As the 2022 NFL Draft approaches, it is time to start preparing for one of the most important weekends of the year, with your favourite NFL team drafting their next generation of young talent out of college.
To help you prepare for and enjoy the draft more, I am putting together an in-depth look at the Team Needs of every team in the league. These articles will be coming thick and fast throughout the month of April, so you can read them all to fully understand who needs what and which picks they have to address it, or you can keep an eye out for the division that your team is in.
This time out it’s the AFC South!
Needs: Offensive Line, CB, WR
Draft Picks: 1st (26th) 3rd (90th) 4th (131st and 143rd), 5th (169th), 6th (204th and 219th)
For a really good team, there’s a surprising amount to deal with here. Consider for a second that this team started the season 8-2, with wins against some of the best teams in the league, the Bills, Chiefs and Rams. They were on fire. People were calling them Super Bowl contenders halfway through the season, and they weren’t wrong to do so. But then it fell flat. This team can’t be one who falls flat if they want to get to where they’re trying to go. This team has championship aspirations. But there’s work to do.
If you read the first of my team needs articles, for the AFC North, you will remember I said that Joe Burrow was the most sacked QB in the league with 51 sacks, and that they had to fix their O-Line (which they were very proactive in doing). Well, now let’s talk about the second-most sacked QB.
Ryan Tannehill was sacked 47 times last season, which is not ideal, to say the least. The Titans are one of the most dangerous teams in this league, and have the roster to do real damage in the playoffs, but to get this thing really going they have to fix their offensive line. There will be plenty of opportunities to try and bolster their O-Line, but I think they should consider getting started pretty early, whether they use their first-round pick on a lineman or possibly trade back and/or take some in the second or third round.
Then there is the suddenly improved situation of the Titans wide receivers. They have one of the best young wideouts in the league in A.J Brown. But when Julio Jones left the picture it left them pretty shallow. Even when Julio was there, it still kind of felt like AJB against the world. This offseason, they added one of the most underrated wideouts in the league at a great price. They paid just a 2023 sixth-round pick for Rams wideout Robert Woods. I absolutely love this fit. With Julio out, they add someone who has good route-running and solid hands, and – my favourite part of this trade – exceptional run blocking, both outside and near the tackles. With Derrick Henry on the team, that can’t be undervalued. They could still benefit from more depth, but this trade takes a lot of pressure off what was a major team need.
I would rather them focus on offensive line early, though, and they can source whatever WR depth they feel is necessary through a couple of punts in the middle rounds of the draft. Offensive line should definitely be the priority, due to the fact it helps protect the second-most sacked QB and football and simultaneously helps out one of the best running backs in the league, but more young offensive weapons would be a help to an offense that can strike fear into any defense already.
On the defensive side of the ball, they made a very important move by resigning linebacker Harold Landry, so I think they’re looking solid for the most part. However, I would expect to see them add a cornerback, a position that they have somewhat lacked at since Malcolm Butler moved on before last season. Kevin Byard is a fantastic free safety, partnered with third-year safety Amani Hooker and they have a couple of solid corners already, but I’d add another cornerback or two while focusing on the offense.
Needs: WR, OT, CB
Draft Picks: 2nd (42nd), 3rd (73rd) 4th (122nd), 5th (159th and 179th), 6th (216th), 7th (239th)
When I first wrote about the Colts, I used the phrase: ‘most awkward QB situation in the entire league’ – because their team was way too good to just ignore their glaring need for a starter, but their first draft pick was the 42nd overall. They moved on from Carson Wentz but had no real opportunity to use the draft to address it. But then they got themselves a QB.
They traded one of their two third-round picks, the 82nd overall, for Matt Ryan, from the Atlanta Falcons. This is a more than competent quarterback, with good accuracy and a solid arm, and a history of sustaining very good receiver play, with the likes of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. This solved the Colts biggest team need, and made their addressing of their second-biggest need all the more interesting.
Now that they have Ryan at QB, they will need to give him some more help. Their offensive line is very good but they need another offensive tackle, and then there’s the other type of help, more firepower at the wide receiver position. I think this is absolutely key. While Michael Pittman Jr. isn’t a bad player, and Parris Campbell has his moments, they have no real star receiver now that T.Y Hilton’s long career has run its course.
The Colts defense is very solid, even stronger after adding EDGE Yannick Ngakoue from the Raiders, but they could still benefit from taking a look at the secondary. Their 4-3 front constitutes one of the better front sevens in the league, but the secondary could do with some depth, especially at corner. They added Brandon Facyson – another Raider – but that was to replace Rock Ya-Sin. They have Kenny Moore who is a very talented corner, who just reached his first Pro Bowl, but he can only do so much on his own. However, I would like to see them at least one other young CB into the mix.
Needs: Basically everything. QB, Offensive Line, Defensive Line,
Draft Picks: 1st (3rd and 13th) 2nd (37th) 3rd (68th and 80th) 4th (107th, 108th) 6th (183rd, 205th and 207th), 7th (245th)
The list of needs for the Houston Texans could be a mile long. There was a time when they were considered a bad team with two absolute superstars propping up their offense. Now they don’t have either of them and the team behind it is arguably worse than it was then.
Now that the Deshaun Watson saga is over, they can at least begin to move on from the drama and chaos that they’ve had to deal with over the last two years on their path to his exit. They are also equipped with much more draft firepower having traded him to Cleveland, as you can partially see above (not including two more first-round picks they have in future years). So, what do they need?
The Quarterback position is the most important one for a franchise, but I don’t think that there is a long-term solution to be found there in this draft. Maybe take a punt and hope, but whoever plays there this year, the goal of this team is to rebuild from the ground up, and having another bad season and a top 3 pick wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.
Then you have the Offensive Line and Wide Receivers to build around whoever that QB eventually is. They could near enough improve all the way across the board here. I would say that generally speaking, it’s very beneficial to build your offensive line before you get the great QB in (so you avoid the Bengals situation of trying to build the whole thing in one offseason), so I’d start there. The wide receivers are ironically one of the stronger positions in the team – despite the lack of QB to throw to them – with Brandin Cooks as the best of them, but they could do with help there before they’re ready to push back towards relevance. They also don’t have any notable tight ends, at all, which is a position where finding a real gamechanger can be very helpful.
The defense is likely a more long-term project for this front office. They once had a tenacious D-Line, but it is much less so, now. This is definitely a position they will be considering with their two first-round picks this year, as one of the biggest, if not the biggest positional premium for elite talent. They also need to build out their secondary, which is probably a bit more affordable later in the draft.
I realise that I’m basically listing every position, but outside of the WR position, they just really don’t have anybody who is worthy of the team that Houston wants to become. Personally, I’d like to see them try to just draft the best player available with every pick they’ve got, and ideally I’d like them to consider trading down at least once in the first round to bolster the picks they have, because they need to really hit the jackpot over the next two drafts.
I would say this year they should focus on the trenches and their defensive secondary, then next season they can try to find their future at the QB position.
Needs: Offensive Line, Defensive Line, CB, S, WR
Draft Picks: 1st (1st), 2nd (33rd) 3rd (65th and 70th) 4th (106th), 5th (157th) 6th (180th, 188th, 197th, 198th) 7th (222nd, 235th)
Speaking of teams who have tried to find their future at the QB position. It perhaps doesn’t bode well for a team to have the first overall pick in a draft, use it on a QB and then still have the first overall pick the next year. That is unfortunately exactly the situation of the Jacksonville Jaguars. It’s not looking good, or at least not yet.
They had a 3-14 season in 2021 after just having a 1-15 season in 2020. They drafted Trevor Lawrence, which is, in theory, awesome and will provide them their long-term QB, but he had a tough rookie season. On the bright side, that does afford them the first pick for the second time in a row. Their first pick will very likely be an EDGE, which will give a nice boost to their defense, and then it’s open season on best player available for the rest of their plentiful haul of picks.
I would like to see them draft some help at the offensive line, just because they need to protect Trevor Lawrence as much as possible, and then they could do with a tight end and some wideouts. It feels like it won’t be necessary unless the line can give him some time, though. On defense, they could benefit from more help at D-Line even after using the 1.01 on it, and then bolster the secondary and just generally improve the talent on the roster.
Outside of Trevor Lawrence, I would say Jacksonville has as far to go as their divisional rival Texans, but they have less draft capital to spend on it at the start of the draft, with a lot of darts to throw later on. I’d like to see some of those numerous sixth round picks get packaged to move up in the draft on day two and really take the draft by the horns and start turning this franchise around.