Our new contributor, Craig Strachan, takes a look at the NFL Draft team needs for the teams that missed the playoffs.
Now that the regular season is officially over for 18 teams the focus for those franchises will quickly turn to April’s NFL Draft. So let’s take a look at some of the needs those teams might need to address and some of the prospects they might well target in a ‘far too early, not quite a mock draft’ way shall we?
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jags have locked up the number 1 overall pick for the second successive year and first on their agenda will be finding a new Head Coach. However with Trevor Lawrence in situ it is clear that a quarterback won’t be top of their shopping list.
Assuming they don’t trade this pick (let’s make that assumption for all teams for now) then this selection is likely to be either an offensive tackle, most likely Evan Neal of Alabama, or an edge rusher where they’d have their pick of Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux and Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson.
Given the presence of last year’s second round pick Walker Little on the roster, I’d be minded to go defense here and then come back in rounds two and three to look to add an offensive playmaker at wide receiver (there should be a decent group of them available at the start of day two) and an interior offensive lineman.
2. Detroit Lions
I’m sure you’ll hear a lot said between now and the Draft about the lack of high end talent in this quarterback class but when Jared Goff is your incumbent starter you really should think about replacing him with this pick Detroit.
However this is a team devoid of defensive playmakers and the two highly rated edge rushers will no doubt be firmly under consideration here as well.
Indeed the way to go might be to take the pass rusher here and then use the Rams 1st rounder acquired in the Matt Stafford trade along with a 2nd or 3rd round pick to move up and get the QB they covet without having to overdraft one. Though now I say it, that almost sounds a bit too smart for the Lions!
3. Houston Texans
Barring a most unlikely kiss-and-make-up story involving DeShaun Watson the Texans look like being another quarterback-needy team, though to be fair they look like they need to add talent at pretty much every position.
This pick may well come down to which of the top tier offensive or defensive linemen haven’t been taken in front of them.
4. New York Jets
The Jets will no doubt want to keep developing Zach Wilson and surround him with some additional talent, but Robert Saleh will certainly want to address a pass defense that simply hasn’t made enough big plays – either sacks or interceptions – this season.
That means the two premier edge rushers would likely come into consideration if either were to escape being selected in the top 3, but Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton or the LSU cornerback Derek Stingley could well be the contenders to be picked here.
The Jets also have the Seahawks 1st round pick which could be a prime spot for them to go after an edge rusher in George Karlaftis from Purdue or to find an offensive playmaker at wide receiver like Ohio State’s Chris Olave or Garrett Wilson.
5. New York Giants
Daniel Jones doesn’t seem to be the answer at quarterback so the Giants may again be in the market, though again this may be considered too early for them to pick one in this draft.
Starting offensive tackle Nate Solder is a free agent and turns 34 before the start of next year, plus we all know Dave Gettlemen loves drafting a lineman and so I definitely wouldn’t bet against that as an option here.
The Giants also have the Bears 1st round pick so will also be able to look at addressing other needs on the defensive line or in the secondary where Jabrill Peppers is another who may leave in free agency.
6. Carolina Panthers
Let me just copy and paste my ‘team who need a QB but may not see the value this high’ scenario again for you – as Sam Darnold and Cam Newton have both shown they aren’t the answer, and boy does Matt Rhule need to get this offense going in 2022 or his job might well be on the line.
The passing game is the clear weakness for this team though so this might become a needs must selection.
7. Chicago Bears
This pick belongs to the Giants, but let’s talk about the Bears and their needs. This is a franchise that now needs to build around Justin Fields after picking him in last year’s first round.
Allen Robinson may well need to be replaced if he leaves in free agency and there will likely be a bunch of good receivers available by the time the Bears select in the second round. The run defense also ranks as one of the worst in the NFL and Georgia’s Travon Walker could also be an option early in round two if Chicago wanted to look to solidify the interior of its defensive line.
8. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons offensive line has struggled in both the run and pass game, with Matt Ryan amongst the most sacked QBs yet again and the Falcons ranking 31st running the ball. Ikem Ekwonu the NC State tackle or interior lineman Tyler Linderbaum of Iowa could both garner serious consideration here.
The defensive pass rush also needs improving – TJ Watt alone had more sacks than this entire Falcons defense. If George Karlaftis were to make it this far he would definitely be another the Falcons would consider with this pick.
9. Denver Broncos
The Broncos are another team who may look at the quarterback class in this draft to try and find themselves an upgrade over Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater, especially now they’re going to be hiring a new Head Coach after firing Vic Fangio.
Kyle Fuller, Bryce Callahan and Kareem Jackson are all scheduled to be free agents so Denver may also find itself in need of help in the secondary and Clemson’s Andrew Booth or Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner could be names to watch, even after the addition of Patrick Surtain last year.
10. Seattle Seahawks
Another traded pick, this time to the New York Jets.
For the Seahawks, their pass defense is nothing compared to when the Legion of Boom reigned supreme and you’d assume the secondary might be one of the areas Seattle looks at addressing when they finally go on the clock in round 2.
But with Duane Brown turning 37 at the start of next season they may also feel the need to look at their left tackle position and ensure they are able to protect the blindside of Russell Wilson – or whoever may take over from him if the rumours he wants out of Seattle are true.
11. Washington Football Team
Washington are another team who struggle in pass defense, giving up the third most yards in the NFL this year, and so those two corners I just mentioned could come under some serious consideration here too.
Curtis Samuel hasn’t lived up to expectations since his move to Washington and this offense is definitely in need of a playmaker, so a wide receiver could also be an option with this pick. Watch out for Alabama’s Jameson Williams and Arkansas’ Treylon Burks as well as the Ohio State duo Olave and Wilson.
12. Minnesota Vikings
Run defense has been a problem for the Vikings this year, as they’ve ranked 27th in total yards against the run and give up 4.7 yards per carry and numerous first downs on the ground. This could therefore be a good spot for DeMarvin Leal, the Texas A&M defensive tackle, especially if Sheldon Richardson leaves in free agency.
Secondary help could also be on the cards with this pick, as Patrick Peterson and Xavier Woods are both free agent so Booth and Gardner may also be guys who end up on the Vikings radar.
13. Cleveland Browns
Letting Odell Beckham leave part-way through the season, combined with Jarvis Landry’s knee injuries has left the Browns without a real go-to wide receiver. The group of names already mentioned could all be excellent additions to this roster and give Baker Mayfield a real weapon to work with.
You’d assume free agent Jadeveon Clowney will be back, but adding to their pass rush depth beyond him and Myles Garrett could be an option, as might DeMarvin Leal if the Browns wanted to improve their run defense if 32 year old Malik Jackson leaves in free agency.
14. Baltimore Ravens
Losing Lamar Jackson for most of the final month of the season was a huge blow for the Ravens and protecting him needs to be top of their priority list this offseason. Ronnie Stanley has only played 7 games across the last two seasons and trading away Orlando Brown Jr. last offseason has proven to be a bad idea. Ikem Ekwonu or Mississippi State’s Charles Cross could be options here at offensive tackle.
On defense Calais Campbell may not be back – he turns 36 before next season and is a free agent. Georgia’s Jordan Davis could be a pretty decent replacement if the Ravens believe he can play in a 3-man front.
15. Miami Dolphins
This pick will belong to the Eagles, but we’re focusing on Miami here. The Dolphins still seemingly struggle in pass protection despite drafting a number of offensive linemen over the last few years, but it wouldn’t be at all of a surprise if the likes of Darian Kinnard from Kentucky or UCLA’s Sean Rhyan were on their radar in round 2.
They also have questions around free agents Mike Gesicki at tight end and Emmanuel Ogbah the edge rusher – and given the Dolphins will have the 49ers 1st round draft pick that could be a spot where the latter of those positions might have some value for them in the form of USC’s Drake Jackson or Michigan’s David Ojabo.
16. Indianapolis Colts
This is another pick that the Eagles will own as a result of the Carson Wentz trade, but the Colts end of year implosion has left them on the outside of the playoff picture. This is another team that needs to solidify its offensive line, particularly at the left tackle spot. However the Colts will definitely need to wait until round 2 to address that unless they can find a way to trade up.
Adding quality alongside Darius Leonard at linebacker might also be something the Colts would want to do, and Alabama’s Christian Harris would be a great addition to this unit who may well be available when Indianapolis eventually goes on the clock.
17. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers have shown time and again that they are able to score points by the bucketload with Justin Herbert at QB and a decent supporting cast around him, but boy do they need to do something about a defense that can’t stop the run and gives up more yards per attempt passing than most.
To that end, either Utah’s Devin Lloyd or Georgia’s Nakobe Dean would be interesting choices at linebacker who would add something to this franchise, or Dean’s teammate Jordan Davis the beast of a defensive tackle might also be someone they’d target here.
18. New Orleans Saints
The Saints had the 31st ranked passing offense this season, having never been lower than 12th in all their previous seasons under Sean Payton with Drew Brees at the helm, so addressing the quarterback position this offseason will be a key part of the Saints plans. Matt Corral of Ole Miss, Liberty’s Malik Willis, North Carolina’s Sam Howell and Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett are the 4 names that will be of interest to teams looking for new franchise signal callers.
Adding a high quality wide receiver to their ranks should also be looked at, and if they didn’t fancy going for a QB here then Jameson Williams or USC’s Drake London might also be of interest.
If the draft was tomorrow and I was picking for each of these teams in the first round, what would I do? Well, I’m glad you asked because it would look a little something like this.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
- Detroit Lions – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
- Houston Texans – Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
- New York Jets – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
- New York Giants – Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
- Carolina Panthers – Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
- New York Giants (from Chicago) – George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
- Atlanta Falcons – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
- Denver Broncos – Derek Stingley, CB, LSU
- New York Jets (from Seattle) – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
- Washington Football Team – Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson
- Minnesota Vikings – DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M
- Cleveland Browns – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
- Baltimore Ravens – Kenyon Green, IOL, Taxas A&M
- Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami) – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
- Philadelphia Eagles (from Indianapolis) – Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
- Los Angeles Chargers – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
- New Orleans Saints – Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
And for those teams who have traded away their top-18 picks…
22. Miami Dolphins (from San Francisco) – David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan
39. Chicago Bears – David Bell, WR, Purdue
41. Seattle Seahawks – Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
47. Indianapolis Colts – Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
Clearly there is still plenty of time between now and April for rankings to change, more scouting to happen (I’ve got at least 15 games recorded that I need to watch), and of course free agency will have a significant impact too. But as with everything when it comes to the Draft, if we simply waited for it all to happen it just wouldn’t be as much fun!