With the 2015 NFL draft (finally) just around the corner, we take a look at each team's most pressing needs.
On paper, the 2015 NFL draft class is one of the deepest in recent memory. How will the abundant talent impact teams' plans from April 30-May 2?
With the draft (finally) just around the corner, we take a look at each franchise's most pressing needs.
Current picks: 24, 55, 86, 123, 159, 198, 241, 256
Needs: Pass-rusher, inside linebacker, running back
Calais Campbell is still a great defensive end, and Alex Okafor is coming along nicely, but the Cards are going to need some help with their outside pass-rush. Right now, new defensive coordinator James Bettcher is dealing with a serious pressure deficit—last year, Arizona registered just 30 sacks. The team's base defense is structured to give opportunities for ends and outside linebackers, so picks at both positions wouldn't (and shouldn't) be out of the question. In addition, this defense ideally relies upon fast, versatile inside linebackers to cover in intermediate areas, and between Karlos Dansby's free-agency departure to Cleveland and Daryl Washington's suspension, this was a real problem last season. And while Andre Ellington has a lot of the things you want to like in a franchise back, Arizona's red-zone performance was hardly stellar at times.
Fortunately, it's a great draft for edge rushers, and the Cards could get their next guy with any one of their first few picks. Oregon's Arik Armstead is a bit of a Calais Campbell clone—a tremendous athlete at 6'7" and 292 pounds. Endbackers like UCLA's Owamagbe Odighizuwa or Virginia's Eli Harold should also be available when the 24th pick comes around. For the inside, Washington's Shaq Thompson would be an ideal fit—he's got the ability to come down and tackle runners, but can switch into coverage so well some NFL teams want to make him a safety. And if the Cards want a bruising back in the later rounds, they'd do well to look at Alabama's T.J. Yeldon or Northern Iowa's David Johnson.—DF
Jump to your favorite team:
Current picks: 8, 42, 73, 107, 146, 185, 225, 249
Needs: Tight end, pass-rusher, running back
The Falcons haven't come close to replacing Tony Gonzalez since the future Hall of Famer retired following the 2013 season, and that void has been felt despite the excellence of Roddy White and Julio Jones. General manager Thomas Dimitroff has tried in vain to draft the kind of pure pass-rusher that can redefine a defense, and while new head coach Dan Quinn can do a lot with the talent he's got on the roster, it's time to add a little help. Perhaps the team's most pressing need: running back. Atlanta released veteran Steven Jackson, who led the team in rushing with a paltry 707 yards last season.
The great news for the Falcons is that there's a lot of talent at the running back position in this draft class, and if the franchise is ready to sign off on Todd Gurley's knee recovery, the Georgia back has the kind of talent that can turn an offense around. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon might be a bit of an overdraft with the eighth overall pick, but he's a versatile and prolific player with an obvious nose for the end zone. The Falcons would like to run a hybrid defense—some four-man fronts, some three-man with different blitz packages—and with that in mind, a pass-rusher would be a nice get with that high pick. Florida's Dante Fowler would be an amazing fit in Quinn's defense because he can get pass rush off the edge and from different gaps inside. It's a weak class for tight ends, but there are interesting prospects in the later rounds—Southern Illinois's MyCole Pruitt has a knack for getting open in short spaces and can be moved around the formation.—DF
Current picks: 26, 58, 90, 122, 125, 136, 158, 171, 176, 204
Needs: Wide receiver, cornerback, outside linebacker
Steve Smith might be superhuman. He also turns 36 next month, and with Torrey Smith off to San Francisco no other returning Baltimore receiver made more than 24 catches last season. Torrey Smith often was Joe Flacco's safety net, providing a downfield target capable of at least drawing a penalty. Who is that receiver now? Is there anyone Flacco can trust in the red zone? Ohio State's Devin Smith might be closest in game to Torrey Smith, but 6'5" Dorial Green-Beckham or 6'3" Jaelen Strong would be more dangerous close to the goal line.
Same goes for Baltimore's shape at the pass-rush spots, at least if looking down the line. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil were phenomenal together in 2014, combining for 29 sacks. The former turns 33 in October; the latter 32 next January. Pernell McPhee's move to Chicago also cranks up the expectations on Courtney Upshaw. There needs to be at least one more guy in the mix—maybe a pure pass-rusher like Hau'oli Kikaha.—CB
Current picks: 50, 81, 155, 188, 194, 234
Needs: Quarterback, right guard/tackle, tight end
Rex Ryan could have walked a ring to Mordor in less time than it has taken him to find a franchise quarterback. Without a pick in the top 49, Ryan and the Bills may still be in search of help at that position next year—they'll hope that EJ Manuel develops or that they can find a gem amongst the second- and third-tier QBs in the 2015 draft class. Bills ... Brett Hundley, Bryce Petty and Garrett Grayson all offer unique skill sets in that range.
Buffalo spent three picks on offensive linemen last draft, grabbing Seantrel Henderson, Cyrus Kouandjio and Cyril Richardson. Henderson played every snap as a rookie and Kouandjio could push him in camp, but another competitor would be welcome. Guard is such an uncertainty that the Bills signed free agent Richie Incognito, last seen at the heart of a locker-room bullying situation in Miami.
Charles Clay's arrival takes away the desperation from any search at tight end, but let's not forget that this is now a Ryan-led team. In other words, he and offensive coordinator Greg Roman will need multiple blocking TEs to help grind away with the run game.—CB
Current picks: 25, 57, 89, 124, 161, 169, 174, 201, 242
Needs: Offensive tackle, cornerback, receiver
Carolina's current plan at left tackle is to start Michael Oher and have Jonathan Martin as a backup. This after deciding to move on from free-agent Byron Bell, who allowed nine sacks and 52 total pressures in 2014. In other words, this is a team that needs a new left tackle. Cornerback Josh Norman had a really nice season in 2014, allowing just one touchdown and a 52.1 opponent passer rating in 379 coverage snaps, but there's a need for a bookend, and free-agent acquisition Charles Tillman won't quite get the job done. And though Kelvin Benjamin had an amazing rookie season, Cam Newton could use more targets since general manager Dave Gettleman scrapped the entire receiver corps prior to the 2014 season.
In the later part of the first round, the Panthers may be able to acquire that left tackle talent in the form of Stanford's Andrus Peat (perhaps the most pro-ready at the position) or Pitt's T.J. Clemmings (a converted defensive lineman who played right tackle the last two seasons, but has the kind of raw tape that has you believing in his potential on the other side). Later on, perhaps Carolina could look to Texas A&M's Cedric Ogbuehi. There are around 10 different cornerbacks in this class who have first- or second-round talent; if Carolina wants a physical cornerback who could eventually shut down opposing top receivers, LSU's Jalen Collins will be of interest. The similarly named Jaelen Strong, a wide receiver from Arizona State, would be a great complement to Benjamin; he's less apt to win physical battles, but he's an excellent possession receiver.—DF
Current picks: 7, 39, 71, 106, 142, 183
Needs: Safety, nose tackle, pass-rusher
Chicago's safety situation was a hot mess last year, and not even a switch in defensive coordinators, from Mel Tucker to Vic Fangio, will fix that. New blood is needed, and Antrel Rolle is veteran spackle. And in Fangio's base 3-4 defense (with a lot of hybrid fronts), there's a need for the kind of defensive tackle who can take a center and guard on, opening up possibilities for potential pass-rushers. The Bears signed former Ravens linebacker Pernell McPhee to bolster the pass-rush, but McPhee is best when he's moving to different gaps from down to down. Fangio will need an elite edge rusher to bring the Monsters of the Midway back to form.
Arizona State's Damarious Randall may be the free safety prospect with the best potential to roam the back-third of a defense at the NFL level; the Bears could pair Randall with the delightfully named Jaquiski Tartt from Samford at strong safety (perhaps in the third or fourth round) and have a safety duo of some renown over time. Many mocks have Washington's Danny Shelton to the Bears with the seventh overall pick. Though that's a very high pick for a nose tackle, Shelton has the talent to make that work. Later on, the Bears could add an edge-rushing end like Washington's Hau'oli Kikaha or Mississippi State's Preston Smith. Smith isn't a speed rusher per se, but he's the kind of multi-gap guy Fangio prefers.—DF
Current picks: 21, 53, 85, 99, 120, 135, 157, 197, 238
Needs: Offensive tackle, linebacker, tight end
Taking an offensive tackle relatively early would be true to form for the Bengals. They have 2015's potential starters in Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith, with Eric Winston as a swing option. But all three are in their 30s and there are not guarantees any of them will be back in 2016. A rookie OT could provide depth, push for playing time, then take over as a full-time starter next season. Cincinnati loves having an inexpensive, in-house replacement plan. A rookie OT could provide depth, push for playing time, then take over as a full-time starter next season—especially if he also could help out at guard, as someone like La'el Collins could.
Free-agent signee A.J. Hawk adds a veteran presence to the locker room. Can he be counted on for anything more? The Bengals might need him to if Vontaze Burfict and Emmanuel Lamur continue to battle injuries ... and that's not ideal given how Hawk's Packers career wound down.
Don't rule out Cincinnati nabbing a tight end early, two years after selecting Tyler Eifert in Round 1. Letting Jermaine Gresham walk thinned out the Bengals' ranks considerably. Eifert should be the clear-cut No. 1 guy, but he played all of eight snaps before suffering a season-ending injury in 2014.—CB
Jump to your favorite team:
Current picks: 12, 19, 43, 77, 111, 115, 147, 189, 202, 229
Needs: Tight end, nose tackle, quarterback
Tough for the Browns to have quarterback questions again after spending a 2014 first-rounder on Johnny Manziel. Asking Manziel to keep his life in order and grab the reins as a full-time starter probably is setting the bar too high, so decision time could be approaching in a hurry. If Marcus Mariota somehow were to tumble a few spots, all eyes would be on Cleveland.
Rob Housler was an intriguing addition at tight end. He averaged 42 catches over 2012-13 for Arizona and has the inside track on Jordan Cameron's vacated job. Bringing in another pass-catching TE would tone down Cleveland's reliance on a Housler breakthrough, though. The Browns have less choice along their defensive line: they badly have to find a space-eater after finishing dead last against the run a season ago. Washington DT Danny Shelton is the top candidate early, at the No. 12 overall pick. Jordan Phillips, Carl Davis and Joey Mbu are names to remember for later in the draft proceedings.—CB
Current picks: 27, 60, 91, 127, 163, 236, 243
Needs: Running back, defensive end, cornerback
The loss of DeMarco Murray to the Eagles in free agency leaves the Cowboys with their most notable personnel gap, and unless a trade for Adrian Peterson is in the works, that's where they should start in the draft. Even if a Peterson trade happens—well, Peterson is 30 years old, which is really, really old for that position. And Greg Hardy's 10-game suspension means that this risk/reward signing won't possibly pay dividends until late in the regular season. At cornerback, Dallas is dealing with a contract dispute with Orlando Scandrick, and the fact that Brandon Carr simply isn't what he used to be—Carr allowed six touchdowns and a 116.6 opposing passer rating last season. Sterling Moore shows some potential, but this is still a need.
Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon may be gone by the time the Cowboys pick in the first round, but there are a lot of backs who could succeed behind the best run-blocking line in the NFL. I'm a big fan of Miami's Duke Johnson, who might also be there when the 60th pick rolls around. He reminds me of Reggie Bush, and he can do a lot all over the field. At end, the aforementioned Mr. Odighizuwa would be a perfect fit in Rod Marinelli's defense—he's got just the right combination of burst and strength. Marinelli likes cornerbacks who can get around the field quickly and with a lot of range—Connecticut's Byron Jones had a monstrous combine workout, and he shows the speed on the field.—DF
Current picks: 28, 59, 92, 133, 143, 164, 203, 250, 251, 252
Needs: Tackle, tight end, guard
Sure, the Broncos could add at just about any spot on the defense, save for maybe outside linebacker. If they plan to make (at least) one more legit run at the Super Bowl with Peyton Manning, though, priority numero uno should be ensuring the offense is running at max capacity.
To get there, Denver must fit its pieces to the offense of new coach Gary Kubiak. Can right tackle Chris Clark stick? How about center Manny Ramirez? Does the arrival of Shelley Smith set the Broncos' guard spots in stone? There are a lot of uncertainties for a likely AFC contender, so the O-line may be first up for a draft boost. Erving and T.J. Clemmings have been frequently tied to the Broncos, and they both posses the athleticism Kubiak demands from his linemen.
Tight end is another connect-the-dots possibility. Denver swapped out Julius Thomas for Owen Daniels and H-back James Casey. Daniels has been productive under Kubiak in the past, yet neither of those players offers the mismatch potential that Thomas did. Virgil Green could pick up a little slack, but there's room for a game-changer. Maxx Williams is Thomas-esque in how he challenges linebackers and safeties downfield.—CB
Current picks: 23, 54, 88, 200, 231, 240
Needs: Offensive line, running back, defensive tackle
Riley Reiff has been a serviceable left tackle, but he really fits the right tackle profile better—he's tough and smart, but athletically limited. The left guard position is also undefined—Larry Warford is a stud on the right side, but when the team cut Rodney Austin, that was that. And though Haloti Ngata will be a serviceable replacement for Ndamukong Suh in the short term, it's going to be a tall order to replace Suh over time, and this off-season the team also finally gave up on Nick Fairley, who wound up in St. Louis. Joique Bell is a productive back, and there's belief in youngster Theo Riddick, but this is a team in need of a more dominant and reliable ground game.
Andrus Peat would be a great fit for a Lions offense that has thrown the ball as much as any team over the last five seasons—he's not a mauler, but he's got a consistent pass set and excellent overall technique. Cedric Ogbuehi would also fit this paradigm. If the Lions are looking for a freak athlete at the defensive tackle position, few in this class are freakier than Oklahoma's Jordan Phillips, who plays with far more athleticism than you'd expect from a 6'5", 329-pound behemoth.—DF
Green Bay Packers
Current picks: 30, 62, 94, 129, 166, 206, 210, 213, 247
Needs: Cornerback, nose tackle, inside linebacker
Green Bay's defense has slipped a bit over the last couple years, and losing cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Davon House in free agency doesn't really help. Casey Heyward and Micah Hyde are better as hybrid players, so Ted Thompson needs to look for at least one and maybe two boundary corners in the draft. Thompson also cut inside linebackers A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones, and though Sam Barrington looks like a future star, there's a big hole at inside linebacker. In addition, the nose tackle position has been unresolved since B.J. Raji fell off the map a couple years ago. The Packers are firing on all cylinders offensively, but getting back to the Super Bowl will likely require a lot of restocking on the other side of the ball.
With the 30th pick, there will still be a lot of great cornerbacks on the board, and if Washington's Marcus Peters falls that far, he'd be an absolutely perfect player for Dom Capers's defense—the Pack like big, physical press corners, and that's exactly what Peters is. Later on, Utah's Eric Rowe could be of interest, because he can play corner and safety, and Green Bay loves hybrid defensive backs. Texas's Malcom Brown took on multiple blockers as a two-gap nose, and he could do the same for Capers. In later rounds, Central Michigan's Leterrius Walton is getting some buzz lately. And throw out the slow 40 time TCU's Paul Dawson ran at the combine—he's a speedy pursuit linebacker who can also cover.—DF
Jump to your favorite team:
Current picks: 16, 51, 82, 116, 152, 175, 195, 211, 216, 235
Needs: Inside linebacker, quarterback, outside linebacker
This is another squad that would not mind adding a talented cornerback, if for no other reason than that Johnathan Joseph's contract expires after 2015. The second level is where Houston is less stable heading into this season. Brian Cushing needs a rangy option like Washington's Shaq Thompson complementing him inside, or possibly filling in for him—he reportedly needed three off-season surgeries (wrist, ankle, knee), adding to an ever-growing list of injury concerns. Worse yet, the Texans cannot count on 2014 No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney for much of an impact, leaving them still in need of a pass-rusher to back J.J. Watt. Dupree or Ray are capable of cleaning up with Watt drawing as much attention as he does.
As for the QB spot, well ... second-year head coach Bill O'Brien has the depth chart there spinning like the Price Is Right wheel, except he never hits the jackpot. Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett and '14 draft smokescreen Tom Savage are on track to fight for the starting job, with Hoyer considered the frontrunner. Hard to see O'Brien reaching his goals without an eventual upgrade under center.—CB
Current picks: 29, 61, 93, 128, 165, 205, 207, 244, 255
Needs: Offensive tackle, linebacker, defensive tackle
GM Ryan Grigson said just last month, per the Indianapolis Star, that the Colts still "have to see" how RT Gosder Cherilus bounces back from a season-ending knee injury. Grigson and Co. have their eyes on the Super Bowl (see: signing Andre Johnson and Frank Gore), so just crossing their fingers at right tackle doesn't jibe. There may not be a safer pick at right tackle than Oregon's Jake Fisher, who can step in and start immediately.
The Colts' defense was quite average in 2014, stemming from an 18th-ranked run defense and ho-hum pass rush. OLB Trent Cole should bring more heat on opposing quarterbacks, but Grigson still needs to find more playmakers up the middle. Whether that equates to a defensive tackle (Eddie Goldman?), inside linebacker (Benardrick McKinney?) or both could dictate how Indianapolis approaches the early rounds.—CB
Current picks: 3, 36, 67, 103, 139, 180, 220
Needs: Outside linebacker, running back, safety
Outside linebacker, defensive end, Leo ... however Gus Bradley designates guys on his depth chart, it's apparent he needs someone to create pressure off the edge. The Leo (hybrid OLB/DE) description appears to fit numerous possible top-10 draft picks this year, arguably none better than Vic Beasley—he would make sense at No. 3 overall. Dante Fowler's another definite option for the Jaguars there.
Bradley could use some more dynamic depth in both his offensive and defensive backfields, as well. Free-agent addition Sergio Brown would be a stretch as an unquestioned starter. Jacksonville has a similar issue at RB, where Toby Gerhart, Denard Robinson, Storm Johnson and ex-Raven Bernard Pierce carry depth without any real star potential. Although the 2015 running back class is a deep one, Jacksonville might not be able to wait should Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon fall into their laps near the top of Round 2.—CB
Kansas City Chiefs
Current picks: 18, 49, 80, 98, 118, 172, 173, 193, 217, 233
Needs: Cornerback, offensive tackle, wide receiver
The Chiefs have a lot of young talent at cornerback. Whether or not they fully trust any of it is another issue. Their best player at that position, Sean Smith, is facing a potential suspension for a 2014 DUI incident and could hit free agency after this season. No matter how you slice it, Kansas City has to consider drafting a CB (or safety). This might be the landing spot for rising prospect Byron Jones.
Eric Fisher remains the starting left tackle, despite allowing 24 hurries and seven sacks a year ago. Having someone capable of challenging him would be ideal, although the Chiefs also have to determine if two right-side starters can emerge from the group Jeff Allen, Donald Stephenson and Paul Fanaika. Of course, there are numerous Round 1-worthy right tackles this year, like T.J. Clemmings and Ereck Flowers.
Jeremy Maclin's arrival—and the Chiefs' usual game plan—pushes WR down the list of needs, but this team still could use a big-bodied outside threat. Inside linebacker's also a possibility, with 32-year-old Derrick Johnson entering the final year of his deal and coming back from an Achilles tear.—CB
Current picks: 14, 47, 114, 149, 150, 191
Needs: Linebacker, guard, safety
Receiver has moved from need to potential luxury pick thanks to Miami's trade for Kenny Stills and recent signing of Greg Jennings. There may not be a true No. 1 in the group, but a Stills-Jennings-Jarvis Landry trio with Jordan Cameron at tight end provides plenty of viable options for Ryan Tannehill. So, keeping Tannehill upright could be a priority. Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner are penciled in as the starting guards right now—Turner only played in Week 17 last year and Thomas was Miami's lowest-graded lineman on Pro Football Focus. If Laken Tomlinson or A.J. Cann is there for the taking in Round 2, the Dolphins should rush to the podium.
Even if Dion Jordan's disappointing days in Miami are numbered, the linebacking corps could be decent. But another reliable athlete or two there could propel the front seven, now paced by Ndamukong Suh, to new heights. Depth is needed across the secondary; there is no way the front office can feel 100% confident that Louis Delmas can get all the way back from his latest knee injury to start 16 games. A versatile, later-round choice like Penn State's Adrian Amos would buy Delmas some time and help at multiple spots.—CB
Current picks: 11, 45, 76, 110, 137, 228, 232
Needs: Receiver, offensive guard, cornerback
It's fairly impressive what Teddy Bridgewater was able to do in his rookie campaign with a sub-par receiver corps, and the addition of Mike Wallace really only covers the speed aspect of things. Norv Turner is still trying to figure out what to do with Cordarrelle Patterson, and more is definitely needed at this position. The Vikings are hoping that left tackle Matt Kalil can rebound from his disastrous 2014 season, but there's no question about the need to upgrade at guard. Charlie Johnson was the main man on the left side, and he's out of the picture now. And head coach Mike Zimmer, one of the league's best defensive minds, would certainly like a top-end complement to cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
The main thing Bridgewater needs is a receiver who can help forge consistency from play to play, especially if he's dealing with a post-Adrian Peterson landscape. To that end, USC's Nelson Agholor and Arizona State's Jaelen Strong would provide that kind of value—Agholor adds a speed element, while Strong would give the Vikings the yards-after-catch element they don't really have right now. At guard, Florida State's Tre' Jackson and Alabama's Arie Kouandjio have the prototypical big bodies and intimidating play style this team prefers. Though cornerback depth is good in this class, the Vikings are facing Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler twice a year in the NFC North, so maybe another first-round corner to go along with Rhodes? Michigan State's Trae Waynes would look pretty good in purple ...—DF
New England Patriots
Current picks: 32, 64, 96, 97, 101, 131, 178, 219, 253
Needs: Guard, cornerback, defensive tackle
Part of the reason New England unleashed its tricky tackle-eligible formation vs. Baltimore is that the coaching staff did not entirely trust a wounded interior O-line. At last one more starter at guard would make life a lot easier for Tom Brady, as well as for the Patriots' ground attack. Florida State tackle/center/potential NFL guard Cameron Erving has been a popular mock-draft pick for New England at 32.
The two defensive needs listed here were borne out of the free-agency losses. Cornerbacks Darrelle Revis (Jets) and Brandon Browner (Saints) bolted this off-season, possibly leaving the Patriots in position to ask a great deal—perhaps too much—of the remaining DBs. Likewise, Vince Wilfork's exit subtracted 330 pounds of proven, run-stuffing pop from the defensive line. Bill Belichick covets versatility up front, which could put him in the draft market for a movable piece. Keep an eye on Clemson DT Grady Jarrett.—CB
Jump to your favorite team:
New Orleans Saints
Current picks: 13, 31, 44, 75, 78, 148, 154, 187, 230
Needs: Tight end, receiver, pass-rusher, guard
So ... how did your off-season go? Probably better than New Orleans's—they traded Jimmy Graham to Seattle, traded Kenny Stills to Miami, booted Ben Grubbs to the Chiefs, and made a number of cap-saving decisions with the rest of their roster. General manager Mickey Loomis is in Do Not Panic mode, and maybe he's right—when you have five picks in the top 80, you have a lot of room to get things right at a lower cost. Obviously, a replacement for Graham is of paramount importance—and with Stills gone, the Saints are expecting Brandin Cooks to be Drew Brees's primary seam weapon. In addition (and stop us if you've heard this before), defensive coordinator Rob Ryan could use an outside pass-rusher or two; Junior Galette led the team last season with 10 sacks and Cam Jordan had 7.5, but there was little to speak of after that.
And since this year's tight end class is less than inspiring, how about taking Michigan's Devin Funchess—a 6'4", 232-pound receiver with after-catch ability—and making him a move tight end in the Graham mold? Funchess can't block, but neither could Graham, and though Funchess isn't quite as athletically imposing, he'd be an interesting fit in Sean Payton's offense. It's a good year to be looking for speed slot receivers who can also play a little bit on the outside—Kansas State's Tyler Lockett, Miami's Phillip Dorsett and USC's Nelson Agholor would each fit that paradigm. Ryan likes speed guys off the edge, and there are few speedier than Nebraska's Randy Gregory. Gregory isn't a physical player per se, but his burst off the edge would be a huge help in New Orleans. And if you're looking for a bludgeoning guard who can pull, Florida State's Tre' Jackson is worth a look.—DF
New York Giants
Current picks: 9, 40, 74, 108, 144, 186, 226, 245
Needs: Offensive tackle, defensive tackle, safety
Depending on which report you read, the G-Men are thinking of either moving right tackle Justin Pugh to guard, or moving left tackle Will Beatty to right tackle, or both. Beatty gave up just three sacks in 1,141 total snaps last season on the blind side, so let's say the real deal is moving Pugh inside—he's been pretty overwhelmed at right tackle since he was taken in the first round of the 2013 draft. On the other side, right now, New York's formerly dominant interior defensive line is held together by veterans Kenrick Ellis and Cullen Jenkins. There's new blood on the bench, but safe to say improvement is needed. And after watching most of their safety depth walk out the door in free agency, it's also safe to say that general manager Jerry Reese will be looking for free and strong safeties.
If New York wants to dump the idea of Pugh as their right tackle (backup Marshall Newhouse has not shown that he can do that job at the NFL level), one ideal draft candidate would be Pitt's T.J. Clemmings. Projected as a right tackle for now at the pro level, Clemmings could step in right away and become a major asset with his physical style. And if they're looking for quicker, lighter, pass-rushing defensive tackles, Clemson's Grady Jarrett would be a super fit—he reminds me of Geno Atkins with his aggressive and high-effort play. And Samford's Jaquiski Tartt is a missile of a strong safety who can also cover.—DF
New York Jets
Current picks: 6, 37, 70, 104, 223, 224
Needs: Outside linebacker, quarterback, guard/tackle
The only factor keeping QB from topping the list is that the Jets might be able to nickel and dime their way to respectability with Ryan Fitzpatrick (or Geno Smith?) under center. Well, that and new head coach Todd Bowles's desire to find a defensive weapon off the edge. Quinton Coples, Calvin Pace and Jason Babin are all in the mix for that role right now, but none collected more than 6.5 sacks a year ago. Even with a mini-run on pass-rushers out of the blocks, the Jets could pick between two or three guys (Bud Dupree? Shane Ray? Vic Beasley?) at No. 6 overall.
Quarterback certainly is a need, too, especially if Bowles is planning to stick around for awhile. The Jets have provided whichever player wins that job in 2015 much more help at the skill positions by adding the likes of Brandon Marshall and Stevan Ridley. Shoring up their offensive line with more depth is an important next step, as injuries have wreaked havoc on this group of late. None of Willie Colon, James Carpenter, Brian Winters or Dakota Dozier can be considered a dominant guard.—CB
Current picks: 4, 35, 68, 102, 140, 179, 221
Needs: Wide receiver, defensive end, safety
The Raiders' need at wide receiver might be among the most obvious holes league-wide. They will have a shot to find their superstar with a top-five pick. Defensive end probably is not far behind. Oakland's current projected starters at DE are 32-year-old Justin Tuck and former waiver claim Benson Mayowa. Not great. The board may not work to Oakland's advantage there at No. 4 overall, but how about UCLA's Owa Odighizuwa on Day 2?
The remaining roster creates a pick 'em for the third need. Charles Woodson, now 38, is likely headed into his final season and Tyvon Branch is now a Chief, so Oakland has to develop a safety soon. Cornerback depth, a potential starting guard or even a late-round running back might be on the Oakland docket.—CB
Current picks: 20, 52, 84, 113, 145, 156, 196, 237
Needs: Receiver, safety, offensive guard
The Eagles are certainly Chip Kelly's team now—of that, there is no doubt. And after one of the busiest off-seasons in recent memory, there are holes to be filled on the roster. Rookie Jordan Matthews became one of the most productive NFL slot receivers last year, but when Jeremy Maclin took big money to sign with the Chiefs, the need for a speedy outside receiver became more pronounced. Safety Nate Allen signed with the Raiders, but he was a severe liability in coverage last season, anyway. And Philly's formerly stout offensive line is looking a bit leaky at the guard spot—the Eagles released veteran Todd Herremans, and Evan Mathis has been on the trade block for the last few weeks.
Kelly has said over and over that he wants receivers who can beat man coverage and get open with physicality. Dorial Green-Beckham would be ideal if the Eagles want to take on his off-field baggage and lack of on-field experience. Louisville's DeVante Parker has the speed to excel in Kelly's offense, and the potential strength to deal with aggressive coverage. Damarious Randall would be a good safety fit due to his coverage abilities, and Louisville's Gerod Holliman tied an NCAA record with 14 picks last year. Defensive coordinator Billy Davis would just have to deal with Holliman's aversion to contact. Among the potential guards in this class, Missouri's Mitch Morse and Ali Marpet of Hobart have the functional mobility Kelly requires.—DF
Current picks: 22, 56, 87, 121, 160, 199, 212, 239
Needs: Cornerback, safety, outside linebacker
Seeking out Heath Miller's eventual replacement now, rather than later, might be in the Steelers' plans. Minnesota's Maxx Williams figures to be there for the taking in Round 1, Miami's Clive Walford in Round 2. Or they could add an offensive lineman or two to ensure that group does not have to be duct taped together weekly.
However, odds are Pittsburgh's main focus will fall on defense, where just this off-season S Troy Polamalu, CB Ike Taylor and, in a stunning development, OLB Jason Worilds all retired. The secondary nearly ran out of bodies down the stretch last season as it was. Count on GM Kevin Colbert bringing in multiple new faces for his pass defense. Someone comfortable in man or zone, as Wake Forest's Kevin Johnson has shown himself to be, has to be high on Colbert's list.—CB
Jump to your favorite team:
San Diego Chargers
Current picks: 17, 48, 83, 117, 153, 192
Needs: Running back, guard/tackle, outside linebacker
Should San Diego pull the trigger on a rumored Philip Rivers deal, quarterback obviously would become a need—though that Rivers deal only figures to occur if the Chargers can replace him with Marcus Mariota at No. 2 overall. Staying put and adding a true No. 1 RB—Branden Oliver, Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown are by-committee guys—is a realistic conclusion, making San Diego one of the likeliest teams to address its backfield in Round 1, with Gordon or Gurley. Rounding out an already stout-looking offensive line could help this team reach the playoffs.
The Chargers used a 2012 first-round pick on Melvin Ingram, a sixth-rounder in '13 on Tourek Williams, a second-rounder last year on Jeremiah Attaochu and signed Dwight Freeney two years ago. Their reward for all that work: fewer sacks in '15 than all but three teams.—CB
San Francisco 49ers
Current picks: 15, 46, 79, 126, 132, 151, 190, 246, 254
Needs: Receiver, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, cornerback
There have been few off-seasons in NFL history more tumultuous than San Francisco's 2015 off-season—they lost their head coach, offensive and defensive coordinators, their primary receiver in Michael Crabtree, their left guard in Mike Iupati, two starting linebackers in Patrick Willis and Chris Borland to retirement, while linebacker NaVorro Bowman is still trying to fully recover from the knee injury he suffered in the 2013 NFC Championship Game, underrated cornerback Chris Culliver signed with the Redskins ... Justin Smith might retire ... Ray McDonald took his rap sheet to Chicago ... the list of losses seem to go on forever. Now, CEO Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke are in charge, for better or worse, and Jim Tomsula is the head coach who will try to guide this franchise through the post-Jim Harbaugh era. The question is, how much can Tomsula accomplish with a severely depleted roster and a GM who has provided precious few elite starters in his last few drafts?
The 49ers signed former Ravens speedster Torrey Smith to a five-year, $40 million deal, and Anquan Boldin is still there, but this offense will need intermediate receivers with reliable hands (which Smith does not have). Arizona State's Jaelen Strong would be an outstanding addition in that regard. Duke guard Laken Tomlinson is a smart, tough player who could ease the pain of Iupati's departure to Arizona. If Smith retires, that leaves a huge hole that Danny Shelton could fill if he drops to the 15th overall pick. Mississippi State's Preston Smith is a good hybrid end who could play the strong side as McDonald once did. Replacing Willis will be next to impossible, and Borland's surprise retirement leaves another void. But UCLA's Eric Kendricks is an athletic and aware linebacker, and TCU's Paul Dawson has visited the team. There's just a lot, lot, lot of work to be done here, and people who question whether the right people are in charge have every right to do so.—DF
Current picks: 63, 95, 112, 130, 134, 167, 170, 181, 209, 214, 248
Needs: Guard, center, receiver, defensive tackle
The two-time NFC champs hope that the Jimmy Graham trade solves that pesky short-yardage passing issue that came up at the end of Super Bowl XLIX, and while Chris Matthews came out of nowhere to show up as a big receiver in that game, the Seahawks still need a speed receiver who can take the top off a defense. Paul Richardson, selected in the second round of the 2014 draft, suffered a torn ACL in January and may not be ready for the start of the season. And losing center Max Unger in the Graham trade, and losing left guard James Carpenter to free agency, means that Seattle needs two major replacements on an offensive line that has underperformed over the last few years. In addition, injuries to nose tackle Brandon Mebane and three-tech tackle Jordan Hill seriously affected Pete Carroll's base fronts in the playoffs, and Mebane's cap situation could be a problem—he's due $5.7 million in 2015, and the team could save all but $200,000 of that if they cut him loose. Not that they should, but it's certainly a consideration.
As far as the speed receiver goes, Auburn's Sammie Coates is projected by many as a late second-round pick, and his combination of vertical explosion and toughness would be ideal for this team. Coates averaged 21.4 yards per catch in his three collegiate seasons. The Seahawks selected Unger out of Oregon in 2009, and could go back to that well with Ducks center Hroniss Grasu, a smart player who seemed to get better and tougher against stronger competition. If Carroll is looking for a Mebane replacement in the later rounds, Fresno State's Tyeler Davison is a big, strong kid who will need a bit of time to get his technique in order, but probably projects as a middle-round pick.—DF
St. Louis Rams
Current picks: 10, 41, 72, 119, 215, 227
Needs: Offensive line
We can pretty much start and finish right here. Jeff Fisher has said that 2014 first-round pick Greg Robinson will be the team's left tackle in the new season, but he looked better when he played guard. Left tackle Jake Long is off the roster and possibly headed for retirement. Davin Joseph wasn't a world-beater at right guard, but he's back on a one-year deal. Rodger Saffold was a pleasant surprise at multiple positions, but right tackle Joseph Barksdale is in the wind, making free-agent visits. Oh ... and Scott Wells, who graded out as Pro Football Focus's worst center last season, was also cut. New quarterback Nick Foles isn't a guy who will excel without protection, and his new team would have trouble fielding a starting five in front of him at this point.
So ... let's fix this. The Rams would do well to take Iowa's Brandon Scherff with the 10th pick—he reminds me of Jake Long at his peak with his combination of power and agility, and he could ostensibly play both tackle and both guard positions. He's probably best at left tackle in this scheme, which would give Robinson the ability to kick out to right tackle or guard. At center, Florida State's Cam Erving projects to the first round, but he'd be great for this offense with the 41st pick if he drops that far. The Rams like powerful guards with some agility—Tennessee State's Robert Myers and Utah's Jeremiah Poutasi are two players who could come right in and, with some technique fixes, make this line complete—and intimidating.—DF
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Current picks: 1, 34, 65, 109, 162, 184, 218, 23
Needs: Quarterback, defensive end, offensive tackle
Unless the Bucs intend to drop a big surprise to start the draft on Thursday, they've already put Jameis Winston's name on their card. And assuming they do that, they can turn right around and deal with their second most prominent need—left tackle. Tampa Bay released Anthony Collins just one year after signing him to a five-year, $30 million deal, and defending Mr. Winston's blindside will be of paramount importance. In addition, an edge rusher is clearly needed—tackle Gerald McCoy led the team with 8.5 sacks last season, with end Jacquies Smith coming in second at 6.5. Tampa Bay amassed just 36 sacks last season, and for Lovie Smith's defense to work, that number is going to have to go up.
If Tampa Bay wants to get that left tackle with the 34th pick, they could always go with Miami's Ereck Flowers, who has visited the facility. I'm not a fan of Flowers's agility—I think he tends to let his footwork get away from him—but that's a possibility. They've also had Wisconsin's Rob Havenstein in for a workout, but Havenstein projects more as a guard—another potential need for this team. As far as edge rushers go, teams are warming up to LSU's Danielle Hunter, who's built like a really big tight end and has incredible athleticism, but has a long way to go in his overall technique. The Bucs had Utah endbacker Nate Orchard in for a visit, and Orchard could work well in Tampa Bay's fronts if he works on his functional strength.—DF
Current picks: 2, 33, 66, 100, 138, 177, 208
Needs: Quarterback, outside linebacker, wide receiver
Failing to solve their quarterback situation in one way or another—Marcus Mariota? Philip Rivers?—would amount to this team admitting it's playing for 2016. Doing so could mean the ends of the line for coach Ken Whisenhunt and GM Ruston Webster. All that said, the Titans' best non-quarterback fit at the No. 2 selection appears to be Leonard Williams, who meshes with their multiple fronts and whose presence alone would bolster the pass rush.
Webster has opened his checkbook at OLB and WR this off-season. The pickup of OLB Brian Orakpo deserves a higher grade than those of receivers Harry Douglas and Hakeem Nicks. In all cases the Titans remain shy of enough meaningful competition, a problem that is particularly noticeable for the passing attack. While Kendall Wright has flashed ample potential, Justin Hunter is walking the bust tightrope and the Douglas-Nicks combo is best suited to play behind the starters.—CB
Current picks: 5, 38, 69, 105, 141, 182, 222
Needs: Receiver, pass-rusher, offensive guard
There may be a need for a starting quarterback here, depending on what head coach Jay Gruden wants at the position (your guess is as good as ours), but let's go for what we know. Gruden will probably want a bigger receiver to go with Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. New offensive line coach Bill Callahan will have his work cut out for him, because outside of left tackle Trent Williams, there's not a lot of top-end talent along the front five. And though the pass-rush combination of Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo was estimable when both players were healthy, Orakpo now plays in Tennessee, and Kerrigan will be a free agent after this season.
Guard is the big need, and Washington could hit on the right guy with their second- or third-round pick, or even later—there's good depth at the position this year. Mitch Morse, a tackle at Missouri, would have the agility and ability to play guard in Callahan's power-zone scheme. Should the Redskins take West Virginia's Kevin White if he's there at pick No. 5? I certainly wouldn't disagree with that choice. One potential late-round pass-rusher to watch for the Redskins is Washington's Andrew Hudson, who put up 12.5 sacks last season and did it totally under the radar. The Redskins have expressed interest.—DF