As the NFL draft approaches, it is time to take a look at every teams biggest draft needs. I will start with the NFC teams. It is important to note that this isn’t a mock draft or a prediction of any sort. It is just observing what each team still needs to address to attempt to complete the roster. Most teams have more than one need, so I chose the most glaring problem on those rosters. Side note: while creating this I noticed the immense lack of pass rushers in the NFC South. No other division had all the same issue, so at least those teams are in sync. With that said, here we go.
Chicago Bears – Offensive Line
The Bears tried to address this need during free agency. However, I am not sold on new tackle Jermon Bushrod on the blind side, and even if he pans out the right side remains vacant. The loss of Lance Louis is also troubling as he was the best lineman last year. Gabe Carimi was also a disappointment at tackle, but will be making the transition to guard. I would not be overly optimistic about the move, but it does seem like guard would be better suited for a man who struggles against speed but has tremendous strength. We saw the Vikings do something similar with Charles Johnson after he struggled at tackle, and he benefited from the switch quite well. I assume the Bears will draft multiple offensive linemen this year, and should get one in the first round.
Detroit Lions – Cornerback
There are quite a bit of needs that the Lions are going to try to fill in the draft this year, but the most pressing has to be the same as last season. They did draft three last year, but two were day three picks, but both Bill Bentley (3rd-round) and Chris Greenwood (5th-round) missed most or all of the season due to injury. Jonte Green (6th-round) was forced into action despite being a project player, and as expected looked like he needs a lot of work. The only Detroit cornerback worth starting is Chris Houston, but he cannot stop offenses by himself. Look for the Lions to draft a cornerback earlier this season.
Green Bay Packers – Linebacker
Despite the need at running back and safety, the biggest need is still at Linebacker. Outside of Clay Mathews, the Packers have had little success at the position. Last year’s first round pick Nick Perry missed 10 games due to injury last season, and when he did play he was not the game changer they were hoping he would be. That could change over the next couple years of his career, but it still would leave issues to address. I don’t see the packers going this way in the first round, but a day two selection is certainly not out of the question.
Minnesota Vikings – Linebacker
Erin Henderson regressed last season, and Jasper Brinkley parlayed his mediocre season into a nice payday from the Cardinals. Chad Greenway is still one of, if not the best, 4-3 outside linebacker, but he cannot play all three positions. The remaining linebackers are all either too raw or meant for special teams. Adding a solid player here could really improve the Vikings rising defense. I can see the Vikings using one of their first round picks on the position, but with glaring holes at a few other positions the team may not address it until a few rounds later in the draft.
Atlanta Falcons – Defensive End
Bringing in Osi Umenyiora does not fix the glaring lack of a pass rush that Atlanta brings to the table. I considered putting cornerback, especially after the loss of Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson, but I think you need to build a defense from the defensive line outward. Adding a pass rush could also help mask the weakness of the defensive backs. The Falcons offense will be potent and quick striking, so the lack of depth on the defensive line needs to be addressed or it will be exposed often. A first round pick seems likely.
Carolina Panthers – Defensive Tackle
This has been the need of the Panthers for a few seasons, and without addressing it last year it remains a hole. I would be shocked if Carolina did not address it early. They have the other pieces of the front seven, but the center of that defense is still vacant. Adding somebody who can draw the double teams away from either Charles Johnson or Greg Hardy, which makes the defense all the stronger. If the team does not address it in the first two rounds, then the management sees something that I am completely overlooking. Either that or they like repeating past mistakes.
New Orleans Saints – Defensive Line
Will Smith is aging and declining. Brodrick Bunkley and Sedrick Ellis are nothing special at defensive tackle. With a defense full of holes, its time the Saints look at rebuilding it, and as I mentioned before building a defense should start on the line. Sean Payton needs to prove that he can fix this team quickly, and that starts with a solid draft. They do not have a second round pick this year due to the bounty scandal, so that makes it more difficult to start fixing the defense. New Orleans can’t go wrong with where they pick on the defensive side of the ball, but I expect a defensive lineman to be announced by the Saints during the first two days.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Defensive End
The loss of Michael Bennett to Seattle really hurts the Bucs defense, as he was the only consistent player along that line a year ago. Gerald McCoy was pretty good, but Adrian Clayborn missed most of last season, and Da’Quan Bowers has yet to have much of an impact. Adding a pass rusher will allow the linebackers to blitz less and cover more. This could also allow Tampa Bay to have a while longer to find out if Bowers or Clayborn can be an answer. I would not be surprised by a first round pick of an end, but unless one of the top pass rushers falls to them, I would expect the team to address it on day two of the draft.
Arizona Cardinals – Offensive Tackle
With the addition of Carson Palmer, quarterback is no longer the biggest vacancy on the team. The Cardinals should still add a future signal caller, but obtaining a franchise tackle should be the top priority. They could (and should) address this with the seventh pick of the draft if one of the top two tackles drops to that pick, but otherwise could use the second round pick to address it if need be. The defense is helping to turn this team’s fortunes around, but the offense needs to play catch up, and fixing the offensive line should be the first step.
San Francisco 49ers – Safety
The 49ers are one of a few lucky teams that have no real holes on the roster. So what is the biggest need? Dashon Goldson signed a big deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so that leaves an opening at safety, unless a backup were to take it. The only other selection of need would be a kicker. David Akers had the worst year of his career, and then signed with Detroit. I don’t think any 49er fan will miss him that much. However, San Fran will not (hopefully) use an early pick on a kicker, so when the 31st pick comes around, look for San Francisco to just draft a player they like, with no regards of team needs.
Seattle Seahawks- Offensive Line
See the first sentence above. Now apply that to Seattle. What do you give the team that seemingly has every position filled with quality starter? All I could think of is depth. The Seahawks staff could add that depth to wherever they please, but I just went with the old adage of no team can have too much offensive line depth. Seattle doesn’t have a 1st-round pick because of the Percy Harvin trade, so unless there is a trade, which is unlikely, there won’t be any word from the Seahawks until day two.
St. Louis Rams- Wide Receiver
Sam Bradford has not had the best of luck in the NFL. After a strong rookie season, he has struggled with injuries and inconsistent play around him. His only real target last season was Danny Amendola, and he was injured for much of the year. And now he is gone. The Rams do have last year’s 2nd-round selection Brian Quick, who despite being a non factor last season does have upside, as well as 4th-round selection Chris Givens. Still, look for Jeff Fisher to do all he can for his young quarterback. St. Louis could be the first team to draft a receiver, so there will be options aplenty with the 16th selection on day one.
Dallas Cowboys- Defensive Tackle
Switching to a 4-3 defensive front with the new defensive coordinator leaves the issue of filling in the new positions. One place that Dallas is sorely lacking is the defensive tackle position. There is no guarantee that Jay Ratliff will have success in his new role, and Jason Hatcher should not be a starter. There are a couple of prospects that could find themselves wearing the star next season, and they would fit greatly. This is one that I would assume is fixed in the first round for sure, but nothing is for sure when it comes to the draft. The Cowboys should draft a couple of defensive tackles this year to help segue into Monte Kiffen’s new defense.
New York Giants – Offensive Tackle
The main difference between the Super Bowl winning Giants and the Giants that miss the playoffs is strong offensive line play. Eli Manning is not mobile enough to avoid the pressure that is getting through, and the running game is not nearly as strong without some power lineman. Adding a starting caliber tackle could bring the team back to playoff contention. In order to do so, New York may need to use a first round pick. This will be the year to do it as it a very deep class, so a top tier tackle could fall into the Giants’ lap.
Philadelphia Eagles – Offensive Line
Anyone who watched the Eagles the past two years has noticed that even Mike Vick has struggled to evade the pressure coming at him every play. The extreme disappointment that Philadelphia has been can start to change under Chip Kelly if he makes the offensive line a priority. He has the skill positions to run his offense, but needs to have the time to allow that offense to perform. The Eagles may be able to wait until the second round to draft a lineman if a different prospect appeals to them with the fourth pick.
Washington Redskins – Cornerback
With RG3 and Alfred Morris helping to turn this team into a contender, it is time to work on the defense. A big part of the issue last season was the poor play of the defensive backs. Deangelo Hall is returning, but he is not the game changer he once was. Washington also signed E.J. Biggers from Tampa Bay, but he is not capable of guarding the top tier receivers in the NFC East. Without a first round pick due to the Griffin trade, the Redskins will not pick until the 51st selection. There should still be some potential starters available by that time, and Washington would do very well to add one.