With free agency now in the rear-view mirror – with a few notable exceptions – it is time to re-evaluate the draft and those all-important team needs.
The draft order is also completely different now thanks to a number of blockbuster trades throughout the past month – the latest which gave the New Orleans Saints an extra first-round pick.
Here is how the first round might pan out in Las Vegas on Thursday April 28:
#1 Jacksonville Jaguars – EDGE Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan)
With the franchise tag applied to OT Cam Robinson, the Jaguars will be looking instead to bolster the defensive side of the ball and they select the standout Michigan pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson. Jacksonville will pair Hutchinson with former first-round pick Josh Allen on the edge of their 3-4 defense. At 6’7” and 260lbs, Hutchinson spent the majority of his college years in a two-point stance, but he has the physical build to play with his hand in the dirt.
#2 Detroit Lions – EDGE Travon Walker (Georgia)
Walker has put himself firmly amongst the top five players in the draft after an incredible performance at the NFL Combine. At 6’5” and 272lbs, Walker ran a 4.51 40-YARD DASH! His three-cone and 20-yard shuttle times were also exemplary, and he could fill a need for Detroit at af 3-4 defensive end spot. The Lions also need 3-4 OLB help, so Kayvon Thibodeaux is also an option. Detroit must improve their #31 ranked scoring defense.
#3 Houston Texans – T Evan Neal (Alabama)
The Houston Texans have retained the services of Laremy Tunsil at left tackle, which makes this choice a little bit easier. Alabama lineman Evan Neal has starting experience on the right side and may be slightly better prepared to play the position than draft rival Ikem Ekwonu. Neal comes from the powerhouse Alabama programme and has starting experience inside if required. His versatility gives him the edge at this spot.
#4 New York Jets – EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon)
Potentially the most explosive pass rusher in the draft drops to the New York Jets and head coach Robert Saleh – who built a ferocious pass rush in San Francisco – snaps him up instantly. Thibodeaux has the speed, power and athleticism to become a monster in the pros. He ran a sub-4.6 40 at the combine and benched 27 reps. The question mark this offseason has been his desire to play the game.
Ikem Ekwonu blocking for Lamar Jackson? Yes please pic.twitter.com/cpKIJQ4kUm
— Kevin Oestreicher (@koestreicher34) April 7, 2022
#5 New York Giants – T Ikem Ekwonu (North Carolina State)
The New York Giants will move swiftly to the draft podium to secure one of the top two tackle prospects in this draft in Ekwonu. As mentioned earlier, he doesn’t have the starting experience Neal does at right tackle, but he certainly has the tools to bookend the Giants line with Andrew Thomas, who was taken fourth overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. Ekwonu’s pure athleticism and upside makes him worthy of a top-five pick.
#6 Carolina Panthers – QB Malik Willis (Liberty)
The plan was to move down in the draft for Carolina – they own just one pick in the top 100 selections of the draft. But with Willis sitting here, and the Panthers in limbo at the quarterback position, they grab the Liberty standout. Willis will have growing pains in the NFL, but he has all the physical tools to succeed. The arm, the mobility, the IQ are all there though 2022 may be a rocky baptism.
#7 Minnesota Vikings (via CHI, via NYG) – CB Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner (Cincinnati)
The Minnesota Vikings make a trade to get ahead of both Seattle and Baltimore and secure the #1 cornerback prospect in the draft. Gardner has the length, size, speed and aggression to become one of the best corners in the NFL. The Cincinnati Bearcats gave up zero touchdowns in his college career and will become an instant starter in Minnesota. The Vikings give up pick #12, a third this year and a second next year to move up into the top 10 and add pick #112.
#8 Atlanta Falcons – S Kyle Hamilton (Notre Dame)
Atlanta sits tight at eight and sees Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton fall into its lap. Hamilton is a physical phenom – he is 6’4” and 220lbs, runs a sub-4.6 40 Yard Dash, has a 38” vertical and produced a 10’11” broad jump. Hamilton secured eight interceptions, had 17 passes defended and made 138 tackles in his college career – he has all the tools to dominate at the next level.
#9 Seattle Seahawks (via DEN) – T Charles Cross (Mississippi State)
Seattle needs offensive line help – among other things – and takes one of the top left tackle prospects remaining on the board. Cross is one of the better pass blockers in this draft and is an exceptional athlete. His transition into the NFL will require him to improve on his run blocking and he would best suit an offense with a high percentage of passing plays.
#10 New York Jets (via SEA) – WR Garrett Wilson (Ohio State)
The New York Jets – after adding an explosive pass rusher at #4 – make their second top-10 selection and address another important need at wide receiver. The Jets need to surround Zach Wilson with elite talent and Ohio State receiver Garrett Wilson could become a vital addition to Elijah Moore and Corey Davis in the WR room. He has the short-area athleticism to excel in between the numbers, gaining early separation. Wilson could be a 100+ reception type slot receiver.
#11 Washington Commanders – WR Drake London (USC)
London is one of the most intriguing offensive weapons in the draft. At 6’4” and 219lbs, London has the size and leaping ability to win his fair share of contested catches, but he also has the production to show that he is not just a one-trick pony. London caught 88 passes for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns in just eight games before suffering a season-ending injury. He caught 9+ passes in seven of those games, is the perfect partner for Terry McLaurin and another weapon for Carson Wentz.
#12 New York Giants (via BAL) – EDGE Jermaine Johnson II (Florida State)
The 2021 season saw the New York Giants finish joint-#21 in sacks – a terrible return for a team which invested so heavily in its defensive line. 2021 second-round pick Azeez Ojulari provided nearly 25% of the team’s sacks and the Giants now pair him with Florida State rusher Jermaine Johnson II. Johnson dominated at the Senior Bowl, boosting his draft stock considerably. He has the versatility to perform in a 4-3 as DE or a 3-4 as an OLB.
#13 Houston Texans (via Cleveland Browns) – DT Devonte Wyatt (Georgia)
#31, #30 and #28. The ranking of the Houston Texans defense over the past three years in yardage given up is horrific. Houston needs a pass rushing threat from the interior and it arrives in the form of Georgia’s Devonte Wyatt. He has the versatility to play in multiple positions across the defensive line, but would best suit the 3-technique spot in a 4-3 scheme.
#14 Baltimore Ravens – CB Derek Stingley Jnr. (LSU)
If the Baltimore Ravens get the Derek Stingley Jnr who started his freshman season at LSU, they will be overjoyed. If they get the player who has been inconsistent over the past two seasons, they’ll still be happy as he has all the physical tools to develop into an NFL star. Stingley has the speed to match up with the quickest receivers in the league and he has natural instincts when the ball is in the air. If he puts it all together, he could be the best player in the draft.
#15 Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA) – WR Treylon Burks (Arkansas)
The trade with the New Orleans Saints to acquire multiple first-round picks in 2023 gives the indication that the Philadelphia Eagles are ready to make a move for a quarterback next year if Jalen Hurts fails to make the next step in his career. Subsequently, it gives the impression that the Eagles will give him all the tools possible to succeed, including drafting a potential gamechanger in Treylon Burks. Philly did, after all, have a trade in place for Atlanta WR Calvin Ridley. Burks has drawn comparisons to San Francisco superstar Deebo Samuel.
#16 New Orleans Saints (via IND, via PHI) – WR Chris Olave (Ohio State)
The buzz around the New Orleans Saints is that they believe they will be a contender in 2022, and giving up a first-round pick next year for this pick is also an indicator. A major need for the Saints is WR with Michael Thomas having missed the entire 2021 season and the passing offense ranking dead last in yardage. Olave is a fluid route runner who has elite speed – an outstanding combination to gain separation from next-level defenders.
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#17 Los Angeles Chargers – NT Jordan Davis (Georgia)
The rich get richer as the Los Angeles Chargers have NFL Combine phenom Jordan Davis of Georgia fall to them at a position of need for the AFC West outfit. He’s 6’6”, 341lb, ran a sub-4.8 second 40-yard dash, posted a 10’3” broad jump and a 2.74 20-yard split. He became just the third 330+ player to break five seconds on the 40. He was just .07 seconds lower than Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice, WOW!
#18 Kansas City Chiefs (via PHI) – WR Jameson Williams (Alabama)
Andy Reid contacts his former team, who are happy to trade back, to acquire their Tyreek Hill replacement in the form of Jameson Williams. The Chiefs need to make the move with both New England and Green Bay in play for the Alabama standout. A speedster with exceptional talent, Williams will be coveted, even with the knee injury suffered late in the college season. The price is picks #29, #62 and a 2023 third rounder for #18 and #101.
#19 New Orleans Saints – OT Bernhard Raimann (Central Michigan)
With Terron Armstead making a free-agency move to Miami, the New Orleans Saints have a need at the left tackle position and Central Michigan tackle Bernhard Raimann would slot in nicely. He started his college career as a TE before moving to tackle. He has only played two years at the position, but has the physical tools to compete. The Saints will be hoping his raw talent also has a high ceiling.
#20 Pittsburgh Steelers – QB Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati)
With the addition of Mitchell Trubisky, the Pittsburgh Steelers at best have a capable starter, at worst have their stopgap quarterback. Ridder will have time to develop and get up to speed in the NFL. He’s also a winner, he led the Bearcats to the National Championship Playoffs in 2022 and threw for 3,334 yards and 30 touchdowns last year. He also has the dual-threat ability the modern game covets.
#21 New England Patriots – LB Devin Lloyd (Utah)
After missing out on the wide receiver rush, the Patriots settle for one of the best off-the-ball linebackers in the draft in the shape of Devin Lloyd. At 6’3” and 237lbs, Lloyd has the size to be an every-down player and he will fit well in the Patriots 4-3 at OLB. Instinctive, fluid and athletic, Lloyd will be an excellent addition to a defense which has been top-five in scoring the past three years.
#22 Green Bay Packers (via LV) – WR Skyy Moore (Western Michigan)
It’s safe to say Green Bay must take a wide receiver at some point in the first round, and after that run on pass catchers the draft doesn’t fall kindly for the Pack. They take the rapidly rising Skyy Moore, who will be an instant playmaker in the slot for Aaron Rodgers. He has the short-area agility to beat his man inside the numbers and is capable of becoming a high-volume pass catcher.
#23 Arizona Cardinals – CB Trent McDuffie (Washington)
We are pretty sure the Cardinals will run to the podium to take McDuffie if he falls all the way to #23. He doesn’t have the size or length of his higher-drafted classmates, but that shouldn’t be held against him. McDuffie is an aggressive tackler who has the athletic capabilities to match up across the formation – on the outside or in the slot.
#24 Dallas Cowboys – EDGE George Karlaftis (Purdue)
With Randy Gregory joining the Denver Broncos – after initially agreeing to re-sign with Dallas – Jerry Jones dips into the pass rusher market and drafts Purdue standout Karlaftis. The Greek-born edge is a powerhouse at 6’4” and 275lbs and is a high-motor guy who should fit well opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. The issue with Karlaftis is just 14 sacks in 26 games in his college career – 7.5 of those coming in 2019.
#25 Buffalo Bills – WR George Pickens (Georgia)
Much like the 2021 Draft, the first round is full of talent at the wide receiver position and the Buffalo Bills add 6’3”, 200lb George Pickens to Josh Allen’s weaponry. Pickens has excellent downfield speed and can high-point the ball like few in this class. He has had his injury problems – he missed the majority of the 2021 college season for the National Champions – hence his drop down the draft order.
#26 Tennessee Titans – C Tyler Linderbaum (Iowa)
Tennessee lands arguably the best player in the draft in Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum. Linderbaum is the most rounded center to come out of the draft in many a year – but at his position it is unlikely he will be drafted in the top 10. He has the strength, athleticism, high football IQ and toughness to become an All Pro.
#27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – G Zion Johnson (Boston College)
Speaking of hard-nosed offensive lineman, Zion Johnson falls to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who need to replace the retiring Ali Marpet and recently departed Alex Cappa. They replaced Marpet with Patriots’ lineman Shaq Mason, and they now replace Cappa with Zion Johnson. A powerful guard, Zion can dominate in pass protection and he excels with the technical side of the game. He’ll be an ideal interior protector for Tom Brady.
#28 Green Bay Packers – T Trevor Penning (Northern Iowa)
Green Bay addresses its right tackle position with Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning. He is a physical run defender with good athleticism and explosion from stance. Penning is a nasty player who finishes plays and dominated at the Football Conference Series (FCS) level. He translates well to the right tackle position in the NFL, and he could start immediately for Green Bay.
I know the #NFL is a cold business but watching the lack of concern or empathy from the scouts, coaches and observers following David Ojabo’s injury bugs me. Perhaps someone should’ve checked on him instead of grabbing the ball and moving to the next drill. Just a thought.. pic.twitter.com/28aR88zJfk
— Bucky Brooks (@BuckyBrooks) March 20, 2022
#29 Philadelphia Eagles (via KC) – EDGE David Ojabo (Michigan)
Having already drafted a wide receiver, and added a pass rusher in free agency, the Eagles are in a position to take a chance on a top-10 talent who falls due to injury. Ojabo suffered an Achilles injury at his Pro Day and it’s likely he will play very little in 2022. But with two first-round picks next year too, it seems Philadelphia is setting up for big offseason in 2023.
#30 Kansas City Chiefs – CB Andrew Booth Jnr (Clemson)
Another player who has top-10 talent, Booth Jnr falls into the laps of the Kansas City Chiefs. KC will be looking to boost its #27-ranked pass defense and #27-ranked overall defense. Booth is a lengthy corner with excellent ball skills, and he has the competitive toughness coaches in the NFL love. His ideal role would be as a man cover corner, but if he can improve in zone coverage then he’ll fit any defensive scheme.
#31 Cincinnati Bengals – G Kenyon Green (Texas A&M)
The defending AFC champions continue to improve their offensive line after an excellent free agency period. The Bengals added guards Alex Cappa and Ted Karras along with tackle La’el Collins, and they now complete their O-line revamp with Texas A&M Aggie Kenyon Green. He is a powerful blocker who should open space for Joe Mixon to shine.
#32 Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Rams) – LB Nakobe Dean (Georgia)
Another top-20 talent falls to the end of the first round, and the Detroit Lions secure a defensive playmaker at the second level. Georgia’s Dean is an undersized off-the-ball linebacker, but he can do it all – rush the passer, tackle, cover and he also has unrivalled instincts and athleticism.