Having a top-five pick in the NFL Draft gives teams the best shot at grabbing an elite talent. The top five picks from this year were Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Kyle Pitts, and Ja’Marr Chase. All players have the potential to be generational talents. With that being said, these teams are most likely to finish near last or last in the league and have the best shot to grab an elite player.
#1 – Houston Texans
With Deshaun Watson likely not playing for the Texans in 2021, either by trade or suspension, the remaining players on their team aren’t fantastic. With new coach David Culley, the team’s future is unclear in Houston. The remaining quarterbacks are Tyrod Taylor and rookie Davis Mills.
No matter who starts, it is evident there will be difficulties this season. The offensive line is headlined by star Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard but otherwise isn’t a solid group. The running back core of Mark Ingram and Phillip Lindsay offers some mediocrity of talent. The wide receivers are led by Brandin Cooks, an underrated receiver, but otherwise don’t have any relevant players after Will Fuller V’s departure.
The defense is in much better shape than the offense is. While losing JJ Watt is a huge blow, Whitney Mercilus, Charles Omenhu, Shaq Lawson, and Ross Blacklock all can step up. The linebacking core is definitely a strength. Zach Cunningham is a tackling machine and was a top stat leader in the category. New addition Christian Kirksey will add much-needed depth.
The cornerbacks aren’t great but not bad. Terrance Mitchell, Desmond King, Bradley Roby, and Vernon Hargreaves III are all solid veterans, but not superstars. The safeties are the strongest group of this defense. Led by Justin Reid and Lonnie Johnson, they will definitely secure the back end of the defense.
With a top-five pick, the Texans could definitely take a QB. They did recently take Davis Mills in this past draft though. He was a 3rd round pick, so the Texans must obviously think he has a lot of value. If he does underperform, UNC QB Sam Howell, Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler, and Liberty QB Malik Willis are all names that could be at the top of the draft in April 2022. I could see them drafting Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux or CB Derek Stingley since those are positions the Texans could greatly benefit from adding a boost of talent.
#2 – Detroit Lions
The Lions definitely are in contention for a top-five pick this year. After trading away franchise star Matthew Stafford to the Rams, they received former #1 overall pick Jared Goff and two first-round picks. This signals a clear rebuild. They also fired head coach Matt Patricia and hired Matt Campbell. The Lions’ offensive line, one of the better units in the NFL, is the clear strength of this team.
The WR’s are a weak group after the departure of Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. TJ Hockenson, the team’s tight end, maybe the best receiver on their team. D’Andre Swift is the team’s lead back and could be in for a breakout season. Perhaps Jared Goff can reduce his turnovers with more protection, but he has fewer weapons than in LA. Overall, not a scary offense in Detroit.
The defense was the absolute worst in the NFL last year. The only star on their team is Romeo Okwara, who had a breakout season last year. There just isn’t much talent on this defense. Jeff Okudah struggled in his first year. Corners do take longer to develop so hopefully he can rebound this year. The defense is going to be a real weakness this year, and they play in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL.
Similar to the Texans, unless Jared Goff really disappoints, I don’t see the Lions taking a quarterback with their pick. A defensive player would definitely be the most likely option at this point.
#3 – New York Jets
I think the Jets are definitely in for another top-five pick. I wasn’t high on QB Zach Wilson at #2, and I think he could really struggle this year with a young and/or unproven offensive line. The Jets on offense are a very young team. Rookie RB Michael Carter will most likely be the lead back at some point this season. The offensive line is fairly weak besides Mekhi Becton and rookie Alijah Vera-Tucker. The WR group is led by new addition Corey Davis. The other starters include second-year Denzel Mims, veteran Jamison Crowder, and rookie speedster Elijah Moore.
The defense has some bright spots but overall isn’t a dominant unit. The defensive line is headlined by Quinnen Williams and John Franklin-Meyers. Both are solid players that can cause chaos for the offense. The linebacking group isn’t very good. The only productive player is CJ Mosely. The cornerbacks are the weakest position on the defense and will need to play better this season. The safety group is led by star Marcus Maye, one of the most underrated players in the NFL.
The Jets won’t be able to contend with the Bills in the division, and the Dolphins and Patriots are up-and-coming teams this year that will provide difficult matchups.
The Jets definitely won’t be taking a QB in the 2022 draft. With this draft looking like it’s going to be defensively heavy, contrary to this year’s draft, the Jets will be looking to add a playmaker on defense along with the secondary.
#4 – Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals are on their way up. They got better this year than last year. But I don’t think they have enough pieces to make it out of the top 10 of the draft. The offense is looking very solid. QB Joe Burrow will be back from injury and his former teammate at LSU, Ja’Marr Chase, was drafted to add another weapon. The receiving group is looking deadly with Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. Joe Mixon was injured for most of last season and will look to stay healthy this season. The offensive line is a concern, but LT Jonah Williams will be back, LG Jackson Carman was drafted, and RT Riley Reiff was signed in free agency.
The real issue is the defense. DT DJ Reader is always an impactful player on the line, but the Bengals overspent on new addition DE Trey Hendrickson. They let Carl Lawson walk in free agency, which I think was a big mistake. The linebacking core doesn’t have any star names and will be a weakness. Edge Joseph Ossai was drafted, and he should make an impact in the future, but most likely not in his rookie year.
The Bengals let CB William Jackson III walk in free agency and signed a lesser talent to replace him. Chidobe Awuzie is a fairly good corner, but he isn’t at the level Jackson III is. One of the most underrated players in the league, Jessie Bates III, anchors a strong safety duo with Vonn Bell. The AFC North could be the most difficult AFC division, with two teams definitely heading for the playoffs this year in the Ravens and Browns. The Steelers are a mystery, but it won’t be easy for the Bengals this season.
Similar to the Jets, the Bengals won’t be taking a QB in next year’s draft. The offensive line and the defense are definitely needs to head into this season that they could address come April.
#5 – Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are in a make-or-break season heading into this year. They’ve declined every year after their Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, and if they don’t rebound this season, it looks like Atlanta will head for a rebuild. The offense has all the keys to success. QB Matt Ryan is still an above-average starter. The offensive line is decent and should be an acceptable group.
Even after the trade of Julio Jones, the receiving core is still very strong. Calvin Ridley, Kyle Pitts, Hayden Hurst, and Russell Gage are all dangerous weapons. The running back position is a question mark for the Falcons at the moment. It seems Mike Davis will start, and while he’s not an awful back, he’s not an elite one either.
The Falcons defense has been suspect for the last few years and that will be their biggest weakness this season. The defensive line is led by Grady Jarrett and there isn’t much talent elsewhere. The linebackers are a solid group of players. Deion Jones is a top 10 LB, and Foyesade Oluokun was impressed last year.
The secondary does not look formidable at all. Their top corner is CB Isaiah Oliver, who is decent at best. After the loss of safety Keanu Neal, the safety group is looking very weak. The NFC South is a stronger division with the returning Super Bowl champs Bucs headlining the division. The Saints will decline but might make a push for the playoffs and the Panthers improved a lot. The Falcons will have a tough season.
The most likely pick in April will be a quarterback. The Falcons passed this year to take Kyle Pitts and I think next year will be the year to take one. Sam Howell, Spencer Rattler, Malik Willis, Matt Corral, and Kedon Slovis are all names that will be at the top of the position’s board.