NFL Analysis


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2024 NFL Draft: Playoff Teams That Need To Hit On First-Round Pick The Most

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs
The Buffalo Bills need to get a complementary wide receiver to pair with Stefon Diggs. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Editor's note: This article was published before the Buffalo Bills traded Stefon Diggs to the Houston Texans on April 3, 2024.

The 2024 NFL Draft is less than a month away, and a handful of contenders in each conference need to nail their first-round pick if they want to stop the Kansas City Chiefs from winning another championship.

Here are the five teams who need to hit a home run with their first pick in this year's draft:

>>READ: Latest Mock Draft

5 Playoff Teams Who Must Get Their First Pick Right

Philadelphia Eagles cornerbacks James Bradberry, center, and Darius Slay, right
The Philadelphia Eagles' cornerback duo of James Bradberry (24) and Darius Slay (2) were not good enough in 2023. The position needs to be improved for this season. (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

Philadelphia Eagles (No. 22)

It's been a very busy offseason for the Philadelphia Eagles. While they've lost some key talent (D'Andre Swift, Jason Kelce, Haason Reddick), they've also managed to bring in some big-time players.

But one spot that the Eagles have not addressed is cornerback. Darius Slay and James Bradberry were not good enough down the stretch last season, and they are the NFL's oldest starting cornerback duo.

>>READ: Top Cornerback Prospects

This is not a particularly good cornerback draft, but don't expect Howie Roseman and the Eagles to just wait and see who falls to them at No. 22. Look for them to be aggressive in targeting a stud cornerback to pair with the veterans. They could also use another playmaker at receiver, and Brian Thomas Jr. (LSU) could make their offense even more dynamic.

The Eagles have one of the NFL's best rosters, but they need to add some young talent on rookie deals. Given how the Eagles faded down the stretch last season, it's imperative they hit on their first-round pick this year.

Dallas Cowboys tackle Tyler Smith
What the Dallas Cowboys do with offensive tackle Tyler Smith (73) will help determine what they do in the upcoming draft. (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

Dallas Cowboys (No. 24)

The Dallas Cowboys signed one outside free agent this offseason: Eric Kendricks. That’s it.

They've lost several key starters on both sides of the ball, including three Pro Bowlers: Tyron Smith, Tony Pollard and Tyler Biadasz. The Cowboys are a draft-and-develop team, but they put a lot of pressure on themselves to get it right this offseason. 

The Cowboys' biggest need entering the draft is left tackle, but they have the flexibility to move Tyler Smith there if they can find a suitable guard. Amarius Mims (Georgia), Tyler Guyton (Oklahoma) and Jordan Morgan (Arizona) are all possible solutions at tackle in Round 1. Center is another key need, and Graham Barton (Duke) is a realistic possibility. 

>>READ: Top Offensive Tackle Prospects

But the Cowboys have more needs than just the offensive line. They need more linebacker help, a pass-rusher to spell Micah Parsons and more interior defensive linemen. Plus, they are without a starting running back, and this is one of the weakest running back classes in recent memory.

The Cowboys have lost a lot of talent this offseason, so nailing their first-round pick and finding a Day 1 starter is of the utmost importance. To their credit, their front office's track record in Round 1 is pretty good.

So expect the Cowboys to get an impact starter at No. 24. They desperately need to do so to keep pace with the San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions and Eagles in the NFC.

Buffalo Bills celebrate TD vs. Bucaneers
The Buffalo Bills celebrate a TD vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (USA TODAY Sports)

B uffalo Bills (No. 28)

Much like the Cowboys, the Buffalo Bills have had a quiet offseason in terms of adding talent. They were forced to release their starting safeties because of salary cap issues and could not keep No. 2 receiver Gabriel Davis. They added Curtis Samuel and Mack Hollins in free agency, but the overall roster, especially on defense, is noticeably worse. 

Buffalo could really use a No. 2 receiver to pair with Stefon Diggs, and this is a loaded receiver class. Could someone like Adonai Mitchell (Texas) or Thomas Jr. be a target for them in a small trade-up? We saw the Bills trade up for Dalton Kincaid last year, and they have no problem getting aggressive in the draft.

>>READ: Best Route Runners | Deep Threats

But the Bills have more needs than just wide receiver. They desperately need secondary help and could use more beef on the defensive line. Linebacker depth is also a problem, and they could use a swing tackle. If the Bills want to pass the Chiefs, they need to find an instant starter at No. 28.

That is easier said than done.

Seattle Seahawks head coach Mike MacDonald
The Baltimore Ravens have a lot of holes to fill before the 2024 season. They lost many players and defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, who is now the Seattle Seahawks coach. (Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports)

Baltimore Ravens (No. 30)

No team lost more talent this offseason than the Baltimore Ravens. Not only was their roster raided in free agency, but they lost several key coaches, including Mike Macdonald to the Seahawks.

Without question, the team is in a much worse position than at this time last season. They’ve taken a big step backward in terms of overall talent.

While the Ravens have significant needs on both sides of the ball, they are notorious for not drafting for need but instead selecting the best player available. That should set them up well in this class, especially considering their biggest needs (WR, OT, EDGE) are some of the deepest positions in this class.

However, they lost several starting offensive linemen this offseason, and starting LT Ronnie Stanley has not been durable. They could really use another offensive tackle with position flexibility, such as Morgan or Barton.

The Ravens were the AFC's No. 1 seed last season and waltzed their way to the AFC Championship Game. But if they want to finally get over the hump in the Lamar Jackson era, they need to find creative ways to build their roster despite constant turnover in free agency.

San Francisco 49ers (No. 31)

The San Francisco 49ers are in a Super Bowl window, and it's unclear how long that will last. They are entering Year 3 for Brock Purdy, so he will be eligible for a contract extension next offseason.

Many of their core players are older, including Trent Williams (35) and George Kittle (30). The 49ers have a massive decision to make regarding Brandon Aiyuk's contract, and they are already projected to be $25 million over the cap for the 2025 season.

The 49ers have arguably the NFL's best roster, but they need to hit on this pick to extend their window. This will be the first selection the 49ers have made in Round 1 since Trey Lance (2021), and they did not get much from their 2023 draft class.

They need reinforcements at several positions, including wide receiver, offensive line and cornerback

The good news for San Francisco is wide receiver and offensive line are positions with a lot of depth, and they should be able to get a quality player at No. 31.

It's hard to imagine that the 49ers will be better in 2024 than they were this year. However, adding a dynamic weapon like Xavier Worthy (Texas) or Ladd McConkey (Georgia) could make the offense even more difficult to stop.

With Deebo Samuel’s health and Aiyuk’s contract situation, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to grab another top-flight receiver early in the draft.