Shutdown Corner

NFL draft report: Updated top three positional needs for all 32 teams

Eric Edholm
Shutdown Corner

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The Rams have young playmakers in Tavon Austin and Zac Stacy but need more (USA Today Sports Images)

We know three-quarters of the first-round draft order, and all but eight teams currently are in full draft-preparation mode now that their seasons have come to an end. Although we don't yet know what effect free agency will have, we have a pretty good idea what teams need right now and what they might need when May rolls around.

It could be an exceptionally deep draft, with the underclassman declaration total approaching 100. So with that in mind, here's an updated look at all 32 teams' needs (yes, even the ones still playing) about four months removed from Draft Day:

AFC EAST

 

Buffalo Bills
Top three needs — guard, safety, tight end

 

They could go any of the three directions early, but in Round 1? They instead could take the best pass rusher or offensive tackle of their choosing. These other needs might be better filled later in the draft, or via free agency.

Miami Dolphins
Top three needs — offensive tackle, offensive guard, defensive tackle

 

The O-line needs are obvious in the wake of the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito incident, and a lack of depth thereafter. This could require multiple picks to help fix. The D-line could be helped through free-agent signings and re-signings, but they need more depth, too.

New England Patriots
Top three needs — defensive tackle, guard/center, tight end

 

No offense to Chris Jones and Joe Vellano, who have played admirably, but they are not starting material, and the team has to worry about Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly coming off major injuries at their ages. Expect the team to consider a tight end early, too.

New York Jets
Top three needs — wide receiver, tight end, offensive guard

 

The need for a pass-catcher who can alter games and coverages and make life easier for Geno Smith might be among the more obvious ones in the NFL. There will be some receivers (and perhaps tight ends) who fit that description in Round 1.

AFC NORTH

 

Baltimore Ravens
Top three needs — wide receiver, offensive tackle, cornerback

 

The first two are the biggest concerns. The team must find a young wideout to pair with Torrey Smith, either outside or inside. That could come in the form of a big wideout a la Anquan Boldin, or a faster, shiftier slot guy. Ozzie Newsome might opt to trade down with the depth at the position in this draft.

Cincinnati Bengals
Top three needs — linebacker, quarterback, defensive back

 

The team already has given Andy Dalton a vote of confidence heading into next season, but the need there is for QB competition. Defensively, the team needs a little more playmaking ability on the back end, either with an outside linebacker, a corner or a safety. The Bengals' depth is otherwise good.

Cleveland Browns

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Josh Gordon is great, but who is throwing him the ball? (USA Today Sports Images)

Top three needs — quarterback, running back, receiver

 

Another no-brainer. The Browns almost certainly will draft a quarterback, and very likely with their first pick — either staying at No. 4, or perhaps moving up. But they have a second first-rounder and don't want to lose it, with additional offensive needs at running back, receiver to pair with Josh Gordon and offensive guard.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Top three needs — safety, offensive tackle, cornerback

 

Steelers fans have argued with me that because of the promise of Kelvin Beachum, Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert (this is what they're telling me), offensive tackle is not nearly as pressing a need as the secondary, which is getting dangerously old. Agreed: So it's very possible they first go after the best defensive back available.

AFC SOUTH

 

Houston Texans
Top three needs — quarterback, offensive tackle, defensive pressure player

 

The quarterback need is crystal clear, with Matt Schaub figuring to move on and Case Keenum assured of nothing with the team. The Texans also figure to consider investing in a right tackle who can help protect whomever they bring in to play QB. And this defense needs more pressure opposite J.J. Watt, likely either at end or linebacker.

Indianapolis Colts
Top three needs — offensive tackle, offensive guard, wide receiver

 

They are short on picks from various trades, but they have to find a way to improve the depth, talent and competition up front. The offensive line has been trading on borrowed and spare parts for too long. Injuries and age have made wideout a need going forward, too.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Top three needs — quarterback, offensive tackle, defensive end

 

Take a step back for a moment ... have these three positions not been a need, in some order, for this team for what seems like an eternity? They appear to have all three filled at one time or another, but finding a franchise quarterback, a pass rusher and a strong right tackle (with Luke Joeckel moving to the left side) are crucial for improvement. That said, the depth all over needs help.

Tennessee Titans
Top three needs — defensive end, quarterback, safety

 

The defense could be very, very good with the right scheme and system, and just a few more players at these spots. Another end to set the edge and crash the corner and a solid-tackling safety would be ideal. That said, Jake Locker must have some younger competition at some point, especially with a new head coach coming in.

AFC WEST

 

Denver Broncos
Top three needs — cornerback, offensive tackle, defensive line

 

The biggest needs are at right tackle and corner, although any talented defensive lineman (end or tackle) would be considered early on. Linebacker also might prove to be an area they'd consider, too, and, hey, Eric Decker could move on in free agency, so a receiver would be nice as well. More depth worries than you'd think.

Kansas City Chiefs
Top three needs — wide receiver, tight end, defensive back

 

The need at receiver is clear cut. You want to extend Alex Smith? Great. Give him more weapons to throw to. Both a wideout and a tight end would be perfect. The Chiefs' defensive depth at all three levels is a worry, but it might be biggest in the secondary. Look what happened when Brandon Flowers went down against Indy.

Oakland Raiders

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Expect Terrelle Pryor to receive some competition (USA Today Sports Images)

Top three needs — quarterback, defensive line, wide receiver

 

Neither Terrelle Pryor nor Matt McGloin has established himself as the guy, and there's a chance neither ever will. The defense fell apart late in the season, and it clearly needs help at a few spots (we think up front first), but you could argue that offensive tackle and wideout are other spots the team could address early. Finally, they have a full till of draft picks again with which to do so.

San Diego Chargers
Top three needs — cornerback, outside linebacker, interior offensive line

 

Despite some impressive play late in the season in the secondary, the team still can't pass up a strong cover corner. Nor can it turn away a quality 3-4 outside linebacker to pair with Melvin Ingram. Offensive tackle is in better shape than before, but the other OL spots could use some reinforcements.

NFC EAST

 

Dallas Cowboys
Top three needs — pass rusher, safety, defensive tackle

 

The defense was gutted much of the season, and the possibility of losing some key free agents (Jason Hatcher, Anthony Spencer) has to be the primary concern. An end or a tackle could help. The team was playing subpar safeties for too long and could use fixtures there.

New York Giants
Top three needs — offensive line, linebacker, corner

 

The blocking for Eli Manning just wasn't good enough, and he had his poorest season in years. All three interior spots could use upgrading, and there are some who question whether 2013 first-rounder Justin Pugh is best at right tackle or not, even with his steady improvement. The defense also needs help at a few spots.

Philadelphia Eagles
Top three needs — outside linebacker, defensive back, defensive lineman

 

They'll only need a receiver if they can't bring back Riley Cooper and/or Jeremy Maclin. They still need to fill out the defense with athletic players on all three levels. They'll favor versatility and playmaking ability over mass and strength, especially in their defensive linemen, whom they ask to play multiple techniques.

Washington Redskins
Top three needs — offensive line, receiver, defensive line

 

There are a few other spots, such as linebacker and secondary, that also could use addressing. But shorthanded with picks, the Redskins might have to chase the talent that's on the board when they're up. The offensive line is too thin, and there's no established target opposite Pierre Garcon. Jay Gruden established balance in Cincinnati, and he'll want to mimic that in Washington.

NFC NORTH

 

Chicago Bears
Top three needs — safety, linebacker, defensive line

 

Even with two young players at linebacker, the team needs help there, but the biggest concerns appear to be in the secondary and at defensive line, although the interior is less than impressive too. Stopping the run was one of the biggest weaknesses leaguewide this season.

Detroit Lions
Top three needs — wide receiver, defensive back, center

 

Insert your Matt Millen jokes here. No kidding: The Lions must find another wide receiver (or two) to play alongside Calvin Johnson. They also need help badly at corner, and safety to a lesser extent. Dominic Raiola, 35, still has performed well, but the Lions could stand to look for his eventual replacement.

Green Bay Packers
Top three needs — linebacker, tight end, safety

 

Really, you could flip these around in almost any order, which gives them some flexibility when the draft starts. But they all stand as major needs, with starting roles open for rookies at all three positions if they land the right players. Because, after all, it would be unlikely to see them chase starting-grade talent in free agency.

Minnesota Vikings
Top three needs — quarterback, defensive end, linebacker

 

No doubt: They need a quarterback. They can afford to take a less-refined one with a higher ceiling because Matt Cassel is an ideal backup, but neither Christian Ponder nor Josh Freeman are the answer. The defense is aging and thin at a few spots and could use more disruptors.

NFC SOUTH

 

Atlanta Falcons
Top three needs — offensive line, pass rusher, tight end

 

Pretty clear cut. The team was forced to go to the scrap heap on the offensive line, and it showed. There also is a clear need for an edge rusher — either an end, or a Von Miller-type linebacker — to help lighten the secondary's load. And they also will need help with Tony Gonzalez riding off into the sunset.

Carolina Panthers

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Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell aren't enough for the Panthers (USA Today Sports Images)

Top three needs — wide receiver, corner, offensive line

 

Steve Smith is 35, and although Brandon LaFell is a good player, he's not a game-changer. The Panthers want to give Cam Newton as much help as they can, and that also would include some young blood up front on the line. The secondary has played admirably this season but still stands to improve, talent-wise.

New Orleans Saints
Top three needs — pass rusher, cornerback, offensive line

 

With what draft picks they have had the past two years, the Saints have helped out both sides of the field, but they might lean a little more on the defensive side, considering the depth there. A top pass rusher would be ideal, but a solid cover corner can't be overlooked.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Top three needs — defensive end, offensive line, tight end

 

The Lovie Smith/Leslie Frazier approach on defense will require a four-man rush, and the Bucs simply do not have that scary edge guy right now. They also could use a future anchor at offensive tackle, a pass-catching tight end and some interior O-line depth.

NFC WEST

 

Arizona Cardinals
Top three needs — offensive tackle, pass rusher, tight end

 

They need a left tackle. And maybe a right tackle. But with Jonathan Cooper returning to the mix, the offensive line could end up in decent shape when it's all said and done. John Abraham was a surprise addition, and an incredibly good one, but a young pass rusher will not be passed up. The team has a mixed bag at tight end currently.

St. Louis Rams
Top three needs — wide receiver, offensive line, quarterback

 

Fascinating team with options galore, starting with the second and 13th overall picks. They are serious trade contenders, but finding a No. 1 receiver, a right tackle and giving Sam Bradford some competition (assuming he's coming back, which it appears he is) are keys on that side of the ball. Defensively, they would look at linebacker and safety strongest, it appears.

San Francisco 49ers
Top three needs —wide receiver, defensive line, cornerback

 

It would be fun to see what a speedball at wideout could do to evolve this offense, considering that Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree don't stretch the field and that Vernon Davis is still an inconsistent (but very good) playmaker downfield. The defense is suffering from some age up front, and the secondary could use some fresh blood. But they are otherwise loaded.

Seattle Seahawks
Top three needs — wide receiver, offensive line, tight end

 

Some defensive departures could happen via free agency, especially if this team makes a run in the postseason or if Dan Quinn gets a head-coaching opportunity. But for right now, the team could use playmakers at both wide receiver and tight end, as well as quality O-line depth for a team that has fought through some injuries up front.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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