2022 NFL Draft: 1 Surprise Prospect Every Team Could Target
The NFL draft never goes exactly how anyone envisions, hence why mock drafts are so scattershot with only a handful of correct projections each and every year.
Granted, an elite prospect like Trevor Lawrence running the table as the No. 1 overall pick makes things a little easier. For the 2022 class, even the top pick isn't as clear.
Curveballs are always thrown into the mix because each franchise looks at the available talent differently. This exercise is built around possible selections that aren't common slotting three months before the event actually occurs. The selections are not the obvious choice, though they still make some sense in the grand scheme of things.
An emphasis is placed on first-round picks unless a team doesn't currently own one based on previous trades.
Plenty can still change between now and when the draft officially begins at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. Don't be surprised when a few names surface for teams that aren't as popular as they currently are.
Arizona Cardinals: RB Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State
James Conner's retention is probably the obvious path forward since the pending free agent became a big part of the Arizona Cardinals' offense by running for a career-high 15 touchdowns this season.
However, an opportunity exists to upgrade and give the Cardinals a more dynamic weapon in the backfield. As owners of the 23rd overall pick, Arizona sits in the expected sweet spot to select this year's top-ranked running back, Michigan State's Kenneth Walker III.
Conner and Chase Edmonds, who is also a pending free agent, formed a solid duo. Walker is different in that the 210-pound ball-carrier has the power to run through tackles and the explosivity to create chunk plays. This past season, the Doak Walker Award winner led college football with 1,168 yards after contact and 89 missed tackles forced, per Pro Football Focus.
A true workhorse in the backfield would take some pressure off of quarterback Kyler Murray.
Atlanta Falcons: QB Malik Willis, Liberty
Matt Ryan will be the Atlanta Falcons' starting quarterback for the 2022 campaign, per ESPN's Chris Mortensen. Head coach Arthur Smith wants Ryan behind center and told ownership and the front office as much.
What about the '23 season, though?
It makes sense to keep Ryan one more year. However, his salary becomes more manageable when the veteran turns 38. The time may be right to consider a developmental quarterback prospect, allow the young player to sit for a year and have him ready two seasons from now.
Liberty's Malik Willis is the most physically gifted quarterback in this year's class but needs plenty of development as a passer. A year of learning from Ryan might be the perfect setup to maximize Willis' upside while giving the Falcons long-term stability at the game's most important position, even if it means reaching for the quarterback early in the process.
Baltimore Ravens: Edge David Ojabo, Michigan
The offensive line will almost certainly be the Baltimore Ravens' top offseason priority. General manager Eric DeCosta won't force his hand, though.
Despite reinvesting in Tyus Bowser and sinking a first-round pick into Odafe Oweh, who blossomed into a disruptive force as a rookie, an opportunity to add more to the team's pressure packages shouldn't be overlooked, especially in the AFC when the Ravens must go through Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert.
Michigan's David Ojabo is a Nigerian immigrant with immense potential after joining the game later in life. In fact, he and Oweh went to the same high school. They could reunite while meeting at the quarterback each weekend.
Ojabo presents immense potential as a fantastic athlete still learning his trade. His fluidity off the edge is as good as anyone in the class, which could drive him up draft boards. If the Michigan product is still available with the 14th overall pick, he'll probably be too tempting not to select.
Buffalo Bills: TE Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M
The Buffalo Bills eventually moving on from Dawson Knox should qualify as a surprise since he finally experienced a breakthrough campaign in 2021. Knox set career-highs this season with 49 receptions for 587 yards and nine touchdowns. But this is a long-term look as the Bills' roster continues to evolve.
The team's current starting tight end is a free agent after the 2022 campaign. He could very well be highly sought-after if he tests the market. Secondly, Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane will be looking to add more offensive weapons since Isaiah McKenzie, Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley are free agents either this offseason or next.
Furthermore, the Bills own the 25th overall pick. By drafting later in the process, they'll miss out on certain top talents. However, Texas A&M's Jalen Wydermyer is the class' top tight end. So, Buffalo could get the best prospect at his respective position while simultaneously planning for the future.
Carolina Panthers: CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
The idea of the Carolina Panthers adding yet another cornerback after what the organization already invested in the position seems rather far-fetched. Maybe it is. But it shouldn't be entirely ruled out of the equation either.
Carolina sunk last year's eighth overall pick in Jaycee Horn and completed an in-season trade for C.J. Henderson, whom the Jacksonville Jaguars selected ninth overall pick in the 2020 draft. Yet another Top 10 cornerback seems like overkill.
But Stephon Gilmore, Donte Jackson and Rashaan Melvin are pending free agents. A.J. Bouye, meanwhile, has one non-guaranteed year left on his deal but turns 31 later this year. Secondary depth could quickly turn into an issue.
Teams will likely decide between LSU's Derek Stingley Jr. and Cincinnati's Ahmad Gardner as the top cornerback prospect. Bleacher Report has Stingley rated higher as a potential top-five pick. Even if Stingley isn't available, the 6'3", 200-pound Garnder has all the physical tools and requisite play to give the Panthers an elite talent in case their other investments don't work out in the team's favor.
Chicago Bears: LB Christian Harris, Alabama
The Chicago Bears don't own a first-round selection thanks to last year's Justin Fields trade. Despite the lack of an opening-round pick, the Bears will still have opportunities to build around their newly anointed franchise quarterback. Not doing so would be a stunning change of direction after the Bears failed to give the rookie signal-caller enough protection or field enough weapons in Year 1.
However, certain talents may make the Bears' initial draft decision quite interesting.
Alabama linebacker Christian Harris is a great example. Roquan Smith has been fantastic in the middle of the Bears' defense, but he needs a long-term running mate. According to ESPN's Matt Miller, Harris could be LB1 for multiple teams.
Off-ball linebackers don't hold the same value they once did and Harris will have competition with Georgia's Nakobe Dean and Utah's Devin Lloyd to be the first off the board at his position. If he slides into the early stages of the second round, Chicago should strongly consider veering from their more obvious need areas to take the top available prospect.
Cincinnati Bengals: CB Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson
Any selection other than an offensive lineman when the Cincinnati Bengals select in this year's first round would be nothing short of stunning. Quarterback Joe Burrow needs to be protected at all costs and this is the second offseason when many have been saying the same.
Obviously, the Ja'Marr Chase selection proved to be wildly successful. The time to get serious about overhauling the offensive front is now.
Even so, Cincinnati will own one of the last four picks in the first round. All of the highly-rated blockers could be off the board. Plus, the organization can attack the obvious weakness in free agency as well.
If either of those things were to happen, Cincinnati could turn its direction to the secondary since Eli Apple, Vernon Hargreaves III and Tre Flowers are pending free agents. The team can release Trae Waynes and save $11 million, too.
Clemson's Andrew Booth Jr. has the size (6'0", 200 pounds) and length at the position Cincinnati tends to prefer and he can be immediately inserted in the lineup opposite Chidobe Awuzie.
Cleveland Browns: C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
Wide receiver and defensive tackle will dominate the Cleveland Browns' offseason plans because both require drastic overhauls as the roster's obvious weak spots.
The offensive line isn't a priority since the Browns already feature one of the league's best front fives. However, center could be an issue. J.C. Tretter already said he plans to play next fall. Two things could prevent that from happening in Cleveland.
First, the Browns can save $8.25 million with Tretter's release. Secondly, the nine-year veteran experienced knee issues throughout his career.
The chance to select the best center prospect of the modern era in Iowa's Tyler Linderbaum, who also happens to be an ideal system fit for the Browns' outside zone scheme, might be the only reason why Cleveland would pass on getting Baker Mayfield a new wide receiver or pairing Myles Garrett with a stud interior defender.
Dallas Cowboys: WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
The idea of the Dallas Cowboys continuing to load up at wide receiver would be amazing considering how much talent the team already has at the position.
But the position isn't as set as it seems. Yes, Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb should be with the organization for years to come. Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson Jr. are pending free agents, though. Plus, Dallas is already in the red based on the initial forecast for the 2022 salary cap, per Spotrac.
So, the Cowboys aren't quite as settled at receiver as they seem, especially with another weapon, tight end Dalton Schultz, set to enter free agency.
Alabama's Jameson Williams could have been the first wide receiver drafted after a spectacular junior campaign. His speed is a game-changer. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn ACL during the national championship game, thus his overall stock should drop.
Dallas could be sitting there waiting with the 24th overall draft pick since owner Jerry Jones certainly likes shiny new toys.
Denver Broncos: OT Charles Cross, Mississippi State
The Denver Broncos own this year's ninth overall draft pick. The slotting seems to be the perfect starting point for quarterbacks to come off the board, even among a down class.
Maybe general manager George Paton isn't completely sold on any of the quarterbacks, though. The team shouldn't pick one just to pick one. The entire organization should be invested in a prospect to make him the face of the franchise.
If not, the Broncos should look elsewhere. A good starting point is making the life of whoever is behind center easier. Left tackle Garett Bolles regressed after being named a second-team All-Pro in 2020, and right tackle doesn't have a long-term solution.
Mississippi State's Charles Cross is the most natural pass-blocker among available tackle prospects. He could displace Bolles or make the transition to the right side. Either way, he's not far behind Alabama's Evan Neal and North Carolina State's Ikem Ekwonu in pure potential. The Broncos could capitalize if he's available and decide not to take a quarterback.
Detroit Lions: CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
The Detroit Lions need to address every level of the roster after fielding arguably the league's worst personnel during the 2021 campaign.
The organization does have some building blocks in running back D'Andre Swift, tight end T.J. Hockenson, right tackle Penei Sewell and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.
Jeff Okudah is a recent pick not named among those up-and-coming talents. The start to the career of the third overall pick in the 2020 draft has been disastrous. The cornerback looked completely out of place as a rookie and suffered a torn Achilles tendon in Week 1 this season.
The Lions won't give up on him, but the idea of selecting another cornerback that high in the process should be considered.
At this point, Detroit is expected to grab one of the class' top pass-rushers. Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson is a particular favorite as a home-state product. LSU's Derek Stingley Jr. needs to be in the conversation, as long as he injured foot checks out during the predraft process. No SEC cornerback graded better than Stingley since he stepped onto campus, per Pro Football Focus.
Green Bay Packers: WR Justyn Ross, Clemson
Right now, hope probably exists among Green Bay faithful that Aaron Rodgers will return and the team will keep wide receiver Davante Adams.
Even if Rodgers does return, the team has absolutely no financial flexibility at the moment to re-sign Adams. General manager Brian Gutekunst will be forced to create some salary-cap space. Maybe he even finds enough to place the franchise tag on Adams.
Despite everything, the Packers are still looking for a secondary target. Adams had 83 more targets than any other wide receiver on Green Bay's roster. Help has been needed for a long, long time. Yet the Packers passed early on wide receiver prospects each and every year. In fact, Green Bay hasn't chosen a first- or second-round wide receiver since Adams' selection in 2014.
Clemson's Justyn Ross is a fascinating prospect because he looked like a slam-dunk future first-round draft pick during his first two seasons on campus. He then missed all of the '20 campaign after requiring neck surgery. Clemson's quarterback's play didn't help matters this fall.
The Packers could stand pat near the end of the first round and get a top talent, as long as Ross passes his medical examinations.
Houston Texans: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
The Houston Texans are a mess and have been for some time. But they essentially have a clean slate with a general manager in only his second year, a new coach (eventually) coming into the fold and a roster that was stripped of most of its parts last year.
The rebuild starts with the third overall pick. A defensive end is a likely target depending on who is available among Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux, Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson or Purdue's George Karlaftis.
The choice shouldn't be so simplistic, because another elite defender should be under consideration. Notre Dame's Kyle Hamilton is this year's unicorn. The 6'4", 220-pound safety is clearly the best prospect at his position capable of playing at a high level in all phases of the game. His size belies his range in coverage. But he can also be a tone-setter working near or in the box.
Hamilton is a potential superstar. Where he ultimately lands will depend on how teams view positional value. In this case, a weak safety class creates even more value for him, while a strong edge class would allow Houston to pass on Thibodeaux, Hutchinson and Karlaftis with the potential to add another later.
Indianapolis Colts: OG Marquis Hayes, Oklahoma
The Indianapolis Colts already feature an excellent offensive line, though Eric Fisher is a free agent and may not be brought back. Thus, a left tackle would be more pressing than a guard. The Colts don't have a first-round pick to invest in the premium position, though.
Indianapolis should expect the top left tackle prospects to be off the board long before they select in the second frame. Guard is a different matter altogether. Mark Glowinski is also a pending free agent. Glowinski, who turns 30 later this year, could return. However, the Colts have an opportunity to get younger at the position with a prospect in Oklahoma's Marquis Hayes.
"Hayes is a tone-setting presence at guard with the size (6'5", 324 pounds), length and play strength to generate movement in the run game, stay attached to blocks and finish at a very high level," Bleacher Report scout Brandon Thorn said.
Hayes would be forced to make the transition from left to right guard, but the Colts could do worse than add yet another talented young blocker to their already run-first scheme.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Edge Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
The Jacksonville Jaguars own the No. 1 overall pick for the second straight year. How the organization proceeded last year should affect its approach this year with offensive tackle being the primary target.
But tackles aren't sexy, even if they keep quarterbacks upright.
Defensive ends, who get after opposing quarterbacks, are definitely an easier sell. Granted, the Jaguars already have Josh Allen and K'Lavon Chaisson after making them first-round picks. The team is bringing in a new coach, though. His approach will (thankfully) be different than Urban Meyer's.
Thus, the selection of a prospect like Aidan Hutchinson can't be ruled out as someone who helped reset the culture at Michigan while simultaneously playing at an elite level. A No. 1 overall pick isn't just about talent. Ability is a requirement, but the effect the individual can have on a franchise needs to be considered as well. The 21-year-old Hutchinson, who set a new Michigan single-season record with 14 sacks, is a two-time team captain and a Senior CLASS Award finalist.
Kansas City Chiefs: OT Daniel Faalele, Minnesota
The Kansas City Chiefs did a stupendous job in rebuilding their offensive line in just one offseason. The group is still one piece away from being complete, though.
During last year's draft, the Chiefs struck gold with center Creed Humphrey and right guard Trey Smith in the second and sixth rounds, respectively. A year earlier, the team invested a third-round selection in tackle Lucas Niang.
Niang took over at right tackle this season after opting out of his rookie campaign. His 2021 campaign ended on injured reserve after tearing his patellar tendon. Niang's injury history should be quite worrisome. Along with the recent tendon tear, he also dealt with shoulder and rib injuries during the campaign. Furthermore, he required surgery on a torn hip labrum during his final year on campus.
As owners of a late first-round draft pick, the Chiefs can take a chance on a prospect with significant upside in Minnesota's mountainous Daniel Faalele. The 6'9", 380-pound blocker moves much better than his size indicates and he's still growing as a technician. Kansas City loves potential with raw physical traits and few offer more.
Las Vegas Raiders: QB Matt Corral
Maybe this is the year the Las Vegas Raiders finally decide to part ways with quarterback Derek Carr. An entirely new regime might want to attach itself to a quarterback of its choice, and Carr doesn't have a single guaranteed dime remaining on his current deal.
To be fair, Carr is a quality quarterback and he helped lead the team into the postseason when off-field issues could have derailed the Raiders' season. At the same time, the organization must ask itself if he's capable of leading the squad beyond a simple playoff appearance.
If those who step into the general manager and head coach duties don't see him as anything more than an above-average signal-caller, other quarterback options will enter the equation.
Ole Miss' Matt Corral is interesting because he presents a quick release from multiple arm angles and the movement skills to evade pressure while stressing opposing defenses. His slight frame (6'2", 205 pounds) remains a concern.
Another possibility exists in keeping Carr for the final year of his contract while investing in his eventual replacement.
Los Angeles Chargers: WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State
The Los Angeles Chargers have bigger issues along their defensive interior and right tackle than wide receiver. The squad certainly features talented targets in Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Joshua Palmer and Jalen Guyton. Williams and Guyton (restricted) are upcoming free agents, though.
Realistically, the organization could retain both. After all, the Chargers own the second-most available salary-cap space heading into the new league year. Whether they do or don't, wide receiver shouldn't be taken off the board, especially a prospect the caliber of Penn State's Jahan Dotson.
Dotson would be the perfect complementary piece to the team's existing wide receiver room. The 5'11", 184-pound option presents inside-out versatility. He's excellent at working all three levels with the ability to create after the catch. Also, he adds value on special teams as a punt returner. Andre Roberts averaged 4.9 yards per return this season despite leading the league with 37 punt returns.
The first-team All-Big Ten performer can make two phases of the game more dynamic in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Rams: LB Channing Tindall, Georgia
The Los Angeles Rams don't currently own a draft pick before this year's fifth round. Granted, the front office expects compensatory picks as early as the third round for Brad Holmes' hire as the Detroit Lions general manager and John Johnson III leaving in free agency. Even so, this projection is a shot in the dark.
The organization hasn't invested much in the linebacker position. At least, the Rams haven't sunk big contracts or high draft picks into their second line of defense and it shows. The defensive front is great. Playmakers can be found on the back end. Bodies can't just be thrown at the linebacker spot and hope they excel.
The issue became plain as day when Troy Reeder can free and whiffed on what turned out to be Sunday's game-tying touchdown by Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette with 42 seconds remaining.
Georgia's Channing Tindall is a blazing fast sideline to sideline linebacker, who got better with each year and finally became a starter during his senior season.
Miami Dolphins: OG Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
The idea of the Miami Dolphins trying to improve upon the NFL's worst offensive line shouldn't come as a surprise. An investment in a potential guard should be.
Right now, Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt are the team's starting guards. Miami sunk first- and second-round picks into the two blockers, respectively. Hunt has been OK, while Jackson turned into a severe disappointment.
Basically, the potential selection of Texas A&M's Kenyon Green would signal the organization giving up on Jackson, who was the 18th overall pick two years ago. Jackson already converted from tackle to guard. He might be on his way out if a suitable replacement is found.
Green is versatile. Technically, he can play either tackle or guard spot. His skill set translates better inside where he presents significant upside. With the 30th overall pick, Miami can select Green and restart the building process along the offensive line.
Minnesota Vikings: QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
In the world of pro wrestling, Kirk Cousins would be known as an upper-mid-card attraction. He's not the guy with the talent or charisma to be in the main event, but he's good enough to keep the show flowing.
Cousins certainly isn't an elite NFL quarterback but the Minnesota Vikings run the risk of taking a step back if their quarterback play doesn't improve. The veteran quarterback's contract is another issue. The only way to get a significant portion of his $45 million salary-cap charge off the books is via trade. The market for his services may or may not be robust.
If Minnesota's new regime decides to go in another direction and moves Cousins, Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett is the ideal solution as an immediate replacement with the 12th overall selection. The team gets younger and cheaper with arguably the class' most pro-ready quarterback prospect.
Pickett isn't perfect by any means and his upside may be limited, but the Vikings are merely treading water at the moment. A clean slate from top to bottom may be exactly what the franchise needs.
New England Patriots: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne signed with the New England Patriots last offseason to contracts worth a combined $37 million. Yet Jakobi Meyers led the team with 83 catches and 866 receiving yards.
The Patriots still lack a true No. 1 receiver. In a wide receiver class loaded with talent, the possibility of adding a top target shouldn't be dismissed even though the roster has bigger issues on defense with J.C. Jackson, Devin McCourty, Dont'a Hightower, Ja'whaun Bentley and Jamie Collins set to enter free agency.
Ohio State's Chris Olave isn't the biggest or fastest wide receiver in the class. What places him in the first-round conversation is exactly why Bill Belichick will love him as a prospect. Olave is a silky smooth route-runner. He's almost always in the right place at the right time. He even does the little things like block downfield.
Olave's addition to the Patriots' current crop of wide receivers would give Mac Jones numerous weapons as the quarterback enters his second season.
New Orleans Saints: DT Jordan Davis
The New Orleans Saints once again face a mountain of debt it must overcome before it's capable of even sliding under the 2022 salary cap. At $71.6 million over the current number, the Saints must work their magic to get things back on track and it might be the best move just to take a hit this year and reset the books in 2023.
All of that must be done before the team can address free agents Terron Armstead, Marcus Williams, P.J. Williams, Shy Tuttle and Jameis Winston.
Obviously, the Saints would like to draft a long-term starter at quarterback but it all depends on who is available with the 18th overall pick. If a couple is off the board and the Saints don't want to force things, a top-notch defensive prospect added to their top-10 defense might the perfect solution to keep New Orleans competitive.
Tuttle's name probably didn't invoke the same reaction as others previously mentioned. But his absence in the middle of the defense will certainly have an effect unless the Saints draft someone like Georgia's Jordan Davis. Davis might not be an every-down defender but he's a tone-setter in the middle who's impossible to move at the point of attack.
New York Giants: QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
A brand new regime with no ties to quarterback Daniel Jones will enter the New York Giants facility once a head coach is hired. The idea of tying them to Jones, who's been a turnover machine throughout his career, feels like a potential error in judgment.
The Giants overdrafted Jones in 2019 and still have one year remaining on his rookie deal (unless the organization inexplicably picks up his fifth-year option). His $8.2 million salary this fall is fully guaranteed.
So, why invest in another quarterback and possibly make the same mistake, especially in what's considered a weak class?
A decision falls on those coming into the organization and how they feel about each individual prospect. Bleacher Report ranks Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder as the top quarterback in the class because of his combination of pocket passing, athleticism and ability to throw to all three levels. The Giants, meanwhile, own a pair of top 10 picks. New York has the flexibility to reinvest in the position if the new executives aren't happy with the current setup.
New York Jets: OL Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State
New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas already made first-round investments in left tackle Mekhi Becton and left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker.
Douglas doesn't need to stop there and probably shouldn't, especially with Becton's uncertain situation.
When healthy and playing full-tilt, Becton displays enough upside to warrant consideration as an elite left tackle. But those moments have been few and far between as he dealt with injuries and maybe didn't put in enough effort.
According to Pro Football Network's Tony Pauline, the "Jets offensive coaches are done with Becton."
If the report is true, offensive tackle is back on the table. As good as North Carolina State's Ikem Ekwonu is, it probably should be anyhow.
Ekwonu is a bulldozer of a run-blocker with more than foot quickness to excel as a pass-blocker once he cleans up a few minor technique issues. The Jets are expected to take a defender with the fourth overall pick. Ekwonu is as good of a value or better if available. His addition could replace Becton or push him to right tackle.
Philadelphia Eagles: WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
The possibility of the Philadelphia Eagles selecting a wide receiver in the first round for the third straight year seems slim.
Three reasons exist why it could still happen.
First, the Eagles own three first-round picks among the top 19 selections. Second, Jalen Reagor has been a disappointment in his first two seasons. Finally, Arkansas' Treylon Burks would be an ideal complement to DeVonta Smith.
Smith and Reagor are small-framed targets. The 6'3", 225-pound Burks is the exact opposite. He's a big, strong-bodied option who is exemplary in beating single coverage and creating after the catch. In fact, he tied for first among all receivers in yards after the catch since the start of the 2020 campaign, per Pro Football Focus. He can work from the slot or outside the number.
With so much ammunition to start the draft, the Eagles should stay true to their board, even if it's a wide receiver. Someone like Burks can come in and help with quarterback Jalen Hurts' maturation.
Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia
The selection of a first-round linebacker instead of quarterback or much-needed offensive lineman would be the most Pittsburgh Steelers pick of all Steelers draft picks.
Amazingly, the possibility can't be ruled out, because Pittsburgh's inside linebackers struggled mightily in 2021. Joe Schobert was solid, but nothing special, and the team can release him to save $7.9 million this offseason. Devin Bush Jr. has been a first-round disappointment. Robert Spillane is much better when asked to play between the tackles than he is working in space.
In a typical year, Georgia's Nakobe Dean would be the ideal fit for Pittsburgh. He's a defensive leader who flies to the football and excels in pressure packages. He may be too tempting for those reasons alone.
Everything depends on whether the Steelers fall in love with an available quarterback or offensive line prospect with the 20th overall pick. The organization might find itself in a position where it doesn't and Dean is too perfect not to select.
San Francisco 49ers: Edge Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati
The San Francisco 49ers already have one of the league's best defensive fronts. All the more reason to load up even more to make sure it stays a problem for opposing offenses.
To be clear, the Niners don't own a first-round pick after last year's trade-up for Trey Lance. Fortunately, the edge class is deep.
Cincinnati's Myjai Sanders didn't post high numbers during the Bearcats' magical run. His 2.5 sacks belie how disruptive he was all season. Sanders is a long, lean and athletic edge that Cincinnati played out of position because he was talented enough to do so. At the same time, his initial burst off the snap, flexibility to turn the edge and length to disrupt opposing quarterback were always present.
The 49ers could use another edge defender with Sanders' skill set since Arden Key could leave in free agency. Even if Key doesn't, the addition of more pass-rushers can make San Francisco's defensive front even more dangerous.
Seattle Seahawks: QB Sam Howell, North Carolina
The Seattle Seahawks might have to prepare for life without Russell Wilson. After a year of trade talk circling around the future Hall of Fame quarterback, this may be the offseason when he forces his way out and the organization moves on from its all-time leading passer.
A trade would certainly change the dynamic of the draft and create different priorities. As it is, Wilson is only signed through 2023 when he'll turn 35 years old. A potential succession plan may be necessary either immediately or relatively soon.
Seattle doesn't own a first-round pick, though. But the Seahawks will be near the top of the second frame with the possibility of trading up if need be.
North Carolina's Sam Howell would give the team a similar skill set to what they already have under center. Granted, the 21-year-old doesn't have the same level of athleticism as Wilson or as pretty of a deep ball but he can move, create with his legs and drive the ball down the field.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OG Zion Johnson, Boston College
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won't repeat as Super Bowl champions, so there's no reason for general manager Jason Licht to bring back the entire starting lineup again.
Wide receiver Chris Godwin, center Ryan Jensen, cornerback Carlton Davis, safety Jordan Whitehead, running backs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard and defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh, William Gholston and Steve McLendon may not be with the team next season. Tom Brady's status remains up in the air as well.
Essentially, the Buccaneers could go in just about any direction and it would make some sense. Guard certainly won't be a top priority, but the potential departure of another free agent, Alex Cappa, may make it a position of interest with the 27th overall pick.
Boston College's Zion Johnson is the best pure guard in the class and a plug-and-play prospect. Johnson alongside Tristan Wirfs would give the Buccaneers the league's best young offensive right side.
Tennessee Titans: DL Devonte Wyatt, Georgia
The Tennessee Titans already claim the NFL's best front seven with multiple game-wreckers. The possible addition of another war daddy would be building upon a strength to make Tennessee's defense difficult to handle for years to come.
Georgia's Devonte Wyatt already played in a similar front at the collegiate level. His first-step quickness is the best among this year's incoming interior defenders. The second-team All-American is a true three-down lineman capable of stopping the run and collapsing the pocket.
His selection would add to an already talented group while simultaneously helping Tennessee plan for the future. Denico Autry turns 32 this year and the Titans have an out in his contract the following offseason where the organization can save $7.25 million, which would pave the way to Wyatt starting alongside Jeffrey Simmons.
Quarterbacks would be wary whenever they played the Titans.
Washington Football Team: LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
The idea of the Washington Football Team not coming away with one of the class' top quarterback prospects seems unfathomable at this point in time.
Washington missed an opportunity to trade up in last year's draft to select Justin Fields. Now, it's still in need of a franchise signal-caller while staring down a much weaker position class overall. As such, the possibility exists of the staff not falling in love with a particular quarterback prospect and punting on it yet again.
Sure, Washington could select a Desmond Ridder or Kenny Pickett and no one would blink. At the same time, neither is considered top-tier options.
Linebacker is yet another position of concern even after the front office sunk a first-round pick in Jamin Davis last year. Davis is an exceptional athlete, but the adjustment to the professional game took some time. Whereas, Utah's Devin Lloyd can be an immediate impact defender at multiple positions along the second line. He's capable of playing all three linebacker spots with a highly aggressive mentality to play downhill and the athleticism to be a true-three down defender.