Teams are positioning themselves to target in the 2022 NFL Draft, the looming showdown between Ja’Wuan James and the Denver Broncos and more.
On football fields in Jacksonville, Florham Park and Chicago, the top three quarterbacks selected in the NFL Draft earlier this month have gotten their first taste of life in the NFL during their team’s rookie minicamps, but the prize of the 2022 class looms large.
While Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Justin Fields offer much hope to the Jaguars, New York Jets and Bears, teams such as the Philadelphia Eagles, and New York Giants all executed trades leading up to and during the NFL Draft to acquire extra picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, and in a lot of ways, create flexibility at quarterback.
The Eagles own up to three first-round selections (perhaps one as a contingency of the Carson Wentz blockbuster with the Colts), the Giants picked up what has the chance to be a top-15 selection from the Bears, in a deal consummated by general manager Dave Gettleman in exchange for the right for Chicago to choose Fields No. 11 overall. Meanwhile, the Dolphins might be in the market for a quarterback, as might the Houston Texans and others.
So, who are these teams targeting?
“It’s all about Sam Howell,” an NFC personnel executive tells FanSided. “He’s the top quarterback, and he may wind up being the top pick.”
Howell, 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds has all the trappings of a franchise quarterback, with the arm-strength, mobility and toughness that top quarterbacks need to succeed in the NFL.
As a sophomore last season, Howell completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 3,586 yards with 30 touchdowns to just seven interceptions.
The long-time NFL evaluator says he sees plenty of similarities to Brett Favre and Baker Mayfield, when he puts on Howell’s film.
He’ll certainly be a hot commodity, and is likely one key reason why teams so aggressively maneuvered to better their draft positioning in 2022.
If Daniel Jones takes a monumental leap, after the Giants surrounded him with prized free agent wide receiver Kenny Golladay, drafted playmaking receiver Kadarius Toney in Round 1, and Saquon Barkley returns to form, New York won’t be shopping for a quarterback next spring.
But, if Jones continues to struggle protecting the football and the Giants struggle once again to score, after averaging 17.5 points per game, second-fewest in the NFL, New York might be armed with two top-10 picks as ammunition to go and get Howell.
Same story in Philadelphia, where the Eagles are building around Hurts, after selecting Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith No. 9 overall, trading ahead of the Giants to do so. If Hurts performs like a franchise quarterback, the Eagles can drop three blue chip players into the offense around him. But, if he fails once again to complete more than 52 percent of his passes in his first full season as a starter, there isn’t a team with a larger war chest to get to the top of the board.
“I like him a lot,” the personnel executive says. “I love his game, physically, and mentally. He has the size, release, arm strength, toughness, and he’s a risk-taker. Definitely a big-play guy, does some really good things and then does some crazy s***.”
Howell might be worth the bounty either of this teams, or any other, wind up trading to go and get him.
The three biggest games on the NFL schedule
The schedule will be released at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday evening, but these are the three most intriguing contests that just might define the 2021 NFL season …
Bills at Buccaneers
Buffalo was never really a threat to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game, but did come just 14 points shy of advancing to the Super Bowl … Where it would have met up against the Buccaneers’ swarming front-seven.
Tampa Bay should be even better this season, after returning all 22 starters, and having the entire team together for a second season with Tom Brady behind center, and the Bills are banking on Josh Allen taking another step with all kinds of talent around him at the skill positions. Appointment television.
Packers at Chiefs
This is a Super Bowl preview.
Mahomes against Aaron Rodgers (maybe), should draw as much excitement as the Chiefs-Rams game a few years ago that was a ratings bonanza on Monday Night Football and nearly caused a power outage of the Los Angeles Coliseum scoreboard. Look for this game to get prime-time treatment and perhaps be a harbinger of the biggest game of all.
Browns at Chiefs
For about three quarters, Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns had Mahomes and the Chiefs on the ropes, in the AFC Divisional Playoffs, last January.
Cleveland will be a much better team walking into Arrowhead this season from when they walked out of it, five points shy of an AFC Championship Game berth. It will be harder to throw on the Browns, after taking Greg Newsome out of Northwestern, in Round 1. Jadeveon Clowney might also make life a bit more difficult on Mahomes.
If there’s a team in the AFC that helped close the gap on the Chiefs the most this offseason, it’s Cleveland. We’ll see just how wide the chasm remains in what promises to be a postseason preview.
“I’ve been behind him 100 percent throughout the whole thing. Obviously, I’m praying everything works out and that we get him back and we can continue to go out there and do stuff like what you see on the screen there, because it’s a lot of fun doing that.”
– Packers receiver Davante Adams on Aaron Rodgers wanting out of Green Bay, during an appearance on The Herd with Colin Cowherd.
Good for Adams, speaking out amid peak dysfunction in Green Bay and the Packers’ ongoing stare down with Rodgers.
Say nothing for the fact that on the surface, it seems the Packers released Jake Kumerow after Rodgers praised him, but Green Bay players such as Adams now must walk a high wire when discussing this situation publicly. If they praise Rodgers they could risk retribution from the front office but if they speak out in favor of the organization, good luck getting targets should the MVP return.
Multiple league sources suggest this is a situation that could drag through the summer, but in the end, the Packers will placate Rodgers in these ongoing contract talks, because of his stature in the league and the fact that he is coming off one of the more dominant seasons of his career.
Adams, arguably the premier wide receiver in the game, likely has little to lose by throwing his weight behind his quarterback, but it still takes some fortitude to speak out against the organization signing your paycheck with such bitter controversy brewing.
The NFL, the NFLPA and the Denver Broncos have a real mess on their hands.
Broncos offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James ruptured his Achilles tendon working out away from the facility, after the players union has unilaterally tried to boycott the voluntary workouts this offseason.
The union’s attempted boycott, and James’ injury come just one year removed from a new Collective Bargaining Agreement being signed, and James’ stare down with the Broncos sets the stage for a battle over the future of these workouts. And highlights the consequences for not working out under team supervision.
“CBA negotiations could have, and should have, prevented all of these issues,” one NFL agent tells FanSided.
James was injured while working out, and the Broncos have every right not to pay him for the upcoming season.
However, Denver should tread carefully here.
Any decision not to pay James would certainly spark all kinds of acrimony inside that locker room — and as we saw from Patrick Mahomes tweeting in support of James, across the league.
“The NFL is basically using the rules to their advantage,” the agent says. “The NFLPA is trying to make it an NFL issue, when all this could have been avoided all together.”
Part of that advantage has been the league trying to coax players back into the facilities for these voluntary workouts. Both by using James’ circumstance as a reason to be leery of the consequences of suffering injuries at home, and because these workouts are often tied to workout bonuses in players’ contracts.
One prominent agent tells FanSided he has already advised his clients to act on their own accord, and to “never” listen to the NFLPA, especially in the aftermath of James’ injury.
James has been added to the Broncos’ non-football injury list. But, while Denver has every right to release James or recoup all or some of the $9.5 million he is due, this situation should be treated significantly differently from a player who rolled a motorcycle or flipped off of a Jetski during their time off.
“Players should be protected to workout better themselves outside of the facility,” the agent says.
Whether the Broncos offer that protection and do the right thing remains to be seen, but their actions very well could set a precedent for how these situations are handled by teams across the league, both this offseason and moving forward.