The Biggest Flaw Every Team Still Must Address After the 2021 NFL Draft
Now that the 2021 NFL draft is in the rearview, front offices will be assessing the latest iterations of their rosters.
While many clubs filled some of their most glaring holes with rookie prospects, most still have significant issues that they need to address before the 2021 campaign gets underway in September.
Read on for a look at the biggest flaw each team currently has and some ideas on how it can fix the problem.
Buffalo Bills: Cornerback
The Bills paid star cornerback Tre'Davious White last year, locking in a fantastic young player through the 2025 season. It didn't come cheap, however, with White costing $69 million to keep for four seasons.
Buffalo would have benefitted from acquiring a budget rookie corner to start across from White on a cheap contract but missed the opportunity to get an elite prospect in the draft. The team only selected one corner last week, taking Wisconsin's Rachad Wildgoose in the sixth round.
Wildgoose and a pair of undrafted rookies—Nick McCloud and Olaijah Griffin—will compete for roster spots, but the organization should add another veteran into the mix to push for the second starting corner job. Whether that is re-signing Josh Norman, who is still on the open market after playing out a one-year deal with Buffalo in 2020, or someone else remains to be seen.
Miami Dolphins: Running Back
Miami filled two massive holes on its roster when it selected wideout Jaylen Waddle and defensive end Jaelan Phillips in the first round of the draft, but it wasn't able to acquire the elite running back it needed to complement its revamped offense.
Najee Harris, Travis Etienne and Javonte Williams—three of the consensus top running backs in the 2021 class—came off the board within the first 35 picks, forcing the Dolphins to look elsewhere when they were back on the clock at No. 36.
They did eventually take a flier on a running back when they tabbed Gerrid Doaks in the seventh round, but it's far from a guarantee that the Cincinnati product will even crack the final roster. Miami may want to ink a proven veteran it can rely on, with guys like Le'Veon Bell, Todd Gurley and Duke Johnson still waiting to catch on with a club for 2021.
New England Patriots: Wide Receiver
The Patriots finally found what could be their next franchise quarterback when Mac Jones fell to them at No. 15, but the team direly needs to improve its receiving corps to foster the Alabama signal-caller’s development.
Although New England was one of the most active organizations in free agency, it hasn't done much at the wideout spot. The club's main moves were overpaying for Nelson Agholor and adding Kendrick Bourne to augment a weak crop of talent at the position that also includes N'Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers.
There is not much help on the way from the rookie class either, as the Pats' only WR pick came at the tail end of the draft when they grabbed UCF's Tre Nixon at No. 242. New England should consider signing an impact vet like Larry Fitzgerald, Golden Tate or Alshon Jeffery.
New York Jets: Tight End
The new-look Jets appear to be ready to begin turning the franchise around after they acquired several critical pieces in the 2021 draft. None of these are more important than No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson, the quarterback who will be tasked with leading Gang Green back to prominence.
While Wilson has a tremendous amount of upside, the team still has some work to do in order to support its new investment. Tight end is a spot where the Jets lacked any notable production last year, but the organization hasn't done much to fill the void during the offseason.
New York didn't use any of its 10 picks on the position and only signed a pair of budget options—Tyler Kroft and Daniel Brown—on the open market. Considering players like Trey Burton and Tyler Eifert are still without contracts, the Jets can improve this situation before the new campaign kicks off.
Baltimore Ravens: Edge-Rusher
The Ravens had a massive hole to fill at offensive tackle after trading Orlando Brown Jr. to the Kansas City Chiefs, but they recently came to terms with Alejandro Villanueva to shore up a key position in their run-heavy offense.
With that box checked, Baltimore must consider adding at least one more edge-rusher to complete the defense.
The team used the first-round pick it received from the Chiefs in the Brown deal to take Penn State pass-rusher Odafe Oweh and went back to the well in the fifth for a developmental prospect in Notre Dame's Daelin Hayes, but this squad would benefit from adding another experienced vet into the mix.
Olivier Vernon and Melvin Ingram are two names that fit the bill. They would give the Ravens the type of proven quarterback hunter it needs for a deep postseason run.
Cincinnati Bengals: Pass Protection
The biggest offseason to-do item for the Bengals was improving its offensive line after quarterback Joe Burrow took a beating before eventually tearing his ACL to end his rookie year early.
While many believed Cincinnati would take prized left tackle prospect Penei Sewell at No. 5 overall, the organization instead opted to get wideout Ja'Marr Chase with the lofty selection. While the Chase pick gives Burrow arguably the best offensive weapon in the class, the club won't be able to unlock the pair's full potential if its signal-caller is constantly under siege.
The Bengals did expend a second-rounder on guard Jackson Carman and signed veteran tackle Riley Reiff in free agency, but they have more work to do to reinforce a unit that was one of the worst in football last year. Players like Charles Leno Jr. and Russell Okung are available and would offer quality pass protection.
Cleveland Browns: Defensive Tackle
The Browns were forced to release Sheldon Richardson to become cap compliant for 2021, and they haven't found a viable replacement for the defensive tackle yet.
That isn't to say the club isn't trying, but none of its recent acquisitions—fourth-round pick Tommy Togiai, undrafted free agent Marvin Wilson, reclamation project Malik McDowell and veterans Damion Square and Sheldon Day—can assuredly provide the type of production that Richardson brought to the table.
Fortunately, Richardson is still available on the open market, and general manager Andrew Berry told ESPN Cleveland's The Next Level (h/t Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com) that the team would "welcome [him] back with open arms." Coming to terms with him should be atop Cleveland's list of priorities.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Cornerback
After losing a pair of starting cornerbacks this offseason, the Steelers surprisingly only drafted one player at the position. It wasn't a high-profile pick either, with the selection of Oklahoma defensive back Tre Norwood not coming until the seventh round.
While the Steelers are picking up undrafted free agents to compete in camp, they are still projected to be thin at the position this season. Signing a veteran asset like Richard Sherman would give them a starting-quality option to bolster the secondary while they develop their young players.
Houston Texans: Defense
The Texans arguably have more holes than any team in the NFL. Unfortunately, the club only had five picks to augment its roster, and none fell within the first two rounds.
The defense looks especially suspect after the Texans only used its latter two selections on it, getting linebacker Garret Wallow in the fifth and defensive tackle Roy Lopez in the sixth. While those players will help, there are still plenty of question marks, most notably at a razor-thin cornerback position.
Considering the club won't realistically be competing in 2021, it may want to kick the tires on some prospects who haven't panned out early in their careers. A cornerback like Cre'Von LeBlanc, who has bounced around the league since turning pro in 2016, would make sense here.
Indianapolis Colts: Left Tackle
The Colts said goodbye to longtime left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who retired this offseason after 10 years of protecting the blind side of their QBs. Many draft experts predicted the team would use an early pick to find another consistent contributor, but Indianapolis ultimately didn't take an offensive lineman until the seventh round (Will Fries).
The organization can't afford a dearth of talent at this critical position and needs to identify a veteran who can keep new signal-caller Carson Wentz upright in 2021. Former Chiefs tackle Eric Fisher has a visit to Indianapolis lined up, according to Jim Ayello of the Indy Star, and would be a serviceable stopgap until the club is able to find its next long-term left tackle in an upcoming draft.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Tight End
Jacksonville addressed its biggest need with the easiest selection in the draft, taking quarterback Trevor Lawrence at No. 1 overall. The team also filled a few other holes, including getting the first running back off the board in Travis Etienne at No. 25.
The Jags still have issues to address, with pass-rushing being a significant need after the team accumulated just 18 sacks (the second-fewest in the league) last year.
Perhaps even more concerning is the lack of a playmaker at the tight end spot. Jacksonville doesn't have a sure-handed, big-bodied athlete to serve as a safety net and red-zone target for Lawrence. It just acquired a pair of blocking tight ends in veteran Chris Manhertz and fifth-round draft pick Luke Farrell.
One player being linked to the Jags is Tim Tebow, a 33-year-old former quarterback whom new head coach Urban Meyer developed into a Heisman Trophy winner at Florida. The two-time national champion hasn't been on an NFL roster since the 2015 preseason, but he recently worked out for Jacksonville.
More traditional options include Trey Burton and Tyler Eifert, playmaker types who could slot in as Jacksonville's top tight end for 2021.
Tennessee Titans: Safety
The Titans had an excellent draft, addressing their most pressing needs at the cornerback and wideout spots by acquiring a pair of rookies for each.
The one spot that still needs a look is safety, which appears to be light after Tennessee cut ties with Kenny Vaccaro this offseason. The team did pick up a player who can hopefully assume the role eventually in Brady Breeze, but the sixth rounder is far from a guaranteed contributor.
The Titans will want to pick up a proven veteran who can be penciled in as the starter heading into Week 1. Malik Hooker and Tre Boston are still looking for new homes and would get a chance to shine in the Music City.
Denver Broncos: Quarterback
Even though the Broncos traded for Teddy Bridgewater prior to the draft, their biggest need is still at quarterback.
Bridgewater was given a shot at becoming a franchise quarterback last year, but he didn't look great for the Panthers and became expendable when they acquired Sam Darnold. The odds of him doing much more in Denver are low, and he should not be considered much more than a bridge quarterback at this juncture.
The Broncos also have Drew Lock, a second-round pick in 2019 who hasn't done much of note during his first two seasons, either. While having Bridgewater on the roster may help push Lock, time is running out for the Missouri product to show he belongs as a starter.
The Broncos' decision to pass over Justin Fields when they were on the clock at No. 9 may come back to haunt them. Missing out on a potential franchise quarterback will sting, but they can fix their quarterback woes by going all-in to acquire Aaron Rodgers.
The pieces are in place for the Broncos to win; they just need a quarterback to take them there. No player is better suited for the job than Rodgers, who is disgruntled with the Packers and doesn't want to return, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Kansas City Chiefs: Wide Receiver
Kansas City's biggest need this offseason was far and away along the offensive line. The team completely revamped the unit following its disappointing performance in Super Bowl LV, signing a slew of veterans and drafting two prospects as part of the overhaul.
Now that the offensive line is fixed, the Chiefs could still use at least one more wide receiver. They lost Sammy Watkins this offseason and haven't done much to replace him. Kansas City did take Clemson's Cornell Powell in the fifth round, but it remains to be seen what sort of impact he will have in the NFL.
With veterans like Larry Fitzgerald and younger players with upside such as Dede Westbrook still on the open market, the Chiefs shouldn't have much trouble finding one more wideout to complement their current corps.
Las Vegas Raiders: Cornerback
The Raiders have to be happy with how the 2021 draft played out for them, as they were able to shore up numerous holes on their roster. One that still stands out is at cornerback, where they were weak last year.
Las Vegas did grab a rookie to help in that department, but Illinois' Nate Hobbs—a fifth-round pick—appears to be more of a special teams contributor who might be able to see the field in nickel or dime packages this season. The team also signed former Los Angeles Charger Casey Hayward this week.
Even so, the Raiders would benefit from more depth at their primary corner spots given how poorly they performed defensively last season. A free agent like Dre Kirkpatrick or Bashaud Breeland could provide exactly that.
Los Angeles Chargers: Kicker
The Chargers had one of the worst kicking games in the league last year. They must get a more reliable placekicker to become a serious postseason contender in 2021.
Michael Badgley had his worst season as a pro for the Bolts in 2020, connecting on only 72.7 percent of his field-goal tries, including just over half of his attempts (10-of-19) from 40 or more yards out. He also missed a trio of extra points, which he must improve on this offseason to retain the job moving forward.
Los Angeles did ink Tristan Vizcaino in early March to compete with Badgley, and the club could bring in a number of unsigned veterans as well. L.A. shouldn't settle for anything less than a red-hot kicker to round out its special teams unit before going into a 2021 campaign with high expectations.
Dallas Cowboys: Safety
The Cowboys secondary was abysmal last year, which they addressed by drafting a trio of cornerbacks, including two within the first 100 picks. However, they didn't use one of their 11 selections on a safety, which they may regret if they once again struggle against the pass this season.
After losing Xavier Woods in free agency, the Cowboys came to terms with Keanu Neal to help fill the void. They also signaled their intent to convert sixth-round pick Israel Mukuamu to safety, but their only other offseason acquisition at the position was Damontae Kazee. Both Mukuamu and Kazee are likely to be depth options at best.
Dallas needs to find at least one more veteran safety to feel comfortable about its secondary in 2021. Malik Hooker is the type of playmaker whom the Cowboys need right now, as he would play a big role if he can stay healthy.
New York Giants: Offensive Line
Shoring up the trenches was arguably the Giants' main goal this offseason. They did a fantastic job of loading up the defensive front so far, re-signing Leonard Williams for another three years and drafting a pair of edge-rushers in Azeez Ojulari and Elerson Smith.
While these players will be a huge boon for the New York defense, the G-Men have failed to deal with their offensive line concerns thus far. They lost guard Kevin Zeitler in free agency and replaced him with a budget option in Zach Fulton. Outside of that, Big Blue hasn't done much.
General manager David Gettleman didn't get one of the massive "hog molly" offensive lineman types he prefers with any of his six picks, and he is running out of options on the open market. However, there are still some vets available such as Charles Leno Jr., whom the Bears recently released.
Philadelphia Eagles: Cornerback
The Eagles were gutted by salary-cap casualties this offseason and have several remaining holes. They don't have much cap space to fill them, but they should be use a sizable chunk of the estimated $5.4 million they have left on the secondary.
Cornerback is arguably the weakest position on Philadelphia's roster following the draft, as the team acquired only Texas Tech's Zech McPhearson to bolster it. Unless the fourth-round pick has an incredible camp and shows he is worthy of starting across from Darius Slay, the Eagles may be in trouble here.
Gareon Conley, a 2017 first-round pick that didn't pan out for the Texans, would be a shrewd pickup for Philly. The team can afford to kick the tires on the 25-year-old at a cheap cost, potentially getting a great corner who could rehabilitate his career on this up-and-coming roster.
Washington Football Team: Safety
Washington needs a franchise quarterback more than anything right now, but the front office didn't want to overpay to move up in the draft. After Mac Jones—the last remaining player with a first-round grade—came off the board four spots ahead of its selection at No. 19, Washington was essentially out of options to address the position.
Barring a blockbuster trade for someone like Aaron Rodgers, Washington will likely go to war with Ryan Fitzpatrick as its starter and wait until 2022 to find its long-term answer under center. Meanwhile, there are still some realistic signings this club can make to get better, especially at safety.
The Football Team needs a starting-caliber free safety more than anything outside of a franchise quarterback right now and didn't do enough to fix that in the draft. The organization took Cincinnati's Darrick Forest in the fifth round, but he's likely going to end up as a special teams contributor in 2021.
Tashaun Gipson and Kenny Vaccaro are some veterans whom the club could explore. Even though they are both on the wrong side of 30, they would be welcome additions to a team looking to build on last year's playoff appearance.
Chicago Bears: Cornerback
Even before they released Kyle Fuller, the Bears needed some help at cornerback this offseason. Relying on an aging Desmond Trufant isn't the best idea, and they spent only one late-round pick on Oregon's Thomas Graham Jr. to help improve the situation.
While Chicago was wise to focus on offense early in the draft—it may have finally found a franchise quarterback in Justin Fields and got him better protection with a pair of offensive linemen in the second and fifth rounds—this secondary still needs some work.
The Bears should try to sign a player like Brian Poole—one of the more consistent corners for the Jets over the past two seasons—to get a much-needed injection of talent at cornerback.
Detroit Lions: Wide Receiver
The Lions lost their top two receivers in Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. in free agency. They are preparing to go into 2021 with an almost entirely new receiving corps, which now includes fourth-round pick Amon-Ra St. Brown.
This lack of proven talent should be a red flag for the Detroit front office, which should try to sign at least one veteran to help quarterback Jared Goff get acclimated during his first season with the club. There is no shortage of weapons on the open market, so making a move to bring back Golden Tate—who played for the Lions from 2014-18—on a short-term deal would be a good one for this rebuilding organization.
Green Bay Packers: Quarterback
The Aaron Rodgers situation escalated quickly.
If Rodgers sticks to his guns and doesn't return to the team, it would leave Jordan Love as the only quarterback on Green Bay's roster. Although he was a first-round pick in 2020, Love wasn't active for a single game last year as the team's No. 3 quarterback.
It would be a massive and unexpected leap up the depth chart for the Utah State product, who may not be ready to take over the offense yet. Unfortunately for the Packers, there isn't much left at the position on the open market.
The club let Tim Boyle—last year's No. 2 quarterback—walk in free agency with the expectation that Love would be Rodgers' primary backup in 2021. With Boyle now under contract with the Lions, Green Bay may want to sign an experienced veteran like Brian Hoyer to serve as a bridge quarterback while Love gets brought up to speed.
Minnesota Vikings: Safety
The Vikings had some major needs along their offensive line going into the draft, but they did great work filling in these gaps on Day 1 and 2. They picked up a tackle in Christian Darrisaw and guard in Wyatt Davis and boosted their slumping pass rush with Patrick Jones II and Janarius Robinson.
However, they didn't manage to fix their issues at safety in the draft. They found a quality starter next to Harrison Smith in Xavier Woods, but both players will be free agents next year, and the Vikings lack young talent and depth at the position.
A handful of available players could both be developed and rotate in at the position, with safeties like Kavon Frazier and Tre Boston currently unsigned and likely obtainable for cheap.
Atlanta Falcons: Running Back
The Falcons signed running back Mike Davis to a two-year deal this offseason, picking up Christian McCaffrey's former backup to serve as their likely starter. While he has the potential to be decent after a career-best campaign in 2020, Falcons fans may be disappointed that the club didn't spend any of its nine picks on a playmaking running back.
It's hard to fault the Falcons, who used over half of their picks to address their secondary and pass rush, which were arguably their two biggest problem areas last season. They snagged safety Richie Grant in the second round, cornerback Darren Hall in the fourth and cornerback Avery Williams in the fifth, and they used two other fifth-round selections to improve the defensive line with Ta'Quon Graham and Adetokunbo Ogundeji.
The Falcons did grab an undrafted free agent with big-play potential in Javian Hawkins, but they may want to secure a more proven weapon like Rex Burkhead or Duke Johnson as a third-down back for 2021.
Carolina Panthers: Offensive Line
No position has plagued the Panthers more over the last seven years than left tackle.
Carolina can't seem to find a consistent left tackle anywhere, having started more than a dozen players at the position since stalwart Jordan Gross retired following the 2013 campaign. The Panthers took another stab at alleviating this problem by selecting BYU's Brady Christensen in the third round.
Christensen has a real chance to start, but the 25-year-old is one of the older incoming rookies in the league. He should be as pro-ready as any prospect and will hopefully give the team a viable solution to its biggest issue.
However, Carolina still has some other O-line issues to sort out, including the signing of guard Pat Elflein this offseason. Elflein allowed a double-digit pressure rate last season with the Jets, according to PFF, and may not be a worthwhile starter for his new club. There are some intriguing alternatives on the open market still, including former Chiefs guard Kelechi Osemele, who could bolster this unit in a big way.
New Orleans Saints: Wide Receiver
Quarterback is the biggest question mark in New Orleans, but the Saints have a pair of in-house veteran options in Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill who will get a crack at replacing Drew Brees. The team also added a developmental prospect during the draft in fourth-rounder Ian Book.
New Orleans had a few other roster concerns after the first wave of free agency, including at cornerback spot following the release of Janoris Jenkins. The club used a relatively early pick to address that, taking Stanford's Paulson Adebo in the third round.
With the secondary dealt with, the Saints should now focus on adding more firepower to their receiving corps. The release of Emmanuel Sanders created a huge hole to fill, and New Orleans didn't do much to address it during the draft. Its lone wideout selection, Kawaan Baker, didn't come off the board until No. 255.
Fortunately, receiver is one of the easier positions to find veteran talent at right now. The Saints can opt to go with a younger player like Dede Westbrook or Laquon Treadwell or a more experienced veteran such as Golden Tate or Larry Fitzgerald.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Defensive Line
The Buccaneers didn't have any glaring issues going into the draft after they managed to retain nearly every key free agent from their Super Bowl run. They capitalized on their rock-solid roster by taking some of the top talent on the board each time they were on the clock.
However, Tampa wasn't able to unearth any value along the defensive line. The team has plenty of elite veterans there but few developmental prospects. Bringing in some undrafted free agents or reclamation projects could help set Tampa up for sustained success in the future.
Arizona Cardinals: Tight End
Arizona went all-in on defense during the draft, spending only two of its seven picks on offense and only one on a skill-position player. While second-round pick Rondale Moore will fill a need in the receiving corps, there's still a lack of playmaking tight ends on the roster.
The Cardinals lost their top receiving tight end in free agency after Dan Arnold signed with Panthers. Maxx Williams would be the best option on the roster as it stands now, but he's caught only 23 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns in 25 games with Arizona over the past two seasons.
While Arizona did sign a pair of rookie tight ends immediately after the draft, a team with serious playoff aspirations should not be relying on Cary Angeline and Bruno Labelle to play a significant role in 2021. Signing a reliable pass-catcher like Trey Burton would be a far better option right now.
Los Angeles Rams: Center
It isn't clear who will be snapping the ball to new Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford this season. The team has a few in-house choices, but none of them are starting-caliber options for a team built to win a Super Bowl right now.
Brian Allen was the team's starter in 2019, but he suffered a torn MCL in Week 10 of that season and hasn't played since. Austin Blythe, who filled in admirably for Allen after the injury, is now gone after signing with the Chiefs. Austin Corbett could line up at center, but he hasn't played any meaningful snaps there outside of the preseason. He's suited up at both guard spots in the regular season.
Considering the Rams didn't use any of their nine draft picks on their offensive line, they should be looking to the open market to find a center to compete for the starting job in camp. Getting offensive line depth will be key for this club, which also boasts the league's oldest starting left tackle in 39-year-old Andrew Whitworth.
San Francisco 49ers: Wide Receiver
The 49ers are dangerously thin at receiver. There isn't much talent behind starters Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, which isn't ideal for a team that just spent the No. 3 overall pick on quarterback Trey Lance.
San Francisco has started to make some moves to shore up its receiving corps after not addressing it during the draft. While the Niners signed Austin Watkins Jr. as an UDFA, they can't depend on players who weren't good enough to get drafted. Instead, they must sign a veteran or two who can help them get back to the playoffs this season.
Some available free agents could conceivably line up in the slot for San Francisco. Dede Westbrook and Danny Amendola stand out as two of the better options available at this juncture.
Seattle Seahawks: Defensive Line
The Seahawks had only three picks during the 2021 draft and did well with them. They acquired a trio of prospects in D'Wayne Eskridge, Tre Brown and Stone Forsythe who should help immediately at wideout, cornerback and along the offensive line, respectively.
Unfortunately, Seattle didn't have enough selections to address all of its needs. There are still some holes on this roster, the most notable of which are along the defensive line. The club recently parted ways with Jarran Reed and hasn't done much to mitigate the loss of the longtime starter.
Recent signings like Robert Nkemdiche have some upside, but the 2016 first-rounder didn't even play in the NFL last year following his release from the Dolphins in 2019. The Seahawks still have a shade under $6 million to spend and would be wise to use some of it on a player like former Bengals star Geno Atkins, who should still have something left in the tank at the age of 33.