NFL Draft Daily: Comparing my Way-Too-Early 2022 Mock Draft to the actual NFL Draft

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, there are only 353 days until the 2023 NFL Draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

It’s that time of year where we start the very early look at next year’s draft class. We get caught up in the appeal and excitement of what could be. I’m guilty of it. I just published my Way-Too-Early 2023 Mock Draft this past Monday.

However, I wanted to do something a little different. I want to compare my Way-Too-Early mock from last year to the actual draft. I think it is really interesting to compare expectations for teams and players to what actually happened in the past year. Hopefully, there are a few lessons I can learn in the process as well that will help me better identify prospects that are true first-round players.

There are some major takeaways here for sure. One, I thought this quarterback class was going to be good a year ago. Meanwhile, Travon Walker was not even on my radar. Good reminder to everyone that so much can change over the next year as we start to look ahead to 2023.

As a reminder, I did not set the draft order last year. It was the reverse Super Bowl odds at the time from William Hill with strength of schedule used as a tiebreaker. You can check out the mock for reference, but I listed all of the projected picks here as well. Let’s go back in time and take a look at how I did with my projections.

1. Way-too-early prediction: Houston Texans – Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
What happened to the player: Transferred to South Carolina
Actual selection: Jacksonville Jaguars – Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
Ah yes. May 2021. Back when we thought this was going to be a good quarterback class. Rattler was a Heisman candidate at Oklahoma and seemed poised to become the latest quarterback under Lincoln Riley to go No. 1 overall. Instead, he lost his job midseason to Caleb Williams and ultimately transferred to USC. I did not include him in my way-too-early mock for 2023, so he definitely has a ways to go to rebuild his draft stock. As for the Texans, they ended up picking just a couple spots later, but seem to have their quarterback to develop in Davis Mills.

2. Way-too-early prediction: Detroit Lions – Sam Howell, QB, UNC
What happened to the player: Drafted 144th overall by the Commanders
Actual Selection: Detroit Lions – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
This didn’t pan out too well either. Howell entered the year as one of the top quarterback prospects, but uneven play and a drop in production without his top weapons caused him to tumble all the way to the fifth round. I still think he fell further than he should have, but there is no question he is a bit of a project. That being said, as I talked about on my podcast last week, I think Howell could wind up being the Commanders starter in 2023. Turns out that William Hill was spot on with their odds. Detroit did in fact pick second and they still need a quarterback. It will be a big focus in the 2023 draft for the Lions.

3. Way-too-early prediction: Cincinnati Bengals – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
What happened to the player: Drafted 3rd overall by the Texans
Actual selection: Houston Texans – Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Hang on, I’m going to play the lottery real quick. I can’t pat myself on the back too much, but Stingley entered the year as likely the No. 1 overall prospect. At worst, he was No. 2 behind Kayvon Thibodeaux. He was an elite prospect, but injury struggles seemed to be pushing him down draft boards. A fantastic pro day somehow rebuilt his draft stock to the point where he went back to being a top-five pick. The fact that the Bengals were slated to take him third overall is laughable now. Cincinnati reached the Super Bowl behind stellar seasons from Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase and an underrated defense. Cincy could still use some corner help, but obviously was nowhere close to being able to snag Stingley.

4. Way too-early prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
What happened to the player: Drafted 7th overall by the Giants
Actual selection: New York Jets – Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Another one that I feel pretty good about, Neal wound up going just a few spots later to the Giants on draft day. I still maintain that the Jaguars would have done well to take Neal and move on from Cam Robinson, but I digress. Neal delivered on the hype in his 2021 season, making the move to left tackle look fairly easy. As it turns out, Jacksonville was even worse than this, with the Urban Meyer experiment failing miserably. Now we will have to wait and see if the Jags can avoid becoming the first team to ever draft No. 1 overall three years in a row.

5. Way-too-early prediction: New York Jets – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
What happened to the player: Drafted 5th overall by the Giants
Actual selection: New York Giants – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Right city, right draft slot, just wrong team on this one. The Jets ended up picking one selection earlier, in the end passing on Thibodeaux in favor of Ahmad Gardner. The Giants seem pretty happy with that. Thibodeaux came into the year as one of the best prospects in the draft. In fact, he was the top player at that point. He didn’t quite live up to the expectation, but he put together more than enough good tape to justify going in the top five.

6. Way-too-early prediction: New York Giants – Kedon Slovis, QB, USC
What happened to the player: Transferred to Pittsburgh
Actual selection: Carolina Panthers – Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
To quote myself from 2021: “If the Giants are picking this high, Daniel Jones’ days in New York are likely numbered.” Well after the team declined his fifth-year option, it sure seems like that is the case. However, the Giants opted not to take a quarterback in this class. Slovis wasn’t available anyway, because he didn’t enter the draft. This is a good reminder to not always bet that a player that flashed as a freshman will be able to sustain that. Slovis has come nowhere close to matching his 2019 production. He threw 30 touchdowns that year. He threw 28 in the next two combined. His completion percentage has also dropped each of the past two seasons. He can still turn things around, especially moving to a Pittsburgh program that just lost Kenny Pickett, but he has an uphill climb.

7. Way-too-early prediction: Philadelphia Eagles – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
What happened to the player: Drafted 23rd overall by the Bills
Actual selection: New York Giants via Chicago Bears – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Give the Eagles some credit for way outperforming this projected draft slot. Philly was one of the surprises of the season as Jalen Hurts and company ended up reaching the playoffs. As it turned out, the Eagles ended up passing on Elam twice in the first round, before he finally landed with Buffalo. I think Elam was a bit overhyped in the offseason, but he was clearly still talented enough to go in the first round.

8. Way-too-early prediction: Las Vegas Raiders – DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
What happened to the player: Drafted 84th overall by the Steelers
Actual selection: Atlanta Falcons – Drake London, WR, USC
Reviewing this is I think a microcosm for Texas A&M this past year: they were good, but not as great as we expected. Leal fits that description. He had a solid season, but fell well short of the expectations I had for him entering the year. He ended up going in the third round to the Steelers, which feels like a really good spot for him to develop. Meanwhile, the Raiders, much like the Eagles, shocked everyone by making the playoffs. I still don’t really know how, given how much of a mess the organization was all season.

9. Way-too-early prediction: Carolina Panthers – Zion Nelson, OT, Miami
What happened to the player: Returned to school
Actual selection: Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
As it turns out, I had the Panthers targeting the right position here, just the wrong player. Oh and they ended up picking even earlier than this. Zion Nelson’s draft hype never really materialized in high level play. He was forced into the starting lineup as a freshman in 2019 and struggled mightily. He has improved since then, but I am excited to see what Mario Cristobal and his staff can do to aid his development. He definitely made the right call in returning to school.

10. Way-too-early prediction: New York Giants via Chicago Bears – Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
What happened to the player: Drafted 75th overall by the Texans
Actual selection: New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
I remember watching Christian Harris in 2020 and thinking “that guy plays linebacker?” He was built like an early 2000s safety, flying around the field and making plays. Unfortunately, flying around the field is what he does best. Harris struggles reading his keys and positioning himself to make players. He is athletic enough to compensate for that sometimes, but it hinders his game. I had him as a late-second-round prospect by draft day, but he slid into the third. As for the Bears, they wasted most of Justin Fields’ rookie season and might end up wasting his second year as well if they cannot put more talent around him.

11. Way-too-early prediction: Atlanta Falcons – Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State
What happened to the player: Returned to school
Actual selection: New Orleans Saints via Washington Commanders – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
This was an example of assuming that Ohio State’s next five-star edge rusher up was going to continue on the trend of dominating when it was their turn. Nick Bosa did it in 2018. Chase Young did it in 2019. Harrison didn’t quite match those guys. He only posted two sacks in his junior season, showing a lack of true pass rushing polish that his predecessors had. He will have a chance to rewrite the scouting report on him during his senior season, but he will need to step up big time if he hopes to crack the first round. This ended up being pretty close to where the Falcons picked as well and they could still use edge rushing help, along with a lot of other things.

12. Way-too-early prediction: Washington Commanders – Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
What happened to the player: Drafted 74th overall by the Falcons
Actual selection: Detroit Lions via Minnesota Vikings – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Desmond Ridder had some late first-round hype around him heading into the 2021 draft, but decided to return to school. It didn’t quite workout as he would’ve wanted. It wasn’t that Ridder didn’t play well, it’s that NFL teams had a chance to really pick apart his game. He was not accurate enough to warrant going in the first round. He is a bit of a project at this stage, but there is still plenty to like about his game. One pick off for Washington’s original draft slot is pretty impressive by the folks at William Hill. Trading for Carson Wentz meant they didn’t have to get overly aggressive in drafting a quarterback. They wound up taking Sam Howell on Day 3 as well to give them a player to develop.

13. Way-too-early prediction: Minnesota Vikings – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
What happened to the player: Drafted 14th overall by the Ravens
Actual selection: Philadelphia Eagles via Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
I ended up being just one pick off from where Hamilton was ultimately drafted. The Notre Dame safety slid to the Ravens after not running well at the combine. I was probably a bit lower on him than most in the early stages last season just because I am skeptical of taking safeties too high. Still it was a bit of a surprise to see him fall to the Ravens. Meanwhile, the Vikings were also just one slot off from their original selection before trading out with the Lions.

14. Way-too-early prediction: Arizona Cardinals – Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
What happened to the player: Drafted 61st overall by the 49ers
Actual selection: Baltimore Ravens – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
Arizona still struggled down the stretch, but got over the hump and made it to the postseason. The Cardinals got bounced in the first round, but it was progress. On the other hand Jackson entered the year with the expectation that he would take the next step in his development during a full season. He posted 11.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks as a freshman, but never quite matched those numbers again. He projects well as a situational rusher for the 49ers.

15. Way-too-early prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
What happened to the player: Drafted 9th overall by the Seahawks
Actual selection: Houston Texans via Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins – Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
I ended up being six spots off where Cross ended up being selected. I think this would’ve been better value for him, as I didn’t quite have him in my top 10. Still, Cross ended up being one of the most experienced pass blockers to ever come out of the college ranks. He still has some fine-tuning in that department and is a relative unknown as a run blocker, but he checks every box from a physical perspective. On the Steelers’ side of things, they probably could have used some reinforcements along the offensive line. They outperformed expectations and actually reached the postseason.

16. Way-too-early prediction: Los Angeles Chargers – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
What happened to the player: Drafted 11th overall by the Saints
Actual selection: Washington Commanders via New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts – Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Well a receiver did end up going with the 16th overall pick. I just chose the wrong Big Ten school. I also find it hard to believe that this is the first receiver I had projected to come off the board. Not because Olave was undeserving, but because this ended up being a really good receiver class. Anyway, Olave ended up going five picks earlier as the third receiver to be selected. I’m sure Chargers fans would have loved him, but they never got the chance.

17. Way-too-early prediction: Tennessee Titans – George Pickens, WR, Georgia
What happened to the player: Drafted 52nd overall by the Steelers
Actual selection: Los Angeles Chargers – Zion Johnson, OL, Boston College
This one was undoubtedly all about projection. Pickens had just undergone ACL surgery when I wrote my way-too-early predictions for 2022. I assumed that his upside and physical attributes would be enough to keep him in the first round. Not quite as he went 35 selections later, so I guess I was about a round off on him. The Titans did end up drafting a receiver, but it was to replace A.J. Brown, not add around him like I had anticipated.

18. Way-too-early prediction: New England Patriots – Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama
What happened to the player: Signed as an undrafted free agent with the Eagles
Actual selection: Tennessee Titans via Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Woof this one was bad. Jobe was expected to be the next great Alabama corner, but he ended up going undrafted. It’s hard for me to understand exactly why he fell that far. He has measurables to play outside corner in the NFL, even if he did struggle a bit during his senior year. Not running at the combine makes me believe that there were some concerns about his speed and quickness. Still, most expected him to go in the fourth round. It was definitely a bit of a shock no one took a chance on him. Looking at the Patriots, they did need cornerback help and they still could probably use a bit more.

19. Way-too-early prediction: Philadelphia Eagles via Miami Dolphins – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
What happened to the player: Drafted 13th overall by the Eagles
Actual selection: New Orleans Saints via Philadelphia Eagles – Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
I wish I could’ve bet on this one way back then. Not that I would have because why on Earth would I have ever believed I would get this right, but the odds for Jordan Davis being selected by the Eagles a year later likely would have been incredible, assuming any sportsbook would have been willing to give them to me. Philly traded up a couple spots on draft day to land him. He will be the long-term replacement for Fletcher Cox. The Eagles did originally own the 19th pick, but flipped it to the Saints as part of a pre draft trade. Meanwhile, the Dolphins, who were expected to make the playoffs this past year, struggled out of the gate and never fully recovered.

20. Way-too-early prediction: Dallas Cowboys – Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State
What happened to the player: Transferred to LSU
Actual selection: Pittsburgh Steelers – Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
This was a swing and a miss. I actually heard from a bunch of Buckeye fans immediately after publishing last year that Sevyn Banks was being overhyped. Once I dove a little deeper into the film, I realized they were right. I got caught up in scouting the helmet, not the player on this one. I wasn’t alone. Banks was a popular inclusion in way-too-early mocks this time last year. He only played four games in 2021 and will now attempt to rebuild his draft stock at LSU. For the Cowboys, this was not too far off from where they ended up finishing even playing in the weakest division in the league.

21. Way-too-early prediction: New Orleans Saints – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
What happened to the player: Drafted 10th overall by the Jets
Actual selection: Kansas City Chiefs via New England Patriots – Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
So the Saints did wind up selecting a first-round receiver from Ohio State. I just didn’t have them taking the right one. Not that Wilson was even on the board when New Orleans ultimately picked at No. 11. He put together a fantastic junior season and pushed himself into the top ten. Personally, I’m thrilled he landed with the Jets. As far as expectations for the Saints, this was not too far off. They came close to the playoffs despite dealing with major injuries across their roster.

22. Way-too-early prediction: Indianapolis Colts – Thayer Munford, OT, Ohio State
What happened to the player: Drafted 238th overall by the Raiders
Actual selection: Green Bay Packers via Las Vegas Raiders – Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
In retrospect, this pick should have belonged to the Eagles. I fully expected Carson Wentz to meet the requirements to convey the Colts’ first-round pick. Simply an oversight on my part. Let’s talk about Indy though, because it definitely needed a new left tackle. The Colts brought in Eric Fisher as a stop-gap solution, and more recently drafted Bernhard Raimann to compete for the starting spot. As it turns out, Munford was not a great choice to fill that void. He ended up kicking inside to play guard during his senior season and fell to the seventh round. His versatility is undervalued and I think he will stick around the league for a while.

23. Way-too-early prediction: New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks – Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
What happened to the player: Drafted 15th overall by the Texans
Actual selection: Buffalo Bills via Baltimore Ravens and Arizona Cardinals – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
What a fall for the Seahawks. Seattle suffered through a lost season with Russell Wilson missing time due to injury only to ultimately trade him to the Broncos. Their own first-round pick, which belonged to the Jets as part of the Jamal Adams trade, became the 10th selection. Let’s just say I’m not complaining as a Jets fan. New York could have used a player like Green, but it is hard to fault Joe Douglas for how he handled the draft. The offensive lineman from Texas A&M ended up being gone by this point anyway.

24. Way-too-early prediction: Denver Broncos – Perrion Winfrey, DL, Oklahoma
What happened to the player: Drafted 108th overall by the Browns
Actual selection: Dallas Cowboys – Tyler Smith, OL, Tulsa
I was shocked by this in 2021 and I still can’t believe it now. William Hill had the Broncos at 20-1 odds to win the Super Bowl this time last year. That makes more sense with Russell Wilson at quarterback, but Drew Lock? Not really sure what happened there. Either way, Denver did need some help along the front seven and Winfrey seemed to be an ascending player. He actually did put together a much more impressive senior campaign with 11 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks but ended up sliding all the way to the fourth round. He could wind up being a very productive player in Cleveland.

25. Way-too-early prediction: Cleveland Browns – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
What happened to the player: Drafted 2nd overall by the Lions
Actual selection: Baltimore Ravens via Buffalo Bills – Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Speaking of the Browns, this is where they were expected to pick after a sensational 2020 season. That fell apart quickly as Baker Mayfield got hurt and the team seemingly never recovered. Then there is Hutchinson, who ended up soaring up draft boards thanks to a phenomenal senior season. He finished as the runner up for the Heisman and will now get to play the role of hometown hero with the Lions.

26. Way-too-early prediction: Green Bay Packers – John Metchie, WR, Alabama
What happened to the player: Drafted 44th overall by the Texans
Actual selection: New York Jets via Tennessee Titans – Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State
I should really know better by now. The Packers don’t draft receivers in the first round! In their defense, I think that was the right call this year after six of them went in the top 18 picks. I wonder if John Metchie might have worked his way into the first round had he not torn his ACL in the SEC title game against Georgia. He became Bryce Young’s go-to receiver this past season, catching 96 passes for over 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns. His speed is legitimate as well. The Texans might end up with a steal in the second round.

27. Way-too-early prediction: Baltimore Ravens – Cade Mays, G, Tennessee
What happened to the player: Drafted 199th overall by the Panthers
Actual selection: Jacksonville Jaguars via Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Injuries derailed the Ravens season, which was actually my rationale for mocking them to take Mays before the year even happened. Keeping Lamar Jackson healthy will be priority number one for Baltimore and likely a large part of the thinking into drafting Tyler Linderbaum in the first round. Mays ended up sliding all the way to the sixth round. He is a former five star recruit with experience at just about every position on the offensive line. I was definitely a bit too high on him entering the year, but he should have gone earlier than the sixth round in my opinion.

28. Way-too-early prediction: Detroit Lions via Los Angeles Rams – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
What happened to the player: Drafted 18th overall by the Titans
Actual selection: Green Bay Packers – Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia
There have been a few prospects that I projected to make the jump in 2021 that fell short of expectations. That was not the case with Burks. He took a huge step forward with over 1,200 yards from scrimmage and 15 total touchdowns in a fantastic campaign. He was a bit inconsistent and posted some questionable times at the combine, but clearly the Titans felt like he was going to be a worthy replacement for A.J. Brown. Looking at who this pick originally belonged to, William Hill was pretty close with the Rams. Matt Stafford and Von Miller just pushed them over the top.

29. Way-too-early prediction: Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
What happened to the player: Drafted 27th overall by the Jaguars
Actual selection: New England Patriots via Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers – Cole Stange, G, Chattanooga
Well William Hill was spot on for this one. This ended up being the 49ers pick, even if it did change hands several times before the selection was ever made. Lloyd was one of my favorite prospects heading into the 2022 draft cycle. That didn’t change at all and it turns out I just missed out on where he would go in the first round. I think there are big things to come from him in Jacksonville.

30. Way-too-early prediction: Buffalo Bills – Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M
What happened to the player: Signed as an undrafted free agent with the Bills
Actual selection: Kansas City Chiefs – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
My second prediction that went horribly wrong. Wydermyer joins Josh Jobe among my first-round hopefuls that went undrafted. Wydermyer looked like the latest athlete to learn how to play tight end. His tape showed quickness and burst that made him seem like a player just scratching the surface of his potential. Then he actually went on to put up worse numbers in 2021 despite having two more games. He skipped running at the combine and then posted some horrible times at his pro day. I don’t exactly know what to make of him at this point, but this was a huge miss for me. Ironically, he did sign with the Bills.

31. Way-too-early prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
What happened to the player: Drafted 30th overall by the Chiefs
Actual selection: Cincinnati Bengals – Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
Another one where I was off by just one pick. Karlaftis enters the draft much like he entered his final college season, a developing player who has been unable to replicate his freshman year success. He managed to stay healthy in 2021, but his production did not bounce back all the way to his 2019 campaign. Still, he is an enticing prospect with his burst off the line and ability to disrupt plays. He needs to become a bit more disciplined in the run game, but there is clear upside. Tampa always loves grabbing edge rushers to develop. I think Karlaftis would have been a good fit there, but the Bucs traded out of the first round and he was gone by the time they were up again.

32. Way-too-early prediction: Kansas City Chiefs – Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
What happened to the player: Drafted 42nd overall by the Vikings
Actual selection: Minnesota Vikings via Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams – Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
I still wonder if Booth had been healthy enough to run at the combine if he would have pushed his way into the first round. He had a strong career at Clemson and did not go much later than this when the draft actually rolled around. Minnesota will be hoping he can finally put an end to the revolving door they have had at cornerback. The Chiefs came up just short of a third straight trip to the Super Bowl, blowing a lead that prompted them to trade up for some cornerback help in Trent McDuffie.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our weekly podcast Draft Season Never Ends with new episodes every Friday, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.

Way-Too-Early 2023 NFL Mock Draft: Four quarterbacks feature while Alabama, Clemson and Georgia dominate the first round

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, there are only 360 days until the 2023 NFL Draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

The 2022 draft is in the books, which means it is time to start wildly speculating about the 2023 draft class. Full disclosure, I have not done much film study on any of these players yet. I’ve watched maybe one game of each of them, if not just watched some highlights or saw them play during the 2021 season. Most of this will change dramatically in the coming months, but it is a fun introduction to the prospects that will make up the 2023 draft class.

With that in mind, I did not create the draft order. These odds are the latest from DraftKings and tiebreakers were determined by strength of schedule in 2022.

1. Houston Texans (200-1) – C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
I would like to formally apologize to Davis Mills. I believe the Texans will be better than this in 2022. But if Houston has the No. 1 pick, it will be tough to pass on Stroud. After a slow start to the 2021 season, Stroud found his groove with 44 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He has good size at 6’3″ and an NFL-level arm.

2. Atlanta Falcons (150-1) – Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
Atlanta could pull the trigger on Bryce Young here, but instead, I think they will grab his Alabama teammate who should have won the Heisman in 2021. Anderson was nearly unstoppable this past season, posting 17.5 sacks. Had he been eligible, he would have been the No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft. Positional value pushes him to the second spot here, but make no mistake, he enters the year as the No. 1 overall prospect.

3. New York Jets (150-1) – Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
I truly hope the Jets are not picking in the top five again. If they do, Carter would be an excellent target. After picking up Jermaine Johnson II in the 2022 draft, New York can round out their front four with Carter. He is supremely athletic and disruptive. He will be a major catalyst for Georgia’s defense this season.

4. Detroit Lions (150-1) – Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
This is the best case scenario for the Lions as the 2021 Heisman winner falls into their laps. This would reunite him with one of his favorite targets in Jameson Williams. Young is a very polished player with a great arm and solid mobility. His biggest test will be continuing to perform without his top two targets, (Williams and John Metchie). We saw him struggle without them against Georgia in the National Championship Game.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars (130-1) – Jackson Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
I don’t care that you just paid Christian Kirk a ridiculous amount of money. Smith-Njigba is a game-changing player with incredible ball skills. He dominated playing out of the slot for Ohio State and often looked like the best receiver on a team that just produced two first-round selections at the position. His monster game in the Rose Bowl points to what he could look like as the featured target for C.J. Stroud.

6. Seattle Seahawks (100-1) – Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Miami
Seattle chose to pass on the quarterback position in this draft class, opting instead to rebuild its offensive line and restock its defense. Now, the Seahawks can grab a quarterback to grow with. Van Dyke turned some heads this past season at Miami. He took over the starting job a couple games into the season and finished strong. This pick is about projection that he will take the next step in his development, notably, increasing his completion percentage.

7. Carolina Panthers (100-1) – Nolan Smith, LB, Georgia
Carolina could go a couple directions here, including quarterback, but I think they will give Matt Corral another year to prove himself, especially with three quarterbacks off the board already. Instead, they go with the best player available in Smith. He flies around in that Georgia defense. We will get a chance to see him take on a much larger role with Quay Walker and Nakobe Dean now in the NFL.

8. Chicago Bears (100-1) – Jordan Addison, WR, Pittsburgh
If Justin Fields is going to be successful, he is going to need weapons to work with. Chicago did grab Velus Jones Jr. in the third round, but that shouldn’t stop them from taking Addison here. One of the most productive players in college football a year ago and Kenny Pickett’s favorite target, there are rumors Addison could go link up with Caleb Williams at USC for his junior season.

9. New York Giants (100-1) – Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
If the Giants are picking in the top ten, I think this pick will be spent on a quarterback. New York ignored the position in the 2022 draft and declined Daniel Jones’ 5th-year option. Levis put together an impressive year at Kentucky. He will need to cut down interceptions, but he is a good athlete, shows good pocket presence and has a compact throwing motion. Plus, he plays in a pro-style offense.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (65-1) – Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama
Pittsburgh still needs help in the secondary after not drafting a single corner in the 2022 draft. Ricks enters the year as my top corner. He essentially spent the past two seasons as LSU’s No. 1 corner with Derek Stingley Jr. out. Now, he will join Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa before likely making the jump to the NFL.

Editor’s note: Eli Ricks was arrested Sunday evening for speeding and possession of marijuana.

11. Washington Commanders (65-1) – Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
Another SEC corner, Ringo will get a chance to show he can be the top option with Derion Kendrick now in the NFL. Ringo is big at 6’2″ and a good athlete. He showed his playmaking ability with a 79-yard pick-six of Bryce Young in the National Championship Game. For the Commanders, he would give them a No. 1 corner, especially with William Jackson looking like a potential cap casualty after the season.

12. Philadelphia Eagles via New Orleans Saints (50-1) – Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Sure, the Eagles still have Dallas Goedert, but after trading away Zach Ertz this past year, there is not much at the position other than Goedert. Bringing in Mayer allows the Eagles to go back to running two tight end sets and gives Jalen Hurts another weapon. Mayer is a very well-rounded prospect and seems in good position to be the first tight end drafted in 2023.

13. Minnesota Vikings (45-1) – Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU
Adam Theilen turns 32 this year and struggled with injuries in 2021. Minnesota might have other needs here, but grabbing another LSU receiver to pair with Justin Jefferson feels like a great investment. It seems even smarter when you look at the cost of keeping top-end receivers these days. Boutte had 509 yards and nine touchdowns in just six games before missing the rest of the season with an injury.

14. New England Patriots (40-1) – Malachi Moore, CB, Alabama
New England lost J.C. Jackson in free agency and has yet to take any meaningful steps to replace him. Malachi Moore had a good year, with three interceptions as he stepped into a bigger role for the Tide defense. He has good size and skills, but needs to show he can be a true No. 1 corner this season. It will help sharing a defensive backfield with Eli Ricks.

15. Las Vegas Raiders (35-1) – Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson
Bresee is a former No. 1 recruit who has dazzled in the limited playtime he has gotten at Clemson. It is not because he is not talented enough either, he just missed the final nine games of the Tigers’ season due to injury in 2021. When healthy, he is one of the most dominant defensive players in college football. He would give the Raiders an incredibly talented front four, which they will need playing the AFC West.

16. Philadelphia Eagles (35-1) – Tony Grimes, CB, UNC
The Eagles had a good 2022 draft, but did not find any corners to reshape the secondary. Grimes is a tall corner with good coverage skills. He has good make up speed and uses his hands well to break up passes. He has room to grow, but he looks like an NFL corner.

17. Miami Dolphins (30-1) – Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Bring back the first-round running backs! Robinson enters the year as a Heisman candidate after a strong sophomore campaign. He is thick at 6’0″, 214 pounds and perhaps most importantly, can catch the ball out of the backfield. He has 41 catches across his first two college seasons. Miami desperately needs an upgrade in the backfield.

18. Tennessee Titans (28-1) – Akheem Mesidor, DL, Miami
This is a name that you should get to know. Mesidor flashed some real promise at West Virginia before transferring to Miami for the 2022 season. He has a sweet spin move and a high motor that makes him incredibly difficult to keep out of the backfield. Tennessee could add him to an already very talented defensive front.

19. Arizona Cardinals (25-1) – Brandon Joseph, S, Notre Dame
The Cardinals revamped their offense with Hollywood Brown and Trey McBride. Now, they need to continue investing in their defense. Budda Baker is a great player, but Arizona could use another safety. Joseph has nine interceptions over the past two seasons and brings great size to the position. Now he will get a chance to showcase that talent at Notre Dame after three seasons with Northwestern.

20. Baltimore Ravens (22-1) – Marvin Mims, WR, Oklahoma
Lamar Jackson needs some more weapons. The Ravens have a ton of depth at receiver, but not enough quality starting options. Mims could help change that. He is a bit undersized, but he is dynamic in space and catches the ball well away from his body. I like him as a replacement for Hollywood Brown with even more upside.

21. Indianapolis Colts (22-1) – Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
Indianapolis quietly had a good draft, but I’m not so sure Bernhard Raimann is the surefire answer at left tackle. If he is, then this definitely won’t be a need in 2023. Until then, I believe the Colts need to invest in the offensive line. Johnson could be the best tackle from a slightly underwhelming class, at least at first glance.

22. Cincinnati Bengals (18-1) – Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah
Cincinnati struck gold with Chidobe Awuzie in free agency last year, but they still need some more help in the secondary. Phillips is a bit undersized, but he is dynamic. He flashed his playmaking potential in the Rose Bowl, forcing a fumble of Jackson Smith-Njigba and intercepting C.J. Stroud. He also showed that he has some work to do to solidify himself as a first-round player.

23. Houston Texans via Cleveland Browns (17-1) – Tyler Davis, DL, Clemson
Houston continues to go with the best player available. At this stage, that is Davis. He had a bit of an underwhelming season missing four games due to injury as well. If he can get healthy and return to the form he showed as a freshman (nine tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks) then he will earn his spot in the first round.

24. Dallas Cowboys (17-1) – Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
Another Clemson defender. Murphy took the next step in his development as a sophomore, posting eight sacks and 14 tackles for loss. He has great size at 6’5″, 275 pounds. Dallas needs someone to play across from DeMarcus Lawrence.

25. Los Angeles Chargers (16-1) – Trenton Simpson, EDGE, Clemson
In case you weren’t aware, Clemson has a really good defense this year. Simpson is well built and incredibly versatile. He has an explosive first step off the line and a nose for the football. He is capable of dropping into coverage as well. Brandon Staley would love getting his hands on him.

26. Seattle Seahawks via Denver Broncos (16-1) – Henry To’oTo’o, LB, Alabama
Bobby Wagner is gone and Seattle does not have a clear replacement on the roster right now. To’oTo’o was one of the best linebackers in college football this past year and made a bit of a surprising decision to return to school. He looked sharp in his first season with Alabama after transferring from Tennessee.

27. Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers (14-1) – Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
Miami should continue to prioritize surrounding Tua Tagovailoa with talent. Skoronski has a big frame that he needs to continue to grow into. If Liam Eichenberg does not lock down the starting spot at right tackle, Skoronski could be his replacement.

28. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles Rams (10-1) – Jalen Catalon, S, Arkansas
Detroit entered the 2022 draft needing some safety help. Perhaps third-round pick Kerby Joseph will be able to fill the void. If not, then Catalon could be a logical choice here. He earned some first-round buzz this past season before deciding to return to school.

29. Kansas City Chiefs (10-1) – Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
Kansas City added Skyy Moore in the second round, who is a speedy, slightly undersized receiver. However, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling likely won’t be around long. The Chiefs could also use a bit more size at receiver too, which is where Johnston comes in. He is 6’4″ and excels at making contested catches. He is a run after the catch threat as well with his relentless running style.

30. Green Bay Packers (10-1) – Cameron Latu, TE, Alabama
Hopefully, Robert Tonyan will be back to full strength after missing most of 2021 due to injury. Either way, he is on a one-year deal and the Packers do not have much behind him in terms of tight end depth. Latu is a big-body target at 6’5″ and moves very well in space. He can be flexed out to give Aaron Rodgers, or whoever is quarterbacking Green Bay, another weapon to throw to.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-1) – Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon
There are a number of directions I could see the Buccaneers going. So much is unknown about Tom Brady’s future. Let’s assume Tampa does not need to address the quarterback spot for right now. Lavonte David is essentially a free-agent after the year is over, so perhaps the Bucs would seek out his replacement, Sewell, brother of Lions tackle Penei Sewell, plays downhill and seeks out contact. He should be a Day 1 starter in the NFL.

32. Buffalo Bills (13-2) – Devon Achane, RB, Texas A&M
Let’s squeeze another running back in here. If you are looking for an explosive, do-it-all playmaker, look no further. Achane is a bit undersized, but that only matters if you can catch him. He would give the Bills a really dynamic element in the run game and short passing game with his game-breaking speed.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our weekly podcast Draft Season Never Ends with new episodes every Friday, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.

Browns acquire Deshaun Watson in a shocking, questionable move

What in the world??? There has never been a week in the NFL like this before and there might never be a week like it ever again. The greatest quarterback of all time unretired just 40 days after hanging up his cleats. Then, the Broncos sent a huge haul to Seattle to land Russell Wilson as their new quarterback. Aaron Rodgers then signed the richest contract in NFL history on an annual salary basis to stay with the Packers. A couple of blockbuster trades saw Khalil Mack join the Chargers and Davante Adams land in Las Vegas. Oh, and Carson Wentz is in Washington now. To cap off this whirlwind of a week, the Browns traded three first-round picks as part of a package to land Deshaun Watson. Simply stunning.

Watson now has the most guaranteed money in NFL history. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Watson sweepstakes have been long and complicated. Watson announced that he wanted to be traded last year, but the Texans showed no signs of agreeing. It appeared to set up a standoff between team and player until the news about Watson’s off-the-field actions broke. He sat out all of 2021 as the investigation into allegations of sexual assault took place. Interestingly, the NFL never put Watson on the commissioner’s exempt list despite the ongoing situation. On March 11, just one week before Watson was ultimately traded, a grand jury declined to indict the then Texans quarterback on charges stemming from lawsuits filed by 22 women alleging harassment and sexual assault. That opened the floodgates for a return to the field.

Now, Watson is still facing 22 civil lawsuits and will likely be disciplined by the league. This situation is far from being resolved. Clearly the Browns, whether right or wrong, felt comfortable bringing Watson into the fold. While there is a lot of football implications to discuss with this move, it is really important not to lose sight of the significance of these allegations and what it will mean if it comes out that Watson is in fact a sex offender. As of now, we don’t know if he is one way or the other. I hope the legal system leads to justice, but I also know that too often, that isn’t the case.

What’s more, this past week alone has been truly bizarre. From reports out of the Browns front office stating they want “an adult” at quarterback to reports that Watson had informed Cleveland he would not play for them, this saga is astounding. For the Browns, it is hard to imagine how acquiring a player in the midst of a sexual assault scandal gives you an adult at the position. For Watson, I can understand the about face when there is $230 million in GUARANTEED money on the table. Still, it is staggering that the Browns would be willing to do this given Watson’s deplorable off-the-field behavior and the pending consequences.

There is no easy way to transition to the football side of things, but this does greatly impact the NFL as a whole. Baker Mayfield will now certainly be the subject of trade offers. I wrote about where he could land yesterday. Plus, the draft just became way more interesting.

It appears like the Texans will give Davis Mills the opportunity to start at quarterback this season. With two too-15 selections, Houston can now fill some of the major holes on its offense, namely on the offensive line and at receiver. This also gives the Texans all the draft capital needed in order to move up for the top prospect in next year’s draft or to acquire a veteran via trade if Mills does not look like the long-term answer. In short, Houston actually seems poised to properly rebuild.

On Cleveland’s side of things, they will hope to recoup a few draft picks in exchange for Mayfield. Even after acquiring Amari Cooper, the Browns need another receiver. Plus, they have an opening at center after releasing J.C. Tretter. They have way less premium draft capital to address those positions, but the Browns should be able to attract whatever remaining free agents they want after this move. That is, assuming players don’t have an issue with Watson.

From a football perspective, there is no doubt the Browns got better. Cleveland just better hope it is ready to handle the media firestorm that is bound to follow this decision. There will be intense scrutiny and criticism of the Browns and Watson each step of the way. Forget whatever media attention Mayfield drew, Cleveland now has a target on its back.

NFL Draft Daily: Should teams consider waiting on quarterbacks in 2022?

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

I cannot remember a time where this many teams had a need at quarterback at the same time in the NFL. The list of teams that could potentially have a new starter or spend a premium draft pick on a quarterback is long. The Steelers, Packers, Falcons, Panthers, Saints, Eagles, Giants, Broncos, Texans, Lions, Seahawks and Washington are all facing questions about the future at the position. Maybe even the Raiders and Vikings belong in that conversation. Some have aging veterans to replace, some have recent draft picks that have not worked out and some have disgruntled stars who could be on the move.

Ben Roethlisberger is expected to retire at the end of the season. (Wikimedia Commons)

That puts a ton of focus on the upcoming NFL draft. Unfortunately, this is one of the worst quarterback classes in some time. That doesn’t mean none of these quarterbacks will be good. In fact, there is a surprising amount of depth to this quarterback class. However, there are no slam dunk picks in this draft class as of right now. Maybe someone will separate themselves during the pre-draft process, but we don’t have a Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence or Kyler Murray level prospect. Honestly, none of them even come close.

So that begs the question, should teams punt on this year’s quarterback class? There is not a one-size fits all answer, even though I am tempted to just say yes. For a team like the Lions, using the first-round pick they have from the Rams on a quarterback could make some sense, especially if it is someone like Malik Willis, who definitely needs some time on the bench to develop, but brings rare physical traits. Jared Goff is still under contract for 2022 and that team is nowhere near competing for a wildcard spot, much less a title. Taking Willis or grabbing someone like Sam Howell or Desmond Ridder at the top of the second round should not prevent Detroit from taking a top quarterback prospect if they end up in the top five again next season. Suddenly, those other players become valuable trade chips. Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen both netted second-round picks and they both looked awful leading up to that point.

On the other hand, for teams like the Texans or Giants. I don’t like the idea of drafting a quarterback in this class. Reaching to take Matt Corral or Kenny Pickett in the first round does not raise that team’s ceiling all that much. At this point, I would rather spend another year with Davis Mills or Daniel Jones while continuing to amass talent around the quarterback position.

Lawrence has thrown just one touchdown pass since the start of November. (Wikimedia Commons)

And this is the real crux of why I think it makes sense to wait on a quarterback: situation matters. Mac Jones is thriving in New England right now and may even win Offensive Rookie of the Year. Does that mean he is a better quarterback than Trevor Lawrence or that the Jaguars should have taken him No. 1 overall? Probably not. I have a feeling Lawrence would be crushing it in New England as well. The Patriots have a top-flight defense, the best coaching staff in the league and a strong running game to help Jones. Lawrence has none of those things in Jacksonville.

At this point, for teams that are not ready to challenge for division titles and playoff spots, it just doesn’t make sense to grab a quarterback and figure everything else out later. If one of the quarterbacks in this class slides to the Steelers and goes on to have a great career, will people point out that other teams could have drafted him? Yes, absolutely. However, it is incredibly unlikely that these players would find the same success because the support cast around them is so much worse.

The Giants will have to decide this offseason if they want to pick up Jones’ fifth-year option. (Wikimedia Commons)

Let’s use the Giants as an example. Fans are fed up with Daniel Jones, and for good reason. He has not shown much progress since his rookie season and is frustratingly inconsistent. However, if you put Corral behind that offensive line next season and expect him to fare much better, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell you. New York has never been able to surround Jones with the right talent to succeed. Even when the front office has spent big, it has been on injury-prone stars who cannot stay on the field. At full strength, the Giants offense should be great, but we rarely ever see Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Kadarius Toney, Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley on the field together. And even when they are, Jones rarely has enough time to get them the ball. Not to mention Jones has not had the best coaching in his career either.

If you’ve read this site long enough, you know I am a big proponent of investing in the offensive line. It is the key to being a successful football team. So if I am the Giants, Steelers, Texans, Panthers or Washington, I am investing in the offensive line in this draft class and waiting until 2023 to find my long-term answer at quarterback. Plus, veteran options like Jimmy Garoppolo, Marcus Mariota and Teddy Bridgewater will likely be available to help bridge the gap. I would rather wait until 2023, when players like Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud will headline the draft class. What’s more, this is a great draft for offensive linemen and defensive talent. Teams will regret reaching for quarterbacks and missing out on those elite prospects.

Rookie quarterbacks are one of the hottest commodities in all sports, especially first-rounders. When you have a young quarterback on a controlled salary, you create a five-year window where you can compete for a title and spend whatever money is needed to build a successful roster around that player. I would rather spend the money and draft capital ahead of time to create a situation where a rookie quarterback is capable of thriving. For those who are going to say any team built like that would be too good to draft a top quarterback, may I remind you that the Chiefs traded up for Patrick Mahomes, the Texans traded up for Deshaun Watson, the Ravens traded back into the first round to grab Lamar Jackson at No. 32 and that Mac Jones fell into the Patriots’ laps at No. 15. You don’t always need to tank to find your quarterback of the future.

In short, I think it is time the NFL changes its roster-building technique. Teams who are consistently successful draft the best players available and find value in veteran contracts when it comes to free agency. New England went 7-9 before turning things around with a 9-4 record so far and that was after losing the greatest quarterback of all time. Mike Tomlin has not had a losing season in his tenure as the Steelers head coach. Even if he does have one this year, Pittsburgh should still be in the mix to reach the playoffs in 2022 because the rest of the roster is still pretty talented, with the exception of the offensive line. Even the Saints, who have started three different quarterbacks this season due to injury, are only one game under .500. They have a really strong core, a good coaching staff and a front-office who, mostly, invests well in the draft.

I’m not saying that teams should stop drafting quarterbacks in the first-round, but let’s not force it when it isn’t there. This isn’t a good quarterback class. It pales in comparison to the 2021 group, but most would. I am looking forward to ranking all the quarterbacks from recent class when I am done grading this current group. I think that will be really eye-opening regarding its relative strength.

Until then, just build in the trenches and everything will be fine.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

NFL Coaching Hot Seat Tracker: Preseason Preview

It’s almost time for football! Training camp is getting underway and the NFL rumor mill is in full effect. Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson and even Chandler Jones could be on the move.

There will be plenty of time to get into all of the potential scenarios for the big names looking for a change of scenery. I wanted to take a look at where every coach in the NFL stands though as we approach the preseason. Every year, we see about seven or eight head coaching openings in the league. Those openings don’t happen without a coach losing his job. Here is an early look at which coaches could be sweating it out at the end of the season. My plan is to update this list at the midway point and again after the regular season.

New York Jets – Robert Saleh
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

A rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback. It’s the first time the Jets have ever had both heading into the same season in franchise history. That takes the pressure off everyone here. While seeing a massive turnaround from a 2-14 season would be great, it is not expected. As long as Saleh can show signs that he is putting the pieces in place for future success, that’s all that matters. Besides, after dealing with Adam Gase for two years, Saleh will be a breath of fresh air.

New England Patriots – Bill Belichick
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯
Could the Patriots really fire Bill Belichick? It feels unlikely. At this point, I think it is more likely Belichick retires or leaves on his own accord than being fired. Still, after a very rocky 2020 season, the Patriots spent a ton of money in the offseason to retool their roster. They also spent a first round pick on Mac Jones. If New England takes a step backward though and the offense flops again, maybe the team could think about making a change. Again, it feels incredibly unlikely, but the expectations are certainly higher for the Patriots in 2021.

Buffalo Bills – Sean McDermott
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯
The Bills are entering a clear championship window in the final two years of Josh Allen’s rookie deal. Allen took a massive step in 2020 and put together an MVP-caliber campaign. If he can come close to replicating that performance, Buffalo will be very capable of winning its first Super Bowl in franchise history. In order to get to that point, Sean McDermott needs to get the defense back to its 2019 form. With higher expectations comes increased pressure. It would take a truly miserable season for McDermott to lose his job, but he has to deliver.

Miami Dolphins – Brian Flores
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

Honestly, if the Dolphins went 0-17 and Tua Tagovailoa lost his starting job to Jacoby Brissett, I think Brian Flores might still keep his job. He is a ton setter and a great culture builder. Let’s be clear, I don’t expect the above scenario to come true. Miami came up one game short of reaching the playoffs in an incredibly competitive AFC. Even if Tagovailoa falters again, I think Flores would get a chance to pick another quarterback and continue building the framework of this team.

Indianapolis Colts – Frank Reich
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
Which direction are the Colts headed? The team has a championship-caliber roster in a lot of areas. Their front seven is incredible. The secondary should be even better in 2021. The offensive line is definitely among the top five units in the league. They lack a true No. 1 receiver at this point, but they have depth at the skill positions. It now all falls on Frank Reich and Carson Wentz. Indianapolis acquired Wentz this offseason for a decent amount of draft capital, reuniting him with his offensive coordinator from his early days in Philadelphia. If the Colts struggle in what looks to be a fairly weak AFC South and miss the postseason, there could be some significant turnover in Indy.

Houston Texans – David Culley
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

If there was ever a team that could be accused of tanking in the NFL, it has to be the Houston Texans. After releasing franchise icon J.J. Watt amid a massive quarterback controversy on the heels of a 4-12 season, it seems like the Texans are entering a long rebuild. With limited draft capital in recent years, this roster has a massive talent deficit compared to the rest of the league. The roster building is confusing as well, as the team continues to target veteran running backs. Deshaun Watson was likely not going to play this season before his pending legal situation unfolded. Now it seems certain he will not see the field in 2021. All of this is to say, there is absolutely no pressure on David Culley to succeed this season.

Tennessee Titans – Mike Vrabel
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯
Mike Vrabel has the Titans playing at an extremely high level. They are tough, determined and disciplined, which is usually a product of good coaching. After making a splashy move to land Julio Jones, the pressure is on for Tennessee to make a deep postseason run. With Arthur Smith heading to Atlanta, it is going to be interesting to see if the Titans can maintain their offensive success. A major step backward could see Vrabel come under scrutiny. I think his job is safe, but stranger things have happened.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Urban Meyer
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
It is very bizarre to say a first-year head coach is on the hot seat, but Urban Meyer is unlike most rookie coaches. Meyer comes with a ton of clout from his days at Ohio State and Florida. He also just drafted arguably the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck. The heat here mostly stems from Meyer’s checked history with team culture. The league fined the Jaguars $200,000 for OTA violations and slapped Meyer with a $100,000 fine of his own. The fines stemmed from breaking the non-contact rules of OTAs. This comes on the heels of Meyer hiring former Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle. Doyle resigned one day after his hire following a chorus of former Hawkeyes saying he discriminated against them. The Jaguars have a chance to build something special around Trevor Lawrence. There have already been red flags. Jacksonville needs to be sure it has the best possible system in place for Lawrence to succeed.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Mike Tomlin
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
With Ben Roethlisberger’s tenure in Pittsburgh seemingly at its end, could the Steelers opt for a fresh start and move on from Mike Tomlin as well? It certainly feels possible. Despite winning the AFC North and reaching the playoffs, Pittsburgh struggled mightily down the stretch, including a dismal playoff loss against the rival Browns. With no clear succession plan in place and a roster coming up against the cap, the Steelers could look to rebuild with a new coach and a new quarterback.

Baltimore Ravens – John Harbaugh
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯
A few years ago ago, it felt very possible the Ravens were set to move on from John Harbaugh. Baltimore missed the playoffs from 2015-2017. Joe Flacco was struggling. The defense was far from its championship-winning dominance in 2012. Lamar Jackson likely saved Harbaugh’s job. Baltimore is now among the top title contenders heading into 2021. Harbaugh feels very safe, but there is always a scenario where he could not be back. There have been concerns around the Ravens offense being too one dimensional with Jackson at the helm. Finally winning a playoff game took the edge off, but if Baltimore somehow misses the postseason in 2021, the heat will be turned up on Harbaugh.

Cleveland Browns – Kevin Stefanski
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

After reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and winning the franchise’s first playoff game since 1994, Kevin Stefanski is among the safest coaches in the league. His run-heavy approach was incredibly successful, utilizing the two-headed attack of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to great effect. Stefanski also put Baker Mayfield’s career back on the right path. Now, there are still questions that persist around Mayfield, but after investing heavily in the defense, he might not need to do much for the Browns to be successful again.

Cincinnati Bengals – Zac Taylor
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
Through two years on the job, Zac Taylor owns an ugly 6-25-1 record as a head coach. Some of that is a product of joining a team in the midst of a rebuild, but this is the year to start seeing some progress. Joe Burrow is undoubtedly the quarterback of the future in Cincinnati. Coming off a gruesome knee injury, expectations will be tamped down some for Burrow, but another double-digit loss season could cost Taylor his job. The team needs to take advantage of Burrow being on his rookie contract and can’t afford to waste another year of his development and that salary cap window waiting to see if Taylor can put together a winning formula.

Kansas City Chiefs – Andy Reid
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

Unsurprisingly, the pressure seems to be fairly low on Andy Reid. He delivered the franchise its first Super Bowl victory since 1970 in 2019. He led the team back to the big game in 2020 despite having an offensive line decimated by injuries. It cost the Chiefs a chance at repeating, but Kansas City is expected to be among the top contenders to lift the Lombardi in 2021. As long as Reid and Patrick Mahomes are still clicking, the Chiefs are going to be among the best teams in the league.

Denver Broncos – Vic Fangio
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
Maybe this is a bit warmer than Vic Fangio truly deserves, but the Broncos are heading into a pivotal season. The team put a lot of faith in Drew Lock by passing on Justin Fields and Mac Jones on draft night. Courtland Sutton is back after missing 2020 due to injury. So is Von Miller. Winning the division is an incredibly tall task at this point with the Chiefs leading the way, but it feels like the Broncos need to be in the playoff conversation for Fangio to keep his job. Another five-win season with suspect quarterback play and a subpar defense is going to trigger a rebuild.

Los Angeles Chargers – Brandon Staley
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

Brandon Staley walks into a fantastic situation. He has a talented defense with a number of proven playmakers. He inherits one of the most exciting quarterback prospects in the league in Justin Herbert. Los Angeles is also stocked with some reliable playmakers on offense with Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler. The Chargers are simply looking to take a step in the right direction this year. Anthony Lynn was a good coach, but struggled with time management and maintaining leads. If Staley can show an ability to at least be average in those two areas, he will be a major improvement and the Chargers will be at least a league average team.

Las Vegas Raiders – Jon Gruden
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
At what point are the Raiders going to put it all together? Heading into his fourth year of his second stint with the franchise, Jon Gruden has yet to post a winning record or reach the postseason. Las Vegas had its moments in 2020, but on the whole it was a disappointing campaign. If the Raiders don’t show signs of progress, expect a rebuild to follow. Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock have had ample opportunity to shape this team how they want it to. Now it is time for the results to follow.

New York Giants – Joe Judge
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯
Only entering his second year, Joe Judge might be a victim of circumstance more than anything else if he were to lose his job after this season. New York had a rocky 2020 campaign, finishing 6-10 and struggling to figure out its direction offensively. The Giants are in for a much better season in 2021. Saquon Barkley should be healthy at some point early in the year. Dave Gettleman invested draft capital at wide receiver and edge rusher, two positions of need. However, if Daniel Jones struggles and New York suffers through another 6-10 season, Gettleman will almost definitely be gone and the Giants will be looking to find a new franchise quarterback. If there is already that much turnover, Judge could be gone as well.

Philadelphia Eagles – Nick Sirianni
Heat Index:
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
It is incredibly rare that coaches are fired after just one season. However, it has also happened twice in the past three years. Steve Wilks only got a single season in Arizona and was fired after 2018. Cleveland canned Freddie Kitchen after a disappointing 2019 campaign. It’s not out of the question for the 2021 season either. I already touched on Meyer. Nick Sirianni is not facing as much pressure as his Jacksonville counterpart, but Philadelphia has never been known for being patient. Sirianni inherits a team with more questions than answers at a number of key positions, namely quarterback. If Jalen Hurts flames out and Sirianni shows no signs of building a positive culture, I could see a scenario where ownership decides to clean house.

Dallas Cowboys – Mike McCarthy
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
Speaking of coaches lasting one year with a team, there was some buzz that Mike McCarthy could be done after a single season in Dallas. Even before Dak Prescott went down for the season, the Cowboys looked outmatched. It got much worse after that. McCarthy did enough to somehow earn a second year, but now the pressure is on. Dallas needs to win the NFC East for McCarthy to keep his job. It is an incredibly weak division and the Cowboys have the most talented roster, at least on paper. McCarthy might even need to win a playoff game to truly secure his place in 2022.

Washington Football Team – Ron Rivera
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯
Ron Rivera seems to have endeared himself well to the fans and to the locker room in D.C. After scraping together a playoff appearance despite a losing record, Washington still has not addressed the quarterback position long term. If it takes a step back in 2021, I don’t think that will be enough to force Rivera out. It would take a truly terrible season to see him lose his job. However, there will be those who feel like Washington’s defense gives them a good chance to repeat as division champions. Expectations lead to increased pressure. Given what we’ve seen in recent years, nothing is out of the question.

Atlanta Falcons – Arthur Smith
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

After impressing as the offensive coordinator in Tennessee, Arthur Smith has earned the chance to lead a team of his own. The Falcons are coming off a tough season full of late-game collapses and bad injury luck. Atlanta is caught in limbo as well. They have some veteran players that would make you believe they want to contend, mainly Matt Ryan. The front office gave Ryan a vote of confidence, or realized they could not afford to move him, when it passed on Justin Fields in the 2021 draft. Instead, they grabbed an elite pass-catcher in Kyle Pitts for Ryan to work with. That feels like a move towards contending in the short term. Then, the Falcons traded Julio Jones to Smith’s former team. Like I said, the team is in limbo. I think that bodes well for Smith’s job security while Atlanta attempts to figure out its direction moving forward.

New Orleans Saints – Sean Payton
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯
It is the end of an era in the Bayou. Drew Brees’ retirement leaves the Saints with uncertainty at quarterback for the first time in a decade and a half. New Orleans is also in salary cap hell after loading up to contend in the future Hall of Famers’ final few years. Now, the Saints seem set for a step backward. Where does that leave Sean Payton? He has shown he can win games without Brees in recent years with Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill stepping in to lead the team when Brees went down with injury. I think the pressure is likely off for Payton in 2021. It is a year for the Saints to retool their roster and identify their new franchise quarterback. If New Orleans tanks, Payton’s seat could get warmer, but I expect him to be back in 2022.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Bruce Arians
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

The only way Bruce Arians is not the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2022 is if he decides to retire after the season. Fresh off a Super Bowl victory, the Buccaneers brought back essentially their entire roster to make a run at a repeat. Even if Tampa suffers from a major Super Bowl hangover and misses the postseason, it would be a rash move to fire Arians. He has the trust of Tom Brady, which goes a really long way in securing his position on one of the best teams in the league.

Carolina Panthers – Matt Rhule
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

2020 was a rebuilding year for the Panthers. Carolina rebuilt its defense in the 2020 NFL draft, gave Teddy Bridgewater a try at quarterback and lost their best player for most of the season due to injury as Christian McCaffrey played in just three games. Honestly, going 5-11 was a decent feat given how young Carolina’s starters were on both sides of the ball. Matt Rhule has earned the title of one of the best teachers in the game. His coaching skills were showcased during the Senior Bowl this past January. Given that the Panthers made a move to acquire Sam Darnold, I think the expectations will be slightly higher, but I still don’t think Rhule has anything to worry about heading into 2021.

Detroit Lions – Dan Campbell
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

If Detroit goes 1-16 in 2021, that might just be mission accomplished for the Lions. Avoiding a winless season and setting the team up to find its quarterback of the future would be a solid start to what will likely be a long rebuild. Dan Campbell likely won’t let any of that happen. He is competitive as hell and I think we could see the Lions win a game or two that they probably shouldn’t simply by putting in a ton of effort. Campbell is going to have his team motivated to play every week. Unless his tough as nails persona rubs players the wrong way in the locker room, I think Campbell will be given a few more years to rebuild this team.

Chicago Bears – Matt Nagy
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
Drafting Justin Fields likely takes a little bit of heat off Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. However, I don’t think it changes a tremendous amount for how this duo needs to approach the 2021 season. It needs to be clear at the end of the year that Fields is on track to be a franchise quarterback and that Nagy is the right person to help him reach his potential. Nagy was lucky to keep his job following a 2020 season where Chicago’s offense was nothing short of anemic. The combination of Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky was tough to watch. David Montgomery having a breakout season made up for some of those deficits, but the Bears need to show major progress offensive. It does not mean they will suddenly become the Chiefs or the Buccaneers, but fewer turnovers and sharper play will go a long way.

Green Bay Packers – Matt LaFleur
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯
Much of how Matt LaFleur will be judged stems from what happens with Aaron Rodgers. Will management blame him for the fractured relationship with the 2020 MVP? Unlikely, seeing as Rodgers’ issues seem to stem more from how the front office operates. There are two ways to spin LaFleur’s tenure in Green Bay. The Packers have reached back-to-back NFC Championship games and dominated the NFC North. For reference, Seattle was the last NFC team to reach back-to-back conference title games in 2012 and 2013. However, unlike the Seahawks, the Packers have been unable to get over the hump. Could another year where the team comes up short in the postseason raise enough questions about LaFleur’s ability to win the biggest games of the year to cost him his job? That seems bold, but don’t rule it out.

Minnesota Vikings – Mike Zimmer
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
Mike Zimmer said after the 2020 season that Minnesota’s defense was the worst he ever coached. Enter Patrick Peterson, Mackensie Alexander, Bashaud Breeland, Dalvin Tomlinson, Chazz Surratt and Patrick Jones II. Now, it falls on Zimmer to get the most out of this new talent. Kirk Cousins is locked in through 2022, but another lackluster season from the Vikings could get the wheels turning on a rebuild. Especially if Aaron Rodgers does not play this season, this is Minnesota’s division to lose. Failing to do so would be a major letdown that would likely cost Zimmer his job.

Seattle Seahawks – Pete Carroll
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
An underperforming defense, inconsistent play and a disgruntled star quarterback are a recipe for losing your job as a head coach in the NFL. Pete Carroll has the Seahawks in the mix as a playoff regular, but they have not made it past the division round since their 2014 Super Bowl loss. With Russell Wilson complaining this offseason about his offensive line, it certainly will turn up the scrutiny on Seattle’s performance this season. Another early playoff exit highlighted by a team that can’t quite put it all together could spell the end of Carroll’s tenure.

Arizona Cardinals – Kliff Kingsbury
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯πŸ”₯
Entering his third year in charge of the Cardinals, Kliff Kingsbury needs to start producing some results. Arizona came close to reaching the playoffs in 2020, losing the tiebreaker to Chicago for the final spot. However, after starting 5-2, the Cardinals limped to a 3-6 finish. I mean limped literally as well because the team started to struggle right around the time Kyler Murray suffered an ankle injury. Murray still has three years left on his rookie deal, which gives Arizona a fairly lengthy Super Bowl window, but this year feels like an important one to show some progress after signing veterans like J.J. Watt, Malcolm Butler and James Conner to an already talented roster.

Los Angeles Rams – Sean McVay
Heat Index: πŸ”₯
πŸ”₯
While Cam Akers certainly strikes a blow to Los Angeles’ title hopes, it should not drastically change the team’s expectations for 2021. After making the bold move to acquire Matthew Stafford, the Rams are positioning themselves as championship contenders. Taking all of that into account, I still think Sean McVay is entrenched in the organization that he can weather an underwhelming season. Long praised as one of the great offensive minds in the sport, McVay has proven himself to be valuable to this franchise. After all, the team is only three years removed from a Super Bowl appearance. Not to mention, the Rams upset the Seahawks in Seattle with an injured Jared Goff at quarterback. I think McVay is likely safe, but expectations are high for this Rams team heading into 2021.

San Francisco 49ers – Kyle Shanahan
Heat Index: πŸ”₯

After slogging through a ridiculous season of injuries, the 49ers seem poised to bounce back in a big way in 2021. However, the team is also facing a changing of the guard at quarterback after selecting Trey Lance with the No. 3 pick in April. I think that actually increases the likelihood Kyle Shanahan keeps his job. He is praised as an offensive guru who has developed several quarterbacks in his coaching career. On top of that, he and general manager John Lynch signed six-year extensions following a Super Bowl appearance. Shanahan will be around for a while in San Francisco.