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 eagerly anticipating 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. And that is certainly the case in the NFC.
Detroit Lions: Top Need – Defensive End/Edge Rusher. Other needs – Safety, Linebacker
The Detroit Lions are the first NFC team on the clock, and while their talent-shorn roster needs several players, defensive end is the biggest need on the roster. The Lions finished 31st in pass-rush win rate in 2021, and they released their best defensive end, Trey Flowers, in the first wave of free agency. If the Lions’ defense is to take a step forward, a defensive end/edge rusher is what they desperately need. Beyond that, the rest of the Lions’ defense requires strengthening. Linebacker, safety, defensive line, and cornerback positions could use a talent injection.
New York Giants: Top Need – Offensive Tackle. Other – Tight End, Wide Receiver
The New York Giants have a hole to fill on their offensive line. New GM Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll let veteran offensive tackle Nate Solder walk in free agency. Solder was a rare bright spot on a unit ranked 28th in pass-blocking success. If the Giants are to develop an offense around quarterback Daniel Jones, they must start by protecting him. Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu would be solid additions. A new offensive era in New York starts from the trenches. A reshaped offense could also feature a new tight end and wide receiver as the draft unfolds.
Carolina Panthers – Top Need – Offensive Tackle. Other – Running Back, Cornerback
Like the Giants, the Panthers’ offensive line play was shocking in 2021. And while Sam Darnold may not be the long-term answer, the Panthers need to build a solid foundation for the future quarterback. The Panthers’ offensive struggles under Matt Rhule are well-known, and it all links back to poor offensive line play. They have not drafted an offensive lineman in round one since 2003. It needs to change this year. Additionally, Rhule’s team could draft a running back as insurance for Christian McCaffery and a cornerback to replace Stephon Gilmore.
Atlanta Falcons: Top Need – Quarterback. Other – Offensive Tackle, Wide Receiver, Running Back
The current Atlanta Falcons quarterback depth chart features Marcus Mariota and Feleipe Franks. The Falcons need to draft a quarterback for two reasons: they can’t roll with Mariota and Franks, and their fanbase is angry. GM Terry Fontenot must roll the dice to find a quarterback with Matt Ryan gone. The second-year GM may also look at drafting a wide receiver, offensive tackle, and a complementary running back to rebuild the offense.
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Seattle Seahawks – Top Need – offensive lineman. Other – Quarterback, Linebacker
The Seattle Seahawks offensive line arguably hastened Russell Wilson’s departure to Denver. At ninth overall, the ‘Hawks should have the opportunity to land a talented offensive tackle to beef up their line before rebuilding their offense around a new quarterback. GM John Schneider may also target a quarterback and linebacker to replace franchise icons, Wilson and Bobby Wagner.
Washington Commanders – Top Need – wide receiver. Other – Linebacker, Safety
The Washington Commanders’ trade for Carson Wentz nixed plans for a quarterback as their most significant need. Nevertheless, they could still look on the offensive side to improve the squad. Ron Rivera’s team still requires an elite weapon at wideout to play opposite Terry McLaurin. Adding another talented young player to compete alongside Dyami Brown, Dax Milne, and Curtis Samuel should be top of the Commanders’ wish list. Ohio State product Chris Olave could potentially fit with the Commanders’ offense.
Furthermore, GM Martin Mayhew should look at defense later in the draft. His team is light at linebacker and could even draft a safety, especially with both positions boasting a lot of depth in this draft class.
Minnesota Vikings: Top Need – Cornerback. Other – Safety
The Vikings’ defense finished 28th against the pass in 2021, and they must improve. Veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson is a short-term answer in the cornerback room for the Vikings. New GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah should aim to rebuild the defensive backfield by adding another young corner to play opposite Cam Dantzler.
Adding a strong safety is also a must. Veteran Harrison Smith is the only one on the roster, and they need depth.
Philadelphia Eagles: Top Need – Defensive End/Edge Rusher. Other – Safety, Wide Receiver
The Philadelphia Eagles’ total of 29 sacks was 31st-best amongst the NFL in 2021. Free-agent signing Hassan Reddick should boost that total. However, veterans Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham are nearing the end of their successful careers. With the draft offering an embarrassment of riches at defensive end, the Eagles could turbocharge their starting pass rush by drafting a player like Jermaine Johnson.
Offensively, the Eagles must find a weapon opposite Devonta Smith. If Jalen Hurts is to take the next step in his development, a quality wideout is critical. Jalen Reagor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, and Quez Watkins don’t look like long-term answers.
New Orleans Saints: Top Need – Wide Receiver. Other – Tight End
The New Orleans Saints wide receiver corps is arguably the weakest in the NFL. Even with the long-awaited return of Michael Thomas, the Saints lack explosive playmakers in the passing game. Tre’Quan Smith and Marquez Callaway struggled to create separation, despite defenses giving them space on many occasions.
With Jameis Winston returning at quarterback, the Saints must find a viable passing threat to utilize Winston’s throwing prowess. Tight end is another position of need. Adam Trautman failed to cement himself as a possible pass-catching threat, and the Saints require more dynamism in the tight end room.
Green Bay Packers: Top Need – Wide Receiver. Other – Defensive Line
Davante Adams’ departure solidified wide receiver as the most significant need for the Green Bay Packers. The Packers’ receiver corps now lacks the X-factor talent, and if they are to keep Aaron Rodgers happy, they need a wide receiver at the top of the draft. GM Brian Gutekunst holds a pair of first-round picks with which he may draft exciting prospects such as Treylon Burks, Drake London, or Christian Watson. The defensive line is another area where the Packers lack depth, and they could undoubtedly use some power on the interior.
Arizona Cardinals: Top Need – Defensive Line. Other – Tight End
A miserable finish to the season underpinned by a weak defense means that the Arizona Cardinals need to fortify their front seven. If the Cardinals are to challenge the LA Rams and San Francisco 49ers for an NFC West title, they must get more physical upfront. Kliff Kingsbury’s team finished 21st in rushing defense, and they currently have one nose tackle on their active roster. Another area of concern is tight end. A lack of depth and over-reliance on Zach Ertz is not sustainable long-term.
Dallas Cowboys: Top Need – Wide Receiver. Other – Interior Offensive Lineman, Defensive End
Replacing Amari Cooper is not a choice. The Dallas Cowboys have to find another electrifying talent to maintain their offensive firepower. The Cowboys’ offense thrives in its three-receiver formations, and quarterback Dak Prescott will want three highly-skilled playmakers on his offense. Late in round one offers the Cowboys a myriad of exciting options at wide receiver.
The interior of their offensive line needs an addition following Conor Williams’ exit in free agency. The same goes for defensive end. Randy Gregory joined the Denver Broncos, and linebacker Micah Parsons will retreat into his natural position. Therefore, the Cowboys require a speedy defensive end ready to rush the passer.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Top Need – Interior Offensive Line. Other – Defensive Line
Tom Brady’s short-lived retirement paired with Ryan Jensen’s sudden retirement conspired to make center the number one draft need for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jensen was a stalwart as the Bucs’ big men brilliantly protected Brady. Interior linemen such as Boston College’s Zion Johnson, Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum, and Austrian Bernhard Raimann could all be in play for the Bucs. On the other side of the ball, an interior defensive lineman is a draft need too. Ndamukong Suh is yet to return to the team, and the Bucs may feel the need to get younger on both sides of the ball.
San Francisco 49ers: Top Need – Cornerback. Other – Interior Offensive Line
Roger Goodell won’t call the San Francisco 49ers until round two, but that doesn’t mean GM John Lynch won’t be busy trying to fill draft needs. A cornerback is a potential need due to the 49ers’ propensity to use three cornerbacks on base defensive formations. An interior offensive lineman is an option for Lynch and his front office. Kyle Shanahan’s smoke-and-mirror offense asks much of its linemen as they constantly trap-block, move downhill and sometimes lead block. Again, the 49ers could use day two to strengthen the trenches.
Los Angeles Rams: Top Need – Linebacker. Other – Offensive Lineman
The Super Bowl-winning LA Rams got more production from players on rookie contracts in 2021. GM Les Snead continues to find hidden gems in the late rounds, and he’ll need to do the same. The Rams need a linebacker to replace Troy Reeder and an offensive lineman to replace Andrew Whitworth. The masters at scouring the lower reaches must do it again to fill the needs on the roster.