As NFL teams continue their preparations for the new season at OTAs, there are a string of high-profile free agents still without jobs. Many free agents who have the patience to wait until later in the offseason to sign a contract are rewarded by landing with contenders.
However, it stands to reason that the teams who picked near the top of the draft still have the most need at this time of the year.
With that in mind, we have taken this year’s draft order and examined the players each team in the top 20 would select from this crop of remaining free agents if given the chance to do so. For this exercise, each team has been returned their initial draft picks.
So, who would be the number one overall pick from this group of remaining free agents?
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham remains on the market as he rehabs the torn ACL he suffered in the Los Angeles Rams’ Super Bowl victory. The likelihood still appears to be that he will eventually re-sign with the Rams but, despite their wide receiver spending spree in free agency, the Jaguars still have a clear need at the position.
Though Trevor Lawrence recently offered praise of big-ticket signing Christian Kirk, the reality is he is not a number one receiver. Beckham, by contrast, has always fit the bill in that sense. When healthy, Beckham is precisely the kind of player the Jags need to elevate Lawrence as he looks to take a year-two leap.
2. Detroit Lions – Anthony Barr
The Lions have received widespread praise for their efforts this offseason. However, linebacker is still a significant area of concern for Detroit.
Alex Anzalone, Derrick Barnes and Jarrad Davis are their top three players at the position. Injuries have limited Barr to 13 games over the last two seasons, but he can consistently make plays in the backfield and in coverage. He would be a low-risk gamble worth taking for the Lions.
3. Houston Texans – J.C. Tretter
The Texans ranked 22nd in Football Outsiders Adjusted Sack Rate allowed in 2021. Justin Britt is penciled in as their starting center despite seeing his first season with Houston curtailed by injury.
Tretter, released by the Cleveland Browns in March, would be an immediate upgrade on Britt and could help drastically improve a run game that ended 2021 last in the NFL.
4. New York Jets – Duane Brown
It is no surprise the Jets are remaining hopeful Mekhi Becton can get healthy and realize his obvious potential as a starting left tackle in the NFL. The problem is that the options if he does not do so are far from enticing.
Chuma Edoga and rookie Max Mitchell are set to be the backup tackles for New York in 2022. Rather than having next to no insurance policy behind Becton, the Jets would be better served signing an experienced veteran in Brown, who can bring both security and competition to the position.
It’s unclear whether Brown would be willing to sign on to potentially be a backup at this point in his career. However, it would behoove the Jets to at least try to convince him.
5. New York Giants – Justin Houston
Houston’s 4.5 sacks for the Baltimore Ravens last year marked his lowest tally since the 2016 season, when he played in only five games.
Still, Houston remains an impactful rotational pass rusher who could be an excellent mentor to Kayvon Thibodeaux and second-year edge rusher Azeez Ojulari. With Wink Martindale coming across from Baltimore to be the Giants’ defensive coordinator, Houston would also have familiarity with the system.
This is a move that would make a lot of sense for New York.
6. Carolina Panthers – D’Onta Hightower
The Panthers don’t lack for talent on the defensive front or in the secondary, yet their options at linebacker are uninspiring.
Hightower doesn’t have the coverage skills at this point in his career to be an elite every-down option, but his awareness, experience, and leadership are all traits needed by a team lacking direction in year three under Matt Rhule.
7. Chicago Bears — Ndamukong Suh
The Bears get good value in this free agent draft with the acquisition of Ndamukong Suh, who will immediately bolster their defensive line rotation. While Chicago could likely use one of the remaining receivers on the board, such as Julio Jones or Will Fuller, Suh presents a better value here.
Suh would fortify the Chicago interior and create and intriguing rotation with Justin Jones and Angelo Blackson on the interior. As part of this exercise, the Bears keep the pick initially exchanged in the Justin Fields 2021 draft trade.
8. Atlanta Falcons – Jaquiski Tartt
Safety is clearly the weak link in the Falcons’ secondary, and Atlanta could find an affordable solution in Tartt.
Tartt may be most recently remembered for his key dropped interception in last season’s NFC Championship Game, yet he is arguably the top safety left on the market and offers the versatility to play down in the box and in the deep middle.
An aggressive defender who loves to attack downhill with physicality, Tartt can also be a weapon as a blitzer, making him a natural fit for a defensive coordinator as aggressive as Dean Pees.
9. Denver Broncos — Kevin King
You can never have too many cornerbacks, particularly in an AFC West division that will be filled with firepower this season.
Having cut his teeth in Minnesota, George Paton knows that a team can never have too many capable bodies at cornerback, and could relish the idea of adding a 27-year-old cornerback with excellent length to the CB room. With no clear No. 3 outside cornerback on the roster at the moment, King could have an opportunity to play a role in the Mile High City.
10. Seattle Seahawks – Riley Reiff
The Seahawks doubled up at tackle in the draft, taking Abraham Lucas in the third round after selecting Charles Cross ninth overall. Here, they have their original 10th selection (traded in he Jamal Adams trade) and do not have the ninth selection (traded from Denver in the Russell Wilson trade).
As a rebuilding team, Seattle may not have any issues throwing Lucas straight into the starting lineup at right tackle.
But if they are not comfortable starting a pair of rookies at tackle, then Reiff would offer a reliable presence on the right-hand side, having played a key role in the Cincinnati Bengals’ resurgence prior to suffering an injury in December.
11. Washington Commanders – Larry Ogunjobi
The Commanders aren’t exactly short of depth on the defensive line, but their clearest path towards contending to regain the NFC East title involves throwing waves of talented pass rushers at opposing offensive lines.
Ogunjobi can help them do that. He was set to sign for the Chicago Bears until a failed physical put the kibosh on that deal.
Provided he can now pass a physical, the Commanders could capitalize and sign Ogunjobi at a much more affordable price and add a defensive tackle who registered seven sacks in 2021 to a front that already features Chase Young, Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, and Montez Sweat.
12. Minnesota Vikings – Julio Jones
Between Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn, Kirk Cousins already has plenty of weapons to utilize in the passing game.
Yet the Vikings lost tight end Tyler Conklin in free agency. Jones would obviously not be a direct replacement for Conklin but, at this stage in his career, he can use his size to serve as a de facto second tight end.
Indeed, perhaps the most appealing aspect of signing the 33-year-old seven-time Pro Bowler is to deploy him as a ‘power slot’ who can make the most of his frame to win over the middle on underneath and intermediate routes.
With starting tight end Irv Smith Jr. unlikely to strike much fear into the heart of defenses, the Vikings have a need for Jones’ ability to excel in that manner. Given the attention Jefferson and Thielen are likely to attract, Minnesota could provide an ideal situation for Jones to enjoy a renaissance after a disappointing year with the Tennessee Titans.
All of this, however, is contingent on him staying healthy. The NFL’s faith in Jones’ ability to do will likely determine whether he is signed.
13. Cleveland Browns — Landon Collins
Without a particularly glaring need here, the Browns select the best player available in Landon Collins.
Collins will need to play a specific role at the second level of the defense at this stage of the year, but can aid the Browns depth as a backup strong safety and will linebacker.
14. Baltimore Ravens — Will Fuller
A relatively barren WR corps that former scouts and GMs recently ranked as bottom tier in the NFL gets a potential upgrade here with Will Fuller.
A potential low-risk, high-upside add, Fuller has never played a full season in the NFL due to injury, but has flashed as one of the league’s most dominant deep threats when healthy. Time will tell if he still has the ability to take the top off the defense. But at this point in free agent draft, and considering their needs, Fuller is a worthwhile selection here.
15. Miami Dolphins — Benson Mayowa
The Dolphins add a rotational edge rusher to the fray here in selecting Mayowa, who could add some pass rush juice to their outside linebacker rotation.
While he had a down year last season with only one sack in 15 games, Mayowa had 13 sacks in the two previous seasons combined with the Raiders and Seahawks. This is a swing for Miami in hoping that the 30-year-old can rediscover his pass rush production.
16. Indianapolis Colts — Sheldon Richardson
The Colts nab a 31-year-old former Pro Bowler who is still capable of the occasional impact play. Without a clear backup to DeForest Bucker at the 3-technique spot, the Colts swung on a pair of undersized pass rush-first rookies in the fourth and fifth round this year.
Richardson is likely more ready to step on the field than either rookie in Indianapolis, which could make him a value selection at No. 16 in this free agency draft.
17. Los Angeles Chargers — Cole Beasley
Another team that is unlikely to fill a major need here, the Chargers grab a productive slot receiver who can still consistently separate at 33 years old due to his high-end route running ability.
Beasley would give Justin Herbert another reliable third down target who can work well at the second level.
18. New Orleans Saints — Trey Flowers
Flowers has not been healthy over the past two seasons, but could be worthy of a flier in New Orleans here. While they don’t necessarily need to add a defensive end to the fold with 2021 first round pick Payton Turner returning to the rotation after an injury-riddled season, the additional competition could push some of their younger prospects to improve.
Flowers would be unlikely to make the final 53 man roster in New Orleans, but he’d be a helpful training camp presence.
19. Philadelphia Eagles — Colin Kaepernick
Five years removed from the game, it’s unlikely that Colin Kaepernick ever gets back into the league. In this exercise, however, the Eagles may see kaepernick as the best player remaining on the board.
With no clear No. 3 quarterback on the roster, and nobody who can come close to replicating Jalen Hurts’ rushing impact in the building if he were to go down, Kaepernick could capably fill that role in Philadelphia.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers — Eric Fischer
Fischer sat out all of last season while working his way back from an Achilles tear, but the former No. 1 overall pick is only 31 years old and was a solid starter in his last season with the Chiefs.
Pittsburgh is in dire need of some additional competition on the offensive line, and grabbing Fischer here would be a low-risk, high-reward gamble that could pay off if he regains his previous form.