This isn’t a mock draft. I repeat, this is not a mock draft. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve already done one I probably already regret, and I’m sure 20+ more are to come. But that’s not what this draft article is about – no, not today. Instead of predicting who each team will take in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, let’s just spend a little time on which positions each team most needs to address.
In that same breath, we’ll also discuss a few different players those teams could consider. Say it with me. This is not a mock. The object here isn’t to predict who each team will take just yet, but simply what position or move.
And with that, let’s get right down to all 32 NFL team’s needs for the upcoming off-season:
Note: This is not the official order of the 2014 NFL Draft.
1. Houston Texans (2-14) – QB, OT, S
Houston went from a playoff team to a 2-14 disaster. They started over from the top at head coach, and it needs to trickle down to quarterback and a few other problem areas. Their main issue was under center, though, as Matt Schaub turned into a pick-six machine and Case Keenum couldn’t figure out how to read a blitz to save his life. It looks like the Texans will be able to nab Teddy Bridgewater, but I wouldn’t be completely shocked to see them consider Johnny Manziel, either.
Beyond that, Houston needs to shore up their offensive line a bit and also upgrade at the safety position. Ed Reed didn’t pan out and was cut. Truth be told, this is a talented football team that just needs a couple pieces and they could be right back in the thick of it in 2014 – much like the Chiefs did from 2012 to 2013.
2. Washington Redskins (3-13) – S, OL, WR
Jay Gruden is in the house and his presence alone could do wonders for Robert Griffin III and the Washington offense. He’ll likely use less of the read-option and at least initially run the ball more to help keep pressure off of RG3. That’d be the smart thing to do, at least. It also might be wise to help out RG3 with another talented wide receiver, as Pierre Garcon is currently his only reliable option.
The most important area may be safety, though. Upgrading there could help a defense that struggled mightily in pass defense in 2013. The offensive line really didn’t do RG3 any favors as a whole in 2013, either, so the Redskins will have to look at addressing the o-line to keep him standing upright. None of this will be easy to accomplish, though, as the Redskins are one of two teams entering the 2014 NFL Draft without a first round selection.
London Fletcher is retiring, too, so the Redskins will want to add some more talent to their linebacking corps.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12) – QB, DE, RB
Blaine Gabbert isn’t the future and Chad Henne is best served as a backup. That means it’s on to bigger and better things at the quarterback position for the Jaguars. Whether that means the Jags take Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel or Derek Carr remains to be determined, but it’s pretty likely they take one of them.
However, with a need for an elite pass-rusher on the end, it’s absolutely possible Jax takes a potentially slide Jadeveon Clowney and makes an improving defense way better. Then they could try to nab a passer they like in round two. Running back is another area of concern with Maurice Jones-Drew on his way out, but that position will probably be addressed in free agency (Ben Tate, Knowshon Moreno, Darren McFadden, etc) or in the middle rounds of the draft. Tre Mason would be an absolute get if he fell to them in the third round.
4. Cleveland Browns (4-12) – QB, RB, OL
The Browns traded away their would-be franchise running back in Trent Richardson and don’t really have a franchise quarterback. So, with the first round pick they got for T-Rich and the other one they already had, they can take care of those positions or a combination of one and something else. Quarterback has to be one of them, as it’s a serious problem area and the Brandon Weeden era needs to end yesterday. Johnny Manziel to the Browns is starting to pick up some steam, but Cleveland has to be open to all of the top passers. If they don’t use their other first rounder on a running back, they could beef up their offensive line, grab a talented wide receiver, or add depth to an already stellar defense.
5. Oakland Raiders (4-12) – QB, WR, RB
Terrelle Pryor proved to not be the answer under center, so the Raiders will enter this year’s draft with one mission: to land a franchise passer. There are only four quarterbacks in the draft that scream franchise passer, so Oakland may have to consider trading up to land their guy. Beyond quarterback, though, the Raiders will have to keep building elsewhere on offense, as they don’t have much consistency at wide receiver. If they can’t re-sign Darren McFadden or Rashad Jennings, they’ll need to start over at tailback, as well. The Raiders also have some issues on defense, but they’re actually better on that side of the ball than they appear, and they could address some of those holes in free agency.
6. Atlanta Falcons (4-12) – DE, TE, OL
As bad as Atlanta was in 2013, they actually were still very competitive and are only a few moves away from competing at a high level again. Tony Gonzalez is going to retire, but Julio Jones will be back, which should help the offense get back to where it was in 2012. Still, the Falcons may want to go after a legit starting tight end to prevent an insane drop-off at the position. While tight end will be a concern, the main issues for Atlanta are on the offensive line and with their pass-rush. At the sixth spot, the ideal scenario would have the Falcons landing an elite pass-rusher or an elite offensive tackle. Jake Matthews and JaDeveon Clowney are the top targets here, and with the need for quarterback in the top-five picks, it’s entirely possible the Falcons don’t have to trade up to get one of them.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12) – OT, DE, QB
The first question new head coach Lovie Smith needs to ask himself if Mike Glennon is his quarterback. If so, the Bucs can simply stand pat here at seven and take a pass-rusher or the best available player. If not, they’ll want to consider trading up to land the passer of their choice. For now, it looks like an elite pass protector is the way to go – especially if they stick with Glennon. There’s no denying Glennon’s elite size and arm, so if his pass protection improves, there is every reason to believe he could improve, as well. For now it looks like Michigan’s Taylor Lewan would be the guy for the job.
8. Minnesota Vikings (5-10-1) – QB, DE, CB
Ideally Minnesota has a chance at Johnny Manziel, who could be the second coming of Fran Tarkenton. As it stands, though, Fresno State’s Derek Carr is the most likely of the top quarterbacks to slide to Minny here. If the Vikings can’t get the passer they covet, UCLA pass-rushing specialist Anthony Barr should garner serious consideration. The Vikings would be doing themselves a great disservice if they didn’t land a quarterback upgrade, though.
9. Buffalo Bills (6-10) – S, DE, OL
Buffalo grabbed their franchise passer in E.J. Manuel last year, so most of their adjustments heading into 2014 need to be on the defensive side of the football. Safety is a clear need, but there’s arguably only one that would be worth taking as early as they’re picking. Hometown prospect Khalil Mack makes the most sense on paper, as he’d bring three-down potential and excellent pass-rushing ability. The Bills desperately need to improve their pass-rush. They could also go after some offensive line help, but it’ll be hard for them to pass on Mack.
10. Detroit Lions (7-9) – CB, WR, S
Calvin Johnson needs a running mate at wide receiver and Detroit will have to consider a safety upgrade, but landing an impact corner probably has to be their first objective. If a talent like Sammy Watkins is just sitting there, the Lions could go wide receiver, but their defense is arguably a stud corner away from being elite and that’s something they need to strive for.
11. Tennessee Titans (7-9) – S, QB, RB
Is Jake Locker the answer at quarterback? If the Titans decide he’s not, they may want to consider trading up to nab a quarterback in the first round. Tennessee also could add more to their pass-rush on the defensive line or try to replace a likely departing Chris Johnson at running back. The most likely call here is going to be safety, though, as Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would be an elite get at the position.
12. New York Giants (7-9) – CB, OL, RB
Eli Manning’s pass protection eroded in 2013 and the Giants really had major issues across the board. New York has lacked a true stud in the middle of their defense for a while, and adding more talent at linebacker should grant them the freedom to shuffle their players around and formulate the best possibly lineup. The first round is probably too early to go after a running back, but David Wilson (neck) can’t be counted on and Peyton Hillis and Andre Brown will be hitting free agency. It’s a position the G-Men will certainly have to address in free agency or the draft. While the solid play of recently acquired Jon Beason keeps linebacker from being as much of a need as other positions, I can see the Giants finally going after a big LB talent like C.J. Mosley.
13. St. Louis Rams (7-9) – S, OL, WR
The Rams can consider themselves blessed. They hold two first round draft picks – including the #2 overall selection. They’re already taking trade offers, as they don’t have a need for a quarterback and already have a first rounder. In a deep draft, the best and most likely move will be to trade down from the two spot and acquire more picks. They’d still have 1-2 first rounders, though, and with those they’ll need to attack safety, their offensive line and the wide receiver position. They should also consider grabbing a solid backup to Sam Bradford at some point, although it’s highly unlikely they do so in the first round. Due to their lack of a legit #1 wide receiver, Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans would be an interesting choice. If they stand pat at the number two spot, they can consider simply taking the best player available, and that’d be either JaDeveon Clowney or Jake Matthews.
14. Chicago Bears (8-8) – DL, OL, S
Chicago is not a bad team and you can probably make a case for that on both sides of the ball. You wouldn’t know it, though, as the Bears were ravaged by injury all year – specifically on the interior of the defensive line. They need to retain a hopefully healthy Henry Melton, but if they don’t, landing a defensive tackle will be key. Julius Peppers isn’t the elite presence he once was, either, so chasing a pass-rusher outside makes sense, as well. Timmy Jernigan or Stephen Tuitt are two defensive linemen they could take a look at. General offensive line depth and an upgrade at safety are other possible moves.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) – OT, S, WR
The Steelers are just too banged up or old in the secondary and the offensive line. They could toss corner in with safety, but they really need to start grooming a stud safety while they still have time. Ben Roethlisberger simply needs better pass protection, too. He’s not quite as good at getting away from the pass-rush as he once was. Some would say corner is a bigger need than wide receiver, and it might be, but Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery are free agents and the jury is still out on Markus Wheaton. Depth there is probably a good idea.
16. Baltimore Ravens (8-8) – WR, OT, OLB
The Ravens first order of business this off-season should be bringing back one or both of their free agent tackles, Michael Oher and Eugene Monroe. If they bring back one or none, though, drafting an offensive tackle is going to be pretty key. Cyrus Kouandjio or Greg Robinson are two possibilities if they go the tackle route. Outside of the o-line, wide receiver has to be a huge concern, and since they might take care of the line before the draft, I think they’ll go after a receiver in the first round. Mike Evans is probably their safest bet, but if he’s gone they might also consider USC receiver Marqise Lee. They’ll also want to beef up their pass-rush on the line and at outside linebacker, but they first need to make sure they have enough weapons on offense – unlike last season.
17. Dallas Cowboys (8-8) – S, DE, LB
DeMarcus Ware can’t do it by himself, Sean Lee keeps getting hurt and the Cowboys badly need safety help. One of those three positions absolutely needs to be addressed in round one, but it’s Jerry Jones‘ world and we’re just living in it, so you can expect the unexpected. If Jones uses logic, though, he’ll take Ha Ha Clinton-Dix if he falls here – or he’ll trade up to get him. Kony Ealy should be considered for the defensive line, though. Everyone knows Dallas can compete on offense, but improving on their mediocrity is going to have to happen on defense first.
18. New York Jets (8-8) – WR, CB, QB
New York needs to do two things: decide if Geno Smith is really their guy, and get him or whatever other quarterback they might like better some real weapons. For now, I’m going to assume they’ll stick with Smith, as he did show flashes of upside as a rookie and they did just spend a second round pick on him. That should bring them to Mike Evans or Marqise Lee, either of which would help upgrade their awful receiving corps. Those guys could be gone, though, so it also wouldn’t be crazy to just add an impact tight end in the form of Eric Ebron or Jace Amaro. If the Jets shy away from landing an impact pass-catcher, they’ll have to go after more corner help. New York is expected to cut the pricey Antonio Cromartie, and even if they re-sign him cheaply, they’ll need to bring in some talent to increase the competition. Darqueze Dennard or Justin Gilbert are two corners that could make sense.
19. Miami Dolphins (8-8) – OL, RB
Most teams get at least three needs in this list, but Miami only needs two. I’m sure there are some spots on defense they could address here or there, but nothing is as important as their offensive line. Everyone knows about the locker room debacle involving bullying between Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, so it’s entirely possibly both will be gone. Add in Tyson Clabo not really working out, and the Fins needs to add o-line talent across the board. There are numerous stud tackles in this class, so that shouldn’t be a problem. After that, finding a competent running back would be a great move. Lamar Miller fumbles too much and isn’t the best inside runner, while Daniel Thomas lacks versatility and explosiveness. Miami will likely spend their first rounder on an offensive lineman, with a pick on a back to come somewhere before the middle rounds, hopefully.
20. Arizona Cardinals (10-6) – OT, RB, OLB
Arizona was better than people expected this year, and it was mostly thanks to a very talented and aggressive defense. They’ll look to get younger on the edge with their pass-rush, but mostly the Cardinals need to improve their pass protection and add talent to the running back position. Taylor Lewan is probably the ideal pick, but he probably will be gone by the time they pick. Cameron Erving and Cyrus Kouandjio are two other guys that could be considered. I can’t see Arizona going anywhere else in the first round, but Ka’Deem Carey or Tre Mason could be tempting to bolster the rushing attack.
21. Green Bay Packers (8-7-1) – TE, OL, S
Jermichael Finley suffered a serious neck injury and his football career could be over. Even if it isn’t, though, it’s pretty unlikely he’ll be back with the team. That makes tight end a major priority and puts Jace Amaro and Eric Ebron on Green Bay’s board for the first round. I’d prefer Ebron here, as he’s crazy athletic and mirrors Finley (although he has more upside). The Packers love to take the best available player and/or trade down, though, so they could also get a stud offensive lineman that falls to them or just acquire more picks. Safety or outside linebacker are also areas of concern they could tackle in the first round. C.J. Mosley taking over inside is also a possibility, but it’s doubtful he drops this far.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) – S, CB, OLB
Philly doesn’t have many issues on offense. They could add depth to their offensive line or draft a wide receiver instead of bringing back both Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin. They could also shock the world and trade up to land Johnny Manziel, who probably would be an amazing fit for Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense. If we’re thinking logically, though, Kelly realizes Nick Foles is pretty darn good and starts getting to work on an improving but still inconsistent defense. The transition to a 3-4 scheme is evident, so adding another pass-rusher on the outside could be key. The Eagles really have trouble in the secondary, though, and will want to take aim at a stud safety and some competition at corner. While safety is probably the biggest concern, the Eagles are arguably in position to just take the best player available. That, or they’ll just grab a pass-rusher like Vic Beasley or Kyle Van Noy.
23. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) – WR, LB, TE
Kansas City’s season ended with a thud in Indianapolis, but they got much better over the course of just one season and will be legit threats to take over the AFC West in 2014. However, to do so they need to get more consistent on offense and get back to their gritty identity on defense. That may start with the offense, though, as injuries are a big reason why the defense nose-dived. Wide receiver is a big need at the moment, as Dwayne Bowe didn’t always seem like a #1 receiver and Dexter McCluster will be a free agent. Landing a true impact receiver could be key. Jordan Matthews is one guy to keep an eye on, but the Chiefs will hope Mike Evans or Marqise Lee is within reach. If the Chiefs stick with offense, I like Eric Ebron if he’s available. Travis Kelce is still on watch and the Chiefs have no other tight ends worth talking about. Linebacker depth in general is also needed, but isn’t totally necessary in the first round.
24. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5) – S, CB, OLB
Cincinnati is a very solid team on both sides of the ball and Andy Dalton keeps sinking them. I’m not sure I can get much clearer than that. However, since the Bengals seem intent on marching forward into the flames with Dalton as their guy, we’ll look at other positions to improve upon. Safety has to lead the pack, as Cincy has had major mediocrity here for years. They’ve also had devastating injuries at corner. I see Cincy going after secondary talent in round one, but landing a stud talent at linebacker is a possibility, as well.
25. San Diego Chargers (9-7) – CB, OLB, OL
The Chargers were just 9-7 in 2013, but you can hang most of that on their defense. They appeared to have an offense good enough to go deep into the playoffs, and had their defense been more stable they probably would have been in better shape. Improving in 2014 starts with a better secondary, and that mostly hangs on the corners. Drafting an impact corner in round one is probably the best move. With that said, San Diego also could use more talented on the outside of their 3-4, as well as more depth to their offensive line. Justin Gilbert has a decent chance of still being on the board when the Chargers pick at the 25 spot.
26. Indianapolis Colts (11-5) – WR, OL, OLB
Unfortunately for the Colts, they don’t have a first round pick this year. They dealt it away to the Browns for Trent Richardson. Hopefully that ends up working out and they have a franchise running back. For now, it’s not looking like a win. Beyond that, the loss of Reggie Wayne near mid-season showed that Indy needs to bring in more impact talent at the wide receiver position. Darrius Heyward-Bey was a free agent bust, too, so he helps to further the need. Elsewhere, the Colts really need to beef up their offensive line. Andrew Luck is adept at sensing and avoiding pressure, but his protection has been shoddy and the run-blocking has also been rough at times, as well. Indy also needs to keep plugging appropriate talent into their 3-4 scheme. Grabbing a outside rusher at linebacker could be key in developing a consistent rotation.
27. New Orleans Saints (11-5) – OLB, CB, WR
New Orleans made major progress with their new 3-4 defense, but they lacked consistency in the second half of the season. Adding more true 3-4 outside linebackers to the mix could go a long way and Kyle Van Noy would be a perfect fit. Corner is also a question area, while Saints receivers are aging and are generally pretty one-dimensional. Adding more young, speedy talent to their corps is probably a good idea. That won’t happen in the first unless someone awesome falls into their lap.
28. New England Patriots (12-4) – TE, DL, OL
New England’s first objective this off-season should be shoring up their offensive line to make sure Tom Brady is protected as good as possible. The run-blocking has been great, but the pass protection has been shaky at times. It’s a key need, but I’m not sold on it being big enough to go after in the first round. Tight end, however, may be. Aaron Hernandez is gone and Rob Gronkowski now has his third major injury (torn ACL) in the past two years. He’ll probably be back and be a stud again, but what if he isn’t? The Pats can’t go through another roller coaster season on offense. If Eric Ebron or Jace Amaro fall to them, they have to pull the trigger. Even if those two are gone, they should still consider Austin Seferian-Jenkins, as well. After that, the Pats need to focus on the defensive line and line-backing corps’ depth.
29. San Francisco 49ers (12-4) – CB, WR, DL
The 49ers are built extremely well from top to bottom, but if they have any serious issues it’s clearly in their secondary. They are pretty well set up at safety, but could use more talent at cornerback. Marcus Roberson is just one guy they’d take a look at, but there are likely a slew of corners they’d consider at the end of round one or leaking into the second round. Beyond corner, the 49ers would be looking at the top available player in the first round, or simply adding depth to their lines. Wide receiver is another position they could make a splash, though, as Michael Crabtree showed them how little talent they had at the position last year. Anquan Boldin is 33 and he and Mario Manningham are both free agents, as well.
30. Carolina Panthers (12-4) – WR, CB, OL
Steve Smith is ancient and Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn are replacement level wide receivers, and also free agents. It’s time for the Panthers to make a move and grab some serious talent at the wide receiver position. I doubt they trade up to do so, but they probably should. If they don’t, they may consider the likes of Allen Robinson, Brandin Cooks, or Davante Adams, among others. Trading down out of the first round would also be a good idea, as they can probably still have their pick of the three aforementioned receivers in round two.
31. Denver Broncos (13-3) – CB, OL, DL
Champ Bailey isn’t getting any younger and Denver’s secondary has been pretty inconsistent, so it’s time to get some serious talent to put behind him for grooming. Investing in some more talent along the offensive line would be wise to help prolong Peyton Manning‘s career for as long as possible, as well. Any other areas will mostly be on the defensive side, although Denver may also take a look at some wide receivers with Eric Decker hitting free agency and commanding a solid amount of money after two straight stellar seasons.
32. Seattle Seahawks (13-3) – WR, TE, CB
Like most of the teams near the bottom of this list, the Seahawks are extremely well built and aren’t going to have a ton of glaring needs. However, if there’s one spot they have trouble with at times, it’s offense. Zach Miller is aging and inconsistent, while their other tight ends are fairly unproven. If the right tight end fell to them, they’d have to consider an upgrade. Wide receiver is also in question, as Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice are both injury prone, while Golden Tate is headed for free agency. Adding an impact receiver would be a good idea. Other than that, depth is key for the defensive line and secondary.