Florida is the axis on which the 2022 NFL Draft will turn.
The draft, which takes place in Las Vegas this year, starts with Thursday’s first round. The next two rounds come on Friday, and rounds 4-7 take place on Saturday. The whole thing will be broadcast by ESPN and the NFL Network, and be judged by a galaxy of commentators and writers.
Anticipation of the draft should help to distract hopeful Florida sports bettors from the fact that legal sports betting in the Sunshine State does not exist yet.
Doing mock drafts (guesses of how the first round will go) and grading each pick has become a cottage industry online. Sportsbooks also post odds on which player will go first overall. The DraftKings app currently has Georgia’s Travon Walker as a -150 favorite.
The NFL Draft is the one time when franchises reveal inside evaluations. They show the world who they value on their roster (and who they don’t) when they make their selections.
Of course, fans have their ideas. In this article, we’re going to evaluate what the fans want for each of Florida’s three NFL teams out of the NFL draft and, vice versa, what they should do.
The Jaguars are starting over again with new coach Doug Pederson. The Jaguars were 3-14 last year and have the first pick for the second year in a row.
Last year they took Trevor Lawrence out of Clemson and handed him the starting role. Lawrence’s season was uneven (can you blame him?), but he looked good enough to keep giving him the ball.
What do fans want the Jaguars to do?
Jaguars fans realize that the team has multiple holes to fill. Some would love to see them trade the no. 1 pick and get more picks to pick up a few extra players.
The problem is, NFL general managers aren’t dumb. They know the Jags have needs and aren’t going to offer them a sweet deal. The other issue is that there is no consensus, must-have player that every team wants.
This is not a great quarterback draft, so the No. 1 pick doesn’t have a ton of value (typical Jaguars luck).
What should the Jaguars do?
They can’t overthink this. The NFL is a passing league. The only way to disrupt quarterbacks is with a pass rush. This draft is loaded with quality edge rushers.
In a way, that’s another problem for the Jags. The difference between Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux is slight, but you can only pick one.
The Jaguars should just take Hutchinson and be happy. In a perfect world, he’s the next JJ Watt and a force on the Jaguars defense for a decade.
You’re going to hear the term “draft capital” quite a lot in the next few days. That’s just one way of saying how many picks a team has.
The Dolphins have little draft capital. New coach Mike McDaniel comes over from San Francisco and has a franchise with just four picks in the draft, none until the third round.
However, the Dolphins have added some talent in free agency with tackle Terron Armstead and big-time wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
What do fans want the Dolphins to do?
Fans think that there are star players just waiting to be grabbed in the third round, but the odds are pretty slim. The Dolphins will be lucky to get a steady starter drafting this late.
It’s impossible to know who will still be there by then. However, there are some positions to focus on. The Dolphins could use a linebacker or a running back.
What should the Dolphins do?
Without much draft capital, there isn’t much for the Dolphins to trade. The team is pushing in its chips on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa because it’s surrounding him with playmakers.
The Dolphins should try to grab a cornerback/kick returner hybrid, like Marcus Jones out of Houston. Miami could use a boost in the return game, and you always need guys who can run and cover.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Amazingly, all three Florida NFL franchises will have new coaches, as Todd Bowles takes over and Tom Brady unretires. Yeah, lots of intrigue there.
The Bucs are still Super Bowl contenders as long as Brady is playing. They have six picks, starting with the No. 27 overall pick.
What do fans want the Bucs to do?
Fans feel like the Bucs’ Super Bowl window is open and want a player who can contribute right away. So that means they want a star wide receiver to give Brady a new target or a young tight end.
The Bucs do need a wide receiver with Chris Godwin recovering from a torn ACL. This is a good wide receiver draft, with Chris Olave from Ohio State and Treylon Burks out of Arkansas at the top of the group.
What should the Bucs do?
The hard truth is the No. 27 pick doesn’t usually walk in and become a star. Of the last five No. 27 picks, only one has made the Pro Bowl, Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White.
The Bucs could use some speed on defense, but more than that, they need a boost on the offensive line. Brady is their most valuable asset, but he’s immobile. The Bucs should target offensive lineman Zion Johnson (Boston College) or center Tyler Linderbaum (Iowa).
It won’t thrill the fans on draft day, but when Brady has all day to throw in the pocket, Bucs fans will be happy.