The NFL season is almost over, meaning the draft order is almost set. Well, besides the middle of the order that is. After last week, the Jaguars, Lions, and Texans remain in the top three, while the Eagles continue to see their three first-round picks plummet down the board. Some prospects have flown up the draft board, which we’ll see towards the bottom of the first round. The Jaguars are on the clock.
No. 1 Jacksonville Jaguars – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
A player that has seen his stock skyrocket is Hutchinson. With the Jaguars needing just about everything but quarterback and running back, they need to take the best player available, which is currently the Michigan pass-rusher. Pairing Hutchinson with Josh Allen would give the Jaguars a lethal pass-rushing duo. Adding Hutchinson to the fold would also delegate K’Lavon Chaisson to a backup role. Either way, Jacksonville needs a difference-maker, and Hutchinson is one.
No. 2 Detroit Lions – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
The Lions are far exceeding expectations with Dan Campbell as the head coach. While it hasn’t produced many wins this year, Detroit is consistently in games to the very end. Aaron Glenn has produced a decent defense with a lack of talent on that side of the ball and needs a cornerstone player. Thankfully, the Lions get one here with Thibodeaux, who will immediately align into the starting lineup and pair with Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill, who the Lions drafted last year, to start a dominant front.
No. 3 Houston Texans – Kyle Hamilton, SAF, Notre Dame
Like Detroit, the Texans have exceeded expectations after the Deshaun Watson fiasco this year led to many media outlets tagging them as the worst team assembled in recent memory. While the Texans could go in just about any direction with this pick, it is best to take the best player available. The safety position has been devalued in recent draft classes, but Hamilton isn’t your typical safety and is the best to come into the NFL since Derwin James. Pairing Hamilton with Justin Reid is an excellent decision for Houston.
No. 4 New York Jets – Andrew Booth Jr, CB, Clemson
There are a few glaring needs on the defense for the Jets, and the biggest is the need for a number one cornerback. Bryce Hall is a fine number two option, but grabbing one of the cornerbacks early in this class would be an excellent decision for Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas. Booth has been inked by many as the top cornerback in the class, and New York desperately needs help in the cornerback room, and snagging a player like Booth in the top five is the move here.
No. 5 New York Giants – David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan
The Giants are a disaster. Recent reports said that they would be keeping both Joe Judge and Daniel Jones, which means quarterback is most likely out of the first-round options at this point. Defensively, the Giants are missing a running mate to Azeez Ojulari, and Ojabo could be just what they’re looking for. The third pass-rusher off the board could be the one with the highest ceiling in the class, and New York needs to start looking forward because it seems as though the team currently assembled isn’t going to get to where they want it.
No. 6 New York Jets (via Seattle) – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Zach Wilson has had his share of ups and downs during his rookie season. Thankfully, he has turned in more good than bad performances recently. Unfortunately, his weapons haven’t been enough help for him, in part thanks to Elijah Moore and Corey Davis both hurt. Jamison Crowder will likely be elsewhere next season, and while there are other needs on the roster, Wilson may be too much to pass up on here.
No. 7 Carolina Panthers – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
The Panthers have a problem brewing. It is unknown if Matt Rhule will return for the 2022 season, and much of the blame has gone to the play of the trio of Sam Darnold, Cam Newton, and P.J. Walker. While they do deserve some of the blame, the offensive line has been a complete mess from the start of the season. By drafting Neal, the Panthers finally have a left tackle that won’t make life miserable for their quarterback. The move also allows Brady Christensen to move to one of the guard spots.
No. 8 New York Giants (via Chicago) – Ikem Ekwonu, OL, NC State
After adding a pass-rusher, the Giants turn to the offensive line to try and solve some of the issues there. Ekwonu can play about any position on the offensive line, and with issues at the right tackle spot between Nate Solder and Matt Peart, Ekwonu may start at right tackle for the start of the 2022 season. New York also needs help along the interior, so he could play there as well.
No. 9 Washington Football Team – Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
When Ryan Fitzpatrick signed with Washington during free agency, many were excited to see how the team could do this year with the quarterback spot seemingly under control. Unfortunately, Fitzpatrick got injured as the season started, and Taylor Heinicke has been far from consistent enough to take a firm grasp of the starting job. Corral could come to Washington immediately and take hold of the starting role.
No. 10 Atlanta Falcons – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
Karlaftis to the Falcons is a perfect fit. The Falcons desperately need help getting to the quarterback, and it’s about time they get a young player to solve the issue instead of getting a stopgap during the free agency period. While Karlaftis doesn’t have the numbers that Hutchinson, Thibodeaux, or Ojabo have, that may be because teams have double and even triple-teamed the Purdue product every game. Atlanta gets a steal here.
No. 11 Denver Broncos – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
Yes, the Broncos desperately need a quarterback. What they also need is a right tackle. Bobby Massie isn’t the player he once was and is seemingly a disaster right now. Outside of quarterback and right tackle, Denver could have one of the best rosters in the league. The Broncos could very well take a quarterback here, but the Aaron Rodgers rumors are starting to heat up again.
No. 12 Minnesota Vikings – Derek Stingley Jr, CB, LSU
There are always a few players that slip to a lucky team every year. For the last two years now, the Vikings have been one of the teams that get lucky with how the board falls. Both Justin Jefferson and Christian Darrisaw were projected to go much higher than the Vikings got them. Yet again, Minnesota is the beneficiary of how the board falls, and they get a potential generational player with Stingley here.
No. 13 New Orleans Saints – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Did Jameis Winston do enough to secure himself another year in the starting role for the Saints? That’s up to Sean Payton and company. Unfortunately, New Orleans is all but out of the Russell Wilson or Rodgers sweepstakes due to their current cap situation. The next biggest need on the roster is a receiver. Michael Thomas seemed to be displeased with the Saints throughout the offseason, and he may have played his last snap. Even if Thomas is back, New Orleans needs another receiver to pair with him, and Williams has thrust himself into the top of the receiver conversation with an outstanding 2021 campaign.
No. 14 Cleveland Browns – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Taking a quarterback isn’t out of the question here. Baker Mayfield is playing through a lot of pain and has received most of the blame for the struggles the Browns have suffered this year. What hasn’t been talked about enough is the fact that the Browns now have no number one receiver on the roster. Jarvis Landry isn’t what he used to be, and Donovan Peoples-Jones is a number two receiver at best. Burks is in the conversation for the top receiver in the class, and the Browns would be wise to give Mayfield one last year before potentially moving on.
No. 15 Pittsburgh Steelers – Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
The second quarterback off the board stays in Pittsburgh. Pickett has endured a fast rise up draft boards following a fantastic 2021 campaign. Ben Roethlisberger isn’t anywhere close to the player he once was, and the offensive line is one of the worst in the league, which means the Steelers need a new young quarterback that can move in and out of the pocket. The Steelers may transform, and while the offensive line isn’t good, the Steelers desperately need to find someone to man the quarterback position for the future.
No. 16 Los Angeles Chargers – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
The run defense for the Chargers is a disaster. Last week, the defense for the Chargers made Rex Burkhead look like a young Adrian Peterson. Davis is a mauler on the defensive line and takes up space constantly. While he is an animal in the run game, he factors in as a pass-rusher too. The run defense could end their playoff run this year, and adding a player like Davis could help solve that issue.
No. 17 Las Vegas Raiders – Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M
The Raiders seem to always pick in the middle of the first round. While Derek Carr could potentially be in trade talks this offseason, the Raiders would be wise to keep him, as there’s a big-name receiver that may make his way over to Las Vegas in free agency if he stays. The offensive line, on the other hand, needs lots of work. Green could come into the building and immediately start along the offensive line.
No. 18 Baltimore Ravens – Demarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
Back-to-back Texas A&M players go as the Ravens get, well, another steal for the third straight year by taking Leal here. The Ravens have continuously drafted players that go much later than expected, and that is the case with Leal, where many teams have other needs or don’t know where to play him. Baltimore always finds ways to play great players, and pairing him with another Aggie, Justin Madubuike, as two young players on the defensive line is a move the Ravens should look into.
No. 19 Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami) – Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
The first pick of the Eagles three in the first round is a star cornerback to pair with Darius Slay. Gardner is one of the best cornerbacks in college football and has never given up a touchdown in his collegiate career in coverage. While Gardner has a big game this week against the Crimson Tide and Williams, the Cincinnati cornerback should still go in the first round of April’s draft.
No. 20 Philadelphia Eagles – Jaquan Brisker, SAF, Penn State
With back-to-back picks, the Eagles stay in the secondary and finally get a safety. Brisker stays close to home and would align in the starting lineup immediately. While many have the Eagles using at least two of their first-round picks on the offense, these first two go in the secondary alone to help Philadelphia against the long road of top receivers they have to face each year.
No. 21 Miami Dolphins (via San Francisco) – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Miami is a difficult team to draft for currently. While they could still be in on Watson, there are still plenty of other teams on the roster. The offensive line gets a lot of the attention, but that may best be solved during the free agency period instead of the draft. Another sneaky need for the Dolphins going into the offseason is a receiver to pair with Jaylen Waddle. DeVante Parker is a free agent this offseason, and Miami doesn’t have many options outside of Waddle. Getting a player like Olave to pair with Waddle would be a lethal combination for whoever is playing quarterback for the Dolphins in the future.
No. 22 New England Patriots – Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
The fifth receiver off the board is Dotson to the Patriots. New England did sign both Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne last year, and neither figure to be the player that Dotson can become. To make matters worse, Jakobi Meyers is a restricted free agent. The Patriots are always a hard team to draft for, but it seems as though this is the year that a young receiver is finally added to the fold.
No. 23 Philadelphia Eagles (via Indianapolis) – Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State
The final first-round choice for the Eagles is spent on another pass-rusher. Josh Sweat has proven to be a young star, and he’ll need a running mate if Derek Barnett leaves during free agency. Well, what better than a player that starred at the same school as Sweat? Johnson has had a steady rise through the ranks during the last few months, and the Eagles now have a defense that will be a blast to watch.
No. 24 Arizona Cardinals – Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
The Cardinals have seen a fast decline in their play this year. While they could take another receiver to pair with Deandre Hopkins, helping out Budda Baker and Byron Murphy in the secondary is likely the direction they will be looking in when April rolls around. McCreary would immediately take over for Marco Wilson opposite Murphy and would be a top cornerback prospect in a class that wasn’t loaded at the position.
No. 25 Buffalo Bills – Darian Kinnard, OL, Kentucky
Unfortunately for Josh Allen, the offensive line in front of him has taken a step back this year, which is the main reason why the offense isn’t performing as well as it could. With the interior of the offensive line in a bit of a flux, adding a player like Kinnard would give Buffalo options of putting out their best five on the offensive line every week.
No. 26 Cincinnati Bengals – Tyler Linderbaum, IOL, Iowa
The Bengals are perhaps the league’s most surprising team in the league currently. Joe Burrow and company have the offense humming at a pace it hasn’t seen in years, and there is still plenty of room to grow. The offensive line still needs to be upgraded, with Jonah Williams being the only viable starter on the unit right now. Adding a player like Linderbaum to start in the middle gives the Bengals another first-round choice on the offensive line to pair with Williams.
No. 27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
The Buccaneers seem to be on the doorstep of yet another Super Bowl experience. Unfortunately, they can’t seem to stay healthy. That is a big focal point in the secondary as Tampa Bay had to sign Richard Sherman halfway through the season. Along with that, in the next two offseasons, all of Carlton Davis, Sean Bunting, Jamel Dean, and Sherman will all have expiring contracts. Tampa Bay is going with the BPA approach here by selecting Elam.
No. 28 Detroit Lions (via LA Rams) – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
With their second choice of the first round, the Lions continue to build up their defense by taking the first linebacker off the board. While Detroit has Derrick Barnes, another one needs to be added to the fold. Lloyd fits the mauler type of mindset that the Lions want to have in their front seven, and this is right around the range he should go.
No. 29 Tennessee Titans – Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
The Titans take the second linebacker in as many picks with this selection. Dean is the more complete linebacker of the two potentially. The Titans have put a lot of value into the position in the draft recently, and Dean would align himself to start almost immediately.
No. 30 Dallas Cowboys – Daxton Hill, SAF, Michigan
With many teams needing safeties after the Cowboys, Dallas bites the bullet and takes the third safety in the first round. Dan Quinn loves his versatile chess pieces on defense, and Hill fits that role perfectly. He can play either safety position or even nickel cornerback. Dallas has seemingly needed the safety position for a while now, and they finally get one here by taking the dynamic Wolverine.
No. 31 Kansas City Chiefs – Drake London, WR, USC
The Kansas City defense needs some work. While that is true, Kansas City also needs potentially another receiver to go with Tyreek Hill. London could’ve gone much higher than this, but his injury has dropped him to the end of the first round. The Kansas City defense wouldn’t have so much pressure on it if the offense continues to score as many points as they have.
No. 32 Green Bay Packers – Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
For a team with the best record in the NFL, the Packers have quite a few needs across the roster. Rodgers, or maybe Jordan Love, will need another receiver or two with Davante Adams an impending free agent, and the pass-rush group may take a hit with the Smiths both potential cap casualties. With that said, adding a young player to pair with Rashan Gary is a move that needs to be done. While many might not know the name yet, Walker is a versatile prospect that can be aligned all over the front of the defense, and can even cover in some circumstances. Pairing Walker with Gary would be an excellent move for the Packers to cap off the first night.