This week, we're going to take a look inside the heads — or at least inside the rosters and offseasons — of the five teams currently picking ahead of the Panthers in the 2022 NFL Draft. What they've done and will do will impact what the Panthers are able to do at No. 6, so it's better to know the landscape ahead of time. Monday we started with the Jaguars at No. 1, discussed the Lions at No. 2 on Tuesday, and the Texans at No. 3 on Wednesday.
CHARLOTTE — This is where things get interesting.
In the first three slots in the 2022 NFL Draft, there are teams with reasonably defined needs, which largely match up with the players considered near the top of most draft boards.
Then there are the Jets.
Having selected their latest quarterback of the future last year (No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson), the Jets now need to offer him targets, and insulate him from pressure, and give him a chance to succeed.
They're positioned to do just that, with a pair of top-10 picks, with their own fourth and the 10th overall choice from Seattle (to complete the Jamal Adams trade).
With that kind of currency, they can make a big difference in a hurry, if they're smart. They're also well-positioned to answer the phone if anyone's interested in moving up, because the Giants in the fifth spot have also made it known they're open for business.
Like a lot of teams, the Jets need a pass-rusher, and the top of this year's draft is solid with guys such as Aidan Hutchinson, Travon Walker, and Kayvon Thibodeaux.
The Jets need to find a top receiver for Wilson, and would ostensibly have their pick of the class if they wanted to go there at four for a player such as Garrett Wilson or Chris Olave. (Also, they could package some picks and try to trade for Deebo Samuel, which seems logical since they were willing to trade for and pay Tyreek Hill earlier this offseason.)
But they could also use a cornerback, especially one the caliber of a Sauce Gardner.
That's a long way of saying, they have options, and the opportunity to send the draft in a different direction.
Offseason moves: The Jets made several moves to make Wilson more comfortable, beginning with spending big for guard Laken Tomlinson. The former 49ers standout brings some needed toughness to their line.
They also brought in a pair of free agent tight ends (C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin), some other useful offensive parts (wideout Braxton Berrios and running back Tevin Coleman), and elder backup quarterback Joe Flacco to support Wilson. That's a good start, but there's more work to be done.
Possible clues: Jets GM Joe Douglas has used first-round picks each of the last two years on offensive linemen (tackle Mekhi Becton and guard Alijah Vera-Tucker), and they're solidly stocked there. Well-stocked enough to ignore a talent such as Ickey Ekwonu or Evan Neal? That's a tough call, especially since they know their neighbors with the next pick are in the market for line help.
Do they need a quarterback? Not this year.
How they impact the Panthers: The Jets could really complicate things if they take one of the top offensive tackles, especially since the Giants are expected to select one in the fifth spot.
But with enough other needs, and five of the top 69 picks, they're in nice shape to add depth there later.
The Jets at No. 4 feels like a spot that might not impact the Panthers' plans nearly as much as the next one (and tune in tomorrow for more on that).
Look back on some of the productive draft picks the Panthers made in the second and third rounds of the NFL Draft all the way back to 1995.