News & Analysis

2018 NFL Draft, needs for every team

GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 19: Carson Palmer #3 of the Arizona Cardinals throws the ball down field while under pressure by Eddie Goldman #91 of the Chicago Bears during the first half at University of Phoenix Stadium on August 19, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Roster construction is a never-ending process and halfway through the NFL season, teams already have a feel for weaknesses that must be addressed during the offseason. Team needs are ever-changing due to player development, injuries, and scheme adjustments and teams can always fill those needs through free agency, trades, and of course, the draft. Here’s a look at key team needs around the NFL, with a eye toward the draft.

*Quarterback will be listed as a need for all teams potentially in the quarterback market. Listing quarterback for a team does not indicate that it’s the most important need, just one that likely needs to be addressed.

AFC East

Quarterback: The Bills have QB Tyrod Taylor locked up, but they’ll still be able to dabble with the quarterback class during the draft.

Edge: Jerry Hughes is still productive and he’s signed through 2019 while 2016 first-round pick Shaq Lawson has yet to prove that he’s a long-term option at the position, so Buffalo needs another playmaker up front to get after the quarterback.

Guard: The guard position has been an issue in Miami for a number of years and while it’s not the most valuable position on the field, poor play up front can be detrimental to the run game and keeping the offense on schedule. The interior offensive line class looks strong at the top and it may be the year the Dolphins address the need come draft time.

Quarterback: With the trade of Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers, the Patriots will at least be scouting the quarterback class for a potential signal-caller of the future.

Front-7: The New England front-7 lacks flashy names, though Trey Flowers has been extremely productive and fellow Arkansas product Deatrich Wise has had a solid start to his career. There’s still room for more production up front and any edge rusher/linebacker versatility is a bonus.

Quarterback: The Jets will be in the market for a first-round quarterback.

Edge: There is room for improvement all over the roster, but outside pass rush has been an issue for a few years. They’ve built a stout interior defensive line and it’s time to add an explosive pass-rush threat off the edge.

AFC North

Offensive playmakers: We kept this broad. Whether it’s a receiver, tight end, or three-down running back, the Ravens need playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. With QB Joe Flacco in mind, a wide receiver capable of winning in contested situations may be what he needs to get back on track and SMU wide receiver Courtland Sutton is a name to watch who fits that mold.

Offensive tackle: Despite investing heavily in offensive tackles in the 2015 draft, it’s remained a weakness for the Bengals and one that likely needs to be addressed. There’s more top-end talent at tackle in the draft this year compared to last, so look for the Bengals to at least consider the top end of the class.

Quarterback: The Browns will be in the market for a first-round quarterback.

Edge: Last year’s top overall pick Myles Garrett has 109 snaps, but he’s already showed off his ability. With him out, the pass-rush is nonexistent and a complement can work wonders for Garrett’s career once he’s healthy.

Quarterback: With Ben Roethlisberger hinting at retirement while slowing down a bit on the field, it’s time for the Steelers to scout for his future replacement, even if he decides to stick around for another couple of years.

Receiver/tight end: Heavy investment on the defensive side of the ball has started to pay off for the Steelers, but it may be time to re-stock on the offensive side. Martavis Bryant may be on his way out shortly and while rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster has flashed playmaking ability, there’s still room for another weapon for Big Ben or a future signal-caller. Tight end is another possible option as Pittsburgh’s receiving options have run hot and cold the last few years.

AFC South

Offensive line: Whether it’s a tackle or a guard, the Texans need help up front to protect new franchise quarterback, Deshaun Watson. Both tackle and interior offensive line look much better than last year’s weak offensive line crop, so that’s encouraging for a Texans team that will need to address the position group from all angles during the offseason.

Offensive line: Much like the Texans, the holes are plentiful up front for the Colts. The line has been an issue for a few years in Indianapolis, whether in the run game or in pass protection. It was a close call between offensive line and edge defender and those pressing needs highlight just how much work needs to be done to get the Colts’ roster back on track in the trenches.

Quarterback: Jacksonville is not tied to QB Blake Bortles and they can exhaust all options to upgrade the position through free agency, trade, or the draft.

Offensive playmakers: With high draft picks and key free agent pickups, the Jacksonville roster is the best it’s been in years. There is still room for more playmakers on offense, even with WR Allen Robinson coming back from injury next season. TE Marcedes Lewis is essentially a glorified offensive lineman at this point in his career (top run-blocking TE in the NFL) and a playmaking tight end would be a nice addition to the run-heavy, play action attack

Edge: With the seventh-lowest pressure rate in the NFL at 31 percent, Tennessee can use another edge rusher as Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan get up there in age. Both players are still solid, but an influx of youth is needed at the position. 2016 second-round pick Kevin Dodd has only 210 snaps to his name, so look for Tennessee to address their edge rusher situation early in the 2018 draft.

AFC West

Quarterback: Despite investing a first-round pick in Paxton Lynch in 2016, the Broncos still don’t have a definitive starter at the position and they’re in the market to upgrade this offseason.

Offensive tackle: Even with the first-round selection of Garett Bolles last year, Denver has holes to fill up front along the offensive line. Starting right tackle Menelik Watson was leading the NFL is sacks allowed before injury and that right tackle spot in the AFC West is one of the most difficult to play given the pass-rushers in the division. There is solid talent at the top of the offensive tackle class and Denver may be inclined to double up at tackle assuming they sort out the quarterback position first.

Cornerback: One of the biggest stories for the Chiefs is solidifying the No. 2 cornerback spot opposite Marcus Peters, and while CB Terrance Mitchell has had his positive moments this season, he’s given up 18.1 yards/reception and a passer rating of 95.5 into his coverage. The Chiefs keep Peters on the left side meaning opposing offenses can easily target the No. 2 man, so it’s a crucial position to upgrade this offseason in Kansas City.

Quarterback: While Philip Rivers is still a capable quarterback, the Chargers would be wise to have an eye toward the future by digging into the quarterback class for the potential heir apparent.

Offensive tackle: Los Angeles invested heavily at guard in the least draft, but the offensive tackle position is still a question mark. LT Russell Okung has been reasonable, but right tackle is still and issue and they have more work to do up front on the offensive line, especially if they’re hoping to squeeze another couple years out of Rivers.

EdgeKhalil Mack is still dominating on his side, but Oakland has questions on the other side, even with the investment in Bruce Irvin to take the pressure off Mack. Another edge rusher would protect the secondary and make it that much more difficult for opposing teams to focus on Mack. The Oakland defense has taken strides in the right direction in recent years, but another fierce pass-rusher is holding them back from taking the next step forward.

NFC East

Defensive interior: The edge rush has been much better in Dallas this year, in part due to a breakout season from DeMarcus Lawrence, but they invested a first-round pick in Taco Charlton last year and Tyrone Crawford has also been solid. It’s now time to address the interior where they can use either a big-bodied run stuffer or a more consistent interior penetrator. It may not be a first-round target, but another big guy up front should be in the cards for Dallas at some point in the draft.

Quarterback: With Eli Manning getting up there in age and it showing at various points on the field, the Giants should be heavy players in the quarterback market.

Offensive tackle: Whether it’s Manning or a young quarterback, the pass protection must improve up front in New York. The quick passing game has protected the line to a point this season, and even with LT Ereck Flowers making a marginal improvement, more investment is needed up front both for the run game and pass protection. It looks like a better offensive line class this season and there’s a chance to upgrade immediately in the draft.

Wide receiver: Alshon Jeffery has been an excellent pickup, but he’s on a one-year deal while WR Torrey Smith has been a small part of the offense. The emergence of WR Nelson Agholor has been huge for the offense while rookie Mack Hollins has flashed the big-play potential that made him one of our favorites last season. That said, whether Jeffery is back or not, the Eagles could use another playmaker on the outside and that can only help QB Carson Wentz who is in the midst of a breakout second season.

Quarterback: Washington’s place in the quarterback market rests solely on their decision to bring back QB Kirk Cousins, but if they let him walk, they’ll be looking to draft a new signal-caller in the first round.

Wide receiver: While Josh Doctson has had his flashes, Terrelle Pryor hasn’t quite made the expected impact and he’s only on a one-year deal. Washington is two years removed from having one of the deepest wide receiving corps in the league, but there are now question marks and it’s a position to target early in the draft. If Cousins is back, Colorado State’s Michael Gallup looks like a good fit for Washington’s offense.

NFC North

Wide receiver: After dealing with injuries and inconsistency at wide receiver the last few years, the Bears will be in the market to add weapons for QB Mitchell Trubisky this offseason. It could be a year in which they throw multiple resources at the position, from free agency to trade options to the draft. As for the draft, there is not a clear-cut No. 1 receiver, though Alabama’s Calvin Ridley would add a deep threat with No. 1 receiver potential if he’s available.

Edge: The Detroit defense has gotten by with a breakout performance by Anthony Zettel opposite Ezekiel Ansah, but that will not keep them out of the edge defender market this offseason. Adding another dynamic pass-rusher will work wonders for a defense that has added solid pieces to the back-7 over the last few years. There’s still work to be done at all levels, but Detroit has the third-lowest pressure rate in the NFL and edge rusher should be a top priority.

Edge: Green Bay's pass-rush has been too dependent on Nick Perry and Clay Matthews and neither player is productive enough to keep the Packers out of the edge defender market. They should be targeting another player who can rush the passer off the edge in the draft, giving them more options on the outside to complement Mike Daniels and the emerging Kenny Clark on the interior.

Quarterback: It’s all guesswork at this point with Teddy Bridgewater still in the mix coming off injury. If Bridgewater is a shell of his former self, Minnesota may need to attack the quarterback position once again this offseason.

Guard: Minnesota invested heavily in the offensive line last offseason between free agency and the draft, but there’s still room to improve up front. Guard may not be the most pressing need for the offseason, but with a top-end class of options at the position, it’s one they could target early to complement whoever is taking snaps and last year’s top pick, running back Dalvin Cook.

NFC South

Defensive interior/free safety: From a position group standpoint, the Falcons have done a fine job of adding talent all over the roster. There are a few individual positions that could use an upgrade, from defensive tackle depth to a playmaking free safety. Dontari Poe has been a solid addition, but another big body can further take the pressure off Grady Jarrett and while FS Ricardo Allen had a fine 2016, he’s been out of position more often this season that the Atlanta “single-high” system would be that much better with a more dynamic player on the back end.

Edge: The Panthers' pass-rush has been inconsistent in Carolina and they’re still relying heavily on veterans Charles Johnson and Julius Peppers. Youth is needed on the edge to complement the disruptive Kawann Short on the interior. Carolina has taken a more blitz-heavy approach in recent years, but they’re at their best when the defensive line is dominating up front and revamping the edge position should be a priority.

Guard: The Saints invested a first-round pick in offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk last season, but they can use some help on the interior where Andrus Peat hasn’t made the tackle-to-guard transition as smoothly as others and Larry Warford has been up and down after a solid start to his career. There are multiple potential first-round options on the interior offensive line and the Saints may be in that market come April.

Edge: The Bucs invested a second-round pick in Noah Spence in the 2016 draft and there’s still plenty of hope that he can break out after a solid, yet unspectacular 815 career snaps. Robert Ayers has been a productive contributor, but his contract is up at the end of 2018 and more depth is needed up front in Tampa Bay.

NFC West

Quarterback: With Carson Palmer at the end of his career, it’s time to look to the future in Arizona and they’ll be very much in the first round mix at quarterback.

Offensive line: When Palmer was on the field this season, the line was not doing him any favors and upgrades could be in order at multiple spots. Tackle, guard, and center are all on the table for the Cardinals who need to revamp up front.

Edge: The defensive line depth is not where it once was as Robert Quinn has taken a step back as a pass-rusher and they have not replaced the production of departed defensive end William Haynes. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips just came from Denver where he had Von Miller and others dominating off the edge, so look for the Rams to be in the edge defender market this offseason.

Edge: Even with the addition of Solomon Thomas at No. 3 overall last season, the 49ers have more work to do in order to generate a more consistent pass-rush. Thomas is excellent against the run, but perhaps better suited to rush from the interior and the San Francisco four-man rush needs a classic, explosive rusher off the edge. LSU’s Arden Key and Boston College’s Harold Landry are two names to watch.

Edge: One of the underrated stories of the season is the declining production up front for the Seahawks as Michael Bennett got off to a slow start and Cliff Avril did as well before going down due to injury. Even if Bennett and Avril return to previous levels, it’s time to get younger at the position in order to get back to the dominant defensive front that fueled that Seattle defense.

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