Who's filling the biggest needs for all 32 NFL teams

The Panthers have to find a replacement for cornerback Josh Norman. A third-year nose tackle will take over for the Steelers. The Redskins are getting back a pass-rusher who missed the entire 2015 season. NFL Nation reporters choose the player who will fill the biggest need for every team.

AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West
NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West


Buffalo Bills: Linebacker Zach Brown is new to the Bills, signing as a low-cost free agent in March. The former second-round pick is expected to replace speedy linebacker Nigel Bradham in sub packages. General manager Doug Whaley has spoken about the importance of speed at linebacker to defend tight ends such as Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett in the AFC East, and Brown is the best option among a relatively thin Bills inside-linebacker group. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins: Following an offseason trade with the Eagles, the Dolphins are counting heavily on veteran Byron Maxwell to be the team's No. 1 cornerback. Maxwell struggled in that role with the Eagles last season. New Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, however, expects to use Maxwell more as a press corner to utilize his best traits. Maxwell should improve in a new system with Miami, but he is not considered a shutdown corner. -- James Walker

New England Patriots: Based on the present roster, let's go with veteran running back Donald Brown. The Patriots are banking on Dion Lewis returning from a torn ACL, and they also have LeGarrette Blount returning as a top power back, but their quality depth fell a bit short in 2015. Enter Brown, the former Colt and Charger who could benefit the most from the club not drafting a running back. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets: The Jets are counting on second-year defender Lorenzo Mauldin to help with their biggest need -- outside linebacker. He played only 244 defensive snaps as a rookie, mostly as a situational pass-rusher, but those snaps qualify him as their most experienced player at the position. The coaches love his upside, saying they expect him to graduate to an every-down role. -- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens didn't sign a free-agent inside linebacker or draft one after releasing leading tackler Daryl Smith this offseason. That leaves a hole in the middle of the defense. Zachary Orr is considered a favorite to win that spot next to C.J. Mosley, based on his increased playing time at the end of last season. But Orr will be competing against Arthur Brown, a slow-developing second-round pick from 2013, and Kamalei Correa, a rookie second-round pick who had been projected to play on the outside. The Ravens also could add a veteran inside linebacker before training camp. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals: After Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu left Cincinnati via free agency, the receiver position became the Bengals' greatest area of need. With the possibility that tight end Tyler Eifert, who led the team in receiving touchdowns last season, could miss the start of the season recovering from ankle surgery, that need becomes even greater. Look, then, for second-round rookie Tyler Boyd to be the player who steps up to address the Bengals' pass-catching need. He can line up virtually anywhere on the field, and he can be a key playmaker running reverses, option pitches or anything else that will regularly get the ball in his hands. Also keep an eye on Jake Kumerow, a 2015 practice squad receiver who has been impressing coaches all spring. -- Coley Harvey

Cleveland Browns: New coach Hue Jackson has shown immense confidence in running back Isaiah Crowell, who struggled last season and whose vision was sometimes lacking. The Browns did not draft or sign a running back, and Jackson has raved about the talent Crowell has. Crowell will get a great opportunity in his third season. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers are turning to a mammoth man -- 6-foot-7, 352-pound Dan McCullers -- to stop the run at nose tackle. By letting veteran Steve McLendon sign with the Jets, the Steelers made clear McCullers will see an elevated role despite inconsistent play in two seasons. He's the only true nose tackle on the roster with experience. McCullers had offseason shoulder surgery to fix an injury that hampered him last season, so perhaps he'll be a more consistent option for the defense. He has to be. His strength is obvious, but he must play with technique to gain an advantage at the line of scrimmage. -- Jeremy Fowler


Houston Texans: The Texans allowed starting defensive end Jared Crick to leave in free agency and then neither signed a defensive end in free agency nor drafted one. One player who could fill that need is Devon Still, whom the Texans signed to a futures deal back in January. Still, famously the father of cancer survivor Leah Still, was a defensive tackle in Cincinnati, but would fit as a defensive end in the Texans' system. He's making good use of the resources he has in Houston, too. "Devon asks a lot of questions," said J.J. Watt, the Texans' other defensive end. "He really wants to get a good grip of the defense." -- Tania Ganguli

Indianapolis Colts: Center has been a position of need for the Colts since the day they selected quarterback Andrew Luck with No. 1 overall pick in 2012. Five players have started at center for them since 2012. The Colts finally got serious about the position when they selected Alabama center Ryan Kelly in the first round of this year's draft. And to take it a step further in showing how serious the Colts are, Kelly has taken every snap with the first unit during offseason workouts. "He's been great. He's smart. He's conscientious. He's tough," Luck said. "I think he's got a little ornery in him. He's a little bit mean." -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars unsuccessfully tried to sign Olivier Vernon in free agency so the job of being the team's top pass-rusher now falls to former No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler Jr. He missed last season with a torn ACL suffered in rookie minicamp so he's essentially a rookie again, and rookie pass-rushers haven't had much success in the past 12 years. Only 12 have recorded double-digit sacks in a season. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans: The Titans have a dire need for a real No. 1 receiver. The two newcomers don't fit the bill. Free-agent Rishard Matthews can be a productive piece and fifth-rounder Tajae Sharpe could earn a role. Neither is likely to dictate coverage and put fear into defenses by himself. The guy they have with the potential to turn into a top-of-the-line wideout is 2015 second-rounder Dorial Green-Beckham. If he can become a consistent threat teams have to account for and quarterback Marcus Mariota can count on, the Titans could make great gains in the passing game and in the big-play department. -- Paul Kuharsky


Denver Broncos: If the Broncos' plan to regulate DeMarcus Ware's snap count this season is to work to the fullest extent, outside linebacker Shane Ray has to be ready to go from touted prospect to a reliable option. The Broncos' plan is to use Ware, who has missed a large portion of the on-field work in the offseason program because of back troubles, in mostly a pass-rush role this season, but to do that Ray has to be ready to go from spot duty to more significant action. The Broncos and Ware agreed to a pay cut this offseason with the prospect of having more of a specialist role. Ray has to be ready to make that change in philosophy work. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs: Cornerback Steven Nelson has been one of the stars of offseason practice. Nelson played little last season as a rookie but is taking advantage of the lineup opening left by Phillip Gaines, who is rehabbing from a torn ACL. If Nelson continues to play well at training camp and in the preseason, he will at least be the third cornerback and could even take Gaines' starting spot. -- Adam Teicher

Oakland Raiders: These are exciting times in Oakland as the Raiders' starters are essentially set more than three months before the season kicks off. Truly, the biggest internal candidate to fill a need, then, might be fifth-round draft pick DeAndré Washington as Latavius Murray's backup in the change-of-pace running back role. The 5-foot-8, 200-pound Washington averaged 6.4 yards per carry at Texas Tech last fall. "I think playmakers make plays at the end of the day," he said. -- Paul Gutierrez

San Diego Chargers: One of the reasons the Chargers did not draft a left tackle is because they believe King Dunlap can fill that role if he stays healthy. Dunlap missed nine games last season with ankle and concussion issues. But in 2014 he played a full 16-game season for the first time in his career, doing a good job of protecting quarterback Philip Rivers' blind side. The Chargers need Dunlap to stay healthy and return to form this season. -- Eric D. Williams


Dallas Cowboys: Pass rush has been and will be the Cowboys' biggest need as it is for a lot of teams, but the Cowboys' issue is more acute with the four-game suspension facing Randy Gregory and the looming penalty for DeMarcus Lawrence. Because they play defensive end, most of the focus has been on that spot, but the Cowboys will take pass rush from anywhere. Tyrone Crawford is going into his fifth season, but he missed the 2013 season with a torn Achilles and was moved to defensive tackle in 2014 where he thrived, resulting in a $45 million extension. He had a career-high five sacks last year but the Cowboys believe he can have more of an impact as an interior pass-rusher. They have floated the possibility of having him play some defensive end early in the season, though his strength is as an interior pass-rusher. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants: This time last year, Giants coaches had second-year safety Nat Berhe pegged as a possible starter at free safety. But a calf injury cost Berhe his entire 2015 season, and they never really filled the void. Berhe is healthy now, and the spot still hasn't been filled, which means that with a strong spring and summer he has a chance to emerge as the starter at this vital position in Steve Spagnuolo's defense. Berhe has plenty of competition, but none of the other candidates -- Bennett Jackson, Mykkele Thompson or rooke Darian Thompson -- has any more NFL experience than he does. If he shows what they expected him to show last year, Berhe could be the man on the back end of the defense. -- Dan Graziano

Philadelphia Eagles: Isaac Seumalo could be the Eagles' starting left guard this season. The third-round pick missed OTAs because of Oregon State's academic schedule. In his absence, Allen Barbre has remained No. 1 on the depth chart. But the Eagles' determination to upgrade their guard play is as real as the $40 million they allotted for right guard Brandon Brooks. Seumalo will get every chance to establish himself on the left side. -- Phil Sheridan

Washington Redskins: Linebacker Junior Galette. Before his season-ending Achilles injury last August, Galette had recorded a combined 22 sacks in the previous two seasons. He can solve the main area Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan wanted to improve this offseason: the pass rush, especially with a schedule that includes six games versus Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. McCloughan likes what he has seen from Galette's rehab, saying earlier this spring, "His explosion is back." -- John Keim


Chicago Bears: With Martellus Bennett gone to New England, Zach Miller is responsible for filling the void at tight end. Bennett is a Pro Bowl-caliber talent, but Miller, when healthy, is equally dynamic. After starting a career-high 14 games in 2015, Miller is trying to pick up where he left off. He is full-go in the Bears' offseason program, and next to Kevin White and the absent Alshon Jeffery, Miller is expected to be one of the team's top weapons in 2016. An added bonus is that Miller already has chemistry with quarterback Jay Cutler. If he can just avoid injuries, Miller is talented enough to put up big numbers. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions: This is tricky because the Lions have many needs, but pay attention to cornerback Nevin Lawson. Detroit did not draft a corner and did not sign a sure-fire starter in free agency. This leaves Lawson as the potential starter going into training camp. He'll get pushed by 2015 third-round pick Alex Carter and veteran Darrin Walls, but if he plays well, the job is expected to be Lawson's. Considering the team has Darius Slay on the other side, the Lions need Lawson to become an above-average starter in his third season. They may have bigger needs -- look at the offensive line -- but corner is the spot that could have the most immediate impact. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers: The prevailing opinion going into the offseason was the Packers' biggest need was at inside linebacker, but Packers director of football operations Eliot Wolf disagreed. "I don't think it was as big of a need as some members of the media like to say it is," he said during the draft. Maybe that's because Wolf and the Packers are counting on fourth-year pro Sam Barrington to fill it. He opened last season as a starter but lasted only 15 plays of the first game before a foot injury ended his season. Barrington is expected to be cleared in time for training camp and could regain his starting job. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings: The return of center John Sullivan from a back injury could be a major boost to the Vikings' offensive line, and not just because of what Sullivan brings to his position. Joe Berger played admirably in Sullivan's absence last season and could start at center again if Sullivan isn't completely healthy. But quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has often talked about how much of a help Sullivan is to him in setting protections at the line of scrimmage, and Sullivan's acumen in that part of the game could be a steadying presence on the line. He's also probably more mobile than Berger, which would give the Vikings another option as a lead blocker for Adrian Peterson. -- Ben Goessling


Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons sorely need a pass-rusher to step up and become a dominant force. Vic Beasley Jr. has to be that guy in his second season. Much is being made about Beasley's move to Sam linebacker and how that will force him to drop into coverage. True, Beasley might have those responsibilities at times, but his primary role will be to rush the passer. He'll be a nickel rusher and he'll probably be utilized as a blitzer as well from his Sam spot. Beasley had a team-leading four sacks last season, but that wasn't nearly enough for a team that finished last in the league with 19 sacks. He is capable of notching double-digit sacks and moving the quarterback off the spot, provided Beasley adds some counter moves to his outstanding speed off the edge. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers: Rookie cornerback James Bradberry wears No. 24 as Pro Bowler Josh Norman did, and he's 6-foot-1 as Norman was. Bradberry has shown during Phase 3 of offseason workouts that he has the physical skills to play the position as Norman did. If he can lock down that position opposite Bene' Benwikere then all the concerns about the Carolina secondary, after Norman went to Washington, will disappear. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints: Heading into this offseason, I pegged a pass-rushing defensive end as New Orleans' biggest need. But they didn't really address that spot in free agency or the draft. Perhaps that's because they had faith in second-year pass-rusher Hau'oli Kikaha to make the move from outside linebacker to defensive end in their 4-3 scheme. Kikaha is a bit small for a 4-3 end at 6-foot-3, 246 pounds. But end is his natural position, where he racked up a startling 19 sacks as a senior at Washington. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs' secondary struggled in 2015, and they addressed the issue by adding veteran cornerback Brent Grimes and drafting cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III in the first round. Don't overlook fourth-round pick Ryan Smith, though. He's a small-school standout who will get a lot of work on special teams but also will work at safety. -- Mike DiRocco


Arizona Cardinals: Once the Cardinals lost cornerback Jerraud Powers to free agency, they were left with an inexperienced option in Justin Bethel to take over his role full time. As of now, Bethel seems like the most likely option to become a full-time starter next in 2016, but don't count out three other possibilities: rookies Brandon Williams and Harlan Miller, as well as Cariel Brooks. -- Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams: The Rams were unable to invest heavily in top pass-catchers after moving up to land quarterback Jared Goff, but they did spend four of their five third-day picks on receivers and tight ends. Of that quartet, fourth-round receiver Pharoh Cooper looks like the best bet to be able to help right away. The Rams don't have an obvious choice to handle slot receiver duties after Tavon Austin lined up outside more in 2015 (he ran just 88 routes from the slot compared to 322 from outside of it), which means Cooper could get on the field a lot and get plenty of opportunities as a rookie. -- Nick Wagoner

San Francisco 49ers: DeAndre Smelter spent his first year in the NFL on the sidelines, rehabbing an ACL injury suffered in college and acting as a sponge at the Niners' facility. A big target at 6-foot-2, 227 pounds, he is expected to replace the physicality of Anquan Boldin as a receiver. "I think that's everybody's goal, to go out there and compete, get a lot of playing time," Smelter said. "I'm definitely in the learning process right now. But that's not a bad thing." -- Paul Gutierrez

Seattle Seahawks: When asked what he likes about Garry Gilliam at left tackle, offensive line coach Tom Cable said, "The athlete. There's no question about the athlete." Originally an undrafted free agent in 2014, Gilliam started 16 games at right tackle last season. The plan now is to have him replace Russell Okung, who left in free agency, and protect quarterback Russell Wilson's blind side in 2016. -- Sheil Kapadia