Every Team's Biggest Need Entering 2021 NFL Draft

Alex KayContributor IApril 28, 2021

Every Team's Biggest Need Entering 2021 NFL Draft

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    In an ideal situation, every team would simply draft the best player on its big board when it is on the clock during the NFL draft. Most organizations do not have that luxury, however, and instead opt to select the prospects who best fit their rosters.

    There are some rather big holes in lineups around the league, which is why some highly regarded players will fall on draft day and others will be selected earlier than anticipated.

    Here is the most pressing need for each team ahead of the draft, which kicks off with Round 1 on Thursday.

Arizona Cardinals: Cornerback

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The Arizona Cardinals are on the verge of breaking out as a contender, but they are still a few missing pieces from becoming a real threat. They added a slew of veterans in free agency, and now they need a strong rookie class to push them over the hump.

    After an exciting offseason in which they acquired big-name talents J.J. Watt and A.J. Green, the Cards have only a few positions of weakness going into the draft. One that stands out is cornerback, especially after the team lost longtime stalwart Patrick Peterson to the Minnesota Vikings in free agency.

    Arizona hasn't ignored the position, notably signing Malcolm Butler after his release from the Tennessee Titans, but it still has plenty of work to do. If the season began today, the Cardinals would rely heavily on Robert Alford—who hasn't played since 2018—and Byron Murphy Jr., who has been up and down during his two seasons as a pro.

    The Cardinals could greatly bolster their secondary by adding a top cornerback prospect with the No. 16 pick. South Carolina's Jaycee Horn would be a great fit, and Arizona could count on him for years to come.

Atlanta Falcons: Edge-Rusher

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    Michael Woods/Associated Press

    No team has struggled to stop opposing quarterbacks more than the Atlanta Falcons.

    They conceded an NFL-worst 293.6 yards per game through the air last year, a stat that reflects poorly on both their pass-rushers and secondary. Those spots should be the priorities during the draft, which is why Atlanta's best move may be to trade back from the No. 4 pick.

    The class has coveted quarterbacks who are projected to come off the board early, so the Falcons could slide back in exchange for multiple selections in the early rounds, which would allow them to address the numerous holes in their defense.

    When the club is finally on the clock, it should pick the best edge-rusher available. Georgia's Azeez Ojulari would be a fantastic score if Atlanta drops to the end of the first round or if he's still on the board when it picks again at No. 35.

    Improving the defensive line is a must after no player along Atlanta's recorded more than four sacks in 2020. Dante Fowler Jr., Steven Means and Charles Harris were the three most productive pass-rushers on the roster last season, and each recorded a meager three sacks.

    The Falcons could also choose an elite defensive back if one falls to them, but going any direction besides one that will help fix their broken pass defense would be the wrong choice.

Baltimore Ravens: Edge-Rusher

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    Matt Gentry/Associated Press

    The Baltimore Ravens have a history of developing quality pass-rushers, and they'll once again need to get some mileage out of their draft picks to shore up that aspect of their defense.

    After losing Yannick Ngakoue, Matt Judon and Jihad Ward in free agency, the Ravens have a serious need for prospects who can get after the opposing signal-caller. Those three players alone accounted for 12 of the club's 39 sacks, making it imperative for Baltimore to unearth some talent.

    It should use the No. 27 pick to get the best pass-rusher on the board. Miami's Jaelan Phillips would be a fantastic addition as a player who has had little trouble causing chaos in opposing backfields.

    Once the team is confident it has landed a pass-rushing contributor, it can then look to improve other areas of need such as its thin wide receiving corps and find a long-term solution at right tackle after dealing Orlando Brown last week.

Buffalo Bills: Defensive Line

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    The Buffalo Bills may be one of the most exciting up-and-coming teams in the league, but their defensive line is anything but spry.

    Buffalo is coming off an impressive run to the AFC Championship Game, but it won’t be able to keep making deep postseason runs unless it finds some youthful talent for the D-line.

    The team has been relying heavily on aging defensive ends Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison, who will turn 33 and 34 before the campaign. Addison tied for the most sacks on the roster last year with five, and Hughes was right behind him with 4.5, but they can't be relied on forever. The Bills will also get Star Lotulelei back after he opted out in 2020, but the defensive tackle will be 32 in December.

    The Bills have some younger linemen to build around, including a pair of early picks in Ed Oliver and A.J. Epenesa, but they need to keep injecting more youth into the trenches. There should be plenty of opportunity to do exactly that when Buffalo is on the clock at No. 30, a spot that should net a useful prospect.

    Washington's Joe Tryon would make sense. He amassed eight sacks as a sophomore in 2019 before opting out last year. He doesn't have the polish of other prospects, but Buffalo can gamble on his high ceiling while bringing him along slowly.

Carolina Panthers: Offensive Line

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The Carolina Panthers came into the offseason hell-bent on acquiring a quarterback and did by trading for Sam Darnold a few weeks ago. That move alleviated the pressure to move up to secure a top prospect or hope one fell to them at No. 8 and opened the door for the Panthers to shore up their offensive line.

    Carolina won't be able to fairly assess Darnold unless it protects him properly, something the offensive line seems ill-equipped to do at this juncture. The Panthers made some questionable moves to address their protection issues, signing guard Pat Elflein and tackle Cameron Erving to multiyear deals even though each player has given up a slew of pressures and sacks in recent years.

    While Carolina won't be able to revamp its line in one draft, it can start by using an early pick on a left tackle. It's had zero consistency at the most important spot in the trenches, as the Panthers have started a whopping 10 players there since Jordan Gross retired in 2014.

    There should be plenty of elite tackle prospects still on the board when the Panthers pick at No. 8. Carolina may also want to trade back, getting more picks while still drafting a star such as USC's versatile Alijah Vera-Tucker.

    If it goes in a different direction and misses out on a great prospect, the franchise could be set back significantly.

Chicago Bears: Quarterback

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    The quarterback situation in the Windy City has been rough for quite some time. The Chicago Bears have been desperate to find a franchise player at the most important position on the field for ages, and there is no end in sight.

    Chicago is set to go into the season with Andy Dalton, a far cry from what fans were hoping after they were tantalized with Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson trade rumors. The Bears probably won't find a better option unless they go all in and trade up from No. 20 to land one of the premier quarterback prospects.

    It would likely cost a fortune in draft capital, but the Chicago brass should be open to a move if a potential franchise player such as Trey Lance or Mac Jones is available. It's the only path forward for the organization, which has remained competitive enough to make the playoffs in two of the last three years despite being hamstrung by inept signal-callers.

Cincinnati Bengals: Offensive Line

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the most obvious draft needs of any team in the league. The club cannot afford to ignore its offensive line woes and must use one or even multiple early selections to bolster Joe Burrow's protection.

    Burrow—the No. 1 pick last year—took a beating for 10 games before he suffered a torn left ACL and MCL, so the Bengals have no choice but to patch up their sieve-like line. They missed out on most of the top free agents, leaving the draft as their last real opportunity to fix the issue.

    All that remains to be seen is when Cincinnati will pounce. The team holds the No. 5 pick, where it could likely score a franchise-altering left tackle in Oregon’s Penei Sewell.

    This year's line class is deep, however, so it wouldn't be a shock if the Bengals skipped over Sewell to land another elite prospect at a different thin position. There should still be plenty of intriguing players on the board when Cincy is back on the clock with the sixth pick on Day 2.

Cleveland Browns: Cornerback

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Browns appear ready to become a consistent contender for the first time since they re-entered the league in 1999.

    The Browns proved they are for real after not only making the playoffs for the first time since 2002 but also beating the rival Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card Round. They shouldn't rest on their laurels, however, and need to augment positions of strength with their selections in the draft.

    Cleveland already employs one of the best defensive linemen in the league in Myles Garrett, but it should find more players who can help take some pressure off its star pass-rusher. The team already added Jadeveon Clowney and Takkarist McKinley in free agency but only on a pair of one-year deals. Adding a rookie edge-rusher would let the Browns develop a player they could deploy alongside Garrett for years to come.

    If Cleveland doesn't go with an edge-defender, it will likely be because it opted to shore up the secondary. It doesn't have a proven cornerback outside of Denzel Ward and will be banking on 2019 second-round pick Greedy Williams to play a big role after he missed 2020 with a shoulder injury.

    Adding a playmaking defensive back such as Asante Samuel Jr. or Caleb Farley with the No. 26 pick may be the best option for the Browns depending on how the first round shakes out.

Dallas Cowboys: Defensive Back

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    It is time for the Dallas Cowboys to make a splash on defense after the unit was exposed in 2020.

    The Cowboys come into the draft needing help all over the defense, but they have 10 selections—including four within the first 100 picks—at their disposal. It would be wise for Dallas to use a majority of those on defensive prospects, providing much-needed depth and talent on that side of the ball.

    While the Cowboys could simply go with the best defender available when they are on the clock at No. 10, a defensive back would likely make more of an early impact than any other player.

    The team direly needs a playmaking corner after conceding 34 passing touchdowns—tied for third-most in the NFL—and generating just 10 interceptions in 2020. Alabama's Patrick Surtain II would give Dallas a player who is ready to start from day one and who fills a massive hole.

    Dallas could also explore trading back to acquire even more capital. It might consider a safety such as TCU's Tre'von Moehrig-Woodard later in the first round if it goes that direction. Either way, the secondary needs some new faces.

Denver Broncos: Cornerback

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    The Denver Broncos are in the unenviable position of needing a franchise quarterback but drafting in a spot that likely falls too late to find one.

    Barring a costly trade, the Broncos will have to be patient Thursday and hope a player such as Alabama's Mac Jones or North Dakota State's Trey Lance falls to them at No. 9. If that doesn't happen, Denver will likely go into the season with incumbent starter Drew Lock, giving him one more chance to prove he belongs.

    Lock will be in his critical third season and may still develop into a quality signal-caller given the opportunity. If the Broncos can't get a rookie they feel would push him for the starting job, then they should look to the other side of the ball.

    They need to get younger on defense, especially at linebacker and cornerback. The team didn't do much in free agency to accomplish this. Its most notable move to improve the secondary was signing Kyle Fuller, a corner who will turn 30 in February.

    Fuller only inked a one-year deal, so the Broncos could try to land a top-notch defensive back who could take over the starting gig in the near future. There should be quite a few available at No. 9, including Patrick Surtain II, Jaycee Horn and Greg Newsome II.

Detroit Lions: Wide Receiver

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    The Detroit Lions are full steam ahead on a rebuild and should use this draft to land a receiver who can help turn the struggling franchise around.

    After parting ways with both Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. in free agency, the Lions have almost no reliable options left. Breshad Perriman, Tyrell Williams and Kalif Raymond are projected as Detroit's starters, which leaves quite a bit to be desired.

    The Lions can make a huge splash at No. 7 by taking the top receiving talent on the board. LSU's Ja'Marr Chase could be a game-changer in the Motor City, as he is a dynamic playmaker.

    While the Lions aren't likely to be contending for a Super Bowl any time soon, they can position themselves better for the future and see if new quarterback Jared Goff is worth keeping around by adding a bona fide weapon in this draft.

Green Bay Packers: Wide Receiver

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Even though they have made back-to-back NFC Championship Game appearances and their quarterback won his third MVP last season, the Green Bay Packers have surprisingly little talent within their receiving corps.

    Veteran wideout Davante Adams has been the only reliable receiver in Green Bay since Jordy Nelson left, and even he has missed time with injuries. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrived despite this, but the club needs to provide him with more firepower if it is going to make it back to a Super Bowl before his Hall of Fame career winds down.

    Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard are decent, but they won't develop into the type of dangerous weapons the Packers need to break games open. While superstar prospects Ja'Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith almost certainly won't be available when Green Bay is on the clock late in the first round, there should still be plenty of quality prospects available at No. 29.

    Florida's Kadarius Toney or Purdue's Rondale Moore would be a nice fit, as either could step in as a No. 2 receiver with upside to become more. With Rodgers' window closing, Green Bay can't afford to miss out on a legit receiver.

Houston Texans: Everything

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    The Houston Texans are shaping up to be one of the worst teams in the league next season and need help all over the field.

    Unfortunately for the Texans, they likely won't get a premiere prospect who can help reverse their fortunes. Houston won't pick until the third round, which means it would be wise to simply go for as much value as possible when on the clock at No. 67.

    With the Texans' many holes, new general manager Nick Caserio will have to make the most of eight picks on Day 3. Getting a handful of rotational players would be a good start, but Houston has a long way to go and will likely need another draft class or two to start thinking about competing for a playoff spot again.

    Houston may even opt to get a quarterback when it finally makes a selection, with a developmental prospect such as Stanford's Davis Mills making an intriguing addition to a roster that may lose Deshaun Watson.

Indianapolis Colts: Offensive Tackle

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    The Indianapolis Colts have found a way to win despite starting a different quarterback in each of the last three seasons. They'll have another new starter in Carson Wentz this year but must fill a massive hole at a key position to have any chance at making another postseason trip.

    Longtime left tackle Anthony Castonzo retired this offseason after starting all 144 games he played since becoming a first-round pick in 2011. Those are massive shoes to fill, which is why the Colts would be wise to use their top pick on a franchise left tackle who can once again bring stability to the position.

    With Indy kicking the tires on Wentz after his miserable 2020 campaign, they need quality protection to avoid a repeat of that and squandering their investment in the former Philadelphia Eagle.

    There will be intriguing prospects on the board when the Colts pick at No. 21, including USC's Alijah Vera-Tucker and Stanford's Walker Little. Landing a player of that caliber will help keep the line from falling apart.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Quarterback

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    After an ugly 1-15 season, the Jacksonville Jaguars obviously have plenty of needs across the board. None is more pressing than quarterback, as the Jags have been desperate to find a star for a long time.

    Fortunately for Jacksonville, the team has arguably its best opportunity ever to land a franchise player. The Jaguars hold the No. 1 pick and are widely expected to use it on Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, who is considered to be a generational prospect.

    While it's no guarantee Lawrence will have as much success in the NFL as he had at his previous stops, there is no player the Jags should feel more comfortable taking and pinning their hopes on. There's still plenty of work to be done, but a huge piece of the puzzle will get locked in to place when the organization lands Lawrence on Thursday.

Kansas City Chiefs: Wide Receiver

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Going into the offseason, many speculated about which offensive line prospects the Kansas City Chiefs would tab to improve their protection woes. The team was coming off an embarrassing loss in Super Bowl LV, a contest in which superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes ran for his life while being pursued by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' powerful pass rush.

    Much has changed in the months since, as the Chiefs completed a comprehensive overhaul of their offensive line via free-agency acquisitions. The team will have five new starters in 2021, including a star left tackle after trading for Orlando Brown.

    With that revamp done, Kansas City can expend picks to patch up other issues. One of the more notable ones is wide receiver, as the team recently parted ways with Sammy Watkins after three relatively disappointing seasons.

    Barring a trade, the Chiefs won't pick until No. 58. There should still be some quality wideouts available, including UNC's Dyami Brown. Securing one will help Kansas City continue to be a Super Bowl contender.

Las Vegas Raiders: Offensive Tackle

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    Matt Gentry/Associated Press

    The Las Vegas Raiders made the questionable decision to blow up their offensive line at the start of the offseason, trading multiple starters from the center through right tackle spots.

    After dealing Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson and Trent Brown, the Raiders must find adequate replacements. They began doing that by signing center Nick Martin on the open market and will likely use Denzelle Good at right guard, but they still have not found a right tackle. Picking one up in the first round would be a shrewd move to deal with a key position.

    Las Vegas has the No. 17 pick and likely won't have any problem snagging a great tackle such as Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw. This is a deep offensive line class, but the Raiders shouldn't let an opportunity to get one of the best pass them by.

Los Angeles Chargers: Offensive Tackle

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Chargers fielded one of worst offensive lines in football last year. Improving that has been at the top of the organization's to-do list this offseason, as it must protect franchise quarterback Justin Herbert to keep him healthy and improving in Year 2.

    The Bolts already invested in a quality center and guard by signing Corey Linsley and Matt Feiler in free agency, so it is time to look to the tackle spot. There is hardly a shortage of appealing left tackles, and L.A. will be in position to get one of the top options on the board at No. 13.

    If the Chargers can draft Northwestern's Rashawn Slater, they will have a key cog in place to protect Herbert for the foreseeable future. That kind of stability at left tackle and quarterback will allow the Bolts to make a leap to contending status sooner than later.

Los Angeles Rams: Offensive Tackle

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Rams have made a habit out of trading their first-round draft picks, making just a single Day 1 pick in the last five years. They won't make another until 2024 after dealing future first-rounders to acquire Matthew Stafford this offseason.

    Because the Rams don't have an early selection, team brass would be wise to maximize value from the picks it does hold. One way L.A. can accomplish that is to use its first selection—No. 57 in the second round—on one of the deepest positions in the draft: offensive tackle.

    The Rams are relying on Andrew Whitworth to man the left tackle spot, but he will turn 40 in December. The squad needs to identify its future at the position in Round 2—Alabama's Alex Leatherwood would be an appealing choice if he's still available—and begin developing a prospect who can take over.

Miami Dolphins: Wide Receiver

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The Miami Dolphins have been among the busiest clubs in the league in terms of wheeling and dealing leading up to the draft. After a series of trades, the Fins hold the Nos. 6 and 18 picks, a pair of selections that could alter their destiny.

    Originally in the No. 3 slot, Miami opted to slide down in exchange for more picks from the San Francisco 49ers. While they likely took themselves out of the running to land an elite quarterback, the Dolphins still have Tua Tagovailoa to build around.

    Miami will find out if Tagovailoa has what it takes to become a franchise player by surrounding him with reliable receivers for the first time. It should have its pick of the top options at No. 6, a spot where it will probably choose between Ja'Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith.

    Either prospect would represent a massive upgrade over the crop of wideouts on the roster. One of the SEC stars will provide Tagovailoa with a legitimate No. 1 weapon he can lean on during his second season.

Minnesota Vikings: Edge-Rusher

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The Minnesota Vikings coaching staff wasn't pleased with its defense last year, and the front office has already begun making a series of moves to improve the situation.

    The Vikings added some much-needed help on the defensive line by signing defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, but this overhaul is far from complete. Minnesota recorded only 23 sacks last year—the fifth-fewest in the NFL—and has to improve on that to realistically contend in the NFC North.

    The Vikings should be able to choose between a handful of edge-rushing options when they pick in the middle of the first round.

    Several draft experts have linked the Vikings with Michigan's Kwity Paye, a steady contributor who racked up 6.5 sacks during a breakout junior campaign in 2019. He'd be a fine addition to a roster that needs disruptors more than anything else right now.

New England Patriots: Quarterback

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    After having the most enviable quarterback position in the league for two decades, the New England Patriots floundered in their first season without Tom Brady under center.

    Cam Newton isn't the answer in New England, but he's likely to start for the Pats in 2021 unless they spend their first-round pick on a signal-caller in the draft. While it would be out of character for the organization to invest heavily into trading up, the Pats should at least try to find a steal at some point later in the draft.

    Brady was famously a sixth-round pick and won six rings in New England. If the Pats don't trade up to get a QB early, you can bet on them rolling the dice on a less-heralded prospect in the latter rounds.

    This will be one of the most intriguing situations to monitor as the draft unfolds. Should New England not jump up the board to secure a top signal-caller like Trey Lance, it will likely stand pat and take a cornerback or linebacker or trade back from No. 15 to acquire more capital.  

New Orleans Saints: Cornerback

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    No team was hit harder by the shrinking salary cap this offseason than the New Orleans Saints.

    New Orleans is also in a tough spot as it prepares for life without longtime quarterback Drew Brees, who hung up his cleats after starting 15 seasons for the club. The Saints desperately need this rookie class to be ready to go if they are going to continue contending without Brees and numerous veterans like Emmanuel Sanders, Jared Cook, Nick Easton and others.

    The Saints were forced to release a number of veteran contributors to get under the cap for the 2021 league year, but none of the cuts will hurt more than starting cornerback Janoris Jenkins. While New Orleans still employs a star at the position in Marshon Lattimore, it has to find a prospect to lock down the other side of the field.  

    At No. 28, New Orleans likely won't be choosing between any of the elite cornerbacks in the class, but a player like Asante Samuel Jr. could be a huge boon for the franchise. Samuel's floor is a quality nickelback, and there's potential for him to fill the No. 2 CB spot across from Lattimore if he can overcome his size limitations in the NFL.

New York Giants: Offensive Line

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    The New York Giants are preparing to start quarterback Daniel Jones for a third season in 2021, a crucial year for the signal-caller as he tries to make the jump from developmental prospect to franchise signal-caller. The G-Men need to get the best possible protection in place to foster this leap and shouldn't shy away from using an early pick on a offensive lineman.  

    While both sides of the trenches need some work, Big Blue can't afford to miss out on a top-notch left tackle if one is sitting there when they're on the clock at No. 11. Not only would they be getting a player who can cover Jones' blind side, but he can also pave lanes for star running back Saquon Barkley as he prepares to return to the lineup this season.

    A few prospects who can do both jobs at a high level should still be on the board when New York picks. One that stands out is Rashawn Slater, who allowed only five pressures and zero sacks across 355 snaps in pass protection at Northwestern in 2019. He's a sizable 6'4" and 304 pounds, which will allow him to effectively engage any defender and open holes for the Big Blue backs.

New York Jets: Quarterback

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    The allure of finally finding a franchise quarterback will be too strong for the New York Jets to consider any other position with the No. 2 pick.

    Although they enraged their fanbase with a late-season victory that cost them a chance at getting the top overall selection, Gang Green should still come away with a franchise-altering player with the second pick.

    The Jets are widely expected to take BYU's Zach Wilson, who's regarded as the second-best quarterback prospect in the class behind Trevor Lawrence. Wilson should get his chance to shine early in his career after New York cleared a path for him to start by trading Sam Darnold.

    You can pretty much write this pick in with pen at this point. All that remains to be seen is whether Wilson can live up to the massive expectations that will be thrust upon him in New York. 

Philadelphia Eagles: Wide Receiver

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    Like the New Orleans Saints, the Philadelphia Eagles are one of the NFL's most cash-strapped teams. They had to make some tough roster decisions because of the reduced salary cap, leaving the cupboard bare as they prepare to enter a rebuild in 2021.

    The Eagles front office already opted to trade back from No. 6 to No. 12 to secure an extra first-rounder next year and the No. 123 pick this year. That move effectively put them out of the running to grab one of the top quarterbacks, so they'll likely go into the season with Jalen Hurts as their starter.

    While Hurts showed some potential at the tail end of his rookie season, it remains to be seen whether he can carry an NFL franchise. Philadelphia should give him every opportunity to succeed, though, and the best way to do that via the draft is by selecting a receiver at No. 12.

    It's a toss-up whether a high-end prospect like Ja'Marr Chase, Devonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle will still be available at No. 12. But even if the Eagles decide to trade back and settle for a second-tier wideout like Rashod Bateman, they'll still be getting a noticeable upgrade over incumbent receivers Greg Ward Jr. and Travis Fulgham and a nice complement to Jalen Reagor, last year's first-round selection. 

Pittsburgh Steelers: Offensive Tackle

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    The Ben Roethlisberger era won't last forever, but the Pittsburgh Steelers aren't going to find a quality quarterback prospect if they stand pat at No. 24.

    While landing Big Ben's heir is one of the top priorities for Pittsburgh—the 39-year-old may be heading into his final season after signing a team-friendly, one-year deal—it also needs to do its best to put together one more run before its longtime signal-caller retires.

    Using an early pick on a QB likely won't lead to a Super Bowl appearance. so the Steelers should instead consider an offensive lineman when they are on the clock. Alejandro Villanueva is expected to sign with the rival Baltimore Ravens after the draft, according to ESPN's Jamison Hensley, and the Steelers lost Matt Feiler to the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency.

    Because of cap issues this offseason, the Steelers could not afford to splurge on a veteran lineman in free agency. They must now turn to the draft to find replacement tackles, where a deep class should afford them an opportunity to find a long-term starter in the latter part of the first round.

    Oklahoma State's Teven Jenkins could be a great fit in Pittsburgh.

San Francisco 49ers: Quarterback

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Over the last 20 years, 25 teams have traded up to get a quarterback in the first round of the draft, per ESPN's Bob McClellan. The San Francisco 49ers are poised to become the 26th after they paid a heavy price to move up from No. 12 to No. 3.

    San Francisco sent its first-rounders in 2022 and 2023 to the Miami Dolphins to get the deal done, but it is now in position to acquire one of the best prospects in this class to run its offense.

    While the 49ers managed to make a Super Bowl two years ago with Jimmy Garoppolo under center, it's readily apparent that head coach Kyle Shanahan doesn't want to build around him. Although a team source told ESPN's Adam Schefter that Garoppolo was "here to stay" after the trade, he isn't likely to remain in the Bay Area beyond the 2021 campaign. 

    The Niners could trade him during the draft, acquiring more picks that would allow them to patch up other holes on the roster. They're going to get one of three quarterbacks projected to still be on the board at No. 3—Justin Fields, Trey Lance or Mac Jones—but they still have to shore up the cornerback and interior offensive line spots with impact players before the draft is through.

Seattle Seahawks: Edge-Rusher

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    Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks have only three picks this year, which is the fewest amount of any team. They'll have to make the most of them to shore up a few key areas of need.

    Seattle won't be picking until late in the second round and has only Nos. 56, 129 and 250. The Seahawks may be active during the draft to acquire more capital.

    When the Seahawks do get on the clock, they should spend one of their earlier picks to improve their pass rush. They'll likely be sifting through some more flawed and one-dimensional prospects at that point in the draft like Tulane's Cameron Sample, but going for value and upside could pay dividends.  

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Value

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    Michael Woods/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed to bring back just about every key free agent following their Super Bowl run. They've earned the right to sit back and select the best overall prospects that fall to them, beginning with the No. 32.

    Tampa looks more than ready to defend its title after re-signing Shaq Barrett, Ndamukong Suh, Rob Gronkowski and Leonard Fournette in free agency. Veteran wideout Antonio Brown is one of the only key contributors from last year's squad who is still on the open market.

    If the Bucs don't re-sign Brown, they may opt to grab a rookie receiver early, but they wont be hurting for one with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Scotty Miller already on the roster. Still, scoring a prospect such as LSU's Terrace Marshall Jr. would be a fine addition to their receiving corps. 

    The defensive line could always use more talent as well. Getting some developmental prospects in the trenches would give Tampa the chance to keep its veterans fresh while lining up their eventual replacements.

    No single need stands out for this club, so the Bucs will likely just take the player ranked highest on their big board each time they are on the clock.

Tennessee Titans: Cornerback

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The Tennessee Titans defense left much to be desired last year, but it will look far different in 2021. The cornerback position underwent a complete revamp this offseason after Tennessee released both Adoree' Jackson and Malcolm Butler.

    Tennessee already secure one of the better defensive backs on the open market when it signed Janoris Jenkins, but still needs another quality starting corner. The Titans should be able to find one without too much trouble at No. 22.

    Caleb Farley and Greg Newsome could still be on the board when Tennessee is picking, and both look to be starting-caliber NFL players. The Titans could also consider taking Asante Samuel Jr., although he may be a bit of a reach if they don't elect to trade back.

Washington Football Team: Offensive Tackle

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The Washington Football Team's biggest need right now is at quarterback, but they likely won't be able to land one of the top-tier prospects without trading up from No. 19.

    Although Washington still desperately needs a quarterback of the future—it cut Dwayne Haskins last year after taking him No. 15 overall in 2019—it can still compete for a playoff spot with free-agent acquisition Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. While the 38-year-old is not a long-term cornerstone for the franchise to build around, he has been a quality starter in recent years and has shown no signs of slowing down.

    Instead of going all-in to get one of Justin Fields, Mac Jones or Trey Lance, Washington can instead be patient and bolster its offensive line early in the draft.

    Grabbing a sturdy and versatile tackle like USC's Alijah Vera-Tucker to protect Fitzpatrick now and a quarterback prospect in the future is the right move for this organization. Washington would set itself up for success well past the 2021 campaign by securing one of the better tackle prospects in the class.


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