As you read this, we're two days away from the NFL Draft, and at least one of the biggest questions threatening to hang over it was answered Monday when the Packers and Jets finally agreed on a trade to send Aaron Rodgers to New York. I broke down that trade in yesterday's Fantasy Football Today Newsletter, but if you missed it, you can read my thoughts on what it means for both sides here.
Of course, there are still a ton of other questions left heading into the draft. More so than usual, it seems. I mean, we know a quarterback is going No. 1 overall to the Panthers, and we're pretty sure it's going to be Bama's Bryce Young.
After that? The Texans have spent the past few months throwing up as many smoke screens as possible with the No. 2 pick, and while we're pretty sure the Cardinals aren't taking a QB at No. 3, that doesn't mean they won't trade out of that spot to take a QB. We could see four quarterbacks go in the first four picks … or we could see the Colts get really lucky and have their pick of the presumably non-Young options at No. 4.
There's a whole lot we just don't know right now, which means there's a lot at stake with this year's draft. Over the next two days, I'll have a preview here for you looking at the biggest questions for every team heading into the draft. Today, we're looking at the Panthers and the rest of the NFC teams, and we'll talk about the AFC teams tomorrow.
If you want to get to know the top prospects from this draft, make sure you check out Heath Cummings' FFT podcast, our YouTube channel, as well as this newsletter in the aftermath of the draft, including Heath's updated Dynasty rankings next week. For new, let's preview the NFC side of things:, where he highlighted the top prospects at each position, with breakdowns from the whole FFT team. We'll have analysis on the
Cardinals: How long will DeAndre Hopkins be on this team?
The Cardinals have plenty of questions as they try to straddle the line between retooling and rebuilding, but Hopkins' status looms large over everything. He requested a trade earlier in the offseason, but there's been very little smoke there. The Cardinals seem like a candidate to move down from No. 3 to amass more picks, because they're a team that just needs talent at this point. Will Hopkins be a part of any such trade? He still looked like he had a lot left in the tank last season, and he could be very valuable if he lands in the right spot.
Falcons: Does Arthur Smith double down on the running game?
The biggest needs for the Falcons are likely all on the defensive side of the ball, since nobody really expects them to invest in the QB position early in this year's draft. Between Kyle Pitts, Drake London, Mack Hollins, and Jonnu Smith, they're largely set if they want to stick with mostly two-WR sets, something they did on 698 snaps last season, the second-most in the NFL. I'm hoping we'll see a more pass-heavy version of this offense next season, but if they avoid the WR position early or even invest in a running back – remember, last year's 1,000-yard rookie Tyler Allgeier was just a fifth-rounder – that could signal desire to double down on that conservative approach. Let's hope not!
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Panthers: Who do they surround their No. 1 pick with?
We're certain the Panthers are going to take a QB at No. 1 overall, and we're pretty sure at this point it'll be Bryce Young, Alabama's quarterback. They pick again at No. 39 overall and then not again until 93rd, so there aren't a ton of opportunities here to add talent to a team that probably still needs quite a few pieces on defense. They added Adam Thielen and DJ Chark at WR and Miles Sanders at RB in free agency, so they might feel content to roll with that into the season. Is that enough to make Young Fantasy relevant? I'm pretty skeptical, but it should make Miles Sanders a pretty valuable Fantasy RB, at least.
Bears: Do they add even more weapons for Justin Fields?
Between D.J. Moore, Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, Cole Kmet, D'Onta Foreman, and Khalil Herbert, the Bears suddenly have a pretty good group of playmakers surrounding Fields, but it's not great.Moore is a very good all-around playmaker, but the RB group lacks pass-catchers, Mooney is coming back from a serious ankle injury, and Claypool has never really lived up to expectations. This isn't the 2022 Eagles core, in other words. Defense and offensive line are probably bigger needs, but I wouldn't be shocked to see the Bears add another weapon with the ball in Fields' hands.
Cowboys: Does Tony Pollard emerge as the clear lead back?
If you've got Pollard in a Dynasty league, you're gonna be holding your breath at least until the end of the first round, and probably through the end of the second. If the Cowboys make it through the first two rounds without adding a Bijan Robinson or Jahmyr Gibbs, Pollard's status as the clear lead back is confirmed for 2023. If they add Robinson or Gibbs or one of the other early-round prospects, this backfield could be a mess. Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott combined for 480 touches last season, so there should still be room for two backs to be worth starting, but if Robinson and Pollard are paired up, it might be enough to drop both out of the first-round for 2023.
Lions: Do they add multiple pass-catchers?
The Lions were expecting Jameson Williams to take a big step forward in his second season now that he's fully recovered from his torn ACL, but with Williams suspended for the first six games of the season, they're suddenly looking pretty short-handed there. The depth chart to start the season has Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Marvin Jones, and Kalif Raymond, with Brock Wright and Shane Zylstra as their top TEs, and that just isn't enough. Sure, D'Andre Swift and David Montgomery will be big parts of the passing game in their own right, and maybe they feel like that group can get them through the time without Williams. But this is a team that views itself as a real contender for the NFC North, and Williams' suspension may change how they view their needs. They could also add a tight end from this very deep group of prospects – and don't be surprised if they make a move for their QB of the future, either.
Packers: What do they add to help out Jordan Love?
The Packers got the Aaron Rodgers trade over the finish line, and it would be kind of funny if, after years of passing on high-end receiving talent in the draft, they added a first-round pass-catcher for Love, which they probably should. Love is entering his fourth NFL season with just 83 pass attempts to his name in real action, so they need to figure out if he's the long-term answer here quickly – they have to make a decision on his fifth-year option and start thinking about an extension after this season. Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs plus a pair of good running backs is a nice starting point, but the Packers still need help at both WR and TE, and they can't just bet on their QB being transcendent to overcome that, as they have in the past. Giving Love as soft a landing spot as possible seems crucial.
Rams: Do they add pass-catching help?
The Rams need a lot of help, and they don't have a first-round pick to get it. They do have a second and a couple of third-rounders, but that's it until they pick a whopping eight times from Rounds 5 through 7. They'll likely ride Cam Akers in the running game, but the passing game around Matthew Stafford has Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee, and not much else. If this offense is going to bounce back, the Rams need more.
Vikings: Does Dalvin Cook have a future here?
Ian Rapoport said Monday that Dalvin Cook's future in Minnesota is "tenuous" due to the big salary he is owed this season, though there haven't been many rumors about trade interest in the veteran back – probably on account of said big salary. It's a tough spot, because Cook sure looked like he took a step backwards last season, but it's not clear the Vikings want to go into next season with Alexander Mattison as their clear lead back. I don't think running back is their biggest need on offense – I wouldn't be surprised if the Vikings took an early WR or even traded up for their QB of the future – but if they do invest a pick in the first three rounds on a back, it likely portends the end of Cook's time here.
Saints: Do they bring in RB insurance?
Alvin Kamara's status for 2023 remains up in the air, but the expectation remains that he'll face some kind of punishment from the league for his still-pending court case for battery. The Saints brought in veteran Jamaal Williams on a three-year deal, but Williams can't be a one-for-one replacement for Kamara, especially in the passing game. There are parallels here to Kamara's own draft year in 2017, when the Saints already had a 28-year-old Mark Ingram and brought in a veteran Adrian Peterson, only for Kamara to render Peterson almost immediately superfluous. That doesn't necessarily mean history will repeat itself, but there should be an opportunity here for another back to step in and play a potentially significant role in this offense. Jahmyr Gibbs could especially sparkle as Kamara's heir apparent.
Giants: Which playmaker(s) do they bring in?
Even after adding Darren Waller, it would be surprising if the Giants stood pat in the draft. They didn't really add much to the receiving game in free agency – Parris Campbell was the biggest name – so maybe they've been waiting for the draft to make their big splash. Or, maybe they'll look to bring in an early-round running back as Saquon Barkley insurance, since he's only under contract for one more season and extension talks seemingly haven't gone anywhere. The point is, this offense still needs more playmakers. Waller is a big improvement, but he isn't enough.
Eagles: Do they draft an early RB?
The Eagles have become a trendy projected landing spot for Bijan Robinson, and that would create a lot of headaches for opposing defenses. It might not be the best landing spot for Robinson's Fantasy value, because Jalen Hurts' rushing ability means more competition for goal-line carries and fewer of those dump-off targets that lead to so much value in PPR leagues. Robinson would be dangerous in Philly, but for Fantasy purposes, we might be better off with a less dynamic back going there given how the Eagles use their backs.
Seahawks: How committed are they to Geno Smith?
The Seahawks biggest needs are probably mostly on the defensive side of the ball, but this is a team that could definitely use some help at WR. They've been looking for a No. 3 for a few years, and with Tyler Lockett entering his age-31 season, they may not be able to rely on him too much longer. With Lockett and DK Metcalf around, this is a great spot for a quarterback, at least in the long run, but with Smith signing a three-year contract this offseason, there won't be an opportunity to start in 2023, at least. In all likelihood, this isn't a great spot for any rookies to make an impact in 2023, though keep an eye on any backup running backs they add as a handcuff for Kenneth Walker.
49ers: Do they move on from Trey Lance?
Given the uncertainty around Brock Purdy's recovery from elbow surgery, I would be shocked if the 49ers moved on from Lance until they have a real idea of when Purdy will be back to 100%, and that probably won't happen until training camp at the earliest. But still, that's the biggest question on this roster, given how set they are everywhere else on offense. And, for what it's worth, John Lynch definitely didn't say "no" when asked if the 49ers were open to trading Lance. Purdy is going to be the starter if he's healthy, but there's still a path to Lance becoming a Fantasy-relevant quarterback, either through Purdy not recovering as quickly as hoped or winding up in another situation where he'll have a chance to compete for a starting job. It's reasonable to be skeptical about Lance's chances of turning into a difference maker given how little he's played over the past few years, but I still want to see him get a chance.
Buccaneers: Do they make a move for a QB?
There have been rumors that the Buccaneers are open to aggressively moving up to take a quarterback, but SI.com's Albert Breer said this week, "I'm not buying it. For one, I think the staff there is excited to see what they can do with Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask." Which … OK! The Buccaneers still have two high-level wide receivers in more or less their prime in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, so the idea they're willing to go into battle with a second-rounder with nine NFL pass attempts to his name or Baker Mayfield is hard to believe. On the other hand, this team needs a soft reset, at the very least, if not a full rebuild, and the Bucs might decide to take their medicine for a year before looking for their future QB in earnest. Who knows, maybe Mayfield and Trask really have given them reason to be "excited." All I know is, the status quo makes both Godwin and especially Evans pretty uninteresting Fantasy options – Godwin is WR22 for me, while Evans is WR31.
Commanders: How much do they believe in their RB room?
The Commanders found some success toward the middle of last season by controlling the clock and pounding Brian Robinson 20-plus times per game, but it ended up being an unsustainable approach, as they lost three of their final four games and Robinson struggled toward the end of the season. He's a great story, but Robinson might be pretty limited as a player (he averaged 3.89 yards per carry and showed very little in the passing game), while it's pretty clear the coaching staff just doesn't think Antonio Gibson helps very much. They could probably stick with this duo and continue to get replacement-level production from the running game, or they might opt to swing for a higher-upside option in the first couple of rounds. There are probably bigger needs here, including at tight end, but if the Commanders are going to insist on running the ball 500-plus times like they did a year ago, I wouldn't mind seeing them get someone who can become a must-start Fantasy option with them.