One Draft Prospect Each NFL Team Should Already Be Thinking About
Midway through the 2018 NFL season, no team has been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but some have little shot of playing past Week 17. As a result, those teams should already start focusing on the 2019 draft.
Who are the blue-chip prospects teams should covet at the top of the draft, and where do they fit?
Before digging into each team's roster makeup and why they should have an interest in a specific player, understand this isn't a mock draft. Since it's too early to know which players will wind up being first-round picks, the collegians below have been connected to clubs based on varying needs.
Even though underclassmen can stay in school, they're included because front offices can still think about drafting that player before decisions to declare become official.
With that said, here are potential draft-day options for each team.
Arizona Cardinals: OT Jonah Williams, Alabama
Against the Denver Broncos in Week 7, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen got sacked a season-high six times. The Cardinals offensive tackles didn't have an answer for Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.
Yes, that's a tough duo to block, but it also suggests Arizona's offensive line needs an upgrade. ESPN.com's Seth Walder ranked the Cardinals' tackles 31st in the league in pass blocking.
In April, Arizona exercised left tackle D.J. Humphries' $9.6 million fifth-year option. Right tackle Andre Smith turns 32 years old in January.
The Cardinals could move Humphries back to right tackle where he started most of his rookie campaign, while Alabama's Jonah Williams could take over on the blind side. At 6'5" and 301 pounds, Williams knows how to use his feet to position himself in the right spot against the pass rush. That quickness can also help open running lanes further up the field.
Williams initially started at right tackle for the Crimson Tide, but he's been a fixture on the left since his sophomore campaign. If the 20-year-old comes into the draft as the top offensive lineman, the Cardinals must consider selecting him to protect Rosen.
Atlanta Falcons: DT Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame
The Atlanta Falcons will have to make a decision this offseason on defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who's in a contract year. Based on his ability to provide pressure up front and plug holes against the run, he should remain in Atlanta on a new deal, but there's uncertainty with regard to how much it'll cost to keep him.
Regardless of what the Falcons do with Jarrett, the defensive line would benefit from adding another strong interior pass-rusher. Notre Dame's Jerry Tillery made headlines with a four-sack performance against Stanford, which drew praise from head coach Brian Kelly.
"You can't block him one-on-one," Kelly said, per Mark Skol Jr. of WNDU. "He showed that today. He wanted to develop a pass rush that would really take off, and I think he's done a great job there."
Tillery could help elevate the Falcons defensive line, especially with Vic Beasley and Takkarist McKinley on the ends.
The Falcons have the offensive firepower to go on a midseason run. It's too early to project where they pick, but Tillery would be a logical target if he's still on the board when they're on the clock.
Baltimore Ravens: RB Damien Harris, Alabama
Baltimore Ravens running backs Javorius Allen and Ty Montgomery will become unrestricted free agents in March, while fellow ball-carrier Alex Collins will be a restricted free agent. That means the Ravens may be in the market for a running back once the draft rolls around.
Alabama's Damien Harris hasn't carried the ball more than 146 times in a single season thanks to an effective committee approach. Over the years, he shared the workload with Bo Scarbrough, Joshua Jacobs and his current battery-mate, Najee Harris.
Despite splitting carries, Harris eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards during his sophomore and junior seasons while averaging at least 7.1 yards per carry both times. The 21-year-old isn't flashy, but he can produce in a committee.
The Ravens would add Harris to a platoon or unleash him as a featured ball-carrier if they feel confident in his ability to handle that type of volume.
Buffalo Bills: DT Ed Oliver, Houston
The Buffalo Bills have a pressing need at multiple spots along the offensive line, but they will likely finish with a top-five draft pick. If they do, general manager Brandon Beane must select the best available prospect as opposed to reaching to fill a specific roster hole.
The Bills signed defensive tackle Star Lotulelei to a five-year, $50 million deal in March and selected Harrison Phillips in the third round of April's draft. Meanwhile, Kyle Williams' contract will expire after this season.
Despite having Lotulelei and Phillips in the middle, it would be a mistake for Buffalo to pass on Ed Oliver if he's on the board, especially with a potential gap at defensive tackle. The Bills have kept games close because of their defense, which ranks sixth in yards allowed.
Oliver would enter the league as a pure disruptor on the defensive line. He's recorded 52 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks in three seasons. If the Bills can't generate enough pressure on the edges, selecting Oliver would help them do so in the middle.
Carolina Panthers: S Lukas Denis, Boston College
Carolina Panthers safety Mike Adams, who's on an expiring contract, will turn 38 years old in March. Eric Reid is likewise signed to a one-year deal.
As such, Carolina's front office can spend an early-round pick on a safety for the second straight year.
In April, the Panthers selected safety Rashaan Gaulden in the third round. He's played sparingly through six games and is currently dealing with an ankle issue. The Tennessee product will likely take on a bigger role once Adams and Reid depart.
However, Carolina's front office should do more to shore up the safety spot going forward. The defense still needs a deep coverage defensive back who lurks in the backfield, reading the quarterback's eyes. Lukas Denis, who logged seven interceptions and 10 pass breakups in 13 games last season, could excel in that role.
Denis would line up between cornerback James Bradberry and another promising youngster, Donte Jackson, who's shown ball-tracking skills.
Chicago Bears: OT David Edwards, Wisconsin
Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace spent the offseason surrounding quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with skill players on the perimeter, acquiring wideouts Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, rookie Anthony Miller and tight end Trey Burton.
In 2019, the Bears will need to address the right tackle spot unless they plan to move Kyle Long outside, where he started 16 games in 2015. Bobby Massie's contract will expire at the end of the year, so Chicago could either re-sign him or go young at the position.
David Edwards has held Wisconsin's starting right tackle job since his redshirt freshman season, during which he started seven games before playing as a full-time starter in 2017.
If Edwards declares for the draft, he would enter the league with room to grow since he only had two-and-half years of starts at the position. There's risk in depending on him early, but he's part of an impressive offensive line that's helped Wisconsin rank fifth in rushing yards per contest among FBS programs.
Cincinnati Bengals: OG Beau Benzschawel, Wisconsin
Wisconsin sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor leads the nation in rushing yards with 1,155. Thus, those blocking for him figure to garner attention in the draft.
Interior linemen typically project outside the top 10 unless there's a pressing need and a top projected talent, similar to the Indianapolis Colts taking Quenton Nelson sixth overall this year.
The Cincinnati Bengals may have a shot at Beau Benzschawel in the second round. He started 14 games at right guard in both the 2016 and 2017 seasons, and he also spent time at right tackle in 2015.
Benzschawel landed on the Outland Trophy watch list, which recognizes the top interior offensive linemen in the country.
Bengals right guard Alex Redmond will become an exclusive-rights free agent after the season, but he isn't a high-end starter. Cincinnati drafted Rod Taylor in the seventh round in April, but the Mississippi product tore his ACL in August.
Running back Joe Mixon would benefit from an upgrade on the interior of the offensive line next to rookie Billy Price. Benzschawel possesses more upside than Cincinnati's current options at right guard.
Cleveland Browns: OT Greg Little, Mississippi
It isn't easy to replace a 10-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro left tackle, but the Cleveland Browns had to make due after Joe Thomas retired in March. The coaching staff eventually settled on undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison as Thomas' replacement.
Harrison earned first-team All-Gulf South honors in college, but he's having a tough time protecting quarterback Baker Mayfield's blind side. CBS Sports' Dan Fouts highlighted that during Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers (via Dennis Manoloff of the Plain Dealer): "What I don't understand is, why they're not giving Harrison some help on that weak side."
Legitimate help may not arrive until draft day. The Browns seem to be headed toward another top-10 pick after firing head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley on Monday.
The last time the Browns spent a draft pick on a player named Greg Little, it didn't pan out. But superstitions aside, this roster needs another Greg Little—the 6'6", 325-pound left tackle from Mississippi.
Little has lined up at left tackle since his freshman year, which included five starts. The Browns should feel comfortable with his experience going up against tough SEC defenses and his ability to handle power edge-rushers.
Dallas Cowboys: TE Noah Fant, Iowa
The Dallas Cowboys should be focused on adding more offensive threats for quarterback Dak Prescott. Heading into Week 9, Dallas' passing offense ranks 29th in the league.
The Cowboys sent a first-round pick to the Oakland Raiders for wide receiver Amari Cooper, who figures to become Prescott's No. 1 target moving forward. They should next turn their attention to finding a long-term replacement for Jason Witten.
Iowa's Noah Fant flashed his red-zone potential with 11 touchdown catches to go with 494 yards last year. He's showing consistency with six scores through eight games this season.
Cowboys tight end Geoff Swaim has 19 catches for 205 yards and a touchdown this season, but the team could attack defenses with two-tight end sets if it added Fant. Another red-zone option would also take some pressure off of running back Ezekiel Elliott in tight quarters.
Denver Broncos: CB Julian Love, Notre Dame
Unless cornerback Bradley Roby turns his season around, the Broncos will likely allow him to hit the free-agent market and go elsewhere next year. He secured his first interception of the year against the Cardinals in Week 7, but the fifth-year veteran has been a liability on the boundary for most of the first eight games.
With a mediocre offense, the Broncos need a stingier defense. Miller and Chubb look well on their way to becoming an effective pass-rushing duo. Solid coverage on the back end could elevate this unit into top-10 territory in points and yards allowed.
Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love has shown top-notch ball-tracking instincts. Since the start of the 2017 season, he's logged 32 pass breakups, four interceptions and three fumble recoveries with a touchdown.
Love holds the pass-breakups record (35) for both Notre Dame and all FBS independent programs. He and 2018 third-rounder Isaac Yiadom would become new blood in a revamped cornerback group.
Detroit Lions: LB Devin White, LSU
In-state prospect Rashan Gary (Michigan) should creep into the Detroit Lions' draft consideration because of head coach Matt Patricia's use of varied defensive fronts.
However, the Lions need another playmaker on the second level of the defense—someone to cover the length of the field in run and pass situations. Jarrad Davis stands as the centerpiece of the unit, but he isn't an ideal defender with the ball in the air, while Devon Kennard has functioned as a pass-rushing threat.
Patricia's defensive unit needs a do-it-all linebacker with star potential. Devin White's style of play fits into modern-day defenses.
White can cover intermediate pass routes, is a reliable tackler in one-on-one situations, possesses the ability to push through the pocket and flashes the agility to break toward the ball anywhere on the field.
In 2017, White finished with 133 total tackles, 4.5 sacks, three passes defensed and an interception. This year, he's displayed more range on the field with four pass breakups in eight contests. His sure tackling and ability to stay on the field in nickel formation would allow him to play a high volume of snaps as a fixture within Detroit's front seven.
Green Bay Packers: EDGE Brian Burns, Florida State
With 2.5 sacks through eight games, Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews doesn't provide enough pressure off the edge in his 10th season. His drop-off in production comes at an inopportune time, as his contract expires after this season.
The Packers may retain Matthews and dial back on his workload, but they should also bring in a prospect to carry the torch at the position. The defense needs a strong pass rush as a young secondary goes through its ups and downs.
Green Bay is tied for the sixth-most sacks leaguewide (23), but middle linebacker Blake Martinez and backup linebacker Kyler Fackrell have combined for eight of them. That compensates for low pocket pressure from Matthews and Nick Perry on the outside.
During his three years at Florida State, Brian Burns has wreaked havoc as a pass-rusher, tallying 22 sacks. He's 6'5", 235 pounds with a lanky frame. Burns may start his pro career as a rotational defender off the edge, but the Packers need his skill set with Matthews aging and going into the spring looking for a new deal.
Houston Texans: DL Isaiah Buggs, Alabama
Defensive end J.J. Watt looks like he's back in Defensive Player of the Year form, but how long will it last? The Houston Texans also have an impending decision to make on pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney, who'll hit the free-agent market in March barring an extension.
The Texans can address potential long-term pass-rushing issues with a front-line disruptor in Isaiah Buggs. He spent two years at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and then transferred to Alabama in 2017. The JUCO product recorded only 1.5 sacks in his first year before exploding with eight this season.
In September, Buggs logged a three-sack performance against Texas A&M. He's also shown consistency with at least a half-sack in each of the last three outings.
Buggs will come into the NFL with one strong year facing FBS talent, but his Alabama pedigree will help him earn looks early in the draft. The Texans should have their eyes glued to his combine results.
Indianapolis Colts: CB Andraez 'Greedy' Williams, LSU
Linebacker Darius Leonard looks like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate and a solid building block in the Indianapolis Colts' front seven, but he can't help the secondary. The Colts rank 20th in passing yards allowed.
General manager Chris Ballard should have his eyes on a potential shutdown cornerback who has a tendency to force turnovers with a nickname that speaks to his game. Andraez "Greedy" Williams snagged six interceptions and broke up 10 passes as a redshirt freshman in 2017, and he's added two picks this year.
At 6'3" and 184 pounds, Williams' length will make defensive coordinators salivate at the combine. His ball production and sticky hands will likely vault him to the top of big boards during the vetting process if he declares for the draft. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. rated him as the fourth-best prospect in this year's draft class.
If losses pile up for the Colts down the stretch, Williams should be on their radar. Pairing him with safety Malik Hooker would give Indianapolis a strong ball-hawking duo in the secondary.
Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Drew Lock, Missouri
The Jacksonville Jaguars can part ways with much-maligned quarterback Blake Bortles after the 2019 season and only owe $5 million in dead cap.
Seeing as the Jaguars benched Bortles during their Week 7 loss to the Texans and reportedly "poked around" ahead of the trade deadline for a quarterback, per ESPN.com's Dan Graziano, Bortles' future in Jacksonville is by no means set in stone.
After watching Bortles go through his peaks and valleys over the years, the Jaguars may consider spending a draft pick on a signal-caller such as Drew Lock. With Bortles in place as the starter for now, the Missouri product can learn behind the scenes for a year or two.
Lock put together eye-popping numbers during his junior campaign, throwing for 3,964 yards, 44 touchdown passes and only 13 interceptions while completing 57.8 percent of his passes. His numbers aren't as impressive about halfway through 2018 (2,144 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions), but he's completing a career-best 60.6 percent of his throws.
If Bortles continues to struggle throughout this season and the next, Jacksonville would have a rookie quarterback in waiting.
Kansas City Chiefs: OG Connor McGovern, Penn State
Penn State guard Connor McGovern would bring versatility to the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line. He's currently lining up at right guard, but he started 13 games at center for the Nittany Lions last year.
McGovern showed promise as a true freshman by starting nine games, and he's only built upon that since. Kansas City may need help on the interior with center Mitch Morse set to hit the free-agent market.
Adding McGovern to the mix would allow the Chiefs coaching staff to experiment with combinations involving Cameron Erving lining up at guard or center.
The Chiefs can't afford to leave holes on the interior of their offensive line. Running back Kareem Hunt, the reigning rushing champion, has put together strong performances since taking over the starting job last year.
Los Angeles Chargers: LB Te'von Coney, Notre Dame
Throughout his four years with the Los Angeles Chargers, linebacker Denzel Perryman has been on and off the field with various injuries. That's in part why he's played only 40 out of a possible 55 games in his career.
Barring an extension, the 25-year-old will be a free agent in March.
If Perryman doesn't return, the Chargers can look toward the future by selecting Notre Dame's Te'von Coney as a potential long-term replacement in the middle of the defense. He's the type of linebacker who finds the action and makes a play.
Coney finished with 116 total tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and three sacks during his junior year. He's broken up two passes this season, and he recorded his first interception in a matchup with Stanford.
If the Notre Dame senior shows more coverage range, the Chargers should keep a tab on him.
Los Angeles Rams: S Jaquan Johnson, Miami
Following a career year in 2017, safety LaMarcus Joyner signed a franchise tag worth $11.3 million.
With only 23 solo tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery in eight starts, he hasn't come close to living up to that value. As a result, it's difficult to imagine the front office retaining Joyner at a premium price.
Instead, general manager Les Snead should consider selecting Jaquan Johnson out of Miami. He flashed his playmaking ability as a junior last year, notching four interceptions, four pass breakups, three forced fumbles and a touchdown.
Johnson isn't likely to be a first-round pick, but he'd address a need in the Rams secondary next to John Johnson at a cheap price. As a four-year collegian, he should be ready to contribute in the NFL right away. The Miami senior has been named a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the top defensive back in the country.
Miami Dolphins: DE Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
The Miami Dolphins have two bloated contracts on their payroll at defensive end. Robert Quinn will carry a $12.9 million cap hit next season, and Andre Branch is due $9 million.
The front office can release Quinn without any dead money counting against their cap space, while parting ways with Branch would cost $2 million. Cameron Wake, who turns 37 in January, will be a free agent after this season.
Quinn, Branch and Wake all have one sack apiece going into Week 9. The Dolphins have the opportunity to move on from underperforming veterans in favor of fresh defensive-line talent at little cost.
Since the start of the 2017 season, Mississippi State defensive end Montez Sweat has been on a rampage, notching 27.0 tackles for a loss and 19.5 sacks. At 6'6" and 241 pounds, he's showed the quickness and tenacity needed to bolster a defensive line in the NFL.
Minnesota Vikings: OL Ross Pierschbacher, Alabama
Minnesota Vikings offensive linemen Nick Easton, Tom Compton and Brett Jones are all set to become free agents in the offseason. The Vikings may opt to re-sign one or more of them, but they can also add a young talent to keep their O-line strong for the long term.
Alabama's Ross Pierschbacher made 42 starts at left guard before moving to the pivot this season. His ability to shift positions on the interior gives him a shot to start on an offensive line that's lacking quality talent, specifically at guard.
The Vikings need a rough-and-tumble interior lineman to help open running lanes for ball-carriers Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray. According to Football Outsiders, 21.3 percent of Minnesota's rush attempts are stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage, which is slightly above the league average of 19.6 percent.
Coming out of Alabama, a program that's known for its physical play in the trenches, Pierschbacher could change the Vikings offensive line's mentality between the tackles.
New England Patriots: DE Joe Jackson, Miami
New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers will be a free agent in March, and Adrian Clayborn has logged only two sacks after signing a two-year, $10 million deal in the offseason. He'll turn 31 next July.
The Patriots need youth and athleticism to bolster their pass rush, which has been nonexistent through eight weeks. They have only 12 sacks, which ranks 29th leaguewide. Deatrich Wise Jr. leads the team with 3.5 sacks.
Tom Brady hasn't shown significant signs of aging, but he's eventually going to need the defense to hold up its end of the bargain. We saw that in Super Bowl LII when New England allowed 41 points to the Eagles.
Miami's Joe Jackson has been an effective pass-rusher who also finds his way into the backfield against the run. He's recorded 30.5 tackles for a loss and 18.5 sacks during his three seasons with the Hurricanes.
At 6'5" and 250 pounds, the junior defensive end has the bend to help a team in need of pressure off the edge.
New Orleans Saints: TE Kaden Smith, Stanford
The New Orleans Saints sent their 2019 first-round selection to the Packers to move up to No. 14 overall in April for defensive end Marcus Davenport. That means they likely won't be on the clock until late in the second round.
Garrett Griffin, who appeared in three games last year and has yet to play a down this season, is set to be the Saints' only tight end on the books heading into 2019. General manager Mickey Loomis may opt to restock the position via the draft.
New Orleans may wind up considering UCLA's Caleb Wilson and Stanford's Kaden Smith, both of whom are juniors. The latter flashed as a red-zone option for the Bruins in 2017, hauling in five touchdown passes.
If the Saints allow Benjamin Watson and Josh Hill to walk in March, they'll need a reliable big-bodied target who can finish drives.
New York Giants: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon
The New York Giants wouldn't pass up on a top quarterback prospect twice, would they?
Rather than spend the No. 2 overall pick on a quarterback this year, general manager Dave Gettleman instead chose running back Saquon Barkley, hoping to see a rejuvenated Eli Manning under center. Instead, the Giants offense has struggled to move the ball consistently and ranks 28th in scoring.
The offensive line has played a major part in a disappointing season, but wideout Odell Beckham Jr.'s interview with ESPN's Josina Anderson questioning Manning's ability points to a problem under center. After signing Beckham to a five-year, $90 million extension, the Giants now need a quarterback who can help him showcase his talents.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has Oregon's Justin Herbert ranked as the top quarterback in this year's draft class (assuming he declares). Herbert doesn't have gaudy numbers, but he's thrown for a career-high 2,069 yards and 20 touchdowns to date this season.
Herbert has thrown only 15 interceptions in 24 career games, and he has a completion percentage of 63.2. Unlike Manning, he's also able to use his legs to escape an incoming pass-rusher whenever the offensive line allows pressure.
New York Jets: LB Josh Allen, Kentucky
Back in 2015, the New York Jets had a strong pass rush, with Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson leading the charge. At the time, defensive lineman Leonard Williams just came into the league as the No. 6 overall pick in the 2015 draft.
Three years later, Williams remains as the last man standing from the disbanded defensive line trio, but he needs help. The fourth-year man out of USC and linebacker Brandon Copeland lead Gang Green in sacks with three apiece, but the defense lacks consistent pocket pressure.
Eleven different players on the Jets roster have at least a half-sack. A primary pass-rusher would elevate this group against strong opposition. There's too much stress on defensive backs in coverage when opposing quarterbacks have ample time to scan the field.
Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen has likely been the cause of nightmares, as he's constantly chasing down signal-callers off the edge. The senior has 24 sacks since the start of 2016, and he has a career-high 10 thus far this year.
With every week that passes, Allen's stock rises. Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan would be fortunate to land him in the upcoming draft. Josh Allen sacking Josh Allen in divisional games against the Bills sounds like a popular broadcast call.
Oakland Raiders: DE Nick Bosa, Ohio State
Regardless of the player the Oakland Raiders choose, don't expect him to become Khalil Mack if they take a defender. It's best to turn the page on the blockbuster trade and instead focus on the development of the incoming talent.
When speaking about pass-rushers in September, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said, per NBC Sports Bay Area's Scott Bair: "It's hard to find a great one. It's hard to find a good one."
Gruden won't have to implement an in-depth search leading up to April's draft. Following an embarrassing 34-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Raiders fell to 1-7. They're tied with the Giants for the worst record in the league. If the selection order stands, and Big Blue chooses a quarterback, the Silver and Black would have a shot at Nick Bosa.
After suffering a core muscle injury—which required surgery—Bosa left Ohio State to prepare for the draft process. He finished his collegiate career with 29 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks.
Between his brother Joey's NFL success with the Chargers (23 sacks in 28 games) and his productive resume at Ohio State, Bosa will walk into April as perhaps the No. 1 prospect in this year's class. The Raiders badly need a player with his upside to boost their pass rush, as they're last in sacks with seven.
Philadelphia Eagles: RB Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
In 2017, the Philadelphia Eagles fielded the No. 3-ranked ground attack courtesy of a running back committee featuring LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi (acquired via trade during the season), Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood.
This offseason, Blount signed with the Lions. Ajayi tore his ACL in Week 5 and will become a free agent after the season. The Eagles' platoon is down to Clement, Smallwood and rookie undrafted free agent Josh Adams.
Since the Eagles prefer the committee approach, they aren't likely to pay top dollar for a running back in free agency. Instead, general manager Howie Roseman figures to turn his attention toward collegiate ball-carriers.
Oklahoma State's Justice Hill has been one of the top rushers in the nation since his freshman season in 2016. During his debut campaign, he logged 1,142 rushing yards and six touchdowns while averaging 5.5 yards per carry. As a sophomore, his average per rush attempt remained the same, but the total yardage ballooned to 1,462 with 15 scores on the ground.
Hill has only flashed glimpses of his receiving ability, hauling in 47 catches for 292 yards and a touchdown in 34 contests, but Clement is proven as a third-down pass-catching back.
Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Dakota Allen, Texas Tech
With linebacker Ryan Shazier sidelined due to a spinal injury, Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert selected safety Terrell Edmunds in the first round of April's draft as a potential solution to covering the seam. In the meantime, 2013 second-round pick Jon Bostic is filling in for Shazier at inside linebacker.
The Steelers should go with an actual linebacker in the upcoming draft—one who's shown the ability to cover the field in passing situations. Dakota Allen had a pair of interceptions during his freshman and junior campaigns, and he's tallied seven pass breakups in total at Texas Tech.
Texas Tech dismissed Allen following an arrest for burglary in 2016, although charges were later dropped. He spent a year at East Mississippi Community College and appeared on the reality TV show Last Chance U.
Texas Tech ultimately welcomed Allen back, and his teammates voted him a captain. He managed to battle through that self-created adversity, mature and display his skill set on the field.
Allen has yet to log an interception as a senior, but he continues to show awareness and ability to disrupt passes thrown in his direction. He leads the Red Raiders in total tackles (56). The Steelers wouldn't have to immediately plug Allen into the lineup, but he's a playable option as a nickel linebacker.
San Francisco 49ers: DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
With a 2-7 record, the San Francisco 49ers have neither starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo nor a decent pass rush. Don't let a seven-sack performance against a porous Raiders offensive line fool you. This team will probably finish the year with a top-five draft pick and in need of help with pressuring the quarterback.
Fortunately for general manager John Lynch, there's a potential consolation prize.
A win over the Raiders pushes them further from an opportunity to take the potential top prospect, Bosa, but the 49ers could improve their pass rush with Clemson's Clelin Ferrell. The senior defensive end accumulated 42.5 tackles for loss and 22.5 sacks since the start of 2016. He's a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, which is given to the country's top defensive player.
Because of his experience at a powerhouse program, Ferrell should enter the NFL ready to contribute, which makes him an ideal target to bolster San Francisco's pocket pressure off the edge.
Playing only 55.4 percent of defensive snaps through Week 8, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas hasn't lived up to the expectations of a No. 3 overall pick. Lynch needs to hit on a pass-rushing defensive end to compensate for 2017's draft-day miss.
Seattle Seahawks: CB Deandre Baker, Georgia
The Seattle Seahawks decided to release cornerback Richard Sherman this offseason after he ruptured his Achilles last November. Thus far, team brass shouldn't regret the move.
Rookie fifth-rounder Tre Flowers has been a solid starter on the boundary, especially considering his conversion from safety to cornerback. Nonetheless, the Seahawks should consider an upgrade and potentially move Flowers into the slot.
Georgia cornerback DeAndre Baker may enter the 2019 draft as the second-best option behind Greedy Williams. He had at least two interceptions and five pass breakups in each of the last three seasons.
At 5'11" and 185 pounds, Baker doesn't have Sherman's length, but opposing quarterbacks will think twice about throwing in his direction because of his ball-tracking skills. The senior cornerback is also a reliable tackler, which is important in limiting yards after the catch.
He's going to become a building block in the secondary for whichever team drafts him in April.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Will Grier, West Virginia
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers must face the music with turnover-prone quarterback Jameis Winston.
The 24-year-old has 70 interceptions and lost fumbles in 49 career games. Despite having played only four games this year, he's tied for the league lead in interceptions (10). He just got benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Buccaneers exercised the fifth-year option on Winston's rookie deal, but it's only guaranteed for injury. The front office could move on without taking on any dead money. Fitzpatrick's magic will last only so long before he reverts to a journeyman.
The potential incoming quarterback class isn't garnering much hype yet, but Will Grier has excelled at both Florida and West Virginia.
As a freshman at Florida, Grier was suspended for a performance-enhancing drug violation and then transferred to West Virginia. Before switching schools, he threw for 10 touchdowns and only three interceptions while going 5-0 as a starter.
With the Mountaineers, Grier has 59 touchdowns and 19 interceptions over the last two years. He's completing a career-high 70.3 percent of his passes this season.
Even if the Buccaneers decide to give Winston one last chance to prove he's a franchise signal-caller next season, it wouldn't hurt to bring in another long-term option.
Tennessee Titans: WR A.J. Brown, Mississippi
The Tennessee Titans had a bye week to mull over their offensive struggles. Quarterback Marcus Mariota has thrown only three touchdown passes in six games, while the ground attack ranks 19th in yards.
Tennessee has exercised Mariota's fifth-year option, which means he'll likely be back for a second year under the current coaching staff. To expedite his development, the front office should field two big-body targets at wide receiver.
In two of three seasons with Mariota under center, tight end Delanie Walker, who's a bigger target at 6'2" and 248 pounds, has led the team in receiving yards. Next year, he'll go into his age-35 season, and he's coming off a broken ankle with ligament damage.
The Titans have smaller, quick-twitch pass-catchers in Taywan Taylor and Tajae Sharpe, the latter of whom had his first 100-yard receiving performance in Week 7. Putting Ole Miss receiver A.J. Brown (6'1", 230 lbs) opposite Corey Davis (6'3", 209 lbs) would give defenses issues with coverage in the middle of the field and tight areas near the end zone.
Brown isn't a burner, but he can outmuscle a defender in contested situations. The junior wide receiver ranks 10th in the country in receiving yards (805) to go along with five touchdowns.
Washington Redskins: WR N'Keal Harry, Arizona State
The Washington Redskins have a few offseason contractual situations to ponder. Jamison Crowder is set to hit free agency, and Washington will have to decide whether to exercise Josh Doctson's fifth-year option.
Quarterback Alex Smith doesn't have the strongest track record with wide receivers, even dating back to his time with the Chiefs. Tight end Jordan Reed and pass-catching running back are first and second in targets and receptions, respectively. Wide receiver Paul Richardson is third in both categories.
Smith wouldn't struggle to find 6'4", 213-pound receiver N'Keal Harry running downfield. The Arizona State wideout started the year on a strong note, scoring four touchdowns in the first three contests. He's cooled off as of late, but there's always the possibility that he could haul in a big catch over the top.
At wide receiver, Harry profiles as a home-run hitter with the ability to come down with the ball in critical moments. He's a safety blanket for a quarterback regardless of the situation—just heave a pass in his direction and give him a chance to make a play.
Salary information courtesy of Spotrac.