By Todd Singer @breakingbadfish on April 8, 2014
With most of the big name free agents off the market and May fast approaching, NFL teams have turned their attention to the upcoming draft to fill their remaining holes. While there was a flurry of activity in free agency, with teams trying to plug as many holes as they could with their available cap room, it's almost impossible to address every need this way. The following is the updated list of biggest remaining needs for each team.
Having traded Matt Schaub to the Oakland Raiders, the Texans are in the market for a new signal caller. With the No. 1 overall pick, Houston seems to be in prime position to nab their QB of the future, but the allure of a generational talent like Jadeveon Clowney could prove to be too much. If the Texans opt to pass on a QB with their first pick, it's almost a certainty they will look to grab one with the first pick in the second round.
The Rams' defense took a big step forward last season, but they need quite a bit of help on the back end of their defense. Rodney McLeod is slotted in as the starting free safety, but he leaves much to be desired. While the Rams will likely go best player available with the No. 2 overall pick, there's a distinct chance they could opt for a game-changing safety with the 13th pick.
The Jaguars traded Blaine Gabbert this offseason, finally admitting what everyone had known for some time -- Gabbert was a colossal 1st round bust. While Chad Henne performed admirably in Gabbert's stead last season, he's certainly not the long-term answer either, leaving Jacksonville searching for their future QB. The Jaguars will likely have their pick of the litter with the No. 3 overall pick, that is if they don't decide to opt for defense.
The Browns are another team in dire need of a franchise QB, and this could be the year they finally hit on one. Cleveland already cut former first rounder Brandon Weeden, and while Brian Hoyer was surprisingly effective before suffering a season-ending injury, he's likely just a fallback option at this juncture. Unless the Rams trade back with a team in need of a QB, Cleveland should have their choice of one of the top three QBs.
Having acquired Schaub from Houston, quarterback is not as pressing a need for the Raiders as it was going into the offseason. Oakland was very busy in free agency, shoring up quite a few holes in their lineup with signings like Donald Penn, Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and James Jones, but they could really use a difference maker at tight end. While No. 5 overall may be a bit high for the top TE Eric Ebron, Oakland should look to grab one.
The Falcons had a miserable season in 2013, and a lot of that falls on the offensive line's inability to protect Matt Ryan. Sam Baker was one of the big culprits for that and the Falcons could really stand to upgrade over him -- or at least move him to right tackle where he won't be so exposed. Atlanta figures to have several options when their pick comes up at No. 6, and keeping Matty Ice upright could go a long way towards a Falcons rebound.
The Buccaneers recently traded talented but mercurial receiver Mike Williams to Buffalo and watched Tiquan Underwood sign with Carolina. Beyond Vincent Jackson, Tampa's receiving corps is not much to write home about, and with a deep receiver class in this year's draft, they could choose to address that position in either of the first two rounds. Sammy Watkins would be a terrific get if he's available at No. 7, but Mike Evans would suffice too.
The Vikings have had a rotating door at QB since Brett Favre retired and former first rounder Christian Ponder has seemingly run out of rope. At No. 8, the Vikings may be picking a bit too far down the board to nab one of the draft's best QBs, but they can certainly attempt to trade up to land their signal caller or potentially grab one in the early second round. Whichever option they choose, Minnesota better hope they hit on this QB.
The Bills struggled to protect rookie QB EJ Manuel last season and that should be one of their top priorities come draft night. Cordy Glenn did an admirable job, but there are many in the organization who believe he'd be best suited moving inside to guard. If that's indeed the case, the Bills could target one of the top left tackles in the draft at No. 9 where they could see either Jake Matthews or Taylor Lewan available to them at that spot.
The Lions have needed a top shutdown corner for what seems like forever, and playing in a division with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, it's imperative that they finally address this glaring need. Chris Houston is solid enough, but rookie Darius Slay was frequently over-matched last season. Detroit would do well to target one of the better CBs in the draft, and picking at No. 10, there will be plenty of options.
The Titans watched arguably their best defensive player, Alterraun Verner, leave for Tampa via free agency and, to date, have yet to replace him. Verner is one of the better cover corners in the league and the Tennessee pass D may suffer greatly without him shadowing the opposition's top receiver. Picking 11th, the Titans could have their choice of Justin Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard, either of whom would be a huge upgrade over the status quo.
The Giants have been one of the most active teams in free agency this offseason, plugging hole after hole without breaking the bank. One area they've yet to address, however, is the glaring hole at tight end. The team recently signed Kellen Davis, but he figures to be more of a blocking tight end and beyond him there's quite a bit of uncertainty. If the Giants don't go for Ebron in the first round, they could opt for Troy Niklas in the second.
The Bears went about revamping their porous defensive line this offseason by signing Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen, but they also watched their best run stuffer, Henry Melton, sign with Dallas. Given that stopping the run was a huge problem for Chicago last season, it's vital that they address this need through the draft. The good news is at No. 14 the Bears may very well have a choice of Aaron Donald or Timmy Jernigan.
Ike Taylor has been the Steelers' top corner for years now, but he's seen better days. Even with Taylor still in the fold, Pittsburgh needs to address the rest of their cornerback depth and there's no better time than the draft. While Gilbert and Dennard may potentially be off the board by the time the Steelers pick at No. 15, this draft is very deep on good corners. Pittsburgh could opt to trade back to land one of the next best CBs.
The Cowboys' defensive line was an absolute mess last season, and even though they brought in Melton, they also lost two key cogs in DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher. As a result, Dallas' pass rush figures to suffer greatly and they should use one, if not more, picks on addressing this glaring need. Although it's debatable as to whether any good fits will be available at No. 16, Dallas could trade back and stockpile picks to fill other needs.
The Ravens lost Michael Oher to Tennessee in free agency, and given that their line was already a bit suspect to begin with, they'd do well to find an adequate replacement at right tackle. The Ravens have several other holes to fill as well, but protecting their 0 million QB Joe Flacco should be the top priority. While Baltimore may miss out on the top tackles in the draft, landing someone like Zack Martin would be a nice consolation prize.
The Jets could still use some reinforcements on offense, even after signing Eric Decker away from Denver, but perhaps their most glaring need is in the secondary. After releasing Antonio Cromartie and passing on every top corner in free agency, New York is left with last year's first-round pick, Dee Milliner, as their top cornerback and many question marks behind him. As a result, the Jets may opt for a CB in the first round again.
Not only did the Dolphins' offensive line make headlines last season because of Bullygate, but they also made headlines for just how porous they were. Miami has moved to fix that problem with the signings of Branden Albert and Shelley Smith, but they could still use help on the right side where last year's starter, Tyson Clabo, won't return. Although Zack Martin may not make it this far, Miami could choose from Morgan Moses or Cyrus Kouandjio.
The Cardinals have done a good job addressing their biggest needs this offseason, but they could still use an adequate replacement for Yeremiah Bell. The Cardinals do have Tyrann Mathieu and Rashad Johnson on their roster, but both are better fits at free safety, meaning Arizona could target a strong safety to compete with last year's draft pick Tony Jefferson. While Ha Ha Clinton-Dix may be off the board here, Calvin Pryor could be an option.
The Packers have been thin at safety since Charles Woodson left town, and in a division with two of the most prolific passing offenses in football, it'd be wise for them to finally address the position. MD Jennings was not the answer at free safety, so Green Bay could be in the market for Pryor, even though he may profile as more of a strong safety. If they don't land one in the first round, look for the Packers to target one in the second.
One of the Eagles' biggest downfalls last season was their pass defense -- or lack thereof. Cary Williams is a solid cover corner and Brandon Boykin isn't too shabby either, but he's more of a slot corner than anything else. The Eagles' other CB, Bradley Fletcher, was routinely torched last season, and they'd do well to find an appreciable upgrade in the draft. Bradley Roby, Jason Verrett or Kyle Fuller could all be options for Philly at No. 22.
While the Chiefs also need help at wideout, they need to be able to maintain their running game, which was one of the league's best last season. With Branden Albert signing in Miami, Kansas City's tackle depth beyond last year's top pick, Eric Fisher, isn't all that impressive. The Chiefs are likely to miss out on the top tackles in the draft, so they may have to trade up to get their man; but both Moses and Kouandjio could be options here.
The Bengals lost Michael Johnson to Tampa Bay in free agency, and while they still have Carlos Dunlap and Margus Hunt to man the respective ends, it's highly questionable as to whether Hunt can replicate Johnson's All-Pro production. Cincinnati will likely be on the lookout for someone they can mix in with Hunt and Dunlap to keep their pass rush in top shape; Kony Ealy or Stephon Tuitt could be options when they pick at No. 24.
The Chargers' pass defense was their Achilles heel last season, and especially in a division with Peyton Manning, it's imperative they address their secondary. No corner on the San Diego roster scares any opposing receivers, and that's a big problem that needs to be addressed. The Chargers could have their pick of the top second tier corners like Roby, Verrett or Fuller, and they'd be wise to snag one given last year's issues.
The Saints got a pleasant surprise when Junior Galette seemingly came out of nowhere to register 12 sacks for an improved defense, but beyond him, New Orleans is lacking in impact pass rushers. Having moved to a 3-4 scheme under Rob Ryan last season, the Saints brought in former Ryan protege Victor Butler, who was a massive bust. As a result, the Saints should look to add a 3-4 rush LB who can complement Galette.
While the Panthers still have a massive hole in their receiving corps after Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell signed elsewhere, they also have a particularly glaring hole on their offensive line after Jordan Gross retired. Carolina has talked about moving Byron Bell from right tackle to the left side, but even if they do that, they'll still need to replace Bell on the right side. Either way, it'd be a good idea to target a tackle with the 28th pick.
With Aaron Hernandez sitting in jail and Rob Gronkowski having suffered another season-ending injury last year, what was previously a significant strength for the Patriots has turned into a huge question mark. Tom Brady has made a living off his tight ends and it'd behoove Bill Belichick to find someone who can fill that role. The Patriots could have a chance to take Jace Amaro, a potential Gronkowski clone, with their first pick.
The Niners' defense is the backbone of the team, but they lost two of their top corners in Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers to free agency this offseason. As a result, San Fran will likely be in the market for a corner or two in the draft, where they possess an excess of picks. The Niners could use some of those picks to trade up and land someone like Roby or Verrett or they could stay where they're at and take a shot on a corner later on.
With Wesley Woodyard leaving for Tennessee, the Broncos are in the market for a replacement middle linebacker. While Denver plugged quite a few of its holes through free agency, they've yet to address the linebacker spot which figures to be a main target in the draft. The Broncos could opt for Ryan Shazier and move Danny Trevathan over to the middle or they could choose Chris Borland from Wisconsin at No. 31.
The Seahawks lost Golden Tate to Detroit and, coupled with Percy Harvin's frequent injury issues, they could be in the market for another receiver for Russell Wilson. With only Harvin, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse remaining from last year's standout receiving corps, Seattle is a bit thin in that area and could opt for one of the receivers in this deep class. Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Matthews or Davante Adams could all be options at No. 32.
The Redskins lost a key cog in their defense this offseason when captain London Fletcher retired, and they should be on the lookout for a replacement in the draft. While the Redskins don't have a first-round pick due to the Robert Griffin trade a few years back, they could have a shot at Borland with their first pick, No. 34 overall. If Washington opts to address another need with that pick, the pickings could be fairly slim thereafter.
The Colts watched strong safety Antoine Bethea sign in San Francisco this offseason, and given that Bethea was a key piece in Indianapolis' secondary, they could look to find a replacement for him. The Colts don't pick until late in the second round thanks to the Trent Richardson trade that sent the No. 26 overall pick to Cleveland, so Indianapolis would be wise to target the best remaining safety when they get on the clock.
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