The 2022 NFL Draft's Answer to Every Team's Biggest Problem
The college football season came to an end last week, and with the Senior Bowl coming up, we can begin to match prospects with potential landing spots.
Of course, we're going to see draft projections change between now and April. Several pro teams still have to hire a head coach. Prospects will boost their stock with workouts in Mobile, Alabama, at the NFL Scouting Combine and at pro days.
In the meantime, let's take a snapshot of every roster and fix each team's most pressing issue with a new addition from the 2022 draft class.
The list below isn't a mock draft. As we know, some teams will take the best player available regardless of position needs. However, every general manager is at least aware of the biggest void on their team's depth chart.
Each prospect is paired with a team that has a realistic chance to select him based on the current draft order. We'll focus on potential Day 1 and 2 selections.
Arizona Cardinals: Lack of Depth at Cornerback
Answer: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
The Arizona Cardinals had to fast-track cornerback Marco Wilson into a starting role out of necessity. In 2020, Patrick Peterson and Dre Kirkpatrick logged most of the team's snaps on the boundary, and both signed elsewhere for the 2021 campaign.
With Byron Murphy Jr. primarily lined up in the slot and Robert Alford set to hit the free-agent market, the Cardinals can shore up the perimeter in April.
Arizona can select Andrew Booth Jr., who, at 6'0", 200 pounds, would bring size and length to the secondary. He's a better matchup for bigger receivers than Murphy (5'11", 190 lbs) and Wilson (5'11", 187 lbs).
Using his size, Booth can challenge receivers right off the line of scrimmage with press-man action, though he has the quick feet to back off and break up targets at the top of a pass-catcher's route. The Cardinals would have a Day 1 starter capable of solidifying the back end of their defense.
Atlanta Falcons: Subpar Pass Rush
Answer: David Ojabo, Edge, Michigan
The Atlanta Falcons must swing big at a premium position in order to close the gap between them and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As quarterback Tom Brady continues to play at a high level, general manager Terry Fontenot must do something to knock him off the NFC South pedestal.
In 2021, edge-rusher Dante Fowler Jr. led the Falcons in sacks (4.5) and tied with defensive tackle Grady Jarrett for a team-leading 17 quarterback pressures. Atlanta needs a more consistent difference-maker on the edge.
The Falcons should set their sights on David Ojabo.
Fellow Michigan product Aidan Hutchinson could headline this year's draft class as the No. 1 overall pick. If Ojabo remains on the board after the top five selections, the Falcons should make an attempt to move up a spot or two for him.
Ojabo possesses the speed and flexibility to make an immediate impact at the pro level. This past season, he routinely beat offensive linemen on the edge and accumulated 11 sacks along with 12 tackles for loss.
Baltimore Ravens: Unstable Offensive Line
Answer: Tyler Linderbaum, IOL, Iowa
With left tackle Ronnie Stanley set to return from an ankle injury, the Baltimore Ravens could move on from Alejandro Villanueva, who allowed nine sacks through the 2021 campaign, per Pro Football Focus. Tackle Ja'Wuan James, who missed the entire season with a torn Achilles, can fill the void on the right side when he returns.
The Ravens don't have a clear-cut answer at center. Bradley Bozeman logged the majority of snaps at the position this past campaign, and he's on an expiring contract. Baltimore can stabilize its offensive line with arguably the best incoming center.
Tyler Linderbaum could man the pivot for the next 10 years at the pro level. He's technically sound with active hands, solid lateral foot movement and a ton of experience at the position (33 collegiate starts).
Linderbaum would help quarterback Lamar Jackson set protections and seal off blocks for him in the A and B gaps. At 6'3", 290 pounds, he has to bulk up for matchups with strong, stocky defensive tackles, but the former Hawkeye can move well in space, which is a great fit for a team that allows its quarterback to make plays with his legs.
Buffalo Bills: Modest Rushing Production from Running Backs
Answer: Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State
The Buffalo Bills rank sixth in rushing, but that's misleading with quarterback Josh Allen accounting for about 35 percent of the team's rushing yards for the regular season. He's also scored six of the club's 20 touchdowns on the ground.
Devin Singletary and Zack Moss have performed at a serviceable level, the former more so than the latter in 2021. The Bills need a lead ball-carrier who can handle the lion's share of the load with a sustainable spark. They can find that prospect in Kenneth Walker III.
At Michigan State, Walker didn't have a big role in the passing game, though he produced at a high level as the workhorse out of the backfield, rushing for 1,646 yards and 18 touchdowns this past season. The former Spartan runs with decisiveness and speed and grinds out tough yardage after contact.
Walker isn't a speedy tailback, but he brings more in that department than Singletary and Moss. On top of that, he runs with a hard-nosed demeanor that will allow him to break through tackles.
Carolina Panthers: Poor Pass Protection
Answer: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Last week, head coach Matt Rhule provided reasons why the Carolina Panthers passed on offensive tackle Rashawn Slater in the 2021 draft, citing issues with the Northwestern product's size and fit at the position.
As a whole, the Panthers offensive line struggled through the 2021 campaign, allowing the most pressures per dropback (28.3 percent) in the league. Cameron Erving and rookie third-rounder Brady Christensen played the majority of the snaps at left tackle and allowed seven sacks combined, per Pro Football Focus. Regardless of who's under center next year, he's going to need far better pass protection.
Rhule can correct his mistake in passing on Slater by taking Evan Neal if he's still on the board.
At 6'7", 350 pounds, Neal can wall off pass-rushers on the edge of the pocket and redirect speedy defenders in their pursuit of the quarterback. He moves his feet fluidly, which allows him to stay in front of his assignment and change direction in open space. With a little more focus on keeping his hands between a target's shoulders, he'll excel at the pro level against all challengers in the trenches.
Chicago Bears: Thin Wide Receiver Corps
Answer: David Bell, WR, Purdue
The Chicago Bears have a couple of rookie tackles in Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom. Their new general manager and head coach may re-sign James Daniels or Sam Mustipher to patch up the interior of the offensive line. Heading into the draft, the Bears should focus on offensive weapons to help quarterback Justin Fields develop into a franchise player.
The Bears will have three wide receivers on the books at the start of the 2022 offseason. Among them, Darnell Mooney is the only one who's caught a pass in the pros. Nsimba Webster and Isaiah Coulter have yet to contribute as receivers.
The Bears might lose wideout Allen Robinson II, who played through the 2021 term with the franchise tag. He'll draw a lot of interest on the open market.
With the addition of David Bell, the Bears can move on from Robinson and avoid participating in a bidding battle to keep him in Chicago. The 6'2", 205-pound Purdue product could become a go-to target all over the field, especially in the red zone. He recorded 21 touchdown receptions through three collegiate seasons.
Bell isn't a burner on foot, but he can catch in traffic and haul in imperfect throws with his ball-tracking ability. The Bears would have a solid duo with him and Mooney on the perimeter.
Cincinnati Bengals: Subpar Pass Protection
Answer: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
Quarterback Joe Burrow had some spectacular passing performances this past season. Nevertheless, if the Cincinnati Bengals want to see him put up impressive numbers in the future, they must strengthen his pass protection.
Burrow took a league-high 51 sacks in 2021. Jonah Williams gave up eight sacks, per Pro Football Focus. Going into his age-34 term, right tackle Riley Reiff has an expiring contract.
The Bengals should draft Trevor Penning, who can play both tackle positions. He could start off on the right side, but if the coaching staff isn't pleased with Williams' third-year progress, the Northern Iowa product can man Burrow's blind side as well.
At 6'7", 321 pounds, Penning shuffles his feet and effortlessly slides laterally to beat athletic defenders to a specific spot, yet he's strong enough to handle a head-on bull rush from power pass-rushers.
Penning will use his arm length to keep defenders at bay, and with good coaching, he'll learn to add a nasty finish with his hands. Penning has great upside with the potential to play from Day 1.
Cleveland Browns: Underwhelming Perimeter Pass-Catching Threats
Answer: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
The Cleveland Browns have one reliable wide receiver in Jarvis Landry, and he averages 11 yards per catch. The eighth-year wideout logs a lot of snaps in the slot.
If the Browns want to find out if Baker Mayfield is their franchise quarterback, they must address the wide receiver position early in the 2022 draft. Behind Landry, Donovan Peoples-Jones has just 11 starts in two years, and rookie third-rounder Anthony Schwartz only played 33 percent of the offensive snaps in 2021.
With its first selection, Cleveland should target Garrett Wilson, who can elevate the pass-catching group.
Wilson isn't the most polished route-runner in this year's receiver group, though he offers the explosiveness the Browns need at the position. With a slender 6'0", 192-pound build, the former Buckeye will face some challenges against corners able to press him at the line of scrimmage, but he's capable of burning defenders in the open field.
In 2021, Wilson caught 70 passes for 1,058 yards and 12 touchdowns, using his cut-on-a-dime quickness and reliable hands to make plays. He'll gash defenses with yards after the catch in the short passing game.
Dallas Cowboys: Potential Loss of Multiple Safeties in Free Agency
Answer: Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State
The Dallas Cowboys might lose two hybrid defenders who can float between the linebacker and safety spots. Keanu Neal and Jayron Kearse, who had a standout 2021 campaign, have expiring deals. Damontae Kazee and Malik Hooker usually line up in center field. Both will become free agents in March as well.
At safety, the Cowboys only have Donovan Wilson under contract in 2022. While Dallas hasn't utilized premium picks to address the position in recent years, Jaquan Brisker would certainly fill a pressing need.
Brisker has a compact 6'1", 204-pound frame. He's better equipped to play closer to the line of scrimmage but has the ability to cover short-to-intermediate zones.
When Brisker attacks downhill, he's a force against the run with the quickness to collapse the pocket and pressure quarterbacks. The Cowboys can use him on all three downs. At Penn State, he recorded 151 tackles, 10 for loss, five interceptions and 14 pass breakups through three terms.
Denver Broncos: Instability at Quarterback
Answer: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
The Denver Broncos have a roster that's equipped to win now with a decent quarterback. While that's easy to say and a tough task to complete, general manager George Paton should at least try to find a long-term solution for the position in April.
The Broncos finished the 2021 season with the third-ranked scoring defense and ranked eighth in yards allowed. Meanwhile, their offense listed 23rd and 19th in points and yards, respectively. We cannot place too much blame on the ground attack, which averaged 4.5 yards per rush attempt (10th). In reality, quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock didn't fully utilize a talented pass-catching group that included Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Jerry Jeudy (when healthy) and Noah Fant.
Going into the 2022 offseason, Bridgewater's contract will expire, and Lock has one year left on his rookie deal. Paton should strongly consider Kenny Pickett with the ninth overall pick.
This past season, Picket threw for 4,319 yards, 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions, leaving few questions about his arm talent. He just needs to settle down in the pocket when defenders apply pressure.
Pickett possesses the physical tools to make plays on the move. With a solid ground attack and decent offensive line around him, he has a high ceiling.
Detroit Lions: Lackluster Safety Talent
Answer: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
During the 2020 offseason, the Detroit Lions traded their best safety in Quandre Diggs. They haven't adequately replaced him since that transaction.
The Lions could let safeties Tracy Walker and Dean Marlowe chase contracts elsewhere in free agency and set their sights on Kyle Hamilton, who's one of the best overall prospects in the 2022 class.
Detroit would have a complete playmaking safety in Hamilton, who logged 138 tackles, 7.5 for loss, 16 pass breakups and eight interceptions through three seasons at Notre Dame. The 6'4", 220-pounder can line up in the box to lay a tone-setting hit, drop back into coverage to clamp down on pass-catching tight ends and read the quarterback from center field.
Most impressively, as a big safety, Hamilton can cover sideline to sideline against the run or in deep coverage. He's an athletic powerhouse with great ball skills. The Lions could change the complexion of their defense with him lined up in various spots.
Green Bay Packers: Susceptible Interior Run Defense
Answer: Logan Hall, DL, Houston
The Green Bay Packers have to beef up their defensive line. The team ranked 11th in run defense but allowed 4.7 yards per rush attempt (30th) during the 2021 season.
The Packers can add a run-stuffer alongside two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kenny Clark and defensive end Dean Lowry to plug holes on early downs. They could work well with Logan Hall in the trenches.
At 6'6", 275 pounds, Hall can line up over or shade the guards and tackles before the snap. In 2021, he boosted his draft stock with consistent production on all three downs, logging 13 tackles for loss and six sacks. The Houston product has used his brute strength to generate pressure or clog holes in run support.
Because of his size and power, Hall projects as a defensive end in the base formation of an odd-man front and a pass-rushing end in sub-packages. He could also occupy blocks, which would allow Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Rashan Gary to pounce off the edge.
Houston Texans: Non-Existent Pass Rush
Answer: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon
The Houston Texans don't have to reach for a quarterback with the No. 3 overall pick.
Deshaun Watson has to go through legal procedures as he faces 22 lawsuits from women accusing him of sexual assault and misconduct. Yet Houston may have a starting-caliber signal-caller in Davis Mills, who played well at the end of the regular season, throwing for six touchdowns and just one interception in his last three outings.
The Texans should take a look at an edge-rusher to bolster a defense that recorded the third-fewest quarterback pressures and tied for the fifth-fewest sacks in 2021. If Houston misses out on Aidan Hutchinson, Kayvon Thibodeaux can fill the club's biggest defensive void.
Though Thibodeaux battled an ankle issue during the 2021 term, he still boasts a strong resume with 35.5 tackles for loss and 19 sacks through three collegiate campaigns.
In terms of flexibility and bend around the corner of the pocket, Thibodeaux has the prototypical fluidity that coaches want to see in their pass-rushers. With upper-body strength and flexion below the waist, the Oregon product can become a game-wrecker right out of college.
Indianapolis Colts: Shallow Wide Receiver Group
Answer: John Metchie III, WR, Alabama
The Indianapolis Colts will likely restock their wide receiver group in the offseason. T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal have expiring contracts. Parris Campbell has struggled with injuries, suiting up for just 15 games in three seasons.
Whether the Colts keep quarterback Carson Wentz or not, they cannot ignore their shallow wide receiver unit. General manager Chris Ballard can pair a promising rookie with ascending second-year pro Michael Pittman Jr. on the perimeter.
John Metchie III saw his stock rise before he tore his ACL in December. He finished the 2021 campaign with 96 receptions for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns. Though the Colts may have to wait a few weeks to fully unleash him while he's on the mend, they would have a game-changing receiver who can attack all three levels of a defense.
Because of his speed, Metchie can rack up yards after the catch or beat a defender downfield for a 30-yard reception. He can also find holes in zone coverages, which makes a threat to linebackers and safeties in the middle of the field.
The Colts don't have a first-round pick, but if Metchie slips because of his injury, he would fall right into their lap as an ideal roster fit.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Subpar Pass Rush
Answer: Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan
The Jacksonville Jaguars have an established pass-rusher in Josh Allen, but the third-year edge-rusher doesn't have a consistent partner on the opposite side.
As a pass-rusher, K'Lavon Chaisson hasn't shown notable signs of growth in two seasons, logging just two sacks and 20 quarterback pressures. With six tackles for loss, he's not much of a factor in run support either.
Aidan Hutchinson wouldn't just fill a position of need for the Jaguars. He's arguably the best overall player in the 2022 draft. The Michigan product will come into the league with an impressive resume and the body frame (6'5", 265 lbs) to handle the rigors of the pro game.
In a breakout senior campaign, Hutchinson recorded 16.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks. He makes his presence felt on every down, which bodes well for a team with a bottom-tier pass rush and the 23rd-ranked run defense.
Hutchinson isn't the most athletic pass-rusher, but his technical skill makes up for it. He uses his hands, footwork and a quick initial step off the line of scrimmage to wreak havoc near the pocket.
Kansas City Chiefs: Lack of Versatility Across Defensive Line
Answer: Travon Walker, DL, Georgia
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo experimented with Chris Jones, moving him outside, but he performs at his best on the interior. With defensive end Frank Clark due to make $26.3 million next season following a 4.5-sack campaign, the Kansas City Chiefs may look for cheaper options to complement Jones on the front line.
The Chiefs don't have an upstart playmaker on the defensive line, so Travon Walker could take on a starting role and leave his mark right away.
Walker can line up in different spots across the defensive front. Using his 6'5", 275-pound frame, he strong-arms offensive linemen on the perimeter, beats guards with a quick first step and outmuscles blockers who struggle to establish their lower-body base.
On pass-rushing downs, Walker has shown some twitch and speed, which will allow him to line up right over offensive tackles and find success collapsing the pocket with consistency. In sub-packages, he's a potential handful for slow-footed interior linemen.
Las Vegas Raiders: No Dynamic Wide Receivers
Answer: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
The Las Vegas Raiders have a top-notch pass-catcher in tight end Darren Waller. However, they waived wideout Henry Ruggs III after his involvement in a fatal crash for which he is facing DUI resulting in death and reckless driving charges. Barring extensions, Zay Jones and DeSean Jackson will test free agency.
The Raiders have two wide receivers under team control beyond the 2021 campaign, Hunter Renfrow and Bryan Edwards. While the former had a breakout third term, the latter isn't consistent with his contributions. He eclipsed 43 receiving yards in five out of 16 outings this season.
A new coaching staff may want to infuse the wide receiver corps with new talent. If so, the team should take a look at Jahan Dotson in the first round of the draft.
Dotson runs crisp routes from the perimeter and slot receiver positions. As one of the most polished wideout prospects in the class, he's not going to have an issue with separation on the pro level. The Penn State product has lightning quickness and glides out of his breaks.
As a receiving threat on all three levels of the field, Dotson caught 91 passes for 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2021. If the Raiders overlook his smallish stature (5'11", 184 lbs), they would see a playmaker who can take over a game.
Los Angeles Chargers: Poor Run Defense
Answer: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
Throughout the 2021 campaign, ball-carriers gashed the Los Angeles Chargers defense. The club gave up the third-most rushing yards, failing to plug interior holes on early downs and short-yardage situations.
The Chargers need a big body in the middle of their defense. They must target someone who can change the complexion of the front line with a bully mentality and force ball-carriers to move laterally rather than downhill through the teeth of the unit.
At 6'6" and 340-pounds, Jordan Davis fits the Chargers' glaring need in the trenches. Because of his unrefined pass-rushing technique, he'll fall outside the top 10, but the Georgia product routinely gobbles up ball-carriers and fights through help blockers for stops against the run.
On the collegiate level, Davis saw limited action. With his stature, he's not going to take the field for three-quarters of the snaps, but the physically imposing run-stopper would immediately strengthen the Chargers' weak run defense while on the field for about two-thirds of the plays.
Los Angeles Rams: Potential Loss of Interior Offensive Linemen
Answer: Jamaree Salyer, OL, Georgia
In the offseason, the Los Angeles Rams could lose center Brian Allen, guard Austin Corbett and versatile backup offensive lineman Joseph Noteboom, who's played tackle and guard over the past four seasons.
If the Rams want to maintain a balanced offensive attack with running backs Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr. complementing quarterback Matthew Stafford, they should restock their talent at the interior positions across the offensive line.
Because of trades with the Detroit Lions (Stafford) and Denver Broncos (Von Miller), the Rams are projected to make their first selection at No. 101 with a comp pick. Still, general manager Les Snead can snag a potential starter in Jamaree Salyer, who offers some versatility.
At Georgia, Salyer took most of his snaps at left tackle and made at least one start at right tackle and left guard. Nonetheless, his skill set translates to an interior lineman on the pro level.
Salyer plays with a strong base and uses powerful hands to clear his pathway in the run game. He doesn't have the foot movement to mirror athletic pass-rushers, but the 6'4", 325-pounder will win battles in a phone booth.
Miami Dolphins: Poor Offensive Line Play
Answer: Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
The Miami Dolphins' incoming coaching staff has to solve an offensive line puzzle. The previous regime made several in-season shifts and changes across the five-man unit, but the team needs some clarity within the position group to protect quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and open up holes for the ball-carriers.
In 2021, rookie second-rounder Liam Eichenberg and Jesse Davis played most of the snaps at left and right tackle, respectively. They allowed 17 sacks combined, per Pro Football Focus. Eichenberg has a lot of room to grow, and Davis has another year on his contract, but the Dolphins should explore their options in the draft.
Bernhard Raimann has shown progress with his hand technique and footwork through two campaigns at Central Michigan. The 24-year-old will enter the draft as an older prospect, but maturity could work in his favor. The Dolphins may be able to develop him on the job.
With a svelte build (6'7", 305 lbs) and athletic traits, Raimann can handle bendy pass-rushers. He doesn’t have elite play strength but knows how to use his leverage to redirect defenders out of open lanes.
Raimann has 18 collegiate starts at left tackle, so he's not too raw to start right away. His early signs of potential and tangible development make him an intriguing prospect for a team that will probably attempt to patch up the perimeter of its offensive line.
Minnesota Vikings: Potential Loss of Cornerstone Defender
Answer: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
The Minnesota Vikings may move on from linebacker Anthony Barr, who's played eight seasons with the team. He's missed 20 games over the past two terms. The four-time Pro Bowler will turn 30 in March.
Like Barr in his prime, the ideal newcomer would have a do-it-all skill set, which includes the ability to play the run, cover intermediate zones and occasionally pressure the quarterback.
Listed at 6'0", 225 pounds, Nakobe Dean isn't comparable to Barr (6'5", 257 lbs) in size, but he's a three-down linebacker with versatility. The Georgia product quickly diagnoses plays and possesses adequate ball skills in coverage.
Dean had a breakout 2021 campaign, logging 72 tackles, 10.5 for loss, six sacks, five pass breakups and two interceptions with a defensive touchdown. When watching his games, you'll see he's all over the field and effective in run and passing situations.
Arguably the top linebacker in the 2022 class, Dean would have big cleats to fill at linebacker in Minnesota, but he's equipped to make an early statement in his pro career.
New England Patriots: Uncertainty at Cornerback
Answer: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
The New England Patriots already shipped star cornerback Stephon Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers before the 2021 trade deadline. Fellow cornerback J.C. Jackson is heading into free agency, though the front office will likely make an attempt to re-sign him following his Pro Bowl campaign.
Regardless of the front office's approach with Jackson, the Patriots can target a defender to replace Gilmore on the boundary for the long term. Cornerback Jalen Mills has logged a majority of his snaps on the perimeter and allowed seven touchdowns with a 111.4 passer rating in coverage this season.
With an upgrade for the secondary in mind, the Patriots could add a long cornerback in Kaiir Elam.
Elam uses his long reach to close passing windows downfield, which will frustrate receivers. The 6'2", 196-pound cover man can also press at the line of scrimmage with the recovery speed to make up for false steps.
The Patriots coaching staff could tap into Elam's versatility, assigning him to one-on-one coverage or a particular zone.
New Orleans Saints: No Big-Play Pass-Catchers
Answer: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Wideout Michael Thomas doesn't have a secure future with the New Orleans Saints.
He's played only seven games over the past two seasons because of an ankle issue that required surgery. Head coach Sean Payton didn't agree with the timing of the procedure, which led to speculation about the two-time All-Pro's standing with the team.
Regardless of Thomas' status with the club, the Saints need another consistent receiver on the perimeter, preferably a big-play pass-catcher who can stretch the defense.
Thomas has built a reputation for running effective short routes and averages 11.7 yards per reception for his career. The Saints could add Treylon Burks for an added spark in the aerial attack.
Burks isn't the most polished route-runner, but he'll challenge defenders with his physical playing style and strong hands. At 6'3" and 225 pounds, the Arkansas product has a wide catch radius with the ability to go over the top of defenders 20 yards downfield.
In each of his three collegiate seasons, Burks averaged at least 16.1 yards per reception. He broke out for 66 receptions, 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns this past campaign.
New York Giants: Unsettled Offensive Line
Answer: Ikem Ekwonu, OL, North Carolina State
The New York Giants will likely revamp their offensive line in the offseason. Aside from left tackle Andrew Thomas, the new regime may turn over every other position across the five-man unit.
The Giants should particularly focus on the right tackle and guard spots.
Matt Skura, who logged most of his snaps at left guard this past season, and right guard Will Hernandez are both heading into free agency. Meanwhile, right tackle Nate Solder had a rough 2021 season, allowing six sacks in 927 offensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus. Backup tackle Matt Peart gave up four sacks in only 421 offensive snaps, per PFF.
Big Blue should draft a versatile offensive lineman with one of its first-round picks to strengthen the front line around whoever starts under center.
Ikem Ekwonu played most of his collegiate snaps at left tackle, but he has experience on the interior. At 6'4" and 320 pounds, the North Carolina State product can potentially slide to the right side of the line opposite Thomas for a shot to solidify the bookends of the unit. With his smooth foot movement, he could match up with pass-rushers on an island.
Because of his ability to maul defenders like a true road grader, Ekwonu has the mentality to open up lanes for the ground attack. The Giants would have a chance to mold a top prospect into whatever they need in the trenches after free agency.
New York Jets: Passive, Porous Pass Defense
Answer: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Going into the 2021 season, New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh chose to develop an inexperienced cornerback group. Though Bryce Hall and rookie Brandin Echols played well on the boundary, they combined for only two interceptions.
The Jets need a ball-hawking presence in the secondary. They recorded only seven interceptions this season, including just four from defensive backs.
With a low number of takeaways in coverage, Gang Green's 30th-ranked pass defense struggled throughout the 2021 campaign. Ahmad Gardner could help fix that next year.
Gardner isn't afraid to gamble and break on a pass to force turnovers. He recorded three interceptions in each of his three seasons at Cincinnati. The aggressive cover man also broke up 16 passes.
Gardner isn't going to provide much against the run at this stage in his career. However, he doesn't need a physical presence to shadow a receiver or lock down one side of the field for an entire game.
The Jets would have a true playmaker with him on the back end.
Philadelphia Eagles: Poor Short-to-Intermediate Pass Coverage
Answer: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
In recent years, plenty of mock drafters have matched the Philadelphia Eagles with a top linebacker. However, general manager Howie Roseman hasn't shown interest in using an early draft pick on a prospect at the position since he took Marcus Smith at No. 26 overall in 2014.
Armed with three first-round picks, Roseman may approach this draft differently than he has in years past. The Eagles have a clear need at linebacker, particularly someone who can cover the middle of the field.
This past season, Alex Singleton allowed an 85.1 percent completion rate, five touchdowns and a 111.4 passer rating in coverage. Meanwhile, T.J. Edwards gave up a 78.8 percent completion rate, two touchdowns and a 99.6 passer rating.
Roseman would do the defense a disservice if he passes on Devin Lloyd. He's a possible upgrade over Singleton, a soon-to-be restricted free agent, and Edwards.
Behind the Eagles' solid defensive line, Lloyd could roam around and make plays without taking on lead blocks and consistent double-teams near the pocket. He's a 6'3", 235-pounder, who moves swiftly while tracking the ball.
At Utah, Lloyd lined up in multiple linebacker spots and produced a breakout redshirt junior season, logging 111 tackles, 22 for loss, seven sacks, six pass breakups, four interceptions and a forced fumble. He's a complete every-down defender.
Pittsburgh Steelers: No Long-Term Solution at Quarterback
Answer: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Following a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card Round, the Pittsburgh Steelers have to devise a long-term plan for the quarterback position. Ben Roethlisberger has likely played his last game for the team, and Mason Rudolph is the only signal-caller on the books beyond the 2021 season.
Rudolph has had opportunities to prove he's the next man up after Roethlisberger. The third-year pro has performed at the level of a low-tier starter, throwing for 2,366 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 17 outings (10 starts).
The Steelers should explore all quarterback options this offseason, including Desmond Ridder.
Ridder has all of the necessary tools to excel in the NFL. At Cincinnati, he threw for 10,239 yards, 87 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. The 6'4", 215-pound signal-caller also rushed for 2,180 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Though Ridder has a slender frame, he avoided major injuries in college despite his willingness to pick up yards with his legs. In the pocket, he's shown poise in the face of pressure with the confidence to push the ball downfield.
Ridder led Cincinnati to the College Football Playoff with impressive performances through his senior season. The four-year starter will head into the pros with a ton of experience and a breakout campaign on his resume. As a rookie, the former Bearcat could push for the Steelers' lead role under center.
San Francisco 49ers: Thin Safety Unit
Answer: Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
The San Francisco 49ers have only two safeties on their books for the 2022 season: Jimmie Ward, who's going into a contract year, and rookie fifth-rounder Talanoa Hufanga.
Though Ward played some of his best football in 2021, he has an extensive injury history. The eighth-year veteran has missed 35 career games.
General manager John Lynch must address the safety position this offseason to provide deep cover help for the Niners' cornerback group.
Even without a first-round selection, the 49ers can still pick up a high-impact defender in Lewis Cine, who recorded 73 tackles, nine pass breakups, and an interception this past season.
Cine isn't a textbook tackler, though he can get the job done when going downhill to supplement the run defense. With some help in that area, the Georgia product can cut down on missed tackles.
With that said, Cine has shown great awareness in coverage. The 6'1", 200-pounder can read plays from center field or man up on a bigger pass-catchers in the seams. His footwork will keep him in position to make plays on the ball.
Seattle Seahawks: Long-Term Questions at Tackle
Answer: Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State
The Seattle Seahawks might lose both of their starting offensive tackles this offseason, as Duane Brown and Brandon Shell are each on expiring contracts.
In six campaigns, Shell has served as a low-end starter for the New York Jets and Seahawks. Though Brown has four Pro Bowls and an All-Pro campaign on his resume, he allowed eight sacks this past season, per Pro Football Focus, and turns 37 years old in August.
The Seahawks should thus be motivated to draft a high-upside tackle. Although they don't have a first-round selection, they can address this need by taking Nicholas Petit-Frere with the No. 41 overall pick.
In two seasons at Ohio State, he split time at the left and right tackle spots. Seattle's coaching staff can give him early reps on both sides of the line to help him find his natural position fit.
Petit-Frere isn't going to put many defenders on the ground with physicality, but he's nimble and able to seal blocks beyond the line of scrimmage. While in space, the 6'5", 315-pounder can clear out an area for ball-carriers. He's a good addition for a mobile quarterback who can make plays on the run, which would bode well for Russell Wilson.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Uncertainty in the Backfield
Answer: Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
Heading into the offseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have question marks in their backfield. Running backs Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones II, Giovani Bernard and Le'Veon Bell could all test the open market.
Ke'Shawn Vaughn, who's the only tailback on the books beyond the 2021 season, has recorded 62 carries for 289 yards and two touchdowns through 22 games over the past two years. Still unproven, he's not the surefire answer to lead the Buccaneers' ground attack if Fournette and Jones sign elsewhere.
With quarterback Tom Brady still under center for the foreseeable future, the Buccaneers will continue to build around him. He could lose wideout Chris Godwin in free agency and tight end Rob Gronkowski, whose contract voids at the end of the 2021 season.
To keep Brady comfortable, the Buccaneers could draft Breece Hall, who has the skill set of a three-down running back capable of contributing to the short passing game.
Set to come into the league at 6'1" and 220 pounds, Hall has the prototypical size to handle the workload of a lead ball-carrier, but his reliable hands will appeal to Brady and the Buccaneers. He hauled in 82 catches for 734 yards and six touchdowns in addition to 3,941 rushing yards and 50 scores through three seasons at Iowa State.
Tennessee Titans: Inconsistent Pass-Catching Threat at Tight End
Answer: Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M
Tight ends Delanie Walker (2013-2019) and Jonnu Smith had productive years with the Tennessee Titans in recent seasons. The latter signed with the New England Patriots this past offseason.
In 2021, Geoff Swaim (61 percent), MyCole Pruitt (40 percent) and Anthony Firkser (33 percent) split the snaps for the Titans at tight end, but none of them made significant contributions in the passing game. Firkser led the trio in catches (34) and receiving yards (291), but all three will become free agents in March.
Instead of re-signing the best tight end of a mediocre group, the Titans could target a high-potential playmaker at the position in the draft.
The Titans could select Jalen Wydermyer with their third-round pick or move up to fill a gap between their first-rounder and the No. 95 overall selection. They traded their second-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for wideout Julio Jones.
Wydermyer has the potential to become a solid pass-catching tight end because of his physical tools. He plays with a 6'5", 255-pound frame and soft hands.
Wydermyer hauled in 118 passes for 1,468 yards and 16 touchdowns across his three seasons at Texas A&M. The Titans could feature him in the red zone while they further develop his skill set.
Washington Football Team: Unstable Quarterback Situation
Answer: Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
The Washington Football Team has to find a franchise quarterback.
They signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to a one-year deal last offseason, but he suffered a hip injury in the season opener and underwent surgery, which thrust Taylor Heinicke into the lead position. He threw for 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 16 games (15 starts).
Heinicke is Washington's only signal-caller under contract for the 2022 campaign, so the front office has to at least consider all of its options to strengthen the position. Though this draft class doesn't feature a blue-chip signal-caller, the Football Team can target a player with high potential.
At 6'1" and 220 pounds, Sam Howell has the size to play the position in the pros and three years of starting experience in college. At North Carolina, he threw for 92 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.
With Howell under center, the Tar Heels had a high-powered passing attack. Even though the program lost wideouts Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome to the NFL in 2021, he still threw for 3,056 yards, 24 touchdowns and only nine interceptions.
Howell has a quick release and delivers an accurate ball, having completed 63.8 percent of his pass attempts at UNC. He's also a capable ball-carrier, which became a bigger part of his game this past season. The North Carolina product rushed for 828 yards and 11 touchdowns in his final collegiate campaign.
Thanks to all of his in-game experience at UNC, Washington could start Howell right away.
Player contracts courtesy of Spotrac.
Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.