1 Mistake Each NFL Team Must Avoid Making in the 2019 NFL Draft
The key to building a sustainable winner in the NFL is to draft effectively. Landing impact players early and finding key depth pieces on Days 2 and 3 provide the ultimate roster flexibility in free agency. Roster foundations should come through the draft, and teams should add veteran augmentations responsibly.
Even the best squads miss with premium picks, but the difference between bottom-feeders and contenders is sizable. Teams with solid long-term strategies boast the ability to develop the talent they draft. Finding the right blend of talent, character and situational fit is the challenge that every front office strives to master, though few do.
The Cleveland Browns are a perfect example of a revived franchise. Years of terrible play are in the rearview mirror as the current regime has identified franchise cornerstones in the draft to reinvigorate the future.
Considering this, we've identified the one mistake that each NFL team must avoid in April's draft in Nashville, Tennessee—whether it's a selection, a non-move or a strategy.
Arizona Cardinals: Hedge on Offensive Identity
The Arizona Cardinals have already raised leaguewide interest in what they'll do with the No. 1 overall pick. Before 2018 Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray made his NFL intentions known, it seemed to be a forgone conclusion that new head coach Kliff Kingsbury would be happy with 2018 first-round pick Josh Rosen and select Ohio State edge-rusher Nick Bosa.
But Murray's availability has led to a stream of connections between the two parties.
The noise heightened at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. NFL Network's Kimberly Jones reported that Murray was "universally" viewed as the top pick.
It's a surprise considering that the Cardinals retained Steve Keim as general manager, and Keim moved up in 2018 to draft Rosen at No. 10 overall. But if Arizona feels that Murray is a better fit for its desired offensive identity, it shouldn't worry about the cap ramifications and the wasted assets it spent on Rosen.
This is already a defining moment for Kingsbury and Keim. Taking Murray and moving Rosen will lead to more of a free-wheeling offense that relies on big plays as opposed to a consistent, surgical approach. Both styles can win a Super Bowl, but the change affects how the Cardinals will need to build around their quarterback.
Atlanta Falcons: Forget the Offensive Line
The Atlanta Falcons have struggled since their Super Bowl appearance two years ago despite quality drafting. Tough injury breaks and the sudden decline of key veterans have left the team with little cap space and question marks in the secondary and defensive line.
But the Falcons cannot afford to forget the offensive line in the 2019 draft.
With Matt Ryan turning 34 years old in May, the team must prioritize keeping him clean and comfortable. The 11-year veteran, who was sacked 42 times in 2018, is a rhythmic passer who doesn't always do well when moved from his launch point in the pocket. Anything less than an above-average line will spell trouble.
The Falcons can't be comfortable with their line even after adding guards James Carpenter and Jamon Brown in free agency. Right tackle Ty Sambrailo played just 266 snaps last year in relief of Ryan Schraeder and flamed out in Denver previously.
Adding a top-tier pass-blocker such as Alabama's Jonah Williams or Washington State's Andre Dillard makes sense if one is available at No. 14. Double-dipping with a later pick would also help rebuild the unit's depth.
Baltimore Ravens: Standing Pat at Receiver
As the league has trended toward spreading defenses thin and relying on pre-snap action to create favorable matchups in the passing game, the Baltimore Ravens have gone the opposite direction. Lamar Jackson's rookie season was electric even though his passing ability was behind the curve thanks to his dynamic legs and despite some timely throws.
Even though new offensive coordinator Greg Roman talked about "redefining" the scheme for Jackson and the team signed Mark Ingram to enhance the running game, the Ravens need receivers. Losing both John Brown and Michael Crabtree leaves Willie Snead IV and tight ends Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle as Baltimore's top returning producers from last season.
Jackson will need better, more explosive talent to grow in the pocket. The team doesn't have a special receiver on the roster. Armed with eight total picks and five in the top 125, the Ravens must double-dip and start to overhaul the position. Failing to address this will only hinder the upside of both Jackson and the offense.
Buffalo Bills: Focusing Too Much on Offense
In the midst of a fast-tracked roster rebuild due to quality acquisitions in the last two offseasons, the Buffalo Bills have been focused on solving their offensive woes in 2019. Last season, rookie quarterback Josh Allen had one of the worst supporting casts in the NFL, so adding a mixture of veterans and young talent had to be general manager Brandon Beane's No. 1 objective.
Signing receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley to a combined $16.25 million average annual value helped address the need for playmakers. The acquisitions of linemen Mitch Morse, Spencer Long and Ty Nsekhe supplemented the unit sufficiently for more balance.
After plugging the offense with veteran stopgaps, Beane can't make the mistake of dumping his draft assets into the unit. The Bills still have needs along the defensive line and at cornerback. Thanks to Buffalo's free-agent activity, it can take the best player available in the early rounds.
Carolina Panthers: Become Complacent with Veteran Stopgaps
Entering the offseason with limited cap space for upgrades, the Carolina Panthers made the most out of their assets while upgrading several positions of need. Landing center Matt Paradis to replace Ryan Kalil (retirement) was an excellent move by general manager Marty Hurney, but it was the only long-term fix he could make.
The Panthers picked up wideout Torrey Smith's option and signed offensive tackle Daryl Williams and defensive end Bruce Irvin to one-year deals, but all are veteran stopgaps with varying upsides. Hurney can't count on any of them to be more than roster depth, as none produced at a reliable level in 2018. Being complacent in the draft at receiver, pass-rusher or offensive line would be a massive mistake.
The primary objective with this class should be reloading in the trenches. The Panthers must prioritize left guard, right tackle, defensive end and linebacker if there are quality players on the board. If its veteran stopgaps don't play well, Carolina may need its rookie class to perform well early.
Chicago Bears: Draft for Immediate Need
The Chicago Bears have benefited from a dramatic roster infusion since the 2017 offseason and general manager Ryan Pace's hiring of Matt Nagy as head coach in January 2018.
The emergence of recent draft picks (such as 2018 first-rounder Roquan Smith) and the presence of key veterans (like sack artist Khalil Mack) have given the Bears one of the best rosters in the NFL. Now, Pace must not make the mistake of trying to plug immediate needs despite his strong situation to work with.
This is the opportunity for Pace to get ahead of the free-agency cycle by acquiring future replacements before current players depart for bigger deals. Adding trench help on both sides can protect the Bears from injuries. Avoiding long-term answers at safety, middle linebacker and cornerback would be a grave mistake.
Finding a better scheme fit than Jordan Howard at running back is likely a top need, and the Bears may trade him this offseason anyway. But selecting a back too early in this weak 2019 class would be forcing a need-based pick. Pace should be patient, play the board and find a steal later in the draft.
Cincinnati Bengals: Avoid Drafting a Quarterback
New Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor has a significant challenge on his hands as he tries to uplift a franchise that has been mediocre in recent years. The team has quality key pieces to serve as foundational blocks, but the biggest question lies at quarterback.
Andy Dalton is a decidedly middling signal-caller who will only go as far as his surrounding pieces. Now under a team-friendly contract that allows the Bengals to move on from him without any dead money, Dalton should be viewed as a stopgap. It's time for Taylor—the quarterbacks coach for the Los Angeles Rams in 2018—to be aggressive and pursue his next protege.
Kyler Murray and Drew Lock are explosive quarterbacks with the athleticism to operate in a system similar to the Rams' attack. Or he could try to land the surgical Dwayne Haskins and build something around his quick release and intelligence. All represent higher-upside options than Dalton, and Taylor must at least explore the potential costs associated with moving up from No. 11 to get his guy.
Cleveland Browns: Leverage Future Drafts for 2019 Picks
In his second year with the franchise, Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey has continued to be aggressive in his quest to build a Super Bowl contender. The Browns appear to have a clear starter at every position except possibly the No. 2 corner job. That's not been the case in a long time.
Dorsey must avoid making the mistake of mortgaging future draft picks in order to move up in the 2019 class. While the time is now for the Browns to challenge for the AFC North and potentially more, they don't have enough available playing time for a rookie in order to justify moving a significant 2020 asset. Trying to climb from their 49th or 81st overall picks could cost multiple future selections.
Instead, Dorsey should be willing to move up with anything later than his 81st pick or just wait and find the best player available with his two top assets. With six Day 3 selections, the Browns have enough ammunition this year to still be aggressive and not ruin future opportunities.
Dallas Cowboys: Banking on the Development of Young Talent
The Dallas Cowboys have had a busy offseason thus far to compensate for the loss of their 2019 first-round pick in the deal for Amari Cooper. While the trade now looks good for Dallas, the team was limited to signing one-year deals in free agency since its future cap will carry several huge contracts.
That puts a premium on developing talent in-house.
It would be a mistake, though, for the Cowboys to bank on their young players already on the roster as solutions to their greatest needs.
It's important to develop wide receiver Michael Gallup, guard Connor Williams, tight end Blake Jarwin, defensive end Taco Charlton and young corners Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis, but this front office must assume that not all will take the next step in 2019. Doubling down at premium positions can help avoid bigger issues when a young player fails.
Moving a draft pick for Miami Dolphins pass-rusher Robert Quinn would be an example of creatively bolstering a position led by unproven youth. According to Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Cowboys are in talks to potentially acquire the 28-year-old defensive end.
Addressing the potential needs at cornerback, linebacker, running back and receiver would be the right balance between short-term and long-term planning. Failing to add competition or depth to those spots could leave the Cowboys with a fatal flaw come playoff time.
Denver Broncos: Forgetting About the Defense
One of the hottest connections throughout the 2019 draft cycle has been the Denver Broncos and Missouri's Drew Lock. Not only do the Broncos need a quarterback of the future—Joe Flacco is 34 years old—but they're also in a good spot to land Lock with the 10th overall pick. Regardless of their plan for the position, general manager John Elway can't forget about the defense.
It would be sensible to continue using assets for the offensive line, receiver and quarterback, but the Broncos' defensive front seven is thin in depth after losing multiple contributors. The secondary could also use more youth. Kareem Jackson turns 31 in April, and Chris Harris Jr. will have his 30th birthday two months later.
Maintaining a high-level defense as they transition to new head coach Vic Fangio is a must. Fangio's 3-4, zone-based scheme can cover some personnel limitations, but not all. Adding versatile middle-round talent to the defensive unit could fortify a group that looks considerably different than even a few years ago.
Detroit Lions: Avoiding the Hole at Cornerback
The Detroit Lions have more work to do, even after spending enormous money on defensive end Trey Flowers (five years, $90 million), tight end Jesse James (four years, $22.6 million), wide receiver Danny Amendola (one year, $4.5 million), nose tackle Damon Harrison Sr. (acquired via trade prior to the Oct. 30 trade deadline) and cornerback Justin Coleman (four years, $36 million).
The Lions still have openings for a pass-rusher, linebacker and cornerback.
While the Lions may believe Coleman can play more than the slot, it's dangerous to bank on a player excelling in a role he's never been asked to play.
They recently agreed to terms with veteran Rashaan Melvin, which helps reduce some of the need at corner for 2019, but it doesn't fully solve their multiyear search for competent play. Melvin's disappointing 2018 campaign in Oakland featured uneven performances in man assignments due to his physical traits not matching those of starting-caliber receivers.
Eventually, the Lions will want a 2019 draft pick to replace Melvin instead of relying on a journeyman.
They may be able to wait to address the cornerback hole until Day 2 of the draft. There doesn't appear to be a corner worthy of the eighth overall selection, but that's the ideal range to take a pass-rusher to go across from Flowers. Waiting until Day 2 could bring excellent value.
Green Bay Packers: Not Prioritizing Playmakers
A disappointing 2018 Green Bay Packers campaign led to major changes this offseason. Second-year general manager Brian Gutekunst has been aggressive in chasing upgrades in free agency for new head coach Matt LaFleur.
Gutekunst has two first-rounders to help rebuild an offense that became stagnant and predictable as quarterback Aaron Rodgers couldn't compensate for a diminished supporting cast.
The Packers should address an offensive line that has struggled with injuries and consistency over the last two years (fifth-most sacks allowed in 2017, third-most in 2018), but not taking a premier playmaker with one of their first three picks (Nos. 12, 30 and 44) would be a tremendous mistake.
Incumbent wide receiver Davante Adams is an underrated star, but the rest of the cast is suspect. 2018 fifth-rounder Marquez Valdes-Scantling is the most promising of the bunch to develop into a starter, but Rodgers needs more help to reach his potential. Selecting both a receiver and tight end early would give the Packers offense a higher upside than anything it can reach as currently constructed.
Houston Texans: Being Afraid of Getting More 2019 Picks
Instead of continuing their hot streak from the regular season that featured nine consecutive wins and an AFC South title, the Houston Texans have been eerily quiet in free agency. General manager Brian Gaine added just one notable free agent, former Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby, despite having significant cap room.
Now Gaine needs to hit a home run in the draft to keep the Texans in the thick of the divisional race.
To do so, he should acquire as many quality picks in the 2019 class as possible. But with only three selections after their 87th, the Texans may need to dip into their 2020 pool.
They have four selections within the top 100, which is great, but going even higher would be the best-case scenario. Houston desperately needs offensive line help after franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson was sacked a league-high 62 times in 2018, and another major asset would allow the Texans to bolster their weak cornerback group or injury-prone receiving corps without compromising this year's haul.
Packaging a Day 2 pick from 2020 with one of their three 2019 Day 2 picks could land them one of the best players who falls out of the first-round if they can find a seller.
Indianapolis Colts: Being Content with Depth
Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard, the Pro Football Writers of America's 2018 NFL Executive of the Year, has continued to make shrewd moves that have kept the team flush with cap and draft assets.
His stellar 2018 draft will be tough to repeat. The Colts don't need to hunt stars as much considering their breakout performers last year, including All-Pro rookies Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard, but Ballard shouldn't make the mistake of staying content with his team's depth.
Armed with four picks in the top 100 and six in the top 140, Ballard can make a splash by moving up or by staying patient. Either way, the next step is to improve the quality of rotational players and future starters. Whether trying to replace future free agents or develop boom-or-bust prospects, Ballard has the chance to set the Colts apart from their AFC South counterparts.
The depth at receiver, safety and linebacker could all use a face-lift. The signing of Justin Houston—and possibly Shane Ray, per ESPN's Field Yates—reinforced the critical edge position. Now it's time to set up the franchise for an affordable situation for the next half-decade with another strong class.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Not Building Around Nick Foles
It became clear before free agency officially began March 13 that Nick Foles would be the Jacksonville Jaguars' new quarterback. Despite seemingly limited interest from elsewhere, Foles surprisingly landed $50.1 million in guarantees, a figure that locks him in for at least two seasons.
Throw out the idea that the Jaguars will select a quarterback early. If they did, they'd be wasting the high asset and the cheap years of a quarterback instead of building around Foles. Their 2019 class should be all about helping Foles be the best version of himself.
This strategy includes beefing up the right side of the offensive line and adding a dynamic back to complement Leonard Fournette. Adding another receiver to the mix may be tempting, but the Jaguars have a talented group if everyone can stay healthy. Free-agent signing Chris Conley and the development of DJ Chark Jr. could elevate the receiving corps to a formidable and deep unit with assorted skill sets.
Kansas City Chiefs: Not Taking a Pass-Rusher Early
The Kansas City Chiefs have had an eventful offseason as they try to rebuild their 24th-ranked scoring defense. They moved on from high-priced veterans Eric Berry, Justin Houston and Dee Ford, and Tyrann Mathieu is their biggest notable addition on defense to date.
They still need more help.
Though the Chiefs still have a young roster, they must reload with pass-rushers that fit new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's scheme. Passing on the opportunity to add at least one potential impact edge defender might limit how far this explosive offense can carry the mediocre defense.
General manager Brett Veach may want to move up from the 29th overall pick and secure his preferred target. Armed with two second-rounders this year and next, Veach has plenty of draft capital either to use or package in a trade.
An aggressive move up the board would signify the Chiefs are proactively trying to fill their biggest roster hole.
Los Angeles Chargers: Not Addressing the Run Defense
The Los Angeles Chargers do not have many holes on their roster. They are arguably one of the most talented teams in the NFL, and their fate often seems to be decided by injuries as well as their struggles in big games. But time is running out on their window to win with Philip Rivers under center.
Though the Chargers ranked 10th in rushing DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) in 2018, according to Football Outsiders, they cannot afford to pass on addressing their run-stopping personnel.
They retained nose tackle Brandon Mebane, but he's 34 years old. And linebacker Denzel Perryman was mediocre before he finished 2018 on injured reserve because of a knee injury that required surgery. Adding multiple bodies to the middle of the defense can elevate this group into elite territory.
The issue of health is something the Chargers should prepare to deal with since Jatavis Brown and Kyzir White joined Perryman on injured reserve. Adding Thomas Davis this offseason was a terrific short-term fix for L.A.'s coverage capabilities, but adding fresh and explosive athletes in the middle is what the team needs most.
Los Angeles Rams: Ignoring the Offense
The Los Angeles Rams finished last season fifth in passing yards and second in offensive DVOA, per Football Outsiders, so it may seem ridiculous to suggest they should continue to pump assets into the unit. But they can't make the mistake of forgetting the offense. It's not the priority for the Rams, who badly need more front-seven help; however, ignoring the offense could lead to a downturn in 2019.
Replacing left guard Rodger Saffold with 2018 third-rounder Joseph Noteboom and center John Sullivan with 2018 fourth-rounder Brian Allen shows effective planning by general manager Les Snead and company. Whether it'll work remains to be seen, meaning Snead needs to double down for depth purposes. He also needs to find a left tackle of the future.
Drafting another capable receiver should be in the plans as well. Jared Goff's stats dipped dramatically after Cooper Kupp tore his ACL in November, including an 8.5 percent drop in completion percentage and a 29.1-point difference in passer rating. Finding legitimate competition for Josh Reynolds as the fourth receiver may be a luxury now but a meaningful upgrade if Kupp doesn't return to form.
Miami Dolphins: Avoiding the Best Player Available
After years of trying to compete for a wild-card spot by Band-Aiding a roster that had structural flaws and signing free agents, the Miami Dolphins decided to rebuild the right way. They've stripped down the roster to the studs in an effort to cleanse their cap and clear the path to playing time for incoming talent. It's critical they restock with the most talented players available.
Unless Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins unexpectedly falls to 13th overall, the Dolphins should continue to keep their eye on Tua Tagovailoa for next year, per ESPN's Adam Schefter, or another signal-caller.
Haskins would be an ideal fit for the offense of new coordinator and former Patriots wide receivers coach Chad O'Shea, assuming O'Shea runs a similar quick-hitting scheme to Josh McDaniels in New England. Short of that, the Dolphins need playmakers across the roster.
At No. 13, the Dolphins can hope that Houston's Ed Oliver, Alabama's Jonah Williams, Florida State's Brian Burns or any premier talent falls to them. General manager Chris Grier now has full control of the draft after solid hauls in the last two years.
Now he has the ability to show off his evaluation skills with a roster desperately needing stars.
Minnesota Vikings: Avoid Trading Up
Despite expectations of becoming a Super Bowl contender in 2018, the Minnesota Vikings found themselves struggling to stay in the playoff race. A star-studded roster was too top-heavy, and their flaws led to their demise. This regime enters a critical 2019 season as pressure builds for the Vikings to advance in the playoffs.
General manager Rick Spielman will be tempted to focus on future needs and continue building a deep roster, but that's not the best way for this team to compete in 2019. Even after signing an extension, he might not be around much longer if they miss the playoffs again. Using their 2020 first-rounder to trade up for a second first-round pick would allow the Vikings to solidify their offensive line and land another impact pass-rusher.
The rest of the roster will allow Spielman to aggressively bolster the trenches on both sides without fear of coming up short elsewhere. Minnesota needs interior offensive line help and a third rusher behind Everson Griffen. Giving up a future first to ensure both are addressed would bring peace of mind to this coaching staff.
New England Patriots: Worrying About the Future
Trying to tell head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots what they should and shouldn't do is not an easy task. Coming off his sixth Super Bowl win, Belichick knows that his ability to identify and develop talent is second to none. With Tom Brady still able to elevate his play when the team needs it most, the Patriots should continue to go all out with their assets and worry about the future later.
That doesn't mean the Patriots should become reckless with their identity, but it does mean that they must make 2019 picks available for impact veterans and future picks available for trades upward. Anything other than putting as much talent on the field right away would be a mistake.
Key roster losses should propel an aggressive approach. While 2018 first-rounder Isaiah Wynn offers a solution to their left tackle opening, the Patriots need a quality tight end after the retirement of Rob Gronkowski as well as another reliable receiving threat. The defense mostly stayed intact besides the losses of Trey Flowers and Malcom Brown.
The acquisition of veteran Michael Bennett from the Eagles was a good example of how the Patriots can continue bargain shopping for short-term fixes. Watch for them to use their allotment of picks to field another Super Bowl contender.
New Orleans Saints: Ignoring the Offensive Line
While the majority of the top 2018 Super Bowl contenders spent the offseason losing talent to richer deals elsewhere, the New Orleans Saints have been able to add worthwhile players in free agency.
Veterans Jared Cook, Malcom Brown and Nick Easton theoretically allow general manager Mickey Loomis to go best player available in the draft. But Loomis and head coach Sean Payton must prioritize keeping the offensive line strong.
Losing center Max Unger to retirement was a blow. Hopefully, Easton can stay healthy enough to contribute, but it's noteworthy that he missed the 2018 season with a neck injury suffered in August. He's unreliable, and the Saints must have a legitimate backup plan in case he can't stay on the field.
Quarterback Drew Brees will also need better play from the guard positions. Andrus Peat has been below-average as a pass-blocker because of his slow reaction speed and inconsistent placement in hand battles. Larry Warford is average, ranking 31st among guards, according to Pro Football Focus.
Bolstering this unit with several developmental future starters can keep this offense humming even after Brees, 40, is gone.
New York Giants: Standing Pat with Veterans
New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman has been blasted this offseason for his trade of Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns, and that criticism is fair based on the impossible task of replacing a Hall of Fame-caliber talent.
But outside of selling lower on Beckham than what most expected, Gettleman has done a good job of filling several needs and giving clarity to his draft mission. The Giants acquired wide receiver Golden Tate and guard Kevin Zeitler, which leaves the offense needing a right tackle and a quarterback of the future, but the team can address both of those.
The mistake that Gettleman cannot afford to make is standing pat with his defensive veterans. Specifically, he needs to find competition and future replacements for cornerback Janoris Jenkins and linebacker Kareem Martin. Jenkins will be turning 31 this fall and has struggled with injuries and inconsistent play the last two seasons. Martin is at best a rotational talent.
Trying to land three instant-impact players in one class is normally difficult, but this is where having the Browns' first-round pick helps. If Gettleman wants to punt on a quarterback again, he can field a competitive and more balanced team if he nails the selections. Of course, the Giants' 2019 playoff hopes also rest on the idea that Eli Manning is as good as the team continues to believe.
New York Jets: Avoiding Defensive Playmakers
The New York Jets matched expectations by being massive spenders this offseason. General manager Mike Maccagnan entered free agency with a dire need for playmakers and the second-most cap space to use. He's used about $60 million of it thus far on C.J. Mosley, Le'Veon Bell, Jamison Crowder, Kelechi Osemele and Henry Anderson, who re-signed after spending 2018 in New York.
Those are some significant upgrades. With most of their immediate needs addressed, the Jets must not forget to continue raising the ceiling of their defense. The Jets tied for 16th last year in takeaways (20), and that figure that could rise with the right impact players in the front seven and cornerback room.
Adding another pass-rusher at No. 3 overall would be an excellent first step, as the current edge situation with Jordan Jenkins and Tarell Basham is dubious. The Jets also need to address the second cornerback role. They don't have a qualified No. 2 to start across from Trumaine Johnson. A Day 2 pick or a trade for a veteran would be an ideal solution to complete the unit.
Oakland Raiders: Focusing on Needs
In new general manager Mike Mayock's first offseason, the Oakland Raiders have made more moves that make sense than they have in a few years. Rebuilding the receiving corps with Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams was an easy decision considering their prices and the resources the team had to spend. Bolstering the offensive line with Trent Brown was also a nice addition.
Oakland could have done more to help itself, but that's only because it has so many positional needs. Focusing on those in this class would be a big mistake for Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden. With openings at running back, edge-rusher, linebacker and cornerback, there's no way they can adequately address them all.
The Raiders must blend need and best talent available in order to win this draft. They made the mistake of passing on safety Derwin James for offensive tackle Kolton Miller last year, and it was disastrous considering the difference in impact each made. If there's a potential cornerstone piece on the board, Oakland needs to rush to the podium for him.
Philadelphia Eagles: Avoiding the Linebacker Position
Another contender that has a small margin for error is the Eagles. They have leveraged their tight cap situation as much as they can, so the 2019 class will have to provide several contributors for this team to hit its ceiling. The good news is that executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson have had a terrific run of acquiring what they've needed since partnering together.
The Eagles may be tempted to address the gaping hole at running back or find another talented cornerback, but the linebacker position needs special attention. As of now, Nigel Bradham will be paired with special teamers in base formations.
Sitting at No. 25 overall, the Eagles may want to package one of their two second-round picks to move up for a high-impact talent like Michigan's Devin Bush. If they're unable to move up, the University of Minnesota's Blake Cashman is a rising name with elite athleticism. Double-dipping at the position with one of their second-rounders or their fourth-round selection could immediately alleviate concerns at the position.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Being Afraid to Trade Up
Up until the dramatic departures of stars Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, the Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the finest model franchises for consistency. They routinely draft well enough to field a contender despite being ultraconservative in free agency. But the downside to their approach is they've missed opportunities to inject better talent via trades up.
Thus, the Steelers need to be proactive with their first-round pick and address a need. They haven't moved up in the first round since they acquired Santonio Holmes in 2006. Making an aggressive move while they still have franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been past due.
Finding an edge-rusher would be ideal. They have other needs that would justify proactivity, including more help at receiver, middle linebacker, cornerback and safety. Anything to jolt this roster and help Pittsburgh get over the hump in the playoff race would be worth sacrificing some future assets.
San Francisco 49ers: Passing on an Edge-Rusher in 1st Round
A popular pick to be the breakout team of 2018, the San Francisco 49ers quickly saw their playoff hopes diminish when Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 3. Other key coaching and roster issues plagued their season en route to the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft.
While it's not always wise to force a selection, the talent at edge-rusher in this class means the 49ers would be making a mistake if they passed on one with their top selection.
Should the Cardinals take Kyler Murray at No. 1 overall, that would allow general manager John Lynch to make the obvious pick of Ohio State's Nick Bosa. If the Cardinals aren't actually interested in Murray and end up taking Bosa, then things get interesting.
A move down could be on the board, since the 49ers would still likely be able to land either Kentucky's Josh Allen, Mississippi State's Montez Sweat or Florida State's Brian Burns later in the top 10.
Another edge-rusher would complete San Francisco's young defensive front and maximize its potential. It still lacks the talent needed to win the NFC West after acquiring Dee Ford from the Chiefs. Forcing the pick on Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams would create a logjam between DeForest Buckner, the ascending Arik Armstead and Williams.
Seattle Seahawks: Failing to Land a Pass-Rusher Early
One factor that made the Seattle Seahawks a surprising rebound team after their 0-2 start was their reliance on unknown defenders. Their fast-tracked defensive rebuild worked wonderfully as Jarran Reed and Tre Flowers emerged as impact starters. With those two alongside Frank Clark, Bobby Wagner and Shaquill Griffin, the Seahawks have quite the core to add to.
But the unit only logged 19.5 sacks outside Clark and Reed's combined 23.5 sacks. While the total was enough to finish tied for 11th, another prominent pass-rusher can make this unit elite. Counting on 2018 third-round pick Rasheem Green to suddenly break out is too risky.
Chances are solid that a capable rotational rusher will be available come pick No. 21. Even a penetrating defensive tackle would work well in tandem with Reed and next to Clark. Ideally, though, an edge player such as Clemson's Clelin Ferrell or Michigan's Rashan Gary will be on the board.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Putting Faith into Young Cornerbacks
It's been a busy offseason for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as they hired head coach Bruce Arians to get the franchise back on track. Losing Desean Jackson, Kwon Alexander and Adam Humphries hurt the team's explosiveness, but it was nearly capped-out despite finishing with the No. 5 pick. A more organized staff and a few acquisitions could help solve some of the Bucs' inconsistencies.
The offense should be mostly set, as all but the two receivers return—and Breshad Perriman's signing may ease some of that sting. Defensive questions lingers, though, such as whether the pass rush is adequate with the addition of Shaquil Barrett. Also, whether Deone Bucannon is good enough as Alexander's replacement.
But the cornerback room may need attention despite heavy 2018 investments. Second-round pick Carlton Davis showed enough promise to continue as the top corner, but the rest of the depth chart is muddied, as injuries limited exposure last season. M.J. Stewart also may be better served as a safety because of his lack of fluidity and speed.
It's a solid corner draft that should leave quality options on Day 2 for GM Jason Licht to choose from. Landing a ready-to-play starter such as Rock Ya-Sin from Temple or Julian Love from Notre Dame would provide much more stability.
Tennessee Titans: Not Acquiring Playmakers
Identifying a critical weakness is the easy part for front offices, but the real work comes in free agency and the draft. The Tennessee Titans have done well to improve their passing offense from last year, which ranked 25th in DVOA, per Football Outsiders. The signings of guard Rodger Saffold and receiver Adam Humphries are sizable improvements at two positions of critical need.
It'll be tempting for the Titans to shift focus to the defense, as another pass-rusher would be helpful. But the offense still needs to add receiving talent for quarterback Marcus Mariota. The young duo of Tajae Sharpe and Taywan Taylor, both 24, haven't shown enough to justify starting status.
Tight end will be a key area to address as well. Delanie Walker will turn 35 this summer and missed all but one game in 2018 with a dislocated ankle. And his relief, Jonnu Smith, accumulated just 258 yards and three touchdowns.
The Titans would be wise to pump in more assets into each position.
Washington Redskins: Waiting on a Quarterback
The Washington Redskins handed quarterback Alex Smith arguably the league's worst deal (four years, $94 million) after they traded for him in March 2018. While it's impossible to predict a career-ending or -altering injury, the Redskins are on the hook for a massive amount of dead cap for the next three seasons even if Smith doesn't play again.
It'll cripple their cap for years.
Because of the financial obligations to Smith and reality of his injury, Washington should be aggressive and trade up from No. 15 for a quarterback. Waiting to address the position on either Day 2 or in 2020 would be wasting the opportunity to land a long-term, affordable starter.
Head coach Jay Gruden and a solid offensive line would help ease a rookie or possibly Josh Rosen (if Arizona trades him) into the fold. Gruden creates advantageous pre-snap looks for his quarterbacks, and his route combinations help a mediocre receiving corps find separation. Rosen or Dwayne Haskins stand out as potential stars due to their intelligence and ability to win on short and intermediate attempts.
Salary-cap info provided by Spotrac unless otherwise noted.