The 2022 NFL draft is just days away – and an event staged in Las Vegas this year should be quite a show.
In a break from the typical “Player Selection Meeting,” there’s still some mystery about whom the Jaguars will select No. 1 overall just a year after everyone on the planet knew they’d take Trevor Lawrence. And unlike Lawrence’s 2021 draft, which featured quarterbacks with the first three selections (and five overall in Round 1), no telling which passer will come off the board first this year nor how many go in the top 32.
Aside from that, the intrigue is further magnified by the bevy of talent at other premium positions – edge rusher, receiver and cornerback – the fact eight teams have multiple first-round picks and possibility a player of All-Pro Deebo Samuel’s caliber might be traded this week.
With all that chew on, here’s the best draft advice we can offer all 32 teams:
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Buffalo Bills: Be nice to see a bold stroke from a team that may be one difference maker away from its first Lombardi Trophy. A deep strike receiver would open things up for Josh Allen and this offense. But what about limiting the load on the fifth-year dual-threat QB by taking a running back like Iowa State’s Breece Hall or Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III? Better yet, what about a trade up to get a stud like CB Derek Stingley Jr. and then sending the Giants a mid-round pick for RB Saquon Barkley? Tell us the Mafia wouldn’t love that.
Miami Dolphins: They only have four selections, none in the top 100, but should still target a starting-caliber offensive lineman and/or another productive back to continue improving a 30th-ranked run game. But this draft has already been defined by the acquisition of WR Tyreek Hill and whether he can help turn QB Tua Tagovailoa into a star in 2022 … or help facilitate the rumored recruitment of Tom Brady in 2023 – when this team could take another jump regardless with next year’s pair of first-rounders.
New England Patriots: They could definitely use a No. 1 receiver … but let’s maybe avoid that route given Bill Belichick’s abysmal track record at evaluating that position at the top of the board. A team that got beaten by 30 courtesy of the Bills in the playoffs would be wise to find two Allen counters – definitely a corner and perhaps either a pass rusher or linebacker, given where the Pats draft (21st, 54th overall), after losing CB J.C. Jackson in free agency while LBs Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy remain unsigned.
New York Jets: GM Joe Douglas gets four cracks in the top 38 … and really needs to come away with four frontline starters. Given his failed bid for Hill, Douglas might as well take the 49ers’ temperature on Samuel – though that will also mean the NYJ would have to pay out a hefty new contract while presumably giving up two of those high-end picks. Probably better for a team buried in the divisional cellar to line up a corner and pass rusher for the league’s worst defense while adding a receiver and someone else who can make life easier for second-year QB Zach Wilson.
Baltimore Ravens: At No. 14, they should get an elite defender, either a lineman or corner with slot man Tavon Young gone and veteran CB Marcus Peters heading into the final year of his deal. But this draft is about depth for the Ravens, who were crippled by injuries in 2021. They have two selections in Round 3 and five in Round 4, so time to bulwark the secondary, O-line and backfield.
Cincinnati Bengals: They found three starters for a beleaguered offensive line in free agency, freeing the AFC champs, who rarely trade picks, to actually adhere to “best player available” mode. Outside corner, tight end and, sure, another blocker all make sense for a team picking at the end of every round save the seventh.
Cleveland Browns: No first-rounder here following the trade for QB Deshaun Watson, but they do have a trio of Day 2 picks that should net another receiver, safety or perhaps even defensive line depth that’s needed whether or not Jadeveon Clowney re-signs. Beyond that, let’s get the Baker Mayfield situation resolved, because it will only become a bigger distraction the longer it lingers. If it means eating a bit of his guaranteed $18.9 million salary – particularly if it helps import another Day 2 pick once the first-round dust settles – so be it. That kind of scenario is certainly preferable to releasing Mayfield and getting nothing in return for such a quality player.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Take a legitimate shot at getting Liberty QB Malik Willis, even if it means trading next year’s first-rounder to get up as high as No. 5, a spot currently occupied by the Giants. Otherwise? A team that’s never finished below .500 under coach Mike Tomlin will eventually have to do something drastic to replace retired Ben Roethlisberger, and that might alternately mean trading this year’s first-rounder to a team willing to give up a Round 1 pick in 2023 – when the draft is projected to have a better crop of passers – if Tomlin and retiring GM Kevin Colbert can’t get their hands on Willis. The non-Willis fallbacks should focus on the secondary and O-line. But no use settling on a QB like Kenny Pickett when you already have a guy in Mitchell Trubisky, who’s proved he’s good enough to help a team reach the playoffs even if he’s unlikely to win there.
Houston Texans: Play the long game. They possess the No. 3 and 13 overall selections and three others among the top 80. That doesn’t even include the second and third picks of Round 4. Given Davis Mills’ surprisingly solid rookie season, no reason to spring for a quarterback given this roster’s rampant holes. So, barring compelling offers that bring him a haul of future picks, GM Nick Caserio should stick, pick and incrementally improve this team.
Indianapolis Colts: Get a left tackle in front of new QB Matt Ryan, who turns 37 next month. With the 42nd pick, good chance GM Chris Ballard can get his hooks into a quality prospect such as Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann or Tulsa’s Tyler Smith.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Makes sense to get a pass rusher like Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson or Georgia’s Travon Walker with that No. 1 pick. Beyond that, let’s prioritize more weapons and blockers in front of Lawrence, who toiled for an offense in 2021 that scored the league’s fewest points.
Tennessee Titans: Given Ryan Tannehill’s postseason struggles, they should legitimately consider a quarterback – Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, North Carolina’s Sam Howell, Ole Miss’ Matt Corral or even Pickett – who could redshirt in 2022. Barring that, adding more to an offense – specifically at receiver or the line – that might be nearing “Last Dance” territory would be sensible.
Denver Broncos: They spent their prime draft assets to pry QB Russell Wilson out of Seattle. Bravo. But GM George Paton still has the wherewithal, including multiple picks in Rounds 3 and 4, to reinvest in this post-Von Miller defense and should do so.
Kansas City Chiefs: They have a draft-high dozen picks, including two apiece in each of the first three rounds. A powerhouse, albeit one in the midst of a divisional arms race, doesn’t need 12 new players. So let’s stay on the phones and look for ways to trade up for players like Samuel, Alabama WR Jameson Williams or Florida State pass rusher Jermaine Johnson II, weapons a franchise that’s won six consecutive AFC West titles suddenly seems to need. Let’s supplement the secondary and running back room on Days 2 and 3.
Las Vegas Raiders: Trading for All-Pro WR Davante Adams means they’re not on the clock until the 86th pick … which should be used for an offensive lineman, full stop. Linebacker and D-line should be subsequent considerations.
Los Angeles Chargers: The trade for OLB Khalil Mack cost GM Tom Telesco his second-rounder, so probably best to just let the chips fall as they may going into No. 17. An O-lineman, corner (despite the signing of Jackson) or perhaps Utah LB Devin Lloyd would all plug a hole.
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Dallas Cowboys: Trust your gut in Round 1, Jerry, given the ‘Boys have drafted a future Pro Bowler with 10 of their past 12 first-round selections, including Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons in 2021. After that? Not as much to crow about, QB Dak Prescott (fourth round, 2016) and DE DeMarcus Lawrence (second round, 2014) notwithstanding. Given the cracks on Dallas’ lines – breaches really on the defensive side – and likely temptation to replace WR Amari Cooper, especially amid Michael Gallup’s ACL recovery, all those spots have merit … and still will in Day 2, so let’s nail those selections for a change, too.
New York Giants: Former GM Dave Gettleman waited too long to reap the rewards of trading down. His replacement, Joe Schoen, would probably be wise to try and offload one of his top-10 picks – he owns Nos. 5 and 7 – in order to accrue more capital to retrofit this roster while perhaps adding an insurance first-rounder in 2023 in case QB Daniel Jones plays himself out of the starting job in 2022. A seemingly inevitable trade of CB James Bradberry would further increase the flexibility for Schoen, who should also probably liberate Barkley as the running back heads into the final year of his rookie pact. As for actually targeting players, O-line, tight end and any level of the defense warrant investment.
Philadelphia Eagles: A surprise wild-card team in 2021, they’re sitting pretty with a pair of first-rounders both this year and next. GM Howie Roseman probably can’t go wrong but should probably target a WR, DL and CB – in any order – with his first three picks. A possession-type receiver would either enhance QB Jalen Hurts’ development or be an asset for the next guy if the organization opts to reset under center in 2023.
Washington Commanders: No. 11 would have been a nice spot to take a quarterback, but that’s off the table after their panic trade for Carson Wentz, whose arrival means no Round 3 slot this year. The first round puts the Commanders in good position for a stellar DB – perhaps Notre Dame S Kyle Hamilton or LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr. Receiver should also be atop the wish list, whether in Round 1 or 2, given the uncertainty surrounding Terry McLaurin, who’s seeking a new contract.
Chicago Bears: Memo to new GM Ryan Poles, who has no first-round card this year because of the previous regime’s deal to get Justin Fields in 2021 – help your second-year QB, with both second-round picks preferably, by getting another receiver and/or more blockers. Otherwise, backfill as necessary for a roster that doesn’t appear ready to contend any time soon.
Detroit Lions: Memo to second-year GM Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell – don’t reach for a quarterback, especially with the No. 2 pick, unless Willis unexpectedly tumbles to the bottom of Round 1. Sure, they could take some other passer 32nd or 34th. But with two first-rounders in the bank for 2023, why not continue leaning on veteran Jared Goff and fortifying the rest of this roster so it’s ready-made whenever the next franchise QB arrives? (Also, for what it’s worth, if the Jags don’t drive a hard bargain, why not ensure you get Hutchinson by flipping with Jacksonville at the top of the board if it only costs, say, one of Detroit’s two third-rounders?)
Green Bay Packers: Do whatever it takes to extend Davante … Wait, he’s gone? Welp. A franchise that hasn’t drafted a receiver in Round 1 in 20 years should strongly weigh taking a pair in the first round this year – if not bundling those picks in a bid to obtain Williams, Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson or USC’s Drake London. In Round 2, GM Brian Gutekunst can shift his focus to interior offensive linemen and potential defensive upgrades.
Minnesota Vikings: They might’ve been in the playoffs the past two years had the defense not consistently betrayed them. A corner and pass rusher should be squarely in the crosshairs of new GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.
Atlanta Falcons: Glass half empty? They’ll stink. Glass half full? GM Terry Fontenot has options to revitalize this team aside from what could be $100 million in cap space next year. In the meantime, Fontenot should try to move DL Grady Jarrett, maybe for a third-rounder. He should also consider Willis, an Atlanta native, at No. 8 given he could sit behind Marcus Mariota in 2022. But if the Falcons brain trust doesn’t believe in Willis, better to get a blue-chip guy at that spot or trade out if you can barter with a team that wants Willis or maybe a top-tier receiver or pass rusher. And considering Fontenot has five of this draft’s top 82 picks, he should get a nice start on his rebuild regardless of which strategy he pursues.
Carolina Panthers: GM Scott Fitterer knows he needs a quarterback and a left tackle. He also knows he’ll have to sit and squirm for 131 picks, deep into Round 4, after his scheduled choice at No. 6. His best bet is to trade that first-rounder – Pittsburgh? – and try to pick up a blind side bodyguard like Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning down the board. But if Fitterer is stuck? Better hope either N.C. State OT Ickey Ekwonu or Alabama OT Evan Neal makes it to him. If not, Willis would seem to become a real possibility.
New Orleans Saints: They made a curious trade earlier this month, netting one of Philadelphia’s Round 1 slots this year but sacrificing a future first-, second- and third-rounder in a deal that seems to skew significantly in the Eagles’ favor. And after re-signing QB Jameis Winston in free agency and adding backup Andy Dalton, seems like an odd time to add another body to the passing depth chart. Considering New Orleans appears set to carry over an excellent defense into 2022 and went 5-2 under Winston last year before his ACL injury – then ultimately missing the postseason by a tiebreaker – little reason to think this team can’t compete in the NFC, especially given the Saints’ seven-game regular-season winning streak against the division-rival Bucs. Assuming that’s a correct read of the room, you’d think GM Mickey Loomis would be closely studying the left tackles while looking for a slippery receiver to complement WR Michael Thomas and RB Alvin Kamara in Round 1. A safety in Round 2 might also make sense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A team obviously in win-now mode should purely assess what it needs to win in 2022. A guard, defensive lineman and multifaceted defensive back like Michigan’s Daxton Hill or Baylor’s Jalen Pitre should all be in the mix for GM Jason Licht … and assistant GM TB12.
Arizona Cardinals: Fascinating dynamic at play here given GM Steve Keim and coach Kliff Kingsbury were both recently extended through the 2027 season – despite highly disappointing finishes to the past two campaigns – yet both are answering questions about unhappy QB Kyler Murray, who’s clearly focused on his bottom line. Keim (and owner Michael Bidwill) has already said Murray won’t be moved. So now, the front office might be wise to offer a veritable olive branch by enlisting a receiver who can succeed DeAndre Hopkins or a lineman who can better protect Murray, who’s been sacked 2.3 times per game during his three-year career. But Murray’s feelings aside, a defense that needs serious help on the edge and at corner should probably take precedence.
Los Angeles Rams: (Expletive) them picks … right, Les Snead? The Super Bowl champs’ trader GM doesn’t have a selection in the top 100 and just two in the top 150. Whatever. Snead has obviously fine-tuned his player acquisition formula, but stands to reason he’ll adhere to form and target undervalued positions (of need) like off-ball linebacker and guard.
San Francisco 49ers: Priority one is to repair the frayed relationship with Samuel since, from a football perspective, he and the Niners are a match made in heaven. But if a divorce is unavoidable, better for GM John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan to find a deal before Thursday night in order to obtain assets for this draft – when San Francisco isn’t scheduled to go on the clock until No. 61. Priority two might be finding a suitor for Jimmy Garoppolo, whose value – like Mayfield’s – might tick up once the completion of Round 1 further crystallizes the quarterback landscape. Receiver obviously becomes a primary concern if Samuel departs, but otherwise – even as they wait for the QB1 situation to shake out, pending Garoppolo’s status and Trey Lance’s readiness – the 49ers don’t have a lot of holes. A pass rusher to line up opposite DE Nick Bosa or a corner should be top of mind, and at least one of Lynch’s two third-rounders should be spent on a guard.
Seattle Seahawks: Like Carolina and Atlanta ahead of them in the top 10, the Seahawks would have to mull the risk/reward aspect of Willis if he’s there at No. 9. Barring that, a team looking to reload should probably choose either a left tackle or cornerback in the first round and get the other with either pick 40 or 41 early in Round 2. That approach also gives Seattle an opportunity to snag a developmental passer … or bypass quarterbacks altogether and implement a succession plan for Russell Wilson in 2023.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL draft 2022: Advice for all 32 teams on prospects, position needs