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New 3-round projections at regular season’s end


The 2021 NFL regular season is officially in the books, so while 14 lucky teams look ahead to the playoffs, the rest of the league sets about the challenge of reloading their roster in hopes of joining them next year.

Now that the top 18 picks in this year’s draft order are locked in, the landscape at the top of the draft should become more clear in the coming weeks. On the prospect side, the predraft workouts and all-star games will continue to solidify the best talent in this year’s class.

Bearing all that in mind, here’s an updated look at how the first three rounds of the 2022 NFL draft could shake out, using the latest updated order after Week 18:

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The Jags have bigger needs, but you never reach for need with the No. 1 pick. This spot is about taking the best player in the draft, and at this point, that’s still Thibodeaux, who brings a rare blend of size, athleticism and explosiveness to a premium position.

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The Lions could use a quarterback of the future, but this class doesn’t have one worthy of this spot. Hutchinson could have been a Day 2 pick in last year’s draft, but he made a wise decision to return to Ann Arbor for another season, and his dominant 2021 campaign has launched him into the top-three conversation.

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This roster needs help just about everywhere, so this pick is about getting the best overall talent, regardless of position. It’s rare to see a safety prospect worthy of a top-five pick, but Hamilton is absolutely that guy, with an impressive blend of athleticism, instincts and versatility.

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The Jets need difference-makers at multiple positions on defense, but the value in this scenario clearly points them to the cornerback spot. Despite missing most of this season due to injury, Stingley’s skill set should make him the first corner off the board, and immediately the best cover man on this roster.

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Andrew Thomas was much improved this season, but the Giants still need an upgrade at the other tackle spot. Right tackles have become just as valuable as their counterparts in recent years, and landing a blue-chip talent like Neal at this pick would be a huge bargain.

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The Panthers made a huge mistake at quarterback last year, trading away this year’s second-round pick for Sam Darnold before passing on Justin Fields in the top 10. That may lead them to overcorrect and reach for one of this year’s top passers, despite a much weaker class, though Pickett has the traits to become a quality starter at the next level.

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This defense has one of the league’s better fronts, but they need a three-down playmaker at the next level who can bring that same combination of physicality and athleticism they have in the trenches. Dean was the best player on the nation’s most dominant defense, helping lead the Bulldogs to their first national title since 1980.

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This defense needs a ton of help in the trenches, so landing a well-rounded player like Karlaftis would be huge. He’s got the toughness, physicality and technique to set the edge against the run, with all the pass-rushing skills to get after opposing quarterbacks with regularity.

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Quarterback is a possibility here, but don’t be surprised if the Broncos look for a veteran instead of reaching for a rookie in a weak class here. Instead, they should use this pick to bolster the offensive line, and Ekwonu was an all-conference pick at both guard and tackle.

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The rebuild of this offensive line is coming along with young talents like Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker, but more help is needed. This may seem high for a center to come off the board, but Linderbaum might have been the most dominant blocker in the country this season, regardless of position.

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Taylor Heinicke had his moments, but Washington needs a better long-term solution at quarterback with more upside. Corral dealt with some injuries, so his durability could be a question for NFL teams, but he’s got a dynamic skill set, and was able to find success against top competition in the SEC.

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This is a huge win for the Vikings, who match a big need at corner with a huge steal in Gardner, who didn’t allow a single touchdown catch in his entire college career. His combination of size, length, athleticism and ball skills should have him off the board in the top 10, making him a bargain here.

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The departure of Odell Beckham Jr. left the Browns without a true No. 1 receiver who can make big plays at every level of the field. Thankfully for Cleveland, this receiver class is loaded with promising replacement options. Wilson is a polished, pro-ready, and would immediately jump-start this lackluster passing game.

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After the departure of Orlando Brown Jr. and another serious injury to Ronnie Stanley, the Ravens offense suffered greatly due to their situation at offensive tackle. Using their top pick on an athletic, physical blocker in Cross would be a wise move, giving them a much-needed boost of talent to protect Lamar Jackson and bolster the running game.

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This is the first of three first-round picks for the Eagles, who have a rare chance to reload their roster with top talent while still making the playoffs this year. The best value in this scenario comes at linebacker, where Lloyd brings a fantastic blend of size, athleticism and physicality.

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After getting a big-play machine at linebacker, the Eagles use their next first-rounder on a shutdown corner to pair with Darius Slay. Booth was among the nation’s best at limiting pass-catchers who lined up across from him, and he would be a solid value at this pick.

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Protecting Justin Herbert has to be the Chargers’ top priority, and after landing a star last year in the first round with Rashawn Slater, they’ll hope to do the same here. Green is a versatile blocker who can play either guard or tackle at a high level, with a strong blend of athleticism, technique and toughness.

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Even if Michael Thomas returns to form, the Saints will still need a big-play wide receiver to pair with him who can stretch the field and challenge opposing defenses over the top. Burks is big, physical and athletic, with a skill set that has drawn comparisons to A.J. Brown.

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The defensive reload continues for the Eagles, who use all three of their first-round picks on that side of the ball. They finish off the trifecta here with Ojabo, one of this year’s fastest-rising prospects, who brings impressive explosiveness to the edge of their defensive front.

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Quarterback and offensive tackle are huge needs, but the value just isn’t there in this scenario at either of those spots. Instead, the Steelers opt for a massive mauler for the defensive trenches, adding a dominant nose tackle in Davis, who would help return this unit to their former glory.

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Stephon Gilmore is gone, and J.C. Jackson might also be departing via free agency this offseason, which would leave the Pats in need of corner help. This year’s class is loaded with talent at the position, which should give them plenty of solid options at this pick. Elam was able to shut down some of the nation’s most explosive pass-catchers in the SEC.

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The Dolphins have tried and failed to rebuild this offensive line, but they need to keep taking swings, especially if they want Tua Tagovailoa to reach his full potential. Penning is a small-school stud who dominanted lower-level competition, and has all the physical traits to be worthy of a first-round pick.

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The Raiders have missed badly on some recent high picks at corner, leaving them with a need despite the investment. This year’s deep corner class gives them a perfect opportunity to try again, and McCreary’s track record of shutting down opposing receivers should make him a strong candidate here.

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Chandler Jones is still one of the NFL’s premier edge rushers, but the Cardinals could use a young talent to develop across from him. Thomas is still flying under the radar despite a dominant performance at SDSU, and his complete skill set should make him a three-down playmaker at the next level.

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This offensive line has improved, but it could still use one more piece if the Bengals want to ensure the safety of Joe Burrow, and keep him able to take advantage of his many weapons. Kinnard was dominant against SEC competition this season, and could play either guard or tackle at the next level.

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Running back is a big need, but spending a first-rounder at that position before addressing this lackluster offensive line would be putting the cart before the horse. Johnson is a dominant guard prospect who would help create running lanes for whichever back the Bills can land on Day 2.

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This might be the spot where the Lions consider at quarterback, but in this scenario, they’re better off waiting until next year. Instead, they continue to stock the roster with talent elsewhere, landing a huge, athletic pass-catcher in Drake London who would immediately be their best receiver.

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Trevon Diggs is obviously one of the NFL’s premier shutdown corners, but the Cowboys should be looking to upgrade the rest of that unit this offseason. Even with plenty of corners already off the board, Dallas still has some options here worthy of a first-round pick, including the smart and versatile McDuffie.

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There may be bigger needs elsewhere, but the Chiefs might not be able to resist giving Patrick Mahomes yet another dynamic weapon for the offense. Olave is perhaps the most polished, pro-ready receiver in this year’s loaded class, making him a huge bargain here, and a scary addition to this passing game.

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Vita Vea will anchor this defensive front for years to come, but Ndamukong Suh just turned 35, and Will Gholston is on the final year of his current deal. Adding young depth to this unit will be huge for the Bucs, and Leal’s combination of athleticism and versatility gives him limitless potential.

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Harold Landry had a breakout season, but who knows what the future holds for Bud Dupree in Tennessee. The Titans would be wise to use this pick on a young, promising edge rusher, and Sanders has all the physical tools to quickly develop into a dynamic defender in the pros.

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The offense needs help up front, and possibly at receiver, but the Packers might have a bigger need lurking at the edges of their defensive front, depending on potential salary cap moves. Walker was a key performer for the Bulldogs’ title-winning defense, and his skill set would fit well in this defense.

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