NFL Draft 2014: Final Team-by-Team Needs, Fits and Predictions

Eric Galko@OptimumScoutingFeatured ColumnistMay 7, 2014

NFL Draft 2014: Final Team-by-Team Needs, Fits and Predictions

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    After months of buildup, the 2014 NFL draft has finally arrived. While things remain uncertain across the first round (and all three days) of the draft, pick options and team needs are beginning to come into focus.

    We won’t have a great grasp of which players teams are taking until just hours before the draft, and even then chaos can (and will) ensue. But the best way to project the first round is to give options, with multiple players that the team could pick based on who’s available, what needs teams have and who the best prospects on the board are.

    So, I’ve put together the top three needs for each team in the first round (the Redskins and Colts are at their final-record spots even though they won’t be picking at No. 2 and No. 26, respectively) with prospects they’ll consider with their first picks.

1. Houston Texans

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    Pass-Rusher: Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack

    Personally, I would be floored if the Texans didn’t select Jadeveon Clowney with the first pick overall, as he’s the best prospect in the draft, regardless of his fit in the Texans scheme. The backup plan may be Khalil Mack if the team has questions about Clowney’s motor, but again, I think that’d be a huge mistake.


    Quarterback: Blake Bortles

    With heavy odds favoring the team taking Clowney (or Mack) first overall, drafting a quarterback gets pushed later. Blake Bortles seems to have heavy interest from a variety of first-round teams but may not be worth a top-20 pick. If he slips, don’t be surprised if the Texans trade up for him in the late-first round.


    Nose Tackle: Louis Nix

    Arguably the team’s biggest need, Louis Nix is the draft’s best nose tackle and could provide an instant starter to keep this defense strong. He may be available at the top of the second round.

2. Washington Redskins (First-Rounder Traded to St. Louis)

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    Defensive Line: Timmy Jernigan, Will Sutton, Dominique Easley

    Despite dealing the 2014 second overall pick to the Rams in the Robert Griffin III trade, the Redskins could still get a high-upside pass-rusher in the top of the second round. Timmy Jernigan has off-field and motor question marks, Will Sutton has size concerns and Dominque Easley is coming off a serious knee injury, but all three are first-round values if they can overcome their deficiencies.


    Offensive Line: Joel Bitonio, Cyrus Kouandjio

    The Redskins offensive line isn’t in terrible shape, but providing depth and developing starters for the right side of the line for the future would be wise. Joel Bitonio can play guard or tackle for the Redskins, while Cyrus Kouandjio, who may slip because of knee concerns, can slide in and challenge at right tackle immediately.


    Defensive Back: Jimmie Ward, Phillip Gaines

    Washington could use some youth in the defensive backfield. Jimmie Ward can challenge for either safety spot as a rookie and has a nose for the ball. Phillip Gaines has the elite speed that Washington has coveted in the past and could challenge for the nickel role early in his career.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Wide Receiver: Sammy Watkins

    Cecil Shorts is an adequate starter, but after him, the depth chart is in trouble. Justin Blackmon may be on his last leg with the team after repeated off-field issues, and the rest of the unit lacks starter-level talent. Watkins makes sense at No. 3 overall.


    Quarterback: Teddy Bridgewater, Jimmy Garoppolo

    Personally, I think the team should stay at No. 3 (or move down a few spots) and take the draft’s best quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. But if they pass, they’ll likely target the small-schooler with big-time upside in Jimmy Garoppolo, who likely will be picked very early on Day 2.


    Outside Linebacker: Khalil Mack, Jadeveon Clowney

    In head coach Gus Bradley’s defense, the "Leo" position is an outside linebacker/defensive end role that causes the most pressure. Currently, the team lacks a player who can fill the void. Khalil Mack (or Jadeveon Clowney, if he’s around) would make the position a major strength.

4. Cleveland Browns

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    Quarterback: Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, Blake Bortles

    Regardless of the rumors about which quarterback the Browns will take, it seems clear they’ll be taking one in the first round, either at No. 4 or No. 26. Johnny Manziel seems like the favorite despite recent reports, but I think Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr or Blake Bortles could be better long-term options. 


    Right Tackle: Jake Matthews, Cyrus Kouandjio

    With Joe Thomas locked down at left tackle, the position wouldn’t seem like a major need. But Mitchell Schwartz proved last season that he’s probably better inside at guard, and the team lacks a qualified starter. Odds are Greg Robinson is gone, but Jake Matthews at No. 4 or Cyrus Kouandjio at No. 26 could fill the role smoothly.


    Cornerback: Bradley Roby, Jason Verrett

    Filling the cornerback position will likely come at No. 26 or early in the second round, but it’s certainly a pressing need. Bradley Roby could be the instate answer, and Jason Verrett may be the better prospect to step in and start opposite Joe Haden.

5. Oakland Raiders

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    Wide Receiver: Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans

    The Raiders have some nice depth at receiver but lack an impact player to help out new quarterback Matt Schaub in the passing game. Sammy Watkins is the better option, but odds are he’s gone by No. 5. Mike Evans is the next man up.


    Pass-Rusher: Khalil Mack, Jeremiah Attaochu

    If Khalil Mack is on the board, he’ll probably be the pick for Oakland. However, if they don’t get one of the best pass-rushers atop the draft, they may target one in the second round. Jeremiah Attaochu is a high-ceiling rusher who can play strong-side linebacker or defensive end early in his career.


    Defensive Back: Darqueze Dennard, Jimmie Ward

    Last year’s first-rounder, D.J. Hayden, struggled, but he should still be viewed as a starter with high expectations in his second year. However, after him, they really lack depth at cornerback and safety. Darqueze Dennard would be a steal if he slipped on draft day, and Jimmie Ward could be a plus value who can offer safety and nickel cornerback help immediately.

6. Atlanta Falcons

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    Defensive End: Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack

    Defensive end may be the Falcons' biggest need, but if they want one of the top two rushers, they’ll need to trade up to secure them. For Jadeveon Clowney, they’d probably need to trade to first or second overall, and second, third or fourth overall for Khalil Mack. 


    Offensive Tackle: Taylor Lewan, Jake Matthews

    If the draft plays out the way I’d expect, they won’t be getting one of the top pass-rushers but could land a premier offensive tackle, their second-biggest need. Taylor Lewan and Jake Matthews can both start immediately at either tackle spot, and both have Pro Bowl upside.


    Safety: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor

    If the Falcons decide to trade back in Round 1, safety could be a position they look to address. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will likely be taken somewhere in the first 16 picks, and Calvin Pryor could fall a bit lower. Both are intriguing options for a Falcons defense that could use more defensive back help.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Offensive Tackle: Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan

    New head coach Lovie Smith would love to invest more in the offensive line. Even after adding Anthony Collins in free agency, the team could still use right tackle help. Odds are, Jake Matthews and/or Taylor Lewan are available, so he may have his pick of the two.


    Wide Receiver: Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr.

    After Vincent Jackson, the team lacks a starter-quality receiver. Mike Evans may be higher on boards and an option; Odell Beckham Jr. is a better fit alongside Jackson. This might be the ceiling for Beckham Jr.


    Defensive Line: Khalil Mack, Aaron Donald

    With Michael Johnson and Gerald McCoy, defensive line looks like a strength for the Bucs. But Lovie Smith’s Bears always seemed to draft a defensive lineman early, and if Khalil Mack or Aaron Donald are available, I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled the trigger.

8. Minnesota Vikings

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    Defensive End: Khalil Mack, Anthony Barr

    It’d be a major surprise if Khalil Mack was anywhere close to this spot. If he is, I wouldn’t rule out a trade-up for the Vikings. With defensive end long term being a fairly big need, Anthony Barr may be the contingency plan.


    Wide Receiver: Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr.

    Even with Cordarrelle Patterson, the team could use more youth at the receiver position. Mike Evans could give offensive coordinator Norv Turner his big-bodied weapon he loves to use, and Odell Beckham Jr. could give the offense two unique vertical threats.


    Cornerback: Darqueze Dennard, Justin Gilbert

    Cornerback may be the team’s biggest need, but the value at No. 8 doesn’t lead me to believe they’ll take a corner early in the first. If they trade down a few slots, Justin Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard could be the target, as they could use a starter.

9. Buffalo Bills

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    Offensive Tackle: Jake Matthews, Zack Martin

    Doug Marrone wants to get to more of a running team to get C.J. Spiller more productive and take some pressure off EJ Manuel. Jake Matthews may be available despite his top-five value, but if not, Zack Martin could be a better fit at right tackle.


    Receiver/Tight End: Mike Evans, Eric Ebron

    Another way to help Manuel is to give him more offensive weapons, and Mike Evans and Eric Ebron can certainly provide that. Both have a good chance to be here, and this could be Ebron’s ceiling.


    Safety: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor

    On the other side of the ball, they could use some safety help after losing Jairus Byrd in free agency. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor are the two best available. Both could be better values if they move down a few spots.

10. Detroit Lions

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    Defensive Back: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Justin Gilbert

    The Lions' biggest need entering the draft is safety, where they lost Louis Delmas and have no long-term replacement on the roster. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix can slide in and fill the void well. They’ve invested in cornerback heavily in recent years, but if the coaching staff doesn’t feel they’ll turn into starters, a player like Justin Gilbert could be the pick.


    Wide Receiver: Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr.

    The team signed Golden Tate to give Calvin Johnson some support at receiver, but they still could use another big weapon. Mike Evans and Odell Beckham Jr. paired with Megatron for the future is a scary thought for NFC North foes.


    Offensive Tackle: Taylor Lewan

    The Lions found a pleasant surprise in LaAdrian Waddle as an undrafted free agent last year, but he and Riley Reiff are replaceable if a top talent like Taylor Lewan is available.

11. Tennessee Titans

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    Pass-Rusher: Anthony Barr

    The Titans are moving to a 3-4 defense, and outside of 32-year-old Shaun Phillips, they have no natural fits for the position. Anthony Barr’s UCLA defensive coordinator, Lou Spanos, is the current Titans linebacker coach, so the connection is there for Barr to be the team’s pick.


    Cornerback: Justin Gilbert, Kyle Fuller

    After moving on from Alterraun Verner, the team didn’t replace him at cornerback. While they have Blidi Wreh-Wilson ready to step in, they may deem a rookie such as Justin Gilbert or Kyle Fuller a better immediate fix for the position.


    Offensive Tackle: Jake Matthews, Zack Martin

    Both of the Titans offensive tackles will need to be replaced in the near future, and if they can find one early in the draft, it’d be a huge plus. Jake Matthews’ father, Bruce, was a Hall of Famer with the Titans, but Matthews may not make it to No. 11. Zack Martin has a better chance to land here, but not by much.

12. New York Giants

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    Offensive Tackle: Taylor Lewan, Zack Martin

    The Giants began their offensive line overhaul last year with Justin Pugh but still could use a long-term replacement for William Beatty. Taylor Lewan can step in as a left tackle immediately, and Zack Martin can provide tackle and guard versatility as a rookie.


    Receiver/Tight End: Mike Evans, Eric Ebron

    The team moved on from Hakeem Nicks this offseason, and after Victor Cruz, they don’t have a lot of offensive firepower in the passing game. Mike Evans has a shot to slip this far and would make the most sense. If he’s gone, a seam-stretching tight end like Eric Ebron would make Eli Manning happy.


    Defensive Lineman: Aaron Donald, Anthony Barr

    The Giants’ success in the past has been thanks to their pass rush. But after losing multiple defensive linemen in the past few years, the front four has started to become depleted. Aaron Donald or Anthony Barr are near-elite prospects to keep the cupboard full.

13. St. Louis Rams

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    Offensive Tackle: Greg Robinson, Taylor Lewan

    The Rams picking at No. 2 overall seems like a logical fit for Greg Robinson, as he can play right tackle or left guard as a rookie and take over for Jake Long in the future. Taylor Lewan is an option if they pass on a tackle with their first pick.


    Wide Receiver: Sammy Watkins, Odell Beckham Jr.

    The team has drafted multiple receivers in recent years, including Tavon Austin in last year’s top 10, but the passing game has still struggled. Sammy Watkins at No. 2 or Odell Beckham Jr. at No. 13 are better options than the team currently boasts for Sam Bradford.


    Safety: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor

    Safety is probably the Rams' most glaring need, and No. 13 is a sweet spot to fill that position. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor have a great chance of being here, and both could start as rookies for St. Louis.

14. Chicago Bears

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    Cornerback: Kyle Fuller, Darqueze Dennard

    The Bears’ cornerbacks are getting up there in years, and there aren’t any suitable replacements for the future on the roster now. Kyle Fuller and Darqueze Dennard both can fit in the defensive scheme (in different ways) and should be able to contribute immediately.


    Linebacker: C.J. Mosley

    Chicago needs linebacker help, as they’re still transitioning from the Brian Urlacher-Lance Briggs era. Their current crop of linebackers are young and have flashed, but C.J. Mosley would provide an immediate upgrade.


    Defensive Tackle: Aaron Donald, Ra’Shede Hageman

    The Bears would love if Aaron Donald was available for the taking. Odds are, he won’t be. If not, the high-upside Ra’Shede Hageman is an intriguing option.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Defensive Line: Ra’Shede Hageman

    The Steelers are depleted on the defensive line, and Ra’Shede Hageman is clearly the best defensive tackle available. His upside is reminiscent of Muhammad Wilkerson, who was a late-first-rounder and now a consistent impact player for the Jets.


    Cornerback: Justin Gilbert, Darqueze Dennard

    Like the Bears before them, the Steelers cornerbacks are in need of long-term replacements, and they’ll be in position to get some of the best options in the draft. Justin Gilbert has the higher ceiling; Darqueze Dennard provides the more instant impact.


    Wide Receiver: Odell Beckham Jr.

    The team lost Emmanuel Sanders, and despite having last year’s draft pick Markus Wheaton waiting in the wings, the Steelers may feel a prospect like Odell Beckham Jr. is too good to pass on if he’s available at No. 15.

16. Dallas Cowboys

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    Safety: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor

    The Cowboys secondary played poorly last year, and part of that was the safeties allowing too many big plays. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix can be the vertical protector, and Calvin Pryor can be the hard-hitting enforcer the defense is lacking.


    Defensive Line: Aaron Donald, Kony Ealy, Scott Crichton

    While safety is in need of an upgrade, defensive line is clearly the team’s least impressive unit. Aaron Donald won’t be here but could be a trade-up candidate. Kony Ealy has tremendous upside, but he’s a bit positionless. Scott Crichton would be a reach here in my opinion, but he’s the next-best defensive end.


    Offensive Tackle: Zack Martin, Taylor Lewan

    Doug Free has been adequate but replaceable for some time, and the Cowboys may be blessed with an instant starter like Zack Martin or Taylor Lewan being available. If they are, I’d expect one of them to be the pick.

17. Baltimore Ravens

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    Offensive Tackle: Taylor Lewan, Morgan Moses

    After trading for and re-signing Eugene Monroe, the team is set at left tackle. However, former fifth-rounder Ricky Wagner is currently slated at right tackle, which could certainly see an upgrade. Taylor Lewan may not be here, but Virginia’s Morgan Moses should be. Either would answer their right tackle question mark.


    Defensive Line: Ra’Shede Hageman, Kony Ealy

    Their front seven is a positive on this team, but the Ravens have done a great job through the draft in keeping a strength a strength. Both Ra’Shede Hageman and Kony Ealy can fill a role on their defensive line, starting with offering 5-technique versatility.


    Receiver/Tight End: Eric Ebron, Odell Beckham Jr.

    After losing Anquan Boldin last year, the Ravens offense took a serious hit. Adding another receiver in Odell Beckham Jr. or a tight end threat like Eric Ebron would keep the offense versatile and set up Joe Flacco for more vertical options.

18. New York Jets

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    Wide Receiver: Odell Beckham Jr, Brandin Cooks

    Even after signing Eric Decker, the Jets are still in serious need of receiver help. At No. 18, they likely won’t see Odell Beckham Jr., but he could be a trade-up target. If they opt to stay here, Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks could be a vertical threat, similar to Tavon Austin, whom Geno Smith utilized well at West Virginia.


    Cornerback: Darqueze Dennard, Jason Verrett

    Last year’s first-rounder, Dee Milliner, struggled to adapt as a rookie, and after him, they don’t have a cornerback I’d feel comfortable starting. Darqueze Dennard and Jason Verrett should be high on their board as instant starters on the outside who can offer slot-coverage versatility.


    Outside Linebacker: Anthony Barr, Dee Ford

    Quinton Coples is set on the outside for the Jets for the foreseeable future, but Calvin Pace could use a long-term replacement in the future. Plus, after their two starters, they don’t have a great rotational player. Anthony Barr would be a surprise to last this long, but Dee Ford has a strong chance to be here.

19. Miami Dolphins

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    Offensive Linemen: Taylor Lewan, Morgan Moses, Xavier Su’a-Filo

    There’s no question the Dolphins’ biggest need is the offensive line, even after adding Branden Albert. They’d certainly have to trade up to land Taylor Lewan, and probably for Morgan Moses too. But Xavier Su’a-Filo is an intriguing option, as he can play guard and potentially right tackle for Miami.


    Linebacker: Ryan Shazier, C.J. Mosley

    After signing two free-agent linebackers last offseason, the Dolphins still find themselves in the mix to add to the unit. Ryan Shazier fits the defense best and has the most upside, but C.J. Mosley may be viewed as an instant starter in Miami.


    Wide Receiver: Odell Beckham Jr., Marqise Lee

    While receiver doesn’t seem like a glaring need, it’s one the team should address into the future if it wants Ryan Tannehill to be successful. Mike Wallace hasn’t worked out and may be in his last year in Miami, and after Brian Hartline, they lack another legitimate starter. Odell Beckham Jr. will likely be gone at this point, but Marqise Lee can be a nice fit in the Miami offense.

20. Arizona Cardinals

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    Pass-Rusher: Dee Ford, Anthony Barr

    As of now, the Cardinals pass-rushers feature 36-year-old John Abraham and former Raiders defensive end Matt Shaughnessy. While both can be adequate starters, they certainly need to add some talent for the future. Anthony Barr is unlikely to be here, but Dee Ford is a nice fit on the edge.


    Tight End: Eric Ebron, Jace Amaro

    When Bruce Arians was in Indianapolis, the team drafted two tight ends to fit his offense. After adding John Carlson in the offseason, bringing in a young tight end would be exactly what the offense needs. This is likely Eric Ebron’s floor and Jace Amaro’s ceiling on draft day.


    Quarterback: Derek Carr, Blake Bortles

    Carson Palmer played well last year and proved to be a perfect fit in Bruce Arians' offense. However, he’ll be 35 by next season’s end, and they need to start grooming his replacement. Derek Carr is the better fit, but Blake Bortles has more upside.

21. Green Bay Packers

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    Linebacker: C.J. Mosley, Ryan Shazier

    General Manager Ted Thompson has always done a great job of addressing future needs with early draft picks and allow them to battle it out in training camp and during the season. Inside linebacker isn’t a need yet, but adding C.J. Mosley or Ryan Shazier to battle with A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones seems like a Thompson-esque move.


    Defensive Back: Justin Gilbert, Deone Bucannon

    At cornerback, the team could use another splash of talent, and if Justin Gilbert is here, he’d be hard to pass on. However, a dark-horse candidate for Green Bay is Washington State safety Deone Bucannon, who would fit perfectly into the Packers defense and address a need.


    Tight End: Eric Ebron, Jace Amaro

    After losing Jermichael Finley, the team is left with just Andrew Quarless as a capable receiving threat at the position. Eric Ebron would be a surprise if he were here, but Jace Amaro could intrigue with his versatility.

22. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Cornerback: Bradley Roby, Kyle Fuller

    Both free-agent cornerbacks the team brought in last year (Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams) had their ups and downs in Year 1 and shouldn’t be viewed as locks to start. Adding the speedy, high-upside Bradley Roby or the polished Kyle Fuller makes sense for Chip Kelly’s defense.


    Linebacker: Ryan Shazier, C.J. Mosley

    The Eagles struggle to protect against the run, and that may have stemmed from overaggressive linebacker play on the inside. C.J. Mosley can be the thumper they're looking for on the interior, while Ryan Shazier could be viewed as the heir apparent to DeMeco Ryans after this season.


    Wide Receiver: Brandin Cooks, Odell Beckham Jr.

    The team moved on from DeSean Jackson this offseason, leaving a void in their receiver unit after Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper. Both Brandin Cooks and Odell Beckham Jr. may be trade-up targets, but without many glaring holes, the team could opt to move up a few spots and secure another top receiver.

23. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Wide Receiver: Marqise Lee, Jordan Matthews

    After Dwayne Bowe, the Chiefs don’t feature any receivers I’d have confidence in as my starter. Marqise Lee has a strong chance to be here, but if he’s not, don’t be surprised if Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews is considered, as he’s a great fit as a short- to mid-range receiver in Andy Reid’s offense.


    Quarterback: Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr

    Alex Smith played well last year, but his upside is limited, and finding his future replacement wouldn’t be a bad idea if a quarterback like Teddy Bridgewater slipped to them. Derek Carr also could be an intriguing option for Reid’s system.


    Safety: Deone Bucannon, Calvin Pryor

    Eric Berry has been great since coming out of Tennessee, but he wasn’t the current regime’s pick and may not be viewed as worth the salary long term. Deone Bucannon and Calvin Pryor may be here at No. 23, and both could be viewed as versatile safeties who can eventually take over the starter role at either spot.

24. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Cornerback: Bradley Roby, Kyle Fuller, Jason Verrett

    The cornerback spot may not appear like a glaring need, but with Leon Hall coming off injury, Adam Jones and Terence Newman over 30 and Dre Kirkpatrick appearing to be a bust, the Bengals should address the position early. Bradley Roby, Kyle Fuller and Jason Verrett would be plus values here.


    Defensive Line: Kony Ealy

    The Bengals have had great success in developing defensive linemen in the past, and they may look to keep stacking the cupboard, especially after Michael Johnson departed in free agency. Kony Ealy is a high-upside rusher who can fill multiple roles in their defense.


    Quarterback: Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles

    Andy Dalton is due an extension after this year, and the Bengals have to ask themselves if he’s worth paying $10 million a year. If the answer is no, then capitalizing on Teddy Bridgewater and/or Blake Bortles being available and on a cheap contract for five years would be a wise decision.

25. San Diego Chargers

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    Cornerback: Bradley Roby, Jason Verrett

    The Chargers' current starters are Steve Williams and Shareece Wright, both guys I’d look to upgrade. Either Bradley Roby or Jason Verrett could be here, and if available, San Diego shouldn’t pass on the chance to address its biggest need.


    Defensive Line: Louis Nix, Ra’Shede Hageman

    After cornerback, finding a nose tackle should be the Chargers' plan. Sean Lissemore and Kwame Geathers don’t have great starting experience, and neither should be expected to hold down the fort at nose tackle. Louis Nix is the better fit, but Ra’Shede Hageman has more upside.


    Interior Linemen: Xavier Su’a-Filo

    After those two spots, the Chargers simply need depth across their roster. But adding to the offensive line and keeping that a strength for the future would be a wise decision, and right guard Jeromey Clary is on the last year of his contract.

26. Indianapolis Colts (First-Rounder Traded to Cleveland)

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    Offensive Linemen: Antonio Richardson, Gabe Jackson

    Without a first-round pick, the Colts will have to find value in the second round and beyond, especially along their offensive line. Tennessee’s Antonio Richardson may be an option to address their tackle needs, and Mississippi State’s Gabe Jackson could slide in at guard as a rookie.


    Cornerback: Bashaud Breeland, Stanley Jean-Baptiste

    The team struck gold with their Vontae Davis trade last year, and Greg Toler is a nice free-agent addition, but the Colts desperately need to add cornerback talent. I’m not a fan of Clemson’s Bashaud Breeland, but his upside may be too high to pass up. Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste is a developmental cornerback with fantastic athleticism.


    Outside Linebacker: Marcus Smith, Trent Murphy

    The team drafted Bjoern Werner last year but could still use more depth and youth for the future. Robert Mathis was productive last year, but he’ll be 33 this season, and Erik Walden is replaceable. I really like Louisville’s Marcus Smith, but Stanford’s Trent Murphy may be viewed as a safer pick.

27. New Orleans Saints

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    Cornerback: Bradley Roby, Jason Verrett

    The Saints signed Keenan Lewis from Pittsburgh and Champ Bailey from Denver this offseason, a good start to addressing the cornerback position. But Bailey is on the tail end of his career, and they need to find Lewis a long-term running mate. Bradley Roby or Jason Verrett can fill that role.


    Pass-Rusher: Demarcus Lawrence, Dee Ford

    Junior Galette, Parys Haralson and Victor Butler won’t be scaring any teams as pass-rushers this year. Finding a plus-athlete off the edge for Rob Ryan’s defense is a must, and Demarcus Lawrence of Boise State or Dee Ford of Auburn may be just what they need.


    Offensive Linemen: Xavier Su’a-Filo, Marcus Martin

    The offensive line may not seem like a glaring need, but center Tim Lelito is replaceable in the future (enter USC’s Marcus Martin), and Jahri Evans may be deemed as not worth $22 million over the next three years (enter Xavier Su’a-Filo).

28. Carolina Panthers

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    Cornerback: Jason Verrett, Bradley Roby, Pierre Desir

    The Panthers' needs are clear, but the order in which they’ll address them isn’t. After losing Captain Munnerlyn, the team didn’t add a legitimate starter. Jason Verrett and Bradley Roby would be ideal here, but if they’re gone, Lindenwood’s Pierre Desir is a dark horse to get the nod.


    Offensive Tackle: Cyrus Kouandjio, Ja’Wuan James

    At this point in the first round, finding a starting offensive tackle won’t be easy to do. Cyrus Kouandjio has injury concerns, but he could be viewed as a plug-and-play option. Ja’Wuan James had 49 straight starts at right tackle at Tennessee, and his comfortability there could make him an instant starter as well.


    Wide Receiver: Jordan Matthews, Marqise Lee

    I’d expect the Panthers to address the wide receiver position multiple times during draft weekend. Marqise Lee would be a better value in my opinion, but Jordan Matthews doesn’t have injury concerns and was tremendously productive over his Vanderbilt career.

29. New England Patriots

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    Defensive Tackle: Louis Nix, Dominique Easley

    The Patriots understand the value of keeping the defensive line stocked with talent. Louis Nix could be the heir apparent to Vince Wilfork at nose tackle, and Florida’s Dominique Easley could be a versatile chess piece for Bill Belichick’s defense, if he’s not viewed as a health risk.


    Safety: Deone Bucannon, Jimmie Ward

    Devin McCourty has been great since sliding from corner to safety, but Duron Harmon is probably better suited as a rotational player than a starting strong safety. Deone Bucannon can be an aggressive-style option, and Jimmie Ward can offer more versatility as a nickel cornerback and a coverage safety.


    Offensive Tackle: Xavier Su’a-Filo, Ja’Wuan James

    New England is never afraid to add to its offensive line, and despite it being a strength now, it could use some depth for future replacements. Right guard Dan Connolly’s contract comes up after this year.

30. San Francisco 49ers

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    Wide Receiver: Odell Beckham Jr., Allen Robinson

    The 49ers have made no secret about their desire to add a top receiver, and they could make a splash on draft day and move up to secure one. Odds are their target is Odell Beckham Jr. If they can’t move up to land him, I think they’d be plenty happy stealing Penn State’s Allen Robinson at No. 30 overall.


    Cornerback: Bradley Roby, Stanley Jean-Baptiste

    Chris Culliver and Eric Wright are capable starters for now, but both could use competition long term, and they lack capable depth behind them. Bradley Roby is a long shot to be here, but Stanley Jean-Baptiste may be the high-upside athlete at the position they’re looking for.


    Pass-Rusher: Dee Ford, Jeremiah Attaochu

    With Aldon Smith consistently in legal trouble, the team shouldn’t pass on adding a pass-rusher in this draft in case they’re forced to move on in the future. Dee Ford or Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah Attaochu would be solid picks.

31. Denver Broncos

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    Cornerback: Bradley Roby, Stanley Jean-Baptiste

    After getting burned by the Seahawks offense in the Super Bowl, the Broncos added Aqib Talib to their secondary. Adding another cornerback would be wise, and if Bradley Roby is here, I think he’d be the pick. If not, Stanley Jean-Baptiste is a worthwhile project.


    Defensive Linemen: Ra’Shede Hageman, Dominique Easley

    They seem set on their starters, but after watching the Seahawks' pass-rushing depth crush them in the Super Bowl, the Broncos may look to acquire added talent themselves. Ra’Shede Hageman and Dominique Easley could push the defensive line to the next level.


    Linebacker: C.J. Mosley

    Jamar Chaney is a fine starter, but C.J. Mosley would be an immediate upgrade. He may slip here due to injury concerns, and the Broncos would be happy to scoop him up.

32. Seattle Seahawks

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    Offensive Line: Xavier Su’a-Filo, Ja’Wuan James

    After losing Breno Giacomini to the Jets this offseason, the Seahawks could use a right tackle fix. Xavier Su’a-Filo has experience at right tackle and could fill a starting guard role if it didn’t work out on the edge. Ja'Wuan James has 49 college starts at right tackle.


    Wide Receiver: Jordan Matthews, Marqise Lee

    The team’s receivers had great success in the playoffs, but the position shouldn’t be viewed as set in stone. Percy Harvin can’t be trusted to be healthy for the long term, and Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette have flashed but shouldn’t be viewed as locks to start. Jordan Matthews or Marqise Lee would be instant starters in Seattle’s offense.


    Defensive End: Scott Crichton, Marcus Smith

    After Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, the Seahawks lack pass-rushing depth. The same goes for their outside linebacker spot after Bruce Irvin. Scott Crichton can offer depth at defensive end, and Marcus Smith can get work at end and behind Irvin at outside linebacker.