NFL Team Needs Tracker: One upcoming free agent, one 2024 NFL Draft prospect for all 32 teams after Week 5

2RYW3NX New England Patriots linebacker Josh Uche (55) celebrates sacking Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, not pictured, during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. Dallas won 38-3. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

It’s never too early to start planning ahead for the next NFL season. Scouts are traveling across the country to see as many college prospects as possible, and pro scouting departments are dissecting the NFL film each week to identify potential free agent targets for the upcoming offseason.

With that in mind, we’ll be running a “team needs tracker” that examines where each club could stand to improve going forward. Every few weeks, we’ll highlight one college prospect at the position group selected along with one pending free agent who should represent a good fit from a financial and schematic perspective.

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Week 1 | Week 3

As the 2024 PFF Big Board grows, we will not just discuss the same first-round prospects that you’ll hear mentioned all over draft coverage. Perhaps we’ll take a look at some potential Day 2 and Day 3 players at a position that has a future need but not necessarily an immediate 2024 need.

Projected win totals are pulled from PFF’s Power Rankings, which are updated weekly. Projected draft position is based on Vegas odds and can be found on the PFF Mock Draft Simulator. Grades, stats and write-ups on all of the top college prospects can be found on PFF’s 2024 Big Board. Finally, as we advance through the season, the 2024 free agency landing page will have grades, stats and analysis on top players across every position.

JUMP TO A TEAM:

ARZ | ATL | BLT | BUF | CAR | CIN | CHI | CLE | DEN | DAL | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC | LVR | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WSH


Arizona Cardinals: Linebacker

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 4.7 (32nd)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 2nd
  • Unit grade through Week 1: 53.2 (30th)

Head coach Jonathan Gannon recruiting Kyzir White to follow him from Philadelphia to Arizona was a good move, but the play alongside him has been untenable. Plus, all three of the Cardinals' other off-ball linebackers with defensive snaps played this season are pending free agents.

Prospect: Oklahoma LB Danny Stutsman

Stutsman could fit in well alongside Kyzir White as the early-down thumper in the run game, with an 87.6 run-defense grade and an average depth of tackle this season of just 1.0 yards. Stutsman’s 21 defensive stops against the run are tied for the eighth most in college football this season, and while he struggles in coverage, he makes a lot of sense in base packages for Gannon and company.

Free agent: San Francisco 49ers LB Oren Burks

If the Cardinals want to add a solid defensive contributor with special teams ability, Burks has been just that over the past few years, earning special teams grades above 60.0 in six straight seasons on around 250-plus snaps in each year. Across 231 defensive snaps from 2022 through Week 5, Burks’ 90.8 overall grade ranks second among linebackers. He also picked off a pass from Dak Prescott in a Week 5 blowout against the Dallas Cowboys.


Atlanta Falcons: Edge Defender

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 9.0 (14th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 10th
  • Unit grade through Week 1: 62.6 (t-24th)

Bud Dupree is leading the edge defender group in snaps by a wide margin and is a pending free agent. Recent Day 2 picks Arnold Ebiketie and Zach Harrison could continue to develop, but Atlanta needs to continue to pour resources into its edge group.

Prospect: Georgia WR Ladd McConkey

McConkey checks our first box here, earning an 82.2 run-blocking grade in 2021 and a 73.4 run-blocking grade in 2022. He has yet to play in 2023 as he deals with an injury but is expected to return at some point this season. The scrappy 6-foot, 185-pound receiver can play in the slot and out wide, and he was a go-to target for quarterback Stetson Bennett in the red zone with seven touchdowns in 2022.

Free agent: New York Jets EDGE Carl Lawson

Lawson is a top trade deadline candidate to monitor over the next few weeks and is playing in 2023 on a reworked contract that is set to expire. Lawson tore his Achilles in 2021 and hasn’t quite looked like the same player since, but he still earned a 72.8 pass-rush grade with 49 pressures and eight sacks in 2022.


Baltimore Ravens: Wide Receiver

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 9.9 (6th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 25th
  • Unit grade through Week 5: 64.4 (24th)

The Ravens look to have landed an emerging young star in Zay Flowers, but Odell Beckham Jr. is on a one-year deal and has dealt with injuries throughout the season and Rashod Bateman has either been hurt or dropping touchdown passes so far this season. This offense needs a physical, big-bodied receiver that Lamar Jackson can target downfield.

Prospect: LSU WR Malik Nabers

Malik Nabers has taken the third-year leap and established himself as one of the top wide receivers in a class chock-full of talent. Nabers has a 91.2 receiving grade, is averaging 3.6 yards per route run, and leads the nation in deep receiving yards (362).

Free agent: Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans

Would the Ravens be willing to make a splash near the top of the market for a 30-year-old wide receiver? They just did for Odell Beckham Jr. coming off a prolonged injury rehab, and he’s continued to battle different ailments throughout 2023 already. If Evans leaves Tampa Bay, perhaps he takes a page out of his friend Tom Brady’s book and prioritizes another Lombardi Trophy over maxing out his earnings in the late stages of his career. Evans had six receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, on pace for the 10th straight 1,000-yard season of his career.


Buffalo Bills: Interior Defender

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 9.7 (t-8th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 28th
  • Unit grade through Week 5: 65.8 (11th)

Veteran DaQuan Jones was off to a remarkable start to the season, with his 90.2 overall grade the third-best mark among interior defenders, but suffered a pectoral injury in Week 5 that may keep him out a while. The recently extended Ed Oliver may have had his best game in the NFL against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he’s the only player signed beyond 2023 at the position.

Prospect: Michigan DI Kris Jenkins

Jenkins is a stout run defender up the middle for the Wolverines, with an 86.1 run-defense grade and seven defensive stops through four games for Michigan. Jenkins is No. 6 on Bruce Feldman of The Athletic’s annual “Freaks List” as he continues to add weight and explosiveness to his frame.

Free agent: San Francisco 49ers DI Javon Kinlaw

The former first-round pick has gotten off to a very slow start to his career but was a top-15 pick at 6-foot-5 and 319 pounds for a reason. Kinlaw has registered 12 pressures and two defensive stops through Week 5. Lastly, with massive contracts for Nick Bosa and Javon Hargrave, it will be very tough for the 49ers to pay Kinlaw if he ascends over the season, making it likely he gets to test the open market.


Carolina Panthers: Edge Defender

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 7.2 (t-26th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 8th (40th)
  • Unit grade through Week 1: 64.9 (23rd)

Carolina may have edge defender Brian Burns for only a few more games if he’s ultimately dealt at the trade deadline. Even if he’s retained and franchise-tagged or extended, Carolina needs another playmaker opposite him going forward. Justin Houston and Yetur Gross-Matos are second and third in snaps played in 2023, and both are pending free agents.

Prospect: Florida EDGE Princely Umanmielen

Umanmielen earned pass-rush grades of 83.5 and 83.1 in 2021 and 2022, respectively, with pressure rates above 10% in each season. So far through 2023, he has a 27.8% pass-rush win rate and a 92.1 pass-rush grade on true pass sets. Umanmielen is long with a big frame but reportedly slimmed down this offseason to move from defensive end to outside linebacker. His continued progression will be interesting to monitor. We’re trying to identify a player who may make it to the early second round, but if Umanmielen keeps playing like this, then he may creep up draft boards and out of Carolina’s range.

Free agent: Dallas Cowboys EDGE Dante Fowler Jr.

If the Panthers retain Burns and use an early pick on another edge defender, Fowler could provide a nice rotational piece. Fowler had a career resurgence in 2022 with the Dallas Cowboys, earning a 77.0 pass-rush grade with a 15.8% pressure rate as a rotational pass-rusher. The former No. 3 overall pick has always been able to get after opposing quarterbacks.


Chicago Bears: Wide Receiver

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 6.7 (29th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 14th
  • Unit grade through Week 1: 68.7 (t-16th)

The Bears may have two top-15 picks at their disposal in 2024, and fortunately for them, there is a long list of talented pass-catchers in this draft class. Chase Claypool was finally shipped out to the Miami Dolphins, and Darnell Mooney is a pending free agent. Chicago finally appears to have a true No. 1 wideout in D.J. Moore, but he needs another playmaker opposite him to take this offense to the next level.

Prospect: Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr.

Whether it’s with Chicago’s own pick or the first-rounder they acquired from the Carolina Panthers, Harrison should be in strong consideration as a potential once-in-a-few-years type of talent. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds Harrison still has as much speed and body control as any receiver in college football, making acrobatic and spectacular catches on a weekly basis. He’s a can’t-miss option whether Chicago keeps Justin Fields or starts over at quarterback, earning a 90.2 receiving grade on 16.4 yards per reception in 2022.

Free agent: Carolina Panthers WR D.J. Chark

Chark’s field-stretching ability at 6-foot-4 with a 4.34-second 40-yard dash helps out any offense he goes to. His average depth of target and yards per reception numbers are always near the top of the league, an element that could benefit a Chicago Bears offense with D.J. Moore winning primarily in the intermediate area. Chark had four receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown in Week 3, including a 47-yard snag for six, and added another touchdown in Week 5.


Cincinnati Bengals: Tight End

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 9.6 (12th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 30th
  • Unit grade through Week 5: 46.9 (32nd)

Cincinnati let Hayden Hurst depart to the Carolina Panthers in free agency, which was probably the correct decision at his price point, but are left with effectively a non-viable tight end room. The Bengals rank 26th in 12 personnel usage this season, and their 14 receptions and 98 receiving yards from tight ends are both bottom-three marks in the league through Week 5.

Prospect: Iowa TE Luke Lachey

Death, taxes and Iowa tight ends. Lachey is probably not the next George Kittle or Sam LaPorta, but at 6-foot-6, 253 pounds, he can bring a physicality to this Bengals offense that desperately needs to get more creative with its personnel packages and run game concepts. Lachey is not just a check-down outlet — his average depth of target is 11.5 yards — and he can rumble after the catch, averaging 3.3 such yards per reception.

Free agent: Houston Texans TE Dalton Schultz

Schultz got off to a slow start with his new team but broke out in a major way the past two weeks with 10 catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns. Schultz is also a plus blocker in the run and pass games and could bring major stability to the Bengals' tight end room even if his ceiling is as a very good but not great player.


Cleveland Browns: Offensive Tackle

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 10.2 (5th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 16th (48th)
  • Unit grade through Week 5: 48.6 (30th)

Another injury to right tackle Jack Conklin calls into question his long-term viability, and Jedrick Wills is not making the most of his fourth season after Cleveland exercised his fifth-year option. Rookie Dawand Jones has also been solid filling in for Conklin. While tackle may not be a pressing need for 2024, this article is never just about 2024 needs.

Prospect: Missouri OT Javon Foster

Foster is a three-year starter at left tackle and could develop early on while Jedrick Wills plays out the rest of his rookie contract. Foster is currently earning a 91.4 blocking grade on zone runs, and that has always been a vital component of Cleveland's run game.

Free agent: New York Jets OT Mekhi Becton

Why not see if you can get one freakishly athletic tackle to mentor another in Mekhi Becton, who earned run-blocking grades of 73.9 and 78.7 in 2021 and 2022 while operating in a similar offense to Cleveland’s. Becton wants to be a left tackle eventually but would presumably be open to kicking back over to the right side and biding his time.


Dallas Cowboys: Interior Defender

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 10.7 (t-3rd)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 27th
  • Unit grade through Week 1: 59.3 (18th)

Dallas used its first-round pick in this past year’s draft on Michigan nose tackle Mazi Smith and Osa Odighizuwa is a very good young player, but Johnathan Hankins and Neville Gallimore are both pending free agents. This team needs to build out a platoon on the interior just like it has at edge defender.

Prospect: Notre Dame DI Howard Cross III

Cross is a bit undersized at 6-foot and 288 pounds, but we’re looking to add interior pass-rush depth here, and perhaps the former defensive end recruit can play a hybrid-type role akin to what pending free agent Dorance Armstrong Jr. has brought to the table. Cross has a 15.2% pass-rush win rate with an 87.9 pass-rush grade. He also boasts a 10.2% run-stop rate with an 84.4 run-defense grade.

Free agent: Tennessee Titans DI Teair Tart

Tart is coming off a breakout 2022 season in which he earned a 73.1 grade with 26 quarterback pressures and 23 defensive stops. He’s a big, physical presence on the interior, and perhaps Tennessee decides to let him test free agency after making Jeffery Simmons one of the highest-paid interior defenders in the NFL this offseason. Tart has eight defensive stops and a 71.2 run-defense grade through Week 5.


Denver Broncos: Interior Defender

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 7.5 (24th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 15th
  • Unit grade through Week 5: 56.0 (24th)

Denver signed interior defender Zach Allen in free agency, and he had a good performance in Week 5 with four quarterback pressures and a sack. Nose tackle D.J. Jones is a good run-stuffer up the middle, but another interior pass-rusher could help this lackluster Broncos pass rush a good bit.

Prospect: Oregon DI Brandon Dorlus

Dorlus sports an 82.4 pass-rush grade on true pass sets in 2023 and has graded out at 74.8 or better in all three of his seasons as a starter. Dorlus is going to line up primarily as a five-technique akin to Zach Allen, and another solid defensive end in this 3-4 scheme with the ability to kick inside on pass-rushing downs would go a long way.

Free agent: Houston Texans DI Sheldon Rankins

Rankins signed a one-year contract with the Texans in free agency and could look to finally cash in on a larger multi-year deal if he can stay healthy and productive through the 2023 season. Rankins was a first-round pick of the New Orleans Saints when Sean Payton was the head coach, so he knows him quite well.


Detroit Lions: Interior Defender

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 9.7 (t-8th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 24th
  • Unit grade through Week 1: 67.9 (9th)

Detroit may have an emerging star on its hands in Alim McNeill but needs to add more depth up the middle. John Cominsky and Aidan Hutchinson are plenty capable of kicking inside on passing downs, but adding a solid interior pass-rusher who can play alongside McNeill would further add to the defense's capabilities up front. While 2021 second-round pick Levi Onwuzurike was a promising prospect, injuries have derailed his development.

Prospect: Ohio State DI Michael Hall Jr.

Hall is a very talented interior pass-rusher with an 85.8 pass-rush grade on true pass sets and a 17.6% pass-rush win rate. He can line up as a three- to five-technique alongside Alim McNeill and tee off on obvious passing downs early in his career.

Free agent: San Francisco 49ers DI Kevin Givens

Givens is a rotational interior pass-rusher on an absolutely loaded San Francisco 49ers depth chart, but he has nine quarterback pressures and a sack on 83 pass-rush snaps in 2023, earning a 76.3 pass-rush grade in the process. The former undrafted free agent has gotten better and played a bigger role in each season of his career in San Francisco.


Green Bay Packers: Interior Offensive Line

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 9.2 (13th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 11th
  • Unit grade through Week 1: 52.5 (27th)

Green Bay has Swiss Army knife Elgton Jenkins in the fold for the foreseeable future, but Jon Runyan Jr. is a pending free agent and center Josh Myers and right guard Royce Newman have caused problems for this offense throughout 2023. Realistically, Green Bay still has a lot of options across the offensive line with all of its position-flex talents, including Zach Tom, but the team should continue to invest in the trenches.

Prospect: Georgia G Tate Ratledge

Ratledge started at right guard for the national champion Georgia Bulldogs in 2022 and has taken his game to another level in 2023, earning an 81.6 pass-blocking grade on true pass sets and, importantly for the Green Bay Packers, earning a 78.8 grade on zone rushes.

Free agent: Miami Dolphins C/G Connor Williams

Williams lined up at guard with the Dallas Cowboys before kicking inside to center in Miami, and his transition and fit have been absolutely seamless in a similar wide-zone rushing attack to Green Bay’s. Williams earned an 85.1 run-blocking grade in 2022 and has an 84.0 mark through Week 5 of this season.


Houston Texans: Interior Defender

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 5.7 (31st)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 1st (16th via Cleveland)
  • Unit grade through Week 5: 36.9 (32nd)

Houston has the third-fewest tackles for loss or no gain from their interior defenders and ranks 25th in defensive stops. Free agent acquisition Sheldon Rankins signed only a one-year deal, so more of a presence on the interior would free up edge defender Will Anderson Jr. as he continues to ascend.

Prospect: Texas DI Byron Murphy II

Murphy has shown up quite well in the big games for Texas early in the season, earning grades above 70.0 against Alabama, Baylor, Kansas and Oklahoma to start the year. Murphy can get upfield in a hurry, with his 19.4% pass-rush win rate placing him among the best interior defenders in the country. His 12.2% run-stop rate is not far behind.

Free agent: Baltimore Ravens DI Justin Madubuike

Madubuike generated a career-high 32 quarterback pressures in 2022 and has 13 pressures and three sacks through five games in 2023, but he needs to continue to improve in the final year of his rookie contract.


Indianapolis Colts: Guard

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 7.2 (t-26th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 3rd
  • Unit grade through Week 5: 66.6 (9th)

Quenton Nelson will lock down the Colts' left guard spot for the foreseeable future, but right guard has been up and down this season with Will Fries. The Colts could do a lot worse, but infusing more interior offensive line talent with center Ryan Kelly in the second-to-last year of his contract makes sense.

Prospect: Kansas State G Cooper Beebe

While Beebe has lined up in both tackle spots for stretches this season, he is primarily the left guard in this offense, with some shades of fellow Kansas State Wildcat Cody Whitehair in his game and positional flexibility. Beebe is good in every facet of play no matter where he lines up. He has earned a 90.6 pass-blocking grade, a 78.9 zone run-blocking grade and an 81.7 gap run-blocking grade.

Free agent: Seattle Seahawks G Phil Haynes

Haynes has been a steadily developing guard after the Seahawks drafted him in the fourth round in 2019, finally playing meaningful snaps in 2022 and earning the starting job for 2023. The 6-foot-4, 322-pounder holds up well in pass protection against power rushers yet can still lose to finesse at times. He has a promising 78.0 pass-blocking grade through Week 5 and offers the ability to play on either side of the line.


Jacksonville Jaguars: Edge Defender

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 9.7 (t-8th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 21st
  • Unit grade through Week 5: 66.2 (22nd)

2022 first-overall pick Travon Walker has gotten off to a slow start to his career, and Josh Allen is a pending free agent in the midst of a career year. Even if Allen is franchise-tagged and/or extended, Jacksonville needs to add more edge depth to this unit.

Prospect: Alabama EDGE Chris Braswell

Braswell is the outside linebacker opposite Dallas Turner, so he will get less attention than his teammate during draft season but is a very good football player in his own right. Braswell boasts an 18.4% pass-rush win rate and a 9.4% run-stop rate, both in the top quartile among college edge defenders, with 15 quarterback hurries and seven sacks to his name already on the season.

Free agent: New England Patriots EDGE Josh Uche

Uche has been remarkably efficient rushing the passer since a breakout 2022, but he’s still logging around only 25 snaps a game as more of a rotational player. Uche recorded at least four quarterback pressures in each of the first three games this season with a 25% pressure rate, picking up right where left off last season with 56 pressures on 285 pass-rush reps. He may be too good for New England to let go, but if they do, the Jaguars should be all over this. A designated pass-rusher would be a perfect addition to this defense.


Kansas City Chiefs: Offensive Tackle

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 10.7 (t-3rd)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 32nd
  • Unit grade through Week 5: 49.7 (29th)

Kansas City has used Day 2 picks at offensive tackle over the past few draft classes but may want to again consider using its top pick on a very talented tackle class. Veteran left tackle Donovan Smith is a pending free agent, as is depth option Prince Tega Wanogho. Chiefs 2023 fourth-round pick Wanya Morris is a highly skilled athlete with a lot of potential, but you can never have too many tackles.

Prospect: Houston OT Patrick Paul

Paul is tall and long at 6-foot-7 and is one of the best pass-protectors in the country. Paul has a 94.8 pass-blocking grade on the season, among the top marks for offensive tackles, and an 89.8 mark on true pass sets. These are the types of tackles Kansas City is looking to draft and develop.

Free agent: Cincinnati Bengals OT Jonah Williams

Williams made his NFL debut at right tackle in Week 1, and it got off to a bit of an ugly start, but he deserves more time at a position he played in college at Alabama. Williams’ ability to play on both sides could be intriguing to Kansas City going forward, as well. He earned pass-blocking grades of 63.9 or better in each season from 2020 to 2022, and when healthy, he’s a capable starter. Why not flip the script and sign Williams away from the Bengals after Cincinnati signed Orlando Brown Jr. away from the Chiefs this past offseason?


Las Vegas Raiders: Offensive Tackle

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 8.6 (15th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 7th
  • Unit grade through Week 5: 66.2 (11th)

Right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor signed a one-year deal to return this offseason but may not be a long-term option. Center Andre James and right guard Greg Van Roten are both impending free agents, so a rookie who could start at guard as he develops would add value right out of the gate.

Prospect: Oklahoma OT Tyler Guyton

Guyton is a monster at 6-foot-7 and 327 pounds, and he is the kind of tackle Josh McDaniels has long aspired to work with. The Oklahoma star has started at right tackle over the last two seasons and has earned a 71.7 pass-blocking grade on true pass sets in 2023. Guyton can also displace defensive linemen in the run game, having posted a 65.5 grade on gap runs.

Free agent: Miami Dolphins OL Isaiah Wynn

Wynn made his Dolphins debut at guard, but he could still kick back out to tackle — his ability to play on the inside is just a bonus. Wynn has dealt with injuries throughout his career but earned 70.0-plus pass-block grades in each season from 2019 to 2021. Jermaine Eluemunor has been a fit after following Josh McDaniels from New England to Las Vegas, so perhaps Wynn can follow the same path.


Los Angeles Chargers: Running Back

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 8.1 (18th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 22nd
  • Unit grade through Week 5: 58.3 (31st)

Austin Ekeler signed a revised contract before the 2023 season that gave him a slight pay bump, but he is still a pending free agent, and Los Angeles doesn’t seem eager to sign him to a major extension. While Ekeler was out with injury, backup Joshua Kelley did not make the most of the opportunity by any means.

Prospect: Oregon RB Bucky Irving

Justin Herbert gets a fellow Oregon Duck in his backfield, one with a physical, downhill running style who routinely bounces off defenders and picks up extra yards. Irving is averaging 4.41 yards after contact per attempt this season, one of the top marks for qualifying running backs, and he has an 89.5 grade on gap runs. Irving has already forced 22 missed tackles on the season.

Free agent: Chicago Bears RB D’Onta Foreman

Foreman had a career resurgence in Carolina last year, where the Panthers utilized similar concepts and let Foreman get downhill between the tackles. Foreman signed a one-year flier with Chicago and has been made a healthy scratch the last two weeks, so maybe the Chargers should trade for him now instead of waiting until the offseason.


Los Angeles Rams: Safety

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 8.2 (17th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 6th
  • Unit grade through Week 1: 52.2 (28th)

The Rams benefitted from quality safety play from late-round picks throughout their run over the last few years, but injuries and attrition have caught up to them. Jordan Fuller is also a pending free agent. While the trenches need to be the priority, continuing to use Day 3 picks on defensive backs should be the modus operandi in Los Angeles.

Prospect: Miami (FL) S James Williams

At 6-foot-5, Williams is an extremely long safety and has earned a 77.0 coverage grade in two-high looks, 10th among FBS safeties with at least 25 such snaps. Williams has an interception and two more forced incompletions on the season.

Free agent: Cleveland Browns S Grant Delpit

Delpit may be playing too well for the Browns to let go, but they’re doling out big money to cornerback Denzel Ward and just signed free-agent safety Juan Thornhill to a three-year deal last offseason. Delpit has earned an 87.9 coverage grade through Week 5, and he has picked up an interception and a pass breakup.


Miami Dolphins: Safety

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 9.7 (t-8th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 23rd
  • Unit grade through Week 5: 90.1 (1st)

Jevon Holland is currently PFF’s highest-graded safety (91.4), and Miami has gotten good play from DeShon Elliott and Brandon Jones, but the latter two are both pending free agents. A ballhawk free safety who can play off Holland could round out this Dolphins secondary.

Prospect: USC S Calen Bullock

Bullock’s 77.0 coverage grade in two-high coverages this season ranks 29th among 307 FBS safeties who have played at least 50 snaps in two-high shells. He is a rangy playmaker who would fit well at free safety alongside Jevon Holland for the foreseeable future.

Free agent: Baltimore Ravens S Geno Stone

Geno Stone has had a great start to the 2023 season as a pseudo-starter, with Baltimore running as many three-safety looks as any team in the NFL. He has been really good as the deep safety in coverage, picking up two interceptions and an 81.3 coverage grade. Stone has also earned an 88.1 tackling grade with 17 tackles and just one miss.


Minnesota Vikings: Interior Defender

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 7.6 (t-22nd)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 13th
  • Unit grade through Week 1: 59.6 (16th)

Minnesota let Dalvin Tomlinson leave and sign with the Cleveland Browns last offseason, and Harrison Phillips and Dean Lowry need help along the interior. An injection of youth is sorely needed for this defensive front.

Prospect: LSU DI Mekhi Wingo

Wingo is a 3- to 5-technique who can play both the run and the pass. The 6-foot-1, 295-pounder has had a large role in the LSU defense for three seasons now, never an easy feat for a young defensive lineman. He has earned a 71.8 pass-rush grade on true pass sets this season, with nine quarterback hurries and two sacks. His 81.0 run-defense grade is a top-30 mark in the FBS.

Free agent: Cleveland Browns DI Jordan Elliott

Elliott got off to a very slow start to his NFL career in Cleveland. However, he has a little pass-rush juice and generated 21 quarterback pressures in 2022. He could be an inexpensive rotational addition for Minnesota.


New England Patriots: Quarterback

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 7.6 (t-22nd)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 12th
  • Unit grade through Week 5: 56.5 (t-29th)

This is almost certainly Mac Jones’ final year in New England. At the very least, it’s his last season of being the unquestioned starter heading into the season. Fortunately for New England, they could find themselves with a top-five draft pick in a loaded class. They also currently lead the NFL in projected cap space for 2024, which will help them surround their quarterback of the future much like they did in 2021 when Jones made the playoffs as a rookie.

Prospect: North Carolina QB Drake Maye

Maye is probably the only quarterback with the potential to unseat USC star Caleb Williams as the unanimous No. 1 overall pick. He has a live arm and great athletic ability, allowing him to maneuver the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield. The Tar Heels signal-caller averaged 8.7 yards per attempt and earned a 91.2 passing grade in 2022, with 39 big-time throws to just 10 turnover-worthy plays. He’s gotten off to a hot start again in 2023, though he already has four interceptions after throwing just five in 2022. Maye has a 94.8 grade on deep passes and knows how to control velocity and trajectory really well for a college quarterback.

Free agent: Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins

If the Patriots manage to win a few too many games and find themselves further down the draft board, they could add a stopgap in Kirk Cousins while they continue to look for their quarterback of the future.


New Orleans Saints: Guard

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 9.8 (7th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 19th
  • Unit grade through Week 1: 49.5 (28th)

The Saints extended former first-round right guard Cesar Ruiz before Week 1, but he has struggled out of the gate as he continues to recover from the foot injury he suffered in 2022. The left guard spot has been held down by swing offensive lineman James Hurst, who probably fits better at tackle.

Prospect: Michigan G Zak Zinter

New Orleans drafted Cesar Ruiz out of Michigan in the first round in 2020, so they go back to the well here with Zinter. The 6-foot-6, 322-pound mauler is also a good fit in New Orleans’ offense. He boasts good run-blocking ability on gap and zone concepts and has earned a 76.0 pass-blocking grade this season.

Free agent: Seattle Seahawks guard Phil Haynes

Haynes very steadily developed after the Seahawks drafted him in the fourth round in 2019. He finally played meaningful snaps in 2022 and earned the starting job for 2023. The 6-foot-4, 322-pound Haynes holds up well in pass protection against power rushers yet can still lose to finesse at times, but he has a promising 78.0 pass-blocking grade through Week 5 and can play on either side of the line.


New York Giants: Guard

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 7.1 (28th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 18th
  • Unit grade through Week 1: 37.1 (31st)

The Giants offensive line has been an abject disaster in 2023, with every player on the unit grading near the bottom of their respective position groups. However, left tackle Andrew Thomas was elite in 2022 and returns soon. At right tackle, 2022 top-10 pick Evan Neal needs to develop. Ben Bredeson and Shane Lemieux are pending free agents, and Mark Glowinski is likely in his last season with the team, so the Giants arguably need to invest multiple picks at guard during the 2024 draft.

Prospect: Boston College G Christian Mahogany

Mahogany earned an 82.7 overall grade in 2021 before missing the 2022 season with an injury. However, he has bounced back well, earning grades above 70.0 as a pass-blocker, zone run-blocker and gap-scheme blocker. Mahogany has earned a 77.4 pass-blocking grade in true pass sets and uses his 6-foot-3, 322-pound frame well to set an anchor.

Free agent: Detroit Lions G Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Vaitai has dealt with multiple injuries over the last few years and is currently recovering from the knee injury he suffered in Week 2. He earned an 81.5 pass-blocking grade and a 72.9 run-blocking grade through Week 2 and had several explosive wins off the line to start the season. For the Giants, a depth piece who can kick outside to right tackle could be intriguing.


New York Jets: Wide Receiver

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 6.4 (30th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 26th
  • Unit grade through Week 5: 63.0 (29th)

Star wide receiver Garrett Wilson should be a good player for a long time, but free-agent acquisition Mecole Hardman has been a healthy inactive throughout the season and sits behind Xavier Gipson on the depth chart. Veteran Randall Cobb will eventually call it a career, too. Another speedy pass-catcher to pair with Wilson and Allen Lazard makes a lot of sense for Aaron Rodgers (and his potential successor after 2024).

Prospect: Texas WR Xavier Worthy

Speed kills in the NFL, and the Jets could use another vertical threat who can also erase pursuit angles when he gets the ball near the line of scrimmage. Worthy has great vision in the open field and knows how to use his speed to evade defenders. He averages 6.9 yards after the catch per reception and can win out of the slot and out wide.

Free agent: Washington Commanders WR Curtis Samuel

Samuel very quietly hauled in 64 passes and earned a 70.2 receiving grade in 2022. He carried that momentum into Week 1 with a five-catch, 54-yard outing. The injury bug has been an issue throughout his career, which may be something New York tries to avoid at the wide receiver position, but we could also see the Jets loving the idea of a player they can line up in the backfield, slot or out wide. This is something of an Elijah Moore replacement in this offense after the Jets traded Moore to the Cleveland Browns last offseason.


Philadelphia Eagles: Wide Receiver

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 11.1 (1st)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 31st
  • Unit grade through Week 1: 72.9 (10th)

Philadelphia obviously has two star wideouts in A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, but beyond that, the group needs reinforcements. Quez Watkins and Olamide Zaccheaus are solid depth pieces, but a legitimate third option could go a long way for this offense, especially if either of the top options ever has to miss time.

Prospect: Western Kentucky WR Malachi Corley

Corley can win from the slot and out wide and is a nightmare to try to bring down in the open field. His 10.5 yards after the catch per reception is the third-best mark in college football this season, while his 182 yards on screen passes and 424 yards from slot rank second and ninth, respectively. He could be a great fit alongside A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith.

Free agent: New York Giants WR Parris Campbell

Campbell brings a vertical threat out of the slot and played with Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni for a few years in Indianapolis. Campbell had a bounce-back season in 2022, totaling 63 receptions for 623 yards and three touchdowns, and the longer he can stay healthy, the more he can get his career back on track. Sirianni looks for strong run-blockers out of the slot, and while Campbell isn’t a wrecking ball, he’s willing to get in the mud over the middle.


Pittsburgh Steelers: Safety

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 8.0 (20th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 17th
  • Unit grade through Week 5: 62.6 (23rd)

Minkah Fitzpatrick is one of the best all-around safeties in the NFL, but veterans Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee have lost a step at this point in their careers. The next two safeties on the depth chart — Miles Killebrew and Elijah Riley — are pending free agents.

Prospect: Ohio State S Lathan Ransom

Ransom is a good cover corner in single-high and two-high alignments but would fit quite well as the deep safety in single-high with Minkah Fitzpatrick making plays down near the line of scrimmage. Ransom has allowed just three receptions on eight targets into his coverage and can also play in the slot and come down in the box.

Free agent: New York Giants S Xavier McKinney

McKinney is a versatile defensive back who can make plays down in the box as a sure tackler while also ball-hawking in the deep third. He hasn’t played up to his breakout second season, which he finished with five interceptions, four more pass breakups and a 75.4 overall grade, but he’s been the best player in New York’s secondary and made a few splash plays, including a forced fumble in Week 5.


San Francisco 49ers: Cornerback

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 10.8 (2nd)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 29th
  • Unit grade through Week 1: 73.3 (6th)

San Francisco doled out a lot of free-agent cash for Charvarius Ward, who has been a good fit in this defense, but adding more talent and youth to the cornerback room is a must this offseason.

Prospect: Washington State CB Chau Smith-Wade

Smith-Wade’s 80.4 coverage grade in single-high safety shells is 13th in the FBS among cornerbacks with at least 50 snaps in single-high alignments, so he fits well with the Cover-3-heavy San Francisco 49ers defensive scheme. Smith-Wade is also willing to come up and make a tackle in the run game, evidenced by his 73.7 run-defense grade on the season.

Free agent: Indianapolis Colts CB Kenny Moore II

If the 49ers instead want to address the slot cornerback position, Moore comes from the most Cover-3-heavy defense in the NFL the last few years and is having a bounce-back 2023 in a contract year. Moore is willing to throw his body around in the run game, earning run-defense grades above 80.0 last year and so far this year. Moore may price himself out in San Francisco, but if he wants to prioritize a championship in the back half of his career, he can’t land in a much better spot.


Seattle Seahawks: Quarterback

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 7.4 (25th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 20th
  • Unit grade through Week 1: 76.6 (12th)

Geno Smith has not had the come-down-to-earth many expected, continuing to win at the intermediate and deep levels of the field despite missing both starting tackles for most of this season. However, Smith is 32 years old, and Seattle would probably like to begin thinking about the succession plan. Even without using an early draft pick, the Seahawks know as well as anyone that you can find a gem in the third round or later.

Prospect: Washington QB Michael Penix Jr.

Penix is an older prospect with a troubling injury history, so as electric as he’s been so far this season for the hometown college team, Penix will fall down the draft a bit. This paves the way for the Washington QB to sit behind Geno and learn the NFL game for a year or two, but he’s been otherworldly this season. Penix has a 93.4 passing grade and 95.8 grade on deep passes of 20-plus yards, dominating every opponent the team has faced this season.

Free agent: N/A

Franchise quarterbacks don’t tend to hit free agency, and we’re looking for the next franchise quarterback here.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Interior Offensive Line

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 8.4 (16th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 5th
  • Unit grade through Week 1: 51.3 (28th)

Tristan Wirfs hasn’t missed a beat now playing on the left side, and 2022 second-round pick Luke Goedeke has quietly played some good football at right tackle. Still, the interior of this offensive line needs more help with Ryan Jensen and Matt Feiler set to hit free agency. 2023 second-round pick Cody Mauch is developing as he makes the leap from North Dakota State to the NFL, but a new center or left guard could help fortify this unit and get it back to what it looked like back in the days with Ali Marpet and Alex Cappa.

Prospect: Ohio State G Donovan Jackson

The 6-foot-4, 320-pound mauler has a 67.0 run-blocking grade on gap plays and a 69.3 pass-blocking grade. A strong second half of the 2023 season could help his stock, but the physical tools are there.

Free agent: Minnesota Vikings G Dalton Risner

Risner has been as consistent a pass-protector as you can find at left guard over his NFL career, with pass-blocking grades between 69.6 and 73.6 over four NFL seasons. Risner just signed on with the Minnesota Vikings and figures to crack the starting lineup at some point before looking to get his career back on track in 2024.


Tennessee Titans: Cornerback

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 7.8 (21st)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 4th
  • Unit grade through Week 5: 65.3 (18th)

Tennessee has invested a lot of draft capital into the cornerback position over the past few years but needs to once again go back to the well with Kristian Fulton in a contract year and currently grading out as the 102nd cornerback out of 109 eligible players. Free agent addition Sean Murphy-Bunting has continued good play from 2022 into 2023 but signed only a one-year deal.

Prospect: Toledo CB Quinyon Mitchell

Mitchell is a name that many college football fans may not yet be familiar with, but he’s firmly on the radar for NFL teams after he earned the best grade in the FBS among 907 cornerbacks in 2022 with a 92.5 mark. So far this season, Mitchell’s 85.1 grade ranks 11th, his seven forced incompletions is tied for third and he is a very sound tackler in space with an 81.6 run-defense grade.

Free agent: Chicago Bears CB Jaylon Johnson

Johnson is stuck playing a lot of soft zone and off coverage in Chicago, and it doesn’t appear to fit his skill set all that well. Tennessee ranks in the top 15 in Cover 0 snaps and fifth in Cover 1 this season. Johnson is playing in a pivotal contract year in 2023 that is off to a very strong start, earning an 84.1 coverage grade through Week 5.


Washington Commanders: Cornerback

  • Projected win total (per PFF Power Rankings): 8.1 (t-18th)
  • Projected draft position (per Vegas odds): 9th
  • Unit grade through Week 1: 66.0 (17th)

While the Commanders used their first-round pick this past year on cornerback Emmanuel Forbes, he still needs time to develop after getting benched in Week 5. D.J. Moore bullied him a week after A.J. Brown did the same. Washington's best cornerback, Kendall Fuller, is a pending free agent.

Prospect: Oregon CB Khyree Jackson

Jackson has taken a huge leap in his third season overall and first as an every-down player, earning an 81.3 coverage grade with four forced incompletions and five defensive stops in coverage, both top-25 marks. Jackson has allowed just a 47.1% completion rate and has the size and length at 6-foot-3 that defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio covets.

Free agent: Houston Texans CB Steven Nelson

Nelson has extensive playing time in zone and man coverage concepts from his time in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Houston, and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio likes to mix up his coverages as much as anyone. Nelson earned a pay raise this offseason after earning a 72.0 coverage grade in 2022 but was not extended. So far this season, Nelson’s 83.0 coverage grade is a career-best mark, with two interceptions and two pass breakups already on the young season.

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