Apr 26, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Josh Rosen is selected as the number eleven overall pick to the Arizona Cardinals in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Senior Analyst Gordon McGuinness examines all 32 NFL teams and whether they answered our top needs for each team, refreshing fellow Senior Analysts Steve Palazzolo and Sam Monson’s needs for each team as we let the dust settle on Round 1 of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Top needs: DI, WR, TE
The Cowboys drafted talented linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in the first round, so their top needs remain unchanged heading into Day 2 of the draft. For years, the Cowboys have been searching for an impact player up the middle, even when they have been able to find solid edge rushers in that defense. Maliek Collins was supposed to be that guy, but he generated just 30 total pressures from 428 pass-rushing snaps in 2017. With Dez Bryant’s release, the team needs a receiver even with Allen Hurns signed to replace that production, and for the first time in years, this team needs to think about the tight end position as Jason Witten has now announced his retirement. That final need may be addressed internally if the team chooses to give an opportunity to Rico Gathers, a phenomenal athlete who flashed big-time potential in the past two preseasons.
Top needs: Edge, Interior O-Line
The Giants drafted running back Saquon Barkley at No. 2 overall, but while that takes care of one team need, it does mean they missed out on their choice of all but one of the top quarterback prospects to become Eli Manning‘s successor. Now that Jason Pierre Paul has been dealt, the Giants pass-rush is almost entirely dependent on Olivier Vernon, who missed time in 2017 after having played a monstrous total of 1,112 defensive snaps in his first year with the team. Vernon accounted for 38 total pressures in 698 snaps last year, but needs help elsewhere on the line.
Top needs: WR, G, OT
The Eagles opted to trade down at the end of the first round, which will give them the chance to address their top needs on day two. They could stand to upgrade at receiver, but that upgrade could easily come from Mack Hollins in year two. Hollins flashed talent as a rookie, but never quite stepped up consistently. At guard, they could upgrade on Stefan Wisniewski, who himself solidified the position in 2017 by saving the team from Isaac Seumalo and Chance Warmack. Wisniewski allowed just one sack and was a solid run-blocker, but he is an average player and wouldn’t keep a star out of the line up. Another position they might look at finding a successor for Jason Peters at left tackle.
Top needs: CB, RB
The Redskins addressed their need for a standout against the run in Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne, leaving cornerback and running back as their remaining biggest needs. Josh Norman remains a good player, though he allowed 61.2 percent of passes thrown his way last season to be caught and gave up a passer rating of 114.1. He didn’t have an interception and surrendered three touchdowns, but the bigger problem is that the team needed to lose Kendall Fuller, who ended the season with an overall PFF grade of 90.0, to secure QB Alex Smith in a trade with the Chiefs. Replacing his production is the team’s biggest need right now, as slot coverage is key in the NFL.
Top needs: Edge, G, WR
The Bears hit most of their biggest problem areas in a very active free agency period, including retaining their own players, which gave them more room to go best player available in the draft, which they did by drafting Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith. Edge defender is still a need, but in a weak edge defender class, Chicago will likely be hoping there is still the chance that the light goes on for Leonard Floyd, who notched 36 total pressures in 2017, the most among Chicago edge rushers. With Josh Sitton leaving, the Bears now need to plug a hole on the offensive line again, and replacing the best pass-blocking guard in the game will not be easy. Sitton surrendered just 12 total pressures in 13 games in what was, for him, a relative down year as a pass-blocker.
Top needs: CB, Edge
The Lions addressed their need on the interior offensive line by drafting our highest rated center in the class in Arkansas’ Frank Ragnow, leaving cornerback and edge defender as their biggest needs. Darius Slay is a quality player and the team’s No. 1 corner, as he allowed a passer rating of just 55.6 when targeted in 2017 and shared the league lead in interceptions with eight while also adding 13 pass breakups into the bargain. They brought back Nevin Lawson though and definitely need an upgrade opposite Slay. Lawson didn’t have a pick in 2017 and allowed 69.8 percent of the passes thrown his way to be caught. While the team’s defensive line has been solid, it has been unspectacular, and they could stand to find an upgrade at any spot along that front if the right player fell into their lap. Ziggy Ansah led the team in 2017 with 37 total pressures.
Top needs: G, LB
We had cornerback as the Packers’ clear biggest need heading into Day 1 of the NFL Draft and after trading down, then back up, they addressed that need with Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander. That leaves their top need now at guard, where Lane Taylor (68.7) and Justin McCray (40.4) are currently pencilled in as starters, with neither grading well in 2017. Should they consider trading up early in round two, UTEP’s Will Hernandez, our highest guard left on the big board could be a target.
Top needs: Interior O-Line, OT
Cornerback was one of the biggest needs heading into the draft for the Vikings, and they took care of that by drafting UCF’s Mike Hughes on Thursday night. Offensive line is still the one area that threatens to prevent the Vikings from contending again in 2018. They have added bodies to the unit in recent seasons, but have not gotten a huge amount of quality production. No currently-slated starter earned an overall PFF grade higher than 70.0 last season, and this is a draft they need to nail to avoid struggling.
Top needs: DI, G
The Falcons addressed one of their top needs when Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley fell into their laps late in the first round. That leaves interior defensive line and guard as their biggest remaining needs, with Dontari Poe moving across the division to the Carolina Panthers. Poe had 37 total pressures in 2017 as a nose tackle in that defense, and played 784 snaps, just 10 fewer than Jarrett did alongside him, so it is a significant loss to replace. Despite the signing of Brandon Fusco – who has the potential to address the problem – right guard would be an obvious position to address, as the team has struggled to get capable play at that spot for multiple seasons now. In 2017, the combination of Ben Garland and Wes Schweitzer allowed 46 total pressures over the year.
Top needs: Edge, CB, G
The Panthers landed talented wide receiver D.J. Moore out of Maryland in the first round, but they failed to address any of their key needs.Julius Peppers may have had 13 sacks in 2017, but he had just 31 total pressures, giving him the highest finish rate of pressure in the league at 41.9 percent. That rate is almost three times the average edge defender and more than twice his career baseline, making it a figure destined for a massive regression. His overall PFF grade declined sharply and suggests in spite of that sack figure the team would be well advised to find a competent replacement sooner rather than later, which is no easy task facing into a draft that is not stocked with quality pass-rushers. The Panthers also need corner help, having traded away a starter last season (Daryl Worley) as a makeweight for a below-average receiver, giving you all the indication needed of how much the team knew they need an injection of talent at the position.
Top needs: LB, TE, C
The Saints traded up in the draft, giving up next year’s first-round pick, to land UTSA edge defender Marcus Davenport. As has often been the case recently though, the Saints still need linebackers. It’s not that they haven’t tried to add them over recent seasons, it’s that they continually swing and miss on the ones they bring in. A.J. Klein came over from the Panthers, where he had been Luke Kuechly’s backup, and earned an overall PFF grade of just 36.8 in starting last season, good enough to rank 80th in the league. Rookie Alex Anzalone looked to have talent, but quickly repeated his college propensity for injuries and was lost for the year. Demario Davis – newly-signed this free agency period – is coming off a career year that ranked more than 10.0 PFF grading points higher than his previous best, having posted three seasons with a grade under 50.0 in his career to that point. The Saints could really use a sure thing at the position to solidify the middle of what is a very good defense either side of linebacker.
Top needs: CB, S, LT
The Buccaneers further addressed their defensive line on Thursday night, adding Washington’s Vita Vea to a group that have quickly gone from one of the weakest on paper in the NFL, to one of the strongest. They still need to address the defensive backfield though, with former first round draft pick Vernon Hargreaves allowing a passer rating of 104.6 when targeted in 2017, and he wasn’t the only corner getting game time to surrender a rating over 100, with Javien Elliott and Ryan Smith joining him there. Brent Grimes was the best corner on the roster, but he will be 35 years old when the season starts, so this team needs a new star in the secondary. The problems on the back end don’t end at corner, and the team could very much use an upgrade at safety as well. The other spot that is crying out for improvement is at left tackle, where Donovan Smith again ranked among the worst players in the league at that position. He earned an overall PFF grade of 51.9, 53rd among tackles. Smith allowed seven sacks and 42 total pressures over the season.
Top needs: WR, CB, OT
The Cardinals were patient as quarterbacks came off the board at one, three and seven on Thursday night, then made their move up to Pick 10 to land potential franchise quarterback Josh Rosen out of UCLA. Beyond the most important position in the game, the team still needs to find a wide receiver whose name isn’t Larry Fitzgerald for any of their quarterbacks…