Should Minnesota Go All-in on a Cornerback?

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    LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr.
    LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr.Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The Minnesota Vikings should have a good shot at landing a cornerback with a first-round grade in Round 1. Six corners rank among the top 32 prospects on the B/R board. The question is whether the Vikings should be eager to take one on opening night, possibly trading up for a specific target.

    The short answer is "yes." Minnesota has struggled against the pass, ranking 27th in yards allowed and 24th in passing touchdowns surrendered (26). Additionally, the Vikings recently parted with cornerback Bashaud Breeland, while Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander are both impending free agents.

    Minnesota desperately needs secondary help, and it is not likely to find it in free agency. The Vikings are currently projected to be $11.2 million over the cap.

    This brings us back to Round 1, where Minnesota currently holds the 12th overall selection. Minnesota might even want to consider trading up (if necessary) to land B/R's top-ranked corner, LSU's Derek Stingley Jr.

    "Stingley Jr.'s elite athleticism and rare ball skills make him a generational talent at cornerback," Keith Sanchez of the Draft Network wrote.

    Whether they target Stingley or a different corner, the Vikings should indeed be all-in on the position early.

New England Patriots: Will the Patriots Try Taking Another First-Round Receiver?

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    Alabama WR John Metchie III
    Alabama WR John Metchie IIIButch Dill/Associated Press

    Let's be honest. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick does most things well, but drafting in Round 1 isn't necessarily one of them. Mac Jones seems to be working out just fine, but recent first-round picks N'Keal Harry, Sony Michel and Isaiah Wynn have not fared well.

    Michel was traded to the Rams this offseason, while Wynn has been responsible for nine penalties and six sacks allowed, according to Pro Football Focus. Harry continues to be a major disappointment at wide receiver.

    Harry has 184 receiving yards this season and has provided a passer rating of only 66.4 when targeted.

    Belichick will have to determine if he's willing to gamble on another wideout in Round 1. He should because while New England's crop of receivers is fine for Josh McDaniels' offense, Jones doesn't have a true go-to target on the perimeter.

    No wideout has more than 723 receiving yards or five touchdowns.

    The good news for Belichick is that he shouldn't have to reach far to take a wideout in Round 1—or early in Round 2 should he trade down. Nine receivers are considered top-40 prospects on the B/R board.

New Orleans Saints: Do the Saints Have to Take a Quarterback in Round 1?

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    Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett
    Pittsburgh QB Kenny PickettJacob Kupferman/Associated Press

    Drew Brees is long gone, and the New Orleans Saints have been forced to shuffle between quarterbacks due to injuries and COVID-related absences. Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian and rookie Ian Book have all made starts this season.

    It's been a struggle for Saints quarterbacks, who have a collective passer rating of 84.5.

    But does New Orleans have to take a quarterback in Round 1? Not necessarily. If the right prospect is there when the Saints select—they currently hold the 13th pick—then they should pull the trigger. However, New Orleans does have options.

    One option is bringing back Winston, who is done for the year with a torn ACL. Winston (passer rating of 102.8) was more than serviceable under center before the injury. The problem is that New Orleans is projected to be $61.9 million over the cap and would need to be very creative with salary structure to make a new deal happen.

    The Saints also have Hill under contract through 2025. While Hill is not a traditional pocket passer, all indications say the Saints believe in him. They wouldn't have given him a four-year extension otherwise.

    Then there's Book. The rookie fourth-round pick out of Notre Dame did not fare well in his first career start on Monday night, but he's raw and inexperienced, and he lacked weapons. New Orleans' top two receivers—Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harris—both have catch rates below 60 percent.

    In all, New Orleans has enough quarterback options that it need not force a QB pick in Round 1 if the right prospect isn't there. Improving that receiving corps would be a better alternative.

New York Giants: Should New York Go with an Edge-Rusher or a Lineman First?

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    Iowa C Tyler Linderbaum
    Iowa C Tyler LinderbaumRebecca S. Gratz/Associated Press

    The New York Giants currently have two top-10 selections thanks to the trade that sent Fields to Chicago. That's good because New York has two glaring needs that it should address early.

    The Giants need an edge-rusher in a bad way. They have generated only 29 sacks this season, and rookie Azeez Ojulari is the only edge defender with more than three sacks. Ojulari could be a future star, but he needs a running mate on the outside.

    New York should also upgrade its offensive line, particularly on the interior. Guard Will Hernandez has been responsible for eight penalties and six sacks, according to Pro Football Focus. Center Billy Price has five penalties and one sack allowed, per PFF. Both are scheduled to be free agents in 2022.

    While it will be tempting to go after one of the top three edge defenders, New York should go after a lineman first. Neal could solidify one tackle spot with 2020 first-rounder Andrew Thomas filling the other. Linderbaum could give the Giants that much-needed boost along the interior.

    "I do believe that Linderbaum is good enough to become the highest center drafted in the modern era, particularly in this class where the first-round talent is more evenly dispersed rather than focused heavily at the top," Brandon Thorn of the B/R Scouting Department wrote.

    With 13 edge-rushers ranked in the top 100 of the B/R board, New York should be able to find a partner for Ojulari even if it doesn't take one in the first round. 

New York Jets: Must the Jets Land One of the Top Three Edge-Defenders?

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    Purdue edge George Karlaftis
    Purdue edge George KarlaftisAssociated Press

    The New York Jets currently hold two of the top six selections due to the Jamal Adams trade. They currently have the fourth selection and the Seattle Seahawks' sixth overall pick. While the Giants should be happy to pass on one of the big three pass-rushers to take a lineman, the Jets cannot afford to miss out.

    The Jets don't have an emerging young edge-defender like Ojulari on their roster. Prized offseason addition Carl Lawson will miss all of the 2021 season with a torn Achilles, and defensive tackles Quinnen Williams and John Franklin-Myers are responsible for 12 of New York's 32 sacks.

    Neal or Linderbaum would look good along the Jets line, to be sure. However, Mekhi Becton is New York's franchise left tackle, and center Connor McGovern is under contract through 2022. Addressing the league's worst defense—both in yards and points allowed—is a more dire need.

    Even if the Jets must surrender a Day 2 pick to move from No. 4 to No. 3, they should come away from the draft with Hutchinson, Karlaftis or Thibodeaux in Round 1. New York can then go with the best player available with its next top-10 selection.

Philadelphia Eagles: Do the Eagles Go Pass-Rusher or Safety in Round 1?

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    Penn State S Jaquan Brisker
    Penn State S Jaquan BriskerBarry Reeger/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia Eagles have morphed into a complete team over the latter stage of the season, now ranking 13th in total offense, ninth in scoring offense, fifth in total defense and 12th in points allowed. However, a couple of defensive needs do stand out.

    The Eagles could use an edge-defender. Philadelphia has logged a mere 25 sacks while longtime sack artist Brandon Graham is on injured reserve with a ruptured Achilles. Graham will turn 34 in April, while fellow pass-rusher Derek Barnett is set to hit free agency in the offseason.

    Philadelphia will need to reload at safety, too, where starters Rodney McLeod and Anthony Harris are scheduled to reach free agency.

    Either position would be a fine first-round target for Philadelphia, but there is more edge-rushing depth. Only two safeties—Notre Dame's Kyle Hamilton and Penn State's Jaquan Brisker—are considered top-32 prospects on the B/R board. No other safety is listed in the top 75.

    While the Eagles should be able to find a capable edge-rusher early on Day 2, the same may not happen at safety. If Philly can land Hamilton or Brisker, it should.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Can the Steelers Afford to Pass on a Quarterback Early?

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    Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett
    Pittsburgh QB Kenny PickettChris Carlson/Associated Press

    The Steelers may still end up in the 2021-22 postseason. However, they're nearing the end of the Ben Roethlisberger era. The 39-year-old quarterback isn't the mobile gunslinger he once was, and according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, he has privately told "some within the organization" this will be his last run in Pittsburgh.

    The time has finally come for Pittsburgh to draft Big Ben's replacement early. While teams like Detroit and New Orleans have serviceable if not sensational stopgap options in place, the Steelers do not.

    Mason Rudolph (career rating of 80.9) has not shown enough to be a reliable starter in Pittsburgh. Dwayne Haskins (74.4 rating) has shown even less. But Pittsburgh might find its next franchise quarterback in a prospect like Ridder or Pickett.

    "No pick is safe, but I feel confident about him coming in and being able to handle the pro game," one scout said of Pickett, per ESPN's Jordan Reid.

    The Steelers will need to strike early because they don't have the luxury of waiting on a prospect who can develop over the next couple of seasons.

San Francisco 49ers: Can the 49ers Find a Cornerback on Day 2?

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    Auburn CB Roger McCreary
    Auburn CB Roger McCrearySean Rayford/Associated Press

    The San Francisco 49ers don't have a first-round draft pick because of the trade to acquire quarterback Trey Lance. While the trade may have netted San Francisco's quarterback of the future, it takes the 49ers out of the mix for a cornerback in Round 1.

    And they need a cornerback. San Francisco ranks a good-not-great 13th in yards per pass attempt allowed. However, No. 1 corner Jason Verrett is out for the year with a torn ACL, and he, Josh Norman, K'Waun Williams and Dontae Johnson are all impending free agents.

    So, the 49ers must ask themselves if they can find a quality cornerback prospect on Day 2. If not, they may have to dive deep into the free-agent pool.

    Six corners rank among the top 32 prospects on the B/R board, but they'll likely all be out of range for San Francisco, which is currently holding the 52nd overall selection. However, another four cornerbacks fall within the top 100. The problem is that none of them rank higher than No. 67.

    This means San Francisco's chances of landing a strong corner prospect at No. 52 without reaching are slim. Trading up in the third round is a possibility, but San Francisco shouldn't plan on finding an early starter in this draft class.

Seattle Seahawks: Should Seattle Consider Trading Wilson Before the Draft?

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    Seahawks QB Russell Wilson
    Seahawks QB Russell WilsonAshley Landis/Associated Press

    Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson didn't force a trade this past offseason, but he did provide a list of franchises to which he would be willing to go. According to CBS Sports' Jay Glazer, the situation with Wilson and the Seahawks was "very dicey" and could be that way again in 2022.

    "Right now everything's great. But in the offseason can I see Russell do this again? A million percent. I see Russell trying to do this again," Glazer said back in October on the NFL on Fox pregame show.

    With the 5-10 Seahawks likely nearing a full-on rebuild and without a first-round pick, Seattle must entertain the idea of moving Wilson before the draft. Doing so would hurt it severely at quarterback in the short term, but the short-term prospects are bleak.

    This isn't a situation like in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers could reload at quarterback and be back in the mix in a year or two. Seattle is the worst team in the NFC West by a notable margin, and there isn't a quick fix.

    Seattle must approach the 2022 draft with a Wilson trade among its options, assuming the quarterback is willing to waive his no-trade clause. The Seahawks should get multiple first-round picks for Wilson, and those selections could be critical to getting them back on the road to relevance.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Can Tampa Contend Again in 2022?

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    Buccaneers QB Tom Brady
    Buccaneers QB Tom BradyRusty Jones/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl in Tom Brady's first season with the franchise, and they're back in the playoffs this year. Tampa has locked up the NFC South after an offseason that involved returning all 22 offensive and defensive starters from 2020.

    Heading into the 2022 draft, the Buccaneers must decide if they can contend again with a similar cast in 2023. Several contributors—including Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Leonard Fournette, Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard and Ronald Jones II—are slated to hit the market in free agency.

    There will be a big difference between replacing a few of those players in the draft and hitting the reset button entirely.

    The short answer is, yes, the Buccaneers should be a playoff team again in 2022. Brady is still playing at a near-MVP level—at least, when he's not facing New Orleans—and the defense is loaded with younger standouts like Devin White, Antoine Winfield Jr. and Shaquil Barrett.

    Unless Brady unexpectedly decides to retire, Tampa should be prepared to run it back once again. It can fill a few skill positions in a class rich in receiver and tight end talent and put off drafting for the future.

Tennessee Titans: Can the Titans Simply Go Best-Player-Available in Round 1?

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    USC edge Drake Jackson
    USC edge Drake JacksonAssociated Press

    The Tennessee Titans have endured multiple injuries this season, with Derrick Henry's foot injury, rookie corner Caleb Farley's torn ACL and various A.J. Brown and Julio Jones ailments chief among them. Yet, Tennessee is close to locking up a playoff spot and is still in the mix for the AFC's No. 1 seed.

    The Titans will likely be picking near the bottom of Round 1—they would have the 29th pick based on playoff seeding—which is where good teams often go with the best player available. Tennessee, though, has a few specific needs.

    Depth and insurance behind Jones and Brown would be nice. The Titans also need a pass-catching tight end after losing Jonnu Smith in free agency. Depth in a secondary that ranks 26th in passing yards allowed and another pass-rusher would also be nice.

    Tennessee has gotten a mere three sacks and 13 quarterback pressures out of free-agent prize Bud Dupree, and Harold Landry is on the brink of free agency.

    The good news for the Titans is that their needs align well with this draft class. Seven cornerbacks, six edge-rushers, nine receivers and two tight ends rank inside the top 50 prospects on the B/R board. Within reason, Tennessee should be able to grab the best available among them at the bottom of the first round.

Washington Football Team: Is It Time to Move on from Taylor Heinicke at QB?

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    Washington QB Taylor Heinicke
    Washington QB Taylor HeinickeRoger Steinman/Associated Press

    As the Washington Football Team eyes the 2022 draft, its biggest question is this: Is it time to move on from quarterback Taylor Heinicke?

    Heinicke wasn't supposed to be the 2021 starter. He was thrust into the role when free-agent addition Ryan Fitzpatrick suffered a hip injury that turned out to be season-ending. While Heinicke has played well at times (86.9 passer rating), he is also tied for the league lead with 14 interceptions.

    Picks are always worrisome, but in all, Heinicke has shown enough this season that Washington shouldn't race to draft his replacement. This doesn't mean passing on a prospect like Pickett or Ridder if the Football Team falls in love, but there's no need to reach at No. 9, where Washington would pick if the season ended today.

    If Heinicke can get some better skill players, a quality defense and a full offseason as the starter, he could be a top-16 quarterback. I can't say the same about quarterbacks like Darnold, Bridgewater and Rudolph, who have played with good supporting casts and still struggled.

    Heinicke will carry a cap hit of only $2.9 million in 2022, so Washington can afford to draft and develop a mid-round signal-caller for a year as insurance. As for Round 1? The Football Team should eye a cornerback for its 30th-ranked pass defense or a pass-catcher to complement Terry McLaurin and aid Heinicke on the perimeter.


    *Salary-cap and contract information via Spotrac. Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted. Draft order via Tankathon.