NFL

NFL Draft: Areas of need for eight contenders in 2022

By Sports Desk April 14, 2022

The NFL Draft is rarely dominated by teams in contention to lift the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the upcoming season.

Though trades regularly shuffle the pack, more often than not the draft headlines are made by teams who finished at the wrong end of the regular-season standings in the previous campaign, such is the nature of league's annual selection meeting.

While those franchises with rosters capable of contending to go all the way to the Super Bowl may not be as reliant on the draft as those rebuilding their teams, the selections they make can be critical in providing the potential final piece of what they hope will be a championship-winning puzzle.

Inevitably, not every team expected to contend in April will do so once the season gets under way in September.

Yet we can make educated guesses as to which teams will be in the mix to go deep into the postseason in each conference.

Here Stats Perform has identified four such teams from each conference, with the Cleveland Browns omitted from the list due to the threat of a possible suspension for new starting quarterback Deshaun Watson.

With help from some advanced metrics, we look at what each of these eight teams need to add in the draft to maximise their hopes of standing underneath the confetti in Arizona next February.

NFC

Los Angeles Rams

Identifying draft needs for the Rams is a difficult task not because they don't have any, but because they so often fill their holes by trading away their picks to land superstars.

This year, the Rams don't pick until 104 overall in the third round, not that the Super Bowl champions will mind skipping the first two rounds.

When it finally comes to their turn, the interior of the offensive line stands out as an area of weakness, while the Rams might also be eyeing an edge rusher to help fill the void left by Von Miller, whose stunt-adjusted pass rush win percentage of 43.4 was fifth among edge rushers with at least 100 one-on-one matchups last year.

San Francisco 49ers

The Niners are in a similar position to the Rams in that they don't have a lot of needs, though the urgency is greater for a team that let a fourth-quarter lead slip against Los Angeles in the NFC Championship Game.

Right guard has been a long-standing issue for San Francisco, and the Niners will also need to find a developmental center to replace Alex Mack when he eventually retires. Nebraska's Cam Jurgens is a name to watch there.

San Francisco do not pick until 61st overall in the second round, having traded this year's first-rounder in the package that landed Trey Lance. A defense that ranked first in pass rush win rate could be stacked further by another edge rusher to pair with Nick Bosa, and there is a clear need next to Jimmie Ward at safety.

Of course, what would really make it a successful draft for the Niners would be finally trading Jimmy Garoppolo to secure more picks.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

There's a theme here, and the theme is that trying to find needs for NFC contenders is tough, especially in the case of the Bucs, who brought back Tom Brady after he quickly got bored with retirement and re-signed a host of free agents many expected to depart.

With Todd Bowles assuming the head coaching reins from Bruce Arians, it's fair to anticipate a focus on the defense from the Bucs, who own the 27th pick in the first round as well as two other top-100 selections.

More beef on the interior of the defensive line is required with Ndamukong Suh as yet not re-signed and, though Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal have signed as safety help to atone for Jordan Whitehead's departure, a rookie who can make a difference down in the box and in coverage would be a welcome addition to the defense.

Green Bay Packers

Now this is more like it. The Packers have one glaring, obvious need and there's no way they can fail to address it, right?

Brian Gutekunst may have a history of eschewing first-round wide receivers but, after trading Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders, it would be an extremely bemusing move to risk Aaron Rodgers' wrath and do so again.

Chris Olave, Jameson Williams, Treylon Burks, Jahan Dotson... they all must be in the mix here and, with two selections in the first round, the Packers could even double up at the position.

There are other holes. The secondary could use some more quality depth, and an offensive line that ranked 28th in run-block win rate could also be improved, but the Packers' hopes of getting over the hump in 2022 likely rest on their ability to give Rodgers weapons that mitigate the impact of Adams' stunning departure.

AFC

Kansas City Chiefs

After Patrick Mahomes faced the most pressures in a Super Bowl since 2006 in consecutive years (28 in SB LIV, 34 in SB LV), the Chiefs overhauled their offensive line heading into 2021 and were confident they were on course for the title game once again – only for Mahomes' own stunning playoff collapse to end both the team's season and the career of Tyreek Hill in Kansas City.

Hill's departure in a trade to the Miami Dolphins leaves a gaping hole.

New signing Marquez Valdes-Scantling at least offers a downfield option, but that was his sole responsibility with the Packers in 2021, recording a league-high average depth of target of 17.6 yards but making just 26 catches. Valdes-Scantling and fellow recruit JuJu Smith-Schuster, who's coming off shoulder surgery, have just one 1,000-yard season between them; Hill has four.

Thankfully, the Hill deal means the Chiefs have plenty of draft picks – two in each of the first three rounds – and plenty of options at wide receiver, but safety Tyrann Mathieu and cornerback Charvarius Ward must also be replaced just to get Kansas City back to where they started.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are a year behind the Chiefs, beaten in the Super Bowl after leaving their quarterback horribly exposed. Joe Burrow faced 23 pressures against the Rams, tied for third-most since 2006.

Like the Chiefs, they quickly set about bolstering their O line in free agency, though there remains a pressing need at left guard. Ted Karras played there for the New England Patriots last year, but is set to move back into center after Trey Hopkins was cut.

That versatility at least gives the Bengals options at either position depending on how the draft plays out, with their first pick not until the end of the first round (31). In fact, given competition at cornerback, edge and/or tight end could also be sought, the Bengals may be flexible throughout.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills are the Super Bowl favourites, and with good reason. They were a coin flip away from beating the Chiefs and would have backed themselves against the Bengals, which might have quelled some of the optimism in Cincinnati channelled above. Buffalo have also added Super Bowl champion Miller to a defense that gave up a league-low 4.57 yards per play.

That's not to say there don't remain areas for improvement, with cornerback an obvious place to start. Tre'Davious White is returning from an ACL tear, and the Bills need a new man opposite him, given the loss of Levi Wallace.

The Bills might also be advised to ease the burden on all-action quarterback Josh Allen with the addition of a reliable running back. Allen ranked third among QBs for rushing yards in 2021 (763) but accounted for 34.5 per cent of his team's total – far and away the greatest share at his position.

Second on the list was former MVP Lamar Jackson (767 yards, 30.9 per cent), who's already showing signs of wear and tear having been tasked with running the Baltimore Ravens' offense.

Los Angeles Chargers

Outside the Packers, the Chargers perhaps have the most obvious positional need of any contender at right tackle – despite their own strong signings so far.

Left tackle Rashawn Slater was their first-round pick in 2021 and earned Pro Bowl recognition in his rookie season. Among offensive tackles with 200 or more pass protection snaps, Slater's stunt-adjusted win percentage of 90.5 ranked third. However, that stood in complete contrast to right tackle Storm Norton, whose 63.0 per cent ranked third-last.

Norton was brought in to play 15 games after a back injury put Bryan Bulaga on injured reserve. Bulaga has now been cut, and the Chargers surely cannot run it back with Norton.

The very best OTs in the draft are unlikely to still be available when the Chargers get to work in the middle of the first round, but it's no surprise to see them widely linked with Northern Iowa's Trevor Penning.

Related items

  • Browns trade quarterback Mayfield to Panthers Browns trade quarterback Mayfield to Panthers

    The Carolina Panthers have agreed to acquire former No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a conditional fifth-round draft pick in 2024.

    Mayfield was expected to return as Cleveland's starting quarterback next season before the Browns surprisingly signed Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans in March.

    Cleveland then signed Watson, who sat out all of last season amid allegations of sexual misconduct, to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230million contract.

    With Watson's availability for the upcoming season still unclear, there was a slight chance Mayfield could remain with the Browns despite his trade demand.

    But that ended Wednesday, and Mayfield will now head to a Panthers team that has not reached the postseason since 2017.

    Mayfield went 29-30 in 59 regular-season starts with the Browns after they selected him No. 1 overall in 2018.

    He led Cleveland to its first playoff appearance in 18 years in 2020 as the Browns reached the AFC Divisional Round before losing to the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

    That was Cleveland's only playoff appearance during Mayfield's tenure.

    Now, Mayfield will compete with Sam Darnold for the Panthers' starting job, with the winner of that battle getting to face the Browns at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte in Week 1.

     

     

  • England start another new era as Buttler bids to end India misery England start another new era as Buttler bids to end India misery

    Jos Buttler's Twenty20 International squad may not share any players with Ben Stokes' Test side, but he will hope England can echo their early red-ball success in another new era.

    No sooner had Stokes succeeded Joe Root as Test skipper than Eoin Morgan was also out as England's great limited-overs leader, retiring from international cricket altogether.

    New man Buttler does not find a team in need of an overhaul, as Stokes did in the longest format, but he will similarly be keen to make a fast start.

    And India – fresh from being thrashed by Stokes' outfit – are fearsome first opponents.

    England have not won any of their four prior T20I series against India, losing the past three in a row. In fact, India have lost only one in 14 against all opponents.

    And as Morgan's final 20-over series saw a 3-2 defeat to West Indies, England under Buttler will be aiming to avoid back-to-back such losses for the first time since February 2017.

    Buttler may well have his work cut out, too, with England resting their Test stars following a busy stretch while India will welcome their main men back for the second of three matches.

    Rohit Sharma has tested negative for coronavirus and been cleared to lead the team from the outset, with Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah and Rishabh Pant among those set to join him later on.

    England's depth put to the test

    Buttler has confirmed his desire for Stokes to be involved with the T20I team, but the Test captain has plenty on his plate right now and – just as Buttler ruled himself out of red-ball action for the foreseeable future – is missing for this series.

    He is one of a number of notable absentees against an India side who could be at full strength by the second match and ramping up preparations for the T20 World Cup – a daunting prospect.

    But this also provides an opportunity for Buttler to see what talent lies beneath those big names; Richard Gleeson is in for a debut, while Reece Topley impressed on his return to the set-up in the Caribbean.

    Topley's bowling economy rate of 4.4 during the powerplay in that series represents the second-best of any player from a Test-playing country since the start of 2020 (Ajaz Patel – 3.1 for New Zealand).

    Another entertaining encounter?

    With Matthew Mott leading England's white-ball teams, there will be no 'Bazball' in this series, but Morgan's side were always similarly entertaining.

    In fact, England (146.3) and India (145.9) have the best batting strike rates of all Test-playing countries in T20Is since the beginning of 2020.

    The likes of Buttler and Pant – identified by Stokes as "someone who would fit very well in our team at the moment" – should ensure there are plenty of big scores even without Jonny Bairstow.

  • Jody Allen says Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers are not for sale at this time Jody Allen says Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers are not for sale at this time

    The chairwoman of both the NFL's Seattle Seahawks and the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers, Jody Allen, said in a statement on Tuesday that the teams are not for sale at this time. 

    There had been reports that an offer was made to buy the Trail Blazers, but Allen's statement dispels any rumours a sale is imminent. 

    ''As chair of both the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle Seahawks, my long-term focus is building championship teams that our communities are proud of,'' said Allen, who has overseen both teams since her brother Paul died in 2018.

    ''Like my brother Paul, I trust and expect our leaders and coaches to build winning teams that deliver results on and off the court and field. As we've stated before, neither of the teams is for sale and there are no sales discussions happening.'' 

    Paul Allen's will called for both teams to be sold and the proceeds be given to philanthropic efforts, and Jody acknowledged she plans to honour his wishes, though not at this time.

    ''A time will come when that changes given Paul's plans to dedicate the vast majority of his wealth to philanthropy, but estates of this size and complexity can take 10 to 20 years to wind down. There is no pre-ordained timeline by which the teams must be sold,'' Jody said. 

    Paul Allen purchased the Trail Blazers in 1988 and bought the Seahawks nine years later. Jody Allen has been the trustee for her brother’s estate since the Microsoft co-founder's death.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.