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2021 Pre-Draft Power Rankings

What does every team need to chase a Super Bowl?

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Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The best teams approach the NFL Draft with their long-term needs in mind. In a best case scenario their rookie class will have a dramatic impact from their first practice, but most need time to acclimate to the drastic jump in competition. Realistically, most of the core contributors to their upcoming season are already on the payroll.

With that in mind, I think it’s a good time to take a look at every team in the NFL to try to assess the needs they’ll address in the NFL Draft as well as how far off they are from chasing Lombardis. Each team below is ranked by how close I believe they are to a Super Bowl appearance with thoughts on team needs attached.

Let’s get started.

Cellar dwellers

32. Houston Texans

Allegations of sexual misconduct against Deshuan Watson hang over the franchise. Before they saw the light of day, it looked like the quarterback would force his way out of town. Both situations cast such a large shadow that it can be easy to forget that Jack Easterby and Bill O’Brien made a number of glaring mistakes building the roster. They currently look like an expansion franchise minus the draft capital to take a foundational player.

Needs: Dang near everything but left tackle.

Nick Caserio’s approach in free agency was to cast a wide net. He signed more than 20 players after releasing J.J. Watt. Punter Cameron Johnston received the largest deal with a three year contract and $3 million in guarantees. Most of the new players are low impact veterans who will fight to make the roster.

31. Detroit Lions

After 12 years, 45109 passing yards, and just 74 victories, Matthew Stafford’s a Ram. The perpetually rebuilding Lions received a decent haul in return for the veteran by acquiring Jared Goff, two future first round picks, and a 2021 third rounder. To begin the new era, Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell did little to upgrade a roster that finished last in defensive DVOA in 2020.

Needs: WR, OT, iOL, DL, DB, QB?

Kenny Golladay left in free agency, and while injuries have slowed him, neither Breshad Perriman or Tyrell Williams look like they can provide close to the same impact. Both lines are counting on mostly unproven Bob Quinn draft picks, and Goff is a disappointing former first overall pick. They’re playing for 2022.

30. Philadelphia Eagles

Howie Roseman is the last man standing after his capped out monstrosity ran off a cliff in 2020. Rather than pick a side in the Carson Wentz-Doug Pederson feud, the Eagles general manager made a scapegoat of both and spent the offseason dumping talent to comply with the Covid cap. Philly made all of four free agent signings and each went for $4 million per year or less.

Needs: WR, RB, OL/DL depth, ED, LB, QB?

After trading down from the sixth overall pick, the Eagles look set to hand the keys to 2020 second rounder Jalen Hurts after he completed 52% of his passes as a rookie. He looks set to rely on Andre Dillard and Brandon Brooks for protection after both missed the entire 2020 season to injury. His top options in the receiving corps look like Travis Fulgham and Jalen Reagor, who combined for 935 yards and five touchdowns last year. As I write this, Zach Ertz has yet to be traded and could pair with Dallas Goedert to give Hurts help in the middle of the field.

The Eagles are better than they get credit for on defense, but Fletcher Cox, Darius Slay, and Brandon Graham are all on the wrong side of 30 and the depth behind them is shaky while the linebacker corps is laughable.

Fighting to be relevant

29. New York Jets

If not for Sean McVay’s LA Rams, Trevor Lawrence would be headed to the Big Apple. Instead Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh will have their pick of every other quarterback in the draft should they decide Sam Darnold is not the answer. Looking up from the bottom of the AFC East, they can’t afford to take the wrong guy.

Needs: QB? iOL, RT, CB, RB, TE

Douglas is surely hoping his second foray into free agency goes better than his first one. Carl Lawson has the pressure numbers to suggest New York may finally have a capable edge rusher, while Corey Davis and Sheldon Rankins should help stabilize their position rooms. Questions about cornerback and most of the offensive line put a glass ceiling on their ranking.

28. Cincinnati Bengals

The worst team in football this time last year won two games with Joe Burrow at the helm before a knee injury ruined his season. They’ll need him to both return and improve upon his rookie performance to escape the bottom of the AFC North. Even that may not be enough, as the defense finished among the dregs of the league by DVOA and lost their best pass rusher to free agency.

Needs: WR1, OL, ED, CB

Burrow took 32 sacks in 10 games a year ago. That combined with his injury and face-of-the-franchise status make protecting him a likely priority. With A.J. Green and Geno Atkins gone, it’s truly his team now. To make the most of it, Cinci will probably look to upgrade the supporting cast on offense and hope development and their free agent signings lead to a creep towards average on defense. Tee Higgins was better than his critics expected as a rookie while Tyler Boyd continues to serve as a reliable complimentary option. Riley Reiff was signed to upgrade the protection and Jonah Williams enters year three and could surprise with his development after an injury ruined his rookie season.

27. Chicago Bears

Barring change of fortune in their pursuit of Russell Wilson, the Bears look set to trot out Andy Dalton as their next QB1. They placed a franchise tag on the disgruntled Allen Robinson because their receiving corps is among the worst in football without him. Cap constraints led to a Desmond Trufant for Kyle Fuller swap that’s likely to disappoint.

Needs: QB, OL, WR, TE, CB

The Bears’ playoff run a season ago led to a run-in-place that will almost certainly mean an overdue departure for Ryan Pace at the end of the 2021 campaign. During his tenure, he compounded upon the Mitch Trubisky mistake by spending big on veterans in an effort to prop up his bad quarterback. Thanks to where the Bears pick in the draft, they’re unlikely to find an answer under center and the issues along the offensive line will make it harder to grind out yards on the ground. They’re currently set to count on Jimmy Graham, Elijah Wilkinson, Deon Bush, Desmond Trufant, and Germain Ifedi in starting roles. Yikes.

26. Carolina Panthers

Most panned the decision to sign Teddy Bridgewater as shortsighted because the Panthers’ roster looked bad enough to tank for Trevor a year ago. Now they’ll need to figure out a way to handle his contract after trading for Sam Darnold. Spending every 2020 draft pick on defense didn’t help the unit avoid a bottom 10 finish.

Needs: Pass rush, DB, WR, QB?

Bridgewater probably tops out as a low-risk, relatively unfruitful quarterback, and the hope is that Darnold can be an upgrade. The 2020 swing on defense could mean Rhule turns to the other side of the ball. Denzel Perryman has never played in more than 484 snaps in a single season, while Haason Reddick is coming off a career year where he tripled his previous best single season sack total.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars

Urban Meyer is counting on Trevor Lawrence to keep us from critiquing his strategy in free agency. The Jags went out and threw funny money at a slew of questionable targets, but did manage to sign Shaquill Griffin. A new quarterback and what looks like the decline of the AFC South should help.

Needs: QB, S, OT, WR

If the secondary comes together, the Jags have one of the better unsung defensive lines in football with two linebackers capable of playing in coverage behind them. The questions on offense fall on the signal caller as well as his offensive line. Cam Robinson was franchised but may not be a long-term solution, while Jawaan Taylor has been a disappointing pass protector so far in his career.

24. Las Vegas Raiders

It’s been a peculiar offseason for Jon Gruden. The Raiders traded Trent Brown, Rodney Hudson, and Gabe Jackson while securing a pay cut for Richie Incognito, which points to confidence that John Simpson and the unproven remainders of the line can surprise. If they can’t, Vegas looks set to decline on offense and questions abound about the moves to shore up the weaker side of the ball. Yannick Ngaokue, Soloman Thomas, or Quinton Jefferson should help, but how much?

Needs: RT, FS, WR, iOL, LB, Pass Rush

The decision to hire Gus Bradley needs to pay dividends as the Raiders roster has a slew of expensive veterans who aren’t performing up to their current contracts. They desperately need a better pass rush, but signed Ngaokue and Carl Nassib after drafting Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby. The run defense needs to improve, but adding Jefferson and Thomas after signing Corey Littleton and Nick Kwiatkowski a season ago means adding to the defensive line or linebacker corps could be redundant. So it goes with the secondary where Trayvon Mullen, Amik Robertson, and Damon Arnette have draft pedigree but little to show for it thus far.

Offensively, the Raiders are surely hoping Bryan Edwards and Henry Ruggs can make strides in their second season, but it could make sense to add another pass catcher to eventually take over for John Brown. The offensive line could also use an infusion of talent, particularly at right tackle where Brandon Parker has been quite underwhelming when he’s seen the field.

23. Denver Broncos

For the second consecutive year, the Broncos finished among the league leaders in Adjusted Games Lost. For the fourth consecutive year, the Broncos finished with a losing record. For the sixth consecutive offseason, there are questions about the quarterback position. Diehard optimists point to the hardships Covid placed on a young roster and the return of Von Miller and Courtland Sutton. Critics wonder what Paton actually did to upgrade the roster in free agency with just four outside additions.

Needs: QB, CB depth, LB, OT depth, S depth

It’s easy to convince yourself the Broncos’ roster looks closer to contention than their 5-11 finish makes things look. If the injured players can return to form, stay healthy, and Ronald Darby can suit up for 16+ games for the second time in his career, this roster looks like they’re a quarterback away from stardom. If Drew Lock discovers a Josh Allen type of jump in year three or an outside addition solves the issue that’s hung over the post-Manning roster, they could become a real contender quickly.

It’s a lot of big “ifs.”

22. Atlanta Falcons

The dirty birds are proof cap hell is real, as they’ve spent their offseason bumping their head against the ceiling. There are currently 52 players on the roster and they’re less than $4 million away from a cap violation. Any hope at improvement in 2021 relies on health luck, their draft class, as well as Arthur Smith and Dean Peas’ play calling. It’s worth noting that they were very healthy in 2020 and they’ll probably regress there.

Needs: Edge, CB, S, RB, WR, TE

One very unpopular way the Falcons could find $15,300,000 in cap space is by trading Julio Jones after June 1st. While I’m not sure that happens, it is plausible, as Jones is a 32-year-old showing signs of decline. Whether or not Jones is on the roster, it would pay to invest in pass catchers since the 2021 class is notably loaded at receiver.

Both the Falcons’ play callers run atypical systems that could push them to zig while the league zags. Smith built his Tennessee offense around Derrick Henry trucking through loaded boxes and ripping passes off play action, while Pees routinely counted on his defensive backs to generate pressure.

Did they improve on 2020?

21. Pittsburgh Steelers

Is there a single position where the Steelers are currently better than they were at this time last year? As one of the teams with the worst cap situations in the league, they spent this offseason shedding talent and overpaying to keep a fan favorite in uniform. In Kevin Colbert’s defense, JuJu Smith-Schuster’s talents as a high-volume, low-efficiency slot receiver is going to be maximized with a washed-up Ben Roethlisberger. The 39-year-old aged in dog years as the 2020 campaign rolled along and will need new offensive coordinator Matt Canada to hide his diminished arm talent for Pittsburgh to contend in the AFC North. They were also very healthy in 2020 and will probably see their depth tested more in 2021.

Needs: QB, RB, OL, DL, ED, CB

It isn’t too uncommon for the Steelers to let their own leave and count on in-house replacements to continue chugging along. What’s peculiar is how many questions hang over the current roster. The loss of Alejandro Villenueva and Maurkice Pounce as well as the looming departure of David DeCastro means addressing the offensive line is a matter of “when,” not “if.” Without James Conner, the backfield consists of Benny Snell, Kalen Ballage, and Anthony McFarland.

There’s a similar story on defense. Tyson Alualu’s return plugs an immediate need, but does nothing to mitigate the graying line. The hope has to be that Devin Bush and Alex Highsmith can return from injury to help make up for the loss of Bud Dupree and Vince Williams. The release of Steven Nelson leaves the secondary counting on Cameron Sutton and Justin Layne across from a soon-to-be 32-year-old Joe Haden.

20. Tennessee Titans

The Broncos’ shutout victory over the Titans ended Marcus Mariota’s run as a starting quarterback and helped Ryan Tannehill pilot a deep playoff run in 2019. If not for Patrick Mahomes, there’s a very real possibility Nashville sees a parade. Vrabel’s team failed to take the next step last year after the defense cratered following Dean Pees retirement and subsequent failures to address the pass rush. To make matters worse, Jon Robinson gave Bud Dupree a contract averaging $16.5 million a year with $35 million guaranteed despite the former Steeler’s 2020 ACL tear and his past reliance on the blitz to generate pressure.

Needs: CB, ED, WR, RT, S, TE

Few teams have had as many key departures as the Titans have in 2021. Following extensions for Tannehill and Derrick Henry, Tennessee watched Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith, Malcolm Butler, Desmond King, and Adoree’ Jackson depart.

On top of the cap-related losses, Tennessee cut two right tackles and have no concrete answer for the position. The secondary is also extremely callow outside of Kevin Byard and Janoris Jenkins. Tannehill has been good enough over his tenure with the Titans that it could pay to believe in spite of the holes emerging around him. I’m dubious because the loss of Smith could prove devastating.

19. New York Giants

On paper, the Giants appear to have addressed all of their most pressing needs. Kenny Golladay gives them a proven replacement for the long-since-departed Odell Beckham Jr. while Adoree’ Jackson solves the need for help across from James Bradberry. With better health luck and a step in the right direction from Daniel Jones, the G-men look ready to climb back towards mediocrity in the NFC Least.

Needs: OL, ED, LB, WR, QB?

Losing Saquon Barkley didn’t help, but there are questions along the Giants’ offensive line. They finished 21st in Adjusted Line Yards a year ago and they’re currently reliant on improvement from Andrew Thomas in his second season. The interior is littered with questions after Shane Lemieux disappointed as a rookie. This is a good defense that could really pop if they find a way to create pressure on a more consistent basis. With all of the resources devoted to big bodies along the interior, the best way to do so is an upgrade at Edge.

18. Minnesota Vikings

Mike Zimmer and Gary Kubiak found a way to right the ship after an 0-3 start to finish 7-9. It was the worst record Zimmer’s had since 2014, and the departure of George Paton may have led to some interesting decisions in free agency. The loss of Kyle Rudolph, Riley Reiff, and Anthony Harris made sense to help the Vikings skirt free of cap jail. Rick Spielman used it to hand out almost $29 million in guarantees to a 31-year-old corner and a nose tackle.

Needs: Pass rusher, OT, iOL, S, WR depth

Minny was so desperate for help last year that they burned a day two pick for Yannick Ngakoue before giving him away at midseason despite the absence of Danielle Hunter. The hope has to be that Hunter can return from his neck injury in peak form. Without him, the pass rush cratered last year and they’ve done nothing to address the issue. It’s worth noting that Zimmer is among the better play callers in football so the plan may be to depend on him and an improving secondary to mask the talent deficiency.

There’s also dire issues on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage. Ezra Cleveland was a first round tackle a year ago who finished his rookie season at guard. Where the Vikings play him going forward may depend on who falls their way in the draft.

17. Miami Dolphins

This time last year I was wondering if the Phish screwed up their tank for Tua. Now some are debating if Tagovailoa’s play is worth the faith Chris Grier showed in him by trading down from the third overall pick. There’s little doubt Brian Flores’ team overperformed relative to their talent a year ago, but with 13 picks in the first three rounds over the next three drafts as well as a clean cap ledger, the future looks very bright.

Needs: WR, iOL, ED, RB, TE, LB, OT? QB?

There’s little doubt 2021 is Tua’s year to prove he’s the answer. To help him get there, it would make a ton of sense to invest in the supporting cast around him so they better fit his strengths. A separator underneath, a tight end who can generate yards after the catch, and/or a pass catching back would all take advantage of Tagovailoa’s propensity to dump it down to the open guy. It could also prove beneficial to further invest in the offensive line, and there’s been questions about moving last year’s draft picks to make room for Penei Sewell if he slides to 6.

The Dolphins have perhaps the best trio of corners in football, which helped Flores flummox opponents with his pressure package a year ago. The loss to Denver exposed a porous run defense that stems from a lack of talent along their front seven.

16. Washington Football Team

Someone had to win the NFC East, so why not Alex Smith? The Comeback Player of the Year stayed out of the way long enough for Ron Rivera to ride his defense into the playoffs where Taylor Heineke made the Wildcard round Super.

For all his faults, Dan Snyder made a lowkey brilliant move this offseason hiring Martin Mayhew to be his general manager. Mayhew has taken advantage of the depressed market to improve the roster, and if Ryan Fitzpatrick, Heineke, or a rookie quarterback can give the offense a shot in the arm, they’ll contend.

Needs: QB, X-WR, LT, LB, S

Odds are the long-term solution at quarterback isn’t on the roster, which makes Washington a sneaky trade up team if one of the prospects in the 2021 class begins to slide. While the addition of Curtis Samuel should help Terry McLaurin, a big body to take advantage of Fitzpatrick’s affinity for jump balls could have a transformative impact on the passing game.

So far there’s been no capable replacement for Trent Williams, and that could make sense with what looks like a rather deep ‘21 tackle class. A second level defender like Micah Parsons or Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah could also fit given the lack of talent at linebacker.

15. Arizona Cardinals

After a disappointing finish to the 2020 campaign, Kliff Kingsbury and Steve Keim need to make a playoff run to cool their seats. The moves they made in free agency are what you generally expect from decision-makers facing an axe: they signed a bunch of old players hoping Father Time ignores the desert.

Needs: CB, ED, TE, G, RB, WR

J.J. Watt notched 46 individual pressures a year ago and should have enough left in the tank to be a big upgrade along the front seven. The same can’t be said for Malcolm Butler, who allowed more than 800 yards as well as five touchdowns per Sports Info Solutions’ charting. The hope has to be that he’ll bring a couple down for the Cards to make up for what he cedes. Much like Butler, A.J. Green is on the downside of his career and shouldn’t stop Keim from adding a pass catcher from the 2021 class.

Wannabe contenders

14. Indianapolis Colts

Despite a ton of cap space in a depressed market, the Colts were mostly treading water after an 11-6 finish for Phillip River’s swan song season. They added Sam Tevi and Julien Davenport to compete for left tackle, Sean Davis to help at safety, and Isaac Rochell to eat snaps beside DeForest Buckner. With most of the key pieces back in place outside of Rivers and Anthony Costanzo, Indy’s fate depends on Frank Reich’s ability to fix Carson Wentz.

Needs: LT, ED, WR, DB

While Tevi and Davenport were added to alleviate the pressing need for a rookie tackle to step in early, neither looks like a long-term answer. With how much the Colts play zone while sending four, they could really use some more juice off the edges. Xavier Rhodes’ age and the questions on the third level mean they’ll probably dabble in the corner and safety classes.

13. New England Patriots

Tom Brady isn’t walking back through the door, but Cam Newton’s return with a full offseason should help to stabilize the quarterback spot in the short-term. To make the most of his strengths and recover from huge draft whiffs, the Pats spent $138M in guarantees to upgrade the roster. Opt outs such as Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung should also help, but the majority of the foundational pieces on the roster are getting long in the tooth.

Needs: QB, WR, DL, DB

There’s been a ton of speculation about the Pats’ desire to trade up for a quarterback, and signing Newton to a one-year deal worth a little over $5.5 million does little to curve it. Before free agency the Pats had arguably the worst supporting cast in the league on offense and could still add depth to their receiving corps.

Both the off ball backers and Stephon Gilmore are on the wrong side of 30 while Devin McCourty is going to turn 34 in August. Belichick used base personnel just 4% of the time in 2020 and only the Packers used Dime, so there’s little doubt they’ll grab a defensive back or two.

12. Los Angeles Chargers

Tom Telesco has made the right moves for L.A. to take a step forward in Justin Herbert’s second year. Bringing in Brandon Staley should help maximize the defensive talent and prioritizing the offensive line in free agency should improve the protection. Add in what should be better health luck along the defense and offensive line and they could surprise in 2021.

Needs: CB, iOL, LT, S, LB, WR depth

LA would be wise to continue to invest in their offensive line barring a breakthrough from Trey Pipkins. Neither he nor Nasir Adderley have delivered on their promise after becoming day two picks in the 2019 draft. When Staley was with the Rams, his defense relied on a trio of talented cornerbacks and he’s said he builds his defense from back to front. With Chris Harris Jr. set to turn 32 in June, help is needed.

11. New Orleans Saints

The Saints entered the offseason close to $90 million over the salary cap and came out of it with a competitive roster. Their 2021 shouldn’t be boring, as Jameis Winston will battle Taysom Hill to succeed Drew Brees. Personally I still believe Russell Wilson lurks as a sneaky addition down the road since both of the current quarterbacks plus Trevor Siemian see their contracts expire after 2021. Health luck looms as a big question for them, as they finished 2020 with just 41.2 Adjusted Games lost to Injury.

Needs: TE, WR, DL, CB, S, QB?

After losing Trey Hendrickson, Janoris Jenkins, Jared Cook, Josh Hill, Sheldon Rankins, Emmanuel Sanders, and Drew Brees, the Saints could go in a number of directions during the draft. Their cap situation will almost certainly remain an obstacle in 2022, which means they’ll need to rob Peter to pay Marshon Lattimore.

10. Dallas Cowboys

Thanks to the Covid cap, Dallas had their work cut out for them in free agency, but the biggest move they could have made was retaining Dak Prescott and it happened. With a star-studded roster, they’ll depend on health luck more than some of the teams around them, but the pieces are in place to have a dominant offense if Dak Prescott can return to his pre-injury form. If Dan Quinn can take the pieces he inherited and turn them into a competent unit, the Cowboys could be a dark horse contender out of the NFC East.

Needs: DL, ED, CB, S, OL depth

Believe it or not, the Cowboys finished with a less efficient offense than defense a year ago. Prescott’s injury is the primary culprit, but only Philly lost more games to injury along the line and Andy Dalton is notorious for his struggles under duress. Outside of DeMarcus Lawrence and Jaylon Smith, there’s questions across the defense.

9. Seattle Seahawks

Earlier this offseason Russell Wilson made it clear he doesn’t want to be traded but that if he was, he would only want to go to the Las Vegas Raiders, New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears, or Dallas Cowboys. With his no-trade clause a factor, it limits what Seattle’s Jon Schneider can really do, which means Wilson looks like he’ll play another year under Pete Carrol. For now.

Needs: ED, DL, CB, WR

Seattle has mostly kept their roster intact, resigning Carlos Dunlap, overpaying Chris Carson, and bringing back a bunch of the depth pieces from last year’s roster. The big moves are when they went out and snagged a couple veterans from division rivals. It could do wonders for the defense to improve at generating pressure without sending extra bodies.

8. Los Angeles Rams

In a league where the vast majority of teams overvalue first round picks, Les Snead stands out as an outlier. Following the trade for Matthew Stafford, the Rams will not have a first round pick for the next seven years. One could argue this is a savvy way to go against the grain as history has shown time and again that roughly half the first round of every draft will bust. Rather than gamble on a prospect, the Rams have Jalen Ramsey and what they hope is an upgrade at quarterback.

If Stafford and the roster can stay healthy, they should be a contender in 2021. It’s a huge question if that’ll be the case, as Stafford’s 33-years old with a couple significant blemishes across his recent medical record and Los Angeles was one of the healthiest rosters in football a season ago.

Needs: LT, LB, ED, S, CB depth, DL depth, OL depth

It’d be prudent to chase an heir to Andrew Whitworth as the former Bengal turns 40 in December. It’s a testamont to Aaron Donald, the secondary, and the now departed Brandon Staley that the defense was so incredible a year ago because there’s pressing needs at both linebacker and edge. Leonard Floyd was rewarded for his career year in sacks with a $64 million contract, but grabbing another pass rusher would help to force attention away from Donald. Given the relative lack of talent at defensive line in this ‘21 class it’d make sense to chase an edge. With the Browns swooping in to steal John Johnson there’s also rather pressing questions on the third level.

7. San Francisco 49ers

Per Football Outsiders’ charting, the Niners lost 161.1 games to injury in 2020, just under 36 more than any other roster in football. While Jimmy Garoppolo’s durability concerns make it a gamble to count on him for a full campaign, they should have better health luck next season. Bringing in Alex Mack and retaining Trent Williams should help up front and Kyle Shanahan is notorious for his ability to scheme guys open. On defense, they’re counting on DeMeco Ryan to keep a good thing going, as they finished as the sixth best defense in football a season ago.

Needs: QB, DL, CB, WR, OL depth

I’m nitpicking with most of the Niners’ needs. Their defensive line is reliant on second year Javon Kinlaw’s development while Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel headline the receiving corps. The cornerbacks don’t blow you away individually, but they were the seventh best pass defense a year ago. If the quarterback they pick at three can hit the ground running, this is probably a Super Bowl contender.

6. Baltimore Ravens

So long as Lamar Jackson’s legs make him something opposing coaches must endure rather than stop, Baltimore will hang around the playoff picture. However, to go any further towards a Lombardi, they’ll need to improve the defense and completely unlock Jackson’s potential as a passer. It’s necessary to note they were one of just nine teams with less than 50 Adjusted Games Lost to injury. Odds are their depth is tested more in 2021.

Needs: ED, DL, WR, QB2/3, DB, RT?

According to Sports Info Solutions’ charting, Baltimore sent five rushers more than any team in football a season ago. The blitz heavy tendency is a trademark of Wink Martindale and plays a role in the way the Ravens have been able to turn lowly drafted edge departures into compensatory selections for years. The fact that they brought back Tyus Bowser should receive more attention than it did, as he’s the rare pass rusher who’s also a difference-maker dropping into coverage.

With Orlando Brown’s desire for a trade, there’s reason to believe the Ravens could need to acquire another right tackle in the draft. Sammy Watkin’s one-year deal is a Band Aid designed to provide the young receivers time. If there’s any doubt about Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay, or Hollywood Brown, it would make sense to draft from a deep rookie receiver class. The starting defensive line is pretty long in the tooth and it could make sense to develop another big body. With Martindale playing out of base personnel 80% of the time, a defensive back can’t be out of the realm of possibility.

5. Cleveland Browns

An efficient rushing attack, Myles Garret, and critical improvement from Baker Mayfield helped the Browns win their first playoff game since 1994 before a thorough rinsing at the hands of Patrick Mahomes. They spent the offseason resigning role players, stealing John Johnson and Troy Hill from the Rams’ defense, and pulling a sneaky Malik Jackson signing. Better health luck as well as improved play in the secondary is critical for Cleveland to contend for the Super Bowl.

Needs: ED, DL, CB, OL depth, S?

Grant Delpit’s rookie season never got off the ground thanks to an Achilles tear in August. If he can regain the form that saw him drafted in the second round, he and Johnson could make a formidable duo behind Denzel Ward. Adding pass rushers to punish opponents for devoting too much attention to Myles Garett could have a transformative impact on the rest of the defense, which is why the Clowney signing makes so much sense.

The Heavyweights

4. Green Bay Packers

Your belief in Aaron Rodgers’ need for extrinsic motivation probably impacts how you see the Jordan Love selection in 2019. To some, it will look like a five dimensional chess move. For others, it’s a ticking time bomb.

Needs: WR, DB, LB, ED, OT? iOL?

There’s been a debate between nerds and Cheeseheads for a year about the Love and A.J. Dillon selections. When Brian Gutekunst extended Aaron Jones at the cost of Corey Linsley, it only intensified. With David Bakhtiari’s knee injury coming so late in the 2020 campaign, there are significant questions hanging over the offensive line.

Matt LeFleur’s offense is built on a zone rushing attack and leans into RPOs more than any in the NFL. Grabbing a deep threat to take the top off the secondary or a dynamic YAC monster could help to maximize both scheme and Rodgers’ talents.

A new coordinator means the Packers could see their defensive needs differently than the rest of us. Retaining Kevin King at the cost of $5 million definitely suggests as much. Tight against the cap ceiling, the Packers’ roster is probably set after the draft and UDFA period.

3. Buffalo Bills

After two years looking like evolutionary Tebow, Josh Allen made the leap and became an MVP candidate in 2020. After a disappointing loss to the Chiefs, Buffalo’s mission one was to bring back core contributors. To push the foundation over the top, Brandon Beane signed Emmanuel Sanders and a number of backups headlined by Mitch Trubisky. Odds are the depth is tested, as the Bills finished among the healthiest teams a year ago and regression looms.

Needs: ED, CB, NT, TE, WR depth

Bringing back Levi Wallace was among the best free agent signings in the league and Buffalo got him for a steal on a one-year deal. To ensure the secondary can survive a 2022 payday, they should grab a prospect from this corner class. Don’t sleep on a safety a little later in their draft, as Micah Hyde is 30 and Jordan Poyer will be in April. Both contracts are moveable in 2023 and Poyer only counts for $2 million in dead money if he’s traded next year.

To make the most of Ed Oliver, I could see the Bills adding another big body since Star Lotulelei’s opt out a season ago forced him to log more snaps at the one technique. An upgrade along the edge could also help to create more one-on-one reps for the interior rushers.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The band is back together after Jason Licht prioritized retaining all the key pieces of last year’s Super Bowl winner. The journey back is going to be grueling, as health luck looks almost certain to turn after they were the least injured team in football in 2020. With an aging corps and questionable depth along both lines and across the defense, it’d be wise for Licht to plan for the here and later.

Needs: DL, DB, iOL, EDGE, RB, QB2, WR depth

I bet if you caught Andy Reid and Brent Leach in their most honest moment, they would admit Clyde Edwards-Helaire was a mistake in the first round of the ‘20 draft. It will be interesting to see if Licht and Bruce Arians learn from the miscue, as they could be tempted to overdraft a three down back to try to make the most of Tom Brady’s remaining window.

1. Kansas City Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes became a human piñata on football’s biggest stage, and Brent Leach responded by cutting his tackles and investing in the interior offensive line. Right up against the cap, the Chiefs found a way to reprioritize the lines of scrimmage and reset their needs in accordance with the strengths of the 2021 Draft.

Needs: WR, OT, OL depth, LB, DB, ED

When KC cut both Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher, it became clear that tackle would be a priority this offseason. They came up just short in the Trent Williams sweepstakes and used the money to pay Joe Thuney. Mike Remmers, Prince Tega Wanogho, and Lucas Niang look like the big names at tackle, so I expect Reid and Leach to dabble in the ‘21 tackle class. With Sammy Watkins a Raven and Mecole Hardman a better athlete than receiver thus far in his career, it’d pay to grab a pass catcher.

On defense, the Chiefs are built around their star power. Chris Jones and Tyrann Mathieu serve as foundational pieces and create opportunities for the rest of the defenders. There’s a number of questions along the edge, as Frank Clark has been disappointing and there’s little beyond him, so the pass rush is quite dependent on Steve Spagnuolo’s play calling. While Willie Gay looks like he could become a stud in his second season, Anthony Hitchens is a liability in pass coverage.

Your Broncos’ News

A dangerous game of drafting NFL quarterbacks: history, data & insight - Mile High Report

A look inside the history, the successes and the many failures of teams taking quarterbacks in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Broncos, Bucs and Seahawks players are folding like cheap lawn chairs - Mile High Report

A ‘No Bull’ opinion on the players skipping voluntary workouts.

Brandon McManus: Now that we have more info, Broncos will revisit offseason decision - ProFootballTalk

“Our team voted based on information we had at that time,” McManus said, via Mike Klis of KUSA. “I’m sure everyone would love to reconvene, I’m sure we will. Obviously we need to digest it. It would be unjust for us to not speak to our guys. Now that we have more information we’ll reconvene about what we think is best moving forward. If some players still believe we shouldn’t go then we’ll handle that in-house. And if people want to go, it is voluntary but what we wanted to do with our original statement was make it from a team standpoint. I don’t think it’s something that can’t be reversed. I’d say we got a reaction from the NFL because now we have a statement.”

2021 NFL mock draft: All 7 rounds and 259 picks, from Trevor Lawrence to Feleipe Franks – The Athletic

9. Denver Broncos – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State How seriously are the Broncos considering a quarterback at No. 9? With a first-year general manager in George Paton (and John Elway not completely out of the picture), it is tough to know. But Drew Lock hasn’t done enough to secure the starting job and Fields’ talent might be too good to pass up.

2021 NFL Draft: Best team fits for top quarterbacks? Five analytics-based pairings

The Broncos’ strong run game and solid pass-catching corps — along with a defense that forecasts to be in the top 10 in win share as a unit — would give Jones the opportunity to rely on the strong execution of what he’s already faced, with Denver slowly adding in the rest of the playbook. This is how Dallas brought along Dak Prescott, and it’s paid off quite well.

2021 NFL Mock Draft: New England Patriots trade up for QB Mac Jones, Cincinnati Bengals take WR Ja’Marr Chase | NFL Draft | PFF

6. DENVER BRONCOS: (VIA MIAMI, VIA PHILADELPHIA): QB TREY LANCE, NORTH DAKOTA STATE Atlanta might find it hard to deal the fourth pick because a team such as Denver probably doesn’t need to get that high to snag the player they want and leapfrog any potential rival. I have the Broncos trading up with Miami, which has already demonstrated its willingness to accept the right deal to maximize value. There is a good chance the Dolphins traded back to No. 6 thinking that Ja’Marr Chase would still be there, but with him gone, they are happy to take advantage of Denver’s desperation and net what should be another second-round pick in this draft. Denver needs to make a move at quarterback. Drew Lock ranked 40th out of 42 quarterbacks last season in adjusted completion rate and 35th in overall PFF grade. The Broncos boast plenty of offensive weapons, so they shouldn’t wait any longer for Lock to show viable play. Pivot to Trey Lance, who I think is actually far more ready to start Day 1 than many people give him credit for.

NFL News

Jadeveon Clowney signing one-year deal with Browns - ProFootballTalk

According to several reports, Cleveland is signing Clowney to a one-year deal worth up to $10 million.

Another lawsuit is filed against Deshaun Watson - ProFootballTalk

Via Sarah Barshop of, the latest plaintiff also is represented by Houston lawyer Tony Buzbee. Last week, Buzbee said that he agreed to represent 22 plaintiffs and that he declined to represent five others.

NFLPA: NFL’s modified offseason plan does not address players’ concerns - ProFootballTalk

“The NFL’s announcement does not address any of the concerns raised by the players,” the memo reads, via Tom Pelissero of NFL Media. “The slight modification only extended ‘Phase 1’ activity and reduced ‘Phase 2’ activity by two weeks.

The Ugly Narratives Surrounding Justin Fields’s Tumbling Draft Stock - The Ringer

“I’m confused at some level of what is the criteria needed in order for guys to move up the draft,” said Quincy Avery, the Atlanta-based QB trainer who’s worked with Fields since he was in high school. “Because if it’s ‘big, strong, fast, throws well, makes good decisions’—all those things that we were told were important for understanding if someone was a good prospect or not—Justin checks those boxes. So I’m missing it.”