Teams have spent the past few weeks adding talent via free agency, but not all holes can be filled that way. Each team has some pressing needs remaining, and we’re going division-by-division to analyze those needs and perhaps figure out which directions teams are leaning heading into the draft.
Positions needed: WR, DL, CB, EDGE, G
Analysis: Good luck finding a front office that has taken more criticism over the past 12 months than the Texans. And rightfully so, as Houston seemingly lost nearly every big trade it has made since Bill O’Brien took on the general manager role last season.
Yet any defense of O’Brien will likely begin with a dissection of the projected 2020 offense, which actually doesn’t have a ton of holes. For instance, no one in the receiving corps is as good as DeAndre Hopkins (who O’Brien recently traded away), but Brandin Cooks — who they just overpaid for in a trade — is still a good player, one capable of pacing a group that goes four deep. Also, the potential is there for running back David Johnson (who they got back for Hopkins) and Duke Johnson Jr. to form a really nice backfield duo. The tight end corps is loaded with homegrown draft picks, while the offensive line is set at both tackle spots and center, though the guard play needs to be upgraded.
But it’s on defense where the Texans’ bid to better surround Deshaun Watson with a championship-caliber team has fallen decidedly short. D.J. Reader, a very solid defensive lineman, left in free agency, and Texans badly need another interior disruptor as well as some edge-rush depth. Additionally, for all the resources the Texans have poured into the secondary, they still need a difference-making cover player there.
In all, this is a good but not great roster, and without a first-round pick this year or next, it’s going to be hard to make the upgrades necessary to build a championship team. Houston, which has seven picks this year, needs to have a great draft to take the next step.
Positions needed: WR, EDGE, TE, QB, CB
Analysis: The Colts showed an unusual aggressiveness in free agency, which highlighted their intention to “go for it” in 2020. First off, general manager Chris Ballard upgraded the quarterback position by signing veteran Philip Rivers, and while Rivers was turnover-prone in 2019, he still played well in spots and could benefit from being reunited with Frank Reich, his former offensive coordinator in San Diego. That said, the Colts could still invest a pick in a young quarterback to groom behind Rivers, who turns 39 this year.
Beyond that, the receiver position could use another vertical threat — T.Y. Hilton turns 31 this year — while the tight end spot could use another athletic pass catcher to replace Eric Ebron, who departed in free agency. Defensively, Ballard’s decision to deal the 13th overall pick in the draft to San Francisco for sensational defensive tackle DeForest Buckner — whom they signed to a whopping five-year extension — sends a clear signal that the Colts believe they can win big in 2020. And although they could use competitive depth at corner and edge rusher, the Colts have talent at every level of the defense.
Positions needed: CB, OL, EDGE, LB, WR
Analysis: It’s been a long way down for the Jaguars since 2017, when they reached the AFC championship game powered by what looked to be a generational defense. But now, only three starters remain from that unit, and Jacksonville is essentially looking to rebuild it on the fly. With stud edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue angling for a trade, more help is certainly needed at that position and linebacker as well, where the big-money addition of Joe Schobert might not be enough to elevate the play of this group. Additionally, after trading away two Pro Bowl corners in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, fortifying that position in this draft is an absolute necessity.
Offensively, new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is a nice match for promising young quarterback Gardner Minshew, whose talent and low cap number for the next three years should help fast-track this rebuild. A long-term, high-end complement to D.J. Chark at receiver would be awesome, and it also would not be a surprise to see the Jaguars draft any offensive line position besides center, whether it be a guard or a high-end left tackle that would allow them to shift Cam Robinson inside.
Positions needed: DE, EDGE, CB, WR, G
Analysis: The surprise team of 2019 is bringing the gang back together, with the exception of outstanding right tackle Jack Conklin, who signed a big deal to anchor Cleveland’s offensive line. The Titans will replace him with Dennis Kelly — a solid and capable starter — and once again rely upon a ground-and-pound running game to dominate opponents. So aside from fortifying the interior offensive line (where they could use some developmental depth), one spot to keep an eye on in this draft might be receiver, where Corey Davis is entering a pivotal fourth season and the Titans could find a more explosive long-term replacement in a receiver-rich draft.
Defensively, the Titans could definitely use another starting-caliber piece on the line in their base 3-4 package, and also a promising young edge rusher to push (and eventually replace) free agent signee Vic Beasley, who is on a one-year deal. Also keep an eye on corner, where the Titans could create $10.2 million by releasing a 31-year-old Malcolm Butler next year but sorely need competitive depth.
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