2022 NFL Draft: Latest Buzz Surrounding Every NFL Team

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistApril 22, 2022

2022 NFL Draft: Latest Buzz Surrounding Every NFL Team

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    Kendall Warner/Associated Press

    As the 2022 NFL draft approaches, reporters, beat writers and analysts have shared their thoughts and what they've heard through the grapevine. However, remember that teams often use smokescreens or false leaks to mask in-house plans. 

    In many cases, you'll see two stories that conflict. Perhaps one report links a team to a specific prospect and another rumor suggests the same club has little or no interest in that player. 

    Before reality begins to unfold next Thursday, we can all play detective to figure out what's legitimate and how to apply that information to a team's roster makeup.

    For the first time in five years, we may not see a quarterback go No. 1 in the class, which brings the unpredictable nature of the draft to the forefront once the Jacksonville Jaguars start the selection process.

    Still, many wonder where the top quarterbacks—Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett, Desmond Ridder, Matt Corral and Sam Howell—will land. 

    Well, we scoured national reports, mailbags and sorted through the speculation to provide the latest and most pertinent draft buzz surrounding all 32 teams.

Arizona Cardinals: Possibly Interested in Top WRs, Host Visit with Treylon Burks

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    Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks
    Arkansas wide receiver Treylon BurksMichael Woods/Associated Press

    The Arizona Cardinals re-signed wideout A.J. Green, who turns 34 years old in July. With the seven-time Pro Bowler at the tail end of his playing career, the team could take a receiver early in the draft.

    Per Jess Root of Cardinals Wire, Arizona reportedly has "significant interest" in the top receivers. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Cardinals hosted Arkansas' Treylon Burks for a visit.

    With the No. 23 pick, Arizona finds itself in a good spot to take a standout receiver. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury, a former collegiate offensive play-caller, can use Burks in creative ways because of his size (6'2", 225 lbs) and versatility. He recorded 14 carries for 112 yards and a touchdown in addition to 66 receptions for 1,104 yards and 11 scores last season.

    Burks could immediately cut into Green's target share. The latter admitted that his connection with quarterback Kyler Murray lacked communication (from his end) and has "a lot of room for growth."

    Keep in mind that Murray and other veterans didn't attend voluntary workouts when the team's conditioning program started Tuesday, per Rapoport. The Cardinals signal-caller also wants a new contract. 

    If Murray and Green don't improve their connection, Burks would have to chance to claim the No. 2 spot opposite DeAndre Hopkins.

Atlanta Falcons: Connected to QB Matt Corral Amid 'Conflicting Info'

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    Ole Miss QB Matt Corral
    Ole Miss QB Matt CorralIcon Sportswire/Getty Images

    At No. 8, the Atlanta Falcons could shake up the draft with a wild-card pick.

    On one hand, general manager Terry Fontenot can select a quarterback to fit into the team's long-term plans as the potential successor to Marcus Mariota. The MMQB's Albert Breer has talked to people who have linked the Falcons to Matt Corral, but he's not quite sure about the fit.

    "There's conflicting info here," Breer wrote. "Some are convinced they are taking a quarterback. Others are convinced they aren't. They've certainly done their homework on the class. And the one quarterback I've heard them connected to, Corral, is one I'm not completely sure would be a fit for coach Arthur Smith."

    For what it's worth, Corral has athleticism and mobility that may draw Smith's attention. The Falcons head coach has a dual-threat quarterback in Mariota, and he helped resurrect Ryan Tannehill's career as an offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. 

    At 6'2", 212 pounds, Corral has a slender build, but he's also shown good arm strength with deep-ball accuracy. He's also demonstrated the ability to finish scoring drives with his legs, racking up 614 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns last season at Ole Miss.

Baltimore Ravens: Targeting a Tackle for Position Insurance

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    Baltimore Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley
    Baltimore Ravens left tackle Ronnie StanleyDiamond Images/Getty Images

    Perhaps general manager Eric DeCosta provided a glimpse into the Baltimore Ravens' draft plans during a press conference earlier in the month when he talked about the team's interest in a tackle.

    Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic highlighted the Ravens' biggest draft needs with the probability that the team adds a prospect at each position. He estimated 90 percent for offensive tackle and referenced Ronnie Stanley's unclear short-term outlook:

    "DeCosta has made clear that he plans on drafting at least one tackle after a year in which the team endured significant challenges at the position following a season-ending ankle injury to Stanley. Moses solidifies the right tackle spot, but at least one, if not two, additions are still needed. The Ravens are hopeful that Stanley will be healthy and back to form in September, but he's played only seven games over the past two years and he's had multiple surgeries."

    The Ravens haven't provided any notable updates about Stanley's recovery timetable. If they select a tackle in the first two rounds of the draft, the team may have legitimate concerns about the seven-year veteran's availability for the 2022 season.

    Back in February, Zrebiec wrote, "nobody knows" if Stanley will play in the upcoming campaign.

Buffalo Bills: Jordan Poyer's Contract Situation Could Shift Draft Plans

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    Buffalo Bills safety Jordan Poyer
    Buffalo Bills safety Jordan PoyerJeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    The Buffalo Bills may have a strong need at safety if they cannot come to terms with Jordan Poyer's new agent, Drew Rosenhaus.

    Per Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News, Poyer wants an extension. The Bills can work on an agreement with him or take the cost-effective route and select a top safety in the draft. 

    The Athletic's Joe Buscaglia believes the Bills may not just draft a safety, but they could pursue arguably the top prospect at the position in Kyle Hamilton:

    "If the Bills believe the Poyer situation is going awry, I could see them making a big move up the board and into the top 10—or just outside of it to secure Hamilton's services. The spot I keep coming back to at the top of this range is the Giants at No. 7. It would get the Bills ahead of the Falcons (No. 8), Jets (No. 10) and Commanders (No. 11), all of whom could select Hamilton because of a need at the position and his rare qualities." 

    Buffalo would find it difficult to replace an All-Pro safety like Poyer, who had five interceptions and nine pass breakups last season, but the club only has $8.3 million in cap space.

    Hamilton could pay immediate dividends because of his ability to track the ball downfield, match up against tight ends with his 6'4", 220-pound frame and supplement the run defense. He logged 138 tackles, 7.5 for loss, eight interceptions and 16 pass breakups through three collegiate terms at Notre Dame.

Carolina Panthers: Discussed Trading Back with 'Numerous' Teams?

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    Carolina Panthers QB Sam Darnold
    Carolina Panthers QB Sam DarnoldJared C. Tilton/Getty Images

    In most cases, teams in the top 10 will take calls to move back unless the front office has its sights set on a quarterback.

    The Carolina Panthers don't have a settled quarterback situation, and Sam Darnold had an awful 2021 campaign with nine touchdown passes and 13 interceptions with a 59.9 percent completion rate.

    Though as NFL Network's Mike Giardi noted via Twitter, the Panthers may try to move back, take a quarterback and add some draft picks to fill a gap between pick Nos. 6 and 137.

    "Important to note that, per league sources, the #Panthers have talked to numerous teams about moving back from 6 (they don’t have another pick until #137). Picking a QB in top 10 might be too much but picking one in the mid first is more palatable and gets them more draft capital," Giardi tweeted. 

    With a mediocre quarterback class, the Panthers can pull this off if a team wants to move up for a blue-chip prospect. In the event they're able to slide back two or more spots, the front office can still select one of the top signal-callers in the class and use any extra picks to fill needs at tackle, guard or defensive end on Day 2 of the draft.

Chicago Bears: Looking to Add Picks, Justin Fields Excited About Draft

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    Quarterback Justin Fields
    Quarterback Justin FieldsNam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Thus far this offseason, the Chicago Bears haven't done much to bolster second-year quarterback Justin Fields' supporting cast. The team could be on the verge of providing help, though.

    Last month, new general manager Ryan Poles talked about the possibility of acquiring picks to load up on talent in the middle rounds:

    "This draft in those mid-rounds, it's deep—at least I hope, and that's the way it looks on the board right now. So I'm excited about it. (The Khalil Mack trade) puts us in range of really good players. And at the same time, that also allows us to maneuver a little bit. Because we don't have a ton of picks, so if there is a way to create more, we'll be open to that." 

    The Bears acquired a second-round pick from the Los Angeles Chargers in the Mack trade. With a deep class of wideouts, Chicago could add a quality wide receiver on Day 2, and Fields likes what he sees in the draft pool (h/t Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune).

    "There are a lot of guys coming out in this year's draft who are talented," Fields said. "I'm excited to see who we get."

    As of right now, Chicago has one reliable wideout in Darnell Mooney, who built a solid rapport with Fields last season. Tight end Cole Kmet could take a big step in his third campaign. With that said, the Bears need upgrades over career backups like wide receivers Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown. Currently, Chicago has three Day 2 selections (Nos. 39, 48 and 71).  

Cincinnati Bengals: Recent Draft History Favors CB Andrew Booth Jr.

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

    The Cincinnati Bengals have picked LSU and Clemson prospects in the first two rounds of the 2020 and 2021 drafts. Though guard Jackson Carman has gone through his ups and downs, standouts from the two programs make up the nucleus of the team's high-powered offense.

    In 2022, Cincinnati may have another Clemson product on its radar to fill a void on the defensive side of the ball.

    The Athletic's Paul Dehner Jr. and Jay Morrison focused on the Bengals secondary in a five-part draft series, and they drew a connection to Andrew Booth Jr.:

    "His versatility, tenacity, eye-popping playmaking and box-checking athleticism make him an ideal fit for Anarumo. Plus, we know the Bengals have a ton of trust in their sources at Clemson, having gone to that school for a second-round selection in each of the past two years. If Booth checked out as a worker and a ball-loving, process-enjoying competitor, then he connects all the dots, if he's available." 

    Since 2020, Booth has recorded nine pass breakups and five interceptions at Clemson. He recently underwent core-muscle surgery, but according to NFL Network's Mike Giardi, the potential first-rounder won't go through an extensive healing process.

    If teams go into the draft a bit skeptical of Booth's recovery timetable, he may slip to the Bengals at No. 31. He could eventually take over for Eli Apple, who re-signed on a one-year deal this offseason.

Cleveland Browns: Prioritizing Defense Linemen over Wide Receivers?

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    Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney
    Defensive end Jadeveon ClowneyDavid Richard/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Browns have glaring needs on the defensive front and at wide receiver. They traded their first-round pick to the Houston Texans in the deal that involved quarterback Deshaun Watson, so barring a move up, general manager Andrew Berry will wait until Day 2 to fill roster voids.

    On one hand, the Browns may start three new defensive linemen next season. They've yet to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney or Malik Jackson. Malik McDowell was arrested in January on charges of aggravated battery on a police officer, resisting arrest and exposing sex organs in public. On the flip side, Cleveland has to find or develop a consistent No. 2 wideout to complement Amari Cooper. 

    If Berry has to make a decision between wide receivers and defensive linemen with the No. 44 pick, The Athletic's Zac Jackson believes the Browns will target a defender:

    "There are two reasons I'm currently guessing defense over offense for the Browns with their first pick. One is that it makes more sense for the Browns to prioritize the ongoing remake of their defensive line over the ongoing remake of the wide receiver room. The other is availability, a major factor in any draft guess. Brugler and other folks in the know are guessing that there's going to be an early (and deep) run on wide receivers."

    At least Cleveland has a lead wideout in Cooper. Even if the Browns re-sign Clowney, they would still need to add some competition for interior positions. Both Jordan Elliott, a 2020 third-rounder, and Tommy Togiai, a 2021 fourth-rounder, played fewer than 42 percent of the team's defensive snaps last season.

Dallas Cowboys: Owner Jerry Jones Open to Trading Up

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    Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones
    Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry JonesRey Del Rio/Getty Images

    Typically, team decision-makers with an eye on a quarterback look to trade up. The Dallas Cowboys will have Dak Prescott under center for the foreseeable future, but they must address other pressing needs at premium positions.

    The Cowboys released tackle La'el Collins, who signed with the Cincinnati Bengals. Terence Steele has experience with the first unit (27 starts), but the team should make him earn the lead role at training camp—not take it by default. Additionally, 31-year-old left tackle Tyron Smith has missed 20 games since 2020. 

    On top of that, Dallas may want to take an edge-rusher who can lead the position for the long-term future. DeMarcus Lawrence, who refused to take a pay cut, per Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News, turns 30 years old on April 28. Dorance Armstrong, whom the club re-signed on a two-year contract this offseason, isn't a proven starter. Dante Fowler Jr. inked a one-year deal in free agency. 

    In order to add top talent at tackle or defensive end, the Cowboys may need to make a move, and owner Jerry Jones is open to that scenario:

    "I would trade up (in) this draft, and just going in (that's) as much as you can say about it until you see what's there or who's on the other line. But yeah, I would trade up since we're down as low as we are in those first two or three rounds. If we had a chance to and somebody that we had really coveted was sitting down there at the bottom, then we could trade up and get him."

    If Northern Iowa tackle Trevor Penning or Purdue edge-rusher George Karlaftis remain on the board at No. 20, Jones should try to move up a few spots for one of them.

Denver Broncos: GM George Paton's Connection to TE Greg Dulcich

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    UCLA tight end Greg Dulcich
    UCLA tight end Greg DulcichMark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The Denver Broncos don't have a first-round pick because of the trade with the Seattle Seahawks that involved quarterback Russell Wilson, but they can fill some shallow areas on their depth chart with three Day 2 picks.

    The Athletic's Nick Kosmider pointed to the tight end spot and a specific prospect who shares some common ground with general manager George Paton:

    "There is a good mix of offense and defense at positions where the Broncos need to add depth. Tight end is one obvious such spot, and while UCLA's Greg Dulcich isn't on the level of Colorado State's Trey McBride as a receiver, he did catch a career-high 42 passes for 725 yards and five touchdowns as a fourth-year junior in 2021. You can expect that Paton has strong intel on Dulcich. Not only did both play at UCLA, but Dulcich also hails from the same hometown (La Cañada Flintridge, Calif.) and attended the same high school (St. Francis) as Paton."

    Once McBride hears his name called, tight end-needy teams will likely consider Dulcich as a solid alternative. He may not be available for Denver at No. 64. If he is and the Broncos want him, the UCLA product can push Albert Okwuegbunam for the starting spot following the departure of Noah Fant, who was traded to the Seahawks in the Wilson trade.

Detroit Lions: Dan Campbell 'Isn't a Fan' of Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux?

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    Oregon edge-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux
    Oregon edge-rusher Kayvon ThibodeauxJustin Casterline/Getty Images

    Draft analysts have linked the Detroit Lions to edge-rushers in the No. 2 spot, but the club may not have Kayvon Thibodeaux on its target list.

    The MMQB's Albert Breer has talked to people who question Thibodeaux's fit with the Lions, including one league executive.

    "Well, I can tell you that no one I've talked to at this point believes that Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux is in any way a culture fit for Detroit coach Dan Campbell," Breer wrote. "'His personality is a lot,' said one exec. 'And you hear the head coach there isn't a fan.'"

    Early in the predraft evaluation process, ESPN's Todd McShay talked about why he thought Thibodeaux could fall outside of the top five picks. 

    "I heard a lot about Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, including concerns that he just doesn't play with the same fire as some other top prospects," McShay said during Senior Bowl week. 

    McShay also criticized Thibodeaux for skipping the position drills at the combine and comparing himself to Jadeveon Clowney, who came into the league with questions about his motor.

    Even if the Lions pass on Thibodeaux, he could still come off the board within the top five selections. The Houston Texans, New York Jets and New York Giants, who gave him a "hard time" during an interview at the combine, all need an edge-rusher.

Green Bay Packers: Sleeper to Move Up for a Wide Receiver?

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    Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst
    Green Bay Packers general manager Brian GutekunstMichael Hickey/Getty Images

    After the Green Bay Packers traded Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders and lost Marquez Valdes-Scantling in free agency, we should assume the team will take a wideout early in the draft.

    According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, the top wide receivers in this class see the Packers as a "potential sleeper" to trade up for a prospect at the position. 

    Green Bay hasn't drafted a wide receiver in the first round since it selected Javon Walker with the 20th pick in 2002.

    However, with Sammy Watkins, Allen Lazard and 2021 third-rounder Amari Rodgers atop the depth chart, the Packers cannot ignore a glaring need, especially after they signed quarterback Aaron Rodgers to the richest deal in NFL history.

    With two first-round picks, the Packers can shake up the draft with an aggressive move for a wide receiver who's high on their big board. Perhaps the front office calls a club in the teens for a chance to pick Alabama's Jameson Williams or one of Ohio State wideouts Garrett Wilson or Chris Olave.

Houston Texans: Focusing on Ahmad Gardner or Derek Stingley Jr.?

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    Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner
    Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad GardnerDylan Buell/Getty Images

    The Houston Texans can approach Day 1 of the draft in a variety of ways. They have several needs and two first-round picks.

    Fox Sports analyst Peter Schrager posted a mock draft on NFL.com and shared what he heard about Texans' possible draft targets.

    "I've heard a lot of noise from folks around the league that Houston could pick one of the two corners—Sauce Gardner or Derek Stingley Jr.," Schrager wrote. 

    Schrager didn't mock Gardner or Stingley to Houston in the No. 3 spot. Instead, he went with North Carolina State's Ikem Ekwonu. The Texans could miss out on one or both prospects if they wait until the 13th pick to select a cornerback, which cracks open the door for a chance at a surprise selection in the top three.

    Draft analysts who think highly of Gardner can make an argument for him in the No. 3 slot because of his size (6'3", 190 lbs) and ball production (nine interceptions and 18 pass breakups as a collegian), but Stingley seems too risky in the top three because of his injury history.

Indianapolis Colts: Taking a Closer Look at QB Desmond Ridder

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    Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder
    Cincinnati quarterback Desmond RidderDarron Cummings/Associated Press

    Even though the Indianapolis Colts don't have a first-round pick and they acquired Matt Ryan from the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for a third-rounder, team brass took a close look at one of the top quarterback prospects in the draft.

    Per the MMQB's Albert Breer, quarterback Desmond Ridder and some Cincinnati Bearcat receivers worked out for the Colts.

    With Michael Pittman Jr. as the only reliable receiver on the roster, Indianapolis should do extensive homework on prospects at the position, but the front office could also use the No. 42 pick to select Ryan's potential successor and add a wideout in the third round. 

    Though Indianapolis has a bigger need at wide receiver, team brass may want to have a succession plan in place for its soon-to-be 37-year-old starter under center. After trading Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders, the Colts ensured they would have a new lead signal-caller for the fifth consecutive season. 

    If Ridder slips past the first round, the Colts could make an attempt to move up for him on Day 2.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Edge Aidan Hutchinson Believes He'll Be No. 1 Pick

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    Michigan edge-rusher Aidan Hutchinson
    Michigan edge-rusher Aidan HutchinsonJustin Casterline/Getty Images

    This isn't about Aidan Hutchinson's hopes and confidence in his resume.

    Per Thor Nystrom of NBC Sports Edge, Hutchinson thinks he'll be the No. 1 overall selection for the Jacksonville Jaguars "based on his interactions with them."

    Along with Alabama's Evan Neal, the Michigan product generated early buzz as the potential top pick, though Georgia's Travon Walker has gained steam to make it a three-prospect discussion over the past couple of weeks.

    ESPN's Matt Miller added on to the chatter that suggests the Jaguars' interest in Walker isn't just a predraft smokescreen.

    "Talk to people around the league this week, and you're destined to hear whispers that the Jaguars could select Georgia defensive end Travon Walker with the No. 1 overall pick," Miller wrote. 

    The Jaguars will likely keep everyone in suspense until they go on the clock next Thursday. Nonetheless, Hutchinson fills one of the team's biggest needs on the edge opposite Josh Allen. He's considered a high-floor pick because of his technical skill and breakout 2021 term, logging 62 tackles, 16.5 for loss and 14 sacks.

Kansas City Chiefs: Quietly Targeting WR Calvin Austin III?

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    Memphis wide receiver Calvin Austin III
    Memphis wide receiver Calvin Austin IIIJoe Murphy/Getty Images

    Even after the Kansas City Chiefs traded wideout Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins, they still have a solid wide receiver trio that features JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

    However, the Chiefs don't have a consistent and explosive playmaker who compares to Hill. Equipped with four draft picks in the first two rounds, they can add a spark plug to their aerial attack.

    Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network thinks the Chiefs' history of minimal or no interaction with prospects could speak volumes about their interest in Memphis' Calvin Austin III:

    "At face value, Austin seems like the perfect replacement in Kansas City for the recently traded Tyreek Hill. But the Chiefs have been quiet about Austin—no official 30 visits, no private workouts. Then again, that could be the giveaway. Historically, Andy Reid chooses to remain on the outside looking in when it comes to prospects he’s interested in—until draft day, of course, when Reid pulls the trigger. Kansas City has a pair of picks in the bottom half of Round 2 (Nos. 50 and 62). I could absolutely see them using one of those selections to draft Austin."

    With pick Nos. 29 and 30 in the first round, Kansas City may not be able to snag one of the top wideouts in the class, but the front office can find an under-the-radar gem on Day 2. Over the past two years, Austin has hauled in 137 passes for 2,202 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Las Vegas Raiders: Won't Prioritize Roster Need

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    Offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood
    Offensive lineman Alex LeatherwoodRick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Typically, mock drafters highlight a team's roster needs to justify their predictions. For anyone who plans to do a full seven-round projection, don't assume the Las Vegas Raiders will use their top pick at No. 86 to bolster the offensive line where the team can upgrade the starters or add depth. 

    New general manager Dave Ziegler will focus on adding quality players regardless of position. He talked about the team's draft strategy Wednesday.

    "We want the best available players regardless of position,” Ziegler said. "That’s how we want to continue to build the team. I think if you’re drafting good football players, you’re making good choices. When you overextend just to draft a need, you can often pass over good football players that can help your team."

    In the recent past, the Raiders drafted specifically for need in the first round and that approach backfired.

    Defensive end Clelin Ferrell (No. 4 pick in 2019) has regressed from a starter to a back-end roster player. Vegas waived cornerback Damon Arnette (No. 19 pick in 2020) last November after a video of him wielding a firearm and threatening an Instagram user surfaced online. Alex Leatherwood (No. 17 pick in 2021) can rebound from a poor rookie campaign, but he struggled mightily at right tackle and right guard last season. Vegas drew heavy criticism for all three picks on draft day.

    Even though the Raiders don't have a first- or second-round pick because of their deal with the Green Bay Packers for wideout Davante Adams, Ziegler can find some middle-to-late round gems while looking for the best prospect available rather than the player who could strengthen shallow positions on the depth chart.

Los Angeles Chargers: Prioritizing Offensive Tackle over Cornerback?

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    Chargers right tackle Storm Norton
    Chargers right tackle Storm NortonKyusung Gong/Associated Press

    Last year, the Los Angeles Chargers changed the complexion of their offensive line, selecting Rashawn Slater with the No. 13 pick. He put together a Pro Bowl season. General manager Tom Telesco may target the same position on Day 1 in back-to-back drafts.

    The Athletic's Daniel Popper believes head coach Brandon Staley will have a difficult time passing on a top cornerback, but he doesn't see the team ignoring a bigger need at right tackle. 

    "If the option of bringing in a talented tackle prospect opposite Slater presents itself in the first round, I cannot see the Chargers going in any other direction, regardless of how much Staley covets versatile, tough, competitive defensive backs like (Trent) McDuffie," Popper wrote. 

    McDuffie fits into the second tier of cornerbacks in the 2022 class, but he's a potential rookie starter who can line up on the boundary or in the slot. Popper highlighted right tackle Storm Norton's subpar pass protection as a major issue though. The 27-year-old allowed nine sacks through 1,078 offensive snaps last season, per Pro Football Focus.

    Among the top tackles, Northern Iowa's Trevor Penning seems like the most realistic option at No. 17. If he's off the board, Staley may have his way and take McDuffie or another cornerback.

Los Angeles Rams: Could Use a Third-Round Pick on a Punter?

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    Penn State punter Jordan Stout
    Penn State punter Jordan StoutScott Taetsch/Getty Images

    We rarely see draft buzz about punters that's worth a discussion.

    Nonetheless, in a conversation with Pro Football Network colleague Trey Wingo, Tony Pauline (starting at 33:01) laid out his reasons why the Los Angeles Rams may go against the grain and target a special teamer in the third round of the draft: 

    "It makes sense because they got rid of their punter in a cost-cutting move. They brought in a guy who's like roster fodder. I can absolutely see them taking a Jordan Stout of Penn State or Matt Araiza of San Diego State with that pick late in Round 3 to fill that need. Both of those guys are going to be NFL punters. So, people will laugh, but the Rams will get themselves an outstanding punter at a cheap price in a guy that will be starting for them come September."

    Los Angeles released four-time All-Pro punter Johnny Hekker and signed Riley Dixon to a one-year deal. Stout or Araiza would have a chance to win a training camp battle with Dixon, who's with his third NFL team.

    If the Rams select Stout or Araiza with the No. 104 pick, that would be the first time a team selected a punter on Day 2 since 2012 when the Jacksonville Jaguars took Bryan Anger at No. 70. The veteran punter has played 10 seasons, and he earned a Pro Bowl nod with the Dallas Cowboys in 2021. 

    If the Rams add a punter before anything else, that would be a shocker with the team's moderate needs at right guard and cornerback following the departures of Austin Corbett and Darious Williams in free agency.

Miami Dolphins: Looking for Competition at Center?

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    Dolphins center Michael Deiter
    Dolphins center Michael DeiterMichael Reaves/Getty Images

    The Miami Dolphins revamped their offensive line, signing left tackle Terron Armstead and left guard Connor Williams, but the team may continue to focus on the position group during the draft. 

    The Dolphins don't have a first- or second-round pick because of separate deals with the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald highlighted Todd McShay's ESPN mock draft that linked the Dolphins to Arizona State's Dohnovan West in the back end of the third round. 

    In Jackson's mock draft review, he noted that Miami is "searching for competition at center." Through three seasons, Michael Deiter has moved from guard to the pivot where he started eight games last season. He missed nine outings between October and November with a foot injury. As a starter in 23 out of 40 contests, the 2019 third-rounder isn't quite settled in a lead role.

    General manager Chris Grier and new head coach Mike McDaniel could add an offensive lineman with their first draft pick to challenge Deiter at center.

Minnesota Vikings: Trading Up into the Top 10 for a Cornerback?

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    LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr.
    LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr.Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    The Minnesota Vikings patched up their cornerback group through free agency, signing Chandon Sullivan, Patrick Peterson and Nate Hairston, but that's not enough to improve a pass defense that gave up 11.7 yards per completion—tied for the fifth-most league-wide in 2021. 

    Sullivan will likely man the slot position. Hairston has started in 18 games through five seasons. Peterson heads into his age-32 campaign. With all three on one-year deals, Minnesota needs more help at the position, so a move up for a cornerback makes sense. 

    According to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, the Vikings may target a spot in the top 10 for a shot at Ahmad Gardner or Derek Stingley Jr.

    "The Vikings are clearly in the market for a top corner, and jumping up to 9 would likely allow them to secure one of the top two (Gardner or Derek Stingley, Jr)," La Canfora wrote. 

    In the No. 12 spot, the Vikings would sit on pins and needles if they want Gardner or Stingley. The latter's injury history, missing 13 games over the past two years, makes him a more realistic target, though.

New England Patriots: Have a Need for Speed

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    New England Patriots head coach and general manager Bill Belichick
    New England Patriots head coach and general manager Bill BelichickMichael Reaves/Getty Images

    Under general manager and head coach Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots have built a reputation as a high-IQ football team that's prepared for any situation. They're not known for falling in love with prospects who clock the fastest 40-yard dash times.

    This year, though, the Patriots may target some speedsters to fill out the roster. Director of player personnel Matt Groh talked about the team's need for speed during a conference call with the media.

    "We're looking to get faster everywhere," he said. "It's not just defense. It's offense. It's special teams."

    In a division with the Miami Dolphins who have a new wide receiver tandem, featuring Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, they'll need cover men who can keep pace with those playmakers all over the field. New England shouldn't leave that responsibility to 32-year-old, Malcolm Butler, who's coming off a year away from the game.

    Perhaps the team targets Georgia's Nakobe Dean, who's an athletic linebacker capable of playing on all three downs. He would fill a void on the second level of the defense with Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy (via release) on the open market.

    New England could also add a speedy wide receiver who can immediately spark a middling passing attack that ranked 14th in yards last season. Kendrick Bourne led the team in yards per reception (14.5) among pass-catchers with at least 13 receptions. Second-year quarterback Mac Jones needs an explosive playmaker.

New Orleans Saints: Kenny Pickett Could Be the 'Guy' in the First Round?

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    Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett
    Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny PickettKeith Srakocic/Associated Press

    The New Orleans Saints stirred up some discussion when they swapped multiple picks with the Philadelphia Eagles, acquiring an extra first-rounder in the trade. Now, they're on the clock at No. 16 and No. 19. 

    While ESPN's Matt Miller "expects" the Saints to address their biggest needs at tackle and wide receiver, Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com thinks Kenny Pickett could be the "guy" in the opening round.

    Early in the predraft process, Pickett's hand size became a hot-topic discussion, but his breakout redshirt senior term at Pittsburgh makes him a potential top-20 pick.

    In 2021, Pickett threw for 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions with a 67.2 percent completion rate. Though the 6'3", 220-pounder didn't rack up a ton of rushing yards (809) as a collegian, he's mobile and has the ability to finish drives with his legs (20 rushing touchdowns). 

    In the first round, the Saints could add a tackle or wideout to help quarterback Jameis Winston in the present and draft Pickett for the future.

New York Giants: 'Love' Charles Cross at Right Tackle?

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    Mississippi State offensive tackle Charles Cross
    Mississippi State offensive tackle Charles CrossIcon Sportswire/Getty Images

    The New York Giants have a glaring need at right tackle. They didn't re-sign Nate Solder, and Matt Peart, a 2020 third-rounder, allowed four sacks through 421 offensive snaps last season, per Pro Football Focus

    With Andrew Thomas on the left side, the Giants could pair him with one of the top tackles in the 2022 class. ESPN's Matt Miller shared a scoop about Charles Cross, whom Big Blue might consider with one of its top-10 selections. 

    "One source I spoke to noted the Giants "love" Cross at right tackle, where he has not started a game in college but has spent considerable time working out this offseason," Miller wrote.

    While Cross would fill one of the Giants' biggest position needs, he's a questionable fit at right tackle.

    As Miller mentioned, Cross has done offseason work on the right side. Perhaps the Giants feel confident about his position versatility. With that said, the coaching staff could keep him on the left side and flip Thomas to the other end because of the latter's collegiate experience at right tackle.

New York Jets: Taking an OL in the 1st Round for Third Consecutive Year?

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    New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas
    New York Jets general manager Joe DouglasIcon Sportswire/Getty Images

    In February, New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh put left tackle Mekhi Becton on notice, stating that the 2020 first-rounder isn't a lock to start at left tackle.

    In 2021, George Fant played well on quarterback Zach Wilson's blind side, allowing just one sack through 889 offensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, Becton missed all but one game after he underwent knee surgery.

    While general manager Joe Douglas "expects" Becton to start at one of the tackle positions in 2022, the Jets could add some pressure via competition.

    The MMQB's Albert Breer has talked to people who believe Douglas will continue his trend of taking an offensive lineman in the first round.

    "Edge rusher is a need. Corner is too, and we saw GM Joe Douglas take a swing at getting Zach Wilson a weapon in the Jets' bid for Tyreek Hill," Breer wrote. "But there's still a feeling he'll take an offensive lineman in the first round for the third time in as many years as GM with one of his two first-round picks."

    If the Jets select Alabama's Evan Neal, North Carolina State's Ikem Ekwonu or Mississippi State's Charles Cross with a top-10 pick, we could see a crucial training-camp battle between Becton and Fant for a starting spot.

    While you would expect Becton, a recent first-rounder, to win that competition, keep in mind that Fant's contract carries an $11.1 million cap hit this year, which is expensive for a backup. Don't count out the latter in a potential push for a lead role.

Philadelphia Eagles: Picking a WR in 1st Round for Third Consecutive Year?

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    Eagles executive vice president and general manager Howie Roseman
    Eagles executive vice president and general manager Howie RosemanIcon Sportswire/Getty Images

    The Philadelphia Eagles already have two first-round wide receivers from the previous two draft classes in Jalen Reagor and DeVonta Smith.

    While Smith had a promising career start, hauling in 64 passes for 916 yards and five touchdowns through his 2021 rookie campaign, Reagor has struggled in two seasons. The third-year wideout has recorded 64 receptions for 695 yards and three touchdowns in 28 games.

    The Eagles signed Zach Pascal, but he hasn't logged more than 44 catches or 629 receiving yards in a single term. In need of a viable No. 2 receiver, Philadelphia may take a wideout in the first round for a third consecutive year, which wouldn't surprise Fox Sports analyst Peter Schrager.

    "Could Eagles go WR in the first round three straight years? The answer is absolutely. And depending on the way the 1st round plays out, they may be in a sweet spot at 15 to get one of the top 5 before a host of WR needy teams. Eagles have 15, 18, and 8 other picks. WR at 15? (checkmark)" Schrager tweeted.

    Executive vice president and general manager Howie Roseman may want to give third-year quarterback Jalen Hurts another offensive playmaker as he heads into a crucial season that may determine his fate with the franchise. The Eagles have two 2023 first-round picks (one from the New Orleans Saints) with a stronger quarterback class coming out next year.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Prefer Malik Willis over Desmond Ridder?

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    Liberty QB Malik Willis
    Liberty QB Malik WillisKendall Warner/Associated Press

    Going back to Senior Bowl week, Thor Nystrom of NBC Sports Edge linked the Pittsburgh Steelers to Liberty's Malik Willis over Pitt's Kenny Pickett. The Athletic's Ed Bouchette believes the team favors the former over another top quarterback prospect and added an interesting tidbit of insight. 

    "I think the Steelers prefer Willis, but I don't think they'd give up a lot to go get him or (Desmond) Ridder," Bouchette wrote in a mailbag response. 

    The Steelers signed Mitch Trubisky in free agency, so they have their stop-gap quarterback in the post-Ben Roethlisberger era, which means the front office doesn't have to make a desperate move for a QB prospect.

    Even if Pittsburgh has Willis high on its big board, team brass may prefer to select him at No. 20 than sacrifice draft capital to pick him up in the top 10. 

    Mock drafters may want to back away from projections that involve the Steelers moving up for a quarterback. Pittsburgh could take the best available signal-caller at its current first-round slot or address the position in the second round.

San Francisco 49ers: In Need of Long-Term Replacement for C Alex Mack

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    49ers center Alex Mack
    49ers center Alex MackMark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Unless the San Francisco 49ers grant wideout Deebo Samuel's trade request (h/t ESPN's Jeff Darlington), they'll likely target interior an offensive lineman with their first pick (No. 61) of the draft.

    While 2021 second-rounder Aaron Banks could move into a starting spot at guard, the 49ers have to fill the other interior position on the opposite side because of Laken Tomlinson's departure in free agency.

    Furthermore, according to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle, 36-year-old center Alex Mack hasn't committed to playing for the 2022 season. He earned a seventh Pro Bowl nod in his first season with the 49ers, but San Francisco has to think about the long-term future as the 14th-year veteran mulls retirement. 

    The Athletic's David Lombardi highlighted under-the-radar prospects who fit with the 49ers and listed center Cole Strange out of Chattanooga:

    "Perhaps most significantly, Strange has an unusually large wealth of positional cross-training under his belt. He was a middle linebacker in high school before converting to defensive end as a senior. He moved to offensive tackle early in his college career before transitioning to left guard and then center.

    "The fulcrum of Kyle Shanahan’s O-line must be a master of reading defenses and making calls on the fly. It's difficult to determine whether a prospect will be capable of that at the NFL level, but Strange's multi-positional background is relevant to that evaluation."

    In some cases, a prospect's positional versatility could work against him as teams try to figure out where he fits on the roster. Interestingly, Strange's transition from a defender to an interior offensive lineman could help him in Shanahan's system. Keep an eye on the small-school prospect when the 49ers go on the clock for two picks (Nos. 93 and 105) in the third round.

Seattle Seahawks: 'Sure' to Add Another QB, but Not at No. 9?

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    Matt Patterson/Associated Press

    As the Seattle Seahawks head into the post-Russell Wilson era following a trade that sent him to the Denver Broncos, the team has to find its quarterback of the future.

    While some draft analysts expect the Seahawks to address the position with their No. 9 overall pick, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times sounds certain that the team will add another quarterback, but he doesn't think general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll will focus on prospects in the first round. 

    "Seattle is sure to add another QB to the roster, likely in the draft, though the Seahawks won't close the door to anything," Condotta wrote. You'd think at this point, though, that Baker Mayfield is only an option if released or at a greatly reduced salary."

    On the Ya Neva Know podcast, Mayfield mentioned the Seahawks as his "most likely option" in a trade destination, but the Seahawks may have put him on the back burner because of his $18.9 million cap hit. Remember, the team acquired quarterback Drew Lock in the Wilson trade deal and re-signed Geno Smith. Both will compete for the starting job. 

    In a recent mock draft, Condotta believes that edge-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux would be a "no-brainer" pick if he fell to the Seahawks at No. 9. He's not buying into the idea of taking a quarterback in that spot, though.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Have Done 'A Lot of Homework' on Running Backs?

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    Georgia running back James Cook
    Georgia running back James CookL.G. Patterson/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't retain running back Ronald Jones, who signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, but they re-signed Leonard Fournette and Giovani Bernard.

    While Fournette led the Buccaneers' backfield with 1,266 yards and 10 touchdowns from scrimmage, Bernard didn't provide a notable impact, logging just 181 yards and three scores from scrimmage in 2021.

    Running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn, a 2020 third-rounder, has played sparingly, taking the field for 210 offensive snaps through 22 games (one start).    

    Though Tampa Bay has Fournette under team control through the 2024 season, ESPN's Jenna Laine noted that the club has done "a lot of homework" on the running back class.

    This year's crop of running backs doesn't have a star prospect. In terms of draft value, that's a strong positive for a club like the Buccaneers, who may target a running back in the middle rounds. 

    The Buccaneers can potentially land James Cook if they want a pro-ready pass-catcher out of the backfield who could make an immediate impact on third down. The Georgia product caught 67 passes for 730 yards and six touchdowns through four collegiate terms.

Tennessee Titans: Zion Johnson, Kenyon Green 'Very Much' in Play at No. 26?

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    Boston College offensive lineman Zion Johnson
    Boston College offensive lineman Zion JohnsonMary Schwalm/Associated Press

    When asked about realistic options for the Tennessee Titans in the No. 26 spot, Paul Kuharsky, a well-respected team beat writer, named a couple of offensive linemen who could draw the club's interest over available wide receivers. 

    "Even if the receivers who fit them (never mind hype) do not dry up, I think Zion Johnson of Boston College or Kenyon Green of Texas A&M could be very much in play if they are available," Kuharsky wrote. 

    The Titans released wide receiver Julio Jones after his disappointing 2021 campaign (31 catches for 434 yards and a touchdown) and executed a deal with the Los Angeles Rams to acquire wideout Robert Woods, who's recovering from a torn ACL. 

    Despite a need at wide receiver, Kuharsky can see Tennessee prioritizing a void on the interior of the offensive line, which suggests that 2021 second-round pick Dillon Radunz could have a shot to start at right tackle. Without a second-round pick, the Titans would then have to wait until the third round to fill a need at wideout unless they prefer a veteran pickup from the open market.

    Johnson and Green make sense though. Both have extensive experience at left guard, which makes them immediate potential replacements for Rodger Saffold, who the Titans released after his 2021 Pro Bowl season.

Washington Commanders: Not Interested in QBs at No. 11, Focusing on WRs?

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    Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz
    Washington Commanders quarterback Carson WentzManuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

    The Washington Commanders could split their focus between the short- and long-term future, using one of two top-50 picks on a quarterback. The team could release Carson Wentz after the 2022 season and save $26.2 million if he has a disappointing campaign. 

    However, the Commanders may have their sights set solely on the present with the intent to build around Wentz. 

    Per the MMQB's Albert Breer, Washington "turned over a lot of rocks" in the 2022 wide receiver class, and he doesn't think the team takes a quarterback with the No. 11 pick. 

    "I don't think they'll go quarterback—they haven't had any of the draft's top passers to Virginia, and my sense is that's more reflective of where they stand on the class than any kind of smokescreen—but I've seen stranger things," Breer wrote. 

    The Commanders should consider a deep-threat threat such as Alabama standout Jameson Williams, who averaged 19.9 yards per catch in 2021, but they may go with a big-bodied receiver in Drake London (6'4", 213 lbs.) to complement Terry McLaurin.

    Washington can also entertain trade offers from quarterback-needy teams, move down a few slots and pick up more draft capital to fill a selection gap between pick Nos. 47 and 113.


    College statistics are provided by cfbstats.com.

    Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.