Every NFL Team's Early Top Target in the 2020 NFL DraftNovember 30, 2019
Every NFL Team's Early Top Target in the 2020 NFL Draft
For NFL franchises stuck in a lost season, the draft is the central topic as they look toward the future.
Talent evaluators throughout the league are already eyeballing prospects who they believe can help their teams next season.
The first step of the evaluation process is winding down. Area scouts will come off the road as college football's regular season ends next weekend. Those scouts will submit reports on prospects from their respective areas. Front offices will then accumulate those reports and put together their initial boards next month.
Let's take an early look at prospects who are excellent fits for what ails every roster.
For the most part, the players included are considered first-round options to address each team's biggest area of need (current draft order can be found here). A few organizations lack opening-round selections because of previous trades. Those teams will be matched with talent projected in the later frames.
These preliminary pairings provide indications of where talent is being considered and of names teams could target based on current trajectories.
Arizona Cardinals: OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
The Arizona Cardinals made the right choice by selecting Kyler Murray with this year's No. 1 overall pick and trading 2018 first-rounder Josh Rosen to the Miami Dolphins.
With the franchise quarterback in place, it's time to properly protect him.
Defenses have sacked Murray 35 times this season. Some of those are due to his mobility and ability to extend plays, but Arizona's front five is in need of serious upgrades.
Plus, starting left tackle D.J. Humphries is scheduled to be a free agent after this season. As such, the Cardinals should prioritize the next logical building block in their rebuild: offensive tackle.
Iowa's Tristan Wirfs is the ideal option because he presents position flexibility. Wirfs is a natural right tackle who also has starting experience on the left side. If the organization decides to let Humphries walk, Wirfs will take over the blind side. If Humphries re-signs, Wirfs significantly upgrades right tackle.
Iowa's assembly line of blockers continues. Wirfs is one of the best-coached and most physically impressive prospects set to enter the professional ranks.
Atlanta Falcons: CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State
The Atlanta Falcons are among the NFL's worst pass defenses and allow a disappointing eight yards per pass play.
The defense isn't the only place to lay the blame for a 3-9 season, but it's an ideal place to start the rebuilding process. The Falcons played in the Super Bowl less than three years ago. The team now has an inside track for a top-five draft pick next April, and cornerback is a premium position the front office can address after a decision is made regarding head coach Dan Quinn.
Ironically, Quinn earned the job because of his previous success on the defensive side of the ball. Yet the Falcons built their identity on a high-flying offense. The defense never came together even though some of the pieces are in place, including cornerback Desmond Trufant.
The Falcons lack a bookend to Trufant, which is where Ohio State defensive back Jeff Okudah comes into play. Okudah displays elite traits and man-coverage skills. The 6'1", 200-pound defender has the size, length, short-area quickness and physicality to excel against both the run and pass. He's smothered opponents throughout his junior campaign.
Baltimore Ravens: EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State
The Baltimore Ravens are rolling, and it's difficult to pinpoint issues within the roster when discussing the league's best team.
But the Ravens lost plenty in free agency last season, especially among their edge defenders. Arizona State alum Terrell Suggs returned to his old stomping grounds, signing with the Arizona Cardinals after 16 seasons in Baltimore. Za'Darius Smith, meanwhile, signed a free-agent deal with the Green Bay Packers. Smith and Suggs finished first and tied for second, respectively, on the team in sacks last season. They also provided 25 tackles for loss.
Matthew Judon is the Ravens' most consistent edge-rusher this year with a team-leading seven sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. No one else has more than four and six, respectively.
Penn State's Yetur Gross-Matos is filled with potential. The 6'5", 265-pound defensive end is long-levered, flexible, athletic and explosive off the edge. He has accumulated 34 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks the last two seasons and continues to improve. Gross-Matos does need to be a more consistent presence, but the natural tools are obvious to develop into a top-notch pass-rusher.
Buffalo Bills: WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama
Speed kills. So does arm strength, especially if the two are correctly applied together.
The Buffalo Bills have one of the league's fastest wide receivers in John Brown. Brown's production has tailed off the last two games, but he still leads the Bills with 61 receptions for 882 yards and five touchdowns. He's been a legit top target while Cole Beasley serves as the offense's reliable option out of the slot.
Buffalo lacks a third option in the passing game, though.
Third-round tight end Dawson Knox has developed nicely, but the Bills could use another wide receiver to complete the passing attack.
Alabama's Henry Ruggs III is both an ideal complementary target and a high-speed option. Ruggs may be the fastest player available for the 2020 NFL draft. His burst is extraordinary. At times, he looks like he's running at a different speed than everyone else on the field.
Now, imagine Brown and Ruggs working on the outside coupled with the cannon strapped to quarterback Josh Allen's right shoulder. This setup will push opposing defenses past the breaking point.
Carolina Panthers: LB/S Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
Four years ago, the Carolina Panthers hit on a first-round draft pick with the exceptionally versatile Shaq Thompson. Thompson played linebacker and running back at Washington. Some wondered if he would transition to safety at the professional level.
The Panthers can somewhat replicate the process with the addition of hybrid defender Isaiah Simmons of Clemson. Technically, Clemson uses Simmons as a linebacker, but he's able to cover the slot, drop into space and play the back end if necessary. The 6'4", 230-pound junior can be used similarly to how the Los Angeles Chargers utilize Derwin James as an all-purpose defender.
His skill set matches the Panthers' defensive approach as well. Thompson and Luke Kuechly serve as the scheme's off-the-ball linebackers. Simmons can be the third linebacker in certain looks, identify as a sub-package linebacker in others or move to strong safety.
The final possibility is critical because the Panthers' safety play is suspect. Strong safety Eric Reid hasn't performed well this season, and Tre Boston is signed to a one-year deal. Simmons can step in from Day 1 and play multiple positions while simultaneously solving a major problem area.
Chicago Bears: TE Brycen Hopkins, Purdue
The Chicago Bears are about to enter the second offseason without a first-round pick thanks to the Khalil Mack trade, so they have to address needs through later-round selections.
Their tight ends have been significant disappointments, as no one at the spot has more than 14 receptions or 84 yards. Trey Burton hasn't delivered after he signed a four-year, $32 million deal last year, and he hit injured reserve two weeks ago with a calf setback. The Bears can save $1 million against next year's cap by moving on from the veteran.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, meanwhile, desperately needs a security blanket in the passing game. Usually, a team's tight end serves in this role. As such, the Bears can look for one with their second-round pick and find solid value.
Purdue's Brycen Hopkins is arguably the best tight end prospect in the class, though the position might not feature a first-rounder. Hopkins is a versatile target and ranks second among FBS tight ends with 53 receptions and 688 receiving yards. He won't be a sound in-line blocker, but the Bears need something more from the position.
Cincinnati Bengals: QB Joe Burrow, LSU
The Cincinnati Bengals have a difficult decision in front of them.
With an 0-11 start and a two-game cushion for the league's worst record, Cincinnati is staring at the No. 1 overall draft pick for the first time since it selected Carson Palmer in 2003.
A quarterback was the right choice then, as it is now...unless it isn't.
Ohio State defensive end Chase Young is clearly the class' best overall prospect. However, Cincinnati must ask itself a simple yet loaded question: Is there enough of a difference in talent for a defensive player to supersede the selection of a top quarterback prospect?
The answer is probably no.
LSU's Joe Burrow looks like a franchise quarterback after a suspect first season in Baton Rouge. Burrow is 6'4" and 216 pounds with good movement skills. His efficiency is nearly off the charts since he's well on his way to breaking the FBS record with a 78.9 completion percentage. In fact, Burrow has completed at least 71.1 percent of his passes in every game this season.
Cleveland Browns: S Grant Delpit, LSU
Offensive tackle is the obvious choice for the Cleveland Browns until you dig a little deeper.
Yes, the Browns could and should upgrade from Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard. Obviously, general manager John Dorsey tried to do so by repeatedly engaging the Washington Redskins regarding Trent Williams. Cleveland could return to those conversations this offseason.
The team also drafted Drew Forbes, who has the potential to take over at right tackle.
Safety is as big of a concern, if not more so, though. Free safety Damarious Randall is facing free agency. Strong safety Morgan Burnett just landed on injured reserve with a torn Achilles and could be a salary-cap casualty. The depth is concerning as well.
Furthermore, the Browns' recent three-game winning streak and soft schedule will likely put the top tackle prospects out of reach. But we've seen talented safeties slide in recent years. LSU's Grant Delpit is a difference-maker as an aggressive downhill defensive back who would be ideal playing in or near the box in coordinator Steve Wilks' scheme.
Dallas Cowboys: CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama
Decisions, decisions, decisions.
The Dallas Cowboys can't pay everyone—try as they might. They entered last offseason with the following players due contract extensions: defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, linebacker Jaylon Smith, right tackle La'el Collins, running back Ezekiel Elliott, quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Amari Cooper and cornerback Byron Jones.
The first four already struck lucrative deals; the final three are still waiting.
Dallas won't let Prescott leave. He's next in line. Cooper's play this year demands a new contract. Thus, Jones becomes the odd man out.
The Cowboys front office should then turn its attention to the secondary as its top offseason priority, especially since Anthony Brown is a scheduled free agent as well.
Pro Football Focus graded the Alabama Crimson Tide's Trevon Diggs as the second-best Power Five cornerback in overall coverage even with his struggles during the LSU contest. The 6'2", 207-pound defensive back fits the Cowboys' preferred mold. Diggs is a long, physical and well-coached corner. He can help offset Jones' potential loss right away.
Denver Broncos: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon
The Denver Broncos may wipe the slate clean after yet another disappointing season. The organization could fire head coach Vic Fangio after only one year and overlook the fact that it just spent a second-round pick on quarterback Drew Lock. It probably should on both accounts.
Something isn't right in Denver, and the 3-8 Broncos are close to securing a top-five draft selection. If that happens, there's no reason to overlook the game's most importation position after years of half-measures and failed projects.
Justin Herbert's natural skill set will have general manager John Elway slobbering over his potential—which isn't necessarily a good thing considering Elway's track record.
Herbert is 6'6" and 237 pounds with outstanding mobility. He also has an easy release to drive the football down the field. The Oregon Ducks signal-caller is a strong anticipatory thrower when he's comfortable and establishes a rhythm. He's not a polished product, but all of the traits are there for him to become a long-term starter.
Detroit Lions: EDGE Curtis Weaver, Boise State
The Detroit Lions have built an impressive defensive front, especially along the interior. But the unit still lacks a true edge-rusher.
Yes, Trey Flowers signed a five-year, $90 million contract in March. However, Flowers is at his best when he works along the interior against lesser athletes. The team doesn't have a pass-rusher who consistently bends the end and pressures the quarterback.
Even with a 3-8-1 record, the Lions likely won't be in a position to draft the class' best defensive end, Chase Young. The Boise State Broncos' Curtis Weaver isn't too shabby, though. Weaver ranks fourth overall with 57 quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus' Cam Mellor. His 13.5 sacks are third-best in the nation.
Weaver is an intriguing system fit for the Lions because he essentially plays the elephant role (stand-up defensive end). Lions head coach Matt Patricia is from Bill Belichick's coaching tree and loves to use various looks. Weaver can play outside linebacker in odd-man fronts or put his hand in the dirt when Detroit provides four-man looks.
Versatility and pass-rush production usually signal a top prospect.
Green Bay Packers: WR Tyler Johnson, Minnesota
Evaluations can become too complicated. Sure, certain baseline traits are necessary to be a pro. But talent evaluators often overthink their decisions because so much information is at their disposal.
So it goes with the Minnesota Golden Gophers' Tyler Johnson, who is one of the most effective, productive wide receivers in the 2020 draft class. He won't blow away scouts with his size or speed (6'2", 205 lbs). But he does what every team should want from its targets: He gets open and is reliable.
Johnson has caught 144 passes for 2,194 yards and 22 touchdowns over the last two seasons. He's a skilled route-runner with outstanding body control.
The Green Bay Packers, meanwhile, continue their search for a legitimate second option beyond Davante Adams. None of the other wide receivers on the roster seem to have earned Aaron Rodgers' trust to the point where the offense consistently clicks. Geronimo Allison is second among the team's wide receivers with only 26 receptions.
Johnson's skill set screams a future trusted Rodgers target.
Houston Texans: CB Paulson Adebo, Stanford
The Houston Texans already spent much of their draft capital, but they did well with the acquisitions of left tackle Laremy Tunsil, running back Duke Johnson, wide receiver Kenny Stills and cornerback Gareon Conley.
The draft might be a tad boring for Houston since it only has one selection slated for the first two days, and it must maximize its second-round pick.
Cornerback will be a major area of interest since Bradley Roby, Johnathan Joseph and Phillip Gaines will be free agents after this season.
Stanford's Paulson Adebo looked like a first-round lock after his sophomore campaign. Adebo was second in the FBS with 24 passes defended in 2018. His ball skills are second to none. But he hasn't been nearly as impressive during his junior campaign. There have been flashes, of course. Adebo still shows his natural instincts and lower flexibility to drive on the football and make plays. Unfortunately, he allowed a few big passes, and his season ended early because of an undisclosed injury.
The cornerback's slight regression should benefit the Texans, who will be looking for a top cover corner without the luxury of a high draft pick.
Indianapolis Colts: DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
The Indianapolis Colts aren't strong along their defensive interior. This is problematic since the team's scheme is built around the front's ability to win one-on-one matchups, particularly against the pass.
The Colts' defensive tackle rotation has combined for 4.5 sacks this season. For the edge defenders to be effective, the interior must collapse the pocket. Denico Autry is effective as a converted defensive end because he's quicker and more athletic than most guards and centers. No other defensive tackle provides much of a pass rush.
South Carolina's Javon Kinlaw is one of college football's best interior pass-rushers. He was tied for first among interior defensive linemen with 38 total pressures before last weekend's action, per Pro Football Focus' Cam Mellor. He's tied for first on the Gamecocks with six sacks and has four more quarterback hits.
He's still polishing his pass-rush technique and needs to be more consistent overall, but the 6'6", 310-pound defensive tackle is the perfect project to insert into the Colts lineup and can provide exactly what the unit lacks.
Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
The Jacksonville Jaguars need offensive weapons.
DJ Chark Jr. developed nicely this season with a team-leading 56 receptions for 834 yards, and Chris Conley is a solid second or third option. But no defense is truly threatened by any of Jacksonville's targets beyond Chark.
For the Jaguars to maximize $88 million quarterback Nick Foles (or rookie sensation Gardner Minshew II) and take pressure off running back Leonard Fournette, a secondary target is necessary.
The Jaguars sit in an interesting position. They have a fringe shot at a top-10 pick after a 4-7 start yet are one of the few squads that should seriously consider a wide receiver that early.
Alabama's Jerry Jeudy is the consensus top prospect at the position. He's a route-running savant with exceptionally quick feet off the snap and out of his break.
Jeudy would push Chark from the featured WR1 role into a complementary position—which has the potential to make Jacksonville's offense far more dynamic.
Kansas City Chiefs: CB CJ Henderson, Florida
Can a cornerback cover? That is the primary question any talent evaluator must ask themselves when discussing the position.
Some corners will be more physical and far better tacklers, but those skills don't mean much if they're constantly beaten in coverage. Everyone wants a complete prospect, but that type of talent is rare. Instead, prioritization must occur. The NFL is a pass-first league, and franchises must build their defenses accordingly.
Florida's CJ Henderson will look bad when asked to make tackles. Even so, he's still one of the smoothest cover corners in his class. His hip fluidity and recovery speed are excellent.
Besides, the Kansas City Chiefs aren't in a position to be too picky. Their first selection will be in the back half of the first round. Second, Kansas City's defense still ranks among the league's worst. Finally, the team could be bereft of cornerback talent after free agency since Bashaud Breeland, Kendall Fuller, Keith Reaser and Morris Claiborne are all on expiring contracts.
Henderson isn't a complete corner, but he has the chance to complete the Chiefs defense.
Los Angeles Chargers: OT Josh Jones, Houston
The Los Angeles Chargers are falling apart with a 4-7 record and major questions at two premium positions.
Philip Rivers will turn 38 years old in a week, ranks second-worst with 14 interceptions and is set to enter free agency after this season. At the same time, the Chargers offensive line, particularly the tackles, struggles to protect Rivers.
The Chargers are not quite terrible enough to select Rivers' potential replacement. Burrow and Herbert will likely be off the board if Los Angeles remains at the back end of the top 10. Depending on Tua Tagovailoa's medical status, the Chargers might not take the risk on his hip.
So, the front office can turn its attention to offensive tackle.
Right tackle is a disaster, while left tackle Russell Okung is aging (32 next season) and has medical concerns. Like quarterback, the top tackle prospects could be off the board, but Houston's Josh Jones is rapidly gaining interest. The 6'7", 310-pound blocker is a tailor-made blindside protector and four-year starter. Jones came into this month as college football's second-highest graded offensive tackle, per Pro Football Focus' Cam Mellor.
Los Angeles Rams: OT Trey Adams, Washington
The Los Angeles Rams lack future assets after numerous trades. As a result, the team, which has fallen to 6-5 this year, doesn't own a first-round pick—which is unfortunate for the Rams because the offensive line is a major issue.
The transition from center John Sullivan and left guard Rodger Saffold to Brian Allen and Joseph Noteboom hasn't gone smoothly. On top of that, stalwart left tackle Andrew Whitworth is an impending free agent.
Whitworth will turn 38 years old Dec. 12, and Los Angeles requires a contingency plan at a premium position.
The Washington Huskies' Trey Adams has all the makings of a first-round left tackle prospect. The 6'8", 314-pound blocker mirrors defenders well in his pass set and is a physical blocker at the point of attack. But he also has a significant injury history. A torn ACL ended Adams' 2017 campaign. The bulky blindside protector then endured a back injury that caused him to miss 10 games to open the 2018 season.
The Rams aren't in a position to overlook a premium talent if Adams slides to them.
Miami Dolphins: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
The "Tank for Tua" strategy didn't go as planned, yet everything could still work out in the Miami Dolphins' favor.
The front office did everything in its power to ensure the team would get next year's No. 1 overall pick. Yet, the damndest thing happened: The Dolphins continued to play hard for head coach Brian Flores and won a couple of games.
A midseason two-game winning streak doomed the Dolphins, or so it seemed. The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson reported team owner Stephen Ross "really, really likes Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa" before the season began.
Without the first overall pick, Miami couldn't guarantee Tugovailoa's acquisition. Then, the unfortunate happened when the Alabama signal-caller suffered a season-ending hip injury Nov. 16.
If the junior declares, he will likely still be a first-round pick, and the Dolphins can snag the efficient, highly accurate passer. If fact, Miami will have two opportunities to do so thanks to the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade. Either the team can select its preferred quarterback with its top-10 selection or wait and use its second first-round pick to secure the future face of the franchise.
Minnesota Vikings: S Antoine Winfield Jr., Minnesota
Certain matches just feel right.
Antoine Winfield Jr. was born to play for the Minnesota Vikings after his father spent nine seasons with the franchise. The potential pairing of Winfield with his father's old team is far more than nostalgia, though. He is arguably college football's best ball hawk and playmaker at safety.
The Minnesota Gophers defensive back was college football's highest-graded safety well into November, according to Pro Football Focus. As of two weeks ago, Winfield allowed an impressively low 0.31 yards per coverage snap and 38.5 passer rating when targeted, per PFF. The redshirt sophomore is third in the nation with seven interceptions. He's also a fantastic open-field tackler, just like his dad was—Winfield leads the Gophers with 76 total tackles.
The Vikings will likely need safety help after this year since Anthony Harris, Jayron Kearse and the recently reacquired Andrew Sendejo could test free agency in 2020. Winfield can pair with Harrison Smith to provide Minnesota with the game's best set of safeties.
New England Patriots: QB Jordan Love, Utah State
The New England Patriots are smart enough to recognize where the game is going, and it's not in the direction of a quarterback like Tom Brady.
The organization must prepare for life without the 42-year-old signal-caller, and it should do so with a mobile heir apparent who can open up the offense with athleticism.
But the Patriots will have to wait as other teams select their franchise quarterbacks earlier in the first round.
Utah State's Jordan Love hasn't performed all that well during his junior campaign, but that works to the Patriots' advantage. New England doesn't necessarily have to spend a first-round pick to find its future QB if previous draft picks are any indication (See: Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett).
As such, the Patriots can do what they love to by trading out of the opening frame and targeting Love a little later. But the potential is still present for him to be an outstanding NFL quarterback. Yes, the Aggies signal-caller has a lopsided 14-to-15 touchdown-to-interception ratio. However, translatable traits are apparent. Love displays the necessary toughness in the pocket and fearlessness to attempt tight-window throws. He puts too much on himself at present, though.
New Orleans Saints: CB Cameron Dantzler, Mississippi State
Whatever the New Orleans Saints do with Drew Brees and Teddy Bridgewater, both of whom are impending free agents, will have serious implications regarding the organization's draft strategy.
The most likely scenario is one of the two signal-callers re-sign to be the starter.
If that does occur, the Saints can concentrate on other areas. Cornerback, in particular, may suffer significant turnover next season. Both Eli Apple and P.J. Williams are scheduled to enter free agency.
Mississippi State's Cameron Dantzler has as much upside an any cornerback prospect. His combination of length (6'2", 185 lbs) and aggressiveness at the jam make him an effective man-cover corner with the requisite tools to develop into an outstanding all-around performer. He's still learning the position after arriving in Starkville as high school quarterback and defensive back, but he's already an instinctive defender with the ball in the air, though he needs to trust his technique more.
Even if one or both of the veteran defensive backs re-sign, a team can never have too many talented corners.
New York Giants: DE Chase Young, Ohio State
The New York Giants are backing their way into an optimal situation, because they're positioned to select the best overall draft prospect, Ohio State's Chase Young, next April.
General manager Dave Gettleman took a running back with the second overall pick in 2018. He then pressed the situation last April with quarterback Daniel Jones at No. 6. While these looked like awkward decisions at the time, everything could work in the Giants' favor. The team and its fanbase just had to endure a dismal 2019 campaign to get there.
At 2-9, the Giants own the second overall pick. Since the Cincinnati Bengals are likely to select a franchise quarterback at No. 1, the Giants should land one of the most talented prospects of the last decade.
Young is on par with what Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney were when they entered the league. The 6'5", 265-pound edge-defender with cat-like quickness and impressive power can turn the edge with the best of them. As a result, he leads major college football with 16.5 sacks despite missing two games due to suspension.
A core of Young, Jones and Barkley should make the Giants highly competitive. The franchise only had to screw everything else up to get there.
New York Jets: CB Kristian Fulton, LSU
The New York Jets are awesome at stopping the run; they're not nearly as good at slowing opposing aerial attacks. This is due, in part, to personnel.
Trumaine Johnson has been a massive free-agent bust after signing a five-year, $72.5 million deal last year. The organization can save $3 million against the 2020 salary cap by cutting Johnson, who is on injured reserve with an ankle setback, after this season.
Brian Poole is a very good nickel corner. But the team lacks quality outside options. Darryl Roberts hasn't performed well. Arthur Maulet and Blessuan Austin showed promise in recent weeks. But the defense lacks a true top cover corner.
LSU's Kristian Fulton is considered the second-best cornerback prospect in the class behind Ohio State's Jeffrey Okudah. The 6'0", 200-pound defender displays very good footwork, explosive short-area quickness and outstanding route recognition. According to Pro Football Focus, Fulton tied for the best forced incompletion rate (29.5 percent) after the team's Nov. 9 meeting with the Alabama Crimson Tide and their exceptional wide receiver corps.
If Fulton replaces Johnson, he has the potential to create a positive ripple effect throughout the entire Jets defense.
Oakland Raiders: Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado
The Oakland Raiders had a plan.
"We don't want to have a good receiving corps; I want to have the best receiving corps in football, and I think in order to have the best you have to have the best, and in my opinion we added the best wide receiver in football," head coach Jon Gruden told Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith after the team acquired Antonio Brown over the offseason.
To channel Luke Skywalker from Star Wars: The Last Jedi, "Amazing. Every word of what you just said was wrong."
Brown never played for the Raiders. Gruden's offense features the league's 16th-best passing attack. Not a single Raiders wide receiver ranks among the top 55 in receiving yards. Tight end Darren Waller is the team's best downfield threat.
Colorado's Laviska Shenault Jr. is spectacular after the catch, and he makes difficult receptions look routine. The 6'2", 220-pound target is the perfect complement to Oakland's Tyrell Williams, who is more of a vertical threat.
But injuries slowed Shenault over the last two seasons. As such, he's not considered an elite wide receiver prospect, as Alabama's Jerry Jeudy and Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb have garnered more attention. The Raiders may not sit among the top 10 overall draft picks, but they can get Gruden's passing plan back on track with Shenault.
Philadelphia Eagles: WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has attempted the eighth-most pass attempts this season. Not one of his wideouts ranks among the top 60 in receptions or receiving yardage. That's a problem.
Granted, DeSean Jackson's absence thanks to a season-ending core muscle surgery doesn't help, but the team has reached the point where it wants to incorporate rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward more because Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor aren't getting the job done.
The Eagles are due for a reset at the position. Agholor is a free agent after this season. Per Over the Cap, the organization can move on from Jackson and Jeffrey after 2020. At that point, Philadelphia will be left with Arcega-Whiteside as its top option unless the front office is proactive.
A disappointing 2019 does provide options.
Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb is the epitome of a smooth operator. His routes are crisp, he shows tremendous body control, and his ability to track the ball is outstanding. He creates as much or more separation as any target in the class.
Lamb and Arcega-Whiteside should should form an excellent duo to help Wentz excel.
Pittsburgh Steelers: RB J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State
James Conner isn't Le'Veon Bell. He is a capable back, as last year's Pro Bowl appearances proved. Yet he struggles to stay healthy and isn't an explosive runner.
Conner has two carries of 20 or more yards this season with an average of 3.8 yards per carry.
The Steelers need someone who's capable of creating more than what's available to him. Average backs get what's blocked; good runners make defenders miss to create big plays.
Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins has produced at a high level in each of his three seasons, posting three consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns while averaging 6.1 yards per carry. The 5'10", 217-pound back is a slashing runner and consistent home run threat with 37 career touchdowns.
Of course, the Steelers don't have a first-round pick after the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade, and they're projected to draft toward the latter half of the second round after a surprising 6-5 start. The first tier of running backs—Georgia's D'Andre Swift, Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor and Clemson's Travis Etienne—will likely be off the board, but Dobbins isn't a consolation prize.
San Francisco 49ers: CB Bryce Hall, Virginia
Bryce Hall is the forgotten man in the 2020 draft class because he suffered an ankle injury that required surgery and ended his senior campaign.
Yet he earned the highest grade among cornerbacks last season by allowing a 69 quarterback rating in coverage and a 31.9 forced incompletion percentage, according to Pro Football Focus. The 2018 second-team All-American started 2019 well with four defended passes and three tackles for loss before his injury.
Teams must evaluate his long-term health, though, which allows other prospects to leapfrog the talented cover corner. The San Francisco 49ers can bide their time and see which cornerbacks are available near the end of the first round.
General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan built arguably the league's best roster. The corner spot opposite Richard Sherman can be improved, though. Plus, the front office must plan for life without the four-time Pro Bowler, who turns 32 before he enters the last year of his deal in 2020.
Seattle Seahawks: TE Hunter Bryant, Washington
At one point this season, the Seattle Seahawks didn't have a healthy tight end on their roster.
This doesn't mean the front office should have a knee-jerk reaction and select a prospect to fill the position. Injuries are a fact of life at the NFL level. Even so, the Seahawks need offensive weapons and tight end insurance after Will Dissly's second season-ending injury in as many years.
The wide receiver corps remains a work in progress with Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf and Josh Gordon. Dissly is third on the team with 262 receiving yards despite going on injured reserve seven weeks ago.
Washington Huskies tight end Hunter Bryant can fill multiple voids. First, he'll help the Seahawks' depth at the position. Second, he can serve as a complementary piece to Dissly, who is a better in-line option. Third, he is basically an oversized wide receiver (6'2", 239 lbs) and can work out of the slot or as an H-back.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Jacob Eason, Washington
Jameis Winston's tenure as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback is coming to an end. He's never developed beyond the player who originally warranted a No. 1 overall pick in 2015 and remains a turnover machine (100 over four-plus seasons), which is unacceptable.
The Buccaneers must find someone head coach Bruce Arians can groom. Washington's Jacob Eason is the ideal Arians quarterback. He's a big-framed signal-caller (6'6', 227 lbs) who stands tall in the pocket and drives the ball down the field.
"He has a strong arm, extremely strong arm," Washington State linebacker Jahad Woods said prior to Friday's Apple Cup loss to the Huskies, per the Seattle Times' Theo Lawson. "He's a big quarterback; he knows how to move. He knows how to move in the pocket. He knows how to be a poised quarterback, and he reads his keys really well."
The junior hasn't been as efficient at the end of the 2019 campaign, but the Bucs aren't in a position to select an elite quarterback prospect since they sit outside of the top 10 at 4-7. Eason is a perfect fit for Arians' system, and situation matters as much as raw talent.
Tennessee Titans: QB Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
Marcus Mariota entered the year as the Tennessee Titans' starting signal-caller and had one more opportunity to earn franchise-caliber status. He failed as free agency looms. Enter Ryan Tannehill.
The Miami Dolphins' failed first-round pick found new life in the Titans lineup. He is the most proficient quarterback from a clean pocket this season, according to Pro Football Focus' Kevin Cole, and Tennessee remains in the playoff hunt thanks to improved play at the most important position.
However, the Titans have a decision to make. Do they commit to Tannehill beyond this season or hedge their bets?
The 31-year-old played well above expectations and earned another contract beyond this season, but the organization can't overlook the QB position in the draft.
It should invest in another talented option. Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts isn't on the level of Baker Mayfield or Kyler Murray, but he continues to impress as the Sooners' latest offensive maestro—he leads FBS college football with 47 total touchdowns. Both Tannehill and Hurts have the skill sets to maximize Tennessee's strong ground game because of their mobility.
Washington Redskins: OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia
Trent Williams remains a member of the Washington Redskins in name only. The organization must find a new left tackle because the seven-time Pro Bowler doesn't plan on returning to the team.
"It is what it is, at this point," Williams told The Athletic's Rhiannon Walker. "It's over with. I'll never be a Redskin again, so I don't have to worry about it."
That's about as definitive of a statement as it can get.
Donald Penn, meanwhile, is nothing more than a Band-Aid at left tackle and a free agent after this year.
Washington must protect its investment in first-round quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your viewpoint), Washington's disastrous campaign has it among the league's three worst squads and in prime position to land the best offensive line prospect.
Georgia's Andrew Thomas has a skill set similar to Philadelphia Eagles nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters because of his build (6'5", 320 lbs), length, power at the point of attack and movement skills.