2015 NFL Draft: Each Team's Biggest Need and Best Fit
With the NFL season nearing the halfway mark, it is becoming obvious (painfully so in some locker rooms) where each team needs to improve. That's what this list will tackle.
But beyond simply looking at which teams need what positions, let's go one step farther and look at draft-eligible college players who can fill those needs at a realistic draft position for each team based on Week 7 standings. For example: The Seattle Seahawks may need a defensive lineman, but they won't be listed next to USC's Leonard Williams, as he's projected as a top-five pick in the draft. Make sense?
Of course, things will change as players develop, free agents are signed and coaches are fired and hired, but this is a great list to get started on those offseason projections.
The Need: Defensive End | The Fit: Mario Edwards, FSU
As Darnell Dockett ages and the team reloads along the defensive line, you cannot overlook the need for youth at defensive end in Arizona's 3-4 scheme.
The team added Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson in the 2014 draft, but Martin is more of a pass-rushing body style in that defense and isn't a true 5-technique player with the strength to stop the run and anchor inside. Stinson does fit that bill but is a developmental project as a fifth-round-pick.
Mario Edwards has experience moving around the defensive line and would be a seamless fit in Todd Bowles' scheme with the Cardinals. He has the size (6'3", 295 lbs) to hold up on the edge and the athleticism to get to the quarterback from a three-point stance or even standing up as an elephant end rusher.
Secondary Fits: Shawn Oakman (Baylor), Eddie Goldman (FSU), Arik Armstead (Oregon)
The Need: Outside Linebacker | The Fit: Randy Gregory, Nebraska
Turn on any Atlanta Falcons game, and you'll quickly see the team's need for a pass-rusher in the 3-4 defense Mike Nolan wants to run. General manager Thomas Dimitroff even brought in Scott Pioli to help scout players for the 3-4 scheme, but the team hasn't hit on any of their 2014 rookies yet. And even if they do, none are going to help the outside pass rush like an outside linebacker would.
Randy Gregory has the athleticism, strength and upside to be a very early pick in the 2015 draft. He's explosive off the edge as a rusher and has been moving around the Nebraska defense playing in more stand-up linebacker roles. That will help him transition to the NFL, and it makes him an ideal fit for what the Atlanta Falcons want in their outside rushers.
Secondary Fits: Vic Beasley (Clemson), Dante Fowler (Florida), Shilique Calhoun (Michigan St.)
The Need: Cornerback | The Fit: Trae Waynes, Michigan State
The Baltimore Ravens have some talent at cornerback, but as Lardarius Webb ages, it makes sense to move him to a third cornerback role and let Jimmy Smith and a new addition handle the edges. That's where the need for a long, physical, smart cornerback comes into play.
The Ravens have favored bigger cornerbacks in recent years, and like Smith, Trae Waynes has the long arms and elite leaping skills to make plays on the ball in the air. He's also using that length well at the line of scrimmage to press and jam receivers. Waynes does need to work on his ability to bail from press coverage to get depth, but his physical makeup and experience in a very strict defensive scheme make him a great fit as a boundary cornerback in Baltimore.
Secondary Fits: Ronald Darby (FSU), Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (Oregon), Jalen Collins (LSU)
The Need: Quarterback | The Fit: Bryce Petty, Baylor
The Buffalo Bills need help at quarterback. Without a first-round pick after they traded up in the 2014 draft to select wide receiver Sammy Watkins, they'll have to be creative and patient in finding a viable starting quarterback option.
Neither EJ Manuel nor Kyle Orton looks like a long-term solution, but Orton might be good enough in the interim for a young quarterback to be drafted in the second round and developed. Of the likely targets available in Round 2, Baylor's Bryce Petty has the skills and upside to be a worthy investment.
Petty is incredibly smart, athletic and has the on-and-off-field character coaches dream of. That said, coming out of Baylor's offense, he needs time to learn how to read an NFL defense and get through progressions in the pocket. If a back injury that sidelined him early in 2014 checks out, Petty could be the fix Buffalo is looking for.
Secondary Fits: Dak Prescott (Mississippi State), Everett Golson (Notre Dame)
The Need: Offensive Tackle | The Fit: Brandon Scherff, Iowa
The Carolina Panthers faced a mass exodus between the 2013 and 2014 seasons that left big holes at wide receiver, along the offensive line and in the secondary. The wide receiver depth chart looks good enough to get wins but is still a depth need at some point in the 2015 offseason. The need at left tackle, though, cannot wait.
Byron Bell has definitely given it his all, but through seven weeks, it is obvious he's not the long-term answer at left tackle. With the Panthers likely to pick in the middle of the first round based on their current record, a nice fit—and a prospect that will be ready on Day 1—could be staring at them in Brandon Scherff.
The Iowa left tackle is considered a better guard prospect by some scouts I talk to, but those scouts agree he's be an All-Pro at guard and a potential Pro Bowler at tackle. Scherff doesn't have elite length, but he's an animal of an athlete and has the upside to become a very good left tackle in my book.
Secondary Fits: La'el Collins (LSU), Andrus Peat (Stanford), Ty Sambrailo (Colorado State)
The Need: Cornerback | The Fit: Marcus Peters, Washington
The Chicago Bears can safely select the best player available on defense when their pick comes up in the 2014 draft, but looking closer at this roster, another cornerback is a need.
Rookie Kyle Fuller has been brilliant, and he's a long-term keeper, but the team has opposite him aging Tim Jennings and injured Charles Tillman. The remaining depth on the roster at cornerback offers no players with the upside to be a starter over the long haul. Enter Marcus Peters.
The big, fast, cocky Washington cornerback may rub people the wrong way with his mouth, but he backs it up on the field. Peters is well built to handle bigger receivers and has the foot speed and hips to turn and run with speedsters down the field, too. And, like Fuller, his ball skills are top tier.
Linebacker and help along the defensive line would be nice, but the Bears can turn the secondary into a major strength with Fuller and Peters holding down the boundaries.
Secondary Fits: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (Oregon), P.J. Williams (FSU), Trae Waynes (Michigan St.)
The Need: Defensive End | The Fit: Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
The Cincinnati Bengals have drafted well over the last five seasons, but they still have needs to fill thanks to aging players and free-agency losses. One big need—figuratively and literally—is at defensive end.
Between Margus Hunt, Robert Geathers, Carlos Dunlap and Wallace Gilberry, the Bengals have talent at the position. The thing is, none of these players is a great pass-rusher. The big bodies of Hunt and Dunlap offer power, but where's the speed? Since losing Michael Johnson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that's been missing.
Shilique Calhoun can't compete with the weight and strength of the current corps at defensive end, but he brings speed and agility to the edge. Calhoun, coming out of an aggressive Michigan State defense, can put his hand in the dirt or stand up to rush the passer. Partner that with Vontaze Burfict, Geno Atkins and the current depth at defensive end, and this front seven looks very good.
Secondary Fits: Shane Ray (Missouri), Dante Fowler (Florida), Trey Flowers (Arkansas)
The Need: Wide Receiver | The Fit: Devin Funchess, Michigan
With two first-round picks thanks to a draft-day trade with the Buffalo Bills, the Cleveland Browns are set up to fill at least two needs with high-profile talents. But looking at their biggest need, it's definitely at wide receiver.
The Browns are winning games with Taylor Gabriel and Miles Austin at wide receiver, and even once Josh Gordon returns from suspension, he's not a player the team can consistently rely on until he proves he can go a full season without a suspension. That means with their first pick in the draft, the Browns should look at wide receivers.
Amari Cooper from Alabama is the top-ranked player at the position, but he's likely to be off the board unless the Browns or Bills tank over the second half of the season. That leaves Michigan's Devin Funchess as the best on the board, and his size-to-speed ratio will be a very nice complement to Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron. Funchess, a former tight end, has Alshon Jeffery-type talent when the ball is in the air.
Secondary Fits: Kevin White (West Virginia), DeVante Parker (Louisville), Nelson Agholor (USC)
The Need: Defensive End | The Fit: Trey Flowers, Arkansas
There is no suspense to this pick. The Dallas Cowboys are in need of immediate help at defensive end.
The loss of DeMarcus Ware started this need, but with Anthony Spencer's injuries and the investment of early draft picks on the offensive line, depth has been a need here for some time. Even with Rod Marinelli's scheme working wonders on a low-talent defensive line, an influx of talent is needed. And they need it early in the draft.
The Cowboys would pick No. 32 overall if the draft were today, so we're looking at a second-tier of pass-rushing talent. That's not to say these players can't come in and compete opposite 2014 second-rounder DeMarcus Lawrence. With Lawrence's speed, the power of Trey Flowers would make for a very nice duo. Flowers, the Arkansas star, also has the speed to crash the pocket and can play either left or right defensive end without losing impact.
Secondary Fits: Noah Spence (Ohio State), Alvin Dupree (Kentucky), Lorenzo Mauldin (Louisville)
The Need: Running Back | The Fit: Tevin Coleman, Indiana
The Denver Broncos have some needs for offensive line depth, and you might say they want to add linebacker depth too. But no need on this roster looms larger than the hole at running back.
Montee Ball has not, to date, proven himself to be the long-term answer the team hoped he would become when Knowshon Moreno left for Miami. Ronnie Hillman has been the most promising of the two, but he's best suited in a situational/complementary role. What the Broncos need is a back with speed, power and vision to carry the load as Peyton Manning ages (Side note: I've seen no real evidence that Manning does, indeed, age.)
Tevin Coleman is tearing apart defenses in the Big Ten and has the speed, strength and vision to become an instant impact in Denver. With the zone-blocking scheme and defenses fearing Manning and the deep wide receiver depth chart, Coleman's speed could allow him to run for days in this offense.
Secondary Fits: Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin), Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska), Mike Davis (South Carolina)
The Need: Cornerback | The Fit: P.J. Williams, Florida State
The Detroit Lions have the NFL's best defense by the numbers, but with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley set to hit free agency, we could be looking at an overhaul on Teryl Austin's defense.
The reality is that Suh will not leave town in 2015—either due to a new contract or the franchise tag—and that Fairley has been super inconsistent and may not be missed with C.J. Mosley and Caraun Reid there to take his reps. That hole at defensive tackle is one you can fill in Round 2 unless a player falls to the late first-round range the Lions are in right now.
The biggest need, though, is at cornerback. Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis are playing very well right now, but Mathis is 34 years old and not an answer much longer. To fill that role of a long, lean cornerback, P.J. Williams makes a lot of sense.
The Florida State cornerback has size, length and speed—and he's ready to step right into the NFL and contribute. As Slay continues to develop, he and Williams could become the type of cornerback duo worthy of lining up opposite the talented wide receivers in the NFC North.
Secondary Fits: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (Oregon), Ronald Darby (FSU), Trae Waynes (Michigan St.)
Green Bay Packers
The Need: Inside Linebacker | The Fit: Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
A.J. Hawk is a fan favorite, but he's been a liability on the field as the NFL has moved to faster quarterbacks and more spread-out offenses. Hawk would have been great 10 years ago, but in today's game, he and Brad Jones are often out of place and simply too slow to keep up with NFL offenses on the edge.
The future at inside linebacker in Green Bay looks like Jamari Lattimore (an undrafted free agent in 2011) and a player to be added. If the Packers are smart—and I think they are—they'll have a ton of tape on Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney.
The Bulldog linebacker can play inside or outside linebacker, but in a 3-4 scheme, he's ideal for the inside spot. At 6'4" and 245 pounds, he has the size and the athleticism to not only stuff the inside run but get outside the tackle box to track down Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and the new wave of athletic passers.
Secondary Fits: A.J. Johnson (Tennessee), Kris Frost (Auburn), Denzel Perryman (Miami, Fla.)
The Need: Quarterback | The Fit: Jameis Winston, Florida State
The Houston Texans need a quarterback.
No disrespect to Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett (a 2014 free agent) or fourth-round pick Tom Savage, but it's highly unlikely that the future of the Texans at quarterback is on this roster. The bad news is that the Texans are winning each game (at least early) to put themselves out of the running for Marcus Mariota. But they might be in perfect positioning for the quarterback who truly fits the offense best.
Jameis Winston may not fit what Bill O'Brien wants in a quarterback's personality, but his game is ideal for the pro-style offense O'Brien used in New England, at Penn State and now in Houston. Winston is a big, strong, athletic quarterback with the anticipation and football IQ to make big plays with the ball. And much like the quarterback that beat Houston in Week 7, Winston has a lot of Ben Roethlisberger to his game.
If the Texans can look past Winston's off-field, his on-field is ideal for them.
Secondary Fits: Connor Cook (Michigan State), Brett Hundley (UCLA), Bryce Petty (Baylor)
The Need: Safety | The Fit: Landon Collins, Alabama
With no first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft, Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson was forced to wait to find players to fill the team's needs. In 2015, the Colts will get back on the clock on the first day of the draft, but as of Week 8, they could be picking late on that first night.
The Colts have needs at a few spots, but they also have young players coming up in many of those areas who will get priority as they develop. That makes identifying the biggest need tougher, but the glaring hole on the roster comes at safety.
LaRon Landry never became the threat the Colts hoped he would be at strong safety, but Alabama's Landon Collins could be. Compared to former Alabama safeties Mark Barron and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, I'd take Collins to be the best in the pros. If he's somehow still on the board for Indianapolis, it should be a very quick pick.
Secondary Fits: Cody Prewitt (Ole Miss), Kurtis Drummond (Michigan State), Jalen Mills (LSU)
The Need: Defensive End | The Fit: Leonard Williams, USC
The Jacksonville Jaguars have one win on the season, so it's fair to say they have a lot of needs. The interesting thing is that this is a very young team, so many roster spots are tied up by players in their first or second year who are still developing. That leads to a poor record but a bright future.
Looking at the biggest needs in Jacksonville, you can quickly identify defensive end, the offensive line, cornerback and middle linebacker. That sounds like a lot, but one good offseason can fix many of those holes.
With what should be an early pick, the Jaguars can get a high-impact defender. No player on defense is ranked higher than USC's Leonard Williams, and given his versatile ability to play end or tackle on the defensive line, he's a great fit in Gus Bradley's scheme on defense.
Williams has speed, agility, strength and is still able to improve as a junior prospect. Randy Gregory or Vic Beasley would be tempting as pure speed rushers for Seattle, but Williams has the best chance to be a franchise-changing defender.
Secondary Fits: Randy Gregory (Nebraska), Vic Beasley (Clemson), Shane Ray (Missouri)
Kansas City Chiefs
The Need: Wide Receiver | The Fit: Kevin White, West Virginia
The Kansas City Chiefs were without a second-round pick in the 2014 draft after trading for quarterback Alex Smith. They spent the first-rounder on outside linebacker Dee Ford, which left the team with considerable needs heading into the current season.
Looking ahead, the Chiefs biggest need is arguably at wide receiver. Dwayne Bowe is a quality player, but isn't quite a game changer at the position. Given more talent around him, though, he might be. What the Chiefs need is a true receiver—not a Dexter McCluster or De'Anthony Thomas-type—to line up on the outside opposite Bowe.
Kevin White has come on strong in his second season at West Virginia after transfering in from a JUCO. He has the size, length, hands and explosion to remind folks of Larry Fitzgerald in his prime. That type of weapon would be a welcome addition to the depleted receiver corps in Kansas City.
Secondary Fits: Devin Funchess (Michigan), Nelson Agholor (USC), DeVante Parker (Louisville)
The Need: Outside Linebacker | The Fit: Shaq Thompson, Washington
The Miami Dolphins have a few needs heading into the 2015 offseason, but none as big as the hole at outside linebacker.
Two years later, it's safe to wonder if Dion Jordan will ever contribute after being the No. 3 pick in the 2013 draft—and if he does help out, will it be at defensive end or linebacker? Regardless, Jordan isn't likely to be heavily considered in the team's future plans. And with Philip Wheeler also struggling, it opens up a starting spot opposite youngster Jelani Jenkins.
Shaq Thompson has played safety, running back and linebacker for Washington, but his NFL future is at outside 'backer. He's obviously freakishly athletic and has untapped upside but is already showing game-changing ability to make plays on the ball in all three phases of the game. He can stop the run, rush the passer and drop into coverage—making him a dangerous threat as a weak-side or strong-side linebacker in Miami.
Secondary Fits: Leonard Floyd (Georgia), Benardrick McKinney (Miss. State), Hau'oli Kikaha (Washington)
The Need: Running Back | The Fit: Todd Gurley (Georgia)
The Minnesota Vikings have their quarterback of the future (Teddy Bridgewater), an exciting crop of pass-catchers at wide receiver and tight end and up-and-coming stars on defense in Anthony Barr, Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith. What they do not have is a running back.
Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon would be good depth behind a starter, but they themselves are not starters. And counting on Adrian Peterson to ever carry the football again in Minnesota is something the team can't do given his legal issues.
Instead of relying on Peterson, the Vikings can draft a college running back who looks an awful lot like him running the ball.
Todd Gurley is, arguably, the best offensive player in college football. He runs with speed, power, vision and patience. Unlike a Trent Richardson, he's able to see the hole and explode through it. Sure, running backs may be devalued in the NFL, but it's easy to say that when you aren't looking at a potential 1,500-yard back. That's Gurley's potential, and in Norv Turner's offense, he could be great.
Secondary Fits: Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin), T.J. Yeldon (Alabama), Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska)
New England Patriots
The Need: Wide Receiver | The Fit: DeVante Parker, Louisville
Bill Belichick has had zero success drafting wide receivers for Tom Brady, so we're going to help him out. If DeVante Parker is healthy and available, draft him.
The Louisville wide receiver missed a good part of the season due to a foot injury, but he's back healthy now and is a stud on the edge. Parker has speed, size and in 2013 showed an unreal ability to track the football and make plays above the field. His acrobatic end-zone catches were legendary with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback and would give Brady a legitimate red-zone target other than Rob Gronkowski.
Don't overthink this one, Bill. Make the pick.
Secondary Fits: Nelson Agholor (USC), Stefon Diggs (Maryland), Jaelen Strong (Arizona State)
New Orleans Saints
The Need: Outside Linebacker | The Fit: Shane Ray, Missouri
The New Orleans Saints' struggles in 2014 are shared by both sides of the ball, but it's Rob Ryan's defense that will come under fire first. Unfortunately, the problems on defense come from a lack of personnel more than a poor scheme or bad adjustments.
The Saints need more pass-rushers, and that will come early in the 2015 draft for the salary cap-strapped Saints. They'd be smart to look at the pass-rusher factory that is Missouri for their next draft pick.
Shane Ray has the speed, instincts and toughness needed to be a stand-up rusher in the 3-4 defense favored by Ryan and the Saints. He's quick off the ball based on athleticism, not just timing, and has the secondary pass-rushing moves and technique to win with his hands, arms or feet.
Secondary Fits: Randy Gregory (Nebraska), Shilique Calhoun (Michigan State), Dante Fowler (Florida)
New York Giants
The Need: Offensive Tackle | The Fit: La'el Collins, LSU
William Beatty's days as the left tackle of the New York Giants are limited. Very limited. He may play out the season, but you can bet general manager Jerry Reese has already hit the road to check out the top tackles eligible for the 2015 draft.
With what would be a pick in the middle of the first round as of now, the Giants would miss out on top tackle Cedric Ogbuehi but will have a nice group to pick from in the second tier. Assuming Brandon Scherff is probably off the board when the Giants pick, LSU's La'el Collins could be the ideal player.
Collins has the size, arm length and athleticism to be a left tackle in the NFL from day one, and most of the weaknesses keeping him from being a premier prospect are fixable early on. And with a good line around him if all starters are healthy, Collins can learn from experienced studs like Justin Pugh and Geoff Schwartz while he and Weston Richburg form the future of the line.
Secondary Fits: Brandon Scherff (Iowa), Andrus Peat (Stanford), Ty Sambrailo (Colorado State)
New York Jets
The Need: Outside Linebacker | The Fit: Vic Beasley, Clemson
The New York Jets enter Week 8 with one win and a lot of holes on the roster. With what would be a top-five pick as of today, they can fill at least one hole with a top-tier talent.
Wide receiver ranked high on the needs list until the Jets traded for Percy Harvin, and until it's known how long he'll be with the team, that need is temporarily scratched off. The offensive line needs work, but that's not a Round 1 need. The one exception would be at cornerback, where the Jets do need serious help, but the 2015 draft class doesn't currently have a player worthy of an early selection.
That puts the need at outside linebacker high on the list, and the most likely spot for a 2015 first-rounder. Vic Beasley from Clemson fits the bill, too, as a speedy edge-rusher with the long arms to disengage offensive tackles and the speed to beat blockers to the corner. His athleticism and production are impressive and would give the team an instant upgrade over the current roster.
Secondary Fits: Dante Fowler (Florida), Shane Ray (Missouri), Shilique Calhoun (Michigan State)
The Need: Wide Receiver | The Fit: Amari Cooper, Alabama
The Oakland Raiders have their quarterback of the future in Derek Carr. Now it's time to build a team around him.
The front office's first order of business will be hiring a head coach, but soon after that, it must start building up the offensive talent around Carr. That means running back, wide receiver, tight end and the offensive line. The best bet for an early impact and a smart investment? It's wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Cooper is this season's best at wide receiver, and much like Sammy Watkins in the 2014 draft, teams are likely to fall in love with his ability and his attitude once the predraft process starts. Cooper is productive, explosive and has the tool set of a true No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL. And again, like Watkins, he could make a big impact on this team from the start.
Secondary Fits: Devin Funchess (Michigan), Kevin White (West Virginia), Jaelen Strong (Arizona State)
The Need: Cornerback | The Fit: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon
The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the best teams in the NFL, which is surprising given the poor play of their boundary cornerbacks. Slot man Brandon Boykin is exceptional—and could bump outside in 2015—but the rest of the group (Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher) could use an upgrade.
That upgrade could come from a familiar face. Chip Kelly, the former Oregon coach, hasn't looked at his old job for players very often, but in adding an aggressive cornerback to the roster, he could certainly vouch for Ifo Ekpre-Olomu on draft day.
Ekpre-Olomu doesn't have great size at under 5'10", but Jason Verrett is one of the NFL's best rookies at a similar size. With his athleticism and aggressive style of play, he's a good value at the end of Round 1 and a player capable of making an impact as an inside or outside cover man early on.
Secondary Fits: Ronald Darby (FSU), Trae Waynes (Michigan State), P.J. Williams (FSU)
The Need: Offensive Tackle | The Fit: Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a tough team to figure out, which leads to needs all over the map. Left tackle, cornerback, safety and defensive end all took top priority at one time or another as this list came together. But at the end of the day, and after watching the Houston Texans get into the backfield all night, it's left tackle that gets the No. 1 spot.
The Steelers love to run power schemes, but they've lacked athleticism at left tackle for ages now. Cedric Ogbuehi has played guard, right tackle and now left tackle at Texas A&M, and what he lacks in pure power he makes up for with exceptional footwork and lower-body quickness. Strength can be added, but agility is tough to gain. And Ogbuehi is an elite athlete when asked to move his feet to pass or run block.
Other needs may be easier to fill if the Steelers stay on a winning streak, but as of now that left tackle spot would look great with Ogbuehi in it.
Secondary Fits: La'el Collins (LSU), Andrus Peat (Stanford), Brandon Scherff (Iowa)
San Diego Chargers
The Need: Offensive Tackle | The Fit: Andrus Peat, Stanford
The San Diego Chargers are in an interesting spot as a franchise. Philip Rivers seems to be in his prime, but as he turns 33 years old this season, the Chargers have to think about loading up the team around him to extend the window of success. Rivers has been brilliant, but the best way to extend his career and his high level of play is by protecting him better in the passing game.
King Dunlap has done great work as a fill-in at left tackle, but that's not a long-term solution for the team. Andrus Peat, on the other hand, would be.
The athletic Stanford left tackle needs some kinks ironed out—he likes to lunge and lose his base when blocking—but his upside is tough to resist. And even his weaknesses are largely fundamental and considered easy fixes for an NFL coaching staff. What you can't teach is a 6'7" frame with good footwork and a high football IQ.
Secondary Fits: La'el Collins (LSU), Ty Sambrailo (Colorado State), Cameron Erving (FSU)
San Francisco 49ers
The Need: Cornerback | The Fit: Ronald Darby, Florida State
The San Francisco 49ers are plagued by injuries heading into Week 8, but once the roster is healthy, this is a team without many real needs.
General manager Trent Baalke has done a great job of drafting for future needs, so even areas like wide receiver that seem to be a need have good depth and developmental players waiting for touches. One area that is thin—thanks to draft-day misses and free agency—is at cornerback.
Ronald Darby was beaten up by the Notre Dame passing attack, but asking him to cover the 6'4" Corey Robinson—the son of former NBA star David Robinson—is a tough order. Darby's foot speed, agility and upside are impressive, though. He does need some work but has the skill set to be a No. 1 cornerback in the NFL with a little developing. The 49ers can roll with Darby and Dontae Johnson for the future and have a nice mix of speed (Darby) and size (Johnson) to combat the NFC West's receivers.
Secondary Fits: Trae Waynes (Michigan State), Jalen Collins (LSU)
The Need: Defensive Line | The Fit: Michael Bennett, Ohio State
The Seattle Seahawks have lost three games in 2014, so it's clear they have some areas of need. The troubling part in looking ahead is that there are already young players and draft picks in many of these areas that just need time to develop.
You could look at wide receiver as an area of need, but the team spent picks on Kevin Norwood and Paul Richardson and have high hopes for both. The same goes for the offensive line, where Justin Britt is still learning the ropes at right tackle. The biggest area likely to be highlighted for need is along the defensive line, though.
The Seahawks love versatility, and with a 3-3 record, they're in line for a projected spot in the middle of the first round. That would allow them to add Michael Bennett (the other Michael Bennett) as an athletic fixture at defensive tackle in their mobile four-man front.
Bennett has a good first step and is a fighter when met by blockers, and what he lacks in elite burst he makes up for in work ethic, leverage and technique. Whether he's in a 1-technique or splitting the guard and tackle as a 3-tech, he has the goods to get to the quarterback.
Secondary Fits: Mario Edwards (FSU), Arik Armstead (Oregon), Danny Shelton (Washington)
St. Louis Rams
The Need: Quarterback | The Fit: Connor Cook, Michigan State
No disrespect to Sam Bradford or Austin Davis, but the St. Louis Rams need to start looking at quarterback prospects.
As of Week 8, the Rams would have the No. 10 overall pick in the draft, which likely puts them out of the running for Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. It does, however, put them right in position to get Connor Cook.
The Michigan State passer doesn't get the national publicity of other top college quarterbacks, but his pro prospects are brighter than most any other in the nation. He's currently my No. 3 quarterback (behind Mariota and Winston) and has the arm, pocket presence and vision to quickly become a starter in the pros.
Cook can do it all as a passer and is the type of player poised to rise up boards in the same way Blake Bortles did last year.
Secondary Fits: Brett Hundley (UCLA), Bryce Petty (Baylor), Dak Prescott (Miss. State)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Need: Quarterback | The Fit: Brett Hundley, UCLA
Lovie Smith's first season as head coach in Tampa Bay is not going well, which is why the team will be in position to select a quarterback early in Round 1 if they so choose. And with Josh McCown struggling and Mike Glennon not exactly getting a vote of confidence, it is likely that Lovie will look at passers.
Jameis Winston is a nice fit for the offense, but I can't see Smith and Jason Licht taking on his off-field questions. Marcus Mariota would be ideal, but will the Buccaneers lose enough games to get in place to draft him? It's more likely we'll see Brett Hundley enter the conversation as the best fit in Tampa Bay.
Hundley is athletic, strong, has all the arm talent in the world and will remind folks of a young Donovan McNabb. The only issues are that his UCLA team is not very good this year due to struggles on the offensive line and at wide receiver, and he needs work on making reads down the field. Give him a little coaching, though, and his natural tools are that of a franchise quarterback. And that's the No. 1 need in Tampa right now.
Secondary Fits: Connor Cook (Michigan St.), Bryce Petty (Baylor), Dak Prescott (Miss. State)
The Need: Quarterback | The Fit: Marcus Mariota, Oregon
The Jake Locker experiment will soon come to an end in Tennessee, and it's unlikely that Charlie Whitehurst will stick around as more than a temporary starter and mentor for the next quarterback. And with noted quarterback guru Ken Whisenhunt now the head coach in Tennessee, it will be interesting to see what he does with a very early pick in Round 1.
Whisenhunt is known for not liking to play rookies, but if his team is on the clock and Marcus Mariota is on the board, he must jump. Mariota is a perfect fit for Whisenhunt, after all. The athletic, strong, smart, poised, accurate Mariota can threaten a defense with his arm or legs and has the discipline to move a defense with his eyes. He's a weapon the defense must devote numbers to, and Whisenhunt has to love that.
If the Titans' record holds and they're given a chance to select Mariota, expect No. 8 to be headed to Nashville.
Secondary Fits: Jameis Winston (FSU), Connor Cook (Michigan St.), Brett Hundley (UCLA)
The Need: Defensive End | The Fit: Shawn Oakman, Baylor
Years of bad drafting and traded first-round picks have left Washington with big holes at many positions—and a gigantic question mark at quarterback.
No matter what happens the rest of this season, it's very (very) unlikely the team will draft a quarterback early in the 2015 class—even if that's a pretty big need right now. Instead, look for Daniel Snyder and Jay Gruden to huddle up and look at ways to fix a defense that's become one of the worst in the NFL.
Ryan Kerrigan is a keeper at outside linebacker, and 2014 second-rounder Trent Murphy is a building block with Brian Orakpo likely gone in free agency. There is a need up front, though, on a defensive line that's not generating much production. Shawn Oakman could fix that.
The big Baylor pass-rusher is an anomaly given his size and speed. Oakman looks like a pro wrestler at 6'8" and 275 pounds, but he moves like a linebacker in space. He'll remind scouts of a taller Sheldon Richardson, and that's a good enough comparison to justify drafting him very early in Round 1.
Secondary Fits: Mario Edwards (FSU), Michael Bennett (Ohio State), Arik Armstead (Oregon)