Baltimore celebrates the Ravens' Super Bowl victory

The Baltimore Ravens celebrated the second NFL title in franchise history with a Charm City parade on Tuesday.

Baltimore Ravens fans blow horns during a victory ceremony at City Hall Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013 in Baltimore. The Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers in NFL football's Super Bowl XLVII 34-31 on Sunday. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)(AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Baltimore Ravens fans blow horns during a victory ceremony at City Hall Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013 in Baltimore. The Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers in NFL football's Super Bowl XLVII 34-31 on Sunday. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)(AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Baltimore Ravens fans blow horns during a victory ceremony at City Hall Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013 in Baltimore. The Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers in NFL football's Super Bowl XLVII 34-31 on Sunday. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)(AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Sam Muffoletto, 21, and Phil Luzi, 21, hold up signs and a home-made Super Bowl trophy as they wait for the start of Baltimore's celebration for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens at Ravens stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013. Officials expect about 100,000 people to attend the events. (AP Photo/Alex Dominguez)
Sam Muffoletto, 21, and Phil Luzi, 21, hold up signs and a home-made Super Bowl trophy as they wait for the start of Baltimore's celebration for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens at Ravens stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013. Officials expect about 100,000 people to attend the events. (AP Photo/Alex Dominguez)
Sam Muffoletto, 21, and Phil Luzi, 21, hold up signs and a home-made Super Bowl trophy as they wait for the start of Baltimore's celebration for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens at Ravens stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013. Officials expect about 100,000 people to attend the events. (AP Photo/Alex Dominguez)
<p>Free agency is 24 years old. Since the dawn of it, I don’t remember a year (because there hasn’t been one) with the same combined level of depth at quarterback in the free market and in the draft.</p><p>It’s amazing, really. We could see four quarterbacks (Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield) picked in the top 10 in the April draft. By the end of April, six of the NFL’s 12 top-rated quarterbacks from 2017 could either move on or begin to be moved out by their teams.</p><p><strong>Alex Smith (first, with a 104.7 rating) </strong>will be traded from Kansas City to Washington, and will sign a four-year contract extension when the new league year begins March 14 … <strong>Drew Brees (second, 103.9) </strong>will likely re-sign with the Saints, but he’s free to sign anywhere come the start of free-agency March 14 … <strong>Case Keenum (seventh, 98.3) </strong>hopes to parlay a career year into a starting job and multi-year contract … <strong>Philip Rivers (ninth, 96.0) </strong>turns 37 this year, and could see the Chargers draft his heir, even coming off a very good year … <strong>Josh McCown (11th, 94.5) </strong>will be 39 in July, but coming off a career year, he could keep the seat warm for the Jets or another team drafting a quarterback of the future … <strong>Kirk Cousins (12th, 93.9) </strong>will be the most attractive vet on the street—assuming Washington doesn’t try to franchise him and trade him, which is possible but not likely.</p><p>So, in my first column this winter looking ahead to the off-season, I’m going to do the impossible: guess where each available quarterback will land. On May 1, after free agency and the draft, we’ll all have a good laugh over this column. Because I’ll be wrong on the vast majority, and maybe all. But we’ll go in order, and we’ll go by need.</p><p>Again, what follows are my team-by-team best guesses. Send me your pros and cons and best counter-arguments, and I’ll use my mailbag this week to give you your say on who’s going where.</p><h3>Desperate Need</h3><p><strong>Denver: Kirk Cousins. </strong>GM John Elway has made one mega-signing in his tenure: Peyton Manning, in 2012, when Elway was in desperate quarterback straits. To solve this problem again, I say Elway goes big. Cousins isn’t flawless, but he’s got seven or eight prime years left (he’s 29), and has put a premium on going somewhere he can win, somewhere with a good defense, and somewhere he can walk into the building every day excited about going to work. The Broncos, coming off a 5-11 year, haven’t had back-to-back losing seasons since 1971 and 1972, and my bet is on Elway, even at the ridiculous sum of something like $30 million a year, going hard after Cousins to make sure he doesn’t have to keep worrying about the position. In the last two years, Denver has employed the 23rd- and 29th-rated quarterback, Trevor Siemian. Elway’s had enough of mediocrity. One other thing that will play a role: Elway’s willingness to whack a couple of big-ticket defenders, Aqib Talib and Derek Wolfe, from a tight cap situation. It could play a role in clearing enough cap room to fit Cousins onto the roster.</p><p><strong>Arizona: A.J. McCarron. </strong>This would, of course, break Hue Jackson’s heart. But I just think the alternatives for McCarron are these: Go to Cleveland, and risk the Browns drafting a quarterback high in the first round, and risk being in the same place he was in Cincinnati, behind Andy Dalton, for the next three or four years … or go to Arizona (or another spot that won’t draft a passer high) and be handed the starting job on a team with a playoff defense. Not a very tough choice in my mind. Of course, when you’re guessing, no choice is very hard. Also: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Arizona focus on Sam Bradford and pick a rookie in the first or second round to supplement him.</p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/nfl-free-agents-rankings-by-position-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:• BENOIT: A 2018 free agency guide and tracker, with rankings of players at each position" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>• BENOIT: A 2018 free agency guide and tracker, with rankings of players at each position</strong></a> </p><p><strong>Cleveland: Sam Darnold and Sam Bradford. </strong>The reason Browns GM John Dorsey wanted Alex Smith, or even McCarron or another veteran, is because he wants to be competitive from the start this season. You sign Bradford because you know as long as he stays healthy (Ten days? Ten games?), he’s a top-12-caliber quarterback. But he’s played half the season in just two of his last five years, and so the Browns won’t be guaranteed anything except some sleepless nights if they sign Bradford. But no matter which veteran Cleveland gets (and McCarron is certainly a strong prospect here), Dorsey will backstop with a rookie, and Darnold, who needs a large dose of development, would be fine with a year or more of clipboard-holding.</p><p><strong>New York Jets: Baker Mayfield and Josh McCown. </strong>To say that McCown made a positive impact on the Jets in his gap year would be a major understatement. He’s a selfless coach on the field, and he would love to spend 2018 doing what he tried to do in 2014 in Cleveland—usher Johnny Manziel into the ranks of respectable NFL starter. We know what happened there, and it wasn’t McCown’s fault. Mayfield is a marvelous talent, if a bit of a wild colt. He’d be a great fit with McCown and new and imaginative offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. And McCown can play (combined 90.8 rating over his last three seasons) until Mayfield’s ready. Now, here’s the other thing about the Jets. Everyone in the league knows they love Cousins, will hotly pursue Cousins, and could get Cousins. It would not surprise me at all. Bates would be a perfect teacher for him, because he has so much in common with his mentors in Washington, particularly Kyle Shanahan. So if I did this exercise two weeks from now, who knows? I could give Keenum to Denver and Cousins to the Jets.</p><h3>Significant Need</h3><p><strong>New Orleans: Drew Brees and Luke Falk. </strong>I can’t see Brees, 39, going elsewhere. I see him playing out his last two or three years (or more) with Sean Payton, particularly with the Saints being on the cusp of another competitive run. Falk? Precision passer (69, 70, 67 percent accurate in his last three years at Washington State) who could use some development. You know who wouldn’t surprise me here? Tyrod Taylor. I think Payton could do very good things with him. By the way, I hear Payton loves Mayfield too. Hard to imagine, though, that Payton and GM Mickey Loomis could move up high enough from their first-round slot (27th overall) to get in position to get Mayfield.</p><p><strong>New York Giants: Josh Allen. </strong>It could be Darnold or Josh Rosen too, obviously. Much smarter NFLers than I told me in the last few days they think GM Dave Gettleman will pass on a quarterback to fill another major need at number two overall, and I don’t doubt it. But the Giants have a 37-year-old quarterback who has been average at best for the past six years, and I don’t see New York passing on a good quarterback crop when the chance to get the next long-termer is there. Allen’s the kind of big, strong, developmental player (though his accuracy could be a big issue) who would be a good pupil under Manning and Pat Shurmur for the next couple of years. Or less.</p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/02/13/nfl-draft-top-prospects-big-board" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:• THE MMQB BIG BOARD: A non-quarterback tops our list of the top 50 NFL draft prospects right now" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>• THE MMQB BIG BOARD: A non-quarterback tops our list of the top 50 NFL draft prospects right now</strong></a></p><p><strong>Minnesota: Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater. </strong>This is too safe. I sort of hate it. Keenum will likely be more inclined to go somewhere with no summer competition for the starting job (Buffalo?), but he also knows his team intimately here, and he knows (or should know) how he’d flourish under new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Bridgewater … I have no idea. What do you make of a guy who hasn’t played for two years, and who was not a sure long-term thing the last time he played? Seems the comfort-level play for him would be to stay for an incentive-laden deal.</p><p><strong>Buffalo: Josh Rosen. </strong>The musical chairs are getting scarce. This could be a McCarron, Keenum or Bradford spot too. If Denver gets Cousins, I could see Elway dealing his one (fifth overall) for Buffalo’s two first-round picks (21, 22) and another high pick this year or next—I could see Tampa Bay, Chicago, Oakland and San Francisco at seven through 10 in round one doing the same—to allow Buffalo to jump up and get a good quarterback prospect.</p><h3>Need</h3><p><strong>New England: Kyle Lauletta. </strong>I write about the Pats and Lauletta later in the column. But this is a year New England has to do what it did in 2014: find the heir to Tom Brady, who turns 41 in August. I can see the future now. In February 2022, I’m writing this column, and I’m writing new Patriots head coach Josh McDaniels saying, “Well, we know Tom just won the MVP, and he looks great even though he’s 45, but we’ve got to look out for the future too.”</p><p><strong>Jacksonville: Mason Rudolph. </strong>The Jags will say all the right things about Blake Bortles, and actually mean a few of them. But they’ve got to backstop the position. Rudolph should still be there late in round one.</p><h3>Keeping Their Eyes Open</h3><p><strong>Baltimore: Lamar Jackson. </strong>Joe Flacco’s last three years: 20-22, 52 touchdowns, 40 picks. Meh. Time to look around, and the versatile Jackson could be a weapon even when he’s not an every-down quarterback.</p><p><strong>Miami: Tyrod Taylor. </strong>Never know about Ryan Tannehill, either from an injury or talent perspective. Taylor will fare well under mechanics specialist Adam Gase.</p><p><strong>LA Chargers: Mike White. </strong>Wild guess. Good arm. The Chargers might find a third-rounder this year they believe is a good student of the game who could learn well from Philip Rivers for the next two or three years.</p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/02/15/baker-mayfield-freshman-year-texas-tech-kliff-kingsbury" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:• KLEMKO: The last time Baker Mayfield was a rookie—Looking back at the quarterback’s stint at Texas Tech" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>• KLEMKO: The last time Baker Mayfield was a rookie—Looking back at the quarterback’s stint at Texas Tech</strong></a></p><p>So Nick Foles stays in Philadelphia, Jacoby Brissett stays in Indianapolis. I think I’ve answered all your questions now. Also, if you’d like, I could advise you on some really great Lotto numbers I’ve got for tonight.</p><h3>I get the Saquon Barkley hype. I don’t get picking a back that high</h3><p>The recent history of rookie running backs suggests to me that picking Barkley, the Penn State star and very highly rated running back, in the top five would be … well, I won’t call it a mistake. Because a great player is a great player. But I am saying the history of this position shows a team might be much better off solving its needs at another position and getting the back later in the draft. </p><p><strong>2017: </strong>Offensive rookie of the year Alvin Kamara was the 67th overall pick, the fifth back picked overall. NFL rushing champion Kareem Hunt was the 86th overall pick, the sixth back picked overall.</p><p><strong>2016:</strong> Jordan Howard, the 10th back chosen and 150th overall pick, finished second in rushing as a rookie. The 13th back picked, Alex Collins, has developed into the Ravens’ number one and stalwart back.</p><p><strong>2015: </strong>Seventh running back picked: David Johnson (86th overall), who led the NFL in yards from scrimmage in 2016 with 2,118 … Thirteenth running back picked: Jay Ajayi, 149th overall.</p><p><strong>2014: </strong>Devonta Freeman (ninth back picked, 103rd overall) is the Falcons’ franchise back.</p><p>And so on.</p><p>ESPN’s Todd McShay has Barkley as his highest-rated player in the draft. “Adrian Peterson is the last back I gave a higher grade to,” McShay told me. “But I hear you. The question I would ask is, say I needed a pass-rusher—really needed one. Would I pass on [North Carolina State’s] Bradley Chubb to take Barkley in the top five, then try to get a rusher near the top of the second round? If you’re picking 33, 35, 38 [overall], I can tell you that you’ll have a chance to get a running back with a first-round grade who will be very productive for you. But the pass-rushers may be gone by then.”</p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/02/16/harry-carson-giants-concussions-cte" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:• ROHAN: If Giants legend Harry Carson had to do it all over again, he wouldn&#39;t play football" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>• ROHAN: If Giants legend Harry Carson had to do it all over again, he wouldn&#39;t play football</strong></a></p><p>I’m not ignoring the greatness of Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette and Todd Gurley, all of who were top-10 picks and have played great. But the average overall pick for Kamara, Hunt and David Johnson—each of whom are either franchise backs or verging on that title—was number 80. I just think smart teams can solve franchise-player needs high in the first round elsewhere, and get a very good back down the line. History backs it up.</p><h3>Any clues about the next Garoppolo for New England?</h3><p>New England picks 31st, 41st or 42nd (it will be San Francisco’s pick, and a coin flip will determine which of these slots the Patriots will own) and 63rd. You’ve got to think sometime between 31 and 63, New England gets its new Garoppolo, the long-term replacement for Father Time, aka Tom Brady.</p><p>Todd McShay of ESPN thinks either Luke Falk of Washington State or Kyle Lauletta of Richmond could fit the bill for New England somewhere after the top 30 picks. McShay says: “Highly driven, very intelligent, accurate passers who both lived in the pocket, very good at going through their progressions. Lauletta has a slightly bigger arm, and he was impressive in how he carried himself at the Senior Bowl.”</p><p>The Senior Bowl is where each man got noticed. In 2014, A.J. McCarron dropped out of the Senior Bowl, and the first alternate at quarterback was Garoppolo, who hustled to Mobile after playing in the East-West game the previous Saturday. By week’s end, writing about the 10 most impressive in Senior Bowl practices, former NFL safety Matt Bowen listed Garoppolo as his most impressive player of the week. In 2018, Lauletta was an unheralded FCS player behind the more storied Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield. But Lauletta was the Senior Bowl’s biggest star, completing eight of 12 passes for 198 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Eric Edholm of Pro Football Weeklywrote about Lauletta at the Senior Bowl, and Lauletta told Edholm he’s been compared to Garoppolo a lot, and thinks he’d fit with the Patriots because he “processes information well.”</p><p>Comparing the numbers between the two:</p><p> <strong>Jimmy Garoppolo 2014</strong> <strong>Kyle Lauletta 2018</strong> <strong>School</strong> Eastern Illinois Richmond <strong>Level of play</strong> FCS (I-AA) FCS (I-AA) <strong>Height</strong> 6-2 ¼ 6-2 ½ <strong>Weight</strong> 226 217 <strong>Arm length</strong> 31.00 30.75 <strong>Hand size</strong> 9.25 inches 9.62 inches <strong>40 times</strong> 4.97 seconds 4.85 (estimated) <strong>Accuracy</strong> 62.8% career 63.5% career <strong>Draft pick</strong> 63rd overall TBD </p><p>Whoever the Patriots pick—assuming it’s a draft choice they use to pick their long-term development quarterback and heir to Brady—you can bet Josh McDaniels will have a lot to say about the process. It’s McDaniels whose head-coaching prospects could be tied most closely to whoever succeeds Brady.</p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/02/15/nfl-franchise-tag-2018-primer-leveon-bell-sammy-watkins" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:• ORR: NFL franchise tag watch for Le’Veon Bell, Sammy Watkins and many more" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>• ORR: NFL franchise tag watch for Le’Veon Bell, Sammy Watkins and many more</strong></a></p><h3>Good Job, Dolphins</h3><p>After the murderous rampage that left 17 dead in Parkland, Fla., about 20 minutes from the Dolphins&#39; training facility and offices in Davie, Fla., the Miami owner, Stephen Ross, authorized the donation of $100,000 to a Go Fund Me page for the survivors of the mass shooting, pushing the charitable donations past $1 million. But that wasn&#39;t all the organization did.</p><p>The morning after the shootings happened, Miami&#39;s assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi felt like he had to act. Rizzi, a former college assistant at Rutgers, used to recruit south Florida. He became friendly with a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School coach, Elliott Bonner, and another Douglas assistant, Aaron Feis. Life moved on, and Rizzi stayed close to Bonner, and when he visited campus recently, Feis gave him a ride on a golf cart out out to see Bonner elsewhere on the expansive campus.</p><p>On the day of the shooting, Rizzi heard Feis’ name as one of the victims. He heard Feis might have been killed shielding a student or students. Rizzi felt sick about it. So at a staff meeting the morning after, he told the coaches he was taking up a collection for Feis’ widow, and anything they could do would be appreciated. As the day went on, others in the building heard about the collection, and Dolphins employees stopped by Rizzi&#39;s office. What blew him away was a couple of <em>interns</em> in the building handing him $10 and $20 toward the cause.</p><p>By the end of the day, Rizzi collected $17,500, and he drove to Parkland to give the money to Aaron Feis’ brother, Ray Feis. From some coaches to the family of another, it was a terrific gesture.</p><h3>Quotes of the Week</h3><p><strong>I</strong></p><p>“I think he will play in the major leagues.”</p><p><em>—Mets GM Sandy Alderson on Tim Tebow, who is in the team’s camp this spring, via Mike Puma of the New York Post. Tebow, 30, hit .226 in Single-A ball for the Mets in 2017.</em></p><p><strong>II</strong></p><p>“It starts off as a normal conversation and then it turns into tears. And I simply just say, ‘I understand. Trust me, I’ve been in Philly. I get it.”</p><p><em>—Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, on meeting long-time fans of the Eagles who can’t quite muster the ability to have a normal conversation with the man who has delivered a dream, on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”</em></p><p><strong>III</strong></p><p>“I think we’ve got a great young quarterback. I think that’s enough to be excited about. I think a lot of our center (Rodney Hudson). I think the quarterback-center battery is as good as I’ve ever had in football. I’m really excited about the two guards (Kelechi Osemele, Gabe Jackson), obviously. That’s the strength of this team.”</p><p><em>—Oakland coach Jon Gruden, to Jerry McDonald of Bay Area News Group.</em></p><p><strong>IV</strong></p><p>“There’s a sameness to the reaction of politicians to mass shootings. Especially if you are a politician who has received donations from the National Rifle Association.”</p><p><em>—CNN’s Anderson Cooper, after the slaughter of 17 people at a Florida high school last week.</em></p><p><strong>V</strong></p><p>“I calculated once how many times I fell during my skating career—41,600 times. But here’s the funny thing: I got up 41,600 times. That’s the muscle you have to build in your psyche: the one that reminds you to just get up.”</p><p><em>—Scott Hamilton to Juliet Macur of the New York Times, on how he reacted to being demoted from NBC’s number one skating analyst team at the Olympics, with the rise of Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski.</em></p><p>Scott, you’re the man.</p><h3>Stat of the Week</h3><p>Have I mentioned I love how the Steelers do business? Club chairman Art Rooney II shut down any talk of replacing coach Mike Tomlin soon after the season, despite the disappointing loss to the Jaguars in the playoffs—Pittsburgh’s second home defeat to Jacksonville in the 2017 season. Losses like that one are dispiriting, to be sure, but the Steelers are the Steelers. The 2018 season will complete a stunning half century of football. In those 50 seasons, Pittsburgh will have had three head coaches.</p><p>Now for the stat: Since the turn of the century, among active coaches who have coached at least five years, only three coaches have averaged more than 11 wins per season, including playoffs. And only two coaches have won 25 games or more in the last two seasons—Bill Belichick and Tomlin. The records of the three coaches with an average of 11 wins or more per season since 2000:</p><p><strong>Coach</strong> <strong>Years</strong> <strong>W-L</strong> <strong>Wins Per Year</strong> <strong>Last 2 Years</strong> <strong>Wins Per year</strong> Bill Belichick 23 278-129 12.1 32-6 16.0 Mike Tomlin 11 124-67 11.3 26-10 13.0 Pete Carroll 8 88-53-1 11.0 20-12-1 10.0 </p><p>Since you asked: In this century, among active coaches, Mike McCarthy has averaged 10.9 wins per season this century, Andy Reid 10.5, John Harbaugh 10.4, Sean Payton 10.2, Ron Rivera 9.6, Jon Gruden 9.3.</p><h3>Factoids That May Interest Only Me</h3><p><strong>I</strong></p><p>First two choices in the coaching search for the 1996 Bucs: Jimmy Johnson, Steve Spurrier.</p><p>First two choices in the coaching search for the 2018 Colts: Josh McDaniels, Mike Vrabel.</p><p>The Bucs, spurned, picked Tony Dungy. Seven seasons later, they won the Super Bowl.</p><p>The Colts, spurned, picked Frank Reich.</p><p><strong>II</strong></p><p>This is how long Sebastian Janikowski—whose 18-year tenure with the Raiders ended last week—has been playing pro football:</p><p>• The Raiders have had 21 head coaches in their 58-year history. Janikowski played for almost half—10—of them.</p><p>• In his rookie year, 2000, Janikowski was ninth in the NFL in scoring. Number 10 that year, Gary Anderson, is now 58 years old.</p><p>• Tom Brady was a third-string rookie (behind Drew Bledsoe and John Friesz) when Janikowski made his debut for Oakland on Labor Day Weekend 2000.</p><p>• In Janikowski’s first game in the NFL, the Raiders picked off Ryan Leaf three times and, despite sacks from Rodney Harrison and Junior Seau, Oakland beat San Diego 9-3.</p><p>• Playing in snow for the first time in his career in the Tuck Rule game in Foxboro on Jan. 19, 2002, Janikowski kicked field goals of 38 and 45 yards in the third quarter, giving the Raiders leads of 10-3 and 13-3 … before Adam Vinatieri’s significantly more famous 45-yard field goal on that snow-squalling evening.</p><p><strong>III</strong></p><p>Larry Fitzgerald, who has played 14 NFL seasons, had his best regular seasons in years 12, 13 and 14, with 109, 107 and 109 catches. He’ll play a 15th year in 2018.</p><h3>Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note</h3><p>Call this week’s entry “Turd of the Week.”</p><p>For Valentine’s Day dinner, my wife and I went to a restaurant in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City, The Red Cat. We had a reservation for 6:15 and arrived about 6:10. In front of us when we entered the place: two men, 40ish, one of whom was asking if a table was available. We’re full, the fellow at the front said. One of the guys saw six or eight in the restaurant that were unoccupied and asked if they could take any one of those. “Sir,” The Red Cat guy said, “it’s Valentine’s Day. We’re totally booked.” On and on the 40ish guy went. He would not take no for an answer. Couples gathered in the doorway. Finally, The Red Cat relented. “We’ll seat you,” he said.</p><p>To which the Turd of the Week turned to his acquaintance and said so that anyone within 20 feet could hear, “Can you believe that? I had to f---ing beg for a f---ing table!”</p><p>The idiot was seated, and then it was our turn. The poor Red Cat guy. Totally embarrassed, as he turned to us and was all professional and polite. But shaken. I thought, <em>I’m glad I’m not on the front line of the restaurant business in New York City.</em></p><h3>Tweets of the Week</h3><p><strong>I</strong></p><p>The former NFL scout and current NFL and draft analyst, on the rumors flying about trades and free-agent signings and other NFL folderol 10 weeks before the draft. He followed with a tweet saying: “I think this year I’m going to keep a running scorecard on all ‘rumors’ on twitter (including mine). I think we’ll find out it’s about 90 percent fabricated nonsense.”</p><p><strong>II</strong></p><p><strong>III</strong></p><p><strong>IV</strong></p><p><strong>V</strong></p><h3>Pod People</h3><p><em>From “<a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/mmqb-podcast-peter-king/id1150960126?mt=2" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The MMQB Podcast With Peter King" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The MMQB Podcast With Peter King</a>,” available where you download podcasts.</em></p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/02/13/themmqb-brandon-graham-strip-sack-philadelphia-eagles-super-bowl-52-bob-angelo-nfl-films" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:This week’s conversations" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">This week’s conversations</a>: Eagles defensive lineman Brandon Graham and NFL Films cameraman Bob Angelo, who is retiring after 43 years of shooting NFL games.</p><p><strong>• Angelo, integral with NFL Films czar Steve Sabol to the invention of “Hard Knocks” in 2001 with the Baltimore Ravens featured in the first season, on why it worked: </strong>“It worked because it was raw. After the first show, with all of that profanity out there, Steve was very concerned about the league office’s response to it. The second week, Steve told the editors to eliminate as much profanity as possible, because he was concerned about the league’s response. I would screen the show before it aired with the Ravens hierarchy, and after the first week—no issues at all … They couldn’t have cared less about the profanity. After the second show, [coach] Brian Billick looked at this watered-down show and he said, ‘Great show, Bob. But we need a few more gratuitous F-words in there.’ So I called Steve and said, ‘There’s no problem here with the profanity. Let it go. It’s raw, it’s real, this is what a pro football team sounds like in the summer.’ … From that point on, we could go anywhere we wanted, do anything we wanted to do.</p><p>“My wife Barbara and I had our niece living with us [in 2001], and she asked us one day, ‘What do you think is the best reality show on television?’ And I thought about it for a minute and said, ‘Mine. Because you don’t get voted off the island, you lose your job.’”</p><h3>Ten Things I Think I Think</h3><p>1. I think if you want to know why Larry Fitzgerald, who will return for a 15th season with a new coach and quarterback in 2018 in Arizona, should be judged as one of the best receivers ever—say, certainly in the top five—consider these nuggets:</p><p>• If he has a normal season in 2018 based on recent history, he’ll finish next year with about 200 more receptions than any wideout who ever played other than Rice, and with 500 or so more receiving yards than anyone who ever played, save Rice.</p><p>• Rice had Steve Young or Joe Montana as his quarterback in 85 percent of his career starts. Fitzgerald had Kurt Warner and Carson Palmer for 51 percent of his career starts.</p><p>• In the five seasons he’s played since turning 30, Fitzgerald has missed three games due to injury (all in 2014).</p><p>2. I think—and have for a year now—that 2017 was not going to be Fitzgerald’s last year. Too many footprints he wants to leave in the sand. When the NFL elects its 100th anniversary team in three years, my bet is Fitzgerald, who has significant respect for history and loves to be a major part of it, would want badly to be one of the four wide receivers on that team. Who would they be? Just a guess: Don Hutson, Jerry Rice, Larry Fitzgerald, and either Steve Largent or Randy Moss. Could be different, of course, because the candidate list at that position will be very strong. </p><p>3. I think it appears interim Panthers general manager Marty Hurney is the favorite to take over the full-time Carolina GM job after being cleared by the NFL of harassment claims by his ex-wife. Which is the best decision the team could make. With Hurney free of the claims now, and judged innocent, his role as the favorite for the permanent job should not be affected.</p><p>4. I think the best news of the week was Ryan Shazier sitting in on scouting meetings with the Steelers. What happened to him was awful. What he could do with his life is powerful, whether in football or something else. Good for the Steelers, paving the way for him to transition to an off-field football life if that’s what Shazier chooses.</p><p>5. I think the best TV fit for Peyton Manning might be FOX—and as the New York Post’sAndrew Marchand reported, FOX and ESPN both want him for weeknight prime-time games this year—for three reasons.</p><p>• The FOX deal is for 11 games a year, and it’s on Thursday nights, which means Manning could dip his toe in the water of TV without being married to it for a long season. Manning could be home every week in Denver by 3 a.m. Mountain Time Friday, and not leave again till Tuesday evening, if he chooses. And his work would be 11 weeks long, not 19 or 20 including playoffs.</p><p>• Manning, I believe, eventually wants to be an Elway or a Jeter, a guy who runs his own team. This would allow him to fact-find with good coaches and GMs for free, and allow him to see the teams that do it the right way and the teams that do it wrong. Jon Gruden can tell him how much you can learn by sitting in on productions meetings with the coaches and players you’ll either be trying to beat in a couple of years—or trying to hire.</p><p>• Though I don’t think Manning wants to be a TV guy, this is a low commitment way that will allow him to find that out for sure.</p><p>6. I think it’s very hard for me to imagine Washington giving Kirk Cousins the franchise tag for one simple reason: When you put a franchise tag on a player, you intend to employ him at that rate of pay for the season. Washington intends to employ Alex Smith as it quarterback for 2018 and beyond. So if the team does tag Cousins, he would immediately file a grievance to block it, <a href="https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/02/15/indianapolis-colts-chris-ballard-frank-reich-coach-gm-mmqb" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:as our Albert Breer reported Thursday" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">as our Albert Breer reported Thursday</a>. And Cousins would win easily.</p><p>7. I think I read the rant of former WFAN talk-show host Mike Francesa about the Jason Kelce expletive-peppered speech during the Eagles’ Super Bowl celebration. The Francesa take (he was angry that Kelce cursed) is one of the most get-off-my-lawn things I’ve heard in a while. Said Francesa on WOR in New York: “You ever heard about winning like a champion? Somebody should have taken a hook and pulled him off … I was in the car when I heard it and people were replaying it like it was the greatest thing in the world. How dumb are you to replay that? I wouldn’t give that one second airtime … If I were the owner of the team, I’d cut him.” I do agree with Francesa that the cursing was over the top, and at time slightly cringe-inducing. But the rest—seriously?</p><p>8. I think, not that Francesa would know this, but Jason Kelce was the NFL’s first-team all-pro center in 2017. He’s an unquestioned team leader. He’s got the 10th-highest salary-cap number for centers in 2018, which means he’s a player of great value. If Jeff Lurie cut Jason Kelce, players on that team would be beyond furious—as would coach Doug Pederson. Would the Eagles have been better with Kelce not f-bombing the speech? Of course. Cutting him? Knee-jerk to the max. But hey, it’s a hot take.</p><p>9. I think, not that it’s burrowing into the souls of every NFL or NBA fan, that it’s entirely fair for NBA commissioner Adam Silver to barter to get 1 percent of the proceeds of all money legally wagered on the NBA. The NBA is providing the vehicle for the gambling to take place. Why shouldn’t it get a small cut? Same thing with the NFL, if that gambling is legalized in other states outside of Nevada.</p><p>10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:</p><p>a. <a href="http://www.wfaa.com/news/extra-point-dale-hansen-on-school-shootings/519191312?utm_campaign=trueAnthem:+Trending+Content&#38;utm_content=5a86203204d3013bb955cd88&#38;utm_medium=trueAnthem&#38;utm_source=twitter" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Commentary of the Week" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Commentary of the Week</a>: From Dale Hansen of WFAA TV, on the Parkland school shooting. So much of what Hansen says, sensible Americans want to say—and hear.</p><p>b. <a href="http://www.nj.com/sports/index.ssf/2018/02/florida_shooting_new_jersey_high_school_coaches_co.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Column of the Week" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Column of the Week</a>: from Steve Politi of the Newark Star Ledger<em>, </em>localizing the Parkland tragedy with an apt column about high school coaches in the wake of the tragedy. Politi’s right: We’ve left it to untrained civilians to try to save our kids in schools from a horrible fate. “This is life now in this country,” he writes.</p><p>c. It’s so wonderful to see the classmates of the dead in Florida <em>not </em>just sitting home and crying—even though that would be the human thing to do. Instead, they’re coming together and demanding that our elected officials, particularly our president, stand up and do something, something real, to effect change about the gun violence in this country. They’re not waiting for Washington do something, because without being poked with a cattle prod, our leaders will hide and hide and hide and do nothing, and wait until the funerals for more students are over, then pretend it never happened. Listen to a classmate of the dead, Emma Gonzalez, on Saturday, at a rally with her friends, to protest the violence: “We are up here, standing together, because if all our government and president can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see.”</p><p>d. More Emma, who was wiping tears away as she spoke: “If us students have learned anything, it’s that if you don’t study, you will fail, and in this case, if you actively do nothing, people continually end up DEAD, SO IT’S TIME TO START DOING SOMETHING!”</p><p>e. From Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post<em>, </em>reporting from Parkland, Fla.: “The mood here isn’t solemn. It’s seething.”</p><p>f. How incredibly disheartening, but incredibly consistent, to see our elected officials serving the NRA with more loyalty than they serve their constituents. The only way to effect change is to never vote for an elected official who takes NRA money.</p><p>g. Nothing else feels important this week. But I will go on.</p><p>h. We wanted Michael Jordan to speak up about injustice, and we wanted Tiger Woods and Derek Jeter to do so too. They didn’t. Now LeBron James does, and Laura Ingraham of FOX tells him to shut up and stick to dribbling a basketball. That’s what I like about talking heads: They raise the level of dialog in the country to something above kindergarten playground. But not much.</p><p>i. Kudos, WEEI, for trying to clean the place up.</p><p>j. Thanks, Ohio University, for the invitation to talk to a hall full of sports and non-sports journalism hopefuls Friday night. Always great to be back on the campus where I spent four happy and profitable and educational years—and met the woman of my dreams.</p><p>k. Walking up one side of Court Street, walking down the other side. Walking on College Green. What a time warp. Other than the Bagel Buggy being gone from the heart of town late on a Friday night, not much has changed in the last 40 years, since winter quarter of my junior year.</p><p>l. Coffeenerdness: How I knew I was in a college town early Saturday: I had to leave Athens about 7:15 a.m. for the 65-mile drive to Columbus to catch my plane home, and I wanted to get a coffee before driving 70 miles to the airport. The three coffee shops downtown weren’t open yet. Two of them opened at 8.</p><p>m. Beernerdness: Very cool brew pub in uptown Athens that wasn’t there the last time I was: Jackie O’s, right next to my old bar, the Union. Great to see it crowded with townies and students alike Friday afternoon and evening, and great to be able to share a beer with some of the students from The Post<em>, </em>our venerable student paper, and then a drink with some of the organizers of the journalism weekend. It’s been a long time since I saw one of my old buddies from the Cincinnati Enquirer<em>, </em>Justice B. Hill, who’s on the front lines at Ohio U., teaching writing and reporting the way it has to be taught. Really enjoyed the whole scene.</p><p>n. Something redemptive and rewarding about Nathan Chen skating wonderfully in the long program Friday night. Loved seeing that.</p><p>o. Hey Lindsay Vonn: Don’t listen to anyone dogging you about your race. You’ve been a heck of a champion.</p><p>p. I sat for two hours late Saturday afternoon, vegging out and watching curling. It’s a hypnotic sport. After a while, you get the strategy, and you’re into it.</p><h3>The Adieu Haiku</h3><p>Once upon a time<br>in America, we cared<br>about mass murder.</p>
The Offseason of Quarterback Movement: Early Guesses on Who Goes Where in Free Agency, Draft

Free agency is 24 years old. Since the dawn of it, I don’t remember a year (because there hasn’t been one) with the same combined level of depth at quarterback in the free market and in the draft.

It’s amazing, really. We could see four quarterbacks (Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield) picked in the top 10 in the April draft. By the end of April, six of the NFL’s 12 top-rated quarterbacks from 2017 could either move on or begin to be moved out by their teams.

Alex Smith (first, with a 104.7 rating) will be traded from Kansas City to Washington, and will sign a four-year contract extension when the new league year begins March 14 … Drew Brees (second, 103.9) will likely re-sign with the Saints, but he’s free to sign anywhere come the start of free-agency March 14 … Case Keenum (seventh, 98.3) hopes to parlay a career year into a starting job and multi-year contract … Philip Rivers (ninth, 96.0) turns 37 this year, and could see the Chargers draft his heir, even coming off a very good year … Josh McCown (11th, 94.5) will be 39 in July, but coming off a career year, he could keep the seat warm for the Jets or another team drafting a quarterback of the future … Kirk Cousins (12th, 93.9) will be the most attractive vet on the street—assuming Washington doesn’t try to franchise him and trade him, which is possible but not likely.

So, in my first column this winter looking ahead to the off-season, I’m going to do the impossible: guess where each available quarterback will land. On May 1, after free agency and the draft, we’ll all have a good laugh over this column. Because I’ll be wrong on the vast majority, and maybe all. But we’ll go in order, and we’ll go by need.

Again, what follows are my team-by-team best guesses. Send me your pros and cons and best counter-arguments, and I’ll use my mailbag this week to give you your say on who’s going where.

Desperate Need

Denver: Kirk Cousins. GM John Elway has made one mega-signing in his tenure: Peyton Manning, in 2012, when Elway was in desperate quarterback straits. To solve this problem again, I say Elway goes big. Cousins isn’t flawless, but he’s got seven or eight prime years left (he’s 29), and has put a premium on going somewhere he can win, somewhere with a good defense, and somewhere he can walk into the building every day excited about going to work. The Broncos, coming off a 5-11 year, haven’t had back-to-back losing seasons since 1971 and 1972, and my bet is on Elway, even at the ridiculous sum of something like $30 million a year, going hard after Cousins to make sure he doesn’t have to keep worrying about the position. In the last two years, Denver has employed the 23rd- and 29th-rated quarterback, Trevor Siemian. Elway’s had enough of mediocrity. One other thing that will play a role: Elway’s willingness to whack a couple of big-ticket defenders, Aqib Talib and Derek Wolfe, from a tight cap situation. It could play a role in clearing enough cap room to fit Cousins onto the roster.

Arizona: A.J. McCarron. This would, of course, break Hue Jackson’s heart. But I just think the alternatives for McCarron are these: Go to Cleveland, and risk the Browns drafting a quarterback high in the first round, and risk being in the same place he was in Cincinnati, behind Andy Dalton, for the next three or four years … or go to Arizona (or another spot that won’t draft a passer high) and be handed the starting job on a team with a playoff defense. Not a very tough choice in my mind. Of course, when you’re guessing, no choice is very hard. Also: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Arizona focus on Sam Bradford and pick a rookie in the first or second round to supplement him.

• BENOIT: A 2018 free agency guide and tracker, with rankings of players at each position

Cleveland: Sam Darnold and Sam Bradford. The reason Browns GM John Dorsey wanted Alex Smith, or even McCarron or another veteran, is because he wants to be competitive from the start this season. You sign Bradford because you know as long as he stays healthy (Ten days? Ten games?), he’s a top-12-caliber quarterback. But he’s played half the season in just two of his last five years, and so the Browns won’t be guaranteed anything except some sleepless nights if they sign Bradford. But no matter which veteran Cleveland gets (and McCarron is certainly a strong prospect here), Dorsey will backstop with a rookie, and Darnold, who needs a large dose of development, would be fine with a year or more of clipboard-holding.

New York Jets: Baker Mayfield and Josh McCown. To say that McCown made a positive impact on the Jets in his gap year would be a major understatement. He’s a selfless coach on the field, and he would love to spend 2018 doing what he tried to do in 2014 in Cleveland—usher Johnny Manziel into the ranks of respectable NFL starter. We know what happened there, and it wasn’t McCown’s fault. Mayfield is a marvelous talent, if a bit of a wild colt. He’d be a great fit with McCown and new and imaginative offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. And McCown can play (combined 90.8 rating over his last three seasons) until Mayfield’s ready. Now, here’s the other thing about the Jets. Everyone in the league knows they love Cousins, will hotly pursue Cousins, and could get Cousins. It would not surprise me at all. Bates would be a perfect teacher for him, because he has so much in common with his mentors in Washington, particularly Kyle Shanahan. So if I did this exercise two weeks from now, who knows? I could give Keenum to Denver and Cousins to the Jets.

Significant Need

New Orleans: Drew Brees and Luke Falk. I can’t see Brees, 39, going elsewhere. I see him playing out his last two or three years (or more) with Sean Payton, particularly with the Saints being on the cusp of another competitive run. Falk? Precision passer (69, 70, 67 percent accurate in his last three years at Washington State) who could use some development. You know who wouldn’t surprise me here? Tyrod Taylor. I think Payton could do very good things with him. By the way, I hear Payton loves Mayfield too. Hard to imagine, though, that Payton and GM Mickey Loomis could move up high enough from their first-round slot (27th overall) to get in position to get Mayfield.

New York Giants: Josh Allen. It could be Darnold or Josh Rosen too, obviously. Much smarter NFLers than I told me in the last few days they think GM Dave Gettleman will pass on a quarterback to fill another major need at number two overall, and I don’t doubt it. But the Giants have a 37-year-old quarterback who has been average at best for the past six years, and I don’t see New York passing on a good quarterback crop when the chance to get the next long-termer is there. Allen’s the kind of big, strong, developmental player (though his accuracy could be a big issue) who would be a good pupil under Manning and Pat Shurmur for the next couple of years. Or less.

• THE MMQB BIG BOARD: A non-quarterback tops our list of the top 50 NFL draft prospects right now

Minnesota: Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater. This is too safe. I sort of hate it. Keenum will likely be more inclined to go somewhere with no summer competition for the starting job (Buffalo?), but he also knows his team intimately here, and he knows (or should know) how he’d flourish under new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Bridgewater … I have no idea. What do you make of a guy who hasn’t played for two years, and who was not a sure long-term thing the last time he played? Seems the comfort-level play for him would be to stay for an incentive-laden deal.

Buffalo: Josh Rosen. The musical chairs are getting scarce. This could be a McCarron, Keenum or Bradford spot too. If Denver gets Cousins, I could see Elway dealing his one (fifth overall) for Buffalo’s two first-round picks (21, 22) and another high pick this year or next—I could see Tampa Bay, Chicago, Oakland and San Francisco at seven through 10 in round one doing the same—to allow Buffalo to jump up and get a good quarterback prospect.

Need

New England: Kyle Lauletta. I write about the Pats and Lauletta later in the column. But this is a year New England has to do what it did in 2014: find the heir to Tom Brady, who turns 41 in August. I can see the future now. In February 2022, I’m writing this column, and I’m writing new Patriots head coach Josh McDaniels saying, “Well, we know Tom just won the MVP, and he looks great even though he’s 45, but we’ve got to look out for the future too.”

Jacksonville: Mason Rudolph. The Jags will say all the right things about Blake Bortles, and actually mean a few of them. But they’ve got to backstop the position. Rudolph should still be there late in round one.

Keeping Their Eyes Open

Baltimore: Lamar Jackson. Joe Flacco’s last three years: 20-22, 52 touchdowns, 40 picks. Meh. Time to look around, and the versatile Jackson could be a weapon even when he’s not an every-down quarterback.

Miami: Tyrod Taylor. Never know about Ryan Tannehill, either from an injury or talent perspective. Taylor will fare well under mechanics specialist Adam Gase.

LA Chargers: Mike White. Wild guess. Good arm. The Chargers might find a third-rounder this year they believe is a good student of the game who could learn well from Philip Rivers for the next two or three years.

• KLEMKO: The last time Baker Mayfield was a rookie—Looking back at the quarterback’s stint at Texas Tech

So Nick Foles stays in Philadelphia, Jacoby Brissett stays in Indianapolis. I think I’ve answered all your questions now. Also, if you’d like, I could advise you on some really great Lotto numbers I’ve got for tonight.

I get the Saquon Barkley hype. I don’t get picking a back that high

The recent history of rookie running backs suggests to me that picking Barkley, the Penn State star and very highly rated running back, in the top five would be … well, I won’t call it a mistake. Because a great player is a great player. But I am saying the history of this position shows a team might be much better off solving its needs at another position and getting the back later in the draft.

2017: Offensive rookie of the year Alvin Kamara was the 67th overall pick, the fifth back picked overall. NFL rushing champion Kareem Hunt was the 86th overall pick, the sixth back picked overall.

2016: Jordan Howard, the 10th back chosen and 150th overall pick, finished second in rushing as a rookie. The 13th back picked, Alex Collins, has developed into the Ravens’ number one and stalwart back.

2015: Seventh running back picked: David Johnson (86th overall), who led the NFL in yards from scrimmage in 2016 with 2,118 … Thirteenth running back picked: Jay Ajayi, 149th overall.

2014: Devonta Freeman (ninth back picked, 103rd overall) is the Falcons’ franchise back.

And so on.

ESPN’s Todd McShay has Barkley as his highest-rated player in the draft. “Adrian Peterson is the last back I gave a higher grade to,” McShay told me. “But I hear you. The question I would ask is, say I needed a pass-rusher—really needed one. Would I pass on [North Carolina State’s] Bradley Chubb to take Barkley in the top five, then try to get a rusher near the top of the second round? If you’re picking 33, 35, 38 [overall], I can tell you that you’ll have a chance to get a running back with a first-round grade who will be very productive for you. But the pass-rushers may be gone by then.”

• ROHAN: If Giants legend Harry Carson had to do it all over again, he wouldn't play football

I’m not ignoring the greatness of Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette and Todd Gurley, all of who were top-10 picks and have played great. But the average overall pick for Kamara, Hunt and David Johnson—each of whom are either franchise backs or verging on that title—was number 80. I just think smart teams can solve franchise-player needs high in the first round elsewhere, and get a very good back down the line. History backs it up.

Any clues about the next Garoppolo for New England?

New England picks 31st, 41st or 42nd (it will be San Francisco’s pick, and a coin flip will determine which of these slots the Patriots will own) and 63rd. You’ve got to think sometime between 31 and 63, New England gets its new Garoppolo, the long-term replacement for Father Time, aka Tom Brady.

Todd McShay of ESPN thinks either Luke Falk of Washington State or Kyle Lauletta of Richmond could fit the bill for New England somewhere after the top 30 picks. McShay says: “Highly driven, very intelligent, accurate passers who both lived in the pocket, very good at going through their progressions. Lauletta has a slightly bigger arm, and he was impressive in how he carried himself at the Senior Bowl.”

The Senior Bowl is where each man got noticed. In 2014, A.J. McCarron dropped out of the Senior Bowl, and the first alternate at quarterback was Garoppolo, who hustled to Mobile after playing in the East-West game the previous Saturday. By week’s end, writing about the 10 most impressive in Senior Bowl practices, former NFL safety Matt Bowen listed Garoppolo as his most impressive player of the week. In 2018, Lauletta was an unheralded FCS player behind the more storied Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield. But Lauletta was the Senior Bowl’s biggest star, completing eight of 12 passes for 198 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Eric Edholm of Pro Football Weeklywrote about Lauletta at the Senior Bowl, and Lauletta told Edholm he’s been compared to Garoppolo a lot, and thinks he’d fit with the Patriots because he “processes information well.”

Comparing the numbers between the two:

Jimmy Garoppolo 2014 Kyle Lauletta 2018 School Eastern Illinois Richmond Level of play FCS (I-AA) FCS (I-AA) Height 6-2 ¼ 6-2 ½ Weight 226 217 Arm length 31.00 30.75 Hand size 9.25 inches 9.62 inches 40 times 4.97 seconds 4.85 (estimated) Accuracy 62.8% career 63.5% career Draft pick 63rd overall TBD

Whoever the Patriots pick—assuming it’s a draft choice they use to pick their long-term development quarterback and heir to Brady—you can bet Josh McDaniels will have a lot to say about the process. It’s McDaniels whose head-coaching prospects could be tied most closely to whoever succeeds Brady.

• ORR: NFL franchise tag watch for Le’Veon Bell, Sammy Watkins and many more

Good Job, Dolphins

After the murderous rampage that left 17 dead in Parkland, Fla., about 20 minutes from the Dolphins' training facility and offices in Davie, Fla., the Miami owner, Stephen Ross, authorized the donation of $100,000 to a Go Fund Me page for the survivors of the mass shooting, pushing the charitable donations past $1 million. But that wasn't all the organization did.

The morning after the shootings happened, Miami's assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi felt like he had to act. Rizzi, a former college assistant at Rutgers, used to recruit south Florida. He became friendly with a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School coach, Elliott Bonner, and another Douglas assistant, Aaron Feis. Life moved on, and Rizzi stayed close to Bonner, and when he visited campus recently, Feis gave him a ride on a golf cart out out to see Bonner elsewhere on the expansive campus.

On the day of the shooting, Rizzi heard Feis’ name as one of the victims. He heard Feis might have been killed shielding a student or students. Rizzi felt sick about it. So at a staff meeting the morning after, he told the coaches he was taking up a collection for Feis’ widow, and anything they could do would be appreciated. As the day went on, others in the building heard about the collection, and Dolphins employees stopped by Rizzi's office. What blew him away was a couple of interns in the building handing him $10 and $20 toward the cause.

By the end of the day, Rizzi collected $17,500, and he drove to Parkland to give the money to Aaron Feis’ brother, Ray Feis. From some coaches to the family of another, it was a terrific gesture.

Quotes of the Week

I

“I think he will play in the major leagues.”

—Mets GM Sandy Alderson on Tim Tebow, who is in the team’s camp this spring, via Mike Puma of the New York Post. Tebow, 30, hit .226 in Single-A ball for the Mets in 2017.

II

“It starts off as a normal conversation and then it turns into tears. And I simply just say, ‘I understand. Trust me, I’ve been in Philly. I get it.”

—Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, on meeting long-time fans of the Eagles who can’t quite muster the ability to have a normal conversation with the man who has delivered a dream, on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

III

“I think we’ve got a great young quarterback. I think that’s enough to be excited about. I think a lot of our center (Rodney Hudson). I think the quarterback-center battery is as good as I’ve ever had in football. I’m really excited about the two guards (Kelechi Osemele, Gabe Jackson), obviously. That’s the strength of this team.”

—Oakland coach Jon Gruden, to Jerry McDonald of Bay Area News Group.

IV

“There’s a sameness to the reaction of politicians to mass shootings. Especially if you are a politician who has received donations from the National Rifle Association.”

—CNN’s Anderson Cooper, after the slaughter of 17 people at a Florida high school last week.

V

“I calculated once how many times I fell during my skating career—41,600 times. But here’s the funny thing: I got up 41,600 times. That’s the muscle you have to build in your psyche: the one that reminds you to just get up.”

—Scott Hamilton to Juliet Macur of the New York Times, on how he reacted to being demoted from NBC’s number one skating analyst team at the Olympics, with the rise of Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski.

Scott, you’re the man.

Stat of the Week

Have I mentioned I love how the Steelers do business? Club chairman Art Rooney II shut down any talk of replacing coach Mike Tomlin soon after the season, despite the disappointing loss to the Jaguars in the playoffs—Pittsburgh’s second home defeat to Jacksonville in the 2017 season. Losses like that one are dispiriting, to be sure, but the Steelers are the Steelers. The 2018 season will complete a stunning half century of football. In those 50 seasons, Pittsburgh will have had three head coaches.

Now for the stat: Since the turn of the century, among active coaches who have coached at least five years, only three coaches have averaged more than 11 wins per season, including playoffs. And only two coaches have won 25 games or more in the last two seasons—Bill Belichick and Tomlin. The records of the three coaches with an average of 11 wins or more per season since 2000:

Coach Years W-L Wins Per Year Last 2 Years Wins Per year Bill Belichick 23 278-129 12.1 32-6 16.0 Mike Tomlin 11 124-67 11.3 26-10 13.0 Pete Carroll 8 88-53-1 11.0 20-12-1 10.0

Since you asked: In this century, among active coaches, Mike McCarthy has averaged 10.9 wins per season this century, Andy Reid 10.5, John Harbaugh 10.4, Sean Payton 10.2, Ron Rivera 9.6, Jon Gruden 9.3.

Factoids That May Interest Only Me

I

First two choices in the coaching search for the 1996 Bucs: Jimmy Johnson, Steve Spurrier.

First two choices in the coaching search for the 2018 Colts: Josh McDaniels, Mike Vrabel.

The Bucs, spurned, picked Tony Dungy. Seven seasons later, they won the Super Bowl.

The Colts, spurned, picked Frank Reich.

II

This is how long Sebastian Janikowski—whose 18-year tenure with the Raiders ended last week—has been playing pro football:

• The Raiders have had 21 head coaches in their 58-year history. Janikowski played for almost half—10—of them.

• In his rookie year, 2000, Janikowski was ninth in the NFL in scoring. Number 10 that year, Gary Anderson, is now 58 years old.

• Tom Brady was a third-string rookie (behind Drew Bledsoe and John Friesz) when Janikowski made his debut for Oakland on Labor Day Weekend 2000.

• In Janikowski’s first game in the NFL, the Raiders picked off Ryan Leaf three times and, despite sacks from Rodney Harrison and Junior Seau, Oakland beat San Diego 9-3.

• Playing in snow for the first time in his career in the Tuck Rule game in Foxboro on Jan. 19, 2002, Janikowski kicked field goals of 38 and 45 yards in the third quarter, giving the Raiders leads of 10-3 and 13-3 … before Adam Vinatieri’s significantly more famous 45-yard field goal on that snow-squalling evening.

III

Larry Fitzgerald, who has played 14 NFL seasons, had his best regular seasons in years 12, 13 and 14, with 109, 107 and 109 catches. He’ll play a 15th year in 2018.

Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note

Call this week’s entry “Turd of the Week.”

For Valentine’s Day dinner, my wife and I went to a restaurant in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City, The Red Cat. We had a reservation for 6:15 and arrived about 6:10. In front of us when we entered the place: two men, 40ish, one of whom was asking if a table was available. We’re full, the fellow at the front said. One of the guys saw six or eight in the restaurant that were unoccupied and asked if they could take any one of those. “Sir,” The Red Cat guy said, “it’s Valentine’s Day. We’re totally booked.” On and on the 40ish guy went. He would not take no for an answer. Couples gathered in the doorway. Finally, The Red Cat relented. “We’ll seat you,” he said.

To which the Turd of the Week turned to his acquaintance and said so that anyone within 20 feet could hear, “Can you believe that? I had to f---ing beg for a f---ing table!”

The idiot was seated, and then it was our turn. The poor Red Cat guy. Totally embarrassed, as he turned to us and was all professional and polite. But shaken. I thought, I’m glad I’m not on the front line of the restaurant business in New York City.

Tweets of the Week

I

The former NFL scout and current NFL and draft analyst, on the rumors flying about trades and free-agent signings and other NFL folderol 10 weeks before the draft. He followed with a tweet saying: “I think this year I’m going to keep a running scorecard on all ‘rumors’ on twitter (including mine). I think we’ll find out it’s about 90 percent fabricated nonsense.”

II

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Pod People

From “The MMQB Podcast With Peter King,” available where you download podcasts.

This week’s conversations: Eagles defensive lineman Brandon Graham and NFL Films cameraman Bob Angelo, who is retiring after 43 years of shooting NFL games.

• Angelo, integral with NFL Films czar Steve Sabol to the invention of “Hard Knocks” in 2001 with the Baltimore Ravens featured in the first season, on why it worked: “It worked because it was raw. After the first show, with all of that profanity out there, Steve was very concerned about the league office’s response to it. The second week, Steve told the editors to eliminate as much profanity as possible, because he was concerned about the league’s response. I would screen the show before it aired with the Ravens hierarchy, and after the first week—no issues at all … They couldn’t have cared less about the profanity. After the second show, [coach] Brian Billick looked at this watered-down show and he said, ‘Great show, Bob. But we need a few more gratuitous F-words in there.’ So I called Steve and said, ‘There’s no problem here with the profanity. Let it go. It’s raw, it’s real, this is what a pro football team sounds like in the summer.’ … From that point on, we could go anywhere we wanted, do anything we wanted to do.

“My wife Barbara and I had our niece living with us [in 2001], and she asked us one day, ‘What do you think is the best reality show on television?’ And I thought about it for a minute and said, ‘Mine. Because you don’t get voted off the island, you lose your job.’”

Ten Things I Think I Think

1. I think if you want to know why Larry Fitzgerald, who will return for a 15th season with a new coach and quarterback in 2018 in Arizona, should be judged as one of the best receivers ever—say, certainly in the top five—consider these nuggets:

• If he has a normal season in 2018 based on recent history, he’ll finish next year with about 200 more receptions than any wideout who ever played other than Rice, and with 500 or so more receiving yards than anyone who ever played, save Rice.

• Rice had Steve Young or Joe Montana as his quarterback in 85 percent of his career starts. Fitzgerald had Kurt Warner and Carson Palmer for 51 percent of his career starts.

• In the five seasons he’s played since turning 30, Fitzgerald has missed three games due to injury (all in 2014).

2. I think—and have for a year now—that 2017 was not going to be Fitzgerald’s last year. Too many footprints he wants to leave in the sand. When the NFL elects its 100th anniversary team in three years, my bet is Fitzgerald, who has significant respect for history and loves to be a major part of it, would want badly to be one of the four wide receivers on that team. Who would they be? Just a guess: Don Hutson, Jerry Rice, Larry Fitzgerald, and either Steve Largent or Randy Moss. Could be different, of course, because the candidate list at that position will be very strong.

3. I think it appears interim Panthers general manager Marty Hurney is the favorite to take over the full-time Carolina GM job after being cleared by the NFL of harassment claims by his ex-wife. Which is the best decision the team could make. With Hurney free of the claims now, and judged innocent, his role as the favorite for the permanent job should not be affected.

4. I think the best news of the week was Ryan Shazier sitting in on scouting meetings with the Steelers. What happened to him was awful. What he could do with his life is powerful, whether in football or something else. Good for the Steelers, paving the way for him to transition to an off-field football life if that’s what Shazier chooses.

5. I think the best TV fit for Peyton Manning might be FOX—and as the New York Post’sAndrew Marchand reported, FOX and ESPN both want him for weeknight prime-time games this year—for three reasons.

• The FOX deal is for 11 games a year, and it’s on Thursday nights, which means Manning could dip his toe in the water of TV without being married to it for a long season. Manning could be home every week in Denver by 3 a.m. Mountain Time Friday, and not leave again till Tuesday evening, if he chooses. And his work would be 11 weeks long, not 19 or 20 including playoffs.

• Manning, I believe, eventually wants to be an Elway or a Jeter, a guy who runs his own team. This would allow him to fact-find with good coaches and GMs for free, and allow him to see the teams that do it the right way and the teams that do it wrong. Jon Gruden can tell him how much you can learn by sitting in on productions meetings with the coaches and players you’ll either be trying to beat in a couple of years—or trying to hire.

• Though I don’t think Manning wants to be a TV guy, this is a low commitment way that will allow him to find that out for sure.

6. I think it’s very hard for me to imagine Washington giving Kirk Cousins the franchise tag for one simple reason: When you put a franchise tag on a player, you intend to employ him at that rate of pay for the season. Washington intends to employ Alex Smith as it quarterback for 2018 and beyond. So if the team does tag Cousins, he would immediately file a grievance to block it, as our Albert Breer reported Thursday. And Cousins would win easily.

7. I think I read the rant of former WFAN talk-show host Mike Francesa about the Jason Kelce expletive-peppered speech during the Eagles’ Super Bowl celebration. The Francesa take (he was angry that Kelce cursed) is one of the most get-off-my-lawn things I’ve heard in a while. Said Francesa on WOR in New York: “You ever heard about winning like a champion? Somebody should have taken a hook and pulled him off … I was in the car when I heard it and people were replaying it like it was the greatest thing in the world. How dumb are you to replay that? I wouldn’t give that one second airtime … If I were the owner of the team, I’d cut him.” I do agree with Francesa that the cursing was over the top, and at time slightly cringe-inducing. But the rest—seriously?

8. I think, not that Francesa would know this, but Jason Kelce was the NFL’s first-team all-pro center in 2017. He’s an unquestioned team leader. He’s got the 10th-highest salary-cap number for centers in 2018, which means he’s a player of great value. If Jeff Lurie cut Jason Kelce, players on that team would be beyond furious—as would coach Doug Pederson. Would the Eagles have been better with Kelce not f-bombing the speech? Of course. Cutting him? Knee-jerk to the max. But hey, it’s a hot take.

9. I think, not that it’s burrowing into the souls of every NFL or NBA fan, that it’s entirely fair for NBA commissioner Adam Silver to barter to get 1 percent of the proceeds of all money legally wagered on the NBA. The NBA is providing the vehicle for the gambling to take place. Why shouldn’t it get a small cut? Same thing with the NFL, if that gambling is legalized in other states outside of Nevada.

10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:

a. Commentary of the Week: From Dale Hansen of WFAA TV, on the Parkland school shooting. So much of what Hansen says, sensible Americans want to say—and hear.

b. Column of the Week: from Steve Politi of the Newark Star Ledger, localizing the Parkland tragedy with an apt column about high school coaches in the wake of the tragedy. Politi’s right: We’ve left it to untrained civilians to try to save our kids in schools from a horrible fate. “This is life now in this country,” he writes.

c. It’s so wonderful to see the classmates of the dead in Florida not just sitting home and crying—even though that would be the human thing to do. Instead, they’re coming together and demanding that our elected officials, particularly our president, stand up and do something, something real, to effect change about the gun violence in this country. They’re not waiting for Washington do something, because without being poked with a cattle prod, our leaders will hide and hide and hide and do nothing, and wait until the funerals for more students are over, then pretend it never happened. Listen to a classmate of the dead, Emma Gonzalez, on Saturday, at a rally with her friends, to protest the violence: “We are up here, standing together, because if all our government and president can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see.”

d. More Emma, who was wiping tears away as she spoke: “If us students have learned anything, it’s that if you don’t study, you will fail, and in this case, if you actively do nothing, people continually end up DEAD, SO IT’S TIME TO START DOING SOMETHING!”

e. From Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post, reporting from Parkland, Fla.: “The mood here isn’t solemn. It’s seething.”

f. How incredibly disheartening, but incredibly consistent, to see our elected officials serving the NRA with more loyalty than they serve their constituents. The only way to effect change is to never vote for an elected official who takes NRA money.

g. Nothing else feels important this week. But I will go on.

h. We wanted Michael Jordan to speak up about injustice, and we wanted Tiger Woods and Derek Jeter to do so too. They didn’t. Now LeBron James does, and Laura Ingraham of FOX tells him to shut up and stick to dribbling a basketball. That’s what I like about talking heads: They raise the level of dialog in the country to something above kindergarten playground. But not much.

i. Kudos, WEEI, for trying to clean the place up.

j. Thanks, Ohio University, for the invitation to talk to a hall full of sports and non-sports journalism hopefuls Friday night. Always great to be back on the campus where I spent four happy and profitable and educational years—and met the woman of my dreams.

k. Walking up one side of Court Street, walking down the other side. Walking on College Green. What a time warp. Other than the Bagel Buggy being gone from the heart of town late on a Friday night, not much has changed in the last 40 years, since winter quarter of my junior year.

l. Coffeenerdness: How I knew I was in a college town early Saturday: I had to leave Athens about 7:15 a.m. for the 65-mile drive to Columbus to catch my plane home, and I wanted to get a coffee before driving 70 miles to the airport. The three coffee shops downtown weren’t open yet. Two of them opened at 8.

m. Beernerdness: Very cool brew pub in uptown Athens that wasn’t there the last time I was: Jackie O’s, right next to my old bar, the Union. Great to see it crowded with townies and students alike Friday afternoon and evening, and great to be able to share a beer with some of the students from The Post, our venerable student paper, and then a drink with some of the organizers of the journalism weekend. It’s been a long time since I saw one of my old buddies from the Cincinnati Enquirer, Justice B. Hill, who’s on the front lines at Ohio U., teaching writing and reporting the way it has to be taught. Really enjoyed the whole scene.

n. Something redemptive and rewarding about Nathan Chen skating wonderfully in the long program Friday night. Loved seeing that.

o. Hey Lindsay Vonn: Don’t listen to anyone dogging you about your race. You’ve been a heck of a champion.

p. I sat for two hours late Saturday afternoon, vegging out and watching curling. It’s a hypnotic sport. After a while, you get the strategy, and you’re into it.

The Adieu Haiku

Once upon a time
in America, we cared
about mass murder.

<p>Free agency is 24 years old. Since the dawn of it, I don’t remember a year (because there hasn’t been one) with the same combined level of depth at quarterback in the free market and in the draft.</p><p>It’s amazing, really. We could see four quarterbacks (Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield) picked in the top 10 in the April draft. By the end of April, six of the NFL’s 12 top-rated quarterbacks from 2017 could either move on or begin to be moved out by their teams.</p><p><strong>Alex Smith (first, with a 104.7 rating) </strong>will be traded from Kansas City to Washington, and will sign a four-year contract extension when the new league year begins March 14 … <strong>Drew Brees (second, 103.9) </strong>will likely re-sign with the Saints, but he’s free to sign anywhere come the start of free-agency March 14 … <strong>Case Keenum (seventh, 98.3) </strong>hopes to parlay a career year into a starting job and multi-year contract … <strong>Philip Rivers (ninth, 96.0) </strong>turns 37 this year, and could see the Chargers draft his heir, even coming off a very good year … <strong>Josh McCown (11th, 94.5) </strong>will be 39 in July, but coming off a career year, he could keep the seat warm for the Jets or another team drafting a quarterback of the future … <strong>Kirk Cousins (12th, 93.9) </strong>will be the most attractive vet on the street—assuming Washington doesn’t try to franchise him and trade him, which is possible but not likely.</p><p>So, in my first column this winter looking ahead to the off-season, I’m going to do the impossible: guess where each available quarterback will land. On May 1, after free agency and the draft, we’ll all have a good laugh over this column. Because I’ll be wrong on the vast majority, and maybe all. But we’ll go in order, and we’ll go by need.</p><p>Again, what follows are my team-by-team best guesses. Send me your pros and cons and best counter-arguments, and I’ll use my mailbag this week to give you your say on who’s going where.</p><h3>Desperate Need</h3><p><strong>Denver: Kirk Cousins. </strong>GM John Elway has made one mega-signing in his tenure: Peyton Manning, in 2012, when Elway was in desperate quarterback straits. To solve this problem again, I say Elway goes big. Cousins isn’t flawless, but he’s got seven or eight prime years left (he’s 29), and has put a premium on going somewhere he can win, somewhere with a good defense, and somewhere he can walk into the building every day excited about going to work. The Broncos, coming off a 5-11 year, haven’t had back-to-back losing seasons since 1971 and 1972, and my bet is on Elway, even at the ridiculous sum of something like $30 million a year, going hard after Cousins to make sure he doesn’t have to keep worrying about the position. In the last two years, Denver has employed the 23rd- and 29th-rated quarterback, Trevor Siemian. Elway’s had enough of mediocrity. One other thing that will play a role: Elway’s willingness to whack a couple of big-ticket defenders, Aqib Talib and Derek Wolfe, from a tight cap situation. It could play a role in clearing enough cap room to fit Cousins onto the roster.</p><p><strong>Arizona: A.J. McCarron. </strong>This would, of course, break Hue Jackson’s heart. But I just think the alternatives for McCarron are these: Go to Cleveland, and risk the Browns drafting a quarterback high in the first round, and risk being in the same place he was in Cincinnati, behind Andy Dalton, for the next three or four years … or go to Arizona (or another spot that won’t draft a passer high) and be handed the starting job on a team with a playoff defense. Not a very tough choice in my mind. Of course, when you’re guessing, no choice is very hard. Also: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Arizona focus on Sam Bradford and pick a rookie in the first or second round to supplement him.</p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/nfl-free-agents-rankings-by-position-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:• BENOIT: A 2018 free agency guide and tracker, with rankings of players at each position" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>• BENOIT: A 2018 free agency guide and tracker, with rankings of players at each position</strong></a> </p><p><strong>Cleveland: Sam Darnold and Sam Bradford. </strong>The reason Browns GM John Dorsey wanted Alex Smith, or even McCarron or another veteran, is because he wants to be competitive from the start this season. You sign Bradford because you know as long as he stays healthy (Ten days? Ten games?), he’s a top-12-caliber quarterback. But he’s played half the season in just two of his last five years, and so the Browns won’t be guaranteed anything except some sleepless nights if they sign Bradford. But no matter which veteran Cleveland gets (and McCarron is certainly a strong prospect here), Dorsey will backstop with a rookie, and Darnold, who needs a large dose of development, would be fine with a year or more of clipboard-holding.</p><p><strong>New York Jets: Baker Mayfield and Josh McCown. </strong>To say that McCown made a positive impact on the Jets in his gap year would be a major understatement. He’s a selfless coach on the field, and he would love to spend 2018 doing what he tried to do in 2014 in Cleveland—usher Johnny Manziel into the ranks of respectable NFL starter. We know what happened there, and it wasn’t McCown’s fault. Mayfield is a marvelous talent, if a bit of a wild colt. He’d be a great fit with McCown and new and imaginative offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. And McCown can play (combined 90.8 rating over his last three seasons) until Mayfield’s ready. Now, here’s the other thing about the Jets. Everyone in the league knows they love Cousins, will hotly pursue Cousins, and could get Cousins. It would not surprise me at all. Bates would be a perfect teacher for him, because he has so much in common with his mentors in Washington, particularly Kyle Shanahan. So if I did this exercise two weeks from now, who knows? I could give Keenum to Denver and Cousins to the Jets.</p><h3>Significant Need</h3><p><strong>New Orleans: Drew Brees and Luke Falk. </strong>I can’t see Brees, 39, going elsewhere. I see him playing out his last two or three years (or more) with Sean Payton, particularly with the Saints being on the cusp of another competitive run. Falk? Precision passer (69, 70, 67 percent accurate in his last three years at Washington State) who could use some development. You know who wouldn’t surprise me here? Tyrod Taylor. I think Payton could do very good things with him. By the way, I hear Payton loves Mayfield too. Hard to imagine, though, that Payton and GM Mickey Loomis could move up high enough from their first-round slot (27th overall) to get in position to get Mayfield.</p><p><strong>New York Giants: Josh Allen. </strong>It could be Darnold or Josh Rosen too, obviously. Much smarter NFLers than I told me in the last few days they think GM Dave Gettleman will pass on a quarterback to fill another major need at number two overall, and I don’t doubt it. But the Giants have a 37-year-old quarterback who has been average at best for the past six years, and I don’t see New York passing on a good quarterback crop when the chance to get the next long-termer is there. Allen’s the kind of big, strong, developmental player (though his accuracy could be a big issue) who would be a good pupil under Manning and Pat Shurmur for the next couple of years. Or less.</p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/02/13/nfl-draft-top-prospects-big-board" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:• THE MMQB BIG BOARD: A non-quarterback tops our list of the top 50 NFL draft prospects right now" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>• THE MMQB BIG BOARD: A non-quarterback tops our list of the top 50 NFL draft prospects right now</strong></a></p><p><strong>Minnesota: Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater. </strong>This is too safe. I sort of hate it. Keenum will likely be more inclined to go somewhere with no summer competition for the starting job (Buffalo?), but he also knows his team intimately here, and he knows (or should know) how he’d flourish under new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Bridgewater … I have no idea. What do you make of a guy who hasn’t played for two years, and who was not a sure long-term thing the last time he played? Seems the comfort-level play for him would be to stay for an incentive-laden deal.</p><p><strong>Buffalo: Josh Rosen. </strong>The musical chairs are getting scarce. This could be a McCarron, Keenum or Bradford spot too. If Denver gets Cousins, I could see Elway dealing his one (fifth overall) for Buffalo’s two first-round picks (21, 22) and another high pick this year or next—I could see Tampa Bay, Chicago, Oakland and San Francisco at seven through 10 in round one doing the same—to allow Buffalo to jump up and get a good quarterback prospect.</p><h3>Need</h3><p><strong>New England: Kyle Lauletta. </strong>I write about the Pats and Lauletta later in the column. But this is a year New England has to do what it did in 2014: find the heir to Tom Brady, who turns 41 in August. I can see the future now. In February 2022, I’m writing this column, and I’m writing new Patriots head coach Josh McDaniels saying, “Well, we know Tom just won the MVP, and he looks great even though he’s 45, but we’ve got to look out for the future too.”</p><p><strong>Jacksonville: Mason Rudolph. </strong>The Jags will say all the right things about Blake Bortles, and actually mean a few of them. But they’ve got to backstop the position. Rudolph should still be there late in round one.</p><h3>Keeping Their Eyes Open</h3><p><strong>Baltimore: Lamar Jackson. </strong>Joe Flacco’s last three years: 20-22, 52 touchdowns, 40 picks. Meh. Time to look around, and the versatile Jackson could be a weapon even when he’s not an every-down quarterback.</p><p><strong>Miami: Tyrod Taylor. </strong>Never know about Ryan Tannehill, either from an injury or talent perspective. Taylor will fare well under mechanics specialist Adam Gase.</p><p><strong>LA Chargers: Mike White. </strong>Wild guess. Good arm. The Chargers might find a third-rounder this year they believe is a good student of the game who could learn well from Philip Rivers for the next two or three years.</p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/02/15/baker-mayfield-freshman-year-texas-tech-kliff-kingsbury" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:• KLEMKO: The last time Baker Mayfield was a rookie—Looking back at the quarterback’s stint at Texas Tech" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>• KLEMKO: The last time Baker Mayfield was a rookie—Looking back at the quarterback’s stint at Texas Tech</strong></a></p><p>So Nick Foles stays in Philadelphia, Jacoby Brissett stays in Indianapolis. I think I’ve answered all your questions now. Also, if you’d like, I could advise you on some really great Lotto numbers I’ve got for tonight.</p><h3>I get the Saquon Barkley hype. I don’t get picking a back that high</h3><p>The recent history of rookie running backs suggests to me that picking Barkley, the Penn State star and very highly rated running back, in the top five would be … well, I won’t call it a mistake. Because a great player is a great player. But I am saying the history of this position shows a team might be much better off solving its needs at another position and getting the back later in the draft. </p><p><strong>2017: </strong>Offensive rookie of the year Alvin Kamara was the 67th overall pick, the fifth back picked overall. NFL rushing champion Kareem Hunt was the 86th overall pick, the sixth back picked overall.</p><p><strong>2016:</strong> Jordan Howard, the 10th back chosen and 150th overall pick, finished second in rushing as a rookie. The 13th back picked, Alex Collins, has developed into the Ravens’ number one and stalwart back.</p><p><strong>2015: </strong>Seventh running back picked: David Johnson (86th overall), who led the NFL in yards from scrimmage in 2016 with 2,118 … Thirteenth running back picked: Jay Ajayi, 149th overall.</p><p><strong>2014: </strong>Devonta Freeman (ninth back picked, 103rd overall) is the Falcons’ franchise back.</p><p>And so on.</p><p>ESPN’s Todd McShay has Barkley as his highest-rated player in the draft. “Adrian Peterson is the last back I gave a higher grade to,” McShay told me. “But I hear you. The question I would ask is, say I needed a pass-rusher—really needed one. Would I pass on [North Carolina State’s] Bradley Chubb to take Barkley in the top five, then try to get a rusher near the top of the second round? If you’re picking 33, 35, 38 [overall], I can tell you that you’ll have a chance to get a running back with a first-round grade who will be very productive for you. But the pass-rushers may be gone by then.”</p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/02/16/harry-carson-giants-concussions-cte" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:• ROHAN: If Giants legend Harry Carson had to do it all over again, he wouldn&#39;t play football" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>• ROHAN: If Giants legend Harry Carson had to do it all over again, he wouldn&#39;t play football</strong></a></p><p>I’m not ignoring the greatness of Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette and Todd Gurley, all of who were top-10 picks and have played great. But the average overall pick for Kamara, Hunt and David Johnson—each of whom are either franchise backs or verging on that title—was number 80. I just think smart teams can solve franchise-player needs high in the first round elsewhere, and get a very good back down the line. History backs it up.</p><h3>Any clues about the next Garoppolo for New England?</h3><p>New England picks 31st, 41st or 42nd (it will be San Francisco’s pick, and a coin flip will determine which of these slots the Patriots will own) and 63rd. You’ve got to think sometime between 31 and 63, New England gets its new Garoppolo, the long-term replacement for Father Time, aka Tom Brady.</p><p>Todd McShay of ESPN thinks either Luke Falk of Washington State or Kyle Lauletta of Richmond could fit the bill for New England somewhere after the top 30 picks. McShay says: “Highly driven, very intelligent, accurate passers who both lived in the pocket, very good at going through their progressions. Lauletta has a slightly bigger arm, and he was impressive in how he carried himself at the Senior Bowl.”</p><p>The Senior Bowl is where each man got noticed. In 2014, A.J. McCarron dropped out of the Senior Bowl, and the first alternate at quarterback was Garoppolo, who hustled to Mobile after playing in the East-West game the previous Saturday. By week’s end, writing about the 10 most impressive in Senior Bowl practices, former NFL safety Matt Bowen listed Garoppolo as his most impressive player of the week. In 2018, Lauletta was an unheralded FCS player behind the more storied Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield. But Lauletta was the Senior Bowl’s biggest star, completing eight of 12 passes for 198 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Eric Edholm of Pro Football Weeklywrote about Lauletta at the Senior Bowl, and Lauletta told Edholm he’s been compared to Garoppolo a lot, and thinks he’d fit with the Patriots because he “processes information well.”</p><p>Comparing the numbers between the two:</p><p> <strong>Jimmy Garoppolo 2014</strong> <strong>Kyle Lauletta 2018</strong> <strong>School</strong> Eastern Illinois Richmond <strong>Level of play</strong> FCS (I-AA) FCS (I-AA) <strong>Height</strong> 6-2 ¼ 6-2 ½ <strong>Weight</strong> 226 217 <strong>Arm length</strong> 31.00 30.75 <strong>Hand size</strong> 9.25 inches 9.62 inches <strong>40 times</strong> 4.97 seconds 4.85 (estimated) <strong>Accuracy</strong> 62.8% career 63.5% career <strong>Draft pick</strong> 63rd overall TBD </p><p>Whoever the Patriots pick—assuming it’s a draft choice they use to pick their long-term development quarterback and heir to Brady—you can bet Josh McDaniels will have a lot to say about the process. It’s McDaniels whose head-coaching prospects could be tied most closely to whoever succeeds Brady.</p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/02/15/nfl-franchise-tag-2018-primer-leveon-bell-sammy-watkins" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:• ORR: NFL franchise tag watch for Le’Veon Bell, Sammy Watkins and many more" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>• ORR: NFL franchise tag watch for Le’Veon Bell, Sammy Watkins and many more</strong></a></p><h3>Good Job, Dolphins</h3><p>After the murderous rampage that left 17 dead in Parkland, Fla., about 20 minutes from the Dolphins&#39; training facility and offices in Davie, Fla., the Miami owner, Stephen Ross, authorized the donation of $100,000 to a Go Fund Me page for the survivors of the mass shooting, pushing the charitable donations past $1 million. But that wasn&#39;t all the organization did.</p><p>The morning after the shootings happened, Miami&#39;s assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi felt like he had to act. Rizzi, a former college assistant at Rutgers, used to recruit south Florida. He became friendly with a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School coach, Elliott Bonner, and another Douglas assistant, Aaron Feis. Life moved on, and Rizzi stayed close to Bonner, and when he visited campus recently, Feis gave him a ride on a golf cart out out to see Bonner elsewhere on the expansive campus.</p><p>On the day of the shooting, Rizzi heard Feis’ name as one of the victims. He heard Feis might have been killed shielding a student or students. Rizzi felt sick about it. So at a staff meeting the morning after, he told the coaches he was taking up a collection for Feis’ widow, and anything they could do would be appreciated. As the day went on, others in the building heard about the collection, and Dolphins employees stopped by Rizzi&#39;s office. What blew him away was a couple of <em>interns</em> in the building handing him $10 and $20 toward the cause.</p><p>By the end of the day, Rizzi collected $17,500, and he drove to Parkland to give the money to Aaron Feis’ brother, Ray Feis. From some coaches to the family of another, it was a terrific gesture.</p><h3>Quotes of the Week</h3><p><strong>I</strong></p><p>“I think he will play in the major leagues.”</p><p><em>—Mets GM Sandy Alderson on Tim Tebow, who is in the team’s camp this spring, via Mike Puma of the New York Post. Tebow, 30, hit .226 in Single-A ball for the Mets in 2017.</em></p><p><strong>II</strong></p><p>“It starts off as a normal conversation and then it turns into tears. And I simply just say, ‘I understand. Trust me, I’ve been in Philly. I get it.”</p><p><em>—Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, on meeting long-time fans of the Eagles who can’t quite muster the ability to have a normal conversation with the man who has delivered a dream, on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”</em></p><p><strong>III</strong></p><p>“I think we’ve got a great young quarterback. I think that’s enough to be excited about. I think a lot of our center (Rodney Hudson). I think the quarterback-center battery is as good as I’ve ever had in football. I’m really excited about the two guards (Kelechi Osemele, Gabe Jackson), obviously. That’s the strength of this team.”</p><p><em>—Oakland coach Jon Gruden, to Jerry McDonald of Bay Area News Group.</em></p><p><strong>IV</strong></p><p>“There’s a sameness to the reaction of politicians to mass shootings. Especially if you are a politician who has received donations from the National Rifle Association.”</p><p><em>—CNN’s Anderson Cooper, after the slaughter of 17 people at a Florida high school last week.</em></p><p><strong>V</strong></p><p>“I calculated once how many times I fell during my skating career—41,600 times. But here’s the funny thing: I got up 41,600 times. That’s the muscle you have to build in your psyche: the one that reminds you to just get up.”</p><p><em>—Scott Hamilton to Juliet Macur of the New York Times, on how he reacted to being demoted from NBC’s number one skating analyst team at the Olympics, with the rise of Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski.</em></p><p>Scott, you’re the man.</p><h3>Stat of the Week</h3><p>Have I mentioned I love how the Steelers do business? Club chairman Art Rooney II shut down any talk of replacing coach Mike Tomlin soon after the season, despite the disappointing loss to the Jaguars in the playoffs—Pittsburgh’s second home defeat to Jacksonville in the 2017 season. Losses like that one are dispiriting, to be sure, but the Steelers are the Steelers. The 2018 season will complete a stunning half century of football. In those 50 seasons, Pittsburgh will have had three head coaches.</p><p>Now for the stat: Since the turn of the century, among active coaches who have coached at least five years, only three coaches have averaged more than 11 wins per season, including playoffs. And only two coaches have won 25 games or more in the last two seasons—Bill Belichick and Tomlin. The records of the three coaches with an average of 11 wins or more per season since 2000:</p><p><strong>Coach</strong> <strong>Years</strong> <strong>W-L</strong> <strong>Wins Per Year</strong> <strong>Last 2 Years</strong> <strong>Wins Per year</strong> Bill Belichick 23 278-129 12.1 32-6 16.0 Mike Tomlin 11 124-67 11.3 26-10 13.0 Pete Carroll 8 88-53-1 11.0 20-12-1 10.0 </p><p>Since you asked: In this century, among active coaches, Mike McCarthy has averaged 10.9 wins per season this century, Andy Reid 10.5, John Harbaugh 10.4, Sean Payton 10.2, Ron Rivera 9.6, Jon Gruden 9.3.</p><h3>Factoids That May Interest Only Me</h3><p><strong>I</strong></p><p>First two choices in the coaching search for the 1996 Bucs: Jimmy Johnson, Steve Spurrier.</p><p>First two choices in the coaching search for the 2018 Colts: Josh McDaniels, Mike Vrabel.</p><p>The Bucs, spurned, picked Tony Dungy. Seven seasons later, they won the Super Bowl.</p><p>The Colts, spurned, picked Frank Reich.</p><p><strong>II</strong></p><p>This is how long Sebastian Janikowski—whose 18-year tenure with the Raiders ended last week—has been playing pro football:</p><p>• The Raiders have had 21 head coaches in their 58-year history. Janikowski played for almost half—10—of them.</p><p>• In his rookie year, 2000, Janikowski was ninth in the NFL in scoring. Number 10 that year, Gary Anderson, is now 58 years old.</p><p>• Tom Brady was a third-string rookie (behind Drew Bledsoe and John Friesz) when Janikowski made his debut for Oakland on Labor Day Weekend 2000.</p><p>• In Janikowski’s first game in the NFL, the Raiders picked off Ryan Leaf three times and, despite sacks from Rodney Harrison and Junior Seau, Oakland beat San Diego 9-3.</p><p>• Playing in snow for the first time in his career in the Tuck Rule game in Foxboro on Jan. 19, 2002, Janikowski kicked field goals of 38 and 45 yards in the third quarter, giving the Raiders leads of 10-3 and 13-3 … before Adam Vinatieri’s significantly more famous 45-yard field goal on that snow-squalling evening.</p><p><strong>III</strong></p><p>Larry Fitzgerald, who has played 14 NFL seasons, had his best regular seasons in years 12, 13 and 14, with 109, 107 and 109 catches. He’ll play a 15th year in 2018.</p><h3>Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note</h3><p>Call this week’s entry “Turd of the Week.”</p><p>For Valentine’s Day dinner, my wife and I went to a restaurant in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City, The Red Cat. We had a reservation for 6:15 and arrived about 6:10. In front of us when we entered the place: two men, 40ish, one of whom was asking if a table was available. We’re full, the fellow at the front said. One of the guys saw six or eight in the restaurant that were unoccupied and asked if they could take any one of those. “Sir,” The Red Cat guy said, “it’s Valentine’s Day. We’re totally booked.” On and on the 40ish guy went. He would not take no for an answer. Couples gathered in the doorway. Finally, The Red Cat relented. “We’ll seat you,” he said.</p><p>To which the Turd of the Week turned to his acquaintance and said so that anyone within 20 feet could hear, “Can you believe that? I had to f---ing beg for a f---ing table!”</p><p>The idiot was seated, and then it was our turn. The poor Red Cat guy. Totally embarrassed, as he turned to us and was all professional and polite. But shaken. I thought, <em>I’m glad I’m not on the front line of the restaurant business in New York City.</em></p><h3>Tweets of the Week</h3><p><strong>I</strong></p><p>The former NFL scout and current NFL and draft analyst, on the rumors flying about trades and free-agent signings and other NFL folderol 10 weeks before the draft. He followed with a tweet saying: “I think this year I’m going to keep a running scorecard on all ‘rumors’ on twitter (including mine). I think we’ll find out it’s about 90 percent fabricated nonsense.”</p><p><strong>II</strong></p><p><strong>III</strong></p><p><strong>IV</strong></p><p><strong>V</strong></p><h3>Pod People</h3><p><em>From “<a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/mmqb-podcast-peter-king/id1150960126?mt=2" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The MMQB Podcast With Peter King" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The MMQB Podcast With Peter King</a>,” available where you download podcasts.</em></p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/02/13/themmqb-brandon-graham-strip-sack-philadelphia-eagles-super-bowl-52-bob-angelo-nfl-films" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:This week’s conversations" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">This week’s conversations</a>: Eagles defensive lineman Brandon Graham and NFL Films cameraman Bob Angelo, who is retiring after 43 years of shooting NFL games.</p><p><strong>• Angelo, integral with NFL Films czar Steve Sabol to the invention of “Hard Knocks” in 2001 with the Baltimore Ravens featured in the first season, on why it worked: </strong>“It worked because it was raw. After the first show, with all of that profanity out there, Steve was very concerned about the league office’s response to it. The second week, Steve told the editors to eliminate as much profanity as possible, because he was concerned about the league’s response. I would screen the show before it aired with the Ravens hierarchy, and after the first week—no issues at all … They couldn’t have cared less about the profanity. After the second show, [coach] Brian Billick looked at this watered-down show and he said, ‘Great show, Bob. But we need a few more gratuitous F-words in there.’ So I called Steve and said, ‘There’s no problem here with the profanity. Let it go. It’s raw, it’s real, this is what a pro football team sounds like in the summer.’ … From that point on, we could go anywhere we wanted, do anything we wanted to do.</p><p>“My wife Barbara and I had our niece living with us [in 2001], and she asked us one day, ‘What do you think is the best reality show on television?’ And I thought about it for a minute and said, ‘Mine. Because you don’t get voted off the island, you lose your job.’”</p><h3>Ten Things I Think I Think</h3><p>1. I think if you want to know why Larry Fitzgerald, who will return for a 15th season with a new coach and quarterback in 2018 in Arizona, should be judged as one of the best receivers ever—say, certainly in the top five—consider these nuggets:</p><p>• If he has a normal season in 2018 based on recent history, he’ll finish next year with about 200 more receptions than any wideout who ever played other than Rice, and with 500 or so more receiving yards than anyone who ever played, save Rice.</p><p>• Rice had Steve Young or Joe Montana as his quarterback in 85 percent of his career starts. Fitzgerald had Kurt Warner and Carson Palmer for 51 percent of his career starts.</p><p>• In the five seasons he’s played since turning 30, Fitzgerald has missed three games due to injury (all in 2014).</p><p>2. I think—and have for a year now—that 2017 was not going to be Fitzgerald’s last year. Too many footprints he wants to leave in the sand. When the NFL elects its 100th anniversary team in three years, my bet is Fitzgerald, who has significant respect for history and loves to be a major part of it, would want badly to be one of the four wide receivers on that team. Who would they be? Just a guess: Don Hutson, Jerry Rice, Larry Fitzgerald, and either Steve Largent or Randy Moss. Could be different, of course, because the candidate list at that position will be very strong. </p><p>3. I think it appears interim Panthers general manager Marty Hurney is the favorite to take over the full-time Carolina GM job after being cleared by the NFL of harassment claims by his ex-wife. Which is the best decision the team could make. With Hurney free of the claims now, and judged innocent, his role as the favorite for the permanent job should not be affected.</p><p>4. I think the best news of the week was Ryan Shazier sitting in on scouting meetings with the Steelers. What happened to him was awful. What he could do with his life is powerful, whether in football or something else. Good for the Steelers, paving the way for him to transition to an off-field football life if that’s what Shazier chooses.</p><p>5. I think the best TV fit for Peyton Manning might be FOX—and as the New York Post’sAndrew Marchand reported, FOX and ESPN both want him for weeknight prime-time games this year—for three reasons.</p><p>• The FOX deal is for 11 games a year, and it’s on Thursday nights, which means Manning could dip his toe in the water of TV without being married to it for a long season. Manning could be home every week in Denver by 3 a.m. Mountain Time Friday, and not leave again till Tuesday evening, if he chooses. And his work would be 11 weeks long, not 19 or 20 including playoffs.</p><p>• Manning, I believe, eventually wants to be an Elway or a Jeter, a guy who runs his own team. This would allow him to fact-find with good coaches and GMs for free, and allow him to see the teams that do it the right way and the teams that do it wrong. Jon Gruden can tell him how much you can learn by sitting in on productions meetings with the coaches and players you’ll either be trying to beat in a couple of years—or trying to hire.</p><p>• Though I don’t think Manning wants to be a TV guy, this is a low commitment way that will allow him to find that out for sure.</p><p>6. I think it’s very hard for me to imagine Washington giving Kirk Cousins the franchise tag for one simple reason: When you put a franchise tag on a player, you intend to employ him at that rate of pay for the season. Washington intends to employ Alex Smith as it quarterback for 2018 and beyond. So if the team does tag Cousins, he would immediately file a grievance to block it, <a href="https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/02/15/indianapolis-colts-chris-ballard-frank-reich-coach-gm-mmqb" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:as our Albert Breer reported Thursday" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">as our Albert Breer reported Thursday</a>. And Cousins would win easily.</p><p>7. I think I read the rant of former WFAN talk-show host Mike Francesa about the Jason Kelce expletive-peppered speech during the Eagles’ Super Bowl celebration. The Francesa take (he was angry that Kelce cursed) is one of the most get-off-my-lawn things I’ve heard in a while. Said Francesa on WOR in New York: “You ever heard about winning like a champion? Somebody should have taken a hook and pulled him off … I was in the car when I heard it and people were replaying it like it was the greatest thing in the world. How dumb are you to replay that? I wouldn’t give that one second airtime … If I were the owner of the team, I’d cut him.” I do agree with Francesa that the cursing was over the top, and at time slightly cringe-inducing. But the rest—seriously?</p><p>8. I think, not that Francesa would know this, but Jason Kelce was the NFL’s first-team all-pro center in 2017. He’s an unquestioned team leader. He’s got the 10th-highest salary-cap number for centers in 2018, which means he’s a player of great value. If Jeff Lurie cut Jason Kelce, players on that team would be beyond furious—as would coach Doug Pederson. Would the Eagles have been better with Kelce not f-bombing the speech? Of course. Cutting him? Knee-jerk to the max. But hey, it’s a hot take.</p><p>9. I think, not that it’s burrowing into the souls of every NFL or NBA fan, that it’s entirely fair for NBA commissioner Adam Silver to barter to get 1 percent of the proceeds of all money legally wagered on the NBA. The NBA is providing the vehicle for the gambling to take place. Why shouldn’t it get a small cut? Same thing with the NFL, if that gambling is legalized in other states outside of Nevada.</p><p>10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:</p><p>a. <a href="http://www.wfaa.com/news/extra-point-dale-hansen-on-school-shootings/519191312?utm_campaign=trueAnthem:+Trending+Content&#38;utm_content=5a86203204d3013bb955cd88&#38;utm_medium=trueAnthem&#38;utm_source=twitter" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Commentary of the Week" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Commentary of the Week</a>: From Dale Hansen of WFAA TV, on the Parkland school shooting. So much of what Hansen says, sensible Americans want to say—and hear.</p><p>b. <a href="http://www.nj.com/sports/index.ssf/2018/02/florida_shooting_new_jersey_high_school_coaches_co.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Column of the Week" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Column of the Week</a>: from Steve Politi of the Newark Star Ledger<em>, </em>localizing the Parkland tragedy with an apt column about high school coaches in the wake of the tragedy. Politi’s right: We’ve left it to untrained civilians to try to save our kids in schools from a horrible fate. “This is life now in this country,” he writes.</p><p>c. It’s so wonderful to see the classmates of the dead in Florida <em>not </em>just sitting home and crying—even though that would be the human thing to do. Instead, they’re coming together and demanding that our elected officials, particularly our president, stand up and do something, something real, to effect change about the gun violence in this country. They’re not waiting for Washington do something, because without being poked with a cattle prod, our leaders will hide and hide and hide and do nothing, and wait until the funerals for more students are over, then pretend it never happened. Listen to a classmate of the dead, Emma Gonzalez, on Saturday, at a rally with her friends, to protest the violence: “We are up here, standing together, because if all our government and president can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see.”</p><p>d. More Emma, who was wiping tears away as she spoke: “If us students have learned anything, it’s that if you don’t study, you will fail, and in this case, if you actively do nothing, people continually end up DEAD, SO IT’S TIME TO START DOING SOMETHING!”</p><p>e. From Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post<em>, </em>reporting from Parkland, Fla.: “The mood here isn’t solemn. It’s seething.”</p><p>f. How incredibly disheartening, but incredibly consistent, to see our elected officials serving the NRA with more loyalty than they serve their constituents. The only way to effect change is to never vote for an elected official who takes NRA money.</p><p>g. Nothing else feels important this week. But I will go on.</p><p>h. We wanted Michael Jordan to speak up about injustice, and we wanted Tiger Woods and Derek Jeter to do so too. They didn’t. Now LeBron James does, and Laura Ingraham of FOX tells him to shut up and stick to dribbling a basketball. That’s what I like about talking heads: They raise the level of dialog in the country to something above kindergarten playground. But not much.</p><p>i. Kudos, WEEI, for trying to clean the place up.</p><p>j. Thanks, Ohio University, for the invitation to talk to a hall full of sports and non-sports journalism hopefuls Friday night. Always great to be back on the campus where I spent four happy and profitable and educational years—and met the woman of my dreams.</p><p>k. Walking up one side of Court Street, walking down the other side. Walking on College Green. What a time warp. Other than the Bagel Buggy being gone from the heart of town late on a Friday night, not much has changed in the last 40 years, since winter quarter of my junior year.</p><p>l. Coffeenerdness: How I knew I was in a college town early Saturday: I had to leave Athens about 7:15 a.m. for the 65-mile drive to Columbus to catch my plane home, and I wanted to get a coffee before driving 70 miles to the airport. The three coffee shops downtown weren’t open yet. Two of them opened at 8.</p><p>m. Beernerdness: Very cool brew pub in uptown Athens that wasn’t there the last time I was: Jackie O’s, right next to my old bar, the Union. Great to see it crowded with townies and students alike Friday afternoon and evening, and great to be able to share a beer with some of the students from The Post<em>, </em>our venerable student paper, and then a drink with some of the organizers of the journalism weekend. It’s been a long time since I saw one of my old buddies from the Cincinnati Enquirer<em>, </em>Justice B. Hill, who’s on the front lines at Ohio U., teaching writing and reporting the way it has to be taught. Really enjoyed the whole scene.</p><p>n. Something redemptive and rewarding about Nathan Chen skating wonderfully in the long program Friday night. Loved seeing that.</p><p>o. Hey Lindsay Vonn: Don’t listen to anyone dogging you about your race. You’ve been a heck of a champion.</p><p>p. I sat for two hours late Saturday afternoon, vegging out and watching curling. It’s a hypnotic sport. After a while, you get the strategy, and you’re into it.</p><h3>The Adieu Haiku</h3><p>Once upon a time<br>in America, we cared<br>about mass murder.</p>
The Offseason of Quarterback Movement: Early Guesses on Who Goes Where in Free Agency, Draft

Free agency is 24 years old. Since the dawn of it, I don’t remember a year (because there hasn’t been one) with the same combined level of depth at quarterback in the free market and in the draft.

It’s amazing, really. We could see four quarterbacks (Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield) picked in the top 10 in the April draft. By the end of April, six of the NFL’s 12 top-rated quarterbacks from 2017 could either move on or begin to be moved out by their teams.

Alex Smith (first, with a 104.7 rating) will be traded from Kansas City to Washington, and will sign a four-year contract extension when the new league year begins March 14 … Drew Brees (second, 103.9) will likely re-sign with the Saints, but he’s free to sign anywhere come the start of free-agency March 14 … Case Keenum (seventh, 98.3) hopes to parlay a career year into a starting job and multi-year contract … Philip Rivers (ninth, 96.0) turns 37 this year, and could see the Chargers draft his heir, even coming off a very good year … Josh McCown (11th, 94.5) will be 39 in July, but coming off a career year, he could keep the seat warm for the Jets or another team drafting a quarterback of the future … Kirk Cousins (12th, 93.9) will be the most attractive vet on the street—assuming Washington doesn’t try to franchise him and trade him, which is possible but not likely.

So, in my first column this winter looking ahead to the off-season, I’m going to do the impossible: guess where each available quarterback will land. On May 1, after free agency and the draft, we’ll all have a good laugh over this column. Because I’ll be wrong on the vast majority, and maybe all. But we’ll go in order, and we’ll go by need.

Again, what follows are my team-by-team best guesses. Send me your pros and cons and best counter-arguments, and I’ll use my mailbag this week to give you your say on who’s going where.

Desperate Need

Denver: Kirk Cousins. GM John Elway has made one mega-signing in his tenure: Peyton Manning, in 2012, when Elway was in desperate quarterback straits. To solve this problem again, I say Elway goes big. Cousins isn’t flawless, but he’s got seven or eight prime years left (he’s 29), and has put a premium on going somewhere he can win, somewhere with a good defense, and somewhere he can walk into the building every day excited about going to work. The Broncos, coming off a 5-11 year, haven’t had back-to-back losing seasons since 1971 and 1972, and my bet is on Elway, even at the ridiculous sum of something like $30 million a year, going hard after Cousins to make sure he doesn’t have to keep worrying about the position. In the last two years, Denver has employed the 23rd- and 29th-rated quarterback, Trevor Siemian. Elway’s had enough of mediocrity. One other thing that will play a role: Elway’s willingness to whack a couple of big-ticket defenders, Aqib Talib and Derek Wolfe, from a tight cap situation. It could play a role in clearing enough cap room to fit Cousins onto the roster.

Arizona: A.J. McCarron. This would, of course, break Hue Jackson’s heart. But I just think the alternatives for McCarron are these: Go to Cleveland, and risk the Browns drafting a quarterback high in the first round, and risk being in the same place he was in Cincinnati, behind Andy Dalton, for the next three or four years … or go to Arizona (or another spot that won’t draft a passer high) and be handed the starting job on a team with a playoff defense. Not a very tough choice in my mind. Of course, when you’re guessing, no choice is very hard. Also: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Arizona focus on Sam Bradford and pick a rookie in the first or second round to supplement him.

• BENOIT: A 2018 free agency guide and tracker, with rankings of players at each position

Cleveland: Sam Darnold and Sam Bradford. The reason Browns GM John Dorsey wanted Alex Smith, or even McCarron or another veteran, is because he wants to be competitive from the start this season. You sign Bradford because you know as long as he stays healthy (Ten days? Ten games?), he’s a top-12-caliber quarterback. But he’s played half the season in just two of his last five years, and so the Browns won’t be guaranteed anything except some sleepless nights if they sign Bradford. But no matter which veteran Cleveland gets (and McCarron is certainly a strong prospect here), Dorsey will backstop with a rookie, and Darnold, who needs a large dose of development, would be fine with a year or more of clipboard-holding.

New York Jets: Baker Mayfield and Josh McCown. To say that McCown made a positive impact on the Jets in his gap year would be a major understatement. He’s a selfless coach on the field, and he would love to spend 2018 doing what he tried to do in 2014 in Cleveland—usher Johnny Manziel into the ranks of respectable NFL starter. We know what happened there, and it wasn’t McCown’s fault. Mayfield is a marvelous talent, if a bit of a wild colt. He’d be a great fit with McCown and new and imaginative offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. And McCown can play (combined 90.8 rating over his last three seasons) until Mayfield’s ready. Now, here’s the other thing about the Jets. Everyone in the league knows they love Cousins, will hotly pursue Cousins, and could get Cousins. It would not surprise me at all. Bates would be a perfect teacher for him, because he has so much in common with his mentors in Washington, particularly Kyle Shanahan. So if I did this exercise two weeks from now, who knows? I could give Keenum to Denver and Cousins to the Jets.

Significant Need

New Orleans: Drew Brees and Luke Falk. I can’t see Brees, 39, going elsewhere. I see him playing out his last two or three years (or more) with Sean Payton, particularly with the Saints being on the cusp of another competitive run. Falk? Precision passer (69, 70, 67 percent accurate in his last three years at Washington State) who could use some development. You know who wouldn’t surprise me here? Tyrod Taylor. I think Payton could do very good things with him. By the way, I hear Payton loves Mayfield too. Hard to imagine, though, that Payton and GM Mickey Loomis could move up high enough from their first-round slot (27th overall) to get in position to get Mayfield.

New York Giants: Josh Allen. It could be Darnold or Josh Rosen too, obviously. Much smarter NFLers than I told me in the last few days they think GM Dave Gettleman will pass on a quarterback to fill another major need at number two overall, and I don’t doubt it. But the Giants have a 37-year-old quarterback who has been average at best for the past six years, and I don’t see New York passing on a good quarterback crop when the chance to get the next long-termer is there. Allen’s the kind of big, strong, developmental player (though his accuracy could be a big issue) who would be a good pupil under Manning and Pat Shurmur for the next couple of years. Or less.

• THE MMQB BIG BOARD: A non-quarterback tops our list of the top 50 NFL draft prospects right now

Minnesota: Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater. This is too safe. I sort of hate it. Keenum will likely be more inclined to go somewhere with no summer competition for the starting job (Buffalo?), but he also knows his team intimately here, and he knows (or should know) how he’d flourish under new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Bridgewater … I have no idea. What do you make of a guy who hasn’t played for two years, and who was not a sure long-term thing the last time he played? Seems the comfort-level play for him would be to stay for an incentive-laden deal.

Buffalo: Josh Rosen. The musical chairs are getting scarce. This could be a McCarron, Keenum or Bradford spot too. If Denver gets Cousins, I could see Elway dealing his one (fifth overall) for Buffalo’s two first-round picks (21, 22) and another high pick this year or next—I could see Tampa Bay, Chicago, Oakland and San Francisco at seven through 10 in round one doing the same—to allow Buffalo to jump up and get a good quarterback prospect.

Need

New England: Kyle Lauletta. I write about the Pats and Lauletta later in the column. But this is a year New England has to do what it did in 2014: find the heir to Tom Brady, who turns 41 in August. I can see the future now. In February 2022, I’m writing this column, and I’m writing new Patriots head coach Josh McDaniels saying, “Well, we know Tom just won the MVP, and he looks great even though he’s 45, but we’ve got to look out for the future too.”

Jacksonville: Mason Rudolph. The Jags will say all the right things about Blake Bortles, and actually mean a few of them. But they’ve got to backstop the position. Rudolph should still be there late in round one.

Keeping Their Eyes Open

Baltimore: Lamar Jackson. Joe Flacco’s last three years: 20-22, 52 touchdowns, 40 picks. Meh. Time to look around, and the versatile Jackson could be a weapon even when he’s not an every-down quarterback.

Miami: Tyrod Taylor. Never know about Ryan Tannehill, either from an injury or talent perspective. Taylor will fare well under mechanics specialist Adam Gase.

LA Chargers: Mike White. Wild guess. Good arm. The Chargers might find a third-rounder this year they believe is a good student of the game who could learn well from Philip Rivers for the next two or three years.

• KLEMKO: The last time Baker Mayfield was a rookie—Looking back at the quarterback’s stint at Texas Tech

So Nick Foles stays in Philadelphia, Jacoby Brissett stays in Indianapolis. I think I’ve answered all your questions now. Also, if you’d like, I could advise you on some really great Lotto numbers I’ve got for tonight.

I get the Saquon Barkley hype. I don’t get picking a back that high

The recent history of rookie running backs suggests to me that picking Barkley, the Penn State star and very highly rated running back, in the top five would be … well, I won’t call it a mistake. Because a great player is a great player. But I am saying the history of this position shows a team might be much better off solving its needs at another position and getting the back later in the draft.

2017: Offensive rookie of the year Alvin Kamara was the 67th overall pick, the fifth back picked overall. NFL rushing champion Kareem Hunt was the 86th overall pick, the sixth back picked overall.

2016: Jordan Howard, the 10th back chosen and 150th overall pick, finished second in rushing as a rookie. The 13th back picked, Alex Collins, has developed into the Ravens’ number one and stalwart back.

2015: Seventh running back picked: David Johnson (86th overall), who led the NFL in yards from scrimmage in 2016 with 2,118 … Thirteenth running back picked: Jay Ajayi, 149th overall.

2014: Devonta Freeman (ninth back picked, 103rd overall) is the Falcons’ franchise back.

And so on.

ESPN’s Todd McShay has Barkley as his highest-rated player in the draft. “Adrian Peterson is the last back I gave a higher grade to,” McShay told me. “But I hear you. The question I would ask is, say I needed a pass-rusher—really needed one. Would I pass on [North Carolina State’s] Bradley Chubb to take Barkley in the top five, then try to get a rusher near the top of the second round? If you’re picking 33, 35, 38 [overall], I can tell you that you’ll have a chance to get a running back with a first-round grade who will be very productive for you. But the pass-rushers may be gone by then.”

• ROHAN: If Giants legend Harry Carson had to do it all over again, he wouldn't play football

I’m not ignoring the greatness of Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette and Todd Gurley, all of who were top-10 picks and have played great. But the average overall pick for Kamara, Hunt and David Johnson—each of whom are either franchise backs or verging on that title—was number 80. I just think smart teams can solve franchise-player needs high in the first round elsewhere, and get a very good back down the line. History backs it up.

Any clues about the next Garoppolo for New England?

New England picks 31st, 41st or 42nd (it will be San Francisco’s pick, and a coin flip will determine which of these slots the Patriots will own) and 63rd. You’ve got to think sometime between 31 and 63, New England gets its new Garoppolo, the long-term replacement for Father Time, aka Tom Brady.

Todd McShay of ESPN thinks either Luke Falk of Washington State or Kyle Lauletta of Richmond could fit the bill for New England somewhere after the top 30 picks. McShay says: “Highly driven, very intelligent, accurate passers who both lived in the pocket, very good at going through their progressions. Lauletta has a slightly bigger arm, and he was impressive in how he carried himself at the Senior Bowl.”

The Senior Bowl is where each man got noticed. In 2014, A.J. McCarron dropped out of the Senior Bowl, and the first alternate at quarterback was Garoppolo, who hustled to Mobile after playing in the East-West game the previous Saturday. By week’s end, writing about the 10 most impressive in Senior Bowl practices, former NFL safety Matt Bowen listed Garoppolo as his most impressive player of the week. In 2018, Lauletta was an unheralded FCS player behind the more storied Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield. But Lauletta was the Senior Bowl’s biggest star, completing eight of 12 passes for 198 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Eric Edholm of Pro Football Weeklywrote about Lauletta at the Senior Bowl, and Lauletta told Edholm he’s been compared to Garoppolo a lot, and thinks he’d fit with the Patriots because he “processes information well.”

Comparing the numbers between the two:

Jimmy Garoppolo 2014 Kyle Lauletta 2018 School Eastern Illinois Richmond Level of play FCS (I-AA) FCS (I-AA) Height 6-2 ¼ 6-2 ½ Weight 226 217 Arm length 31.00 30.75 Hand size 9.25 inches 9.62 inches 40 times 4.97 seconds 4.85 (estimated) Accuracy 62.8% career 63.5% career Draft pick 63rd overall TBD

Whoever the Patriots pick—assuming it’s a draft choice they use to pick their long-term development quarterback and heir to Brady—you can bet Josh McDaniels will have a lot to say about the process. It’s McDaniels whose head-coaching prospects could be tied most closely to whoever succeeds Brady.

• ORR: NFL franchise tag watch for Le’Veon Bell, Sammy Watkins and many more

Good Job, Dolphins

After the murderous rampage that left 17 dead in Parkland, Fla., about 20 minutes from the Dolphins' training facility and offices in Davie, Fla., the Miami owner, Stephen Ross, authorized the donation of $100,000 to a Go Fund Me page for the survivors of the mass shooting, pushing the charitable donations past $1 million. But that wasn't all the organization did.

The morning after the shootings happened, Miami's assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi felt like he had to act. Rizzi, a former college assistant at Rutgers, used to recruit south Florida. He became friendly with a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School coach, Elliott Bonner, and another Douglas assistant, Aaron Feis. Life moved on, and Rizzi stayed close to Bonner, and when he visited campus recently, Feis gave him a ride on a golf cart out out to see Bonner elsewhere on the expansive campus.

On the day of the shooting, Rizzi heard Feis’ name as one of the victims. He heard Feis might have been killed shielding a student or students. Rizzi felt sick about it. So at a staff meeting the morning after, he told the coaches he was taking up a collection for Feis’ widow, and anything they could do would be appreciated. As the day went on, others in the building heard about the collection, and Dolphins employees stopped by Rizzi's office. What blew him away was a couple of interns in the building handing him $10 and $20 toward the cause.

By the end of the day, Rizzi collected $17,500, and he drove to Parkland to give the money to Aaron Feis’ brother, Ray Feis. From some coaches to the family of another, it was a terrific gesture.

Quotes of the Week

I

“I think he will play in the major leagues.”

—Mets GM Sandy Alderson on Tim Tebow, who is in the team’s camp this spring, via Mike Puma of the New York Post. Tebow, 30, hit .226 in Single-A ball for the Mets in 2017.

II

“It starts off as a normal conversation and then it turns into tears. And I simply just say, ‘I understand. Trust me, I’ve been in Philly. I get it.”

—Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, on meeting long-time fans of the Eagles who can’t quite muster the ability to have a normal conversation with the man who has delivered a dream, on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

III

“I think we’ve got a great young quarterback. I think that’s enough to be excited about. I think a lot of our center (Rodney Hudson). I think the quarterback-center battery is as good as I’ve ever had in football. I’m really excited about the two guards (Kelechi Osemele, Gabe Jackson), obviously. That’s the strength of this team.”

—Oakland coach Jon Gruden, to Jerry McDonald of Bay Area News Group.

IV

“There’s a sameness to the reaction of politicians to mass shootings. Especially if you are a politician who has received donations from the National Rifle Association.”

—CNN’s Anderson Cooper, after the slaughter of 17 people at a Florida high school last week.

V

“I calculated once how many times I fell during my skating career—41,600 times. But here’s the funny thing: I got up 41,600 times. That’s the muscle you have to build in your psyche: the one that reminds you to just get up.”

—Scott Hamilton to Juliet Macur of the New York Times, on how he reacted to being demoted from NBC’s number one skating analyst team at the Olympics, with the rise of Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski.

Scott, you’re the man.

Stat of the Week

Have I mentioned I love how the Steelers do business? Club chairman Art Rooney II shut down any talk of replacing coach Mike Tomlin soon after the season, despite the disappointing loss to the Jaguars in the playoffs—Pittsburgh’s second home defeat to Jacksonville in the 2017 season. Losses like that one are dispiriting, to be sure, but the Steelers are the Steelers. The 2018 season will complete a stunning half century of football. In those 50 seasons, Pittsburgh will have had three head coaches.

Now for the stat: Since the turn of the century, among active coaches who have coached at least five years, only three coaches have averaged more than 11 wins per season, including playoffs. And only two coaches have won 25 games or more in the last two seasons—Bill Belichick and Tomlin. The records of the three coaches with an average of 11 wins or more per season since 2000:

Coach Years W-L Wins Per Year Last 2 Years Wins Per year Bill Belichick 23 278-129 12.1 32-6 16.0 Mike Tomlin 11 124-67 11.3 26-10 13.0 Pete Carroll 8 88-53-1 11.0 20-12-1 10.0

Since you asked: In this century, among active coaches, Mike McCarthy has averaged 10.9 wins per season this century, Andy Reid 10.5, John Harbaugh 10.4, Sean Payton 10.2, Ron Rivera 9.6, Jon Gruden 9.3.

Factoids That May Interest Only Me

I

First two choices in the coaching search for the 1996 Bucs: Jimmy Johnson, Steve Spurrier.

First two choices in the coaching search for the 2018 Colts: Josh McDaniels, Mike Vrabel.

The Bucs, spurned, picked Tony Dungy. Seven seasons later, they won the Super Bowl.

The Colts, spurned, picked Frank Reich.

II

This is how long Sebastian Janikowski—whose 18-year tenure with the Raiders ended last week—has been playing pro football:

• The Raiders have had 21 head coaches in their 58-year history. Janikowski played for almost half—10—of them.

• In his rookie year, 2000, Janikowski was ninth in the NFL in scoring. Number 10 that year, Gary Anderson, is now 58 years old.

• Tom Brady was a third-string rookie (behind Drew Bledsoe and John Friesz) when Janikowski made his debut for Oakland on Labor Day Weekend 2000.

• In Janikowski’s first game in the NFL, the Raiders picked off Ryan Leaf three times and, despite sacks from Rodney Harrison and Junior Seau, Oakland beat San Diego 9-3.

• Playing in snow for the first time in his career in the Tuck Rule game in Foxboro on Jan. 19, 2002, Janikowski kicked field goals of 38 and 45 yards in the third quarter, giving the Raiders leads of 10-3 and 13-3 … before Adam Vinatieri’s significantly more famous 45-yard field goal on that snow-squalling evening.

III

Larry Fitzgerald, who has played 14 NFL seasons, had his best regular seasons in years 12, 13 and 14, with 109, 107 and 109 catches. He’ll play a 15th year in 2018.

Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note

Call this week’s entry “Turd of the Week.”

For Valentine’s Day dinner, my wife and I went to a restaurant in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City, The Red Cat. We had a reservation for 6:15 and arrived about 6:10. In front of us when we entered the place: two men, 40ish, one of whom was asking if a table was available. We’re full, the fellow at the front said. One of the guys saw six or eight in the restaurant that were unoccupied and asked if they could take any one of those. “Sir,” The Red Cat guy said, “it’s Valentine’s Day. We’re totally booked.” On and on the 40ish guy went. He would not take no for an answer. Couples gathered in the doorway. Finally, The Red Cat relented. “We’ll seat you,” he said.

To which the Turd of the Week turned to his acquaintance and said so that anyone within 20 feet could hear, “Can you believe that? I had to f---ing beg for a f---ing table!”

The idiot was seated, and then it was our turn. The poor Red Cat guy. Totally embarrassed, as he turned to us and was all professional and polite. But shaken. I thought, I’m glad I’m not on the front line of the restaurant business in New York City.

Tweets of the Week

I

The former NFL scout and current NFL and draft analyst, on the rumors flying about trades and free-agent signings and other NFL folderol 10 weeks before the draft. He followed with a tweet saying: “I think this year I’m going to keep a running scorecard on all ‘rumors’ on twitter (including mine). I think we’ll find out it’s about 90 percent fabricated nonsense.”

II

III

IV

V

Pod People

From “The MMQB Podcast With Peter King,” available where you download podcasts.

This week’s conversations: Eagles defensive lineman Brandon Graham and NFL Films cameraman Bob Angelo, who is retiring after 43 years of shooting NFL games.

• Angelo, integral with NFL Films czar Steve Sabol to the invention of “Hard Knocks” in 2001 with the Baltimore Ravens featured in the first season, on why it worked: “It worked because it was raw. After the first show, with all of that profanity out there, Steve was very concerned about the league office’s response to it. The second week, Steve told the editors to eliminate as much profanity as possible, because he was concerned about the league’s response. I would screen the show before it aired with the Ravens hierarchy, and after the first week—no issues at all … They couldn’t have cared less about the profanity. After the second show, [coach] Brian Billick looked at this watered-down show and he said, ‘Great show, Bob. But we need a few more gratuitous F-words in there.’ So I called Steve and said, ‘There’s no problem here with the profanity. Let it go. It’s raw, it’s real, this is what a pro football team sounds like in the summer.’ … From that point on, we could go anywhere we wanted, do anything we wanted to do.

“My wife Barbara and I had our niece living with us [in 2001], and she asked us one day, ‘What do you think is the best reality show on television?’ And I thought about it for a minute and said, ‘Mine. Because you don’t get voted off the island, you lose your job.’”

Ten Things I Think I Think

1. I think if you want to know why Larry Fitzgerald, who will return for a 15th season with a new coach and quarterback in 2018 in Arizona, should be judged as one of the best receivers ever—say, certainly in the top five—consider these nuggets:

• If he has a normal season in 2018 based on recent history, he’ll finish next year with about 200 more receptions than any wideout who ever played other than Rice, and with 500 or so more receiving yards than anyone who ever played, save Rice.

• Rice had Steve Young or Joe Montana as his quarterback in 85 percent of his career starts. Fitzgerald had Kurt Warner and Carson Palmer for 51 percent of his career starts.

• In the five seasons he’s played since turning 30, Fitzgerald has missed three games due to injury (all in 2014).

2. I think—and have for a year now—that 2017 was not going to be Fitzgerald’s last year. Too many footprints he wants to leave in the sand. When the NFL elects its 100th anniversary team in three years, my bet is Fitzgerald, who has significant respect for history and loves to be a major part of it, would want badly to be one of the four wide receivers on that team. Who would they be? Just a guess: Don Hutson, Jerry Rice, Larry Fitzgerald, and either Steve Largent or Randy Moss. Could be different, of course, because the candidate list at that position will be very strong.

3. I think it appears interim Panthers general manager Marty Hurney is the favorite to take over the full-time Carolina GM job after being cleared by the NFL of harassment claims by his ex-wife. Which is the best decision the team could make. With Hurney free of the claims now, and judged innocent, his role as the favorite for the permanent job should not be affected.

4. I think the best news of the week was Ryan Shazier sitting in on scouting meetings with the Steelers. What happened to him was awful. What he could do with his life is powerful, whether in football or something else. Good for the Steelers, paving the way for him to transition to an off-field football life if that’s what Shazier chooses.

5. I think the best TV fit for Peyton Manning might be FOX—and as the New York Post’sAndrew Marchand reported, FOX and ESPN both want him for weeknight prime-time games this year—for three reasons.

• The FOX deal is for 11 games a year, and it’s on Thursday nights, which means Manning could dip his toe in the water of TV without being married to it for a long season. Manning could be home every week in Denver by 3 a.m. Mountain Time Friday, and not leave again till Tuesday evening, if he chooses. And his work would be 11 weeks long, not 19 or 20 including playoffs.

• Manning, I believe, eventually wants to be an Elway or a Jeter, a guy who runs his own team. This would allow him to fact-find with good coaches and GMs for free, and allow him to see the teams that do it the right way and the teams that do it wrong. Jon Gruden can tell him how much you can learn by sitting in on productions meetings with the coaches and players you’ll either be trying to beat in a couple of years—or trying to hire.

• Though I don’t think Manning wants to be a TV guy, this is a low commitment way that will allow him to find that out for sure.

6. I think it’s very hard for me to imagine Washington giving Kirk Cousins the franchise tag for one simple reason: When you put a franchise tag on a player, you intend to employ him at that rate of pay for the season. Washington intends to employ Alex Smith as it quarterback for 2018 and beyond. So if the team does tag Cousins, he would immediately file a grievance to block it, as our Albert Breer reported Thursday. And Cousins would win easily.

7. I think I read the rant of former WFAN talk-show host Mike Francesa about the Jason Kelce expletive-peppered speech during the Eagles’ Super Bowl celebration. The Francesa take (he was angry that Kelce cursed) is one of the most get-off-my-lawn things I’ve heard in a while. Said Francesa on WOR in New York: “You ever heard about winning like a champion? Somebody should have taken a hook and pulled him off … I was in the car when I heard it and people were replaying it like it was the greatest thing in the world. How dumb are you to replay that? I wouldn’t give that one second airtime … If I were the owner of the team, I’d cut him.” I do agree with Francesa that the cursing was over the top, and at time slightly cringe-inducing. But the rest—seriously?

8. I think, not that Francesa would know this, but Jason Kelce was the NFL’s first-team all-pro center in 2017. He’s an unquestioned team leader. He’s got the 10th-highest salary-cap number for centers in 2018, which means he’s a player of great value. If Jeff Lurie cut Jason Kelce, players on that team would be beyond furious—as would coach Doug Pederson. Would the Eagles have been better with Kelce not f-bombing the speech? Of course. Cutting him? Knee-jerk to the max. But hey, it’s a hot take.

9. I think, not that it’s burrowing into the souls of every NFL or NBA fan, that it’s entirely fair for NBA commissioner Adam Silver to barter to get 1 percent of the proceeds of all money legally wagered on the NBA. The NBA is providing the vehicle for the gambling to take place. Why shouldn’t it get a small cut? Same thing with the NFL, if that gambling is legalized in other states outside of Nevada.

10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:

a. Commentary of the Week: From Dale Hansen of WFAA TV, on the Parkland school shooting. So much of what Hansen says, sensible Americans want to say—and hear.

b. Column of the Week: from Steve Politi of the Newark Star Ledger, localizing the Parkland tragedy with an apt column about high school coaches in the wake of the tragedy. Politi’s right: We’ve left it to untrained civilians to try to save our kids in schools from a horrible fate. “This is life now in this country,” he writes.

c. It’s so wonderful to see the classmates of the dead in Florida not just sitting home and crying—even though that would be the human thing to do. Instead, they’re coming together and demanding that our elected officials, particularly our president, stand up and do something, something real, to effect change about the gun violence in this country. They’re not waiting for Washington do something, because without being poked with a cattle prod, our leaders will hide and hide and hide and do nothing, and wait until the funerals for more students are over, then pretend it never happened. Listen to a classmate of the dead, Emma Gonzalez, on Saturday, at a rally with her friends, to protest the violence: “We are up here, standing together, because if all our government and president can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see.”

d. More Emma, who was wiping tears away as she spoke: “If us students have learned anything, it’s that if you don’t study, you will fail, and in this case, if you actively do nothing, people continually end up DEAD, SO IT’S TIME TO START DOING SOMETHING!”

e. From Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post, reporting from Parkland, Fla.: “The mood here isn’t solemn. It’s seething.”

f. How incredibly disheartening, but incredibly consistent, to see our elected officials serving the NRA with more loyalty than they serve their constituents. The only way to effect change is to never vote for an elected official who takes NRA money.

g. Nothing else feels important this week. But I will go on.

h. We wanted Michael Jordan to speak up about injustice, and we wanted Tiger Woods and Derek Jeter to do so too. They didn’t. Now LeBron James does, and Laura Ingraham of FOX tells him to shut up and stick to dribbling a basketball. That’s what I like about talking heads: They raise the level of dialog in the country to something above kindergarten playground. But not much.

i. Kudos, WEEI, for trying to clean the place up.

j. Thanks, Ohio University, for the invitation to talk to a hall full of sports and non-sports journalism hopefuls Friday night. Always great to be back on the campus where I spent four happy and profitable and educational years—and met the woman of my dreams.

k. Walking up one side of Court Street, walking down the other side. Walking on College Green. What a time warp. Other than the Bagel Buggy being gone from the heart of town late on a Friday night, not much has changed in the last 40 years, since winter quarter of my junior year.

l. Coffeenerdness: How I knew I was in a college town early Saturday: I had to leave Athens about 7:15 a.m. for the 65-mile drive to Columbus to catch my plane home, and I wanted to get a coffee before driving 70 miles to the airport. The three coffee shops downtown weren’t open yet. Two of them opened at 8.

m. Beernerdness: Very cool brew pub in uptown Athens that wasn’t there the last time I was: Jackie O’s, right next to my old bar, the Union. Great to see it crowded with townies and students alike Friday afternoon and evening, and great to be able to share a beer with some of the students from The Post, our venerable student paper, and then a drink with some of the organizers of the journalism weekend. It’s been a long time since I saw one of my old buddies from the Cincinnati Enquirer, Justice B. Hill, who’s on the front lines at Ohio U., teaching writing and reporting the way it has to be taught. Really enjoyed the whole scene.

n. Something redemptive and rewarding about Nathan Chen skating wonderfully in the long program Friday night. Loved seeing that.

o. Hey Lindsay Vonn: Don’t listen to anyone dogging you about your race. You’ve been a heck of a champion.

p. I sat for two hours late Saturday afternoon, vegging out and watching curling. It’s a hypnotic sport. After a while, you get the strategy, and you’re into it.

The Adieu Haiku

Once upon a time
in America, we cared
about mass murder.

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Chris Moore (10) is tackled by Chicago Bears defenders as he rushes the ball in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Ravens-Bears to meet in Hall of Fame game on Aug. 2
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Chris Moore (10) is tackled by Chicago Bears defenders as he rushes the ball in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
The Baltimore Ravens will play the Chicago Bears in the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.
Ravens To Play The Bears In 2018 Hall Of Fame Game
The Baltimore Ravens will play the Chicago Bears in the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.
The Baltimore Ravens will play the Chicago Bears in the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.
Ravens To Play The Bears In 2018 Hall Of Fame Game
The Baltimore Ravens will play the Chicago Bears in the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.
The Baltimore Ravens will play the Chicago Bears in the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.
Ravens To Play The Bears In 2018 Hall Of Fame Game
The Baltimore Ravens will play the Chicago Bears in the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.
The Baltimore Ravens will play the Chicago Bears in the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.
Ravens To Play The Bears In 2018 Hall Of Fame Game
The Baltimore Ravens will play the Chicago Bears in the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.
Die Baltimore Ravens und Chicago Bears werden das Hall of Fame Game in der Vorbereitung auf die Saison 2018 bestreiten. Damit werden beide Teams insgesamt fünf Partien in der Preseason bestreiten.
NFL: Ravens und Bears bestreiten Hall of Fame Game
Die Baltimore Ravens und Chicago Bears werden das Hall of Fame Game in der Vorbereitung auf die Saison 2018 bestreiten. Damit werden beide Teams insgesamt fünf Partien in der Preseason bestreiten.
<p>The Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears will meet in the Hall of Fame Game, the Pro Football Hall of Fame <a href="http://www.profootballhof.com/baltimore-ravens-and-chicago-bears-to-play-in-2018-hall-of-fame-game/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:announced" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">announced</a>.</p><p>The game will take place on Aug. 2, with kickoff slated for 8 p.m. at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.</p><p>Chicago is making its fifth appearance in the Hall of Fame Game, while Baltimore will be making its debut.</p><p>The game will start a weekend of activities, culminating with the induction of the newest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 4.</p><p>Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher will be enshrined, along with Randy Moss, Terrell Ownes, Brian Dawkins, Jerry Kramer, Bobby Beathard, and Robert Brazile.</p>
Ravens, Bears to Meet in Hall of Fame Game

The Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears will meet in the Hall of Fame Game, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced.

The game will take place on Aug. 2, with kickoff slated for 8 p.m. at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

Chicago is making its fifth appearance in the Hall of Fame Game, while Baltimore will be making its debut.

The game will start a weekend of activities, culminating with the induction of the newest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 4.

Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher will be enshrined, along with Randy Moss, Terrell Ownes, Brian Dawkins, Jerry Kramer, Bobby Beathard, and Robert Brazile.

The Baltimore Ravens will hold cheerleader tryouts in March, and there&#39;s a chance to learn some of the dance moves in advance. It&#39;s a special cheerleader clinic that will show you everything you need to know when it comes to joining the squad.
Learn these moves to get on the Ravens cheerleading squad
The Baltimore Ravens will hold cheerleader tryouts in March, and there's a chance to learn some of the dance moves in advance. It's a special cheerleader clinic that will show you everything you need to know when it comes to joining the squad.
The Baltimore Ravens will hold cheerleader tryouts in March, and there's a chance to learn some of the dance moves in advance. It's a special cheerleader clinic that will show you everything you need to know when it comes to joining the squad.
Learn these moves to get on the Ravens cheerleading squad
The Baltimore Ravens will hold cheerleader tryouts in March, and there's a chance to learn some of the dance moves in advance. It's a special cheerleader clinic that will show you everything you need to know when it comes to joining the squad.
The Baltimore Ravens will hold cheerleader tryouts in March, and there&#39;s a chance to learn some of the dance moves in advance. It&#39;s a special cheerleader clinic that will show you everything you need to know when it comes to joining the squad.
Learn these moves to get on the Ravens cheerleading squad
The Baltimore Ravens will hold cheerleader tryouts in March, and there's a chance to learn some of the dance moves in advance. It's a special cheerleader clinic that will show you everything you need to know when it comes to joining the squad.
The Baltimore Ravens will hold cheerleader tryouts in March, and there&#39;s a chance to learn some of the dance moves in advance. It&#39;s a special cheerleader clinic that will show you everything you need to know when it comes to joining the squad.
Learn these moves to get on the Ravens cheerleading squad
The Baltimore Ravens will hold cheerleader tryouts in March, and there's a chance to learn some of the dance moves in advance. It's a special cheerleader clinic that will show you everything you need to know when it comes to joining the squad.
It may be the NFL offseason but Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders are at work traveling around the world to visit U.S. troops.
Ravens Cheerleaders Visit Troops Deployed In Middle East
It may be the NFL offseason but Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders are at work traveling around the world to visit U.S. troops.
It may be the NFL offseason but Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders are at work traveling around the world to visit U.S. troops.
Ravens Cheerleaders Visit Troops Deployed In Middle East
It may be the NFL offseason but Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders are at work traveling around the world to visit U.S. troops.
It may be the NFL offseason but Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders are at work traveling around the world to visit U.S. troops.
Ravens Cheerleaders Visit Troops Deployed In Middle East
It may be the NFL offseason but Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders are at work traveling around the world to visit U.S. troops.
It may be the NFL offseason but Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders are at work traveling around the world to visit U.S. troops.
Ravens Cheerleaders Visit Troops Deployed In Middle East
It may be the NFL offseason but Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders are at work traveling around the world to visit U.S. troops.
When John Urschel retired from the NFL last year after just 3 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, it made headlines.
This Ex-NFL Player Is On A Mission To Become A Chess Master
When John Urschel retired from the NFL last year after just 3 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, it made headlines.
When John Urschel retired from the NFL last year after just 3 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, it made headlines.
This Ex-NFL Player Is On A Mission To Become A Chess Master
When John Urschel retired from the NFL last year after just 3 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, it made headlines.
When John Urschel retired from the NFL last year after just 3 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, it made headlines.
This Ex-NFL Player Is On A Mission To Become A Chess Master
When John Urschel retired from the NFL last year after just 3 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, it made headlines.
<p><em>This story appears in the Feb. 12, 2017, issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. To subscribe, </em><a href="https://subscription.si.com/storefront/subscribe-to-sports-illustrated/site/si-fellswooptest78fr39-tpl.html?tcmid=navagation&#38;link=1042251&#38;fpa_oc=SI+Own.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:click here." class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>click here.</em></a></p><h3>1. NEW YORK JETS (5–11)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 6</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE</strong></p><p>The Jets wildly surpassed expectations by winning five games... which says everything about this roster. There are enough glaring needs that GM Mike Maccagnan can draft his board’s top player in the first four rounds and trust that each rookie will immediately have a major role. Quarterback is the most significant need. After that: interior O-line, tight end, linebacker, cornerback.... How each spot is filled could influence the others. Coach Todd Bowles is known for blitzing, but he’s disciplined about playing to personnel. A stud corner would allow Bowles to use more pressure packages, but if there’s a pass rusher New York loves, the coach could rework around him.</p><h3>2. CLEVELAND BROWNS (0–16)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 1, 4 (VIA TEXANS)</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: SLOT RECEIVER</strong></p><p>The Browns are more talented than their 0–16 record suggests. They could use another playmaker or two on D (what last-place team couldn’t?), but more than anything, they need to redesign their O. Part of DeShone Kizer’s struggles at QB can be attributed to coach Hue Jackson’s asking the rookie to make deep, full-field progression reads out of spread formations. It doesn’t get more challenging than that. Jackson is a shrewd offensive strategist; his unit can be better—especially if he has a true slot receiver around whom he can build shorter route combos, increasing the ways versatile receiving back Duke Johnson and nimble tight end David Njoku are used.</p><h3>3. BUFFALO BILLS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 21, 22 (VIA CHIEFS) </strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER</strong></p><p>The Bills’ biggest need is at QB, but that’s true for just about any team without a franchise guy in that spot. Digging deeper, look to the D-line. Coach Sean McDermott is a creative, effective blitz schemer. But he more often plays traditional zone coverages, which require a potent four-man rush. Buffalo had just 27 sacks last season, tied for third fewest in the NFL, and you can see that reflected on film: Their front four rarely controlled games. This roster’s only viable pass rusher is defensive end Jerry Hughes, who can go quiet for stretches. The Bills need an edge bender opposite him, as well as a penetrator inside, especially if 34-year-old free agent Kyle Williams does not return.</p><h3>4. CHICAGO BEARS (5–11)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 8 </strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER</strong></p><p>The offense that new coach Matt Nagy coordinated under Andy Reid in K.C. prospered despite mediocre receivers. But that was a function of Reid’s passing-game creativity with running backs, plus the presence of multi-tooled tight end Travis Kelce. Nagy can employ his backs in the air (especially the electrifying Tarik Cohen), but tight ends Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen are neither dynamic nor flexible. In his second year, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will need more talented receivers. Cameron Meredith, coming off a left-ACL tear, can fill one spot—but that leaves three more. Just about any style of player will work here, as long as he’s a proficient enough route runner to aid the timing and rhythm throws that Trubisky’s success will hinge on.</p><h3>5. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (4–12)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 3</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER</strong></p><p>Everyone derides the Colts’ offensive line, but third-year center Ryan Kelly and guards Jack Mewhort (entering year five) and Joe Haeg (three) form a solid, improving interior; and Anthony Castonzo is a quality left tackle. The real problem: Injuries have kept these guys from playing together. Chemistry can develop once they stay healthy. Instead of meddling there, expect second-year GM Chris Ballard to use his cap space ($84 million) and early draft picks to restock a defense that ranked 30th last season and needs work at every position except tackle and free safety. The fastest way to improve a defense is to add an edge rusher who can influence an opposing offense’s blocking scheme and make the quarterback play hastily.</p><h3>6. CINCINNATI BENGALS (7–9)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 12</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: QUARTERBACK</strong></p><p>This is as much about a franchise philosophy as it is about Andy Dalton in particular. The Bengals’ approach has long been to pay for a middle-tier QB and surround him with talent, investing early picks at receiver, running back, tight end and offensive tackle. With Dalton there have been ups and downs (dictated largely by how well he moves within the pocket), and all but one of his seven campaigns have ended somewhere between 6–10 and 11–5. That’s respectable but ultimately unfulfilling. If owner Mike Brown is unwilling to change leadership at the coaching level, he at least needs to evolve Cincinnati’s on-field identity. This year’s draft offers at least four first-round QBs, and Dalton would count just $2.4 million in dead money against the cap if he was released.</p><h3>7. TENNESSEE TITANS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 25</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER</strong></p><p>Sure, the Titans drafted Corey Davis with the No. 5 pick last year. But he has yet to show the transitional quickness or top-end speed to stretch the field. Barring a sudden turbo boost (which we might see once he acclimates more to the NFL), Davis will most likely build his career on contested catches and possession targets. In other words: Tennessee doesn’t have anyone who can threaten a defense deep, and that makes every part of the passing game more difficult. (There’s also the matter of Eric Decker’s free agency in 2018, and Rishard Matthews’s in ’19.) Finding a speed receiver with upside to pair with Davis and fellow ’17 rookie Taywan Taylor (a quintessential slot man) would be prudent.</p><h3>8. ARIZONA CARDINALS (8–8)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 15</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSE</strong></p><p>New coach Steve Wilks inherited the defensive talent to run his blitz-intensive scheme. On the other side of the ball, there’s barely the personnel to run any scheme. There’s no quarterback under contract; starting guards Alex Boone and Earl Watford are both free agents; so is wide receiver Jaron Brown; and Larry Fitzgerald’s return is up in the air. Cardinals general manager Steve Keim, in other words, has plenty of work to do. The silver lining: New offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is an adaptable play-caller with a strong grasp of modern passing concepts. Arizona can mold its system to fit just about any quarterback. If Keim can’t get in on the rookie QB action through this year’s draft, he’ll find a bridge guy and draft men to block and catch for whichever passer comes next year.</p><h3>9. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (7–9)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 13</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEEDS: WIDE RECEIVER, LINEBACKER</strong></p><p>Alex Smith is a downgrade from Kirk Cousins, but he can be serviceable with the right weapons. The Redskins need to find those. Wide receiver is the top priority, especially if free agent Ryan Grant is not retained. If he returns, then linebacker becomes the top need. Speed demon Zach Brown was the only constant in 2017. Fans love him, but his performances are sometimes marred by misreads. It’ll be fascinating to see what kind of money he’s offered in free agency. Washington, a zone-based D, has no long-term depth around Brown, so linebacker will be addressed even if he sticks around.</p><h3>10. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (5–11)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 7 </strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: PASS RUSHER</strong></p><p>It will be tempting to pursue a replacement for disappointing running back Doug Martin, especially considering that Charles Sims is also a free agent. But it’s far more important for the Bucs to get some teeth on a D that had no bite in 2017. This season was essentially lost when second-year end Noah Spence separated his shoulder in Week 3. He was the only edge-rushing threat; without him, Tampa’s pass rush floundered and its zone coverages were exposed. The Bucs need an infusion of pass-rushing talent to ensure a single injury doesn’t scuttle their D again. Currently, Gerald McCoy and—once or twice a game—Robert Ayers are the only forces who flash up front.</p><h3>11. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (6–10)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 9/10 </strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE</strong></p><p>For Jimmy Garoppolo to be the QB savior that so many pundits imagine, he needs to be protected. Center Daniel Kilgore and right guard Brandon Fusco are free agents (and probably backups on most teams). At left guard, Laken Tomlinson has size and strength, but maybe not the ideal agility for Kyle Shanahan’s outside-zone running scheme. Something else to consider: Left tackle Joe Staley is 33. He was strong in pass protection last season, but he wasn’t impermeable. Shanahan often asks his tackles to block one-on-one, sending all five eligible receivers out in routes. That helps his QB throw quickly, which Garoppolo thrived doing in 2017. Because of this, the Niners don’t necessarily have to invest hugely in the O-line—but it wouldn’t hurt.</p><h3>12. DENVER BRONCOS (5–11)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 5</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: RIGHT TACKLE</strong></p><p>Next year’s QB is anyone’s guess. Paxton Lynch? Kirk Cousins? Some first-round prospect? Whoever lands the job will need better pass protection than the Broncos’ passers got in 2017. Right tackle is the spot of greatest concern: The talented but unrefined Menelik Watson was a turnstile, and long-armed Donald Stephenson (another nice player who has never put it all together) couldn’t stick in the starting lineup. Now: Stephenson’s a free agent and will most likely walk; Watson, who’s due $7.1 million, will probably be cut. Finding a reliable replacement would aid Denver’s undefined passing attack. (And if Watson somehow re-turns too? He could become a utility backup or guard, where he’s better suited.)</p><h3>13. OAKLAND RAIDERS (6–10)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 9/10 </strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER</strong></p><p>With his propensity for drops, Michael Crabtree and his $7.7 million cap number are not worth keeping. Two years ago, Crabtree’s fellow starting wideout, Amari Cooper, looked like the Next Big Thing—but injuries and his own slippery hands have been problematic. Also concerning: the way that Cooper, one of the league’s quicker and more nuanced route runners, struggles against press coverage. If his 2018 is like the second half of his ’16 or any of his ’17, his long-term role will be, at best, as a No. 2. The Raiders can make Cooper’s (and QB Derek Carr’s) life easier by finding a topflight bookend. One with size and the fearlessness to go inside would best fit in new coach Jon Gruden’s system.</p><h3>14. MIAMI DOLPHINS (6–10)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 11</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK</strong></p><p>The Dolphins could fall in love with some quarterback, running back or receiver—but they ought to prioritize corner. Xavien Howard, a polished, agile second-rounder from 2016, is on the cusp of stardom, and across from him, coaches appear comfortable with ’17 third-round pick Cordrea Tankserley. But coach Adam Gase, a trips-formation evangelist, knows better than anyone that today’s NFL demands a solid slot corner too. Bobby McCain is decent, but his contract expires after ’18, and there’s no depth behind him. Miami should find a corner who has the spatial awareness to play zone inside but also the size to move outside as insurance for Tankersley. Someone fitting this description will cost a first-or second-round pick.</p><h3>15. DETROIT LIONS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 20</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSIVE END</strong></p><p>It’s funny. In 2016, Ziggy Ansah looked so much better on film than his two sacks suggested. In ’17 he had 12 takedowns but looked markedly worse. His playing time diminished and he slid into a pass-rushing-specialist role later in the year. Long and limber, Ansah has the potential to be elite, especially on stunts and D-line slants. And, yes, some of his inconsistencies can be attributed to knee and back injuries. Still, the Lions must think long and hard before applying the $18 million franchise tag to this free agent. If they don’t, another team will almost certainly overpay for him. Even if Ansah stays, a zone-based defense like the Lions’ can never have too many pass rushers. Detroit could definitely use another.</p><h3>16. CAROLINA PANTHERS (11–5)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 24</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE</strong></p><p>It’s a myster how left guard Andrew Norwell—sturdy but by no means spectacular—earned first-team All-Pro. (No one on this line was All-Pro-worthy; that’s partly why the Panthers’ backs rushed for the second-fewest yards in the NFL.) This perplexing nod might beef up Norwell’s market value, and his franchise-tag number is already inflated by the NFL’s asinine practice of lumping all linemen into the same pricing category. Re-signing him could be tough, and while he’s the only 2018 free agent on this line, right tackle Daryl Williams will be up in ’19, as will center Ryan Kalil. Carolina must replenish its depth up front.</p><h3>17. NEW YORK GIANTS (3–13)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 2</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: RUNNING BACK</strong></p><p>If the Giants fall head over heels for one of this draft’s QBs, fine. But Eli Manning has shown little sign of decline. His poor 2017 should be resolved, partly, by a healthy receiving corps and a revamped system under new coach Pat Shurmur. Any scheme is stronger with a dynamic back, which New York hasn’t had since Ahmad Bradshaw in ’12. Last year’s fourth-round pick, Wayne Gallman, is intriguing, but not enough to build around. Orleans Darkwa, a better pure runner, could test free agency. So could Shane Vereen. If he leaves, the Giants will need a three-down weapon. If Vereen returns, they ought to get a first- and second-down bell cow, which shouldn’t be too expensive.</p><h3>18. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (10–6)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: NONE</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: INTERIOR RUN DEFENDER</strong></p><p>The Chiefs’ defensive front seven has had some rich individual talent, but collectively that group has finished 25th and 26th against the run the last two years. Part of the problem is coordinator Bob Sutton’s preference for a three-safety, three-corner dime package on second or third down when facing a three-receiver set (which is common in today’s NFL). Here the Chiefs almost always align in a light 4–2, and against agile runners they get gashed. If Sutton keeps this up, he must find an imposing every-down ’backer (Derrick Johnson, 35, is no longer that guy), plus another dynamic D-lineman in the mold of third-year pro Chris Jones.</p><h3>19. LOS ANGELES RAMS (11–5)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 23</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: SECONDARY</strong></p><p>The Rams’ best DBs—corner Trumaine Johnson and free safety LaMarcus Joyner—are free agents, but there’s enough cap room to re-sign both. If that doesn’t happen, any vacated position there becomes priority No. 1. Nickell Robey-Coleman is also headed for the open market, and his slot corner position could be hard to fill. If the Rams somehow return all three DBs, they’ll refocus on the edge. Connor Barwin is a free agent. Robert Quinn could be cut next year. (He isn’t as swift as he was in 2013, when he had 19 sacks, and he doesn’t have a refined array of pass-rushing moves.) L.A. needs more juice on the edge.</p><h3>20. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 18</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSE</strong></p><p>Four end-of-year starters are entering free agency: DT Sheldon Richardson, OLB Michael Wilhoite, SS Bradley McDougald and CB Byron Maxwell. More important, a trove of stars—DE Cliff Avril, SS Kam Chancellor and CB Richard Sherman—each suffered what are most likely career-altering (or -ending) injuries in 2017. Plus, DE Frank Clark, OLB K.J. Wright and FS Earl Thomas all become free agents in ’19. Retaining all three is unlikely; replacing even one will be hard. Coach Pete Carroll’s replacing coordinator Kris Richard with Ken Norton Jr., (who was Seattle’s linebackers coach from ’10 through ’14), suggests that he wants to get back to a Cover 3 foundation. And that suggests speed is the attribute he’ll look hardest for in rebuilding.</p><h3>21. BALTIMORE RAVENS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 16</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER</strong></p><p>THE INTERIOR O-line was the Ravens’ biggest weakness in 2017, but with Marshal Yanda (ankle) and Alex Lewis (shoulder) returning, guard should be set. Center Ryan Jensen (a free agent) improved greatly and is worth re-signing. Receiver is a position of need, and if Baltimore’s brass feel it’s time to give up on ’15 first-rounder Breshad Perriman, they’ll draft there. (Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin are an average duo.) But don’t be surprised if they focus on bolstering a D that’s already among the NFL’s best. You can never have too many edge rushers—especially if your only consistent one soon turns 36. Hello, Terrell Suggs! If an instant threat isn’t available in the draft, Baltimore needs a developmental replacement who can learn from Suggs.</p><h3>22. HOUSTON TEXANS (4–12)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: NONE</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE</strong></p><p>THE DESHAUN WATSON hype is justified. He’s a mobile out-of-pocket threat and has the potential to be one of the NFL’s best downfield passers. Those traits elevate his ceiling—but a QB’s floor is set by his capacity to play from the pocket. After Watson became the starter in Week 2, he grew more patient and polished from the pocket, but it’s hard to see that continuing if the Texans don’t shore up the NFL’s least talented line. Foes eagerly attacked with stunts and inside blitzes, and that constant assault can erode a QB’s pocket comfort. Houston must upgrade all five spots.</p><h3>23. DALLAS COWBOYS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 19</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER</strong></p><p>Dez Bryant started slowing down in 2015. In ’16 top corners often defeated him. In ’17 defenses stopped giving those corners safety help, trusting that the 29-year-old Bryant—whose route tree was already limited to slants, posts and digs—could be handled one-on-one. (He was.) Dak Prescott is a quality QB, but his style and skill set require that he be surrounded by talent, and that starts with a perimeter receiver who can separate and influence coverages. Bryant, who averaged a little more than 50 yards per game since ’15, and whose cap number is $16.5 million, is not that receiver.</p><h3>24. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 17</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: FREE SAFETY</strong></p><p>Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s best years as a play-caller came with the Seahawks in 2009–12. There he had the NFL’s rangiest free safety, Earl Thomas, which gives a coach (and 10 other defenders) the confidence to be aggressive. Bradley is mostly running his old Seahawks-style Cover 3 zone and single-high safety man-to-man in L.A. That demands superior personnel, which Bradley has in dominant edge rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, plus a talented cornerbacking group led by Casey Hayward. A playmaking centerfielder would do wonders for this unit. Last year’s starter, Tre Boston, had his moments, but he’s a free agent—and not the type you break the bank to re-sign.</p><h3>25. GREEN BAY PACKERS (7–9)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 14</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK</strong></p><p>From last year’s roster, only 2017 second-round pick Kevin King is a bona fide starter at corner (and that’s assuming he can build on a stellar rookie season). Davon House’s contract is up, and Damarious Randall, a ’15 first-rounder, has his peaks and valleys. A change at coordinator does little to assuage the need for a reliable cover corner opposite King. Dom Capers valued that role because it left more chess pieces for his pressure packages, and his replacement, Mike Pettine, thinks the same way. Pettine was the Jets’ coordinator in the Darrelle Revis years, when New York played solo coverage outside while ’backers and DBs were used interchangeably on inside pressure concepts.</p><h3>26. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (10–6)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 29</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: TIGHT END</strong></p><p>Regardless OF who’s at QB, this will remain a defensive-minded, run-first team. That approach becomes infinitely stronger with quality every-down tight ends. Really, you need two, which diversifies your formation options and your running game. It also fortifies your aerial attack, especially over the middle in this play-action-intensive scheme. The Jags had a solid-but-unspectacular tight end for 12 years in Marcedes Lewis, but with his $4 million contract now voidable, it’s time to look forward. (A quality pass catcher would be an improvement on backups Ben Koyack and James O’Shaugnessy.) Some of the NFL’s best developmental TEs have been drafted in the middle rounds.</p><h3>27. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (13–3)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 30</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSIVE TACKLE</strong></p><p>Case Keenum is the QB the Vikings should re-sign. Sam Bradford can’t stay healthy, and Teddy Bridgewater has limitations. In the end, only one of those guys will stick, and GM Rick Spielman’s search will shift to the defense. The starting unit is rock-solid, so a luxury draft pick can be afforded if the right player is on the board. To plug future holes, the Vikes might also look to D-tackle, where free-agent rotational guys Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen will most likely earn starter money on the open market. A project DT makes sense in the draft, given how successful Mike Zimmer has been at developing talent off his bench.</p><h3>28. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (13–3)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 32</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE TACKLE</strong></p><p>Jason Peters was playing at a Pro Bowl level before tearing his right ACL and MCL in Week 7. Philly’s left tackle will be coming off the IR at age 36. Peters’s 2017 replacement, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, improved his pass-blocking technique through the back end of the year, but he still might be seen internally as a high-end backup. (He can play on either side.) Cutting Peters would save $5.3 million in cap space, but it would also carry $6.3 million in dead money. Optioning out of that contract a year later would save $8 million and cost nothing. Either way: If Peters departs, All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson can move to the left, but that’d still leave a need on the right. (Vaitai?) With franchise QB Carson Wentz to protect, the Eagles won’t be chintzy in restocking the position.</p><h3>29. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11–5)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 27</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: TIGHT END</strong></p><p>With Sean Payton as the architect, Drew Brees the orchestrator and Alvin Kamara the headliner, the Saints have one of football’s most powerful offenses. A dynamic, versatile tight end—imagine the formations available alongside Kamara!—would make it borderline unstoppable. Saints fans will point out they once had this tight end: Jimmy Graham. And maybe they will again, given that his Seahawks contract is up. Even so, New Orleans—which is at its best when balanced in the run and pass, and which plays a lot more base personnel than people realize—would also need to develop a quality in-line blocker. (Graham is not that.) Incumbents Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui are entering contract years; Coby Fleener, who’s pretty mediocre, can be released for a $3.4 million cap savings.</p><h3>30. ATLANTA FALCONS (10–6)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 26</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: GUARD</strong></p><p>Even with first-and-second-down D-linemen Dontari Poe, Adrian Clayborn, Courtney Upshaw and Ahtyba Rubin hitting free agency, the Falcons’ front is in fine shape. Every position on both sides of the line is set for the near future. Except guard. On the right, Wes Schweitzer, a sixth-round pick in 2016, improved late last year, particularly in pass protection, but he still has athletic limitations. Andy Levitre, 31, was solid on the left but finished the year on IR and now carries an $8.4 million cap number ($7 million of which can be scrapped with his release). Matt Ryan is at his best when climbing the pocket, so Atlanta will invest in that pocket’s cleanliness. Whoever they acquire must be mobile, too, as that’s critical in Atlanta’s outside-zone running scheme.</p><h3>31. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (13–3)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 28</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: INSIDE LINEBACKER</strong></p><p>This defense wasn’t the same after Ryan Shazier went down with a spinal injury. Shazier wasn’t always disciplined, but his speed and athletic, multidirectional burst brought a unique ferocity to the front seven. The Steelers’ No. 2 inside ’backer, Vince Williams, was one of the league’s most improved players (including as a blitzer), but he’s not quite an every-down guy. And much of coordinator Keith Butler’s scheme requires two of those. (At the very least he needs one in order to run his complex dime-package blitzes.) In base and nickel situations, Pittsburgh’s D-linemen often switch gap assignments after the snap. That high-risk, high-reward approach requires stable linebacking behind it.</p><h3>32. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (13–3)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 31</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK</strong></p><p>Last year’s $65 million signing of ex–Bills corner Stephon Gilmore was a tacit declaration that Malcolm Butler wouldn’t return in 2018. Butler, undrafted in ’14, has made $5.4 million as a pro—a fraction of what he’ll be offered in guarantees as this year’s top free-agent corner. He’s one of football’s rarest commodities: a cover artist who travels with smaller, agile receivers like Antonio Brown. He might not always shut them down, but the ability to even match up has lent coach Bill Belichick valuable coverage-design flexibility. The Patriots’ depth at corner is iffy already, and Eric Rowe will be a free agent after next season. With no other roster holes, don’t be shocked if New England, which plays a lot of man coverage, invests in multiple corners.</p>
Ranking the NFL's Neediest Teams

This story appears in the Feb. 12, 2017, issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. To subscribe, click here.

1. NEW YORK JETS (5–11)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 6

PRIMARY NEED: BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE

The Jets wildly surpassed expectations by winning five games... which says everything about this roster. There are enough glaring needs that GM Mike Maccagnan can draft his board’s top player in the first four rounds and trust that each rookie will immediately have a major role. Quarterback is the most significant need. After that: interior O-line, tight end, linebacker, cornerback.... How each spot is filled could influence the others. Coach Todd Bowles is known for blitzing, but he’s disciplined about playing to personnel. A stud corner would allow Bowles to use more pressure packages, but if there’s a pass rusher New York loves, the coach could rework around him.

2. CLEVELAND BROWNS (0–16)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 1, 4 (VIA TEXANS)

PRIMARY NEED: SLOT RECEIVER

The Browns are more talented than their 0–16 record suggests. They could use another playmaker or two on D (what last-place team couldn’t?), but more than anything, they need to redesign their O. Part of DeShone Kizer’s struggles at QB can be attributed to coach Hue Jackson’s asking the rookie to make deep, full-field progression reads out of spread formations. It doesn’t get more challenging than that. Jackson is a shrewd offensive strategist; his unit can be better—especially if he has a true slot receiver around whom he can build shorter route combos, increasing the ways versatile receiving back Duke Johnson and nimble tight end David Njoku are used.

3. BUFFALO BILLS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 21, 22 (VIA CHIEFS)

PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER

The Bills’ biggest need is at QB, but that’s true for just about any team without a franchise guy in that spot. Digging deeper, look to the D-line. Coach Sean McDermott is a creative, effective blitz schemer. But he more often plays traditional zone coverages, which require a potent four-man rush. Buffalo had just 27 sacks last season, tied for third fewest in the NFL, and you can see that reflected on film: Their front four rarely controlled games. This roster’s only viable pass rusher is defensive end Jerry Hughes, who can go quiet for stretches. The Bills need an edge bender opposite him, as well as a penetrator inside, especially if 34-year-old free agent Kyle Williams does not return.

4. CHICAGO BEARS (5–11)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 8

PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER

The offense that new coach Matt Nagy coordinated under Andy Reid in K.C. prospered despite mediocre receivers. But that was a function of Reid’s passing-game creativity with running backs, plus the presence of multi-tooled tight end Travis Kelce. Nagy can employ his backs in the air (especially the electrifying Tarik Cohen), but tight ends Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen are neither dynamic nor flexible. In his second year, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will need more talented receivers. Cameron Meredith, coming off a left-ACL tear, can fill one spot—but that leaves three more. Just about any style of player will work here, as long as he’s a proficient enough route runner to aid the timing and rhythm throws that Trubisky’s success will hinge on.

5. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (4–12)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 3

PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER

Everyone derides the Colts’ offensive line, but third-year center Ryan Kelly and guards Jack Mewhort (entering year five) and Joe Haeg (three) form a solid, improving interior; and Anthony Castonzo is a quality left tackle. The real problem: Injuries have kept these guys from playing together. Chemistry can develop once they stay healthy. Instead of meddling there, expect second-year GM Chris Ballard to use his cap space ($84 million) and early draft picks to restock a defense that ranked 30th last season and needs work at every position except tackle and free safety. The fastest way to improve a defense is to add an edge rusher who can influence an opposing offense’s blocking scheme and make the quarterback play hastily.

6. CINCINNATI BENGALS (7–9)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 12

PRIMARY NEED: QUARTERBACK

This is as much about a franchise philosophy as it is about Andy Dalton in particular. The Bengals’ approach has long been to pay for a middle-tier QB and surround him with talent, investing early picks at receiver, running back, tight end and offensive tackle. With Dalton there have been ups and downs (dictated largely by how well he moves within the pocket), and all but one of his seven campaigns have ended somewhere between 6–10 and 11–5. That’s respectable but ultimately unfulfilling. If owner Mike Brown is unwilling to change leadership at the coaching level, he at least needs to evolve Cincinnati’s on-field identity. This year’s draft offers at least four first-round QBs, and Dalton would count just $2.4 million in dead money against the cap if he was released.

7. TENNESSEE TITANS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 25

PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER

Sure, the Titans drafted Corey Davis with the No. 5 pick last year. But he has yet to show the transitional quickness or top-end speed to stretch the field. Barring a sudden turbo boost (which we might see once he acclimates more to the NFL), Davis will most likely build his career on contested catches and possession targets. In other words: Tennessee doesn’t have anyone who can threaten a defense deep, and that makes every part of the passing game more difficult. (There’s also the matter of Eric Decker’s free agency in 2018, and Rishard Matthews’s in ’19.) Finding a speed receiver with upside to pair with Davis and fellow ’17 rookie Taywan Taylor (a quintessential slot man) would be prudent.

8. ARIZONA CARDINALS (8–8)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 15

PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSE

New coach Steve Wilks inherited the defensive talent to run his blitz-intensive scheme. On the other side of the ball, there’s barely the personnel to run any scheme. There’s no quarterback under contract; starting guards Alex Boone and Earl Watford are both free agents; so is wide receiver Jaron Brown; and Larry Fitzgerald’s return is up in the air. Cardinals general manager Steve Keim, in other words, has plenty of work to do. The silver lining: New offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is an adaptable play-caller with a strong grasp of modern passing concepts. Arizona can mold its system to fit just about any quarterback. If Keim can’t get in on the rookie QB action through this year’s draft, he’ll find a bridge guy and draft men to block and catch for whichever passer comes next year.

9. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (7–9)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 13

PRIMARY NEEDS: WIDE RECEIVER, LINEBACKER

Alex Smith is a downgrade from Kirk Cousins, but he can be serviceable with the right weapons. The Redskins need to find those. Wide receiver is the top priority, especially if free agent Ryan Grant is not retained. If he returns, then linebacker becomes the top need. Speed demon Zach Brown was the only constant in 2017. Fans love him, but his performances are sometimes marred by misreads. It’ll be fascinating to see what kind of money he’s offered in free agency. Washington, a zone-based D, has no long-term depth around Brown, so linebacker will be addressed even if he sticks around.

10. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (5–11)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 7

PRIMARY NEED: PASS RUSHER

It will be tempting to pursue a replacement for disappointing running back Doug Martin, especially considering that Charles Sims is also a free agent. But it’s far more important for the Bucs to get some teeth on a D that had no bite in 2017. This season was essentially lost when second-year end Noah Spence separated his shoulder in Week 3. He was the only edge-rushing threat; without him, Tampa’s pass rush floundered and its zone coverages were exposed. The Bucs need an infusion of pass-rushing talent to ensure a single injury doesn’t scuttle their D again. Currently, Gerald McCoy and—once or twice a game—Robert Ayers are the only forces who flash up front.

11. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (6–10)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 9/10

PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE

For Jimmy Garoppolo to be the QB savior that so many pundits imagine, he needs to be protected. Center Daniel Kilgore and right guard Brandon Fusco are free agents (and probably backups on most teams). At left guard, Laken Tomlinson has size and strength, but maybe not the ideal agility for Kyle Shanahan’s outside-zone running scheme. Something else to consider: Left tackle Joe Staley is 33. He was strong in pass protection last season, but he wasn’t impermeable. Shanahan often asks his tackles to block one-on-one, sending all five eligible receivers out in routes. That helps his QB throw quickly, which Garoppolo thrived doing in 2017. Because of this, the Niners don’t necessarily have to invest hugely in the O-line—but it wouldn’t hurt.

12. DENVER BRONCOS (5–11)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 5

PRIMARY NEED: RIGHT TACKLE

Next year’s QB is anyone’s guess. Paxton Lynch? Kirk Cousins? Some first-round prospect? Whoever lands the job will need better pass protection than the Broncos’ passers got in 2017. Right tackle is the spot of greatest concern: The talented but unrefined Menelik Watson was a turnstile, and long-armed Donald Stephenson (another nice player who has never put it all together) couldn’t stick in the starting lineup. Now: Stephenson’s a free agent and will most likely walk; Watson, who’s due $7.1 million, will probably be cut. Finding a reliable replacement would aid Denver’s undefined passing attack. (And if Watson somehow re-turns too? He could become a utility backup or guard, where he’s better suited.)

13. OAKLAND RAIDERS (6–10)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 9/10

PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER

With his propensity for drops, Michael Crabtree and his $7.7 million cap number are not worth keeping. Two years ago, Crabtree’s fellow starting wideout, Amari Cooper, looked like the Next Big Thing—but injuries and his own slippery hands have been problematic. Also concerning: the way that Cooper, one of the league’s quicker and more nuanced route runners, struggles against press coverage. If his 2018 is like the second half of his ’16 or any of his ’17, his long-term role will be, at best, as a No. 2. The Raiders can make Cooper’s (and QB Derek Carr’s) life easier by finding a topflight bookend. One with size and the fearlessness to go inside would best fit in new coach Jon Gruden’s system.

14. MIAMI DOLPHINS (6–10)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 11

PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK

The Dolphins could fall in love with some quarterback, running back or receiver—but they ought to prioritize corner. Xavien Howard, a polished, agile second-rounder from 2016, is on the cusp of stardom, and across from him, coaches appear comfortable with ’17 third-round pick Cordrea Tankserley. But coach Adam Gase, a trips-formation evangelist, knows better than anyone that today’s NFL demands a solid slot corner too. Bobby McCain is decent, but his contract expires after ’18, and there’s no depth behind him. Miami should find a corner who has the spatial awareness to play zone inside but also the size to move outside as insurance for Tankersley. Someone fitting this description will cost a first-or second-round pick.

15. DETROIT LIONS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 20

PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSIVE END

It’s funny. In 2016, Ziggy Ansah looked so much better on film than his two sacks suggested. In ’17 he had 12 takedowns but looked markedly worse. His playing time diminished and he slid into a pass-rushing-specialist role later in the year. Long and limber, Ansah has the potential to be elite, especially on stunts and D-line slants. And, yes, some of his inconsistencies can be attributed to knee and back injuries. Still, the Lions must think long and hard before applying the $18 million franchise tag to this free agent. If they don’t, another team will almost certainly overpay for him. Even if Ansah stays, a zone-based defense like the Lions’ can never have too many pass rushers. Detroit could definitely use another.

16. CAROLINA PANTHERS (11–5)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 24

PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE

It’s a myster how left guard Andrew Norwell—sturdy but by no means spectacular—earned first-team All-Pro. (No one on this line was All-Pro-worthy; that’s partly why the Panthers’ backs rushed for the second-fewest yards in the NFL.) This perplexing nod might beef up Norwell’s market value, and his franchise-tag number is already inflated by the NFL’s asinine practice of lumping all linemen into the same pricing category. Re-signing him could be tough, and while he’s the only 2018 free agent on this line, right tackle Daryl Williams will be up in ’19, as will center Ryan Kalil. Carolina must replenish its depth up front.

17. NEW YORK GIANTS (3–13)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 2

PRIMARY NEED: RUNNING BACK

If the Giants fall head over heels for one of this draft’s QBs, fine. But Eli Manning has shown little sign of decline. His poor 2017 should be resolved, partly, by a healthy receiving corps and a revamped system under new coach Pat Shurmur. Any scheme is stronger with a dynamic back, which New York hasn’t had since Ahmad Bradshaw in ’12. Last year’s fourth-round pick, Wayne Gallman, is intriguing, but not enough to build around. Orleans Darkwa, a better pure runner, could test free agency. So could Shane Vereen. If he leaves, the Giants will need a three-down weapon. If Vereen returns, they ought to get a first- and second-down bell cow, which shouldn’t be too expensive.

18. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (10–6)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: NONE

PRIMARY NEED: INTERIOR RUN DEFENDER

The Chiefs’ defensive front seven has had some rich individual talent, but collectively that group has finished 25th and 26th against the run the last two years. Part of the problem is coordinator Bob Sutton’s preference for a three-safety, three-corner dime package on second or third down when facing a three-receiver set (which is common in today’s NFL). Here the Chiefs almost always align in a light 4–2, and against agile runners they get gashed. If Sutton keeps this up, he must find an imposing every-down ’backer (Derrick Johnson, 35, is no longer that guy), plus another dynamic D-lineman in the mold of third-year pro Chris Jones.

19. LOS ANGELES RAMS (11–5)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 23

PRIMARY NEED: SECONDARY

The Rams’ best DBs—corner Trumaine Johnson and free safety LaMarcus Joyner—are free agents, but there’s enough cap room to re-sign both. If that doesn’t happen, any vacated position there becomes priority No. 1. Nickell Robey-Coleman is also headed for the open market, and his slot corner position could be hard to fill. If the Rams somehow return all three DBs, they’ll refocus on the edge. Connor Barwin is a free agent. Robert Quinn could be cut next year. (He isn’t as swift as he was in 2013, when he had 19 sacks, and he doesn’t have a refined array of pass-rushing moves.) L.A. needs more juice on the edge.

20. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 18

PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSE

Four end-of-year starters are entering free agency: DT Sheldon Richardson, OLB Michael Wilhoite, SS Bradley McDougald and CB Byron Maxwell. More important, a trove of stars—DE Cliff Avril, SS Kam Chancellor and CB Richard Sherman—each suffered what are most likely career-altering (or -ending) injuries in 2017. Plus, DE Frank Clark, OLB K.J. Wright and FS Earl Thomas all become free agents in ’19. Retaining all three is unlikely; replacing even one will be hard. Coach Pete Carroll’s replacing coordinator Kris Richard with Ken Norton Jr., (who was Seattle’s linebackers coach from ’10 through ’14), suggests that he wants to get back to a Cover 3 foundation. And that suggests speed is the attribute he’ll look hardest for in rebuilding.

21. BALTIMORE RAVENS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 16

PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER

THE INTERIOR O-line was the Ravens’ biggest weakness in 2017, but with Marshal Yanda (ankle) and Alex Lewis (shoulder) returning, guard should be set. Center Ryan Jensen (a free agent) improved greatly and is worth re-signing. Receiver is a position of need, and if Baltimore’s brass feel it’s time to give up on ’15 first-rounder Breshad Perriman, they’ll draft there. (Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin are an average duo.) But don’t be surprised if they focus on bolstering a D that’s already among the NFL’s best. You can never have too many edge rushers—especially if your only consistent one soon turns 36. Hello, Terrell Suggs! If an instant threat isn’t available in the draft, Baltimore needs a developmental replacement who can learn from Suggs.

22. HOUSTON TEXANS (4–12)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: NONE

PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE

THE DESHAUN WATSON hype is justified. He’s a mobile out-of-pocket threat and has the potential to be one of the NFL’s best downfield passers. Those traits elevate his ceiling—but a QB’s floor is set by his capacity to play from the pocket. After Watson became the starter in Week 2, he grew more patient and polished from the pocket, but it’s hard to see that continuing if the Texans don’t shore up the NFL’s least talented line. Foes eagerly attacked with stunts and inside blitzes, and that constant assault can erode a QB’s pocket comfort. Houston must upgrade all five spots.

23. DALLAS COWBOYS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 19

PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER

Dez Bryant started slowing down in 2015. In ’16 top corners often defeated him. In ’17 defenses stopped giving those corners safety help, trusting that the 29-year-old Bryant—whose route tree was already limited to slants, posts and digs—could be handled one-on-one. (He was.) Dak Prescott is a quality QB, but his style and skill set require that he be surrounded by talent, and that starts with a perimeter receiver who can separate and influence coverages. Bryant, who averaged a little more than 50 yards per game since ’15, and whose cap number is $16.5 million, is not that receiver.

24. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 17

PRIMARY NEED: FREE SAFETY

Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s best years as a play-caller came with the Seahawks in 2009–12. There he had the NFL’s rangiest free safety, Earl Thomas, which gives a coach (and 10 other defenders) the confidence to be aggressive. Bradley is mostly running his old Seahawks-style Cover 3 zone and single-high safety man-to-man in L.A. That demands superior personnel, which Bradley has in dominant edge rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, plus a talented cornerbacking group led by Casey Hayward. A playmaking centerfielder would do wonders for this unit. Last year’s starter, Tre Boston, had his moments, but he’s a free agent—and not the type you break the bank to re-sign.

25. GREEN BAY PACKERS (7–9)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 14

PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK

From last year’s roster, only 2017 second-round pick Kevin King is a bona fide starter at corner (and that’s assuming he can build on a stellar rookie season). Davon House’s contract is up, and Damarious Randall, a ’15 first-rounder, has his peaks and valleys. A change at coordinator does little to assuage the need for a reliable cover corner opposite King. Dom Capers valued that role because it left more chess pieces for his pressure packages, and his replacement, Mike Pettine, thinks the same way. Pettine was the Jets’ coordinator in the Darrelle Revis years, when New York played solo coverage outside while ’backers and DBs were used interchangeably on inside pressure concepts.

26. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (10–6)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 29

PRIMARY NEED: TIGHT END

Regardless OF who’s at QB, this will remain a defensive-minded, run-first team. That approach becomes infinitely stronger with quality every-down tight ends. Really, you need two, which diversifies your formation options and your running game. It also fortifies your aerial attack, especially over the middle in this play-action-intensive scheme. The Jags had a solid-but-unspectacular tight end for 12 years in Marcedes Lewis, but with his $4 million contract now voidable, it’s time to look forward. (A quality pass catcher would be an improvement on backups Ben Koyack and James O’Shaugnessy.) Some of the NFL’s best developmental TEs have been drafted in the middle rounds.

27. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (13–3)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 30

PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Case Keenum is the QB the Vikings should re-sign. Sam Bradford can’t stay healthy, and Teddy Bridgewater has limitations. In the end, only one of those guys will stick, and GM Rick Spielman’s search will shift to the defense. The starting unit is rock-solid, so a luxury draft pick can be afforded if the right player is on the board. To plug future holes, the Vikes might also look to D-tackle, where free-agent rotational guys Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen will most likely earn starter money on the open market. A project DT makes sense in the draft, given how successful Mike Zimmer has been at developing talent off his bench.

28. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (13–3)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 32

PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE TACKLE

Jason Peters was playing at a Pro Bowl level before tearing his right ACL and MCL in Week 7. Philly’s left tackle will be coming off the IR at age 36. Peters’s 2017 replacement, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, improved his pass-blocking technique through the back end of the year, but he still might be seen internally as a high-end backup. (He can play on either side.) Cutting Peters would save $5.3 million in cap space, but it would also carry $6.3 million in dead money. Optioning out of that contract a year later would save $8 million and cost nothing. Either way: If Peters departs, All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson can move to the left, but that’d still leave a need on the right. (Vaitai?) With franchise QB Carson Wentz to protect, the Eagles won’t be chintzy in restocking the position.

29. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11–5)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 27

PRIMARY NEED: TIGHT END

With Sean Payton as the architect, Drew Brees the orchestrator and Alvin Kamara the headliner, the Saints have one of football’s most powerful offenses. A dynamic, versatile tight end—imagine the formations available alongside Kamara!—would make it borderline unstoppable. Saints fans will point out they once had this tight end: Jimmy Graham. And maybe they will again, given that his Seahawks contract is up. Even so, New Orleans—which is at its best when balanced in the run and pass, and which plays a lot more base personnel than people realize—would also need to develop a quality in-line blocker. (Graham is not that.) Incumbents Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui are entering contract years; Coby Fleener, who’s pretty mediocre, can be released for a $3.4 million cap savings.

30. ATLANTA FALCONS (10–6)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 26

PRIMARY NEED: GUARD

Even with first-and-second-down D-linemen Dontari Poe, Adrian Clayborn, Courtney Upshaw and Ahtyba Rubin hitting free agency, the Falcons’ front is in fine shape. Every position on both sides of the line is set for the near future. Except guard. On the right, Wes Schweitzer, a sixth-round pick in 2016, improved late last year, particularly in pass protection, but he still has athletic limitations. Andy Levitre, 31, was solid on the left but finished the year on IR and now carries an $8.4 million cap number ($7 million of which can be scrapped with his release). Matt Ryan is at his best when climbing the pocket, so Atlanta will invest in that pocket’s cleanliness. Whoever they acquire must be mobile, too, as that’s critical in Atlanta’s outside-zone running scheme.

31. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (13–3)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 28

PRIMARY NEED: INSIDE LINEBACKER

This defense wasn’t the same after Ryan Shazier went down with a spinal injury. Shazier wasn’t always disciplined, but his speed and athletic, multidirectional burst brought a unique ferocity to the front seven. The Steelers’ No. 2 inside ’backer, Vince Williams, was one of the league’s most improved players (including as a blitzer), but he’s not quite an every-down guy. And much of coordinator Keith Butler’s scheme requires two of those. (At the very least he needs one in order to run his complex dime-package blitzes.) In base and nickel situations, Pittsburgh’s D-linemen often switch gap assignments after the snap. That high-risk, high-reward approach requires stable linebacking behind it.

32. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (13–3)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 31

PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK

Last year’s $65 million signing of ex–Bills corner Stephon Gilmore was a tacit declaration that Malcolm Butler wouldn’t return in 2018. Butler, undrafted in ’14, has made $5.4 million as a pro—a fraction of what he’ll be offered in guarantees as this year’s top free-agent corner. He’s one of football’s rarest commodities: a cover artist who travels with smaller, agile receivers like Antonio Brown. He might not always shut them down, but the ability to even match up has lent coach Bill Belichick valuable coverage-design flexibility. The Patriots’ depth at corner is iffy already, and Eric Rowe will be a free agent after next season. With no other roster holes, don’t be shocked if New England, which plays a lot of man coverage, invests in multiple corners.

<p><em>This story appears in the Feb. 12, 2017, issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. To subscribe, </em><a href="https://subscription.si.com/storefront/subscribe-to-sports-illustrated/site/si-fellswooptest78fr39-tpl.html?tcmid=navagation&#38;link=1042251&#38;fpa_oc=SI+Own.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:click here." class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>click here.</em></a></p><h3>1. NEW YORK JETS (5–11)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 6</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE</strong></p><p>The Jets wildly surpassed expectations by winning five games... which says everything about this roster. There are enough glaring needs that GM Mike Maccagnan can draft his board’s top player in the first four rounds and trust that each rookie will immediately have a major role. Quarterback is the most significant need. After that: interior O-line, tight end, linebacker, cornerback.... How each spot is filled could influence the others. Coach Todd Bowles is known for blitzing, but he’s disciplined about playing to personnel. A stud corner would allow Bowles to use more pressure packages, but if there’s a pass rusher New York loves, the coach could rework around him.</p><h3>2. CLEVELAND BROWNS (0–16)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 1, 4 (VIA TEXANS)</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: SLOT RECEIVER</strong></p><p>The Browns are more talented than their 0–16 record suggests. They could use another playmaker or two on D (what last-place team couldn’t?), but more than anything, they need to redesign their O. Part of DeShone Kizer’s struggles at QB can be attributed to coach Hue Jackson’s asking the rookie to make deep, full-field progression reads out of spread formations. It doesn’t get more challenging than that. Jackson is a shrewd offensive strategist; his unit can be better—especially if he has a true slot receiver around whom he can build shorter route combos, increasing the ways versatile receiving back Duke Johnson and nimble tight end David Njoku are used.</p><h3>3. BUFFALO BILLS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 21, 22 (VIA CHIEFS) </strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER</strong></p><p>The Bills’ biggest need is at QB, but that’s true for just about any team without a franchise guy in that spot. Digging deeper, look to the D-line. Coach Sean McDermott is a creative, effective blitz schemer. But he more often plays traditional zone coverages, which require a potent four-man rush. Buffalo had just 27 sacks last season, tied for third fewest in the NFL, and you can see that reflected on film: Their front four rarely controlled games. This roster’s only viable pass rusher is defensive end Jerry Hughes, who can go quiet for stretches. The Bills need an edge bender opposite him, as well as a penetrator inside, especially if 34-year-old free agent Kyle Williams does not return.</p><h3>4. CHICAGO BEARS (5–11)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 8 </strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER</strong></p><p>The offense that new coach Matt Nagy coordinated under Andy Reid in K.C. prospered despite mediocre receivers. But that was a function of Reid’s passing-game creativity with running backs, plus the presence of multi-tooled tight end Travis Kelce. Nagy can employ his backs in the air (especially the electrifying Tarik Cohen), but tight ends Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen are neither dynamic nor flexible. In his second year, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will need more talented receivers. Cameron Meredith, coming off a left-ACL tear, can fill one spot—but that leaves three more. Just about any style of player will work here, as long as he’s a proficient enough route runner to aid the timing and rhythm throws that Trubisky’s success will hinge on.</p><h3>5. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (4–12)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 3</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER</strong></p><p>Everyone derides the Colts’ offensive line, but third-year center Ryan Kelly and guards Jack Mewhort (entering year five) and Joe Haeg (three) form a solid, improving interior; and Anthony Castonzo is a quality left tackle. The real problem: Injuries have kept these guys from playing together. Chemistry can develop once they stay healthy. Instead of meddling there, expect second-year GM Chris Ballard to use his cap space ($84 million) and early draft picks to restock a defense that ranked 30th last season and needs work at every position except tackle and free safety. The fastest way to improve a defense is to add an edge rusher who can influence an opposing offense’s blocking scheme and make the quarterback play hastily.</p><h3>6. CINCINNATI BENGALS (7–9)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 12</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: QUARTERBACK</strong></p><p>This is as much about a franchise philosophy as it is about Andy Dalton in particular. The Bengals’ approach has long been to pay for a middle-tier QB and surround him with talent, investing early picks at receiver, running back, tight end and offensive tackle. With Dalton there have been ups and downs (dictated largely by how well he moves within the pocket), and all but one of his seven campaigns have ended somewhere between 6–10 and 11–5. That’s respectable but ultimately unfulfilling. If owner Mike Brown is unwilling to change leadership at the coaching level, he at least needs to evolve Cincinnati’s on-field identity. This year’s draft offers at least four first-round QBs, and Dalton would count just $2.4 million in dead money against the cap if he was released.</p><h3>7. TENNESSEE TITANS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 25</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER</strong></p><p>Sure, the Titans drafted Corey Davis with the No. 5 pick last year. But he has yet to show the transitional quickness or top-end speed to stretch the field. Barring a sudden turbo boost (which we might see once he acclimates more to the NFL), Davis will most likely build his career on contested catches and possession targets. In other words: Tennessee doesn’t have anyone who can threaten a defense deep, and that makes every part of the passing game more difficult. (There’s also the matter of Eric Decker’s free agency in 2018, and Rishard Matthews’s in ’19.) Finding a speed receiver with upside to pair with Davis and fellow ’17 rookie Taywan Taylor (a quintessential slot man) would be prudent.</p><h3>8. ARIZONA CARDINALS (8–8)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 15</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSE</strong></p><p>New coach Steve Wilks inherited the defensive talent to run his blitz-intensive scheme. On the other side of the ball, there’s barely the personnel to run any scheme. There’s no quarterback under contract; starting guards Alex Boone and Earl Watford are both free agents; so is wide receiver Jaron Brown; and Larry Fitzgerald’s return is up in the air. Cardinals general manager Steve Keim, in other words, has plenty of work to do. The silver lining: New offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is an adaptable play-caller with a strong grasp of modern passing concepts. Arizona can mold its system to fit just about any quarterback. If Keim can’t get in on the rookie QB action through this year’s draft, he’ll find a bridge guy and draft men to block and catch for whichever passer comes next year.</p><h3>9. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (7–9)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 13</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEEDS: WIDE RECEIVER, LINEBACKER</strong></p><p>Alex Smith is a downgrade from Kirk Cousins, but he can be serviceable with the right weapons. The Redskins need to find those. Wide receiver is the top priority, especially if free agent Ryan Grant is not retained. If he returns, then linebacker becomes the top need. Speed demon Zach Brown was the only constant in 2017. Fans love him, but his performances are sometimes marred by misreads. It’ll be fascinating to see what kind of money he’s offered in free agency. Washington, a zone-based D, has no long-term depth around Brown, so linebacker will be addressed even if he sticks around.</p><h3>10. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (5–11)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 7 </strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: PASS RUSHER</strong></p><p>It will be tempting to pursue a replacement for disappointing running back Doug Martin, especially considering that Charles Sims is also a free agent. But it’s far more important for the Bucs to get some teeth on a D that had no bite in 2017. This season was essentially lost when second-year end Noah Spence separated his shoulder in Week 3. He was the only edge-rushing threat; without him, Tampa’s pass rush floundered and its zone coverages were exposed. The Bucs need an infusion of pass-rushing talent to ensure a single injury doesn’t scuttle their D again. Currently, Gerald McCoy and—once or twice a game—Robert Ayers are the only forces who flash up front.</p><h3>11. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (6–10)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 9/10 </strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE</strong></p><p>For Jimmy Garoppolo to be the QB savior that so many pundits imagine, he needs to be protected. Center Daniel Kilgore and right guard Brandon Fusco are free agents (and probably backups on most teams). At left guard, Laken Tomlinson has size and strength, but maybe not the ideal agility for Kyle Shanahan’s outside-zone running scheme. Something else to consider: Left tackle Joe Staley is 33. He was strong in pass protection last season, but he wasn’t impermeable. Shanahan often asks his tackles to block one-on-one, sending all five eligible receivers out in routes. That helps his QB throw quickly, which Garoppolo thrived doing in 2017. Because of this, the Niners don’t necessarily have to invest hugely in the O-line—but it wouldn’t hurt.</p><h3>12. DENVER BRONCOS (5–11)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 5</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: RIGHT TACKLE</strong></p><p>Next year’s QB is anyone’s guess. Paxton Lynch? Kirk Cousins? Some first-round prospect? Whoever lands the job will need better pass protection than the Broncos’ passers got in 2017. Right tackle is the spot of greatest concern: The talented but unrefined Menelik Watson was a turnstile, and long-armed Donald Stephenson (another nice player who has never put it all together) couldn’t stick in the starting lineup. Now: Stephenson’s a free agent and will most likely walk; Watson, who’s due $7.1 million, will probably be cut. Finding a reliable replacement would aid Denver’s undefined passing attack. (And if Watson somehow re-turns too? He could become a utility backup or guard, where he’s better suited.)</p><h3>13. OAKLAND RAIDERS (6–10)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 9/10 </strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER</strong></p><p>With his propensity for drops, Michael Crabtree and his $7.7 million cap number are not worth keeping. Two years ago, Crabtree’s fellow starting wideout, Amari Cooper, looked like the Next Big Thing—but injuries and his own slippery hands have been problematic. Also concerning: the way that Cooper, one of the league’s quicker and more nuanced route runners, struggles against press coverage. If his 2018 is like the second half of his ’16 or any of his ’17, his long-term role will be, at best, as a No. 2. The Raiders can make Cooper’s (and QB Derek Carr’s) life easier by finding a topflight bookend. One with size and the fearlessness to go inside would best fit in new coach Jon Gruden’s system.</p><h3>14. MIAMI DOLPHINS (6–10)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 11</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK</strong></p><p>The Dolphins could fall in love with some quarterback, running back or receiver—but they ought to prioritize corner. Xavien Howard, a polished, agile second-rounder from 2016, is on the cusp of stardom, and across from him, coaches appear comfortable with ’17 third-round pick Cordrea Tankserley. But coach Adam Gase, a trips-formation evangelist, knows better than anyone that today’s NFL demands a solid slot corner too. Bobby McCain is decent, but his contract expires after ’18, and there’s no depth behind him. Miami should find a corner who has the spatial awareness to play zone inside but also the size to move outside as insurance for Tankersley. Someone fitting this description will cost a first-or second-round pick.</p><h3>15. DETROIT LIONS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 20</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSIVE END</strong></p><p>It’s funny. In 2016, Ziggy Ansah looked so much better on film than his two sacks suggested. In ’17 he had 12 takedowns but looked markedly worse. His playing time diminished and he slid into a pass-rushing-specialist role later in the year. Long and limber, Ansah has the potential to be elite, especially on stunts and D-line slants. And, yes, some of his inconsistencies can be attributed to knee and back injuries. Still, the Lions must think long and hard before applying the $18 million franchise tag to this free agent. If they don’t, another team will almost certainly overpay for him. Even if Ansah stays, a zone-based defense like the Lions’ can never have too many pass rushers. Detroit could definitely use another.</p><h3>16. CAROLINA PANTHERS (11–5)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 24</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE</strong></p><p>It’s a myster how left guard Andrew Norwell—sturdy but by no means spectacular—earned first-team All-Pro. (No one on this line was All-Pro-worthy; that’s partly why the Panthers’ backs rushed for the second-fewest yards in the NFL.) This perplexing nod might beef up Norwell’s market value, and his franchise-tag number is already inflated by the NFL’s asinine practice of lumping all linemen into the same pricing category. Re-signing him could be tough, and while he’s the only 2018 free agent on this line, right tackle Daryl Williams will be up in ’19, as will center Ryan Kalil. Carolina must replenish its depth up front.</p><h3>17. NEW YORK GIANTS (3–13)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 2</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: RUNNING BACK</strong></p><p>If the Giants fall head over heels for one of this draft’s QBs, fine. But Eli Manning has shown little sign of decline. His poor 2017 should be resolved, partly, by a healthy receiving corps and a revamped system under new coach Pat Shurmur. Any scheme is stronger with a dynamic back, which New York hasn’t had since Ahmad Bradshaw in ’12. Last year’s fourth-round pick, Wayne Gallman, is intriguing, but not enough to build around. Orleans Darkwa, a better pure runner, could test free agency. So could Shane Vereen. If he leaves, the Giants will need a three-down weapon. If Vereen returns, they ought to get a first- and second-down bell cow, which shouldn’t be too expensive.</p><h3>18. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (10–6)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: NONE</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: INTERIOR RUN DEFENDER</strong></p><p>The Chiefs’ defensive front seven has had some rich individual talent, but collectively that group has finished 25th and 26th against the run the last two years. Part of the problem is coordinator Bob Sutton’s preference for a three-safety, three-corner dime package on second or third down when facing a three-receiver set (which is common in today’s NFL). Here the Chiefs almost always align in a light 4–2, and against agile runners they get gashed. If Sutton keeps this up, he must find an imposing every-down ’backer (Derrick Johnson, 35, is no longer that guy), plus another dynamic D-lineman in the mold of third-year pro Chris Jones.</p><h3>19. LOS ANGELES RAMS (11–5)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 23</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: SECONDARY</strong></p><p>The Rams’ best DBs—corner Trumaine Johnson and free safety LaMarcus Joyner—are free agents, but there’s enough cap room to re-sign both. If that doesn’t happen, any vacated position there becomes priority No. 1. Nickell Robey-Coleman is also headed for the open market, and his slot corner position could be hard to fill. If the Rams somehow return all three DBs, they’ll refocus on the edge. Connor Barwin is a free agent. Robert Quinn could be cut next year. (He isn’t as swift as he was in 2013, when he had 19 sacks, and he doesn’t have a refined array of pass-rushing moves.) L.A. needs more juice on the edge.</p><h3>20. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 18</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSE</strong></p><p>Four end-of-year starters are entering free agency: DT Sheldon Richardson, OLB Michael Wilhoite, SS Bradley McDougald and CB Byron Maxwell. More important, a trove of stars—DE Cliff Avril, SS Kam Chancellor and CB Richard Sherman—each suffered what are most likely career-altering (or -ending) injuries in 2017. Plus, DE Frank Clark, OLB K.J. Wright and FS Earl Thomas all become free agents in ’19. Retaining all three is unlikely; replacing even one will be hard. Coach Pete Carroll’s replacing coordinator Kris Richard with Ken Norton Jr., (who was Seattle’s linebackers coach from ’10 through ’14), suggests that he wants to get back to a Cover 3 foundation. And that suggests speed is the attribute he’ll look hardest for in rebuilding.</p><h3>21. BALTIMORE RAVENS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 16</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER</strong></p><p>THE INTERIOR O-line was the Ravens’ biggest weakness in 2017, but with Marshal Yanda (ankle) and Alex Lewis (shoulder) returning, guard should be set. Center Ryan Jensen (a free agent) improved greatly and is worth re-signing. Receiver is a position of need, and if Baltimore’s brass feel it’s time to give up on ’15 first-rounder Breshad Perriman, they’ll draft there. (Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin are an average duo.) But don’t be surprised if they focus on bolstering a D that’s already among the NFL’s best. You can never have too many edge rushers—especially if your only consistent one soon turns 36. Hello, Terrell Suggs! If an instant threat isn’t available in the draft, Baltimore needs a developmental replacement who can learn from Suggs.</p><h3>22. HOUSTON TEXANS (4–12)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: NONE</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE</strong></p><p>THE DESHAUN WATSON hype is justified. He’s a mobile out-of-pocket threat and has the potential to be one of the NFL’s best downfield passers. Those traits elevate his ceiling—but a QB’s floor is set by his capacity to play from the pocket. After Watson became the starter in Week 2, he grew more patient and polished from the pocket, but it’s hard to see that continuing if the Texans don’t shore up the NFL’s least talented line. Foes eagerly attacked with stunts and inside blitzes, and that constant assault can erode a QB’s pocket comfort. Houston must upgrade all five spots.</p><h3>23. DALLAS COWBOYS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 19</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER</strong></p><p>Dez Bryant started slowing down in 2015. In ’16 top corners often defeated him. In ’17 defenses stopped giving those corners safety help, trusting that the 29-year-old Bryant—whose route tree was already limited to slants, posts and digs—could be handled one-on-one. (He was.) Dak Prescott is a quality QB, but his style and skill set require that he be surrounded by talent, and that starts with a perimeter receiver who can separate and influence coverages. Bryant, who averaged a little more than 50 yards per game since ’15, and whose cap number is $16.5 million, is not that receiver.</p><h3>24. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 17</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: FREE SAFETY</strong></p><p>Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s best years as a play-caller came with the Seahawks in 2009–12. There he had the NFL’s rangiest free safety, Earl Thomas, which gives a coach (and 10 other defenders) the confidence to be aggressive. Bradley is mostly running his old Seahawks-style Cover 3 zone and single-high safety man-to-man in L.A. That demands superior personnel, which Bradley has in dominant edge rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, plus a talented cornerbacking group led by Casey Hayward. A playmaking centerfielder would do wonders for this unit. Last year’s starter, Tre Boston, had his moments, but he’s a free agent—and not the type you break the bank to re-sign.</p><h3>25. GREEN BAY PACKERS (7–9)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 14</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK</strong></p><p>From last year’s roster, only 2017 second-round pick Kevin King is a bona fide starter at corner (and that’s assuming he can build on a stellar rookie season). Davon House’s contract is up, and Damarious Randall, a ’15 first-rounder, has his peaks and valleys. A change at coordinator does little to assuage the need for a reliable cover corner opposite King. Dom Capers valued that role because it left more chess pieces for his pressure packages, and his replacement, Mike Pettine, thinks the same way. Pettine was the Jets’ coordinator in the Darrelle Revis years, when New York played solo coverage outside while ’backers and DBs were used interchangeably on inside pressure concepts.</p><h3>26. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (10–6)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 29</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: TIGHT END</strong></p><p>Regardless OF who’s at QB, this will remain a defensive-minded, run-first team. That approach becomes infinitely stronger with quality every-down tight ends. Really, you need two, which diversifies your formation options and your running game. It also fortifies your aerial attack, especially over the middle in this play-action-intensive scheme. The Jags had a solid-but-unspectacular tight end for 12 years in Marcedes Lewis, but with his $4 million contract now voidable, it’s time to look forward. (A quality pass catcher would be an improvement on backups Ben Koyack and James O’Shaugnessy.) Some of the NFL’s best developmental TEs have been drafted in the middle rounds.</p><h3>27. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (13–3)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 30</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSIVE TACKLE</strong></p><p>Case Keenum is the QB the Vikings should re-sign. Sam Bradford can’t stay healthy, and Teddy Bridgewater has limitations. In the end, only one of those guys will stick, and GM Rick Spielman’s search will shift to the defense. The starting unit is rock-solid, so a luxury draft pick can be afforded if the right player is on the board. To plug future holes, the Vikes might also look to D-tackle, where free-agent rotational guys Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen will most likely earn starter money on the open market. A project DT makes sense in the draft, given how successful Mike Zimmer has been at developing talent off his bench.</p><h3>28. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (13–3)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 32</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE TACKLE</strong></p><p>Jason Peters was playing at a Pro Bowl level before tearing his right ACL and MCL in Week 7. Philly’s left tackle will be coming off the IR at age 36. Peters’s 2017 replacement, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, improved his pass-blocking technique through the back end of the year, but he still might be seen internally as a high-end backup. (He can play on either side.) Cutting Peters would save $5.3 million in cap space, but it would also carry $6.3 million in dead money. Optioning out of that contract a year later would save $8 million and cost nothing. Either way: If Peters departs, All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson can move to the left, but that’d still leave a need on the right. (Vaitai?) With franchise QB Carson Wentz to protect, the Eagles won’t be chintzy in restocking the position.</p><h3>29. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11–5)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 27</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: TIGHT END</strong></p><p>With Sean Payton as the architect, Drew Brees the orchestrator and Alvin Kamara the headliner, the Saints have one of football’s most powerful offenses. A dynamic, versatile tight end—imagine the formations available alongside Kamara!—would make it borderline unstoppable. Saints fans will point out they once had this tight end: Jimmy Graham. And maybe they will again, given that his Seahawks contract is up. Even so, New Orleans—which is at its best when balanced in the run and pass, and which plays a lot more base personnel than people realize—would also need to develop a quality in-line blocker. (Graham is not that.) Incumbents Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui are entering contract years; Coby Fleener, who’s pretty mediocre, can be released for a $3.4 million cap savings.</p><h3>30. ATLANTA FALCONS (10–6)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 26</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: GUARD</strong></p><p>Even with first-and-second-down D-linemen Dontari Poe, Adrian Clayborn, Courtney Upshaw and Ahtyba Rubin hitting free agency, the Falcons’ front is in fine shape. Every position on both sides of the line is set for the near future. Except guard. On the right, Wes Schweitzer, a sixth-round pick in 2016, improved late last year, particularly in pass protection, but he still has athletic limitations. Andy Levitre, 31, was solid on the left but finished the year on IR and now carries an $8.4 million cap number ($7 million of which can be scrapped with his release). Matt Ryan is at his best when climbing the pocket, so Atlanta will invest in that pocket’s cleanliness. Whoever they acquire must be mobile, too, as that’s critical in Atlanta’s outside-zone running scheme.</p><h3>31. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (13–3)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 28</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: INSIDE LINEBACKER</strong></p><p>This defense wasn’t the same after Ryan Shazier went down with a spinal injury. Shazier wasn’t always disciplined, but his speed and athletic, multidirectional burst brought a unique ferocity to the front seven. The Steelers’ No. 2 inside ’backer, Vince Williams, was one of the league’s most improved players (including as a blitzer), but he’s not quite an every-down guy. And much of coordinator Keith Butler’s scheme requires two of those. (At the very least he needs one in order to run his complex dime-package blitzes.) In base and nickel situations, Pittsburgh’s D-linemen often switch gap assignments after the snap. That high-risk, high-reward approach requires stable linebacking behind it.</p><h3>32. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (13–3)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 31</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK</strong></p><p>Last year’s $65 million signing of ex–Bills corner Stephon Gilmore was a tacit declaration that Malcolm Butler wouldn’t return in 2018. Butler, undrafted in ’14, has made $5.4 million as a pro—a fraction of what he’ll be offered in guarantees as this year’s top free-agent corner. He’s one of football’s rarest commodities: a cover artist who travels with smaller, agile receivers like Antonio Brown. He might not always shut them down, but the ability to even match up has lent coach Bill Belichick valuable coverage-design flexibility. The Patriots’ depth at corner is iffy already, and Eric Rowe will be a free agent after next season. With no other roster holes, don’t be shocked if New England, which plays a lot of man coverage, invests in multiple corners.</p>
Ranking the NFL's Neediest Teams

This story appears in the Feb. 12, 2017, issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. To subscribe, click here.

1. NEW YORK JETS (5–11)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 6

PRIMARY NEED: BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE

The Jets wildly surpassed expectations by winning five games... which says everything about this roster. There are enough glaring needs that GM Mike Maccagnan can draft his board’s top player in the first four rounds and trust that each rookie will immediately have a major role. Quarterback is the most significant need. After that: interior O-line, tight end, linebacker, cornerback.... How each spot is filled could influence the others. Coach Todd Bowles is known for blitzing, but he’s disciplined about playing to personnel. A stud corner would allow Bowles to use more pressure packages, but if there’s a pass rusher New York loves, the coach could rework around him.

2. CLEVELAND BROWNS (0–16)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 1, 4 (VIA TEXANS)

PRIMARY NEED: SLOT RECEIVER

The Browns are more talented than their 0–16 record suggests. They could use another playmaker or two on D (what last-place team couldn’t?), but more than anything, they need to redesign their O. Part of DeShone Kizer’s struggles at QB can be attributed to coach Hue Jackson’s asking the rookie to make deep, full-field progression reads out of spread formations. It doesn’t get more challenging than that. Jackson is a shrewd offensive strategist; his unit can be better—especially if he has a true slot receiver around whom he can build shorter route combos, increasing the ways versatile receiving back Duke Johnson and nimble tight end David Njoku are used.

3. BUFFALO BILLS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 21, 22 (VIA CHIEFS)

PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER

The Bills’ biggest need is at QB, but that’s true for just about any team without a franchise guy in that spot. Digging deeper, look to the D-line. Coach Sean McDermott is a creative, effective blitz schemer. But he more often plays traditional zone coverages, which require a potent four-man rush. Buffalo had just 27 sacks last season, tied for third fewest in the NFL, and you can see that reflected on film: Their front four rarely controlled games. This roster’s only viable pass rusher is defensive end Jerry Hughes, who can go quiet for stretches. The Bills need an edge bender opposite him, as well as a penetrator inside, especially if 34-year-old free agent Kyle Williams does not return.

4. CHICAGO BEARS (5–11)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 8

PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER

The offense that new coach Matt Nagy coordinated under Andy Reid in K.C. prospered despite mediocre receivers. But that was a function of Reid’s passing-game creativity with running backs, plus the presence of multi-tooled tight end Travis Kelce. Nagy can employ his backs in the air (especially the electrifying Tarik Cohen), but tight ends Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen are neither dynamic nor flexible. In his second year, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will need more talented receivers. Cameron Meredith, coming off a left-ACL tear, can fill one spot—but that leaves three more. Just about any style of player will work here, as long as he’s a proficient enough route runner to aid the timing and rhythm throws that Trubisky’s success will hinge on.

5. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (4–12)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 3

PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER

Everyone derides the Colts’ offensive line, but third-year center Ryan Kelly and guards Jack Mewhort (entering year five) and Joe Haeg (three) form a solid, improving interior; and Anthony Castonzo is a quality left tackle. The real problem: Injuries have kept these guys from playing together. Chemistry can develop once they stay healthy. Instead of meddling there, expect second-year GM Chris Ballard to use his cap space ($84 million) and early draft picks to restock a defense that ranked 30th last season and needs work at every position except tackle and free safety. The fastest way to improve a defense is to add an edge rusher who can influence an opposing offense’s blocking scheme and make the quarterback play hastily.

6. CINCINNATI BENGALS (7–9)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 12

PRIMARY NEED: QUARTERBACK

This is as much about a franchise philosophy as it is about Andy Dalton in particular. The Bengals’ approach has long been to pay for a middle-tier QB and surround him with talent, investing early picks at receiver, running back, tight end and offensive tackle. With Dalton there have been ups and downs (dictated largely by how well he moves within the pocket), and all but one of his seven campaigns have ended somewhere between 6–10 and 11–5. That’s respectable but ultimately unfulfilling. If owner Mike Brown is unwilling to change leadership at the coaching level, he at least needs to evolve Cincinnati’s on-field identity. This year’s draft offers at least four first-round QBs, and Dalton would count just $2.4 million in dead money against the cap if he was released.

7. TENNESSEE TITANS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 25

PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER

Sure, the Titans drafted Corey Davis with the No. 5 pick last year. But he has yet to show the transitional quickness or top-end speed to stretch the field. Barring a sudden turbo boost (which we might see once he acclimates more to the NFL), Davis will most likely build his career on contested catches and possession targets. In other words: Tennessee doesn’t have anyone who can threaten a defense deep, and that makes every part of the passing game more difficult. (There’s also the matter of Eric Decker’s free agency in 2018, and Rishard Matthews’s in ’19.) Finding a speed receiver with upside to pair with Davis and fellow ’17 rookie Taywan Taylor (a quintessential slot man) would be prudent.

8. ARIZONA CARDINALS (8–8)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 15

PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSE

New coach Steve Wilks inherited the defensive talent to run his blitz-intensive scheme. On the other side of the ball, there’s barely the personnel to run any scheme. There’s no quarterback under contract; starting guards Alex Boone and Earl Watford are both free agents; so is wide receiver Jaron Brown; and Larry Fitzgerald’s return is up in the air. Cardinals general manager Steve Keim, in other words, has plenty of work to do. The silver lining: New offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is an adaptable play-caller with a strong grasp of modern passing concepts. Arizona can mold its system to fit just about any quarterback. If Keim can’t get in on the rookie QB action through this year’s draft, he’ll find a bridge guy and draft men to block and catch for whichever passer comes next year.

9. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (7–9)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 13

PRIMARY NEEDS: WIDE RECEIVER, LINEBACKER

Alex Smith is a downgrade from Kirk Cousins, but he can be serviceable with the right weapons. The Redskins need to find those. Wide receiver is the top priority, especially if free agent Ryan Grant is not retained. If he returns, then linebacker becomes the top need. Speed demon Zach Brown was the only constant in 2017. Fans love him, but his performances are sometimes marred by misreads. It’ll be fascinating to see what kind of money he’s offered in free agency. Washington, a zone-based D, has no long-term depth around Brown, so linebacker will be addressed even if he sticks around.

10. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (5–11)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 7

PRIMARY NEED: PASS RUSHER

It will be tempting to pursue a replacement for disappointing running back Doug Martin, especially considering that Charles Sims is also a free agent. But it’s far more important for the Bucs to get some teeth on a D that had no bite in 2017. This season was essentially lost when second-year end Noah Spence separated his shoulder in Week 3. He was the only edge-rushing threat; without him, Tampa’s pass rush floundered and its zone coverages were exposed. The Bucs need an infusion of pass-rushing talent to ensure a single injury doesn’t scuttle their D again. Currently, Gerald McCoy and—once or twice a game—Robert Ayers are the only forces who flash up front.

11. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (6–10)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 9/10

PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE

For Jimmy Garoppolo to be the QB savior that so many pundits imagine, he needs to be protected. Center Daniel Kilgore and right guard Brandon Fusco are free agents (and probably backups on most teams). At left guard, Laken Tomlinson has size and strength, but maybe not the ideal agility for Kyle Shanahan’s outside-zone running scheme. Something else to consider: Left tackle Joe Staley is 33. He was strong in pass protection last season, but he wasn’t impermeable. Shanahan often asks his tackles to block one-on-one, sending all five eligible receivers out in routes. That helps his QB throw quickly, which Garoppolo thrived doing in 2017. Because of this, the Niners don’t necessarily have to invest hugely in the O-line—but it wouldn’t hurt.

12. DENVER BRONCOS (5–11)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 5

PRIMARY NEED: RIGHT TACKLE

Next year’s QB is anyone’s guess. Paxton Lynch? Kirk Cousins? Some first-round prospect? Whoever lands the job will need better pass protection than the Broncos’ passers got in 2017. Right tackle is the spot of greatest concern: The talented but unrefined Menelik Watson was a turnstile, and long-armed Donald Stephenson (another nice player who has never put it all together) couldn’t stick in the starting lineup. Now: Stephenson’s a free agent and will most likely walk; Watson, who’s due $7.1 million, will probably be cut. Finding a reliable replacement would aid Denver’s undefined passing attack. (And if Watson somehow re-turns too? He could become a utility backup or guard, where he’s better suited.)

13. OAKLAND RAIDERS (6–10)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 9/10

PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER

With his propensity for drops, Michael Crabtree and his $7.7 million cap number are not worth keeping. Two years ago, Crabtree’s fellow starting wideout, Amari Cooper, looked like the Next Big Thing—but injuries and his own slippery hands have been problematic. Also concerning: the way that Cooper, one of the league’s quicker and more nuanced route runners, struggles against press coverage. If his 2018 is like the second half of his ’16 or any of his ’17, his long-term role will be, at best, as a No. 2. The Raiders can make Cooper’s (and QB Derek Carr’s) life easier by finding a topflight bookend. One with size and the fearlessness to go inside would best fit in new coach Jon Gruden’s system.

14. MIAMI DOLPHINS (6–10)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 11

PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK

The Dolphins could fall in love with some quarterback, running back or receiver—but they ought to prioritize corner. Xavien Howard, a polished, agile second-rounder from 2016, is on the cusp of stardom, and across from him, coaches appear comfortable with ’17 third-round pick Cordrea Tankserley. But coach Adam Gase, a trips-formation evangelist, knows better than anyone that today’s NFL demands a solid slot corner too. Bobby McCain is decent, but his contract expires after ’18, and there’s no depth behind him. Miami should find a corner who has the spatial awareness to play zone inside but also the size to move outside as insurance for Tankersley. Someone fitting this description will cost a first-or second-round pick.

15. DETROIT LIONS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 20

PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSIVE END

It’s funny. In 2016, Ziggy Ansah looked so much better on film than his two sacks suggested. In ’17 he had 12 takedowns but looked markedly worse. His playing time diminished and he slid into a pass-rushing-specialist role later in the year. Long and limber, Ansah has the potential to be elite, especially on stunts and D-line slants. And, yes, some of his inconsistencies can be attributed to knee and back injuries. Still, the Lions must think long and hard before applying the $18 million franchise tag to this free agent. If they don’t, another team will almost certainly overpay for him. Even if Ansah stays, a zone-based defense like the Lions’ can never have too many pass rushers. Detroit could definitely use another.

16. CAROLINA PANTHERS (11–5)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 24

PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE

It’s a myster how left guard Andrew Norwell—sturdy but by no means spectacular—earned first-team All-Pro. (No one on this line was All-Pro-worthy; that’s partly why the Panthers’ backs rushed for the second-fewest yards in the NFL.) This perplexing nod might beef up Norwell’s market value, and his franchise-tag number is already inflated by the NFL’s asinine practice of lumping all linemen into the same pricing category. Re-signing him could be tough, and while he’s the only 2018 free agent on this line, right tackle Daryl Williams will be up in ’19, as will center Ryan Kalil. Carolina must replenish its depth up front.

17. NEW YORK GIANTS (3–13)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 2

PRIMARY NEED: RUNNING BACK

If the Giants fall head over heels for one of this draft’s QBs, fine. But Eli Manning has shown little sign of decline. His poor 2017 should be resolved, partly, by a healthy receiving corps and a revamped system under new coach Pat Shurmur. Any scheme is stronger with a dynamic back, which New York hasn’t had since Ahmad Bradshaw in ’12. Last year’s fourth-round pick, Wayne Gallman, is intriguing, but not enough to build around. Orleans Darkwa, a better pure runner, could test free agency. So could Shane Vereen. If he leaves, the Giants will need a three-down weapon. If Vereen returns, they ought to get a first- and second-down bell cow, which shouldn’t be too expensive.

18. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (10–6)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: NONE

PRIMARY NEED: INTERIOR RUN DEFENDER

The Chiefs’ defensive front seven has had some rich individual talent, but collectively that group has finished 25th and 26th against the run the last two years. Part of the problem is coordinator Bob Sutton’s preference for a three-safety, three-corner dime package on second or third down when facing a three-receiver set (which is common in today’s NFL). Here the Chiefs almost always align in a light 4–2, and against agile runners they get gashed. If Sutton keeps this up, he must find an imposing every-down ’backer (Derrick Johnson, 35, is no longer that guy), plus another dynamic D-lineman in the mold of third-year pro Chris Jones.

19. LOS ANGELES RAMS (11–5)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 23

PRIMARY NEED: SECONDARY

The Rams’ best DBs—corner Trumaine Johnson and free safety LaMarcus Joyner—are free agents, but there’s enough cap room to re-sign both. If that doesn’t happen, any vacated position there becomes priority No. 1. Nickell Robey-Coleman is also headed for the open market, and his slot corner position could be hard to fill. If the Rams somehow return all three DBs, they’ll refocus on the edge. Connor Barwin is a free agent. Robert Quinn could be cut next year. (He isn’t as swift as he was in 2013, when he had 19 sacks, and he doesn’t have a refined array of pass-rushing moves.) L.A. needs more juice on the edge.

20. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 18

PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSE

Four end-of-year starters are entering free agency: DT Sheldon Richardson, OLB Michael Wilhoite, SS Bradley McDougald and CB Byron Maxwell. More important, a trove of stars—DE Cliff Avril, SS Kam Chancellor and CB Richard Sherman—each suffered what are most likely career-altering (or -ending) injuries in 2017. Plus, DE Frank Clark, OLB K.J. Wright and FS Earl Thomas all become free agents in ’19. Retaining all three is unlikely; replacing even one will be hard. Coach Pete Carroll’s replacing coordinator Kris Richard with Ken Norton Jr., (who was Seattle’s linebackers coach from ’10 through ’14), suggests that he wants to get back to a Cover 3 foundation. And that suggests speed is the attribute he’ll look hardest for in rebuilding.

21. BALTIMORE RAVENS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 16

PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER

THE INTERIOR O-line was the Ravens’ biggest weakness in 2017, but with Marshal Yanda (ankle) and Alex Lewis (shoulder) returning, guard should be set. Center Ryan Jensen (a free agent) improved greatly and is worth re-signing. Receiver is a position of need, and if Baltimore’s brass feel it’s time to give up on ’15 first-rounder Breshad Perriman, they’ll draft there. (Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin are an average duo.) But don’t be surprised if they focus on bolstering a D that’s already among the NFL’s best. You can never have too many edge rushers—especially if your only consistent one soon turns 36. Hello, Terrell Suggs! If an instant threat isn’t available in the draft, Baltimore needs a developmental replacement who can learn from Suggs.

22. HOUSTON TEXANS (4–12)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: NONE

PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE

THE DESHAUN WATSON hype is justified. He’s a mobile out-of-pocket threat and has the potential to be one of the NFL’s best downfield passers. Those traits elevate his ceiling—but a QB’s floor is set by his capacity to play from the pocket. After Watson became the starter in Week 2, he grew more patient and polished from the pocket, but it’s hard to see that continuing if the Texans don’t shore up the NFL’s least talented line. Foes eagerly attacked with stunts and inside blitzes, and that constant assault can erode a QB’s pocket comfort. Houston must upgrade all five spots.

23. DALLAS COWBOYS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 19

PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER

Dez Bryant started slowing down in 2015. In ’16 top corners often defeated him. In ’17 defenses stopped giving those corners safety help, trusting that the 29-year-old Bryant—whose route tree was already limited to slants, posts and digs—could be handled one-on-one. (He was.) Dak Prescott is a quality QB, but his style and skill set require that he be surrounded by talent, and that starts with a perimeter receiver who can separate and influence coverages. Bryant, who averaged a little more than 50 yards per game since ’15, and whose cap number is $16.5 million, is not that receiver.

24. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 17

PRIMARY NEED: FREE SAFETY

Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s best years as a play-caller came with the Seahawks in 2009–12. There he had the NFL’s rangiest free safety, Earl Thomas, which gives a coach (and 10 other defenders) the confidence to be aggressive. Bradley is mostly running his old Seahawks-style Cover 3 zone and single-high safety man-to-man in L.A. That demands superior personnel, which Bradley has in dominant edge rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, plus a talented cornerbacking group led by Casey Hayward. A playmaking centerfielder would do wonders for this unit. Last year’s starter, Tre Boston, had his moments, but he’s a free agent—and not the type you break the bank to re-sign.

25. GREEN BAY PACKERS (7–9)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 14

PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK

From last year’s roster, only 2017 second-round pick Kevin King is a bona fide starter at corner (and that’s assuming he can build on a stellar rookie season). Davon House’s contract is up, and Damarious Randall, a ’15 first-rounder, has his peaks and valleys. A change at coordinator does little to assuage the need for a reliable cover corner opposite King. Dom Capers valued that role because it left more chess pieces for his pressure packages, and his replacement, Mike Pettine, thinks the same way. Pettine was the Jets’ coordinator in the Darrelle Revis years, when New York played solo coverage outside while ’backers and DBs were used interchangeably on inside pressure concepts.

26. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (10–6)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 29

PRIMARY NEED: TIGHT END

Regardless OF who’s at QB, this will remain a defensive-minded, run-first team. That approach becomes infinitely stronger with quality every-down tight ends. Really, you need two, which diversifies your formation options and your running game. It also fortifies your aerial attack, especially over the middle in this play-action-intensive scheme. The Jags had a solid-but-unspectacular tight end for 12 years in Marcedes Lewis, but with his $4 million contract now voidable, it’s time to look forward. (A quality pass catcher would be an improvement on backups Ben Koyack and James O’Shaugnessy.) Some of the NFL’s best developmental TEs have been drafted in the middle rounds.

27. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (13–3)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 30

PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Case Keenum is the QB the Vikings should re-sign. Sam Bradford can’t stay healthy, and Teddy Bridgewater has limitations. In the end, only one of those guys will stick, and GM Rick Spielman’s search will shift to the defense. The starting unit is rock-solid, so a luxury draft pick can be afforded if the right player is on the board. To plug future holes, the Vikes might also look to D-tackle, where free-agent rotational guys Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen will most likely earn starter money on the open market. A project DT makes sense in the draft, given how successful Mike Zimmer has been at developing talent off his bench.

28. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (13–3)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 32

PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE TACKLE

Jason Peters was playing at a Pro Bowl level before tearing his right ACL and MCL in Week 7. Philly’s left tackle will be coming off the IR at age 36. Peters’s 2017 replacement, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, improved his pass-blocking technique through the back end of the year, but he still might be seen internally as a high-end backup. (He can play on either side.) Cutting Peters would save $5.3 million in cap space, but it would also carry $6.3 million in dead money. Optioning out of that contract a year later would save $8 million and cost nothing. Either way: If Peters departs, All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson can move to the left, but that’d still leave a need on the right. (Vaitai?) With franchise QB Carson Wentz to protect, the Eagles won’t be chintzy in restocking the position.

29. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11–5)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 27

PRIMARY NEED: TIGHT END

With Sean Payton as the architect, Drew Brees the orchestrator and Alvin Kamara the headliner, the Saints have one of football’s most powerful offenses. A dynamic, versatile tight end—imagine the formations available alongside Kamara!—would make it borderline unstoppable. Saints fans will point out they once had this tight end: Jimmy Graham. And maybe they will again, given that his Seahawks contract is up. Even so, New Orleans—which is at its best when balanced in the run and pass, and which plays a lot more base personnel than people realize—would also need to develop a quality in-line blocker. (Graham is not that.) Incumbents Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui are entering contract years; Coby Fleener, who’s pretty mediocre, can be released for a $3.4 million cap savings.

30. ATLANTA FALCONS (10–6)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 26

PRIMARY NEED: GUARD

Even with first-and-second-down D-linemen Dontari Poe, Adrian Clayborn, Courtney Upshaw and Ahtyba Rubin hitting free agency, the Falcons’ front is in fine shape. Every position on both sides of the line is set for the near future. Except guard. On the right, Wes Schweitzer, a sixth-round pick in 2016, improved late last year, particularly in pass protection, but he still has athletic limitations. Andy Levitre, 31, was solid on the left but finished the year on IR and now carries an $8.4 million cap number ($7 million of which can be scrapped with his release). Matt Ryan is at his best when climbing the pocket, so Atlanta will invest in that pocket’s cleanliness. Whoever they acquire must be mobile, too, as that’s critical in Atlanta’s outside-zone running scheme.

31. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (13–3)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 28

PRIMARY NEED: INSIDE LINEBACKER

This defense wasn’t the same after Ryan Shazier went down with a spinal injury. Shazier wasn’t always disciplined, but his speed and athletic, multidirectional burst brought a unique ferocity to the front seven. The Steelers’ No. 2 inside ’backer, Vince Williams, was one of the league’s most improved players (including as a blitzer), but he’s not quite an every-down guy. And much of coordinator Keith Butler’s scheme requires two of those. (At the very least he needs one in order to run his complex dime-package blitzes.) In base and nickel situations, Pittsburgh’s D-linemen often switch gap assignments after the snap. That high-risk, high-reward approach requires stable linebacking behind it.

32. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (13–3)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 31

PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK

Last year’s $65 million signing of ex–Bills corner Stephon Gilmore was a tacit declaration that Malcolm Butler wouldn’t return in 2018. Butler, undrafted in ’14, has made $5.4 million as a pro—a fraction of what he’ll be offered in guarantees as this year’s top free-agent corner. He’s one of football’s rarest commodities: a cover artist who travels with smaller, agile receivers like Antonio Brown. He might not always shut them down, but the ability to even match up has lent coach Bill Belichick valuable coverage-design flexibility. The Patriots’ depth at corner is iffy already, and Eric Rowe will be a free agent after next season. With no other roster holes, don’t be shocked if New England, which plays a lot of man coverage, invests in multiple corners.

<p><em>This story appears in the Feb. 12, 2017, issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. To subscribe, </em><a href="https://subscription.si.com/storefront/subscribe-to-sports-illustrated/site/si-fellswooptest78fr39-tpl.html?tcmid=navagation&#38;link=1042251&#38;fpa_oc=SI+Own.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:click here." class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>click here.</em></a></p><h3>1. NEW YORK JETS (5–11)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 6</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE</strong></p><p>The Jets wildly surpassed expectations by winning five games... which says everything about this roster. There are enough glaring needs that GM Mike Maccagnan can draft his board’s top player in the first four rounds and trust that each rookie will immediately have a major role. Quarterback is the most significant need. After that: interior O-line, tight end, linebacker, cornerback.... How each spot is filled could influence the others. Coach Todd Bowles is known for blitzing, but he’s disciplined about playing to personnel. A stud corner would allow Bowles to use more pressure packages, but if there’s a pass rusher New York loves, the coach could rework around him.</p><h3>2. CLEVELAND BROWNS (0–16)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 1, 4 (VIA TEXANS)</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: SLOT RECEIVER</strong></p><p>The Browns are more talented than their 0–16 record suggests. They could use another playmaker or two on D (what last-place team couldn’t?), but more than anything, they need to redesign their O. Part of DeShone Kizer’s struggles at QB can be attributed to coach Hue Jackson’s asking the rookie to make deep, full-field progression reads out of spread formations. It doesn’t get more challenging than that. Jackson is a shrewd offensive strategist; his unit can be better—especially if he has a true slot receiver around whom he can build shorter route combos, increasing the ways versatile receiving back Duke Johnson and nimble tight end David Njoku are used.</p><h3>3. BUFFALO BILLS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 21, 22 (VIA CHIEFS) </strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER</strong></p><p>The Bills’ biggest need is at QB, but that’s true for just about any team without a franchise guy in that spot. Digging deeper, look to the D-line. Coach Sean McDermott is a creative, effective blitz schemer. But he more often plays traditional zone coverages, which require a potent four-man rush. Buffalo had just 27 sacks last season, tied for third fewest in the NFL, and you can see that reflected on film: Their front four rarely controlled games. This roster’s only viable pass rusher is defensive end Jerry Hughes, who can go quiet for stretches. The Bills need an edge bender opposite him, as well as a penetrator inside, especially if 34-year-old free agent Kyle Williams does not return.</p><h3>4. CHICAGO BEARS (5–11)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 8 </strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER</strong></p><p>The offense that new coach Matt Nagy coordinated under Andy Reid in K.C. prospered despite mediocre receivers. But that was a function of Reid’s passing-game creativity with running backs, plus the presence of multi-tooled tight end Travis Kelce. Nagy can employ his backs in the air (especially the electrifying Tarik Cohen), but tight ends Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen are neither dynamic nor flexible. In his second year, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will need more talented receivers. Cameron Meredith, coming off a left-ACL tear, can fill one spot—but that leaves three more. Just about any style of player will work here, as long as he’s a proficient enough route runner to aid the timing and rhythm throws that Trubisky’s success will hinge on.</p><h3>5. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (4–12)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 3</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER</strong></p><p>Everyone derides the Colts’ offensive line, but third-year center Ryan Kelly and guards Jack Mewhort (entering year five) and Joe Haeg (three) form a solid, improving interior; and Anthony Castonzo is a quality left tackle. The real problem: Injuries have kept these guys from playing together. Chemistry can develop once they stay healthy. Instead of meddling there, expect second-year GM Chris Ballard to use his cap space ($84 million) and early draft picks to restock a defense that ranked 30th last season and needs work at every position except tackle and free safety. The fastest way to improve a defense is to add an edge rusher who can influence an opposing offense’s blocking scheme and make the quarterback play hastily.</p><h3>6. CINCINNATI BENGALS (7–9)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 12</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: QUARTERBACK</strong></p><p>This is as much about a franchise philosophy as it is about Andy Dalton in particular. The Bengals’ approach has long been to pay for a middle-tier QB and surround him with talent, investing early picks at receiver, running back, tight end and offensive tackle. With Dalton there have been ups and downs (dictated largely by how well he moves within the pocket), and all but one of his seven campaigns have ended somewhere between 6–10 and 11–5. That’s respectable but ultimately unfulfilling. If owner Mike Brown is unwilling to change leadership at the coaching level, he at least needs to evolve Cincinnati’s on-field identity. This year’s draft offers at least four first-round QBs, and Dalton would count just $2.4 million in dead money against the cap if he was released.</p><h3>7. TENNESSEE TITANS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 25</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER</strong></p><p>Sure, the Titans drafted Corey Davis with the No. 5 pick last year. But he has yet to show the transitional quickness or top-end speed to stretch the field. Barring a sudden turbo boost (which we might see once he acclimates more to the NFL), Davis will most likely build his career on contested catches and possession targets. In other words: Tennessee doesn’t have anyone who can threaten a defense deep, and that makes every part of the passing game more difficult. (There’s also the matter of Eric Decker’s free agency in 2018, and Rishard Matthews’s in ’19.) Finding a speed receiver with upside to pair with Davis and fellow ’17 rookie Taywan Taylor (a quintessential slot man) would be prudent.</p><h3>8. ARIZONA CARDINALS (8–8)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 15</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSE</strong></p><p>New coach Steve Wilks inherited the defensive talent to run his blitz-intensive scheme. On the other side of the ball, there’s barely the personnel to run any scheme. There’s no quarterback under contract; starting guards Alex Boone and Earl Watford are both free agents; so is wide receiver Jaron Brown; and Larry Fitzgerald’s return is up in the air. Cardinals general manager Steve Keim, in other words, has plenty of work to do. The silver lining: New offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is an adaptable play-caller with a strong grasp of modern passing concepts. Arizona can mold its system to fit just about any quarterback. If Keim can’t get in on the rookie QB action through this year’s draft, he’ll find a bridge guy and draft men to block and catch for whichever passer comes next year.</p><h3>9. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (7–9)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 13</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEEDS: WIDE RECEIVER, LINEBACKER</strong></p><p>Alex Smith is a downgrade from Kirk Cousins, but he can be serviceable with the right weapons. The Redskins need to find those. Wide receiver is the top priority, especially if free agent Ryan Grant is not retained. If he returns, then linebacker becomes the top need. Speed demon Zach Brown was the only constant in 2017. Fans love him, but his performances are sometimes marred by misreads. It’ll be fascinating to see what kind of money he’s offered in free agency. Washington, a zone-based D, has no long-term depth around Brown, so linebacker will be addressed even if he sticks around.</p><h3>10. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (5–11)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 7 </strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: PASS RUSHER</strong></p><p>It will be tempting to pursue a replacement for disappointing running back Doug Martin, especially considering that Charles Sims is also a free agent. But it’s far more important for the Bucs to get some teeth on a D that had no bite in 2017. This season was essentially lost when second-year end Noah Spence separated his shoulder in Week 3. He was the only edge-rushing threat; without him, Tampa’s pass rush floundered and its zone coverages were exposed. The Bucs need an infusion of pass-rushing talent to ensure a single injury doesn’t scuttle their D again. Currently, Gerald McCoy and—once or twice a game—Robert Ayers are the only forces who flash up front.</p><h3>11. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (6–10)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 9/10 </strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE</strong></p><p>For Jimmy Garoppolo to be the QB savior that so many pundits imagine, he needs to be protected. Center Daniel Kilgore and right guard Brandon Fusco are free agents (and probably backups on most teams). At left guard, Laken Tomlinson has size and strength, but maybe not the ideal agility for Kyle Shanahan’s outside-zone running scheme. Something else to consider: Left tackle Joe Staley is 33. He was strong in pass protection last season, but he wasn’t impermeable. Shanahan often asks his tackles to block one-on-one, sending all five eligible receivers out in routes. That helps his QB throw quickly, which Garoppolo thrived doing in 2017. Because of this, the Niners don’t necessarily have to invest hugely in the O-line—but it wouldn’t hurt.</p><h3>12. DENVER BRONCOS (5–11)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 5</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: RIGHT TACKLE</strong></p><p>Next year’s QB is anyone’s guess. Paxton Lynch? Kirk Cousins? Some first-round prospect? Whoever lands the job will need better pass protection than the Broncos’ passers got in 2017. Right tackle is the spot of greatest concern: The talented but unrefined Menelik Watson was a turnstile, and long-armed Donald Stephenson (another nice player who has never put it all together) couldn’t stick in the starting lineup. Now: Stephenson’s a free agent and will most likely walk; Watson, who’s due $7.1 million, will probably be cut. Finding a reliable replacement would aid Denver’s undefined passing attack. (And if Watson somehow re-turns too? He could become a utility backup or guard, where he’s better suited.)</p><h3>13. OAKLAND RAIDERS (6–10)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 9/10 </strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER</strong></p><p>With his propensity for drops, Michael Crabtree and his $7.7 million cap number are not worth keeping. Two years ago, Crabtree’s fellow starting wideout, Amari Cooper, looked like the Next Big Thing—but injuries and his own slippery hands have been problematic. Also concerning: the way that Cooper, one of the league’s quicker and more nuanced route runners, struggles against press coverage. If his 2018 is like the second half of his ’16 or any of his ’17, his long-term role will be, at best, as a No. 2. The Raiders can make Cooper’s (and QB Derek Carr’s) life easier by finding a topflight bookend. One with size and the fearlessness to go inside would best fit in new coach Jon Gruden’s system.</p><h3>14. MIAMI DOLPHINS (6–10)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 11</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK</strong></p><p>The Dolphins could fall in love with some quarterback, running back or receiver—but they ought to prioritize corner. Xavien Howard, a polished, agile second-rounder from 2016, is on the cusp of stardom, and across from him, coaches appear comfortable with ’17 third-round pick Cordrea Tankserley. But coach Adam Gase, a trips-formation evangelist, knows better than anyone that today’s NFL demands a solid slot corner too. Bobby McCain is decent, but his contract expires after ’18, and there’s no depth behind him. Miami should find a corner who has the spatial awareness to play zone inside but also the size to move outside as insurance for Tankersley. Someone fitting this description will cost a first-or second-round pick.</p><h3>15. DETROIT LIONS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 20</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSIVE END</strong></p><p>It’s funny. In 2016, Ziggy Ansah looked so much better on film than his two sacks suggested. In ’17 he had 12 takedowns but looked markedly worse. His playing time diminished and he slid into a pass-rushing-specialist role later in the year. Long and limber, Ansah has the potential to be elite, especially on stunts and D-line slants. And, yes, some of his inconsistencies can be attributed to knee and back injuries. Still, the Lions must think long and hard before applying the $18 million franchise tag to this free agent. If they don’t, another team will almost certainly overpay for him. Even if Ansah stays, a zone-based defense like the Lions’ can never have too many pass rushers. Detroit could definitely use another.</p><h3>16. CAROLINA PANTHERS (11–5)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 24</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE</strong></p><p>It’s a myster how left guard Andrew Norwell—sturdy but by no means spectacular—earned first-team All-Pro. (No one on this line was All-Pro-worthy; that’s partly why the Panthers’ backs rushed for the second-fewest yards in the NFL.) This perplexing nod might beef up Norwell’s market value, and his franchise-tag number is already inflated by the NFL’s asinine practice of lumping all linemen into the same pricing category. Re-signing him could be tough, and while he’s the only 2018 free agent on this line, right tackle Daryl Williams will be up in ’19, as will center Ryan Kalil. Carolina must replenish its depth up front.</p><h3>17. NEW YORK GIANTS (3–13)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 2</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: RUNNING BACK</strong></p><p>If the Giants fall head over heels for one of this draft’s QBs, fine. But Eli Manning has shown little sign of decline. His poor 2017 should be resolved, partly, by a healthy receiving corps and a revamped system under new coach Pat Shurmur. Any scheme is stronger with a dynamic back, which New York hasn’t had since Ahmad Bradshaw in ’12. Last year’s fourth-round pick, Wayne Gallman, is intriguing, but not enough to build around. Orleans Darkwa, a better pure runner, could test free agency. So could Shane Vereen. If he leaves, the Giants will need a three-down weapon. If Vereen returns, they ought to get a first- and second-down bell cow, which shouldn’t be too expensive.</p><h3>18. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (10–6)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: NONE</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: INTERIOR RUN DEFENDER</strong></p><p>The Chiefs’ defensive front seven has had some rich individual talent, but collectively that group has finished 25th and 26th against the run the last two years. Part of the problem is coordinator Bob Sutton’s preference for a three-safety, three-corner dime package on second or third down when facing a three-receiver set (which is common in today’s NFL). Here the Chiefs almost always align in a light 4–2, and against agile runners they get gashed. If Sutton keeps this up, he must find an imposing every-down ’backer (Derrick Johnson, 35, is no longer that guy), plus another dynamic D-lineman in the mold of third-year pro Chris Jones.</p><h3>19. LOS ANGELES RAMS (11–5)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 23</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: SECONDARY</strong></p><p>The Rams’ best DBs—corner Trumaine Johnson and free safety LaMarcus Joyner—are free agents, but there’s enough cap room to re-sign both. If that doesn’t happen, any vacated position there becomes priority No. 1. Nickell Robey-Coleman is also headed for the open market, and his slot corner position could be hard to fill. If the Rams somehow return all three DBs, they’ll refocus on the edge. Connor Barwin is a free agent. Robert Quinn could be cut next year. (He isn’t as swift as he was in 2013, when he had 19 sacks, and he doesn’t have a refined array of pass-rushing moves.) L.A. needs more juice on the edge.</p><h3>20. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 18</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSE</strong></p><p>Four end-of-year starters are entering free agency: DT Sheldon Richardson, OLB Michael Wilhoite, SS Bradley McDougald and CB Byron Maxwell. More important, a trove of stars—DE Cliff Avril, SS Kam Chancellor and CB Richard Sherman—each suffered what are most likely career-altering (or -ending) injuries in 2017. Plus, DE Frank Clark, OLB K.J. Wright and FS Earl Thomas all become free agents in ’19. Retaining all three is unlikely; replacing even one will be hard. Coach Pete Carroll’s replacing coordinator Kris Richard with Ken Norton Jr., (who was Seattle’s linebackers coach from ’10 through ’14), suggests that he wants to get back to a Cover 3 foundation. And that suggests speed is the attribute he’ll look hardest for in rebuilding.</p><h3>21. BALTIMORE RAVENS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 16</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER</strong></p><p>THE INTERIOR O-line was the Ravens’ biggest weakness in 2017, but with Marshal Yanda (ankle) and Alex Lewis (shoulder) returning, guard should be set. Center Ryan Jensen (a free agent) improved greatly and is worth re-signing. Receiver is a position of need, and if Baltimore’s brass feel it’s time to give up on ’15 first-rounder Breshad Perriman, they’ll draft there. (Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin are an average duo.) But don’t be surprised if they focus on bolstering a D that’s already among the NFL’s best. You can never have too many edge rushers—especially if your only consistent one soon turns 36. Hello, Terrell Suggs! If an instant threat isn’t available in the draft, Baltimore needs a developmental replacement who can learn from Suggs.</p><h3>22. HOUSTON TEXANS (4–12)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: NONE</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE</strong></p><p>THE DESHAUN WATSON hype is justified. He’s a mobile out-of-pocket threat and has the potential to be one of the NFL’s best downfield passers. Those traits elevate his ceiling—but a QB’s floor is set by his capacity to play from the pocket. After Watson became the starter in Week 2, he grew more patient and polished from the pocket, but it’s hard to see that continuing if the Texans don’t shore up the NFL’s least talented line. Foes eagerly attacked with stunts and inside blitzes, and that constant assault can erode a QB’s pocket comfort. Houston must upgrade all five spots.</p><h3>23. DALLAS COWBOYS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 19</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER</strong></p><p>Dez Bryant started slowing down in 2015. In ’16 top corners often defeated him. In ’17 defenses stopped giving those corners safety help, trusting that the 29-year-old Bryant—whose route tree was already limited to slants, posts and digs—could be handled one-on-one. (He was.) Dak Prescott is a quality QB, but his style and skill set require that he be surrounded by talent, and that starts with a perimeter receiver who can separate and influence coverages. Bryant, who averaged a little more than 50 yards per game since ’15, and whose cap number is $16.5 million, is not that receiver.</p><h3>24. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 17</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: FREE SAFETY</strong></p><p>Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s best years as a play-caller came with the Seahawks in 2009–12. There he had the NFL’s rangiest free safety, Earl Thomas, which gives a coach (and 10 other defenders) the confidence to be aggressive. Bradley is mostly running his old Seahawks-style Cover 3 zone and single-high safety man-to-man in L.A. That demands superior personnel, which Bradley has in dominant edge rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, plus a talented cornerbacking group led by Casey Hayward. A playmaking centerfielder would do wonders for this unit. Last year’s starter, Tre Boston, had his moments, but he’s a free agent—and not the type you break the bank to re-sign.</p><h3>25. GREEN BAY PACKERS (7–9)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 14</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK</strong></p><p>From last year’s roster, only 2017 second-round pick Kevin King is a bona fide starter at corner (and that’s assuming he can build on a stellar rookie season). Davon House’s contract is up, and Damarious Randall, a ’15 first-rounder, has his peaks and valleys. A change at coordinator does little to assuage the need for a reliable cover corner opposite King. Dom Capers valued that role because it left more chess pieces for his pressure packages, and his replacement, Mike Pettine, thinks the same way. Pettine was the Jets’ coordinator in the Darrelle Revis years, when New York played solo coverage outside while ’backers and DBs were used interchangeably on inside pressure concepts.</p><h3>26. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (10–6)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 29</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: TIGHT END</strong></p><p>Regardless OF who’s at QB, this will remain a defensive-minded, run-first team. That approach becomes infinitely stronger with quality every-down tight ends. Really, you need two, which diversifies your formation options and your running game. It also fortifies your aerial attack, especially over the middle in this play-action-intensive scheme. The Jags had a solid-but-unspectacular tight end for 12 years in Marcedes Lewis, but with his $4 million contract now voidable, it’s time to look forward. (A quality pass catcher would be an improvement on backups Ben Koyack and James O’Shaugnessy.) Some of the NFL’s best developmental TEs have been drafted in the middle rounds.</p><h3>27. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (13–3)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 30</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSIVE TACKLE</strong></p><p>Case Keenum is the QB the Vikings should re-sign. Sam Bradford can’t stay healthy, and Teddy Bridgewater has limitations. In the end, only one of those guys will stick, and GM Rick Spielman’s search will shift to the defense. The starting unit is rock-solid, so a luxury draft pick can be afforded if the right player is on the board. To plug future holes, the Vikes might also look to D-tackle, where free-agent rotational guys Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen will most likely earn starter money on the open market. A project DT makes sense in the draft, given how successful Mike Zimmer has been at developing talent off his bench.</p><h3>28. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (13–3)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 32</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE TACKLE</strong></p><p>Jason Peters was playing at a Pro Bowl level before tearing his right ACL and MCL in Week 7. Philly’s left tackle will be coming off the IR at age 36. Peters’s 2017 replacement, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, improved his pass-blocking technique through the back end of the year, but he still might be seen internally as a high-end backup. (He can play on either side.) Cutting Peters would save $5.3 million in cap space, but it would also carry $6.3 million in dead money. Optioning out of that contract a year later would save $8 million and cost nothing. Either way: If Peters departs, All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson can move to the left, but that’d still leave a need on the right. (Vaitai?) With franchise QB Carson Wentz to protect, the Eagles won’t be chintzy in restocking the position.</p><h3>29. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11–5)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 27</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: TIGHT END</strong></p><p>With Sean Payton as the architect, Drew Brees the orchestrator and Alvin Kamara the headliner, the Saints have one of football’s most powerful offenses. A dynamic, versatile tight end—imagine the formations available alongside Kamara!—would make it borderline unstoppable. Saints fans will point out they once had this tight end: Jimmy Graham. And maybe they will again, given that his Seahawks contract is up. Even so, New Orleans—which is at its best when balanced in the run and pass, and which plays a lot more base personnel than people realize—would also need to develop a quality in-line blocker. (Graham is not that.) Incumbents Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui are entering contract years; Coby Fleener, who’s pretty mediocre, can be released for a $3.4 million cap savings.</p><h3>30. ATLANTA FALCONS (10–6)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 26</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: GUARD</strong></p><p>Even with first-and-second-down D-linemen Dontari Poe, Adrian Clayborn, Courtney Upshaw and Ahtyba Rubin hitting free agency, the Falcons’ front is in fine shape. Every position on both sides of the line is set for the near future. Except guard. On the right, Wes Schweitzer, a sixth-round pick in 2016, improved late last year, particularly in pass protection, but he still has athletic limitations. Andy Levitre, 31, was solid on the left but finished the year on IR and now carries an $8.4 million cap number ($7 million of which can be scrapped with his release). Matt Ryan is at his best when climbing the pocket, so Atlanta will invest in that pocket’s cleanliness. Whoever they acquire must be mobile, too, as that’s critical in Atlanta’s outside-zone running scheme.</p><h3>31. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (13–3)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 28</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: INSIDE LINEBACKER</strong></p><p>This defense wasn’t the same after Ryan Shazier went down with a spinal injury. Shazier wasn’t always disciplined, but his speed and athletic, multidirectional burst brought a unique ferocity to the front seven. The Steelers’ No. 2 inside ’backer, Vince Williams, was one of the league’s most improved players (including as a blitzer), but he’s not quite an every-down guy. And much of coordinator Keith Butler’s scheme requires two of those. (At the very least he needs one in order to run his complex dime-package blitzes.) In base and nickel situations, Pittsburgh’s D-linemen often switch gap assignments after the snap. That high-risk, high-reward approach requires stable linebacking behind it.</p><h3>32. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (13–3)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 31</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK</strong></p><p>Last year’s $65 million signing of ex–Bills corner Stephon Gilmore was a tacit declaration that Malcolm Butler wouldn’t return in 2018. Butler, undrafted in ’14, has made $5.4 million as a pro—a fraction of what he’ll be offered in guarantees as this year’s top free-agent corner. He’s one of football’s rarest commodities: a cover artist who travels with smaller, agile receivers like Antonio Brown. He might not always shut them down, but the ability to even match up has lent coach Bill Belichick valuable coverage-design flexibility. The Patriots’ depth at corner is iffy already, and Eric Rowe will be a free agent after next season. With no other roster holes, don’t be shocked if New England, which plays a lot of man coverage, invests in multiple corners.</p>
Ranking the NFL's Neediest Teams

This story appears in the Feb. 12, 2017, issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. To subscribe, click here.

1. NEW YORK JETS (5–11)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 6

PRIMARY NEED: BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE

The Jets wildly surpassed expectations by winning five games... which says everything about this roster. There are enough glaring needs that GM Mike Maccagnan can draft his board’s top player in the first four rounds and trust that each rookie will immediately have a major role. Quarterback is the most significant need. After that: interior O-line, tight end, linebacker, cornerback.... How each spot is filled could influence the others. Coach Todd Bowles is known for blitzing, but he’s disciplined about playing to personnel. A stud corner would allow Bowles to use more pressure packages, but if there’s a pass rusher New York loves, the coach could rework around him.

2. CLEVELAND BROWNS (0–16)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 1, 4 (VIA TEXANS)

PRIMARY NEED: SLOT RECEIVER

The Browns are more talented than their 0–16 record suggests. They could use another playmaker or two on D (what last-place team couldn’t?), but more than anything, they need to redesign their O. Part of DeShone Kizer’s struggles at QB can be attributed to coach Hue Jackson’s asking the rookie to make deep, full-field progression reads out of spread formations. It doesn’t get more challenging than that. Jackson is a shrewd offensive strategist; his unit can be better—especially if he has a true slot receiver around whom he can build shorter route combos, increasing the ways versatile receiving back Duke Johnson and nimble tight end David Njoku are used.

3. BUFFALO BILLS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 21, 22 (VIA CHIEFS)

PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER

The Bills’ biggest need is at QB, but that’s true for just about any team without a franchise guy in that spot. Digging deeper, look to the D-line. Coach Sean McDermott is a creative, effective blitz schemer. But he more often plays traditional zone coverages, which require a potent four-man rush. Buffalo had just 27 sacks last season, tied for third fewest in the NFL, and you can see that reflected on film: Their front four rarely controlled games. This roster’s only viable pass rusher is defensive end Jerry Hughes, who can go quiet for stretches. The Bills need an edge bender opposite him, as well as a penetrator inside, especially if 34-year-old free agent Kyle Williams does not return.

4. CHICAGO BEARS (5–11)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 8

PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER

The offense that new coach Matt Nagy coordinated under Andy Reid in K.C. prospered despite mediocre receivers. But that was a function of Reid’s passing-game creativity with running backs, plus the presence of multi-tooled tight end Travis Kelce. Nagy can employ his backs in the air (especially the electrifying Tarik Cohen), but tight ends Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen are neither dynamic nor flexible. In his second year, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will need more talented receivers. Cameron Meredith, coming off a left-ACL tear, can fill one spot—but that leaves three more. Just about any style of player will work here, as long as he’s a proficient enough route runner to aid the timing and rhythm throws that Trubisky’s success will hinge on.

5. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (4–12)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 3

PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER

Everyone derides the Colts’ offensive line, but third-year center Ryan Kelly and guards Jack Mewhort (entering year five) and Joe Haeg (three) form a solid, improving interior; and Anthony Castonzo is a quality left tackle. The real problem: Injuries have kept these guys from playing together. Chemistry can develop once they stay healthy. Instead of meddling there, expect second-year GM Chris Ballard to use his cap space ($84 million) and early draft picks to restock a defense that ranked 30th last season and needs work at every position except tackle and free safety. The fastest way to improve a defense is to add an edge rusher who can influence an opposing offense’s blocking scheme and make the quarterback play hastily.

6. CINCINNATI BENGALS (7–9)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 12

PRIMARY NEED: QUARTERBACK

This is as much about a franchise philosophy as it is about Andy Dalton in particular. The Bengals’ approach has long been to pay for a middle-tier QB and surround him with talent, investing early picks at receiver, running back, tight end and offensive tackle. With Dalton there have been ups and downs (dictated largely by how well he moves within the pocket), and all but one of his seven campaigns have ended somewhere between 6–10 and 11–5. That’s respectable but ultimately unfulfilling. If owner Mike Brown is unwilling to change leadership at the coaching level, he at least needs to evolve Cincinnati’s on-field identity. This year’s draft offers at least four first-round QBs, and Dalton would count just $2.4 million in dead money against the cap if he was released.

7. TENNESSEE TITANS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 25

PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER

Sure, the Titans drafted Corey Davis with the No. 5 pick last year. But he has yet to show the transitional quickness or top-end speed to stretch the field. Barring a sudden turbo boost (which we might see once he acclimates more to the NFL), Davis will most likely build his career on contested catches and possession targets. In other words: Tennessee doesn’t have anyone who can threaten a defense deep, and that makes every part of the passing game more difficult. (There’s also the matter of Eric Decker’s free agency in 2018, and Rishard Matthews’s in ’19.) Finding a speed receiver with upside to pair with Davis and fellow ’17 rookie Taywan Taylor (a quintessential slot man) would be prudent.

8. ARIZONA CARDINALS (8–8)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 15

PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSE

New coach Steve Wilks inherited the defensive talent to run his blitz-intensive scheme. On the other side of the ball, there’s barely the personnel to run any scheme. There’s no quarterback under contract; starting guards Alex Boone and Earl Watford are both free agents; so is wide receiver Jaron Brown; and Larry Fitzgerald’s return is up in the air. Cardinals general manager Steve Keim, in other words, has plenty of work to do. The silver lining: New offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is an adaptable play-caller with a strong grasp of modern passing concepts. Arizona can mold its system to fit just about any quarterback. If Keim can’t get in on the rookie QB action through this year’s draft, he’ll find a bridge guy and draft men to block and catch for whichever passer comes next year.

9. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (7–9)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 13

PRIMARY NEEDS: WIDE RECEIVER, LINEBACKER

Alex Smith is a downgrade from Kirk Cousins, but he can be serviceable with the right weapons. The Redskins need to find those. Wide receiver is the top priority, especially if free agent Ryan Grant is not retained. If he returns, then linebacker becomes the top need. Speed demon Zach Brown was the only constant in 2017. Fans love him, but his performances are sometimes marred by misreads. It’ll be fascinating to see what kind of money he’s offered in free agency. Washington, a zone-based D, has no long-term depth around Brown, so linebacker will be addressed even if he sticks around.

10. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (5–11)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 7

PRIMARY NEED: PASS RUSHER

It will be tempting to pursue a replacement for disappointing running back Doug Martin, especially considering that Charles Sims is also a free agent. But it’s far more important for the Bucs to get some teeth on a D that had no bite in 2017. This season was essentially lost when second-year end Noah Spence separated his shoulder in Week 3. He was the only edge-rushing threat; without him, Tampa’s pass rush floundered and its zone coverages were exposed. The Bucs need an infusion of pass-rushing talent to ensure a single injury doesn’t scuttle their D again. Currently, Gerald McCoy and—once or twice a game—Robert Ayers are the only forces who flash up front.

11. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (6–10)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 9/10

PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE

For Jimmy Garoppolo to be the QB savior that so many pundits imagine, he needs to be protected. Center Daniel Kilgore and right guard Brandon Fusco are free agents (and probably backups on most teams). At left guard, Laken Tomlinson has size and strength, but maybe not the ideal agility for Kyle Shanahan’s outside-zone running scheme. Something else to consider: Left tackle Joe Staley is 33. He was strong in pass protection last season, but he wasn’t impermeable. Shanahan often asks his tackles to block one-on-one, sending all five eligible receivers out in routes. That helps his QB throw quickly, which Garoppolo thrived doing in 2017. Because of this, the Niners don’t necessarily have to invest hugely in the O-line—but it wouldn’t hurt.

12. DENVER BRONCOS (5–11)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 5

PRIMARY NEED: RIGHT TACKLE

Next year’s QB is anyone’s guess. Paxton Lynch? Kirk Cousins? Some first-round prospect? Whoever lands the job will need better pass protection than the Broncos’ passers got in 2017. Right tackle is the spot of greatest concern: The talented but unrefined Menelik Watson was a turnstile, and long-armed Donald Stephenson (another nice player who has never put it all together) couldn’t stick in the starting lineup. Now: Stephenson’s a free agent and will most likely walk; Watson, who’s due $7.1 million, will probably be cut. Finding a reliable replacement would aid Denver’s undefined passing attack. (And if Watson somehow re-turns too? He could become a utility backup or guard, where he’s better suited.)

13. OAKLAND RAIDERS (6–10)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 9/10

PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER

With his propensity for drops, Michael Crabtree and his $7.7 million cap number are not worth keeping. Two years ago, Crabtree’s fellow starting wideout, Amari Cooper, looked like the Next Big Thing—but injuries and his own slippery hands have been problematic. Also concerning: the way that Cooper, one of the league’s quicker and more nuanced route runners, struggles against press coverage. If his 2018 is like the second half of his ’16 or any of his ’17, his long-term role will be, at best, as a No. 2. The Raiders can make Cooper’s (and QB Derek Carr’s) life easier by finding a topflight bookend. One with size and the fearlessness to go inside would best fit in new coach Jon Gruden’s system.

14. MIAMI DOLPHINS (6–10)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 11

PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK

The Dolphins could fall in love with some quarterback, running back or receiver—but they ought to prioritize corner. Xavien Howard, a polished, agile second-rounder from 2016, is on the cusp of stardom, and across from him, coaches appear comfortable with ’17 third-round pick Cordrea Tankserley. But coach Adam Gase, a trips-formation evangelist, knows better than anyone that today’s NFL demands a solid slot corner too. Bobby McCain is decent, but his contract expires after ’18, and there’s no depth behind him. Miami should find a corner who has the spatial awareness to play zone inside but also the size to move outside as insurance for Tankersley. Someone fitting this description will cost a first-or second-round pick.

15. DETROIT LIONS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 20

PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSIVE END

It’s funny. In 2016, Ziggy Ansah looked so much better on film than his two sacks suggested. In ’17 he had 12 takedowns but looked markedly worse. His playing time diminished and he slid into a pass-rushing-specialist role later in the year. Long and limber, Ansah has the potential to be elite, especially on stunts and D-line slants. And, yes, some of his inconsistencies can be attributed to knee and back injuries. Still, the Lions must think long and hard before applying the $18 million franchise tag to this free agent. If they don’t, another team will almost certainly overpay for him. Even if Ansah stays, a zone-based defense like the Lions’ can never have too many pass rushers. Detroit could definitely use another.

16. CAROLINA PANTHERS (11–5)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 24

PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE

It’s a myster how left guard Andrew Norwell—sturdy but by no means spectacular—earned first-team All-Pro. (No one on this line was All-Pro-worthy; that’s partly why the Panthers’ backs rushed for the second-fewest yards in the NFL.) This perplexing nod might beef up Norwell’s market value, and his franchise-tag number is already inflated by the NFL’s asinine practice of lumping all linemen into the same pricing category. Re-signing him could be tough, and while he’s the only 2018 free agent on this line, right tackle Daryl Williams will be up in ’19, as will center Ryan Kalil. Carolina must replenish its depth up front.

17. NEW YORK GIANTS (3–13)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 2

PRIMARY NEED: RUNNING BACK

If the Giants fall head over heels for one of this draft’s QBs, fine. But Eli Manning has shown little sign of decline. His poor 2017 should be resolved, partly, by a healthy receiving corps and a revamped system under new coach Pat Shurmur. Any scheme is stronger with a dynamic back, which New York hasn’t had since Ahmad Bradshaw in ’12. Last year’s fourth-round pick, Wayne Gallman, is intriguing, but not enough to build around. Orleans Darkwa, a better pure runner, could test free agency. So could Shane Vereen. If he leaves, the Giants will need a three-down weapon. If Vereen returns, they ought to get a first- and second-down bell cow, which shouldn’t be too expensive.

18. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (10–6)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: NONE

PRIMARY NEED: INTERIOR RUN DEFENDER

The Chiefs’ defensive front seven has had some rich individual talent, but collectively that group has finished 25th and 26th against the run the last two years. Part of the problem is coordinator Bob Sutton’s preference for a three-safety, three-corner dime package on second or third down when facing a three-receiver set (which is common in today’s NFL). Here the Chiefs almost always align in a light 4–2, and against agile runners they get gashed. If Sutton keeps this up, he must find an imposing every-down ’backer (Derrick Johnson, 35, is no longer that guy), plus another dynamic D-lineman in the mold of third-year pro Chris Jones.

19. LOS ANGELES RAMS (11–5)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 23

PRIMARY NEED: SECONDARY

The Rams’ best DBs—corner Trumaine Johnson and free safety LaMarcus Joyner—are free agents, but there’s enough cap room to re-sign both. If that doesn’t happen, any vacated position there becomes priority No. 1. Nickell Robey-Coleman is also headed for the open market, and his slot corner position could be hard to fill. If the Rams somehow return all three DBs, they’ll refocus on the edge. Connor Barwin is a free agent. Robert Quinn could be cut next year. (He isn’t as swift as he was in 2013, when he had 19 sacks, and he doesn’t have a refined array of pass-rushing moves.) L.A. needs more juice on the edge.

20. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 18

PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSE

Four end-of-year starters are entering free agency: DT Sheldon Richardson, OLB Michael Wilhoite, SS Bradley McDougald and CB Byron Maxwell. More important, a trove of stars—DE Cliff Avril, SS Kam Chancellor and CB Richard Sherman—each suffered what are most likely career-altering (or -ending) injuries in 2017. Plus, DE Frank Clark, OLB K.J. Wright and FS Earl Thomas all become free agents in ’19. Retaining all three is unlikely; replacing even one will be hard. Coach Pete Carroll’s replacing coordinator Kris Richard with Ken Norton Jr., (who was Seattle’s linebackers coach from ’10 through ’14), suggests that he wants to get back to a Cover 3 foundation. And that suggests speed is the attribute he’ll look hardest for in rebuilding.

21. BALTIMORE RAVENS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 16

PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER

THE INTERIOR O-line was the Ravens’ biggest weakness in 2017, but with Marshal Yanda (ankle) and Alex Lewis (shoulder) returning, guard should be set. Center Ryan Jensen (a free agent) improved greatly and is worth re-signing. Receiver is a position of need, and if Baltimore’s brass feel it’s time to give up on ’15 first-rounder Breshad Perriman, they’ll draft there. (Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin are an average duo.) But don’t be surprised if they focus on bolstering a D that’s already among the NFL’s best. You can never have too many edge rushers—especially if your only consistent one soon turns 36. Hello, Terrell Suggs! If an instant threat isn’t available in the draft, Baltimore needs a developmental replacement who can learn from Suggs.

22. HOUSTON TEXANS (4–12)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: NONE

PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE

THE DESHAUN WATSON hype is justified. He’s a mobile out-of-pocket threat and has the potential to be one of the NFL’s best downfield passers. Those traits elevate his ceiling—but a QB’s floor is set by his capacity to play from the pocket. After Watson became the starter in Week 2, he grew more patient and polished from the pocket, but it’s hard to see that continuing if the Texans don’t shore up the NFL’s least talented line. Foes eagerly attacked with stunts and inside blitzes, and that constant assault can erode a QB’s pocket comfort. Houston must upgrade all five spots.

23. DALLAS COWBOYS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 19

PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER

Dez Bryant started slowing down in 2015. In ’16 top corners often defeated him. In ’17 defenses stopped giving those corners safety help, trusting that the 29-year-old Bryant—whose route tree was already limited to slants, posts and digs—could be handled one-on-one. (He was.) Dak Prescott is a quality QB, but his style and skill set require that he be surrounded by talent, and that starts with a perimeter receiver who can separate and influence coverages. Bryant, who averaged a little more than 50 yards per game since ’15, and whose cap number is $16.5 million, is not that receiver.

24. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 17

PRIMARY NEED: FREE SAFETY

Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s best years as a play-caller came with the Seahawks in 2009–12. There he had the NFL’s rangiest free safety, Earl Thomas, which gives a coach (and 10 other defenders) the confidence to be aggressive. Bradley is mostly running his old Seahawks-style Cover 3 zone and single-high safety man-to-man in L.A. That demands superior personnel, which Bradley has in dominant edge rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, plus a talented cornerbacking group led by Casey Hayward. A playmaking centerfielder would do wonders for this unit. Last year’s starter, Tre Boston, had his moments, but he’s a free agent—and not the type you break the bank to re-sign.

25. GREEN BAY PACKERS (7–9)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 14

PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK

From last year’s roster, only 2017 second-round pick Kevin King is a bona fide starter at corner (and that’s assuming he can build on a stellar rookie season). Davon House’s contract is up, and Damarious Randall, a ’15 first-rounder, has his peaks and valleys. A change at coordinator does little to assuage the need for a reliable cover corner opposite King. Dom Capers valued that role because it left more chess pieces for his pressure packages, and his replacement, Mike Pettine, thinks the same way. Pettine was the Jets’ coordinator in the Darrelle Revis years, when New York played solo coverage outside while ’backers and DBs were used interchangeably on inside pressure concepts.

26. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (10–6)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 29

PRIMARY NEED: TIGHT END

Regardless OF who’s at QB, this will remain a defensive-minded, run-first team. That approach becomes infinitely stronger with quality every-down tight ends. Really, you need two, which diversifies your formation options and your running game. It also fortifies your aerial attack, especially over the middle in this play-action-intensive scheme. The Jags had a solid-but-unspectacular tight end for 12 years in Marcedes Lewis, but with his $4 million contract now voidable, it’s time to look forward. (A quality pass catcher would be an improvement on backups Ben Koyack and James O’Shaugnessy.) Some of the NFL’s best developmental TEs have been drafted in the middle rounds.

27. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (13–3)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 30

PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Case Keenum is the QB the Vikings should re-sign. Sam Bradford can’t stay healthy, and Teddy Bridgewater has limitations. In the end, only one of those guys will stick, and GM Rick Spielman’s search will shift to the defense. The starting unit is rock-solid, so a luxury draft pick can be afforded if the right player is on the board. To plug future holes, the Vikes might also look to D-tackle, where free-agent rotational guys Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen will most likely earn starter money on the open market. A project DT makes sense in the draft, given how successful Mike Zimmer has been at developing talent off his bench.

28. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (13–3)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 32

PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE TACKLE

Jason Peters was playing at a Pro Bowl level before tearing his right ACL and MCL in Week 7. Philly’s left tackle will be coming off the IR at age 36. Peters’s 2017 replacement, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, improved his pass-blocking technique through the back end of the year, but he still might be seen internally as a high-end backup. (He can play on either side.) Cutting Peters would save $5.3 million in cap space, but it would also carry $6.3 million in dead money. Optioning out of that contract a year later would save $8 million and cost nothing. Either way: If Peters departs, All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson can move to the left, but that’d still leave a need on the right. (Vaitai?) With franchise QB Carson Wentz to protect, the Eagles won’t be chintzy in restocking the position.

29. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11–5)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 27

PRIMARY NEED: TIGHT END

With Sean Payton as the architect, Drew Brees the orchestrator and Alvin Kamara the headliner, the Saints have one of football’s most powerful offenses. A dynamic, versatile tight end—imagine the formations available alongside Kamara!—would make it borderline unstoppable. Saints fans will point out they once had this tight end: Jimmy Graham. And maybe they will again, given that his Seahawks contract is up. Even so, New Orleans—which is at its best when balanced in the run and pass, and which plays a lot more base personnel than people realize—would also need to develop a quality in-line blocker. (Graham is not that.) Incumbents Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui are entering contract years; Coby Fleener, who’s pretty mediocre, can be released for a $3.4 million cap savings.

30. ATLANTA FALCONS (10–6)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 26

PRIMARY NEED: GUARD

Even with first-and-second-down D-linemen Dontari Poe, Adrian Clayborn, Courtney Upshaw and Ahtyba Rubin hitting free agency, the Falcons’ front is in fine shape. Every position on both sides of the line is set for the near future. Except guard. On the right, Wes Schweitzer, a sixth-round pick in 2016, improved late last year, particularly in pass protection, but he still has athletic limitations. Andy Levitre, 31, was solid on the left but finished the year on IR and now carries an $8.4 million cap number ($7 million of which can be scrapped with his release). Matt Ryan is at his best when climbing the pocket, so Atlanta will invest in that pocket’s cleanliness. Whoever they acquire must be mobile, too, as that’s critical in Atlanta’s outside-zone running scheme.

31. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (13–3)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 28

PRIMARY NEED: INSIDE LINEBACKER

This defense wasn’t the same after Ryan Shazier went down with a spinal injury. Shazier wasn’t always disciplined, but his speed and athletic, multidirectional burst brought a unique ferocity to the front seven. The Steelers’ No. 2 inside ’backer, Vince Williams, was one of the league’s most improved players (including as a blitzer), but he’s not quite an every-down guy. And much of coordinator Keith Butler’s scheme requires two of those. (At the very least he needs one in order to run his complex dime-package blitzes.) In base and nickel situations, Pittsburgh’s D-linemen often switch gap assignments after the snap. That high-risk, high-reward approach requires stable linebacking behind it.

32. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (13–3)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 31

PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK

Last year’s $65 million signing of ex–Bills corner Stephon Gilmore was a tacit declaration that Malcolm Butler wouldn’t return in 2018. Butler, undrafted in ’14, has made $5.4 million as a pro—a fraction of what he’ll be offered in guarantees as this year’s top free-agent corner. He’s one of football’s rarest commodities: a cover artist who travels with smaller, agile receivers like Antonio Brown. He might not always shut them down, but the ability to even match up has lent coach Bill Belichick valuable coverage-design flexibility. The Patriots’ depth at corner is iffy already, and Eric Rowe will be a free agent after next season. With no other roster holes, don’t be shocked if New England, which plays a lot of man coverage, invests in multiple corners.

<p><em>This story appears in the Feb. 12, 2017, issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. To subscribe, </em><a href="https://subscription.si.com/storefront/subscribe-to-sports-illustrated/site/si-fellswooptest78fr39-tpl.html?tcmid=navagation&#38;link=1042251&#38;fpa_oc=SI+Own.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:click here." class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>click here.</em></a></p><h3>1. NEW YORK JETS (5–11)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 6</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE</strong></p><p>The Jets wildly surpassed expectations by winning five games... which says everything about this roster. There are enough glaring needs that GM Mike Maccagnan can draft his board’s top player in the first four rounds and trust that each rookie will immediately have a major role. Quarterback is the most significant need. After that: interior O-line, tight end, linebacker, cornerback.... How each spot is filled could influence the others. Coach Todd Bowles is known for blitzing, but he’s disciplined about playing to personnel. A stud corner would allow Bowles to use more pressure packages, but if there’s a pass rusher New York loves, the coach could rework around him.</p><h3>2. CLEVELAND BROWNS (0–16)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 1, 4 (VIA TEXANS)</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: SLOT RECEIVER</strong></p><p>The Browns are more talented than their 0–16 record suggests. They could use another playmaker or two on D (what last-place team couldn’t?), but more than anything, they need to redesign their O. Part of DeShone Kizer’s struggles at QB can be attributed to coach Hue Jackson’s asking the rookie to make deep, full-field progression reads out of spread formations. It doesn’t get more challenging than that. Jackson is a shrewd offensive strategist; his unit can be better—especially if he has a true slot receiver around whom he can build shorter route combos, increasing the ways versatile receiving back Duke Johnson and nimble tight end David Njoku are used.</p><h3>3. BUFFALO BILLS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 21, 22 (VIA CHIEFS) </strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER</strong></p><p>The Bills’ biggest need is at QB, but that’s true for just about any team without a franchise guy in that spot. Digging deeper, look to the D-line. Coach Sean McDermott is a creative, effective blitz schemer. But he more often plays traditional zone coverages, which require a potent four-man rush. Buffalo had just 27 sacks last season, tied for third fewest in the NFL, and you can see that reflected on film: Their front four rarely controlled games. This roster’s only viable pass rusher is defensive end Jerry Hughes, who can go quiet for stretches. The Bills need an edge bender opposite him, as well as a penetrator inside, especially if 34-year-old free agent Kyle Williams does not return.</p><h3>4. CHICAGO BEARS (5–11)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 8 </strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER</strong></p><p>The offense that new coach Matt Nagy coordinated under Andy Reid in K.C. prospered despite mediocre receivers. But that was a function of Reid’s passing-game creativity with running backs, plus the presence of multi-tooled tight end Travis Kelce. Nagy can employ his backs in the air (especially the electrifying Tarik Cohen), but tight ends Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen are neither dynamic nor flexible. In his second year, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will need more talented receivers. Cameron Meredith, coming off a left-ACL tear, can fill one spot—but that leaves three more. Just about any style of player will work here, as long as he’s a proficient enough route runner to aid the timing and rhythm throws that Trubisky’s success will hinge on.</p><h3>5. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (4–12)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 3</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER</strong></p><p>Everyone derides the Colts’ offensive line, but third-year center Ryan Kelly and guards Jack Mewhort (entering year five) and Joe Haeg (three) form a solid, improving interior; and Anthony Castonzo is a quality left tackle. The real problem: Injuries have kept these guys from playing together. Chemistry can develop once they stay healthy. Instead of meddling there, expect second-year GM Chris Ballard to use his cap space ($84 million) and early draft picks to restock a defense that ranked 30th last season and needs work at every position except tackle and free safety. The fastest way to improve a defense is to add an edge rusher who can influence an opposing offense’s blocking scheme and make the quarterback play hastily.</p><h3>6. CINCINNATI BENGALS (7–9)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 12</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: QUARTERBACK</strong></p><p>This is as much about a franchise philosophy as it is about Andy Dalton in particular. The Bengals’ approach has long been to pay for a middle-tier QB and surround him with talent, investing early picks at receiver, running back, tight end and offensive tackle. With Dalton there have been ups and downs (dictated largely by how well he moves within the pocket), and all but one of his seven campaigns have ended somewhere between 6–10 and 11–5. That’s respectable but ultimately unfulfilling. If owner Mike Brown is unwilling to change leadership at the coaching level, he at least needs to evolve Cincinnati’s on-field identity. This year’s draft offers at least four first-round QBs, and Dalton would count just $2.4 million in dead money against the cap if he was released.</p><h3>7. TENNESSEE TITANS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 25</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER</strong></p><p>Sure, the Titans drafted Corey Davis with the No. 5 pick last year. But he has yet to show the transitional quickness or top-end speed to stretch the field. Barring a sudden turbo boost (which we might see once he acclimates more to the NFL), Davis will most likely build his career on contested catches and possession targets. In other words: Tennessee doesn’t have anyone who can threaten a defense deep, and that makes every part of the passing game more difficult. (There’s also the matter of Eric Decker’s free agency in 2018, and Rishard Matthews’s in ’19.) Finding a speed receiver with upside to pair with Davis and fellow ’17 rookie Taywan Taylor (a quintessential slot man) would be prudent.</p><h3>8. ARIZONA CARDINALS (8–8)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 15</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSE</strong></p><p>New coach Steve Wilks inherited the defensive talent to run his blitz-intensive scheme. On the other side of the ball, there’s barely the personnel to run any scheme. There’s no quarterback under contract; starting guards Alex Boone and Earl Watford are both free agents; so is wide receiver Jaron Brown; and Larry Fitzgerald’s return is up in the air. Cardinals general manager Steve Keim, in other words, has plenty of work to do. The silver lining: New offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is an adaptable play-caller with a strong grasp of modern passing concepts. Arizona can mold its system to fit just about any quarterback. If Keim can’t get in on the rookie QB action through this year’s draft, he’ll find a bridge guy and draft men to block and catch for whichever passer comes next year.</p><h3>9. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (7–9)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 13</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEEDS: WIDE RECEIVER, LINEBACKER</strong></p><p>Alex Smith is a downgrade from Kirk Cousins, but he can be serviceable with the right weapons. The Redskins need to find those. Wide receiver is the top priority, especially if free agent Ryan Grant is not retained. If he returns, then linebacker becomes the top need. Speed demon Zach Brown was the only constant in 2017. Fans love him, but his performances are sometimes marred by misreads. It’ll be fascinating to see what kind of money he’s offered in free agency. Washington, a zone-based D, has no long-term depth around Brown, so linebacker will be addressed even if he sticks around.</p><h3>10. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (5–11)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 7 </strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: PASS RUSHER</strong></p><p>It will be tempting to pursue a replacement for disappointing running back Doug Martin, especially considering that Charles Sims is also a free agent. But it’s far more important for the Bucs to get some teeth on a D that had no bite in 2017. This season was essentially lost when second-year end Noah Spence separated his shoulder in Week 3. He was the only edge-rushing threat; without him, Tampa’s pass rush floundered and its zone coverages were exposed. The Bucs need an infusion of pass-rushing talent to ensure a single injury doesn’t scuttle their D again. Currently, Gerald McCoy and—once or twice a game—Robert Ayers are the only forces who flash up front.</p><h3>11. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (6–10)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 9/10 </strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE</strong></p><p>For Jimmy Garoppolo to be the QB savior that so many pundits imagine, he needs to be protected. Center Daniel Kilgore and right guard Brandon Fusco are free agents (and probably backups on most teams). At left guard, Laken Tomlinson has size and strength, but maybe not the ideal agility for Kyle Shanahan’s outside-zone running scheme. Something else to consider: Left tackle Joe Staley is 33. He was strong in pass protection last season, but he wasn’t impermeable. Shanahan often asks his tackles to block one-on-one, sending all five eligible receivers out in routes. That helps his QB throw quickly, which Garoppolo thrived doing in 2017. Because of this, the Niners don’t necessarily have to invest hugely in the O-line—but it wouldn’t hurt.</p><h3>12. DENVER BRONCOS (5–11)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 5</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: RIGHT TACKLE</strong></p><p>Next year’s QB is anyone’s guess. Paxton Lynch? Kirk Cousins? Some first-round prospect? Whoever lands the job will need better pass protection than the Broncos’ passers got in 2017. Right tackle is the spot of greatest concern: The talented but unrefined Menelik Watson was a turnstile, and long-armed Donald Stephenson (another nice player who has never put it all together) couldn’t stick in the starting lineup. Now: Stephenson’s a free agent and will most likely walk; Watson, who’s due $7.1 million, will probably be cut. Finding a reliable replacement would aid Denver’s undefined passing attack. (And if Watson somehow re-turns too? He could become a utility backup or guard, where he’s better suited.)</p><h3>13. OAKLAND RAIDERS (6–10)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 9/10 </strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER</strong></p><p>With his propensity for drops, Michael Crabtree and his $7.7 million cap number are not worth keeping. Two years ago, Crabtree’s fellow starting wideout, Amari Cooper, looked like the Next Big Thing—but injuries and his own slippery hands have been problematic. Also concerning: the way that Cooper, one of the league’s quicker and more nuanced route runners, struggles against press coverage. If his 2018 is like the second half of his ’16 or any of his ’17, his long-term role will be, at best, as a No. 2. The Raiders can make Cooper’s (and QB Derek Carr’s) life easier by finding a topflight bookend. One with size and the fearlessness to go inside would best fit in new coach Jon Gruden’s system.</p><h3>14. MIAMI DOLPHINS (6–10)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 11</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK</strong></p><p>The Dolphins could fall in love with some quarterback, running back or receiver—but they ought to prioritize corner. Xavien Howard, a polished, agile second-rounder from 2016, is on the cusp of stardom, and across from him, coaches appear comfortable with ’17 third-round pick Cordrea Tankserley. But coach Adam Gase, a trips-formation evangelist, knows better than anyone that today’s NFL demands a solid slot corner too. Bobby McCain is decent, but his contract expires after ’18, and there’s no depth behind him. Miami should find a corner who has the spatial awareness to play zone inside but also the size to move outside as insurance for Tankersley. Someone fitting this description will cost a first-or second-round pick.</p><h3>15. DETROIT LIONS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 20</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSIVE END</strong></p><p>It’s funny. In 2016, Ziggy Ansah looked so much better on film than his two sacks suggested. In ’17 he had 12 takedowns but looked markedly worse. His playing time diminished and he slid into a pass-rushing-specialist role later in the year. Long and limber, Ansah has the potential to be elite, especially on stunts and D-line slants. And, yes, some of his inconsistencies can be attributed to knee and back injuries. Still, the Lions must think long and hard before applying the $18 million franchise tag to this free agent. If they don’t, another team will almost certainly overpay for him. Even if Ansah stays, a zone-based defense like the Lions’ can never have too many pass rushers. Detroit could definitely use another.</p><h3>16. CAROLINA PANTHERS (11–5)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 24</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE</strong></p><p>It’s a myster how left guard Andrew Norwell—sturdy but by no means spectacular—earned first-team All-Pro. (No one on this line was All-Pro-worthy; that’s partly why the Panthers’ backs rushed for the second-fewest yards in the NFL.) This perplexing nod might beef up Norwell’s market value, and his franchise-tag number is already inflated by the NFL’s asinine practice of lumping all linemen into the same pricing category. Re-signing him could be tough, and while he’s the only 2018 free agent on this line, right tackle Daryl Williams will be up in ’19, as will center Ryan Kalil. Carolina must replenish its depth up front.</p><h3>17. NEW YORK GIANTS (3–13)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 2</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: RUNNING BACK</strong></p><p>If the Giants fall head over heels for one of this draft’s QBs, fine. But Eli Manning has shown little sign of decline. His poor 2017 should be resolved, partly, by a healthy receiving corps and a revamped system under new coach Pat Shurmur. Any scheme is stronger with a dynamic back, which New York hasn’t had since Ahmad Bradshaw in ’12. Last year’s fourth-round pick, Wayne Gallman, is intriguing, but not enough to build around. Orleans Darkwa, a better pure runner, could test free agency. So could Shane Vereen. If he leaves, the Giants will need a three-down weapon. If Vereen returns, they ought to get a first- and second-down bell cow, which shouldn’t be too expensive.</p><h3>18. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (10–6)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: NONE</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: INTERIOR RUN DEFENDER</strong></p><p>The Chiefs’ defensive front seven has had some rich individual talent, but collectively that group has finished 25th and 26th against the run the last two years. Part of the problem is coordinator Bob Sutton’s preference for a three-safety, three-corner dime package on second or third down when facing a three-receiver set (which is common in today’s NFL). Here the Chiefs almost always align in a light 4–2, and against agile runners they get gashed. If Sutton keeps this up, he must find an imposing every-down ’backer (Derrick Johnson, 35, is no longer that guy), plus another dynamic D-lineman in the mold of third-year pro Chris Jones.</p><h3>19. LOS ANGELES RAMS (11–5)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 23</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: SECONDARY</strong></p><p>The Rams’ best DBs—corner Trumaine Johnson and free safety LaMarcus Joyner—are free agents, but there’s enough cap room to re-sign both. If that doesn’t happen, any vacated position there becomes priority No. 1. Nickell Robey-Coleman is also headed for the open market, and his slot corner position could be hard to fill. If the Rams somehow return all three DBs, they’ll refocus on the edge. Connor Barwin is a free agent. Robert Quinn could be cut next year. (He isn’t as swift as he was in 2013, when he had 19 sacks, and he doesn’t have a refined array of pass-rushing moves.) L.A. needs more juice on the edge.</p><h3>20. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 18</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSE</strong></p><p>Four end-of-year starters are entering free agency: DT Sheldon Richardson, OLB Michael Wilhoite, SS Bradley McDougald and CB Byron Maxwell. More important, a trove of stars—DE Cliff Avril, SS Kam Chancellor and CB Richard Sherman—each suffered what are most likely career-altering (or -ending) injuries in 2017. Plus, DE Frank Clark, OLB K.J. Wright and FS Earl Thomas all become free agents in ’19. Retaining all three is unlikely; replacing even one will be hard. Coach Pete Carroll’s replacing coordinator Kris Richard with Ken Norton Jr., (who was Seattle’s linebackers coach from ’10 through ’14), suggests that he wants to get back to a Cover 3 foundation. And that suggests speed is the attribute he’ll look hardest for in rebuilding.</p><h3>21. BALTIMORE RAVENS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 16</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER</strong></p><p>THE INTERIOR O-line was the Ravens’ biggest weakness in 2017, but with Marshal Yanda (ankle) and Alex Lewis (shoulder) returning, guard should be set. Center Ryan Jensen (a free agent) improved greatly and is worth re-signing. Receiver is a position of need, and if Baltimore’s brass feel it’s time to give up on ’15 first-rounder Breshad Perriman, they’ll draft there. (Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin are an average duo.) But don’t be surprised if they focus on bolstering a D that’s already among the NFL’s best. You can never have too many edge rushers—especially if your only consistent one soon turns 36. Hello, Terrell Suggs! If an instant threat isn’t available in the draft, Baltimore needs a developmental replacement who can learn from Suggs.</p><h3>22. HOUSTON TEXANS (4–12)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: NONE</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE</strong></p><p>THE DESHAUN WATSON hype is justified. He’s a mobile out-of-pocket threat and has the potential to be one of the NFL’s best downfield passers. Those traits elevate his ceiling—but a QB’s floor is set by his capacity to play from the pocket. After Watson became the starter in Week 2, he grew more patient and polished from the pocket, but it’s hard to see that continuing if the Texans don’t shore up the NFL’s least talented line. Foes eagerly attacked with stunts and inside blitzes, and that constant assault can erode a QB’s pocket comfort. Houston must upgrade all five spots.</p><h3>23. DALLAS COWBOYS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 19</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER</strong></p><p>Dez Bryant started slowing down in 2015. In ’16 top corners often defeated him. In ’17 defenses stopped giving those corners safety help, trusting that the 29-year-old Bryant—whose route tree was already limited to slants, posts and digs—could be handled one-on-one. (He was.) Dak Prescott is a quality QB, but his style and skill set require that he be surrounded by talent, and that starts with a perimeter receiver who can separate and influence coverages. Bryant, who averaged a little more than 50 yards per game since ’15, and whose cap number is $16.5 million, is not that receiver.</p><h3>24. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (9–7)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 17</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: FREE SAFETY</strong></p><p>Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s best years as a play-caller came with the Seahawks in 2009–12. There he had the NFL’s rangiest free safety, Earl Thomas, which gives a coach (and 10 other defenders) the confidence to be aggressive. Bradley is mostly running his old Seahawks-style Cover 3 zone and single-high safety man-to-man in L.A. That demands superior personnel, which Bradley has in dominant edge rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, plus a talented cornerbacking group led by Casey Hayward. A playmaking centerfielder would do wonders for this unit. Last year’s starter, Tre Boston, had his moments, but he’s a free agent—and not the type you break the bank to re-sign.</p><h3>25. GREEN BAY PACKERS (7–9)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 14</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK</strong></p><p>From last year’s roster, only 2017 second-round pick Kevin King is a bona fide starter at corner (and that’s assuming he can build on a stellar rookie season). Davon House’s contract is up, and Damarious Randall, a ’15 first-rounder, has his peaks and valleys. A change at coordinator does little to assuage the need for a reliable cover corner opposite King. Dom Capers valued that role because it left more chess pieces for his pressure packages, and his replacement, Mike Pettine, thinks the same way. Pettine was the Jets’ coordinator in the Darrelle Revis years, when New York played solo coverage outside while ’backers and DBs were used interchangeably on inside pressure concepts.</p><h3>26. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (10–6)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 29</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: TIGHT END</strong></p><p>Regardless OF who’s at QB, this will remain a defensive-minded, run-first team. That approach becomes infinitely stronger with quality every-down tight ends. Really, you need two, which diversifies your formation options and your running game. It also fortifies your aerial attack, especially over the middle in this play-action-intensive scheme. The Jags had a solid-but-unspectacular tight end for 12 years in Marcedes Lewis, but with his $4 million contract now voidable, it’s time to look forward. (A quality pass catcher would be an improvement on backups Ben Koyack and James O’Shaugnessy.) Some of the NFL’s best developmental TEs have been drafted in the middle rounds.</p><h3>27. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (13–3)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 30</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSIVE TACKLE</strong></p><p>Case Keenum is the QB the Vikings should re-sign. Sam Bradford can’t stay healthy, and Teddy Bridgewater has limitations. In the end, only one of those guys will stick, and GM Rick Spielman’s search will shift to the defense. The starting unit is rock-solid, so a luxury draft pick can be afforded if the right player is on the board. To plug future holes, the Vikes might also look to D-tackle, where free-agent rotational guys Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen will most likely earn starter money on the open market. A project DT makes sense in the draft, given how successful Mike Zimmer has been at developing talent off his bench.</p><h3>28. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (13–3)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 32</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE TACKLE</strong></p><p>Jason Peters was playing at a Pro Bowl level before tearing his right ACL and MCL in Week 7. Philly’s left tackle will be coming off the IR at age 36. Peters’s 2017 replacement, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, improved his pass-blocking technique through the back end of the year, but he still might be seen internally as a high-end backup. (He can play on either side.) Cutting Peters would save $5.3 million in cap space, but it would also carry $6.3 million in dead money. Optioning out of that contract a year later would save $8 million and cost nothing. Either way: If Peters departs, All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson can move to the left, but that’d still leave a need on the right. (Vaitai?) With franchise QB Carson Wentz to protect, the Eagles won’t be chintzy in restocking the position.</p><h3>29. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11–5)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 27</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: TIGHT END</strong></p><p>With Sean Payton as the architect, Drew Brees the orchestrator and Alvin Kamara the headliner, the Saints have one of football’s most powerful offenses. A dynamic, versatile tight end—imagine the formations available alongside Kamara!—would make it borderline unstoppable. Saints fans will point out they once had this tight end: Jimmy Graham. And maybe they will again, given that his Seahawks contract is up. Even so, New Orleans—which is at its best when balanced in the run and pass, and which plays a lot more base personnel than people realize—would also need to develop a quality in-line blocker. (Graham is not that.) Incumbents Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui are entering contract years; Coby Fleener, who’s pretty mediocre, can be released for a $3.4 million cap savings.</p><h3>30. ATLANTA FALCONS (10–6)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 26</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: GUARD</strong></p><p>Even with first-and-second-down D-linemen Dontari Poe, Adrian Clayborn, Courtney Upshaw and Ahtyba Rubin hitting free agency, the Falcons’ front is in fine shape. Every position on both sides of the line is set for the near future. Except guard. On the right, Wes Schweitzer, a sixth-round pick in 2016, improved late last year, particularly in pass protection, but he still has athletic limitations. Andy Levitre, 31, was solid on the left but finished the year on IR and now carries an $8.4 million cap number ($7 million of which can be scrapped with his release). Matt Ryan is at his best when climbing the pocket, so Atlanta will invest in that pocket’s cleanliness. Whoever they acquire must be mobile, too, as that’s critical in Atlanta’s outside-zone running scheme.</p><h3>31. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (13–3)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 28</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: INSIDE LINEBACKER</strong></p><p>This defense wasn’t the same after Ryan Shazier went down with a spinal injury. Shazier wasn’t always disciplined, but his speed and athletic, multidirectional burst brought a unique ferocity to the front seven. The Steelers’ No. 2 inside ’backer, Vince Williams, was one of the league’s most improved players (including as a blitzer), but he’s not quite an every-down guy. And much of coordinator Keith Butler’s scheme requires two of those. (At the very least he needs one in order to run his complex dime-package blitzes.) In base and nickel situations, Pittsburgh’s D-linemen often switch gap assignments after the snap. That high-risk, high-reward approach requires stable linebacking behind it.</p><h3>32. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (13–3)</h3><p><strong>FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 31</strong></p><p><strong>PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK</strong></p><p>Last year’s $65 million signing of ex–Bills corner Stephon Gilmore was a tacit declaration that Malcolm Butler wouldn’t return in 2018. Butler, undrafted in ’14, has made $5.4 million as a pro—a fraction of what he’ll be offered in guarantees as this year’s top free-agent corner. He’s one of football’s rarest commodities: a cover artist who travels with smaller, agile receivers like Antonio Brown. He might not always shut them down, but the ability to even match up has lent coach Bill Belichick valuable coverage-design flexibility. The Patriots’ depth at corner is iffy already, and Eric Rowe will be a free agent after next season. With no other roster holes, don’t be shocked if New England, which plays a lot of man coverage, invests in multiple corners.</p>
Ranking the NFL's Neediest Teams

This story appears in the Feb. 12, 2017, issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. To subscribe, click here.

1. NEW YORK JETS (5–11)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 6

PRIMARY NEED: BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE

The Jets wildly surpassed expectations by winning five games... which says everything about this roster. There are enough glaring needs that GM Mike Maccagnan can draft his board’s top player in the first four rounds and trust that each rookie will immediately have a major role. Quarterback is the most significant need. After that: interior O-line, tight end, linebacker, cornerback.... How each spot is filled could influence the others. Coach Todd Bowles is known for blitzing, but he’s disciplined about playing to personnel. A stud corner would allow Bowles to use more pressure packages, but if there’s a pass rusher New York loves, the coach could rework around him.

2. CLEVELAND BROWNS (0–16)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 1, 4 (VIA TEXANS)

PRIMARY NEED: SLOT RECEIVER

The Browns are more talented than their 0–16 record suggests. They could use another playmaker or two on D (what last-place team couldn’t?), but more than anything, they need to redesign their O. Part of DeShone Kizer’s struggles at QB can be attributed to coach Hue Jackson’s asking the rookie to make deep, full-field progression reads out of spread formations. It doesn’t get more challenging than that. Jackson is a shrewd offensive strategist; his unit can be better—especially if he has a true slot receiver around whom he can build shorter route combos, increasing the ways versatile receiving back Duke Johnson and nimble tight end David Njoku are used.

3. BUFFALO BILLS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 21, 22 (VIA CHIEFS)

PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER

The Bills’ biggest need is at QB, but that’s true for just about any team without a franchise guy in that spot. Digging deeper, look to the D-line. Coach Sean McDermott is a creative, effective blitz schemer. But he more often plays traditional zone coverages, which require a potent four-man rush. Buffalo had just 27 sacks last season, tied for third fewest in the NFL, and you can see that reflected on film: Their front four rarely controlled games. This roster’s only viable pass rusher is defensive end Jerry Hughes, who can go quiet for stretches. The Bills need an edge bender opposite him, as well as a penetrator inside, especially if 34-year-old free agent Kyle Williams does not return.

4. CHICAGO BEARS (5–11)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 8

PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER

The offense that new coach Matt Nagy coordinated under Andy Reid in K.C. prospered despite mediocre receivers. But that was a function of Reid’s passing-game creativity with running backs, plus the presence of multi-tooled tight end Travis Kelce. Nagy can employ his backs in the air (especially the electrifying Tarik Cohen), but tight ends Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen are neither dynamic nor flexible. In his second year, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will need more talented receivers. Cameron Meredith, coming off a left-ACL tear, can fill one spot—but that leaves three more. Just about any style of player will work here, as long as he’s a proficient enough route runner to aid the timing and rhythm throws that Trubisky’s success will hinge on.

5. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (4–12)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 3

PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER

Everyone derides the Colts’ offensive line, but third-year center Ryan Kelly and guards Jack Mewhort (entering year five) and Joe Haeg (three) form a solid, improving interior; and Anthony Castonzo is a quality left tackle. The real problem: Injuries have kept these guys from playing together. Chemistry can develop once they stay healthy. Instead of meddling there, expect second-year GM Chris Ballard to use his cap space ($84 million) and early draft picks to restock a defense that ranked 30th last season and needs work at every position except tackle and free safety. The fastest way to improve a defense is to add an edge rusher who can influence an opposing offense’s blocking scheme and make the quarterback play hastily.

6. CINCINNATI BENGALS (7–9)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 12

PRIMARY NEED: QUARTERBACK

This is as much about a franchise philosophy as it is about Andy Dalton in particular. The Bengals’ approach has long been to pay for a middle-tier QB and surround him with talent, investing early picks at receiver, running back, tight end and offensive tackle. With Dalton there have been ups and downs (dictated largely by how well he moves within the pocket), and all but one of his seven campaigns have ended somewhere between 6–10 and 11–5. That’s respectable but ultimately unfulfilling. If owner Mike Brown is unwilling to change leadership at the coaching level, he at least needs to evolve Cincinnati’s on-field identity. This year’s draft offers at least four first-round QBs, and Dalton would count just $2.4 million in dead money against the cap if he was released.

7. TENNESSEE TITANS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 25

PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER

Sure, the Titans drafted Corey Davis with the No. 5 pick last year. But he has yet to show the transitional quickness or top-end speed to stretch the field. Barring a sudden turbo boost (which we might see once he acclimates more to the NFL), Davis will most likely build his career on contested catches and possession targets. In other words: Tennessee doesn’t have anyone who can threaten a defense deep, and that makes every part of the passing game more difficult. (There’s also the matter of Eric Decker’s free agency in 2018, and Rishard Matthews’s in ’19.) Finding a speed receiver with upside to pair with Davis and fellow ’17 rookie Taywan Taylor (a quintessential slot man) would be prudent.

8. ARIZONA CARDINALS (8–8)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 15

PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSE

New coach Steve Wilks inherited the defensive talent to run his blitz-intensive scheme. On the other side of the ball, there’s barely the personnel to run any scheme. There’s no quarterback under contract; starting guards Alex Boone and Earl Watford are both free agents; so is wide receiver Jaron Brown; and Larry Fitzgerald’s return is up in the air. Cardinals general manager Steve Keim, in other words, has plenty of work to do. The silver lining: New offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is an adaptable play-caller with a strong grasp of modern passing concepts. Arizona can mold its system to fit just about any quarterback. If Keim can’t get in on the rookie QB action through this year’s draft, he’ll find a bridge guy and draft men to block and catch for whichever passer comes next year.

9. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (7–9)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 13

PRIMARY NEEDS: WIDE RECEIVER, LINEBACKER

Alex Smith is a downgrade from Kirk Cousins, but he can be serviceable with the right weapons. The Redskins need to find those. Wide receiver is the top priority, especially if free agent Ryan Grant is not retained. If he returns, then linebacker becomes the top need. Speed demon Zach Brown was the only constant in 2017. Fans love him, but his performances are sometimes marred by misreads. It’ll be fascinating to see what kind of money he’s offered in free agency. Washington, a zone-based D, has no long-term depth around Brown, so linebacker will be addressed even if he sticks around.

10. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (5–11)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 7

PRIMARY NEED: PASS RUSHER

It will be tempting to pursue a replacement for disappointing running back Doug Martin, especially considering that Charles Sims is also a free agent. But it’s far more important for the Bucs to get some teeth on a D that had no bite in 2017. This season was essentially lost when second-year end Noah Spence separated his shoulder in Week 3. He was the only edge-rushing threat; without him, Tampa’s pass rush floundered and its zone coverages were exposed. The Bucs need an infusion of pass-rushing talent to ensure a single injury doesn’t scuttle their D again. Currently, Gerald McCoy and—once or twice a game—Robert Ayers are the only forces who flash up front.

11. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (6–10)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 9/10

PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE

For Jimmy Garoppolo to be the QB savior that so many pundits imagine, he needs to be protected. Center Daniel Kilgore and right guard Brandon Fusco are free agents (and probably backups on most teams). At left guard, Laken Tomlinson has size and strength, but maybe not the ideal agility for Kyle Shanahan’s outside-zone running scheme. Something else to consider: Left tackle Joe Staley is 33. He was strong in pass protection last season, but he wasn’t impermeable. Shanahan often asks his tackles to block one-on-one, sending all five eligible receivers out in routes. That helps his QB throw quickly, which Garoppolo thrived doing in 2017. Because of this, the Niners don’t necessarily have to invest hugely in the O-line—but it wouldn’t hurt.

12. DENVER BRONCOS (5–11)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 5

PRIMARY NEED: RIGHT TACKLE

Next year’s QB is anyone’s guess. Paxton Lynch? Kirk Cousins? Some first-round prospect? Whoever lands the job will need better pass protection than the Broncos’ passers got in 2017. Right tackle is the spot of greatest concern: The talented but unrefined Menelik Watson was a turnstile, and long-armed Donald Stephenson (another nice player who has never put it all together) couldn’t stick in the starting lineup. Now: Stephenson’s a free agent and will most likely walk; Watson, who’s due $7.1 million, will probably be cut. Finding a reliable replacement would aid Denver’s undefined passing attack. (And if Watson somehow re-turns too? He could become a utility backup or guard, where he’s better suited.)

13. OAKLAND RAIDERS (6–10)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 9/10

PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER

With his propensity for drops, Michael Crabtree and his $7.7 million cap number are not worth keeping. Two years ago, Crabtree’s fellow starting wideout, Amari Cooper, looked like the Next Big Thing—but injuries and his own slippery hands have been problematic. Also concerning: the way that Cooper, one of the league’s quicker and more nuanced route runners, struggles against press coverage. If his 2018 is like the second half of his ’16 or any of his ’17, his long-term role will be, at best, as a No. 2. The Raiders can make Cooper’s (and QB Derek Carr’s) life easier by finding a topflight bookend. One with size and the fearlessness to go inside would best fit in new coach Jon Gruden’s system.

14. MIAMI DOLPHINS (6–10)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 11

PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK

The Dolphins could fall in love with some quarterback, running back or receiver—but they ought to prioritize corner. Xavien Howard, a polished, agile second-rounder from 2016, is on the cusp of stardom, and across from him, coaches appear comfortable with ’17 third-round pick Cordrea Tankserley. But coach Adam Gase, a trips-formation evangelist, knows better than anyone that today’s NFL demands a solid slot corner too. Bobby McCain is decent, but his contract expires after ’18, and there’s no depth behind him. Miami should find a corner who has the spatial awareness to play zone inside but also the size to move outside as insurance for Tankersley. Someone fitting this description will cost a first-or second-round pick.

15. DETROIT LIONS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 20

PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSIVE END

It’s funny. In 2016, Ziggy Ansah looked so much better on film than his two sacks suggested. In ’17 he had 12 takedowns but looked markedly worse. His playing time diminished and he slid into a pass-rushing-specialist role later in the year. Long and limber, Ansah has the potential to be elite, especially on stunts and D-line slants. And, yes, some of his inconsistencies can be attributed to knee and back injuries. Still, the Lions must think long and hard before applying the $18 million franchise tag to this free agent. If they don’t, another team will almost certainly overpay for him. Even if Ansah stays, a zone-based defense like the Lions’ can never have too many pass rushers. Detroit could definitely use another.

16. CAROLINA PANTHERS (11–5)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 24

PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE

It’s a myster how left guard Andrew Norwell—sturdy but by no means spectacular—earned first-team All-Pro. (No one on this line was All-Pro-worthy; that’s partly why the Panthers’ backs rushed for the second-fewest yards in the NFL.) This perplexing nod might beef up Norwell’s market value, and his franchise-tag number is already inflated by the NFL’s asinine practice of lumping all linemen into the same pricing category. Re-signing him could be tough, and while he’s the only 2018 free agent on this line, right tackle Daryl Williams will be up in ’19, as will center Ryan Kalil. Carolina must replenish its depth up front.

17. NEW YORK GIANTS (3–13)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 2

PRIMARY NEED: RUNNING BACK

If the Giants fall head over heels for one of this draft’s QBs, fine. But Eli Manning has shown little sign of decline. His poor 2017 should be resolved, partly, by a healthy receiving corps and a revamped system under new coach Pat Shurmur. Any scheme is stronger with a dynamic back, which New York hasn’t had since Ahmad Bradshaw in ’12. Last year’s fourth-round pick, Wayne Gallman, is intriguing, but not enough to build around. Orleans Darkwa, a better pure runner, could test free agency. So could Shane Vereen. If he leaves, the Giants will need a three-down weapon. If Vereen returns, they ought to get a first- and second-down bell cow, which shouldn’t be too expensive.

18. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (10–6)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: NONE

PRIMARY NEED: INTERIOR RUN DEFENDER

The Chiefs’ defensive front seven has had some rich individual talent, but collectively that group has finished 25th and 26th against the run the last two years. Part of the problem is coordinator Bob Sutton’s preference for a three-safety, three-corner dime package on second or third down when facing a three-receiver set (which is common in today’s NFL). Here the Chiefs almost always align in a light 4–2, and against agile runners they get gashed. If Sutton keeps this up, he must find an imposing every-down ’backer (Derrick Johnson, 35, is no longer that guy), plus another dynamic D-lineman in the mold of third-year pro Chris Jones.

19. LOS ANGELES RAMS (11–5)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 23

PRIMARY NEED: SECONDARY

The Rams’ best DBs—corner Trumaine Johnson and free safety LaMarcus Joyner—are free agents, but there’s enough cap room to re-sign both. If that doesn’t happen, any vacated position there becomes priority No. 1. Nickell Robey-Coleman is also headed for the open market, and his slot corner position could be hard to fill. If the Rams somehow return all three DBs, they’ll refocus on the edge. Connor Barwin is a free agent. Robert Quinn could be cut next year. (He isn’t as swift as he was in 2013, when he had 19 sacks, and he doesn’t have a refined array of pass-rushing moves.) L.A. needs more juice on the edge.

20. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 18

PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSE

Four end-of-year starters are entering free agency: DT Sheldon Richardson, OLB Michael Wilhoite, SS Bradley McDougald and CB Byron Maxwell. More important, a trove of stars—DE Cliff Avril, SS Kam Chancellor and CB Richard Sherman—each suffered what are most likely career-altering (or -ending) injuries in 2017. Plus, DE Frank Clark, OLB K.J. Wright and FS Earl Thomas all become free agents in ’19. Retaining all three is unlikely; replacing even one will be hard. Coach Pete Carroll’s replacing coordinator Kris Richard with Ken Norton Jr., (who was Seattle’s linebackers coach from ’10 through ’14), suggests that he wants to get back to a Cover 3 foundation. And that suggests speed is the attribute he’ll look hardest for in rebuilding.

21. BALTIMORE RAVENS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 16

PRIMARY NEED: EDGE RUSHER

THE INTERIOR O-line was the Ravens’ biggest weakness in 2017, but with Marshal Yanda (ankle) and Alex Lewis (shoulder) returning, guard should be set. Center Ryan Jensen (a free agent) improved greatly and is worth re-signing. Receiver is a position of need, and if Baltimore’s brass feel it’s time to give up on ’15 first-rounder Breshad Perriman, they’ll draft there. (Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin are an average duo.) But don’t be surprised if they focus on bolstering a D that’s already among the NFL’s best. You can never have too many edge rushers—especially if your only consistent one soon turns 36. Hello, Terrell Suggs! If an instant threat isn’t available in the draft, Baltimore needs a developmental replacement who can learn from Suggs.

22. HOUSTON TEXANS (4–12)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: NONE

PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE

THE DESHAUN WATSON hype is justified. He’s a mobile out-of-pocket threat and has the potential to be one of the NFL’s best downfield passers. Those traits elevate his ceiling—but a QB’s floor is set by his capacity to play from the pocket. After Watson became the starter in Week 2, he grew more patient and polished from the pocket, but it’s hard to see that continuing if the Texans don’t shore up the NFL’s least talented line. Foes eagerly attacked with stunts and inside blitzes, and that constant assault can erode a QB’s pocket comfort. Houston must upgrade all five spots.

23. DALLAS COWBOYS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 19

PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER

Dez Bryant started slowing down in 2015. In ’16 top corners often defeated him. In ’17 defenses stopped giving those corners safety help, trusting that the 29-year-old Bryant—whose route tree was already limited to slants, posts and digs—could be handled one-on-one. (He was.) Dak Prescott is a quality QB, but his style and skill set require that he be surrounded by talent, and that starts with a perimeter receiver who can separate and influence coverages. Bryant, who averaged a little more than 50 yards per game since ’15, and whose cap number is $16.5 million, is not that receiver.

24. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (9–7)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 17

PRIMARY NEED: FREE SAFETY

Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s best years as a play-caller came with the Seahawks in 2009–12. There he had the NFL’s rangiest free safety, Earl Thomas, which gives a coach (and 10 other defenders) the confidence to be aggressive. Bradley is mostly running his old Seahawks-style Cover 3 zone and single-high safety man-to-man in L.A. That demands superior personnel, which Bradley has in dominant edge rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, plus a talented cornerbacking group led by Casey Hayward. A playmaking centerfielder would do wonders for this unit. Last year’s starter, Tre Boston, had his moments, but he’s a free agent—and not the type you break the bank to re-sign.

25. GREEN BAY PACKERS (7–9)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 14

PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK

From last year’s roster, only 2017 second-round pick Kevin King is a bona fide starter at corner (and that’s assuming he can build on a stellar rookie season). Davon House’s contract is up, and Damarious Randall, a ’15 first-rounder, has his peaks and valleys. A change at coordinator does little to assuage the need for a reliable cover corner opposite King. Dom Capers valued that role because it left more chess pieces for his pressure packages, and his replacement, Mike Pettine, thinks the same way. Pettine was the Jets’ coordinator in the Darrelle Revis years, when New York played solo coverage outside while ’backers and DBs were used interchangeably on inside pressure concepts.

26. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (10–6)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 29

PRIMARY NEED: TIGHT END

Regardless OF who’s at QB, this will remain a defensive-minded, run-first team. That approach becomes infinitely stronger with quality every-down tight ends. Really, you need two, which diversifies your formation options and your running game. It also fortifies your aerial attack, especially over the middle in this play-action-intensive scheme. The Jags had a solid-but-unspectacular tight end for 12 years in Marcedes Lewis, but with his $4 million contract now voidable, it’s time to look forward. (A quality pass catcher would be an improvement on backups Ben Koyack and James O’Shaugnessy.) Some of the NFL’s best developmental TEs have been drafted in the middle rounds.

27. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (13–3)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 30

PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Case Keenum is the QB the Vikings should re-sign. Sam Bradford can’t stay healthy, and Teddy Bridgewater has limitations. In the end, only one of those guys will stick, and GM Rick Spielman’s search will shift to the defense. The starting unit is rock-solid, so a luxury draft pick can be afforded if the right player is on the board. To plug future holes, the Vikes might also look to D-tackle, where free-agent rotational guys Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen will most likely earn starter money on the open market. A project DT makes sense in the draft, given how successful Mike Zimmer has been at developing talent off his bench.

28. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (13–3)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 32

PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE TACKLE

Jason Peters was playing at a Pro Bowl level before tearing his right ACL and MCL in Week 7. Philly’s left tackle will be coming off the IR at age 36. Peters’s 2017 replacement, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, improved his pass-blocking technique through the back end of the year, but he still might be seen internally as a high-end backup. (He can play on either side.) Cutting Peters would save $5.3 million in cap space, but it would also carry $6.3 million in dead money. Optioning out of that contract a year later would save $8 million and cost nothing. Either way: If Peters departs, All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson can move to the left, but that’d still leave a need on the right. (Vaitai?) With franchise QB Carson Wentz to protect, the Eagles won’t be chintzy in restocking the position.

29. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11–5)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 27

PRIMARY NEED: TIGHT END

With Sean Payton as the architect, Drew Brees the orchestrator and Alvin Kamara the headliner, the Saints have one of football’s most powerful offenses. A dynamic, versatile tight end—imagine the formations available alongside Kamara!—would make it borderline unstoppable. Saints fans will point out they once had this tight end: Jimmy Graham. And maybe they will again, given that his Seahawks contract is up. Even so, New Orleans—which is at its best when balanced in the run and pass, and which plays a lot more base personnel than people realize—would also need to develop a quality in-line blocker. (Graham is not that.) Incumbents Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui are entering contract years; Coby Fleener, who’s pretty mediocre, can be released for a $3.4 million cap savings.

30. ATLANTA FALCONS (10–6)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 26

PRIMARY NEED: GUARD

Even with first-and-second-down D-linemen Dontari Poe, Adrian Clayborn, Courtney Upshaw and Ahtyba Rubin hitting free agency, the Falcons’ front is in fine shape. Every position on both sides of the line is set for the near future. Except guard. On the right, Wes Schweitzer, a sixth-round pick in 2016, improved late last year, particularly in pass protection, but he still has athletic limitations. Andy Levitre, 31, was solid on the left but finished the year on IR and now carries an $8.4 million cap number ($7 million of which can be scrapped with his release). Matt Ryan is at his best when climbing the pocket, so Atlanta will invest in that pocket’s cleanliness. Whoever they acquire must be mobile, too, as that’s critical in Atlanta’s outside-zone running scheme.

31. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (13–3)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 28

PRIMARY NEED: INSIDE LINEBACKER

This defense wasn’t the same after Ryan Shazier went down with a spinal injury. Shazier wasn’t always disciplined, but his speed and athletic, multidirectional burst brought a unique ferocity to the front seven. The Steelers’ No. 2 inside ’backer, Vince Williams, was one of the league’s most improved players (including as a blitzer), but he’s not quite an every-down guy. And much of coordinator Keith Butler’s scheme requires two of those. (At the very least he needs one in order to run his complex dime-package blitzes.) In base and nickel situations, Pittsburgh’s D-linemen often switch gap assignments after the snap. That high-risk, high-reward approach requires stable linebacking behind it.

32. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (13–3)

FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: 31

PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK

Last year’s $65 million signing of ex–Bills corner Stephon Gilmore was a tacit declaration that Malcolm Butler wouldn’t return in 2018. Butler, undrafted in ’14, has made $5.4 million as a pro—a fraction of what he’ll be offered in guarantees as this year’s top free-agent corner. He’s one of football’s rarest commodities: a cover artist who travels with smaller, agile receivers like Antonio Brown. He might not always shut them down, but the ability to even match up has lent coach Bill Belichick valuable coverage-design flexibility. The Patriots’ depth at corner is iffy already, and Eric Rowe will be a free agent after next season. With no other roster holes, don’t be shocked if New England, which plays a lot of man coverage, invests in multiple corners.

Dean Pees announced his retirement from coaching early in January after eight seasons with the Baltimore Ravens and 39 years coaching overall. So, yes, it came as a surprise to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti when Pees elected to take a job as defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans less than a month later. &#8220;I’m a [<a href="https://ec.yimg.com/ec?url=http%3a%2f%2fprofootballtalk.nbcsports.com%2f2018%2f02%2f08%2fsteve-bisciotti-a-little-shocked-by-dean-pees-coming-out-of-retirement-for-titans-job%2f%26quot%3b&t=1519043917&sig=lyaMHMev49XRvJsixD6Fjg--~D rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:more" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">more</a>]
Steve Bisciotti “a little shocked” by Dean Pees coming out of retirement for Titans job
Dean Pees announced his retirement from coaching early in January after eight seasons with the Baltimore Ravens and 39 years coaching overall. So, yes, it came as a surprise to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti when Pees elected to take a job as defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans less than a month later. “I’m a [more]

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