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NFL Draft Profile: Anthony Richardson

School: Florida

Position: QB

Year: Redshirt Sophomore

The Good: Someone who knows the bare minimum about football can take one look at Anthony Richardson and say, “yup.” That’s how much Richardson looks the part, and his physical running style matches his size. Richardson is a true dual-threat QB; he’ll immediately become one of the league’s more lethal runners at the position and he can hum a 101 MPH fastball with such a quick release. He’s got the full package of mobility: scrambling, play extension, evading sacks, and throwing on rollouts. I was pleasantly surprised by Richardson’s intangibles given his “project” label. He’s willing to stand tall in the pocket, has a good sense of timing, and is smooth when given plays to work through progressions. He rarely puts the ball in harm’s way too, whether that’s because he throws the ball away or takes off running. When things are going right for Richardson – which isn’t that uncommon on tape – he has the look of the first overall pick.

The Bad: That said, I wouldn’t endorse taking Richardson with the first overall pick. I write it annually around this time of year that “raw” is my least favorite adjective to describe prospects, but it’s valid in Richardson’s case. He’s young, both literally at 21 years old on Draft Day and figuratively with only one season as a full-time college starter. You can tell that he’s green when he misses open throws, goes overboard with velocity, and struggles throwing to certain areas of the field; I think that could all sort itself out just with more reps. There are parts of his game that will require improvement with more than just patience. His mechanics are inconsistent; Richardson will unnecessarily drop his arm slot and lose accuracy – and he’s not particularly accurate to begin with. His pocket management needs work too, which is my biggest concern with Richardson as I continue to prioritize that skill more and more in my QB evaluation. He currently doesn’t do his offensive line many favors, as Richardson will routinely settle in unfavorable spots in the pocket, bail when he should step up and vice versa, and hold onto the ball when there is a hot read. Lastly, while I push back on this becoming a barometer of NFL readiness, Richardson didn’t give Florida much of a chance vs. Georgia in 2022 while CJ Stroud, Will Levis, and Bryce Young (twice) each handled themselves well against the Bulldogs. 

The Bottom Line: I’m definitely a fan of Richardson, which candidly I didn’t expect given my general outlook on quarterbacks and the way that the Draft community is talking about him. Context is important for every prospect, and I think it’s especially important in Richardson’s case. I hated Florida’s scheme and playcalling in 2022, with Billy Napier and Rob Sale (offensive line coach of 2021 Giants) taking over from Dan Mullen. Their WRs were also mediocre and Richardson faced constant pressure around his tackles, which he was constantly sent into by the playcalls. I’m not totally excusing his 53.8% completion percentage, but Richardson really didn’t get much help. I don’t expect Richardson to ever contend for the completion percentage title in the NFL, but he should settle closer to 60% and, honestly, the frequency that he connects on splash plays make the incompletions worth it. I won’t be upset if Richardson begins 2023 as a backup, but I think he’d more capably survive as a rookie starter than others seem to think. Depending where he and others land in the Draft, I could see myself having some action on Richardson as a dark horse Rookie of the Year winner. His ability is truly special and I think his platform for archetypal QB play is high enough to justify an early gamble in the draft.  

Grade: Mid First Round

Pro Comp: Cam Newton

Games Watched:

  • LSU 2021
  • Utah 2022
  • Kentucky 2022
  • Tennessee 2022
  • LSU 2022
  • Georgia 2022
  • Texas A&M 2022
  • South Carolina 2022
  • Florida State 2022

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NFL Draft Profile: Will Levis

School: Kentucky

Position: QB

Year: Redshirt Senior

The Good: Levis certainly has the intangibles in spades: size, athleticism, Hulk-like strength, psycho competitor, sells play action, etc. Sentences like that about prospects are usually followed with a quick “HOWEVER…” – and I do have many negatives to report about Levis – but I don’t want to undersell that Levis is legitimately uber toolsy for a quarterback and looks the part of a field general. He has a HUGE right arm; I tracked one flick-of-the-wrist throw that went 65 yards in the air. Levis has his fair share of throws to the sidelines on tape that generate “oooh ahhh” reactions, and he can split zone coverage with the best of them. When Levis makes a quick decision it’s usually quality, and that translates well to RPO game. Although I have a hunch that some of his displays of creativity on the field were premeditated or scripted, Levis still has flashed enough nuance to suggest that he’s a true QB and not merely a big-armed athlete being pigeonholed into the position.

The Bad: I expect things for Levis to go poorly through the air for his first 1-2 years in the NFL…if not longer than that. He’s generally inaccurate and, while whoever drafts him will surely get to immediate work on his footwork, I don’t think it’s wholly fixable with his release and chaotic approach to passing. He’s not natural at scanning the field and going through his progressions; that process usually comes along with pump fakes and/or flat-footedness in the pocket. His anticipation and timing aren’t good enough yet and that leads to some ugly decisions, particularly against zone. Levis also has a bizarre lack of feel at times, and that will translate to a high sack count with fumbles in the league. There isn’t much touch in his throwing arsenal either and I expected better deep ball results given his arm strength.

The Bottom Line: There is plenty of work ahead for Levis, though I wouldn’t label him a “project” in the sense that he’ll require time set aside with pro coaches just to get onto the field. Levis should be a 2023 Week 1 starter; he played in a pro-style offense at Kentucky and I have some confidence that he’ll pick up the playbook quickly. He should definitely land within an organization that is openly rebuilding though, and that team will have basically no alternative besides totally catering its offensive identity to Levis’ strengths. He has enough upside to be a good NFL starter in a West Coast offense with plenty of talent around him, but the floor is naturally quite low when you need to make qualifying statements like that about a kid who isn’t even in the league yet.

Grade: Late First Round / Early Second Round

Pro Comp: Blake Bortles

Games Watched:

  • Missouri 2021
  • Florida 2021
  • LSU 2021
  • Georgia 2021
  • Mississippi State 2021
  • Louisville 2021
  • Iowa 2021 (Citrus Bowl)
  • Florida 2022
  • Ole Miss 2022
  • Mississippi State 2022

Plays That Matter [LINK]

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NFL Draft Profile: CJ Stroud

School: Ohio State

Position: QB

Year: Redshirt Sophomore

The Good: CJ Stroud is awesome, and there is a ton of proof in the tape despite him only turning 21 this past October. He made 24 starts in his Ohio State tenure, and in every one of them he’ll make at least one throw that wows you. Stroud throws with such impressive drive and can fit a pass into any window and drop a dime to anywhere on the field. He’s not a one-trick pony with a laser beam for a right arm either; Stroud is deadly accurate, can throw with finesse, and almost always gives his receivers a high-percentage chance to come down with the ball. I was blown away by Stroud’s poise and control of his offense. He does not fit the bill of recent Ohio State QBs whatsoever. While JT Barrett, Dwayne Haskins, and Justin Fields could attribute much statistical success to the OSU wideouts and Ryan Day’s scheme, Stroud is a smooth operator on his own. He’s calling out signals pre-snap and usually makes an accurate read on the defense before the play, and he’s fully capable of making adjustments on the fly too. Stroud knows how to use his eyes as a weapon and consistently throws with anticipation. I loved to see jumps in his game from 2021 to 2022. Pocket movement and active feet were immediate strengths for Stroud, but as a sophomore he added further mobility to his game by way of evading pressure and picking up first downs with his legs. He started to show more common flashes of creativity too. Stroud is the best passing prospect to hit the NFL Draft since Trevor Lawrence.

The Bad: He’s not particularly fast. Besides that, I don’t have much. Otherwise, I’d say that his top flaw at this point is trouble with disguised coverage and overcommitment to pre-snap reads, but honestly that’s the case for some of the NFL’s best QBs and generally gets better with reps. It’s important not to forget that Stroud is extremely young. I jotted down a few cons from his freshman tape: his motion was prolonged and his release was too pronounced, which both contributed to some misses. But then he mostly cleaned up his technique as a sophomore. Stroud was pretty purely a pocket passer during his freshman season but then, while that does remain his strength, Stroud started making plays outside of the pocket during this most recent season. Sometimes he’s a bit robotic in his decision making, but damn…I’m nitpicking at this point.

The Bottom Line: Clearly, I’m high on CJ Stroud. He has tremendous arm talent, good size, and seems to be a sharp kid and admirable leader. To wrap it up, I want to push back against two narratives. 1) Stroud was fortunate to become the starter at OSU with Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jeremy Ruckert, and Nicholas Petit-Frere in his supporting cast. And then 4 of those 5 were drafted, and Smith-Njigba was injured for most of the season…and we’re not supposed to care? Marvin Harrison Jr. is amazing, I know. But Stroud was essentially the lone year-over-year holdover in that offense and didn’t miss a beat. 2) Is this praise an overreaction to the Peach Bowl against Georgia, where Stroud almost single-handedly took down a budding dynasty? No…I had this extremely high grade on him before concluding his evaluation with that game. If it did boost his stock, it went from a Top 5 pick to a Top 1 pick.

Grade: Top 5 Pick

Pro Comp: Justin Herbert

Games Watched:

  • Oregon 2021
  • Maryland 2021
  • Penn State 2021
  • Nebraska 2021
  • Michigan State 2021
  • Michigan 2021
  • Utah 2021 (Rose Bowl)
  • Notre Dame 2022
  • Wisconsin 2022
  • Penn State 2022
  • Maryland 2022
  • Michigan 2022
  • Georgia 2022 (Peach Bowl)

Plays That Matter (2021-22) [LINK]

Plays That Matter (2022-23) [LINK]

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NFL Draft Profile: Bryce Young

This is the first of many quick profiles that I’ll write for prospects that I analyze ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft. My feelings on prospects, as well as my Grade and Pro Comp, are subject to change as I watch and learn more about them in the Draft process…but these are my initial takeaways.

School: Alabama

Position: QB

Year: Junior

The Good: Young is an exciting prospect, and not only because he’s an escape artist in the pocket who can find a throwing lane from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage. Young is advanced at reading the field for his age, both pre-snap and as the live play breaks down. He absolutely shreds zone coverages and his general sense of timing is strong. I love that his eyes consistently start downfield, which allows him to anticipate and complete low-percentage throws. He’s quick to move through his progressions, and he almost never misses a throw to the short and intermediate levels of the field. Young is poised and extremely tough, and he handled himself well against most of the bigger and stronger defenses that he faced (including twice against 2021 Georgia).

The Bad: Young is so small that his size will make him a historical outlier, and he doesn’t have the thick build or speed of other small QBs taken near the top of the draft either. His arm strength is subpar too; he doesn’t consistently throw with drive and there isn’t much power behind it. Maybe I have heard one too many comparisons to Russell Wilson, but I expected better deep passing from Young. He has a fair share of underthrows and outright misses on deep balls. Young is self-aware of his physical limitations, but they are limitations nonetheless that do show up on tape. He has a few bad habits – holding onto the ball for too long, taking extra steps in his drops, etc. The magic moments are offset by plenty of avoidable sacks, which naturally could cause concern at his size.

The Bottom Line: Bryce Young’s size will dominate the narrative over the next few months, and as annoying as it will inevitably become…it’s fair. I foresee the typical talking point becoming something along the lines of “he’s a near perfect prospect aside from the fact that he’s 195 pounds,” but that’s just not true. Young has areas for improvement; fortunately, they are things that are largely fixable/learnable. Preferably, he begins 2023 on the bench. His arrow is pointing up after his 2022-23 season at Alabama, as weird as that sounds after he won the Heisman Trophy in 2021-2022. Young stepped up his game when it came to creation, all without sacrificing efficiency or accuracy. I’d like to see him end up in an offense that routinely gets him on the move and allows him to throw on the run, which is the most exciting element of his game to me. He’s not system-proof but he does have star potential.

Grade: Mid First Round

Pro Comp: Mark Brunell

Games Watched:

  • Miami 2021
  • Florida 2021
  • Ole Miss 2021
  • Texas A&M 2021
  • LSU 2021
  • Arkansas 2021
  • Auburn 2021
  • Georgia 2021 (SEC Championship Game)
  • Cincinnati 2021
  • Georgia 2021 (National Championship Game)
  • Utah State 2022
  • Texas 2022
  • Tennessee 2022
  • LSU 2022
  • Kansas State 2022 (Sugar Bowl)

Plays That Matter (2021-22) [LINK]

Plays That Matter (2022-23) [LINK]

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NFL QB Carousel, End of 2022 Regular Season

This one is for all of my fellow sports fans who get preoccupied over your team’s draft, trade and free agency possibilities while your team is literally in season and in contention. If you can’t relate, either because your team sucks or you’re just cut from a more normal cloth of fandom, that’s fine because this is also just a good and fun exercise for general NFL writing and the timing makes sense. I’ve been meaning to do a blog version of this post for a while now, and chances are that I’ll run it back with a follow-up closer to the NFL Draft once the landscape has shifted.

Let’s start with The Locks: the teams who will absolutely have this quarterback as their 2023 Week 1 starter, no questions asked and no explanations necessary. (Barring legal developments*)

  1. Bengals: Joe Burrow
  2. Bills: Josh Allen
  3. Broncos: Russell Wilson
  4. Browns: Deshaun Watson*
  5. Chargers: Justin Herbert
  6. Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes
  7. Cowboys: Dak Prescott
  8. Eagles: Jalen Hurts
  9. Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence
  10. Rams: Matt Stafford
  11. Steelers: Kenny Pickett
  12. Vikings: Kirk Cousins

We’ll call this next bucket Expect the Same: the teams who should have their primary 2022 QB back under center for 2023 too, BUT it could play out differently.

  1. 49ers: Trey Lance/Brock Purdy

This is a bit of a copout in that I don’t know how Purdy will play in the postseason and if/how that performance will impact Lance’s job status – which adds another unknown of Lance’s health after his brutal leg injury. This is more to say that I don’t think San Fran will make a serious push for Tom Brady. The rumors are out there given Brady’s hometown roots but Kyle Shanahan, as cocky as he may be, has basically ended all debate over whether his offense is a cheat code by turning Mr. Irrelevant into the league’s most efficient passer. It’s borderline insulting to say about Tom Brady, but the Niners might be better off spending that money elsewhere.

  1. Bears: Justin Fields

Fields’ 1,200 rushing yards and dismal supporting cast covered up that he still had a pretty bad sophomore season as a quarterback. He’s dynamic as hell and flashes the arm talent quite a bit, but his tendencies are brutal – particularly how long he holds onto the ball and takes hits and sacks. Still, at a minimum he should be treated like he’s entering only Year 2 as the Bears’ QB given that Matt Nagy flushed away his actual rookie year, and this QB rookie class doesn’t have a Trevor Lawrence type to give Chicago pause at the top of the draft. Should Fields have maxed out his time at Ohio State, he could have ended up QB1 in this class. The Bears have too many problems elsewhere.  

  1. Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa

Tua is an interesting case in that he’s clearly valued within the organization, whether that’s because of something as simple as the team’s record with him (8-5) vs. it without him (1-3), something more statistical like him leading the league in TD%, yards/attempt and passer rating, or something more analytical like him ranking second in the league behind only Patrick Mahomes in EPA/play. Still, with his three concussions this season on top of his relatively diminutive stature and the ugly throws that sometimes come along with it, it’s probably safe to assume that he doesn’t carry too much external value despite his accolades. Like I said, I do think Mike McDaniel and the Fins are happy with Tua for at least one more season. But if Lamar Jackson became available and interested, I’d get it if they picked up that phone call. (Read just a bit longer: I don’t think that will happen.)

  1. Lions: Jared Goff

Even if the Lions missed the playoffs, Goff undoubtedly was one of the biggest winners of the 2022 NFL season. His first season in Detroit was about as bad as it sounds for a team that didn’t win a game until Week 13 and his contract looked bad enough to capsize the entire Brad Holmes & Dan Campbell rebuild. But now, following a season where Goff – perhaps the biggest victim of QB analytics over the past decade – finished sixth in the league in EPA/play, his contract actually carries some trade value! I’ll plant a soft take here that I think the Lions are ready to push in the final chips remaining from the Matt Stafford trade and take advantage of the draft position gifted to them by the Rams’ terrible season. Even if they do move up and grab their QB of the future – say Bryce Young (even if I do think people are getting too ahead of themselves labeling him as the surefire 1.1) – I don’t think that would lead to an immediate trade of Goff. The Lions could probably land near what Indianapolis landed for Carson Wentz if they traded Goff this offseason, sure, but I get the sense that Detroit would opt against deflating their strong momentum with Goff under center and instead bet on another strong season from him – in which event they could still get a solid trade return for him with one year left on his deal in 2024. 

  1. Ravens: Lamar Jackson

Man…the past few weeks have not made this one any easier. Two months ago when Lamar was churning out wins with his arm and legs despite Baltimore never getting him a receiving corps or adapting a single element of their offensive philosophy since drafting him, it appeared that Lamar won the Cold War with Ravens ownership over a fully guaranteed contract extension. Aaaaand then he hurt his knee and missed the last five games of the regular season, and he’s about to miss the Ravens’ playoff game in Cincinnati too. So yeah, as much as I root for the players in contract talks, it’s hard not to at least understand where the Ravens are coming from. Still, Lamar is that good when he’s on the field that Baltimore is undoubtedly going to franchise tag him. Considering that he’ll earn that distinction – one that will net him over $45mil in 2023 – coming off arguably the least impressive season of his pro career, I don’t think Lamar will be too afraid to play on the tag…if it even comes down to that.

  1. Seahawks: Geno Smith

Putting Geno here might be unconventional given that he’s a looming free agent and won’t receive the QB franchise tag, but the vibes are just that strong following his first season in Seattle. The Seahawks were one of the most fun teams in the league and so much of that had to do with Geno, who was a legitimately good quarterback and leader for that team. No passer outside of maybe Joe Burrow was consistently threading more pinpoint passes than Geno across the season; his 5.7% completion percentage over expectation led the league by a good margin. He carries zero baggage in Seattle and feels like the perfect fit for that organization after Russell Wilson’s reign. I doubt Geno has any interest in leaving now that his career is finally on track, so it would be surprising if they couldn’t iron out a mutually beneficial deal early in the offseason.


Over half of the league is already accounted for now, which sounds boring – I know. Still, that leaves fourteen teams with potential new-look QB rooms for 2023. Enough delay on The Big Fish: the teams who will reel in a big-name, big-money, surefire starter according to this mid-January version of me – who you can retroactively praise for correctness but not criticize for incorrectness.

  1. Patriots: Tom Brady

OHHHHH YEAH. Ol’ Tommy and Ol’ Billy getting the band back together for one last gig. Do I feel strongly about this prediction? No. But am I writing it for shock value? Also no. Assuming that Brady does keep playing and that he will not do so for the Buccaneers – which both sound increasingly likely by all reports – then I actually do think the Pats should rank atop the odds for his next team. I already covered the 49ers and Dolphins sticking with rookie deal QBs; both of them finished Top 7 in Offensive DVOA in 2022 and should expect similar results next year too. Miami signing Brady after losing a first round pick for tampering with him would also be…something. The Raiders are commonly rumored but I don’t totally see the appeal for Brady? He has an existing relationship with Josh McDaniels but I don’t exactly think they are connected at the hip, certainly not close enough to overcome the many concerns that Brady should have about the Raiders’ roster and organization. Their offensive line is bad and the defense truly might be the worst in the league – and that’s where we expect Brady to spend his possible farewell season?

The Patriots, on the other hand, have…

  • An elite defense with a young core that will return in 2023
  • A good offensive line and a good running game behind Rhamondre Stevenson
  • The 4th most cap space for 2023 at the moment with a bunch of potential cap casualties to give them even more space (Hunter Henry, Kendrick Bourne, Jalen Mills, etc.)
  • The 14th overall pick, which could be parlayed into a weapon along the lines of DeAndre Hopkins if they so choose

Also, Brady and Belichick apparently don’t harbor any ill will and maybe it’s just me but their divorce felt anticlimactic in the first place? The breakup had a clear winner and we got a mailed-in ESPN+ docuseries out of it…move on. Enough time has passed too where Bob Kraft should feel desperate, greedy and nostalgic enough to step in the middle and broker the peace. The on-field logic makes a ton of sense…and it just feels right.

  1. Giants: Aaron Rodgers

This idea might come as more of a shock than the proposed Brady/Belichick reunion, especially since some of you reading this probably share my Giants fandom. But let’s acknowledge a few basics out of the gate. One, once the final second of clock ticks in the final playoff game for the Giants, Daniel Jones will be just as contractually tied to the team as I am. The team can, and likely will attempt in some capacity, to bring him back, but it’s 100% up to him on his next team. And two, the Packers trading Rodgers isn’t a stretch in the slightest. In fact, you might call it a likelihood after Green Bay missed the playoffs in a season where Rodgers played all 17 games – if his body language upon leaving Lambeau Field last Sunday night didn’t give that away. This Packers season illustrated that their title window with Rodgers probably closed as soon as they traded Davante Adams, so you know that Matt LaFleur is ready to get on with a mini-rebuild behind Jordan Love while he’s still cheap and under contract. Even though Green Bay just recently signed Rodgers to a mega-contract, trading him is possible because the convoluted structure of the deal intentionally gave them an out following this season. Still, it won’t be easy. For starters, Rodgers is due an outrageous amount of money over the next two years: nearly $60mil for 2023 and $50mil for 2024. And that’s not wonky NFL salary cap accounting; that’s hard cash he’s owed. Perhaps more difficult though is that Green Bay could be damn near financially choked if they try to trade Rodgers before June 1, as that’s when NFL rules allow teams to start pushing a portion of salary onto the following year’s cap. Unlike post-June 1 releases though, post-June 1 trades actually have to be processed after that date, so teams would need to sit out free agency and the NFL Draft for quarterbacks before landing Rodgers. There could obviously be a handshake agreement in place beforehand, sure, but that’s one EXPENSIVE handshake.

With all of that difficulty (hopefully) understood, there are only like two, maybe three, teams that 1) could afford Rodgers and 2) would want Rodgers that 3) would also be acceptable to Rodgers himself. This is the same Aaron Rodgers who heavily weighed retirement after winning the MVP and took an offseason ayahuasca journey, which according to him “isn’t over.” The Raiders are that “maybe” team, and I label them as such purely for the financials and before considering if Rodgers would even entertain wearing a new jersey for the first time in his career for Josh McDaniels. The Patriots are the other team who are well positioned to pull off a Rodgers trade, but I just gave them Tom Brady! So that leaves the New York Giants, who absolutely have the salary cap space and the actual spending cash, plus an awesome head coach who probably loses sleep at night because his offense isn’t more vertical. The required cost and patience to trade for Rodgers will certainly drop the asking price from the market standard, but considering this is the same person who won 2 of the last 3 MVPs I still think a first-round pick (2024) needs to be included – with maybe a couple of other picks. Also, the point has been made by anonymously sourced NFL executives on this subject that Green Bay might have to take back a veteran contract too given the amount of money in play and how late into the offseason the trade could technically take effect. And boy do the Giants have a contract that fits the bill! Leonard Williams is a really good player and a team leader but he is on the Giants’ books for an insurmountable $38mil for his final season of services in Big Blue. He’d just be on the hook for $18mil to Green Bay though, which is about right for him. All in all, by my rough calculations a post-June 1 trade involving Rodgers and Leo Williams would lose the Packers about $2mil in 2023 cap space (plus the delayed $24mil hit in 2024) and actually save the Giants about $2mil in 2023 cap space (granted with extended hits for Rodgers until 2026). 

  1. Texans: Derek Carr

Alright, this one is more of a hot take. But let me explain! Carr, despite coming off his worst season in years, should have multiple suitors this offseason. It’s extremely rare for a low-30s QB who’s only one year removed from single-handedly leading a team into the playoffs to hit the market, and that’s Carr’s position. He has leverage too; Carr got himself a full no-trade clause as part of the extremely team-friendly “extension” that he signed ahead of this season in the event that the Raiders bailed on him which…yeah. Still, I don’t think Carr is sitting as pretty as it seems. The no-trade clause is great power for Carr, don’t get me wrong. The Raiders can have a deal agreed upon, then Carr can say he doesn’t want to play in that city and he won’t have to play in that city. Pretty sweet. But scroll up and down this post…Carr is getting ready to change teams along with some other dudes at quarterback. It sounds counterintuitive, but he might find it more advantageous to rework the terms of the existing contract he signed with the Raiders instead of starting from scratch with a new team. Like, if Carr agreed to convert $30mil of his 2023 base salary into signing bonus and the team fully guaranteed instead of partially guaranteed his 2024 salary, that would translate into a 3yr/$116mil contract with $75mil guaranteed. That’s comparable to what Matt Stafford signed for last offseason. I’m not sure Carr is topping that as a free agent? Also…the clock is ticking. Carr will be formally off the Raiders before February 15, when they are first scheduled to pay him next. This domino will fall and it will fall soon, so Carr can be picky but I’d advise that he isn’t too picky. 

Still, why the hell am I forecasting the league’s biggest wasteland in recent years for Carr? Let’s start with some classic process of elimination with rumored contenders:

  • Buccaneers: Sounds like a rebuild is on the horizon. Carr doesn’t fit into that.
  • Colts: They aren’t trading for another veteran QB. The idea does make me laugh but seriously let’s move on.
  • Commanders: Dan Snyder…I sincerely think it’s that simple. Washington might be the best on-field fit for Carr and I’d actually endorse them to float Pick 16 for him, but I really can’t imagine him waiving the no-trade clause for Snyder.
  • Falcons: I think this is the one team where neither party is interested? 
  • Jets: I’ll concede that this one sounds more plausible to me following the firing of Mike LaFleur. If Carr and Josh McDaniels’ failed marriage didn’t prove it, Carr is not a system quarterback. That’s both a pro and a con; Carr is an advanced pre-snap operator and doesn’t always need a voice in his helmet telling him where to throw. But the Jets’ new offensive scheme still might not fall too far from the Shanahan tree even if it isn’t LaFleur calling plays, and Carr isn’t a good match for that. A certain handsome, pending free agent is though…just read on.
  • Panthers: Sure, I could see this if Carr does hit free agency. But I’m skeptical that Carolina is frantically dialing out to Vegas with their Top 10 pick in hand. 
  • Patriots: I don’t think Carr is Bill Belichick’s favorite QB.
  • Saints: God help the Saints, who don’t even have a first round pick this year, if they stay this course of slow death by nature of delayed cap hits just to mortgage more years off their future for a veteran quarterback who isn’t Drew Brees.

The Texans don’t get Carr just for winning this round of musical chairs though. As much of a joke as they have become lately, Houston does have a head coach vacancy and Picks 2 and 12 in the upcoming draft. They have Laremy Tunsil, Brandin Cooks, and Dameon Pierce. It’s a malleable organization at the moment and there could be worse building blocks already in place. David Carr, Derek’s older brother and the original Texan, has spoken positively about the family ownership, and that creepy preacher Jack Easterby is out of the building. It also doesn’t seem too unfair to assume that Carr might have a bit of a savior complex judging by some of the bold statements over the course of his career, so I can imagine a world where he might see himself as the only man for the job of bringing the Texans back to relevancy.

As for compensation, the 33rd overall pick (Pick 2 of Round 2) seems fair. It’s a valuable pick but nothing too crazy. Like, Washington just traded Pick 42 (and more!) for one season of Carson Wentz and their GM survived it. Why wouldn’t the Texans just draft a QB though? Well, this team could use personnel upgrades just about everywhere – especially on defense – and fortunately for them there are two transcendent defensive prospects in this class – Will Anderson of Alabama and Jalen Carter of Georgia. Also, while it is one of my greatest pet peeves in sports when fans collectively decide that it would be wiser for their team to wait a year to draft a QB because the “next year’s class looks better,” in this case for the Texans it actually makes sense. Not only is there a Heisman winner in that class, but Houston has multiple first round picks over the following two drafts so they can get aggressive for Caleb Williams or anyone else they choose.  

  1. Panthers: Daniel Jones

I say this with all of my preconceived notions about Daniel Jones – of which there are many – put aside…he would be NUTS not to cash out after this season. Like, ignore the recent success stories of other athletes financially betting on themselves, Danny. Just take the money. Jones finally had a good season in 2022 but, barring a Cinderella run to the Super Bowl in the coming weeks – which I would approve – there likely won’t be a bidding war for DJ. He was efficient, largely avoided turnovers and churned out a lot of big plays with his arm and legs, but the rest of the league probably doesn’t share the same glossy look in its eyes for Danny as postseason-starved Giants fans. He ran for 708 yards, yes, but at the end of the day Jones still threw for 200 yards/game (25th in NFL), 6.8 yards/attempt (26th) and 15 TDs (21st). The Giants’ wide receivers and interior offensive line were terrible, I know, but Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka also designed a rather gimmicky offense filled with rollouts and open passes to the flats. I genuinely don’t mean to short-change that Jones is a legitimate dual-threat and a gamer, but when teams are deliberating over whether to give him a multi-year deal with a hefty guarantee, they should focus on his passing over his rushing – especially considering that Jones takes a ton of unnecessary hits and just played a full season for the first time in his career.

Still, IT JUST TAKES ONE TEAM. And, if this hunch is correct, Danny has a chance to get really lucky. No team has been more recently desperate to land a franchise QB than the Panthers. Just since 2020 Carolina has…

  • Signed Teddy Bridgewater to a 3yr/$63mil contract
  • Traded 2nd and 4th round picks for Sam Darnold, then exercised his fifth-year option before he played a down for the Panthers
  • Got Baker Mayfield to take a pay cut to trade for him
  • Traded their 3rd round pick in the 2023 Draft to move up to select Matt Corral

So yeah, it might behoove the Panthers to pony up for an established NFL QB who isn’t best described as a “buy low” or “damaged goods.” If they were to give a huge contract to Daniel Jones, could he become the next and possibly saddest bullet point in that list? Absolutely, but he’d also be the most promising of the bunch at the time of acquisition and Carolina’s options elsewhere this offseason aren’t spectacular. I’m not sure what QB, if any, would fall to them at Pick 9 in the draft, and they really aren’t in a position to sacrifice more of their future to trade up. The best thing that the Panthers have going for them is that their owner is stupid rich, so they can wow a free agent QB and get away with it. Jones, who was born and raised in Charlotte then went to Duke, should be open to playing for the Panthers. They have an ascendant offensive line, DJ Moore, and that 9th pick which could turn into a weapon like Bijan Robinson. The best contract comparison here might be Jimmy Garoppolo’s original deal with the 49ers, which looked massive on paper (5yr/$137.5mil) but wasn’t too egregious once the fine print revealed that it was heavily front-loaded and based in early guarantees. Let’s call it a 5yr/$140mil deal with a $50mil signing bonus – something Carolina could bail on after 2-3 years if it royally backfired. (For the record, I imagine the Giants’ offer to DJ will land more in the realm of 2-3 years at a $20-25mil AAV. So not even close.)     

  1. Jets: Jimmy Garoppolo

Like I teased earlier, this outcome feels too obvious – even if Mike LaFleur is no longer the playcaller for Gang Green. Woody Johnson is so involved yet delusional at the football level that he’ll likely make the push for the Jets to bring in a “winner” like Jimmy G while totally missing the connection between his winning history and the offensive system shared by the offensive coordinator that he just had fired. Still, this could work out for the Jets in the short term, and I say that as an observer who believes less in Garoppolo than most. Zach Wilson lowered the bar for Jets’ QB play beneath the MetLife Stadium turf, so they just need a professional in that building who can hit open receivers from the pocket. Garoppolo, somehow still only 31 years old, will likely seek out a contender or a near contender, and the Jets have the pieces in place along with a head coach that he knows well. Ryan Tannehill’s 4yr/$118mil deal with the Titans feels about right for Jimmy G too.


I’ll lead with the caveat that I have not started my proper NFL Draft evaluation cycle yet, so I am operating merely off narratives and limited viewings here regarding soon-to-be rookies. As noted earlier, I see the Lions as best positioned to land their choice of QB in this upcoming NFL Draft and I do buy that they’re willing to make such a move, so Bryce Young is penciled in to Detroit. With the assumption that Anthony Richardson of Florida will require patience and therefore won’t immediately start in the NFL, that leaves CJ Stroud of Ohio State and Will Levis of Kentucky as The Lottery Picks: the teams who will select their Week 1 starter with one of the earliest picks of the 2023 NFL Draft.

  1. Saints: CJ Stroud

I have almost nothing to write about Stroud. Honestly, I only chose him over Levis because the idea of him throwing to Chris Olave again is fun. Instead, this portion of the post is dedicated to the proposal of the Saints trading Sean Payton to the Cardinals. The notion of trading the 3rd overall pick for a coach sounds absurd…and maybe it is! But with the exits of Kliff Kingsbury and Steve Keim only one year removed from both of them signing long-term extensions, it appears that the Cardinals have finally taken a look in the mirror and realize that they need help as an organization. And honestly, the price for Payton is probably worth it. The guy never finished below 7-9 in 15 seasons, and he went 13-3 in 4 of them. I was also astounded to see the track record of high draft picks traded for coaches:

  • 1997: Jets traded Rounds 1, 2, 3, 4 picks for Bill Parcells
  • 1999: Seahawks traded Round 2 pick for Mike Holmgren
  • 2000: Patriots traded Rounds 1, 4, 5 picks for Bill Belichick
  • 2002: Buccaneers traded two Round 1 and two Round 2 picks for Jon Gruden

I mean…those are all home runs, including one of the greatest trades in NFL history. The Cardinals also have the floating asset of DeAndre Hopkins which should return a first round pick, and Payton and his GM of choice are surely aware of that. (Also, it’s not THAT implausible that Will Anderson and Jalen Carter end up going 1-2 which would…suck for the Cardinals.)

  1. Colts: Will Levis

Jim Irsay will submit the card for a rookie QB himself if Chris Ballard thinks about doing otherwise at the draft.


That leaves just The Stopgaps: the teams who, for a variety of reasons, might opt for less splashy yet intentional decisions at the QB position for 2023.

  1. Buccaneers: Sam Darnold

The Bucs will begin a well-earned rebuild after the Brady era, though it might start slowly after they won the NFC South almost by default. Every season there is at least one young, former top pick QB who is given a chance in new digs to restart his career. In 2022, we had both Mitchell Trubisky and Marcus Mariota. Yeah, it usually doesn’t work out, but Darnold fits the bill and he was legitimately good down the stretch for Carolina – including a 341 yard, 3 TD game in Tampa. He could heave 500 passes to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin for a decent enough product on the field.

  1. Cardinals: Teddy Bridgewater/Kyler Murray

Kyler Murray shouldn’t be ready for Week 1 after tearing his ACL, and it might be smart of the Cardinals’ next coach anyway to have Kyler take his time in recovery and maybe work on maturation during that time too. If that next coach is Sean Payton, he might opt to bring in a popular veteran option familiar with his offense. Bridgewater went 5-0 for the Saints in 2019.

  1. Commanders: Sam Howell/Taylor Heinicke

Normally it’s the sign of a weak organization when they search for takeaways in meaningless games at the tail end of the season – and Washington isn’t exactly a model organization – but their Week 18 thrashing of a full-effort Cowboys team was the best product they’ve put on the field in years and Sam Howell was a huge part of that. It’s up in the air whether Dan Snyder will still own the team come Week 1 of the 2023 season, so the front office should get comfortable with what they already have and plan around that. Howell’s slide to Round 5 of the 2022 Draft remains one of the strangest draft outcomes in recent years; he’s flat-out better than that and deserves preferential treatment to that label. Taylor Heinicke just doesn’t have the talent to be a regular NFL starter but Washington would be foolish not to bring him back as a team-first, crowd-favorite backup.

  1. Falcons: Ryan Tannehill/Desmond Ridder

Ridder looked fine across his four starts to end the Falcons’ season – not good enough to name him the 2023 Week 1 starter now but not bad enough to make a bold move for a veteran replacement. Ryan Tannehill is a perfect fit, and not just because of his working history with Arthur Smith. It’s probably unfair to list Tannehill among these other “stopgaps”; he’s still an above-average QB and he’s not that old (34). Still, if he’s good then he certainly isn’t great, and it’s a fair expectation for him to play closer to 12 than 16 games in a season at this point in his career. He has only one year remaining on his contract and while it’s not cheap ($27mil salary), Atlanta can afford it and Tennessee should be ready to move on from it. A trade without any dead money should only cost the Falcons like a Round 4 pick. 

  1. Packers: Jordan Love

Time to see what the kid’s got and if Brian Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur truly made one of the worst picks in modern NFL Draft history. If Love craps out as a starter, in this scenario Green Bay would have an extra 2024 first round pick from trading Aaron Rodgers to replace him too.

  1. Raiders: Mac Jones

Oh yeah, the whiny kid from Alabama. Forgot to write about him in the Tom Brady section! If New England does bring in an external option, Brady or someone else, then they should probably put Mac on the trade block with Bailey Zappe already on the depth chart as a younger and cheaper backup. Even if the Patriots’ offense was turned over from Josh McDaniels to an out-of-work defensive coordinator who fancies himself as a rocket scientist on the sidelines, that doesn’t fully excuse how poorly Mac played in 2022. He really struggles to convert splash plays and his efficiency – his calling card in college and as a rookie – plummeted too. He finished with a negatively rated EPA/play: 26th in the league and barely ahead of Taylor Heinicke. The truth of the matter though is that Mac’s play will probably settle somewhere closer to how it looked for him as a rookie, and a reunion with McDaniels would certainly help bring that back out in him. The Patriots historically aren’t greedy in asking prices for guys that they quit on; Mac might only cost a Round 3 pick.

  1. Titans: Malik Willis/Gardner Minshew 

There’s no sugarcoating the concern over Malik Willis losing out starts to Josh Dobbs after the Titans signed him off the street. He’s not even close to functioning as an NFL quarterback. All hope isn’t lost for Willis; it can take some time. Jalen Hurts is emerging into an all-time developmental success story, but he is the same guy who was once benched for Nate Sudfeld as a rookie. I loop in Hurts intentionally here too because the Eagles have charted the course for a quick yet thorough rebuild that the Titans should attempt to emulate. Minshew isn’t special but he could stabilize the Titans’ QB room as they approach the hard reset ahead.

Thank you, as always, for reading! Follow on Twitter @Real_Peej

NFL

2022 NFL Mock Draft – “What COULD Happen”

On the flip side of the Mock Draft that I dropped yesterday, in this version I am going to take stabs at how the events of Thursday/Friday nights could actually unfold – 2nd round picks included this time too!

I want to make clear that I am not shooting for a perfect score here. Will I gloat if I snipe a late pick or two? Inevitably. But there are a billion mock drafts across the Internet where you can find 64 picks of chalk if you so desire. Here, my goal is to outline conceivable outcomes across the board, but with some picks and trades mixed in that deviate from expectations.

ICYMI: Top 50 Big Board

Round 1

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

I am well aware that Travon Walker has moved into the driver’s seat as the favorite to first walk onto the podium. With the betting markets now reflecting that shift, we are well beyond the point of Walker to Jacksonville as a smokescreen. Still, I keep Hutchinson here for a few reasons. One, he’s the consensus better prospect. Two, as a Dave Gettleman survivor, I am sympathetic towards the victims in waiting of a senile GM who escapes retirement to torpedo a franchise into a 20-year deep hole, so I am hopeful for Jags fans that Doug Pederson and the coaching staff’s calmer and saner heads prevail over Trent Baalke. Three, I just think the first round will be more fun if Hutch goes 1 and Detroit becomes a total mystery at 2. And in that scenario…

  1. New York Jets – Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

TRADE: DET trades 1/2 to NYJ for 1/4, 2/38

…the Lions don’t even pick at 2! I think they will try to get the hell outta this spot if Hutchinson is off the board – assuming they don’t culturally vibe with Kayvon Thibodeaux. According to draft value charts, the Lions would actually be selling Pick 2 at a discount here, but without blue-chip QBs in this draft it should be deemed as acceptable value. 

For the Jets, they use the extra 2nd rounder acquired from the Sam Darnold trade to guarantee that they leave Vegas with Ekwonu – who I have a hunch is the top player on their draft board. I know many Jets fans don’t identify OT as a team need compared to WR/EDGE/CB, but I’m with Joe Douglas and the front office on this one. Take a deep breath and put aside Mekhi Becton’s 13 rookie starts to acknowledge that this is a kid who can barely stay on the field, reportedly was tipping the scales closer to 400lbs than 350lbs, the coaching staff has basically openly revolted against, and now is a no-show at voluntary minicamp. Even if you’re a Jets fan who does envision Becton as part of the future, you think that George Fant on a 1yr/$11mil deal is a good reason to pass on an blue-chip prospect at arguably the second most important position in football? Ickey would be a dream fit in the LaFleur style offense.

  1. Houston Texans – Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia

I see this spot as Travon Walker’s floor. You hesitate to compare any prospects to Hall of Famers, let alone a prospect with a good amount of baked-in projection like Walker, but it’s not crazy for the Texans to look at Walker’s traits and compare him to another freaky and versatile Georgia Bulldog alum in Richard Seymour, who was drafted sixth overall en route to becoming a key figure in the Patriots dynasty.

  1. Detroit Lions – Drake London, WR, USC

If there is a kneecap-biter of a player at WR, it’s London. Beyond appealing to Dan Campbell, you have the SoCal connection with GM Brad Holmes, and just listen to this recent quote from Receivers Coach Antwaan Randel El: “I’m trying to draft two and bring in one. We throwing to him, we don’t care who is covering what, we know he can go up and get that. My guys know we haven’t had that guy yet.”

  1. New York Giants – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

Joe Schoen’s tenure a couple of months into the Giants GM job has been defined by pay cuts and back-roster moves. He hasn’t made his first landmark move yet, and I do think that’s a notably important thing to get right. By drafting Neal to jump right in at right tackle, this pick would send a message of stability to the fanbase while providing a good combination of safeness and upside on the field.

  1. San Francisco 49ers – Kyle Hamilton, SAF, Notre Dame

TRADE: CAR trades 1/6, Sam Darnold to SF for 2/61, 3/105, 2023 R2, Jimmy Garoppolo, Deebo Samuel

OH YES. I wrote in yesterday’s mock draft that Carolina should be trying like hell to get out of this pick, and I do expect them to pull it off by the time they are on the clock. Now, do they foresee themselves dropping all the way to 61 for their first pick, especially with Scott Fitterer and Matt Rhule on hot seats? No, but I do think it’s likely that they view Jimmy G as their best available QB option for 2022 contention, and one of their biggest roster holes is slot receiver: hello, Mr. Samuel. Deebo is from the Carolinas…the Panthers have the most cap space in the league…see where I’m going here? I have read the reports that Jimmy G isn’t expected to get traded before the draft and that John Lynch doesn’t want to trade Deebo, so I don’t expect this to actually go down – but these stars do align!

For the 49ers, the logic is easy. They are good enough to win a Super Bowl now, and Kyle Hamilton would make their defense that much better. You don’t have to squint too hard to see shades of Ronnie Lott’s game in Hamilton, and the guy who submits the draft card for San Fran is…John Lynch. For the trade framework, I used the Julio Jones 2011 NFL Draft trade:

Pick 27 = Deebo

Pick 59 = Pick 61

Pick 124 = Pick 105

Future R1 = Jimmy G + Future R2

Future R4 = Taking on Darnold’s $18mil

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers – Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

TRADE: NYG trades 1/7 to PIT for 1/20, 3/84, 2023 R1

Rooney Mara tells her uncles to get on the line and work out a deal. Even if that’s not exactly how it goes down, the Giants have leaked it far and wide that they would like to trade back for a future pick(s), and I’m honestly pretty confident that Pittsburgh is going to make a big move for a QB on Thursday night. The outbound GM who decides to stick around for one last year might be the scariest thing in sports, especially when Kevin Colbert watched Ozzie Newsome depart Baltimore with Lamar Jackson as his final first round pick and will look to pull off the same type of legacy move with Willis.

  1. Minnesota Vikings – Derek Stingley Jr, CB, LSU

TRADE: ATL trades 1/8, 4/114 to MIN for 1/12, 2/46

Apologies for any confusion with the trade-a-palooza here, but the Falcons like the Panthers are in a pretty gross place organizationally and will likely field calls for this pick to get more help elsewhere. I also have a tough time envisioning the Vikings not leaving this draft with Stingley, and they have a gauntlet of CB-needy teams slated before them in SEA/NYJ/WAS. Beyond having an obvious positional need and just wanting to keep Justin Jefferson happy, Minnesota brought back Patrick Peterson in a pretty clear mentorship role and hired LSU’s DC as their DBs Coach. Bettors: it’s absolutely possible that Sauce goes Top 7, but I would endorse sprinkling some action on Stingley as First CB Drafted for this scenario.

  1. Seattle Seahawks – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

Have a best coach in mind for an uber-talented LA kid with a bold personality? I buy that a lot of decision makers around the league believe the Thibodeaux crap but he’s not making it beyond Pete Carroll.

  1. New York Jets – Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

The Sauce Slide™ ends at 10. I’m sure the Jets war room ran many internal mock drafts where they were satisfied with the final outcome of sticking at 4 and taking Sauce there.

  1. Washington Commanders – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

Washington isn’t keeping their cards too close to the chest in that they want a WR and preferably one of the Ohio State boys. I’d imagine they lean Wilson at this much of a premium.

  1. Atlanta Falcons – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

Until I see otherwise, I don’t trust the Falcons front office to look past the shiniest toy on the board after the Kyle Pitts pick. This would actually be a pretty solid outcome for Atlanta though, picking up an extra 2nd rounder to still land Williams, who’s a decent bet to end up as the best long-term outcome in this WR class. 

  1. New Orleans Saints – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

TRADE: HOU trades 1/13 to NO for 1/16, 3/98

You’re telling me that Mickey Loomis is going to sit on his hands until Pick 16 as Charles Cross tumbles down the board? This is the same guy who traded a future 1st rounder to move up for Marcus Davenport.

  1. Baltimore Ravens – Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State

Baltimore loves length and burst at EDGE, and while I have reservations about Johnson’s college production – just like I did with Odafe Oweh last year – there is no doubt that Johnson has those traits. Even if Johnson doesn’t pan out as a pass rusher, he would make the Ravens even that much harder to run on.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles – Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

Howie Roseman has a few disciples running teams around the NFL, one of whom is Andrew Berry in Cleveland. Berry has formed the league’s best CB duo moving forward in Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome; here are their Combine measurables:

Ward: 5’11, 183 lbs, 31.25” arm length

Newsome: 6’0, 192 lbs, 31” arm length

Not exactly hulks out there. Nobody questions that McDuffie can play, and I don’t think Philly will overthink his size either. (Avonte Maddox has Bottom 10 wingspan for CBs in Combine history.)

  1. Houston Texans – Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

I wrote earlier that Houston can convince themselves that they are nabbing a Richard Seymour clone in Travon Walker. Well, now they do the same for Vince Wilfork with Jordan Davis. Re-pairing the Georgia big boys is sound strategy early into a complete roster overhaul.

  1. Los Angeles Chargers – Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State

Not gonna lie…I have NO idea what direction the Chargers go with this pick. Their roster is one of the league’s more complete and their official prospect visits have largely been with Day 2-3 guys. I can’t sell myself on them taking a WR3 or reaching for a RT at this pick either. And I’m not sure who would trade up for who at this spot. So – and I swear if you read my previous Mock Draft that had Walker going highly too that the Walker Family is not paying me – I have them going with the Michigan State RB. Fellow progressive teams like the Browns and Packers have invested in two-man backfields, and the Chargers have swung-and-missed on late round picks recently to share the workload with Austin Ekeler. The Athletic’s Consensus Big Board has Breece Hall ranked 36th and Walker ranked 40th, and I think Walker as the superior runner makes better sense for LA with Ekeler already locking up third downs. Tom Telesco took Melvin Gordon 15th overall so this isn’t out of character for him.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

There is a negative percent chance that the Eagles leave this draft without at least 1/2 first rounders used in the trenches. Karlaftis fits the Eagles benchmarks for defensive linemen to a T with his size, power and hand strength. Bringing back Derek Barnett on a 2yr/$7mil for the primary purpose of negating void years wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of his services, so Karlaftis would join the Eagles in a top reserve role with the hope that he’d naturally replace Brandon Graham down the line.

  1. New Orleans Saints – Lewis Cine, SAF, Georgia

I reject the narrative that the Saints flipped picks with the Eagles for an additional first rounder this year so they can lump them together to make a mega-trade up; I just think they believe that they are two impact players away from contention. Considering they went 9-8 last year with 10 games started by Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian, and Ian Book, maybe it’s not the worst thought. Unless you think they hosted Tyrann Mathieu on a free agent visit as a courtesy and are comfortable with Daniel Sorenson as a starting safety, I’m going to guess that’s the position after OT they have in mind. The Saints gave a big contract to Marcus Maye, who is best aligned as a deep safety, so Cine would have the freedom to do what he does best closer to the line of scrimmage.

  1. New York Giants – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

This is another safe pick for the Giants, who currently have Blake Martinez fresh off an ACL tear at one ILB spot and Tae Crowder at the other. While I do not expect much early movement on the linebacker class with the amount of decent prospects at the position, the league collectively sounds much higher on Lloyd than the rest of the group.

  1. New England Patriots – Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington

The Patriots need a cornerback and Gordon has the best remaining combination of size and athleticism. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.

  1. Green Bay Packers – Tyler Smith, OT/OG, Tulsa

The Packers love themselves a good reach for extremely young and extremely athletic prospects, and more often than not it works out for them so they probably aren’t going to buck that trend now. Smith just turned 21 this month but has the power of a fully developed NFL veteran. Between him, Elgton Jenkins, and Jon Runyan, Green Bay can deploy those three versatile players at LG/RG/RT in any order and it will probably work out.

  1. Arizona Cardinals – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

Kyler Murray publicly cries for better protection via cryptic Instagram posts and typo-filled press releases from his agent and in return he gets…a 187lb wide receiver. As annoying as Kyler is and as bad as Steve Keim is at his job, this would actually be a pretty great pick. The Cardinals have managed to assemble the slowest offense humanly possible, so Olave would tilt the field for them. His floor is basically the peak production of Christian Kirk.

  1. Dallas Cowboys – Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M

Even with Zion Johnson still on the board, I have a feeling that the league values Kenyon Green much higher than the media. I would believe that Dallas is particularly higher on his youth and power with the way they team-build and run their offense. The whole in-state thing doesn’t hurt either.

  1. Buffalo Bills – Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College

What a win this would be for Buffalo. The Bills have low-key had pretty bad offensive lines over the past couple of seasons, and they lost some guys this offseason too. Zion could show up and immediately become their best offensive lineman. He’s a Top 10 player on my Board.

  1. Tennessee Titans – Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

If you have read all of my NFL Draft content up until this point, well, first, thank you. You also might have noticed that I haven’t once written Penning’s name, and that is because I do not think he is a good football player. Having the lack of composure and technique that he did at 22 years old at the FCS level was enough for him not to crack my Top 60, but I do think he still gets picked in the first round with his size and speed. Mike Vrabel would likely welcome his nastiness.

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia

Wyatt feels like one of the top candidates to surprisingly drop out of the first round altogether, but Tampa wouldn’t be scared off by his age (24) and he could become an instant full-time starter on their defensive line at 3-tech lined up next to Vita Vea.

  1. Green Bay Packers – Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State

Watson leaves the frigid temperatures of North Dakota and his green and yellow uniform behind for…ah, crap. I do think the Packers not only take a WR in the first round for the first time in 20 years, but I think they’ll take a second one by the end of the next round too. If they plausibly pair a lottery ticket with more of a sure-handed guy, you might as well start with Watson coming off arguably the greatest Combine ever by a WR. Some work is needed with him, but he’s explosive enough to probably step right into Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s role without much more coaching.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs – Daxton Hill, CB/SAF, Michigan

Hill will likely go in the first round with his weird combination of quickness and wingspan, and the Chiefs would throw him right into the Honey Badger joker role. While I might not be the biggest endorser of Hill, Steve Spagnuolo would have some ideas for what to do with him.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs – Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota

There are a few places the Chiefs could go with their second of back-to-back picks, but I have them taking Mafe. Although he’s already 23, Mafe is still coming into his own as a pass rusher. That level of intrigue mixed with the fact that Mafe could contribute SOMETHING in 2022 to the Chiefs barren EDGE group gives him the advantage over a couple of other guys.

  1. Seattle Seahawks – Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

TRADE: CIN trades 1/31 to SEA for 2/40, 2023 R2 (Denver)

Seattle moves back into the first round and turns the two 2nd rounders acquired in the Russell Wilson trade into the QB that could become Wilson’s long-term replacement. Ridder is a mature and composed QB, basically the Dr. Jekyll to Drew Lock’s Mr. Hyde. I do not think it’s a smokescreen that Ridder was the only QB invited to Seattle for an official pre-draft visit. All indicators are that the Seahawks are looking to offensively revert back to their more run-heavy days, and Ridder has the 4.52 speed and game management experience to helm that offense.

  1. Detroit Lions – Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

I have slowly bought into the idea that Detroit will take a QB at this spot. (It would make things a whole lot easier for them to also have the extra second round pick that they gained earlier in this mock draft.) Howell would not put any extraordinary pressure on Jared Goff – though it’s not like he doesn’t deserve it – and could ride the bench for weeks while working on his mechanics with NFL coaches. It’s a similar circumstance to what I wrote while mocking Howell to Washington in my previous version: either Goff reverts to form and he’s still under contract, Howell looks better than expected and seizes the job, or neither impress and Detroit still has two first rounders next year to pick a better QB prospect. For the short term, it’s also worth noting that Detroit’s current backup QB is Tim Boyle.

Round 2

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Tyler Linderbaum, OC, Iowa
  2. Detroit Lions – Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
  3. New York Jets – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
  4. New York Giants – Travis Jones, DT, UConn
  5. Houston Texans – Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
  6. Detroit Lions (TRADE w/ NYJ) – Jaquan Brisker, SAF, Penn State
  7. Chicago Bears – Logan Hall, DT, Houston
  8. Cincinnati Bengals (TRADE w/ SEA) – Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson
  9. Seattle Seahawks – Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State
  10. Indianapolis Colts – Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
  11. Atlanta Falcons – Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
  12. Cleveland Browns – Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State
  13. Baltimore Ravens – Jalen Pitre, CB/SAF, Baylor
  14. Atlanta Falcons (TRADE w/ MIN) – Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
  15. Washington Commanders – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
  16. Chicago Bears – Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
  17. New Orleans Saints – Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming
  18. Kansas City Chiefs – Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
  19. Philadelphia Eagles – Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma
  20. Pittsburgh Steelers – Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan
  21. Green Bay Packers – Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
  22. New England Patriots – John Metchie, WR, Alabama
  23. Arizona Cardinals – Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, Penn State
  24. Dallas Cowboys – DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M
  25. Buffalo Bills – Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M
  26. Atlanta Falcons – David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan
  27. Green Bay Packers – David Bell, WR, Purdue
  28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
  29. Carolina Panthers (TRADE w/ SF) Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State
  30. Kansas City Chiefs – George Pickens, WR, Georgia
  31. Cincinnati Bengals – Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota
  32. Denver Broncos – Nik Bonitto, EDGE, Oklahoma



If you made it this far, I sincerely appreciate it. Follow along on draft night and beyond on Twitter @Real_Peej

NFL

2022 NFL Mock Draft – “What SHOULD Happen”

In this Version 1/2 of mock drafts that I’ll release within the next 48 hours, I am playing GM for each NFL team. I am not aiming for prediction accuracy whatsoever here; simply what I, PJ Moran, believe would be the best use of draft capital for each team.

ICYMI: Top 50 Big Board

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

Thibodeaux is the top player in the class by my estimation, and he fits a need for the Jags nicely even after their shopping spree in free agency. Thibodeaux and Josh Allen are actually pretty similar profiles, so having those two to bookend the defensive line will allow the Jags DC to place his focus elsewhere.

  1. Detroit Lions – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

Completely natural fit that Dan Campbell & Co. must be dreaming becomes a reality on Thursday night.

  1. Houston Texans – Kyle Hamilton, SAF, Notre Dame

Bit of a wild card here, which makes it perfectly Texans. Where do you go with a roster that needs literally everything? Personally, I’d seek a potential culture changer at an up-the-middle position. Safety might not be that position that first comes to mind, but Lovie Smith could see Hamilton as his next Brian Urlacher, Nick Caserio could see him as his next Rodney Harrison, and Jack Easterby could see him as his next Bible study group member. (Jumping to some Notre Dame conclusions with that one.) Anyway, Texans also pick again at 13, so they should swing for the fences with this pick.

  1. New York Jets – Drake London, WR, USC

Some might think this is a bit rich for London, but I do not. He would be the long-term solution at the X-WR spot where the Jets have been missing a target-hog for years. This selection would be a massive step in creating the best possible surroundings for Zach Wilson.

  1. New York Giants – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

The Giants would welcome this scenario of zero drafted OTs and CBs with open arms. With everyone at those positions available, I lean Neal. The RT position has plagued the Giants for nearly a decade now – from Bobby Hart to Nate Solder – and Neal is the perfect fit to end that suffering. With him and Andrew Thomas anchoring the offensive line, the new front office could move forward with rebuilding the rest of the organization.

  1. Buffalo Bills – Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

TRADE: CAR trades 1/6 to BUF for 1/25, 2/57, 4/130, 2023 R1, 2023 R4

Without another pick in this draft until 137(!!!), the Panthers should be doing everything in their power to get out of this spot for more picks. It might be tough to find a buyer, especially one at this steep of a price, but I am giving my stamp of approval for Buffalo to throw more chips into the middle of the poker table for a player of Sauce’s caliber. The Bills are ready to win now and Sauce teamed up with Tre White and Buffalo’s Pro Bowl safety duo would make them nearly impossible to throw on.

  1. New York Giants – Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

The Giants would probably be pretty devastated with this outcome of getting jumped for Sauce, but in that event McDuffie should not be viewed as a consolation prize. Forget the history of Wink Martindale and longer cornerbacks; the Giants should absolutely not pass on the best player available at a position of need – and I do have McDuffie ranked slightly ahead of Derek Stingley (also short-armed) – for the schematic preference of a new 58 year old DC who just got fired by the Ravens. 

  1. Baltimore Ravens – Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

TRADE: ATL trades 1/8 to BAL for 1/14, 2/45, 4/119

Atlanta suddenly finds itself with arguably the league’s worst roster – Jacksonville, Detroit, and Houston included – so they too should be looking to trade out of the Top 10 to stockpile more picks. The Ravens being the Ravens have FIVE 4th round picks at the moment and usually don’t pick in the top half of the draft, so look for them to get aggressive for a premier player. Enjoy trying to run on Calais Campbell, Michael Pierce, and Jordan Davis.

  1. Seattle Seahawks – Derek Stingley Jr, CB, LSU

This is another stinky roster with holes everywhere, but arguably none more glaring than cornerback. Seattle currently does not have an NFL caliber CB1 or CB2…I’m sure that does not sit well with Pete Carroll. It’s nearly universally agreed upon that there is a Top 3 group at cornerback in this year’s draft class with a sharp fall-off after them, so Seattle grabs the last of the bunch with back-to-back 2nd rounders still in hand to address deeper positions.

  1. New York Jets – Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

Ideally I would have taken a defensive player here after mocking Drake London to the Jets at 4, but with both Kyle Hamilton and the Top 3 CBs off the board I avoided reaching and went back to the offensive side of the ball. I’ll go deeper into the Jets/Ekwonu pairing in my upcoming predictive mock draft – spoiler alert – but for now I’ll just say that this is a pick that Jets fans would be happy with in 3 years, and maybe even by the end of next year.

  1. Washington Commanders – Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

Washington is stuck in the purgatory of not drafting poorly enough and not spending foolishly enough to avoid being among the league’s worst teams but constantly among the league’s most mediocre teams. It feels like they pick between 10-15 EVERY year, and besides ownership the primary reason behind this organizational quicksand is the 21st Century revolving door at QB. Now, while I hate how Washington acquired Carson Wentz, I can get behind bringing him into the building. I can REALLY get behind it if they supplement that trade with a QB pick at 11. Remember in 2016 when Dallas drafted Dak Prescott without much fanfare and then it became immediately apparent by the preseason that he could play? Does that outcome sound so bad to Washington fans?

  1. Minnesota Vikings – Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College

If you are going to commit to Kirk Cousins like the Vikings did this offseason, you better beef up the running game with Dalvin Cook as much as possible. Minnesota with Zion would suddenly have one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in the league.

  1. Houston Texans – Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia

There is a non-zero chance that Houston leaves Picks 3&13 with Hamilton and Walker…but in reverse order. Walker at 3 would be rich for my liking, but at this spot he would be a great building block for the Texans.

  1. Atlanta Falcons – Travis Jones, DT, UConn

After picking up extra 2nd and 4th rounders by trading down into this spot, Atlanta takes a mulligan on the decision to draft a tight end with the fourth overall pick last year and this time kickstarts a rebuild in the trenches like they should. The Falcons have the worst WR room in the league and it isn’t close, but I can’t talk myself into grabbing one here with the draft class depth at that position and the clear regression that Calvin Ridley experienced in Arthur Smith’s offense last year.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles – Jaquan Brisker, SAF, Penn State

Wideout is an obvious option here, but I don’t like the ideas of 1) using mid-first rounders on non-alpha WRs (see: Jalen Reagor) or 2) using first rounders on the same position three years in a row regardless of how badly the previous picks might have turned out (see: Jalen Reagor). Philly should remain in playoff contention next season and Brisker would be an immediate starter. He would remind Eagles fans of Malcolm Jenkins.

  1. New Orleans Saints – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

I have Cross graded a tier(s) below Neal and Ekwonu, but he’s still a young, talented, and likely ascendent prospect. LT is clearly the Saints biggest roster need, and with them perpetually in win-now mode this pick is a rare case of drafting for both the short and long terms.

  1. Dallas Cowboys – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

TRADE: LAC trades 1/17 to DAL for 1/24, 2/56

Chargers get back the 2nd rounder that they gave up for Khalil Mack, and the Cowboys jump a handful of teams to take one of the last available first-round caliber EDGE prospects. After getting left at the altar by Randy Gregory, Karlaftis would fit like a glove on the Dallas defensive line opposite Demarcus Lawrence – see the comp for Karlaftis on my Top 50 board.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles – Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State

There is a 0% chance that this pick occurs on Thursday night, and I’m sure that even the notion of it elicits a lukewarm reaction at best from Eagles fans. But man, I think it’s a match made in heaven. If Miles Sanders was ever meant to be an NFL lead back – I’ll allow anyone to first watch a montage of him trying to anticipate run lanes before answering that question – then it definitely was not meant to take place in the power running offense that Philly has unleashed with Jalen Hurts under center. Enter Walker, who runs with controlled fury and has the size to take on 200+ carries immediately. With an extra 1st round pick, why not use it on a player who could make your team 2-3 wins better right away?

  1. New Orleans Saints – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

Olave to New Orleans at this spot would be an excellent marriage of value and positional need. Besides the obvious match of Olave’s speed on the Superdome turf, I really like the idea of his refinement in that offense that has so desperately lacked it at WR whenever Michael Thomas has been unavailable.

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers – Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

This is an uncomfortable reach, especially when Ridder isn’t even the highest ranked QB available on my board (Malik Willis), but this is just how things fell for the Steelers and I do think Ridder is the best choice to step right into a starting QB job for a team with plenty of the pieces in place. I would trust him to admirably navigate Pittsburgh’s shambly offensive line and get the ball out to Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool in space. By no means would I compare Ridder to Russell Wilson, but this hypothetical outcome of Ridder batting with Mitch Trubisky reminds of when Seattle paid Matt Flynn in the offseason just for Russ to win the starting job by Week 1.

  1. New England Patriots – Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, Penn State

New England has a glaring need at cornerback, but it’s too much of a burden to place on the 21st overall pick to expect him to immediately flourish in that role in a Bill Belichick defense. The Patriots have had success at finding late round gems at CB, but also don’t be surprised if they trade up or make a move for a veteran on the block (cough, cough: James Bradberry). Instead, they take Ebiketie, who is NFL ready and could take some of the pass rush load off Matt Judon.

  1. Green Bay Packers – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

I know, I know: it’s not wide receiver. I have been clamoring for Green Bay to take one for years like actual Packers fans, but in this situation I’d advise that they stay patient and first address one of the few other roster weaknesses with a potentially elite prospect in Lloyd. After years of linebacker instability, the Packers suddenly would have both of the ILB spots in their 3-4 base defense solidified for the next half-decade.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Tyler Linderbaum, OC, Iowa

TRADE: ARZ trades 1/23 to JAX for 2/33, 3/65

For a team picking in the back-half of the first round, I really do not care for the Cardinals roster. There isn’t remotely one player still on the board for them who would make me feel better about their organizational direction. On top of that, they don’t have picks in Rounds 4 or 5, so I chose to slide back 10 slots and turn one pick into two. For the Jags, it’s obvious: take this seriously for Trevor Lawrence. I love the idea of young QB/OC pairings, and Doug Pederson can attest to the impact a mobile center can have on an offense after years of coaching Jason Kelce. They also have an extra 3rd rounder to burn after picking one up in the CJ Henderson trade.

  1. Los Angeles Chargers – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

When a team has nearly everything and a QB on a rookie contract, you turn your plus into a plus-plus. Williams would bring an infusion of speed into the Chargers WR room, and it would be a hell of a show to watch Justin Herbert do his best to try to overthrow him.

  1. Carolina Panthers – Logan Hall, DT, Houston

My brain and my heart are a house divided in this scenario for the Panthers. Malik Willis is staring me in the face and the value here would be solid, but I just cannot get myself to place him on an offense led by Matt Rhule, Ben McAdoo, Robby Anderson, Christian McCaffrey at $64mil, and Cam Erving as the current starting LT on the depth chart. I really think this regime deserves to reap what they have sown on the offensive side of the ball, so instead of Willis the defense is rewarded with Hall, who needs some time to reach his full potential but until then would contribute towards a nice DT rotation of Derrick Brown/Matt Ioannidis/Bravvion Roy.

  1. Tennessee Titans – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

Tennessee is at an interesting crossroads coming into this NFL Draft. Is 2022 the last hurrah for the Titans built around Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry? Or is that year…already a thing in the past after their 2021 first round playoff exit? It’s really hard to say as a neutral observer and I’m not decided on which way I personally lean. Players like Willis and Tyler Smith are intriguing from a developmental perspective, but I’ll give Tannehill some credit and instead go with Garrett Wilson, who would nicely complement the play styles of AJ Brown and Robert Woods.

  1. Seattle Seahawks – Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

TRADE: TB trades 1/27 to SEA for 2/40, 3/72, 5/145

What difference does a fifth-year option make when your team is anchored by a 45 year old QB? Tampa only has four picks in the Top 240 as it stands, so for me it’s a no-brainer to triple the pick volume for players who can chip in right away in 2022 with Brady still in town. While not a pick that I would make at 9 – clearly by nature of this exercise – Seattle taking Willis that early wouldn’t be all that outrageous. They get him much later now while still holding a good amount of draft capital via the Russell Wilson trade.

  1. Green Bay Packers – David Bell, WR, Purdue

Packers fans wait 20 years for a first-round receiver and when they finally get one it’s a guy who ran a 4.65 40! This would play out as a joke on Twitter but I would freaking love this fit for Green Bay. They take pride in WR size and physicality and Bell has it. Obviously no rookie is going to step right into Davante Adams’ cleats, but there isn’t a guy in this class who I’d pick to do a better impression of Adams over Bell.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs – Jalen Pitre, CB/SAF, Baylor

I’m not sure that any match of first round prospect and team would be more beautiful than this one. Pitre was born to play in Steve Spagnuolo’s aggressive and blitz-happy defense. I can already hear Jim Nantz yelling “PITRE!” when he makes a huge play in a January playoff game at Arrowhead.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs – David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan

I considered a pass-catcher here, but I really don’t think the group of Kelce/JuJu/Valdes-Scantling is as bad as the heat it’s taking. No, those WRs aren’t good, but the Chiefs also have two picks in each Round 1-4. The Veach/Reid/Mahomes leadership trinity gives the Chiefs more flexibility to plan for the future than any other team, and they cash in on that security by drafting Ojabo fresh off his Achilles tear.

  1. Cincinnati Bengals – Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington

CB2 is the only need that truly jumps out to me on the Bengals depth chart, and Gordon is still here for the taking. Bengals live in a press-zone scheme that Gordon has familiarity with from college. “No questions asked, hand in the card” type of pick here.

  1. Detroit Lions – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

It’s tempting to place a QB here for fifth-year option purposes, but I’m not moving mountains for Matt Corral or Kenny Pickett and I don’t like either of them in Detroit either. Also, let’s not forget that other positions are expensive too, notably WR as of late, so the fifth-year option can come in handy elsewhere. Like I said in my writeup for Burks, I project him as an X-WR in the NFL – which is where the Lions are crying for help. Burks/DJ Chark/Amon-Ra St. Brown all of a sudden would be a respectable WR corps.


Thanks for reading! Within the next 48 hours: “What COULD Happen” version of a mock draft. Follow me on Twitter @Real_Peej

NFL

2022 NFL Draft – Top 50 Board

88 NFL Draft prospects evaluated this year; here are the Top 50 in my eyes. Methodology: I’ll watch a highlight reel to get the gist of the player, do some background reading, and then watch 3-6 full games of tape – amount of time depends on the consensus caliber and position of the prospect, and I usually try to watch at least one game from a previous season too. 

Positional value is weighed but not ultimately the final factor in my rankings. For example, I would not endorse drafting Kenneth Walker 11th overall, but I also do not think there are 10 players in this draft better at their position than Kenneth Walker. Hopefully that makes sense!

New for 2022: I spent a lot of time mapping out NFL pro comparisons for each prospect, so I hope you enjoy them. I haphazardly threw out player comps in years past (shoutout Justin Herbert to Josh Freeman) but this year I put much more intentionality behind them because NFL Draft scouting is supposed to be fun, and I also do see the value in having players in mind for readers who don’t spend days of time crunching amateur footage on YouTube like me. For the player comps, my intention is not to predict that the prospect will be as good as the selected comparison. Still, I did do my best to land in the general area of NFL impact that I think the prospect could have, though at the end of the day the comparisons are more about play style and measurables.

  1. Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Even without a perfect grade, KT is no slouch as top dog. Freaky athlete with raw power and explosive burst around the edge. Can be moved around with his length and IQ and will immediately impact vs run in NFL. Arrow pointing up w/ pass rush skills. No attitude concern from me.

Pro Comparison: Khalil Mack

  1. Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Sauce is the cleanest prospect in this draft. His length is obvious, but he also brings elite quickness, positioning, and physicality to the table. Rare mind at CB who will live in press man coverage. 2021 production was nearly perfect. Only depends how highly you value CBs.

Pro Comparison: Troy Vincent

  1. Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan (Senior)

Tweet-Length Review: The consensus top prospect, Hutch is a relentless pass rusher with elite movement and hands. Like he did at Michigan, he’ll convert pressures into sacks. Short-armed without much bend, so there’s a chance he banks on effort over skill wins. But his floor is like Trey Hendrickson.

Pro Comparison: TJ Watt

  1. Evan Neal, OT, Alabama (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: A mammoth who moves like he’s 30 pounds lighter, Neal won’t get mistaken for Jon Ogden or Orlando Pace for his finish or solo protection. But he’s plenty long and strong, plays clean, and works well on the line. Has flashed dominance and could unlock it staying at one position.

Pro Comparison: Andrew Whitworth

  1. Drake London, WR, USC (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Psycho competitor at WR whose high point catches and body control make his basketball background clear. London is a rare separator for his size with good YAC ability. Some of the most dominant WR tape you’ll ever see. No, he’s not fast, but stick him outside and forget about it.

Pro Comparison: Mike Evans

  1. Kyle Hamilton, SAF, Notre Dame (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Neither a Derwin James style CB/S hybrid nor a Jamal Adams style LB/S hybrid, Hamilton is in desperate need of a rebrand. Perfect mold for the modern NFL safety but just…bigger. Incredibly rare instincts with the hard hits, TE coverage, and recovery you’d want from any safety.

Pro Comparison: Harrison Smith

  1. Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia (Senior)

Tweet-Length Review: All-time specimen whose tape backs up his legendary Combine. Davis is both an immovable double team eater and a sudden force who can swim or rip by any IOL. Would like to see less finesse, but Davis should be a run stuffer and TFL machine – especially if he sticks around 340lbs.

Pro Comparison: Haloti Ngata

  1. Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Tough as hell with clear football IQ, McDuffie will make any team better. Played mostly zone at UW but is also sticky in man coverage with quick hips and feet. Has plenty of speed and physicality. Teams stopped throwing at him. Won’t be a high count INT guy, but he’s a baller.

Pro Comparison: Denzel Ward

  1. Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State (Senior)

Tweet-Length Review: Olave is as smooth as savvy as it gets at WR, and he’s coming down with any ball thrown near him. Has a mix of releases to fool DBs off the line, and he can also cook them with speed that might be better than his 4.39 40. He’s skinny and has no YAC boost, but Olave just produces.

Pro Comparison: Calvin Ridley

  1. Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College (Redshirt Senior)

Tweet-Length Review: Quick and flexible, earns leverage then drives or turns DTs. High connect rate at second level that modern NFL OCs crave, but also the old school strong base and finishing mentality. Aware, active, and holds his own. 22 y/o OG isn’t flashy but Zion could be in Pro Bowl next year.

Pro Comparison: David DeCastro

  1. Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Highest graded RB in my 3 years of prep. Full package as a runner. Excellent vision and burst, can run around you or through you. Home run hitter who also moves the chains. Elite production on a bad MSU offense. Inexperienced route runner and bad pass blocker, but Walker can RUN.

Pro Comparison: Dalvin Cook

  1. Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Freakishly built with play style at UGA that was freakishly ordinary. Versatile, hard edge setter, gap filler. Lethal speed/power combo flashes, but Walker’s general pass rush execution isn’t there and he’s better with a hand in the dirt. NFL teams: don’t screw him up; he’s good.

Pro Comparison: Jadeveon Clowney

  1. Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Ferocious puncher, easy mover, makes watching the OL fun. Ickey is a compact body-tosser with a mean streak who’s perfect for a zone rushing attack. Technique in pass protection needs to improve: oversets, hand timing, using his length. But he’s trending upward at a key position.

Pro Comparison: La’el Collins

  1. Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Williams has another gear that 99% of WRs don’t, but he’s no one-trick pony. Strong-handed alpha type who’s not afraid to go over the middle. Good catch radius and can JUMP. One-year wonder body catcher who struggles with feel and physical separation is scary, but he’s that fast.

Pro Comparison: Will Fuller

  1. Derek Stingley Jr, CB, LSU (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Elite athlete, lightning in his breaks, and at his best 1v1. Ball skills were on full display during LSU title season. But in 2019, Stingley took his lumps too: got turned around, opened shoulders early, and just outmuscled. Limited tape since but I think he’ll be more than fine.

Pro Comparison: Chris Gamble

  1. Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Deep ball thrower who looks his best in the pocket but proved in 2021 he can run well when needed. Poised, tough, and smart. Howell has top-heavy mechanics and too much trust in his NFL-average attributes. But he’s young and improving with his footwork, timing, and progressions.

Pro Comparison: Dak Prescott

  1. George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Charged up bull rusher with athleticism matched by his brute strength. Karlaftis put on 3 years of tape of wrecking pockets and winning with quick and powerful hands. He does have stiff ankles and can play out of balance, which shows up vs the run. But he’s an NFL built 4-3 DE.

Pro Comparison: Demarcus Lawrence

  1. Travis Jones, DT, UConn (Senior)

Tweet-Length Review: Explosive 330 pounder, wins leverage, tosses linemen with ease. Performance vs Clemson put any strength-of-competition concerns to rest. Also had silly reps at Senior Bowl. Right now, wins just by being fast and strong. Won’t work in NFL. If his technique is unlocked, watch out.

Pro Comparison: Akiem Hicks

  1. Jaquan Brisker, SAF, Penn State (Redshirt Senior)

Tweet-Length Review: Equal player high and low, Brisker has good deep instincts and range and also looks like a small LB playing in the box. Lowers his shoulder and hits hard. Incredible recognition. Angles need work and probably won’t make many plays on the ball, but he’s a fan-favorite in waiting.

Pro Comparison: John Johnson III

  1. David Bell, WR, Purdue (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Over-ranked relative to other boards, love this profile and love Bell. Has the size, hands, and route-running precision. Excellent possession WR, sneaky shift, hard to tackle. Yes, he tested poorly. But Bell is an athlete, just more with body control and hand-eye coordination.

Pro Comparison: Robert Woods

  1. Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State (Redshirt Sophomore)

Tweet-Length Review: Patient and uses hands well to mirror and neutralize. Cross is very athletic for OT, gets upfield fast, and flashes insane recovery ability. Just so damn young. Gives up ground and gets beat by advanced moves, holds too much, not enough run reps. Get the hype but pump the brakes.

Pro Comparison: Jake Matthews

  1. Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah (Redshirt Senior)

Tweet-Length Review: Always works towards ball and won’t come off the field. Lloyd is patient, long and smooth. Moves well in all directions and can flip hips and run in coverage. Don’t buy him as EDGE/LB hybrid like Utah used him, especially at 23 y/o in Pac12. Not a burner or thumper but just good.

Pro Comparison: De’Vondre Campbell

  1. Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Enigma of the draft cycle, Burks is a YAC beast bigger than everyone with nimble feet. Could have lined up in backfield then caught 50/50 ball on the next play. Ton of talent but also telegraphs routes, has tight hips and a short stride. Gotta find right role; I think it’s X-WR.

Pro Comparison: Dez Bryant

  1. Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: If there’s an eval that will age poorly, might be here. Wilson has special body control, agility, concentration and tempo. Highlight reel routes and catches on tape. But his frame is really small and he plays like it. Worry he needs scheme help or will just get bullied in NFL.

Pro Comparison: Santonio Holmes

  1. Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, Penn State (Redshirt Senior)

Tweet-Length Review: Possibly the best bender in this class, Ebiketie works OT’s outside shoulders like a pro. Couple of go-to moves already under his belt too. NFL long and strong. Grad transfer production is concerning and he’s not a freak, but I’m betting he was just late to put it all together.

Pro Comparison: Josh Sweat

  1. Tyler Linderbaum, OC, Iowa (Redshirt Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Center is low on positional value chart, but also don’t see Linderbaum as this generational OC prospect. Like him quite a bit; crazy strength, cuts off linemen quickly, wins the pad level battle, centers his punch. But also tiny-armed and more of a wrestler than blocker/helper.

Pro Comparison: Corey Linsley

  1. Malik Willis, QB, Liberty (Redshirt Senior)

Tweet-Length Review: Even if the Internet lied to you that he’s Josh Allen x Lamar Jackson, Willis has a live arm and strong legs. Can throw with touch then uncork it 60 yards. Still, BAD pocket tendencies and iffy ball placement. Inconsistent and got picked on at times. But he’s got some stones.

Pro Comparison: Jalen Hurts

  1. Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington (Redshirt Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Gordon has the size and raw athleticism needed to play press zone in the NFL. Good tackler, competes hard, and got better by the game. There’s plenty of technique to clean up: staying lighter on his feet, turning his head earlier, etc. Already like him though; think NFL will too.

Pro Comparison: Chidobe Awuzie

  1. Jalen Pitre, CB/SAF, Baylor (Redshirt Senior)

Tweet-Length Review: Pitre lived in the slot at Baylor and caused chaos behind the LOS. Plenty of traits to love: contact balance, uncanny timing, patience in coverage. Also red flags: age, undersized, and mainly no clear NFL role. But good things happen when he’s around the ball and he’s got JUICE.

Pro Comparison: Micah Hyde

  1. Logan Hall, DT, Houston (Senior)

Tweet-Length Review: Tall, twitched up, quick handed with power to piledrive OGs. Sounds good? Well, Hall doesn’t know what he’s doing yet. Tweener who played situationally at UH. Needs to master his niche and learn to play with control. By adding 20lbs, off to good start to become a force at 4-3 DT.

Pro Comparison: Arik Armstead

  1. Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Well-known field general of UGA defense, Dean is twitchy with great burst. Finds the hole and hits it hard. Just so wary of undersized LBs, especially one who skips testing. Issues with tape too: not the cleanest tackler, impatient, coverage might be limited to RBs. We’ll see.

Pro Comparison: Jordan Hicks

  1. Tyler Smith, OT/OG, Tulsa (Redshirt Sophomore)

Tweet-Length Review: BIG boy who pancakes religiously. Basically lesser Ikem Ekwonu. Smith is athletic with good nastiness. Quick to engage, held his own vs good teams. Just a total mess in protection right now; some fixable, some not. Unsure if he’ll evolve from OG to OT in NFL, but he has time.

Pro Comparison: Robert Hunt

  1. Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State (Senior)

Tweet-Length Review: Tough, quick, and shifty craftsman at WR who looked like the best player on the field at every BSU game. Best out of slot but can hang on the outside too. Runs full route tree. Shakir has average size and T-Rex arms, and he won’t stack or survive press. He’ll catch EVERYTHING.

Pro Comparison: Amon-Ra St. Brown

  1. Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati (Redshirt Senior)

Tweet-Length Review: Most NFL ready QB in the class, Ridder is plug-and-play with developed anticipation, timing, and pocket mobility. Hits targets in stride. Deep passing stinks, arm is ok, generally inaccurate, not a pretty ball. Awesome athlete but see him more as a game manager than creator.

Pro Comparison: Alex Smith

  1. Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss (Redshirt Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Quick strike QB with plus arm. Can throw to anywhere on the field. Corral is a twitchy scrambler who climbs the pocket and leaves it out on the field. Have doubts his small stature + reckless play style will survive NFL without Lane Kiffin’s RPO offense to help, but he’s tough.

Pro Comparison: Jeff Garcia

  1. David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan (Redshirt Sophomore)

Tweet-Length Review: Line up Ojabo as far outside as possible and let him cook. Has more rush chops than credited for and a rare knack to force fumbles. More of a speed rush specialist right now though, which is not the best role for an Achilles tear! Would have ranked 10-15 spots higher pre-injury.

Pro Comparison: Yannick Ngakoue

  1. Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Awesome line-mate with raw power and grip strength. Green sustains well in run game and is dominant at times. One of least athletic top prospects and it shows. A&M took advantage of his size and willingness; will flourish at OG in NFL. Gonna be HUGE, 325lbs and just turned 21.

Pro Comparison: Gabe Jackson

  1. Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia (Senior)

Tweet-Length Review: Wyatt is a quick power generator who looks shot out of a cannon when he’s on. Pain in the ass of a blocking assignment, can blow up any play. I’m skeptical though: played at 23 y/o and don’t buy he’ll stick at Combine weight of 305lbs. More of a wrecking ball than disciplined DT.

Pro Comparison: Daron Payne

  1. Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State (Redshirt Senior)

Tweet-Length Review: Before breakout Senior Bowl and Combine, Watson was the guy who ran down Trey Lance’s deep balls. Absurd downfield separation, legit speed. Hate “raw” label but it applies to Watson. Needs to better attack ball and learn creativity in routes. Probably worth the coaching needed.

Pro Comparison: Tim Patrick

  1. Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Case of “tape don’t lie” because Spiller’s testing sucked. Not great for RB! Productive three-down back, very good receiver. Decisive one-cut runner who can get dirty yards up middle or turn corner. Not a home run hitter or TD machine. Young, mainly needs confidence and patience.

Pro Comparison: Joe Mixon

  1. Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Perfect sized RB, can get small AND falls forward. Hall cuts upfield but creative/instinctive running is his calling card. Massive Combine caught me off guard; only “good” athlete on tape. No truck stick and not too sudden. Possible fantasy RB1, but possible 5 year career too.

Pro Comparison: David Johnson

  1. Channing Tindall, LB, Georgia (Senior)

Tweet-Length Review: Odd man out in UGA’s LB corps, Tindall was most explosive of the bunch. Plays low to the ground and meets RBs in the hole with impact. Good athlete who soars into the backfield. Limited reps but has some coverage skills too. Might get stuck in the box in NFL but dude’s a missile.

Pro Comparison: Devin Bush

  1. Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama (Redshirt Senior)

Tweet-Length Review: Ladder-climber who plays taller and wider than his already big frame. Tolbert is smooth with good breakaway speed and downfield separation. Wins 50/50 balls and has experience winning in space. Older prospect who lacks precision and great ball skills, but he should hold his own.

Pro Comparison: Corey Davis

  1. Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Ultra competitive CB, crashes down on plays at LOS like his life depends on it. Not many guys this athletic and physical, Booth looks can’t-miss at his peak. Plays at one speed, which isn’t a good thing in his case. Will lose assignments and balance flying around. Needs to chill.

Pro Comparison: Trae Waynes

  1. Lewis Cine, SAF, Georgia (Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Tone setter, great speed, checks the physical boxes. Cine has shown he’s instinctual near LOS. Just a total freelancer of a safety. Lots of inexplicable moments on tape, whether it’s crashing box too early or abandoning his zone. Range isn’t much, might cash checks as an enforcer.

Pro Comparison: Brandon Meriweather

  1. Greg Dulcich, TE, UCLA (Senior)

Tweet-Length Review: Dulcich has the wingspan, hands, and speed to be a total mismatch. Releases, route tree, and YAC ability are solid too. Won’t ever pass protect and his run blocking needs work. Might not ever make it into heavy personnel in NFL or rack up double-digit TDs, but he’s a ball-winner.

Pro Comparison: Dawson Knox

  1. Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State (Redshirt Junior)

Tweet-Length Review: Yes, I watched the OSU/Mich game. Petit-Frere got his ass kicked by Hutchinson. He struggled with that burst and unraveled, and his lack of explosion accounts for that. But NPF is a very good run blocker who has a solid base and quick hands. Maybe a low ceiling, but NFL-ready OT.

Pro Comparison: Morgan Moses

  1. Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh (Redshirt Senior)

Tweet-Length Review: Probably best college QB in 2021, Pickett looks the part. Mostly accurate, can throw on the run, has zip and touch. West Coast fit. But it is what it is with a 23 y/o breakout in the ACC. Ugly pocket tendencies and arm is NFL subpar. Iffy decision maker, sack count will be HIGH.

Pro Comparison: David Carr

  1. Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State (Redshirt Senior)

Tweet-Length Review: High energy, strong arms, lower body torque. Johnson does his job holding down the edge. I am stunned by his momentum. Old one-year wonder with production that’s nearly all based in effort. Very little nuance, finesse, or counter. Best chance is to get bigger and land on good DL.

Pro Comparison: Whitney Mercilus

  1. Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan (Senior)

Tweet-Length Review: Body that suits a former TE, Raimann is light on feet and positions himself nicely. Mostly held his own vs LSU. Stuck at OT forever at his smaller size/length, and gets driven by bigger EDGEs. Maybe a nice player, but at his age (25 in Sept) gotta wonder how much growth is left.

Pro Comparison: Joe Haeg

Next Ten Out (In No Order): Romeo Doubs (WR, Nevada), Abraham Lucas (OT, Washington State), Daniel Faalele (OT, Minnesota), Boye Mafe (EDGE, Minnesota), Chad Muma (LB, Wyoming), Christian Harris (LB, Alabama), Leo Chenal (LB, Wisconsin), Kaiir Elam (CB, Florida), Roger McCreary (CB, Auburn), Daxton Hill (SAF, Michigan)

NFL

BLOWING IT UP…NEW YORK GIANTS EDITION

The New York Giants are an abomination. They are barreling towards a 4-13 finish that would bring them to a 22-59 record over the last five seasons. John Mara’s vision for a football team that could pass as a polo club has not come to fruition, believe it or not. Within the last four years alone since Dave Gettleman became the GM to the surprise of everyone – including Dave Gettleman – the team has “rebuilt” for two of those non-consecutive years and has “gone all in” for the other two non-consecutive years. It’s fraudulent and malpractice, and even though the fans and select media know it, nothing has changed because the luxury suites at MetLife Stadium are still stocked and sold. It’s painful for one of the historically proudest American sports franchises that now sincerely belongs in the depths with the likes of Washington and Jacksonville.

I know these things for certain: there are going to be countless articles like this one written in the coming months, Dave Gettleman will be allowed to retire on his own terms following the season, and the Mara Family will own the team for the rest of our lives. There is nothing the fans can do to force a sale of the team, and there is probably nothing we can do to influence the next GM selection either. So instead of making unbearably sad predictions about what will actually happen with the future of the front office of the Giants, I am going to lay out what I would do with control of the personnel of the Giants. You know, a Giants team that actually reestablishes themselves with the class of the league instead of one that takes pride in combover haircut quarterbacks and good effort so long as it isn’t intentional tanking.

I have STRONG thoughts on the GM and Head Coach processes, but for the sake of this blog I’m going to focus on the players. Quick on those topics though: it absolutely sucks that we are pigeonholing ourselves with GM candidates only to make sure that he is aligned with our NYPD cosplayer of a head coach. Like, why does Joe Judge have any sway…at all? He has been objectively bad through a not-so-small sample size any longer. He brings nothing to the table with game strategy and for a tough guy the team has lacked discipline under his watch. I could actually appreciate honesty and a behind-the-scenes culture change after the slimy tenures of Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur (though Judge too is now on liar watch after his bizarre post-game tirade in Chicago), but the most important fact of the matter is that he has been a net negative on the field and has not proved anyone wrong in that regard as someone who was hired as a young Special Teams Coordinator. Possibly the most hair-ripping-out element of it all is that the Giants DO have a potential Bill Belichick offspring on the coaching staff in the impressive Patrick Graham, but he doesn’t look the part for the Maras so the Giants will probably let him walk to another team who acknowledges his potential or just let Graham stick around so long as Judge is the one making the final decisions. But alas, this blog is still about the players!

My general philosophies as an Internet GM with 300 Twitter followers is to 1) rebuild for real where it will take multiple years to meaningfully contend but the fans have a clear picture into the long-term vision and 2) avoid outright tanking because it’s lame and football is a vicious sport where that isn’t really possible to ask grown men to do over the course of a season. So I’m shooting for a 2024 contending Giants team here with 2022-2023 seasons that aren’t glory years but not depressing to watch. 

A few rules of this game:

1. We are abiding by salary cap projections, per OverTheCap.com. The Giants 2022 cap situation is dismal for any team, let alone a bad team, currently sitting at 29th in the league with -$16mil of effective space. So just to sign a draft class and operate in 2022 with some breathing room, by the end of this exercise we need to clear $21mil off the 2022 books.

2. We are also abiding by roster rules. Fortunately, this is pretty easy for the Giants, since they currently have 41 players contracted for 2022 and 11 picks in the upcoming draft. I’ll be reinforcing the draft stock throughout the words ahead, so assuming they sign most of their draft picks, what we need to do here is basically add a player for every player subtracted to finish at a full roster. I’m only going for a Week 1 active roster…look elsewhere for practice squad projections.

3. We care about compensatory picks for the next two years while this team actually rebuilds, so putting it out there now that I’m opting to have the Giants avoid splurging in free agency so we can recoup some value for solid players when they decide to leave this miserable franchise.

THE QUARTERBACK CONUNDRUM 

While not the natural starting point of this exercise, I am going to kick this off with a focus on Daniel Jones because he’s at the center of everything. Now, if I had to guess, Jones will return to the Giants for a fourth year starting under center but he’ll do so without his fifth-year option exercised. (Even for a team as delusional as the Giants, I don’t know how you could guarantee Jones’ fifth year based on his play and neck injury.) But still, the whole point of this is to see what would happen if I ran the circus, and putting any disdain that I have for Jones aside (which I do), it is imperative to cut the cord with him if the Giants are going to truly rebuild and evolve beyond the Gettleman Era.

I will give Jones this much: he’s not horrible and he did prove some haters wrong in being a legitimate NFL quarterback, as ridiculous as that is to say about the sixth overall pick in a draft. Like, he probably was the second best QB in that 2019 class. But still, he’s just not good despite whatever manipulated deep ball or clean pocket stats his supporters will throw at you to show that he’s a victim of circumstances. Jones has received all of the organizational support in the world even if he’s had to deal with unfortunate offensive lines and playcallers. He didn’t prove anyone wrong with his talent or natural ability as a quarterback. While he looks the part and is a good athlete, he has no elite traits whatsoever and he really doesn’t have the grasp of the offense that you’d expect for the “first one in, last one out” type and his Duke pedigree. There is just no reason to believe that Jones is a winning quarterback with a sample size that has grown quite large, and all of the investment into surrounding him with better pieces did not nearly amount to the success it would have taken to justify extending Jones. The Giants tried to turn someone who kinda looks like Eli Manning into Eli Manning and it didn’t work.

While not my preference – see below for that – if Jones stuck around for another year without any guaranteed contract beyond that it might not be the worst thing. Like I said, he’s a legitimate NFL quarterback and he’s young, so some team would give him a contract if he hit the open market. The Titans got a 5th round comp pick when Marcus Mariota left town and that’s a possible outcome here. But that would require Jones having his best year yet because he isn’t as talented as Mariota. If we got more of the same from Jones, he could sign elsewhere and return more like a 7th round comp pick like the Bears are about to get for Mitch Trubisky. At that point, you count that as a loss.

Again, I know this is the Giants front office that I’m talking about, but I just don’t understand what future they see with Danny as the QB of the Giants through their warped old man glasses? Let’s say he stays healthy enough next year, plays at a league-average level (which would be an improvement) then is given a middle-class QB extension – which I think is John Mara’s dream here. The best recent comparison to this is when the Dolphins extended Ryan Tannehill going into his fourth season. Even though some people like to compare Jones to Tannehill in that they predict he will blossom into a good QB once he joins a new team like Tannehill has in Tennessee, that comparison simultaneously doesn’t really work and isn’t even promising in the first place. Tannehill through three years was better than Jones by record, stats, arm talent, eye test and health, and even then locking up Tannehill contributed towards the Dolphins being so trapped in mediocrity that they eventually salary dumped him off the team. And like I said, Tannehill was actually a promising young QB at the time of his extension. Jones is not one. The last time a team was rewarded in blind faith towards a highly drafted QB? I think it was the 49ers with Alex Smith? And that’s Alex Smith who was a first overall pick. Even then, Smith turned out to have a great career but he’s the same guy who was dumped TWICE by great coaches for a more talented replacement (decisions that both paid off for those coaches). So like I said…what are we doing here with Jones?

We could go into 2022 and just mope about Jones one last go-around until the Giants inevitably finish with a 5-12 record, but there are definitely ways for the Giants to proactively address the QB situation even with a shot salary cap for 2022 and a “bad QB draft class” (I only put that in quotations because I haven’t personally watched prospects yet and those pre-determinations can often turn out to be bogus). They could simply draft a QB this year to compete with Jones with one of their multiple high draft picks. They also should have the ammo to go trade for an established quarterback. The trendy rumor is Russell Wilson, and yes he would provide a massive immediate upgrade and a likely return to credibility as a franchise. They should definitely engage with Seattle to gauge the asking price, and they should dial up a team like the Raiders too if they are floating Derek Carr. Still, I don’t think a quick-fix is the real solution here. By mortgaging draft capital – Seattle might want three first-round picks – the Giants would box themselves in with this crappy roster that might only get worse following 2022 without more investment into young difference makers. Take Wilson…is he seriously good enough to turn THIS Giants team into contenders next year? And if not – which is my response – then shouldn’t the Giants choose to improve the roster and the salary cap THEN get aggressive in the QB trade market or free agency if that is the intention? Yes, another team could pounce on Russ but we are entering an NFL age where there will always be good QBs looking for a change. As lowly as things are for the Giants, they should aim to avoid shortcuts.

Therefore, that is why it is my official suggestion for the Giants to eat the trash here. Dig that hole. *Joe Judge fake Southern accent voice* “Sometimes you gotta go back to actually move forward.” I want the Giants to play some Moneyball at QB for 2022. Trade Daniel Jones for the reduced but real value that he still has, take back an awful contract in the process, then reap the rewards via draft compensation that comes along with it. If this sounds familiar, it was what the Browns did with Brock Osweiler’s Texans contract that got them a 2nd round pick that turned into Nick Chubb. Now, like I said though, I don’t want the Giants to outright tank next year and that is what the Browns did in that situation. So I am not endorsing that they go out and seek a QB as bad as Osweiler, who the Browns did not even entertain playing and cut before the season. I think the only pricy 2022 QB who fits that mold is Sam Darnold, who probably wouldn’t be allowed to swipe back into MetLife Stadium anyway so cross him off the list. Then there is Baker Mayfield, who has trapped the Browns by flashing enough to kickstart extension discussions but has also been untrustworthy enough for them to halt those discussions. You gotta think Andrew Berry and Kevin Stefanski, neither of whom decided to draft Baker first overall, are desperate to make an upgrade despite Baker’s fifth year already being guaranteed. Before Daniel Jones’ neck injury, I could have written a convincing argument for the Giants and Browns as QB trade partners. I could see the appeal for Cleveland in Jones, who has cut back on turnovers, in the Browns run-heavy offense at a total bargain that would allow them to continue beefing up an already great roster. But with Jones’ injury removing the realistic option to trade for Jones on a 2 year/$25mil contract with his exercised option, it would suddenly represent a gamble for the Browns for a QB that hasn’t shown nearly enough to bank on him getting them over the hump in one year. If the Browns do choose to make a change at QB, expect them to aim higher. That leaves us with our final QB on a bad contract who I think fits the bill here perfectly: Jared Goff.

Fair Trade Prediction: Giants trade Daniel Jones, 2022 5th Round Pick, 2022 6th Round Pick to Lions for Jared Goff, 2022 2nd Round Pick, 2023 4th Round Pick

No way around it: Goff is no longer the good, young QB that took the Rams to the Super Bowl. He got banished by Sean McVay and hasn’t exactly proven anyone wrong in Detroit for the two-win Lions. His 6.5 yards/attempt is abysmal, and while QBR is a flawed stat Goff currently ranks 24th out of 31 qualifiers – which sounds about right. (Jones, for the record, is 23rd.) Goff’s contract is even worse than his recent performance too, with enough guaranteed to basically make him cut-proof for 2022 with at least a $26mil cap hit. The Lions pretty inexplicably doubled down on Goff too following the trade by massively restructuring his contract to a point where they’d absorb a $15mil dead cap hit by trading him away. So how does this make any on-field or business sense for either team?

I’ll start with Detroit. They almost need to make a QB change next year with Dan Campbell in charge. His emotional approach actually seems to be working in terms of on-field effort and attitude for a hapless team, but I don’t know how much longer that could last if they trot out Goff again and basically waive the white flag on the season in the process. Now, they could draft a QB with one of their three picks currently within the Top 35, but it’s extremely unlikely they will draft one in the Top 2 and they should be much more inclined to make their big move using their own pick with the Rams first-rounder that could be better in 2023 (maybe even much better if Matt Stafford gets hurt) for Bryce Young or CJ Stroud.

Would Lions fans who have watched their team win 7 combined games over the last two seasons want to see their team part ways with a nearly first round pick? Of course not, but there could be a lot to be gained in this move that would make the team better. Jones would come extremely cheap as a viable one-year bridge QB at $4mil for a trading team, and maybe he’d actually show that improvement that everyone has been waiting for behind an offensive line that might be the league’s best moving forward. On that note, for a team that didn’t win a game until Week 13, the Lions roster isn’t THAT bad. Their wide receivers are dreadful, but they have many solid pieces in place elsewhere – and that’s not even including the likely edge rusher they’ll add in the Top 2 in the draft. Detroit also only has 6 picks in the 2022 Draft with none in Rounds 4 and 5, so despite the big move back from Round 2 to Round 5 they would pick up an additional pick in this process. The Lions would save $12mil in 2022 alone on this trade with at minimum another $10mil off the books beyond that. To put that into real terms, they could potentially upgrade at QB in Jones, sign a free agent receiver along the likes of Christian Kirk almost exclusively with the profits gained in that upgrade, and then still use their other first round pick on either another receiver, linebacker, or whatever they choose.

As for the Giants, well it’s some reverse logic but Goff could potentially provide them with a short-term upgrade too. It feels like ages since Goff made back-to-back Pro Bowls but he undoubtedly has a better arm than Jones and is still only 27 years old. Even the 2019-2020 regressed version of Goff would be a welcomed sight for Giants fans, and Goff has plenty of experience in distributing the ball to skilled offensive weapons. The Giants would need big upgrades to both the offensive line and the playcalling to make this work, but I don’t think it’s hard to imagine the Giants offense looking more credible with Goff at all. He’ll finish close to as many TD passes in one year with the Lions as Jones had in his past two years with the Giants, after all.

The business of it all is honestly harder to justify for the Giants, but mainly for a draft pick that currently sits at 34th overall this would be worth it. For the team with arguably the worst 2022 cap situation to take on arguably the worst contract in football, it stretches the limits of financial possibility even in the NFL, but it could be done with corresponding moves – see the rest of this blog! And with Goff’s contract, the guarantees stop after 2022 so should his right arm appear cooked they could cut him scot-free following the season. If you think that $22mil is a lot to pay for a second round pick, well you’d be correct but this is the type of aggressive move that could lead to real change. John Mara owes us this much. Think about how few foundational players are on the Giants current roster: Andrew Thomas, Xavier McKinney, Azeez Ojulari…and that’s it? Any coincidence that those are 3/4 guys taken in the first two rounds over the last two drafts? Not at all. Giants fans should know how valuable the top of the 2nd round is. Landon Collins was the 33rd pick. Sterling Shepard was 40th. McKinney was 36th. This presents a real scenario where the Giants could draft two offensive linemen, an edge rusher, and a linebacker ALL in the Top 40 picks. And shit, maybe they even take a falling QB with that inherited pick atop the second round instead? This is how the Giants can create their own luck instead of praying that someone new buys the team.

TOTAL 2022 CAP HIT: $22mil

THE OBVIOUS CUTS 

All of these players are signed to play for the 2022 Giants. None of these players should play for the 2022 Giants.

  • Kyle Rudolph ($5mil savings) – Predictably a titanic waste of money and roster spot for this current team, Rudolph has been a non-factor despite the pretty big need at the TE2 position. He looks slow, washed up, and generally disinterested and I cannot wait for him to no longer wear blue.
  • Riley Dixon ($2.8mil savings) – A bad punter who can save your team nearly three million dollars? Uhhh yeah.
  • Oshane Ximenes ($1mil savings) – HAS to be one of the worst players in the league. His career probably ends here…Giants desperately needed him to step up and he can’t even crack the active roster nowadays.
  • Kaden Smith ($1mil savings) – He has actually looked ok when given the chance but it’s a bad sign that the team paid Rudolph to supplant him when he plays for so cheap.
  • Ben Bredeson and Wes Martin ($1.9 savings combined) – Two dart throws at the board when Nick Gates shattered his leg to fill in at offensive guard. Welp, neither stuck.
  • Gary Brightwell, Raymond Johnson III, Carter Coughlin, Justin Hilliard, TJ Brunson, Rysen John ($4.8mil savings combined) – Random depth guys who should be replaced with rookies drafted/signed by a more competent front office.

TOTAL 2022 SAVINGS: $16.5mil

TOUGH GOODBYES

Guys we actually like who just are on the wrong end of difficult decisions necessitated by the salary cap situation. AKA, you can thank Gettleman and Co. for losing these guys.

  • James Bradberry/Trade ($12mil savings) – Bradberry is set to have the second highest cap hit on the 2022 Giants at nearly $22mil, and yet going into this I fully planned to keep him around for his final year under contract. While he definitely is not playing as well as he did in 2020, just because Bradberry is no longer an All-Pro candidate doesn’t mean that he isn’t still a good cornerback who is asked to do a ton on this defense. Fans have given him way too hard of a time for his play this season. He is always on the field and has made a ton of huge plays in just two years, and in a better situation he would have earned the right to finish out his contract. Plus, he’d return a nice comp pick to the 2023 Giants barring a fall off a cliff next year. But being that Bradberry is in the final year of a hefty deal, getting rid of him would save $12mil that would go a long way towards these other rebuilding moves. Secondary is also a rare area of strength on this Giants roster, and Bradberry is one of the very few Giants players that is tradeable.

Fair Trade Prediction: Giants trade James Bradberry to Colts for 2022 4th Round Pick

This is a fairly easy hypothetical. In 2020, Denver traded a 4th round pick for AJ Bouye on a similar deal with similar recent production. The Colts are among the best at finding value in veteran players – think Xavier Rhodes – and they might be able to get that fourth-rounder back as a comp pick in 2023 if Bradberry played well for them.

  • Sterling Shepard/Release ($4.5mil savings) – This one hurts a lot, especially since Shep is a good player and great teammate who is just cursed by a body that cannot hang with his talent. Somehow now the longest tenured Giant, he signed a team-friendly contract that as recently as a couple of weeks ago was worth either trading or keeping on the books as a valuable WR3. With the recent news that he tore his Achilles though, that injury should lead to a painful farewell for a dude who relies on his quickness and is going into his age-29 season. It’s reminiscent of the Victor Cruz injury; Shepard deserves so much better but the NFL can be a bitch sometimes.
  • Nick Gates/Release ($2.5mil savings) – Gates looked like he was going to become the rare win of Gettleman’s “hog mollies” moves. The Giants brought him in as a UDFA and he quickly became a serviceable guard/center hybrid who defied any defensive player to mess with his quarterback. His injury this year against Washington was SO bad though that we can’t be sure that he’ll ever come back the same and the Giants can’t take that bet for a guy who would make a meaningful financial contribution with his release.

TOTAL 2022 SAVINGS: $19mil

EASY GOODBYES

  • Saquon Barkley/Trade ($7mil savings) – I – *clears throat* – cannot stand Saquon Barkley and wish him off my team for just about anything. He is a self-centered prima donna who has made nothing better since we made the regrettable decision to draft him second overall. He is a direct contributor to the total nonsense narrative that he is a chosen-one player, and on the field Saquon has been overrated from the jump and now has fallen to the depths of a straight-up bad running back still on his rookie deal. He looks for home runs on every snap regardless of situation and almost never hits them but we pretend not to care because of random highlights along the way. He is laughably mediocre as a receiver even though we were spoon-fed this idea that he’s Marshall Faulk 2.0, and his pass blocking remains so bad that he comes off the field entirely on third downs for Devontae Booker. And as for the “bad luck” and “impossible roster” that many have claimed to hold Saquon back, give me a freaking break. Look, the sprained ankle against the Cowboys this year was a random occurrence but I’m not going to weep for a running back getting hurt in any context, let alone one who gallops around like he’s Gale Sayers with a lower body so disproportionate that he looks like an action figure. And yes, the Giants have been bad for the entirety of Saquon’s career and a large part of that failure stems to the offensive line, but it’s now IMPOSSIBLE to avoid putting together that Wayne Gallman and Booker have steamed ahead on this team while Saquon and his army of defenders continue to look anywhere for someone or something to blame besides Saquon himself. If the Giants were to actually extend Saquon long-term, I would question my fandom in the team.

Fair Trade Prediction: Giants trade Saquon Barkley to Dolphins for Myles Gaskin, 2022 6th Round Pick and 2023 3rd Round Pick

So, with that glowing endorsement why would anyone trade for this guy? Well, star power at the running back position still matters. We are not that long removed from Le’Veon Bell getting $35mil guaranteed. Also, while I am inclined to believe that the majority of the league has caught onto Saquon’s stink, there are always a couple of desperate teams out there who might try to recapture his rookie form two years removed from his ACL tear. The funny thing about Saquon’s contract is that the logic of taking a running back second overall is so broken that he’s actually making less money on his fifth-year option. It’s still a decent chunk of change for a running back in $7mil, but that’s doable for one year. There aren’t too many eligible teams for Saquon: I guess I could see Washington, Seattle, Kansas City or the Jets trading for him. The best fit though is the Dolphins, who have some desperation to win soon and simultaneously have the most cap space going into 2022 and the league’s worst running back committee. I also think they have Hulu and Progressive in Miami?

There isn’t much of a precedent to compare a trade of Saquon to, especially since the league has mostly figured out running back value since the turn of the century. Besides Bill O’Brien dealing a third-rounder for Duke Johnson and the infamous Trent Richardson trade, you have to go all the way back to 2004 for the last time a running back was traded for a third-rounder or better. But still, I think this is valid, especially since it would be devalued by the Dolphins regime with it coming one year later in 2023 when they might not even be in power any longer if they miss the playoffs again. I have the Giants getting Myles Gaskin in addition to draft compensation in the trade. Gaskin had a bad 2021 season almost any way you slice it, currently dead last among 42 qualifying RBs in rushing DVOA. But he’s so cheap that he’s worth taking a flier on behind a new line that isn’t the worst in the league. Gaskin did lead all running backs in receiving DVOA as a rookie, and a good pass-catching RB has been a recent void for the Giants. Sean McVay traded a 6th and a future 4th for Sony Michel; proposing a 6th and a future 3rd with Gaskin, who is near losing his job with the Dolphins anyway, is fine for someone of Saquon’s presence – as ridiculous as it might be.

TOTAL 2022 SAVINGS: $6mil

FREE AGENTS TO LET WALK

Current Giants players who are set to hit free agency next offseason that the team should make no effort or next-to-no effort to bring back.

  • Evan Engram – Prototype example of an overvalued player who made it through his rookie deal that can still turn into fools’ gold via the comp pick system – something the Giants have continuously gotten wrong that the smarter teams leverage year after year for bonus draft picks. I don’t see Engram as a talented player that multiple Giants coaching staffs got wrong…I just don’t think he’s good. His hands are famously bad, he doesn’t inline block, and he never found consistency running anything besides underneath routes. A lot of teams will shy away, especially in a strong tight end free agent market, but it only takes one buyer to return value to the Giants.
  • Jabrill Peppers – Bummer that Peppers’ Giants tenure will end with a torn ACL, but the truth is that he probably would’ve been dealt at the trade deadline anyway if not for the injury. After two good years following the trade over from the Browns, Peppers seemingly lost his ability to cover overnight and thereby lost his regular role in Patrick Graham’s defense. Still, he’s only 26 and an excellent athlete, and there should be a few strong offers out there for Peppers for a team that wants to use him more heavily blitzing and around the line of scrimmage.
  • Nate Solder – Solder’s ill-fated contract is finally over, but not before counting $4mil against the 2022 cap in dead money. He’ll probably choose to retire, but if Solder does want to keep playing then the Giants should offer him nothing more than a veteran minimum salary to be the swing tackle and a leader for a young positional group. I can’t imagine that sounds all too appealing to him.
  • Will Hernandez – Sheesh, good riddance. Just a bad player who got so many chances to live up to his basically first-round draft position. He’ll get a surprising deal in free agency and the Giants need to just bite their tongues as it happens.
  • Austin Johnson – Decent rotational player who got paid like one. Johnson got asked to do too much this year following the departure of Dalvin Tomlinson though and he didn’t really deliver. Giants just need to aim a bit higher here.
  • Billy Price – A player like BJ Hill on the Bengals is a great example of somebody who could one-up Austin Johnson. Think we could have traded Price for him? Price wasn’t a disaster or anything for the Giants given that he stayed healthy all year for cheap and never completely imploded the line, but he continued to be the mediocre center that the Bengals gave up on. Price actually could turn into a solid comp pick for the Giants given his former first-rounder status.
  • John Ross – More of the same for Ross…made some exciting plays, splashed his talent, couldn’t stay on the field and when he did, he wasn’t impactful from drive to drive.
  • Mike Glennon – Think the time is up for one of the higher-paid frauds in NFL history. Just a putrid QB who I cannot imagine gets another primary backup gig. Fitting that the Giants were the last team to give him that shot.
  • Danny Shelton – I actually liked this signing at the time since the front office underestimated Dalvin Tomlinson’s impact and Shelton had good experience stopping the run, but he was just ineffective from the get-go.
  • Reggie Ragland and Bernardrick McKinney – They were both actually serviceable, but the Giants need to make a serious change in the linebacker room in a serious way. Should they strike out or should Blake Martinez not look the same coming back from injury, players like Ragland and McKinney are clearly available as midseason pickups anyway.
  • Jaylon Smith – Smith has shown a spark in his brief stint with the Giants and reminded why he was once one of the higher paid linebackers in the league. But if Smith continues to look rejuvenated, I BEG that another team besides the Giants gives him guaranteed money off a three-game end-of-year sample size after Smith was cut twice by two of the smarter teams in the league who each got up-close and extended looks at this version of him.
  • Isaiah Wilson – Some fans need to grow up with this one. Wilson can’t get off the practice squad for a team that I think would give ME a tryout on the offensive line. He’s not part of the plan.

FREE AGENTS TO RETAIN

Current Giants players who could also leave town, but in this case the team should fight to keep them around at the right cost.

  • Lorenzo Carter – This is almost certainly an unpopular opinion amongst Giants fans, but I’d prefer that we bring Carter back. I just think he’s a solid and versatile role player who is always in the right spot and can make impact plays from time to time. He looked like a well-spent third-round pick coming off his second season before he blew out his Achilles in Year 3 and then the fanbase either forgot or soured on him. Carter has started to regain some juice in the second half of this season, and he’ll still only be 26 next year. Even if he would become more of a revolving linebacker who shifts between pass rushing and off-ball, I think we and more importantly Patrick Graham would miss Carter if we did what’s expected and let him walk.

Fair Contract Prediction: 3 years, $10mil ($2mil cap hit for 2022, $4mil for 2023 and 2024)

  • Eli Penny – Fullbacks matter and Penny is a good and familiar one. Simple as that…give him the same contract again.

Fair Contract Prediction: 2 years, $2.7mil ($1mil cap hit for 2022, $1.7mil for 2023)

  • Matt Skura – Giants need to go into the 2022 Draft with ANYONE besides just the fifth-rounder coming off a knee injury (Shane Lemieux) in the interior offensive line unit, and Skura has been more dependable than Bredeson or Martin. It helps that Skura has pro experience starting at both guard and center.

Fair Contract Prediction: 2 years, $3mil ($1mil cap hit for 2022, $2mil for 2023)

  • Casey Kreiter – Every team needs a long snapper and Kreiter hasn’t screwed up for the Giants.

Fair Contract Prediction: 1 year, $1mil

  • Jake Fromm – I know, I know. Fromm looked unplayable against the Eagles, so bad that he got benched for Mike Glennon in a game that basically only existed for the Giants to test out Fromm. Still, he’s clearly got some fire and grabbed control of the offense pretty quickly. There isn’t much talent to work with here, but Fromm was a good four-year starter at a major college program and deserves an NFL job – for now. The next Colt McCoy has to come from somewhere and in theory it could be Fromm.

Fair Contract Prediction: 1 year, $900k

  • Jarren Williams – Nothing too exciting here; Williams has been a solid injury replacement in the secondary and you can never have enough cornerback depth.

Fair Contract Prediction: 1 year, $900k

TOTAL 2022 CAP HIT: $7mil

FREE AGENTS TO SIGN

As previously stated, I am going to ignore any itching desire for the Giants to splurge in free agency for outside players over the next two years. But still, it’s pretty impossible to field a roster without some participation in free agency. I’m going to split this up into two sub-sections: 1) 2022 free agents with names who will receive meaningful contracts and 2) 2022 free agents without names who will get paid very little to fill the final roster spots vacated by the players cut earlier in this exercise.

FREE AGENTS WITH NAMES

  • David Njoku – For those keeping score, with the departures of Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph and Kaden Smith, that leaves the 2022 Giants with…zero tight ends on the roster! While the Giants will definitely address the position with one of their Day 2 draft picks, they should turn to free agency for a fresh start at the position with a veteran/rookie combo. The great news for the Giants is that this is a deep and diverse tight end free agent class, with basically multiple options for any flavor. Mike Gesicki and Dalton Schultz will likely pace the market outside of the Giants price range around $12-15mil AAV (if either of them even leave their current teams). There are older veteran options in Zach Ertz and Jared Cook and bargain-bin options like Robert Tonyan or Tyler Conklin, but given the state of the roster and the weirdness of tight end contracts this is where the new GM can get bold right away. The Giants should be thinking long-term with upside here, even if that naturally comes along with some risk. Ironically, many teams will see that as a perfect description for Engram, but there are new options for the Giants in Njoku and OJ Howard in the $10mil AAV range or somebody more like CJ Uzomah and Gerald Everett in the $6mil AAV range. I’m going with the Jersey boy in Njoku, who definitely has seen more career drama than you’d like for a 25 year old but comes along with more of a traditional tight end skillset and gamebreaking ability than Engram. While a good player on the Browns, it never worked out in Cleveland and they have his replacements already rostered. I’d bet on a realization of potential with a change of scenery for Njoku.

Fair Contract Prediction: 4 years, $40mil ($4mil cap hit for 2022, $12mil cap hits for 2023-2025)

  • Tim Settle – Defensive tackle is also one of the stronger positional groups in next offseason’s free agent pool, and the Giants find themselves in need of another beefy guy who puts his hands in the dirt. Despite Gettleman’s infatuation with the position, it’s really down to only Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence on the depth chart, and Settle would be an intriguing option to round out that group given he has the size at 335 pounds to hang at nose tackle but enough pass rush savvy to rotate with Lawrence in his designated gaps. Settle will hit free agency at only 24 years old, and he never really got a chance to shine as part of Washington’s insanely deep defensive line. This would involve more projection that you’d typically like for a long-term deal but I do think Settle should be good with more playing time and would make for an excellent fit with the Giants.

Fair Contract Prediction: 4 years, $24mil ($3mil cap hit for 2022, $7mil cap hits for 2023-2025)

FREE AGENTS WITHOUT NAMES

  • Offensive Tackle (1 year, $2mil budget) – Only necessitated by Matt Peart’s ACL tear, since the team needs someone behind Andrew Thomas and the right tackle that the Giants presumably take with a high draft pick.
  • Wide Receiver (1 year, $1.5mil budget) – Like the John Ross deal again, but just not Ross this time.
  • Tight End (1 year, $1mil budget) – Only here to block.

TOTAL 2022 CAP HIT: $11.5mil

For comp picks, it’s a guess but I’d imagine the Giants would land something like two 2023 Draft picks in the Rounds 5-7 range for Peppers/Johnson/Price with Engram/Njoku negating and Hernandez/Settle negating.

PLAYERS TO RESTRUCTURE

Restructuring contracts, for those who hear that thrown around a lot as some magic device for making salary cap problems go away, is largely bad. It is the primary reason that the Giants find themselves in their current financial predicament. In the simplest terms, restructuring is taking a chunk of a player’s base salary for the current season then splitting it evenly as a signing bonus over the course of ALL seasons under contract. Players never say no to it because it is guaranteed money upfront, and GMs commonly use it to kick the can of big contracts to either their future selves or the GM that replaces them. Still, it has a place in the league. A lot of the smartest teams heavily restructure deals. If you have confidence that the player will be on your team in those future years, then it’s a fine thing to do so long as you have future cap flexibility – like the Giants do in 2023.

  • Leonard Williams ($18mil, $9mil savings) – This deal doomed the future Giants from the moment the ink hit the paper, even if Williams is arguably the best player on the team. It’s just far too much money for a defensive tackle not named Aaron Donald let alone Chris Jones or Jon Allen, and in this situation the contract is only going to become more laughable in its final year. Like I previously wrote, we are eating the trash here. This would give Leo a cap hit of $35mil in 2023, basically paying him like he’s a Top 10 quarterback. But still, so long as the vision remains clear, you accept good yet wildly overpriced play from Williams in 2023 then let him walk for a top comp pick.
  • Adoree’ Jackson ($8mil, $4mil savings) – Restructuring is a good way to turn bargain free agent contracts into no-longer bargain free agent contracts…see above for James Bradberry. The Giants seem to have connected on Jackson, who looked great for the bulk of the season. He will still be 26 years old in Week 1 next season, so even with a $21mil cap hit in 2023 I wouldn’t be worried about it. He is a solid candidate to receive an extension if he looks just as good next season.
  • Kenny Golladay ($8mil, $6mil savings) – I didn’t want to have to touch Golladay’s contract with his massively disappointing season occurring in Year 1/4 on his deal, but with the deal so stretched out (including a 2025 void year) this wouldn’t really make much of a difference in any decisions made on Golladay’s future. The truth of the matter is that he will be on the 2022 and 2023 Giants, and if things are still bad by 2024 they’ll cut him anyway even if it costs another $4mil to do so. Notably, I still believe in Golladay too even if his contract sucks. He has been good when given opportunities, and I’d rather bet on him moving forward via a restructure than Goff or Logan Ryan.
  • Julian Love (2 years/$8mil, $1mil savings) – This is actually an extension, not a restructure, but it’s a similar idea here. Love isn’t anything special and hasn’t succeeded much when thrust into a starting role, but he’s a versatile defensive back who has a good understanding of Patrick Graham’s complex defensive scheme. The Giants have not been good about keeping players around for low-cost veteran deals in recent years, and Love is a good candidate for one – especially since Logan Ryan is a likely cut candidate following next season.

TOTAL 2022 SAVINGS: $20mil

2022 GIANTS DRAFT PICKS

We did it! We have cleared enough cap room to assemble a roster and sign a draft class. Here is where all of the above moves would leave the Giants in the 2022 Draft. This would be TASTY, with two picks in every Round 1-4. Picks in normal font are real, those with strikethrough are real but traded in this blog, and those in italics are acquired as written in this blog.

It is easy to say a rebuilding team like the Giants should always defer to the best player available when on the clock in the draft, and sometimes I agree but this team in particular has so many damn needs at key positions. In the roster section below, I included rookies at positions that I feel like the Giants just need to address in the upcoming draft. Don’t worry…I left two open rookie spaces too for the team to get nuts.

  1. Round 1 / Pick 5
  2. Round 1 / Pick 8 (Chicago Pick)
  3. Round 2 / Pick 34 (Goff Trade)
  4. Round 2 / Pick 36
  5. Round 3
  6. Round 3 (Miami Pick)
  7. Round 4
  8. Round 4 (Bradberry Trade)
  9. Round 5
  10. Round 5
  11. Round 6
  12. Round 6 (Saquon Trade)
  13. Round 7
  14. Round 7

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Part of the goal of a rebuild is a rebrand. The Giants are a clown show organization, regardless of what Joe Judge says. It’s beyond the point of embarrassment in being a rational Giants fan; it’s become funny to laugh at their misery. We had a good run of gaffes, but it’s about time for fans to wear their Giants jerseys in public un-ironically again. The Giants clearly have so many issues, and a big one is how they don’t really have any great players. Like, I’m not sure that one Top 100 player in the league is on the roster. Zero guys made the Pro Bowl. We have plenty of good players for a terrible team, including some who might be considered great soon, but none as of right now and that’s a problem. Like, who is our billboard player? I think it’s Leonard Williams? Does any team outside of the Texans have a more embarrassing selection?

I am about to propose a big trade for the Giants to make, and rest assured it is not purely for better marketing along the New Jersey Turnpike. But I do genuinely think the Giants would benefit from a star player who won’t be 23 years old in 2024 as part of this rebuild, and they have enough capital to pull it off without mortgaging the future. Maybe the solution here is a quarterback, but the Giants shouldn’t limit themselves to that position with huge holes at other crucial positions on the roster. Look no further than EDGE, where I am calling for the Giants to make an aggressive move for Jacksonville’s Josh Allen.

Fair Trade Prediction: Giants trade 2022 1st Round Pick (Chicago Pick) to Jaguars for Josh Allen

Boom! This idea rightfully should raise a lot of questions and doubts, and honestly if the Giants simply decided to draft an EDGE in the Top 10 I’d be cool with it. But I really do prefer this route. It’s creative and opportunistic and something that smart teams around the league have pulled off in recent years. Rookie deals are among the most important commodities in the NFL, yes, but if you can extend a Pro Bowl caliber player on top of his rookie deal, that can lead to a team-friendly contract in that player’s prime. In this case, it is a bit of a buy-low on Allen too. Allen is only 24, made the Pro Bowl as a rookie with 10.5 sacks and currently has a great PFF grade of 79, but yet there is little buzz on him in his third year. Part of that is because the Jaguars are such a mess, but Allen does only have 5.5 sacks and 12 QB hits this season. Allen can surely use more refinement rushing the quarterback, but I think this is more of a circumstantial instance than one of production. Jacksonville shifted from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4 this year, arguably a better long-term fit for a toolsy player like Allen, but something new for him to adapt to on top of what has definitely been terrible coaching this year. Part of this is also surely because Allen has been banged up since a mid-season hot streak and his snaps have been limited due to that and the Jags season going to total crap. PFF grades should be taken with more context, but in this case I do think it tells the story of Allen playing well even if his traditional defensive end stats don’t reflect it. The advanced stats back up that the talent is still bigly there. He’s just caught in a bad spot on a team that is going to pick first in the draft again, and the Giants should pounce.

Allen would fit like a glove into the Giants defense and would undoubtedly bring a jolt to the franchise. The economics of it make total sense too. By trading for Allen in the final year of his standard rookie deal, the 2022 dollars are basically a wash for whoever the team would have drafted in that Pick 8-10 spot. This would be a full-measure trade where the Giants lock up Allen before he plays a snap, something the team totally whiffed on with Leonard Williams that ended up biting them. I think an extension in the ballpark of 5 years, $100mil would get it done for both parties. That would make Allen safely a Top 10 paid EDGE by both total dollars and AAV, even if he isn’t quite one yet. For the Giants, that’s a completely reasonable bet to make that Allen gets there during that contract, and if so he’d be a steal effectively making $17.5mil/year until 2027.

I think both teams would go for this! Jacksonville is picking at the top of the draft and the consensus Top 2 players, Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux, are both EDGEs. In this scenario, they could completely reboot their defense and still leave the Top 10 of the draft with a left tackle – probably their biggest team need. 

In nature of the player, it’s extremely similar to when the Steelers came out of nowhere with the 18th overall pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick as his situation deteriorated in Miami. And with the financials, the Colts basically followed this structure by giving up the 13th overall pick to land DeForest Buckner and sign him to an expensive but ultimately fair extension. Is part of this suggestion a karma-based do-over for the Giants passing on Allen in the draft for Daniel Jones? Perhaps…but it’s also just a great idea.

2022 GIANTS WEEK 1 ROSTER

QB (2): Jared Goff, Jake Fromm

RB (3): Devontae Booker, Myles Gaskin, Rookie

FB (1): Eli Penny

WR (5): Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Darius Slayton, Free Agent Veteran, Collin Johnson

TE (3): David Njoku, Rookie, Free Agent Veteran

OT (3): Andrew Thomas, Rookie, Free Agent Veteran

IOL (4): Rookie, Rookie, Matt Skura, Shane Lemieux

IDL (4): Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Tim Settle, Rookie

EDGE (5): Josh Allen, Azeez Ojulari, Lorenzo Carter, Quincy Roche, Elerson Smith

LB (4): Blake Martinez, Rookie, Tae Crowder, Cam Brown

CB (5): Adoree Jackson, Aaron Robinson, Darnay Holmes, Jarren Williams, Rodarius Williams

S (3): Xavier McKinney, Logan Ryan, Julian Love

ST (3): Graham Gano, Rookie, Casey Kreiter

Unassigned Rookie (2)

FINAL OUTLOOK

  • 2023 Extra Draft Picks: 3rd Round (Miami), 4th Round (Detroit), 5th Round (Comp), 7th Round (Comp)
  • 2023 Players to Extend: Andrew Thomas, Xavier McKinney and Josh Allen. Depending on 2022 play, Blake Martinez and Adoree’ Jackson would be candidates too.
  • 2023 Salary Cap: Building the above roster would definitely place some strain on the 2023 cap. It would drop the Giants from an ok 2023 cap situation to a pretty bad one, but a lot of money would be eligible to come off the books and the Giants could still pursue a QB without pulling strings like I had to do for Goff here. And I’ll say it one more time…the goal here is 2024, where the financials would be left in a solid place after all of this.

Would the roster constructed above be a good team in 2022? No, but again that’s part of the point. It’s a three-year plan where each year things start to look up more and more. I actually do think this team without Super Bowl aspirations would be better than any of the teams that Dave Gettleman built out of desperation to save his job, though. I think it would look something like this year’s Broncos or Steelers. It was obvious that neither of those teams had real chances this year with mediocre offenses behind mediocre quarterbacks, but they both were competitive with good defenses and finished around .500 with quality wins. Like the Broncos and Steelers this upcoming offseason, more importantly these Giants would be positioned to make a play for a quarterback to push them over the top if the opportunity presented itself, only with a much improved roster over the current one. If the Giants are back to respectability in 2022 with a brighter future ahead, then it’s mission accomplished.

Thank you for reading! Follow along on Twitter for more Giants rambling at @Real_Peej.