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32 teams, 32 early nuggets to know for next year’s NFL draft: Big decisions ahead for Seattle, Vegas, Houston

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32 teams, 32 early nuggets to know for next year’s NFL draft: Big decisions ahead for Seattle, Vegas, Houston

There are just four weeks left in the 2022 NFL season, and while some teams are thinking about making the playoffs, others are looking ahead to the 2023 NFL draft. Let’s turn our attention there for a moment.

The ESPN Football Power Index (FPI) projects the Houston Texans and the Chicago Bears to pick 1-2 in April. The Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions are projected to get top-five picks because of trades, with the Seahawks getting the Denver Broncos‘ pick for Russell Wilson and the Lions getting the Los Angeles Rams‘ pick for Matthew Stafford. The Texans, Seahawks and Lions are among teams with multiple first-round picks, along with the 12-1 Philadelphia Eagles (from the New Orleans Saints). The Miami Dolphins had their first-round pick forfeited as part of their tampering punishment.

We asked our NFL Nation reporters for early insight into every team’s draft plans. What position(s) should each team focus on as a result of the 2022 season? Who will be in the market for a quarterback in a 2023 class with plenty of high-end options?

There is still a bunch of time between now and when Round 1 begins on April 27, but let’s start the draft conversation with the AFC East.

Jump to:
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN
CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND
JAX | KC | LAC | LAR | LV | MIA | MIN
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF
SEA | TB | TEN | WSH

AFC EAST

Projected first-round pick: No. 28

The Bills don’t have a surplus of picks in this draft, with the team trading away two late-round picks at the deadline for running back Nyheim Hines and safety Dean Marlowe. They have an additional fifth-round pick after trading offensive lineman Cody Ford to the Cardinals, however. The Bills’ biggest needs will depend on what they do in free agency, with linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and safety Jordan Poyer — two key defensive players — set to be free agents. They won’t have to do major roster work in the draft, but there are positions that they will likely need to address, with the offensive line being another candidate. — Alaina Getzenberg


Projected first-round pick: None

The Dolphins once owned two first-round picks in this draft but traded one to the Broncos for linebacker Bradley Chubb, and the NFL stripped them of the other as part of its punishment for illegal tampering. They do, however, still have a second-round pick and two third-rounders, which could be enough to trade up into the late first round if there’s a prospect with which they’re enamored. More likely, Miami will stay put and address needs that include offensive line, tight end and cornerback. — Marcel Louis-Jacques


Projected first-round pick: No. 16

The Patriots are stocked with picks — an additional third-rounder from a 2022 draft-day trade with Carolina, an extra fourth-rounder from previously dealing running back Sony Michel to the Rams and two additional sixth-rounders from trades involving Stephon Gilmore and Jarrett Stidham — so that will provide plenty of flexibility to make trades. If an offensive tackle is in striking distance early, that would be a slam dunk. Shaky play at that position, in part due to a run of injuries, has contributed to the offense ranking 25th in the NFL in sacks taken per pass play. — Mike Reiss


Projected first-round picks: No. 17

The Jets should be back to having a “normal” draft. After stockpiling picks in the last two drafts — they had six total selections in the top 36 — they have only one in each of the top rounds. That makes it harder to fill needs, but they obviously don’t have as many as in previous years. It puts more pressure on general manager Joe Douglas and his scouting department because the margin for error is slimmer than in the high-volume years, but it’s a sign of progress in their rebuild. — Rich Cimini

AFC NORTH

Projected first-round pick: No. 25

While there will be plenty of clamoring for the Ravens to address wide receiver in the first round because of a lack of productivity, no one should be surprised if Baltimore uses its top pick on a cornerback. Marcus Peters is a free agent after a season in which he has clashed with coach John Harbaugh on the sideline and has not looked like himself on the field. Baltimore will need to find another starter to pair with Marlon Humphrey. The Ravens have long prioritized the cornerback position but haven’t selected one in the first round since 2017. — Jamison Hensley


Projected first-round pick: No. 26

With quarterback Joe Burrow‘s contract extension looming, the Bengals likely will need a plug-and-play starter in the draft to offset Burrow’s impending salary-cap hit. Cincinnati could address tight end or slot receiver, which could arise as needs this offseason. Finding high-leverage contributors in this class will be key to Cincinnati’s success for the next couple of years. — Ben Baby


Projected first-round pick: None

The Browns sent out three years’ worth of first-round picks in the Deshaun Watson trade, including their 2023 selection. Still, they have multiple issues to address. The biggest is a lean defensive front that has been overpowered too many times this season. Getting a beefy, difference-making defensive tackle in the second round should be the priority for a franchise with limited draft resources moving forward. — Jake Trotter


Projected first-round pick: No. 10

The Steelers are projected have their highest pick since 2014, when they had the No. 15 selection after a rebuilding season. They have several immediate positions of need they could fill after addressing the quarterback position in 2022. At the top of their wish list should be cornerback, offensive tackle, interior offensive line and defensive tackle. Since Pittsburgh parted ways with Joe Haden after last season, a true lockdown cornerback hasn’t emerged. And on the offensive line, 2021 fourth-round selection Dan Moore Jr. has been one of the most-penalized tackles and has allowed six sacks. — Brooke Pryor

AFC SOUTH

Projected first-round picks: Nos. 1, 12

The Texans’ rebuild is stuck in the mud. Why? Because they’re still searching for their quarterback of the future. There was optimism before the season that Davis Mills could become the long-term answer, but he was benched after 10 starts (and 11 interceptions). Going into this draft, Houston must find its franchise signal-caller to give its rebuild any legitimacy. — DJ Bien-Aime


Projected first-round pick: No. 7

The Colts have drafted just two quarterbacks in the first round since 1998: Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. With their need at the position as dire as ever, look for a heightened focus on the passers in this class. The Colts have other issues to sort out — like who will be their coach going forward — but there is no debate about the critical situation at quarterback given Matt Ryan‘s age (37) and performance and the unproven status of Sam Ehlinger. — Stephen Holder


Projected first-round pick: No. 13

Despite spending $128 million in guaranteed money on seven defensive free agents and selecting five defensive players in the first three rounds the past two offseasons, defense remains the Jaguars’ top priority. The pass rush has largely been ineffective (2022 No. 1 pick Travon Walker and 2019 No. 7 pick Josh Allen have combined for just 7.5 sacks) and the interior of the defensive line needs an upgrade, too. Cornerback could be the top target if the Jaguars aren’t willing to move Darious Williams, signed this year to be the nickelback, outside permanently. — Michael DiRocco


Projected first-round pick: No. 22

The Titans will be making draft selections without general manager Jon Robinson for the first time since 2015. This draft will be critical for a team stuck in a cycle of early playoff exits. Tennessee has invested heavily in the defense and gotten the desired results, but the offense lacks established dynamic playmakers outside of running back Derrick Henry, so this draft needs to yield players who can help put points on the board. — Turron Davenport

AFC WEST

Projected first-round pick: No. 24

With only three wins, many folks wonder how high the pick the Broncos sent to the Seahawks as part of the Russell Wilson trade last March will be. It projects to land in the top three, so Wilson has plenty of work to do to show that he was worth the draft capital the Broncos sent to acquire him — two firsts, two seconds and a fifth-round pick. And the Broncos have plenty of work to do to build an offense in which Wilson can succeed. They did get a first-round pick back when they traded Bradley Chubb to the Dolphins, but Wilson is still the key piece. — Jeff Legwold


Projected first-round pick: No. 30

Depending on the number of compensatory picks they’re awarded, the Chiefs could have as many as 11 choices. That makes this draft more about quantity than quality, particularly since the Chiefs have only one pick in each of the first three rounds. They will have the flexibility to move up for a particular player if they so choose, however. They’ve done a nice job of drafting in the late rounds in recent years, so they could find a productive player or two on the third day if they keep all their picks. — Adam Teicher


Projected first-round pick: No. 9

A year after waiting until the third round to make its first selection — the new regime of general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels dealt first- and second-round picks to Green Bay for wideout Davante Adams — Las Vegas again needs to get a little bit of everything. Little has changed, even with stars such as Adams, running back Josh Jacobs and defensive end Maxx Crosby on the roster. The wild card, though, is quarterback. Because even though Derek Carr signed a three-year, $121.5 million extension with a no-trade clause last offseason, the Raiders have a three-day window after the season to move on with a relatively cheap $5.6 million salary-cap hit. — Paul Gutierrez


Projected first-round pick: No. 23

The Chargers have used first-round picks the past two years to build protection for quarterback Justin Herbert, selecting left tackle Rashawn Slater in 2021 and right guard Zion Johnson last April. That trend could continue, with a need to solidify the right tackle spot, where starter Trey Pipkins III is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. The Bolts have seven draft picks despite sending a 2023 sixth-round selection to the Bears as part of the trade for Khalil Mack. During the draft, the Bears sent a 2023 sixth-round back in exchange for two 2022 seventh-round selections. — Lindsey Thiry

NFC EAST

Projected first-round pick: No. 29

There are several positions the Cowboys could target this offseason, such as running back, tight end, linebacker and potentially even a quarterback for the future. Cornerback is a major need, however. Jourdan Lewis suffered a Lisfranc injury in October that could have a long road for rehab. Anthony Brown, who is set to be a free agent, suffered a torn Achilles in December. The Cowboys have Trevon Diggs under contract through 2023 but would like to extend his contract. With Brown out for the year, 2021 second-round pick Kelvin Joseph has a chance to show if he can be a full-time player. If he doesn’t, cornerback looks like the biggest position to target going into the draft. — Todd Archer


Projected first-round pick: No. 20

The big question for the Giants will be whether they can — or will — take a quarterback in the first round. Sure, it won’t be easy if they decide to go in that direction, but Buffalo (where general manager Joe Schoen and coach Brian Daboll worked previously) had the 21st overall pick in the 2018 draft, traded up twice and landed Josh Allen at No. 7 overall. The Giants have nine picks in April’s draft and should add two more compensatory selections. That gives them something to work with. — Jordan Raanan


Projected first-round picks: Nos. 6, 31

The 12-1 Eagles have a legit chance to make a deep run in the playoffs and still end up with a top-10 pick. That’s because they hold the rights to not only their own first-rounder in 2023 but the Saints’ as well, thanks to a deal before this April’s draft that sent the Nos. 16 and 19 overall picks to New Orleans, along with a 2022 sixth-round pick, for the No. 18 overall pick, a 2023 first-round pick, a 2022 third-round pick, a 2022 seventh-round pick and a 2024 second-round pick. With Jalen Hurts solidifying his spot as the starting quarterback, Philadelphia can focus on the offensive line, defensive line and secondary. — Tim McManus


Projected first-round pick: No. 21

The Commanders have eight selections in the draft, three coming in the seventh round. They do not have a third-round pick because of the Carson Wentz trade but likely will get one for losing guard Brandon Scherff to free agency last offseason. They’re in a good position to address a few areas. Washington needs more depth at corner and could use its first pick there. Quarterback could be an option depending on how the position shakes out — Wentz has no guaranteed money and can be cut; Taylor Heinicke will be a free agent and Sam Howell is an unknown. The Commanders need more quality interior offensive linemen and speed everywhere. — John Keim

NFC NORTH

Projected first-round pick: No. 2

There will be plenty of quarterback-needy teams looking to trade up to the Bears’ spot in the top three picks. A year after not having a first-round selection, Chicago could come away with multiple firsts by trading back, allowing general manager Ryan Poles to address needs at defensive line, wide receiver and offensive line. The Bears rank last in the NFL in sacks (16) and pressures (70). Bolstering their pass rush is priority No. 1, and if it doesn’t come by signing free agents, they could find that help atop the draft. — Courtney Cronin


Projected first-round picks: Nos. 4, 15

Ever since he arrived in Detroit, general manager Brad Holmes has shown an eye for draft talent, picking gems such as fourth-round receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who is off to a record-breaking start to his career. There will be tough decisions made in this draft, and the Lions likely will have to address quarterback and cornerback. Yes, Jared Goff is having a great season, but they have to secure young talent at that spot, and the secondary is the Lions’ largest need on defense. — Eric Woodyard


Projected first-round pick: No. 14

Still waiting for that first-round receiver? It will be Year 21 without one, especially since it appears the Packers hit on second-rounder Christian Watson and fourth-rounder Romeo Doubs this year. Yet the Packers still need to get their quarterback — whether it’s Aaron Rodgers or Jordan Love — help. That must come in the form of a tackle and a tight end. Who knows how much longer David Bakhtiari will hold up at left tackle? And it’s still not a given that Yosh Nijman is a long-term starter. At tight end, Robert Tonyan is their only playmaker, and he’s on an expiring contract. — Rob Demovsky


Projected first-round pick: No. 27

One of these years, the Vikings will have to think about life after Kirk Cousins. He’ll turn 35 before next season, and barring another contract extension, will enter 2023 in the final year of his current deal. The Vikings’ unexpectedly successful season makes it unlikely that they’ll be in a position to select one of the top quarterbacks in this draft, but it’s a central team-building issue that is only going to intensify moving forward. — Kevin Seifert

NFC SOUTH

Projected first-round pick: No. 8

While some of this will depend on how rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder manages the last four games of the regular season, the Falcons might be well-served by focusing on defensive linemen and edge rushers in the draft regardless. They once again are toward the bottom of the league in sacks and pressure percentage, and the team desperately needs to find players to surround star tackle Grady Jarrett. It was Atlanta’s biggest need last year — and remains its biggest need this offseason, only this time there’s also cap money to play with. — Michael Rothstein


Projected first-round pick: No. 11

The Panthers haven’t taken a quarterback in the first round since Cam Newton with the top pick in 2011. With a good shot at a top-10 pick, it is time to end the quarterback turmoil the team has been in since midway through the 2018 season, when Newton suffered a shoulder injury. General manager Scott Fitterer has positioned himself with the trade of running back Christian McCaffrey to the 49ers to have the picks to move up for a quarterback if necessary. — David Newton


Projected first-round pick: None

The Saints traded their first-round pick to the Eagles, and the timing couldn’t be worse. Andy Dalton is on a one-year deal, and the team has twice looked past Jameis Winston in favor of other quarterbacks, meaning it clearly doesn’t see him as a long-term option. New Orleans hasn’t found its successor to Drew Brees, and it’s badly needed, but the options could be limited with no Round 1 pick in this draft. — Katherine Terrell


Projected first-round pick: No. 18

Everything the Bucs will do this offseason centers on whether quarterback Tom Brady returns, as his contract expires at the end of the season. If he returns, the quarterback situation will have security, and they will be looking to contend. If he doesn’t, and they can’t find a veteran replacement, the Bucs will shift to “rebuild” mode. — Jenna Laine

NFC WEST

Projected first-round pick: No. 5

First, it’ll depend on who’s making the pick — will it be longtime general manager Steve Keim or someone else? Keim has been the GM since 2013. Arizona will have a plethora of needs in the first round, and sticking to its “best player available” philosophy hasn’t always benefitted the team. This draft will be about making quarterback Kyler Murray happy and giving him more pieces to work with, whether that’s an offensive lineman or an offensive weapon. If that doesn’t happen, the discord behind closed doors will continue, especially as Murray gets set for rehab and surgery for the season-ending knee injury he suffered Monday. — Josh Weinfuss


Projected first-round pick: None

This will be Sean McVay’s first losing season since the Rams hired him in 2017, but the team won’t benefit from it early in the draft. The Rams haven’t made a first-round selection since 2016, and that will continue unless they trade up. Their likely top-five pick will go to the Lions as part of the trade that brought quarterback Matthew Stafford and a Super Bowl to Los Angeles. Los Angeles has six picks in this draft, but three are in the sixth round. — Sarah Barshop


Projected first-round pick: None

The Niners don’t have a pick in the first or second rounds and, barring a trade up, won’t select until the end of the third, where they will have compensatory selections. Still, they project to have up to nine picks depending on how the compensatory formula shakes out. That should help replenish a roster that is going to need reinforcements everywhere. San Francisco has another lucrative extension to get done in the offseason, with defensive end Nick Bosa due for a massive payday, which means it’s important for the team to continue hitting on mid- to late-round picks who can replace free agents it will inevitably lose. — Nick Wagoner


Projected first-round pick: Nos. 3, 19

The Russell Wilson trade has general manager John Schneider and the Seahawks sitting pretty. With the Broncos at 3-10, the first-round pick they owe Seattle likely will land in the top five. Picking that early gives the Seahawks a rare chance at adding the impact defensive lineman they badly need upfront, but they’d also need a quarterback if they let Geno Smith walk in free agency. They also own Denver’s second-rounder, meaning they’re likely to have three top-40 picks. — Brady Henderson

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