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Sports NFL draft 2022: Which teams could be most likely to trade up, down in first round?

15:01  04 april  2022
15:01  04 april  2022 Source:   usatoday.com

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As the NFL moves into the latter stages of its 2022 free agency period, which has largely been defined by the mega trades of March, focus now shifts squarely onto the upcoming draft – and, inevitably, more deals are forthcoming.

The first round of this year's draft has already been markedly altered by swaps made nearly two years ago and several two weeks ago. The Eagles currently hold a trio of first-round selections, one of seven teams with multiple picks in Round 1. Eight teams (Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers) presently aren't scheduled to pick April 28, opening night of the annual "Player Selection Meeting."

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Could Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, left, or Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin being making a draft night deal come April 28? © Jason Bridge, USA TODAY Sports Could Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, left, or Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin being making a draft night deal come April 28?

But there's little doubt the board will remain dynamic, whether by player swaps in the coming weeks – the Baltimore Ravens added the 31st pick of the 2021 draft not a week beforehand after sending OT Orlando Brown Jr. to the Kansas City Chiefs – or deals that will go down on draft night itself.

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Here are seven teams currently holding first-rounders that might be worth keeping an eye on right through the conclusion of the draft's opening night:

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Atlanta Falcons (pick No. 8)

Matt Ryan is gone from a team that miraculously finished 7-10 last season. Yet quarterback is only one of the glaring needs for a team that has few cornerstones – TE Kyle Pitts, CB A.J. Terrell – and otherwise has numerous glaring holes aside from maybe offensive line. GM Terry Fontenot has already tempered expectations around the 2022 Falcons and could certainly stand pat and potentially take Ryan's successor. However he might maximize his return on investment by transacting with a team seeking a quarterback and trying to get ahead of the Seattle Seahawks – they pick ninth – and moving down just enough to still get a quarterback, or other position of need, while picking up extra ammunition to restock other areas of the roster.

Carolina Panthers (pick No. 6)

GM Scott Fitterer is an interesting spot. He's been unable to upgrade a QB depth chart that currently features Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker but could address it in the first round – though few draft observers believe any of this year's incoming passers merit a top-10 selection. Complicating matters? Fitterer isn't scheduled to make his second pick until late in the fourth round, largely because of last year's deal with the New York Jets for Darnold. But Carolina could certainly provide an enticement for a team targeting, say, Liberty QB Malik Willis at more reasonable cost than a top-five selection in order to augment its draft haul and still reasonably get a quarterback of its own, maybe even a local one like North Carolina's Sam Howell.

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Detroit Lions (picks No. 2, 32)

Worth noting they're also in the second slot in Round 2, 34th overall, which enhances GM Brad Holmes' ability to maneuver if he so desires. He could also be eyeing a quarterback, though little need to press given the presence of veteran Jared Goff and the pair of first-rounders Holmes currently holds in 2023, which is regarded as a better QB draft. Yet how much consideration might Holmes give to moving up to No. 1, a spot presently occupied by the Jacksonville Jaguars, given how well Michigan DE Aidan Hutchinson would suit the Lions from both a schematic and marketing standpoint? Conversely, Holmes might be motivated to vacate the No. 2 spot if he can't get Hutchinson organically or from the Jags given the Lions won't be in the market for one of this year's blue-chip tackle prospects and could still get a nifty pass rusher, defensive back or receiver elsewhere in the top dozen or so spots. And then there's that 32nd spot. The final pick of the first round can always be enticing for a team wanting to take a shot on a quarterback while getting the fifth-year contract option Round 1 picks convey –Baltimore's gambit for Lamar Jackson in 2018 is a prime example. Maybe Holmes goes that route ... and maybe he answers the phone to assess how much more one of his peers might want it instead, especially knowing he'll almost immediately be back on the clock the following night and likely able to snag any non-QB he might be targeting with that 34th slot.

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Kansas City Chiefs (picks No. 29, 30)

Yes, coach Andy Reid and GM Brett Veach need to replace recently traded WR Tyreek Hill and surely need to be looking at pass rushers and corners. But sending Hill to Miami now means K.C. has both a pair of first- and second-rounders this year. Even at the back of Round 1, Reid and Veach should be sifting through some nice receiver options – if they so choose – yet might be able to pick up a nice chunk of sugar by spinning off one of those early picks to one of those teams that might want that fifth-year option on a young quarterback.

New York Giants (picks No. 5, 7)

A team with one playoff appearance in the last decade can hardly afford to divest top-10 picks, especially since Big Blue is a year away from being a major player in free agency. But there's a major consideration here: The Giants, who are undecided on whether to pick up QB Daniel Jones' fifth-year option, will almost surely determine this year whether he's the long-term answer under center. And given this team is almost surely at least a year away from contending, might be wise to hedge by trading a first-rounder this year to get (at least) one more plus additional capital when quarterbacks like Ohio State's C.J. Stroud, Alabama's Bryce Young and Florida's Anthony Richardson are likely to be among the prizes.

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Philadelphia Eagles (picks No. 15, 16, 19)

An outfit fresh off a surprising wild-card run is in prime position to bolster the roster and lay the groundwork for dominance of a division that hasn't been dominated since the Reid-Donovan McNabb Eagles nearly two decades ago. And yet GM Howie Roseman has never been afraid of a trade and will surely be fielding plenty of offers for at least one of his first-rounders. And from his perspective, probably makes sense to deal one given the potential salary-cap ramifications three clustered Round 1 contracts could have down the line. And though QB Jalen Hurts guided Philly to the playoffs in his first season as a starter and brings unique leadership skills to the table along with his dual-threat capabilities, his limitations as a passer remain evident. Like former Alabama teammate Tua Tagovailoa in Miami, Hurts might also just be one poor season away from getting replaced in a year.

Pittsburgh Steelers (pick No. 20)

Scour those mock drafts in cyberspace, and you're bound to find Willis connected to Pittsburgh in a great many of them. Coach Mike Tomlin, on the lookout for a (mobile) replacement for now-retired Ben Roethlisberger, has been a stable at QB pro days in recent weeks. If the Steelers stick and pick, maybe Willis and/or Pitt's Kenny Pickett – he works out in a football facility shared with the Steelers – and/or Mississippi's Matt Corral is available ... and you'll also find a fair share of mock drafts with none of them called on April 28. But back here in reality, we know quarterbacks always get pushed up the board, especially as the draft draws nearer. If Tomlin identifies one of these prospects as his guy, he and outgoing GM Kevin Colbert might have to consider something they're historically loathe to do – trading up in a bid to keep pace in an AFC North where the other three teams all appear set under center well into the future.

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Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL draft 2022: Which teams could be most likely to trade up, down in first round?

NFL power rankings: How have free agency, trades reshaped 2022 pecking order in offseason? .
Major personnel moves have major aftereffects on the league's 2022 pecking order.1. Rams (1): They've lost a few key cogs from the Super Bowl 56 lineup – OLB Von Miller (Bills), LT Andrew Whitworth (retired), WR Odell Beckham Jr. (unsigned and injured) – but it happens just about annually to defending champs, the Brady Bucs notwithstanding. But LA also effectively made a noteworthy wideout swap, signing Allen Robinson before trading Robert Woods, while reloading the O-line. And more important? Many of the NFC's prominent would-be contenders have taken more concerning broadsides than the Rams have.

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