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For NFL teams, the offseason is a two-pronged attempt to put out fires on their rosters. First through free agency and then through the draft, general managers do their best to extinguish the hot spots that can become an inferno and raze a club’s season.
Some do a better job of that than others.
We’re through one half of that endeavor (mostly, anyway). There are still a number of players looking for work—including a pair of players drafted No. 1 overall as recently as 2014 and 2015—but teams across the league have spent hundreds of millions of dollars plugging holes and patching gaps.
Again, some better than others.
Each team, however, is in at least some danger of flare-ups between now and the end of April. Problems remain that need to be addressed before those problems ravage the 2020 campaign.
Every NFL franchise from Arizona to Washington has a red flag.
Here’s the biggest for each.
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The Cardinals were one of the bigger winners of the free-agency period in 2020. The trade for wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was an absolute masterstroke, and the additions of linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips and edge-rusher Devon Kennard should bolster a defense that allowed the most yards per game in 2019.
But the Cardinals still have work to do on offense—especially at the tackle position.
Yes, they re-upped both D.J. Humphries and Marcus Gilbert this offseason. And the hefty financial commitment the Cards made to Humphries would appear to indicate Arizona has confidence in his ability to man the left side. But Gilbert has missed an average of 12 games a year over the past three seasons. He can’t be counted on at right tackle.
If Arizona can snag Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs or Alabama’s Jedrick Wills (both of whom played right tackle in college) at No. 8 overall, it will go a long way toward helping second-year quarterback Kyler Murray improve in 2020.
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An argument can be made that the entire Atlanta defense is a red flag after free agency.
The defensive line is least of the issues after the addition of edge-rusher Dante Fowler Jr. in free agency. But Fowler could use a consistent running mate at the other end of the defensive front, and to date, 2017 first-round pick Takkarist McKinley hasn’t shown he can be that guy.
At linebacker, the departure of De’Vondre Campbell in free agency leaves a sizable void next to Deion Jones. Youngster Foyesade Oluokun has shown some promise, and a return to form from Jones after something of a down 2019 campaign will help. But the Falcons may well look to add a linebacker on Day 2 of the draft.
However, the most pressing need is unquestionably cornerback after the loss of longtime starter Desmond Trufant. Isaiah Oliver’s first two seasons in the NFL have been up-and-down, and there’s not a lot on the depth chart behind him.
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The Baltimore Ravens had a fantastic regular season in 2019, winning a franchise-record 14 games. The team will enter the 2020 campaign as one of the Super Bowl favorites in the AFC.
If the Ravens are going to realize that immense potential, some leaks need to be plugged. And the largest is at the inside linebacker position.
The spot was already the Achilles’ heel of the team’s defense. Now, with Patrick Onwuasor gone, that weakness is even more pronounced. The Ravens’ best inside linebacker at present is L.J. Fort, a 30-year-old journeyman on his fifth NFL team.
There’s zero chance that Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons will still be on the board at No. 28, and the odds aren’t especially great that Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray will be either. That could leave the Ravens either potentially reaching a bit for a player like LSU’s Patrick Queen or targeting someone like Jordyn Brooks of Texas Tech on Day 2.
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There’s bad news and good news for the Buffalo Bills heading into the 2020 draft.
The bad news is that the Bills no longer have a first-round pick.
The good news is that Buffalo doesn’t have a Round 1 selection because of the trade with the Minnesota Vikings that brought Stefon Diggs to Western New York—a trade that filled one of the Bills’ biggest needs.
With wide receiver taken care of, it’s time to look to their counterparts on the defensive side of the ball.
The Bills have one of the best corners in the NFL in Tre’Davious White. Free-agent addition Josh Norman was once thought of in the same terms. But the cold, hard reality is that Norman is 32 years old, was brought in on a one-year deal and was abjectly awful in 2019 in Washington.
At the very least, the Bills could stand to add depth at the position. At most, the team needs to be prepared for the possibility that Norman is not the player he used to be.
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Not many teams in the NFL have undergone more change this offseason than the Carolina Panthers. There’s a new head coach in Matt Rhule. A new quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. The leader of the defense (linebacker Luke Kuechly) retired. A number of important contributors over the past few years, like edge-rusher Mario Addison, cornerback James Bradberry and safety Eric Reid, are no longer with the team.
Simply put, the Panthers are in the early stages of a full-on rebuild.
Given that, it’s easier to point out areas that aren’t red flags than ones that are. Brian Burns and Kawann Short are still up front, but the team needs talent and depth on the defensive line. Veteran Tahir Whitehead is at best a stopgap replacement for Kuechly. The secondary is a hot mess with huge holes at both corner and safety.
Even if the team focuses the vast majority of its draft capital on defense, this unit won’t be fixed over the three days of the draft.
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It’s not going to be easy for the Chicago Bears to make any immediate improvements in the 2020 NFL draft. Thanks to the trade that brought Khalil Mack to the Windy City, the Bears don’t have a pick on the first day.
However, if the Bears are going to engineer a turnaround in 2020 under either Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles, something needs to be done about an offensive line that took a substantial step backward in 2019.
In 2018, the Bears struggled in run blocking (28th, per Football Outsiders) but had a top-10 line in pass protection. A year ago, that rank also dropped way off—from seventh in 2018 to 21st in 2019.
The addition of versatile veteran Germain Ifedi in free agency will help somewhat, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ryan Pace use the Bears’ first pick on Day 2 to add a guard or tackle.
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With Andy Dalton‘s time in Cincinnati all but certainly over, the quarterback position is obviously the Bengals’ biggest need in 2020. But given that there’s about a 164 percent chance that Joe Burrow will be the first pick in this year’s draft, we’ll cross that off the list.
At that point, keeping Burrow from getting hurt becomes priority No. 1.
Getting a healthy Jonah Williams back after a lost rookie season will no doubt help. So will the addition of guard Xavier Su’a-Filo in free agency. But the Bengals were 20th or worse in both run blocking and pass protection last year per Football Outsiders, and both left guard and right tackle are potential problem areas.
With the first pick in Round 2, the elite tackle prospects are off the table. But the Bengals could look to add someone like Auburn’s Prince Tega Wanogho or address the interior of the offensive front with a young guard like Oregon’s Shane Lemieux.
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For quite a few years, the left tackle position was one of the few positions for the Cleveland Browns that wasn’t a red flag.
That’s not the case now.
The Browns addressed the right side of the line in a big way with the signing of Jack Conklin in free agency, but the blind side remains a massive question mark. The team’s 2019 starter (Greg Robinson) is long gone, and as things stand, the starter at left tackle would likely be Chris Hubbard, who was a liability for the team on the right side the past two seasons.
Fortunately for Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, it’s more than a little likely that the Browns will add a tackle with the 10th pick in the 2020 draft. A fistful of prospects at that position could make an immediate impact in the pros. Even if a couple come off the board before Cleveland’s pick, the Browns should still have a few options to pick from.
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The Dallas Cowboys have a pair of looming red flags on the defensive side of the ball—both created by free-agent departures.
The Cowboys beefed up the interior of the defensive line with the additions of Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe, but the loss of Robert Quinn leaves a large hole opposite DeMarcus Lawrence at end. Youngster Dorance Armstrong has shown some potential and the team took a flier on Aldon Smith, but neither is anywhere close to a sure thing.
However, the loss of Byron Jones opens up an even bigger void at cornerback. The Cowboys have Chidobe Awuzie to hold down one spot on the outside, and they re-upped Anthony Brown. But Brown is better suited to the slot, and the other options on the roster don’t inspire a ton of confidence as a starter.
Which of these two directions the Cowboys go in at No. 17 will likely depend on what happens ahead of them, but at corner, most of the higher-end prospects (with the exception of Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah) should be available.
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The Denver Broncos were aggressive in adding veteran talent in free agency and via trades, bringing in a trio of big names in defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, cornerback A.J. Bouye and tailback Melvin Gordon.
But at least one pressing need for the team remains unaddressed—help at the wide receiver position.
The cupboard isn’t completely bare in the Mile High City. Courtland Sutton blew up in his second NFL season, catching 72 passes for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns. But after Denver traded Emmanuel Sanders partway through the 2019 season, there’s a fat bag of nothing behind Sutton at wideout.
If there’s a silver lining to this problem, it’s that 2020 is a good year to need wide receiver help. The draft class at wideout this year is stacked, and Denver should be able to add a young pass-catcher capable of making an immediate dent at No. 15.
That’s what most mock drafts predict the Broncos will do, with LSU’s Justin Jefferson and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy mentioned as potential targets.
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Fate has often been cruel to the Detroit Lions.
It doesn’t appear that 2020 will be an exception.
The Lions are in excellent shape to give the league’s worst pass defense in 2019 a huge boost after trading Darius Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles. With the third overall pick in the 2020 draft, the Lions should be able to (if they wish) take the top corner in this class in Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah.
Okudah is an excellent young defensive back who will more than likely have an excellent career. But the Lions already signed veteran corner Desmond Trufant in free agency. The position is a red flag for the Lions—but it’s not the red flag.
Only one team in the NFL had fewer sacks than the Lions in 2019. Trey Flowers is a fine edge-setter, but he’s not an anchor for a team’s entire pass rush.
The Lions need an edge-rusher—and it’s pretty likely the best one in the 2020 draft (Ohio State’s Chase Young) will come off the board one pick before the Lions go on the clock.
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The more things change in Titletown, the more they stay the same.
In fairness, after dumping a ton of money into the pass rush in 2019 (a move that paid off pretty well, all things considered), Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst didn’t have a lot of cash to throw around in 2020. As such, the team was relatively quiet in free agency this year, and that means many of the needs the Pack had before free agency began are still there.
Then there are the holes that opened up during free agency—such as at tight end after Jimmy Graham left for Chicago.
Granted, Graham was nowhere near the player in Green Bay he was in New Orleans. And the Packers still have veteran Marcedes Lewis. But in two years in Green Bay, Lewis has caught all of 18 passes.
Wide receiver is a consideration here too—even after the signing of Devin Funchess. But Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet (the consensus top tight end in 2020) could be a tempting target at the back end of the first round.
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Why fill holes in free agency when you can create more instead?
No team in the NFL had a more bizarre free-agency period than the Houston Texans. Texans head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien stunned the National Football League by trading star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals.
In doing so, he created the reddest of flags at that position.
The best wide receiver still on Houston’s roster is likely Will Fuller V. Fuller is a dangerous downfield threat, but he has missed at least five games in three of four seasons and has never had even 700 receiving yards in a single year. The Texans brought in veteran Randall Cobb in free agency, but Cobb turns 30 before the season begins and hasn’t had a 1,000-yard season since 2014.
But wait, there’s more!
It’s not going to be easy for Houston to upgrade the wideout corps in the draft either. Houston traded its first-round pick to Miami last year, and the Texans didn’t get one back in the Hopkins trade.
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The Indianapolis Colts were active in free agency, making a couple of big moves. The largest was the addition of veteran quarterback Philip Rivers as an upgrade under center after Jacoby Brissett struggled down the stretch in 2019.
Now the key for the Colts becomes improving the passing-game weapons at Rivers’ disposal.
That problem isn’t unique to Indianapolis. The team has an excellent No. 1 wide receiver in T.Y. Hilton. But behind Hilton, there isn’t much. Last year’s free-agent add at wideout, Devin Funchess, made it one game into the season before getting hurt and is now in Green Bay. The Colts spent a second-round pick on Parris Campbell in 2019, but Campbell missed more than half of his rookie year and caught just 18 passes.
The second round is the earliest the Colts will be able to address the wide receiver position in 2020 after the team sent the 13th overall pick to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for defensive lineman DeForest Buckner.
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Not that long ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars were playing in the AFC Championship Game. The engine that got the Jags to that game was one of the NFL’s most formidable defenses. And the heart of that defense was Jacksonville’s “Pick-fil-A” secondary that included cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye.
Fast forward to 2020, and the Jaguars are in the opening stages of a rebuild. The defense is a shell of its former self. Linebacker Telvin Smith is gone. So is defensive end Calais Campbell.
And so are Ramsey and Bouye. The Jaguars traded both in the last year: Ramsey to the Rams last season and Bouye to Denver in the opening days of free agency.
Unless Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah falls further than expected, grabbing a cornerback with the ninth overall pick would be a bit of a reach given this year’s crop at the position. The pick acquired in the Ramsey trade is another story—a prospect like TCU’s Jeff Gladney or Florida’s C.J. Henderson is a very real possibility at No. 20.
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The Kansas City Chiefs are coming off a pretty good season, or so I’ve heard. Something about winning a game in Miami in February and getting some trophy or something.
But now the Chiefs have gone from being the hunter to being the hunted. As the defending Super Bowl champions, the Chiefs will get every opponent’s best shot every week.
At least at one position, the offseason wasn’t kind to the team.
Kansas City’s cornerbacks are more than likely going to look vastly different in 2020 than they did in 2019. Kendall Fuller signed with the Washington Redskins. Bashaud Breeland and Morris Claiborne could still return, but as of now, the pair remains unsigned.
In other words, three of Kansas City’s corners (including the top two from 2019) are presently not on the team. Whether it’s with bargain free agents or a rookie like Clemson’s A.J. Terrell, the Chiefs need talent and depth at cornerback in equal measure.
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The Raiders kicked off their tenure in Las Vegas with a flurry of activity in free agency. The team added competition for Derek Carr at quarterback in Marcus Mariota. One of the NFL’s weakest linebacker corps was retooled with the signings of Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton.
However, there’s still one area in which the Raiders roster needs more than a little work. Las Vegas possesses one of the NFL’s more promising young tight ends in Darren Waller. Running back Josh Jacobs became the first player in franchise history to top 1,000 yards as a rookie.
But the wide receiver position is a mess in Oakland. Tyrell Williams got off to a hot start in 2019, but he spent much of the season’s second half on the side of a milk carton. The addition of Nelson Agholor in free agency was at best a nominal improvement.
By virtue of the Khalil Mack trade, the Raiders have two picks in the 2020 draft—No. 12 and No. 19.
One of those picks had best be used on a wide receiver.
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It’s the dawn of a new era for the Los Angeles Chargers. With Philip Rivers now in Indianapolis, the Chargers will have a new starter under center in 2020 for the first time since 2006.
The change at quarterback wasn’t especially surprising. What was curious is that after missing out on Tom Brady, the Chargers balked at adding another veteran at the position. There won’t be any Cam Newton in L.A., it appears. Or Jameis Winston. Or Andy Dalton.
That leaves Tyrod Taylor as the team’s starting quarterback—and that, my friends, is what we in the analyst game call one lulu of a red flag.
Last year’s miserable season puts the Chargers in good position to add one of this year’s top three quarterback prospects with the sixth overall pick. The question is which one. While Oregon’s Justin Herbert will probably be there at No. 6, making a play for Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa would likely take a move up the board ahead of Miami.
We may not yet know who it will be, but it will be a massive upset if a signal-caller isn’t Tom Telesco’s first pick in 2020.
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This is admittedly a bit of a cop-out. There’s a big difference between the roles of inside and outside linebackers in the scheme the Rams run. Lumping them together is far from ideal.
But it’s equally difficult to discern which group is a bigger need after a Rams team with limited cap space and no first-round pick was hit hard by personnel losses in free agency.
Dante Fowler Jr., who had a career year with the Rams in 2019, landed a fat contract with the Atlanta Falcons. Clay Matthews, who was on pace for his best season in years in 2019 before getting hurt, was let go to free up cap space. Cory Littleton, who led the Rams in tackles each of the past two years, signed with the Las Vegas Raiders.
The Rams are reportedly bringing in 2016 first-round pick Leonard Floyd to offset the losses on the edge, but Floyd has never come close to living up to that draft slot.
This isn’t going to be an easy problem to fix—at least in 2020.
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A few weeks ago, it would have been infinitely easier to pinpoint the areas where the Miami Dolphins didn’t need help—it was a short list.
The Dolphins were one of the NFL’s more aggressive teams in free agency, doling out big contracts to the likes of cornerback Byron Jones and linebacker Kyle Van Noy. But as Miami readies for a first round of the 2020 draft in which it has three picks, there’s still one need that towers above the rest.
With all due respect to Ryan Fitzpatrick (and his beard), the Dolphins need a quarterback.
There has been no shortage of mock drafts that connect Miami to Alabama signal-caller Tua Tagovailoa, including the latest one from Kevin Hanson of Sports Illustrated. But just as Hanson’s does, many of these mocks predict the Dolphins might have to move up from No. 5 to ensure that another QB-needy team like the Los Angeles Chargers doesn’t leapfrog them.
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After shipping wide receiver Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills, the Minnesota Vikings have a pair of first-round picks with which to get better and try to make another run at the postseason.
They’re going to need them—especially at the cornerback position.
It’s not so much that the Vikings lost a corner in this year’s personnel merry-go-round. The Vikes lost them all. Xavier Rhodes was let go by a Minnesota team in one of the worst cap crunches in the league. Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander both bolted for the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency.
Minnesota’s starting cornerbacks right now are Mike Hughes and Nate Meadors. That’s not going to get Minnesota past Green Bay in the NFC North—much less past Drew Brees and the Saints or Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers in the NFC.
Whether it’s Alabama’s Trevon Diggs, Auburn’s Noah Igbinoghene or Utah’s Jaylon Johnson, one of those first-rounders almost has to be a corner.
And a double-dip can’t be ruled out.
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Over the past two decades, the New England Patriots have assembled the most successful dynasty in NFL history.
That dynasty is now stone dead—and the Patriots suddenly have as many red flags as any team in the league.
The pass-catching corps that was a major weakness for the Pats in 2019 remains one now. The front seven was blasted in free agency with the departures of Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy.
But the biggest red flag is the most obvious one—Tom Brady is gone.
The Patriots have surprised many fans and pundits by making no real effort to bring in a veteran quarterback in free agency (Brian Hoyer doesn’t count). Per Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, Bill Belichick reportedly believes second-year pro Jarrett Stidham is ready to take the reins under center.
New England already hit the jackpot late in the NFL draft once with Brady. Doing so again with Stidham, a fourth-round pick, would be quite the feat.
It’s also exceedingly unlikely.
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“Red flags” can be a relative concept for NFL teams. For some, it’s difficult to point out obvious areas of need.
The New Orleans Saints fall into that category—quite possibly more than any other team in the NFL. The Saints already filled arguably their biggest hole in a big way, adding Emmanuel Sanders at wide receiver opposite Michael Thomas. The impact of the loss of safety Vonn Bell was cushioned nicely by the signing of Malcolm Jenkins.
On paper, at least, the Saints are the most complete team in the NFL.
However, there is one position where it can be argued an upgrade is needed. Middle linebacker Kiko Alonso has long been a capable player when healthy, but the “when healthy” part is a problem—the 29-year-old is currently rehabbing the third ACL tear of his career.
The Saints are in great position to go best player available at No. 24 overall, but if a rangy inside linebacker like Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray is on the board, a ready-made and immediate upgrade at “Mike” linebacker could be hard to pass up.
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At first glance, the biggest red flag for the Giants appears to be making the offense better around young quarterback Daniel Jones. There is work to be done, to be sure—both the offensive line and the wide receiver corps could use a boost.
However, while those spots are red flags, they aren’t the red flag. That’s on the other side of the ball.
The Giants were a below-average team in 2019 in terms of rushing the passer, piling up 36 sacks—good for 22nd in the NFL. New York had just one player crack double digits in sacks (edge-rusher Markus Golden), and he is an unrestricted free agent who is reportedly unlikely to return to the team in 2020 after his career year.
Were Ohio State’s Chase Young to somehow fall to No. 4 overall, that would be a dream scenario for the Giants. The second-best course of action might well be to trade back and stockpile picks—outside of Young, there isn’t an edge player worthy of selection in the top five.
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The jury is still out on whether Sam Darnold really is the franchise quarterback the Jets have coveted for so many years. But one thing is beyond dispute—Darnold’s chances of success would be a lot better if he actually had some talent around him.
The Jets hit one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines last year hard in free agency, adding three new potential starters. That’s a big step in the right direction. But all the time in the world is little good to Darnold if there’s no one to throw the ball to.
The Jets already had one of the least imposing wideout groupings in the NFL. But with Robby Anderson gone, the situation has gotten that much worse. The team’s No. 1 receiver at present is free-agent addition Breshad Perriman, who is…not a No. 1 receiver.
Perriman is a vertical threat. The Jets likely have their pick of this year’s stellar wideout class at No. 11 overall, and pairing Perriman with another explosive playmaker like CeeDee Lamb of Oklahoma would be a big boost to Darnold’s chances for success in 2020.
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The Philadelphia Eagles headed into the 2020 offseason with a pair of massive red flags—flip sides of the same coin.
The hole at cornerback was addressed in a big way in free agency when the Eagles acquired Darius Slay in a trade with the Detroit Lions. However, no such patch has been offered up yet to boost one of the league’s weaker cadres of wide receivers.
Alshon Jeffery is 30 years old and coming off his worst statistical season since his rookie year. DeSean Jackson is even older and missed almost the entire 2019 season. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was a massive disappointment as a rookie. And from there, it gets worse.
For those who favor looking at the glass as half-full (and don’t all Eagles fans?), it’s a great year to be looking for help at the wide receiver spot. Even though Philly is picking outside the top 20, players who could step in and make an immediate impact, like Clemson’s Tee Higgins and Baylor’s Denzel Mims, should still be available.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t have any glaring red flags as the 2020 NFL draft nears. Assuming that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is healthy this season, the Steelers are in pretty good shape on both sides of the ball.
That’s fortunate—no team in the league has less draft capital in the top 100 picks than the Steelers, who own just one (No. 49 overall).
However, there is an area that it makes sense for the Steelers to address at the back end of Round 3 with the compensatory pick the team received for losing running back Le’Veon Bell.
That same running back position.
James Conner went over 1,400 total yards and averaged 4.5 yards per carry two years ago for the Steelers. But last year Conner missed six games and saw his production fall off significantly when he was on the field.
This isn’t to say the Steelers should look for Conner’s replacement in the draft. But they at least need a better plan B behind him.
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The San Francisco 49ers don’t have a ton of holes on the roster. That’s a good thing. Without much in the way of cap space or draft capital in 2020, the reigning NFC champions aren’t well positioned to fill the ones they have.
There’s going to be immense pressure on John Lynch to hit on his first two picks in this year’s draft. The 13th overall selection cost the 49ers Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. After San Francisco picks for the second time in Round 1 at No. 31, the 49ers won’t have another selection until the fifth round.
One of those first two picks needs to be a wide receiver. The Niners found a gem in Round 2 last year in Deebo Samuel, but with Emmanuel Sanders now in New Orleans, the depth chart at the position outside of the youngster is underwhelming.
The 13th pick might not be early enough for San Francisco to have its pick of this year’s class, but it’s a deep one. Players like Alabama teammates Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III are talented enough to start from day one for the Niners.
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It’s possible Seattle’s need at edge-rusher won’t be quite as dire by draft day. The team continues to try to bring back Jadeveon Clowney, with quarterback Russell Wilson the latest to lobby Clowney to return to the Emerald City.
However, even with Clowney on the roster in 2019, the Seahawks managed just 28 sacks. Only the Miami Dolphins had fewer. While offseason signing Bruce Irvin is coming off a career season with the Carolina Panthers, he’s never had a 10-sack season and remains far from a sure thing.
Seattle got better on the back end in free agency this year, but even the team’s vaunted Legion of Boom secondary of years past couldn’t hold up forever. If you can’t get to the quarterback in the NFL, you’re going to get lit up.
As such, it’s no surprise that more mock drafts than not predict Seattle to target an edge-rusher in Round 1 this year, whether it’s Alabama’s Terrell Lewis, Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos or someone else.
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made the biggest single move of free agency when the team landed quarterback Tom Brady. Now that the Golden Boy is in Tampa, the biggest red flags surrounding the team are undoubtedly any position that could adversely impact his chances for success.
Two stand out. The first is running back—youngster Ronald Jones II has had a moment here and there, but he has been inconsistent and is awful at blitz pickup. Adding another back to at least complement Jones on Day 2 of the draft is a must.
However, running back takes a back seat to the tackle position where red flags are concerned—specifically the right tackle spot. Last year’s starter (Demar Dotson) is an unrestricted free agent, and the in-house options to replace him are uninspiring.
The Buccaneers were 22nd in pass protection last year, according to the metrics at Football Outsiders. If Tampa Bay can’t improve that ranking in 2020, the team won’t challenge the Saints in the NFC South—Brady or no Brady.
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Tennessee stunned the NFL with its run to the AFC Championship Game in 2019, and the Titans were able to hold the offensive core that spurred that run by re-signing quarterback Ryan Tannehill and franchise-tagging tailback Derrick Henry.
But the financial necessities of those pricey moves had an impact on the Titans. The team traded defensive lineman Jurrell Casey to the Broncos in what was essentially a salary dump. And while edge-rusher Vic Beasley Jr. led the NFL in sacks with the Atlanta Falcons back in 2016, since then he has yet to post a 10-sack season.
The front seven isn’t Tennessee’s only need—right tackle is a problem area after Jack Conklin bolted for the Browns in free agency. That leaves three potential directions for the team to go in at No. 29, but at some point relatively early in the draft, adding an edge-setter and/or pass-rusher is a must.
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The biggest red flags that face the Washington Redskins both center on improving the chances that quarterback Dwayne Haskins will improve in his second NFL season.
At wide receiver, the Redskins appear to have hit the jackpot on the second day of the 2019 draft with the selection of wide receiver Terry McLaurin. But outside of McLaurin, the cupboard is pretty bare. As things stand, the No. 2 receiver is either second-year pro Kelvin Harmon (who caught just 30 passes in 2019) or journeyman Cody Latimer.
Neither is going to keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night.
However, as important as it is to upgrade the targets in the passing game, it’s even more important that the Redskins do something about the left tackle position. Veteran Trent Williams has made it abundantly clear that he wants out of the nation’s capital. While it’s unlikely the team will use the second overall pick on a tackle, its next pick (No. 66 overall) is another story.