As much as “don’t draft for need” gets mentioned with the NFL Draft, the truth is that teams do draft for need (and they should). That’s why I’m taking a top down approach in this column, spending far more time studying exact team needs than which prospects are actually good. I want to be specific about the exact position a team is looking for, so instead of listing “safety”, you’ll see “single-high free safety” or “two-high strong safety” when necessary. As for the mock draft part of the column, I’ll highlight each Round 1-3 pick in red and list their expected draft position (EDP) courtesy of Benjamin Robinson’s Grinding The Mocks. Consider everything here to be predictive rather than what I (a donkey) would do if I were calling the shots.
Links: NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West
Houston Texans Team Needs
1. Ownership - Hopefully an owner falls to the third round in the upcoming draft.
3.67 Options: Jeff Bezos (EDP: NA), Mark Cuban (NA)
2. Edge Rusher(s)
Houston was 32nd in adjusted sack rate in 2020 and lost J.J. Watt this offseason. Their top edge rusher, Whitney Mercilus, will be 31 years old soon, too. The Texans probably have the worst edge rushing depth chart in the NFL.
3.67 Options: Carlos Basham (EDP: 51), Patrick Jones (75), Ronnie Perkins (75)
3. Outside Receiver
Brandin Cooks is under contract for three more seasons as long as his play holds up, but the Texans lost Will Fuller to free agency. When Fuller was sidelined late in 2020, Chad Hansen played over 2020 fifth-round project Isaiah Coulter and Hansen was let go this offseason. Chris Conley is the No. 2 outside receiver right now, and he’s on a one-year contract.
3.67 Options: Dyami Brown (73), Tylan Wallace (81), Seth Williams (92)
4. Defensive Tackle
The Texans interior defensive line was a total mess last season. 2020 second-round DT Ross Blacklock was brutal as a rookie, veteran NT Brandon Dunn couldn’t hold ground against the run, and 2019 fifth-rounder Charles Omenihu projects as a backup. The Texans’ No. 31 rushing EPA defense is multiple pieces away from average play. It’s a major project even with the Malik Collins signing.
3.67 Options: Daviyon Nixon (EDP: 50), Jay Tufele (74), Alim McNeill (74)
Houston found a band-aid fix by signing Justin Britt to a one-year contract, but he was a fringe starter in Seattle and missed the entire 2020 season. Offensive guard is a secondary need with 2019 second-rounder Max Scharping playing below his investment. The Texans were 32nd in rushing EPA last year.
3.67 Options: Quinn Meinerz (EDP: 61), Trey Hill (75)
6. Outside Corner
The Texans have one answer at corner (Bradley Roby), but current CB2 Vernon Hargreaves was picked on last year and is on a one-year contract. Houston was 30th in passing EPA defense last season, largely because they couldn’t hold up on the perimeter. The Texans will likely be switching from Cover 3 to Cover 2 under new DC Lovie Smith.
3.67 Options: Ifeatu Melifonwu (EDP: 65), Kelvin Joseph (69), Paulson Adebo (75)
Indianapolis Colts Team Needs
1. Left Tackle
Right tackle is set with 2018 second-rounder Braden Smith looking like a long-term starter, but the future at left tackle is up for grabs with Anthony Castonzo’s retirement. Whoever replaces him will be lucky enough to work next to All-Pro LG Quenton Nelson. Indy’s offensive line should be one of the best.
1.21 Options: Christian Darrisaw (EDP: 17), Alijah Vera-Tucker (20), Samuel Cosmi (24)
2.54 Options: Alex Leatherwood (EDP: 37), Dillon Radunz (55), Jackson Carman (57)
2. Edge Rusher(s)
The Colts’ top three edge rushers in snaps played (Justin Houston, Denico Autry, and Al-Quadin Muhammad) are all free agents. Because the Colts rarely blitz (31st), Indy needs better edge rushers who can pass rush. Relying on DT DeForest Buckner is asking for a lot. 2019 second-rounder Ben Banogu has been a backup in each of his two NFL seasons and is likely a rotational player only long-term.
1.21 Options: Kwity Paye (EDP: 18), Gregory Rousseau (21), Jaelan Phillips (23)
2.54 Options: Joe Tryon (EDP: 48) Carlos Basham (51), Patrick Jones (75)
3. Outside Corner
The Colts managed to re-sign CB1 Xavier Rhodes, but it’s just a one-year deal and the front office can find an upgrade over 2019 second-rounder Rock Ya-Sin at the second outside corner spot. Indy led the league in Cover 2 zone last year.
1.21 Options: Jaycee Horn (EDP: 15), Caleb Farley (16), Greg Newsome (24)
2.54 Options: Eric Stokes (EDP: 42), Tyson Campbell (44), Ifeatu Melifonwu (65)
Jacksonville Jaguars Team Needs
The Jaguars are last in passing EPA since 2011, but things are looking up with Trevor Lawrence coming to town. While a strong passer, expect Lawrence to bring more rushing production than most. Coach Urban Meyer has wanted to equate numbers in the run game by using his quarterbacks on zone reads since his days with Bowling Green in the early 2000s.
1.01 Options: Trevor Lawrence (EDP: 1)
1.25 Options: NA
2.33 Options: NA
2.45 Options: NA
3.65 Options: NA
2. Slot Corner
Coach Urban Meyer has played with aggressive, man coverage corners for most of his career, and DC Joe Cullen comes from the Ravens’ man-heavy scheme. They have two studs on the perimeter already in C.J. Henderson and Shaq Griffin (3-year deal), but neither are slot corners. The same can be said for depth corner Sidney Jones. With three quarters of pass attempts coming with at least three receivers on the field, nickel corner is a full-time position now.
1.01 Options: NA
1.25 Options: CB/SS Trevon Moehrig (EDP: 27)
2.33 Options: CB/SS Trevon Moehrig (EDP: 27), Asante Samuel (49)
2.45 Options: Asante Samuel (EDP: 49), Aaron Robinson (51)
3.65 Options: Asante Samuel (EDP 49), Aaron Robinson (51), Elijah Molden (71)
3. Left Tackle
Cam Robinson was franchise tagged this offseason because there simply weren’t many young tackles on the market, but he doesn’t have a tie to the new coaching staff and his contract expires after this season. Robinson has been a low-end left tackle starter since being the 34th overall pick in 2017. Lawrence deserves a better option on his blind side, and the Jaguars will receive a compensatory pick by letting Robinson walk in 2022. They haven’t had one in a decade.
1.01 Options: NA
1.25 Options: Christian Darrisaw (EDP: 17), Samuel Cosmi (24), Liam Eichenberg (36)
2.33 Options: Samuel Cosmi (EDP: 24), Liam Eichenberg (36), Alex Leatherwood (37)
2.45 Options: Alex Leatherwood (EDP: 37), Dillon Radunz (55), Jackson Carman (57)
3.65 Options: Jackson Carman (EDP: 57), James Hudson (66), Spencer Brown (70)
4. Tight End
Jacksonville has a few run-blocking tight ends already on the roster, but coach Urban Meyer said tight ends remain a priority, particularly noting that they “have not addressed” the F tight end. There aren’t too many move tight ends available inside the top-100 picks, but Miami TE Brevin Jordan checks just about every box for Jacksonville. I compared him to Jordan Reed and Jonnu Smith.
1.01 Options: NA
1.25 Options: Pat Freiermuth (EDP: 42)
2.33 Options: Pat Freiermuth (EDP: 42)
2.45 Options: Pat Freiermuth (EDP: 42), Brevin Jordan (68)
3.65 Options: Brevin Jordan (EDP: 68), Tommy Tremble (71), Hunter Long (100)
Editor’s Note: Get an edge with our premium Betting Tools that are packed with live odds, betting trends, predictions, player prop projections, our extensive Edge Finder and much more. And don't forget to use promo code WELCOME10 to get 10% off. Click here to learn more!
Tennessee Titans Team Needs
1. Outside Receiver
Between Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, and Jonnu Smith, the Titans have 249 available targets, the third most in the league according to the great John Daigle. Finding A.J. Brown’s every-down counterpart is one of the biggest team needs regardless of position heading into draft season. This front office has typically drafted for size and speed.
1.22 Options: Rashod Bateman (EDP: 30), Terrace Marshall (36)
2.53 Options: Terrace Marshall (EDP: 36), Dyami Brown (73)
3.85 Options: Dyami Brown (EDP: 73), Tylan Wallace (81), Seth Williams (92)
3.100 Options: Nico Collins (EDP: 97), Marquez Stevenson (98), Sage Surratt (98)
2. Outside Corner
The Titans revamped their starting lineup with Janoris Jenkins and Kevin Johnson replacing Adoree Jackson and Malcolm Butler. Johnson only signed a one-year contract and Jenkins is 32 years old. The long-term starters on the perimeter aren’t on the roster.
1.22 Options: Jaycee Horn (EDP: 15), Caleb Farley (16), Greg Newsome (24)
2.53 Options: Tyson Campbell (EDP: 44), Asante Samuel (49), Ifeatu Melifonwu (65)
3.85 Options: Paulson Adebo (EDP: 75), Shaun Wade (79), RoDarius Williams (83)
3.100 Options: Israel Mukuamu (EDP: 97), Benjamin St-Juste (100), Camryn Bynum (102)
3. Tight End
The Titans used two or more tight ends on 50% of their 2020 offensive plays, and only Anthony Firkser has meaningful experience on the roster. A power-based tight end makes sense on Day 2 or early Day 3 with Firkdaddy providing some receiving skills already.
1.22 Options: Pat Freiermuth (EDP: 42)
2.53 Options: Pat Freiermuth (EDP: 42), Brevin Jordan (68)
3.85 Options: Tommy Tremble (EDP: 71), Hunter Long (100)
3.100 Options: Hunter Long (EDP: 100), Tre McKitty (100)
4. Strong Safety
1.22 Options: CB/SS Trevon Moehrig (EDP: 27)
2.53 Options: NA
3.85 Options: Talanoa Hufanga (EDP: 91)
3.100 Options: Talanoa Hufanga (EDP: 91), Paris Ford (123)