Way-Too-Early 2022 NFL Mock Draft

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    Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

    The majority of NFL rosters are already set for the 2021 campaign. Yes, even in July. Each team’s top decision-makers have an eye toward the next offseason and how they can improve their respective squads. 

    Sure, a few surprises will occur along the way and injuries will change certain dynamics within a lineup. Mostly, the majority of all 32 rosters can be projected for Week 1 based on previous investments and players’ individual statuses. Only a handful of roster spots are truly available, while opportunities for significant change are few and far between in the short term. 

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    The draft serves as a compass. How a franchise evaluates and chooses young talent defines its direction. Good teams crumble and bad squads ascend rather quickly based on those decisions. 

    Currently, the 2021 evaluation period resides in its neophyte stages. Scouts won’t hit the road for another month. As a result, projections will be all over the board. College football’s best may be a work in progress, but some are further along than others and already look like premium prospects.

    The summer may be way too early to project a mock draft with any accuracy, but it’s never too early to get a feel for the upcoming class and where squads should look to improve. NFL teams are stacked according to DraftKings’ betting odds to win the Super Bowl at the time of writing (with a coin flip to break ties). 

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    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    The 2021 season won’t be pleasant in Houston. The Texans are about to enter the most difficult portion of a full-on rebuild, and the team’s situation will get much worse before it gets better. 

    Clearly, the franchise is in turmoil. But a terrible season does bring hope, often in the form of a new quarterback. 

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    As of now, the ’22 draft class doesn’t have a Trevor Lawrence-like runaway favorite as the choice. However, previous drafts provided the likes of Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Joe Burrow without any of them being consensus first-round talents prior to their final seasons on campus.

    Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler is a little different. He may not be viewed as the best quarterback prospect in recent memory, but he’s certainly good enough to take the top spot next spring. 

    In fact, Pro Football Focus ranked Rattler higher than Lawrence among last year’s top college football performers. Ratter received the third-highest graded at the position in 2020. The preseason first-team All-Big 12 selection finished first in passing grade and accurate-pass rate when creating off structure. 

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    As Rattler continues to mature and becomes more consistent with his decision-making, he has all the makings of a future No. 1 overall selection. 

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    Jared Goff should be a one-and-done starting quarterback for the Detroit Lions, especially if the team selects second overall in the 2022 NFL draft. 

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    Publicly, the organization says all the right things about Goff. 

    “I never viewed him as a bridge option,” general manager Brad Holmes told Mike O’Hara of the Lions’ official site. “He’s been a winning quarterback. I think his resume speaks for itself.”

    But one of the league’s worst records coupled with the opportunity to shed $10 million or more of Goff’s contract next offseason makes moving on a logical pathway. 

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    Scouts are very high on North Carolina’s Sam Howell going into the ’22 campaign. 

    “If the draft were tomorrow, he’d be the only first-round quarterback on our board,” a director of scouting told The Athletic’s Dane Brugler

    Howell became one of the nation’s best quarterbacks as a true freshman and has maintained that high level. He’s unflappable in the pocket and an excellent downfield passer. According to Pro Football Focus, the 20-year-old’s 59 big-time throws on deep passes leads college football since the start of the ’19 season. 

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    This year, the New York Jets were one of the teams at the top of the draft ready to select their franchise quarterback. The Atlanta Falcons sat still with the fourth overall selection and chose whom they believe is the best non-quarterback in the class (tight end Kyle Pitts). 

    With Zach Wilson in tow, the Jets are potentially the team sitting near the top of the next draft capable of taking arguably the best overall prospect. 

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    Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux has the ability to be the next Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett if none of the quarterbacks ascend up draft boards, as they usually do. 

    The following quote is about Garrett but applies to Thibodeaux. 

    “Built out of a lab,” an AFC scout said of the two-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. “Zero weaknesses. Power, bend, speed.”

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    The description is exactly what an edge defender worthy of the No. 1 overall pick should be. Thibodeaux is 6’5″ and 250 pounds with exceptional flexibility and athleticism off the edge. He’s been a disruptive presence since he stepped onto campus. 

    With Carl Lawson already on the roster, Thibodeaux’s addition can create an elite tandem. 

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    Whether the Cincinnati Bengals made enough moves along the offensive line this offseason is inconsequential. They’ll need to make more next offseason. 

    Riley Reiff is a solid veteran addition to solidify the right side. But he’ll be 33 years old later this year and isn’t under contract after the upcoming season. 

    The Bengals could be in a position to take the best offensive line prospect in the entire class. They can’t pass again. 

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    When discussing Alabama’s Evan Neal, three points automatically jump to the forefront. First, his size (6’7″, 360 pounds) is his biggest selling point. Second, he’s a former 5-star prospect, who immediately started for the talent-laden Alabama Crimson Tide. Finally, the 20-year-old can play both tackle and guard. 

    His actual level of performance shouldn’t be overlooked. Neal’s 12 big-time blocks are second-most in a season by a right tackle since Pro Football Focus started tracking the data. He also graded fourth among Power Five offensive tackles a year ago. 

    Cincinnati needs an anchor up front. The unit still has major concerns, particularly on the right side of the ball. Neal has the natural ability to dominate at the next level. 

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    Safeties simply aren’t viewed as elite prospects. Only one safety, Eric Berry, became a top-five selection since the Washington Football Team chose the late, great Sean Taylor with the fifth overall pick in the 2004 class. 

    Rare traits are required to be considered in said range. Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton certainly presents a special skill set. 

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    At 6’4″ and 219 pounds, Hamilton isn’t typical. Clearly, he brings outstanding athletic traits to the position. Some oversize safeties struggle in certain areas, though, particularly in pass coverage. Hamilton doesn’t have those limitations. 

    Hamilton hasn’t allowed a touchdown in coverage since joining the Fighting Irish, per Pro Football Focus.    He’s smart and instinctive to go along with size, speed and length. He’s going to get better, too. 

    “As good of a football player as he is right now,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said, per Blue and Gold’s Patrick Engel. “I think you’ll see next year somebody that can possibly take his game to an even higher level in terms of blitzing, giving us some additional calls on our call sheet when we insert him into our defense.”

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars can’t turn down a true playmaker along the backline. 

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    The Carolina Panthers won’t go into the 2022 draft with the intention of drafting another top-10 cornerback. After all, the team just chose South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn with this year’s eighth overall pick. 

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    But the organization shouldn’t turn its nose up at the idea, either. 

    Thanks to a pair of quarterbacks coming off the board early, the Panthers have an opportunity to select an elite talent at a premium position. It just so happens the prospect in question plays the same position as Horn. 

    LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. is absolutely worth the investment. He’s been one of the best players in college football since the first time he stepped onto a field. As Pro Football Focus’ Anthony Treash noted, Stingley posted the highest coverage grade by a true freshman cornerback since the site started evaluating prospects. 

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    The two-time first-team All-SEC selection displays great coverage skills with high-end athletic traits. In fact, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron is considering the possibility of playing Stingley on offense some this fall. 

    Horn and Stingley would give the Panthers the best young cornerback tandem in a pass-first league. 

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    The Philadelphia Eagles didn’t draft Jalen Hurts with the thought of him becoming the franchise quarterback. Former head coach Doug Pederson described the team’s process leading up to his selection during an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio:

    “You go into drafts and you go into each year looking for quarterbacks. And we continued to look for quarterbacks, and that’s always something that will never change. We won a Super Bowl with our backup quarterback. And we’ve had to play with our backups a couple of times in Philadelphia. So we did that a year ago and brought in Jalen Hurts—not to undermine Carson Wentz, not to do anything to take away his job or anything because Carson was our starter. He was the franchise and all that moving forward. But [we wanted] someone that could come in and could be the backup and learn how to play the NFL game—bring his talent to the Philadelphia Eagles.”

    Obviously, the 2020 season didn’t go as planned. Pederson is no longer the coach. Wentz now plays for the Indianapolis Colts. Meanwhile, Hurts will get his opportunity to become the Eagles’ franchise quarterback. If the team falters this fall, it’ll look for another option behind center.

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    Liberty’s Malik Willis presents as much upside as any prospect counted among the upcoming quarterback crop. He brings a big arm and top-level athleticism. Another standout season for the Flames should place him among the highest-drafted players next spring. 

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    The Las Vegas Raiders haven’t gotten their defensive front quite right since Jon Gruden took over the franchise. Some might say the ghost of sacks past—a.k.a. Khalil Mack—continues to haunt the franchise. 

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    General manager Mike Mayock did sign Yannick Ngakoue in free agency before drafting Malcolm Koonce in this year’s third round to play alongside Clelin Ferrell, Maxx Crosby and Carl Nassib. The Raiders now have legitimate depth at defensive end but could use more help along the defensive interior. 

    The Raiders surprisingly cut Maurice Hurst this offseason. Johnathan Hankins and Quinton Jefferson are solid veterans but nothing more. 

    Texas’s DeMarvin Leal brings something more to the position. The 6’4″, 290-pound lineman creates a level of disruption not currently seen among the Raiders front.

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    Technically, Leal plays end for the Aggies, but he projects well to 3-technique, especially in Gus Bradley’s scheme where the position often serves as a spearhead for the rest of the unit. He brings the added bonus of position versatility to vary fronts and expose potential weak spots found among opposing offensive lines. 

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    The New York Giants hope they have a pair of talented young pass-rushers in Lorenzo Carter and this year’s second-round draft pick, Azeez Ojulari. 

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    However, neither has proved anything yet. Carter continues to recover from last year’s torn Achilles tendon, while Ojulari must show he’s an every-down defender capable of being more than a sub-package speed rusher. 

    Until those things come to fruition, the Giants will be searching for another edge-rusher. 

    USC’s Drake Jackson is more potential than production at this point as well. His 7.5 sacks in 17 career games definitely don’t impress. Traits translate, though. Jackson is a smooth operator working the edge as a standup defender. 

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    “He’s got really, really good vision,” USC defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said of the underclassman last season, per the Los Angeles TimesRyan Kartje. “That’s probably the thing that good players have that’s not coachable. He can see everything, and he can adjust.”

    Edge defenders must be able to set the edge, while simultaneously providing consistent disruption in the backfield. The ability to read, react and explode is critical. Jackson is a fluid athlete capable of so much more at USC and the next level. 

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    Each summer brings rumblings from NFL evaluators regarding which prospects they’re excited to see. Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral is chief among them for the 2022 draft cycle, according to NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah

    Corral is a natural thrower with a tight delivery, which creates easy velocity. The quarterback also has a good feel in the pocket with more than enough escapability to create in the running game or when he scrambles. Corral finished with 506 rushing yards and four touchdowns. 

    The 2021 Outback Bowl MVP has the skill set scouts look for in today’s quarterback. His movement skills accentuate his pocket passing with the ability to adjust on the move and vary his arm angle. 

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    Corral’s post-snap decisions are concerning, though. He finished last season with 14 interceptions11 of those came against the LSU Tigers and Arkansas Razorbacks. Otherwise, the Ole Miss signal-caller posted a 24-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio against the rest of SEC competition. As long as Corral’s decision-making improves, he could easily be a top-10 selection.

    The Atlanta Falcons can’t waste another chance to address quarterback after passing on Justin Fields this past spring. The organization can halve Matt Ryan’s $48 million salary-cap charge next season by releasing the veteran with a post-June 1 designation, per Over The Cap

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    The New York Giants have the luxury of two first-round picks in 2022 thanks to this year’s draft-day trade involving Justin Fields. Earlier, the organization addressed its edge-rush. Now, general manager Dave Gettleman can flip to the other side of the trenches. 

    New York invested a lot in the offensive last year with the first-, third- and fifth-round selections of Andrew Thomas, Matt Peart and Shane Lemieux. The three rookies combined to start 25 games. The trio should continue to grow together in their second season, but the Giants’ offensive line is far from settled. 

    Guard is a potential area of concern with veterans Zach Fulton and Will Hernandez likely competing for a spot. Fulton has been an average player throughout his career. Hernandez, meanwhile, disappointed last season. 

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    North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu is a powerhouse blocker capable of uprooting and moving defensive linemen. He provided the highest percentage of positively graded run blocks among Power Five offensive linemen last season, per Pro Football Focus’ Austin Gayle

    Ekwonu can play tackle or guard. In New York, he’s the physical interior presence and tone-setter the group currently lacks. 

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    Once again, the Washington Football Team finds itself on the outside of the range where the top quarterbacks fall. 

    This past spring, the organization didn’t make a play for Justin Fields, who slid a little further than expected. Instead, the franchise stood pat and chose linebacker Jamin Davis. 

    A similar course may be the best option in this scenario. 

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    Washington built its identity around its defense, particularly the defensive front. The team already has two quality cornerbacks in Kendall Fuller and Williams Jackson III. Both are signed through the 2023 campaign. The third spot can be upgraded. 

    Florida’s Kaiir Elam is a 6’2″ true junior who often wins at the jam and consistently competes for contested passes. With his size and length, Washington can bookend Jackson and allow Fuller to play more over the slot, thus pushing Jimmy Moreland out of the primary rotation and strengthening the group’s overall depth. 

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    Danielle Hunter is currently the cause and solution to the Minnesota Vikings’ problems. 

    Around the league, NFL evaluators still view him as a top-10 pass-rusher, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler

    “He’s kind of like Myles Garrett in that he’s built like a Marvel character,” an AFC scout said. “Special traits and he has length to win and counter moves to go with it.”

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    Issues with Hunter are twofold. First, he didn’t play last season due to a neck injury. The defensive lineman says he’s 100 percent recovered, though. Second, the 26-year-old is unhappy with his current contract, according to The Athletic’s Chad Graff

    Even with a healthy and happy Hunter, the Vikings require a defensive end bookend. The need intensifies with those potential problems at the forefront. 

    South Carolina’s Kingsley Enagbare has the ideal build (6’4″ and 270) and skill set to be a consistent pass-rush presence. He improved throughout his collegiate career with one sack as a freshman and six as a junior (in eight games). 

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    Four quarterbacks are already off the board. Each of them is listed at 6’1″. Obviously, traditionalists would look at each with a sneer. 

    Nevada’s Carson Strong fits the prototypical standards for the position.

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    At 6’4″ and 215 pounds with a rocket strapped to his right shoulder, the reigning Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year will almost certainly fly up draft boards if he builds upon his sophomore campaign. Strong completed 70.1 percent of his passes last season with a 27-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio in nine games. 

    The Pittsburgh Steelers are an obvious landing spot as Ben Roethlisberger nears retirement. The two-time Super Bowl champion is 39 years old and on the last year of his current contract. Pittsburgh must move on next offseason and find a new franchise quarterback. 

    An argument can be made for not forcing the position with this selection, but Strong has more than enough upside to eventually generate a higher standing among the class’ early top quarterback prospects. 

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    The Arizona Cardinals had an affinity for Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle before this year’s draft, according to Sports Illustrated‘s Albert Breer

    The Miami Dolphins chose Waddle with the sixth overall pick. Arizona ended up selecting Rondale Moore in the second round. Moore shouldn’t prevent the organization from drafting the most explosive receiver in the upcoming class if he’s available. 

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    In this case, Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson is available and would provide a wonderful complement to DeAndre Hopkins and Moore since A.J. Green and Christian Kirk aren’t under contract beyond the upcoming season. 

    Wilson is capable of creating explosive plays at a moment’s notice. He’ll do so this fall as the Buckeyes’ X-receiver after primarily playing from the slot a year ago. 

    “I think it’s really good for my development just because it’s a little bit harder to get off press and stuff like that from the outside when you’re singled up,” Wilson told reporters. “… Just being able to build my skill set to be able to play both. Personally, I want to be someone that you can put anywhere on the field.”

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    The New England Patriots and four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore are well on their way to a contentious split. 

    Currently, Gilmore is unhappy with his contract. The 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year holds the league’s highest salary-cap hit for his position but ranks 25th in actual cash flow this fall, per Over The Cap. Gilmore held out of the team’s mandatory minicamp. 

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    “Hopefully we can find some common ground and get it situated. I just know what I bring to the table & my style of play,” the cornerback told Josina Anderson. “Right now, I’m just trying to focus on myself & make sure I’m good mentally and physically.”

    With Gilmore almost certainly gone next offseason, the Patriots must find a new running mate for fellow corner J.C. Jackson, who is also due a massive contract extension. Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner is the ideal replacement based on his capabilities as a press-man corner. According to Pro Football Focus, the two-time All-AAC performer allowed a meager 35.3 passer rating into his coverage since he entered the Bearcats lineup. 

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    Oklahoma’s Nik Bonitto is the best pure pass-rusher in college football, but he won’t be for everybody due to his size. 

    Bonitto finished first in pass-rush grade (93.6), pass-rush win rate (28 pressure) and pressure rate generated (25.7 percent) last season, per Pro Football Focus. All three numbers rank among the top five overall since the site started to record college football stats. His 8.5 sacks last season tied for eighth in the shortened campaign as well.

    But Bonitto isn’t a traditional hand-in-the-dirt edge-defender. He’s 6’3″, 234 pounds and lines up from a two-point stance. He’s not going to fit certain schemes that prefer bigger and more physical ends. 

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    The Los Angeles Chargers shouldn’t have any issue with Bonitto’s physical profile. He can fill the role played by Leonard Floyd last season when Brandon Staley served as the Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator. Staley now brings his scheme to the AFC West. Bonitto paired with Joey Bosa will terrorize opposing quarterbacks. 

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    The Philadelphia Eagles consistently invest in their defensive front, but the current group will require an overhaul after this fall. In particular, defensive end needs a facelift. 

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    Brandon Graham turns 34 before the start of the 2022 campaign, while Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan aren’t under contract beyond the upcoming season. An infusion of talent to rush opposing quarterback is necessary. 

    Purdue’s George Karlaftis will make the argument he’s the class’ best pure defensive end prospect if he returns to form after a frustrating sophomore campaign in which a leg injury slowed his progress before he tested positive for COVID-19. 

    As a freshman, Karlaftis displayed star potential. In fact, he registered more pressures in 2019 than Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux, who most already rank as the No. 1 overall prospect in the entire class. His 55 pressures are the second-most by a true freshman since the start of the 2014 campaign, per Pro Football Focus

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    With Karlaftis and Malik Willis’ earlier selection, the Eagles’ secured two premium positions in this first round. 

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    Why would the Tennessee Titans invest in a first-round wide receiver with A.J. Brown and Julio Jones already on the roster? 

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    Here’s the better question: Why wouldn’t they? 

    Considering Josh Reynolds will operate under a one-year contract this fall and Jones turns 33 next season with legitimate injury concerns, the Titans can hedge their bets by strengthening an already impressive position group. 

    Ohio State’s Chris Olave is arguably the best wide receiver in the class. Olave may not be quite as explosive in the open field as teammate Garrett Wilson, but the first-team All-Big Ten performer knows how to get open. In fact, he leads college football since the start of the 2019 campaign by creating a step or more of separation on 87 percent of his targets, per Pro Football Focus

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    Brown and Jones are bullies. Olave can be the silky smooth route-runner in the slot or lining up as the Z-receiver to complement both. 

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    Michael Thomas had a storybook start to his career by shattering records, making three Pro Bowls and leading the NFL in receptions twice during his first four seasons. 

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    Everything came apart in the wide receiver’s fifth year. 

    Saints head coach Sean Payton benched his star receiver early in the season after Thomas got into an altercation with teammate C.J. Gardner-Johnson in practice. Rumblings of Thomas being unhappy bubbled to the surface near the end of the campaign. He played through injuries in 2020, too, and waited until the offseason to have multiple surgeries, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter

    Thomas’ standing with the team is somewhat in question. The Saints need more help at wide receiver anyhow. 

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    USC’s Drake London is the personification of potential. The 6’5″, 210-pound wide receiver hasn’t quite put everything together with 72 receptions for 1,069 yards and eight touchdowns through two seasons. The former two-sport athlete has quick feet for a receiver of his size yet more than enough power to play through physical defensive backs. 

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    The situation a player enters should be a major discussion point with every prospect. Not every prospect is a good fit for every team. 

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    In Martin Emerson’s case, he should be an ideal fit in Robert Saleh’s zone-heavy scheme. At 6’2″ and 195 pounds, Emerson fits the mold of a cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks-inspired system. The underclassman excels working in zone coverage and plays the ball very well. Last season, the Mississippi State Bulldog tied for fourth with 11 defended passes. 

    The New York Jets are already young at cornerback with Bryce Hall and Bless Austin as the defense’s top options, though the organization has some financial flexibility to address the position with an available free agent. 

    New York spent the offseason under its new head coach primarily building up the offense with the additions of quarterback Zach Wilson, guard Alijah Vera-Tucker and wide receiver Corey Davis. Emerson’s and Kayvon Thibodeaux’s selections in this first-round projection will provide the necessary pieces for Saleh’s defense to excel. 

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    The Dallas Cowboys found out the hard way what happens when a team lacks quality depth along the offensive line. Lesson learned. 

    Tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins combined to miss all but two games last season. Both are now healthy as training camp looms. 

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    “They both look in great shape,” head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters. “They both have been here the whole time through phases one, two and three. They’re where they need to be.”

    Of the two, Smith is the bigger concern, because the veteran turns 31 later this year and a neck injury derailed last season. If healthy, Smith remains one of the game’s best tackles. But the Cowboys can’t bank on him being healthy through the remaining three years on his contract. 

    Miami’s Zion Nelson is only 20 years old. He immediately stepped into the Hurricanes lineup as a true freshman and didn’t do well. But he progressed as a sophomore and displayed excellent natural athleticism and movement skills necessary for a left tackle. 

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    Nelson can develop a year or two behind Smith. Or, he can take over the position a little earlier depending on how Smith’s body responds. 

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    The final piece of the puzzle fell into place when the Indianapolis Colts signed left tackle Eric Fisher to replace the retired Anthony Castonzo. 

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    Granted, Fisher continues to recover from a torn Achilles tendon he suffered in the AFC Championship Game. A source told Sirius XM’s Pat McAfee the team expects the 30-year-old veteran will be ready for the regular season, though the coaching staff won’t rush him into the lineup if he’s not. 

    Either way, Fisher signed a one-year deal. Thus, left tackle will be a concern again next offseason. 

    Washington’s Jaxson Kirkland can be the long-term solution next to all-world guard Quenton Nelson. Kirkland transitioned from guard to tackle last season and excelled as a first-team All-Pac-12 selection, though the Huskies played only four total games. Still, Kirkland looked comfortable in the role and excelled in pass protection. A full season as a blindside protector should cement his first-round status. 

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    NOTE: The Colts’ first-round selection will transfer to the Philadelphia Eagles upon quarterback Carson Wentz playing 75 percent of the snaps next season or playing 70 percent and Indianapolis making the playoffs. Until the transaction becomes officialsince the possibility exists Indianapolis can make the playoffs without Wentz hitting the agreed-upon thresholds—this selection will remain with the Colts. 

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    Von Miller is the face of the Denver Broncos organization. He’s also 32 years old, coming off an ankle injury that cost him the entirety of the 2020 campaign and isn’t signed beyond the 2021 campaign. 

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    Moving on from an all-time great is never easy. But the Broncos must prepare for the inevitability. 

    Zach Harrison is next in Ohio State’s impressive pipeline of defensive line prospects. Don’t let nine sacks in two seasons fool you. Harrison has legitimate physical tools to develop into a big-time edge-rusher. Pro Football Focus graded the former 5-star recruit as the college football’s best returning defender. 

    Larry Johnson is one of the best defensive line coaches in all of football. He tends to get the most of the talent available to him. Harrison oozes potential. A little extra polish and consistency from Harrison will cause the edge-defender’s stock to skyrocket. 

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    The Broncos, meanwhile, have an opportunity to land a long-term bookend for Bradley Chubb. 

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    The Cleveland Browns are nearing the point where significant decisions must be made regarding the team’s talent core. 

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    Quarterback Baker Mayfield, cornerback Denzel Ward, running back Nick Chubb, guard Wyatt Teller and safety Ronnie Harrison Jr.all of whom are still operating under their rookie contractsare due contract extensions in the near future. 

    Whereas, the team’s star wide receivers—Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry—hold a combined $31.6 million salary-cap charge for the 2022 campaign. Only $1.5 million of dead cap space still exists on both contracts after this season. 

    With a potential reprioritization of the roster, Cleveland can extend their core players and reinvest in the wide receiver position to play alongside other young targets in Donovan Peoples-Jones, Anthony Schwartz and Rashard Higgins (if re-signed). 

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    Arkansas’ Treylon Burks would bring a completely different dynamic to the offense as a big (6’3″, 225 pounds) target with actual deep speed. He’s the type of talent the team can build around in the passing game without having to pay their targets exorbitant contracts. 

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    The Green Bay Packers will be in a bind next offseason. 

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    Aaron Rodgers’ obvious displeasure with the organization isn’t the team’s only concern, though it remains at the forefront of every conversation. 

    Without moving on from the reigning MVP at some point within the next 12 months, the Packers don’t have the financial resources to address next year’s free agents. Even if Rodgers plays elsewhere, the franchise’s financial flexibility will remain tight, which is problematic since Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Robert Tonyan, Chandon Sullivan and Lucas Patrick are on the last year of their current deals. 

    Concessions will be made. 

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    Ironically, the team should finally invest in a first-round target to help whoever is behind center (Jordan Love, most likely). 

    Tonyan’s re-signing can be viewed as a luxury with Adams’ potential availability. In turn, the Packers have the opportunity to select the class’ top tight end prospect in Texas A&M’s Jalen Wydermyer. The two-time, second-team All-SEC honoree would allow the tight end position to remain an integral part of Green Bay’s offensive scheme. 

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    The Baltimore Ravens aren’t settled along their offensive line. 

    Ronnie Stanley will be back at left tackle after his recovery from season-ending ankle surgery. Otherwise, Bradley Bozeman will move from left guard to center. Third-round rookie Ben Cleveland is the early favorite to take over at left guard. Veteran Kevin Zeitler enters the lineup at right guard. Alejandro Villanueva will transition from left to right tackle after not re-signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

    On paper, the unit looks solid. But it’s old on the right side and the rookie isn’t guaranteed to flourish. As such, the Ravens could very well be looking for further fortifications next offseason. 

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    Texas A&M’s Kenyon Green is a joy to watch in the trenches due to his athleticism and intensity. He’ll transition from guard to tackle this fall, but some scouts aren’t open to the idea of him playing tackle at the next level. 

    “He’s a former 5-star (recruit) so that contributes to the hype, but his length and hand quickness won’t work at tackle in the league,” a scout told Draft Scout’s Matt Miller

    Experience at multiple positions isn’t a bad thing. Green can come in and compete somewhere for a starting spot in the Ravens lineup. 

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    After selecting quarterback Sam Howell earlier, the Detroit Lions must provide the quarterback with weapons. The Lions just need wide receivers in general and can’t pass on the opportunity to select one at this juncture, especially Clemson’s Justyn Ross. 

    Ross looked like a future top-10 selection before he missed the entirety of the 2020 campaign because of a bulging disc in his neck, which required surgery. He still could be a future top-10 selection depending on how he rebounds this fall. 

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    The 6’4″, 205-pound receiver accumulated 112 receptions for 1,865 yards and 17 touchdowns through his first two seasons. He’s big-bodied target capable of creating down the field and winning contested passes, though he lacks elite speed. 

    Detroit needs all the help it can get as the team prepare for the upcoming season with Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman and Quintez Cephus as its top three wide receivers. Ross has all the ability to step in from Day 1 and become the focal point of the Lions’ passing attack. 

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    In the past two draft classes, the Miami Dolphins chose four offensive linemen in the first four rounds. 

    Austin Jackson already starts at left tackle. Robert Hunt and Solomon Kindley are expected to handle the guard spots. Liam Eichenberg, whom the organization chose in this year’s second round, should eventually take over at right tackle. 

    Center is the last remaining spot to address. 

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    Veteran Justin Skura will likely take over snapping duties, though Michael Deiter provides some competition. Neither seems to be the long-term solution. Skura isn’t signed beyond this season. 

    Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum is a different level of prospect at the position. His movement skills are rare. He easily executes reach blocks, gets to the second level and makes blocks downfield. Plus, he brings a strong wrestling background, which is apparent with his strength at the point of attack and overall leverage. 

    Linderbaum in the middle will complete an impressive young front five to protect quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. 

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    A change of pace just may be necessary for the Buffalo Bills’ secondary. 

    Head coach Sean McDermott seems comfortable working with smaller and slighter cornerbacks. Tre’Davious White, Levi Wallace and Taron Johnson are all under 6’0″ and weigh less than 195 pounds. 

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    Wallace returns on a one-year deal after starting 35 games over the past three seasons. Clearly, the Bills weren’t enamored with his performance since his total contractual value won’t exceed $1.75 million this fall. 

    Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. hits both of the physical thresholds as a 6’0″, 195-pound prospect. He’s physical at the line of scrimmage and continually battles through the catch-point. According to Pro Football Focus, the former 5-star recruit allowed the lowest passer rating when targeted 20 or more yards downfield and graded better than any returning cornerback on first down

    More importantly, Booth locates the football with excellent body control to defend passes. 

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    Wallace can move on next offseason with Booth taking over as White’s new running mate. 

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    What do you get the team that already has everything? 

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    In all seriousness, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can’t keep the entire band together again next offseason after doing so this year. 

    Once again, the roster is loaded with pending free agents from Chris Godwin to Jason Pierre-Paul to Ryan Jensen to Rob Gronkowski. Both running backsLeonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II—aren’t under contract after this year, either. 

    At this late juncture, running back can be viewed as a value since the Buccaneers have their choice of ball-carriers. 

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    Iowa State’s Breece Hall led major college football last season with 279 carries for 1,572 yards. He finished second with 21 rushing touchdowns. Hall is more than a workhorse, though. Yes, he works through contact. At the same time, he presents breakaway potential. 

    Fournette became a critical component to Tampa Bay’s playoff run. The team can invest in Hall to be that player while letting Fournette and Jones leave in free agency. 

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    The Kansas City Chiefs already had questions regarding their pass rush prior to news of Frank Clark’s pending legal issues. 

    According to the Kansas City Star‘s Herbie Teope, Clark faces one felony account of possession of an assault weapon after a June 20 arrest in Los Angeles. 

    Clark’s status for the 2021 campaign is now inconsequential. The Chiefs must operate as if he won’t be available. 

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    With that situation still under investigation, Kansas City heads into next offseason without an established edge-rusher on the roster. Mike Danna, Taco Charlton and Tim Ward combined to make 5.5 sacks last season. 

    Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson is a prototypical defensive end. A broken leg cut last season short for the 6’6″, 269-pound defender. But Hutchinson is a true three-down lineman with the power to consistently hold the point of attack and work through tackles in their pass set. 

    The Chiefs must wait to solve their edge problems, yet they should have the opportunity to do so with Hutchinson being a much-needed option.

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