The top 16 selections for the 2022 NFL draft are set

While the remaining piece to the playoff puzzle is yet to be set, with the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders looking to decide that in the finale of the 2021 NFL regular season, the first half of the 2022 NFL draft is now set.

Let’s take a look at how the top half of the first round shakes out, with some projected team needs for each organization as we sit here today.

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-14)

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Sure, this was not the kind of season that Jaguars fans hoped for, but Jacksonville finished the year in style by helping bounce the Indianapolis Colts out of playoff contention.

Even with the win, the Jaguars will be again picking at the top of the board. Aside from quarterback and cornerback, you might think any position is on the table for Jacksonville. Looking at the projected board at this early vantage points, you would expect one of the top pass rushers to be in play.

Detroit Lions (3-13-1)

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The Detroit Lions also finished the season in style, and can look ahead to a pair of selections in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft. Their later pick in the round, acquired from the Los Angeles Rams as part of the Matthew Stafford trade, might be where the Lions look to address quarterback. Here, you can expect one of the pass rushers, such as Kayvon Thibodeaux, Aidan Hutchinson or George Karlaftis, to be in play.

Houston Texans (4-13)

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The Houston Texans are in an intriguing position with the third pick in the upcoming draft. Has Davis Mills done enough to earn a shot at the job full-time? If the organization believes that he has — or that there is better value addressing a position other than quarterback this early in the first round — the Texans could look to add to the secondary with Kyle Hamilton or one of the cornerbacks, such as Derek Stingley Jr., Andrew Booth Jr. or Sauce Gardner.

Offensive line could also be a position the Texans address, with tackles Ikem Ekwonu or Evan Neal.

New York Jets (4-13)

Robert Saleh Jets
Robert Saleh Jets

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The New York Jets have a number of needs, and a hefty amount of draft capital. This is the first of two picks in the top ten, and they have four selections in the first 64 of picks of the draft.

Pass rusher could be a need, even with the team expecting Carl Lawson back and fully healthy for the 2022 season. New York could also look to address the secondary, as well as the linebacker position.

On offense, the Jets would benefit from adding another weapon or two around Zach Wilson, as well as some talent up front.

New York Giants (4-13)

A dismal season has a bright spot at the end of the tunnel:

The New York Giants have a ton of draft capital at their disposal.

New York enters this off-season with two picks in the top ten, a pick in the second round, and a pair of picks in the third round.

Unfortunately, there looks to be a lot of work to do.

On the offensive side of the football, the line remains an issue. Some have advocated for the team to even double-dip at the position group with their pair of first-round selections. Tight end could also be a position to address with Evan Engram reaching free agency. Defensively, New York could stand to upgrade at linebacker, and perhaps add another pass rusher into the mix with one of the later picks, depending on how the team addresses Lorenzo Carter’s free agency.

Carolina Panthers (5-12)

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Could this be where the first quarterback comes off the board?

The Carolina Panthers took a swing with Sam Darnold this season, and that move seems to have been a miss. The organization then added Cam Newton late in the season, but the veteran did not look like the long-term solution at the position. P.J. Walker also saw some playing time for the Panthers, but a viable starter for the future is a pressing need.

Up front on offense is also an area that could be addressed, as the Panthers could benefit from new faces on the outside and in the interior.

New York Giants (via the Chicago Bears)

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On the clock again? The New York Giants, thanks to the pick that allowed the Chicago Bears to come up and draft Justin Fields. All the needs previously mentioned remain in play for them here, but there is this wrinkle:

What is the future of Daniel Jones?

The organization does face a decision on his fifth-year option. In all likelihood, Jones is in their plans as their Week 1 starter for 2022. Head coach Joe Judge has made that statement in recent weeks. But does the team view Jones as a lock for, say, the starting job come midseason? Something to ponder…

Atlanta Falcons (7-10)

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Head coach Arthur Smith made it clear on Sunday that Matt Ryan is viewed as the team’s quarterback for 2022. But the Atlanta Falcons have to be thinking about a successor behind Ryan, making quarterback a consideration for the 2022.

Whether they address the position this early in the draft, or later, remains to be seen. Other needs for Atlanta include pass rush, the secondary, and perhaps a running back later in the draft.

Denver Broncos (7-10)

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The first big decisions have been made in Denver, with the Broncos firing head coach Vic Fangio and offensive coordinator Pat Schurmur.

Obviously who the organization brings in as the next head coach is a huge decision, as well as who the organization hires as the next OC. But another huge decision facing Denver is the quarterback position. Looking around the roster, the pieces are in place on both sides of the football. Until the Broncos figure out the quarterback piece, however, the puzzle will remain incomplete.

The team could also look to bolster the offensive line, as well as the defensive front seven.

New York Jets (via trade with the Seattle Seahawks)

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The New York Jets are on the clock again, and as outlined earlier there are a few different positions they could address in the first round. Depending on how the Jets handle their first selection, and how the board falls, this could be an interesting spot for a quarterback needy team to try and trade up to, with the Washington Football Team lurking with the next selection.

Washington Football Team (7-10)

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Similar to the Denver Broncos, the Washington Football Team has a pressing need at the quarterback position. After Ryan Fitzpatrick went down for the season early in the year, Taylor Heinicke took over and, while he showed flashes, the Football Team needs a long-term answer at the position. Heinicke is certainly a gamer, but the offense needs more.

Washington could also look to address the offensive line, and Brandon Scherff is set to hit free agency after playing under the franchise tag this past season. Defensively, the secondary, particularly safety, should be in play for Washington.

Minnesota Vikings (8-9)

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The first decision in Minnesota might be the status of Mike Zimmer as the head coach of the Vikings. The head coach avoided questions about his future after the season finale, but signs point to Zimmer being let go.

When it comes to position needs, Minnesota could go in a few different directions with this pick. They could look to help the defense, perhaps on the edge or in the secondary, or maybe even at linebacker depending on how the team handles Anthony Barr in free agency. Interior offensive line is another area where the Vikings could use some help.

Cleveland Browns (8-9)

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A preseason filled with expectations came crashing down in Cleveland, and now Kevin Stefanski and company have to pick up the pieces. Despite rumors of friction between Stefanski and Baker Mayfield, reports are already indicating that Mayfield is in the team’s plans for 2022.

So if quarterback is off the table, where might the Browns look in the first round? Pass rush could be an option, with Jadeveon Clowney and Takk McKinley set to hit free agency. They could also add to the defensive line.

On offense, the needs begin with wide receiver. Players like Treylon Burks, Jameson Williams or Garrett Wilson should be household names in Cleveland by draft time, if they are not already.

Baltimore Ravens (8-9)

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Battered by injuries, the Baltimore Ravens’ season finally ended with an overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, snuffing out what little playoff hopes they had.

Looking ahead, the team has needs up front on both sides of the football. Offensive line, particularly tackle, is a need. On defense, Calais Campbell is set to hit free agency so adding a pass rusher might be critical, and they could also address the interior of the defensive line as well.

Philadelphia Eagles (via trade with the Miami Dolphins)

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Thanks to a pair of trades, the Philadelphia Eagles enter the 2022 draft season with three picks in the first round. Having made the playoffs, they are first on the clock thanks to last year’s trade with the Miami Dolphins, and they will have a pick right after this selection thanks to the Carson Wentz trade with the Indianapolis Colts.

What could the Eagles do with this draft capital? First and foremost, build around Jalen Hurts. While the second-year passer still has areas to improve, he has shown enough that he should be in the plans going forward.

As far as needs, you can start on defense, where the Eagles would be smart to address linebacker, the secondary, and pass rush with Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett both set to hit free agency.

On the offensive side of the football, finding a running mate for DeVonta Smith at the WR2 spot is a move that makes sense. Also, with Jason Kelce set to hit free agency, center could be a position that becomes a need in the next few weeks.

Philadelphia Eagles (via trade with the Indianapolis Colts)

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The Eagles are back on the clock now, and having outlined some needs let me just mention a potential option for them at some point in the first round: Linebacker Devin Lloyd from Utah. The second level of the defense is an area the Eagles would be wise to address, and while off-ball linebacker are valued a bit differently in today’s NFL, adding Lloyd with one of their three first-round picks makes sense.

Expect the Eagles to keep a keen eye on Lloyd down at the Senior Bowl later this month.