Every team in the NFL has a need, perhaps even more than one. That’s the nature of the free agency age as it’s much harder for teams to keep their talent for the duration of player’s career. That results in an added emphasis on drafting well.
This year is no different as 32 teams — yes, even the New England Patriots — have holes that must be filled. But for some, that need is more extensive than others. For those teams, April’s draft could either make them or completely break them.
With that in mind, here’s a look at 10 teams with glaring draft needs that must be addressed before training camps get underway.
10. San Francisco 49ers – Quarterback
There really is no secret about what the 49ers need above all else as they head into the NFL Draft. In fact, it’s been widely discussed on even a national level thanks to the attention (and ire) Colin Kaepernick has drawn.
The 49ers need a quarterback. They need a franchise quarterback, and they need one now.
Brian Hoyer, while sporadically successful throughout his career, is not the answer. Blaine Gabbert is not the answer. Christian Ponder and Matt Barkley are not the answer. And while there are needs along the offensive line, none eclipse the need of finding a quarterback who is more talented than the names just rattled off.
The good news? The 49ers will have a shot at one. In fact, it’s likely they’ll have a shot at whatever quarterback they want at No. 2 overall. But even if they opt to wait until the second round, the chance remains a solid quarterback will be there for the taking.
9. Tennessee Titans – Linebacker
The Titans entered 2017 with a large numbers of needs, and while a good portion of them have been addressed, several others remain. And perhaps above all else, it’s their need at linebacker which is the most glaring.
Some may argue that Tennessee is in more dire need of a wide receiver or cornerback, but there’s no denying that their inability to cover the tight end cost them in 2016 and that their lack of impact players at the position became a real issue.
Yes, they need to add a wide receiver and a cornerback — something they may even address in the first round — but if they truly want to take the next step in 2017, they have to find a field general at the second level.
The good news? The Titans will have two first-round picks at their disposal. If they don’t like what they see on the board early, they can go a different direction and circle back to linebacker later in the round.
8. Detroit Lions – Linebacker
Entering free agency, it was clear the Lions had a plethora of needs along the offensive line. Many anticipated that would carry over into the NFL Draft, but general manager Bob Quinn went out and signed both right tackle Rick Wagner and right guard T.J. Lang.
With their offensive line issues squared away, Detroit will be able to focus on another pressing area of need: linebacker.
Tahir Whitehead, Paul Worrilow and Antwione Williams are the projected starters for Detroit, but both Whitehead and Worrilow are only under contract for the 2017 season. Even despite that, it’s not an overwhelmingly impressive group and certainly not as athletic as the Lions would like it to be.
There are quite a few talented linebackers in the upcoming draft, and with a specific focus on athleticism and speed, it’s the likely direction Quinn and the Lions will go. Florida’s Jarrad Davis could end up being their pick on the first day.
7. Minnesota Vikings – Offensive Line
Trading for quarterback Sam Bradford has left the Vikings without a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, and that could potentially cause some problems for a team with various needs on the offensive side of the ball.
So the question becomes, how does Minnesota rank its needs? Do they target a running back or wide receiver, a tight end or a defensive tackle? Or do they address the more pressing need that is their offensive line?
The reality is that the Vikings could use both a tackle and a guard, and after watching their recent mid-round picks fail to shore up those areas, they’ll likely have to lean that way earlier in the upcoming draft. So it ultimately becomes a toss-up between tackle and guard.
After signing both Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers, Minnesota has a bit more wiggle room at the tackle position, so when their name comes up in the second round, expect their target to be a guard. But don’t sleep on another mid-round tackle later in the draft.
6. Los Angeles Rams – Cornerback
There are quite a few needs the Rams need to address in the NFL Draft, including center and wide receiver, but perhaps chief among them is cornerback.
Only a few short seasons ago, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson looked like a dynamic duo, but that hasn’t exactly panned out. Jenkins is now with the Giants and Johnson remains the subject of much trade speculation. Meanwhile, the Rams have brought in Wade Phillips as their next defensive coordinator, which means they’ll likely be playing a lot of man coverage in 2017.
That shift in defensive philosophy puts Los Angeles in a tough spot because they need cornerbacks to match the style of play. Luckily, the upcoming draft sports a rather deep cornerback class and they should be able to find what they’re looking for in the first few rounds.
5. Atlanta Falcons – Defensive Line
The Falcons have an offense to be wary of and a young defense that seems to have some upside, but it needs depth and a few more playmakers. Specifically, Atlanta needs some help along their defensive line with an added emphasis on pass rushers.
Jonathan Babineaux could be heading towards retirement, Tyson Jackson has been released, and despite his surprise performance in the Super Bowl, questions still linger for Grady Jarrett. Dwight Freeney could also be on his way out, so the gaps are obvious.
How the Falcons will attack those issues in the NFL Draft remains to be seen, but in all likelihood, their first two picks will be used on defensive linemen that fit their defensive philosophy. So whether it’s a pass rusher in the first and a 3-technique defensive tackle in the second or visa versa, expect the Falcons to fill those gaps on defense.
4. Oakland Raiders – Linebacker
The Raiders needed a running back, but that sounds like it’s close to resolving itself with the potential acquisition of Marshawn Lynch. So with that out of the way, Oakland can turn their attention to the linebacker position.
With Malcolm Smith departing to the San Francisco 49ers, and the team missing out on Zach Brown to the Washington Redskins, the Raiders find themselves in a position of need at linebacker. Perry Riley Jr. also remains unsigned, only adding to their urgency to find some help.
Although Oakland will also have to target some defensive linemen to help shore up those position, it’s entirely plausible they draft a linebacker with their first of eight picks in the upcoming draft. And by all accounts, they’ll target a versatile player who is both capable against the run and in coverage.
3. New York Giants – Offensive Tackle
There’s absolutely no denying what the Giants need heading into the 2017 NFL Draft: an offensive tackle. A stout offensive tackle. An offensive tackle who can come in and make an impact right away.
Unfortunately for the Giants, there may not be one of those available in the first round. As the draft nears, stock seems to be dropping for the entire offensive tackle pool. And that’s a big problem for general manager Jerry Reese & Co.
But that certainly doesn’t mean the Giants won’t draft a tackle or possibly even two. It simply means it may not happen in Round 1. Despite their desperate need at the position, they could also go running back, linebacker or defensive line.
However things shake out, the Giants at least need to find some depth at the position. Ereck Flowers has not progressed as expected and their sole reserve is Michael Bowie. Who? Exactly.
2. Dallas Cowboys – Secondary
The Dallas Cowboys have an impressive offense and that’s unlikely to change in 2017, but they’ve certainly taken a hit in their defensive secondary.
In 2015, the Cowboys sported a rather horrendous group at cornerback and safety. And while that did improve a bit in 2016, free agency has cost the team cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, as well as safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox.
In a division that features names like Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Terrelle Pryor, Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery, those losses in the secondary hurt. And as good as their offense may be, the Cowboys can’t risk a secondary secondary.
Whether it’s a cornerback or safety, the Cowboys have to go with one or more early in the draft. Based on their list of pre-draft visits, it seems like they are prepared to do so.
1. Cleveland Browns – Quarterback
27 quarterbacks have come and 27 quarterbacks have failed since 1999. For the Cleveland Browns, it’s a curse unlike many in the NFL, and their fans pray it’s broken in 2017.
The Browns have two picks in the first round of the NFL Draft, but despite their absolutely dire need for a franchise quarterback, the No. 1 overall pick is unlikely to be used on one. Rather, the Browns are expected to select Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett and rightfully so. Garrett is easily the best prospect in the draft and he’s just not someone the Browns can pass up.
Luckily for Cleveland, they’ll get a second pick at No. 12 overall, and that’s when they’ll likely pinpoint their next investment at the quarterback position.
Who will be remaining at No. 12 is anyone’s guess; the quarterback pool is rich with high-potential players and there are a number of quarterback-needy teams. That may mean the Browns don’t get their first choice, but they’ll likely land a solid prospect nonetheless.
TEAMS: Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins, New York Giants, Tennessee Titans, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, Los Angeles Rams
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!
|Best of Yardbarker||NFL News||MLB News||NBA News||NHL News|
Today's Best Stuff