I went into the new league year taking a stab at the best avenue for each team to attack their biggest needs. After a week of cash being thrown around in NFL free agency, let’s reassess the most pressing roster needs for every team while mentioning some NFL draft prospects that could fill that void.
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ARIZONA CARDINALS: WAS: CORNERBACK…NOW: DEFENSIVE TACKLE
The Jeff Gladney signing flew under the radar, but he’s a former first-rounder who failed with the Vikings due to off-the-field issues, not on-field production. Now, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim’s attention turns to Arizona's weak defensive interior. If Georgia’s Jordan Davis or Devonte Wyatt fall to pick No. 23, they’d be no-brainers. Someone such as Alabama’s Phidarian Mathis would be a versatile run defender to target in the middle rounds, as well.
ATLANTA FALCONS: STILL: WIDE RECEIVER
The Falcons are in a prime position to grab whomever they deem WR1 — whether that’s Drake London, Garrett Wilson or Jameson Williams remains to be seen. They should also be in prime position to pick someone such as Georgia’s George Pickens with the 43rd overall pick. He would have been picked much earlier if he was healthy this past season.
BALTIMORE RAVENS: STILL: DEFENSIVE LINE
With the Za’Darius Smith deal falling through, the Ravens' need along the edge looms large, but the interior defensive line is still a more pressing need. One has to think they’ll be prime candidates for either Georgia defensive tackle — Devonte Wyatt or Jordan Davis — at pick No. 14.
BUFFALO BILLS: WAS: DEFENSIVE TACKLE…NOW: GUARD
Even after signing Rodger Saffold, the guard position for the Bills is far from fixed. Their first-round pick (25th overall) will be connected to either Boston College’s Zion Johnson or Texas A&M’s Kenyon Green heavily from now until draft day.
CAROLINA PANTHERS: STILL: QUARTERBACK
The Panthers are obviously heavily involved in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, but if they lose out on that, the draft is their only recourse. Even though they don't have to draft one this year, Liberty’s Malik Willis seems like the most logical quarterback prospect to groom for the future.
CHICAGO BEARS: STILL: OFFENSIVE LINE
With James Daniels going to the Steelers and Jason Peters still unsigned, the Bears have one proven starter to protect Justin Fields next year. This draft class probably won't have a starting-caliber tackle class available at pick 39. If they do re-sign Peters, though, Tulsa’s Tyler Smith could start early on at guard while being groomed to be the left tackle of the future.
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CINCINNATI BENGALS: STILL: OFFENSIVE LINE
This one may very well still get fixed by the time the draft rolls around, as the Bengals will be connected to recently released Cowboys right tackle La’el Collins. Come draft time, they should target Washington State’s Abraham Lucas on Day 2. He started for four years in one of the pass-happiest offenses in America, logging over 2,000 career pass-blocking snaps.
CLEVELAND BROWNS: WAS: WIDE RECEIVER…NOW: NOSE TACKLE
Amari Cooper and Jakeem Grant, at least, give the Browns options at the receiver position. I don’t foresee general manager Andrew Berry leaning nose tackle early on in the draft, but on Day 3, LSU’s Neil Farrell Jr. and Idaho’s Noah Elliss are two players who could hold the A-gap in the Browns defense.
DALLAS COWBOYS: STILL: INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE
The Cowboys have options at left guard and center, but they aren’t ideal. Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum would be a very obvious upgrade at center and a fit in Dallas. Even if he’s the best center PFF has ever graded in eight years of collecting college data, Linderbaum could fall because he’s not a fit for everyone.
DENVER BRONCOS: WAS: EDGE DEFENDER…NOW: SAFETY
The Randy Gregory deal cleared up the edge need. Now, the Broncos need to find Kareem Jackson’s replacement. Caden Sterns or Jamar Johnson could easily be those guys, but they could still find a starter at pick No. 64. The best center-fielder type in the draft class is Illinois’ Kerby Joseph, who picked off five passes and broke up four more last year.
DETROIT LIONS: STILL: QUARTERBACK
This isn’t even one the Lions necessarily need to address this year, as Jared Goff likely isn't going anywhere this season due to his contract. With that in mind, they could either reach for someone such as Liberty’s Malik Willis at the top of the draft, hope for a developmental project such as North Carolina’s Sam Howell at the end of the first round or just wait a year.
GREEN BAY PACKERS: STILL: WIDE RECEIVER
Maybe this is the year the Packers finally pull the trigger on a talented receiver class early on. Alabama’s Jameson Williams would be the dream at pick No. 28, but more realistically, Ohio State’s Chris Olave would be able to seamlessly replace what they’re likely to lose in Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
HOUSTON TEXANS: STILL: EVERY POSITION
We’ll see what they get in return for the Watson deal, but as it stands, there’s not a position that’s off-limits for the Texans.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: STILL: QUARTERBACK
The draft isn’t where Indianapolis is going to find a quarterback without a first-round pick, unfortunately. With the track record of second-round quarterbacks where the Colts pick at No. 42 overall, they should look elsewhere.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: STILL: HELP FOR TREVOR LAWRENCE
The Jaguars spent a lot of money in free agency, but they still don’t have a real No. 1 wide receiver. The good news is that the top of the second round has been a hotbed for receiver talent the past few years. Elijah Moore, Michael Pittman Jr., Tee Higgins and Deebo Samuel have all come off the board where the Jaguars are picking at No. 33 overall. This year’s version could very well be Pickens or Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore. Of course, Lawrence may want his former college teammate Justyn Ross, but that would be later on in the draft.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: STILL: CORNERBACK
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS: STILL: DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Signing Bilal Nichols was a nice start, but he’s the only notable defensive tackle on the current roster. This feels like a need that can wait to be addressed until the mid-rounds, though. At that point, someone such as UCLA’s Otito Ogbonnia can come in and play the nose tackle for them.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: WAS: DEFENSIVE TACKLE…NOW: RIGHT TACKLE
Bryan Bulaga’s release leaves a gaping hole on the right side that Chargers fans don’t want to see filled by Storm Norton again. I can almost guarantee that four tackles will be off the board by the time the Chargers select at pick No. 17, but the fifth tackle is still a darn good one. Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann was the second-highest graded tackle in college football last year and tested like an elite athlete at the combine.
LOS ANGELES RAMS: WAS: OFFENSIVE LINE…NOW: CORNERBACK
The Rams did a good job of retaining Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen in free agency, but they still lost Darious Williams to the Jaguars. While David Long Jr. will be penciled in as the starter, cornerback still qualifies as a need. The Rams aren't afraid to pick small school corners and may hit that well up once again when they pick at No. 104 overall with prospects such as UTSA’s Tariq Woolen, Sam Houston State’s Zyon McCollum, or Fayetteville State’s Joshua Williams.
MIAMI DOLPHINS: STILL: OFFENSIVE LINE
Connor Williams isn’t fixing that offensive line. I’m not saying the Dolphins need to throw another first-rounder at the position group, but they need to give themselves options, especially at tackle. One name who would be a great scheme fit due to his athleticism is Arizona State’s Kellen Diesch. He’s undersized so he won’t be for everyone, but the man can really play on the move.
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MINNESOTA VIKINGS: STILL: CORNERBACK
The one fit that I will continue to mock until given information to the contrary is Washington’s Trent McDuffie. He’s one of the smartest cornerbacks in the draft class and a perfect fit for Ed Donatell’s defense.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: STILL: LINEBACKER
Trading for Mack Wilson doesn’t fix the linebacker position for the Patriots. With Dont’a Hightower‘s future in doubt, they’ll have their eyes on the draft. The one name I’ll continue to connect to New England is Wisconsin linebacker Leo Chenal. At 250 pounds, he earned the highest run-defense grade and second-highest pass-rushing grade of any off-ball linebacker in the country.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: STILL: QUARTERBACK
The Saints are still in the Watson sweepstakes, but they’ll pretty much have to turn their eyes to the draft if they can’t land the Texans quarterback. Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett might be the kind of NFL-ready quarterback that can win with the talented roster New Orleans has already built.
NEW YORK GIANTS: STILL: OFFENSIVE LINE
The Giants haven't made many splash moves along the offensive line, as this is a rebuild that will take time, so focusing on the draft makes sense. They should take a tackle, and if Mississippi State’s Charles Cross, Alabama’s Evan Neal or N.C. State’s Icky Ekwonu falls to them, they will do the trick.
NEW YORK JETS: WAS: CORNERBACK…NOW: RIGHT TACKLE
George Fant can do a serviceable job at right tackle, but the Jets would love to upgrade if possible. An upgrade is definitely possible with the fourth overall pick. Like the Giants, the Jets should target Neal, Ekwonu and Cross to fix their tackle position.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: STILL: LINEBACKER
Don’t expect Philadelphia to burn a first-rounder on this position, but when it comes to pick No. 51, it could be time to pull the trigger. The ideal player to target there is Wyoming’s Chad Muma, who has proven to be a do-it-all middle linebacker who has more than enough athleticism to do the same in the NFL.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS: STILL: QUARTERBACK
Mitch Trubisky might suffice for now, but he isn’t the long-term option. At pick No. 20, the Steelers could be left out in the cold come draft day as well, as multiple quarterback needy teams will be picking in front of them.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: WAS: CORNERBACK…NOW: NOSE TACKLE
D.J. Jones‘ departure leaves a large hole in the middle of the 49ers defense. Some of my favorite late-round nose tackles who can fill that void are Kentucky’s Marquan McCall and Texas A&M’s Jayden Peevy. Both can be selected somewhere on Day 3.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: STILL: QUARTERBACK
With this ugly Seahawks roster, they may very well use their newly acquired draft capital to simply find some good players. While Drew Lock isn’t likely to take a massive next step this season, any rookie they draft would be walking into a difficult situation to succeed.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: WAS: DEFENSIVE TACKLE…NOW: LEFT GUARD
The Bucs somehow fell into Shaq Mason for only a fifth rounder, filling a need at one of their guard spots, but left guard is still up for grabs. While they drafted Robert Hainsey in the third round last year to be that guy, Boston College’s Zion Johnson looks like far more of a plug-and-play option at the position.
TENNESSEE TITANS: WAS: TIGHT END…NOW: WIDE RECEIVER
The Julio Jones release leaves a gaping hole at the Titans' No. 2 receiver spot. Luckily, this year's receiver class has more than enough dudes to fill that void. With Tennessee's affinity for bigger receivers, Arkansas’ Treylon Burks or USC’s Drake London are the two players the Titans should cross their fingers for at pick No. 26.
WASHINGTON COMMANDERS: STILL: LINEBACKER
After drafting Jamin Davis in the first round last season, don’t expect this to get addressed early. That’s completely fine, as linebacker is one of the deepest positions in this year's draft. Washington's fourth-round pick (No. 113) could even be the best spot to take a swing at the position in this draft. They could get another athletic project there to round out a freaky front seven in Montana State’s Troy Andersen or Penn State’s Brandon Smith.