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Matt Miller's Scouting Notebook: Top Needs for Every NFL Team Before Free Agency

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterMarch 13, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Former Alabama teammates wide receiver Henry Ruggs III and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa talk during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 27, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

We're living in stressful times. The NCAA has canceled March Madness. The NBA, NHL and MLB have suspended their seasons, and teams are self-quarantining. The NFL has yet to make announcements regarding the draft or how teams are to handle pro days and private workouts, but the expectation is that information and decisions will come soon.

The NFL, to date, is signaling that things will go on as planned outside of canceling the annual league meeting—as well as announcing the new league year will start March 18 as previously scheduled. And so the NFL is here, too, where you might be finding yourself with more free time to read or listen to a podcast.

If so, this column will get you up to date on the primary needs of all 32 teams and catch you up on the latest NFL and draft news.

Here's hoping for health and safety for each of you and your families. Now on to the article.


Following the end of each season, NFL teams call their scouts in from the road and get all key personnel in a room to discuss the needs they have on the roster. Some needs result from losses in free agency, some are due to regression in play and others arise because players didn't meet expectations from the draft or signing day. But every team comes up with areas where it wants to get better while formulating an offseason plan.

Here's our look at each team's biggest needs. Some needs will be filled by re-signing free agents, while others will last through the free-agent period and the draft without being filled. The franchise tag, transition tag, unrestricted market and draft are all considered when making these lists. So too are future needs because of player age, injury or salary.

          

Bills—WR, EDGE, CB, RB, IDL

Wide receiver has to be high on the Bills' draft list, but in a deep class, waiting and going after a defender early wouldn't be a huge shock.

        

Dolphins—QB, LT, RB, EDGE, IOL

With 14 selections, the Dolphins can cross off this list of needs within the first two rounds, where they have five picks.

      

Jets—LT, WR, EDGE, CB, IOL

The Jets will likely address most needs through free agency, but with the No. 11 overall pick, they're in position to grab a very good tackle, edge-rusher or wide receiver.

        

Patriots—EDGE, WR, TE, IOL, LB

Every plan in New England hinges on Tom Brady's decision, but no matter who is under center, the team must get better at wide receiver and tight end while getting younger on defense.

       

Bengals—QB, WR, LB, EDGE, OT

LSU QB Joe Burrow is considered the front-runner for the No.1 overall selection.
LSU QB Joe Burrow is considered the front-runner for the No.1 overall selection.Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press/Associated Press

With the No. 1 overall pick and money to spend in free agency, the Bengals should have no issues crossing off these needs. A draft of quarterback, linebacker and then wide receiver makes sense.

         

Browns—LT, LB, S, IDL, IOL

The Browns have to figure out a solution at left tackle, but with Christian Kirksey released and Joe Schobert likely to leave in free agency, linebacker is also a big area of need.

        

Ravens—EDGE, LB, IDL, WR, RB

Free agent Matthew Judon makes EDGE a big need, but the team is still looking to replace C.J. Mosley, lost last year in free agency. Upgrades throughout the defense are a priority as the roster must get younger and cheaper.

         

Steelers—EDGE, TE, OT, QB2, WR

With no first-rounder, it'll be tough to fill all the team's needs, but this front office drafts very well outside the top 32 picks. If Bud Dupree is tagged, EDGE is solved as a need.

        

Colts—EDGE, WR, QB, IDL, OT

Will longtime Chargers QB Philip Rivers be the next signal-caller in Indianapolis?
Will longtime Chargers QB Philip Rivers be the next signal-caller in Indianapolis?Charlie Riedel/Associated Press/Associated Press

Many league insiders expect Philip Rivers to cross off the quarterback need. With a ton of cap space, the Colts could be players for Jadeveon Clowney or Chris Jones to fill holes on the defensive line.

         

Jaguars—CB, LB, S, OT, WR

Two first-round picks will help fill the many holes on this roster. The draft's areas of strength (CB, OT, WR) match up with the Jaguars' needs.

        

Texans—CB, EDGE, RB, IOL, RT

No first-rounder makes this a tough spot to fill needs. The Texans will have to be creative but should be an attractive free-agent destination with Deshaun Watson at quarterback.

      

Titans—QB, RB, RT, EDGE, CB

The team's top needs could be filled by re-signing Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry and Jack Conklin, but it's very unlikely all three are back. Cornerback is an underrated need with Logan Ryan also a free agent.

        

Broncos—WR, LB, OT, CB, IDL

The Broncos need to fix some holes from bad draft picks (OT) while also adding to strong areas (WR) to build a competitive roster. With selection No. 15 overall in Round 1, a "best player available" pick makes sense.

       

Chargers—QB, LT, CB, LB, TE

Trading for Trai Turner helps, but the offensive line needs a left tackle now. Quarterback might not be filled until 2021, but it's a definite need.

        

Chiefs—CB, LB, IOL, RB, WR

With only five selections, general manager Brett Veach will have to be creative. A trade back in Round 1 and the potential tag-and-trade of Chris Jones could add to the team's capital.

        

Raiders—LB, WR, CB, S, IDL

Raiders GM Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden head to Las Vegas.
Raiders GM Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden head to Las Vegas.Jeff Chiu/Associated Press/Associated Press

Two picks in Round 1 will help. The Raiders can sit tight at No. 12 overall and draft the best receiver available and then get a linebacker at No. 19 overall—but to do this, they must resist the temptation to draft a quarterback.

        

Cowboys—QB, WR, CB, S, TE

Re-signing or tagging Dak Prescott will solve the need at quarterback, and the same goes for wide receiver Amari Cooper. But until that happens, fans must be at least a little nervous. In Round 1, a defensive back would be ideal.

        

Eagles—WR, CB, LB, S, EDGE

Wide receiver is a key need, but the Eagles have enough holes and future needs that it wouldn't be a surprise to see another position grabbed in Round 1 as the team waits on a receiver.

        

Giants—OT, EDGE, LB, CB, S

The Giants enter a new era under head coach Joe Judge.
The Giants enter a new era under head coach Joe Judge.Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

GM Dave Gettleman doesn't always stick to the prescribed list of needs when filling out his team, but the Giants should be expected to go hard after free agents like Jack Conklin (OT) and Yannick Ngakoue (EDGE) this offseason.

        

Redskins—OT, EDGE, WR, CB, S

Is quarterback a need? It's not on my list, but if Ron Rivera isn't a Dwayne Haskins fan, it'll change the team's entire strategy. For now, handling the left tackle situation with Trent Williams and getting a starting cornerback are the first priorities.

         

Bears—CB, TE, OT, IOL, QB

The Bears own two selections in the second round, which will be important for filling crucial holes on the offensive line and in the secondary. Finding competition for Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback could come via trade.

         

Lions—LB, EDGE, CB, S, IOL

With the No. 3 overall pick, the Lions can grab an elite player on defense, which is exactly where the team's needs exist. A backup quarterback on Day 3 would be a good move with Matthew Stafford's health shaky.

        

Packers—WR, TE, LB, OT, IOL

Get Aaron Rodgers more weapons. That has to be the philosophy of this offseason. It starts in Round 1—unless a coverage linebacker slips to No. 30 overall.

        

Vikings—CB, IDL, QB2, OT, IOL

Offensive tackle in Round 1 wouldn't be a surprise, or a bad pick, but the team also has to start thinking younger on defense.

        

Buccaneers—QB, RB, OT, IDL, S

Head coach Bruce Arians and the Buccaneers could own the 2020 offseason.
Head coach Bruce Arians and the Buccaneers could own the 2020 offseason.Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

The Buccaneers need a long-term answer at quarterback but also have holes to fill in the backfield and on both lines. General manager Jason Licht needs a strong draft.

        

Falcons—EDGE, IDL, CB, TE, QB2

A trade is always possible to grab a top-tier player in Round 1, but with No. 16 overall, the Falcons are in position to get a very good defensive front-four player.

        

Panthers—QB, CB, LB, IDL, IOL

The Panthers could go QB at No. 7 overall or perhaps grab one of the draft's elite defenders. With new head coach Matt Rhule running the show, anything is possible.

         

Saints—WR, LB, IOL, EDGE, S

The Saints are loading up for a Super Bowl run, so expect veteran signings who are scheme fits and ready to roll right away to fill crucial needs as the draft supplements the roster.

        

49ers—S, CB, WR, IDL, IOL

With key free agents in Jimmie Ward, Arik Armstead and Emmanuel Sanders and little cap space, the 49ers will have to be smart about who they keep. The other issue is the team has just six draft picks and none in Rounds 2, 3 or 4.

      

Cardinals—OT, WR, IDL, LB, EDGE

With a top-10 draft pick and needs at tackle and wide receiver—positions where there is plenty of talent—the Cardinals are in good shape to get an impact player early on.

       

Rams—LB, OT, EDGE, IDL, CB

Limited draft picks and needs at weak positions in the class make this a challenging offseason for the Rams. A trade to acquire starter-level players fits the front office's style.

         

Seahawks—EDGE, DL, WR, OT, S

If Jadeveon Clowney is retained, then this becomes an easier offseason plan to execute. In Round 1 the Seahawks should be able to grab an impact defensive lineman.

                              

The Scout's Report

—Pittsburg State (Kan.) cornerback KiAnte Hardin ran a 4.37 at the Kansas State pro day, per scouts who attended the workout. Hardin's time would have been the second-fastest time at the combine for a defensive back. A 5'10", 185-pound blur at the Division II level, Hardin is a deep sleeper at slot cornerback and returner.

Gerry Broome/Associated Press

—Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins declined to work out at the combine in order to rest for his pro day, but the numbers that came in from the workout were confusing. A meager 31-inch vertical jump doesn't match what's seen on Higgins' film, and neither does an unofficial 4.43-second run in the 40-yard dash. In a deep wide receiver class, Higgins was always a candidate to be drafted in the late first round or even early second. Inconsistent workouts will reinforce that.

—Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III moved up my board this week after further evaluation of his game and where he'll fit into an NFL offense. Ruggs now ranks at WR2, slotted only behind his teammate Jerry Jeudy at the position. Ruggs is so much more than just a speed receiver, as he's been often called by media and team evaluators. Like Tyreek Hill, Ruggs does have elite speed, but he also has well-rounded wide receiver skills and is a fantastic yards-after-catch player. He has the talent to be a WR1 in an NFL offense.

—The Oklahoma pro day was Wednesday, and all reports from scouts who were in attendance were positive. One area scout texted to relay that wide receiver CeeDee Lamb looked "amazing" and added: "Don't be surprised if the Raiders take him at No. 12. I don't think he gets past them."

                                   

The Big Board

1. EDGE Chase Young, Ohio State

2. QB Joe Burrow, LSU

3. CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State

4. LB/S Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

5. WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama

6. QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

7. OT Jedrick Wills Jr., Alabama

8. DL Derrick Brown, Auburn

9. EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU

10. DL Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina

11. OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa

12. WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama

13. WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma

14. CB CJ Henderson, Florida

15. RB D'Andre Swift, Georgia

16. OT Mekhi Becton, Louisville

17. LB Patrick Queen, LSU

18. OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia

19. LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma

20. WR Justin Jefferson, LSU

21. EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State

22. QB Justin Herbert, Oregon

23. S Xavier McKinney, Alabama

24. EDGE A.J. Epenesa, Iowa

25. CB Jeff Gladney, TCU

26. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU

27. OC Cesar Ruiz, Michigan

28. WR Tee Higgins, Clemson

29. RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

30. QB Jordan Love, Utah State

31. LB Zack Baun, Wisconsin

32. OT Josh Jones, Houston

                                                 

Parting Shots

       

5. NFL Compensatory Picks

The NFL released information on 32 compensatory picks this week. The New England Patriots lead the league with four selections awarded, including two in the third round. Denver, Houston, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Seattle and the New York Giants each were awarded three selections.

         

4. Sleeper of the Week

Louisiana-Lafayette guard Robert Hunt is a violent player on the interior offensive line and a master in the run game. A sports hernia surgery has limited his predraft workouts, but Hunt remains one of the best of the interior offensive line class. His recovery timeline will play a huge part in where he's selected in the draft, but the expectation now is the middle rounds.

         

3. Riser of the Week                

Mark Wallheiser/Associated Press

The 2020 running back class is notably deep with household names like Jonathan Taylor and D'Andre Swift near the top of every list. One back who is moving steadily up the board without being particularly well known is Florida State's Cam Akers. A productive, well-rounded back who easily profiles as a featured player thanks to his combination of power, vision and catching ability, Akers looks to be a Round 2 selection and a rookie starter.

      

2. Faller of the Week

Quarterback Jake Fromm was a very good college quarterback, but his lack of athletic traits and arm strength are major concerns when projecting him forward to the NFL. There are schemes where Fromm could have success, but he needs a good offensive line and a play-action game to keep him clean. Even then, there are legitimate concerns about his accuracy outside the hashes. Fromm could end up surprising us all like a Kirk Cousins-type quarterback, but more and more he looks like a solid backup option.

          

1. Stick to Football is back in studio this week with our first 2020 two-round mock draft, with all three hosts making picks.

Check out all our podcast episodes, which are also available on YouTube as a video series, and subscribe if you haven't already. We will also post a ton of behind-the-scenes content on our Instagram page.

                                

Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report. Salary-cap info via Spotrac unless otherwise noted.

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