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The major waves of free agency have come and gone. The NFL transaction wire is suddenly a ghost town and all too quiet.
That doesn’t mean more work isn’t needed. Just about every team has at least one major weakness they can’t feel comfortable with heading into 2019.
With the help of our friends at Rotoworld and their up-to-date depth charts, we will look to identify one major weakness on each AFC team’s depth chart heading into the draft. We will also look at a possible solution for addressing it in the selection process a few weeks from now.
WR1: Quincy Adeboyejo, Chris Moore
WR2: Willie Snead, Jordan Lasley, Jaleel Scott
WR3: Chris Moore
A resounding “Who?” was issued from the crowd. The Ravens released Michael Crabtree and allowed John Brown to walk north to Buffalo in free agency, leaving only one out of the trio they added last offseason. Willie Snead is the only receiver on the roster who has an established resume. As a member of the New Orleans Saints, Snead turned in consecutive 100-plus target seasons in 2015 and 2016. He has a shot to reach that once again in Baltimore this year.
Even as a high-volume slot receiver Snead will not be close to enough to carry this passing game on his own. The Ravens need to explore adding at least one outside wide receiver in the NFL Draft, even if their offense plans to be run-heavy and based on-an-inside the numbers passing game.
The Ravens could easily double-dip at wide receiver for the second-straight NFL Draft. Last year’s crop netted them Jordan Lasley and Jaleel Scott. Neither caught a single pass as rookies.
LG: Jon Feliciano, Wyatt Teller, Vlad Ducasse
RG: Spencer Long, Ike Boettger
Give the Bills credit for identifying the litany of weak spots that existed on their offensive roster. The pass-catching crop received a facelift but they made even more headway on their offensive line by flushing the unit with a bevy of options for 2019. Buffalo already had a solid young left tackle in place with Dion Dawkins and netted the prize of their free agency crop with one of the better centers on the market. They’ll enter the draft feeling good about those two positions.
The Bills also added Jon Feliciano and Spencer Long to their revamped front-five this offseason but neither should be locked into a Week 1 starting job. Long’s 2018 with the Jets was a nightmare but provided Washington a solid interior line presence in the years prior. After ranking 30th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards metric, more reinforcements can only help the odds that Buffalo improves as a run-blocking unit.
The Bills have a top-10 pick this year and with a strong offensive tackle class, they could look to add more competition to their front in Round 1. Ty Nsekhe was added in free agency as a likely 2019 right tackle starter on a $7.7 million guaranteed deal. However, Buffalo could add a down-the-line franchise tackle in the top-10 and perhaps even play him at guard as a rookie.
QB: Andy Dalton, Jeff Driskel
The absolute smart money is that Andy Dalton is not just the Week 1 starting quarterback for the Bengals, but the starter for all 16 games, barring injury. Of course, at this point in Dalton’s well-established career we know he’s not a talent who elevates beyond that which surrounds him. Dalton’s $16 million per year deal is modest but the Bengals can both aim to upgrade on him and even do so at a cheaper cost with a rookie. While the Bengals’ future long-term starter might not be in this draft, the least they could do is provide some better competition than Jeff Driskel.
If new head coach Zac Taylor ultimately decides he wants his guy right now and isn’t ready to wait it out with Dalton for a year or two, we could see a Round 1 move. Duke passer Daniel Jones should be there at No. 11, even if he feels like a far-from-sexy pick.
In a dream scenario, teams in the Top-10, for the first time in years, decide they’re comfortable with the options they have at QB1 and let Dwayne Haskins slip to Cincinnati at 11th overall. Haskins has the deep passing skill set to open up areas of the field Dalton simply cannot. Again, however, the safest bet is that the Bengals use a Round 3 or later pick on a quarterback to provide a light push and kick the can down the road yet another year with Dalton.
LT: Greg Robinson, Desmond Harrison
After two offseasons filled with many big swings by John Dorsey, the Browns suddenly don’t have many holes to plug. Especially on offense, Cleveland looks stacked. The left tackle position is one of the few holes that jumps out right away. Former Rams bust Greg Robinson looks slotted to reprise his role as the top left tackle. That is a scary proposition for a team that hopes to push for a top-five finish as an overall offense.
The Browns could have easily been targeting a left tackle at the 17th overall pick but are no doubt happy to have sent that out the door in the Odell Beckham trade. Cleveland still maintains a second-round pick and even persuaded the Giants to take the later of their third-round selections. One of those picks should be aimed at plugging the hole on the left side of the offensive line.
Quarterback of the future:
QB: Joe Flacco, Kevin Hogan
The Broncos have an intriguing young set of skill position players. Pro Bowl running back Phillip Lindsay, deep threat Courtland Sutton and strong slot receiver DaeSean Hamilton are all waiting to be unlocked. Given his recent run of health issues, age and established bouts of middling play, we should all be skeptical that Joe Flacco is the player to do that beyond perhaps half a season in 2019.
Despite playing well to start 2018, Flacco is a proven untrustworthy asset. The low draft equity used to acquire him and how easy it will be to get out of his albatross contract in future years speak to that. Denver likely knows it. The smart bet is that Flacco starts fewer than 16 games in 2019 and we see a rookie brought into the building next month.
I have long believed that John Elway would find himself smitten with Missouri quarterback Drew Lock. After a strong pre-draft process, there’s no reason to think Lock’s stock has cooled. I still believe it to be the case that Elway takes Lock at 10th overall.
LT: Julie’n Davenport, Matt Kalil, Roderick Johnson
RT: Seantrel Henderson, Rick Leonard, David Steinmetz
Easiest hole to spot in the entire country outside of the Grand Canyon. The Texans had an offensive tackle nightmare in 2018 and they’re slated to once again this year. Julie’n Davenport allowed more pressures than any other tackle last year, per Pro Football Focus, and as the Panthers found out, Matt Kalil is hardly an upgrade even when his knees allows him to play.
Houston can’t walk into 2019 with this starting tackle tandem. If they do, they risk capping the ceiling of their excellent young quarterback.
The Texans are true playoff contenders who should feel solid about their chances to go punch-for-punch with the Colts in a battle to win the AFC South. However, they have other holes on their roster outside of tackle. It doesn’t matter; they have to think hard about locking in a lineman at Pick 23. Greg Little out of Mississippi could be available outside the Top-20 picks, but keep an eye out on the aggressive Dalton Risner.
WR3: Chester Rodgers
Thanks to the shrewd roster building of general manager Chris Ballard, the Colts don’t have many pressing needs to worry about. While the offense is mostly set, the team could looks to add one more weapon to the receiving arsenal of Andrew Luck.
People are up in arms about the Devin Funchess deal, for whatever reason. It’s a mere one-year commitment that will fade into our memories, never to be spoken of again if he doesn’t work out. Not to mention, Funchess fell out of favor late in Carolina but was legitimately promising in 2017. He fills the outside X-receiver position if he hits but the Colts could look to add an option on the interior to upgrade on Chester Rodgers.
The Colts could do something bold like take big slot receiver N’Keal Harry late in Round 1 to give them both another dimension of size and middle of the field prowess. A player like Harry could alternate slot and flanker reps with T.Y. Hilton, who also plays inside a bit. However, odds are they add another defensive playmaker in Round 1 and look for pass-catching juice on Day 2. If they don’t land a receiver they like in the draft, keep an eye on 2018 rookie Deion Cain as an option.
TE: Geoff Swaim, James O'Shaughnessy, Ben Koyack, Pharaoh McKever
The Jaguars can finally feel comfortable with their quarterback after signing Nick Foles to a hefty deal. Now their attention must turn to building an ecosystem around Foles that even comes close to the enviable one from which he came.
The tight end position stands out as one that needs more attention. Jacksonville signed former Cowboys starter Geoff Swaim in free agency. He has just 37 career catches and would merely be a stopgap. Foles comes from an Eagles offense that had success with primarily Zach Ertz but also Trey Burton and Dallas Goedert over the last two years.
The 2019 NFL Draft class is littered with high-end tight end options. It would be a stunner if the Jaguars look at tight end at the sixth overall pick and their second-round pick would take them out of the mix for star two-way tight end T.J. Hockenson. However, they could look to grab one of Irv Smith or Noah Fant if one slips to their second rounder.
Kansas City Chiefs
Wide receiver depth:
WR3: Demarcus Robinson
It’s hard to suggest that the Chiefs have any true weak points on their current depth chart. The team could stand to add some more bodies on the interior offensive line but it might be time to sprinkle more talent into the wide receiver room. Chris Conley left in free agency and neither he or Demarcus Robinson ever showed starting potential. If anything were to force Tyreek Hill and/or Sammy Watkins off the field for an extended stretch, Kansas City doesn’t have options it can rely on behind them.
The Chiefs primary focus will be to replenish a talent-depressed defensive unit when it comes time to draft in April. At the 29th overall pick, expect someone to help on their pass rush. However, we should see Kansas City spend at least one selection on a wide receiver to groom, perhaps even as early as Day 2.
Los Angeles Chargers
LG: Dan Feeny, Spencer Drango
RG: Michael Schofield, Forrest Lamp
Despite having a likely Hall of Fame quarterback and a collection of intriguing pass-catchers, the Chargers were a team that operated with a foundation back in 2018. If the team wants to continue to get the best out of Melvin Gordon as the star running back’s contract nears its end, they should continue to fortify the front line. The Chargers feature several strong veterans up front but could use more competition on either side of center Mike Pouncey. Don’t rule out a tackle to push Sam Tevi on the right side and perhaps serve as the heir apparent to Russell Okung.
So far Los Angeles has received no returns from the first-round pick of Forrest Lamp in 2017, primarily due to injuries. With that experiment looking like a miss, the Chargers are likely to dip their toes in the Day 1 offensive line pool again. After getting worked by the Patriots in the playoffs, they need to get tougher on both sides of the ball in 2019.
Quarterback of the future:
QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Luke Falk, Jake Rudock
Few quarterback depth charts look as uninspiring as Miami’s right now. Of course, this is likely by design. The Dolphins are going through a full-scale teardown to rebuild and a key part of it will likely involve taking it on the chin behind center in 2018. Ryan Fitzpatrick will start the majority of the games here and the fans will have no tangible quarterback to look forward to down the line.
The full-scale teardown is a smart move; the best way to reboot a broken roster and salary situation. Not adding a quarterback beyond a Day 3 future backup option may well be the best move to fully execute it. Wait until the 2020 draft to add that elevating franchise quarterback to a roster more conducive to his success.
The only way the team veers from the long-term plan and sinks a first rounder into the quarterback spot in 2019 is if something too good to be true present itself. If the brass loves Dwayne Haskins and he slips to No. 13, they could make the quarterback move a year early. If not, get your “Tank for Tua” slogans ready.
New England Patriots
WR2: Phillip Dorsett, Matthew Slater, Damoun Patterson, Josh Gordon (SUSP)
The Patriots have Julian Edelman in position as their top slot and even added options for him to split time with in Bruce Ellington and Maurice Harris. The outside receiver spots are as barren as they could be, on the other hand. Josh Gordon could be back this season if reinstated but it would be an all-time foolish move to count on him in any way. Phillip Dorsett would start at the X-receiver position if the season started today and despite some solid moments in his first season with the team, that is suboptimal.
New England’s offense doesn’t operate much outside the numbers, so we may not see a major addition to this spot. However, more competition is needed regardless.
The Patriots are flushed with 11 draft picks right now, including six on the first two days. Even if they don’t spend the No. 32 pick on a wideout, they could look to add a player like Hakeem Butler, if the NFL foolishly lets him slip to Round 2. No one should be shocked if the Patriots take a swing and trade some of their draft equity for a veteran wide receiver. The team was rumored to be involved in talks to trade for Odell Beckham last year and Antonio Brown this year.
New York Jets
LT: Kelvin Beachum, Dieugot Joseph
RT: Brandon Shell, Eric Smith, Brent Qvale
The Jets did a good job in free agency to make moves designed to improve the ecosystem around Sam Darnold. The young quarterback now has a new slot receiver, a difference-making running back and hulking offensive guard added to the mix. Look for New York to make another offensive line addition at some point in the draft, as Darnold maintained a wide gap between his passing stats when under duress and not. When under pressure he checked in with a 39.7 passer rating, but boasted a solid 93.9 mark when kept clean, accordingly to Pro Football Focus.
Most parties expect the Jets to take an upfront defensive disruptor with the third-overall pick in April. The defense has long needed a true pass-rushing cornerstone, so no one could fault them for it. Gregg Williams would certainly like to have a foundational piece to groom on his side of the ball.
If the team does want to prioritize protecting its franchise passer, we could see them throw a curveball and go with a Jawaan Taylor-type tackle high in the draft. Le’Veon Bell would also welcome his skills as a run blocker to upgrade the right side of the line immediately.
RB1: Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington, Chris Warren, James Butler
For all the good Oakland did this offseason infusing their wide receiver group with talent, there is a cavernous hole in the backfield. Jalen Richard has proven to be a nice asset as a receiving role player after 68 catches last year. Chris Warren flashed potential in the 2018 preseason but there’s nothing close to an easy-to-project early-down runner here. If they don’t land another back in the draft, Jon Gruden and company should try to court Marshawn Lynch back for another run.
The Raiders have three first round picks and could easily spend one on the dynamic Josh Jacobs from Alabama. Jacobs would bring a bruising running style and strong pass-catching chops. Should Oakland eschew a runner early and spend a Day 2 or 3 selection at the position, that player will still be intriguing for fantasy.
The Raiders offense is a lock to be better this year after adding the transformative Antonio Brown and vertical threat Tyrell Williams. Some running back will reap the benefits.
WR2: James Washington, Donte Moncrief, Trey Griffey, Tevin Jones
Unless James Washington takes a major leap in Year 2, this offense is in trouble at the X-receiver spot. Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster have such drastically different assignments given where they line up pre-snap. The gifted Smith-Schuster should remain in his old role to maintain peak production.
Washington could certainly step up but the Steelers are losing such a difference-maker at the X position, more needs to be done. Donte Moncrief is a fine veteran fallback plan but it’s hardly a given. A skilled rookie needs to be in the mix.
D.K. Metcalf and Hakeem Butler are the top-two potential X-receivers in this draft. Metcalf, should he slip that far, would bring outrageous speed and physical gifts to the position. For my money, Butler is the better player and value should he slip to No. 20. Butler shows an advanced understanding of release moves and possesses striking route quickness for his size. He’d be a big win for this franchise looking to strike gold in the wake of losing a future Hall of Famer.
No. 2 wide receiver:
WR2: Taywan Taylor, Darius Jennings, Cameron Batson, Devin Ross
We should all still hold out a candle for the talented Taywan Taylor but injuries last year stopped his progress. Slot receiver Adam Humphries will lock down the middle of the field but another player to compete with Taylor and Tajae Sharpe would boost this offense. While Corey Davis has been fine thus far as a pro, he has yet to show he’s the type of center-of-the-universe talent a passing offense must flow through. One more receiver to push for targets could help.
While a first-round receiver would seem rich, the Titans could still address their pass-catching hole early. We may see them look for a successor to Delanie Walker at tight end while the long-time veteran looks to return in 2019 from a brutal injury. Noah Fant or Irv Smith would likely usurp Jonnu Smith right away behind him.