Following the completion of free agency, save a few signings yet to come, teams are re-evaluating their needs heading into the draft. Regardless of need, teams can still be shaken down into their hierarchy within the league, starting with the reigning Super Bowl champions. However, as is the case in every sport, every team could stand to improve upon their previous season, so the most crucial need for every team will be detailed below, where each team is ranked in order of their potential going into the 2020-21 season.
- Kansas City Chiefs
Every important piece of their impressive super bowl run is returning, but the Chiefs are in a dreadful salary cap situation that currently would not give them any room to sign their draft picks. Expect Kansas City to make some moves with some of their players taking up a good chunk of cap space, the most glaring being wide receiver Sammy Watkins’ $17 million against the cap. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is expected to sign for $40 million next year, leaving the team minimal bargaining power in years to come.
- Baltimore Ravens
A year ago, the Ravens were outbid on inside linebacker C.J. Mosely, who went to the New York Jets in free agency and drastically improved their front seven. While the Ravens held their own through the season against the run, they were freight trained in the playoffs by running back Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans, showing their lack of hard-nosed tackling talent at the second level. Offseason addition Calais Campbell on the defensive line certainly helps, but they will need a proven run stopper to fill any gaps the defensive line can’t handle.
- New Orleans Saints
After another disappointing playoff ending, the Saints brought in veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders from the San Francisco 49ers to play second fiddle to All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas, who is coming off a season where he set the league’s all-time receptions total in a season, grabbing a jaw-dropping 149 catches in 16 games. Though New Orleans elected to reload offensively in free agency, their defensive secondary remains the most glaring need for this squad. The Saints brought back veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins, which should give them help over the team, but drafting another corner to pair with Marshon Lattimore could put this defense over the top.
- San Francisco 49ers
After not being able to retain Emmanuel Sanders, the team should look to draft the position out of an incredibly deep receiver class. The addition of Sanders halfway through the season added another quality option for quarterback Jimmy Garapollo, and freed up space for tight end George Kittle and slot receiver Deebo Samuel. Considering how well the Sanders addition worked, Kyle Shanahan should look to address his departure as soon as possible.
- Seattle Seahawks
Offensive Line: Quarterback Russell Wilson has been running away from pressure and making highlight-level movements in a collapsing pocket essentially his entire career. Yet he is always able to will the offense through games with his incredible playmaking ability. The Seahawks have something special with the core of Wilson and wide receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, but giving Wilson protection as he hits the wrong side of 30 years old guarantees the franchise at least one more Super Bowl run before Wilson hangs them up. Giving Wilson quality pass protection would arguably make this an offense that can go toe-to-toe with Kansas City.
- Minnesota Vikings
The secondary is good over the top with safeties Anthony Harris and All-Pro Harrison Smith, while additionally having depth over the middle with linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. The cornerback spot is left with a lot of question marks after free agency saw the team’s top three cornerbacks all sign elsewhere. Expect the Vikings to draft a receiver after getting a king’s ransom of draft picks from Buffalo for discontented wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
- Green Bay Packers
The Packers made it to the NFC Championship despite what was considered a down-year for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. His second best receiver behind stud Davante Adams was an undrafted rookie named Allen Lazard, who outplayed receivers the team had drafted last year. The team has failed to give Rodgers any quality pass catchers in recent years. A revamped group of weapons would likely elevate Rodgers back to MVP form, as he had a tandem between Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson that delivered consistent production during those excellent campaigns. This draft has a plethora of receiving talent, though the value might not be there for Green Bay at the end of the first round.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers’ offensive line was decent last season, but could certainly use an increase of depth in the tackle position. The Bucs will also likely bring in a shifty pass-catching back in the middle rounds of the draft after seeing the level of success quarterback Tom Brady has had with guys like James White, Dion Lewis and Shane Vereen throughout his career.
- Tennessee Titans
The Titans had a difficult time generating pressure last season. The only player with a pressure percentage above 10% was defensive end Cameron Wake, who the team just released as he turned 38 in January. Expect the Titans to draft pass rushing early in the draft. Adding another power back behind running back Derrick Henry could also be in the Titans’ interest considering how heavily the offense revolves around Henry and his large usage.
- Dallas Cowboys
Resigning wide receiver Amari Cooper long-term and franchise-tagging quarterback Dak Prescott came at the expense of letting Pro-Bowl corner Byron Jones walk. Jones was an integral part of the Cowboys’ defense, and with the shift in the league making the passing game even more important, the Cowboys must act quickly in replacing Jones, especially in a division filled with young quarterbacks who will continually improve in the coming years. The need for a good center could also be addressed here, with the surprising retirement of longtime All-Pro center Travis Frederick coming prior to free agency.
- New England Patriots
It seems like Jarrett Stidham will be the quarterback for New England going forward after the level of praise he has received from coaches and teammates. The lack of weapons resulted in New England’s fall from grace halfway through last season. Expect them to add another receiver to pair with Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry. Defensively, the Patriots lost linebackers Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts to free agency. Those players played a huge role in the success of the Patriots’ defense, so expect Belichick to add some depth as the linebacker position behind Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley.
- Buffalo Bills
With the departure of Shaq Lawson, along with Lorenzo Alexander getting older, this will likely be a position Buffalo looks to address in the draft. They brought in Mario Addison, who will give them a boost, but they can still benefit from drafting and developing a young pass rusher beside Alexander and Addison.
- Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles snuck into a playoff spot despite a disastrous injury-filled season. They were only able to dress two wide receivers in their playoff game after an injury-riddled season. Starters Alshon Jeffrey and DeSean Jackson will be returning from injury, which will also help free up tight end Zach Ertz some more. The team could benefit from adding young depth behind Jeffrey and Jackson, who are also on the wrong side of the age of 30.
- Pittsburgh Steelers:
Juju Smith-Schuster took a step back this season after Antonio Brown’s departure and Ben Roethlisberger went down with an injury, but Smith-Schuster can’t take responsibility for that. The expectation is that Roethlisberger will be at 100% by the start of the season and that Smith-Schuster will likely return to his 2017-18 form when he has competent quarterback play again. Pittsburgh has been as good as any team in the league in developing talent at the receiver position. Look for a breakout season from one of their younger guys.
- Houston Texans
It was shocking that the Texans held on to Bill O’Brien after their disastrous playoff collapse against Kansas City. After leading 24-0 early in the second quarter, the Texans could not even hold the lead into halftime. Now, throw in the unjustifiable trade of top three wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, which yielded peanuts instead of true value, and the franchise looks like a shell of the potential powerhouse they were the past few seasons. If the Texans want to retain their generational talent in quarterback Deshaun Watson, the only true franchise quarterback they’ve ever known, there need to be some big changes in Houston, starting with their head coach.
- Los Angeles Rams
Gurley’s 2019 season gave a huge hit to the running back free agency market going forward. But in recent years, the success of the Rams’ offense revolved around Gurley’s production. Quarterback Jared Goff seems like a completely different player depending on the strength of the run game, turning into a statue in the pocket when the Rams can’t get the ball rolling on the ground. Left tackle could also be a look here for the Rams if the talent is right.
- Indianapolis Colts
The Colts brought in veteran Phillip Rivers, which could work for them in the short term considering his one-year-long contract. But considering his age, he likely will not be lining up under center for longer than a year or two. This presents a good opportunity for the Colts to draft a young signal caller and develop him behind Rivers to find that long-term solution.
- Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons’ defense has been dreadful the past two seasons, which was a huge result in their lack of success, despite fielding one of the top offenses. The offense will have 10 starters who were first-round picks out of college. That unit is typically in good shape, but the success will be for naught if they can’t make improvements defensively.
- Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals got away with robbery by landing All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for washed-up running back David Johnson, grouping him with future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald and slot receiver Christian Kirk. Throw in running back Kenyan Drake, who thrived in the Cardinals system since the team acquired him halfway through the season, and young signal caller Kyler Murray could be commanding one of the league’s most potent offenses. If the Cardinals can give Murray a clean pocket, this offense could be dangerous, and the Cardinals could potentially sneak into a playoff spot.
- Chicago Bears
After a disastrous third year for quarterback Mitch Trubisky, the Bears made a trade for Super Bowl 52 MVP Nick Foles. It is unclear who will be starting for the Bears when the season begins, but a battle could possibly bring the most out of whoever it is that will be starting. Whoever starts under center for Chicago definitely could benefit from an influx of skill players beyond wide receiver Allen Robinson and slotback Tarik Cohen. Defensively, the pieces are still there from that 2018 squad, but adding another playmaker couldn’t hurt.
- Las Vegas Raiders
It is becoming clear that quarterback Derek Carr is not part of head coach Jon Gruden’s long-term plan in Vegas. The team brought in free agent quarterback Marcus Mariota, which is likely not the answer for Gruden, as he may be looking to get the most out of Carr or Mariota in a quarterback battle. Do not be surprised if the Raiders use an early-mid round pick on a quarterback and have him develop behind the Carr-Mariota battle before eventually claiming the loser’s roster spot.
- Denver Broncos
It looks like John Elway and the Broncos are confident that they finally found their guy at quarterback in Drew Lock. Adding Melvin Gordon to a great core that includes Lock, Courtland Sutton, Phillip Lindsay and Noah Fant will spark even more improvement for the offense. The Broncos may use their first on a guy like Jerry Jeudy to add some relief to Sutton. Look for this offense to take a big step forward this season.
- Cleveland Browns
One of the big reasons for Cleveland’s wildly disappointing 2019 season was the lack of protection for Baker Mayfield. The team signed Jack Conklin to fill the hole at right tackle and brought in tight end Austin Hooper to give Mayfield another weapon and add a boost to the run blocking. Protecting the former first overall pick will be a big issue to address this upcoming season. Perhaps now that there are flashing lights all around the Browns going into this season as it did last year, they will focus more on the game itself and be the team everyone expected them to be.
- Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles is expected to use their first-round pick on a quarterback to replace longtime quarterback Phillip Rivers. Whether they ultimately do that or not, they should certainly take a flyer on free agent Cam Newton. Newton has been advertising his workouts frequently and he looks like a monster that is more motivated than ever. The Chargers have a solid young core, and adding Newton into the mix could make them contenders again. This way, they won’t have to throw their rookie quarterback right into the fire.
- New York Jets
With the departure of Robby Anderson, the Jets will need to be quick in getting Sam Darnold another guy that can help him elevate his play. Jamison Crowder is a solid receiver, but he is not a true top option that an offense can depend on week in and week out. The Jets went on a solid run to close out last season and will look to build off that going into this season.
- Miami Dolphins
Miami made a splash early in free agency and will have three first-round picks in this year’s draft. It is likely they will take Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the 4th overall pick. They could use their mid-round pick to bring in a guy like wide receiver Davonta Smith, one of Tua’s top targets in college, to pair with Devante Parker to give the Dolphins offense more of a spark.
- New York Giants
The Washington Redskins are all but guaranteed to draft defensive end Chase Young with the second overall pick, adding him to an NFC East collection of DeMarcus Lawrence, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett. The Giants will need top-level talent to protect Daniel Jones from being slammed into the turf by these guys six times a year for the next decade.
- Cincinnati Bengals
Quarterback Joe Burrow has shut down rumors of his not wanting to play for the Bengals. He is eager for the opportunity to turn the franchise around. He has an excellent group of playmakers around him with AJ Green, Joe Mixon, John Ross and Tyler Boyd. Quality pass protection could allow Burrow and the offense to succeed early in his career.
- Detroit Lions
The addition of Trey Flowers did not lead to much more success in getting to the quarterback, but Flowers was one of the main matchups for opposing teams, which allowed other teams to plan around Flowers. Adding another guy to the mix would free up space for Flowers, and the team could prevail more in that regard.
- Jacksonville Jaguars
The wildly successful 2017 Jaguars defense is disbanded at this point. The terrific cornerback tandem of Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye ran its course, and they are now on different teams. Jacksonville may use an early draft pick on a corner who can cover the outside. They brought in Darqueze Dennard, but he specializes in the slot and would be a poor matchup against big, physical outside receivers.
- Washington Redskins
The Redskins are still in the hunt to find a good trading destination for disgruntled left tackle Trent Williams, after lying to him about medical information. The offense has a solid core with young guys Dwayne Haskins, Terry McLaurin and Derrius Guice. Better pass and run blocking will help these guys elevate their game.
- Carolina Panthers
The Panthers have moved on from their franchise cornerstone in Newton. They also lost arguably the best defensive player in the history of their franchise in middle linebacker Luke Keuchly, who retired. The Panthers tailed off in the second half of the season, and it’s hard to imagine that they will find much going, outside of running back phenom Christian McCaffrey. Do not expect this team to make much noise this season.