The first day of the 2022 NFL Draft is slated to begin April 28 but it will not include all 32 teams. As part of an era when more general managers are willing to trade away draft capital, there are seven teams not currently expected to make a pick in the first round. Here are how those teams can still find success through the draft:
San Francisco is still feeling the effects of last year's trade up for Trey Lance. General manager John Lynch has found significant contributors in Round 3 from tight end George Kittle, defensive tackle D.J. Jones, linebacker Fred Warner, running back Elijah Mitchell and that will need to play out again this year. The 49ers have nine picks beginning with No. 61 overall. The secondary and offensive line, in addition to building out depth on the defensive front, are areas of focus. Some prospects to monitor include Arizona State offensive guard Dohnovan West, Georgia cornerback Derion Kendrick and Illinois safety Kerby Joseph. San Francisco should be striving to walk away with at least one starter from this year's class.
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Chicago has a lot of needs but the most important objective is surrounding quarterback Justin Fields with competent NFL starting talent. The tale of NFL teams throwing young quarterbacks to the wolves and asking them to survive is as old as time. Give the quarterback some weapons to defend himself. Despite not having a first-round pick, the Bears have two picks inside the top 50 and that is a great opportunity to find two offensive starters. If general manager Ryan Poles can take one wide receiver out of the pool of Georgia's George Pickens, Western Michigan's Skyy Moore, Penn State's Jahan Dotson and North Dakota State's Christian Watson, as well as one interior offensive lineman from the group of Chattanooga's Cole Strange, Memphis' Dylan Parham and Kentucky's Darian Kinnard, then that would be viewed as a success.
Denver traded its first two picks to Seattle in the deal for quarterback Russell Wilson, which means they do not pick until No. 64 overall. They have two other selections in the top 100 from Los Angeles. In some capacity, the team is likely to address the offensive line and linebacker. Wilson has spent the better part of his career swimming upstream with a bad offensive line. The Broncos would be wise to throw a few more logs on the fire and ensure that unit is stable so the veteran has time to spread the football around to Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and K.J. Hamler.
The Broncos could take a combination of Louisiana offensive tackle Max Mitchell, Arizona State offensive guard Dohnovan West and Ohio State tight end Jeremy Ruckert with those selections. Denver could then look to add linebacker and interior defensive line through the rest of the draft.
Team needs: WR, DT, LB, TE, EDGE
Players acquired: DT Taven Bryan, WR Amari Cooper, EDGE Chase Winovich, WR Jakeem Grant, QB Deshaun Watson
Players lost: CB M.J. Stewart, WR Rashard Higgins, C J.C. Tretter, WR Jarvis Landry, TE Austin Hooper
The Browns will continue to be active leading up to the draft because they have holes at wide receiver, edge rusher and defensive tackle. Cleveland is expected to fill each need prior to the 2022 NFL Draft, in which case they would find themselves in a position to draft best player available. In general manager Andrew Berry's first year, he nabbed LSU safety Grant Delpit, who was once regarded as a first round caliber player, in the second round. In 2021, Berry traded up in the second round to secure Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
It is difficult to say what Cleveland might do considering the franchise's inclination to watch the draft unfold and leaping at opportunity. They are not scared away by injury so perhaps Georgia wide receiver George Pickens or Michigan edge rusher David Ojabo fall far enough for the Browns to pluck another top talent.
Team needs: S, CB, WR, TE, OT
Players acquired: EDGE Yannick Ngakoue
Players lost: CB Rock-Ya Sin, OG Mark Glowinski
Despite trading for quarterback Matt Ryan, the Colts have two picks inside the top 100: No. 42 and No. 73 overall. There is an opportunity for Indianapolis to pick up a starter and another key contributor if they nail those selections. The team has needs at offensive tackle and cornerback primarily. If general manager Chris Ballard is able to walk away with Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary in the second round and either Penn State offensive tackle Rasheed Walker or Ohio State offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere in the third round, then that is a victory for the AFC South franchise.
Las Vegas Raiders
Team needs: CB, OG, C, LB, DT
Players acquired: EDGE Chandler Jones, CB Rock Ya-Sin, DT Bilal Nichols, CB Darius Phillips, WR Davante Adams
Players lost: EDGE Yannick Ngakoue, WR Zay Jones, FB Alec Ingold, LB Nicholas Morrow
Following the trade for Davante Adams, Las Vegas does not have a pick until No. 86 overall. General manager Dave Ziegler is in possession of just five draft picks in 2022. Defensive tackle and the offensive line are still a problem; that is even more of an issue considering the AFC West has added Randy Gregory and Khalil Mack this offseason. It is unreasonable to think the Raiders are going to come away with a difference-making starter this season but they can still find contributors. A few names to monitor: UCLA offensive lineman Sean Rhyan and UCF defensive tackle Kalia Davis.
Los Angeles has done a fantastic job of capitalizing on Day 3 picks over the years with John Johnson III, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Jordan Fuller, Tyler Higbee, Josh Reynolds and more. The hope is that they are able to continue finding those diamonds in a rough to backfill their roster. As the contracts of Matthew Stafford and Aaron Donald continue to climb, the Rams are going to need some value contracts to balance it out.
General manager Les Snead is without a second-round pick this year and they do not have a pick inside the top 100. However, they have eight picks altogether. Snead has been handed eight darts to bolster the front seven as well as the offensive line. A few names on which to keep an eye on Day 3: Kentucky edge rusher Josh Paschal and North Dakota State offensive lineman Cordell Volson.