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Shutdown Corner

Which teams' position groups are still most muddled after the draft?

Eric Edholm
Shutdown Corner

The 2014 NFL draft is in the books, and it has provided us with a lot of answers. Some questions, however, remain.

Teams sticking to their boards might not have checked off every box and filled every need, and there are a few teams that still have some muddled position groups that might not be cleared up until training camp (or at all).

Here is a look at a few of those teams' situations, by position:

Houston Texans quarterbacks — More is not always better. The Texans have four QBs on the roster: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, T.J. Yates and rookie Tom Savage, who was picked up in Round 4 on Saturday. The three veterans have a combined starting mark in the NFL of 29-52-1, and Savage compiled a starting record of 17-11 at Rutgers and Pitt. Is new head coach Bill O'Brien that confident in his quarterback whispering ability or is he just punting to the class of 2015, which could include such banner names as Jamies Winston, Marcus Mariota, Bryce Petty, Brett Hundley, Sean Mannion, Andrew Manley and others?

O'Brien did the rounds on the 2014 crop and essentially came away unimpressed by all appearances or unwilling to veer from the Texans' plan to grab one before Savage. Training camp will tell us who starts, but there could be another such battle a year from now.

Jacksonville Jaguars running backs — It's hard to find much fault in the approach of general manager Dave Caldwell, head coach Gus Bradley and the rest of the crew. The Jaguars are building for a brighter tomorrow, and a lot of the hard work has paid off with impressive results. They have found a quarterback they can build around, the receiving crew has a stronger base and the defense added a ton of lively bodies this offseason. But is Toby Gerhart really the starting running back?

They like him, no doubt. They might have a nice little sleeper in seventh-rounder Storm Johnson. There might even be a jack-of-all-trades role for Denard Robinson, too — remember him? But notice how many of our sentences end with a question mark here? Yeah ... the Jaguars might need to provide some answers for them in the form of clarity. 

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Josh Gordon (AP Photo/Mark Duncan, File)

Cleveland Browns wide receivers — We loved the work that GM Ray Farmer did, not only solving many immediate needs but also securing assets for the future with three additional draft picks for next year. They had what appears to be a phenomenal draft haul. But you also can't overlook the fact that they ignored the wide receiver position in the draft — in what was hailed as deep class there — with the knowledge that Josh Gordon could be suspended for a long time and that the talent at wideout drops off significantly without him. There are ways for the team to add help here, and there could be some talented veterans who make sense for the Browns. But if Sammy Watkins becomes a star and Gordon is a washout, the Browns might feel the hurt a bit. 

Oakland Raiders tight ends — Quick, can you name one of them? Depending on the offensive scheme, you can kind of do without tight ends. But they also can be powerful and versatile two-way weapons as blockers and mismatch receivers. The Raiders, well, they might be running a lot of three-, four- and five-wide formations — that's the best we can say about this group.

Right now, the pecking order is: Richard Ausberry, Mychal Rivera and Nick Kasa. That's two sixth-rounders and one seventh from the past few years; they combined for 39 catches, 416 yards and four scores, with Ausberry coming off a serious shoulder injury. It was a shallow TE class this year in the draft, so GM Reggie McKenzie stayed clear of it entirely, instead signing intriguing but flawed Utah H-back Jake Murphy as an undrafted free agent. Even with a good pass catcher at fullback in Marcel Reece, this group leaves a lot to be desired.

Carolina Panthers offensive line — There are so many unknowns. The team did its best to fill needs via the draft but also made most of its selection based on talent and how the board lined up, hence defensive end Kony Ealy (a steal in the Panthers' minds) over and O-lineman. Left tackle is anyone's guess; it could be Byron Bell or Nate Chandler (cough), or it could be a veteran on another team, such as the Titans' Michael Roos. But salary cap space is an issue. Left guard might be Amini Silatolu, but he's coming off an ACL. Third-round pick Trai Turner is being worked at center, as Ryan Kalil's backup, and as a possibility at right guard, where he could battle with Chris Scott. Right tackle could be Bell, Chander or maybe Garry Williams. Yuck. That's a lot of figuring out to do. Cam Newton had better heal nicely from ankle surgery, because he might need to evade a few free rushers this season. 

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Jason Pierre-Paul (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

New York Giants defensive line — We're not quite sure what to make of the Giants' line as a whole now, with some reinforcements arriving — third-round DT Jay Bromley, and undrafted NT Kelcy Quarles — but not a lot of obvious, immediate help. We're not talking about an unmitigated disaster of a unit up front, but we have questions following the departures of Linval Joseph and Justin Tuck. There are some able bodies with Jason Pierre-Paul (whom we assume will return to prominence at some point), Cullen Jenkins and two 2013 picks — Jonathan Hankins and Damontre Moore — possibly winning starting jobs over free agent addition Robert Ayers and holdover Mike Patterson. They're hoping for strength in numbers here, which has worked in the past. But how it all shakes out remains an unresolved issue. 

Atlanta Falcons linebackers — They didn't draft one high, so we can't assume that fourth-rounder Prince Shambo, fifth-rounder Marquis Spruill and seventh-rounders Yawin Smallwood and Tyler Starr. The Falcons are wanting to be multiple on defense — using both three- and four-man fronts — and so adding depth at linebacker, a problem spot all last season, was crucial. They did that — but are any of them going to be key contributors? Sean Weatherspoon is a starter, and the team has some holdover contributors with experience in Akeem Dent, Paul Worrilow and Joplu Bartu. Outside rush guys Osi Umenyiora and Kroy Biermann factor in here, too. But at first blush, it's a bit of a muddle, unsorted mess right now. The Falcons will unpack what they have and put it back together in some kind of working order, with better depth than a year ago. But will the performance be drastically better? Yet to be determined. Shembo, Spruill and Starr appear to have good special-teams qualities, but it's a little harder to figure out how they fit in exactly on defense in the short term.

Detroit Lions secondary — The Lions sent out strong signals prior to the draft that taking a corner or safety high was just not a likely destination for them. They were not smokescreening us. As it turned out, the Lions selected only one DB — Utah State corner Nevin Lawson, who can't be counted on as an immediate starter coming out of the fourth round. He's fast but stands a mere 5-9, which is interesting because of how defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said he preferred taller corners. The Lions currently have one corner (11th year man Rashean Mathis) with any significant NFL experience who stands taller than 6-foot. At safety, we figure that free-agent addition Glover Quin is locked in as one starter, and so might be fellow newcomer James Ihedigbo next to him. There are few attractive options to compete there. This doesn't project to be a playmaking unit whatsoever, and we might be left with more questions than we had before. If Erc Ebron doesn't turn into a choice pass catcher, the Lions will be dogged for years over why they passed many talented DB options with their first-round pick.

 

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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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