Once dubbed a dull meeting between general managers, the NFL Draft is now a week-long extravaganza that dominates the NFL headlines. It is also an opportunity for teams to reset and acquire blue-chip prospects ahead of the new season. This year, the draft starts on the 29th of April and finishes on the 31st in Las Vegas. Fans are excitedly looking forward to their team potentially drafting a game-changing player. The draft also unites all 32 teams. Everyone is 0-0, and they all have needs to fill on the roster. After looking at the NFC, it’s time to assess the AFC.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Top Need – Offensive Lineman. Other – Defensive End, Safety
The Jacksonville Jaguars have a host of needs to fill on their roster. After a second consecutive year finishing with the worst record in the NFL, GM Trent Baalke is under pressure to improve the roster. Baalke’s most significant issue on the roster is finding a talented offensive lineman to better protect quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Extracting the prodigious talent from Lawrence is vital to the Jags’ chances in 2022. Baalke also must target the safety and defensive end positions in the draft. Adding a powerful pass-rusher opposite Josh Allen and a starting safety should be on the Jags’ wishlist come draft weekend.
Houston Texans: Top Need – Offensive Lineman. Other – Wide Receiver, Defensive End
Like the Jaguars, the Houston Texans have a slew of draft needs. A lot of work is on the docket of GM Nick Caserio and new head coach Lovie Smith ahead of the draft. Shoring up the offensive should be top of the list for Caserio as they aim to roll into 2022 with second-year quarterback Davis Mills.
Acquiring a wide receiver to tandem with the speedy Brandin Cooks is another need for the talent-shorn Texans. The passing offense stuttered to 28th-best in the NFL last season, and if Mills is to prove himself, he requires a top-notch wideout. Beefing up the pass-rush with a high-motor defensive end is a significant need too.
New York Jets: Top Need – Wide Receiver. Other – Cornerback
Sticking with the second-year quarterback philosophy, the New York Jets need to add a second wide receiver to help quarterback Zach Wilson. If GM Joe Douglas wishes to get the best out of Wilson, he needs to add a WR2 alongside Corey Davis and Braxton Berrios. Elijah Moore, Denzel Mims, and Jeff Smith haven’t shown the performance to suggest they are long-term pieces.
Defensively, the Jets are in a prime position to add a talented cornerback. Head coach Robert Saleh built his coaching principles with the Seattle Seahawks Cover 3 defense that relied on elite cornerbacks. With two picks in the top ten, the Jets could fill these needs instantly.
Baltimore Ravens: Top Need – Cornerback. Other – Defensive End
The Baltimore Ravens’ injury crisis at cornerback revealed one thing; a team can never have enough depth on the roster. Such were the woes; the Ravens finished 32nd in pass defense. Drafting a young cornerback as cover behind veterans Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters would be wise. In addition, the Ravens need to solidify their pass-rushing stocks. John Harbaugh’s side managed just 34 sacks last season. In a conference with exceptional quarterbacks, generating pressure is vital for the Ravens’ chances.
Los Angeles Chargers: Top Need – Interior Offensive Line. Other – Slot Cornerback
The Chargers are in the envious position where they don’t have many draft needs. Fortifying the offensive line opposite rookie sensation Rashawn Slater may erase the last weakness of the Chargers’ offense. Defensively, a slot cornerback would undoubtedly add depth and flexibility to Brandon Staley’s multiple-style defense.
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Pittsburgh Steelers: Top Need – Quarterback. Other – Wide Receiver, Safety
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ need at quarterback is glaringly apparent. Following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers need to find a franchise quarterback. The team has hosted several draft-eligible quarterbacks, and they will undoubtedly select a signal-caller in the draft. A wide receiver is also needed due to Juju Smith-Schuster’s departure to the Kansas City Chiefs. Lastly, safety is necessary, with Minkah Fitzpatrick having one year left on his existing contract.
New England Patriots: Top Need – Cornerback. Other – Linebacker
JC Jackson’s move to the Chargers leaves a crater-sized hole in the New England Patriots’ cornerback room. While it will not be easy to replace an All-Pro cornerback, prospects such as Andrew Booth and Trent McDuffie may tempt Bill Belichick. The Patriots need a linebacker as well. Renowned for his star linebackers, Belichick’s roster is light at the position, with stalwart Donta’a Hightower still unsigned. The linebacker position boasts a lot of depth with quality players such as Nakobe Dean, Chad Muma, and Brian Asamoah.
Buffalo Bills: Top Need – Interior Offensive Lineman. Other – Cornerback
The Buffalo Bills are a fairly complete roster. They are a championship-caliber squad in waiting. GM Brandon Beane needs to create more depth on the offensive line and at the cornerback position. It is an envious spot to find themselves in. A ‘project’ at cornerback makes logical sense considering Sean McDermott’s knack at developing defensive players. Instead of throwing them into the deep end as other teams will need to, the Bills can drip-feed and slowly build their rookies away from the spotlight.
Tennessee Titans: Top Need – Offensive Linemen. Other – Wide Receiver
The Tennessee Titans offensive line in pass protection needs a significant overhaul. Both tackle positions and the guards need improving. The Titans finished 24th in pass-blocking success for the 2021 season. Offensive line play must improve for the Titans to take the next step. The Titans’ pass-catching corps is another area of need. Julio Jones may not return to the team, and AJ Brown is the only top-tier outside wideout. Ryan Tannehill requires more than the injury-plagued Robert Woods and Racey McMath.
Miami Dolphins: Top Need – Offensive Line. Other – Linebacker
Thanks to the Tyreek Hill trade, the Miami Dolphins will not be on the clock until round three. Nonetheless, new head Mike McDaniel has needs to fill, specifically on the offensive line. Securing the blindside to protect Tua Tagovailoa is necessary as the third-year quarterback enters a make-or-break year. Finding a depth piece at linebacker to battle for a rotational job in camp would be nice because Elandon Roberts signed a one-year deal in free agency.
Cleveland Browns: Top Need – Wide Receiver. Other – Defensive End
The Cleveland Browns require a wide receiver to partner with new quarterback Deshaun Watson after Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham left. If Kevin Stefanski hopes to rebuild the offense around his new quarterback, drafting an elite receiver is vital. The Browns will need to find value on day two due to having no first-round picks. Finding another defensive end to lighten Myles Garrett’s burden is also required. If the Browns are to stop the slew of talented quarterbacks in the AFC, their pass rush must find another level.
Indianapolis Colts: Top Need – Wide Receiver. Other – Offensive Lineman
Chris Ballard and the Indianapolis Colts go to work on day two of the NFL Draft, and like other teams, they need a wide receiver. The Colts acquired Matt Ryan, and now they must add an X-Factor wideout to elevate the offense. Following that, selecting a left tackle to replace Eric Fisher is crucial. Ryan is a veteran quarterback who needs significant protection. If he faces pressure, the Colts will struggle.
Denver Broncos: Top Need – Offensive Tackle. Other – Edge Rusher
After landing Russell Wilson in the blockbuster trade of the offseason, the Denver Broncos need to address the offensive line. Former GM John Elway last drafted an offensive tackle in 2017. If Wilson wishes to succeed, the Broncos need to improve the offensive line. Defensively, current GM George Paton must find Von Miller’s replacement. The Broncos’ pass rush finished last in pass-rush win rate last season. The Broncos must attack this need on their defense.
Las Vegas Raiders: Top Need – Offensive Tackle. Other – Cornerback, Linebacker
The Las Vegas Raiders’ most pressing need is at offensive tackle. Former first-round pick Alex Leatherwood hasn’t yet developed into a bona fide star. The Raiders should upgrade their offensive tackle situation in the draft. Defensively, adding a cornerback and linebacker to supplement those position rooms would be worthwhile due to the Raiders’ lack of depth in those areas.
Kansas City Chiefs: Top Need – Wide Receiver. Other – Safety, Cornerback
After the Tyreek Hill trade, the Kansas City Chiefs’ biggest draft need is at wide receiver. Andy Reid’s explosive offense requires an electrifying wide receiver, and with multiple picks in round one, GM Brett Veach could snag a talented wideout like Skyy Moore from Western Michigan. Secondly, the Chiefs lost Tyrann Mathieu and Mike Hughes in free agency. Those are significant holes in the Chiefs’ defense. Those two players played 1,506 snaps last season. It is a considerable chunk to replace, especially if the Chiefs wish to remain atop the AFC West.
Cincinnati Bengals: Top Need – Cornerback. Other – Safety
The Super Bowl runners-up have one glaring need that got exposed in the closing stages of Super Bowl 56, cornerback. Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp torched Eli Apple as they wrestled the Super Bowl away from the Bengals. Apple re-signed an inexpensive one-year deal to stay with the Bengals. However, that contract doesn’t signify a long-term future for Apple. Zac Taylor’s team aggressively attacked their offensive line in free agency, meaning they could strengthen their defensive backfield in the draft. Adding a young cornerback, potentially with a fifth-year option, could be invaluable, likewise at safety. Jesse Bates signed on the franchise tag as the parties couldn’t agree on a long-term deal. An insurance policy for safety is another need.