The approach to the 2022 NFL draft is set to be VERY different from team to team. The Los Angeles Rams for instance already decided to forgo their picks in favor of trying to win the Super Bowl immediately - which they did. The Seattle Seahawks on the other hand just did the opposite and shipped off their starter quarterback Russell Wilson for picks. The Arizona Cardinals have the early capital to continue chasing the Rams while the San Francisco 49ers will have to make do with their first pick coming at the very end of the second round. Each team is in their own world coming out of the free agency.
In this article, we are going to look at each team and lay out what they have for draft picks. Then we’ll look at where they are set (unlikely to use high draft capital), where they have immediate draft needs (likely to use a pick in the first 2-3 rounds), or where they might need depth (mid to late round picks). So let’s get to it.
Arizona Cardinals - 8 Picks
- First Round: 23
- Second Round: 55
- Third Round: 87
- Sixth Round: 201, 215
- Seventh Round: 244, 256, 257
Set: Quarterback, Tight End, Inside Linebacker, Safety
Quarterback - Forget all the rumors and contract disputes and whatnot - the Cardinals are not drafting another quarterback this year. They have Kyler Murray and Colt McCoy. If Kyler Murray actually does somehow get traded or holds out, that is an entirely different article that we’ll be writing. For now, we are basing our predictions for next week’s draft in the current reality.
Tight End - There is an argument for a depth pick. But this team only has three picks in the top 200. And Kliff Kingsbury’s “Air Raid” isn’t technically supposed to feature a tight end yet you have Zach Ertz (who played more snaps at WR than he did at in-line TE anyway). In fact, they have seven tight ends under contract including blocking tight ends Maxx Williams and Stephen Anderson. So for now, don’t worry about it. They have bigger needs.
Inside Linebacker - Isaiah Simmons is developing into a star, especially with his coverage skills, and Zaven Collins was their first round pick last year. Given how much nickel this team runs, they don’t need more than two inside linebackers on most plays.
Immediate: Wide Receiver, Cornerback, Offensive Line
Wide Receiver - We already mentioned that, in its pure form, the Air Raid would utilize a lot of four wide receiver sets - not just three. Losing Christian Kirk means you have AJ Green and DeAndre Hopkins at split end/flanker and Rondale Moore at the slot. Andy Isabella has been a bust and Antoine Wesley is best served as the “next man up” behind Hopkins and Green. Given Green’s age, they should go after the best value wide receiver available depending on how the draft pans out. That could be someone like Jameson Williams, Chris Olave, or Treylon Burks in the first or a Jahan Dotson or George Pickens in the second.
Edge - Chandler Jones is gone and there really is no replacing him for 2022. You can’t expect a rookie to come out and give you what he did. But this is a deep class so you can replace his spot in the lineup and hope someone develops into that caliber of player. There has been some debate over which prospects out of Aidan Hutchinson, Kayvon Thibodeaux, George Karlaftis, Travon Walker, and Jermaine Johnson are the best. For teams picking a little later like the Cardinals, debate is good. One of those guys could slide or the window could open up for a trade up to get a star without trading all the way up into the top 10. Otherwise, guys like David Ojabo or Boye Mafe aren’t far off and should be available.
Cornerback - Byron Murphy started out wide as a rookie but he’s played pretty exclusively in the slot for the last two years. That’s a good spot for him. Marco Wilson started last year and he’s serviceable. The real interesting one however is Jeff Gladney. He played slot corner for the Vikings but was indicted on domestic assault charges last August and was released. Then he was cleared and the Cards picked him up. The contract he signed indicates they expect him to contribute right away but he didn’t play ball at all last year. It would be wise for the Cardinals to bring in some competition at corner - if the rookie and Gladney earn the top two spots on the outside, that is a GOOD thing and you have Murphy and Wilson as nickel and dime. Since you have two guys with slot experience already, I wouldn’t go for another prospect that’s likely a slot guy. I’d go for someone with some length like Kaiir Elam or Martin Emerson.
Potential early round picks: WR Jameson Williams (Alabama), WR Chris Olave (Ohio State), WR Treylon Burks (Arkansas), WR Jahan Dotson (Penn State), WR George Pickens (Georgia), EDGE Jermaine Johnson (Florida State), EDGE George Karlaftis, EDGE David Ojabo (Michigan), EDGE Boye Mafe (Minnesota), CB Kaiir Elam (Florida), CB Martin Emerson (Mississippi State)
Depth: Offensive Tackle, Running Back, Linebacker, Safety
Offensive Tackle - DJ Humphries and Kelvin Beachum are solid but they are both free agents after this season. They drafted Josh Jones in the 3rd round in 2020 but it’s yet to be seen if he is starting caliber. Given the limited number of selections they have in the early going, this isn’t glaring but maybe they go there for the right guy.
Running Back - They lost Chase Edmonds to the Dolphins but James Conner proved he can be the early down beast with a nose for the endzone. Eno Benjamin is a capable pass-catching back and they have a couple of replacement-level options beyond that so it might not hurt to take a stab on another back late. Decent RBs don’t need to be drafted early.
Safety - They got lucky with Jalen Thompson in the supplemental draft and Budda Baker has been as advertised. Thompson is a free agent next year but again, this is a position where they are set for now and have some depth. Maybe they use one of their many picks outside the top 200 but those aren’t typically high-impact picks.
Los Angeles Rams - 8 Picks
- Third Round: 104
- Fourth Round: 142
- Fifth Round: 175
- Sixth Round: 211, 212, 218
- Seventh Round: 238, 253
Set: Quarterback, Wide Receiver, Running Back
Quarterback - They already used their picks on a quarterback. And he won the Super Bowl. Great use of picks.
Wide Receiver - Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson are your every down starter. Van Jefferson can play all three roles and Tutu Atwell was drafted as the field stretching speedster. Plus Ben Skowronek showed he can play at this level when called on. They don’t have a single top 100 pick which is where most of the impact guys go.
Running Back - Cam Akers returning to play at the end of the year solidified this position. Akers and Henderson are at the top of the depth chart and they have a handful of guys like Xavier Jones and Jake Funk under contract for depth. Should get it done.
Immediate: Cornerback, Offensive Line, Defensive Line
Cornerback - It’s honestly rare to see a cornerback room this thin in the modern era of nickel and dime packages. Jalen Ramsey is a star but after him, David Long and Robert Rochell are the only guys that played meaningful snaps. Dont’e Deayon remains a free agent and could help out in the slot if they can convince him to come back but even then they’d need depth at the position. Without trading up, their best bet is to keep Ramsey on the outside and look for someone that can play slot corner right away. The longer players that can play on the outside go at a premium and the Rams don’t have any premium picks.
Offensive Line - The glaring need is at guard where they lost Austin Corbett in free agency and David Edwards is a free agent next year. But Andrew Whitworth also retired so they may opt to go with a tackle and either start the rookie tackle at guard or slide one of their current tackles down to guard. Joe Noteboom is signed for three years but Rob Havenstein is set to start and he’s a free agent after this season. Without trading up, a guard is likely easier to acquire where they pick - a guy like Marquis Hayes from Oklahoma might be there and his strength in pass protection is right in the Rams’ wheelhouse.
Defensive Line - Aaron Donald can’t do it all by himself. They lost Sebastian Joseph and their two other starters, Greg Gaines and A’Shawn Robinson are free agents after this season. Around pick 100 you can find impact players on the defensive line and it would give them some leverage to negotiate with the guys set to hit free agency next year.
Potential early round picks: CB Jalyn Armour-Davis (Alabama), CB Cordale Flott (LSU), CB Kalon Barnes (Baylor), G Marquis Hayes (Oklahoma), T Braxton Jones (Southern Utah), T/G Joshua Edeudu (North Carolina), DL Phidarian Mathis (Alabama), DL Matthew Butler (Tennessee), DL Neil Farrell Jr. (LSU)
Depth: Tight End, Safety, Edge
Tight End - They have Tyler Higbee as starter. Having Kendall Blanton as a backup, who just started in the Super Bowl that they won, is good enough for me. Brycen Hopkins is depth and Jacob Harris is an intriguing converted wide receiver. The only reason this position is listed here is that heavy blocking tight end Johnny Mundt followed Kevin O’Connell to the Vikings so maybe they use a late pick on a replacement for that role.
Safety - On a team with more draft capital, maybe this position goes higher on the list. But this team has three picks in the top 200 and none in the top 100. They have what they need for this season in Taylor Rapp and Jordan Fuller but both are free agents next year so they might need to go for some depth. Safeties can be found later than positions like corner.
Edge - Losing Von Miller might make folks want to jump at this spot but the reality is that you don’t find Von Miller's outside of pick 100. Miller himself was drafted at pick two overall. It’s not likely they find something better than what they have with the picks they have (unless they trade up). So I’d consider a later depth pick but their best bet is to wait for the Amazon TV deal to hit next offseason or try in next year’s draft.
San Francisco 49ers - 8 Picks
- Second Round: 61
- Third Round: 93, 105
- Fifth Round: 172
- Sixth Round: 187, 220, 221, 262
Set: Quarterback, Edge, Defensive Tackle
Quarterback - They currently have too many quarterbacks. If/when they trade Jimmy Garoppolo, maybe they will want a backup that fits the QB run-heavy scheme better than Nate Sudfeld but they don’t even have a pick in the range where starting QBs actually go. So it’s not likely to happen.
Defensive Tackle - Much like edge, they are solid here. Arik Armstead is signed through 2025 and Javon Kinlaw was a first round pick in 2020 so he’s got three more years if they pick up his fifth round option.
Immediate: Interior Offensive Line, Secondary, Wide Receiver
Interior Offensive Line - They have Alex Mack at center for the next two years so that isn’t urgent though he is getting up there at age 36. It’s guard mostly where they are thin as they just lost Laken Tomlinson to the Jets. Daniel Brunskill and Colton McKivitz are set to start at guard; McKivitz essentially played only one game last year and it was at tackle and Daniel Brunskill was the 82nd graded guard in the league last year, largely due to struggles in pass blocking. They only have four guards signed and McKivitz has very limited experience there so this could be their pick at 61.
Secondary - I say “secondary” here and not safety or corner because, quite frankly, they could use both. But one pick could actually take the pressure off both issues. Ambry Thomas let up some tough plays but he came into his own down the stretch. If you believe either he or Emmanuel Moseley can fill that outside role opposite Charvarius Ward, as I do, then you just need some depth covering slot. If they go out and get the right hybrid slot/safety, they might not need to take multiple guys. A player like Nick Cross for instance ran a 4.3 at 212 pounds so could hold his own at slot and potentially develop into a deep safety. Or at picks 93/105, safety Dane Belton out of Iowa played a ton of slot and had five interceptions in the role. They could always take both a corner and safety to be safe but maybe they could kill two birds with the one Hawkeye.
Wide Receiver - Here’s the thing about wide receiver that puts it in this section - the VAST majority of successful NFL wide receivers come from the first three rounds. Over the last 15 years, only 4% of WRs drafted round four or later have finished somewhere in the top 24 WRs in a single season and some of them, like Tyreek Hill and Antonio Brown, only slid due to character issues. So, if you want an impact player, it likely needs to be one of those top three picks. They need a third guy after Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk and, with the demands coming from Deebo Samuel’s camp, they might want to prepare for the worst.
Potential early round picks: T/G Luke Goedeke (Central Michigan), T/G Zach Tom (Wake Forest), T/G Jamaree Salyer (Georgia), G Dylan Parham (Memphis), S Nick Cross (Maryland), CB Kyler Gordon (Washington), CB Roger McCreary (Auburn), CB Damari Mathis (Pittsburgh), S Dane Belton (Iowa), WR Alex Pierce (Cincinnati), WR Romeo Doubs (Nevada), WR David Bell (Purdue), WR Justyn Ross (Clemson)
Depth: Running Back, Offensive Tackle, Inside Linebacker
Running Back - If they use a high end pick on a running back here then that to me would officially announce that Trey Sermon is a bust. But beyond that, Jeff Wilson and JaMycal Hasty are both free agents after this season. That leaves just Elijah Mitchell and Trey Sermon signed beyond this year. So another RB at some point is not off the table for depth. Especially with the injury struggles we saw from Mitchell.
Offensive Tackle - Trent Williams is the best in the business and Mike McGlinchey is good - when healthy. “When healthy” is the key qualifier here as he’s gotten hurt in two of his four seasons. They picked up his 5th-year option so he’s back this year but he’s an unrestricted free agent moving forward. Some depth could help.
Inside Linebacker - Fred Warner is locked up through 2027 and they have plenty to get by this year. They use enough nickel and dime that they really don’t run a “4-3” as much as you’d think - it’s more of a 4-2-5. So linebacker isn’t the position it used to be.
Seattle Seahawks - 8 Picks
- First Round: 9
- Second Round: 40, 41
- Third Round: 72
- Fourth Round: 109
- Fifth Round: 152, 153
- Seventh Round: 229
Set: Wide Receiver, Tight End, Safety
Wide Receiver - They have Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf plus they just used a second round pick on Dee Eskridge. Freddie Swain is also solid in the slot. Even if you’d like them to trade one or both of the top two wide receivers and go full rebuild mode, WR is not the position you start your rebuild with.
Tight End - They landed Noah Fant as part of the Russell Wilson trade and picked up his fifth year option so he’s around for both 2022 and 2023. Will Dissly is signed through 2025 and Colby Parkinson through 2024 so, if they go with tight end, it should be a deep depth pick, not a priority.
Safety - With Jamaal Adams under contract through 2026 and Quandre Diggs locked up through 2025, they are pretty set with starters unless someone gets traded. They brought Damontae Kazee in for a visit before re-signing Ryan Neal so the depth is fine as well.
Immediate: Quarterback, Edge, Cornerback
Quarterback - A lot of folks are saying this isn’t a great quarterback class but quarterback is a position that surprises both ways. Some “can’t miss” studs flame out and some afterthought QBs turn out to be great. When your quarterbacks are Drew Lock and Geno Smith, you can’t be complacent so the Broncos are one of the few teams who might take a stab this year. Who knows - maybe with a mobile quarterback like Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder, or Sam Howell, they can run a similar offense to what Russell Wilson ran?
Edge - The Seahawks are in a flexible position here at nine. If they don’t have their heart set on a quarterback, they should go best player available and there are a number of high end edge rushers in this year's draft. If one of Aidan Hutchinson, Kayvon Thibodeaux, or Travon Walker were to somehow fall that would be a no-brainer but, even if they go early like they are supposed to, the best player available could be someone like George Karlaftis or Jermaine Johnson. The Seahawks are on the rebuild now and edge is both an important position and one that offers some longevity.
Cornerback - The Seahawks really haven’t had a premier corner in a while now and there are a couple of them in this year’s draft. Derek Stingley, Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, and Trent McDuffie all seem like pretty high-end guys. If Stingley or Sauce are there especially, it would be hard to turn down the notion of having a shut-down corner for the next five years (assuming the fifth year option is picked up).
Offensive Tackle - This is where we start doing some math. Let’s take the three high-end edge guys we mentioned in Hutchinson, Thibodeaux, and Walker. Then let’s throw in Derek Stingley and Ahmad Gardner. Well, there are also three high end offensive tackles in Iken Ekwonu, Charles Cross, and Evan Neal. That’s eight players and the Seahawks pick at nine so all it takes is for a quarterback or safety Kyle Hamilton to get picked and a stud player falls right into their lap. When you have the luxury of letting the draft come to you then you take best player available, it gets a lot easier. They only have three tackles signed right now so it’s pretty clear they are either taking one at nine or in the second.
Linebacker - If those exact eight guys go, maybe they take Devin Lloyd. Or maybe with picks 40 or 41, a Nakobe Dean or Leo Chenal falls to them. Finding a playmaking linebacker that can change games really puts your defense and the rebuild on the right track.
Potential early round picks: QB Malik Willis (Liberty), QB Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati), QB Sam Howell (North Carolina), Edge Aiden Hutchinson (Michigan), Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon), Edge Travon Walker (Georgia), T Iken Ekwonu (NC State), T Charles Cross (Mississippi State), T Evan Neal (Alabama), LB Devon Lloyd (Utah), LB Nakobe Dean (Georgia), LB Leo Chenal (Wisconsin)
Depth: Running Back, Interior Offensive Line
Running Back - The fantasy football community looks at this backfield and says “they don’t have a bellcow - they should take one!”. Reality realizes that a high end RB is a luxury pick that should be taken by teams looking to win right now. The Seahawks have what they need to get through this season and should not use a high end pick at running back. They have six guys under contract but maybe they take one for depth if Chris Carson isn’t coming back.
Interior Offensive Line - Gabe Jackson and Damien Lewis are both signed through 2024. If they take a guard it will be a best player available situation for depth later on. At center, they are a bit thinner and could draft someone that actually competes for the starting job.
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