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 21, 2016

Click here for our NFC draft projections.

AFC EAST

Bills’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

Buffalo’s defense took a step back last year. New head coach Rex Ryan departed from the straightforward 4-3 zone principles of previous defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and employed his usual 3-4 pressure packages. Typically, his more complex amoeba approach suffices if you have to make up for so-so talent in the front seven and have corners and safeties who can cover. The Bills had the cover artists, but they also had enough pieces up front to prosper with a more basic scheme (like they did under Schwartz). While Ryan’s approach may not have made the most sense for 2015, it could for 2016. With Mario Williams now gone, the Bills have only one quality edge defender (Jerry Hughes). Their others, Jarius Wynn, Manny Lawson and Tony Steward, are rotational players. It’s on GM Doug Whaley to find a headliner for the rotation opposite Hughes. Whoever it is must be versatile. As Williams learned last season, Ryan will ask these players to do more than just rush the passer.

Bills’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

If the Bills are looking for an edge rusher at No. 19 who might also be able to occasionally drop into coverage, the logical options are Eastern Kentucky’s Noah Spence and Clemson’s Kevin Dodd. Neither ran a blazing 40-yard dash at the combine, but both are excellent rushers and fluid athletes who could handle the occasional change in assignment. Ryan’s son, Seth, plays at Clemson, so the coach knows all about Dodd. Meanwhile, the Bills have two picks in the fourth round that could be used to efficiently address needs. Missouri inside linebacker Kentrell Brothers was the best player on a good defense that had the misfortune of routinely dealing with horrible field position because of the Tigers’ offensive woes. He’ll make an NFL team very happy. The Bills also probably want to take a quarterback to sit behind—and possibly eventually take over for—Tyrod Taylor. Taylor will be a free agent after this season. This year, they can grab Stanford’s Kevin Hogan. All Hogan did in Palo Alto was win while playing in an offense that looks like most NFL offenses. He was recruited by a Stanford staff that included current Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman, but Roman never got to work with Hogan on The Farm. Hogan’s throwing motion remains unorthodox, but that’s why he’s available here. If Hogan’s mechanics were perfect, we wouldn’t be arguing about whether Carson Wentz or Jared Goff should be the first quarterback taken in the draft.

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Dolphins’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

The Dolphins wanted a running back in free agency but couldn’t find one. So now comes the draft. Just like they took Jay Ajayi in Round 5 last year, they can wait until the third day to make a move at this spot again. Ajayi is intriguing enough between the tackles to warrant 12-15 carries a game. To complement him, you need a quicker slashing-type runner who can move horizontally. This guy doesn’t have to be electrifying, just serviceable. Miami’s other running back, Damian Williams, is dynamic in the passing game and should play a third of the snaps.

This means the Dolphins are free to spend their early round draft picks on defense. Starting at cornerback would be wise, since the only viable everydown option currently at this position is Byron Maxwell, who’s coming off a down season in Philadelphia. Miami’s other corners each have the ugly type of questions marks. (Can he stay healthy? Is he talented enough?) After that, a new strongside linebacker would make sense. Incumbent Koa Misi plays meaningful snaps, but on film, he completely blends in with the grass.

Dolphins’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

If Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves remains available at No. 13, the Dolphins have their guy. (Unless they just like Ohio State’s Eli Apple or Houston’s William Jackson III better.) At No. 42, the Dolphins could face the Derrick Henry dilemma. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner from Alabama surprised with his speed at the combine, but it’s still unclear how the 6-3, 247-pounder’s running style translates to the NFL. The durability he showed at the end of last season suggests he’ll be just fine. Henry was a workhorse against inferior competition in high school, but contrary to the belief of casual fans who didn’t become aware of Henry until the second half of last season, his college odometer was on the low side. Henry only carried 603 times in three seasons at Alabama. If the Dolphins opt against choosing a tailback so high, one intriguing possibility later in the draft is Georgia’s Keith Marshall. The 219-pound Marshall wowed scouts at the combine with a 4.31-second 40-yard dash. He didn’t produce much at Georgia because of knee injuries and because he played with Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb. It may be that a fully healthy Marshall is as good as the freshman who was considered Gurley’s equal in 2012.

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Patriots’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

The Martellus Bennett trade made the Patriots’ intentions on offense even clearer. They want a flexible two-tight end system that will allow them to use any formation under the sun without huddling. Bennett and Rob Gronkowski can both split to the slot or even outside the field numbers. They’re also capable and willing in-line blockers up front (Gronk more so than Bennett). That’s important because the Patriots also prefer a physical ground game. They ran “power” and “counter” as much as any team in the NFL last year. That means their guards must be able to pull. This explains the flyer the team took on former Cardinals first-rounder Jonathan Cooper. The next step is drafting another guard to compete with Cooper (remember, Cooper couldn’t even beat out Ted Larsen in Arizona), and also to challenge last year’s athletic fourth-rounder, Shaq Mason. The Patriots prefer versatility in their inside blockers; don’t be surprised if they go for a guy who can also play center. After all, as anyone who watched the AFC Championship Game knows, this position could use an upgrade as well.

Patriots’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

With no first-round pick because of Deflategate, the Patriots have to get value from their consecutive second-round choices. With one, they can grab a cornerback. Perhaps Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander falls this far. Or maybe they go for Miami’s Artie Burns, a track guy with coverage skills. If the Patriots are lucky, they could use one of those picks on USC’s Su’a Cravens. At 226 pounds, Cravens can play safety, linebacker or both. He’s ideal against teams that spread the field because he allows coaches to change tactics without necessarily changing personnel. That’s the sort of player Bill Belichick loves. Later in the draft, the Patriots could grab Michigan’s Graham Glasgow, who can play guard or center. New England also could consider taking a quarterback late for developmental purposes. Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld has the size and skillset to become an NFL quarterback, but he would need some time. He would get to learn behind an alltime great in New England.

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Jets’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

The new Jets coaching staff wasn’t happy with linebacker Demario Davis’s lack of playmaking in 2015. Davis wound up losing snaps late in the season and then his job after the season. New York signed Bruce Carter signed in free agency, but he wasn’t able to crack the starting lineup in Tampa last year—and that was in a pure 4-3 zone scheme that fit his attributes. Todd Bowles’s scheme, contrary to popular opinion, is as much 4-3 based as it is 3-4 based, but it’s a different style of 4-3. Overall, Carter is not a great fit. Expect the Jets to draft a larger, more physical outside linebacker—preferably one versatile enough to bend the corner a bit as an edge rusher and also blitz inside.

Jets’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

The linebacker Andy Benoit just described is either Ohio State’s Darrron Lee or Georgia’s Leonard Floyd. Floyd had trouble against power-run teams. Lee is the more versatile of the two, so if he’s available here, he should be the pick. If the Jets want a quarterback at No. 51, they could grab Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott. While Prescott didn’t play in a pro-style offense, he probably is the most ready of the spread quarterbacks to play right away in the NFL. He screwed up when he was arrested on suspicion of DUI in March, but Prescott had been a solid citizen otherwise. Of course, the Jets have already invested in former Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, a smart player who needed time to learn what is essentially an entirely new offensive language. Perhaps they go for an offensive tackle at that spot. If so, Indiana’s Jason Spriggs is one of the most athletic offensive linemen in the draft.

AFC NORTH

Ravens’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

The Ravens under John Harbaugh have always had a top-tier front seven. They’ll have to restock in this draft if that’s to remain the case. Timmy Jernigan and Brandon Williams are two of the better young defensive linemen in the game, but the Ravens need at least two more. Don’t be surprised if they look for a classic upfield defensive end. Harbaugh wants to play more of a traditional 4-3 this year, which is why he hired ex-Lions and Bucs D-line coach Joe Cullen. In a 4-3, Jernigan is a 3-technique and Williams a nose shade. A base down end is needed to play ahead of pass rushing veteran Elvis Dumervil and opposite five-tool star Terrell Suggs, who is 33 and coming off the second torn Achilles of his career. Whomever the Ravens find to play defensive end, he must be able to bend the edge. More 4-3 fronts likely means fewer blitzes and more straight four-man rushes.

Ravens’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

If either is available, the Ravens should grab either Ohio State’s Joey Bosa or Oregon’s DeForest Buckner here. Buckner might be more intriguing because he could slide inside while the Ravens bring Dumervil and Suggs screaming off the edge on obvious passing downs. A quality corner should be available to Baltimore at No. 36. Maybe it’s Clemson’s Alexander. Maybe it’s Baylor’s Xavien Howard. Meanwhile, the Ravens could get some late-round value at inside linebacker by choosing Florida’s Antonio Morrison. Morrison probably could have sat out last year and recovered from knee surgery. Instead, he racked up a team-high 96 tackles. He’ll be fully healthy as an NFL rookie.

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Bengals’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

With Marvin Jones and Mohamad Sanu leaving in free agency, the Bengals are in need of at least one new receiver. They signed Brandon LaFell, who is excellent on skinny posts but otherwise not dynamic. There is also a lot to like about unknown 2014 seventh-rounder James Wright, assuming he bounces back from last year’s knee injury. Cincy’s draft move could hinge on whether they believe Wright can play the slot—a critical value that Sanu brought to the table. A.J. Green can play the slot, but only part time; he’s too important as a downfield receiver outside the numbers. LaFell is not equipped to handle meaningful inside snaps. A shifty, space-creating slot weapon, like what the Bengals had a few years ago in Andrew Hawkins, would serve this offense well.

Bengals’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

The receiver the Bengals seek at No. 24 is either Notre Dame’s Will Fuller or Baylor’s Corey Coleman. Each could be a featured receiver, but each could also be a dangerous second option behind A.J. Green. In the middle rounds, the Bengals could grab cornerback/interception magnet Zack Sanchez, who isn’t always perfect in coverage but has an amazing knack for being around the ball when it’s up for grabs. Later, Cincinnati can plug the middle of its defense with 329-pound Nebraska nose tackle Vincent Valentine. An ankle injury limited Valentine in 2015. He probably should have missed more games, but he opted to play because his team needed him. 

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Browns’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

Where to begin? Things in Cleveland could very well get worse before they get better. This offseason has done little to assuage things. Several marquee veterans were dismissed. That’s understandable considering the Browns won very few games with those veterans. Still, it doesn’t mean downgrades won’t be felt initially at the vacated positions: right tackle, wide receiver, safety and linebacker. Less understandable is the decision to sign Robert Griffin III. Why would a team in position to draft a franchise QB sign a polarizing, damaged player who many teams in the NFL wouldn’t even consider, especially when you have a veteran QB in Josh McCown to bridge the gap to the future? Nevertheless, the Browns felt comfortable enough with their QB situation to trade out of No. 2 spot and acquire a bounty of extra picks. Now they can get to work on filling their exacerbated voids at offensive tackle, wide receiver, linebacker and safety.

Browns’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

I had concocted a perfectly reasonable theory about how the Browns would use their new analytics-heavy approach to avoid a quarterback at No. 2—because there are no sure things—and pick Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey, who could excel at five secondary positions. Well, the Browns analyzed so well that they realized they could flip that pick to the Eagles for the No. 8 spot and a ton of draft picks. Ramsey probably will be gone by the time the Browns select, but the team that needs everything except a left tackle will have plenty of choices. Perhaps Cleveland will want a tailback who already is popular in Ohio. Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott would work here. He’s one of the few tailbacks in recent years worth a first-round pick. Since no one knows which of these quarterbacks will wind up being good, choose one at No. 32. Michigan State’s Connor Cook probably will be available, or maybe the Browns will be intrigued by the raw athleticism of Paxton Lynch from Memphis. Take Texas Tech’s Le’Raven Clark in the third round to help the offensive line. Then, if he’s available late, spice things up by grabbing hometown guy Cardale Jones. It’s the Browns. They may as well stockpile quarterbacks. Besides, Jones probably has the best arm of any quarterback in the draft. He’s a risk, but he could pay off huge if he develops.

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Steelers’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

Many probably believe the Steelers need a corner. But understand something: in their zone blitz scheme, linebackers and defensive linemen are more important. In most schemes, NFL cornerbacking requires tremendous raw athleticism, which is why so many starting corners are former high-round picks. But Pittsburgh’s coverages are often matchup zones with assignments determined based on how the offense’s route combinations unfold. Executing this requires football IQ more than physical talent. This is why, when the Steelers selected corner Senquez Golson in Round 2 last year, heads turned. Golson was only the third cornerback taken that high in GM Kevin Colbert’s 16-year tenure. The last time the Steelers spent a first-rounder at corner was Chad Scott in 1997. And the last corner before Scott was Rod Woodson, 10 years earlier. Typically, the Steelers take corners in the middle rounds. (They also did this last year: Doran Grant, Round 4.) So don’t be surprised if, instead of taking a corner with their first pick, the Steelers go with a safety to play ahead of Shamarko Thomas, who so far hasn’t blossomed into Troy Polamalu Lite as hoped. Or, they could take a nose tackle to fill the void that Steve McLendon’s free agency departure created.

Steelers’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

Because there is no perfect safety near that No. 25 spot, I’m going to seize upon Andy Benoit’s assertion that in this defense, talent up front is more important than talent in the secondary. That’s why Alabama’s Jarran Reed would be a great fit here. The 307-pound Reed can clog two gaps and set the edge. He isn’t going to rack up sacks, but he is going to stuff the run and help force opponents into bad down-and-distance situations. Later in the draft, the Steelers could bolster the pass rush by using a mid-round pick on Florida’s Alex McCalister. McCalister tied for the team lead in sacks with 6.5 while working mainly as a situational pass rusher. At 6-6 and 239 pounds, he could challenge offensive tackles coming off the edge on passing downs.

AFC SOUTH

Texans’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

The Texans need a defensive end, not because J.J. Watt has mused about a not-so-distant retirement (likely just idle offseason chatter), but because Watt’s counterpart, the high-motored Jared Crick, is now in Denver. Considering Houston’s lack of depth at this position, it wouldn’t hurt to draft two defensive ends, especially if one is big enough to play snaps at nose tackle and relieve some of 34-year-old Vince Wilfork’s workload.

It’ll be understandable if the Texans don’t address defensive end until the later rounds. They also have a need along the interior O-line, where left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo is average at best and center Tony Bergstrom and Greg Mancz are backups. Wide receiver could use a boost, as well, if the right player is available. More pressing, however, is safety. Converted corner Andre Hal and backup Eddie Pleasant both played well when pressed into action last season, but in Romeo Crennel’s scheme, many of the foundational two-high safety coverages require deft read-and-react ability in middle field. And that’s while safeties also have outside run lane responsibilities to consider. A top-shelf talent at this position would go a long way for Houston.

Texans’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

The 3-4 defensive end who is athletic enough to play there at the next level while still being big and strong enough to play nose is Alabama’s A’Shawn Robinson. Don’t bother single blocking Robinson in the run game; he’s going to command two blockers. He isn’t as adept at rushing the passer, but that’s why the Texans have Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. (No, I haven’t given up on Clowney yet. And as long as the Texans don’t draft Dodd or Spence or Shaq Lawson, they haven’t either.) The Texans should have a choice of safeties at No. 52. Florida’s Keanu Neal is a thumper who likes to play in the box. Ohio State’s Vonn Bell probably diagnoses plays better. Later in the draft, the Texans may want to consider Arizona State’s D.J. Foster. Foster played tailback and receiver in Tempe, and he could give former Sun Devil Brock Osweiler a multipurpose offensive weapon.

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Colts’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

For all the ups and downs that Indy’s 2015 season presented, keep in mind this team still finished .500 despite its franchise quarterback missing nine games. Andrew Luck got off to a poor start, but history says he would have turned things around at some point. (Great ones always do.) It’ll be an absolute shock if he doesn’t’ regain his form in 2016. Of course, that could be an uphill battle if the Colts don’t improve at guard and center. A paucity of athleticism at this position made the Colts extremely vulnerable to stunts and twists against four-man defensive fronts, and to interior blitzes against 3-4 teams. When pressure comes up the middle, Luck’s tremendous pocket toughness works against him. GM Ryan Grigson spent mid-round picks on guard Hugh Thornton and center Khaled Holmes in 2013, but neither has panned out. Grigson must acknowledge this by trying again.

Colts’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

Kansas State’s Cody Whitehair could plug in immediately at either guard spot or at center. Luck certainly would appreciate that. Meanwhile, the Colts could bolster their pass rush at No. 48 with Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun. Calhoun is a natural rusher who led the Spartans with 15 tackles for loss last year. While he needs to get better against the run, he already knows how to get to the quarterback. Later in the draft, the Colts can add depth in the secondary by grabbing Notre Dame cornerback KeiVarae Russell.

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Jaguars’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

The de facto addition of last year’s No. 3 overall pick, Dante Fowler (coming off a torn ACL) and mega free agent Malik Jackson could fix Jacksonville’s problems at defensive end. But that doesn’t mean the Jags shouldn’t still draft someone high at this position. Jackson, after all, is most valuable as a 3-technique in passing situations. And it’s unknown whether Fowler can anchor against the run. (Or, technically, whether he can even rush the passer, since he’s never played an NFL snap.) Gus Bradley, who’s in a make-or-break year, plays that Cover 3 outside press scheme that Seattle runs. Often, any form of Cover 3 is only as good as the pass rush allows.

Jaguars’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

The Jaguars likely face an interesting quandary at No. 5. They used the No. 2 pick in 2013 on offensive tackle Luke Joeckel. They used last year’s No. 3 overall pick on Fowler, who works best in the hybrid Leo pass rusher position in their defense. Assuming Ramsey is gone, either Laremy Tunsil, Joey Bosa or DeForest Buckner will still be on the board. Buckner is the least redundant of these picks, but he also isn’t necessarily the obvious one. If the Jaguars aren’t sure Joeckel can hold down the left side for eight more years, they should hope Tunsil falls to them. If that happens, they may be able to grab lightning-quick Boise State rusher Kamalei Correa at No. 38. He’s an awful lot like Fowler, but the moral of the story in either of these scenarios is that having too many offensive tackles or having too many pass rushers is a great problem. Maybe, in Round 3, the Jaguars can bolster their secondary. If a team hasn’t absolutely fallen in love with him, Maryland’s Sean Davis might be available. He’s 6-1 with long (32½-inch) arms and has played cornerback and safety effectively.

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Titans’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

Before they traded the first pick to Los Angeles, almost everyone had the Titans taking an offensive tackle. That’s still feasible at No. 15—and it makes sense. An offensive tackle’s arrival would kick good-but-not-quite-yet-consistent left tackle Taylor Lewan over to right tackle, which would kick last year’s porous third-round right tackle, Jeremiah Poutasi inside (assuming the 6’5” Poutasi’s upright playing style doesn’t prove problematic). With their other picks, the Titans need to augment a defense that was not actually as bad as the numbers indicate. The Titans as a team gave up 26.4 points a game, which ranked 27th in the league. But a lot of that was due to the offense’s turnovers. The Titans defense gave up just 24.2 points. That still ranked 25th in the league, however. So no eyebrows should be raised at whatever talent is acquired here. It’s Dick LeBeau’s Steelers-style system, which means players in the front seven take precedent over those in the back four. The Titans are at least adequate in all seven spots, but great in none, save for Jurrell Casey along the defensive line. In the middle rounds, expect the Titans to look for depth at corner and safety.

Titans’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

Before they begin picking, the Titans should give thanks to the Rams for providing them with such a bounty. Tennessee already has the most important piece (Marcus Mariota). Now it’s time to start building around him. At No. 15, the Titans can find a blindside protector. They might have taken Tunsil at No. 1 had they not traded down, but they’ll do just fine with Michigan State’s Jack Conklin or Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley. At No. 33, they should be able to grab disruptive UCLA nose tackle Kenny Clark. Clark may be more ideal to play nose in a 4-3, but Clark is only 20. He could potentially put on size. Also, his ability to push the pocket makes him valuable in any scheme. (And let’s be honest: every defensive front is multiple now anyway.) Baylor’s Howard or Virginia Tech’s Kendall Fuller could be available if the Titans want to take a cornerback at No. 43 or No. 45. Later, after Tennessee has used those first- and second-rounders to fill areas of critical need, it’s time to experiment. No one quite knows what to do with Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, but the quarterback-turned-receiver’s skillset and film as a ballcarrier are so tantalizing. He might still be around in the third, and that’s where the Titans could snap him up. Miller is a gamble who can pay off huge if he develops as a receiver.

AFC WEST

Broncos’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

They need a quarterback, but no one seems to think they’ll draft someone to be The Guy. Probably because doing so would require them to either trade up or reach for someone who’s not a sure thing. Also, these are the defending Super Bowl champs and the defense is one outstanding season away from being discussed in alltime terms. In other words, the Broncos are built to win now. That doesn’t mean GM John Elway won’t spend picks on long-term investment players, it just means he’s liable to look at positions other than QB. Guard would be a wise place to start. Max Garcia is more of a backup and untested second-year pro Robert Myers might not even be that. Center could also be a position to examine. Matt Paradis, a 2014 sixth-rounder, has done some nice things, but his lack of raw strength can be an issue. Just like on offense, Denver’s needs on defense are greatest up the middle. None are pressing, but any could be worth addressing. An inside linebacker is needed to replace departed free agent Danny Trevathan. A 3-4 end/4-3 tackle is needed to headline a rotation with Jared Crick and Vance Walker. Whoever it is must at least be capable of shooting gaps and executing stunts on passing downs. Otherwise, the loss of free agent Malik Jackson will hurt badly.

Broncos’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

In our NFC solutions piece, I suggested Alabama center Ryan Kelly as a possibility for several teams drafting early in the second round. If the Broncos decide center is the critical area of need, Kelly will be the final pick of the first round. The 6-4, 311-pounder led Alabama’s offensive line for three seasons, and the Crimson Tide never had to worry about protection adjustments when he was in the game. In the second, the Broncos could pick a quarterback. If they don’t want to trade for Colin Kaepernick, they could take the physically similar—if not a little thicker—Paxton Lynch. Lynch could start his career behind Mark Sanchez. If he develops quickly, he could be starting by the end of the season. If he doesn’t, the Broncos didn’t spend a first-rounder on a quarterback. Later, the Broncos should have options to replace Trevathan. Missouri’s Brothers should be around. Ditto for Arizona’s Scooby Wright. Or they can wait even later and grab Temple’s Tyler Matakevich or Auburn’s Cassnova McKinzy. McKinzy is especially intriguing as a late-rounder because he has played inside and at the hybrid Buck pass-rusher position.

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Chiefs’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

This defense was great a year ago but had a brutal offseason. Most notable is the ACL injury that will sideline Justin Houston until at least November, and likely later. Fortunately, explosive 2014 first-rounder Dee Ford is ready for a bigger role, and Tamba Hali was re-signed. But now the Chiefs need someone to compete with Frank Zombo for first-off-the-bench responsibilities. Also along the front, stalwart end Mike DeVito is gone. Allen Bailey and Jaye Howard can both two-gap along the edge, with Dontari Poe at nose. But again, you bump into an issue with depth. Apply this theme to the secondary, as well. Versatile backup safety Tyvon Branch is now a Cardinal. Lanky boundary corner Sean Smith is a Raider. Smith’s presumed replacement, Phillip Gaines, was very intriguing as a third-round rookie in 2014, but he’s coming off an ACL injury. If Gaines starts, that leaves only last year’s third-rounder, Steven Nelson, as a viable backup (unless Marcus Cooper can somehow regain the form that evaded him after an impressive but-short-lived start to his career). The Chiefs have myriad needs, but none of them are dire.

Chiefs’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

Given their needs, the Chiefs could simply take the best available defensive player at No. 28. Maybe that’s Ohio State corner Apple. Maybe it’s Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland. Maybe it’s Alabama lineman Robinson. Maybe it’s Mississippi State’s Chris Jones, who is big enough to play inside and quick enough to play outside. Later in the draft, the Chiefs could pick up NC State offensive lineman Joe Thuney. The 304-pound Thuney projects as a guard or center, but he also started at both tackle spots in Raleigh. He was a first-team All-ACC selection while playing in a division that includes monsters on the lines at Clemson, Florida State and Louisville. He could be a bargain in the later rounds.

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Raiders’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

GM Reggie McKenzie has done a terrific job in his first two seasons since his club emerged from the disarray that Al Davis left it in. On offense, the Raiders have an array of young skill position players and an O-line that, after this year’s addition of guard Kelechi Osemele and last year’s addition of center Rodney Hudson, might now be the best in the AFC. (The league’s best still resides in Dallas.) Defensively, the front four boasts an already elite defensive end in Khalil Mack, along with newcomer Bruce Irvin, who will rotate on edge rushes with Aldon Smith (once Smith returns from his nine-game suspension). Those three together present the potential for unprecedented firepower. Which is why Jack Del Rio and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. won’t have to dial up many blitzes. Instead, they can keep seven bodies in coverage (man or zone; they called about an even number of both last year) and allow players more freedom for jumping passing lanes. And so it would make sense to draft playmakers capable of doing this—especially since Oakland’s best one, future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson, is no longer playing centerfield. Ex-Bengal Reggie Nelson was brought aboard for these purposes. That’s one. The Raiders still need a few more.

Raiders’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

The Raiders could bulk up their defensive line at No. 14 with either Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins or Ole Miss enigma Robert Nkemdiche. As I wrote in the NFC solutions section, Nkemdiche may fall because of off-field questions, but his ability to play multiple positions at 300 pounds will keep him from falling far. Rankins, meanwhile, is a versatile 300-pounder who can play in a one-gap or two-gap scheme. In the second round, the Raiders can go for a safety. Perhaps West Virginia’s Karl Joseph will still be available. If not, Clemson’s T.J. Green could be an attractive option.

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Chargers’ Needs
By Andy Benoit

Antonio Gates has evolved into a very savvy route runner, which is why he can still play despite being almost 36 and having had several significant lower-body injuries in recent years. Still, a long-term replacement for Gates is needed. Whoever it is also must contribute right away, since No. 2 tight end Ladarius Green signed with Pittsburgh.

Defensively, too many Chargers have failed to produce at a level commensurate with their physical abilities. Melvin Ingram and Jerry Attaochu come to mind. There’s a lot to like about both: good first steps; the quickness and dexterity to redirect in traffic; and ferocity when closing on the ball. That said, adding a third edge-defending piece wouldn’t hurt, particularly when you consider that coordinator John Pagano likes to bring disguised pressure. The Chargers signed Casey Hayward in free agency, giving San Diego a third quality corner and second who can play inside or outside (Brandon Flowers is the first). This suggests Pagano may want to blitz even more in 2016, as most blitzes require man-to-man coverage.

Chargers’ Solutions
By Andy Staples

Picking at No. 3, the Chargers will have a chance to bolster their pass rush if they choose. The question is whether they like Bosa, Buckner or someone else best. (We get caught up in these mock drafts, but there are always picks that surprise. Perhaps teams like Dodd or Lawson or Spence more than they’re letting on.) The bottom line is San Diego should have options to address that particular need. The Chargers also should have options at tight end, and they probably won’t need to pick one until the third round. Hunter Henry of Arkansas should be gone by No. 35, but if he’s there, San Diego should snap him up. Complete tight ends remain a rare breed, and he’s as close to a finished product as a team will find in this draft. If Henry is gone, there are still decent options further down. South Carolina’s Jerell Adams performed well in the Senior Bowl and at the combine, and his tape must be viewed with an understanding that he had a weak supporting cast. Stanford’s Austin Hooper, meanwhile, comes from a program that pumps out NFL-ready tight ends. Ohio State’s Vannett could be another attractive choice here.

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