Every NFL Team's Biggest Red Flag Heading into 2021 Draft

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistApril 10, 2021

Every NFL Team's Biggest Red Flag Heading into 2021 Draft

0 of 32

    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    With the 2021 NFL draft scheduled to take place at the end of April, teams should be putting the finishing touches on their draft boards. That means both evaluating players and determining the biggest roster needs.

    While drafting solely to fill needs is not usually an advisable strategy—it's how quarterback-needy teams end up with Christian Ponder and Dwayne Haskins Jr.—teams must be cognizant of their biggest weaknesses.

    And every team, no matter how talented, has at least one weakness that could quickly derail a playoff run in 2021. Whether it's an underwhelming position group, a questionable front office or a concerning lack of depth, those red flags must be addressed between now and the start of the regular season.

    From the lowly New York Jets to the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, we'll examine the biggest one for each organization.

Arizona Cardinals: Run Defense

1 of 32

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The Arizona Cardinals focused on their pass rush in free agency, bringing in J.J. Watt and re-signing Markus Golden.

    However, they did little to address a run defense that was arguably the team's biggest weakness in 2020. Arizona ranked 22nd in rushing yards allowed and 25th in yards per carry surrendered.

    A second-year surge from linebacker/safety hybrid Isaiah Simmons could help resolve the issue, but the Cardinals would be wise to continue building their front seven through the draft. Failing to do so could make it difficult for Arizona to push for a playoff spot.

    Arizona's divisional foes—the Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers—all feature balanced or run-first offenses. Other opponents are also likely to use a run-heavy approach to keep Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins and the explosive Cardinals offense off the field.

Atlanta Falcons: Pass Defense

2 of 32

    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    Few would fault the Atlanta Falcons for taking a quarterback of the future with the fourth overall pick. However, Matt Ryan should be the team's starter for the foreseeable future, and Atlanta's shaky pass defense looms large.

    No team allowed more passing yards in 2020. Atlanta also ranked 29th in net yards per passing attempt and 27th in passing touchdowns allowed.

    Atlanta's issue is a two-pronged problem. The secondary certainly deserved a lot of blame for the struggles, but the pass rush was also underwhelming. As a team, the Falcons generated a mere 29 sacks. No player recorded more than 4.5 sacks.

    Likely due to cap constraints—the Falcons currently have just $5.3 million in space—Atlanta didn't add a premier pass-rusher or a standout pass-defender in free agency. The only notable additions to the secondary were safety Erik Harris and cornerback Fabian Moreau.

    Moreau has just six career starts on his resume, while Harris allowed an opposing passer rating of 124.1 last season.

Baltimore Ravens: Pass Rush

3 of 32

    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    In 2020, the Baltimore Ravens defense had a good-not-great 39 sacks. Matt Judon was the only player to log more than four sacks, and he departed in free agency—along with midseason addition Yannick Ngakoue.

    That leaves the Ravens relatively thin at edge-rusher and without a prime sack artist on the roster. Baltimore did re-sign Pernell McPhee, Derek Wolfe and Tyus Bowser, but Ngakoue and Judon were responsible for nine of Baltimore's 39 sacks last season.

    It won't be a shock to see the Ravens target a pass-rusher early in draft weekend. While edge-defenders like Jadeveon Clowney and Melvin Ingram III remain available in free agency, Baltimore has just $5.1 million in cap space.

    The Ravens have a strong overall roster. But if they can't bolster their pass rush, they could struggle to get past teams like the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs in the 2021 postseason.

Buffalo Bills: Edge-Rusher

4 of 32

    Brett Carlsen/Associated Press

    Like the Ravens, the Buffalo Bills have questions about their pass rush. As a team, Buffalo produced just 38 sacks on the year while ranking 13th in passing yards allowed and 16th in points allowed. No player had more than five sacks.

    The Bills also lost defensive end Quinton Jefferson in free agency, while Trent Murphy remains unsigned. They were responsible for five of the team's 38 sacks last season.

    A second-year explosion from 2020 second-round pick A.J. Epenesa could help improve Buffalo's pass-rush on the edge. The Bills also added free-agent Efe Obada to replace Murphy and Jefferson.

    However, adding another edge-defender or two in the draft to complement interior defensive lineman Ed Oliver would be smart. If Buffalo cannot improve its pass rush, it's likely to struggle against pass-heavy teams like the Chiefs in the postseason.

Carolina Panthers: Quarterback

5 of 32

    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    It's hard to win consistently in the NFL without a top-tier quarterback. The Carolina Panthers don't seem to believe they have one in Teddy Bridgewater. If they did, they wouldn't have traded for Sam Darnold.

    According to ESPN's Rich Cimini, the Panthers dealt a 2021 sixth-rounder and second- and fourth-rounders in 2022 to acquire Darnold from the New York Jets.

    While Bridgewater wasn't awful in 2020—he had a respectable passer rating of 92.1—he and the Panthers only managed to win five games. Darnold, meanwhile, has shown little more than glimpses of promise throughout his three-year pro career. He has never played more than 13 games in a season and has a subpar career passer rating of just 78.6.

    A competition between Darnold and Bridgewater could ensue, and perhaps Carolina will get a quality starter out of the battle. For now, however, quarterback remains a big unknown.

Chicago Bears: Matt Nagy's Offense

6 of 32

    Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

    When the Chicago Bears hired former Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy as their head coach, the expectation was that he would inject a spark into that side of the ball. However, Chicago's offense with Nagy at the helm has been mostly underwhelming.

    In 2018, Chicago ranked 21st in total offense. It ranked 29th in 2019 and 26th this past season.

    While many have placed the blame on quarterback Mitchell Trubisky—and replacing him with Andy Dalton may indeed yield positive results—it's fair to wonder just how much blame Nagy deserves. Passing has been a problem, but it's not as if the Bears have been a rushing powerhouse, either. They ranked 25th in rushing in 2020.

    The reality is that Nagy's scheme and coaching may be the real red flag here. We're likely to find out this season with Dalton under center and Nagy taking back over the offensive play-calling.

    If the offense again stumbles, the head coach's tenure in Chicago will likely end when the 2021 season does.

Cincinnati Bengals: Offensive Line

7 of 32

    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    It's no secret that the Cincinnati Bengals offensive line was a disaster in 2020. Quarterback Joe Burrow was sacked 32 times in 10 games before missing the remainder of his rookie season with multiple torn knee ligaments.

    In all, the Cincinnati line surrendered 48 sacks.

    While the Bengals did bring in offensive tackle Riley Reiff in free agency, one addition won't be enough to overhaul the entire unit. Cincinnati needs to continue rebuilding its line, and using a first-round pick on another blocker could be a strong second step.

    Even with Reiff on the roster, the current line could be a massive liability in 2021 and beyond. Cincinnati appears to have its franchise quarterback in Burrow, but his presence will mean little if he cannot stay on the field and off injured reserve.

Cleveland Browns: Pass Rush

8 of 32

    David Richard/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Browns proved they had a playoff-caliber roster in 2020. However, their pass defense was lacking and ranked 22nd in yards allowed, largely due to an inconsistent pass rush.

    Despite having All-Pro edge-defender Myles Garrett on the field for 14 games, the Browns finished with just 38 sacks as a team.

    Cleveland has yet to resign veterans Adrian Clayborn and Oliver Vernon—the latter, to be fair, suffered a torn Achilles in Week 17—which leaves the defense with little pass-rush help after Garrett. The Browns did take a flier on Takkarist McKinley in free agency, but he's produced a mere 17.5 sacks in four pro seasons.

    Adding John Johnson III and Troy Hill to the secondary will help bolster the pass defense. However, if the Browns hope to contend with Kansas City and Buffalo in the AFC, they'll need to do a better job pressuring opposing passers.

Dallas Cowboys: The Coaching Staff

9 of 32

    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    The biggest red flag for the Dallas Cowboys is that head coach Mike McCarthy simply may not be the right man for the job. Yes, he had to overcome several obstacles in his inaugural season as Dallas' head coach, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the loss of starting quarterback Dak Prescott and injuries along the offensive line, but his squad more often than not appeared overwhelmed.

    Dallas jumped on McCarthy because he does have a Super Bowl pedigree. However, it's worth noting he was fired by the Green Bay Packers after failing to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. In its next two campaigns, Green Bay reached the NFC title game.

    In McCarthy's first season with Dallas, the Cowboys finished 6-10 and ranked 17th in points scored and 28th in points allowed. More importantly, though, McCarthy appeared to lose the locker room by the season's end.

    "They don't teach. They don't have any sense of adjusting on the fly," one player said of McCarthy and his staff, per NFL Network's Jane Slater.

    Winning is the ultimate deodorant, so the players and coaches will probably be back on the same page if the Cowboys bounce back in 2021. Right now, though, there's a mountain-sized problem in Dallas, and McCarthy is at its summit.

Denver Broncos: Quarterback

10 of 32

    Justin Edmonds/Associated Press

    While the Denver Broncos may try to land a new quarterback of the future with the ninth pick in the draft, an early run at the position could leave them wanting. It could also leave them with Drew Lock as the best and only viable option in 2021.

    Backup quarterbacks Jeff Driskel and Brett Rypien were both underwhelming in limited action last season. Neither finished with a passer rating of 80.0 or above.

    The red flag here is that while Lock has flashed some signs of potential, he, too, has largely underwhelmed. In 13 starts last season, he threw for 2,933 yards with 16 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a passer rating of 75.4.

    In other words, Lock has not proved himself an above-average NFL starter. In a division that features Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr, that's a significant issue.

    If Denver cannot get better play from Lock or find an upgrade at quarterback, it will have little hope of reaching the playoffs in 2021.

Detroit Lions: Cornerback

11 of 32

    Leon Halip/Associated Press

    The Detroit Lions struggled mightily against the pass in 2020, and cornerback was an especially weak position. No. 3 overall pick Jeff Okudah was supposed to make an immediate impact, but he finished the season with an opposing passer rating of 118.0.

    Detroit brought in Desmond Trufant to help replace traded Pro Bowler Darius Slay, but he also struggled. He appeared in only six games, allowed an opposing passer rating of 111.3 and departed this offseason. As a team, the Lions ranked 30th in passing yards allowed and 32nd in passing touchdowns allowed with 38.

    Detroit's biggest free-agency move at the position was signing Corn Elder, who has just one career start on his resume.

    The pass rush was also an issue for Detroit, which finished with just 24 sacks. However, the Lions at least took significant steps to address that problem, trading for Michael Brockers, signing Charles Harris and re-signing Romeo Okwara.

Green Bay Packers: Offensive Line

12 of 32

    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The Packers have one of the most complete rosters in the NFL, as evidenced by back-to-back trips to the NFC title game. However, there is a bit of a red flag along the offensive line.

    With a limited amount of cap space—Green Bay is currently $10.9 million over the cap—the Packers were forced to make some tough decisions this offseason. Those included parting with offensive tackle Rick Wagner and allowing center Corey Linsley to leave in free agency.

    Wagner allowed just one sack over 601 offensive snaps last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Linsley was a first-team All-Pro selection.

    Green Bay may ask Pro Bowler Elgton Jenkins to slide to center—he spent time at guard, tackle and center this past season—but that would then create a question mark at guard. Any way you look at it, the loss of Linsley is huge, and the potential loss of Wagner, who remains unsigned, is also noteworthy.

    The Packers will go as far as Aaron Rodgers can take them, so the uncertainty surrounding his protection cannot be ignored.

Houston Texans: Quarterback

13 of 32

    Matt Patterson/Associated Press

    Will the Houston Texans have quarterback Deshaun Watson on the roster in 2021? No one has an answer, and it's a massive red flag for the team because he remains one of the league's best young signal-callers on the field.

    Watson is facing 22 allegations of sexual assault and misconduct. Under the NFL's personal conduct policy, he could be suspended even if he isn't found guilty of committing a crime. To put it bluntly, his playing future is very much in question.

    Though less important, there's also still the matter of him wanting out of Houston. According to Dan Graziano of ESPN, Watson has formally requested a trade from the Texans.

    It's highly unlikely Watson suits up for Houston in 2021, which means the Texans will be looking at some combination of Ryan Finley and recent free-agent addition Tyrod Taylor at quarterback. Houston doesn't have a first- or second-round pick in the draft, so this is a positional red flag that probably won't disappear over draft weekend.

Indianapolis Colts: Left Tackle

14 of 32

    Zach Bolinger/Associated Press

    The Indianapolis Colts have a new starting quarterback in Carson Wentz, and the organization will likely give him a chance to prove himself over the long term. Head coach Frank Reich knows Wentz well from their time together with the Philadelphia Eagles and should know how to get the most out of him.

    However, if Wentz is to succeed in Indy, the Colts will have to find an answer at left tackle.

    Longtime starter Anthony Castonzo retired this offseason, leaving a huge hole on Wentz's blind side. The Colts did bring in Julie'n Davenport and Sam Tevi, but neither has been a reliable long-term starter.

    Davenport played just 52 offensive snaps last season, while Tevi has only spent one year on the left side.

    This is an issue the Colts will likely look to address early in the draft. But until a new franchise left tackle is uncovered, it's a serious red flag for both Wentz and the Colts.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Cornerback

15 of 32

    Zach Bolinger/Associated Press

    The Jacksonville Jaguars are likely to draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence first overall. While it's never safe to assume a quarterback will be a high-level starter from day one, Jacksonville has veteran insurance policies in Gardner Minshew II and C.J. Beathard.

    A bigger issue may be at cornerback, where Jacksonville's options are underwhelming. The Jags added Shaquill Griffin in free agency and will likely pair him with 2020 starter Tre Herndon. The problem is that neither is a high-level starter.

    Herndon allowed an opposing passer rating of 112.1 last season. Griffin fared better with the Seattle Seahawks but still allowed a rating of 93.3.

    Jacksonville addressed its 27th-ranked pass defense by bringing in safeties Rayshawn Jenkins and Rudy Ford, but cornerback still looks like the weakest position on the roster.

Kansas City Chiefs: Offensive Tackle

16 of 32

    Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    Anyone who watched Patrick Mahomes try to evade the Buccaneers pass rush in Super Bowl LV knows offensive tackle was a problem for the Chiefs. Kansas City was without starting tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, and Tampa capitalized.

    Unfortunately, the red flag at tackle remains, as Kansas City released both Schwartz and Fisher this offseason.

    The Chiefs re-signed backup tackle Mike Remmers and brought in interior linemen Joe Thuney, Kyle Long and Austin Blythe. While these moves should strengthen the offensive interior and provide depth along the line, they don't answer the questions along the edge.

    Mahomes remains one of the league's best at extending plays and avoiding pressure. However, Super Bowl LV proved even his greatness can be contained when the pocket breaks down along the perimeter.

Las Vegas Raiders: Offensive Line

17 of 32

    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    In 2020, the Las Vegas Raiders offensive line was one of the team's strengths. It paved the way for the league's 14th-ranked rushing attack and only allowed 28 sacks.

    However, the front office has turned that strength into a question mark. The Raiders traded three-time Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson, along with offensive tackle Trent Brown and guard Gabe Jackson.

    While Brown only played 26 percent of the offensive snaps last season, Jackson played 98 percent and Hudson played 100 percent.

    Las Vegas re-signed guard Richie Incognito and added center Nick Martin, but reworking its above-average offensive line creates questions. Ideally, the Raiders will search for answers in the upcoming draft.

Los Angeles Chargers: Left Tackle

18 of 32

    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Chargers appear to have found their franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert. Keeping him upright and healthy needs to be the team's primary focus, and L.A. overhauled its offensive line in free agency.

    The Chargers added All-Pro center Corey Linsley and brought in guards Matt Feiler and Oday Aboushi. However, a massive question mark remains at left tackle—the position responsible for protecting Herbert's blind side.

    Los Angeles traded left tackle Russell Okung last offseason and struggled to find a replacement in 2020. Trey Pipkins played 49 percent of the snaps but was responsible for three penalties and five sacks in 571 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.

    L.A. will likely look to remedy this issue in the draft, possibly by reuniting Herbert with Oregon tackle Penei Sewell—though that may require trading up from the No. 13 spot.

    "To block for Herb again, man," Sewell told reporters. "I think it's another dream and, I guess a vision that would be fun."

    Until/unless the Chargers find a franchise left tackle in the draft, though, the position will remain a huge red flag.

Los Angeles Rams: Center

19 of 32

    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Rams are going all-in on quarterback Matthew Stafford. The longtime Lions veteran is a proven starter and a quarterback L.A. believes it can win with.

    "He has consistently shown he is an elite thrower of the football and is a leader on and off of the field," head coach Sean McVay said in a press release. "We’re excited for what he brings to our team."

    However, that will only work if L.A. can keep him healthy. That makes the free-agency departure of center Austin Blythe all the more noteworthy. While Blythe isn't a Pro Bowler, he played 100 percent of the offensive snaps last season. The Rams do have Brian Allen, but he's still working his way back from a torn MCL.

    While there's no guarantee the Rams can draft an immediate starter at center—especially without a first-round pick—it would behoove them to try.

Miami Dolphins: Quarterback

20 of 32

    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    When the Miami Dolphins traded the No. 3 pick in the draft—moving down to No. 12 and then back up to No. 6—they essentially confirmed they'll give quarterback Tua Tagovailoa another starting opportunity in 2021.

    However, quarterback remains a red flag, as Tagovailoa's inconsistency last season sparked speculation that Miami could draft a quarterback third overall. While the Alabama product wasn't a disaster, he struggled for stretches and was pulled for veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick on multiple occasions.

    Tagovailoa finished his rookie season with 1,814 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions in 10 games and nine starts. While his passer rating of 87.1 was respectable for a rookie, his inability to push the ball down the field—he averaged 6.3 yards per attempt and 201 yards per start—was not.

    The Dolphins signed Jacoby Brissett in free agency to replace Fitzpatrick, so they'll have an experienced backup. However, if Tagovailoa can't take a second-year leap, it will create a major long-term problem for Miami.

Minnesota Vikings: Secondary

21 of 32

    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Last offseason, the Minnesota Vikings saw the departure of cornerbacks Mackensie Alexander, Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes. After the mass exodus, their pass defense ranked 25th in yards allowed and tied for 27th in yards per attempt, even though Minnesota used a first-round pick on Jeff Gladney and a third-round selection on Cameron Dantzler.

    To help repair the secondary, the Vikings brought back Alexander and signed Patrick Peterson this offseason. While Peterson may be a future Hall of Famer, he isn't the same lockdown defender he once was. In 2020, he allowed an opposing passer rating of 98.2.

    Minnesota also lost starting safety Anthony Harris in free agency.

    While a resurgence by Peterson and/or a second-year leap from Gladney and Dantzler may bring respectability to Minnesota's secondary, it's one of the most underwhelming in the league. For a team with playoff aspirations, that's a problem.

New England Patriots: Quarterback

22 of 32

    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots re-signed quarterback Cam Newton in free agency and presumably will roll with him as the starter again in 2021.

    The problem is Newton wasn't reliable or consistent last season. He played well enough to get New England to seven wins, but he also finished the year with only 2,657 passing yards, eight passing touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

    While Newton rushed for 592 yards and 12 more scores, New England's passing attack was ineffective more often than not.

    Compounding the issue is the fact that New England appears to have zero faith in backup Jarrett Stidham. Newton was never pulled from the starter's role, and when he missed a game because of COVID-19, journeyman Brian Hoyer got the start instead of Stidham.

    Barring an unexpected resurgence from Newton or the addition and quick development of a top quarterback prospect, the Patriots will probably field an average-at-best passing attack again.

New Orleans Saints: Quarterback

23 of 32

    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    The Drew Brees era is over for the New Orleans Saints, which leaves the quarterback position as a question mark. The Saints have Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston and say they feel good about the looming camp competition.

    "Both of these guys we view as really good players," head coach Sean Payton said, per The MMQB's Albert Breer. "We're glad they're with us and in our building, and we're excited to work with them."

    However, neither quarterback is proven in Payton's system. Winston last started for the Buccaneers in 2019, and while he threw for 5,109 yards that season, he also tossed 30 interceptions. Hill, meanwhile, has 136 career pass attempts, postseason included.

    The combination of Winston and Hill could be successful for New Orleans, but quarterback is a notable unknown on a roster that otherwise has no glaring weaknesses.

New York Giants: Edge-Rusher

24 of 32

    Brad Penner/Associated Press

    The New York Giants franchise-tagged and then locked up defensive lineman Leonard Williams this offseason, which is huge. Williams was the team's best pass-rusher in 2020, finishing with 11.5 sacks and 42 quarterback pressures.

    But New York hasn't complemented him with a speed edge-rush. The Giants got 28.5 sacks from players not named Williams, and 3.5 of those came from departed defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. Another four came from linebacker Kyler Fackrell, who also left in free agency.

    No current Giants player aside from Williams had more than four sacks in 2020.

    While the Giants signed Ifeadi Odenigbo, the absence of a true edge-rusher is a problem and may be the issue that prevents their 12th-ranked defense from being elite. While the defense was very good last season, it wasn't enough to carry the team into the postseason.

New York Jets: Quarterback Experience

25 of 32

    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    Trading Sam Darnold virtually guarantees the New York Jets will take either Trevor Lawrence or Zach Wilson—whoever isn't selected first overall—with the No. 2 pick in the draft. There's no guarantee New York's rookie quarterback will be prepared to start from day one, though, and the Jets don't have a great plan B.

    With Darnold out and Joe Flacco gone in free agency, the Jets have Mike White and second-year man James Morgan at quarterback.

    While Morgan was promising enough at Florida International to become a fourth-round pick, he's never played an NFL snap. White, drafted in the fifth round by Dallas in 2018, has also never taken a regular-season snap.

    While the plan to run with either Lawrence or Wilson in 2021 isn't a bad one, New York's lack of a veteran backup and/or mentor is a red flag that, ideally, it will address in the coming weeks.

Philadelphia Eagles: Offensive Line

26 of 32

    Rich Schultz/Associated Press

    It's worth watching to see how Carson Wentz fares away from the Eagles. Getting out of a tenuous player-coach relationship will likely help him. So will getting away from an offensive line that was atrocious in 2020.

    While many of Wentz's mistakes were his own, his line did him no favors. Wentz was sacked 50 times in 12 games, and the line surrendered 65 sacks in total. A season-defining ankle injury to right tackle Lane Johnson and the season-long loss of left tackle Andre Dillard were two parts of the issue. A lack of dependable depth was another.

    According to Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia, the Eagles used 14 different offensive line combinations this past season.

    If the Eagles hope to see Jalen Hurts succeed where Wentz failed, they'll have to get better play out of the offensive line. The pending returns of Johnson and Dillard should help, but depth along the offensive front remains a red flag.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Offensive Line

27 of 32

    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers are counting on 39-year-old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to lead them—perhaps for one final time—in 2021. This plan could become a red flag for two reasons.

    First, Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense struggled down the stretch last season.

    Second, and perhaps more importantly, Roethlisberger has lost some of the escapability he had in his youth and will play behind a questionable offensive line.

    The Steelers have yet to re-sign left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, while center Maurkice Pouncey retired.

    Pittsburgh brought back right tackle Zach Banner and added Joe Haeg and Rashaad Coward in free agency. However, they would be wise to take additional steps to shore up the line. Haeg and Coward started a combined 18 games over the past two seasons.

San Francisco 49ers: Quarterback

28 of 32

    Scott Eklund/Associated Press

    When the San Francisco 49ers traded up to acquire the No. 3 pick in this year's draft, they didn't hide the fact that they are targeting a quarterback.

    "It was a stated goal that we needed to come out with the quarterback position being stronger this year, and I think we put ourselves in an opportunity to make that happen with this move," general manager John Lynch told reporters.

    But until San Francisco pulls the trigger on drafting a quarterback, the position remains a major red flag. There's also no such thing as a can't-miss quarterback prospect.

    Jimmy Garoppolo has been serviceable for the 49ers, but he's also had durability issues. He's missed 23 games over the last three seasons, meaning San Francisco cannot count on him for the entirety of the 2021 season.

Seattle Seahawks: Pass Defense

29 of 32

    John Froschauer/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks' biggest issue this past season, especially early, was the pass defense. While the defense improved as the season went on—it didn't allow 300 yards passing in any of the final eight contests—Seattle still finished the season 31st in passing yards allowed.

    The Seahawks also lost starting cornerback Shaquill Griffin to the Jaguars in free agency. In terms of bolstering the secondary, Seattle's lone move was adding cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, who has started 12 games over the past two seasons.

    The Seahawks must field a stronger pass defense than they had to start the 2020 season. Otherwise, they could find themselves playing catch-up in the NFC West.

    Seattle survived last season's early defensive woes thanks to nearly flawless play from quarterback Russell Wilson—he had 19 touchdowns and three interceptions over the first five weeks. While Wilson is one of the league's few elite quarterbacks, expecting him to win every game in a shootout isn't a formula for success.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Quarterback Depth

30 of 32

    Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    The Buccaneers have done a tremendous job of reassembling last year's Super Bowl squad. The Bucs franchise-tagged Chris Godwin, extended Lavonte David and re-signed Rob Gronkowski, Shaquil Barrett, Leonard Fournette and Ndamukong Suh.

    Tampa also gave quarterback Tom Brady a contract extension, meaning the Buccaneers should be title contenders for the next season or two at a minimum.

    However, Tampa doesn't have a sound insurance policy behind Brady at quarterback. While TB12 has been remarkably durable throughout his career—aside from 2008's torn ACL, he has never missed time because of injury—just one play could sideline Brady for an extended period.

    Brady is the only quarterback on Tampa's roster. Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin are both listed on the team's official website, but they remain free agents.

    Adding a backup quarterback will be necessary, and Tampa will ideally find one with a higher upside than Gabbert or Griffin. Targeting one in the draft could be part of the game plan.

Tennessee Titans: Receiving Corps

31 of 32

    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    The Tennessee Titans utilized a run-oriented offense last season and ranked 23rd in passing yards. However, the Titans lost wideouts Corey Davis and Adam Humphries in free agency, along with tight end Jonnu Smith.

    Davis, Humphries and Smith were responsible for 1,660 receiving yards last season, 43.4 percent of the team's total.

    While Tennessee re-signed tight ends Anthony Firkser and Geoff Swaim and added wideout Josh Reynolds, those moves won't balance out the departures. Reynolds, who had 618 receiving yards in 2020, should be an upgrade over Humphries, but questions remain at tight end and at the No. 2 receiver position.

    If the Titans hope to bring balance to the offense—and be more than just a playoff participant—they'll have to bolster their receiving corps in the draft.

Washington Football Team: Wide Receiver

32 of 32

    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    The Washington Football Team has a prime opportunity to defend its NFC East crown in 2021. The signing of veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick should bring stability to the team's most important position, and the second-ranked defense should remain a strength.

    However, a questionable wide receiver group could hamper what Washington does offensively. Last season, the Football Team had a viable No. 1 receiver in Terry McLaurin and little else. Cam Sims was second among receivers with 477 receiving yards.

    Washington relied on tight end Logan Thomas and pass-catching back J.D. McKissic, but it ranked 25th in passing yards and tied for 29th in yards per attempt.

    Adding wideouts Adam Humpries and Curtis Samuel in free agency does improve the group, but it remains far from elite. Washington could and probably should address this red flag in the draft, as doing so could turn the team into a title contender.


    Contract and cap information via Spotrac. Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.