NFL Draft 2022: 1 question every team must answer

NFL Draft 2022: 1 question every team must answer

USA News

Ah, draft week.

Prepare accordingly, because you know that means.

It’s time to brace yourself for overreactions to teams supposedly reaching for just about any top prospect. Be ready to declare one team a bona fide Super Bowl contender because they selected a group of players who have never played in an NFL game. Strap in for every televised earth-shattering hug between a 250-plus pound man and Roger Goodell.

But while we focus on the flashy results, it’s an essential make-or-break draft (when is it not?) for many teams in the background. The approach and process will decide a great deal about the near future of pro football among all 32 squads. No pressure!

In an attempt to get inside the mind of a football executive, here’s one question each NFL team should address during the 2022 NFL Draft.

Jacksonville Jaguars — How does the pass rush become viable?

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In 2021, the Jaguars had 32 sacks — only five teams had less. That’s a problem in a passing league for the league’s reigning fifth-worst scoring defense. If Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux aren’t wearing teal and black, you have to question the plan in Duval County.

Detroit Lions — Wait and see at quarterback?

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The greater Detroit metropolitan area has locked itself into a debate for most of this off-season. Do you go after the quarterback of the future with the No. 2 overall pick, like, Malik Willis? Or you do build the foundation instead, let Jared Goff handle things for another season, and try your luck at quarterback next spring?

The success of the Brad Holmes-Dan Campbell era likely hinges on whatever path the Lions choose.

Houston Texans — Does Lovie Smith have the keys to the car?

Brett Coomer–Houston Chronicle

I am not an advocate of reaching for a quarterback when the class is uninspired. Unfortunately, the Texans and Lovie Smith will have to pick a lane. As a rookie, Davis Mills showed a lot of (somewhat unexpected) promise last year.

It’s time to decide whether they want to build around Mills with a premium tackle or receiver or focus on other aspects of the roster. More importantly, it’s time to see whether Lovie Smith has any actual autonomy in regards to the Texans’ future.

New York Jets — Is it better to hedge bets with Zach Wilson around?

Andy Lyons–Getty Images

I know they’re the Jets, and they always find a way to screw it up, but New York has to feel great about having four picks in the top-38 (No. 4, No. 10, No. 35, No. 38). Having such flexibility can let you approach the all-important first draft to build around incumbent Zach Wilson however you want.

Having such an arsenal means the Jets could potentially nab four top-level starters for the future. That, or they could trade back, sacrificing a look at someone they really like, and fill out a thin roster instead. The world is their green oyster.

New York Giants — Does Brian Daboll leave his imprints all over immediately?

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll do something unorthodox and admit my bias: I think Brian Daboll is an intelligent guy and a good coach (gasp).

I don’t think Daboll thinks Daniel Jones is his quarterback of the future. I also don’t think Daboll believes most of the current Giants roster is ready to win (if it ever will be).

That said, the Giants have two top-seven (No. 5 and No. 7) picks, it is an offensive league, and Daboll is an offensive mind. Now might be the time to let Daboll take the reins and grab a pass-protecting tackle like Charles Cross and a quarterback he actually believes in.

Carolina Panthers — Is Sam Darnold really the plan?

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers are in No Man’s Land. After the abject failure that was Sam Darnold’s first year in Charlotte, it’s fair to question whether there’s any forward momentum for Matt Rhule and friends.

It’s not like Carolina’s devoid of genuine franchise talent. Between D.J. Moore, Christian McCaffrey, Brian Burns and Jeremy Chinn, among others, there is a core to build around and get excited about. But without a quarterback (and potentially a coach), all of that will go to waste.

It might be time to invest in a young signal-caller to inject some hope — no matter the risk.

Chicago Bears — Is Justin Fields supposed to fend for himself?

Douglas P. DeFelice – Getty Images

Chicago’s off-season has been interesting.

New GM Ryan Poles professed he believed in Justin Fields as the Bears’ future, then proceeded to add no legitimate foundational offensive pieces in free agency. Like, none whatsoever.

The Bears have three picks in the top-71 (No. 39, No. 48, and No. 71). Unless at least two of those picks involve some combination of an offensive lineman and receiver, Chicago will ask Fields — who, let’s be honest, is essentially still a rookie — to carry the team’s weight on his shoulders every Sunday.

Not an advisable strategy, but it’s happened before in the Windy City.

Denver Broncos — How does Russell Wilson keep his jersey clean?

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After acquiring Russell Wilson, expectations are a mile high at … Mile High. Yes, pun intended.

With sky-high expectations, there’s one problem lurking in the background — Whether Billy Turner can secure the right book-end upfront. To be fair, Denver has little other holes save for their stopgap tackle. But it’s a big enough hole that could sink the Broncos’ rightful Super Bowl aspirations.

Atlanta Falcons — Kyle Pitts is great, but who else is Marcus Mariota throwing to?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Pitts had one of the best seasons by a rookie tight end in the modern era, but he, unfortunately, can’t be in five places at once. The Falcons need more pass targets, especially with Calvin Ridley sitting out 2022 while serving an indefinite suspension.

Atlanta might not be all-in on current QB1 Marcus Mariota, but their current receiving corps barely resembles a professional group for the 2022 NFL. If the actual objective is to win in Atlanta, they’ll have to draft someone who can take attention away from Pitts.

Seattle Seahawks — Who’s the first step after Russell Wilson?

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Seahawks enter a draft without Russell Wilson for the first time in a decade. It’s thoroughly unfamiliar territory for Pete Carroll and John Scheider, who are understandably used to counting on a Pro Bowl quarterback. Who knew?

Whoever Seattle drafts, especially in the first round at No. 9 overall, will be the face of the next generation of Seahawks football — for better or worse. Choose carefully. Choose wisely.

Washington Commanders — Is the defense finally complete?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Commanders have used at least one first-round pick on a defensive player for five straight years. While some of those selections have panned out well with Chase Young, Montez Sweat, and Daron Payne, it’s fair to wonder when Ron Rivera will remember that he has to score points to win games.

If Washington uses No. 11 overall on another defender — leaving guys like Terry McLaurin out to dry in the process — I don’t think D.C. is seeing a football winner any time soon.

Baltimore Ravens — Is it time for a double-dip at corner?

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

On paper, the Ravens have one of the league’s premier corner duos in Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters. That is a pair capable of stifling most any pass attack. Unfortunately, both are coming off season-ending injuries and might not be the same for some time.

Baltimore has four picks in the top 100 (No. 14, No. 45, No. 76, No. 100). It could be time to look ahead to life without Humphrey and Peters with an earnest investment on the boundary.

Cleveland Browns — Can Myles Garrett get a legitimate running mate?

AP Photo-David Richard

Myles Garrett has built up quite the defensive reputation in five professional seasons. The perennial All-Pro has lived up to the hype as a former No. 1 overall pick. Now, if only he had someone who could sometimes get the heat off him on the other side.

In the past, Cleveland has tried to pair Jadeveon Clowney and Oliver Vernon with Garrett — to uneven results. If the Browns are to enter the pantheon of consistent contenders, Garrett needs more consistent help on the edge.

Minnesota Vikings — Is a firesale looming?

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The Vikings’ new brain trust of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell hasn’t been shy in praising their team this off-season. But I do wonder whether those words actually carry any weight.

Minnesota has a handful of promising players like Justin Jefferson, but that doesn’t mean they’ve close to a title. And new regimes often like to start over entirely without many existing answers. If we’re talking draft day trades, Kirk Cousins, Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks, and Adam Thielen should be on watch.

Los Angeles Chargers — Is the OL puzzle complete?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Good news: The Chargers have one of the best centers and best left tackles in the league in Corey Linsley and Rashawn Slater, respectively.

Bad news: An offensive line is the sum of all five parts, meaning Justin Herbert is still without a paddle barring more additions.

Herbert is the end-all, be-all in L.A., and Linsley and Slater need more help — be it at right tackle or guard.

Miami Dolphins — Does Tua Tagovailoa finally have enough around him?

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Most current quarterbacks would be envious of the Dolphins’ offensive supporting cast.

Tyreek Hill. Jaylen Waddle. Mike Gesicki. Chase Edmonds. Raheem Mostert. Throw in the addition of Terron Armstead upfront, and you have top-end talent and depth all around.

This sort of offensive set-up means Mike McDaniel and co. should now have enough to evaluate Tua Tagovailoa in Year 3. Unless they want to get another receiver and another offensive lineman for him in the draft. Everyone knows a quarterback needs a nearly perfect situation to succeed. Tagovailoa might be as close as he’s going to get.

New Orleans Saints — Is there enough support outside of Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara?

Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

If you looked at the Saints, hadn’t watched football since 2019, and only saw their dynamic duo of Thomas and Kamara, you’d think they were one of the best teams in the league. If you looked past these two or closely examined Thomas’s last two years, you’d wonder how any new quarterback could possibly thrive.

Suffice to say: The Saints need weapons.

With two first-round picks (No. 16 and No. 19), and No. 49 in the second round, look for New Orleans to get creative. And I’m not just talking about prospects. It could also mean D.K. Metcalf or Tyler Lockett in black and gold.

Indianapolis Colts — How to address left tackle without a first-rounder?

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

What’s the definition of insanity? Trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Anyway, Matt Ryan, another older quarterback, is Chris Ballard’s latest Hail Mary under center. And while the Colts have many promising pieces on both sides of the ball, they currently do not have a blindside protector for their 36-year-old face of the franchise. That’s kind of important. They also currently do not have a 2022 first-round pick to get one. Ouch.

If Ballard has another plan in his bag of tricks, now would be the time to use it.

Philadelphia Eagles — Is a receiver a definite target?

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

By many accounts, the Eagles haven’t given up on Jalen Hurts yet. With the young quarterback throwing to such underwhelming receivers like Jalen Reagor, how could they?

So it would be a good idea for the Eagles to pick a receiver in the first round, and perhaps one of the Ohio State pair — Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave — will be available. Both figure to be excellent pros, but it’s up to Philly to decide who’s more of a sure thing for their program.

Pittsburgh Steelers — Quarterback or BPA?

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Roethlisberger rode off into the sunset, but the yellow Terrible Towels will keep waving in Pittsburgh. What the Steelers do in the 2022 Draft might determine how hard they wave.

Unless they believe in Mitchell Trubisky or Mason Rudolph (not advisable), Mike Tomlin and Co. aren’t exactly in a great position to add a quarterback with the No. 20 overall pick. Far be it from me to assume, but the Steelers do not strike me as a franchise that will want to trade up from that sort of precarious position.

Even still, Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, and Pat Freiermuth are a terrific core of pass targets. Someone has to get them the ball. Pittsburgh may have to pay up in order to find a reliable option behind center.

San Francisco 49ers — Is Deebo Samuel still wearing red and gold after the weekend?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers undoubtedly have one of the best teams in football. They’ll be in the Super Bowl picture until further notice. But it’s fair to wonder whether Deebo Samuel is part of that plan — who has requested a trade in the midst of contract extension talks.

I, personally, wouldn’t trade an All-Pro offensive weapon in his prime in the middle of a Super Bowl window. John Lynch might have other ideas.

New England Patriots — Will Bill Belichick take any risks?

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Far be it from me to question the arguable greatest football coach ever but: What is Bill Belichick’s plan exactly?

Mere months from a playoff drubbing at the hands of the rival Bills, the Patriots let J.C. Jackson — an All-Pro corner in his physical prime — walk. Then they traded Shaq Mason — one of the best guards in the league, also in his physical prime — for pennies.

I know there’s a long-term vision to consider, but Belichick just turned 70. Does he really want to rebuild for years on end? At some point, you’ll have to pay to retain premium talent in life after Tom Brady. Mac Jones deserves better, and the Patriots’ draft approach (trades up, for once) should reflect that as such.

Las Vegas Raiders — Where’s the defense?

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll take the bold position and say the Raiders will be OK on offense in 2022.

I mean, it’s hard to get any better than Davante Adams, Darren Waller, and Hunter Renfrow. But, for as many points as they’ll score, the other team still has to score less to get more than seven or eight wins.

After a trade for Adams, among others, Las Vegas doesn’t pick until No. 86 in the late third round. They better hope they can still find — and hit — on some legitimate defensive difference-makers then.

Cincinnati Bengals — Is it time to find another corner?

AP Photo-Adam Hunger

Thankfully for Joe Burrow, by adding Alex Cappa and Ted Karras, the Bengals mostly addressed the offensive line issues that cost them the Super Bowl.

But to get over the hump in a stacked AFC, Cincy needs more on defense, especially on the back-end. I can’t imagine anyone in the Queen City wanting to see Insert Top Receiver victimizing Eli Apple again in a big game.

Arizona Cardinals — Is Kyler Murray still in the desert after the weekend?

Photo by Ronald Martinez-Getty Images

The Cardinals and Murray are in a good old-fashioned Western duel. Neither side wants to give up any ground. Both believe they’re entirely in the right. And with Murray stating he won’t play on the remainder of his current contract without an extension — it might be the end of his days in Arizona.

I don’t know who in the NFL would be prepared to make a blockbuster deal for Murray — if he’s genuinely available — but this is certainly a situation to monitor while picks are flying around.

Buffalo Bills — Which mole hill of a flaw can become a mountain?

AP Photo-Ed Zurga

The Bills are the best team in football. Barring an unexpected roadblock or poor health, they are likely to be playing deep into next January and perhaps even February.

Now’s not the time to read their press clippings. Josh Allen might be incredible, and Von Miller might be a quarterback hunter on pace for championship ring No. 3, but the flaws least expected eventually come back to haunt you.

No. 2 cornerback? Another receiver or offensive line depth? Brandon Beane has built a special squad in Western New York. What happens during the draft might determine whether they live up to the hype.

Los Angeles Rams — Is a Super Bowl repeat predicated on the OL?

Kevin C. Cox-Getty Images

As long as Sean McVay coaches six perennial Pro Bowl talents in Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson, Bobby Wagner, Jalen Ramsey, and Aaron Donald, the Rams aren’t going anywhere.

But the retirement of Andrew Whitworth and departure of Austin Corbett in free agency potentially leaves the Rams in a tough spot. They just won a Super Bowl on the strength of the opposing team’s terrible offensive line. They could be in a similar place if they don’t draft a top-flight player or two — but trades that brought in guys like Stafford and Ramsey means they don’t have much in terms of draft stock.

Dallas Cowboys — How does JerryWorld fill in the offensive gaps?

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The Cowboys will probably win the 2022 NFC East by default. But you’d be hard-pressed to convince me that’s where Texas’s flagship team’s ambition stops.

They’ll have to do it without Amari Cooper — since traded to the Browns — and Cedrick Wilson. That’s not a mix worthy of a title unless Mike McCarthy is about to change his all-time conservative coaching approach. Dallas needs an influx of young game-breakers for Dak Prescott. This time, they might even avoid cap issues and keep them, too!

Kansas City Chiefs — Is it worth standing pat at No. 29 and No. 30 to keep the AFC West crown?

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The Chiefs of the last two years are a good reminder of how quickly Super Bowl windows can be wasted. After a beatdown at the hands of the Buccaneers in Super Bowl 55, the Bengals overcame Kansas City in a shocking AFC title game collapse the following year. To add insult to defeat, former Chiefs core piece Tyreek Hill now calls South Beach home.

As long as Pat Mahomes is the quarterback, Kansas City’s in a good spot to replace Hill and potentially stem the tide of a rising AFC West. But GM Brett Veach and Andy Reid could consider trading back from their current late first-round positions to buoy up the reserves for the future. That would, potentially, mean taking a step back in 2022 and working for 2023.

Tennessee Titans — Does Ryan Tannehill have enough time to get the ball to his new toys?

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Another team feeling the ill effects of a disappointing playoff defeat, the Titans have recalibrated well this off-season. After releasing Julio Jones, Tennessee added Robert Woods and Austin Hooper to a core that captured the AFC’s top seed last year.

But just because they have more help around A.J. Brown doesn’t mean Ryan Tannehill will have enough time to spread the wealth. The Titans have two interior offensive line spots up in the air. If they’re serious about a Super Bowl, one spot will probably have to be sanded over with a 2022 pick.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers — How do they recalibrate quickly with Tom Brady on borrowed time?

AP Photo-Mark LoMoglio

The assumption is that the Buccaneers are a lock for Super Bowl contention with Tom Brady’s return. But after an off-season of departures in significant areas of need — I wouldn’t be so sure.

There’s the defensive line without Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul. Shaq Mason and Tristan Wirfs are the only surefire starters on the offensive line. And with Rob Gronkowski still unsigned, Tampa Bay also has no clear answer at tight end.

Brady or not — Todd Bowles and Co. have a lot of work to do before the Buccaneers are worthy of a game in February again.

Green Bay Packers — Do they bet on a young receiver or trade for an established star?

AP Photo-Stacy Bengs

Aaron Rodgers is here another go-around, and it’s the Last Dance 3.0 in Green Bay. Welcome back! Your current No. 1 receiver is Allen Lazard!

Oh, is that bad?

Needless to say, but the Packers need more than a few upgrades to their passing game after trading Davante Adams. With four picks in the first two rounds (No. 22, No. 28, No. 53, and No. 59), they have been understandably linked to just about every top receiver prospect in this year’s class.

By that same token, could they use that war chest of picks in a trade for a more established star for Rodgers like, say, Deebo Samuel?

Whether Rodgers gets another ring before hanging his pads could hinge on this decision.

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