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2022 NFL Draft Preview: Needs and Rumors for Every Team; Jaguars’ Thoughts on No. 1 Pick

Jacksonville owner Shad Khan finally has the transparency he’s wanted throughout his organization. Plus, a team-by-team primer, the curious case of Kyle Hamilton and more.

Shad Khan’s been in the office more this offseason. And on Sunday, as the Jaguars’ owner landed back in the States, in his adopted hometown of Champaign, Ill., from London late Sunday afternoon, he was already looking forward to getting back there again.

It’s undeniably a better place than it’s been.

That’s despite hiring a general manager in Trent Baalke whom few in his team’s fan base wanted him to retain. It’s even with the tumult of 2021 still a not-very-distant memory. It’s even if it took nearly two months, following the firing of Urban Meyer, for Khan to find the right head coach to pair with Baalke.

“The churn of constant hiring or firing, does that make you successful necessarily? Or even in certain circumstances, where that might be what seems to be the popular choice, is that really the right thing for the franchise?” Khan asked. “So when it was all said and done, I felt Doug [Pederson] and Trent, the chemistry was really good. They had known each other by reputation in the past, and I could compare them with the combinations of some of the other people.

“And then more importantly, what is the philosophy of the team? What kind of team are we going to be? What are we gonna do moving forward? You gotta get all of those things accounted for. And I can tell you that here almost four months down the road, I just couldn’t be more proud.”

For now, that doesn’t mean a ton. The Jaguars were the worst team in football last year, for the second straight year, and are on their third head coach over that time (fourth if you count 2021 interim coach Darrell Bevell). As such, this week, they’ll pick No. 1 for the second year in a row, having a lot of building still to do.

That said, this time is different for Khan, and it’s not just because of the intense criticism he’s faced over the last six months.

It’s also because, in retaining Baalke and hiring Pederson, he wasn’t simply delegating to others and providing input as the process went on. In this case, Khan rolled his sleeves up, got involved and came to his own conclusion that keeping his much-maligned GM was the right thing to do, and that going the extra mile to land Pederson to match with Baalke was what needed to happen.

Similarly, he’ll be on a plane Wednesday to Jacksonville to help Baalke and Pederson finalize which of the four candidates under consideration for the top pick the Jags are going to take atop Thursday’s first round. He’ll let those guys do their thing, of course. But he wants to see their process at work and know why they’re doing what they are—and once again see, with his own eyes, that things are still going where they have been the last few months, which, as Khan sees it, is in the right direction.

Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Travon Walker; Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan; Michigan Wolverines pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson

Welcome to the last MMQB before the 2022 draft. And because it’s our last predraft column, we’ve got a ton to cover. Inside it, you’ll find …

• A full team-by-team needs and rumors breakdown.

• More on a couple of former first-round receivers who could be traded.

• A look at whether the receiver trade trend is here to stay.

• A deeper look at the makeup of the class.

But we’re starting this column where we started last year’s predraft MMQB column, and that’s in Jacksonville, with the Jags’ owner set to start his 11th full season in charge.

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Khan’s learned a lot over a decade as owner about the differences between the challenges in business and in football. But there are parallels that stretch from what he believes works in one to the other, and a big one is something very fundamental and relatable.

“The most important thing for me is really to be able to walk in and talk to the people just casually and really have a healthy, fun dialogue without tension or any pretense about it,” Khan said. “So a good example is doors being closed in offices, O.K.? I’ve not been a believer in that, and so most of the workplaces we have aren’t like that. … A lot of the coaching staff in the past, the football personnel, they’d be in their offices and the doors would be closed.”

Therein lies another difference this year—with Pederson in charge, those doors have been open through the latter months of winter and beginning of the spring. That even extends to a point where, Khan says, the coaches’ input on the design of the team’s under-construction practice facility, which will open in June 2023, led to their offices there being designed with three glass walls and one whiteboard wall to give the place an open feel.

Maybe that part of this is symbolic. But it’s also indicative of, after so much tumult the last few years, and at the end of the Doug Marrone and Meyer eras, what Khan really wanted—and what he’s optimistic he’s now got.

“There is transparency, there’s teamwork and if you need privacy, there are times you do that, but mostly, this is it,” he said. “I can walk in, look at the field, the environment. That is really, really important. So where the offices are located, people are talking, mixing it up, different ideas, different players, and there aren’t the chimneys of, ‘this is the personnel,’ or ‘the GM’s here,’ or ‘this is the coaching.’ It’s all basically one element.”

That, Khan continued, has led to consensus and buy-in on the big swings the Jags have taken since Pederson and Baalke grabbed the reins, and there have been a few.

There was the decision to tag Cam Robinson. There were big ticket free-agent acquisitions on both offense (Christian Kirk, Brandon Scherff, Evan Engram) and defense (Foley Fatukasi, Foye Oluokun, Darious Williams). And there was the filling out of Pederson’s staff before that.

But there’s no decision that’ll be bigger than the one coming later this week.


georgia-travon-walker-draft-prospect

Khan has, indeed, met with those under consideration to go No. 1—guys like Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and Georgia’s Travon Walker.

He went to the combine. He’s participated in predraft meetings. And he’s made the effort to get as much face-to-face time as possible with them, just like he did with the free agents after those guys signed, to get a feel for who they are and how they’d fit into the type of environment he sees Pederson and Baalke building.

Really, it’s his way of acknowledging the stakes. Last year, they were huge, too, of course, because the Jaguars were about to pick the quarterback with whom everyone in the building would sink or swim for the foreseeable future. But this year, that process is maybe even more so, because the identity of the first pick isn’t nearly the fait accompli it was last April, when Trevor Lawrence was the presumed selection from the day the Jags’ 2020 season came to a close, even with Marrone on the way out.

“When you have a No. 1 pick, and it’s a quarterback, they’re gonna define the franchise for a long time,” he said. “But this pick is very, very important to us because they have to fit in culturally. Obviously, they’re going to be talented, we have to evaluate that. But we look at them as coming in and really having an immediate impact on the team. And we’ve had free agents, but we’re still a very young team. So who we pick, I think the leadership quality, the work ethic, setting an example, all of those are really, really, very important things.”

And so where Baalke and Pederson have the football part covered, Khan might be able to give his two cents on the mental makeup, and in exchange he’ll get a more thorough understanding of how the operation is functioning day-to-day, which gives him the peace of mind if knowing the moment isn’t slowing.

“The football players, I’ve been impressed with,” Khan continued. “And now how do you validate some of the things you see? This is where Doug and Trent, their mindset and their experience is really paramount. They see certain things that I wouldn’t, or I wouldn’t be aware of. And frankly some of the assistant coaches, they have a viewpoint, maybe more technical on how all of them would fit in with the team and how the team might be impacted or who moves the needle the most.

“But, yeah, absolutely I think I’ve been impressed when it comes to culture-setting and their mindset and setting the tone by example.”

Which, in the end, has prepared him for Wednesday’s meeting with Pederson and Baalke as prepared as he’s ever been for a draft.

And if you want to know the degree to which he’s trying to learn the prospects, and the draft, all you have to do is ask if he knows where he’d like the team to go Thursday.

“Yeah, I have an opinion,” he said. “I do have an opinion. We are supposed to get together on Wednesday, and so I don’t have as firm a decision as I did maybe last year, but I do have it. I think we’ll have to really firm up the draft board, so we have clarity on all the permutations and combinations we’re gonna hit. “


Fun is a word Khan threw around a bunch over the half hour we talked. As in the weekend was fun for him over in England—with his Fulham soccer team earning a promotion to the Premier League, and he and son Tony over there together for the first time since COVID-19 hit in March 2020. And as in going to work for his NFL team is fun again, too.

But he’s been at this long enough, with just one playoff berth in a decade as owner, to know that it’s much easier to have fun in the spring than it is in the fall. Which is a big reason why he’s looking for detailed answers now earlier in the year than he ever has before.

“The most important thing is accountability,” Khan said. “And really articulating why we’re doing certain things and not just because they might need a position—but explaining that to me. It’s like [Albert] Einstein said, If you can’t explain quantum mechanics to a sixth grader, you don’t understand it yourself. I think that is a good example. If they can’t explain some of the decision making to me, maybe they don’t understand it.

“In the past, some decisions I saw got made because, Well, I have this responsibility and I’m making it. And some worked out, some didn’t. And so here, there is a thorough analysis and articulation. … That is really a key thing to being in the weeds more and getting a lot more homework done. And teamwork, it’s not one person’s decision.”

Which is to say, whether it’s Hutchinson or Walker, or a lineman like Ickey Ekwonu or Evan Neal, everyone’s going to have their fingerprints on it, and own it together, from Pederson to Baalke to even Khan himself, being the one who hired those two and the one who’ll give final sign-off on the pick two days from now.

“You don’t find out how good or bad those decisions were until a couple of years down the road,” Khan said. “So this is like being in the kitchen and seeing how the sausage is made.”

And, Khan hopes, having that better view will help him run a better organization.

For now, it at least appears to be a happier one.


NFL draft prospect Aidan Hutchinson

TEAM-BY-TEAM TIDBITS

As we do every year now during draft week, we’re publishing my official mock on Tuesday. And to get you there, we’re bringing back my needs/rumors column.

Below, you’ll find a breakdown of each team’s needs, as I was able to ferret them out with the help of a few teams’ pro scouting departments, as well as the latest I’ve got on what they might do on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. So all you need to know is right here right now …

Jacksonville Jaguars

First round: No. 1
Total picks: 12
Needs: Edge rusher, WR, LB, OT, C

What you need to know: Baalke said this week that there are four guys in the running for the first pick, and if I had to guess their identity (and this is just an educated guess), I’d bet on it being Michigan’s Hutchinson, Georgia’s Walker, NC State’s Ekwonu and Alabama’s Neal. And one common refrain, even with scuttlebutt I heard over the weekend that a Cam Robinson extension could be coming, is that Pederson so values offensive linemen that even with a paycheck for a good-not-great player like Robinson—one ex-co-worker of Pederson’s said, “I’d think he’d want to keep building that up.” So while we’ve mentioned that Baalke may feel some pressure to take the chalk pick (Hutchinson), and may like the traits-y projection (Walker), and the Jags could use another edge to play with Josh Allen, that tug is there for me that Pederson might still push for the kind of tackle he had in Philly (Jason Peters/Lane Johnson) or Kansas City (Eric Fisher/Mitchell Schwartz). Jacksonville also has done a ton of work on the line group and, for what it’s worth, I heard very early on Baalke likes Ekwonu.

Detroit Lions

First round: No. 2, No. 32
Total picks: 9
Needs: Edge rusher, LB, WR, TE, S, QB

What you need to know: Consensus for three months has been that if Hutchinson doesn’t go to Jacksonville, the Lions will keep him home—and that makes a ton of sense. If Hutchinson goes first, then Walker is widely seen as a better cultural fit for Dan Campbell’s program than Kayvon Thibodeaux. But … it’s been pointed out to me that one of the few pro days GM Brad Holmes made it to this spring was Oregon’s, and he led an armada of Lions folks that included Chris Spielman, and the Lions had him in for a 30 visit after that. Detroit’s also been connected, in my talks with teams, to Liberty QB Malik Willis and Cincinnati CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. Would they take a corner or quarterback at No. 2? We’ll see. Most rival teams don’t think so.

Houston Texans

First round: No. 3, No. 13
Total picks: 11
Needs: CB, edge, RB, S

What you need to know: Over the last few weeks, I’ve heard real questions on Laremy Tunsil’s future in Houston. His deal was restructured in March, so I’d think he’ll be around this fall. But 2023 is a contract year for the 27-year-old, and if he or the team aren’t going to want to go forward from there, a player like Neal or Ekwonu makes sense at No. 3. Both can play inside or at right tackle (and may be better at those spots), and their experience and ability to play left tackle could give the Texans the flexibility to trade Tunsil after this year. That said, more than a few personnel people have raised to me what Lovie Smith said about needing corners a couple of weeks ago, a comment that stood out because Smith’s defense hasn’t valued the position the way others have over the years. Which makes me wonder if that might be more of a tell on someone like Washington’s Trent McDuffie or LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. at 13 than Gardner at three (and I’ve heard they like Stingley). Also worth mentioning is that McDuffie, Neal and Ekwonu are very clean character-wise, which I’d bet will be important for GM Nick Caserio with his first set of first-round picks since taking the reins in Houston. And one other name I was given to watch here (and there’s a lot of guessing going on, when it comes to what Caserio’s thinking) was Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson.

New York Jets

First round: No. 4, No. 10
Total picks: 9
Needs: WR, edge rusher, CB, RB, interior DL, LB

What you need to know: Everyone has an edge rusher, corner or receiver going here. But there’s persistent buzz connecting GM Joe Douglas to Ekwonu (and potentially even Neal), which puts where the team stands on its 2020 first-round pick, Mekhi Becton, in the foreground. Ekwonu is 100% Douglas’s type of player and has the athleticism to thrive in Mike LaFleur’s offense. And if it’s not Ekwonu, then Thibodeaux, Walker and Gardner could all be in play at No. 4. At 10, a receiver like Alabama’s Jameson Williams (remember, they wanted a burner in pursuing Tyreek Hill) or USC’s Drake London would make sense. But it’s worth noting that there’s more depth in the class at receiver than corner, so the chances the Jets get a good receiver at Nos. 35 or 38 might be better than getting a good corner there. That’s also the beauty of the Jets’ pick haul—they have four in the top 40, so they have freedom to take the best players at Nos. 4 and 10, knowing they have more capital to fill needs. And because they have that kind of deep well, the Jets are open to moving picks into next year, too.

New York Giants

First round: No. 5, No. 7
Total picks: 9
Needs: OT, edge rusher, CB, RB, interior DL, LB

What you need to know: This is going to sound bland and general, but GM Joe Schoen and coach Brian Daboll don’t view this as a one-year rebuild, and so their focus will be on getting the best players at the most valuable positions. My guess is that’ll mean building up the lines and maybe grabbing a corner high, too. And one thing most people seem relatively convicted on is that the Giants are coming out of the first round with a left tackle. The one I’ve heard them connected to most is Mississippi State’s Charles Cross, whom some regard as the best player in the draft (others are more skeptical of a tackle coming out of Mike Leach’s offense, especially after how Andre Dillard turned out). My sense is they’re very open to moving the seventh pick, and like the idea of trying to get a high 2023 pick out of their haul of ’22 picks, given the relative weakness of this year’s class). If they hang on to No. 7, someone like Thibodeaux would make sense.

Carolina Panthers

First round: No. 6
Total picks: 6
Needs: Edge rusher, QB, OT, OG, interior DL

What you need to know: I think there’s a way better chance they’ll take a tackle here over a quarterback than most people do—provided that Cross, Ekwonu or Neal is still available when they’re up. In fact, there are teams that are convinced the Panthers won’t take a quarterback. Could they even get trigger-happy and try to trade with, say, the Jets to try to get in front of the Giants to get someone like Cross? Given their lack of numbers in picks, I’d say it’s unlikely, but I wouldn’t totally rule it out. And if the tackles are gone, or even if they aren’t, I do believe the preference here would be to trade down, maybe with a team coming up for a pass rusher. If it is a quarterback? Most have them pegged to take Willis or Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, with a little underlying buzz that Ole Miss’s Matt Corral has support in that building.

Atlanta Falcons

First round: No. 8
Total picks: 9
Needs: WR, edge rusher, interior DL, CB, OT, QB

What you need to know: A lot of people have the Falcons pegged to take a receiver here, with USC’s Drake London and Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson names to watch. It’s to the point where Atlanta is seen as the team to get in front of if you want your pick of the receiver group. London is very much seen as Arthur Smith’s type of wideout—big and tough and a strong blocker. But if the right edge rusher falls to No. 8, I wouldn’t rule out Smith and Terry Fontenot going in that direction either, with four other top-100 picks to address the receiver need. And if you want a wild card, Willis or Corral would be one here.

Seattle Seahawks

First round: No. 9
Total picks: 8
Needs: OT, CB, QB, pass rush, LB, S

What you need to know: This is another team I’ve heard Corral connected to, but both Seattle and Atlanta could be looking at him more in the early second round area. Both also have two second-rounders, so either would have the capital and flexibility to deal back into the bottom of the first round to, perhaps, scoop him up there. If it’s not a quarterback here, Pete Carroll and John Schneider do have plenty of other needs to shore up. The dream come true would be an edge rusher like Walker or Thibodeaux, or a tackle like Cross falling into their laps at No. 9. The more likely best value here would be a corner—and word is that this could be a landing spot for Stingley (Seattle had a big contingent at his pro day in Baton Rouge) or Gardner—so long as Seattle’s willing to take one that high. The highest pick Carroll and Schneider have used on a corner in their 12 previous drafts was 90th (Shaquill Griffin in 2017). Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning is another player linked to the Seahawks as a fit, but ninth would be very rich for him.

Washington Commanders

First round: No. 11
Total picks: 6
Needs: OG, S, LB, CB, WR, interior DL

What you need to know: Most other teams expect a receiver to go here—and it’d make sense that they get someone to help take the heat off Terry McLaurin. Stylistically, London would be a great complement for him, and give Carson Wentz the big-bodied type that he had in Philadelphia (Alshon Jeffery) and Indianapolis (Michael Pittman Jr.). So if I had to guess, this would be London’s floor. Wilson would be another really good on-field fit alongside McLaurin. But I’m keeping an eye on Ohio State’s Chris Olave here, too, as he’s very close with McLaurin and is a fantastic cultural fit for the Commanders (if a little redundant on-field with what his ex-Ohio State teammate brings to the table).

Minnesota Vikings

First round: No. 12
Total picks: 8
Needs: CB, edge, S, G, WR, TE

What you need to know: A trade back is a possibility—should a tackle or corner or edge another team really wants be there—with Houston, Baltimore and Philly right behind the Vikings. That said, it’s a good bet that GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and coach Kevin O’Connell, with the first pick they’ll make together, let this pick come to them and take the best player available, regardless of position. It’s worth mentioning that Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell both come from places that value premium positions and elite traits, so a falling Kyle Hamilton, the super-sized Notre Dame safety, or Stingley could fit the bill here.

Baltimore Ravens

First round: No. 14
Total picks: 10
Needs: CB, LB, DL, OLB, nickel, TE

What you need to know: The masters of the comp-pick formula have finagled a scenario where they’re headed into draft week holding five (!!!) fourth-round picks. Which gives them flexibility to move around with their second- (45th overall) or third-rounder (76th), or even the 14th pick. If they stay where they are, there should be a good pool of players sitting there for them, depending on who slides to them (Stingley, McDuffie, Jermaine Johnson, etc.). And regardless of what happens there, I’d definitely keep an eye on Georgia giant Jordan Davis here.

Philadelphia Eagles

First round: No. 15, No. 18
Total picks: 10
Needs: WR, S, CB, G, RB, LB

What you need to know: Could they take a receiver in the first round? Indeed they could, and their 2020 first-rounder Jalen Reagor would likely be available via trade if they do. This is right around where the run on the top tier of receivers (London, Wilson, Williams, Olave) could be coming to a close, so one could be in play with either of Philly’s picks. As is always the case with GM Howie Roseman’s finger on the trigger, the Eagles also could move up or down with either pick, with some in the league believing a short move up for a pass rusher would be in play for Philly if the right one fell. This is another team to watch on Davis.

New Orleans Saints

First round: No. 16, No. 19
Total picks: 7
Needs: OT, WR, S, interior DL, G, QB

What you need to know: The Saints’ trade with the Eagles, selling off a future first (2023) and a future second (’24) to get an extra first this year, raised many an eyebrow across the NFL. So let me give you the best explanation I’ve gotten: They very much believe in the core they have now, and GM Mickey Loomis wants to win now (before, eventually, handing the reins to Jeff Ireland), so the move was doubling down on the current roster and helping to alleviate its perpetual cap problem (which cost the Saints LT Terron Armstead and FS Marcus Williams this offseason) by giving the team another vehicle to acquire cheap talent. Could a QB be part of that equation? Well, I’ve heard both Pickett and Corral have fans in the building, but most I’ve talked to believe they’ll use their picks on a receiver (if one of the top four is still there), a tackle (maybe Penning) or a defensive lineman (Davis, perhaps).

Los Angeles Chargers

First round: No. 17
Total picks: 10
Needs: OT, G, NT, RB, LB, WR

What you need to know: The Chargers did a fantastic job refurbishing the offensive line in 2021 by adding Rashawn Slater, Corey Linsley and Matt Feiler, and a lot of people from rival teams expect—after the team added Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson to the defense this offseason—that they’ll double down with another bodyguard for Justin Herbert. Penning, for sure, would be a suitable right tackle replacement for Bryan Bulaga and bookend for Slater. Boston College G Zion Johnson is another name to watch. But don’t rule out Tom Telesco (whose first-round record is exemplary over nine years) and Brandon Staley swinging on a receiver or corner here, if the right one were to slip.

Pittsburgh Steelers

First round: No. 20
Total picks: 7
Needs: QB, interior DL, S, WR, CB, OT

What you need to know: The Steelers have done a ton of work on Willis, and have an ideal situation for the Liberty quarterback—they could redshirt him behind Mitch Trubisky, or charge their spread-offense guru of a coordinator, Matt Canada, with building the right offense for him to play early on. Pittsburgh also, for what it’s worth, had Pickett down the hall at their facility the last five years (Pitt and the Steelers share a practice complex), and it’s no secret how well-respected Pickett is in the Pitt program. If both are available at No. 20, it’s easy to see where GM Kevin Colbert might make his final first-round pick a quarterback for the next GM to build around. And if it’s not a quarterback, snatching up someone falling (Hamilton?) would make sense.

New England Patriots

First round: No. 21
Total picks: 8
Needs: CB, LB, G, pass rusher, WR, OT

What you need to know: Two things to keep an eye on here are the future of the offensive line and speed on defense. In the case of the former, New England’s got a hole at guard, and left tackle Isaiah Wynn, who’s been pretty average at the position, is in a contract year. So taking a player like Zion Johnson or Penning would make sense. Catching slipping Utah LB Devin Lloyd might be an option, too (I’ve heard him connected to the Patriots in recent weeks), in that he adds a three-down presence à la Jamie Collins, so long as New England would be O.K. with the fact that he turns 24 in September. But the dream scenario, to me, would be McDuffie, an A-plus kid (one exec called his predraft interview “A-plus, plus, plus”) whose profile looks like Devin McCourty’s did coming out of Rutgers 10 years ago.

Green Bay Packers

First round: No. 22, No. 28
Total picks: 11
Needs: WR, OLB, TE, S, LB

What you need to know: Everyone’s anticipating GM Brian Gutekunst breaking the drought and giving Green Bay its first first-round receiver since Javon Walker 20 (!!) years ago. I think it could happen—but I wouldn’t mark it down quite yet. Remember, Gutekunst was part of scouting departments that landed Greg Jennings (52th overall), James Jones (78th), Randall Cobb (64th) and Davante Adams (53th) in the second and third rounds, and he happens to hold the 53rd, 59th and 92nd picks. O.K., so with that established … I have heard them linked to Arkansas WR Treylon Burks, a bigger receiver who, like Deebo Samuel, you need to have a plan for, and could be there at 28. And if one of the top four falls to them, obviously, that’d be a consideration at 22.

Arizona Cardinals

First round: No. 23
Total picks: 8
Needs: Edge rusher, WR, CB, interior DL, OT, QB

What you need to know: Chandler Jones’s departure leaves a pretty serious void on the outside of Cardinals’ front seven, and filling it this deep in the first round won’t be easy. And with Christian Kirk gone, infusing some speed back into the receiver group figures to be a priority as well, especially with DeAndre Hopkins’s history (and production when he has a burner opposite him vs. when he doesn’t). In a dream scenario, Jameson Williams slips a little and they jump up. It’s just that Williams probably won’t slide far, and Arizona doesn’t have much capital (three picks in the first five rounds) to move around with.

Dallas Cowboys

First round: No. 24
Total picks: 9
Needs: LB, WR, interior DL, OT, TE, QB

What you need to know: Dallas could move up—I heard at one point last week that their radar was up for Thibodeaux potentially sliding. But more likely would be the team sticking here, and taking either a traditional off-ball linebacker (Georgia’s Nakobe Dean?) or starting to inject some youth into their aging offensive line group. To that end, Texas A&M guard Kenyon Green is one player other teams have connected to Dallas.

Buffalo Bills

First round: No. 25
Total picks: 8
Needs: CB, WR, LB, OT, S, RB

What you need to know: The Bills’ roster might be the NFL’s most well-rounded, and so Buffalo’s going to be able to use most of its picks to work on needs a year or two out and build depth across the board. One spot that’s been pointed out pretty consistently as a need is corner. And I’d heard the Bills connected to Stingley at one point, with the thought of his being around fellow LSU Tiger Tre’Davious White, but I don’t think Stingley falls to a point where moving to get him would be realistic for the Bills. So someone like Washington’s Kyler Gordon might make sense here. Or they could grab a back, like Iowa State’s Breece Hall, as a luxury pick, since they don’t have many holes to fill.

Tennessee Titans

First round: No. 26
Total picks: 7
Needs: G, WR, CB, OT, RB, TE

What you need to know: An offensive lineman would make a lot of sense here, but that’s not as much fun as wondering about a quarterback, with Ryan Tannehill going into the final guaranteed year of his contract. And it’s at least worth mentioning that Mike Vrabel’s best friend is University of Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell, who’s championed his quarterback, Desmond Ridder, to every NFL person who’ll listen. Ridder’s fatal flaw, for some, is his inconsistent accuracy. But others believe with mechanical work he can get better there. And with Tannehill there, the Titans could give him a year or two to do that work.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

First round: No. 27
Total picks: 6
Needs: Interior DL, G, TE, LB, RB, S

What you need to know: Because of Tom Brady’s presence, the picks here are likely to be used on guys ready to contribute quickly—and GM Jason Licht has been pretty adept at finding those sorts (Tristan Wirfs, Antoine Winfield Jr., etc.) the last couple years. This year, the bet would be a play to get younger on the defensive line (Georgia’s Devonte Wyatt?) and fill the guard need (Green?) early on. With just four picks in the first six rounds, the Bucs don’t have a ton of margin for error.

Kansas City Chiefs

First round: No. 29, No. 30
Total picks: 12
Needs: CB, WR, edge rusher, interior DL, LB, OT

What you need to know: “How many picks does [Brett] Veach have? 12?” said one rival GM. “Yeah, there’s no way he uses all of them.” Such is the idea now, that the Chiefs GM could well do something splashy on draft day, and move up to get an affordable replacement for Tyreek Hill. Jameson Williams would be the obvious guy who’d even have a chance to be a one-for-one exchange in that regard, and I just don’t know that the Chiefs will take that big a swing. Especially with Patrick Mahomes’s cap numbers escalating, Orlando Brown Jr. to pay and more affordable talent needed across the roster. We’ll see.

Cincinnati Bengals

First round: No. 31
Total picks: 8
Needs: CB, TE, LB, interior DL, S, G

What you need to know: The Bengals have done their homework on corners, and a number of the big-school types Cincinnati likes could be available in this range, with Gordon, Florida’s Kaiir Elam and Clemson’s Andrew Booth being potential options. But I wouldn’t rule out the team doubling down again on the offensive line, even after bringing in Alex Cappa and La’el Collins. Especially if someone like Iowa C Tyler Linderbaum is there.

Chicago Bears

First pick: No. 39
Total picks: 6
Needs: WR, CB, OT, S, LB, interior DL

What you need to know: New Bears GM Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus made clear with their actions the last three months that, as they see it, the time had come to hit the reset button on the roster. How Chicago uses the 39th, 48th and 71st picks should tell us plenty on how the new guys see the team going forward. Given the background of both guys, I’d expect a grounding in the line of scrimmage and an emphasis on explosive athletes elsewhere. Getting both should help Poles and Eberflus get answers on Justin Fields.

Indianapolis Colts

First pick: No. 42
Total picks: 7
Needs: CB, OT, edge, interior DL, WR, QB

What you need to know: As optimistic as the Colts might be on 27-year-old left tackle Matt Pryor, the position bears watching at 42, especially with a well-regarded second wave of tackles after the top group (Tulsa’s Tyler Smith, Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann) potentially giving Chris Ballard options there. And corner’s a spot to watch, too, after the trade of Rock Ya-Sin.

Cleveland Browns

First pick: No. 44
Total picks: 7
Needs: Interior DL, edge, WR, LB, CB, TE

What you need to know: Cleveland GM Andrew Berry has done a nice job of maintaining and building strength at premium positions, which should allow the Browns to use the seven picks they have in this year’s draft to fill in gaps. Getting younger and deeper at receiver and on the defensive front would seem to be a nice place for Berry & Co. to do work with what they have this year.

San Francisco 49ers

First pick: No. 61
Total picks: 9
Needs: C, OG, DE, S, RB, CB

What you need to know: Laken Tomlinson is gone, and Alex Mack might be, too. Of course, what happens with Deebo Samuel will color all of this—and obviously could impact how many picks the Niners are working with.

Denver Broncos

First pick: No. 64
Total picks: 9
Needs: LB, CB, interior DL, TE, OT, RB

What you need to know: GM George Paton has pointed to the Von Miller trade as a key to getting the Russell Wilson deal done—and the reason why is it gave him and Nathaniel Hackett the flexibility to deal picks for a quarterback, while still having something left over to keep building the roster up. With the 64th, 75th and 96th picks, adding depth defensively would seemingly be a priority.

Las Vegas Raiders

First pick: No. 86
Total picks: 5
Needs: OT, G, interior DL, LB, CB

What you need to know: Absent first- and second-rounders, Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler go into their first draft together with a fairly complete roster. They could use some help on the offensive line, and up the middle of the front seven—but the big picture here shows that ex-GM Mike Mayock left the new guys with plenty to work with, and the new guys have done a good job plugging the holes he left.

Miami Dolphins

First pick: No. 102
Total picks: 4
Needs: LB, edge, interior DL, CB, nickel, C

What you need to know: The Dolphins have the shallowest pool of draft resources in the league after three years of having stockpiled picks. Much of this year’s capital was used to trade up for Jaylen Waddle last year and trade for Tyreek Hill this year, which should ultimately help get them an answer to the biggest question, which is whether Tua Tagovailoa is the answer long-term. (The good news is that with what little capital they do have, Mike McDaniel will be very specific in what he’s looking for, which should help the scouts work so deep in the draft order.)

Los Angeles Rams

First pick: No. 104
Total picks: 8
Needs: G, edge, CB, LB, TE, S

What you need to know: The Rams are in the enviable position of being able to work a year out on their needs—and their 2023 free agent list has offensive linemen, safeties and defensive linemen on it. So those areas would make sense with the bevy of picks they have outside the top 100.

And that’s it. More rumors coming later in the column. And tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that.


San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19) runs after a catch against the Los Angeles Rams in the first half during the NFC Championship Game at SoFi Stadium.

DEEBO IS DUG IN—AND SO ARE THE NINERS

In Friday’s GamePlan, we laid out the landscape on Deebo Samuel—explaining why his role has been at issue, both in how he sees himself and how it’s affecting his football odometer, the way the rest of the league might value him, and also where the trend of players pushing their way out of places goes from here. I’d encourage you to check that out for more on the spot the 49ers find themselves in (and add that geography might be a part of Samuel’s desire to change teams, as well).

For now, though, I’d say it’s unlikely that Samuel will get moved between now and Thursday.

I could be wrong, and the reason I’d emphasize that up front is I’m not sure how far someone else is willing to go to get him. I just feel like, at this point, with how carefully the Niners are managing the situation, it’d take a lot for them to move off their spot.

How much would it take? One rival GM said to me Sunday that he believes you’d probably have to go to John Lynch with two first-round picks, which would replace the 2022 and ’23 first-rounders the Niners dealt away last year to move up for Trey Lance, to wriggle Samuel free of San Francisco. And that is a lot, even in comparison to the other big receiver trades of the early parts of this year.

The Dolphins landed Tyreek Hill for the 29th and 50th picks, plus three Day 3 picks from Kansas City. The Raiders got Davante Adams for the 22nd and 53rd picks. The Jets, who’ve been connected to Samuel (for obvious reasons), offered a package centered on the 35th and 38th picks for Hill. And Hill and Adams are receivers who, with all due respect to Samuel, are easier fits for other teams with much longer track records.

I love Samuel as a player, but the fact remains that you need a plan, and creativity, to get the most out of him—and if he doesn’t want to do all that he did last year, at least in the minds of some teams I talked to over the weekend, he necessarily loses some value.

So if you’re asking me now how the Samuel situation will end, it’s hard for me to give you a definitive answer. Samuel’s really dug in and hasn’t let his agent negotiate much (if at all) with the Niners. The Niners have shown no inclination to move him for the sort of prices Hill and Adams fetched. And it’s clear a lot of fence-mending would be needed to get the train back on the tracks.

For that reason, it feels like this one could drag out a little while.

Unless, again, someone gets really aggressive.


Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) leaves the field against the Buffalo Bills after warm ups before an AFC Divisional playoff football game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.

TEN TAKEAWAYS

While we’re on the topic, it may sound like everyone’s willing to go all out for receivers right now—but that’s just not the truth. And it’s worth noting that both the Packers (who’ve posted three straight 13-win seasons) and Chiefs (who’ve been to four straight AFC title games), after offering star receivers Adams and Hill lucrative extensions, didn’t press the issue with those guys, instead taking a bevy draft picks (not to mention a bunch of cap space) for them. Kansas City did it with heavy investment on the lines of scrimmage (Joe Thuney, Chris Jones, Frank Clark), a left tackle still to pay (Orlando Brown Jr.), and a young corner on the roster (L’Jarius Sneed) who could merit an outsized contract next year. The Packers did it with highly-paid offensive (David Bakhtiari) and defensive (Preston Smith, Kenny Clark) line-of-scrimmage players on the roster, another one (Rashan Gary) potentially to pay a year from now, with a young corner on top of that (Jaire Alexander) whose contract situation is now front and center. And to me, that’s indicative of two things, through the actions of two smart teams.

1. You have to build differently when your quarterback sits atop the market, and that means making tough choices.

2. Given these tough choices, it’s pretty obvious to me that these teams are telling us that either left tackles, edge rushers and corners are more valuable than a top-end receiver, they’re harder to find, or both. (To me, the answer is, because they’re harder to find, they’re more valuable.)

So everyone can ooh and ahh about the stars of your fantasy teams switching, well, real teams. And I wouldn’t deny that Hill will make an impact in Miami or that Adams will in Vegas (remember, those teams have cheaper quarterbacks than the Packers and Chiefs). It’s just that, when allocating your resources becomes a little tougher, you simply can’t just go get whatever you want. There’s a lot to be learned, then, in the choices teams in these positions make.

Along those lines, the Browns’ trade for Amari Cooper looks pretty smart a couple months later. “But they have to replace Odell Beckham Jr.!!!” Does anyone realize what exactly they have to replace?” Here’s a look …

• Beckham had his best season as a Brown in 2019, posting 74 catches for 1,035 yards and four touchdowns. Cleveland was 6–10 that year.

• Beckham was on the Browns’ roster for 25 games past that, played in just 13 of them, and over that time had 40 catches for 551 yards and three touchdowns.

• That, over a 41-game stretch through which Cleveland held his rights, adds up to 29 games played, 114 catches, 1,586 yards and seven touchdowns.

• Over that same 41-game stretch, Cooper played in all 41 games, and had 215 catches, 2,886 yards and 18 touchdowns.

• Cooper turns 28 in June. Beckham turns 30 in November.

Now, Cooper’s not perfect. His numbers last year showed decline from the previous two years, and he missed a couple of games right after the aforementioned 41-game period. But to go and get someone like Cooper for a fifth-rounder, and a move down nine spots in the sixth round, especially when he had three nonguaranteed years left, at a suddenly reasonable rate of $20 million per, is an objectively good deal for a Cleveland team that, even after that deal and the one for Deshaun Watson, sill has seven picks in this week’s draft. I’d still expect the Browns to take a receiver somewhere in their first three picks (44, 78, 99), but Cooper’s presence means they don’t have to force it if it’s not there, and that they got themselves into that spot without further cleaning out their war chest of picks or tying themselves to a veteran financially for years to come is a pretty impressive feat.

On Kadarius Toney’s availability—we’ll see. The truth is Schoen, Daboll and the Giants’ new brass hasn’t had the shot to get around to him yet. He didn’t show up to the start of the team’s offseason program and, yes, Toney’s got a reputation that precedes him (both from college days and his rookie year in New York). That said, the Giants haven’t shopped him. Has his absence from the facility this month generated an incoming phone call or two? Yes. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Toney shows up this week, and my feeling is Schoen and Daboll are going to want to make their own judgment on a guy who’s an electric player with the ball in his hands. And remember, Daboll’s done good work with receivers who brought baggage with them, in Brandon Marshall and Stefon Diggs, so this isn’t his first rodeo. Which is just one reason why both he and receivers coach Mike Groh are optimistic they can get the most out of a player who, kind of like Deebo Samuel, you have to have a plan for, but is very dynamic in his own way. Either way, things will start here with the Giants’ guys getting face-to-face with Toney, and I’d bet that’ll happen really soon.

I’ll admit that it kind of sucks that Christmas Day will be more of a workday this year than it ever has been before. But my bigger takeaway from the NFL’s decision to put a tripleheader on Christmas Day is what it means in regards to the league’s approach to the sports around it. Take this quote, from NFL vice president of broadcasting Mike North on the matter, on Bills sideline reporter Sal Capaccio’s podcast (SalSports … and Stuff): “Christmas when it falls on an NFL game day, we’ve had a lot of success there, all due respect to our friends at the NBA. But when we can play football on Christmas, it has proven to be something our fans are interested in. We had Minnesota–New Orleans a couple years ago. That came to 20 million viewers. We had Cleveland–Green Bay last year, that game did 30 million viewers. It was followed by Indy–Arizona on the NFL Network, that one performed well. Our fans are telling us that we know they watch on Thanksgiving. They’re happy to watch on Christmas, too.”

Christmas, for those who don’t know, has been seen by the NBA as the sort of first big broadcasting day on the calendar after opening night—a way for pro basketball to reintroduce itself into the American sports consciousness after getting snowed over by football through November and December. And now, for a year at least, the NFL’s doing away with the niceties (“our friends” was a nice touch) and putting the NBA’s plans on the tracks and scheduling its freight-train ratings machine to blow through. The silver lining for the NFL’s neighbors in New York, then, would be that Christmas isn’t on Sunday every year. Because I think we all know what would happen then.

It’d be interesting to see what Earl Thomas has left, but he might have a tough time finding work. On Friday, the five-time All-Pro safety texted ESPN’s Adam Schefter: “I’m ready. I’m in shape. My timing is on point—I’m proud of that.” Thomas’s last moments as an NFL player came in August 2020, when he was released after punching Ravens teammate Chuck Clark during a training camp practice. That was coming off his first year in Baltimore, after a historic nine-year run as the center fielder of great Legion of Boom defenses, and that first year had bumps that preceded the final blowup. And the end of his time as a Seahawk wasn’t clean either—without Kam Chancellor (who’d long been credited with holding a group with a ton of big personalities together) around in ’18, things unraveled in a very public way for Thomas. Before the season, he staged a holdout that lasted until Week 1, and less than a month later, he flipped off Pete Carroll while riding a cart off the field after sustaining a season-ending injury against the Cardinals. Teams are often willing to deal with these sorts of outbursts to harbor a great player, of course. But once a guy like Thomas’s issues start to outweigh his talents, it can be a lot harder for him to find work. And it sure feels like that’s where Thomas is right now.

I think seeing what Joe Douglas said about Zach Wilson has to be encouraging for Jets fans. Here’s what he told Michael Kay on ESPN radio last week: “I 100% see greatness. I see a young quarterback that really went through the wringer to start the year, and what was most encouraging about Zach was when he came back, he maybe had one turnover over the last six games. He was taking care of the football; he was playing within the scheme. You really saw him take a step within the season after going through a lot of adversity early, getting injured, coming back and not having our top two receivers in Corey [Davis] and Elijah [Moore] and playing with a lot of backups at the skill position but still executing the offense at a high level. And so, seeing that, seeing his resiliency and his perseverance through that and keeping it all together—it gives you a lot of hope.

There are two reasons why I take that as more than what a GM has to say. First, I think Douglas using the word “greatness” has meaning, because football executives are usually careful with hyperbole like that. And second, Douglas’s willingness to discuss Wilson’s issues as openly, and publicly, as he did tells me Wilson is probably through them—otherwise, even bringing them up might be a third rail. From what I’d heard last year, there was a point where concern over Wilson there was real. He was having issues getting the ball where it needed to go, even in practice, which is one reason why the team brought John Beck aboard in-season. But they got through it, and like Douglas said, Wilson was ascending at the end of the year. And from all that I’ve heard, the start of the offseason program for Wilson with the offensive staff has been seamless. So, yes, I think there’s tangible reason for optimism there. Even if it is only April.

Getting back to the draft, Kyle Hamilton is as interesting as any player in the class to me. And that’s because he’s so unique. He’s 6' 4" and 220 pounds. He has two years of track record as an All-American level college player. But his disappointing 40 time (4.59) raised concerns on where, as a bigger safety, he’ll fit in the NFL. Is he a free safety? Is he a strong safety? Can he play just one spot or does he have to be all over? Those questions led to this sort of variety of takes on him from over the weekend …

• NFC assistant coach: “I was watching Sam Howell, and saw him in both his games against Notre Dame; and then I saw Ridder, and he played him twice. And they’re picking on the guy. Maybe he had bad games, I don’t know. … The thing is, he’s super smart, he’s a great kid. The intangibles are there. He’s awesome. But I don’t know where he fits. … I think he’s more of a strong safety.”

• NFC exec: “It’ll come down to how he’s used, that’ll determine the value. Because of his size and length, people want to play him in the box, but that takes away with what he’s good at. … He should be playing high, and then you can bring him down low. … And people will want to match him with tight ends, and I don’t know that he’s that guy.”

• AFC GM: “I think everyone’s overthinking it. Great kid, great size, can do it all. The way I’d think about it, you just have to make sure your coordinator has a plan. To just have him playing the post, manning center field, he’d be a wasted pick. Think of how the Chargers use Derwin James—all over the place, that’s what you have to do.”

• Another AFC GM: “It’d be good to be creative with him. You can use him at all three levels of the defense, and that’s a positive. His hips, his movement skill, they’re excellent. The play speed is good, I didn’t see issues with his play speed. … He’s just a really good player, he’s not as physical, he doesn’t have the pop Derwin James does. But he’s a consistent tackler, in space, to the perimeter, I think he can cover tight ends and he turns the ball over.”

In the end, it’ll be fascinating to see where he comes off the board. Once considered a top-five pick, I think he’ll probably go somewhere between 11 and 20. And the team that takes him? I think it’ll say something about them. As we mentioned before, Minnesota would be an interesting landing spot for him. If you’re hoping he’s James (and Hamilton doesn’t have the testing numbers James did, to be clear), then there’s some synergy there—since James now plays for a Vic Fangio disciple (Brandon Staley) and Hamilton would in Minnesota (Ed Donatell). Pittsburgh, on the other end of that range, would be cool, too.

It sounds to me like action at the bottom of the first round might be hotter than action at the top. Or, at least, it sure sounds that way, talking teams at the top of the draft pecking order. One told me that teams close to the bottom of the round have asked more about their interest in moving up from the top of the second round into the bottom of the first than they have about moving up within the first round. And that reflects the nature of the class in general. “This is very much a depth class,” said an NFC executive. “You can build the base of your roster with picks this year. You can get some solid starters, and some contributors. But you’re not getting a lot of difference-makers. So how does that break down? As I see it, after dozens of conversations, the top tackles and pass rushers are valued this year, and then after that probably the top four receivers. But once you get through that group of 10 or so guys, the class flattens out a bunch, right in the mid-teens, where the 15th pick might not be worth much more than the 45th. And even the top group isn’t great—with a few execs having told me the last few months that the top dozen picks last year might be better than anyone this year. So what’s the upshot this year? It’s twofold. One, the second and third rounds should have plenty of gems. And two, it adds a lot more mystery to how the first round will play out for the rest of us.

For my money, the Hutchinson/Walker debate is the most interesting one this year. On one end, you have a hyperproductive collegiate star—good enough to become just the third defensive lineman to become a Heisman finalist in a quarter century (Hutchinson joined Chase Young and Ndamukong Suh). On the other, you have a chiseled-out-of-granite physical marvel who you have to project that production with. I asked a few guys for their take on the debate. Here are a couple of viewpoints on it …

• NFC exec: “To me, Hutchinson, you know what you’re getting—a consistent player, a 10-sack-a-year guy. The first pick, you’d imagine getting someone better. But the idea of a Myles Garrett or even a Nick Bosa, you have to get that out of your head here. He’s a good player. He’s safe. With Travon, it’s going to come down to how you use him, and how confident you are in your coaching and your scheme, and how confident you are in the person to max out his potential. … But when I walked up on the guy, I immediately said, ‘This guy’s a top-10 pick.’ The guy’s a freak. He looks like Myles Garrett.”

• AFC GM: “Trent [Baalke] drafts off traits, and I like Walker. I just think with Hutchinson, you’ve seen it, you don’t have to imagine. But yeah, Walker’s the prettiest specimen.”

• Another AFC GM: “I’d take Walker. He’s just got freaky stuff to him, and the way they used him in the 3–4 at Georgia, they didn’t just put him at one spot. He can do whatever you want. He was great as a three-technique. And he did all of it because he’s a great kid and a great teammate.”

So this really comes down to what is versus what might be. In the case of Walker, I even had one exec go so far to say he thought the Georgia 3–4 was an awkward fit for the player—and that he’d be much better served playing a traditional end role in a four-man front. But then, the trouble with that is that Walker didn’t do a whole lot with the reps he got rushing from that sort of spot (a lot of his splash plays came in chase-down situations). And, well, you get the idea. This one’s in the eye of the beholder. Which is probably another reason why the Jaguars are still talking over what they plan to do early Thursday night.

Want more predraft takeaways? Those are coming your way. And they’re coming your way right now …

• Dean’s medical has come up with a few teams. There’s nothing disqualifying in there (he’s had a shoulder labrum repair, he’s got tendonitis and tearing in his knee, plus there was a pec and groin issue before his pro day … and there’s a laundry list beyond just that), but there’s plenty to sort through. And it’s making some wonder how, as a smaller linebacker, he’ll hold up in the NFL. Here’s hoping Dean does, because he’s a blast to watch.

• Utah’s Devin Lloyd is another player with some medical questions. I don’t think his age is helping him either.

• Is Hall a back worthy of going in the first round? I had one exec I trust sum him up like this, “You could put a highlight tape together that says yes.” Another said he views him as a poor man’s Johnathan Taylor.

• Another player that’s not being talked about enough: Florida’s Kaiir Elam. I don’t think he’ll go before Gardner, Stingley or McDuffie. But I think he could be the fourth corner to go, and land comfortably in the first round.

• I’ve asked a lot of people to compare Pickett to Patriots QB Mac Jones, because I heard the two compared a lot during the college season. Does it work? Kind of. Both are really football smart and good leaders. Pickett’s a better athlete. But where Jones separates himself is with his accuracy—I had one coach tell me Jones’s special trait is that he maintains it deep into his progressions, where most young quarterbacks can’t get past their first read. Pickett might not have that quite to the degree Jones did coming out.

• I’ve said it a few times now, and I’ll say again that I think there’s a good chance Georgia’s Lewis Cine will go before Michigan’s Daxton Hill. Why? Cine’s got a ton of upside, and is a killer as a hitter. And Hill isn’t as versatile as some have made him out to be—he was really more just a nickel corner than a movable piece in Michigan’s defense. Which has been reflected in how his meetings with teams have gone.

• Why have the tackles cemented themselves as value picks? The top three guys, Ekwonu, Neal and Cross, are seen as safe, because they’re very clean from a character standpoint. And in a class with few sure things, that can make a difference.

• As I’ve said, Cross is very well-regarded in NFL circles—and by some as the best player in the draft. The downside? Well, it’s the offense he comes from. I’ve had a couple people joke about having Andre Dillard PTSD in assessing another Mike Leach tackle. So I turned over some rocks on that comp. The biggest difference between the two, as it was told to me by a few guys, is that Cross has much better core and lower-body strength.

• I had an NFC coach says this to me on Stingley: “Take the 2019 tape, plus the practice tape from that year against Ja’Marr [Chase], and he’s the first pick in the draft.” Which makes, for teams, one question an important one in assessing the star corner: Just how big a mess do you think coach Ed Orgeron’s program was the last two years, and how much of a factor was that in the return on Stingley’s last two years in Baton Rouge being so minimal.

• Could it be that the first quarterback doesn’t go until the 20th pick? I think there’s a chance of it.


SIX FROM THE SIDELINE

1. Marco Island is fantastic—thanks to my Florida friends for pointing me in that direction last year. It was great then, and was great again this week for the kids’ school vacation week.

2. Brad Stevens hasn’t gotten everything right over his nine years in Boston, but he’s been right a lot. And the hiring of Ime Udoka is another such case. This Celtics team plays fantastic defense, plays together and is tough as nails. (And give Danny Ainge credit for nailing the Jayson Tatum pick in 2017, because the idea of trading down to get him third was definitely against the grain at the time.)

3. Three years after Kevin Durant decided to bolt Golden State for Brooklyn, it sure looks like the Warriors are in a much better place than Durant’s Nets are. And it also appears that the former teams of both Durant and Kyrie Irving are going to last longer in this year’s playoffs than Brooklyn will.

4. Steph Curry is still phenomenal to watch.

5. Sinatra’s “New York, New York” playing while Yankees fans were acting like a bunch of goons was a hilarious visual (and, to be clear, I’m glad no one was hurt).

6. I feel like I’m the only one who really could care less who owns Twitter. Most people seem to live in their own echo chambers on there anyway.


BEST OF THE NFL INTERNET

Second-year Bills tackle Spencer Brown doing God’s work here, and keeping us informed.

… And going the extra mile to do it right.

It’s always linemen, too. Thanks, Bakhtiari.

So I guess that settles that.

Good to see the Panthers OC’s got a certain aloofness to go with his new ’90s-punk-rock look.

Serious question: What the hell does Rock Hill do with that giant monument to nothing?

Greatest moment in draft history, no close second.

Few teammates knew Dwayne Haskins better than McLaurin.

And this was incredibly difficult to watch. Haskins was incredibly close with his sister Tamia. Best to her and the entire Haskins family. Hoping for peace for all of you.


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

I think we’ve given plenty that you need to know ahead of this week—three days left!

Read more of SI’s NFL Draft stories here:

Why Pass Rushers Will Rule the NFL Draft
Aidan Hutchinson's Rise to the Top of the Draft
Kayvon Thibodeaux Hears His Critics and Has a Plan
• Meet Matt Araiza, Punt God