The scouting combine is in full swing, and prospects are doing everything they can to impress scouts in an effort to improve their positions for the upcoming 2014 NFL draft. Although, each prospect isn't an exact fit for every NFL franchise. Team needs play a huge role in the draft process.
It's just as important to recognize what holes each team needs to fill as draft day approaches. Especially in the early rounds of the draft, teams will not only look for players who have been impressive in college and during workouts, they will look for prospects who fit team needs and schemes.
Let's take a look at every team's draft position and biggest need heading into May's draft followed by a few examples of why certain needs are relevant to their respective teams.
|Top Position of Need for All 32 NFL Teams|
|Draft Position||Team||Position of Need|
|2, 13||St. Louis Rams||WR|
|4, 26||Cleveland Browns||QB|
|7||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||DE|
|12||New York Giants||OT|
|18||New York Jets||WR|
|21||Green Bay Packers||S|
|23||Kansas City Chiefs||WR|
|25||San Diego Chargers||CB|
|27||New Orleans Saints||LB|
|29||New England Patriots||TE|
|30||San Francisco 49ers||DE|
|Draft order via NFL.com|
New York Jets: Wide Receiver
The New York Jets had an absolutely stagnant passing offense throughout most of the 2013 season. Even though rookie quarterback Geno Smith was under center, the Jets lacked necessary weapons to help him succeed.
Once of the league's worst receiving teams, the Jets only averaged 204.4 receiving yards per game and only caught 13 total touchdown passes.
Top receiving option Santonio Holmes missed most of the 2013 season due to injury; however, that won't matter going forward as reports indicate that the Jets are set to cut the veteran this offseason.
According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News:
The organization is fully aware that a change is in order. Holmes isn't part of the team's future plans. The Jets have already included the $8.25 million in savings it will get by cutting Holmes in the pool of available money for free agency, according to sources. General manager John Idzik has about $20.2 million in cap space before Holmes' official departure (before his $1 million roster bonus is due next month) frees up more.
Unfortunately, after Holmes, the Jets' most trustworthy wide receiver is Jeremy Kerley. That simply won't due. Kerley is talented but is nowhere close to being a No. 1 option. Stephen Hill has shown flashes, but he is still trying to translate his game to the NFL level.
If a prospect like Texas A&M's Mike Evans or USC's Marqise Lee is available at No. 18 overall, expect the Jets to pounce.
Cincinnati Bengals: Cornerback
The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the deepest rosters in the NFL. They don't have any glaring holes to fill; however, the importance of adding youth at several positions is necessary.
Cornerback is one of those positions.
Veteran cornerbacks Terence Newman and Adam Jones are in the twilight of their careers at the ages of 35 and 30, respectively. Especially in Newman's case, these players do not have many more good years of coverage left in them.
The Bengals' top cornerback, Leon Hall, continues to be an injury waiting to happen. For the past three years now, Hall has failed to play a full 16-game season. 2013 marked his fewest games played over a single season in his career with five.
Hall is a great player when healthy, but the Bengals need to err on the side of caution.
Dre Kirkpatrick is next in line to take over for one of these veterans. He looked solid when he received some playing time late in the season last year; however, he is still very unproven. If he doesn't pan out, the Bengals would be out of options.
With the 24th pick in this year's draft, expect the Bengals to take a long, hard look at either Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State, Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State or Jason Verrett of TCU.
New England Patriots: Tight End
This seems like a rather unusual position to be the biggest need for the New England Patriots; although, that's exactly what it is.
After the team lost Aaron Hernandez for good, the Patriots quickly went from having the best tight end duo in the NFL to crossing their fingers that Rob Gronkowski would stay healthy.
Well, Gronkowski didn't. After finally coming back from multiple injuries and surgeries during the 2013 season, the big tight end did not last long. He tore his ACL after playing just seven games with the team.
In the past two years, injuries continued to mount for Gronkowski, as the tight end only managed to play 18 total games over that span.
Once the Patriots were without Hernandez and Gronkowski, the offense struggled. With a young wide receiving corps, New England relies heavily on tight ends to create mismatches and stretch the field. If Gronkowski is unable to go at the beginning of the 2014 season, the team will still be without that threat if they don't address the position in the draft.
Fortunately for the Patriots, there are two highly talented tight ends that will be available in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft.
Eric Ebron of North Carolina and Jace Amaro of Texas Tech are both huge targets who possess good hands and solid speed. Each were featured in a pass-oriented offense while in college and should be able to transition easily into New England's scheme.
After all, is it ever a bad idea to surround Tom Brady with more weapons?