NFC draft previews: Team-by-team outlook, projections
Dallas Cowboys (12-6)
► LAST SEASON: The Cowboys won the NFC East before a wild-card loss at home to San Francisco, an outcome that clearly rankled owner Jerry Jones. The disappointment wasn't enough for him to replace coach Mike McCarthy after two years. An offense that was among the best in the NFL before QB Dak Prescott's calf injury was inconsistent at best the second half of the season. The sputtering of that unit cost the Cowboys against the 49ers. NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons helped Dallas improve significantly on that side of the ball, with a big assist from new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. But the defense was more opportunistic than dominant, using turnovers to influence outcomes.
► FREE AGENCY/TRADES: WR Amari Cooper traded to Cleveland for a fifth-round draft pick and a swap of picks in the sixth. Cowboys wanted to re-sign DE Randy Gregory, but he opted for Denver because of language about guaranteed money in his contract. Dallas signed two outside free agents in DE Dante Fowler and WR James Washington. Cowboys so far have kept 12 of their own free agents, led by WR Michael Gallup, who might miss start of season recovering from torn knee ligament, and TE Dalton Schultz ($10.9 million franchise tag). Others are S Jayron Kearse, LB Leighton Vander Esch, DE Dorance Armstrong, DT Carlos Watkins, WR Noah Brown, S Malik Hooker, TE Jeremy Sprinkle, LB Luke Gifford, P Bryan Anger and LS Jake McQuaide.
► THEY NEED: OL, WR, DE.
► THEY DON'T NEED: QB, RB, LB.
► POSSIBLE FIRST PICK AT NO. 24: Arkansas WR Treylon Burks; Boston College G Zion Johnson; Texas A&M G Kenyon Green.
► OUTLOOK: The Cooper trade, a move made to create space under the salary cap, dinged the depth of a receiving group now led by 2020 first-round pick CeeDee Lamb. The Cowboys are facing the most uncertainty in their offensive line in a decade. Age (31) and injuries are a growing issue for eight-time Pro Bowl LT Tyron Smith. As a result, the only true anchor left is five-time All-Pro RG Zack Martin. The release of RT La'el Collins in a cost-cutting move apparently clears the way for undrafted third-year pro Terence Steele, although the draft could change this outlook. Dallas also has to replace penalty-plagued LG Connor Williams, who signed with Miami. The loss of Gregory in free agency increases the urgency at defensive end, while Parsons' versatility as a pass rusher keeps Dallas from being desperate. The Cowboys seem forever destined to enter the draft with a need at safety.
Philadelphia Eagles (9-9)
► LAST SEASON: First-year coach Nick Sirianni and second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts led the Eagles to a wild-card berth, a year after a 4-11-1 season cost Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pederson his job. Hurts showed enough potential as the starter following the trade of Carson Wentz to earn another shot this season. Once Sirianni built an offense committed to the run to highlight Hurts’ abilities, the Eagles rolled in the second half. However, they were 1-8 against teams that finished with a winning record, including a playoff loss at Tampa Bay.
► FREE AGENCY/TRADES: Traded the 16th overall pick to the Saints for a slew of picks. Lost S Rodney McLeod, CB Steven Nelson, LB Alex Singleton, LB Genard Avery. Signed OLB Haason Reddick, WR Zach Pascal, LB Kyzir White. Re-signed DT Fletcher Cox, DE Derek Barnett, RB Boston Scott, S Anthony Harris.
► THEY NEED: DL, WR, CB, LB.
► THEY DON'T NEED: QB, K, P.
► POSSIBLE FIRST PICK AT NO. 15, 18: Georgia DL Jordan Davis; Ohio State WR Chris Olave; Washington CB Trent McDuffie.
► OUTLOOK: GM Howie Roseman already shook up the first round, sending two of Philadelphia’s three first-rounders to New Orleans for a first, a third and a seventh this year plus two future picks. The Eagles have 10 overall picks and flexibility to move around. Despite drafting Jalen Reagor and DeVonta Smith in the first round the past two seasons, the Eagles still could take another wideout with one of their two remaining firsts. They’ve always valued defensive linemen, so adding depth at tackle is possible depending on the board.
Washington Commanders (7-10)
► LAST SEASON: A season that started with high expectations coming off an NFC East title ultimately became more of a rebuilding year than coach Ron Rivera expected when he took the job in early 2020. The defense that dominated the league the previous season struggled early and veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was injured in Week 1. In the aftermath of his surprise playoff performance against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the wild-card round the previous season, Taylor Heinicke assumed the starting role and had some ups and downs amid a roster ravaged by injuries and COVID-19 absences. Washington won four in a row coming off its bye week to get to 6-6 and into the playoff race before a four-game skid ended those hopes
► FREE AGENCY/TRADES: Traded for QB Carson Wentz. Lost RG Brandon Scherff in free agency, released LG Ereck Flowers and DT Matt Ioannidis. Designated S Landon Collins to be released after June 1. Re-signed RB J.D. McKissic, S Bobby McCain, OT Cornelius Lucas, WR Cam Sims, K Joey Slye and CB Danny Johnson. Signed G Andrew Norwell and DE Efe Obada.
► THEY NEED: WR, S, DT, OL, developmental QB.
► THEY DON'T NEED: RB, Edge rusher, LB, CB.
► POSSIBLE FIRST PICK AT NO. 11: USC WR Drake London; Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson; Ohio State WR Chris Olave; Notre Dame S Kyle Hamilton.
► OUTLOOK: Washington’s draft comes in the aftermath of the trade for Wentz and upcoming contract negotiations with top WR Terry McLaurin. Even if the Commanders can pay McLaurin to stick around long term, they could use another option in the passing game to take some heat off him and help Wentz. Losing Collins is a blow to Rivera and Jack Del Rio’s defense that often played three safeties with McCain and Kam Curl also on the field. Hamilton if he slips to 11 would seem a perfect fit. In a weak QB year, don’t rule out a developmental prospect in one of the middle or later rounds to groom for the future.
New York Giants (4-13)
► LAST SEASON: A year that started with increased expectations after a surprising 2021 under new coach Joe Judge was marked by injuries on offense, then disappointment. It ended with a 4-13 record and the firings of general manager Dave Gettleman and Judge. New York again got off to a slow start, losing its first three and six of eight. Season-ending injuries to LG Shane Lemieux (knee) and C Nick Gates (broken leg) in the first two games crushed a suspect O-line. RB Saquon Barkley had few holes coming off ACL surgery and QB Daniel Jones had little time to produce anything. He played a week after a concussion against Dallas but missed the final six games with a neck injury. Adding to the woes, high-priced free agent Kenny Golladay didn’t score a TD and neither did exciting receiver but oft-injured first-round pick Kadarius Toney. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was fired on Nov. 22 after another dismal showing. The defense lost ILB Blake Martinez in Week 3 and S Jabrill Peppers in Week 7 to ACL injuries. Second-year S Xavier McKinney had a breakout year with five interceptions. Gettleman and Judge were replaced by former Bills assistant GM Joe Schoen and Buffalo offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.
► FREE AGENCY/TRADES: Reworked contracts of Martinez, WR Sterling Shepard (Achilles tendon injury) and CB Adoree Jackson. Released S Logan Ryan, TE Kyle Rudolph, TE Kaden Smith, RB Devontae Booker and P Riley Dixon to create cap space. Signed OLs Mark Glowinski, Jon Feliciano, Matt Gono, Jamil Douglas and Max Garcia; QB Tyrod Taylor;, TE Ricky Seals-Jones; WRs Richie James and Robert Foster;, DT Justin Ellis; RB Matt Breida; and LB Jihad Ward. Lost TE Evan Engram, S Jabrill Peppers, DL Austin Johnson, G Will Hernandez, LB Lorenzo Carter and DB Keion Cross. Re-signed TE Korey Cunningham, LS Casey Kreiter, WRs David Sills and C.J. Board, and DB Jarren Williams.
► THEY NEED: T, Edge, CB, S, TE, WR and maybe future QB.
► THEY DON'T NEED: PK, ILB.
► POSSIBLE FIRST PICK AT NO. 5, 7: Alabama T Evan Neal; North Carolina State T Ikem Ekwonu.
► OUTLOOK: Schoen needs to fix a franchise that has had five straight losing seasons and been to the playoffs once (2016) since winning the Super Bowl in February 2012. Two picks in the first seven are going to help. One needs to be a bookend tackle to complement Andrew Thomas, the only productive lineman returning. New York has nine overall picks, with two in the third and fifth rounds and none in the seventh. It needs help at almost every position expect placekicker. The Giants’ immediate void after a tackle is an edge rusher. There has been talk Schoen might be willing to give up No. 7 overall, provided he gets another first-round choice and a first-rounder down the road. It’s a big ask.
Green Bay Packers (13-5)
► LAST SEASON: The Packers won a third straight NFC North title and owned the conference’s No. 1 playoff seed, but lost 13-10 to the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round. Aaron Rodgers earned a second straight MVP award and threw 20 touchdown passes without an interception in his last seven regular-season games. WR Davante Adams and LB De’Vondre Campbell joined Rodgers as All-Pro selections. Campbell led an improved defense under first-year coordinator Joe Barry. The team’s biggest weakness was special teams, which proved costly when the Packers gave up a tying touchdown on a blocked punt and also had a field-goal attempt blocked in the playoff loss to the 49ers. The Packers fired special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton after the season and replaced him with former Las Vegas Raiders interim head coach Rich Bisaccia.
► FREE AGENCY/TRADES: Traded Adams to Las Vegas. Released OL Billy Turner and OLB Za’Darius Smith. Lost P Corey Bojorquez, LB Oren Burks G Lucas Patrick, WR Equanimeous St. Brown, CB Chandon Sullivan and WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling in free agency. Signed CB Keisean Nixon, P Pat O’Donnell, DT Jarran Reed and WR Sammy Watkins.
► THEY NEED: WR, OL, DL, OLB, TE.
► THEY DON'T NEED: QB, RB, CB.
► POSSIBLE FIRST PICK AT NO. 22, 28: Arkansas WR Treylon Burks; Penn State WR Jahan Dotson; Purdue DE George Karlaftis; Ohio State WR Chris Olave; North Dakota State WR Christian Watson.
► OUTLOOK: The Packers figure to use at least one of their two first-round picks on a receiver, something they haven’t done since selecting Florida State’s Javon Walker 20th overall in 2002. They’re going to need multiple receivers to pick up the slack as they try to replace Adams’ production. They also have two second-round picks and have a history of success finding receivers in that round (Adams, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings). The Packers could use a pass-rushing complement to Rashan Gary and Preston Smith now that they no longer have Za’Darius Smith. They also need to add depth on both sides of the line. The Packers got good production from their 2021 draft class with CB Eric Stokes, C Josh Myers and G Royce Newman stepping into featured roles immediately.
Minnesota Vikings (8-9)
► LAST SEASON: The Vikings lost their first two games in crushing fashion to eventual playoff teams Cincinnati and Arizona and never truly recovered, not spending a single week above the .500 mark. They matched the NFL’s all-time record with 14 games decided by eight points or fewer, winning only six of those while their late-game defense failed them badly. Quarterback Kirk Cousins had another solid year throwing to star receiver Justin Jefferson, but he missed a crucial game at division champion Green Bay with COVID-19. General manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer were both fired the day after the season, paving the way for the Kwesi Adofo-Mensah/Kevin O’Connell regime to begin. O’Connell came with a Super Bowl ring after winning the championship as offensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams.
► FREE AGENCY/TRADES: Signed LB Za’Darius Smith, DT Harrison Phillips, LB Jordan Hicks, CB Chandon Sullivan, G Jesse Davis, G Chris Reed, G/C Austin Schlottmann, CB Nate Hairston and TE Johnny Mundt. Re-signed CB Patrick Peterson, P Jordan Berry, K Greg Joseph and QB Sean Mannion. Signed Cousins to a one-year contract extension. Released DT Michael Pierce. Lost TE Tyler Conklin, S Xavier Woods and C Mason Cole. LB Anthony Barr, DE Everson Griffen, DT Sheldon Richardson, CB Mackensie Alexander and OT Rashod Hill remain free agents.
► THEY NEED: CB, DL, interior OL.
► THEY DON'T NEED: WR, RB, OT.
► POSSIBLE FIRST PICK AT NO. 12: LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr.; Washington CB Trent McDuffie; Florida State DE Jermaine Johnson II.
► OUTLOOK: Bringing back Peterson was a big boost to the secondary, but the Vikings still need more cornerbacks. The defensive line depth also ought to be addressed, though retaining Danielle Hunter and signing Smith gives the Vikings an enviable pair of pass rushers if they’re healthy. After prioritizing the offensive line with several early picks over the last four drafts, the Vikings appear to have finally established a viable core to move forward with. Tackles Brian O’Neill and Christian Darrisaw and left guard Ezra Cleveland are set in their spots. Right guard remains a question mark, but the Vikings signed three free agents to compete there. Center Garrett Bradbury, their first-rounder in 2019, enters a pivotal year, with his potential replacement lurking in this draft.
Chicago Bears (6-11)
► LAST SEASON: Chairman George McCaskey opted to stick with former general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy after the Bears went 8-8 in the regular season two years in a row. And the result was an all-too-familiar one. Chicago had a significant slump for the third straight season, losing eight of nine at one point, and missed the playoffs for the ninth time in 11 years. That was enough to convince McCaskey to make sweeping changes. The Bears fired Pace and Nagy and hired Ryan Poles as GM and Matt Eberflus as coach.
► FREE AGENCY/TRADES: Traded LB Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers. Released RB Tarik Cohen, DT Eddie Goldman, LB Danny Trevathan. Lost WR Allen Robinson, QB Andy Dalton, CB Xavier Crawford, LB Joel Iyiegbuniwe, S Deon Bush, P Pat O’Donnell, CB Artie Burns, DL Bilal Nichols, WR/KR Jakeem Grant, OL James Daniels. Signed DT Larry Ogunjobi to three-year deal, only to call it off after he failed a physical. Signed LB Joe Thomas, DE Al-Quadin Muhammad, DL Justin Jones, KR/PR Byron Pringle, QB Trevor Siemian, TE Ryan Griffin, LB Matt Adams, CB Tavon Young, OL Dakota Dozier, FB Khari Blasingame, WR Equanimeous St. Brown, LB Nicholas Morrow, OL Lucas Patrick, TE James O’Shaughnessy, DB Dane Cruikshank. Re-signed S DeAndre Houston-Carson, LS Patrick Scales.
► THEY NEED: WR, OL, CB.
► THEY DON'T NEED: QB, LB, K.
► POSSIBLE FIRST PICK AT NO. 39: Washington CB Kyler Gordon; Tulsa OL Tyler Smith; Auburn CB Roger McCreary; Georgia S Lewis Cine; Texas A&M OL Kenyon Green; Oklahoma DT Perrion Winfrey; Florida CB Kaiir Elam; Georgia WR George Pickens; North Dakota State WR Christian Watson.
► OUTLOOK: The Bears have just six picks at the moment and no first-rounder after sending it to the New York Giants in the trade to move up for QB Justin Fields last year. Poles and Eberflus need to surround Fields with the pieces to develop following an uneven rookie season, and improve an offense that ranked among the NFL’s worst. The former Ohio State star threw more interceptions (10) than touchdown passes (seven) to go with an unimpressive 73.2 passer rating. They need help at wide receiver and on the offensive line. They could also use another cornerback to go with Jaylon Johnson, and that’s not the only issue on defense. Along with the two second-round picks, Chicago has one each in the third and sixth rounds and a pair in the fifth. The Bears made a major move when they traded three-time All-Pro Mack for the No. 48 pick plus a sixth-rounder in 2023. But their biggest free agent signing was nullified when former Cincinnati DT Ogunjobi failed a physical after agreeing to a three-year contract. He injured his right foot during the Bengals’ wild-card victory over the Las Vegas Raiders and was lost for the remainder of the playoffs.
Detroit Lions (3-13-1)
► LAST SEASON: The Lions lost their first eight games and went 0-2-1 over the next three before finally winning a game. They closed with a relatively encouraging 3-3 finish in coach Dan Campbell’s first full year as a head coach. Many months before his first season as a general manager, Brad Holmes traded quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for Jared Goff and a pair of first-round picks to seal the fate of 2021 as a rebuilding year.
► FREE AGENCY/TRADES: Released OLB Trey Flowers. Lost LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin; S Dean Marlowe; WR KhaDarel Hodge. Signed WR DJ Chark Jr.; S DeShon Elliott; LBs Jarrad Davis, Chris Board; CB Mike Hughes; ; TE Garrett Griffin. Re-signed S Tracy Walker; WRs Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, Tom Kennedy; Cs Evan Brown, Ryan McCollum; P Jack Fox, Ss Jalen Elliott, JuJu Hughes, C.J. Moore; LBs Charles Harris, Alex Anzalone, Josh Woods, Jessie Lemonier, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Rashod Berry, Anthony Pittman; FB Jason Cabinda; OT Matt Nelson; QBs Tim Boyle, QB David Blough; LS Scott Daly; CBs Bobby Price, Mark Gilbert; RB Godwin Igwebuike; TE Brock Wright; K Riley Patterson; G Tommy Kraemer.
► THEY NEED: DE, WR, CB, LB.
► THEY DON'T NEED: RB, TE, OT, C.
► POSSIBLE FIRST PICK AT NO. 2, 32: Michigan DE Aidan Hutchinson; Georgia DE Travon Walker; Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux; LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.; North Carolina State OL Ikem Ekwonu.
► OUTLOOK: Detroit desperately needs an influx of talent on both sides of the ball. Its problems on defense seem more pressing: on the line, at linebacker and in the secondary. Jacksonville is expected to take Hutchinson No. 1 overall, but the Lions would pounce on the opportunity to take a hometown guy who starred at Michigan if he’s available. If not, second-year general manager Brad Holmes will probably take the top defensive player on the team’s board. The Lions, though, could take Ekwonu and put him at guard to bolster their potentially powerful offensive line.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (14-5)
► LAST SEASON: With Tom Brady leading the league in completions, attempts, passing yards and touchdowns, the Bucs followed up winning their first Super Bowl victory in nearly two decades by setting a franchise record for regular season wins and capturing their first NFC South title since 2007. Brady briefly retired after losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams in the divisional rounds of the playoffs, however the seven-time NFL champion reversed course 40 days later and announced he’ll return for a 23rd season.
► FREE AGENCY/TRADES: Coach Bruce Arians, G Ali Marpet retired. Traded for G Shaq Mason. Placed franchise tag on WR Chris Godwin, then signed him to 3-year, $60 million deal. Lost S Jordan Whitehead, TE O.J. Howard, G Alex Cappa, RB Ronald Jones to free agency. Signed WR Russell Gage, DB Logan Ryan, OL Fred Johnson, S Keanu Neal in free agency. Re-signed C Ryan Jensen, CB Carlton Davis, RB Leonard Fournette, DL Williams Gholston, WR Breshad Perriman, RB Giovani Bernard, T Josh Wells, LS Zach Triner, G Aaron Stinnie, QB Blaine Gabbert.
► THEY NEED: DT, CB, OL, TE, Edge Rusher.
► THEY DON'T NEED: QB, P, K.
► POSSIBLE FIRST PICK AT NO. 27: Georgia DT Devonte Wyatt, Texas A&M G Kenyon Green, Arkansas WR Treylon Burks, Washington CB Kyler Gordon.
► OUTLOOK: With Brady back and Todd Bowles taking over for Arians, the Bucs are “reloading” with expectations of making another Super Bowl run. The offseason began with questions about what general manager Jason Licht would do to replace Brady. Once the QB decided to return, the focus turned to keeping a talented core together by retaining Godwin, Jensen, Davis, Fournette, even Brady backup Blaine Gabbert, who’s still ahead of second-year QB and 2021 second-round draft pick Kyle Trask on the depth chart. With a veteran roster built to win now, there’s a good chance there will be limited opportunities for members of this year’s draft class to shine as rookies.
New Orleans Saints (9-8)
► LAST SEASON: New Orleans opened 5-2 in the first season that Jameis Winston took over for franchise all-time leading passer Drew Brees. But Winston’s season ended with a knee injury in his seventh game. New Orleans lost four straight with Trevor Siemian filling in as the starter before rallying back into contention when Taysom Hill returned from injury and took over. Ultimately, the Saints were eliminated on the last day of the season by San Francisco’s dramatic comeback at the Los Angeles Rams. The winning record came despite having to start four QBs in all and despite top receiver Michael Thomas missing the entire season because of his ankle injury. But long-time coach Sean Payton decided to retire after the season and was replaced by defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, whose unit performed well during the past half decade and was the strength of the team, especially the past two seasons.
► FREE AGENCY/TRADES: Traded their 18th overall draft pick, a 2023 first-rounder and several current and future later-round picks to the Eagles for picks 16 and 19 and 194 (sixth round). Released K Brett Maher and QB Blake Bortles. Lost LT Terron Armstead, S Marcus Williams, QB Trevor Siemian, WR Ty Montgomery and TE Garrett Griffin. Signed S Marcus Maye; DTs Kentavius Street and Jaleel Johnson; QB Andy Dalton; TE J.P. Holt; S Daniel Sorensen; and DE Taco Charlton. S Malcolm Jenkins retired.
► THEY NEED: LT, WR, S.
► THEY DON'T NEED: DT, Edge rusher, LB, K, P.
► POSSIBLE FIRST PICK AT NO. 16, 19: Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett; Mississippi QB Matt Corral; Ohio State WR Chris Olave; Alabama WR Jameson Williams; Arkansas WR Treylon Burks; Northern Iowa OT Trevor Penning.
► OUTLOOK: GM Mickey Loomis and Allen brought back Winston, added Dalton as his backup and asked Hill to become a full-time tight end. But Winston’s two-year deal is really just guaranteed for one year, so the Saints could draft a QB in the first round – and could move up to do so by exchanging their two mid-round choices for one higher pick. If they can’t work out a deal for the QB they want, they’d have three picks in the top 49 to try to bring in players who could contribute right away. The Saints have retained numerous core players from four straight playoff seasons between 2017 and 2020. So, bringing in a left tackle and receiver with two first-round picks could bolster Allen’s chances for winning right away. That’s something he’ll have a sense of urgency to do after going 8-28 in his first head coaching job with the Raiders from 2012-14.
Atlanta Falcons (7-10)
► LAST SEASON: The Falcons were outscored 459-313, making seven wins something of an accomplishment under first-year coach Arthur Smith. Highlights included the play of rookie tight end Kyle Pitts, who led the team with 68 catches for 1,026 yards, and versatile Cordarrelle Patterson, who scored a combined 11 touchdowns while leading the team in rushing and finishing third in receptions. Salary-cap woes contributed to the decision to trade 14-year starting quarterback Matt Ryan to Indianapolis after the season, and the inability to re-sign top wide receiver Russell Gage and leading tackler Foye Oluokun. After playing only five games while stepping away during the season to address mental health issues, wide receiver Calvin Ridley was suspended by the NFL after the season for 2022 for betting on games.
► FREE AGENCY/TRADES:Traded Ryan to Indianapolis. Released OLB Dante Fowler, OT Matt Gono, DL Tyeler Davison, WR Marvin Hall, QB Matt Barkley. Lost Oluokun, Gage, TE Hayden Hurst, QB A.J. McCarron, SS Duron Harmon, CB Fabian Moreau, LS Josh Harris, WR Tajae Sharpe, OT Jason Spriggs, P Thomas Morstead, OLB Brandon Copeland, DE Jonathan Bullard. Signed K Younghoe Koo, OL Jake Matthews to extensions. Signed CB Casey Hayward, RB Damien Williams, OLB Lorenzo Carter, WR KhaDarel Hodge, QB Marcus Mariota, WR Auden Tate, DB Dean Marlowe, LS Beau Brinkley, WR Damiere Byrd, LB Rashaan Evans, OL Germain Ifedi, CB Mike Ford, TE Anthony Firkser, DT Vincent Taylor. Re-signed CB Isaiah Oliver, RB Cordarrelle Patterson, S Erik Harris, RB Qadree Ollison, WR Olamide Zaccheaus.
► THEY NEED: Edge rusher, WR, QB, RB, OT, DT.
► THEY DON'T NEED: PK, TE, FB, CB.
► POSSIBLE FIRST PICK AT NO. 8: Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson; Liberty QB Malik Willis; Florida State edge Jermaine Johnson II.
► OUTLOOK: The Falcons signed Marcus Mariota as their probable 2022 starting quarterback after trading Ryan. They still need depth at the position for this year, and a long-term starter. If the Falcons are convinced Willis can be the future starter, they can use the No. 8 overall pick on the dual-threat player who has the potential to excite the fan base. If not, general manager Terry Fontenot could trade down in the first round. Wilson would provide important talent to a wide receiver position in desperate need of help after Ridley’s suspension. No matter the first-round decision, wide receiver and edge rusher should be addressed.
Carolina Panthers (5-12)
► LAST SEASON: The Panthers suffered through another five-win season under Matt Rhule, leaving the third-year coach squarely on the hot seat. A major problem has been Carolina’s inability to land a franchise quarterback. After moving on from Teddy Bridgewater following the 2021 season, the Panthers sent three draft picks to the New York Jets for Sam Darnold. But Darnold has disappointed in Carolina. Cam Newton was brought back midseason, but went 0-5 as the starter as past shoulder issues continued to limit his ability as a passer. Carolina went all in this offseason trying to land Deshaun Watson, but came up short. Darnold and P.J. Walker are currently the only QBs on Carolina’s roster. Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo remain options at quarterback if the Panthers decide against taking Liberty’s Malik Willis or Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett with the No. 6 pick. Trading out of the sixth spot and adding draft picks remains an option, too.
► FREE AGENCY/TRADES: Lost RB Ameer Abdullah, LBs Jermaine Carter and Haason Reddick, CB Stephon Gilmore and DT DaQuan Jones. Released CB A.J. Bouye, DE Morgan Fox. Signed C Bradley Bozeman, G Austin Corbett, RB D’Onta Foreman, P Johnny Hekker, WR Rashad Higgins, DT Matt Ionnidis, LBs Corey Littleton and Damien Wilson, CB Chris Westry and S Xavier Woods. Re-signed Ss Juston Burris and Sean Chandler, K Zane Gonzalez, DE Marquis Haynes, CBs Donte Jackson and Rashaan Melvin, LS J.J. Jansen, LB Frankie Luvu and Julian Stanford, FB Giovanni Ricci, TE Ian Thomas, QB P.J. Walker and WR Brandon Zylstra. Extended: WR D.J. Moore.
► THEY NEED: QB, OT, Edge rusher, LB, TE.
► THEY DON’T NEED: RB, WR, CB, S.
► POSSIBLE FIRST PICK AT NO. 6: Alabama OT Evan Neal; Liberty QB Malik Willis; Pitt QB Kenny Pickett; Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux.
► OUTLOOK: GM Scott Fitterer knows his team has two glaring holes to fill: quarterback and left tackle. The team also could use an edge rusher to replace Haason Reddick, who left via free agency after recording 11 sacks last year. Finding a quarterback is the first priority though given it is the most important position in sports. Left tackle is a close second. The Panthers added Corbett and Bozeman to shore up the interior line, but a blindside protector remains a need. The Panthers have not used a first-round draft pick on an offensive tackle since Jeff Otah in 2008. They don’t have picks in the second or third rounds, making it tough to fill multiple needs.
Los Angeles Rams (16-5)
► LAST SEASON: The Rams won it all for the second time in team history, raising the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the first time during the franchise’s two Los Angeles eras. Sean McVay became the youngest Super Bowl-winning coach by teaming up with new quarterback Matthew Stafford to revitalize the Rams’ offense, while a defense led by Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and coordinator Raheem Morris made steady improvements throughout the 12-5 regular season. LA won nine of its final 10 games after a November slump, rolling to the NFC West title before routing Arizona and bouncing defending champ Tampa Bay in the playoffs. The Rams gritted out a tough win over San Francisco in the conference title game before a 23-20 victory over Cincinnati in the Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium on a late TD pass from Stafford to Cooper Kupp. Among the Rams’ many superlative performances, Kupp led the NFL in every major receiving category and was Super Bowl MVP.
► FREE AGENCY/TRADES: Lost LT Andrew Whitworth to retirement. Traded WR Robert Woods to Tennessee. Lost LB Von Miller, RG Austin Corbett, CB Darious Williams, DT Sebastian Joseph-Day, LB Ogbo Okoronkwo, TE Johnny Mundt and LB Troy Reeder. Released P Johnny Hekker. Signed LB Bobby Wagner and WR Allen Robinson. Re-signed LT Joseph Noteboom, C Brian Allen, LB Travin Howard, K Matt Gay, WR/KR Brandon Powell and QB John Wolford.
► THEY NEED: DB, Edge rusher, NT, G.
► THEY DON'T NEED: QB, RB, K.
► POSSIBLE FIRST PICK AT NO. 104: Mississippi edge Sam Williams; Coastal Carolina edge Jeffrey Gunter; Georgia Tech OL Devin Cochran.
► OUTLOOK: Unless they swing a wild trade, the Rams won’t make a first-round pick for the sixth consecutive season. Detroit has their choice as part of the Stafford deal. Los Angeles also moved its second-round and third-round picks to Denver for the half-season rental of Miller, which means general manager Les Snead isn’t scheduled to choose a player before his compensatory third-round pick for losing GM Brad Holmes to the Lions. The Rams have eight picks, but just three before the sixth round. Their scouting department must do its usual above average job of identifying undervalued players who can create the cheap depth that allows Snead to swing pricey deals for stars. The champs’ formula is tough to replicate, but they’ve been using it splendidly ever since they returned home to California in 2016.
Arizona Cardinals (11-6)
► LAST SEASON: The Cardinals looked like one of the best teams in the NFL through the first few months of the season, winning their first seven games and improving to 10-2. Then came the collapse. Arizona lost four of its final five games, dropping from the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC to the wild-card round. The Cardinals were then smoked by the Los Angeles Rams 34-11 in the playoffs. Since the season, QB Kyler Murray and the Cardinals have been engaged in a passive/aggressive war of words as the quarterback seeks a lucrative long-term contract.
► FREE AGENCY/TRADES: Arizona’s been relatively quiet during the offseason but did re-sign important offensive pieces RB James Conner, WR A.J. Green and TE Zach Ertz. Added G Will Hernandez for the offensive line and picked up CB Jeff Gladney to help the secondary. The Cardinals lost edge rusher Chandler Jones to the Raiders and RB Chase Edmonds to the Dolphins. Jones is the franchise leader in career sacks.
► THEY NEED: Edge rusher, DL, CB, WR, OL, RB.
► THEY DON'T NEED: LB, QB.
► POSSIBLE FIRST PICK AT NO. 23: Georgia DL Jordan Davis; Georgia DL Devonte Wyatt; Arkansas WR Traylon Burks; Clemson CB Andrew Booth Jr.
► OUTLOOK: Things seemed stable until the surprising tiff between Murray and the front office. It still appears that the franchise is building around the 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick, but there’s no denying a significant tension. As for the draft, the good news for the Cardinals is that they aren’t desperate at any one position, even if they need help in several spots. They’ll likely be looking for an edge rusher, receiver, defensive lineman or cornerback in the first round and can pick the best available option that falls to No. 23.
San Francisco 49ers (12-8)
► LAST SEASON: The Niners made it all the way to the NFC title game before falling to the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams. WR Deebo Samuel emerged as one of the top playmakers as both a runner and receiver to lead the offense, while a healthy season from edge rusher Nick Bosa helped the defense. Jimmy Garoppolo remained the starting QB despite San Francisco trading three first-round picks to draft Trey Lance third overall. Garoppolo was mostly healthy after missing significant time with injuries in two of the past three seasons, but showed some of the inconsistencies that led to the trade for Lance.
► FREE AGENCY/TRADES: Signed CB Charvarius Ward, DE Kerry Hyder, LB Oren Burks, S George Odum, DL Hassan Ridgeway, WR Ray-Ray McCloud, DL Kemoko Turay. Lost G Laken Tomlinson, CB K’Waun Williams, DT D.J. Jones, S Jaquiski Tartt, DE Arden Key, RB Raheem Mostert, CB Josh Norman, LB Marcell Harris.
► THEY NEED: G, S, DL, C, CB.
► THEY DON'T NEED: WR, QB, LB.
► POSSIBLE FIRST PICK AT NO. 61: Memphis G Dylan Parham; Penn State S Jaquan Brisker; USC DE Drake Jackson.
► OUTLOOK: After making top 10 picks in four of five drafts with GM John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan, the Niners go into this draft without a first-round pick for the first time since 1996. San Francisco was mostly quiet in free agency outside of signing Ward and a few role players, and will likely look for help on the interior offensive line and in the secondary with nine draft picks. Adding more pass rush help also could be a focus as the Niners often use a deep rotation on the defensive line. There’s also the tricky question about Samuel’s future after he reportedly asked for a trade. If San Francisco grants the request it could come during the first round to allow the Niners to draft his replacement.
Seattle Seahawks (7-10)
► LAST SEASON: The Seahawks endured their worst record in long tenure of Pete Carroll finishing at 7-10 and missing the playoffs for only the second time since 2012. Quarterback Russell Wilson suffered a finger injury that caused him to miss three-plus games. Wilson rushed his return from surgery and wasn’t the same for several weeks before an impressive late push. Running back Rashaad Penny was a revelation late in the season and was the most productive rusher in the league over the final month in one of the few bright spots. Tyler Lockett set a career high in yards receiving and DK Metcalf a career best in touchdown receptions, but Seattle’s offense was frustratingly inconsistent for much of the season. Safety Quandre Diggs was a Pro Bowl selection while Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks were among the league leaders in tackles. But Seattle’s defense ranked 28th in the league overall and 31st at stopping the pass. Seattle fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. after the season, promoted Clint Hurtt to defensive coordinator and hired Sean Desai as assistant head coach of the defense.
► FREE AGENCY/TRADES: Wilson was traded to Denver in exchange for QB Drew Lock, DT Shelby Harris and TE Noah Fant, plus multiple draft picks. Wagner was released in a salary-cap move and signed with the Rams. Diggs, Penny, DT Al Woods, TE Will Dissly, CB Sidney Jones, QB Geno Smith re-signed. Signed free agents LB Uchenna Nwosu, CB Artie Burns, DT Quinton Jefferson, C Austin Blythe, CB Justin Coleman, LB Joel Iyiegbuniwe.
► THEY NEED: OT, QB, CB, OT, ILB, WR.
► THEY DON'T NEED: RB, P.
► POSSIBLE FIRST PICK AT NO. 9: Cincinnati CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner; Mississippi State OT Charles Cross.
► OUTLOOK: The Seahawks are embarking on the most important draft in a decade since the 2012 draft that landed the franchise Wilson, Wagner and DE Bruce Irvin in the first three rounds. Trading Wilson and releasing Wagner was the conclusion to the most successful chapter in franchise history. But if Seattle is to write another chapter of success during Carroll’s tenure it has to land impact players in this draft. Both offensive tackles spots are unfilled. Another inside linebacker is needed to play alongside Brooks. Starting cornerback D.J. Reed signed with the Jets in free agency. And hanging over all those needs is whether Seattle believes the heir apparent to Wilson is available in this draft or if the quarterback class of 2023 may be more attractive for the Seahawks.