NFL Draft: Biggest Needs for Every Non-Playoff Team
With the 2012 season in the books, for 20 NFL teams it’s time to start looking ahead to the 2013 draft.
“Black Monday” will signal the end for many head coaches and general managers in the league, and disarray will rule the landscape of the league for the next few months.
By the time free agency commences, most of those teams will have new management in place, ready to address personnel needs and roster decisions. Free agency can’t solve every problem, though.
The 2013 draft picture will change shape ad nauseam by the time April 25 arrives, but one thing will not change: There will be plenty of talent available.
The best teams in the league are teams that draft well year in and year out. Some will draft based on need and others on value. Every team has needs, though.
The following slideshow outlines the personnel needs for all 20 teams no longer in the Super Bowl chase as we look forward to the draft.
Biggest needs: OT, OG, C, QB, CB
The Cardinals are an absolute mess on offense, and it all starts up front.
Arizona has allowed more sacks than any team in the league by a wide margin and also ranks last in the league in rushing offense. The Cardinals need help on the line in a bad way.
This year’s draft class has some quality offensive linemen with first-round talent. After waiting until the fourth round to select a lineman (tackle Bobby Massie) in the 2012 draft, it’s unlikely the Cardinals
will make the same mistake again this year.
While bad offensive line play contributed to Arizona’s anemic offense, its quarterbacks didn’t help matters. The Cardinals cycled through a few incompetent signal-callers with Kevin Kolb on the shelf, and none should see the field in 2013. The options in this year’s draft class aren’t great, though, and Arizona will likely address the issue in free agency with the hopes that Kevin Kolb will be an effective starter next year.
Biggest needs: pass-rushers, CB, S
Despite another disappointing season, the Cleveland Browns have some nice pieces in place on both offense and defense.
Rookies Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden and Josh Gordon all showed a lot of potential this season, and given a little time and some good coaching, the rookie trio could be a foundation for the coming years.
Defensively, the Browns boast one of the better defensive lines in the league, but they were unable to establish much of a pass rush this season. Most of the defensive pressure came from their front four, and the Browns have no pure pass-rushers on their roster.
With another regime change taking place in Cleveland, it’s hard to predict where they will come down on draft day. Current general manager Tom Heckert was a proponent of trading down in the draft almost every year, but he’ll be gone by draft day this year.
The Browns may look to the draft to address a secondary that was extremely inconsistent in 2012. Safety T.J. Ward and cornerback Joe Haden have been bright spots for the secondary, but rookie Buster Skrine and aging veteran Sheldon Brown failed to impress and probably won’t be back in the starting lineup in 2013.
Biggest needs: OT, DE, OLB, CB
The Detroit Lions were one of those rare teams that finished with a terrible record but were good enough to beat any team on any given Sunday.
Detroit’s roster is laden with talent, especially on the offensive side of the football, but disciplinary issues and late-game collapses ultimately sunk the Lions and added another underwhelming season to their history of futility.
Detroit has had a best-player-available mentality in the draft, and it’s worked in recent years. Detroit has managed to compile talent at nearly every position, though its defense has some major holes to fill. This may be the year to do it.
Kyle Vanden Bosch is nearing the end of his career, and Cliff Avril was hit with the franchise tag before the season. The Lions need 4-3 defensive ends, and there are several good options available in the first round this year, including Barkevious Mingo, Damontre Moore and Bjoern Werner.
The Lions also need to address their porous secondary—specifically at the cornerback position. Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner will likely be available when the Lions pick in the first round, though it’s more likely they will lean toward selecting a top-notch offensive tackle like Luke Joeckel or Taylor Lewan over a cornerback so early in the draft.
Biggest needs: OT, OG, DT, DE
The Philadelphia Eagles’ season went up in smoke after winning two of their first three games in stunning fashion. Philadelphia dropped its next eight games after its Week 4 win over the Giants, and Andy Reid and Mike Vick will be on their way out at the end of the season.
One of the biggest reasons for Philadelphia’s offensive struggles was its offensive line play. The Eagles linemen looked overmatched and undersized all season. Given the state of unrest in Philadelphia, you can expect a lot of changes for the 2013 season. Many of those changes will likely
take place on the offensive line.
Philadelphia also needs to address its defensive line and linebacking corps. The Eagles were one of the worst tackling units in the league, though that problem may be attributed more to coaching than personnel issues.
Many of Philadelphia’s problems will be addressed with coaching changes in the coming months. Still, this team needs better talent in several key positions, and with so many holes to fill, Philadelphia cannot
afford to miss in the early rounds of the draft.
Expect the Eagles to target some of the elite offensive tackles this April, as well as guards Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper.
New Orleans Saints
Biggest needs: OT, OLB, CB
The New Orleans Saints needed their head coach this year.
The Saints didn’t experience much personnel turnover from 2011 to 2012, but they played uncharacteristically this season with Sean Payton suspended for the year. They looked like an entirely different team.
Many of New Orleans’ issues can be traced back to the distraction and subsequent disarray following its bounty scandal, but there are still some holes to fill on both side of the football that attributed to a
The Saints were terrible on defense against both the run and the pass. They allowed nearly 7,000 yards of total offense on the season—almost 1,000 more yards than any other defense. Coaching stability will help to reverse the trend in New Orleans, but so will a solid draft.
Given the depth of quality defensive prospects this year, it’s unlikely New Orleans will address the offensive side of the ball in the first couple rounds. Look for the Saints to focus on some of the pass-rushing specialists and top-tier cornerbacks in the first two rounds in April.
New York Jets
Biggest needs: QB, WR, DE, OLB
It’s hard to believe there are any Mark Sanchez supporters left after the appalling season he pieced together in 2012.
Still, Sanchez is under contract for more than $8 million in 2013, and the cap hit for releasing Sanchez is simply too much for the New York Jets to risk. He’ll be a Jet next season, but it’s highly unlikely he’ll be the
The options at quarterback are limited in this draft class. The Jets may look to free agency to address their biggest issue, or see what they can find beyond the first round in April.
More likely, the Jets will try to address other positional needs in the first round. New York needs a better receiving corps, even with Santonio Holmes healthy. Stephen Hill and tight end Dustin Keller were nowhere near as good as they needed to be for the Jets this year.
The Jets also need to shore up their front seven and solidify a pass rush that was ranked near the bottom of the league in 2012. This draft class is loaded with pass-rushing talent, much of which will still be available when the Jets select in the first round.
Biggest needs: OLB, OG, CB, DE
The Raiders have been a draft-day punch line in recent years, but Oakland has made a few nice selections recently and may be heading in a positive direction.
Stephen Wisniewski and Jared Veldheer were good editions to the offensive line, and the Denarious Moore-Darrius Heyward-Bey tandem at wide receiver heads a dangerous pass-catching unit.
Oakland needs some serious help on the defensive side of the ball, though. The Raiders rank near the bottom of the league in total defense and sacks registered and surrendered nearly 28 points per game in 2012.
Outside linebackers Philip Wheeler and Miles Burris combined for just 4.5 sacks this season, and defensive ends Matt Shaughnessy and Lamarr Houston added just 6.5 total. The Raiders need pass-rushers, and there are many good options in the draft.
The Raiders also need to look for a suitable replacement for Nnamdi Asomugha in either free agency or the draft. Oakland’s secondary is one of the most porous units in the NFL, and it’s not all coaching. Personnel changes need to be made at cornerback in order to shore up a secondary that will face Peyton Manning two more times in 2013.
Biggest needs: NT, CB, OLB, WR
The Steelers had a season to forget, and after a couple crushing losses late in the season, Pittsburgh exited the playoff picture unceremoniously and with little to be pleased with.
The Steelers will be in cap trouble when the offseason begins, and it’s about time to start planning for the departure of several big-name starters. James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, Casey Hampton and Mike
Wallace are all in uncharted territory.
Wallace lobbied for a new contract before the 2012 season but was denied by a management unwilling to negotiate after training camp began. Wallace will want No. 1 receiver money, but the Steelers rewarded fellow receiver Antonio Brown with a new contract this year, and Wallace’s days in Pittsburgh may be up.
James Harrison has failed to stay healthy in the last two seasons. His future with the Steelers is very much in question, and Pittsburgh has never been shy about re-tooling on the defensive side of the ball early in the draft.
This is an aging defense, and although it put up nice team stats in 2012, there is much room for improvement. Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, wide receiver Keenan Allen, cornerback Dee Milliner and hybrid linebacker-defensive end Damontre Moore will all be on Pittsburgh’s radar in the draft this year.
Biggest needs: OG, C, MLB, CB
The Tennessee Titans offense needs to revolve around Chris Johnson.
CJ2K had an atrocious first half of the season, due in large part to subpar offensive line play and a game plan that didn’t feature Johnson enough. Johnson broke out in the second half, but it was too late to push the Titans over the top and into playoff contention.
Tennessee has to address its offensive line this offseason. All-Pro left tackle Michael Roos and right tackle David Stewart played well down the stretch, but the Titans interior line is underwhelming at best.
Tennessee needs to infuse some young talent in the interior of its offensive line to optimize the production it can get from Johnson.
Tennessee also needs to look at shoring up its secondary this offseason. The Titans are No. 26 in the league against the pass this season and haven’t found a suitable replacement for Cortland Finnegan. Justin McCourty has been terrific, but the Titans have no one to lock down the other side of the field.
The Titans aren’t many pieces away from being a very good football team. Their personnel needs line up nicely with the strength of this year’s draft class, and a few good selections could propel the Titans toward
the top of the AFC South in 2013.
San Diego Chargers
Biggest needs: WR, OLB, RB, OT
As is the case nearly every season in recent memory, A.J. Smith and Norv Turner were on the hot seat this year. They haven’t done enough to warrant another chance.
Smith and Turner will likely be out of San Diego next year, which leaves a lot of question marks for the Chargers. Philip Rivers had another subpar season, Antonio Gates is no longer the dominating presence in the middle of the field he once was and Ryan Mathews can’t stay on the football field.
San Diego’s defense was a top-10 unit this year, but its offense sputtered far too often. It needs a major overhaul.
As long as Mathews continues to fall victim to the injury bug, the Chargers will need to look for another option at running back, at least as a contingency plan. This year’s draft class isn’t very deep at running
back, but backs like Montee Ball and Kenjon Barner will likely be available in the second round, and could offer relief in the Chargers’ backfield.
While Danario Alexander breathed new life into the Chargers’ passing game late in the season, Alexander has never produced at a consistent level in the NFL, and Malcom Floyd had a disappointing season in 2012. If Keenan Allen or Cordarrelle Patterson are available when San Diego picks in the first round, the Chargers should seriously consider taking a chance on one of them.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Biggest needs: OT, OLB, CB, TE
Tampa Bay had lofty expectations entering the 2012 season, but the Bucs dropped five of their last six and quietly slipped from the playoff picture.
Josh Freeman started the season looking like a replaceable quarterback, but he came on strong in the middle of the year and may have secured his job for 2013. Still, the Bucs need some help on the offensive side of the ball.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line is one of the weaker units in the NFC South. Left tackle Donald Penn has been good, but the rest of the line needs to be evaluated moving forward. Tampa Bay has focused on its defensive line and linebacking corps in the draft in recent years, but it’s time to strengthen the offensive line.
The Buccaneers also need considerable help in their secondary. Tampa gave up more passing yards than any team in the NFL this year (4,545) after trading cornerback Aquib Talib to the Patriots earlier in the season. Safety Mark Barron has made an impact, but free safety Ronde Barber is at the end of his career, and the Bucs need to look for a replacement.
Tampa Bay will have plenty of quality options in the first round this year. Luke Joeckel, Taylor Lewan, Chance Warmack, Dee Milliner and Kenny Vaccaro should all be on the Bucs’ radar early in the draft.
Biggest needs: CB, RT, WR, S
Cam Newton’s sophomore campaign fell well short of expectations, and the Carolina Panthers are forced to reevaluate their approach for next season.
Newton overcame a bad start to the season and finished the season much as he did a year ago. He’s the cornerstone of the Panthers franchise, but Carolina needs to find a way to maximize its offensive output.
Wide receiver Steve Smith will be 34 by the start of the 2013 season, and while Brandon LaFell looks like a future No. 1 in the league, Carolina needs to add another weapon to its receiving corps. Newton is deadly with his legs, but he also has a terrific arm. He needs another target.
The Panthers had a surprisingly stout defense in 2012. Carolina finished No. 8 in both total defense and passing defense but could stand to add another cornerback and free safety. The Panthers also need another pass-rusher opposite Greg Hardy, who notched 11 sacks this year.
Carolina is a better team than its 2012 record indicated, but if the Panthers are to avoid another letdown in 2013, they will have to build around the pieces already in place.
Biggest needs: QB, WR, CB
The Ryan Fitzpatrick experiment needs to be over in Buffalo. He’s shown flashes of above-average talent, but his inconsistency has sunk Buffalo’s offense.
C.J. Spiller has shown he can be a feature back in the NFL, and if Fred Jackson rebounds from injury in time for the 2013 season, Buffalo is set in its backfield. The Bills offensive line, though very young, has played pretty well the last couple years.
The Bills need another quality pass catcher, though. Steve Johnson continues to produce, but Buffalo has no one to take pressure off him on the other side of the field. West Virginia’s Tavon Austin would be an excellent complement in the slot, though Austin will likely be a fringe first-round candidate.
Buffalo used its first-round pick last year on cornerback Stephon Gilmore, and he’s earned his starting role. The Bills could stand to add another cornerback to the roster to lock down the other side of the field,
though. With the addition of Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus on the left side of the defensive line, Buffalo has some nice pieces around which to build this offseason.
Kansas City Chiefs
Biggest needs: QB, WR, OG, CB, RDE
This was a bad season to be a bad football team.
Kansas City secured the No. 1 selection in the 2013 draft by playing some terrible football this year, and there isn’t a consensus No. 1 pick in the draft. The Chiefs need a quarterback. Unfortunately, this year’s quarterback class is miles from that of last year.
If the Chiefs decide to draft a quarterback with the first pick, they will need to make good use of their remaining selections. Kansas City has a lot of holes to fill, specifically on defense.
Cornerback Brandon Flowers is a legitimate No. 1 corner, but Javier Arenas is better suited as a special teamer and kick returner. Inside linebacker Derrick Johnson just turned 30, and Kansas City does not have a legitimate starter at free safety.
The Chiefs have some young cornerstones on defense, though. Eric Berry, Justin Houston and Dontari Poe are building blocks on which the Chiefs can build, and Tamba Hali is coming off a nine-sack season. With the addition of some young talent in its secondary, Kansas City can be a much
better defense in 2013.
The Chiefs will also need to find a replacement for Dwayne Bowe this offseason, who is likely to leave in free agency. Bowe will demand No. 1 money, and the Chiefs probably won’t give it to him. Several viable candidates will be available at the top of the second round, and if the Chiefs do decide to draft a quarterback in the first, it would make sense to give him a weapon opposite Jon Baldwin.
Biggest needs: WR, OT, CB
Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill didn’t come into the best situation.
Tannehill was without an offensive identity this season. He was also without a true No. 1 receiver. Brian Hartline and Davone Bess played pretty well, but neither are talented enough to demand a double-team. If Tannehill is to have success in his sophomore campaign, the Miami Dolphins will need to get him some weapons.
Miami also needs to shore up its pass protection. All-Pro Jake Long went down with an MCL sprain late in the season, and the Dolphins were too thin at the position to field a serviceable backup. Miami has a decent interior line anchored by center Mike Pouncey, but it could use more depth at the tackle positions.
The Dolphins also need to replace cornerback Vontae Davis, whom they traded to the Indianapolis Colts. Miami was No. 25 in the league against the pass this year, due in large part to inferior talent. Apart from
Sean Smith, the Dolphins have no cornerback worthy of a starting role.
Biggest needs: OG, RT, OLB, S
General manager Gene Smith has had very little success in Jacksonville, and by Monday, Smith will be out the door.
While head coach Mike Mularkey is probably safe for another season, fans can expect to see a much different football team in 2013. The Jaguars are lacking in talent in several positions.
Jacksonville’s quarterback situation will be up in the air this offseason. Blaine Gabbert should get another shot, but Chad Henne won’t make it easy on him. Henne did well filling in for Gabbert and, assuming Jacksonville doesn’t add another quarterback this offseason, should battle it out for the starting job next year.
The Jags got quality contributions from Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts in the second half of the season, and with Maurice Jones-Drew presumably healthy (and maybe under a new contract), Jacksonville’s offense should look a lot better next year. It needs to add some quality to the right side of its offensive line, though.
Linebacker, safety and cornerback are all positions of need as well. Jacksonville’s pass rush has been nearly nonexistent in recent years, despite drafting several defensive tackles and ends in the last few years. The Jaguars need a pass-rushing specialist in a bad way, and this year is a good year to find one.
St. Louis Rams
Biggest needs: WR, RB, OT, S
The St. Louis Rams have focused on their defense in recent years, adding several contributors through both free agency and the draft. Janoris Jenkins, Cortland Finnegan and Robert Quinn have been impactful in their first years with the Rams and contributed to a much-improved defense from a year ago.
The defense isn’t the problem, though. St. Louis needs to build around former No. 1 pick Sam Bradford, who has failed to live up to his potential in St. Louis. He hasn’t had the pieces to optimize his talents,
especially at the wide receiver position.
Danny Amendola was exceptional when healthy, and Chris Givens established himself as a quality deep threat for Bradford. Still, the Rams need more talent at the position. This isn’t a deep draft class at wide receiver, but the Rams may find what they are looking for in the second and third rounds.
Steven Jackson is likely out in St. Louis. Daryl Richardson averaged 4.9 yards per carry in relief of Jackson this season and may be the future featured back for the Rams. They may look to add another option through either free agency or the draft, however.
St. Louis also needs to fill a vacancy at the offensive tackle position. Jason Smith wasn’t the answer, and the Rams dealt Smith to the Jets before the season. The Rams need to protect Bradford and keep him on the field. Offensive tackle should be a major priority on draft day.
Biggest needs: OT, DT, S
The Chicago Bears’ plane landed just moments before Minnesota dropped Green Bay in the final seconds of their Week 17 matchup, effectively bouncing the Bears from the playoff hunt.
One of the biggest reasons for the Bears’ collapse this season was their putrid offensive line play, which was an issue last year as well. Chicago added some pieces to its line in last year’s draft, and the Bears should plan on doing the same this season.
The Bears have a lot of talent on offense. While injuries hurt Chicago this season, it should have fared far better. There is simply too much talent of Chicago’s offense to come up short down the stretch.
Chicago fielded one of the best defensive units in the league in 2012. The Bears finished No. 5 in total defense and have the piece in place to be another strong unit in 2013. Cornerbacks Tim Jennings and
Charles Tillman comprise one of the best cornerback tandems in the league, but Chicago could use some depth on its defensive line and at the outside linebacker position.
The Bears have the personnel in place to make a splash next season, though. As long as Chicago addresses its offensive line issues, it can afford to draft the best player available in the draft and stack talent at other positions.
New York Giants
Biggest needs: CB, DE, OT
The New York Giants have as much talent as any team in the league, but they didn’t take advantage of it this season.
Injuries and underachievement contributed to a disappointing season in New York—something Tom Coughlin hoped to avoid this year. He’s always on the hot seat when the Giants underachieve, and some fans are calling for his job after missing the playoffs just a year removed from a Super Bowl victory.
Eli Manning regressed this season, and while his job is safe, several key contributors could be on their way out.
Offensive tackle David Diehl dealt with injuries all season and may find himself looking for a new team next year. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora wants a new contract he may not get, and cornerback Corey Webster turns 31 this offseason.
The Giants have depth at offensive tackle and defensive end, but the New York front office has always been good at maintaining depth at key positions.
With Webster’s age and cornerback Prince Amukamara’s durability issues, the Giants may key in on the cornerback position early in the draft. Considering the depth at offensive tackle and guard, as well as defensive end, in this year’s draft class, New York will certainly evaluate its options at those positions as well.
The Giants will rebound from this season, but it will take some retooling. New York will benefit from an influx of youth, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Biggest needs: ILB, S, OT, DE
Although many Dallas Cowboys fans will probably disagree, quarterback isn’t the biggest need for the Cowboys heading into the 2013 season.
Tony Romo looked awful in Dallas’ loss to the Washington Redskins in Week 17, and was a major reason for their collapse, but his job is likely safe for another year. Dallas suffered from an anemic running game and poor pass protection for much of the season. Both issues will need to be fixed this offseason.
DeMarco Murray was injured for much of the year, and with Murray on the shelf, the Cowboys were unable to establish hardly anything on the ground. Dallas finished No. 31 in rushing offense and averaged just 77.7 yards per game for the season. Felix Jones has durability issues as well, and
Dallas will need to add some depth to the position, either through free agency or the draft.
The Cowboys added cornerback Morris Claiborne in the first round of last year’s draft and signed cornerback Brandon Carr in free agency, yet finished No. 21 in the league against the pass. The Cowboys were linked to safety Mark Barron prior to last year’s draft, and Dallas may consider selecting a safety early in the 2013 draft. Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro would be a nice fit.