1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Evan Neal (OT/Alabama)
Everyone is putting Adrian Hutchinson here, and he should be the top player taken this spring, but I think it’s far from set in stone. Jacksonville has spent a lot of capital in recent years on pass rushers, taking Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson in the opening round of the draft. Jacksonville also drafted a generational talent in Trevor Lawrence last year and they spent his rookie season protecting him with below-average tackles in Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor. Robinson is a free agent this spring while Taylor is in the final year of his contract in 2022. Even with Walker Little developing behind them, Jacksonville needs a premier blindside protector for Lawrence.
Neal has all the physical tools needed to be a successful tackle at the next level and is a good enough prospect for Jacksonville to take a more serious look at during draft season.
2. Detroit Lions – Aidan Hutchinson (EDGE/Michigan)
Detroit lost out on the top pick in the draft, but still land their guy. Hutchinson is a hometown product who would provide some much-needed help for the Lions off the edge.
3. Houston Texans – Kayvon Thibodeaux (EDGE/Oregon)
Houston is in an odd situation with this pick. Deshaun Watson’s future is murky and Davis Mills played better than expected as a rookie, good enough that the Texans may reconsider reaching for a quarterback here. Evan Neal has been a popular pick, but with the amount of money they gave to Laremy Tunsil, would they seriously consider taking his replacement so soon? In this scenario, Thibodeaux, who entered 2021 as the No. 1 overall prospect, falls to them, allowing them to address a pass rush unit that has lost all of their teeth in recent years.
4. New York Jets – Derek Stingley Jr. (CB/LSU)
New York finally lands their best cornerback since Darrelle Revis. While Stingley has few flaws as a cover corner, there is some concern with his injury history as he has missed 13 games over the last two seasons.
5. New York Giants – George Karlaftis (EDGE/Purdue)
The Giants are at a crossroads this year as a new coach and general manager will be hired soon. Do they find Daniel Jones’ replacement? Is this Saquon Barkley’s final season in East Rutherford? This is draft is going to be pivotal for an organization that has had its worst five-year stretch in franchise history. The Giants are armed with two first-round picks and the team needs to hit home runs with both selections, so I am looking at best player available with both picks, starting here with Karlaftis. He may not be the most physically gifted specimen, but he has a strong football IQ and knows how to work blockers. The Giants have always been their best when they have had a reliable pass rusher.
6. Carolina Panthers – Kenny Pickett (QB/Pittsburgh)
Carolina traded for Sam Darnold last season hoping a change of scenery would help him, but after a hot start, he quickly flamed out before spending much of the second half of the year injured. The Panthers voiced their support for Darnold last week to dispell rumors about the team trying to acquire Deshaun Watson, but I think they are definitely looking for an alternative.
7. New York Giants – Kyle Hamilton (S/Notre Dame)
Xavier McKinney was one of the few bright spots on the defense for the Giants in 2021, but Jabrill Peppers is a free agent and converted cornerback Logan Ryan didn’t do enough this season to guarantee himself a starting spot in 2022. Hamilton seemingly has it all between his football IQ and physical skills.
8. Atlanta Falcons Ikem Ekwonu (OT/NC State)
Unless Atlanta picks up the fifth-year option, which seems doubtful, Kaleb McGary will be in the final year of his contract. The Falcons could get a jump start at their tackle needs by drafting Ekwonu now to start at right tackle before shifting him over to the blind side when Jake Matthews’ contract is up.
9. Denver Broncos – Matt Corral (QB/Ole Miss)
In his final press conference before being fired, Vic Fangio said what everyone looking at the Broncos have been thinking regarding Denver’s struggled within their own division, “Those other three teams have top-shelf quarterbacks, which is obvious to everybody. We just need to get a little bit better.” Denver has had a revolving door at quarterback since Peyton Manning retired and neither Teddy Bridgewater nor Drew Lock showed enough for the next head coach to be comfortable with going forward.
10. New York Jets – Tyler Linderbaum (C/Iowa)
Connor McGovern played well for the Jets last season, but he is in his walk year in 2022 and the Jets still need help at guard. Drafting Linberdaum gives them a long-term solution at center as well as some flexibility to start McGovern at right guard.
11. Washington Football Team – Garrett Wilson (WR/Ohio State)
Terry McLaurin is a stud, but Washington is thin at wide receiver outside of him. Quarterback, of course, is on the table here too, but it’s hard to see Malik Willis going this high at this point.
12. Minnesota Vikings – Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner (CB/Cincinnati)
Minnesota has struggled to successfully draft a cornerback in the first round in recent years. Mike Hughes didn’t last the length of his contract before being shipped to Kansas City while Jeff Gladney was released following his indictment for domestic violence. Gardner, however, looks like he’s the guy to buck the trend. He’s been a shutdown corner his entire college career, and did not surrender a single touchdown in the process.
13. Cleveland Browns – Jameson Williams (WR/Alabama)
Williams’ stock is one to watch as he tore his ACL in a non-contact injury during the BCS National Championship. Cleveland is in dire need of weapons for Baker Mayfield. Odell Beckham Jr. is finally gone, Jarvis Landry is in the final year of his deal and Donovan People-Jones has shown flashes of potential, but not enough to prevent Cleveland from looking at external options.
14. Baltimore Ravens – Charles Cross (OT/Mississippi State)
Ronnie Stanley is the anchor of the Ravens offensive line, but after trading Orlando Brown to the Chiefs, they need help on the right side. Alejandro Villanueva was signed last season as a stop-gap. Cross could emerge as a top 10 pick, especially if a tackle-needy team trades up.
15. Philadelphia Eagles – David Ojabo (EDGE/Michigan)
Derek Barnett and Ryan Kerrigan are free agents this spring while 33-year-old Brandon Graham is in the final year of his deal, leaving Josh Sweat as their only reliable edge rusher. Aidan Hutchinson got all the glory for Michiagn this year, but Ojabo has emerged as a first-round talent himself, registering 11 sacks in 2021.
16. Philadelphia Eagles – Andrew Booth Jr. (CB/Clemson)
Armed with three first-round picks, maybe this is finally the year the Eagles spend one on a cornerback, something they have not done since 2002.
17. Los Angeles Chargers – DeMarvin Leal (EDGE/Texas A&M)
Los Angles has Joey Bosa, but they would benefit from adding another edge rusher across from him. Don’t rule out wide receiver at this juncture either with Mike Williams entering free agency.
18. New Orleans Saints – Chris Olave (WR/Ohio State)
Quarterback is definitely on the table and the Saints are at the spot where they could reach for Malik Willis, but Mickey Loomis has always strategized taking the best player available, which is Olave. Wide receiver is a huge need. Michael Thomas is a question mark following two injury-riddled seasons and there are just a slew of pedestrian players behind him. This pick could ultimately come down to what New Orleans does to address the quarterback position ahead of the draft.
19. Philadelphia Eagles – Treylon Burks (WR/Arkansas)
I am having a hard time imagining the Eagles taking a wide receiver again, they have selected one in the first two rounds in each of the past three drafts, but Devonta Smith has been the only one who has panned out. Last season, Smith had 916 receiving yards and five touchdowns. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (taken in the second round in 2019) and Jalen Reagor (taken in the first round in 2020) has a combined 985 receiving yards and four touchdowns in their career, which is a combine 68 games.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers – Kenyon Green (G/Texas A&M)
Despite a pedestrian offensive line, Najee Harris still mustered 1,667 yards of total offense as a rookie, a figure that should only get better as the Steelers address the offensive line. Much like New Orleans, this pick could ultimately come down to how the Steelers address the quarterback situation as Ben Roethlisberger likely heads to retirement.
21. New England Patriots – Devin Lloyd (LB/Utah)
This just looks like a Patriots pick to me. Lloyd would replace Dont’a Hightower, who is getting a bit long in the tooth. Lloyd’s improvement in coverage this year has boosted his draft stock.
22. Miami Dolphins – Nakobe Dean (LB/Georgia)
Offensive line is Miami’s biggest need, but if they’re targeting the best player available, it’s Dean, whose football IQ is off the charts and was the best coverage linebacker in college last year.
23. Las Vegas Raiders – Jordan Davis (DT/Georgia)
Aside from Maxx Crosby, everyone on the Raiders defensive line struggled in 2021. Davis would replace Jonathan Hankins along the interior and his mammoth size (6’6″, 340 pounds) should clog up lanes and command double teams at the NFL level.
24. Arizona Cardinals – Kaiir Elam (CB/Florida)
Arizona released longtime cornerback Patrick Peterson last offseason and never adequately replaced him. Rookie Marco Wilson was overmatched this season, allowing seven touchdowns and a passer rating of 127.9 when targeted.
25. Cincinnati Bengals – Trevor Penning (OT/Northern Iowa)
Jonah Williams was solid this season, but the Bengals would benefit from adding a right tackle. Penning is a riser in this draft who could soar even higher with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl.
26. Buffalo Bills – Drake London (WR/USC)
Stephon Diggs is still there, but Emmanuel Sanders and Isaiah McKenzie are free agents and Cole Beasley enters the final year of his contract. Josh Allen has developed into a star and now Buffalo needs to continue to bring in weapons for him.
27. Detroit Lions – Malik Willis (QB/Liberty)
Detroit got their pass rusher, now they can pivot to their future signal-caller. Jared Goff looked awful this season and may only be in Detroit in 2022 because of his contract situation.
28. Dallas Cowboys – Trent McDuffie (CB/Washington)
The 11 interceptions Trevon Diggs recorded this year has gotten a lot of publicity, but he also surrendered five touchdowns and a league-high 1,016 yards in coverage. Dallas needs to continue to address their secondary.
29. Kansas City Chiefs – Jahan Dotson (WR/Penn State)
Tyreek Hill is still one of the top receivers in the league, but Kansas City is surprisingly thin at wide receiver beyond him. Dotson is a solid route runner who can be a vertical threat that would thrive in this offense.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Travon Walker (DT/Georgia)
Vita Vea just received an extension to continue to plug up lanes as the 1-tech, but Ndamukong Suh has clearly lost a step at age 35. Here is a long-term replacement for him.
31. Tennessee Titans – Drake Jackson (EDGE/USC)
Harold Landry finally had his breakout season … in his contract year. Even if he does return, pass rush help has been an area of need in Tennessee for a while.
32. Green Bay Packers – Jaquan Brisker (S/Penn State)
Darnell Savage enters the final year of his contract in 2022, unless Green Bay exercised his fifth-year options, which seems unlikely. Interior offensive line is a position of need too, but the talent isn’t there to justify spending this pick on a guard or center.