Every team always wants to do well at the draft -- but some teams really need to hit the 2022 NFL Draft out of the park.
Whether because they need to rev up long-gestating rebuilding projects or to solve an immediate crisis with instantly useful rookies, some teams will have an exceptional amount at stake in Las Vegas this April. Below, listed in order, are the 10 teams that most need to have a good draft this year:
If the Jags use every selection in their possession as of the time this was posted, they'll have made the first overall pick twice in a row -- and they'll have drafted 12 players for the second time in three years. It's hard to remember this group was in the AFC title game just five seasons ago. Since then, Jacksonville has gone through an extraordinary amount of turmoil. The presumptive franchise quarterback (Trevor Lawrence) is in place, and the roster includes some bright spots (Josh Allen, most notably), but this offseason's influx of free agents (headlined by Brandon Scherff, Christian Kirk, Foye Oluokun and Foley Fatukasi) hints at just how urgently general manager Trent Baalke and new head coach Doug Pederson want to get this ship righted after the brief and disastrous tenure of Urban Meyer.
Expecting Jacksonville to compete at a high level in 2022 might be a bit much, but the clock is ticking on Lawrence, who is under team control for just four more years (including his fifth-year option in 2025). It is in everyone's best interests to make this reboot as short as possible, and acing the 2022 draft would go a long way toward accelerating the timeline in Duval County.
Ifeatu Melifonwu might have been the first player selected using the draft capital acquired from the Rams in last year's Matthew Stafford trade, but the 2021 third-rounder was just an appetizer. The full meal begins this year, when the Lions will get to make the first of two first-round choices surrendered by Los Angeles.
Dan Campbell did an admirable job getting an underpowered squad to compete last season, but trying hard will only get you so far. This franchise has recorded just five winning season this century, and to truly snap out of the doldrums, Detroit needs blue-chip talent. The Lions can afford to wait until next year to draft a quarterback if they don't like any of the options on the menu this year, but with three picks (Nos. 2, 32 and 34) within the top 34, they should have a chance to land multiple building-block-type difference-makers -- even if they end up moving down for more choices.
Zach Wilson still has a chance to solve the Jets' long-festering quarterback problem, but he'll need help if he's going to make the necessary progress in Year 2. Elijah Moore's promising debut aside, more pass catchers would be welcome. Robert Saleh's 32nd-ranked defense, meanwhile, could definitely use a talent infusion. GM Joe Douglas has hit on some picks (Moore, offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker, running back Michael Carter and cornerback Michael Carter), but the jury remains out on others (Wilson, offensive tackle Mekhi Becton, Denzel Mims). Thanks to previous trades involving Jamal Adams and Moore's predecessor at quarterback, Sam Darnold, Douglas will have four picks within the first 38 (and two within the first 10) to give Saleh the pieces needed to keep the Wilson project from running off the rails -- and avoid another reboot.
Aside from veteran Randall Cobb, who will turn 32 in August and has missed 19 games over the past four seasons, the most accomplished receiver on the Packers' roster right now is Allen Lazard, whose total career output (109 catches, 1,448 receiving yards and 14 receiving TDs in four years) looks like a decent Davante Adams season.
The Packers have resisted the upper tiers of the receiver prospect pool since Brian Gutekunst took over as GM in 2018. But after committing to Aaron Rodgers and sending Adams to the Raiders, they seemingly have no choice but to use their improved positioning (the Adams trade netted an additional first- and second-round pick) to acquire receiving help. I have no doubt in Rodgers' ability to elevate any roster he's a part of, but he could surely use a young wideout with either a high ceiling or a high floor (or both) if Green Bay is to stay among the NFC's elite.
New England's return to the playoffs last season for the first time since Tom Brady's exit wasn't just fueled by an apparently anomalous willingness to spend on free agents. A coterie of impressive rookies, including QB Mac Jones (drafted No. 12 overall), defensive lineman Christian Barmore (No. 38) and running back Rhamondre Stevenson (No. 120), played a large role, as well.
The Patriots have largely kept their checkbook stowed away during this year's free agency period. As it stands now, the seven draft picks in their possession represent their best path to boosting the roster as they seek to make further postseason noise. Choosing correctly at Nos. 21 and 54 overall, especially, could prevent New England from falling behind the pack in the beefed-up AFC field.
UPDATE: The Patriots are acquiring WR DeVante Parker from the Dolphins, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Saturday.
The Giants are coming off their fifth consecutive losing season in part because of years of uneven (at best) drafting. New GM Joe Schoen and coach Brian Daboll will undoubtedly have some time to kick the team-building operation into gear. But their lives will be a lot easier if they make the most of the golden opportunity in front of them. With two picks in the top 10 (Nos. 5 and 7) and five in the first three rounds, there will be ample chances to add core pieces. Plus, if they can give Daniel Jones the best supporting cast possible (including, ideally, a game-breaking receiver, which this franchise has lacked since Odell Beckham's heyday) going into Year 4, they'll have a sharper picture of where the quarterback fits into their long-term plans.
The Eagles' record since winning Super Bowl LII -- 31-33-1, with three playoff appearances and one playoff win -- puts them almost exactly in the middle of the road as a franchise over the past four seasons, neither unsuccessful enough to warrant a true reconstruction nor successful enough to be considered a no-doubt contender. Their past four drafts have been up and down. They've hit on contributors like tight end Dallas Goedert (No. 49 overall in 2018), left tackle Jordan Mailata (No. 233 in 2018), running back Miles Sanders (No. 53 in 2019) and receiver DeVonta Smith (No. 10 in 2021). They've also missed on players like Andre Dillard (No. 22 in 2019) and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (No. 57 in 2019). And some remain question marks, like receiver Jalen Reagor (No. 21 in 2020) and, crucially, quarterback Jalen Hurts (No. 53 in 2020).
Philly has the draft capital to push itself out of this gray zone of existence, with three first-rounders (Nos. 15, 16 and 19) and five choices within the first 83. After being relatively quiet in free agency, the Eagles must make the most of this chance to supercharge the roster. If the QB and the team around him can level up in 2022, there is room for this group to climb in the NFC.
The Seahawks finished with a losing record in 2021 for the first time since Russell Wilson became their quarterback in 2012. Head coach Pete Carroll seems averse to the idea of rebuilding, but however you view their situation, it's going to be tough to win without Wilson, who was traded to Denver earlier this offseason. Wherever the Seahawks go next, it's going to begin with this draft.
Last year, Seattle ended up selecting just three players (D'Wayne Eskdridge, Tre Brown and Stone Forsythe, none of whom appeared in more than 10 games), with much of their draft capital being sacrificed in prior win-now trades for Jamal Adams, Gabe Jackson and Carlos Dunlap. This year's crop of eight choices isn't especially hefty compared to what some of the other teams on this list are working with, but it's still going to give Carroll and GM John Schneider more chances to restock their talent base. Plus, the Wilson deal got Seattle back into the first round in 2022, with their original first-rounder this year already having been committed to the Jets from the Adams swap. How they do on Days 1 and 2 especially could help determine whether or not a full teardown is in their near future.
Not too recently, selections like Clyde Edwards-Helaire (32nd overall in 2020) and Mecole Hardman (56th overall in 2019) could be positioned as luxury choices for a Chiefs team loaded with veteran talent. But as they work deeper into the Patrick Mahomes era, they will likely lean further on their ability to uncover players who can help them win out of the gate, like L'Jarius Sneed (138th overall in 2020), Nick Bolton (58th overall in 2021) and Creed Humphrey (63rd overall in 2021). If they make the most of the picks at their disposal, the Chiefs can further insulate themselves against some of the hurdles teams face in trying to keep a Super Bowl window open for an extended period of time, like aging core players and the cost of rostering accomplished veterans.
This year, there is a newly acute need for pass-catching help in the wake of three-time All-Pro Tyreek Hill's trade to the Dolphins. Mahomes can likely make do with veteran signees Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster, but with two first-rounders and a deep receiver class on tap, Kansas City has a strong chance to snag at least one difference-making young player who could grow into a dependable option for Mahomes.
The Texans' placement here is less about immediate pressure to win and more about the significance of their first two picks, which are set to mark just the second and third first-round selections made by this team since Deshaun Watson was drafted 12th overall in 2017. Aside from Tytus Howard, who was taken 23rd overall in 2019, the team's top picks in each draft in that span looked like this: Justin Reid, picked 68th overall in 2018, Ross Blacklock, 40th overall in 2020 and Davis Mills, 67th overall last year.
Dealing away early picks is obviously one path to improvement, but the moves that sapped Houston of its recent high-value choices (giving Cleveland a first in 2018 as part of its move up for Watson, sending the Browns a 2018 second-rounder as part of the compensation for taking on Brock Osweiler and handing Miami two firsts and a second for Laremy Tunsil) did not, unfortunately, translate to long-term success. And when you're not making your first choice in the draft until most teams have picked twice, it's going to be difficult to build a good roster. Snagging two premier talents within the top 13 picks would really help secure a needed boost for this franchise.