Breakdowns

Assessing Draft Needs for the Five Teams At the Top

While the NFL’s elite eight are getting ready for this weekend’s playoff games, the remaining 24 teams are in full draft mode. The 33rd Team will have you covered from now until draft weekend with all the scouting reports and team roster breakdowns you’ll need to follow along. For starters, here’s an in-depth look at team needs and roster assessments for the teams with the first five picks in the 2021 NFL Draft:

1st Pick – Jacksonville Jaguars

Team Needs

QB, CB, LB, TE, OL, S

Current QB

Gardner Minshew/Mike Glennon

Best Players: D.J. Chark, Myles Jack, James Robinson, Laviska Shenault Jr., Joe Schobert

Largest Contracts: Andrew Norvell, Myles Jack, Joe Schobert, Brandon Linder, A.J. Cann

Key Free Agents: D.J. Hayden, Chris Conley, Cam Robinson, Dede Westbrook

Potential Draft Targets

QB: Trevor Lawrence

OT: Samuel Cosmi/Liam Eichenberg/Alex Leatherwood

WR: Rashod Bateman/Chris Olave/Amon-Ra St. Brown

Potential FA Targets

WR: Allen Robinson / Corey Davis / JuJu Smith-Schuster

OL: Brandon Scherff / Joe Thuney / Trent Williams

TE: Hunter Henry / Robert Tonyan / Jonnu Smith

CB: J.C. Jackson / Jason Verrett / Desmond King II

Offseason game plan:

The Jaguars have the dream scenario for a team ready to rebuild and find its identity. Armed with the first overall pick (in a draft with the highest-touted QB prospect since Andrew Luck), the most 2021 salary c ap space ($73 million) and four other picks in the first three rounds, the Jaguars can fully address their needs and build a nucleus around Trevor Lawrence. Their offensive line struggled at the tackle position and the team might decide to let Cam Robinson walk and draft two offensive tackles with their first five picks in a draft that is very deep in offensive line talent. For addressing wide receiver and defensive back depth, I would expect them to look into free agency, as those positions have the most options and the Jaguars have the money to pay top dollar.

2nd Pick – New York Jets

Team Needs

QB, WR, CB, RB, Edge, OLB

Current QB

Sam Darnold

Best Players: Mekhi Becton, Quinnen Williams, Jamison Crowder, John Franklin-Myers, Henry Anderson

Largest Contracts: Jamison Crowder, Sam Darnold, Henry Anderson, George Fant, Connor McGovern

Key Free Agents: Marcus Maye, Brian Poole

Need to Re-sign Marcus Maye

Potential Draft Targets:

QB: Justin Fields / Zach Wilson

OT: Penei Sewell

WR: Devonta Smith / Ja’Marr Chase

Potential FA Targets

QB: Marcus Mariota / Jameis Winston

WR: Will Fuller / Kenny Golladay

CB: William Jackson III / Desmond King II

RB: Mark Ingram / David Johnson

Offseason game plan:

The Jets have a lot of flexibility this offseason with the second-most cap space ($70.6 million) and five picks in the first three rounds. The first step is assessing Sam Darnold and either moving forward with him as your QB of the future or deciding after three years that he is not and it is time to move on while you have a top 2 pick. Many people have Justin Fields as the obvious number 2 pick but many NFL evaluators don’t even have him as the No. 2 QB after his up-and-down season. If the Jets aren’t in love with a QB, I expect them to go with the best player available and for me that would be Devonta Smith. Smith has been compared to Marvin Harrison and could fill a hole the Jets have had in their roster since Darnold’s arrival. I expect they would also fill out their interior offensive line through the first few rounds and add another wide receiver and possibly a veteran QB to compete with Darnold in Free Agency. The Jets will also try their best to retain Marcus Maye, who has been a leader and difference-maker on their defense since being drafted.

3rd Pick – Miami Dolphins

Team Needs

OL, QB, WR, FS, LB, RB

Current QB

Tua Tagovailoa

Best Players: Xavien Howard, Mike Gesicki, Kyle Van Noy, DeVante Parker, Christian Wilkins

Largest Contracts: Byron Jones, Xavien Howard, Kyle Van Noy, DeVante Parker, Ereck Flowers

Key Free Agents: Ted Karras

Potential Draft Targets

OT: Penei Sewell / Rashawn Slater / Christian Darrisaw

WR: DeVonta Smith / Ja’Marr Chase / Jaylen Waddle

IOL: Wyatt Davis / Creed Humphrey / Ben Cleveland

Potential FA Targets

RB: Aaron Jones / James White

OL: Ted Karras / Joe Thuney / Corey Linsley

WR: Allen Robinson / Will Fuller / Juju Smith-Schuster

Edge: Bud Dupree / Melvin Ingram

Offseason game plan:

The Dolphins also have five picks in the first three rounds, with three in the first 36 picks. They also have the seventh-most salary cap space in the NFL ($32 million). I expect the Dolphins to draft either offensive line or wide receiver with their first pick — Penei Sewell or Ja’Marr Chase. I would take Sewell. Sewell would be able to start early at tackle and the Dolphins could move either Austin Jackson or Robert Hunt (both of whom played well as rookies in 2020) to the interior of the line if Ted Karras is not re-signed. They could address WR with their second pick with a player like Rashod Bateman out of Minnesota, who is a tall and fast receiver who would make a great target for Tua. I could also see them prizing a player like Bud Dupree, who fits the Edge position in Brian Flores’ system perfectly.

4th Pick – Atlanta Falcons

Team Needs

Edge, DB, RB

Current QB

Matt Ryan

Best Players: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Grady Jarrett, Matt Ryan, Keanu Neal

Largest Contracts: Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Grady Jarrett, Jake Matthews, Dante Fowler Jr

Key Free Agents: Alex Mack, Keanu Neal

Potential Draft Targets

RB: Kenneth Gainwell / Chuba Hubbard / Michael Carter

EDGE: Kwity Paye / Greg Rousseau / Joseph Ossai

Potential FA Targets

RB: Aaron Jones / James White

Edge: Bud Dupree / Melvin Ingram

DB: J.C. Jackson / Jason Verrett / Desmond King II / Marcus Maye

Offseason game plan:

The Falcons are in a salary cap bind compared to the top 3 teams in this year’s draft. They’re currently projected $24.4 million over the cap with the third-least cap space in the NFL. With this in mind, the odds of re-signing free agents Alex Mack and Keanu Neal are long. The Falcons will have plenty of options to replace Mack in the early second/third round, but have the opportunity to take the best pass rusher available. Kwity Paye out of Michigan is an excellent pass rusher who plays every snap on the line. They could also trade back and take Joesph Ossai out of Texas if they wanted a 3-4 OLB who can rush or cover. The Falcons will also hope that Dante Fowler Jr., their big 2020 free-agent signing, can bounce back. Their most efficient edge pass rusher in 2020 was Charles Harris, who only had 3 sacks.

5th Pick – Cincinnati Bengals

Team Needs

OL, Edge, FS, LB, CB

Current QB

Joe Burrow

Best Players: Jessie Bates III, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Carl Lawson, Joe Mixon

Largest Contracts: Joe Burrow, D.J. Reader, Joe Mixon, Jonah Williams, Trae Waynes

Key Free Agents: A.J. Green, John Ross, William Jackson, Mackenzie Alexander, Mike Daniels

Potential Draft Targets

IOL: Wyatt Davis / Creed Humphrey / Josh Myers / Ben Cleveland / Trey Smith

OT: Penei Sewell / Rashawn Slater / Samuel Cosmi / Alex Leatherwood / Liam Eichenberg

EDGE: Joseph Ossai / Jayson Oweh / Azeez Ojulari

Potential FA Targets

RB: Aaron Jones / James White

OL: Ted Karras / Joe Thuney / Corey Linsley

WR: Allen Robinson / Will Fuller / Juju Smith-Schuster

Edge: Bud Dupree / Melvin Ingram

Offseason game plan:

The Bengals have the sixth-most cap space in the NFL ($42 million) to go along with their fifth overall pick. The Bengals will be focused on building their offensive line first and foremost after their second straight first overall pick QB went down with a torn ACL. They most likely will do this in free agency and the draft. Joe Thuney from New England would be a perfect fit on the interior and they can draft a top tackle like Rashawn Slater and then draft a highly rated IOL in the second round like Alijah Vera Tucker or Wyatt Davis.

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