May 24, 2022

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Combine, QB trades shake up latest 3-round…

10 min read
Combine, QB trades shake up latest 3-round...


It’s that time of year in the NFL world, where the entire landscape can change at a moment’s notice.

And we haven’t even reached free agency yet.

Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz are headed to new teams, while Aaron Rodgers is sticking with his old one. Franchise tags have been applied, and more rumors continue to swirl throughout the league.

After multiple trades that saw plenty of early picks change hands, here’s an updated look at how the first three rounds of the 2022 NFL draft could shake out:

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Yes, the Jaguars just placed the franchise tag on Cam Robinson (again), but that doesn’t solve the left tackle situation for the long-term. Ekwonu was an all-conference pick at both guard and tackle, and both of the Jags’ starters at guard are headed for free agency. Ekwonu could start inside as a rookie, then kick outside if Robinson isn’t kept on a long-term extension.

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If you love gaudy college production, you might not be a fan of this pick, but NFL teams make these selections based on traits and future projections rather than box scores. To that end, Walker has rare athleticism for his size, which he put on display at the combine, and brings tons of versatility.

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Lovie Smith’s defense is predicated on getting consistent pressure with the front four, and there’s just not an impact edge defender on the roster right now. Hutchinson is a well-rounded player who proved last year that he can take over games all by himself, making him a perfect fit here.

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The run on edge rushers continue, as the Jets land a dynamic prospect who once felt like a lock to go No. 1 overall. The Jets would be wise to tune out all the strange narratives regarding Thibodeaux’s love and passion for football, and get themselves a potential bargain at a premium position.

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The Giants have bigger needs on defense, but it’s hard to pass up a franchise tackle, especially when one as talented as Neal falls into your lap. A massive mauler with rare athleticism for his size, Neal would pair up with Andrew Thomas to give the Giants a talented young tandem to protect Daniel Jones.

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Quarterback is obviously the biggest need, but if the Panthers passed on Justin Fields at No. 8 last year, there’s no reason to think they’ll dip into a weaker crop of passers with this pick. Instead, they bolster a leaky offensive line with a raw but athletic blocker in Penning, who plays with a nasty mean streak.

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After addressing their biggest need on offense at No. 5, the Giants do the same on the other side of the ball with this pick. Johnson backed up his impressive film with a dominant week at the Senior Bowl, followed by a strong showing the combine that should put him in the top-10 conversation.

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If the Falcons are convinced Malik Willis can be their franchise quarterback of the future, he should be the pick here. If not, the Falcons have some fantastic options to keep rebuilding their secondary, including a rangy safety with rare size and versatility in Hamilton, who would be a huge bargain here.

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You don’t trade away a superstar quarterback unless you have a clear plan to replace him, and it would make sense if the Seahawks made that move with the confidence they could land Willis. It’s an unfair comparison, but Willis has the same elite traits (arm talent, athleticism) that made Wilson such a dynamic playmaker.

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After getting a steal in Thibodeaux at No. 4, the Jets score another great mix of need and value here, landing the top corner in an extremely deep class. Gardner has rare size and length, impressive athleticism, and the unwavering confidence it takes to be a shutdown corner at the next level.

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After trading for Carson Wentz, the Commanders are likely to spend this pick making sure he has as much help as possible. Wilson is an explosive, big-play receiver who would pair with Terry McLaurin to give Wentz plenty of firepower.

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This defense could use help at every level, so this pick is about finding the best value regardless of position on that side of the ball. Stingley missed most of last season due to injury, but when healthy, he was a shutdown artist with top-five talent.

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Wide receiver is a possibility here, as is addressing the interior of the defensive line, but Karlaftis just feels like too good of a fit. He’s a polished, complete prospect who would give the Browns an immediate upgrade opposite Myles Garrett as Jadeveon Clowney hits free agency.

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This offense sorely missed Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. at the tackle spots last year, so addressing that should be the Ravens’ top priority here. Cross has impressive athleticism, and has a proven track record of success against SEC competition.

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Derek Barnett is likely headed elsewhere in free agency, and while Josh Sweat is a budding star, Brandon Graham is in the twilight of his career. This year’s loaded EDGE class could push some top-tier talent down the board, and that’s exactly what happens here, giving the Eagles a steal in Ojabo.

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The Eagles have needs at every level on defense, and thankfully, they’ve got three first-round picks with which they can address all of them. After getting a bargain in Ojabo, the Eagles get great value again here with McDuffie, one of the most pro-ready prospects in a loaded corner class.

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Even after his incredible combine performance, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Davis still on the board here, as teams might convince themselves he’ll only be a two-down player who won’t help as a pass rusher. The Chargers would be happy to scoop him up here, though, dropping a massive presence into the heart of their defensive front.

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If the Saints are going to be interested in a quarterback prospect, it’ll need to be one with experience, who is ready to lead an offense immediately. Pickett fits that description, and would give New Orleans a long-term upgrade over a lackluster free agent class.

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The Eagles have their franchise quarterback in Jalen Hurts, and an explosive playmaker in DeVonta Smith, but now the passing game needs a big, physical presence at wide receiver. London’s massive frame and contested-catch ability would be make the perfect pairing with Smith’s skill set, and give Hurts a dominant red-zone target.

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While quarterback is sure to receive strong consideration here (assuming the Steelers don’t acquire a veteran upgrade), the offensive line desperately needs attention, regardless of who is lining up behind them. Green has a track record of success against SEC competition at both guard and tackle.

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This just isn’t fair, letting Bill Belichick land a three-down playmaker with a rare blend of size, athleticism and instincts. Lloyd plays much faster than his 40-yard dash time might suggest, and he would be a perfect fit in New England’s scheme, filling one of their bigger needs.

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This defense could use an infusion of young talent at multiple positions, so this pick is about finding the best value on that side of the ball. In this scenario, that means landing a disruptive playmaker for the interior of the defensive front in Wyatt, who was a dominant force for the Bulldogs.

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Whether it’s an offensive lineman or a pass-catcher, this pick has to be used to help Kyler Murray. Olave is a smooth, fluid route-runner with big-play explosiveness, with the most polished and pro-ready skill set of anyone in this year’s deep receiver class.

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There are bigger needs on defense, but if the Cowboys end up letting Amari Cooper go, it might make sense for them to take advantage of this year’s deep receiver class with this pick. Burks has a rare blend of size, athleticism and physicality that has drawn comparisons to AJ Brown.

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The Bills have a surprising amount of needs, despite being one of the league’s better teams. In this scenario, the best value at any of those positions come at corner, where they land a long, athletic cover man in Elam, who shut down some of college football’s best pass-catchers in the SEC.

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This offense is obviously the Derrick Henry show, but that means the offensive line has to be top-shelf, too. With Ben Jones headed for free agency, the Titans could have a gaping hole in the starting lineup at center, but one that Linderbaum would immediately fill effectively.

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Free agency already threatened to gut the interior of Tampa Bay’s offensive line, and that was before Ali Marpet’s shocking retirement. This is easily the biggest area of need for the Bucs, but they happen to land the perfect fit in Johnson, who has the power, athleticism and versatility to become a Pro Bowler himself.

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Wide receiver is always a popular pick here, but don’t be surprised if the Packers go defense instead. If they can’t re-sign De’Vondre Campbell, Green Bay will need another playmaker to fill his role in the middle of the defense, and Dean has all the traits to make the same kind of impact.

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If Tua Tagovailoa is going to reach his full potential with new head coach Mike McDaniel, he’s going to need more explosive weapons. Williams would go much higher if not for a torn ACL suffered at the end of last season, but he could be a huge steal once he’s back to full strength.

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If the Chiefs let Tyrann Mathieu walk in free agency (bad idea), they’ll need to replace him with a top prospect who can make an immediate impact. While expecting him to be the Honey Badger right away is unfair, Hill has the athleticism, physicality and instincts to make a valiant effort.

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The Bengals made it all the way to the Super Bowl despite their unremarkable offensive line, and that unit must be addressed here, at any position. The best combination of value and upside comes with Smith, a raw but athletic blocker with a nasty, physical playing style.

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I don’t think the Lions are going into this draft planning to take a quarterback, but if one happens to fall to them here, they might change their minds. Corral might need to add some bulk to hold up at the NFL level, but he’s a tough competitor with starter-quality traits, and getting that fifth-year option can be huge if you hit on a young quarterback.

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Syndication: The Indianapolis Star

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Damone Clark

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Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch

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Syndication: The Oklahoman

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Syndication: Tuscaloosa News

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Syndication: The Enquirer

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2022 NFL mock draft: Combine, QB trades shake up latest 3-round projections