The 2015 NFL Draft is right around the corner and your team has a lot of work to do. That, or they’re the Seattle Seahawks and next time they just need to hand the damn ball to Marshawn Lynch. Still, even Seattle has some personnel changes they could make to improve (add a wide receiver or tight end, anyone?). And those who aren’t Seattle, well, they might have a lot of work to do, depending on who they are.
We’ll dig deep into everyone’s team needs as the draft process rages on, but for now let’s go team-by-team and hit the most pressing need as everyone gears up for May’s draft:
Note: Teams listed via 2015 NFL Draft order.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Quarterback
If you don’t have a quarterback, you gotta go get one. Josh McCown didn’t work out and Mike Glennon isn’t the answer, so Tampa Bay is starting totally from scratch under center. That boils down to Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota and probably no one else. Mariota might have nice upside and Winston has character flaws, but the NFL-ready prospect is without a doubt Winston. He’s going to be the #1 pick.
2. Tennessee Titans – Offensive Line (in general)
Michael Oher is gone and the Titans as a whole just weren’t good on the line last year. Their offensive line has really been an issue for the better part of the last decade, too, so they probably will want to focus some time and energy on adding some pieces that will actually fit and work. Quarterback is a big issue if they don’t believe in Zach Mettenberger, but he flashed brilliance and was once a first round prospect. It sounds like they love him, so they’ll probably get a defensive piece like Randy Gregory or Leonard Williams early and beef up the o-line in the middle rounds.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Offensive Line (in general)
Jacksonville’s offensive line was quite awful for most of 2014, but they did have injuries and the team in general was over-matched a lot. Luke Joeckel is still the hope on the left side, but he hasn’t been amazing and they also could use upgrades or competition at center and right tackle. They won’t get any of those spots addressed early (they’d be reaching at 3rd overall), but their offensive line is easily their biggest weakness right now.
4. Oakland Raiders – Safety
Amari Cooper is the sexy pick and the Raiders do need a legit #1 wide receiver, but safety is easily their biggest problem. They just cut Tyvon Branch and Charles Woodson is ancient, so unless one of their young guys steps up, they’ll be hurting in 2015 and beyond. They probably need two new safeties but at least one to take over for the departed Branch. They’re not taking him at the 4 spot, though, so look for them to take Cooper and addressed safety in the middle rounds.
5. Washington Redskins – Offensive Line (in general)
Robert Griffin III wasn’t great in 2014. He rolled right into sacks, got hurt and missed guys routinely. That being said, his pass protection was beyond horrendous. If he’s even going to be passable in 2015, it needs to improve dramatically. If they want to reach and beef up their protection they could opt for Iowa’s Brandon Scherff or Stanford’s Andrus Peat here. I doubt they go this high for o-line, though. Heck, they might even dump RG3 and pick Mariota or Hundley here. Regardless, they need to improve their o-line, so look for them to grab two or more bodies to add to the mix.
6. New York Jets – Quarterback
Geno Smith has proven he’s not the guy, so New York should cut him loose or at least draft someone new to take over as soon as possible. Signing or trading for a veteran quarterback could also factor into their decision-making, but no one should be shocked if they draft a passer early. If Marcus Mariota somehow makes it to the six spot, he probably will be the pick.
7. Chicago Bears – Linebacker (in general)
Chicago is said to be switching to a 3-4 base defense, which is going to put a huge emphasis on finding the right guys to fit in the right spots. You could start anywhere, but finding a stud inside linebacker or elite outside pass rusher is going to be key to building this unit. Since Leonard Williams and Danny Shelton will both probably be gone, Chicago could settle for Randy Gregory. He could also be gone, but Donte Fowler or Shane Ray could be fits at outside linebacker.
8. Atlanta Falcons – Defensive End
Dan Quinn is taking over and is an elite defensive mind, so there’s little doubt he’ll tolerate Atlanta’s paltry 22 sacks from a year ago. Atlanta just doesn’t have the talent on the ends and need to get bigger, stronger and faster. Landing Randy Gregory or Shane Ray early would help fix that. They also badly need to address running back after cutting Steven Jackson, but defensive end is more pressing.
9. New York Giants – Defensive End
The G-Men used to be known for their dominant pass rush. JPP is a free agent and the cupboard is otherwise bare. They used to be stacked on the ends and always had great depth and terrific rotations. That’s not the case, so in addition to making sure JPP stays in the Big Apple, they’ll want to go find 1-2 serviceable defensive ends. I expect them to find a way to land a top prospect in the first round. Trading up for stud pass rusher Randy Gregory would be awesome but they’d settle for someone like Shane Ray or Dante Fowler.
10. St. Louis Rams – Offensive Line
If the Rams aren’t keeping Sam Bradford then QB obviously jumps up as their biggest need. For now, protecting Bradford is the main focus and that probably means replacing Scott Wells and Jake Long. Wells was atrocios in 2014 and Long just can’t stay healthy. St. Louis has some talent on the o-line but they need to find suitable replacements for these two guys.
11. Minnesota Vikings – Offensive Line (in general)
Teddy Bridgewater didn’t even play a full season and he ranked 7th in the league after getting sacked a whopping 39 times. Matt Kalil was a stud prospect a few years ago but he struggled last year and the Vikes could also use help inside at guard. They mostly need more bodies for competition, so they don’t necessarily have to reach at the 11 spot for o-line help. It is still probably their biggest overall need. Look for them to add an impact defender at the 11 spot and beef up the o-line in rounds 2-4.
12. Cleveland Browns – Quarterback
I hate to say it, but unless the Browns believe in Johnny Manziel and/or Manziel can prove he’s going to have a shot at panning out, the Browns may need to consider taking a quarterback in the first round again. Personally I still believe Manziel can play and giving up on a guy after six quarters of play is beyond laughable, but if they don’t want to go all in on the kid, they need to answer that question sooner, rather than later. If that’s the case, it’s not impossible to see Marcus Mariota falling this far, while the Browns could also easily package this pick and a later first round selection to move up. They could also stand pat and take Bryce Petty or Brett Hundley a little later.
13. New Orleans Saints – Offensive Line (in general)
Drew Brees looked bad at times last year. Whether that was due to leaky pass protection or age is up for debate, but my guess is better protection would allow him more time to find his many weapons. New Orleans has a ton of issues on defense that could be argued up as bigger needs, but what’s more important than protecting your franchise passer? Brees isn’t going to be effective on an elite level if he doesn’t have time to throw, so the Saints need to beef up the interior of their offensive line.
14. Miami Dolphins – Offensive Guard
Miami doesn’t have a single offensive guard worth hyping up, yet they crushed it on the ground last year. Just imagine if they can inject some actual talent to either guard spot. Look for them to target a reliable guard early in the draft, with corner help a close second need.
15. San Francisco 49ers – Wide Receiver
Michael Crabtree won’t be back and all the Niners have is Stevie Johnson and Anquan Boldin. They need to get younger at the position and give Colin Kaepernick someone who can make big plays. Trading up for Kevin White could be an option (he could potentially fall to 15, too), but the 49ers shouldn’t have much trouble finding a quality receiver that could help right away here in the first round.
16. Houston Texans – Quarterback
Ryan Fitzpatrick worked about as good as we guessed, Tom Savage is still super raw and even if the Texans bring back Ryan Mallett there’s no guarantee he’s the answer. Houston also needs to shore up their secondary and may have to replace Andre Johnson (who could still be traded or released), but they’re not going anywhere without a quarterback. They don’t need to pull the trigger in round one, but if they find themselves looking at Bryce Petty or Brett Hundley, they’ll have to consider adding another passer to the mix.
17. San Diego Chargers – Offensive Line (in general)
Outside linebacker is a pretty strong need for the Chargers, but if Melvin Ingram can give them anything it’s a little less concerning. They’ve got bigger fish to fry on the o-line, though, with King Dunlap hitting free agency and most of the rest of the line being pretty inconsistent. D.J. Fluker has some promise and can be used at guard or right tackle, but they could use another guy to come in and compete for a starting job. Left tackle and both guard spots could arguably be targeted for upgrades.
18. Kansas City Chiefs – Wide Receiver
Kansas City has issues on the offensive line but they have young talent that needs time to develop (namely Eric Fisher) and they can cure some of their ailments there by picking up 1-2 key free agents. Wide receiver is their real sore spot, as it completely handcuffs their offense. It’s obviously arguable that Alex Smith is a huge part of the problem thanks to his average arm, but he also doesn’t have a lot to work with. Andy Reid offenses traditionally have a guy who can win deep and they currently have no one like that on the roster. Look for the Chiefs to finally make a splash in the draft with a high upside receiver.
19. Buffalo Bills (Browns pick here) – Quarterback
The Bills don’t believe in E.J. Manuel and Rex Ryan has proven in his own history that you really need a competent quarterback to win in the NFL. They don’t have one, so getting one is going to be pretty key to them taking the next step. That could prove to be difficult without a first round pick, but not having what would have amounted to as the 19th overall selection doesn’t change their needs. If they go for it in round two, they could still see someone like Bryce Petty fall into their laps.
20. Philadelphia Eagles – Quarterback
Mark Sanchez is gone and it’s pretty clear the Eagles aren’t enamored with Nick Foles. If they just stuck with Foles they’d still be fine, but if they don’t believe in him it’s time to move on. That could lead to him being traded and at some point the Eagles would have to take a quarterback. That could have them trading up to make sure Chip Kelly lands former pupil, Marcus Mariota. Brett Hundley is also another athletic quarterback that could fit beautifully in Kelly’s up-tempo system.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Defensive Tackle
Cincy isn’t doing a very solid secondary any favors by stinking against the run and fielding mostly average pass rushing talent. They really will want to beef up across the entire defensive line but they need to correct their issues in the middle to help improve their run defense. Geno Atkins just wasn’t the same guy last year but hopefully he can regain his form. If he can’t, though, Cincy is looking at a talent-starved middle of the line. They won’t be able to land an elite defensive tackle at the 21st spot, but hopefully they can get a guy who can at least provide nice depth and push their starters.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers – Corner Back
The Steelers weren’t atrocious overall on defense a year ago, but they weren’t the unit of old, either. They specifically struggled to contain explosive passing games and ranked 27th on the year in passing yards allowed per game. That’s not good, which means a lot of change is on it’s way in the secondary. They might shake things up at safety, but Ike Taylor was their best corner and he’s old as dirt and also a free agent. They’re pretty much starting from scratch, which should mean hitting up free agency and the draft for 2-3 corners.
23. Detroit Lions – Defensive Tackle
Detroit was a monster on defense last year, and it had everything to do with their two beasts in the middle – Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Both are about to hit the open market. Should Detroit let one of them go, they’ll want to consider picking up a new talent in this year’s draft. If they both somehow walk, they’ll absolutely need to draft a defensive tackle. One or both can’t be expected back considering how much that will cost, so DT looks to be what they’ll target early. Luckily there are some solid 4-3 defensive tackles in this year’s draft class. Jordan Phillips, Malcom Brown and Carl Davis are a few that the Lions could consider around the 23rd spot. They’d have to trade up to land an elite DT prospect.
24. Arizona Cardinals – Outside Linebacker
Jonathan Abraham quit last year and the Cardinals somehow got by with a pretty spare collection of pass rushers. Their aggressive 3-4 badly needs help on the outside edges, while you could also argue they need a young franchise passer to groom, as well as help on the d-line. But let’s be honest; they’ve got nothing on the outside and a legit pass rusher would do wonders for an already very stout defense. Vic Beasley falling to them would be amazing.
25. Carolina Panthers – Offensive Line (in general)
Cam Newton was bad for most of 2014 because he was hurt and didn’t stop getting hit. His offensive line bordered on awful for half of the year and at best was inconsistent. They need to bring in anyone who can push for a starting job and help both the pass protection and run blocking improve. Wide receiver and defensive end are also problem areas, but if you’re in dire need of help on the o-line, you have to address it.
26. Baltimore Ravens – Wide Receiver
How is wide receiver always Baltimore’s biggest need entering the draft? Last year they addressed the issue by signing Steve Smith and that worked out pretty well, but he’s another year older and Baltimore’s owner reportedly doesn’t feel great about the odds of retaining speedster, Torrey Smith. That should call for Baltimore to go early on a receiver, and that’d be a great move considering how deep wide receiver is this year. That might have them trading up, but if they stand pat they might still luck into someone like Jaelen Strong or DeVante Parker.
27. Dallas Cowboys – Defensive End
If Sean Lee can return to form and stay healthy, Dallas could slowly move from a passable defense to a pretty good one. They need some help on the defensive line, though, as they ranked 28th in sacks and really don’t have much outside of second-year pass rusher, DeMarcus Lawrence. Adding a stud pass rusher (if one falls to them here) would be ideal.
28. Denver Broncos – Offensive Line (in general)
Peyton Manning is due back eventually but he’s going to be 39 and as immobile as ever. Denver’s pass protection on the outside has been shaky and it may be time to inject some youth and competition at left and right tackle. On top of that, Gary Kubiak’s new zone-blocking scheme will require strong, athletic guards and tackles. The Broncos will both need to think about that transition, as well as the healthy of their star veteran passer. Someone like the ridiculously versatile Cameron Irving could make sense with their first round pick. He wouldn’t necessarily be ideal for either tackle spot, but he has the athleticism and versatility to slide all over the line.
29. Indianapolis Colts – Running Back
Indy has some minor issues on defense that they’ll hopefully address in free agency or the middle rounds of the draft, but their most glaring need by far is at running back. Daniel Herron is a replacement level talent, Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard are never healthy and Trent Richardson was a mistake. They need someone they can count on, which could make the likes of T.Y. Yeldon, Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon very tempting options in the first round.
30. Green Bay Packers – Defensive Tackle
Green Bay hasn’t had a true answer on the middle of their defensive line ever since Dom Capers came into town. Ryan Pickett left before last year and B.J. Raji probably won’t be back this year. They could start by bringing back Letroy Guion , but he plays on the end. They need a legit mass in the middle of the line to help stop the run, making guys like Jordan Phillips and Eddie Goldman attractive options. Danny Shelton would be great but he’ll be long gone by this point.
31. Seattle Seahawks – Wide Receiver
Chris Matthews may have been a revelation in the Super Bowl, but Seattle will be risking a lot to hang their hat on that. Paul Richardson also shredded his knee, Jermaine Kearse isn’t really a #2 receiver and Doug Baldwin as a #1 is a bit of a joke. The Seahawks got to the Super Bowl without a top notch receiving corps, but just think how much better their offense would be if they had true threats in the passing game. Seattle could take a chance on troubled stud Dorial Green-Beckham and no one would doubt them for it.
32. New England Patriots – Defensive Line (in general)
New England oddly has a lot of needs for a team that just won it all, but few are more glaring than the defensive line. They run a pretty versatile hybrid defense, which has them requiring many different types of players that aren’t locked into one specific role. It also is going to require them to acquire more depth that can push for a starting spot. Vince Wilfork is still solid but he’s nearing the end one way or another and last year’s first rounder Dominique Easley hasn’t panned out yet. I’m not sure if the Pats pick a defensive end or defensive tackle in the first round, but it’s arguable it’s their biggest need.