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: CB, EDGE, DT, G, OT
Analysis: The Falcons retooled in the first part of the offseason, losing players like Austin Hooper and cutting Devonta Freeman, then replacing them with Hayden Hurst and Todd Gurley. There were some holes the Falcons couldn’t fill. Cornerback Desmond Trufant was released, and the Falcons need some help at the position. The Falcons have Dante Fowler Jr. and Grady Jarrett on the defensive line but need more. There’s work to be done on the offensive line as well.
Positions needed: CB, G, DT, LB, S
Analysis: It’s hard to pick one need as the biggest because a few are significant. The Panthers focused on the offense this offseason. They acquired tackle Russell Okung in a trade (though gave up guard Trai Turner), and signed quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and receiver Robby Anderson. Still, there’s no depth at guard and any offensive lineman will be on the Panthers’ radar. Cornerback and safety are thin, but cornerback really needs some help after James Bradberry left in free agency. There’s shaky depth at linebacker after Luke Kuechly retired and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy moved on. This is a team with some blue-chip stars, but in need of a great draft to fill plenty of weak spots.
Positions needed: LB, WR, OL, RB, QB
Analysis: The Saints are as deep as any team in the NFL. There’s no desperate need, though linebacker requires some new blood. Getting a receiver would help if Emmanuel Sanders slows down. He is 33 and is only a short-term fix. Everything else is looking ahead and building depth for the future. Quarterback is a possibility; Drew Brees will join NBC when he’s done in the NFL though that could be a couple years from now. The team is retaining Taysom Hill, a favorite of Sean Payton even if we don’t know if he can be a conventional starting quarterback. The Saints can take the best player available because they don’t have a glaring need.
Positions needed: RB, OT, QB, G, CB
Analysis: The Buccaneers had a productive free-agency period. The big news, of course, was landing Tom Brady. The Bucs also were able to retain their key pieces on defense. Most of the focus should be on offense in the draft. Tampa will likely draft a tackle before a running back, because of the way the positions are valued. But the Bucs need to put a priority on getting Brady a running game and a reliable receiver out of the backfield. Tampa Bay needs to protect Brady, too, so the entire line should be considered a need. Quarterback itself is a need, too, because Brady will be 43 and his backup is Blaine Gabbert.
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