Safety Tyrann Mathieu wants to re-sign with the Chiefs, but four of the team's top six defensive backs in terms of snaps played are currently unsigned for 2022. The brother of Ravens running back Justice Hill and a former five-star recruit out of Oklahoma, Hill will test off the charts next month in Indy and has the versatility to be utilized in a variety of alignments.
This would be a coup for the Chiefs, who still could use a third wheel in the passing game. Burks might not run a speedy 40-yard dash, which could hurt his standing, but he offers great versatility and yet won't be expected to catch 75 passes as a rookie. Burks' size, toughness and tracking ability could be lethal in this offense.
Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are still a dominant pair of pass-catchers, but the Chiefs shouldn't pass up the chance to give Patrick Mahomes yet another dangerous weapon. London's combination of size, length, athleticism and physicality would bring another dimension to an already explosive offense.
Kansas City could fixate on defense, considering it allowed 5.9 yards per play in 2021 (30th). The pass-rush needs attention, and Penn State defensive end Arnold Ebiketie would fit the bill there. Defensive backs Tyrann Mathieu and Charvarius Ward are currently without a contract, so UTSA cornerback Tariq Woolen might be in play. And there will be more turnover on the offensive line, too, even if the Chiefs re-sign Orlando Brown Jr.
So a receiver? The Chiefs will still have Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman and Travis Kelce next year, but quarterback Patrick Mahomes thrives on distributing the football. Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson are headed toward free agency. Dotson is lightning quick in and out of his breaks, and despite a 5-foot-11 frame, he can pluck on the run and produce after the catch. He'd be a great possession receiver for Mahomes after catching 91 passes in 2021, including at least five in 11 of 12 games. Dotson would be the sixth receiver here, and it'd be the third straight class of at least five first-rounders. That has never been done.
As long as Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense are lighting up the scoreboard, Kansas City is going to want to keep adding playmaking defenders. Tall, long and fast, Elam possesses the traits preferred in Kansas City's press-heavy scheme, and he's battle-tested, projecting as an immediate contributor.
Given how often the ball is -- and likely will remain -- in the air in the AFC West, you can never have enough good corners. And the Chiefs may be in desperate need of one if Charvarius Ward and/or Mike Hughes sign elsewhere this offseason.
With Melvin Ingram, Jarran Reed, Alex Okafor, and Derrick Nnadi all headed to free agency this spring, the Chiefs need reinforcements on the defensive line. Leal does just that by offering positional versatility to play on the edge or rush from the inside depending on the look of Kansas City's defense.
There is a long list of pending free agents in Kansas City but none is bigger than safety Tyrann Mathieu. If the leader of the defense leaves for a bigger payday, the Chiefs are in desperate need of a new safety. In a heavy three-safety defense, they are with or without Mathieu. Daxton Hill's athleticism and range should be attractive to those fans tired of seeing Daniel Sorensen in coverage.
If the Chiefs are able to re-sign safety Tyrann Mathieu, they could look to replace potential free-agent losses Charvarius Ward and Mike Hughes with a competitive, physical corner like Elam, whose uncle, Matt, was picked 32nd overall by the Ravens in 2013.
Walker is still a project as a pass-rusher, but he can come in and be a plus run defender from the rip. He has a similar physical profile to someone like Rashan Gary coming out, and he is similarly unpolished.
Will Aaron Rodgers be under center for the Packers in 2022? Will Davante Adams and/or Marquez Valdes-Scantling be back? The answers to those questions could change the direction of this pick in future iterations of my mock, but for now, the front office gets some help for Kenny Clark. Like several other key contributors to Georgia's loaded defense, Wyatt's stats won't wow anyone. That said, he has elite quickness and The Athletic's Bruce Feldman labeled Wyatt as the team's "biggest Freak." After generating plenty of buzz at the Senior Bowl, Wyatt should continue that positive momentum with elite testing numbers at the combine.
The Packers always seem to go just a bit off-radar with their first-round selections. Yet taking Hall here wouldn't necessarily be a reach, as he's steadily raised his stock over the past year and could be a perfect post for their odd front.
If Davante Adams heads elsewhere in free agency, the Packers will need a new No. 1 target, regardless of who is throwing the passes. Williams would be long gone if not for a torn ACL in the national title game, but once he's back to full strength, he should prove to be a huge steal this late.
This is a pure value pick for Green Bay. The first look was to wide receiver, with Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling perhaps signing elsewhere this March. Five are already off the board, leaving Penn State's Jahan Dotson as the top remaining. Alabama's Jameson Williams could be a really fun selection that would excite Aaron Rodgers if the QB stays in Green Bay, but he just went off the board. And with the Packers taking Amari Rodgers last April to play out of the slot, Dotson might not make much sense. Even if Adams doesn't return, the free-agent receiver class is high end, and I think the Packers could address the position there.
So turning our attention to defense, how about Wyatt, a Senior Bowl standout? He has tons of upper-body strength and is always moving his feet. The Packers allowed 4.7 yards per carry last season (30th in the NFL), and opponents had the seventh-highest QBR (51.5). Wyatt would help in both areas and give Kenny Clark a running mate in the middle of the defense. Also: This makes it four Georgia defenders in Round 1. Miami in 2004 and Florida State in 2006 are the only other schools to have that many on the defensive side of the ball.
For years, Packers fans (not to mention their quarterback) have clamored for Green Bay to add a dynamic receiver to pair with star Davante Adams. With Adams now set for free agency, the Packers face the possibility of having to replace him, rather than complementing the five-time Pro Bowler.
The Pack are another team potentially in major flux, the focus currently centered on the futures of QB Aaron Rodgers and WR Davante Adams, whose contract is expiring. TE Robert Tonyan and WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling are also pending free agents, so pretty likely Rodgers (or his replacement) will need reinforcements in the passing game. McBride might be that guy, the 2021 All-American and Mackey Award winner as college football's top tight end in 2021 and an exceptional possession receiver (91 catches for 1,125 yards last season) who's also the increasingly rare dual-threat tight end able to serve as an effective blocker.
De'Vondre Campbell was a nice surprise for the Packers in 2021 but is slated to be a free agent. The team needs depth and talent at the linebacker spot whether they re-sign Campbell or not. Dean can be a spark plug for the Green Bay defense as a player who flies around in coverage and slips through gaps as a blitzer.
Wide receiver would be a great pick for the Packers, but we've seen that show before. Instead, look for the Green Bay Packers to continue building their defense through the early rounds of the draft. Boye Mafe had a great Senior Bowl and showed the speed and power to place himself into the first round.
With Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith looming as potential cap casualties, the Packers might need a powerful edge player to complement Rashan Gary. Johnson fits that bill. Trading up for him will cost Green Bay two fourth-round picks (the team could pick up a compensatory fourth-rounder for the loss of Corey Linsley).
Burks can be a better version of Allen Lazard as the Packers' No. 2 wide receiver. He's big enough to get involved as a blocker, which Matt LaFleur loves, and he has a speed element to his game that the Packers may miss if Marquez Valdes-Scantling walks in free agency.
The Browns cut Odell Beckham Jr. midseason, Rashard Higgins will be a free agent next month and Jarvis Landry may be a salary-cap casualty. If Landry is released, it would save the Browns over $15 million toward the cap. This year's draft class may lack an elite top-five talent like Ja'Marr Chase, but it's still one of the stronger position groups in the draft, and the Browns could have their choice at a position of need. My top-ranked receiver in this class, Wilson has outstanding body control and run-after-catch ability.
There's a debate about whether the Browns' analytics-driven front office should consider taking a receiver here and doing what it takes to give Baker Mayfield every chance to succeed. But there's also a need for more pass-rush help alongside Myles Garrett. Johnson was the best player we saw at the Senior Bowl and could give the Browns' front some more bite.
After losing Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns simply don't have a big-play threat at receiver who can stretch the field and scare opposing defenses. Burks has an impressive blend of size, athleticism and physicality, which makes him the most complete pass-catcher in this draft, and the perfect fit here.
Whether or not Baker Mayfield is still the Browns' plan at quarterback, the offense is begging for some pass-catchers. Donovan Peoples-Jones led the team with just 597 receiving yards in 2021. Jarvis Landry is turning 30 next season and has one year left on his deal. Tight end David Njoku and receiver Rashard Higgins are free agents. But Wilson would immediately give Mayfield a playmaker. His best trait is body control, as he can adjust to passes in the air, but he is also a sudden route runner with fantastic speed and acceleration.
This one makes too much sense to not happen, should the draft play out like this. The Browns feature one of the most dominant running games in the NFL. A big, sure-handed bully of a receiver such as London to feast off of play-action could be all that Cleveland is missing on offense.
After releasing Odell Beckham Jr. midway through the 2021 season, the Browns need to restock the shelves at the receiver position. Wilson is a big-play creator who can operate at all three levels of the field and provide a much-needed boost to a receiver corps that still has question marks, especially with Jarvis Landry slated to hit free agency next offseason.
The first wide receiver comes off the board and gives Cleveland--and more importantly Baker Mayfield--a big (6'3", 225 lbs) target that has run-after-catch ability. Burks' tape in 2021 was elite and has pushed him to the top of wide receiver boards around the league.
The Browns don't just need a receiver, they need a receiver with speed. They wanted Anthony Schwartz to be that, but he's still exceedingly raw as a true receiver. Williams looked a lot more polished after transferring from Ohio State to Alabama, where he went for 1,561 yards and 15 scores.
Before the 2021 season, the Jaguars and Bengals had similar longshot odds to win Super Bowl LVI. Unlike the Jaguars, the Bengals vastly exceeded all expectations. Counting the playoffs, Joe Burrow was sacked a combined 70 times in 20 games. Yes, Chase was the right decision in the Chase vs. Penei Sewell debate, but improving Burrow's protection has to be the team's top priority this offseason. Penning would immediately become an upgrade over right tackle Isaiah Prince, who graded out as PFF's 82nd of 83 qualified offensive tackles in '21. I'd expect the Bengals to devote multiple draft picks to address their offensive line woes.
Even if the Bengals add OL help in free agency, drafting a potential starter at guard or center wouldn't be a bad idea at all. Johnson quietly had a terrific Senior Bowl and looked natural snapping for the first time in a live, competitive setting. He could replace Trey Hopkins or slide right in at guard in 2022.
The Bengals made it all the way to the Super Bowl despite having a weak offensive line, and it remains their top priority heading into this offseason. This scenario gives them the perfect opportunity to address their need at right guard with a polished, physical blocker in Johnson, who would be an immediate upgrade.
Do we even need to explain this one? Cincinnati allowed 55 sacks in 2021 (third most), and then it took 19 more across four playoff games. Its 48.8% pass block win rate was 30th in the NFL. The season ultimately ended on a pressure, as Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald got to quarterback Joe Burrow on the Bengals' final offensive play of the Super Bowl. Burrow is one of the best young passers in the game, and Cincinnati must, must, must clean up the offensive line to keep him healthy and let him operate the offense with more ease. Raimann has a powerful upper body and shuts down pass-rushers when he gets his hands inside.
One of the few blights in an otherwise brilliant season was the play up front in Cincinnati, where Joe Burrow continued to get pummeled.
Cross has the light feet, active hands and length that scouts prioritize at left tackle but isn't as forceful in the running game. He could slip further down draft boards than his media hype suggests, as the track record of blockers out of Mike Leach's offense is discouraging.
When you might have the league's next great quarterback (Joe Burrow) on your roster, but he's sacked a league-high 51 times in the regular season -- and a record-tying nine more in one playoff game ... and a record-tying seven more in the Super Bowl defeat to the Rams -- it's obvious what needs to be done. Green played every O-line position but center for the Aggies in 2021 but took most of his college snaps at left guard. Even if Cincinnati adds blockers in free agency, a near overhaul might be required.
If the Bengals have one priority this offseason, it's to get better protection for Joe Burrow. Penning brings length, athleticism, and a nasty demeanor to the Cincinnati line. Drop him in at right tackle and let Burrow go to work.
You watched the Los Angeles Rams sack Joe Burrow seven times to win the Super Bowl; and the Bengals watched it too. Expect early resources to be spent upgrading the offensive line. With the return of 2021 second-rounder Jackson Carman and adding Zion Johnson, the interior in Cincinnati could be a stretch in no time.
Larry Ogunjobi and B.J. Hill are both scheduled to hit free agency. I couldn't help but notice Wyatt's power and explosiveness from the three-technique spot during Senior Bowl week, as well as his major contributions for Georgia's prospect-laden defense.
The dream scenario. The Bengals badly need offensive line help that can step in right away. The good news is that Green has shown he can start anywhere, as he logged reps at every position except center this season.
Given Joe Douglas's preference to build through the trenches, it's very possible Ikem Ekwonu will make it three consecutive Jets' drafts with a first-round offensive lineman. For now, though, let's operate under the premise the Jets will start George Fant at left tackle, shift Mekhi Becton to right tackle and "throw a lot of money" at a free-agent guard, as predicted last month by SNY's Ralph Vacchiano.
A rangy playmaker with elite size (6' 4" and 219 pounds), Hamilton has the versatility to be used as a defensive chess piece and the coverage ability to erase top pass-catching tight ends. Hamilton had eight interceptions over three seasons in South Bend. Meanwhile, only the Raiders (six) picked off fewer passes than the Jets (seven) last season.
Later in this mock, you'll see four Georgia defenders, but is it possible that a former Bulldog will be selected before any of them? In his lone season after transferring from Georgia, Johnson led the ACC in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (17.5) and was named the conference's 2021 Defensive Player of the Year. After his stellar week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Johnson may have put himself in the top-10 mix come April.
Part of us thinks GM Joe Douglas wouldn't draft a safety this high. But another part thinks they can use all the dynamic playmakers possible. And this position needs an overhaul, with Marcus Maye and Lamarcus Joyner both unrestricted free agents coming off significant injuries. They don't have anyone like Hamilton on the roster, and he could be special in Robert Saleh's defense.
We're not quite as high on Ojabo right now as others might be, but the Jets almost certainly will add multiple rushers this offseason. With time and development, Ojabo could be a special talent off the edge. The Jets might also consider OL or WR help here, depending on how free agency goes.
Landing Thibodeaux at this spot might have seemed impossible a few months ago, but it wouldn't be surprising at this point. If it happens, the Jets would get a huge steal at a position of need, landing an explosive edge defender with limitless potential.
After getting an elite pass rusher with their first pick, the Jets add another big-play machine for the secondary here. It might surprise some to see Gardner as the first corner off the board, but his rare combination of size, length and ball skills makes him more than worthy.
Ekwonu's size makes him tough to get around, he plays with the power to bury defenders, and he's a mauler in the run game. In fact, some people around the NFL even like him more than Evan Neal. Ekwonu would help New York protect Zach Wilson in the passing game and spring Michael Carter in the running game. The Jets allowed 53 sacks in 2021 (fourth most), but New York's offensive line issues aren't as massive as they seem. I think the team is one impact player away there. Morgan Moses played well last season, but he's a free agent due for a pay bump. Mekhi Becton, the Jets' 2020 first-rounder, has struggled to stay healthy but still has a ton of upside.
Given some unknowns here, Ekwonu's versatility matches what the Jets need. Coach Robert Saleh would have options with Ekwonu in the fold, including but not limited to bumping the rookie inside or sliding Becton to the right side. Alternatively, the Jets could consider Kayvon Thibodeaux to address the edge rush after generating just 33 sacks last year (tied for 28th).
The Jets went offense with their first four picks in 2021, and we just handed them an offensive tackle (Ikem Ekwonu) at No. 4. So yeah, this is defense all the way, especially with safety Marcus Maye facing free agency. The Jets could certainly get by with Bryce Hall and Brandin Echols at corner, but Stingley could be the steal of the draft if things go this way. The big question is whether the LSU product can return to form and produce as he did in his 2019 freshman year, when he had six interceptions. A left foot injury held him out of all but three games in 2021, but if he realizes his potential, Stingley would certainly improve a defense that gave up 8.0 yards per pass attempt and hauled in just seven interceptions in 2021.
Branded a defensive guru, Jets coach Robert Saleh has to be upset that his team surrendered four times as many touchdown passes as it intercepted, the worst ratio in the league. The long-armed, silky smooth "Sauce" Gardner has the frame, name and game built for Broadway.
After using their two first-round picks on offense last year (QB Zach Wilson, OG Alijah Vera-Tucker), the Jets should focus on the other side of the ball in this defensive-loaded draft. Walker's flashes were star-bright for the Bulldogs, but he wasn't the consistent dominator that his size and athleticism suggest.
This selection in the top 10 is certainly a roll of the dice, but Saleh was brought in to develop talents like Walker. If he hits, the UGA and Senior Bowl standout could be the star off the edge to turn a good linebacker corps into the AFC East's best.
He arguably has a higher ceiling than Hutchinson but is currently a more unrefined product. In 30 games with the Ducks, the 6-5, 258-pounder had 19 sacks and 35½ tackles for loss. His burst and tools would be a boon to a Jets defense that's long lacked an elite pass rusher and can only hope veteran DE Carl Lawson (Achilles) will be ready to go in 2022.
New York, owner of the NFL's worst defense in 2021 (both in terms of points and yards allowed), would be wise to invest both of its top-10 picks on that side of the ball – and Stingley will almost certainly be under consideration at No. 4, too – and not give in to any temptation to get QB Zach Wilson more toys. (GM Joe Douglas has two second-round picks, so Wilson will get help eventually.) Stingley's talents as a cover man are undeniable and were apparent for the 2019 national champions, for whom he had six interceptions, earning All-American honors for his efforts. But foot surgery limited him to three games in 2021. Still, it would be hard for the Jets to bypass this kind of talent, especially if Stingley is still there at No. 10 and given the team's weakness at the position.
The Jets's pass defense finished in the bottom three in passing yards (259 per game), yards per attempt (8.4), passer rating allowed (103.2), and interceptions (seven) last season. With Hutchinson and Thibodeaux off the board, Stingley makes a lot of sense. Opposite Bryce Hall, Stingley would be a massive boost to a defense that needs some playmakers.
After picking up an extra few picks in a trade back with the Steelers, the Jets still get one of the top receivers in this class. London is a perfect complement to Corey Davis and Elijah Moore; he's a big-play X receiver who can give Zach Wilson a jump ball specialist and red-zone threat. The Jets need as many playmakers as they can get around Wilson, and London has the skill set to make an immediate impact.
Yes, there will be talk about poor work ethic and a lack of competitiveness, but turn on the tape and Thibodeaux was a dominant force for three seasons at Oregon. If he throttled down on a subpar Ducks team to protect his future in the NFL, it's hard to blame him or claim that he lacks the competitive juices to win the pros. The Jets should be thrilled that he's available here.
6'3" cornerbacks with sweet feet are hard to come by. That's why the Jets pull the trigger on Gardner even if head coach Robert Saleh's defenses have in the past featured non-premium picks at the position. In Gardner--who didn't allow a touchdown in college--Saleh just might see a young Richard Sherman.
Hamilton missed the final six games of last season due to a knee injury, but that shouldn't be an issue as long as his medical exams check out. The former Irish star's height, agility and ball skills remind me of the Bengals' Jessie Bates.
London's ankle injury won't dissuade teams from picking him early in the draft. Last year's second-round pick, Eljiah Moore, could do a lot of damage in the slot with the tall, agile London and a healthy Corey Davis on the outside for the Jets.
London is quite easily the one receiver from this draft class who I'd want to pair with a young quarterback. Even when he's not open, London is open. He hauled in an NCAA-high 19 contested catches in only eight games last season.
Drafting early-round wide receivers has been more miss than hit for Bill Belichick, but London is a top-15 talent who should elevate to the WR1 role early in his career for the Patriots. A former USC basketball player, the 6' 5" wideout uses his large frame and wide catch radius to dominate at the catch point.
Getting help for Mac Jones would be nice. But the image that will be burned into Bill Belichick's brain all offseason was the scoreboard from the playoff loss to the Bills and the helplessness the Patriots felt defending Josh Allen. Some teams might not know how to best unlock the 275-pound Walker's unusual skill set, but we believe he's an ideal fit in New England.
If anyone knows the value of a dominant nose tackle, it's Bill Belichick, who watched Vince Wilfork set the tone for his best units throughout the Patriots' dynasty. Davis has the size, athleticism and power to make a similar impact for the Pats in this generation.
The Patriots were second in passing yards allowed per game (187.1), tied for second in yards allowed per pass attempt (6.4) and second in interceptions (23). And they were one of three teams to keep opponents under 60% completion percentage. But the back seven could lose several starters to free agency, including cornerback J.C. Jackson, safety Devin McCourty and linebacker D'onta Hightower. It could also use an influx of speed in that area, of which Gordon has a ton. His versatility and ability to jump routes would also be welcome on one of the league's top defenses -- and he'd make the potential loss of Jackson a little easier to handle.
Linebacker and safety are two other areas to watch, and I'd watch how the receiver class is playing out as New England nears its pick. Ohio State's Chris Olave would give quarterback Mac Jones a smooth route runner with great separating speed. Alternatively, Alabama's Jameson Williams will likely miss some time but could end up the top receiver in the class. Bill Belichick would find ways to get the ball into his hands.
Throughout much of the Bill Belichick era, the Patriots have boasted one of the NFL's best linebacker corps. His group is facing a potentially significant transition in 2022, however, with longtime standouts Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins among a handful of free agents at the position.
Lloyd lacks the bulk of most of the previous New England linebackers, but his instincts and playmaking ability are definitely befitting the Patriot Way.
No reason to waste (more) time before remedying 2019's first-round mistake with WR N'Keal Harry. Williams might be a top-10 pick had he not torn an ACL in the national championship loss to Georgia. He's a burner who was remarkably productive in 2021, averaging 100 receiving yards and a TD catch per game. The Ohio State transfer didn't play with Pats QB Mac Jones in Tuscaloosa, but -- as soon as he's healthy -- he has the goods to develop into the dominant target this team has long lacked.
* It's unclear if the 21/22 picks were the Raiders trading up a spot or if it was an inadvertent error in pick order.
The Patriots haven't exactly had a ton of success in drafting first-round receivers, but they still need to upgrade that position badly. Olave is a polished, highly productive pass catcher who can provide a field-stretching presence and the ability to get separation in high-leverage situations. He's a game-ready playmaker who'd provide a boost for Mac Jones.
It's impossible to project what the Patriots will do this far out from the Draft, but it is easy to connect the dots of how slow they looked on defense against the Bills with this upcoming draft class' strength on defense. Karlaftis looked like JJ Watt to start the ‘21 season before cooling off, but he has the player profile to fit the Patriots' defense to a T.
Pickens has an elite skill set as an outside playmaker and proved his work ethic coming back from a torn ACL in the spring to be a factor in the late stages of the Bulldogs' title run. He's worth the investment at this point of the first round.
Chenal isn't for everyone's scheme, but any of Belichick's disciples will love the skill set he brings to the table. The Wisconsin product has the block-beating ability and football IQ to seamlessly replace Dont'a Hightower. He recorded the highest run-defense grade and second-highest pass-rushing grade among linebackers in college football last year.
Offseason in three or fewer words: Clarify quarterback situation
It's been more than a year since he requested a trade, and quarterback Deshaun Watson is still on the Texans' roster. He was a healthy scratch in all 17 games during the 2021 season after facing 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault and inappropriate behavior, so the biggest question now is who will start at quarterback in 2022. Houston could trade Watson this offseason, but interested teams could be waiting for clarity on the lawsuits and any potential criminal charges. After a strong finish to the season, it looks like rookie third-round pick Davis Mills showed enough improvement to be considered the starter going into next season. Houston will need to sign a backup quarterback and could choose a veteran to compete with Mills for the starting spot. -- Sarah Barshop
Congrats to Lovie Smith for getting another big chair in the NFL. But be careful what you wish for; this Texans job is a tough one, maybe the most challenging in football. Houston needs close to a total overhaul of its roster, and the Deshaun Watson situation has left the organization in a holding pattern for over a year. Trading Watson could fetch a massive bounty, but Watson's ongoing legal limbo -- he's been accused of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior in 22 active lawsuits -- means Houston has little choice but to wait out a situation with no clear timeline for resolution.
As raw a deal as it seemed like deposed coach David Culley got, maybe Lovie Smith is the better choice to lead Houston, who knows? Also, who knows when GM Nick Caserio is going to resolve the Deshaun Watson situation that continues to be an albatross around the neck of this organization?
The Texans overachieved to win four games, a credit to former coach David Culley and rookie quarterback Davis Mills, who had to replace Tyrod Taylor early in the season. Culley didn't deserve to be fired after one year, and new coach Lovie Smith faces a tough rebuild. Look for massive roster turnover once again, and for Houston to (finally) move on from quarterback Deshaun Watson as soon as it can find a trade partner.
Offseason in three or fewer words: Improve problem areas
There will be no dramatic changes for the Bills this offseason, with much of the roster set to return and the team hiring from within to replace offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who accepted a head-coach gig with the Giants. Instead, the focus needs to be on adding to key areas like cornerback and getting more speed at receiver. Continuing to support quarterback Josh Allen in a variety of ways is important, while getting creative with some cap moves to add to the roster. -- Alaina Getzenberg
The sting of a heartbreaking defeat to the Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Playoffs lives on in Western New York, but the future remains bright for the AFC East champions. Josh Allen will return in September as a superstar quarterback operating at the height of his powers, and the Bills hope promoting from within will help mitigate the loss of offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who headed south to take a big chair with the Giants. Continuing to add pieces around Allen would be wise, though the Bills will have to get creative, with less than $5 million in projected available cap space.
The Bills suffered a devastating overtime loss to the Chiefs in the divisional round of the playoffs, and we can't help but wonder what might have been had the Bills won that coin flip. Would they have won the AFC title? Would they have beaten the Rams in the Super Bowl? In the weeks since, the Bills have promoted quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey to offensive coordinator to replace Brian Daboll, who left to become Giants head coach. But the most important piece, quarterback Josh Allen, remains in place as the Bills look for a Super Bowl run next season.
Karlaftis often faced double or even triple teams at Purdue, but he wins with power, heavy hands, a quick first step and a relentless motor. At 275 pounds, the true junior has inside-outside versatility. Justin Houston will be a free agent next month.
With Johnson off the board, Penning absolutely could be in play here -- even with Charles Cross still on the board. Penning's nasty demeanor could make him a perfect Ravens tackle, and he should put on a show at the combine for his size.
If this offense is going to operate at full speed, the offensive line needs to be reloaded. Offensive tackle may be the bigger need, but the better value in this scenario is along the interior, where Linderbaum is the rare center prospect worthy of top-15 consideration.
The Ravens went 8-9, but they were ravaged by injuries and are set up for a bounce-back year. A key to getting back on track will be protecting Lamar Jackson -- who missed five games in 2021 -- and opening lanes for J.K. Dobbins, who will return from a torn ACL. Tackle is the big question mark on the offensive line, with Ronnie Stanley missing 26 regular-season games over the past two years and Alejandro Villanueva turning 34 in September. Maybe Northern Iowa's Trevor Penning is the pick?
I instead opted for Linderbaum, who is one of the best 15 players in the class. Current Ravens center Bradley Bozeman is a free agent, and Linderbaum anchors well and is effective as a combo blocker at the second level. He'd help a Baltimore front that allowed 57 sacks last season (second most).
The Ravens are always one of the more fascinating clubs on draft day, sprinkling in surprises while filling key areas of concern. On paper, the Ravens appear well stocked along the offensive line, with multiple early draft picks and key free agents invested there, including with left tackle Ronnie Stanley and right tackle Alejandro Villanueva.
Stanley's struggles with injuries, however, could open the door for a surprise early selection of a tackle, and there is no denying that Penning plays with the kind of ferocity that GM Eric DeCosta and John Harbaugh love up front. Penning distanced himself from the other senior tackles in this class with a commanding performance at the Senior Bowl, likely cementing a top-15 pick.
A scheme-diverse 6-5, 275-pounder, Walker can do it all from applying pressure to dropping into coverage if needed. He only had 9½ sacks in three seasons with the Dawgs, but the ability is there -- and so is the need for a 25th-ranked defense about to lose veterans such as Calais Campbell and Justin Houston from its front.
With both Justin Houston and Calais Campbell headed for free agency, the Ravens need to bolster their edge rusher group. Walker can slide in and contribute right away, and along with Odafe Oweh, Tyus Bowser, and Justin Madubuike, would add to the team's new young nucleus up front.
Ronnie Stanley is great when active, but he's missed the most of the last two seasons and is a health risk currently. Even if he's back, the Ravens' offensive line needs upgrades. Penning has the size and athleticism to play either left or right tackle from Day 1.
Penning was built to run-block. The Ravens are built to run the ball. It's a match made in heaven. While Baltimore has already re-signed both tackles long-term, Patrick Mekari could easily kick inside.