Ric Tapia/AP

The MMQB’s film-study guru Andy Benoit diagnoses team needs, and SI’s college football maven Andy Staples writes the prescriptions

By Andy Benoit & Andy Staples
April 19, 2016

Click here for our AFC projections.

NFC EAST

Cowboys’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

While defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has expanded his scheme to include a greater variety of sub-package fronts and pressure concepts, he’s still an aficionado of the classic 4-3 zone. Even if he continues to sprinkle in more man-to-man out of his 4-3, the scheme’s demand for pass rushers is fierce on the inside and outside. Underrated ex-Eagle Cedric Thornton was signed in free agency, but he’s only a solution on first and second downs. With Greg Hardy gone and Randy Gregory suspended for the first four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, the Cowboys need another force opposite third-year man Demarcus Lawrence. Preferably someone who, like Hardy, can play end or tackle. And certainly someone technically sound enough to prosper on the D-line slants and twists that Marinelli likes. This need is real, but not dire. Which means that if QB Jared Goff or Carson Wentz is on the board when the Cowboys pick fourth, Jerry Jones should still pounce on the opportunity to get Tony Romo’s future replacement.

The Cowboys could have their 4-3 edge rusher in Joey Bosa.
L.G. Patterson/Ap

Cowboys’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

If Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa is still available at No. 4, the Cowboys have their 4-3 edge rusher. They don’t need to take a quarterback this high, because Tony Romo can still play and no one in this class is an absolute must-have. They might be able to get a signal-caller with equal or greater potential later in this draft or wait until next year. For example, if Michigan State’s Connor Cook is still around at No. 34, he might be the guy who eventually takes over for Romo. Or the Cowboys could take Ohio State’s Cardale Jones even later and try to develop his prodigious but raw skillset. If Jerry Jones is feeling some school spirit, he’ll take Arkansas quarterback Drew Allen with a mid- to late-round pick and use that second-rounder on someone like Mississippi State’s Chris Jones, who can play multiple defensive line positions. In the third, the Cowboys might be able to scoop up UCLA’s Paul Perkins for some real value at tailback. At linebacker, Arizona’s Scooby Wright might be available to the Cowboys in the middle rounds. Wright struggled with injuries last season, but he tackled everything in his first two seasons in Tucson.

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Giants’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

With Victor Cruz still a question mark after missing the past year-and-a-half with knee and calf injuries, and with tight end Larry Donnell’s prospects uncertain after last season’s neck injury, the Giants could use a second receiving weapon. There aren’t many (if any) who are threatening enough to take attention away from Odell Beckham Jr., so don’t think of this as a means to the Giants relieving pressure off their best playmaker. Do think of it as a means to richening a passing attack that makes heavy use of quick slants. Whoever plays in it must catch balls inside.

If the Giants want to wait and get a receiver in the middle rounds, that’s OK, as long as the position they address before that is safety. Landon Collins and Cooper Taylor have great size but are limited in coverage. That’s a problem when you have invested heavily in Olivier Vernon and re-signed Jason Pierre-Paul. With these moves, the Giants are banking on having a pass rush that will force QBs to get the ball out quickly. (Which explains why they also signed route-jumping extraordinaire Janoris Jenkins.) A rangy, heady pass-defending safety is a must-have.

Giants’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell feels like the pick here, but as you’ll read throughout this piece, lots of teams need receivers. Whether Treadwell is there at No. 10 is another question. If not, do the Giants grab TCU’s Josh Doctson—who is less physical than Treadwell but is faster—or do they take the best available player regardless of position? At No. 40, New York may have a shot at Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry. That will depend on whether a team picking in the late first or very early second feels it must have a tight end, but whoever picks the 6-5, 250-pound Henry will get an excellent blocker who can also stretch the field. The more teams think about Henry’s skillset, the less chance he’s available at that spot, but if the Giants could get him there it would be a steal. In the third, they could grab LSU’s Jalen Mills to fill their safety need. As Andy Benoit noted, the Giants already have a box safety in Landon Collins. What they need is guy who could play safety or cornerback. That’s Mills.

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Eagles’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

Almost all of Chip Kelly’s roster moves last season gave the Eagles a slower player than the one they had before. The decline in collective speed was most noticeable in the passing game. Wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor are both methodical. Maybe Agholor, now that he’s had a year to acclimate to the pro game, will be more comfortable mentally and therefore play faster. But given how far he has to go, it might not matter. Plus, his rookie experience is diminished somewhat by the fact that new head coach Doug Pederson’s scheme is more complex than Kelly’s. The scheme—Pederson’s, that is—makes great use of route combinations. Often, the play design alone is enough to get someone open. That said, speed is still a plus. Case in point: Andy Reid, whose scheme Pederson will run, drafted Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson in Philly, and then he signed Maclin as a free agent in Kansas City. The Eagles already signed one burner this offseason: Chris Givens. But he’s more of a No. 4 receiver. They need another piece on the perimeter (Josh Huff is snappy but too small).

Eagles’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

Updated Thursday afternoon to reflect Eagles’ trade with the Browns to acquire the No. 2 pick.

The Eagles traded with the Browns to move up to No. 2, presumably to take a quarterback. If the Rams are selecting Cal’s Jared Goff, we can assume the Eagles want Carson Wentz. With no second round pick—traded away in the Sam Bradford deal—and only one third-round pick following the trade with the Browns, Philadelphia may have to decide between a receiver and a quality guard. South Carolina receiver Pharoh Cooper should look even better when surrounded by people of similar talent. Meanwhile, Vadal Alexander played guard and tackle at LSU, but the 326-pounder projects as a guard in the NFL. Later in the draft, the Eagles could pick up a quality cornerback and return man in Cyrus Jones. The Eagles already have Josh Huff and Darren Sproles returning kicks, but Jones is worth taking as a corner alone. That he can serve as a special-teams insurance policy is a bonus.

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Washington's Needs
By Andy Benoit

This roster is surprisingly bereft of holes. If forced to cite one, you could say secondary depth—particularly at safety, given DeAngelo Hall’s injury history. Or maybe another edge rusher would help in the event that last year’s second-rounder, Preston Smith, doesn’t develop. (Though signs look good after a solid rookie season.) But here’s another idea: running back. Alfred Morris was a professional but sluggish runner. Washington wants someone with the quickness to cut it back behind O-line coach Bill Callahan’s zone-blocking approach. Matt Jones at times shows burst, but more in the north-south game, not in his change of direction. Plus, injuries and ball security are a concern with him. Washington could use another back to shoulder some of Jones’s load and eventually supplant Chris Thompson in the third-down package.

Washington’s Solutions
By Andy Staples

There should be some options for edge rushers at No. 21. Either Shaq Lawson, Kevin Dodd or Noah Spence should still be available here. Clemson’s Lawson is the most polished of the group, but his college teammate Dodd is the rawest with the highest ceiling. Eastern Kentucky’s Spence is a natural pass rusher who got booted at Ohio State following two positive drug tests (MDMA). A team will have to decide if Spence is worth the risk, but Spence is doing everything possible to prove he is—including getting drug-tested at least once a week through his agency in case teams want proof. The one-cut back Jay Gruden seeks could be Alabama’s Kenyan Drake, who never really reached his full potential in college because of injuries. If he can stay healthy, Drake can be a dynamic back. His speed was evident when he returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown against Clemson in the national title game. The Tigers keep coming up in this section, but that’s because they were loaded last year. In the later rounds, Washington can grab 327-pound Clemson defensive tackle D.J. Reader to replace Terrance Knighton at the nose. Reader, who pitched for Clemson’s baseball team, is a freaky athlete who missed much of the 2015 season for reasons the Tigers’ staff would not disclose. (He also lost his father last year.) The time away may create questions that push Reader down in the draft, but it also could create value. If he’s focused, Reader could make the team that picks him look very smart.

 

NFC NORTH

Bears’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

Based off last year’s film, Chicago’s three biggest needs were: inside linebacker, wide receiver and offensive line. Already, these have been handled. Free agents Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman are the new stack ’backers. At wide receiver, 2015 first-rounder Kevin White is expected to now be healthy. And at offensive tackle, ex-Cardinal Bobby Massie steps in on the right side, moving Pro Bowler Kyle Long back to his more natural guard position. True, Massie runs hot and cold, and 2014 seventh round left tackle Charles Leno is no sure thing despite a nice 2015 campaign. But with offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains having a predominantly quick-strike passing game, the Bears don’t necessarily have to pounce on an offensive tackle, even if an enticing one shows in Rounds 1, 2 or 3. More important is finding a slot nickel corner (and potential everydown player for the future, in case Tracy Porter doesn’t maintain the pleasantly surprising high level at which he played last season). Before corner, however, could be tight end. When the Bears sent Martellus Bennett to New England, they traded away their best source for mismatch creation and formation flexibility.

Chicago may be in line to take Virginia Tech’s Kendall Fuller (left) who would be reunited with his older brother Kyle (right).
Don Kelly/AP, Paul Spinelli/AP

Bears’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

If the Bears opt for a left tackle at No. 11, they should find Michigan State’s Jack Conklin available. Conklin, who played in a pro-style offense in East Lansing, won’t have as steep a learning curve as a tackle who played in a spread offense. He should be plug-and-play wherever he goes. That new corner may have a familiar name. The Bears may be in line to take Virginia Tech’s Kendall Fuller. In Chicago, Kendall would be reunited with brother Kyle, who also played for the Hokies. In the middle rounds, the Bears may find their tight end with South Carolina’s Jerrell Adams. Adams was a good player stuck on a bad team last season, so he didn’t have many opportunities to show what he could do until Senior Bowl week. The 6-5, 247-pounder had some excellent practices in Mobile. He showed he could block and catch, so he should provide value if he goes where he’s projected.

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Lions’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

With veteran Stephen Tulloch likely to be gone, the Lions have a hole at linebacker in their base 4-3. But with nickel now the primary defensive package in the NFL, you can get away with having Just A Guy at the third ’backer spot. Either underdeveloped 2014 second-rounder Kyle Van Noy or underrated Josh Bynes will fill this role, and either DeAndre Levy or Tahir Whitehead will assume Tulloch’s middle linebacker duties. That means more draft flexibility for improving the defensive line. Ziggy Ansah is a budding superstar, but the defensive end spot opposite him is slated to be handled by Wallace Gilberry and Devin Taylor. Both are nice players but rotational guys, not consistent difference-makers. (Though with Gilberry, you also have to factor his fortitude playing inside.) The Lions could also use a gap-penetrating 3-technique to accompany Haloti Ngata, whose best position is nose shade.

Lions’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

If Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche drops because of off-the-field questions, Lions executives may find themselves debating the merits of the panther-desiring lineman. If not for worries about his behavior—including a December fall from a hotel window; Nkemdiche said he was drunk—Nkemdiche would easily be a top-five pick. He’s 6-3 and played at about 300 pounds for the Rebels. Depending on the down, he can play from the nose to the 5-technique. His get-off is unparalleled in this draft, so he could absolutely be a gap-shooting 3-technique. The question is whether he’ll drop and how far. I can’t see him dropping past here unless there are other issues that haven’t come to light. His skillset is just too diverse to ignore. But if Nkemdiche is gone or the Lions decide they aren’t satisfied with the answers to the off-field questions, they could grab Penn State’s Anthony Zettel with a mid- to late-round pick. At 277 pounds, Zettel might be considered too small to play inside, but he plays bigger than he is. After all, he isn’t afraid to take on a tree. 

The Lions may be able to pick up a pure pass-rusher at No. 46 if Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah remains available. The 6-4, 277-pound Ogbah looks like a first-rounder on some plays and a last-day guy on others, but his speed isn’t teachable. The question is whether he lasts until the Lions pick in the second. Later in the draft, Detroit should grab Stanford’s Devon Cajuste just so Matthew Stafford can feel the comfort of having another huge receiver. The 6-4, 234-pound Cajuste won’t resemble Calvin Johnson in many ways beyond his size, but he’s a reliable pass-catcher in an offense accustomed to having a giant receiver.

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Packers’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

Many expect the return of Jordy Nelson to ameliorate the woes that ailed Green Bay’s passing game in 2015. The team’s recent history says it should, but it’s hard to shake the memories of Packers wide receivers getting stifled by press-man coverage. If it were possible to draft more pick routes or stack release concepts (i.e. man-beater strategies), that’d be Green Bay’s answer in the first round. But alas, reality demands that GM Ted Thompson select a human being. Thompson’s done such a good job here over the years that the Packers don’t really have one pinpointed position in need of the most help. Thompson can do what every GM claims he always does but in actuality almost never does: draft the best player available. Thompson’s track record suggests he’ll tab a defensive lineman early.

Packers’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

The receiver the Packers seek at No. 27 is Baylor’s Corey Coleman. He’s fast, much stronger than his size (5-11, 194) suggests and plays with a Steve Smith-level anger. Aaron Rodgers would love having the option of throwing to Jordy Nelson or Coleman. If he’s around when the Packers pick at No. 55, Florida’s Jonathan Bullard could be the defensive lineman Thompson seeks. The 285-pound Bullard is quick enough to be a 3-4 defensive end, or he could move inside if the Packers want to mix up fronts. If Bullard is gone there, Jihad Ward of Illinois will be available a few rounds later. The Packers have the luxury of a good roster and nine draft picks, so they can take a flyer on some tweeners. One such player is Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker. Striker lined up all over the field, but his primary job in Norman was to get the quarterback. He may be too small for that in the NFL. The 227-pounder will have to prove he can also cover and work in space. If he can, he could be an absolute bargain in the middle to late rounds.

* * *

Vikings’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

The only position that stands out negatively on Minnesota’s depth chart is wide receiver—but even that’s not awful. Dumping Mike Wallace has nothing to do with it; this need existed with or without him. Drafting Cordarrelle Patterson, on the other hand, has had something to do with the need. After three seasons, it’s clear what Patterson is: an electrifying runner or returner, but an unreliable pass catcher and route runner. If the season started today, he’d be the No. 4 receiver. The No. 2 and No. 3 would be, respectively, Jarius Wright and Charles Johnson. Both are fine players who fit Norv Turner’s vertically oriented scheme and have the trust of the coaches and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. But neither is the type of player that keeps defensive coordinators up at night. If the Vikings have a chance to get a downfield weapon to play opposite the ultra-quick Stefon Diggs, they should take it.

Vikings’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

I just said the Packers should take Baylor’s Coleman, but here’s another team that could use such a dynamic receiver in a thin receiver draft—and the Vikings choose four spots earlier than their division rival. TCU’s Doctson might still be available here, or the Vikings might prefer Notre Dame’s Will Fuller. At No. 54, the Vikings should hope Duke’s Jeremy Cash remains available. The Blue Devils used Cash in coverage, in run support and as a pass rusher. His skills and his intelligence allow coaches to be creative. If he’s still available in the middle rounds, the Vikings should consider wagering a pick on Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith. Smith was a surefire first-rounder before injuring his knee against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. Now, there are worries that Smith will never be the same. It’s probably worth a draft pick to find out. The Vikings could take Smith and give him a year to rehab the knee. If Smith returns to form, Minnesota has a ready-made replacement for Chad Greenway, who plans to retire after this season.

 

NFC SOUTH

Falcons’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

Dan Quinn was displeased with his pass rush last season, and for good reason. Atlanta’s 19 sacks ranked dead last. With a plethora of edge rushers in this year’s draft, don’t be surprised if the Falcons take two early, especially if one of them can slide over to defensive tackle on passing downs. Double-dipping here may seem a bit extreme given that the team selected Vic Beasley eighth overall last year, but Beasley was very raw as a rookie. His development is no sure thing. Atlanta also needs upgrades at safety, linebacker and backup receiver. But all of those come a distant second to finding more pass-rushing forces up front.

Atlanta already has Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett and may add another Clemson defensive lineman: Shaq Lawson.
David J. Phillip/AP

Falcons’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

The Falcons already have Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett, but what’s one more Clemson defensive lineman? Since Beasley was a bit of a project last year—he had moved from tailback to linebacker to defensive end in college—the Falcons could take the more polished Shaq Lawson at No. 17. They can grab a guard at No. 50. The ideal choice would be Stanford’s Joshua Garnett, but teams that pick earlier in the second round probably will covet Garnett. The good news is that Arizona State’s Christian Westerman or LSU’s Vadal Alexander might be available. Devonta Freeman would be thrilled to run behind a mauler like Garnett or Alexander. In the middle rounds, the Falcons could grab another rangy, athletic receiver to place opposite Julio Jones. Tulsa’s Keyarris Garrett led the FBS with 1,588 receiving yards on 96 catches. The 6-3, 220-pounder has long arms (34 1/2 inches) that give him a huge catching radius. He suffered a gruesome broken leg as a junior, and that injury history may push him down in the draft. But if he stays healthy, Garrett could be quite productive.

* * *

Panthers’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

Perhaps the biggest shock of 2015 was how successful Carolina’s passing game was with a wide receiving corps that was mediocre even before Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL. Thanks to a commitment to heavy six-and seven-man pass protections, and to Cam Newton’s refinements as a pocket passer, the Panthers were able to manufacture one of the league’s most downfield-oriented aerial assaults. The question now is whether GM Dave Gettleman is willing to try his luck twice. If he’s not, he’ll draft a pass catcher on Day 1 or 2. If he is willing to take the risk, it will be interesting to see how he uses his early picks in lieu of receivers. After Von Miller ate Mike Remmers alive in the Super Bowl, it’s tempting to say the team needs a new right tackle. But Remmers actually had a stellar season before that game. Plus, one of the benefits of committing to six-and seven-man protections is that you don’t need to invest heavily at offensive tackle. The scheme naturally gives tackles help. Instead of drafting a tackle, Gettleman is more likely to do the opposite by taking a defensive end. The Panthers never replaced Greg Hardy. Charles Johnson is back but not an elite edge burner. Someone to play ahead of him and opposite the fast-rising Kony Ealy would be great.

Panthers’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

Picking No. 30 in the first round, the Panthers will have their choice narrowed for them. They should be able to get a receiver or an edge rusher here, but who will beleft? Will questions about Spence’s past or Dodd’s rawness push them down to Carolina? Will Coleman still be available? What about Notre Dame’s Fuller? The Panthers will be able to get one of what they need, but they may not have a huge selection from which to choose. If they go receiver in the first, they could pick up a pass rusher such as Penn State’s Carl Nassib in the second round. Nassib, who walked on in State College, blossomed as a senior. He’s long and lean, and he may need some time to develop. But the Panthers have enough talent to allow for a little development. If Carolina wants some options at offensive tackle, there will be players to take in the middle rounds. John Theus started for four years at Georgia and faced many of the same rushers he’ll see in the NFL. Ole Miss tackle Fahn Cooper was overshadowed by teammate Laremy Tunsil, but Cooper is an intriguing prospect. Cooper started at left tackle as a redshirt freshman at Bowling Green, but he left there and went to a junior college with the hope of eventually transferring to a Power Five school. He moved on to Ole Miss, where he developed into a future pro opposite Tunsil—and in place of Tunsil at left tackle when Tunsil was suspended for NCAA violations in 2015.

 

* * *

Saints’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

If the season started today, 2015 undrafted man Cyril Lemon would be filling the right guard spot that Jahri Evans held down for 10 years. That’s a problem for a team whose top priority has always been to protect its 6-foot pocket passer up the middle. It’s not ideal to have pressure coming off the edge, but the Saints can live with that because of Drew Brees’ deft pocket awareness. What they can’t live with are defenders right in his face. Whether the Saints tab a guard early or late could depend on how they feel about the individual prospects at that position. (Or how they feel about second-year pro Andrus Peat sliding inside from right tackle.) The Saints also have glaring needs at defensive line, but this draft is deep in those areas. If a quality guard is still on the board, the safe and smart move would be to take him.

Saints’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

For a team with as many defensive line needs as New Orleans, Oregon’s DeForest Buckner would be the ideal choice because of his versatility. But Buckner probably won’t be available when New Orleans selects at No. 12. The Saints seem pretty flexible with their front, so they should still have plenty of options. Alabama’s Jarran Reed and A’Shawn Robinson should be available here. Both played as 3-4 defensive ends, but they are also strong enough to play deeper inside. Another possibility is Baylor defensive tackle Andrew Billings, an athletic 311-pounder who could play nose in a 3-4, or a 1-technique or 3-technique in a 4-3. The Saints can pick up a guard somewhere between rounds two and four. If Garnett isn’t available, Alexander might be. If he isn’t, Sebastian Tretola of Arkansas might be. Tretola has the distinction of being the only offensive lineman in the draft to complete a pass in college.

 

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Buccaneers’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

The addition of cornerback Brent Grimes would have meant a lot more five years ago. Grimes, who turns 33 in July, is no longer a top-tier cover artist. That was very apparent last season in Miami. Of course, Grimes was asked to play more matchup man coverages. New defensive coordinator Mike Smith is not as pure of a zone acolyte as Lovie Smith was, but he’s still not liable to prescribe a heavy dosage of man-to-man. This makes Tampa Bay’s need at corner—which is also critical beyond Grimes—less pressing. In fact, safety is a bigger concern in the secondary, particularly if Mike Smith wants to disguise his coverages. Making matters worse: the Bucs’ D-line is not dynamic on the edges. All things considered, this will be one of the most appealing defenses to throw against if important investments aren’t made here.

Buccaneers’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

At No. 9, the Bucs may be picking too low to get UCLA’s Myles Jack, but he could be what they seek on defense. Jack may weigh 245 pounds, but he’s fast enough to play safety. He really is the ultimate weapon, which is why he probably won’t be around. If he’s gone, the Bucs may need to go best available and take Ohio State’s Elliott or Ole Miss’s Treadwell. In the second round, the Bucs may target Oklahoma State’s Ogbah to bolster their pass rush. West Virginia’s Karl Joseph is a more traditional safety who should be around when the Bucs pick at No. 74. In the middle rounds, Tampa Bay could give Jameis Winston a new target or two. Colorado State’s Rashard Higgins and South Carolina’s Pharoh Cooper lack the size to command a high draft pick, but both made defenses look silly in college and could be excellent complementary pieces in the NFL.

 

NFC WEST

Cardinals’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

Will second-year man D.J. Humphries be ready to start at right tackle? And can 34-year-old free-agent acquisition Evan Mathis stay healthy at right guard? (He didn’t for much of last season in Denver, though he had a strong postseason.) Most likely, the Cardinals, who put a lot of pressure on their pass blockers by using more “empty” backfield formations than any other team in football, will bet on Humphries and Evans and spend their draft picks on defense. They need a corner to replace the departed Jerraud Powers. (Justin Bethel is not that guy.) They could also use a safety in the event that D.J. Swearinger shows the inconsistencies that got him shipped out of Houston. The coaching staff likes Swearinger, but he still needs to prove himself as a near-everydown player in Arizona’s predominant dime package. Talent in the secondary is crucial because defensive coordinator James Bettcher, per Bruce Arians’s wishes, employs a blitz-heavy, matchup-coverage scheme.

Cardinals’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

Need a corner at No. 29? Houston’s William Jackson III is your man. The 6-footer is long enough, and he ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash at the combine to go along with film of him shutting down opposing receivers. If another team snaps up Jackson, Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander may wind up being better than any cornerback in the draft. Just ask him. One of the guards I mentioned earlier should be available in Round 3 or 4 for the Cardinals. Meanwhile, if they want to purchase some mid-round insurance at offensive tackle, Texas A&M’s Germain Ifedi would be a good investment.

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Rams’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

Quarterback quarterback quarterback quarterback. It would be surprising if Los Angeles didn’t take Carson Wentz. After that, the focus can shift to wide receiver. Their current group is very limited. Defenses know that Kenny Britt’s route tree has only two branches (go routes and deep comebackers). They also know that Tavon Austin is a gadget player. And Brian Quick, for a variety of reasons, has never had more than 375 yards receiving in a season. Don’t be surprised if the Rams select multiple wideouts in this draft. Or a receiver/tight end hybrid to fill the departed Jared Cook’s void. Reliability more than raw talent might be the focus here. New coordinator Rob Boras will presumably continue with a run-first power approach to capitalize on his O-line’s size and Todd Gurley’s subtle but unbelievable body control and burst. That means Boras’s passing game will win largely through play-action and formation usage. You don’t necessarily need stars to enact this. You do, however, need much better receivers than Los Angeles currently has.

It would be surprising if L.A. didn't take Carson Wentz.
David K Purdy/Getty Images

Rams’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

The Rams made this one pretty easy last week. After trading away much of their future to move up to No. 1, they’re going to take a quarterback. I have no idea if that quarterback will be Cal’s Jared Goff or North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, but we can nail down the position. The Rams don’t pick again until the fourth round, so perhaps they should take someone the new guy can target. I mentioned Higgins and Cooper earlier, but one projected mid-round guy who could be productive is UCLA’s alltime receptions leader Jordan Payton. Payton probably isn’t going to take the top off an NFL defense, but he’s a good blocker with reliable hands who can get open on short and intermediate routes.

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49ers’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

Another team that needs quarterback quarterback quarterback quarterback. Colin Kaepernick will not be salvaged by Chip Kelly’s system. And it’s unwise to bank on Blaine Gabbert, even though he is a very talented thrower. After the Niners find their quarterback (or, we should say if they find their quarterback, since it’s conceivable that another team could trade ahead of them to nab either Wentz or Goff), they’ll need to get to work on revamping their interior O-line. Kelly’s ground game attacks the perimeter more than any in the league. Mobility and athleticism at center and guard is crucial. None of San Francisco’s current players are capable of answering that call.

49ers’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

Trent Baalke and Chip Kelly have 12 picks, so they can pick up quite a few building blocks. The assumption is the 49ers will take a quarterback at No. 7. But what if the Rams and Browns take a quarterback? Would the Niners still go with a quarterback here or take the best player on the board? If Oregon’s Buckner is still available, Kelly would probably get reunited with a player he recruited. UCLA’s Jack is another player who may be too good to pass up if he’s still available. The 49ers might be able to get a quarterback (Cook) at No. 37, but they also may want to use that pick on Alabama center Chad Kelly, who looks capable of manning the middle of a line for a decade. The guards are plentiful in the middle rounds. Meanwhile, Kelly can get some raw speed for his offense—this was his favorite trait at Oregon—by grabbing TCU burner Kolby Listenbee with one of his mid-round picks. 

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Seahawks’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

Fans in the Pacific Northwest are in panic mode over their team’s O-line. Understandably so. On the one hand, with Russell Wilson’s sandlot style, stalwart O-linemen aren’t as critical for the Seahawks as they are for other teams. Wilson moves the pocket on his own, which can often negate a pass rush. That said, the Seahawks came alive last season once Wilson transformed into a threatening pocket passer in Week 12 against the Steelers. That transformation was largely a result of Seattle’s front five jelling. In particular, Patrick Lewis’s insertion as the starting center brought desperately needed stability. Also helping were the improvements made by right tackle Gary Gilliam (who still has more room to grow). Both should start again in 2016. But who starts in Russell Okung’s old left tackle spot? Gilliam isn’t equipped for that, and Bradley Sowell isn’t the answer either. After left tackle, the concern is right guard. Maybe the Seahawks are higher on 2015 fourth-rounder Mark Glowinski than we realize. Only they really know what kind of player Glowinski they have. If they’re not high on Glowinski, they’ll spend a first-, second- or third-rounder at this position.

Seahawks’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

Ohio State offensive Taylor Decker may be the pick at No. 26. Decker is tall (6-7) and rangy, but sturdy enough in the lower body to drive defenders in the run game. I still have no idea how NFL teams will view Alabama tailback Derrick Henry. My guess is his surprisingly fast 40-yard dash time at the combine will lead a team to draft the 247-pounder earlier, but if he’s still around at No. 56, the Seahawks should grab him. Henry is 6-3 and has an Eric Dickerson-esque running style. He also may be a cyborg. His durability as a college junior was astounding. If he’s not available, Utah tailback Devontae Booker should be. The Seahawks can shore up center in the later rounds by taking Michigan State’s Jack Allen. As long as the coffeemakers at the practice facility work and he has someone to hit at practice, Allen will be happy. And if Pete Carroll ever feels tricky, he can utilize some of Allen’s wiggle.

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