NFL Draft Needs: Where Each Team Can Improve In 2021 Draft

If you need a QB, you better be willing to get bold

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The NFL draft is the perfect opportunity for teams across the league to address their biggest needs in a cost-effective way.

It’s no secret the teams that are best at drafting typically end up playing deep into the playoffs. The NFL salary cap puts an emphasis on being able to identify young, affordable talent in the draft. It allows teams from having to chase solutions to their problems by spending big in free agency.

Every team — even the defending Super Bowl champions — has roster holes. Here are the biggest needs for each team ahead of next week’s draft.

AFC EAST
Buffalo Bills
Need:
Front-seven
First pick: No. 30
Potential target: OLB Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
The Bills’ offense looked like one of the NFL’s best in 2020, but there’s room for improvement on defense. Grabbing someone like Ojulari could improve both the pass rush and short to intermediate coverage.

Miami Dolphins
Need:
WR
First pick: No. 6
Potential target: WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
The Dolphins have plenty of cards to play, as they have done a wonderful job of stockpiling assets. If they hold at No. 6, they definitely should add a playmaker for Tua Tugavoila. If Kyle Pitts falls, they should sprint to take him. If he doesn’t, taking the best available wideout makes sense.

New England Patriots
Need:
QB
First pick: No. 15
Potential target: QB Mac Jones, Alabama
Is this finally the year Bill Belichick trades up and drafts a first-round quarterback? The future of the position is very much in flux for New England, meaning anything and everything is on the table. At this point, it would be surprising to see them draft at No. 15 — unless a QB, like Jones, falls.

New York Jets
Need: QB
First pick: No. 2
Potential target: QB Zach Wilson, BYU
The Jets have needed a QB for 50 years, and maybe they get a franchise cornerstone with Wilson. He’s super-athletic and certainly impressed in shorts. He’ll be fascinating in New York.

AFC NORTH
Baltimore Ravens
Need:
Pass rusher
First pick: No. 27
Potential target: LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa
Baltimore needs to restock in the front seven after free agency, and Collins’ versatility — he can play both inside and outside — should be a selling point. They need receivers, too, but can wait in a deep WR class.

Cleveland Browns
Need: Pass rusher
First pick: No. 26
Potential target: DE Kwity Paye, Michigan
Seemingly everyone has Cleveland taking Paye, so let’s roll with that. Getting after the passer is as important as ever, and a Myles Garrett/Paye combo should do well in that regard.

Cincinnati Bengals
Need:
Offensive line
First pick: No. 5
Potential target: OT Penei Sewell, Oregon
The Bengals watched in horror as Joe Burrow shredded his knee midway through an impressive rookie season. Can’t let that happen again. Cincy should grab a franchise tackle up top and get weapons later in the draft.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Need:
Offensive line
First pick: No. 24
Potential target: OT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State
Pittsburgh should get out in front of its rebuild and start making the offensive line a real strength for whoever ends up replacing Ben Roethlisberger.

AFC SOUTH
Houston Texans
Need:
Secondary
First pick: No. 67
Potential target: CB Aaron Robinson, UCF
Tough year to not have a first- or second-round pick, huh? Nick Caserio is in a precarious spot here and probably should just take the best available player.

Indianapolis Colts
Need:
Receiver
First pick: No. 20
Potential target: WR Elijah Moore, Ole Miss
Basically, whatever Chris Ballard chooses to do will work because he’s a draft wizard. It’s possible the Colts wait and grab Carson Wentz a new wideout a little later than this.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Need:
A lot but mostly QB
First pick: No. 1
Potential target: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
It’s a given. What else is there to say?

Tennessee Titans
Need:
Cornerback
First pick: No. 22
Potential target: CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
Adoree Jackson and Malcolm Butler are gone, so the Titans probably want to restock the cupboard, especially with Lawrence in the divisional picture.

AFC WEST
Denver Broncos
Need:
Quarterback
First pick: No. 9
Potential target: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
A lot of variables here. Does Denver believe in Drew Lock? Does Lance go undrafted through the first four picks? Is Jones a better option? We’ll go with no, no and it probably won’t matter because he’ll probably be gone.

Kansas City Chiefs
Need:
Offensive line
First pick: No. 31
Potential target: OT Jaylen Mayfield, Michigan
The Chiefs made a heady move to sign Joe Thuney in the offseason, but they should keep adding to that offensive line after watching Patrick Mahomes run for his life in Super Bowl LV.

Las Vegas Raiders
Need:
Any defense
First pick: No. 17
Potential target: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State
If there was ever a year to need defense, this is it, given how many projections expect offensive players to be drafted in the top 10. The Raiders should take advantage as solid defenders fall.

Los Angeles Chargers
Need:
Offensive line
First pick: No. 13
Potential target: OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
If you have a young quarterback with the potential of a Justin Herbert, offensive line is pretty much always going to be a draft priority — especially when it’s a QB pressured as much as Herbert in his rookie season.

NFC EAST
Dallas Cowboys
Need:
Help all over the defense
First pick: No. 10
Potential target: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
Dallas was torched for at least 38 points in five games last season. Without a franchise pass-rusher available, the Cowboys should grab the best cornerback.

New York Giants
Need:
Offensive line
First pick: No. 11
Potential target: OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
The G-Men are getting some DeVonta Smith picks in mock drafts. He’s obviously great, but they did just sign Kenny Golladay. Why not solidify the offensive line for Daniel Jones and the returning Saquon Barkley, and then grab a wideout later?

Philadelphia Eagles
Need: Receiver
First pick: No. 12
Potential target: WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama
Does Philly get a do-over after passing on Justin Jefferson last year? It feels like the Eagles could have their pick of Smith or fellow ‘Bama product Jaylen Waddle here.

Washington Football Team
Need:
Quarterback
First pick: No. 19
Potential target: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
Taylor Heineke playoff performance aside, WFT still needs a QB but is unlikely to see one fall to No. 19. Perhaps they could trade up in front of New England at No. 15, but if not, adding to the front seven is a solid play.

NFC NORTH
Chicago Bears
Need:
QB
First pick: No. 20
Potential target: CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern
Maybe the Bears should just tank with Andy Dalton and try to get a QB next year. In the meantime, grabbing the local kid as Kyle Fuller’s replacement makes sense — assuming they don’t trade up.

Detroit Lions
Need:
Secondary
First pick: No. 7
Potential target: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
The Lions could trade down (the Patriots, perhaps?), and they also need receiving help after losing Golladay. But if Jeff Okudah can rebound after a disappointing rookie season, building a top-flight secondary seems like a good way to slow someone like Aaron Rodgers.

Green Bay Packers
Need:
Offensive line
First pick: No. 29
Potential target: OT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State
There will be plenty of receiver talk with the Packers, as there always seems to be, but Rodgers just won MVP with that group. He was under siege in the NFC Championship Game, so beefing up the offensive line — which lost some pieces in free agency — is key … especially if they’re truly looking ahead to Jordan Love taking over.

Minnesota Vikings
Need:
Offensive line
First pick: No. 14
Potential target: OT Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
The Vikings’ offensive line was horrendous last season, and Vera-Tucker is a versatile lineman who can play both guard and tackle. Secondary help is also in play here with someone like Jaycee Horn.

NFC SOUTH
Atlanta Falcons
Need:
Tight end
First pick: No. 4
Potential target: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
The Falcons are fascinating with all the options they have. They could take one of the top quarterbacks as Matt Ryan’s eventual replacement, or they could trade down and address multiple needs in the long run. Tight end is a need, though, and just about everyone believes Pitts is a generational tight end, so that makes sense, too.

Carolina Panthers
Need:
Offensive line
First pick: No. 7
Potential target: OT Penei Sewell, Oregon
The Panthers’ trade for Sam Darnold shows a dedication to improving Joe Brady’s offense. If they get lucky, Sewell at No. 7 would be a steal. Rashawn Slater is an option, too.

New Orleans Saints
Need:
Receiver
First pick: No. 28
Potential target: WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
Emmanuel Sanders is gone, and who knows what the deal is with Michael Thomas. The Saints should be trying to make it as easy as possible for its quarterback duo of Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. Secondary help makes sense here, too. Also, would you put it by Sean Payton to get real nuts and make a blockbuster trade for a future QB? Lots of options for the Saints.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Need:
Defensive line
First pick: No. 32
Potential target: DT Christian Barmore, Alabama
What the Bucs need more than anything is Tom Brady to continue to defy logic as it pertains to aging in the NFL. Adding another big body in the trenches — considering Ndamukong Suh is 34 years old — makes sense, too, even if it means reaching at No. 32.

NFC WEST
Arizona Cardinals
Need:
Cornerback
First pick: No. 16
Potential target: CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
Patrick Peterson is gone, so why not replace him with the consensus second-best corner behind Surtain?

Los Angeles Rams
Need:
Interior offensive line
First pick: No. 57
Potential target: C Landon Dickerson, Alabama
The Rams need help on the inside, and if Dickerson’s injury past causes him to freefall (ESPN has him going in the first round), LA could benefit.

San Francisco 49ers
Need:
Quarterback, apparently
First pick: No. 3
Potential target: QB Justin Fields, Ohio State
It’s pretty clear Kyle Shanahan and/or John Lynch don’t believe in Jimmy Garoppolo, so they traded up to No. 3 to draft a quarterback.

Seattle Seahawks
Need:
To make Russell Wilson happy
First pick: No. 56
Potential target: OL Samuel Cosmi, Texas
The consensus biggest need is actually on the defensive line, but Wilson has been quite vocal about the desire to be better protected. Might Seattle look to appease him right away?

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