The Biggest Hole Every NFL Team Still Must Fill After the Draft
The NFL draft is one essential way for teams to fill roster holes, meet needs and build depth for the short and long terms.
However, the draft is still limited—teams only have so many picks, and early-round ones at that, to use to meet their many needs.
As such, not every roster deficiency is going to be addressed in the draft. Here is the biggest need still remaining for each NFL team, post-draft.
Oakland Raiders: Pass Rush
The Oakland Raiders defense had but 25 sacks in 2012. Their anemic pass rush was something they were expected to address in this year's draft.
Instead, they left pass-rushing outside linebacker to Round 3, when they took Connecticut's Sio Moore. Moore is a good linebacker, but he's raw. It will take a few years for him to develop into his full potential. The Raiders may have been better off using their first-round pick on top-tier linebacking talent rather than selecting cornerback D.J. Hayden.
Denver Broncos: Middle Linebacker
The Denver Broncos let Keith Brooking leave in free agency. Brooking took the majority of his snaps in 2012 at the middle linebacker position, starting every regular-season from Week 6 on. It was thus expected that the Broncos would look for Brooking's replacement in the 2013 draft.
Instead, they selected no linebackers, leaving Brookings' hole unfilled as of yet.
Kansas City Chiefs: Wide Receiver
The Kansas City Chiefs dodged a bullet by re-signing wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, but that still doesn't mean they aren't hard up for targets for quarterback Alex Smith.
The Chiefs opted to take offensive tackle Eric Fisher in the first round. Though they did add a tight end, Travis Kelce, in Round 2, he's a better blocker than he is receiver and will need to be developed into a reliable weapon for Smith.
Hopefully one of their undrafted free-agent wide receiver additions will pan out, because the Chiefs still need someone to pair up on the outside with Bowe. Signing free agent Donnie Avery helps and perhaps Jon Baldwin will finally break out with a better quarterback throwing to him, but the Chiefs still have more question marks at receiver than answers.
San Diego Chargers: Left Tackle
The San Diego Chargers desperately need to better protect quarterback Philip Rivers. Though they had an early pick in the first round—11th overall—they found themselves left out of the run on left tackles. The best they could do was to select D.J. Fluker, a right tackle and excellent run-blocker, but they still need someone to keep Rivers upright.
There are still some talented left tackles on the free-agent market and a few of them should make their way through San Diego between now and the start of training camp. It's a glaring hole the Chargers must address.
Houston Texans: Outside Linebacker
The Houston Texans lost starting outside linebacker Connor Barwin to the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency. Though they have second-year player Whitney Mercilus as well as Brooks Reed to take over the job, the Texans would have been smart to take another outside backer early on in the draft to provide meaningful depth.
Their fourth-round selection of Trevardo Williams does somewhat meet this need, as does Sam Montgomery, but Montgomery has issues—he admitted that he doesn't give full effort against seemingly lesser opponents. Adding more reliable pass-rushing depth would have been a better move.
Indianapolis Colts: Cornerback
The Indianapolis Colts defense relied primarily on Cassius Vaughn and Vontae Davis to do the heavy cornerback lifting for them in 2012, to rather disappointing results. The two combined for just four interceptions while giving up a combined eight touchdowns. This year's deep cornerback draft class seemed to be the perfect opportunity for the Colts to give their secondary an upgrade.
Instead, they didn't address it until the sixth round, taking marginal free safety John Boyett with the 192nd pick. Cornerback went untouched, making it the biggest hole remaining on their roster presently.
Tennessee Titans: Defensive Tackle
The Tennessee Titans had a lot of holes heading in the NFL draft, especially on defense. While they addressed things like cornerback (Blidi Wreh-Wilson in Round 3) and linebacker depth (Zaviar Gooden in Round 3 as well), they opted to take an offensive guard, Chance Warmack, in Round 1 rather than top defensive tackle talents like Shariff Floyd and Star Lotulelei.
While the first round is all about getting the best player available, which Warmack certainly could have been considered, the Titans just spent a lot of money at offensive guard to take Andy Levitre. Now, they must find another way to boost their front seven.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Quarterback
The Jacksonville Jaguars had a very successful draft, managing to meet needs with players of significant talent. However, most glaring is that the Jaguars opted not to take a quarterback with any of their picks, though they were thought to be targeting the position.
The Jaguars head into the 2013 season with Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne and undrafted free-agent Matt Scott. Based on their roster prior to the draft and what it looks like now, the one area in which the Jaguars look deficient is quarterback. Everything else is solid.
New York Jets: Pass-Rusher
The New York Jets keep drafting defensive linemen year after year it seems but never attempt to improve their pass rush. It's a baffling move for a team that had just 30 total sacks in 2012.
Yes, the Jets got one of the draft's best defensive tackles in Sheldon Richardson, but they could have used the 13th overall pick on a premier pass-rusher like Jarvis Jones instead. Now, they lack a top-tier outside linebacker yet again, though they could have had one.
New England Patriots: Defensive Tackle
The New England Patriots have a capable pair of starting defensive tackles in Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love but lack adequate depth—and youth—behind them. Signing Tommy Kelly and Armond Armstead helps, but Armstead is a major question mark, especially after suffering a heart attack in college.
Despite this, the Patriots opted not to take a defensive tackle in the 2013 draft, instead focusing on adding wide receivers and help for the secondary. Though defensive tackle isn't a very pressing need, an addition to their depth at the position would have been very helpful.
Buffalo Bills: Cornerback
The Buffalo Bills did address the secondary in the 2013 draft, taking two strong safeties in Rounds 4 and 5. However, they failed to add a cornerback this year, which is surprising.
Their starters at cornerback are Stephon Gilmore and a combination of Aaron Williams and Leodis McKelvin. They could have used someone more adept at man coverage, where McKelvin in particular is quite weak. Instead, they opted for project quarterback EJ Manuel in Round 1.
Miami Dolphins: Left Tackle
The Miami Dolphins failed to secure a trade for Kansas City Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert before the draft and did not manage to get a left tackle during it. Now, the Albert talks have been cut off and the Dolphins are searching through other free-agent tackles to meet this roster hole.
Yes, the Dolphins took tackle Dallas Thomas in Round 3, but he's not instant-starter material. While they hit a home run by trading up to No. 3 overall to take pass-rusher Dion Jordan, left tackle remains a major priority. Hopefully they can fix that with a free agent in the coming days or weeks.
Baltimore Ravens: Wide Receiver
The Baltimore Ravens were widely believed to be targeting a wide receiver in the first two rounds of the draft this year to help fill the void left when they traded Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers. Though the Ravens have some potentially serviceable options left on their roster—Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss—the Ravens' draft positioning seemed to scream receiver early on.
The Ravens did get a receiver—Elon's Aaron Mellette in Round 7, who has a number of Boldin-esque attributes—but no clear-cut starting option. Maybe that person is already on the roster or maybe he'll be a free agency addition as the spring and summer roll on.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Tight End
Pittsburgh Steelers starting tight end Heath Miller suffered a serious knee injury near the end of the 2012 season, leaving them with the possibility that he won't be ready to play come Week 1. For this reason, a number of draft experts believed the Steelers would be targeting top tight end draft prospect Tyler Eifert; instead, they ignored the position altogether.
This may be a sign of confidence that Miller will be ready to begin the 2013 season at full strength. That's a gamble, however, and if he's not, they'll be down one important target for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for at least a few weeks.
Cleveland Browns: Safety
The Cleveland Browns opted to do a lot of trading out of picks in the 2013 draft to better position themselves for 2014. That's fine, of course, as long as they managed to address particular needs with the picks they did use. For the most part they did, except for one—safety.
Most interestingly, one of the picks they traded away—their fourth-rounder—was used by the Pittsburgh Steelers to take one of the last remaining starter-quality safeties, Syracuse's Shamarko Thomas. While the Browns may feel confident in the safeties they currently have on their roster, bypassing Thomas leaves them in need of a starter at worst and depth at best.
Cincinnati Bengals: Safety
The Cincinnati Bengals also needed to take someone capable of starting immediately at strong safety, where the Bengals used several players in 2012. Instead, they waited until Round 3 to get one, Shawn Williams from Georgia.
Pushing safety back into the third round wasn't a bad move, considering who they got in the picks before it, but it does put them in the situation of having to rotate players at strong safety yet again. They'd be in better shape if they had one man who could make the position his own.
Dallas Cowboys: Right Tackle
The Dallas Cowboys have told incumbent starting right tackle Doug Free to take a pay cut or else he is in danger of being released. This is an issue they've been trying to solve for nearly a month, however, neither Free nor Dallas has made a move.
Complicating things is the fact that the Cowboys did not take a starting-caliber right tackle in the 2013 draft. Perhaps they are gambling on Free taking the lower salary and sticking around. If he chooses not to and is released, however, they'll be in trouble.
New York Giants: Linebacker
The New York Giants need to add depth—if not starting-caliber talent—to their defensive front seven this year. In the 2013 draft, they added a defensive tackle and end in Rounds 3 and 4, but they didn't touch the linebacker position, either inside or out.
The departure of Michael Boley has helped deplete a linebacking unit that wasn't deep to begin with. The Giants now have to find a way to build that depth, likely through their crop of undrafted rookies.
Philadelphia Eagles: Defensive End
The Philadelphia Eagles did a good job in both free agency and the draft to help smooth the transition to a 3-4 defensive front and Chip Kelly's high-speed offense. However, one area they could have attended to in the draft was defensive end, especially considering the switch in base defense.
The Eagles did draft two defensive ends—Joe Kruger and David King in Round 7—but they would have been better off addressing it sooner, when they could have found starting talent instead of just depth. While Bennie Logan may move to end as the Eagles signed nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga, players with more 3-4 defensive end experience in college would have made this transition go more smoothly.
Washington Redskins: Right Tackle
The Washington Redskins recently re-signed starting right tackle Tyler Polumbus to a new deal, but that doesn't mean their offensive line is in the best shape. With mobile quarterback Robert Griffin III needing better protection and ace running back Alfred Morris needing someone to open running lanes, the Redskins would have been wise to address at least right tackle in the 2013 draft.
Polumbus excels at neither run-blocking nor pass-protecting. The Redskins need someone who can compete with him for the job or at the very least provide depth behind him.
Atlanta Falcons: Pass Rush
The Atlanta Falcons succeeded in meeting a lot of their positional needs in this year's draft, cornerback and defensive end chief among them, but they failed to add another pass-rusher to back up or spell Osi Umenyiora.
Though Umenyiora was a nice veteran addition, it's not yet certain if he can be counted on for every play in every game. Finding someone else to at least add depth to the roster would have helped.
New Orleans Saints: Offensive Tackle
The New Orleans Saints needed to pick up an offensive tackle to help quarterback Drew Brees stay protected. While they did so, it wasn't until Round 3, when they selected Terron Armstead.
Armstead is a serviceable tackle but he won't be ready to be a full-time starter on the left for at least a year. Unfortunately, the Saints' draft position didn't allow them to trade up and get one of the draft's premier left tackles, so they must just work with what they have this year.
Carolina Panthers: Secondary
The Carolina Panthers met defensive needs in the 2013 draft, first taking Star Lotulelei and then Kawann Short in Rounds 1 and 2. What they failed to do, however, was to add a cornerback or a safety to their struggling secondary.
Safety, in particular, was a major need. They have Charles Godfrey at strong safety but need a starting-capable free safety to pair with him. Hopefully some of their rookie free agents will pan out, because they missed on both positions in this year's draft.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Pass Rush
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hit the nail on the head with many of their draft picks, as well as in the trade for cornerback Darrelle Revis, but they missed badly on the opportunity to add to their stable of pass-rushers.
Their current starters, Adrian Clayborne and Da'Quan Bowers, are injury risks who don't have much depth behind them after the Buccaneers let Michael Bennett leave in free agency. They might have loved Mike Glennon enough to take him in Round 3, but their pass rush needs should have pushed quarterback to a later round.
Green Bay Packers: Backup Quarterback
No one wants to think about what could happen if Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers misses time with an injury, but these things aren't uncommon in the NFL. With just Graham Harrell behind Rodgers, it would have come to no surprise if the Packers chose to take a quarterback in the 2013 draft.
They didn't, however, leaving them in trouble when it comes to their depth at quarterback. Here's to hoping Harrell doesn't need to take the field this year.
Chicago Bears: Tight End
The Chicago Bears added tight end Martellus Bennett in free agency, but the position needs both depth and youth. The Bears could have taken a receiving-oriented tight end but opted not to, instead focusing on their offensive line and linebacking corps.
These needs were a high priority, so the Bears cannot be entirely slammed for not using one of those higher picks on a tight end. However, that would have been another weapon for Jay Cutler to work with in Marc Trestman's new offense.
Minnesota Vikings: None
The Minnesota Vikings had quite a few roster holes to fill via this year's draft, and, surprisingly, it appears they've done so, at least on paper.
Cornerback? Check—they got Xavier Rhodes in Round 1, along with two other home run picks in the round, defensive tackle Shariff Floyd and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
Despite not picking again until the fourth round, the Vikings were able to get themselves a quality guard, Jeff Baca, who has starting-caliber talent. In fact, the Vikings were so comfortable with their roster, they selected punter Jeff Locke in Round 5.
While we won't truly know how these picks pan out until the season begins, at this point it's hard to see any true holes on Minnesota's roster after the draft.
Detroit Lions: Offensive Tackle
The Detroit Lions got themselves a solid draft haul, but they spent their first two picks on players with inherent risks—defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who doesn't have much football experience, and cornerback Darius Slay, who has a past of knee problems.
Instead, the Lions could have used one of those picks on an offensive tackle. The Lions lost both 2012 starters on the right and the left—Gosder Cherilus and Jeff Backus—to free agency and retirement, respectively, and their depth isn't too inspiring. Maybe they can get in on the bidding for the free-agent left tackles who are still on the market.
San Francisco 49ers: Nose Tackle
The San Francisco 49ers had a very successful draft, but one position they didn't manage to address was that of nose tackle, the job that used to belong to Isaac Sopoaga.
Perhaps their haul of other defensive players, like Tank Carradine, Corey Lemonier and Quinton Dial, hint that the 49ers have outside players they can move to the inside, but ultimately, they lack anyone on their roster that has the requisite size.
Ian Wiliams and Glenn Dorsey give them options, along with Dial who has defensive tackle experience, however they would have been better off taking a true nose tackle in the draft.
Seattle Seahawks: Linebacker
The Seattle Seahawks' 2013 draft haul is rife with met needs and best players available, but they left one important thing out—linebacker.
Presently, their best starting option is Malcolm Smith if Leroy Hill does not return. Smith is an injury risk, and he doesn't have much depth behind him. Though the Seahawks got a linebacker in Round 7—Harding's Ty Powell—he's more of a pass-rusher, which is not what the Seahawks need.
St. Louis Rams: Running Back
The St. Louis Rams had a very good draft, meeting all of their most important needs—weapons for quarterback Sam Bradford and secondary improvements among them—but they may have been smarter taking a running back to make up for losing Steven Jackson a little earlier on than Round 5.
For what it's worth, however, their fifth-round running back selection, Zac Stacy, isn't a typical late-round roster-filler. He could very well be an impact player immediately as the Rams' workhorse back. Perhaps they knew this, explaining why they pushed the position to their final pick.
If Stacy isn't a huge steal, they may regret not targeting a better running back who would have been a clear upgrade over Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson.
Arizona Cardinals: Offensive Tackle
While the Arizona Cardinals did work to improve their porous, injury-laden offensive line in the draft by taking two guards, Jonathan Cooper in Round 1 and Earl Watford in Round 4, they missed on getting an offensive tackle.
Granted, a great many teams needed a starting offensive tackle in this year's draft and there were far fewer to go around. The Cardinals, however, needed one more than most, with Levi Brown coming off of a triceps tear and Bobby Massie and Nate Potter still finding their footing in the league.
At the very least, the Cardinals could have taken an offensive tackle in a middle round simply to add depth.