Biggest 2016 draft needs for every NFL team

NFL Nation reporters look ahead to what each team's biggest need will be in the 2016 NFL draft.


Buffalo Bills: It was a close call between defensive end and offensive tackle, but because I believe Buffalo will retain free-agent-to-be Cordy Glenn, the Bills should look to target an impact DE in the draft. They need to find both a bigger body to play five-technique in Rex Ryan's defense, as well as some pass-rushing depth behind Jerry Hughes. This area of the Bills' roster has thinned out in recent seasons. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins need playmaking linebackers in the worst way. All three starters -- Kelvin Sheppard, Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins -- struggled against the run, where Miami ranked 28th last season, and couldn't consistently cover tight ends and slot receivers. A stud middle or outside linebacker in the draft would be beneficial. Unfortunately for Miami, the best first-round fits at the position have injury concerns. Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith and UCLA linebacker Myles Jack are both coming off major knee injuries and might be too risky at No. 8 overall. -- James Walker

New England Patriots: The Patriots are without a first-round pick, but they should be able to fill their needs regardless. The skill positions on offense figure to be high on their list, specifically a power running back and a wide receiver. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets: The Jets need linebackers -- both outside and inside. Assuming Calvin Pace, 35, retires or moves on as a free agent, the Jets will have no outside linebackers with starting experience. Lorenzo Mauldin can step into a full-time role after playing situationally as a rookie, but they'll need another edge player in their 3-4. Weak-inside linebacker Demario Davis is a free agent and unlikely to return -- another opening. -- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens' top need with the No. 6 overall pick is cornerback, although an argument could be made for pass rusher. It's evident that the Ravens need to improve in the secondary after setting team records for the most touchdown passes allowed (30) and fewest interceptions made (six). There's a void at the starting cornerback spot opposite Jimmy Smith because Baltimore believes Lardarius Webb, a five-year starting corner, is now better suited to play safety. Florida State's Jalen Ramsey or Florida's Vernon Hargreaves III would be ideal selections. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals: Much of this depends upon what happens in free agency for the Bengals, but as things stand, linebacker could be their biggest area of draft need. They have two linebackers eligible for free agency in March (Vincent Rey and Emmanuel Lamur), and Vontaze Burfict is currently slated to miss the first three games of 2016. Don't be surprised, though, if the Bengals end up spending their first-round pick on either an offensive lineman or a cornerback. Those are two positions they typically draft early. They could be areas of need, too, depending upon what happens this offseason (both guard Kevin Zeitler and corner Dre Kirkpatrick have fifth-year options that the team could pick up). -- Coley Harvey

Cleveland Browns: Why should this year's draft be any different for the Browns than, oh, the past 15? Cleveland needs a quarterback. The owner pointed out the team has the second pick in the draft when discussing the team's quarterback play in 2015. That will be the focus of the next few months. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers need a rangy, athletic outside corner to bolster depth at one of the league's most important positions. They selected corner Senquez Golson in the second round of last year's draft, but he seems destined for slot corner duties. The only Steelers corner taller than 5-foot-10 is Ross Cockrell, who isn't a long-term solution at the position. It might be time to invest a first-round pick in a cornerback. -- Jeremy Fowler


Houston Texans: Texans owner Bob McNair said Tuesday that the Texans need to develop and groom a young quarterback. Finding that guy is their biggest need, whether they have to draft a new player to do it or not. -- Tania Ganguli

Indianapolis Colts: The biggest need is the same one the Colts have failed to resolve during Andrew Luck's four seasons: offensive line. Luck has been sacked a total of 115 times in his four seasons. The Colts allowed 118 quarterback hits this season, second-worst in the NFL. The team needs an upgrade at center and one of the guard and tackle positions. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars: There is no debate over the Jaguars' biggest draft need: pass rusher. That's their No. 1 priority in free agency and the draft because it was the root of their defense's problems in 2015. Last year's third overall pick DE Dante Fowler Jr. missed '15 with a torn ACL, so he'll essentially be a rookie in 2016 -- and DEs Andre Branch and Chris Clemons aren't expected back. The Jaguars need to add at least two players that can rush the passer. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans: So many choices. The Titans have giant needs on the offensive line and at receiver, running back and cornerback. As much as they've invested in the line, Titans QBs were sacked 54 times. For centerpiece QB Marcus Mariota to thrive, he's got to be healthy, and they've got to protect him. So the O-line ranks first. Again. Still. -- Paul Kuharsky


Denver Broncos: The team has put two left tackles on injured reserve this season -- Ryan Clady and Ty Sambrailo -- while also struggling with injuries at guard (11-year veteran Evan Mathis and Louis Vasquez, who in his seventh season). They have 30-year-old Ryan Harris playing left tackle now, and the reserve tackle on game day is 30-year-old Tyler Polumbus, who was signed in October. They like the future of center Matt Paradis, guard Max Garcia, as well as guard Robert Myer Jr., who they signed off the Ravens' practice squad this season and the team thinks has the look of a future starter. Once you factor in Clady's $10.7 million salary cap figure next season that the Broncos will take a long look at, it's clear the Broncos will be looking for the big guys early in this year's draft. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs drafted a cornerback in the first round last year but grabbing another one this year wouldn't be a bad idea. It becomes an urgent need if they don't re-sign veteran Sean Smith, who is in the final year of his contract. The Chiefs don't have much depth at corner, though Phillip Gaines should return next season after tearing his ACL early this year. -- Adam Teicher

Oakland Raiders: Charles Woodson's retirement left not only an obvious hole in terms of locker room leadership, but the ageless free safety was also the Raiders' best player in the secondary. So DB help -- especially at cornerback after D.J. Hayden has yet to truly be the shutdown corner they envisioned -- is paramount. A safety wouldn't hurt either. -- Paul Gutierrez

San Diego Chargers: The Chargers played six different starting offensive line combinations in 2015, including six different players at left tackle. Although the franchise invested heavily in the offensive line during free agency last season, the Chargers still have holes to fill up front, including finding the long-term solution at center. -- Eric D. Williams


Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys can go a number of different ways with the fourth pick, ranging from quarterback to cornerback to defensive end to running back. The biggest need arguably will be cornerback, with Morris Claiborne set to be a free agent, Orlando Scandrick coming back from major knee surgery and Brandon Carr in the final year of his deal. A pass rusher will help alleviate cornerback concerns, but there does not look to be a Khalil Mack-type in this draft. And then there's quarterback. Tony Romo is the unquestioned starter but the Cowboys might never be in position to take a top quarterback again. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants: The Giants have a ton of needs, from free safety to linebacker to cornerback to tight end. But the best way for them to use the No. 10 overall pick is on a pass-rusher. The crop of available pass-rushing free agents doesn't look too strong, and even if they sign a veteran or bring back Jason Pierre-Paul, they'll still need a building-block piece on the edge for the long term. Plenty of ways the Giants can go, but they haven't used a first-round pick on a defensive player since 2011, and it shows. -- Dan Graziano

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles' first pick of Chip Kelly's first draft was offensive tackle Lane Johnson. They have used 20 draft picks since then without taking an offensive lineman. With LT Jason Peters turning 34 and a couple of journeyman guards, the Eagles definitely need to start stocking up on offensive linemen. If they are able to draft a quarterback or an elite wide receiver, that would be a welcome development, but the offensive line has to be the top priority. -- Phil Sheridan

Washington Redskins: The Redskins have a nose tackle who is a pending free agent (Terrance Knighton), an end who is mulling retirement (Jason Hatcher) and another end who is a free agent after 2016 (Chris Baker). So, naturally, defensive line will be a top priority -- even if the Redskins address this area in free agency. They want, and need, to get younger up front. Last season, they bypassed end Leonard Williams to select guard Brandon Scherff fifth overall. But they could only address so many areas of need at one time. This year, with the offensive line in much better shape for the future, they need to turn to their other line. -- John Keim


Chicago Bears: Bears general manager Ryan Pace said he wants more playmakers on the roster, but in particular, Chicago needs another dynamic pass-rusher to compliment Pernell McPhee, who played much of the year with a bum knee. Although the defense made substantial strides under coordinator Vic Fangio, the Bears did not have a single player record double-digit sacks -- Lamarr Houston led the team with seven. As a team, the Bears tallied only 35 combined sacks in 2015, tied for 22nd overall. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions: This has the high probability of change due to the hiring of Bob Quinn as GM and Calvin Johnson's unknown status, but the biggest need for the Lions as of now is an offensive tackle. Detroit might not be able to find that franchise left tackle at No. 16, but if Laremy Tunsil, Ronnie Stanley or Jack Conklin were to fall to them, there's a decent chance that player would be the pick for the Lions. Quinn said he'll set up Detroit's draft board with a mix of need and best player available, so figure offensive tackles will play prominently there. Other positions to watch would be defensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback, safety and wide receiver. If Johnson retires and Laquon Treadwell is available at No. 16, that would be another enticing option. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers: Even though Pro Bowl receiver Jordy Nelson is expected to make a full recovery from his ACL reconstruction, the Packers are going to need another target for Aaron Rodgers and a passing offense that finished an uncharacteristically low 25th in the league. Whether that's a receiver or a tight end, it has to be the No. 1 priority for GM Ted Thompson in this draft. He has never taken a pass-catcher in the first round. Now is the time. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings need to shore up their offensive line, after allowing 45 sacks this season and dealing with injuries to center John Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt. With a long-term decision on left tackle Matt Kalil looming, adding line depth seems like the first priority for the Vikings. -- Ben Goessling


Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons have a number of draft needs, but a playmaking linebacker or edge rusher is likely to take priority over wide receiver or the interior of the offensive line. ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. believes the Falcons could have a chance to land a top-five talent in Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith with 17th overall pick. But with the OLB suffering a significant knee injury on Jan. 1, the Falcons probably can't take the chance of Smith not being ready for next season. But that's the type of impact defensive player they need. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers really haven't had a dominant pass-rushing DE since Greg Hardy in 2013. Charles Johnson will be 30 in July. A big contract and lack of productivity this season makes his future at Carolina questionable. Jared Allen, the league's active sack leader, is at the end of his career. Second-year player Kony Ealy has shown flashes, but nothing to suggest he can be dominant. Frank Alexander has shown flashes, but he missed this season with a ruptured Achilles. Pressuring the quarterback is key to this defense and end is the biggest hole. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints: Anyone who can help the defense. I suppose I'd rank defensive end first, outside linebacker second, then a three-way tie between cornerback, defensive tackle and safety. The Saints could use more pass rush opposite top DE Cameron Jordan, and they need an athletic outside linebacker capable of dropping back in coverage. But New Orleans can make room for an impact player at any position, as it continues to rebuild a unit that has ranked 31st in yards allowed in each of the past two years and just shattered the NFL record for most TD passes allowed in a season. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Although the team has two major needs, the biggest need can help the other. The Buccaneers need a bona-fide pass-rushing defensive end, one that can disrupt offenses on a regular basis. That would be a welcome sight to the secondary, which allowed 31 passing TDs this season (tied for 25th overall). -- Rick Brown


Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals finished the season with 35 sacks, their second lowest total in the past five years. They have all the pieces at inside linebacker and in the secondary to make their defense a power for years to come. But what they're missing is another effective pass rusher, either on the defensive line or at outside linebacker. With veteran Dwight Freeney almost 36 years old, the Cards need to find someone younger in this year's draft. -- Josh Weinfuss

St. Louis Rams: The overarching answer is offense, particularly those who can throw for, run for or catch touchdowns. More specifically, the Rams need a franchise quarterback. It's difficult to find those in free agency or through the draft, especially where the Rams are set to pick (No. 15). But the team finished last in the NFL in most major passing categories. They need a solution for the short- and long-term. -- Nick Wagoner

San Francisco 49ers: The Niners still don't have a coach, so a lot could change. But right now, conventional wisdom says they need a quarterback. The Colin Kaepernick era seems over, and Blaine Gabbert has shown he can be a good bridge to said Franchise QB. If Cal's Jared Goff is still there at No. 7, the Niners should pounce. Unless, of course, someone like a Chip Kelly wants to take a shot at Kaepernick, then the need becomes an inside linebacker to pair with All-Pro NaVorro Bowman. -- Paul Gutierrez

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks' offensive line has improved throughout the season, but left tackle Russell Okung and right guard J.R. Sweezy are both scheduled to be free agents this offseason. Given how well Russell Wilson has played from a clean pocket, bolstering the offensive line should be the No. 1 priority for GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll. -- Sheil Kapadia