The 2020 NFL Draft's Answer to Every Team's Biggest Problem

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2020

The 2020 NFL Draft's Answer to Every Team's Biggest Problem

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    Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    As NFL draft season heats up, the 2020 class will go under an intense evaluation process as teams match prospects with their picks.

    First, clubs have to identify roster issues before sifting through potential targets. In some cases, contract extensions, trades and free agency will be better suited to address holes.

    For now, we'll highlight every team's biggest problem and follow with a draft solution. Perhaps a club needs a dual-threat running back to balance its offensive attack or its defense lacks a reliable pass-rusher.

    There are two guidelines to keep in mind: This isn't a first-round mock draft; we'll also discuss potential Day 2 prospects who could strengthen weak areas. Secondly, these selections will focus on realistic options. In other words, Ohio State edge-rusher Chase Young may be ideal for many teams, but he's not a feasible target for one that picks in the 20s or even outside the top five.

                 

Arizona Cardinals: No Dominant Lead Wide Receiver

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    Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    Answer: WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma

    Larry Fitzgerald will mull retirement in the offseason. Christian Kirk produces at the level of a solid No. 2 wide receiver but doesn't stretch the field, averaging 11.7 yards per catch. At 5'11", 200 pounds, the Texas A&M product isn't an imposing presence either.

    Last year, the Arizona Cardinals selected a trio of wide receivers in the draft: Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler and KeeSean Johnson.

    Isabella and Johnson showed flashes, but neither eclipsed 190 receiving yards. Butler didn't play because he landed on injured reserve with a broken finger.

    One of the three wideouts may pan out into a solid starter. Still, the Cardinals could have the opportunity to pair quarterback Kyler Murray with his former Oklahoma teammate CeeDee Lamb. The two forged a strong rapport in 2018.

    The Cardinals may also take a look at Alabama's Jerry Jeudy, though Lamb finished with better numbers this season, registering 62 receptions for 1,327 yards and 14 touchdowns to Jeudy's 77, 1,163 and 10.

    Arizona must also strengthen Murray's pass protection. Yet pairing Murray with Lamb should bode well for the Cardinals' 24th-ranked aerial attack.

Atlanta Falcons: Little Pressure Off the Edge

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    Iowa edge-rusher A.J. Espensa
    Iowa edge-rusher A.J. EspensaJustin Casterline/Getty Images

    Answer: EDGE A.J. Epenesa, Iowa

    Despite his pass-rushing surge in the second half of the 2019 campaign—6.5 of his eight sacks came in the final eight games—Vic Beasley Jr. may hit the open market.

    Beasley's sack numbers dropped in 2017 and 2018, when he logged five apiece after a 15.5 tally in 2016. As a result, the Atlanta Falcons may explore other options at defensive end, particularly in the draft. The defense needs pass-rush help, ranking 29th with 28 sacks in 2019.

    The Falcons, who pick 16th, may have a chance at second-tier edge-rusher prospects A.J. Epenesa or Yetur Gross-Matos. In the best-case scenario, Atlanta would select the former—even if general manager Thomas Dimitroff has to move up a couple of spots.

    According to Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer, a scout compared Epenesa to Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.

    "[Chase] Young is more athletic by a hair and gets more hype," the scout said. "But I bet Epenesa is the better pro. There's some J.J. Watt to his game."

    That assessment should intrigue the Falcons. Epenesa racked up 26.5 sacks in three terms at Iowa. He's an ideal match for Atlanta's biggest defensive need.

Baltimore Ravens: Lack of Natural Pass Rush

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    LSU edge-rusher K'Lavon Chaisson
    LSU edge-rusher K'Lavon ChaissonGregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Answer: EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU

    This season, the Baltimore Ravens had the highest blitz rate (54.9 percent) in the NFL. Defensive coordinator Don Martindale can bring extra defenders toward the pocket because of the secondary's exceptional coverage ability. Cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith can handle their assignments without much help.

    In some situations, the Ravens blitz out of necessity. The defense doesn't have a consistent edge-rusher other than Matt Judon, who's set to become a free agent. Baltimore will likely re-sign him, but the unit can't expect to generate decent pocket pressure with one solid defender on the edge.

    The Ravens will have to deal with the downside of winning games. They won't draft until the mid- to late 20s, and general manager Eric DeCosta isn't going to find top-notch pass-rushers on the board. Instead, he must go with upside.

    If he declares, LSU's K'Lavon Chaisson has shown enough to sneak into the first round and possesses enough upside to become a quality pro. He's only a redshirt sophomore and has logged 9.5 sacks in 25 games.

    On the other hand, Chaisson comes off the edge with explosiveness that will impress scouts. He could experience tremendous growth through his rookie term under a quality coaching staff.

    As pass-rusher Jaylon Ferguson finds his way during his sophomore season, Chaisson could surpass him on the depth chart because of his athletic bend around the corners of the pocket.

Buffalo Bills: Small Featured Wide Receivers

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    USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.
    USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Answer: WR Michael Pittman Jr., USC

    You won't find Michael Pittman Jr. in the first round of many mock drafts. He'll need a strong showing at the NFL Scouting Combine to elevate his stock.

    Even if Pittman isn't a first-round pick, the Buffalo Bills should set their sights on the 6'4", 220-pound wideout.

    The Bills have smaller wide receivers in big roles. John Brown (5'11, 178 lbs) and Cole Beasley (5'8", 174 lbs) are their top two players at the position. They could struggle against physical defensive backs who attempt to disrupt timing with press-man coverage.

    Wideout Robert Foster (6'2", 196 lbs) wasn't able to pick up from where he left off last year. Duke Williams (6'3", 225 lbs) is still coming along. In case the latter takes a step back like the former, the Bills should consider Pittman, who put together a standout senior term at USC, logging 101 receptions for 1,275 yards and 11 touchdowns.

    Pittman isn't a burner on the perimeter. He's a possession receiver who fights through coverage and moves the chains on crucial downs. Until one of the Bills tight ends flashes consistently in the passing attack, quarterback Josh Allen needs a big target at wide receiver.

Carolina Panthers: Thin Safety Group

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    Utah safety Julian Blackmon
    Utah safety Julian BlackmonAssociated Press

    Answer: S Julian Blackmon, Utah

    At safety, the Carolina Panthers had to turn to Plan B when Rashaan Gaulden didn't claim the starting job. The front office waived him during the season.

    In July, Carolina signed Tre Boston to a one-year deal. He logged 11 pass breakups and three interceptions as a solid addition.

    Under Ron Rivera, the Panthers drafted and signed Boston after he played elsewhere for two seasons. During his time in Carolina, he was a solid deep safety with great ball-tracking skills. With the team's former head coach in Washington, the six-year veteran isn't a lock to return despite his production.

    The Panthers have Eric Reid on the books through the 2021 campaign. Colin Jones, Natrell Jamerson and T.J. Green are also under contract for next season, but they lack starting experience.

    If the Panthers trade Cam Newton, expect team brass to select his potential replacement early in the draft. On Day 2, the front office can address the vacancy at safety, picking Julian Blackmon in the second or third round.

    Blackmon has the ball skills to develop into a starter. He's recorded 20 pass breakups and nine interceptions through four collegiate terms.

    The Utah safety has the see-ball, get-ball mentality in coverage, which would be great for a team that could also lose cornerback James Bradberry if he's not extended or franchise-tagged.

Chicago Bears: Unreliable Availability at Guard

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    Clemson guard John Simpson
    Clemson guard John SimpsonAssociated Press

    Answer: OG John Simpson, Clemson

    We may have seen the last of offensive guard Kyle Long with the Chicago Bears after he landed on injured reserve for the fourth straight season. Since 2016, he's missed 34 contests because of a variety of injuries. The team has a $9.6 million 2020 option on his contract. He announced his intention to step away from the game Sunday.

    In 2019, Rashaad Coward replaced Long at right guard and put together a solid season, but he's a converted defensive lineman with limited short-term upside.

    In order to shore up the spot and strengthen the ground attack, which would help quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears could target a prospect with one of their two second-round picks.

    Though John Simpson has settled at left guard this season, he's lined up on both sides of the Clemson line. His versatility would be an added plus in case of injuries.

    At 6'4", 330 pounds, Simpson isn't going to impress with light feet, though he knows how to use his frame to wall off defenders. He can match power with stout defensive tackles and create openings for ball-carriers to follow his lead.

Cincinnati Bengals: Unsettled Quarterback Position

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    LSU quarterback Joe Burrow
    LSU quarterback Joe BurrowAssociated Press

    Answer: QB Joe Burrow, LSU

    This is a problem with a straightforward solution because of the Cincinnati Bengals' draft position.

    The Bengals opened the season with quarterback Andy Dalton. He lost his job to rookie fourth-rounder Ryan Finley for three weeks but reclaimed the spot for the final five games.

    Going into a contract year, Dalton doesn't stand on firm ground—his future with the team seems cloudy at best. The midseason decision to bench him indicates the coaching staff isn't satisfied with the quarterback situation.

    Whether or not the Bengals allow Dalton to play out his deal, the front office has an easy choice in April: Select Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick.

    Burrow has had a spectacular 2019 term at LSU, throwing for 5,208 yards and 55 touchdowns with just six interceptions. He won the Heisman Trophy and accounted for a record-breaking eight scores (seven passing and one rushing) against Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl.

    Burrow doesn't have much to prove. In no way, shape or form could the Bengals mess this up. The LSU standout can change the franchise.

Cleveland Browns: Shaky Blind-Side Pass Protection

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    USC offensive tackle Austin Jackson
    USC offensive tackle Austin JacksonKelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    Answer: OT Austin Jackson, USC

    The Cleveland Browns' new general manager and head coach must address the offensive line. In 2019, the club ranked 17th in pass protection, per Football Outsiders.

    Secondly, if the incoming coaching staff prefers to bolster the ground attack to take some pressure off quarterback Baker Mayfield, the front line has to be a stouter group. Nick Chubb finished second in rushing yards (1,494). He could have an even more stellar campaign running behind an improved five-man group.

    Ideally, offensive tackles can line up on either side, but that position flexibility isn't a given for rookies. The Browns should target a prospect with extensive experience at left tackle as opposed to a right tackle who will need to go through a transition.

    Jedrick Wills Jr. and Tristan Wirfs primarily played right tackle at Alabama and Iowa. Georgia's Andrew Thomas may not be available at No. 10. USC's Austin Jackson could creep into the first round or remain available for Day 2.

    On the collegiate level, Jackson has started primarily at left tackle. He could push to replace Greg Robinson, who's on an expiring contract. He allowed 4.5 sacks this season, per the Washington Post. Keep in mind, the six-year veteran was benched in Week 8.

    Jackson has the capability to step into a starting role and grow. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller lists him as the fourth-best offensive tackle in the class.

Dallas Cowboys: Low Takeaway Rate

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    LSU safety Grant Delpit
    LSU safety Grant DelpitSean Gardner/Getty Images

    Answer: Grant Delpit, LSU

    The Dallas Cowboys depend on punts to end drives because they don't force enough turnovers. The defense ranked tied for 25th in takeaways this season.

    The Dallas secondary doesn't have a consistent playmaker who erases drives with interceptions. In 2019, only two Cowboys defenders logged multiple picks: cornerback Jourdan Lewis and safety Xavier Woods. They had two apiece.

    With safety Jeff Heath set to hit free agency, the Cowboys should consider Grant Delpit if he's available at No. 17.

    Delpit could be the first safety off the board, which would make the Cowboys front office sweat it out, barring a trade. Delpit has had an average 2019 campaign on paper, logging 59 tackles, two interceptions and seven pass breakups.

    Furthermore, questions about his tackling technique may cause him to slip a bit. The Cowboys don't need a tone-setter, though. They can pay a free-agent safety for that role. The LSU product covers ground in pass coverage—specifically in deep zone assignments.

    Lining up in center field, Delpit can track the ball and take away possessions, bailing out a fatigued defense and giving the offense more scoring opportunities.

Denver Broncos: Uncertainty at Center

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    Wisconsin center Tyler Biadasz
    Wisconsin center Tyler BiadaszDylan Buell/Getty Images

    Answer: C Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin

    Before the Denver Broncos look to add a wide receiver to compete for the No. 2 spot, the front office should look to solidify the offensive line. Center Connor McGovern will be a free agent, which will leave a void at the pivot.

    We often overlook the quarterback-center pairing. The man in the middle of the offensive line must serve as an anchor and cerebral component to the unit. He's the guy who makes the pre-snap checks and adjustments to protections.

    If the Broncos plan to aid quarterback Drew Lock's development, they need to provide him with some help, specifically someone who is a stabilizer within the five-man front and keeps interior pressure at bay.

    Tyler Biadasz would fill both needs. He's been a fixture for the Wisconsin offensive line in three consecutive terms. He can step into a starting role in Week 1. Since 2017, he started 41 games for the Badgers.

    On top of Biadasz's extensive time at the pivot, he's helped lead the way for Wisconsin's perpetually strong ground attacks.

Detroit Lions: Uncertainty on Interior of Defensive Line

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    Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown
    Auburn defensive tackle Derrick BrownMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Answer: DT Derrick Brown, Auburn

    In a league with an increasing number of pass-heavy offenses, interior defenders don't rank atop the solutions list for most clubs. However, the Detroit Lions have a glaring issue on the front line.

    This season, the Lions ranked 21st against the run. The defense could lose three linemen in the offseason. A'Shawn Robinson and Mike Daniels have expiring contracts, and the latter played only nine games during the 2019 term because of a foot injury. Damon Harrison Sr. will contemplate retirement.

    Derrick Brown would add some resistance up front. He could also pressure the pocket from the interior, which is an added plus for a defense that finished tied for 29th in sacks.

    Brown recorded 170 tackles, including 33 for loss, and 12.5 sacks through four terms at Auburn. He could draw some double-teams as he develops into a solid pro. Defensive end Trey Flowers may see more one-on-one situations on the edge with the 6'5", 318-pounder in the middle.

    As a potential top-five pick, Brown is a realistic choice for the Lions at No. 3. Ideally, Detroit would trade back a few spots with a quarterback-needy team to take the powerful interior lineman.

Green Bay Packers: Inconsistent No. 2 Wide Receiver

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    TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor
    TCU wide receiver Jalen ReagorJohn E. Moore III/Getty Images

    Answer: WR Jalen Reagor, TCU

    At first glance, Jalen Reagor's 2019 numbers may scare you off—but take a closer look.

    After a strong sophomore campaign, logging 72 receptions for 1,061 yards and nine touchdowns, Reagor's production dropped off—largely because of the quarterback play and a shift to the ground attack. Three TCU players, including freshman signal-caller Max Duggan, recorded at least 130 carries and 537 rushing yards.

    If Reagor played in an offense that featured more of the aerial attack, he would've likely built on a solid 2018. Still, when you look at his game tapes, the 5'11" 195-pound wideout brings a spark to the offense and special teams as a punt returner.

    Reagor can bolster the Green Bay Packers' wide receiver group with his ability to stretch defenses. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers can use his arm to find the slender speedster downfield for chunk plays.

    In 2018, the Packers selected three wide receivers: J'Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown. The team waived the first in August. The other two flashed glimpses of potential, but they haven't had quick career starts.

    The Green Bay passing attack didn't impress in its first season under head coach Matt LaFleur. A new dynamic weapon would add an explosive component to the unit in 2020.

Houston Texans: Little Pocket Pressure

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    Syracuse edge-rusher Alton Robinson
    Syracuse edge-rusher Alton RobinsonMitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Answer: EDGE Alton Robinson, Syracuse

    In 2019, the Houston Texans finished 30th in quarterback pressures. Of course, the front office just extended outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, who led the club in sacks (7.5). Team brass has to do a little more to bolster the pass rush off the edge.

    After trading Jadeveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks, the Texans need a consistent edge-rusher opposite Mercilus. Brennan Scarlett has shown signs, but he's not someone to rely on at the position.

    The Texans don't have a first-round pick because of the Laremy Tunsil trade, so they'd have to address this issue on Day 2 of the draft. Alton Robinson would bring a pass rush from the perimeter as a complement to Mercilus.

    Robinson's sack numbers (four) took a step back this season. Still, scouts can look at the 2018 term (10 sacks) to see his potential as an NFL edge-rusher. The Syracuse product can apply pocket pressure and take down ball-carriers in the backfield with reliable tackling. He's an athletic defender who can cause problems for offensive tackles.

Indianapolis Colts: Inconsistent No. 2 Wide Receiver

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    Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins
    Clemson wide receiver Tee HigginsGerry Broome/Associated Press

    Answer: WR Tee Higgins, Clemson

    Last year, general manager Chris Ballard tried to address the wide receiver position with size during free agency. But Devin Funchess (6'4", 225 lbs) broke his collarbone in the season opener and spent the campaign on injured reserve.

    The Colts have 2019 second-rounder Parris Campbell, who provides speed at the position. This year, the front office can target a chain-mover with size.

    Tee Higgins can elevate the passing attack, specifically in the red zone, with his basketball background, posting up against defenders and high-pointing targets to haul in receptions. The 6'4", 215-pound wideout has recorded 25 touchdown catches over his last two terms at Clemson.

    Ballard didn't give Jacoby Brissett the franchise quarterback label during the team's 2019 wrap-up press conference. If he adds Higgins to the mix, though, the 27-year-old signal-caller could show more of his arm talent while improving his passing numbers.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Subpar Run Defense

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    South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw
    South Carolina defensive tackle Javon KinlawJacob Kupferman/Getty Images

    Answer: DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina

    The Jacksonville Jaguars can address two defensive weaknesses by drafting cornerback Jeff Okudah at No. 9 to replace the traded Jalen Ramsey and tackle Javon Kinlaw at No. 20 for added help against the run. We'll focus on the latter prospect since he'd address a bigger problem.

    In four contests, the Jaguars allowed 216-plus rushing yards, which is inexcusable for a talented defensive front. The unit needs more size, physicality and discipline in the trenches—a defender who's not going to lose track of the ball on misdirections and clever run-play disguises.

    Javon Kinlaw packs a heavy punch at the line of scrimmage. He's rarely washed out of a play in the trenches and displays a quick step out of his stance to shoot gaps for sacks and tackles for loss.

    Kinlaw logged 15 tackles for loss and 10 sacks over the last two terms at South Carolina. He's capable of improving the Jaguars' 28th-ranked run defense while Calais Campbell and Josh Allen rack up sacks.

Kansas City Chiefs: Inefficient Running Back Committee

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    Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins
    Ohio State running back J.K. DobbinsChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Answer: RB J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State

    Remember when the Kansas City Chiefs had Kareem Hunt in the backfield? When quarterback Patrick Mahomes didn't throw deep to Tyreek Hill or down the seam to tight end Travis Kelce, he could hand off to a dynamic running back who was also capable of extending plays in the passing game.

    The Chiefs don't have a lead ball-carrier in their committee, which features LeSean McCoy, Damien Williams and Darrel Williams. The first has an expiring contract and turns 32 years old in July. Rookie sixth-rounder Darwin Thompson can catch the ball out of the backfield, though he doesn't show the traits of a high-end starting tailback.

    At the end of the first round, Kansas City can acquire J.K. Dobbins. He doesn't have the same wiggle as Hunt in open space, but the Ohio State tailback can power through contact, eat up chunks of yards with room to run and pick up blitzing defenders in pass protection.

    The Chiefs need an all-around tailback who's capable of fulfilling multiple responsibilities at the position. More importantly, Dobbins can stabilize the backfield as the workhorse running back who's also a solid threat on screen plays and in the short passing game.

Los Angeles Chargers: Poor Pass Protection on Right Side

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    Alabama offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr.
    Alabama offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr.Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Answer: OT Jedrick Wills Jr., Alabama

    Coming off one of his worst statistical seasons, Philip Rivers also has an expiring contract. He wants to continue his playing career, but head coach Anthony Lynn didn't commit to re-signing him.

    As a result, plenty of mock drafts will slot a quarterback to the Chargers at No. 6. Despite Lynn's vague words about Rivers' standing with the organization, the two sides could come to an agreement. Don't rule out a trade for a signal-caller such as Cam Newton, either.

    With a solid defense that ranked sixth in yards allowed this season, the Chargers may not turn the quarterback reins over to a rookie. Instead, the front office may choose to upgrade the offensive line.

    At right tackle, Sam Tevi (5.5) and Trent Scott (five) allowed a combined 10.5 sacks this season, per the Washington Post. Last year, the former took over for Joe Barksdale, and he's struggled ever since. The latter filled in because of injury this season.

    Assuming Trey Pipkins, who played only left tackle during his rookie campaign in 2019, eventually replaces Russell Okung, the Chargers can add a ready-made starter for the right side in Jedrick Wills Jr. He's listed as the best offensive tackle by Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller.

    Midway through his freshman campaign, Wills solidified himself as a starting right tackle at Alabama. As a standout from a prestigious program, he should be equipped to handle first-string duties right away. The Chargers can plug him in to the line to extend Rivers' career or protect their next signal-caller.

Los Angeles Rams: Insufficient Help at Outside Linebacker

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    Utah edge-rusher Bradlee Anae
    Utah edge-rusher Bradlee AnaeRick Bowmer/Associated Press

    Answer: EDGE Bradlee Anae, Utah

    The Los Angeles Rams traded their first-round pick in the deal for cornerback Jalen Ramsey, so they'll wait until pick No. 52 to make their first selection.

    General manager Les Snead can acquire more talent to compete for unsettled spots on the interior of the offensive line, though one can argue the outside linebacker position needs an influx of talent as well.

    Dante Fowler Jr. may price himself out of Los Angeles after his best season as a pass-rusher, having logged 11.5 sacks. Clay Matthews had a solid first year with the Rams (eight sacks). He'll turn 34 years old in May. His age should encourage the front office to add youth on the edge.

    Bradlee Anae didn't just break out with a big sack number (13) as a senior at Utah. He logged at least seven in his sophomore and junior campaigns, too. His progression over the last three years is encouraging. The Utes edge-defender uses quickness, power and hand technique to break the pocket.

    Anae can use his powerful punch to shed offensive linemen. He can also run by pass protectors to take down the quarterback. More importantly, the 6'3", 265-pounder isn't a straight-line pass-pusher. He's capable of developing moves and counters on the pro level under good coaching.

    The Rams can snag Anae in the middle of the second round and get early results in the sack category.

Miami Dolphins: No Franchise Quarterback

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    Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa
    Alabama quarterback Tua TagovailoaTodd Kirkland/Getty Images

    Answer: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

    Tua Tagovailoa declared for the 2020 draft Monday. Even though he suffered a hip injury that required surgery, which likely means an extended road to a full recovery, the Miami Dolphins should have him on their radar.

    The Dolphins don't have a franchise quarterback on the roster. In 2020, Ryan Fitzpatrick will go into his age-38 term. The coaching staff chose to start him through most of the 2019 campaign. As a result, Josh Rosen didn't play enough for a fair evaluation in his sophomore year.

    In the second half of 2019, Fitzpatrick ran the offense efficiently. He threw for 15 touchdowns and six interceptions in the last nine games, helping the Dolphins to a 5-4 record.

    Miami can select Tagovailoa with the No. 5 overall pick and allow him to fully heal while Fitzpatrick runs the offense in the final year of his deal. The Alabama product wouldn't feel the pressure of rushing back to action. And the Dolphins would have their potential quarterback of the future.

    When healthy, Tagovailoa moves well in the pocket and keeps his eyes downfield for a big throw rather than a long run. He's also accurate with a 69.3 percent completion rate during his time at Alabama.

Minnesota Vikings: Dwindling Starting Talent at Cornerback

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    Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo
    Stanford cornerback Paulson AdeboDavid Madison/Getty Images

    Answer: CB Paulson Adebo, Stanford

    Cornerback seemed like the Minnesota Vikings' strongest position two years ago, so much so that Mike Hughes was viewed as a luxury pick in the first round of the 2018 draft.

    Now, with Xavier Rhodes' decline coupled with expiring contracts for Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander, the Vikings should add another cornerback to join Hughes and Holton Hill.

    This season, the Vikings finished 15th in passing yards allowed. The unit could regress if Waynes and Alexander walk while Rhodes continues to struggle in coverage.

    Paulson Adebo would bring more promise to the secondary. At 6'1", 190 pounds, he has a slender build but positions himself to make plays on the ball. The Stanford standout logged eight interceptions and 27 pass breakups in two terms with the Pac-12 program.

    The Vikings may have to move up a few spots if Adebo shows out at the combine. Because of his tendency to force turnovers, though, he'd be worth the gamble.

New England Patriots: Thin Linebacker Group

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    Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray
    Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth MurrayBrandon Wade/Associated Press

    Answer: LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma

    Going into the 2020 offseason, the New England Patriots will only have three linebackers on the books: Dont'a Hightower, Ja'Whaun Bentley and Derek Rivers. The front office may re-sign Jamie Collins Sr. and Kyle Van Noy. Each put together a solid season despite missing out on the Pro Bowl.

    If Collins and Van Noy depart, the Patriots would have to replace key components on the second level of their defense.

    Kenneth Murray doesn't have the pass coverage production (six pass breakups and zero interceptions in 42 games) that suggests he'll flourish in open space against spread offenses. However, at 6'2", 234 pounds, the Oklahoma linebacker moves well laterally and possesses the athleticism to turn potential into production in the pros.

    The Patriots can readily utilize Murray in blitz packages. He's proven to be effective in that area with 9.5 sacks through three collegiate terms. Similar to Collins, who's also an athletic linebacker, Murray could contribute in multiple defensive looks if he can learn to get his hand on the ball in passing situations.

New Orleans Saints: Inconsistent No. 2 Wide Receiver

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    LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson
    LSU wide receiver Justin JeffersonDanny Karnik/Associated Press

    Answer: WR Justin Jefferson, LSU

    The New Orleans Saints need a reliable second wideout alongside Michael Thomas. Ted Ginn Jr.'s contract is expiring, and Tre'Quan Smith has been inconsistent through two seasons. He also had an ankle injury that may have delayed his development this year.

    Following his shining performance against Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl, Justin Jefferson may see his draft stock rise in the coming weeks through the combine.

    Jefferson caught 14 passes for 227 yards and four touchdowns in his last outing, which grabbed headlines following LSU's rout of Oklahoma. Throughout the 2019 term, he's been a reliable high-volume target, leading the team in receptions (102) and notching 18 touchdowns.

    Behind Thomas, Jefferson could surpass Smith for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart. He offers quickness with the size (6'3", 192 lbs) to battle for and haul in contested targets.

New York Giants: Subpar Perimeter Pass Protection

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    Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas
    Georgia offensive tackle Andrew ThomasButch Dill/Associated Press

    Answer: OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia

    During the 2018 offseason, the New York Giants signed Nate Solder to a four-year, $62 million deal, but he's been a disappointment at left tackle, allowing 20.5 sacks over the last two seasons, per the Washington Post.

    With right tackle Mike Remmers set to hit free agency, Big Blue needs to reset its perimeter offensive line personnel.

    General manager Dave Gettleman likes to talk about big offensive linemen as "hog mollies." He needs to take one in Andrew Thomas at No. 4 overall.

    Thomas could start in Week 1. He has a thick frame (6'5", 320 lbs) and plays to his strengths. The Georgia product looks like a cornerstone prospect capable of locking down the position for a solid decade.

    Thomas uses his hands (without holding) and possesses just enough quickness to open space for back-side running plays.

    The Giants could slide Solder to right tackle to salvage his tenure with the team—similar to Ereck Flowers' transition in 2018. The move would allow Thomas to play his natural position on the left side.

New York Jets: Porous Secondary

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    Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah
    Ohio State cornerback Jeff OkudahPaul Sancya/Associated Press

    Answer: CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State

    New York Jets fans would call out the need to add a top offensive lineman in the draft. However, at No. 11, Gang Green will likely miss out on Andrew Thomas. Tristan Wirfs is a popular name that comes up, but the coaching regime may give Chuma Edoga another shot to lock down the right tackle spot.

    The Jets should address their line issues with veterans on the free-agent market—proven commodities such as guard Brandon Scherff and tackle Jack Conklin—who can step into starting roles.

    The Jets haven't reaped an adequate return on their investment in cornerback Trumaine Johnson. In 2018, he signed a five-year, $72.5 million contract, which suggests the eight-year veteran should be a lead cover man in the secondary.

    Instead, Johnson had a rough first year under new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. He allowed a 74.1 percent completion rate in coverage and lost his starting job for two weeks. The 30-year-old finished the season on injured reserve because of ankle injuries.

    If the Jets have buyer's remorse, they can compensate for their blunder with arguably the top cornerback in the draft. New York may have to move up a couple of spots to select Jeff Okudah, but he'd be worth it.

    Okudah can blanket wide receivers on the perimeter. He's an athletic defender who flips his hips when changing directions and shadows his assignment with crafty footwork. The Jets could use him in man-to-man situations against No. 1 wideouts.

    Okudah would join safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye to form a solid foundational trio of defensive backs.

Oakland Raiders: Subpar Intermediate Pass Coverage

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    Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons
    Clemson linebacker Isaiah SimmonsJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    Answer: LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

    The last time the Oakland Raiders had a quality fixture at middle linebacker was a decade ago: Kirk Morrison. Since then, pass-catching running backs and tight ends have gashed this defense in open space.

    The Raiders don't have a solid coverage linebacker on the roster. Tahir Whitehead fits the two-down mold. He's far better against the run. Nicholas Morrow played safety at Greenville on the collegiate level, but his ball-tracking skills have yet to shine on the professional level.

    Isaiah Simmons does just about everything on the defensive side of the ball. At Clemson, he played three terms at safety before a switch to linebacker. In his final collegiate campaign, the 6'4", 230-pounder has recorded 97 tackles, seven sacks, three interceptions and six pass deflections. 

    As a hybrid-type defender, Simmons can help solve the Raiders' issue at safety with Karl Joseph likely headed to the free-agent market. More importantly, he can fill a pass-coverage void in the middle of the field, matching up against tight ends down the seam or running backs in the flat.

Philadelphia Eagles: Lack of Explosiveness Among Pass-Catchers

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    Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III
    Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs IIIWesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Answer: WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama

    We only saw quarterback Carson Wentz and DeSean Jackson play together for one game—Week 1 against the Washington Redskins. 

    Jackson still has three years left on his deal. Even with him on the roster, the Philadelphia Eagles need another blazer to balance their pass-catching unit. 

    Even if the front office retains Alshon Jeffery and continues to develop rookie second-rounder J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, neither possesses enough quickness to fill Jackson's void as a big-play receiver when he struggles or doesn't suit up because of injury. 

    Tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert are solid pass-catching weapons, but they don't stretch the field. Both averaged fewer than 11 yards per reception this season.

    Henry Ruggs III can stretch a defense thin with his speed and reliable hands. In three terms at Alabama, he averaged 17.5 yards per catch and had 24 touchdown receptions. Look for him to test well at the combine and log one of the fastest 40-yard dash times.

    Instead of depending on Wentz to move the ball down the field with a high volume of attempts (607 passes this season), the Eagles signal-caller could throw to Ruggs and watch him rip off chunk plays after the catch, moving the chains at a more efficient pace.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Hit-or-Miss Tight End Production

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    Purdue tight end Brycen Hopkins
    Purdue tight end Brycen HopkinsMichael Hickey/Getty Images

    Answer: TE Brycen Hopkins, Purdue

    The 2020 class isn't full of top-notch athletic tight ends. The Pittsburgh Steelers could acquire arguably the best prospect at the position in the middle of the second round.

    As JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Diontae Johnson develop at wide receiver, the Steelers should add another big-bodied target at tight end.

    In three seasons with the Steelers, Vance McDonald has shown inconsistencies. He can mow over defenders after the catch, but he's also prone to drops and disappearing acts for long stretches.

    In 2018, McDonald had a career year, logging 50 receptions for 610 yards and four touchdowns with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger. He may get a pass for low production this year without his starting signal-caller. With that said, the 28-year-old has a $7.1 million club option in 2020, which may encourage the front office to find cheaper talent at the position. 

    At 6'5" and 245 pounds, Brycen Hopkins isn't the type of physical tight end who's going to handle edge-rushers and seal the ends on run plays. On the positive side, he's equipped to contribute in the passing game right out of college. The Purdue prospect recorded 61 catches for 830 yards and seven touchdowns this season.

    Hopkins can carry a route down the seam and beat slow-footed defenders for big gains. Even if the Steelers bring back McDonald, they can pair him with Hopkins in heavier sets.

San Francisco 49ers: Limited Long-Term Options at Safety

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    Alabama safety Xavier McKinney
    Alabama safety Xavier McKinneySam Craft/Associated Press

    Answer: S Xavier McKinney, Alabama

    When depth pops up as a primary problem, that's a sign of a solid roster. The San Francisco 49ers need a game-breaker at wide receiver, but they have several young talents at the position, such as Deebo Samuel, Dante Pettis, Jalen Hurd and Trent Taylor. The unit needs a proven veteran playmaker like Emmanuel Sanders. That's an issue for free agency. 

    At safety, Jimmie Ward's contract will expire at the end of the season. Tarvarius Moore could take over the starting job next year. The 49ers should add some competition for the spot alongside Jaquiski Tartt, who's going into a contract year in 2020.

    Xavier McKinney fits into the 49ers' defensive scheme because he can handle multiple responsibilities, including lining up deep and in the slot, supplementing the run defense and going downhill with direct aim at the quarterback.

    In three collegiate terms, McKinney recorded 175 tackles, 13 for loss, six sacks, six forced fumbles, five interceptions with two returned for touchdowns and 15 pass breakups. He's a complete safety capable of compensating for injuries or low production in a variety of spots on the back end of the defense.

Seattle Seahawks: Inconsistent Pass Rush

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    Notre Dame edge-rusher Julian Okwara
    Notre Dame edge-rusher Julian OkwaraCarlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Answer: EDGE Julian Okwara, Notre Dame

    This season, the Seattle Seahawks tied for 29th in sacks. Defensive end Rasheem Green led the team in the category, logging four in 16 contests, which included eight starts.

    Although Jadeveon Clowney has put together solid outings, he doesn't rack up sacks in bunches. Because of his ability to break into the backfield and occasionally drop into shallow zones to disrupt short passes, the Seahawks may re-sign him. Still, that move wouldn't solve the defense's biggest issue.

    Ezekiel Ansah hasn't provided much help in the pass rush on a one-year deal and rookie first-rounder L.J. Collier needs time to develop, which is why the Seahawks should bring in reinforcements at defensive end. 

    In November, Julian Okwara suffered a fractured fibula. Before going down, he logged five sacks and seven tackles for loss and was on his way to another solid campaign at Notre Dame.

    Okwara isn't a complete defensive end; he'll probably sub out for a more physical defender on early downs. Yet, the 6'4", 248-pound edge-rusher can use his athleticism to beat offensive linemen and corral quarterbacks. He's quick enough at the point of attack to wreak havoc near the line of scrimmage.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: No Consistent Dual-Threat Running Back

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    Clemson running back Travis Etienne
    Clemson running back Travis EtienneSean Rayford/Associated Press

    Answer: RB Travis Etienne, Clemson

    We all know head coach Bruce Arians wants to push the ball downfield. Despite quarterback Jameis Winston's frequent errors—he threw 30 interceptions this season—the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ranked fourth in pass attempts.

    Arians fielded a highly productive passing attack with a turnover-prone signal-caller and two Pro Bowl wide receivers. He can help Winston cut down on interceptions with a solid pass-catching option out of the backfield.

    Winston has to learn it's OK to be conservative in certain situations. He doesn't have to show off his big arm and try to fit every ball into a tight window downfield.

    The Buccaneers can likely acquire Travis Etienne on Day 2 of the draft. He'd share the backfield with Ronald Jones II and Dare Ogunbowale. Peyton Barber will probably test free agency in March.

    This season, Jones and Ogunbowale caught a combined 66 passes for 595 yards. The former isn't the most natural pass-catcher. He only logged seven receptions last year and 32 in three terms at USC. The latter doesn't provide much production on the ground. 

    Etienne would provide a dual-threat component to the Buccaneers' running back group. Through three years at Clemson, he's recorded 3,960 yards and 55 touchdowns on the ground. This year alone, the dynamic tailback has caught 32 passes for 396 yards and four touchdowns.

Tennessee Titans: Limitations at Outside Linebacker

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    Alabama edge-rusher Anfernee Jennings
    Alabama edge-rusher Anfernee JenningsVasha Hunt/Associated Press

    Answer: EDGE Anfernee Jennings, Alabama

    Last offseason, the Tennessee Titans signed Cameron Wake, who played in a situational role on the edge opposite Harold Landry during the season. The coaching staff mixed and matched personnel at outside linebacker to offset opponent strengths rather than trot out a complete player at the position throughout the 2019 term.

    Kamalei Correa had a strong finish, logging four sacks in December. He's a decent defender when moving toward the line of scrimmage, but he has minimal coverage capability. He's registered four pass deflections in 54 career contests.

    The Titans should target an edge defender with more versatility—someone who can stay on the field for all three downs opposite Landry.

    At Alabama, Anfernee Jennings proved he could pressure the pocket and drop into shallow coverage in passing situations. Through four collegiate terms, the 22-year-old recorded 33.5 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks, two interceptions and 18 pass breakups, which illustrates his well-rounded skill set.

    Tennessee could land Jennings in the third round and prepare him to start as a rookie.

Washington Redskins: Questions at Left Tackle

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    Houston offensive tackle Josh Jones
    Houston offensive tackle Josh JonesJonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Answer: OT Josh Jones, Houston

    The Redskins can address their biggest area of weakness on Day 2 of the draft.

    According to STATS (via the Washington Post), left tackle Donald Penn allowed five sacks this season. He'll hit the free-agent market and turn 37 years old in April. Don't expect him back with the club next season.

    Because of a dispute over a cancerous tumor on his scalp, Trent Williams will likely suit up elsewhere in 2020. His relationship with the organization seems irreparable. 

    Geron Christian, a 2018 third-rounder, could line up on quarterback Dwayne Haskins' blind side, but he's unproven, having played 189 offensive snaps in two seasons. Secondly, he's tied to the previous regime. Washington fired team president Bruce Allen and hired Ron Rivera for its open head coaching position. 

    Instead of giving Christian a clear pathway to claim the starting left tackle job, the Redskins should hold a competitive battle for the spot. Josh Jones may be able to beat the 23-year-old for the role.

    Jones played left tackle for four terms at Houston. The 6'7", 310-pound offensive lineman can seal the edge, which would allow Haskins to feel more comfortable in the pocket. In 2019, Washington ranked 31st in pass protection, per Football Outsiders.

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