Over the past five years, we have seen the NFL Draft play a more significant role in a team’s immediate success than any other time in league history. Just look to the young trio of Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, and Ja’Marr Chase, who will dominate the league for years to come. Now, more than ever, specific teams will have to win the 2022 NFL Draft if they hope to leave a mark on the league this decade.
The Patriots in 2022 and the Colts in 2021 are perfect examples of teams ready to exceed expectations by drafting the ideal players. Although neither advanced past the first round of the playoffs in the first season following the draft, they set winning foundations. If the Patriots didn’t select Mac Jones and the Colts went a different direction than Michael Pittman or Jonathan Taylor, they would likely be stuck in neutral for years to come.
So which teams are in similar situations where they could see significant progress or failure pending the results of the 2022 NFL Draft?
Run It Back for the 2022 NFL Draft
The Colts have done it again: They found their quarterback who will deliver them to the Promised Land. Matt Ryan joins a Colts team threatening to win it all. Due to the 2020 draft, they have all the tools but haven’t been able to put it together at the right times. The quarterbacks have faltered down the stretch and are at risk of wasting the great drafts they’ve had. However, was their incompetence solely on the quarterbacks?
The easy answer is yes, but they could have made Carson Wentz and Philip Rivers’ jobs much more manageable. Aside from Pittman, the two leading receivers were running backs Jonathan Taylor and Nyhiem Hines in 2021. In 2020, Hines led the team in receptions while only T.Y. Hilton had over 700 yards. Having a competitive team with few receiving options will only get you so far in this offensive-driven league.
What Are the Colts Draft Needs?
They need receivers on receivers and maybe a tight end. They needed help on the defensive line, but they traded Rock Ya-Sin to add Yannick Ngakoue. The move resulted in a hole at corner, but recently made a monumental signing of Stephon Gilmore and positioned themselves to make a massive leap. Essentially, the Colts have one of the most solid rosters in the NFL. So why do they need to nail the 2022 NFL Draft if they don't have many holes to fill?
The time is ticking on Ryan. The soon-to-be 37-year-old quarterback showed some signs of decline in 2021. Although one could blame the supporting cast in Atlanta, the Colts need to win sooner, rather than later. Although they will be running the ball more often than not, they need to give Matt Ryan some weapons, especially downfield. Ryan had always had success passing deep, even when teams knew where he was going. However, the ability to work off the play action with an explosive rushing attack unlocks a whole different level for the star quarterback. Now he just needs the weapons.
Where Do They Go?
As eluded to, the Colts need speed. Without a first-round pick, elite-level talents won’t be an option, so multiple receivers with speed should be the direction they go. However, if a player like George Pickens falls to them, he should also be an option.
If only they didn’t trade for Wentz, they might be looking at a player like Jameson Williams or Chris Olave.
With Quinton Nelson on a contract year, guard also must be considered if the receivers are off the board.
The way the Colts win the 2022 NFL Draft is by getting offensive weapons who are ready to play now.
The Perfect Picks
Round 2 Pick 42: Sky Moore, Wide Receiver—Western Michigan
Won’t likely happen, so Jahan Dotson, George Pickens, and Christian Watson are also receiving options.
Round 3, Pick 73: Dylan Parham, Guard—Memphis
Any one of these receivers: John Metchie/Calvin Austin/Alec Pierce
The Fate of Kyler Murray Lies in the 2022 NFL Draft
The Cardinals are in a sticky situation. Kyle Murray has voiced his desires with the franchise, and although they acquired DeAndre Hopkins and Zach Ertz, nothing else has gone their way. Murray's favorite target from 2022, Christian Kirk, signed a mega-deal with the Jaguars, running back Chase Edmonds left for the Dolphins, and the other draft picks on offense haven't yet panned out.
Champ Chains Have Arrived!
After building what they thought to be a super team in 2022, there are now 33 contracts set to expire after the season, with 14 of them starters. After losing five starters in this year’s free agency, the Cardinals are looking like a team going in the wrong direction—unless they nail the 2022 NFL Draft.
What are the Cardinals Draft Needs?
Where to start? At first glance, the Cardinals look to be in pretty good shape. They might be able to use an upgrade at guard, a running back, edge rusher, and they absolutely need a receiver. Seeing they have eight picks, one would think they could all be addressed to some level. However, five of their eight picks are in rounds six and seven. The best-case scenario is their top three picks hit, and they find some special teams and depth pieces in with those late-round picks. Realistically, they might only be able to find one starter.
The bottom falls out when you realize what will happen to the Cardinals in 2023. In addition, they have no offensive linemen signed beyond 2022, and they also lose the rest of their edge rushers/defensive linemen. Currently, they have the oldest roster by nearly a year—not to mention 17 players who will be 30 years or older before the 2023 season ends. So no wonder Murray seems a little uneasy in Arizona.
Where Do They Go?
The Cardinals should draft whatever makes Murray happy. Screw the best player available. Instead, go draft receivers and offensive linemen, hoping at least one will hit. Of course they should try to trade back and acquire more picks, but not at the cost of losing a top-tier talent. The Cardinals need more playmakers outside of Murray, and starting with a receiver in the first round will at least show him they care.
The Cardinals win this draft by making Murray happy enough to return to the team on a long-term deal.
The Perfect Picks
Round 1, Pick 23: Any one of the top four receivers: Garrett Wilson/Treylon Burks/Drake London/Jameson Williams
Round 2, Pick 55: Abraham Lucas, Tackle—Washington State
Round 3, Pick 87: Donovan West, Center—Arizona State
Time is Running Out
It feels like yesterday when Robert Saleh took over as head coach of the Jets. It wasn’t Urban Meyer level disastrous, but his first season wasn’t pretty. They ranked 28th in offensive points and 26th in yards while dead last in both categories on defense. The more concerning issue was the lack of development from rookie quarterback Zach Wilson.
Saleh and Wilson are likely tied to each other for the remainder of their time with the Jets. If one does well, it's likely due to the other one also succeeding. So getting Wilson in the best possible spots to grow is optimal. The progression starts with not allowing the games to get out of hand early and still being able to run the ball.
What Are the Jets Draft Needs?
Zach Wilson only threw one interception while the Jets were winning and two while the game was tied. The other eight interceptions were when the team was losing, which was most of the time anyway. The Jets' offensive system works best when they can establish the run and work off the play action. However, when you’re losing games, it’s tough to continue to run the ball.
The defensive side of the ball is a wreck. After spending the majority of their early draft capital on offense over the past two seasons, it’s time to get their defense in order. Couldn’t imagine Saleh letting that fall by the waste side again.
Where Do They Go?
The most important position on defense should be sitting there for their first pick in an edge rusher. Having a rusher who can get pressure on the quarterback is critical. The Jets ranked 27th in pressure rate, although they blitzed on a whopping 28.4-percent of the snaps. Unfortunately, the blitz rate put pressure on the defensive backs, leading to multiple blown coverages.
If the Jets repeat their philosophy, they need some elite-level corners who can stay with the receivers. Look for the defense to be addressed with their first two picks. After that, just best player available.
With five picks in the top 70 and four in the top 40, the Jets are in an excellent position to improve their roster drastically. The trick is, they still have to make the correct picks.
For the Jets to win the 2022 NFL Draft, they have to play the board and take the right players.
The Perfect Picks
Round 1, Pick 4: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge Rusher—Oregon
Round 1, Pick 10: Derek Stingley Jr., Cornerback—LSU
Round 2, Pick 35: Treylon Burks, Wide Receiver—Arkansas
Round 2, Pick 38: Boye Mafe, Edge Rusher—Minnesota
Round 3, Pick 69: Brian Asamoah, Linebacker—Oklahoma
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