Teams Needs: Picks 1-through-20
Chris TripodiDraft Analyst Writer
With the top 20 picks in the 2017 NFL Draft set, it’s a good time to look at the most pressing positional needs among non-playoff teams.
1. Cleveland Browns (1-15): QB/OL/LB/S
The Browns aren’t lacking for holes, chief among them being a franchise quarterback. Armed with the No. 1 and No. 12 picks in the draft, Cleveland is in a position to take the signal-caller of its choosing or an elite pass-rusher to improve a defense that had just 26 sacks. The possibility of trading down also exists for this second-year, analytics-driven regime.
2. San Francisco 49ers (2-14): QB/WR/OL/DL
Colin Kaepernick showed flashes down the stretch, but it seems unlikely he’s the long-term answer for San Francisco under center. The 49ers allowed the third-most sacks in the NFL and lacked weapons in the passing game, which could use a complete overhaul. Their historically bad run defense also needs serious upgrades, even if NaVorro Bowman makes it all the way back from his Achilles injury.
3. Chicago Bears (3-13): QB/WR/LB/DB
Like the other teams picking in the top three, the Bears are in need of an answer at quarterback, something Matt Barkley proved he isn’t during his turnover-happy stretch run. Alshon Jeffery’s likely departure leaves question marks at receiver as well, and reinforcements at linebacker and in the secondary are necessary to improve a defense that ranked in the bottom third of the league.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13): RB/OL/DT/S
The Jaguars were a trendy pick to take a leap forward in 2016, and they very well could be again in 2017 if Blake Bortles can resemble the quarterback he was as a sophomore. An improved running game would help, as neither Chris Ivory nor T.J. Yeldon is the answer, and a few extra blockers up front would help pave the way for a new runner. Jacksonville’s defense was solid, but it could use upgrades at defensive tackle and safety.
5. Los Angeles Rams (4-12): WR/OL/DE/LB
The Rams’ No. 5 pick goes to the Titans as part of last year’s Jared Goff trade, and Los Angeles needs some help along the offensive line to protect that investment. The Rams need another weapon or two for Goff to throw to, and additional pass rush off the edge would help balance an interior defensive line featuring Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers, especially with Robert Quinn coming off an injury-plagued campaign.
6. New York Jets (5-11): QB/OL/OLB/DB
The Jets seem to be forever searching for a long-term answer at quarterback, while their offensive line likely needs at least three new pieces. They were 29th in the league with 27 sacks and finding an edge rusher should be a priority, as is adding more speed at linebacker and talent in the secondary to improve a brutal pass defense.
7. San Diego Chargers (5-11): OL/DL/LB
The Chargers were a top-10 offense but were ravaged by injury again this season. Philip Rivers seems to always be under duress, which means it’s time to upgrade the offensive line. Depth along the defensive line is another need, as is an upgrade at inside linebacker to improve a run defense that allowed 20 touchdowns on the ground this year.
8. Carolina Panthers (6-10): RB/OL/DB
A year after losing the Super Bowl, Carolina finds itself drafting in the top 10. Jonathan Stewart will be 30 at the start of next season and hasn’t played more than 13 games since 2011, while the offensive line could use some improvement to avoid letting Cam Newton get beat up again. Letting Josh Norman go proved to be an issue early in the season, and while James Bradberry and Daryl Worley showed promise late, the Panthers still need help in the secondary.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (6-9-1): RB/OL/LB
Jeremy Hill struggled and Giovani Bernard got hurt, and Cincinnati could use some additional backfield depth to help Andy Dalton. In the same breath, the interior line remains a need as does a linebacking corps that gets older every year and is always a Vontaze Burfict suspension away from being razor-thin.
10. Buffalo Bills (7-9): QB/OT/DB
Tyrod Taylor is likely gone in the offseason, and the Bills will once again be in the market for a starting quarterback. A new right tackle would be a nice addition to a strong interior line, and with Stephon Gilmore hitting free agency and Aaron Williams’ future up in the air, the secondary will need to be addressed as well.
11. New Orleans Saints (7-9): DL/LB/DB
Offense is not the problem in the Big Easy. Even though their defense improved once 2016 first-round pick Sheldon Rankins returned from injury, the Saints still need help at every level. They ranked 27th in the NFL with 30 sacks and dead last in passing yards allowed, making defensive end and the secondary priorities in addition to linebacker.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (7-9): WR/OL/CB
All things considered, Carson Wentz showed well as a rookie, but he needs help. 2015 first-round pick Nelson Agholor has been a bust and Jordan Matthews is best in the slot, making outside receiver a need for Philadelphia. Lane Johnson’s suspension exposed a lack of depth on the offensive line while cornerback remains a position of need for the Eagles, especially in a division with Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant.
13. Arizona Cardinals (7-8-1): QB/WR/CB
Carson Palmer’s play dropped off this season, and Arizona’s passing game was the biggest reason it missed the playoffs in 2016. Larry Fitzgerald seems likely to play at least another season, but wide receiver is a position of need with Michael Floyd gone, John Brown battling sickle-cell complications and J.J. Nelson a deep threat that Palmer struggles to take advantage of. The cornerback position opposite Patrick Peterson could also use an upgrade.
14. Indianapolis Colts (8-8): OL/DL/DB
Maybe 2017 will finally be the season the Colts decide to properly protect Andrew Luck in an effort to keep their franchise quarterback on the field for 16 games. Otherwise their needs are on defense, where they were a bottom-five unit in both quarterback rating and yards-per-carry against. The defensive line needs to be upgraded and Vontae Davis needs helps in the secondary.
15. Minnesota Vikings (8-8): RB/OL/DL
A promising start turned to a poor finish as injuries plagued the Vikings. Stalwart running back Adrian Peterson is as good as gone, and neither Jerick McKinnon nor Matt Asiata inspired much hope for 2017 behind an injury-riddled and ineffective offensive line. Minnesota’s run defense slipped as well, and the Vikings could use some help along the defensive line to bolster their defensive unit.
16. Baltimore Ravens (8-8): WR/OLB/DB
Baltimore’s defense was once again a playoff-caliber unit, but its offense lagged behind. Steve Smith’s retirement leaves a hole at receiver, and the Ravens need another weapon even if Breshad Perriman takes a step forward. Perhaps Baltimore’s biggest need is an edge rusher to learn under Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, while adding depth at cornerback and safety is a need as the secondary struggled when Jimmy Smith was sidelined.
17. Washington Redskins (8-7-1): DL/ILB/S
The Redskins have a solid offensive core in place assuming they keep Kirk Cousins, but every level of their defense needs help. Even the addition of Josh Norman didn’t make Washington an above-average secondary, and the Redskins defensive line needs to be revamped as well as inside linebacker to help against the run.
18. Tennessee Titans (9-7): WR/DL/DB
Tennessee has most of the pieces of its offense in place, but an alpha receiver to grow with Marcus Mariota would be a huge addition. Upgrades in the secondary are necessary and besides Jurrell Casey, there isn’t much to love along the defensive line either.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7): WR/DL/S
The teams who drafted 1-2 in 2015 finished with winning records two years later; it’s nice getting a franchise quarterback with your top pick. The wide receiver depth chart is barren long-term behind Mike Evans, and another receiver and continued growth from Jameis Winston will have this offense on the rise. An impact defensive end would be a good addition, as would help at safety to go with the resurgent Brent Grimes and 2016 first-rounder Vernon Hargreaves on the outside.
20. Denver Broncos (9-7): TE/OL/DL
Both of last year’s Super Bowl teams missed the playoffs this season for the first time since 2003. Denver could use better protection up front to help whoever starts under center next year, whether it’s Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch, and a dynamic tight end would help take pressure off Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders and pose a threat down the seam. Another impact defensive lineman would help a run defense that struggled at times this season, allowing over 130 yards per game and 15 rushing touchdowns.