With the regular season wrapping up and the first round of the playoffs over I’ve decided to do my reverse rankings a little different. For the teams that are not in the playoffs over the next couple of weeks I’ll identify what I feel are their biggest needs for the draft or free agency while still reacting to the playoff games. Hope you enjoy!
1. Cleveland Browns (1-15)
Going into this offseason the Browns should be interesting to watch what they’ll do at quarterback since last year they signed RG3, passed on Carson Wentz and took Cody Kessler in the third round (sooner than most thought). Kessler struggled as a rookie but showed flashes of being a starting NFL quarterback, do the Browns believe he’s their future or will they target one of the top quarterbacks in DaShone Kizer, Mitch Trubisky or Deshaun Watson?
2. San Francisco 49ers (2-14)
With a new coaching staff and front office coming in expect some the quarterback position to be a priority with Colin Kaepernick likely seeing his last snaps in San Francisco. Since the position is so devoid of talent I wouldn’t be shocked to see a veteran being brought in along with the 49ers using a high pick also.
3. Chicago Bears (3-13)
Kyle Fuller was drafted in the first round back in 2014 with the hopes of being a lock down corner but he’s struggled with consistency while injuries have caused him to miss significant time. Not only has Fuller struggled but the Bears have been forced to start guys like Tracy Porter, Cre’Von LeBlanc and Jacoby Glenn. Expect the Bears to hit the position in both free agency and in the draft.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13)
Need: Offensive Line
Kelvin Beachum was supposed to be an improvement over Luke Joeckel but instead struggled himself adding to the offensive woes that plagued this team. Quality free agent left tackles don’t grow on trees while the draft lacks the elite prospects at the position. Jacksonville’s best strategy to to take a chance on a day two prospect that has left tackle potential.
5. Los Angeles Rams (4-12)
Need: Offensive Line
For a team that has invested nine draft picks in the past four drafts on the offensive line you’d think they’d have one of the better young units in the league. Instead the line has been a sieve making it difficult for the running game to get going while the quarterbacks have had little time to throw. Not having a first round pick makes it tougher since they have other needs to fill, but it might be in their best interest to take the best available lineman with their second round pick.
6. New York Jets (5-11)
For Todd Bowles unique defense to thrive he needs a shutdown corner to lockdown the opposing team’s best receiver. Patrick Peterson was the guy in Arizona and Revis got the job done in 2015 before regressing in 2016. While finding a top flight cover corner in free agency doesn’t happen often the cornerback draft class is one of the deepest positions which should give the Jets some options with their early round draft picks.
7. San Diego Chargers (5-11)
San Diego has had offensive success in the past relying on Phillip Rivers to carve up defenses in their quick strike attack. Injuries struck the Chargers once again costing Keenan Allen another season and forcing Rivers to rely on Dontrell Inman and Tyrell Williams. At this point the Chargers cannot can’t trust Allen to stay healthy and could look for a playmaker to help take the pressure off of Rivers.
8. Carolina Panthers (6-10)
Need: Offensive Tackle
Look no further than right guard Trai Turner starting at right tackle to illustrate how poorly the Panthers mismanaged their offensive tackle position. Sure having Cam Newton’s size and running ability means they don’t need elite tackles, but Michael Oher and Michael Remmers are bottom of the league starters and there is no depth behind them. Carolina needs to invest in the position both in free agency and in the draft.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (6-9-1)
Back in the 2015 season the Bengals had one of the most explosive offense in the league (prior to Dalton injury) but they were not able to retain receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamad Sanu, while Tyler Eifert dealt with injuries most of the year. Not replacing their two receivers really bit the Bengals allowing teams to swarm AJ Green. Cincinnati has their stud in Green and promising rookie Tyler Boyd to control the middle but could really use a speed receiver to complete their group.
10. Buffalo Bills (7-9)
Cornerback was always supposed to be a strength with Rex Ryan running the show but is now one of their top positions of need. Stephon Gilmore is a former top 10 pick who hasn’t necessarily lived up to his draft slot but still could command a big pay day as a free agent would leave the Bills with a big hole in their secondary. Buffalo needs to find someone to pair up with Ronald Darby whose turned out to be a good value.
11. New Orleans Saints (7-9)
Need: Edge Pass Rusher
The defensive continues to be the weak link for the Saints and big reason for their struggles can be traced to their lack of a pass rush which has finished in the bottom 10 in sacks the past three seasons. While Cameron Jordan is playing at a high level and they invested the 13th pick in last year’s draft on tackle Sheldon Rankins, the Saints could use a true athletic edge defender to really round out this defensive line.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (7-9)
Need: #1 Receiver
Carson Wentz has shown that he has the potential to be the Eagles franchise quarterback for the next ten years but if they want him to truly develop he’s going to need not only some reliable receivers but a true number one that he can trust. Philly could easily be a landing spot for Alshon Jeffery if he doesn’t resign with the Bears. Otherwise they could look to target Mike Williams or Corey Davis in the draft.
13. Arizona Cardinals (7-8-1)
While the defensive has been the strong suit for the Cardinals the past couple of years they are not without a couple of glaring holes. The biggest one is likely the cornerback positions opposite of Patrick Peterson. Arizona has tried bringing in veterans and drafted former running back turned corner Brandon Williams in the second round. While all that has failed the Cardinals may choose to go after the elite cornerbacks in this class which they could have the first shot at with the 13th pick.
14. Indianapolis Colts (8-8)
Need: Edge Pass Rusher
It’s safe to say the Colts have been in need of an upgrade in their pass rush as they’ve finished in the bottom third in sacks the past two years relying on aging stars in Robert Mathias and Trent Cole. While Eric Walden did get 11 sacks this past year they cannot afford to ignore the position once again. Luckily the edge group is one of the deepest position groups in the 2017 NFL Draft where the Colts could take a top level guy in the middle of the first round or just go best player available and target someone on day two.
15. Minnesota Vikings (8-8)
Need: Offensive Tackle
Whether it was the retirement of Phil Loadholt or Matt Kalil and Andre Smith going on injured reserve the Vikings offensive line went from a strength in the offseason to a major liability during. While it’s easy to say Kalil needs to be replaced the Vikings are not going to get a good left tackle in free agency and without a first round pick they won’t get a shot at the best in the class. Minnesota’s best bet is to ride with Kalil for another year and hope that they can draft someone on day two who at a minimum can win the right tackle position.
16. Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
Need: Edge Pass Rusher
With Terrell Suggs entering his 15th year in the league his body is starting to break down and he’s not the same elite level pass rusher he used to be while Elvis Dumervil could be a cap casualty. Rookie Matt Judon has shown promise but Baltimore cannot stand pat as their defense is built on getting after the quarterback. Since the Ravens drafted the more athletic coverage style linebacker in Kamalei Correa last year they could look for more of the true pass rusher this draft.
17. Washington Redskins (8-7-1)
Need: Inside Linebacker
Since the Redskins fired their entire defensive staff what style of defense they’ll run is still up in the air but the two names that have been linked to the position both come from 4-3 base defenses. Now the league is a sub package league, but the Redskins could really use an upgrade over Will Compton and Mason Foster who have played well at times but not consistent enough. Adding an athletic playmaking linebacker like Jarrad Davis or Zach Cunningham could really help this defense out.
18. Tennessee Titans (9-7)
Need: #1 Receiver
Mike Mularkey’s “exotic smash mouth” offense got some chuckles this offseason but after the year that the Titans had nobody is laughing now. While they’ll still be a run oriented team they cannot stand pat on adding weapons for Marcus Mariota to aid in his development. Tennessee has some quality receivers in deep threat Rishard Matthews and intermediate chain moves in Tajae Sharpe and Kendall Wright. What this team lacks is that number one receiver that Mariota can go to when they need a first down or are in the redzone and need to score.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7)
Need: Deep threat receiver
Jameis Winston took a huge step forward in year two and almost got the Bucs to the playoffs. While Winston has developed a great rapport with Mike Evans the other weapons on offense been poor as Adam Humphries is the Bucs second leading receiver. Defenses are able to key in in Mike Evans and the offense could really use a speed receiver to take attention away. Washington’s John Ross will be intriguing in the first round but if they pass there they could always target prospects like KD Cannon, DeDe Westbrook or Speedy Noil later on.
20. Denver Broncos (9-7)
Need: Run Stuffing Inside Linebacker
While the Broncos defense was still playing well this past season they still took a step back from the elite level they played in their Super Bowl Championship 2015 group. A big reason for that is they struggled to stop the run and didn’t replace ILB Danny Traveathen who was their run stuffer next to the athletic Brandon Marshall. Whether it be in free agency or in the draft the Broncos must find that downhill thumper they desperately lack.
21. Detroit Lions (9-7)
Early and often the Lions receivers made it extremely difficult for the offense to get any rhythm with all their drops. That put added pressure on the defense that caused them to finally break in the fourth quarter giving up 17 unanswered points. While the Lions had a solid year they still have some major holes that need to be addressed.
22. Miami Dolphins (10-6)
Miami was no match for the Steelers today but don’t let that fool you as the Dolphins had a tremendous season for their recent standards. Adam Gase was a homerun hire whose got Ryan Tannehill playing good enough for the team to ride with him, running back Jay Ajayi showed he can carry the load, and the defense has pieces to play at a high level. The arrow is pointing up for the Dolphins.
23. New York Giants (11-5)
This Miami boat trip that the Giants receivers took on their day off along with their drops against the Packers is going to go down in infamy with the Tony Romo/Jessica Simpson Cabo trip from years back. While that trip didn’t cause the Giants to lose, but two dropped touchdown passes that resulted in field goals could have really put the pressure on the Packers.
24. Oakland Raiders (12-4)
For a team that was healthy all year long they played their first playoff game since 2002 with their third string quarterback and not having their left tackle, center and second best defensive player. While it may seem like a lost season at least the young players got some playoff experience that will help them for years to come.
25. Houston Texans (9-7)
While I wouldn’t say Brock Osweiler played like John Elway or Brett Farve but he did play his best game of his career helping the Texans advance to the second round. But if the Texans want to upset the Patriots in Foxburough they’ll need Osweiler to play even better than he did against the Raiders.
26. Green Bay Packers (10-6)
Heading towards the end of the first half the Packers were down six and looking to go into halftime shut out. But it was one drive that changed the entire game around where Rodgers hit Adams for a long pass and then threaded a touchdown pass. Next drive was a hail mary and you could have ended the game there. Green Bay continues to be hot, but they head to Dallas and play the toughest team in the league.
27. Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)
With the defense playing shutting down the Lions the offense was able to stick with the rushing attack and wear down the Lions before bursting through in the fourth quarter. But Seattle needs to step up their game because if they played like this against the Falcons they won’t be making it to the Conference Championship Game.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
The Steelers made easy for of the Dolphins in round one but it did come at a cost as Big Ben was hurt in the final plays of the game and had to wear a walking boot post game. Playing in Kansas City was going to be a challenge for him (he’s struggled on the road the past couple of years) but if he’s not 100% it could get near impossible.
29. Atlanta Falcons (11-5)
Back in week five the Falcons traveled up to Seattle and narrowly lost in a 26-24 showdown. Bu the tables have turned as the Falcons host the Seahawks and hope that they’re improved pass rush can take advantage of the weak Seattle offensive line.
30. New England Patriots (14-2)
If a Jacoby Brissett lead Patriots were able to shut out the Texans 27-0 in week three what makes you think that this week’s game with Tom Brady running the show is going to be any different? Crazier things have happened, but the Patriots should cruise.
31. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
One of the four losses the Chiefs had this season did come to the Steelers early in the season but the key difference here is the Chiefs are now the home team and will have Arrowhead rocking. Add in the Steelers have a hurt Big Ben and the Chiefs three pass rushers could smell blood in the water.
32. Dallas Cowboys (13-3)
While the Cowboys get to host the hottest and maybe the most dangerous team in the Packers, I don’t know if there is a team that’s more suited to shut them down. Sure Dallas doesn’t have the defense that the Giants have to completely shut down Aaron Rodgers for a half, but they do have an offense that can keep them off the field and prevent those monster runs that they tend to go on.