In todays NFL, when talent determines which teams are successful and which are not, front offices around the league focus their efforts on drafting the most talented players when their respective franchises are on the clock on draft day. However each NFL team has certain needs and holes to fill to potentially lift their teams to the next step and give them a better chance to win every week.
*Featured Image via Business Insiders.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Top three needs: QB, Pass Rusher, Offensive line
Unless you think that Mike Glennon or Josh McCown is the long term answer at quarterback for the Bucs, then they need to concentrate on picking up a franchise caliber passer. One of the most essential players to own in todays pass-oriented NFL are athletes who can consistently rush the quarterback and the Buccaneers, who seem to be rebuilding, need those athletes.
Gerald McCoy, their 100 million dollar defensive tackle is a great, young star to build around but they need to acquire speedy, yet strong edge rushers to open up spaces for inside defenders like McCoy and linebacker LaVonta David to attack from. For all rebuilding teams to succeed, they also need quality run and pass blockers to pave the way and protect the quarterback, Tampa Bay would not be hurting if they address the beef up front.
Best candidate: QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
2. Tennessee Titans
Top three needs: defensive line, QB, offensive line
The Titans are in a very similar place as the Buccaneers, as they are both uncertain about their quarterback situations. I think the Titans feel a little better about their quarterback spot, as they seem more likely to allow Zach Mettenberger to have one more full season as the starter to see if he is the answer. The Titans will rather answer another need in pass rushing, as they are due for an influx of young talent on the defensive line. Guys like Leonard Williams or Shane Ray provide many answers for teams in need of athletic defensive linemen.
The Titans have addressed the offensive line early in the draft, evidence by the high selections spent on Chance Warmack and Taylor Lewan. Their offensive line is young and talented but they may look for a versatile, big tackle who can man the right side, as I am not sure Byron Stingily is the answer there.
Best candidate: DE/DT Leonard Williams, USC
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Top three needs: offensive lineman, defensive lineman, safety
The Jacksonville Jaguars have their franchise signal-caller in Blake Bortles, and they also have decent, young weapons like Allen Robinson and Marquis Lee. They have spent their last two top five selections on offensive players, so it is most likely that the Jags look to add some talent on the defensive side of the ball, with a focus on the line. The worst case scenario here is if the Buccaneers and Titans spend the first two selections on Randy Gregory and Leonard Williams, however that is unlikely.
If that occurs, however, look for the Jaguars to once again look for improvement along the offensive line. Grabbing a versatile beast like Brandon Scherff will be in the cards. They could also look into finding lengthy, strong tackle like Andrus Peat out of Stanford. Landon Collins is also an option here, as he is an inside the box hitter at safety, but at number three it seems to high.
Best candidate: OLB/DE Randy Gregory, Nebraska
4. Oakland Raiders
Top three needs: wide receiver, offensive lineman, defensive front seven member
The Oakland Raiders may have successfully found their franchise quarterback in Derek Carr, but he needs a ton of help if he wants to run a quality offense in Oakland. They currently boast a subpar receiving core led by an aging James Jones. Help may already be coming in the form of a top free agent acquisition like Julius Thomas or one of the better wideout players officially going off the books for their respective teams. The obvious choice here would be to go with the supremely talented pass-catcher out of Alabama in Amari Cooper. The Heisman finalist was everything to the Crimson Tide offense and will be an immediate favorite of Carr if the Raiders are lucky enough to be able to snag the best weapon in the draft.
Of course if either Leonard Williams or Randy Gregory are available, which I don’t think will be the case, the Raiders wouldn’t blink before snagging either pass rusher. Another prospect that Oakland’s front office will definitely take a look at is defensive end Shane Ray out of Missouri as he is a natural pass rusher with a knack grabbing ball carriers from behind. For the offensive line, the best fit for them seems to be the beast of a man in T.J. Clemmings out of Pittsburgh, who would most likely be the future at the position for Oakland.
Best candidate: WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
5. Washington Redskins
Top three needs: offensive line, defensive back, pass rusher
The Washington Redskins are an interesting case, as their quarterback situation is sticky. I have a slight feeling that they may just make a huge splash and draft a player like Mariota here. But in terms of needs, their may not be a bigger one than offensive line help. Their prime options here include tackle Andrus Peat out of Stanford, tackle/guard Brandon Scherff out of Iowa, and La’el Collins out of LSU. If the Redskins want to make the most out of their selection here, they should choose the most durable and versatile offensive lineman prospect in Brandon Scherff.
The Redskins also need a productive safety to take over for aging safety Ryan Clark, and who is better than the thumper out of Alabama in Landon Collins. As most teams in the NFL today, having a top notch pass rusher is key and can speed up a rebuilding process. The Redskins would have a lot of options here including Dante Fowler Jr. from Florida and Shane Ray from Missouri.
Best candidate: OT/OG Brandon Scherff, Iowa
6. New York Jets
Top three needs: quarterback, wide receiver, outside linebacker
What has me mixed up about the New York Jets is that I can see them going in to different directions and both of them work completely. They could address their top need, at quarterback, by taking arguably the most talented one in the class in Marcus Mariota. Or they could get their new head coach, defensive mastermind Todd Bowles, a young budding star at edge rusher with Dante Fowler Jr. out of Florida.
Outside of Cooper, I don’t think their is a wideout who deserves a top ten selection, unlike last year. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see an underrated defensive lineman prospect go here, maybe Alvin Dupree out of Kentucky. As of now, however, the Jets will turn the page on their franchise, and not only welcome the Bowles era to the Big Apple, but also bring in the Hawaiian-born Mariota to the Northeast.
Best candidate: QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon
7. Chicago Bears
Top three needs: safety, interior defensive line, edge rusher
The Chicago Bears have a lot of problems. And it just so happens that all those problems are on the defensive side of the football. Sure the Bears would benefit from a change at quarterback, but the first thing that John Fox should fix once he arrives in the Windy City is the defense, which is definitely a tall task. I think the Bears could go four ways with this selection: getting the “fly all over the field” safety in Landon Collins, two prime edge rushing candidates in Dante Fowler Jr. and Bud Dupree out of Kentucky. If the Bears decide that it would be best for them to address their interior defensive line problem, the best defensive tackle prospects after Leonard Williams is Danny Shelton out of Washington and Jordan Phillips out of Oklahoma.
Best candidate: S Landon Collins, Alabama
8. Atlanta Falcons
Top three needs: Pass rusher, linebacker, offensive lineman
The Atlanta Falcons need a whole lot of help within the trenches as they have been one of the worst rushing teams, worst rush defense, and worst pass rushing teams in the NFL for the past couple of seasons. Dan Quinn, the current Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator, is expected to be the head coach once his team finishes the season after the Super Bowl. Quinn is a defensive wizard, so you have to expect him to take a productive, speedy pass-rushing linebacker with this selection.
The best options here would be Dante Fowler Jr. and Bud Dupree. If he elects to go for an athletic inside linebacker, like he currently coaches in Bobby Wagner, he could choose Benardrick McKinney out of Mississippi State. The Falcons spent a high draft pick last year on Jake Matthews, yet their offensive line hasn’t gotten much better after one season with him. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if GM Thomas Dimitroff continues racking in talented, young offensive linemen.
Best candidate: OLB/DE Dante Fowler Jr., Florida
9. New York Giants
Top three needs: offensive lineman, pass rusher, linebacker
I see the New York Giants to realistically go three different routs. With Jason Pierre-Paul likely leaving the Big Apple via free agency, the Giants could elect to draft yet another young pass rusher named either Bud Dupree or Vic Beasley. The more enticing rout among Giants fan is to bolster their offensive line by replacing Will Beatty with Andrus Peat from Stanford. If the front office in New York decide to go another way, look no further than Benardrick McKinney from Mississippi State at inside linebacker. He reminds me of a stronger Bobby Wagner and he can cover the entire field while either stopping the run or defending the pass.
Best Candidate: OT Andrus Peat, Stanford
10. St. Louis Rams
Top three needs: quarterback, offensive lineman, safety
The St. Louis Rams have a terrible spot in this draft, given their needs as a franchise. The top two signal-callers, and the only ones worthy of a top ten, maybe even a top twenty draft selection are gone. The top safety, and one who owns a huge gap of talent over the next center fielder, is gone. And even considering the dismay of the fan base, the Rams front office must go back to the offensive line with their first round pick again this year.
Joe Barksdale is due for a huge payday this offseason, and I am not sure the Rams are going to want to spend the cash to keep the veteran bookend tackle. Jake Long is also getting older, and its time for the Rams to grab a franchise left tackle.
Best Candidate: OT/G La’el Collins, LSU
11. Minnesota Vikings
Top three needs: wide receiver, cornerback, defensive lineman
The Minnesota Vikings are in a very decent position entering the NFL draft, as it seems they have finally found their franchise quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. Now it’s time to go out and grab the young passer some quality weapons to throw to. Who else but former Louisville teammate and battery mate, DeVante Parker. He is arguably the second best wide receiver, although you could make a case for former West Virginia Mountaineer Kevin White.
Parker was a senior last year for the Cardinals, but he has gained a lot of experience in college, and knows what type of player Bridgewater is, having played with him for three seasons. If the Vikings elect to grab another need this high in the draft, they could look at a few cornerback prospects; the best being Marcus Peters out of Washington and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu from Oregon. At defensive line, they could look at Shane Ray from Missouri or even Danny Shelton from Washington.
Best Candidate: WR DeVante Parker, Louisville
12. Cleveland Browns
Top three needs: pass rusher, wide receiver, inside linebacker
The Browns have a nice secondary led by Joe Haden, a solid offensive line led by Joe Thomas and Alex Mack, and the rest is kind of a mess. There is no point in grabbing a quarterback here, as they have to wait out the Johnny Manziel experiment at least another year, given they spent a first round pick on him. They also can’t go for a running back, so they have to focus on bringing in a receiving weapon or a strong, speedy athlete for the front seven on defense. What sucks for the Browns is that DeVante Parker would be a perfect fit in their offensive system, but it doesn’t matter as Kevin White is the same height and only weighs a flimsy pound more than the more Cardinals player.
The Browns could also look to add a inside linebacker to captain the defense for the next decade, but the obvious choice here is the best player available that fits your needs. Shane Ray from Missouri is a powerful defensive end that would fit great in Ray Horton’s 3-4 denfense system, and Horton looks for powerful, yet fast defensive lineman to man the beef positions of his defense.
Best Candidate: DE Shane Ray, Missouri
13. New Orleans Saints
Top three needs: pass rusher, cornerback, safety
The New Orleans Saints are in ownership trouble, as the city of New Orleans and the fan bases think that the current owner of the Pelicans and Saints isn’t a capable of running the franchises. The Saints also have severe draft needs as their secondary is a mess, with Kenny Vacarro being the only bright spot among the group. They need to add a productive second cornerback, as Keenan Lewis can’t guard both sides of the field for the franchise. Perhaps their top need is at pass rusher, where they could look to grab potential top ten pick Bud Dupree here, although they may need to grab a defensive end prospect like Arik Armstead out of Oregon. The need that has the most talent at this point in the draft, however, is at cornerback. Trae Waynes from Michigan State is a beast in coverage and has the size to win jump balls and the speed to run with the fastest pass catchers.
Best Candidate: CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State
14. Miami Dolphins
Top three needs: offensive tackle, outside linebacker, defensive tackle
The Miami Dolphins offense line has improved greatly, as the addition of Ju’Waun James and Samson Satele has not only provided stability to the unit, but success. They only need one more piece to the puzzle and that is to add a talented tackle to man the right side. I don’t think the front office is going to address that position in the first round, however, as Jared Odrick is leaving via free agency and the defensive now possesses a hug hole in the middle of the defense. The most viable option here is to look at Danny Shelton out of Washington or Malcolm Brown from Texas, or even perhaps Eddie Goldman of Florida State. They could also look at Shelton’s former teammate Shaq Thompson or Vic Beasley from Clemson.
Best Candidate: DT Danny Shelton, Washington
15. San Francisco 49ers
Top three needs: wide receiver, outside linebacker, cornerback
The 49ers have a very talented roster, highlighted by players like Aldon Smith and Justin Smith, but lack consistent production from the defense. That is why they may elect to grab a outside linebacker to potentially counter Aldon Smith and take over for the less talented Aaron Lynch. The prime candidate here would be Vic Beasley from Clemson. He was a speed demon off the edge for the Tigers and will provide a similar speciality for the 49ers as he will also take a lot of double teams off of the Smith brothers.
Another position they could upgrade is at corner, where Marcus Peters and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu look very pretty here. If they think they instead should look for more weapons on offense, they could draft the supremely talented wideout in Dorial Green-Beckham. He has a ton of red flags but he was the number one recruit in his high school class, and his athletic ceiling is unparalleled.
Best Candidate: OLB Vic Beasley, Clemson
16. Houston Texans
Top three needs: quarterback, wide receiver, offensive lineman
The Houston Texans need an upgrade at the most important position in the league, at quarterback, and they may be in position to look for a franchise gunner here. With Mariota and Winston off the board here, the best options here are Brett Hundley from UCLA and Bryce Petty from Baylor. Hundley is the superior athlete but Petty is a more accurate and precise thrower who reminds me a bit of Tony Romo.
Hundley could turn into a Kaepernick with the right offensive scheme and coach. At wide receiver, Andre Johnson isn’t getting any younger and the Texans may look for someone to pair with DeAndre Hopkins for the long term future. Kevin White from West Virginia is an obvious match here, as he is a versatile deep threat who can beat a team in a lot of different ways, whether it be after the catch or his premier route-running ability.
Best Candidate: WR Kevin White, West Virginia
17. San Diego Chargers
Top three needs: cornerback, defensive tackle, offensive lineman
The San Diego Chargers needs a talented defensive star to get them over the playoff hump, as Phillip Rivers is starting to get older and their deep playoff run window keeps on shrinking. A cornerback here would be a huge upgrade, as Brandon Flowers was on a one year deal.
However, I think the Chargers resign him so they can focus on a bigger need here in the first round. That need is at nose tackle, and there are some talented players still on the board for the position led by Malcolm Brown, Jordan Phillips, and Eddie Goldman. The Chargers run a 3-4 defense, which means they mainly need a guy who can take up space in the middle. The best of the bunch would be Jordan Phillips, who stands at 6-6 and over 330 pounds.
Best Candidate: NT Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma
18. Kansas City Chiefs
Top three needs: cornerback, wide receiver, inside linebacker
One of the most amazing statistics of the 2014 NFL season was that the Kansas City Chiefs wide receivers didn’t account for a single touchdown the entire season. Whether that be for the lack of aggressiveness in the passing attack or the lack of talent at the position, the Chiefs wideouts didn’t get anything done in the passing game. That has to change if the franchise wants to get back into the playoffs. A more pressing need though, and one that yields more talent at this point in the draft is at cornerback.
Best Candidate: CB Marcus Peters, Washington
19. Buffalo Bills
Top three needs: quarterback, safety, linebacker
The Bills have one of the best defenses in the NFL, and that is why I think they have the luxury to look for another franchise passer, as the E.J. Manuel experiment has failed miserably. I think they are going to stay away from Brett Hundley, however, as he has a similar physical skill set to Manuel. Bryce Petty should be a Bill, as his big play ability matches his to notch accuracy, and I think he can take the Bills to the playoffs in the coming years, as long as the defense holds up to the standard they set as a unit last season.
Best Candidate: QB Bryce Petty, Baylor
20. Philadelphia Eagles
Top three needs: cornerback, safety, pass rusher
The Eagles franchise possesses one of the best, if not the best offensive minds at coach in Chip Kelly. He was able to make Mark Sanchez a little relevant when his franchise passer, Nick Foles, went down with an injury to his collarbone. There has been a rumor around the league that the Eagles were going to try to trade up to acquire Marcus Mariota, who Kelly coached and recruited for at Oregon, however, they may not have the resources to do that. That means that Philly needs to grab defensive talent, especially at the defensive back positions, as they repeatedly were burned by elite quarterbacks this season including Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Tony Romo.
Best Candidate: CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon
21. Cincinnati Bengals
Top three needs: cornerback, safety, inside linebacker
The Cincinnati Bengals may need an upgrade at quarterback, as Andy Dalton isn’t getting it done when it counts most, that being in the playoffs. There most pressing need is at cornerback and safety, as they play in a division with Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco and a conference with Brady and Manning. The corner trend in the NFL today is long and strong corners, and that is why Florida State star cornerback P.J. Williams is a perfect fit here.
Best Candidate: CB P.J. Williams, Florida State
22. Pittsburgh Steelers
Top three needs: safety, defensive line, cornerback
The Steelers offense was on fire in 2014 led by the three headed monster on Ben Roethlisberger, Le’veon Bell, and Antonio Brown. Their offensive line has improved, and their defense has faltered. One position the Steelers have neglected is cornerback, where they hope to address early in this year’s draft. They could also look at a free safety to field the deep middle of the field. The best free safeties in this year’s draft is Gerod Holiman from Louisville and Cody Prewitt from Ole Miss.
Best Candidate: CB Quinten Rollins, Miami (OH)
23. Detroit Lions
Top three needs: cornerback, defensive tackle, offensive lineman
Cornerback doesn’t seem to have many options here unless the Lions want to dip into the second round talent here. The Lions may not have the financial capabilities to sign Ndamokung Suh to a long term deal, so why not sign Nick Fairley and draft another top notch defensive tackle. They could also look to continue to build along the offensive line, potentially grabbing a young center to replace Dominic Raiola. Another option is to acquire a tight end as well, as they may need another weapon to elevate the offense to another level.
Best Candiate: DT Eddie Goldman, Florida State
24. Arizona Cardinals
Top three needs: defensive line, pass rusher, offensive line
The Arizona Cardinal’s defense is old and they just lost their defensive mastermind at coordinator in Todd Bowles, who moved on as head coach of the New York Jets. They could use a versatile, young pass rusher who can spread his arms for easy tackles and collapse the pocket while rushing the passer. One of my favorite players in the draft, outside linebacker Shaq Thompson, who played snaps at running back for the Huskies, can fill that need immediately for the Cardinals.
Best Candidate: OLB Shaq Thompson, Washington
25. Carolina Panthers
Top three needs: offensive tackle, wide receiver, pass rusher
The Carolina Panthers need help on the offensive line, especially at offensive tackle. They need it so much that I won’t even talk about their other needs. Luckily they have many different directions they can go here. T. J. Clemmings is someone who dropped from being a potential top ten pick to a late first round selection in most mock drafts due to his weak showing at the Senior Bowl. He still has all the tools to succeed in the NFL, however, as his 6-6 frame will be welcomed with open arms by a franchise needing a long term solution at the bookend position. Another name for the Panther faithful to keep an eye on is Erick Flowers from Miami, who has similar intangibles as Clemmings, and is known as a magnificent pass protector.
Best Candidate: OT T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh
26. Baltimore Ravens
Top three needs: running back, offensive lineman, pass rusher
Justin Forsett enjoyed a breakout year during last season, but he is 29 years old. Ray Rice won’t be welcomed anywhere near Baltimore after his domestic violence case, so it is time for a new era at the running back position for the Baltimore Ravens. Former Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon had the second best season in college football history at the running back position, running for over 2,400 yards. He was second only to maybe the best runner we’ve ever seen, Barry Sanders himself. He has incredible vision, amazing burst in between the tackles, and can outrun every defensive back. His power is unbelievably underrated, as he can thump linebackers and easily breaks through arm tackles.
Best Candidate: RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
27. Dallas Cowboys
Top three needs: cornerback, defensive lineman, safety
The Cowboys are in an interestin position, as I see them potentially going in three different directions. They could look for an upgrade at the safety position, maybe going out and grabbing Cody Prewitt from Ole Miss, however the safety class is weak and they may wait to address that need in later rounds. At corner, there may not be another first round caliber cover man, which means the Cowboys will likely address the D-Line group. Bud Dupree would be an absolute steal here, as his combination of speed and size would work wonders for the Cowboys D.
Best Candidate: DE/OLB Alvin Dupree, Kentucky
28. Denver Broncos
Top three needs: defensive tackle, tight end, linebacker
If the NFL draft worked out the way this mock draft does, the Broncos selection here would be easy. Benardrick McKinney from Mississippi State is an absolute beast at inside linebacker, as his athleticism helps him make plays consistently on each side of the field. He also knows how to swiftly overpower or get around lead blockers to stop the runner in its path of choice. They could potentially look at a tight end like Maxx Williams from Minnesota or Malcolm Brown at defensive tackle, but McKinney’s talent is too much for the Broncos to pass on.
Best Candidate: LB Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
29. Indianapolis Colts
Top three needs: offensive lineman, safety, defensive lineman
I pretty much have a set pick here for the Colts, as there is only a few guys who are at the same position who I see them taking. Ty Sambrailo from Colorado State, Erick Flowers from Miami, or Cameron Erving from Florida State. Erick Flowers is the best selection here, however, as his unstoppable strength ad leverage at the point of attack may be unrivaled in this class and is an absolute beast as a lead blocker in the run game. Just ask his stud running back at Miami, Duke Johnson.
Best Candidate: OT Erick Flowers, Miami
30. Green Bay Packers
Top three needs: inside linebacker, nose tackle, tight end
The Green Bay Packers are my favorite team, and I know and will admit, as a fan, that we need a lot of help in the rush defense. Running backs tore through the Packers front seven and they need to address the problem to get back to the Super Bowl. They could use a linebacker like Erick Kendricks from UCLA or Denzel Perryman from Miami, but they need to elect to grab a nose tackle. Malcolm Brown from Texas fits the bill, as his incredible size and power will help him win many one-on-one matchups in the NFL. Tight end doesn’t have enough talent to supply a possible selection here, so the Packers grab a stud defensive tackle, and let B.J. Raji walk in free agency.
Best Candidate: DT Malcolm Brown, Texas
Super Bowl Teams
New England Patriots
Top three needs: wide receiver, defensive tackle, running back
I actually think that the Patriots could grab a running back here. A potential fit in Foxborough, too, is Indiana back Tevin Coleman, who doesn’t receive the amount of attention he deserves. Their top need, however, is at wide receiver, and in this article about each teams top needs, they need to grab a weapon on the outside for Brady. Their best option would be to draft Jaelen Strong out of Arizona State. He is a stud wideout whose hands pretty much have glue on them and is a shoe-in to grab contested throws, a trait Brady values.
Best Candidate: WR Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
Top three needs: offensive tackle, defensive tackle, tight end
I see the Seahawks grabbing an offensive tackle here, with the best fit going to the lengthy stud out of Colorado State: Ty Sambrailo. His strength and power helps him win countless battles at the line of scrimmage and he opens up huge gaps and running lanes for his backs. Imagine Marshawn Lynch with a powerful tackle like Sambrailo. His endless motor and nice balance keeps him upright and on the field for the whole drive, and he fits perfectly with Seattle’s vision for the offense.
Best Candidate: OT Ty Sambrailo, Colorado State
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I am currently a high school student in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Sports writing has become a passion for me and I hope to pursue it as a career down the road.