Kyle Shanahan still expects the San Francisco 49ers to be able to trade Jimmy Garoppolo but acknowledges "that's not a guarantee".

Garoppolo's departure from the Bay Area was widely expected following the 2021 season, creating space for last year's third overall pick Trey Lance to flourish.

Lance was restricted to only two starts in his rookie season as Garoppolo remained the 49ers' first-choice quarterback.

But having given up three first-round picks to move up and take Lance, the 49ers are ready to make him their main man.

That would mean moving on Garoppolo, yet shoulder surgery in March halted any trade discussions – and Shanahan says talks have not since advanced.

There remains hope the 49ers can do a deal that satisfies all parties, but they are having to bide their time.

"Nothing's changed since that surgery," coach Shanahan said. "Where we were at before that, and then he got the surgery, so everything went on hold.

"I expect him at some time, most likely, to be traded, but who knows? That's not a guarantee.

"It's been exactly on hold when that happened. When he's healthy, we'll see what happens."

While quarterback-needy teams grappled with the decision over whether to bet on a member of an underwhelming 2022 draft class at the position, those teams who were astute enough to select a signal-caller from the loaded 2021 class spent their offseasons attempting to stack the deck around the player they handpicked as the future of the franchise.

The 2022 season will be a significant one for Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones, with questions sure to be asked of the five first-round picks if they do not show signs of vindicating their respective franchises for selecting them last year.

Jones arguably already proved himself as the most pro-ready QB of the quintet in an impressive rookie campaign, but 2022 may well reveal how high the ceiling is for the least physically gifted of the bunch. The rest are all aiming to prove they have the skill sets to join the league's expanding and increasingly youthful elite at the NFL's most important position. 

Indeed, the first four quarterbacks off the board in 2021 were all regarded as players with the potential to elevate those around them and take their offenses to new heights. But a quarterback, regardless of his athletic and mental gifts, cannot do it all himself. So who among the 2021 first-rounders has the best supporting cast to help them excel?

To help us answer that question, we at Stats Perform have gone back to look at our post-free agency positional unit baselines that inform our team rankings.

The baselines were produced for seven different units: quarterback, pass blocking, run blocking, route runners/pass catchers, pass rush, run defense and pass defense. The units are comprised of projected playing time for players on the roster combined with the player baselines linked to each of those units.

An individual player has a year-over-year baseline for a unit input (i.e. pass blocking for a team's projected left tackle). His baseline is combined with those of his team-mates and then adjusted for the importance of the position to that unit to produce an overall unit baseline.

The six non-quarterback baselines, plus a look at some of the moves made in the draft by each quarterback's respective team, provide a picture that reveals which of the second-year signal-callers have the talent around them to thrive.

5. Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

Even though the numbers are not impressive, there were clear flashes of promise in Fields' rookie season with the Bears.

While he only finished with a 70.9 well-thrown percentage – seven percentage points below the average for quarterbacks with at least 50 throws – and had a pickable pass rate of 5.36 per cent that was the eighth-worst among that group, Fields did display the upside that led the Bears to trade up for him.

Only two quarterbacks averaged more air yards per attempt than Fields' 10.02 and his three passing plays of 50 yards or more were the most of all rookie quarterbacks and as many as Josh Allen and Justin Herbert managed all season.

You would think, therefore, that the Bears' focus this offseason would be on giving Fields the weapons to produce further explosive plays in 2022. Not so, the Bears waited until the third round to add a wide receiver in the draft – 25-year-old return specialist Velus Jones Jr.

The Bears' reluctance to add to a group of pass-catchers that prior to the draft had the sixth-lowest unit baseline in the NFL hardly suggests at a sophomore surge for Fields in 2022.

And with Chicago's offensive line among the worst in the league for pass protection and run-blocking baseline and its defense in the bottom six for pass defense and bottom three for pass rush, it appears likely to be another year when Fields is swimming against a tide engineered by his own franchise.

4. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

Simply having an adult in the room with experience of winning at the NFL level should help Lawrence's cause, with Doug Pederson a substantial improvement on Urban Meyer as head coach.

As is the case with Fields in Chicago, Pederson will hope Lwrence can build on last season's flashes of the talent that led some to label him as the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck in 2012. Lawrence's well-thrown percentage of 76.3 was significantly better than that of Fields, but his 26 pickable passes were the fourth-most in the league.

Unlike the Bears, the Jags invested heavily in getting Lawrence receiving help, doing so in a bemusing manner as they threw eye-watering amounts of money at players who fit best as secondary targets rather than as the leading receiver for a player dubbed a 'generational' quarterback prospect.

Indeed, the lucrative deals handed out to the likes of Christian Kirk and Zay Jones only put them 20th in pass-catching unit baseline prior to the draft. The hope will be that Kirk, who was seventh among receivers with at least 100 targets with a big-play rate of 35.6 per cent last year, can help Lawrence generate more explosives in year two.

And while much of the Jags' roster still reeks of mediocrity, an offensive line that ranked fourth in pass-block win rate in 2021 may give him the time to help justify the Jags' belief in Kirk and Lawrence's other new weapons.

3. Zach Wilson, New York Jets

The Jets received almost universal praise for their draft, acquiring cornerback Sauce Gardner, wide receiver Garrett Wilson and edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II in the first round before then adding the consensus top running back in the class – Iowa State's Breece Hall – in the second.

Their roster looks in significantly better shape than it did at the end of the 2021 campaign, but the Jets were working from a pretty low starting point.

Coming out of free agency, only six teams had a lower unit baseline among their pass-catchers than the Jets, whose offensive line was in the bottom half of the league in pass protection baseline and in the run-blocking baseline.

Johnson's arrival and the return of fellow edge rusher Carl Lawson from injury should provide a clear boost to a pass rush that was fourth in unit baseline last year while a secondary that exited free agency just outside the top 10 in pass defense baseline appears much better equipped to provide support to Wilson and the offense.

However, Wilson had the worst well-thrown percentage (66.6) of any rookie quarterback last season, with Fields (5.36) and fellow rookie Davis Mills (5.56) the only two quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts to have a higher pickable pass rate than Wilson's 5.21 per cent.

The Jets are relying on Mekhi Becton to get healthy and play a full season at left tackle and, though they have some more established options at tight end and receiver, are also putting a lot on a rookie receiver in likely leaning heavily on Garrett Wilson to elevate his second-year quarterback.

It has been a successful offseason for the Jets, but a lot needs to happen for their hopes of a second-year leap for team and quarterback to come to fruition.

2. Mac Jones, New England Patriots

Were it not for the outstanding season enjoyed by Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, Jones may well have won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

The outstanding accuracy Jones demonstrated at Alabama translated to the pros, Jones producing a well-thrown ball on 80.1 per cent of attempts. He achieved that feat while averaging more air yards per attempt (8.11) than both Lawrence and Wilson, yet there is reason for trepidation around thoughts of him progressing significantly in his second year.

Jones' passer rating on throws of 21 or more air yards was 65.4 – 31st among the 41 quarterbacks to attempt at least 10, illustrating the limited ceiling of a quarterback whose arm is not on the level of his fellow 2021 first-rounders.

Yet Jones does have the benefit of one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. After free agency, the Patriots' O-Line was tied for sixth in pass protection unit baseline and fifth in run blocking baseline.

They replaced guard Shaq Mason, who was surprisingly traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, by making the similarly eyebrow-raising move of selecting Chattanooga guard Cole Strange in the first round of the draft. Strange's arrival should solidify the interior of the line and allow the Patriots to stick to a formula of leaning on the run game to take the pressure off Jones.

New England's receiving corps is at best uninspiring and the Patriots' failure to address a depleted secondary may prohibit playoff aspirations, but the strength in the trenches means Jones is in a better position to achieve short-term success than most of his second-year contemporaries.

1. Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are set to step into the unknown in 2021, with all signs pointing to Lance playing his first full season since his lone campaign as the starting quarterback at North Dakota State in 2019 despite Jimmy Garoppolo's continued presence on the roster.

Handing the keys to an offense that was in the NFC championship Game over to a quarterback with only two career starts to his name represents a substantial risk, but it is a risk the Niners are in an excellent position to take.

While there remains no sign of the impasse between San Francisco and All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel coming to an end, the Niners left free agency with a group of pass-catchers ranked sixth in the league in unit baseline. They added to that group in the draft by selecting SMU speedster Danny Gray in the third round.

San Francisco's pass defense was also in the top half of the league in that regard going into the draft, while its pass rush was third in unit baseline and could have an even higher ceiling in 2022 if Drake Jackson adapts quickly to the pros. The Niners' second-round pick registered a pressure rate of 24.2 that was the fifth-best among edge rushers in this draft class in 2021.

The Niners ranked in the top 10 in pass block win rate and seventh in run block win rate last season, yet their biggest issue may be maintaining that standard after losing left guard Laken Tomlinson to the Jets amid doubts over whether center Alex Mack would retire.

Lance could, therefore, be playing behind a largely inexperienced O-Line this coming season. However, the data from his small sample size last year hinted at him having what it takes to elevate those around him. He averaged 10.10 air yards per attempt – the second-most in the NFL – and no player to average at least 9.0 air yards had a better well-thrown percentage than Lance's 77.1.

His challenge will be to maintain that combination of aggression and accuracy over the course of a full season.

If the Niners can come to an understanding with Samuel, Lance will have one of the most versatile weapons in the NFL to help him build on those encouraging flashes. He'll also benefit from the support of a stout defense built on the strength of its front and a diverse running game that will likely grow even more varied with him under center.

The trump card for Lance is head coach Kyle Shanahan, who is arguably the pre-eminent offensive mind of the modern NFL. Between the talent on both sides of the ball and Shanahan's ability to draw up a running game and put receivers in space, the Niners are a high-floor, high ceiling team.

There may be doubts about Lance, but there should be no doubt he is the quarterback in the best situation to silence those concerns.

The Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers will contest the NFL's first game in Mexico City since 2019.

Estadio Azteca hosted a game every year from 2016 to 2019, save for the 2018 season when the Rams' clash with the Kansas City Chiefs was moved back to Los Angeles because of poor field conditions.

But the coronavirus pandemic meant there were no International Series games in 2020, with Mexico City left off the schedule for 2021.

It was confirmed in February that the Cardinals would host a game in Mexico City and it was announced on Wednesday that they will face their NFC West rivals on November 21.

Both the Cardinals and the Niners made the playoffs in 2021, Arizona losing in the Wild Card round to the eventual Super Bowl-champion Rams and San Francisco beaten by the same opposition in the NFC Championship Game.

The Cardinals and the Niners met in the first NFL game to be played in Mexico back in 2005, with Arizona claiming a 31-14 victory.

The Green Bay Packers' first regular-season game outside of the United States will see them face the New York Giants.

It was confirmed in February that reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers and Co. would play in London for the first time.

That game will take place at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on October 9, with the Packers taking on a historic NFC foe in Week 5.

The Giants won the inaugural London game at Wembley in 2007, defeating the Miami Dolphins, and beat the Los Angeles Rams at Twickenham in 2016.

Tottenham will also play host to a clash between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints on October 2.

Both the Vikings and Saints have played and won twice in London, New Orleans shutting out the Miami Dolphins on their last appearance in 2017.

The sole Wembley game will see new Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson face Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars at England's national stadium on October 30.

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch expects All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel to remain with the team in 2022.

Samuel last month requested a trade from the Niners, having reportedly refused to engage in contract negotiations with San Francisco. The 2022 season will mark the final year of his rookie deal.

A trade did not materialise during last week's NFL Draft, despite reported offers from the New York Jets and Detroit Lions, and Lynch is adamant the two parties can overcome their issues as the Niners seek to sign Samuel to a long-term deal.

Lynch told KNBR: "We're trying really hard with Deebo to work through whatever the issues might be.

"I always have really believed that there is a sacredness to those conversations and that they remain private, especially with things like this.

"I think it's in everyone's best interest we don't get into that. I don't think [the obstacles] are insurmountable. I think we can find a way to resolution, and we're hopeful for that because we know what he's been to this organisation.

"Thirty-sixth pick in 2019, and he's been so good on and off the field. Obviously, a tremendous player. He makes us better. I think we make him better. And we're hopeful that we get everything right and that we're rolling forward."

Asked if Samuel will be on the roster for the 2022 season, Lynch replied: "It's a yes for me, and that's our job. He's too good of a player.

"We've got too good of a thing going, and we want to keep that going. That's where I'll leave that."

Samuel's request was reported to be tied to dissatisfaction with his role in the 49ers' offense.

In addition to making 77 catches for 1,405 yards and six touchdowns – averaging a league-leading 18.2 yards per reception – in 2021, Samuel also carried the ball 59 times for 365 yards and eight touchdowns, breaking Eric Metcalf's record (six) for most rushing touchdowns by a wide receiver in a single season, set in 1989.

Samuel labelled himself a 'wide back' when asked to define his position, and his ability to do damage out of the backfield and as a receiver proved critical in the Niners' surge to the NFC Championship Game last season.

However, Samuel is thought to want to be used less in that multi-faceted manner, seemingly wary of his career being shortened by the wear and tear that comes with being deployed as a running back.

San Francisco picked running back Tyrion Davis-Price and receiver Danny Gray in the third round of the draft, with head coach Kyle Shanahan saying that pair can help lighten Samuel's workload.

The Niners are still to find a trade partner for Jimmy Garoppolo, who was expected to be moved on to allow last year's third overall pick Trey Lance to take over as the starting quarterback.

Revealing his belief they were close to a trade before Garoppolo's shoulder surgery, Lynch added: "I felt like we were close in some [trade] discussions, and then the decision was made to have surgery. That just brought things to a screeching halt. People just don't do that [commit to a trade], even with a likelihood that everything is going to be good.

"We continue to get calls about Jimmy, and we, as a group, got together and said he's too good of a player. He's got a lot of great tape out there. You don't just let guys like that walk out the door, and we want to either want to have Jimmy playing for us, which we're all right with, or we want him to get the value. ... I think once he starts throwing, people will feel more comfortable.

"And then, obviously, you've got to let things play out for other teams. ... Jimmy's a part of us. We're excited about that. But I think we all know that Trey's going to get the opportunity to go out there and play. He's got to earn that, but we believe he's in the process of doing that.

"It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if both of them were still here, and we move forward, and ... he is equipped to do that."

Perhaps the biggest storyline entering the 2022 NFL Draft did not concern a prospect, but one of the premier wide receivers in the NFL. Deebo Samuel of the San Francisco 49ers was not traded during Thursday's first round but, if there were any doubts that wideout is now a premium position, they were extinguished emphatically in Las Vegas.

Six wide receivers came off the board in the first 18 picks amid a flurry of trades, including two involving established receivers who at least have one 1,000-yard season in their first three years in the NFL.

There was mild surprise when the Atlanta Falcons made USC's Drake London the first receiver picked with the eighth overall selection, but significantly more eyebrow-raising moves were to follow.

The New Orleans Saints jumped from 16 to 11 to pick Ohio State's Chris Olave one pick after his former college team-mate Garrett Wilson was taken by the Jets with a 10th pick that was reportedly offered to the Niners as part of a package for Samuel.

It was the Detroit Lions who made the most ambitious receiver trade of the night, jumping 20 spots up the board from 32 to 12 in a deal with the Minnesota Vikings to make Jameson Williams their second selection of the first round despite doubts over when he will be ready to play after tearing his ACL in the final game of his college career.

Williams' appeal is obvious, the former Alabama star a dynamic speedster who registered a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted, on 74.6 per cent of his targets in 2021.

He led all receivers in burn yards per target, his average of 19.34 nearly five full yards better than that of his nearest challenger, Cincinnati's Alec Pierce (14.74), and was also the cream of the crop in burn yards per route (4.9).

But it is the scale of the move up the board that is illustrative of just how determined NFL teams have become to add big-play receivers to their offensive arsenal, and the message was further hammered home as, after the Washington Commanders used the 16th pick on another wideout in Jahan Dotson, the Philadelphia Eagles made the defining move of the first round with their trade with the Tennessee Titans, sending the 18th pick and a third-rounder to acquire A.J. Brown.

Brown, a Pro Bowler in 2020 before injuries disrupted his 2021 campaign, was promptly reported as having received a four-year extension with Philadelphia worth up to $100million, with $47m guaranteed, the $25million average annual value of that deal reportedly what Samuel was looking to be paid before he requested a trade from San Francisco.

The choice for teams wanting to keep a playmaking receiver on the roster seems to be clear. Pay over $20m a year for one or spend a premium pick on a rookie. The Titans, in trading Brown and then selecting a rookie with a comparable playing style in Treylon Burks out of Arkansas, elected to do the latter.

"We got to a spot where it was going to be hard to get a deal done," Titans general manager Jon Robinson said of Brown after the first round.

The Ravens ran into difficulty with his namesake Marquise Brown, who was said to have requested a trade after the season and was also dealt on draft night to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for the 23rd overall pick.

While the Titans caved in and parted with Brown, the Niners remained steadfast in refusing to trade Samuel, even with a top-10 pick seemingly on the table, their resoluteness in itself reflecting the massive value of a player who was the heart and soul of the San Francisco offense as the 49ers made the NFC Championship Game last season.

Also running the ball out of the backfield consistently in a dual role, Samuel labelling himself a 'wide back', the 2019 second-round pick is a unique case. Yet the message that was definitively reiterated through the Niners refusal to part ways with him and the hive of activity surrounding receivers in the first round is clear, receivers who can make field-flipping momentum-changing plays are firmly among the most valued assets in the NFL.

Of the top 10 receivers with the most receptions of 20 yards or more in 2021, only two – Justin Jefferson and Tyler Lockett – did not feature on playoff teams. Four – Cooper Kupp (30), Samuel (23), Ja'Marr Chase (22) and Tee Higgins (17) – played on Conference Championship Sunday, as did the 11th-placed wideout in the category, Samuel's Niners team-mate Brandon Aiyuk (16).

Quarterback is king in the NFL, and tackle, edge rusher and offensive tackle have long since been viewed as next on the hierarchy as 'premium positions'. The 2021 season encapsulated the value of explosive wideouts and, with that campaign followed by an offseason in which Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill were both traded and received mega-deals and Thursday's first-round chaos brought on by the high demand for receivers, there can be little room for argument the position now carries the same importance as those other non-quarterback spots that have traditionally had the highest billing.

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch said he "can't ever imagine wanting to move on from" Deebo Samuel after the star wide receiver requested a trade.

Samuel was used by the 49ers in a unique hybrid role for the 2021-22 season, increasing his productivity, but also increasing his wear-and-tear as he handled more physically demanding running back carries as well as his primary receiver duties.

The 2019 second-round pick amassed a career-high 1,405 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns from 77 catches, and added career-highs in rushing yards (365), rushing touchdowns (eight) and carries (59).

Speaking to the media at a pre-draft press conference, Lynch said even after considering what the 49ers could gain through a trade, he views Samuel in the class of player in which a team should never part ways with by choice.

"I can't ever imagine wanting to move on from Deebo," he said.

"You put yourself through the exercises of, even though we don't have a first-round pick, you have to be thorough in this process and prepare for everything, and as you go through and do that [you realise] he's just too good of a player. You don't let guys like that walk."

The praise for Samuel did not end there, with Lynch calling him a "game-changing player for the franchise."

"I told Deebo this," he said. "I think he's the perfect illustration of what Herm Edwards used to talk about, 'When will meets skill you got the opportunity to be special' – and I think Deebo embodies that as much as anybody.

"He's got tremendous will. He's a very talented player. By virtue of the way he plays, it's inspiring. 

"So, to me, that entails leadership. Do you make people around you better? He checks that box. 

"He's a great teammate, and I think of things like prior to games, he gets out there and is throwing the ball to fans.

"He's a great member of our community. We got nothing but love for him."

Despite the public nature of Samuel's request to leave San Francisco, Lynch insists the bridge is not burnt, and he believes he can salvage the relationship.

"We pride ourselves on our communication with our players," he said. "This is no different. I'm confident we can find the solutions for whatever is going on.

"That's life, you've gotta work through things. That's what we plan on doing.”

All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel has requested a trade from the San Francisco 49ers.

Samuel is entering the final year of his rookie contract and the Niners had been expected to attempt to tie him down to a long-term deal.

However, multiple reports claim Samuel is refusing to engage in discussions over a lucrative extension and is instead determined to force his way out.

According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, Samuel requested a trade over a week ago, with his dissatisfaction not solely tied to financial demands - he is said to want a contract in the region of $25million a year - but also with how is used in the 49ers' offense.

In addition to making 77 catches for 1,405 yards and six touchdowns – averaging a league-leading 18.2 yards per reception – in 2021, Samuel also carried the ball 59 times for 365 yards and eight touchdowns, breaking Eric Metcalf's record (six) for most rushing touchdowns by a wide receiver in a single season, set in 1989.

Samuel labelled himself a 'wide back' when asked to define his position, and his ability to do damage out of the backfield and as a wide receiver proved critical as he played a pivotal role in the Niners' surge to the NFC Championship Game last season.

However, Samuel appears keen to be used in an offense that will lean more heavily on his skills as a traditional receiver and avoid absorbing the extra physical punishment that comes with often being used as a de facto running back.

The 2019 second-round pick will have interest from around the NFL, but it remains to be seen whether the Niners will be willing to facilitate a trade.

Should a deal with another team fail to materialise prior to next week's 2022 NFL Draft, then Samuel will likely remain a Niner, with San Francisco almost certain to want to recoup assets that would allow them to immediately fill the void he would leave.

Deebo Samuel will reportedly skip the San Francisco 49ers' on-field offseason program as he seeks a contract extension from the team.

A report from ESPN's Adam Schefter said that Samuel, A.J. Brown of the Tennessee Titans and the Washington Commanders' Terry McLaurin will not take part in on-field drills as teams return for voluntary workouts in the coming days.

All three wide receivers are entering the final year of their rookie contract having been selected on day two of the 2019 NFL Draft.

Samuel was named a first-team All-Pro in 2021 after racking up 1,405 receiving yards and six touchdowns while also thriving running the ball out of the backfield.

He averaged 6.2 yards per carry in finishing with 365 yards on 59 attempts, with his eight regular-season rushing touchdowns an NFL record for a wide receiver – two clear of Eric Metcalf's previous benchmark of six for the 1989 Cleveland Browns.

His unique role in the offense, with Samuel describing himself as a 'wide back', will undoubtedly have complicated negotiations, which have so far shown no sign of delivering a resolution.

Samuel is said to be looking for a contract in the region of $25million a year, having seen the wide receiver market explode this offseason amid a flurry of high-profile trades and lucrative free-agent contracts.

Injuries prevented Brown from recording a third successive 1,000-yard season in 2021, but his 24 receiving touchdowns are the eighth-most among wideouts since 2019.

McLaurin has 16 in that time, recording a second consecutive 1,000-yard campaign for Washington last season as they failed to repeat their NFC East triumph of 2020.

Deebo Samuel has claimed he has received death threats and been targeted with racial slurs from fans over his contract negotiations with the San Francisco 49ers.

Wide receiver Samuel is entering the final year of his contract with the 49ers having enjoyed a career year in 2021.

He was named a first-team All-Pro after racking up 1,405 receiving yards and six touchdowns while also thriving running the ball out of the backfield.

Samuel averaged 6.2 yards per carry in finishing with 365 yards on 59 attempts, with his eight regular-season rushing touchdowns an NFL record for a wide receiver – two clear of Eric Metcalf's previous benchmark of six for the 1989 Cleveland Browns.

His unique role in the offense, with Samuel describing himself as a 'wide back', will undoubtedly have complicated negotiations, which have so far shown no sign of delivering a resolution. Samuel recently deleted all references to the 49ers on his Instagram page.

The 2019 second-round pick is said to be looking for a contract in the region of $25million a year, having seen the wide receiver market explode this offseason amid a flurry of high-profile trades and lucrative free-agent contracts.

In a video on Instagram, Samuel made it clear the appalling messages he says he has received on social media have not affected him.

"For all y'all fans that's in the DM, sending death threats and racial stuff, that don't bother me," Samuel said.

"Y'all the same ones that was just hoo-rahing and 'go Deebo!', now y'all want to send death threats and all racial stuff, it don't bother me, I'm cool, I'm chilling, I'm happy."

 

The NFL Draft is rarely dominated by teams in contention to lift the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the upcoming season.

Though trades regularly shuffle the pack, more often than not the draft headlines are made by teams who finished at the wrong end of the regular-season standings in the previous campaign, such is the nature of league's annual selection meeting.

While those franchises with rosters capable of contending to go all the way to the Super Bowl may not be as reliant on the draft as those rebuilding their teams, the selections they make can be critical in providing the potential final piece of what they hope will be a championship-winning puzzle.

Inevitably, not every team expected to contend in April will do so once the season gets under way in September.

Yet we can make educated guesses as to which teams will be in the mix to go deep into the postseason in each conference.

Here Stats Perform has identified four such teams from each conference, with the Cleveland Browns omitted from the list due to the threat of a possible suspension for new starting quarterback Deshaun Watson.

With help from some advanced metrics, we look at what each of these eight teams need to add in the draft to maximise their hopes of standing underneath the confetti in Arizona next February.

NFC

Los Angeles Rams

Identifying draft needs for the Rams is a difficult task not because they don't have any, but because they so often fill their holes by trading away their picks to land superstars.

This year, the Rams don't pick until 104 overall in the third round, not that the Super Bowl champions will mind skipping the first two rounds.

When it finally comes to their turn, the interior of the offensive line stands out as an area of weakness, while the Rams might also be eyeing an edge rusher to help fill the void left by Von Miller, whose stunt-adjusted pass rush win percentage of 43.4 was fifth among edge rushers with at least 100 one-on-one matchups last year.

San Francisco 49ers

The Niners are in a similar position to the Rams in that they don't have a lot of needs, though the urgency is greater for a team that let a fourth-quarter lead slip against Los Angeles in the NFC Championship Game.

Right guard has been a long-standing issue for San Francisco, and the Niners will also need to find a developmental center to replace Alex Mack when he eventually retires. Nebraska's Cam Jurgens is a name to watch there.

San Francisco do not pick until 61st overall in the second round, having traded this year's first-rounder in the package that landed Trey Lance. A defense that ranked first in pass rush win rate could be stacked further by another edge rusher to pair with Nick Bosa, and there is a clear need next to Jimmie Ward at safety.

Of course, what would really make it a successful draft for the Niners would be finally trading Jimmy Garoppolo to secure more picks.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

There's a theme here, and the theme is that trying to find needs for NFC contenders is tough, especially in the case of the Bucs, who brought back Tom Brady after he quickly got bored with retirement and re-signed a host of free agents many expected to depart.

With Todd Bowles assuming the head coaching reins from Bruce Arians, it's fair to anticipate a focus on the defense from the Bucs, who own the 27th pick in the first round as well as two other top-100 selections.

More beef on the interior of the defensive line is required with Ndamukong Suh as yet not re-signed and, though Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal have signed as safety help to atone for Jordan Whitehead's departure, a rookie who can make a difference down in the box and in coverage would be a welcome addition to the defense.

Green Bay Packers

Now this is more like it. The Packers have one glaring, obvious need and there's no way they can fail to address it, right?

Brian Gutekunst may have a history of eschewing first-round wide receivers but, after trading Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders, it would be an extremely bemusing move to risk Aaron Rodgers' wrath and do so again.

Chris Olave, Jameson Williams, Treylon Burks, Jahan Dotson... they all must be in the mix here and, with two selections in the first round, the Packers could even double up at the position.

There are other holes. The secondary could use some more quality depth, and an offensive line that ranked 28th in run-block win rate could also be improved, but the Packers' hopes of getting over the hump in 2022 likely rest on their ability to give Rodgers weapons that mitigate the impact of Adams' stunning departure.

AFC

Kansas City Chiefs

After Patrick Mahomes faced the most pressures in a Super Bowl since 2006 in consecutive years (28 in SB LIV, 34 in SB LV), the Chiefs overhauled their offensive line heading into 2021 and were confident they were on course for the title game once again – only for Mahomes' own stunning playoff collapse to end both the team's season and the career of Tyreek Hill in Kansas City.

Hill's departure in a trade to the Miami Dolphins leaves a gaping hole.

New signing Marquez Valdes-Scantling at least offers a downfield option, but that was his sole responsibility with the Packers in 2021, recording a league-high average depth of target of 17.6 yards but making just 26 catches. Valdes-Scantling and fellow recruit JuJu Smith-Schuster, who's coming off shoulder surgery, have just one 1,000-yard season between them; Hill has four.

Thankfully, the Hill deal means the Chiefs have plenty of draft picks – two in each of the first three rounds – and plenty of options at wide receiver, but safety Tyrann Mathieu and cornerback Charvarius Ward must also be replaced just to get Kansas City back to where they started.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are a year behind the Chiefs, beaten in the Super Bowl after leaving their quarterback horribly exposed. Joe Burrow faced 23 pressures against the Rams, tied for third-most since 2006.

Like the Chiefs, they quickly set about bolstering their O line in free agency, though there remains a pressing need at left guard. Ted Karras played there for the New England Patriots last year, but is set to move back into center after Trey Hopkins was cut.

That versatility at least gives the Bengals options at either position depending on how the draft plays out, with their first pick not until the end of the first round (31). In fact, given competition at cornerback, edge and/or tight end could also be sought, the Bengals may be flexible throughout.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills are the Super Bowl favourites, and with good reason. They were a coin flip away from beating the Chiefs and would have backed themselves against the Bengals, which might have quelled some of the optimism in Cincinnati channelled above. Buffalo have also added Super Bowl champion Miller to a defense that gave up a league-low 4.57 yards per play.

That's not to say there don't remain areas for improvement, with cornerback an obvious place to start. Tre'Davious White is returning from an ACL tear, and the Bills need a new man opposite him, given the loss of Levi Wallace.

The Bills might also be advised to ease the burden on all-action quarterback Josh Allen with the addition of a reliable running back. Allen ranked third among QBs for rushing yards in 2021 (763) but accounted for 34.5 per cent of his team's total – far and away the greatest share at his position.

Second on the list was former MVP Lamar Jackson (767 yards, 30.9 per cent), who's already showing signs of wear and tear having been tasked with running the Baltimore Ravens' offense.

Los Angeles Chargers

Outside the Packers, the Chargers perhaps have the most obvious positional need of any contender at right tackle – despite their own strong signings so far.

Left tackle Rashawn Slater was their first-round pick in 2021 and earned Pro Bowl recognition in his rookie season. Among offensive tackles with 200 or more pass protection snaps, Slater's stunt-adjusted win percentage of 90.5 ranked third. However, that stood in complete contrast to right tackle Storm Norton, whose 63.0 per cent ranked third-last.

Norton was brought in to play 15 games after a back injury put Bryan Bulaga on injured reserve. Bulaga has now been cut, and the Chargers surely cannot run it back with Norton.

The very best OTs in the draft are unlikely to still be available when the Chargers get to work in the middle of the first round, but it's no surprise to see them widely linked with Northern Iowa's Trevor Penning.

Frank Gore plans to sign a one-day contract with the San Francisco 49ers before retiring from the NFL.

Five-time Pro Bowler Gore turns 39 in May and did not feature at all last season after going unsigned following one-year spells with the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.

Prior to that, Gore played for the Indianapolis Colts after spending nine years in San Francisco, where he was selected as a third-round draft pick in 2005 after moving on from the Miami Hurricanes.

Gore, who has the third-most rushing yards in NFL history (16,000), expressed his desire to end his career with the 49ers as he intends to retire before taking up a staff role working for the franchise.

"Probably in a couple months," Gore told 49ers podcast TheSFNiners. "We're still trying to figure out when I'm going to do my one-day contract, to sign, do my retirement.

"I told [49ers chief executive] Jed York that I always wanted to be a Niner. So we're working on that right now, and then we're going to also sit down with me and my agent to talk about me working in the front office.

"I love looking at talent. I love evaluating talent, and I love ball. And they know that I know football players, what it's supposed to take to be a football player."

The San Francisco 49ers have no plans to release Jimmy Garoppolo despite their inability to trade him, general manager John Lynch has insisted.

No secret has been made of the Niners' plans to trade Garoppolo since their 2021 season came to an end with defeat to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game.

San Francisco selected quarterback Trey Lance with the third overall pick in last year's draft, having traded the 12th overall pick and their first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 to move up to that spot.

Lance is set to take over as the starting quarterback in 2022, but Lynch did not rule out Garoppolo still being on the depth chart, having received no trade offers for the former New England Patriot.

"I don't foresee that," Lynch said when asked about releasing Garoppolo at the NFL owners' meetings on Monday.

"He's too good of a player. I don't foresee that, and I think Jimmy will be playing for us or he'll be playing for somebody else. He's too good of a player not to be."

Garoppolo remains on the Niners' roster as host of potential suitors have filled their quarterback need via other means. The Denver Broncos pulled off a spectacular trade for Russell Wilson, the Indianapolis Colts shipped Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders and then dealt for Matt Ryan, while the Pittsburgh Steelers signed Mitchell Trubisky.

There had previously been talk of the Niners having an offer of two second-round picks in hand for Garoppolo, but Lynch dismissed such speculation.

"Not true. No," Lynch said. "Nobody ever said, 'OK, here’s our offer'. We never got to that point."

While Garoppolo's future with San Francisco remains in question, Lynch assured that All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel and Pro Bowl edge rusher Nick Bosa will be on the roster for a long time as the Niners negotiate likely lucrative contract extensions with the pair.

"We've had good communication with Tory [Dandy] who represents Deebo and Bryan Ayrault who represents Nick,” Lynch said. "We have a plan for each of those guys. We will keep those discussions private but like I've long said, those guys are going to be a part of us for a long, long time. 

"They're fantastic players. They are very much at the core of who we are and they are fabulous players, fabulous people and a big part of who we are.” 

It isn't clear what the San Francisco 49ers' asking price is for Jimmy Garoppolo, but interested buyers have been provided with a very good reason to go under it this offseason.

The Niners appear destined to trade Garoppolo this offseason to pave the way for Trey Lance, for whom they traded three first-round picks to acquire with the third overall selection in last year's draft, to take over as their starting quarterback.

That is despite a 2021 season that saw the 49ers reach the NFC Championship Game with Garoppolo at quarterback.

San Francisco surrendered a 17-7 fourth-quarter lead to lose 20-17 to eventual Super Bowl champions the Los Angeles Rams, the tale an all too familiar one for the Niners with Garoppolo intercepted on the final drive having proven unable to deliver victory in similar circumstances in their Super Bowl LIV loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at the end of the 2019 season.

Garoppolo's inability to elevate the 49er passing game on the biggest of stages is one reason why the Niners are set to move on from him and any teams in the market for a quarterback were given a reminder of another reason on Tuesday.

According to multiple reports, Garoppolo is set to have surgery on a shoulder he injured in the Niners' Wild Card Round win over the Dallas Cowboys and will be out of action for 16 weeks, meaning he will not be able to throw until after the start of organised team activities.

Durability, or lack thereof, has been a continued problem for Garoppolo, who has missed 25 regular-season games in his 49ers career due to injury.

And the prospect of him starting his career with a new team behind the 8-ball due to his surgery is sure to dent his value to those considering making a move for the former second-round pick.

Yet, per ESPN's Adam Schefter, there is "significant interest" in Garoppolo from multiple teams even with the prospect of him missing the start of preparations for the new season.

The Niners, minus a day-one pick in the draft, are hoping to recoup capital for Garoppolo as they look to retool the roster around Lance.

However, even if the level of interest in high, the compensation on offer to the 49ers may not be for a quarterback with injury issues and consistent problems with turnovers.

Garoppolo finished the 2021 season second in the NFL with 8.64 yards per attempt, but he also led all quarterbacks in yards after the catch per pass attempt with (6.6), illustrating his reliance on short passes and the ability of the likes of Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk to do damage with ball in hand.

A limited downfield thrower, Garoppolo completed just nine passes of 21 air yards or more in 2021. Only six quarterbacks (min. 200 pass attempts) averaged fewer air yards per attempt than Garoppolo's 7.38, while his pickable pass rate of 4.82 per cent was the sixth-highest in the league, according to Stats Perform data.

In other words, Garoppolo was not regularly attempting ambitious throws but put the ball in harm's way more than the vast majority of his counterparts.

Having seen San Francisco win and go deep into the postseason in each of the two full seasons in which Garoppolo was healthy, at least one team will be ready to bet they can build an offense around him to allow them to do the same. But, between his injury history, his imminent lengthy rehabilitation period and his obvious shortcomings, they might not be willing to gamble as much as the Niners are hoping for.

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