NFL Team Needs (5/1/14)

By John Ewing
To build our NFL Draft Machine, which, among many other things, assesses draft classes we had to use the same process that we utilize for draft eligible players to assign impact scores for every current NFL starter. From this analysis we have opened up considerable opportunity to objectively answer many questions related to the NFL including how to rank individual units and at exactly which positions teams can and should improve. With the draft a week away, we will tackle the latter and get to the former after the draft.

As with any draft eligible player, every starter in the NFL has been assigned a grade on a 0-10 scale based on their expected overall positive contributions at their current ages and relative to position. In the score, a seven or above can generally outperform a replacement player in the NFL at his position; an eight or above can be expected to start and a player with a rating over nine is a unique, standout player who stars.

Based on that analysis we can easily identify each team's most glaring needs, greatest strengths and ideal draft fits. Below, we analyze all 32 teams. Check out our interactive NFL Draft Machine and read our thorough NFL Draft content.

Arizona Cardinals
Top needs: OT, CB, and LB

Greatest Strength: Defensive Line
Every member of Arizona's defensive line ranks as above average. The defensive unit is anchored by seventh year pro Calais Campbell who had a career-high nine sacks last season. Campbell grades as s 9.8 on a 10 point scale.

Best Case Scenario:
The Cardinals need to select an offensive tackle to shore up a line that features two below average bookends. If a suitable lineman is not available, then Arizona should use the pick to select a cornerback to play across from Patrick Patterson (assuming Tyrann Mathieu will return and be featured more as a safety and/or slot corner).

Atlanta Falcons
Top needs: OT, LB and S

Greatest Strength: Wide Receiver
Last season was the first time in six years that Roddy White failed to catch at least 80 balls and have over 1,100 yards receiving. Meanwhile, Julio Jones missed most of the season. The lack of production was due to injuries to both (a battered offensive line did not help either – more on that below), but both Jones and White will be healthy next fall. At 100%, Jones rates as a 9.0 out of 10.

Best Case Scenario:
Atlanta has a lot of needs, but the Falcons' biggest weakness is on the offensive line. Both of the Falcons' tackles and center grade out as below average. The quickest way to rebound from a 4-12 season is to improve run blocking and pass protection.

Baltimore Ravens
Top needs: QB, RB, and S

Greatest Strength: Linebackers
The Ravens have two of the leagues best pass rushers in Terrell Suggs (rates as a 9.5 out of 10) and Elvis Dumervil. Baltimore has a great mix of veterans at linebacker including Daryl Smith (led the team in tackles last season), as well as young players like Arthur Brown, a second round pick in last year's draft.

Best Case Scenario:
Quarterback and running back grade as two of the biggest needs for the Ravens, but with Joe Flacco and Ray Rice firmly entrenched as starters (long term contract and salary cap implications), it would be surprising to see Baltimore spend a first round pick on an offensive skill position player. However, with six picks in the first four rounds, the Ravens could fill many of the holes on their roster.

Buffalo Bills
Top needs: QB, OL, and WR

Greatest Strength: Defensive Line
The Bills defensive line became the first in franchise history and the first in the NFL since 2000 to have three defenders with ten sacks or more. Marcell Dareus is considered by many (including our evaluations) to be one of the top defensive tackles in the game and he gets a lot of help from Kyle and Mario Williams on the outside.

Best Case Scenario:
E.J. Manuel could use some help and the Bills can improve the odds of keeping their young signal caller upright by drafting an offensive linemen. If a top lineman is not available, then, with the ninth pick, the Bills could select a wide receiver – all of the receivers on the roster rank below average except Stevie Johnson who is barely a starting caliber player.

Carolina Panthers
Top needs: CB, S and WR

Greatest Strength: Defensive Line
Carolina's defensive line is the envy of the league. The Panthers have two exceptional pass rushers in Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson as well as young star in defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.

Best Case Scenario:
Carolina's defense is great against the run and led the NFL in sacks (60) last season, but the secondary is a mess. Neither current corner is above average and the team could use depth at safety. Drafting a starting cornerback could essentially ensure a return to the postseason.

Chicago Bears
Top needs: OT, OG, and S

Greatest Strength: Receivers
Alshon Jeffery was a revelation for the Bears last season catching 89 passes for 1,421 yards. While Jeffery broke out, Brandon Marshall still led the team in receptions and touchdowns. Marshall earns a 9.7 out of 10 in our rankings and all of the Bears' receivers rank as above average.

Best Case Scenario:
Chicago needs to continue rebuilding the offensive line. The Bears selected Kyle Long with their first pick last year and would be wise to follow that up with another offensive lineman in this year's draft.

Cincinnati Bengals
Top needs: C, DT, and DE

Greatest Strength: Defensive Secondary
Cincinnati finished with the third best defense in our Power Rankings last season. The Bengals were second in defensive passing efficiency. Every projected starter (assuming Leon Hall is 100% healthy) in the Bengals' secondary rates as above average. The defensive line is generally considered this team's greatest strength, and Geno Atkins is the Bengals' top rated overall player, but the line took a hit with the loss of Michael Johnson and Damato Peko is a below average starting tackle alongside Atkins.

Best Case Scenario:
The Bengals are the rare team without a glaring need. Every position has at least one starter that is above average. Cincinnati could gamble late in the First Round with a high upside play or take the best player available and add depth to an already talented roster.

Cleveland Browns
Top needs: RB, DT, and ILB

Greatest Strength: Linebackers
With the offseason loss of D'qwell Jackson, the Browns could have used another inside linebacker, but Cleveland replaced him with Karlos Dansby in free agency to beef up the interior of the defense. Paul Kruger is a solid player that looks to bounce back from a disappointing (given the large free-agent contract) season and Barkevious Mingo, a first round draft pick, showed some flashes last year. The Browns are odd in that they have a top five offensive tackle, wide receiver and cornerback in the league, yet are not incredibly strong on the offensive line, at receiver in general and in the secondary.

Best Case Scenario:
One of the weakest overall positions on the team is at running back. There is no player currently on the roster at that position that rates as above average. While running back is a need, the team could see a greater improvement by drafting an an interior offensive linemen.

Dallas Cowboys
Top needs: DT, LB, and CB

Greatest Strength: Offensive Line
America's Team has one of the best all-around offensive lines in the NFL. Every player rates as above average and the Cowboys have one of the best young tackles in the game, Tyron Smith, who earns a 9.5 out of 10 in our rankings.

Best Case Scenario:
Any pick on the defensive side of the ball should benefit the team. The Cowboys need help at every level, yet would be best served by (finally) finding a starting corner at the top of the draft.

Denver Broncos
Top needs: LB, DT, and DE

Greatest Strength: Peyton Manning
Manning set NFL records for most passing yards and touchdowns in a single season last year. The future Hall of Famer led the Broncos to another AFC West crown and to the organization's seventh Super Bowl appearance.

Best Case Scenario:
The only real weakness on this team is inside linebacker. With a late First Round draft pick, the Broncos are best suited to add depth on defense, especially after losing many critical players to injury last season.

Detroit Lions
Top needs: CB, OLB, and TE

Greatest Strength: Offensive Line
The Lions have the best combination of center and guards in the league. Dominic Raiola, Larry Warford, and Rob Sims all grade out as Pro Bowl caliber players. Both tackles are also above average.

Best Case Scenario:
Detroit finished the season 23rd in defensive passing efficiency in our Power Rankings. The Lions would be wise to upgrade their secondary by drafting a corner. No corner on the current roster grades out as above average.

Green Bay Packers
Top needs: DT, DE, and ILB

Greatest Strength: Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers has the rare combination of accuracy, mobility and in-game decision-making that makes the Packers Super Bowl contenders. Without Rodgers, like we saw last year, Green Bay struggles.

Best Case Scenario:
Green Bay needs all the help it can get on the defensive side of the ball. The Packers were 30th and 31st, respectively, in defensive rush and pass efficiency last season. Green Bay needs to spend its first few picks to fill holes on the defense.

Houston Texans
Top needs: QB, OLB, and S

Greatest Strength: Defensive Line
This is really about J.J. Watt. There isn't anything special about the rest of his teammates on the defensive line, but Watt is the only player in the NFL to earn a 10 out of 10 in our ratings. Watt is a singular talent that makes those around him better.

Best Case Scenario:
Houston has options with the first pick. The Texans could take their quarterback of the future or, while it is not a glaring need, a defensive lineman such as Aaron Donald, the highest rated player in's Top 250. Regardless of which player the Texans select, Houston finishes with a top five draft in nearly all the mock drafts we analyzed.

Indianapolis Colts
Top needs: OG, S, and RB

Greatest Strength: Defensive Line
The Colts' defense was average last year but Indianapolis has reason to believe it can be a top ten unit. Both of Indy's defensive ends earn ratings similar to Pro Bowl players while the starting tackles are above average. Add in Robert Mathis, the highest rated player on the Colts (9.6 out of 10) and Indianapolis is an improved secondary away from having one of the best overall units in the league.

Best Case Scenario:
Indianapolis' two biggest weaknesses are interior offensive linemen and defensive secondary. It'll be difficult for the Colts to find an immediate starter without a First Round draft pick this year (due to the trade for Trent Richardson).

Jacksonville Jaguars
Top needs: QB, OL and DL

Greatest Strength: Cornerbacks
You don't finish with a record of .500 or below for six straight years by having strong offensive or defensive units. Cornerback is the only position where both starters grade as above average. Dwayne Gratz is the team's highest rated player overall and he only earns an 8.5 out of 10.

Best Case Scenario:
Without a consensus franchise quarterback in the draft, Jacksonville would be best served by taking the best overall player available with the second pick. If things break right in the draft Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel may be available early in the second round.

Kansas City Chiefs
Top needs: OT, OG, and QB

Greatest Strength: Linebackers
The Chiefs finished with 47 sacks in the regular season, 29.5 of those came courtesy of its linebackers. Justin Houston and Tamba Hali each earn grades of nine or better, indicating Pro Bowl level talent. Every linebacker on Kansas City's roster is above average.

Best Case Scenario:
The Chiefs tried to improve their offensive line last year by selecting Eric Fisher with the first overall pick but the results were disappointing. Kansas City desperately needs to improve its line as only center Rodney Hudson is above average.

Miami Dolphins
Top needs: OLB, C, and S

Greatest Strength: Skill Positions
Every skill position on the Miami roster is filled with above average talent. While there are higher rated players on the defensive side of the ball, there is no clear weakness on offense at quarterback, running back, wide receiver or tight end.

Best Case Scenario:
The bullying scandal last year was a distraction for a team that finished 8-8. There is a lot of talent on this roster and a successful draft could have the Dolphins in the postseason next year. Miami's greatest need is depth in the secondary, offensive line and at linebacker.

Minnesota Vikings
Top needs: QB, OLB, and CB

Greatest Strength: Offensive Line
This unit has been together since 2012, the same year Adrian Peterson won the MVP Award by rushing for 2,097 yards. Four of the five linemen earn ratings at or above the Pro Bowl level in our rankings.

Best Case Scenario:
Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel are not long-term answers at quarterback but, without a clear franchise quarterback in the draft, Minnesota should take a cornerback to improve a defense that ranked 26th in defensive passing efficiency.

New England Patriots
Top needs: G, C and CB

Greatest Strength: Skill Positions
When healthy, New England's skill position players are downright frightful to game-plan against. Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, Rob Gronkowski is not guardable, the Patriots have three options at running back that give different looks and the receiving corp. has a good mix of young talent and veteran players.

Best Case Scenario:
Nate Solder is an All-Pro left tackle, yet the Patriots need help at guard and center. Both starting guards and center grade as merely replacement level players. New England also needs a starting cornerback to play across from newly-acquired Darrelle Revis.

New Orleans Saints
Top needs: ILB, OLB and WR

Greatest Strength: Defensive Secondary
Every member of the defensive secondary earns an above average grade in our rankings. The Saints were seventh in defensive passing efficiency last season.

Best Case Scenario:
New Orleans struggled to stop the run last year, allowing 4.6 yards/carry and over 100 yards rushing per-game. All the linebackers on the roster are below average. Drafting quality run stoppers at linebacker should help to improve a defense that was 31st against the run.

New York Giants
Top needs: QB, OL and ILB

Greatest Strength: Defensive Line
The Giants finished 7-9 last season, but it was not because of their defense. New York was 11th in defensive passing efficiency and 8th in defensive rushing efficiency. All of the defensive linemen grade out as above average, including second-year player Damontre Moore who was's top overall player in the 2013 draft.

Best Case Scenario:
The Giants won't do it, but they need to consider finding Eli Manning's replacement. The two-time Super Bowl winner has the lowest offensive grade on the team. Since it is unlikely that New York will take a quarterback with the twelfth overall pick, the Giants could also use help on the offensive line where four out of the five starters are below average.

New York Jets
Top needs: G, CB and S

Greatest Strength: Defensive Line
The Jets have the most impressive collection of talent on the defensive line in the league. All of the defensive linemen rate at or above Pro Bowl caliber in our rankings.

Best Case Scenario:
The offensive line is a mess, there are only two legitimate starters, while the rest are well below average. While the defensive line is great, the rest of the starters behind them on defense are slightly below average. Look for the Jets to improve their defensive backfield after addressing needs on the offensive line.

Oakland Raiders
Top needs: QB, G and ILB

Greatest Strength: Defensive Line
While not as impressive as the Jets, the Raiders also have quality players up and down their defensive line. Each starter is well above average if just slightly below the Pro Bowl level.

Best Case Scenario:
Oakland needs a lot of help. The Raiders got a stopgap at quarterback by acquiring Matt Schaub, but he still grades as below average. The Raiders need to spend picks to improve the offensive line and linebacker positions as well.

Philadelphia Eagles
Top needs: ILB, S and CB

Greatest Strength: Offense
There is only one player on offense that is ranked as below average and that is the third option at receiver. It is no wonder that the Eagles were first and second in offensive rush and pass efficiency respectively last season in our Power Rankings.

Best Case Scenario:
While the offense is set, the defense has holes across the board. The Eagles need to focus on finding quality starters at both inside linebacker and safety. None of the current players on the roster at those positions are above average.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Top needs: ILB, DE and DT

Greatest Strength: Safety
This is the only position on the team where both starters are above average. Troy Polamalu may have lost a step in his 12th year, but when healthy, he can still get it done.

Best Case Scenario:
The Steel Curtain has some cracks in it. Half of the projected starters on defense are below average. Pittsburgh needs a good draft to improve the defensive line and linebacker positions.

San Diego Chargers
Top needs: DT, DE and C

Greatest Strength: Receivers
Receivers Vincent Brown and Keenan Allen are both fringe Pro Bowlers. All of the receivers on the depth chart are above average.

Best Case Scenario:
There isn't a single starter that is above average at defensive tackle, defensive end or corner. San Diego was at the bottom of the league in both defensive rushing and passing efficiency last year. The best case for the Chargers would be to invest heavily on the defensive side of the ball.

San Francisco 49ers
Top needs: CB, S and OLB

Greatest Strength: Team
There are only four starters combined that are below average, none on the offensive side of the ball. San Francisco will contend for the Super Bowl once again this fall.

Best Case Scenario:
The biggest need for San Francisco is at cornerback and safety, those are the weakest units on the team. With so many picks, the 49ers could add some depth on the defensive line and at linebacker as well and take fliers elsewhere.

Seattle Seahawks
Top needs: OG, C and OT

Greatest Strength: Defensive Line
The Super Bowl was won on the strength of the Seahawks' defense. The secondary gets a lot of attention with Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, but it is the defensive line that grades as the best defensive unit for Seattle. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are both Pro Bowl caliber players, while the rest of the defensive line is well above average.

Best Case Scenario:
The Seahawks' offensive line is weak and filled with replacement level talent. Only tackle Russell Okung ranks as above average. With the best defense in the league, Seattle can focus the majority of the draft on improving the offense around Russell Wilson.

St. Louis Rams
Top needs: CB, S and OLB

Greatest Strength: Offensive Line
If healthy, the Rams could have one of the top ten offensive lines in the league. In a bizarre situation, free agent Rodger Saffold left the Rams only to return after failing a physical with the Raiders. St. Louis was glad to get the guard back as he helps solidify the line. Only center Scott Wells grades as below average.

Best Case Scenario:
Take your pick, but there isn't a starter on the roster at cornerback, safety or outside linebacker that grades as above average. With two picks in the top thirteen, the Rams could nab two starters to fix what ails them in the defensive back seven.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Top needs: OG, ILB and S

Greatest Strength: Defensive Line
Gerald McCoy and Michael Johnson are both Pro Bowl-caliber players. While the team could use some depth behind McCoy at defensive tackle, the line is still the team's best unit.

Best Case Scenario:
The team improves the offensive line with a top ten pick and then finds at least one starter on defense at linebacker or safety.

Tennessee Titans
Top needs: OG, C and ILB

Greatest Strength: Receivers
Nate Washington and Kendall Wright are two underappreciated receivers. A lot of that probably has to do with poor fantasy production, which can't be helped when Jake Locker is throwing to you. Washington and Wright, both rank as just below Pro Bowl level players. The Titans hope Locker can take a step forward to allow the talent at receiver to shine.

Best Case Scenario:
The offensive line struggled in both pass protection and run blocking. The Titans added young pieces in the 2013 draft by taking Chance Warmack and Brian Schwenke to play right guard and center. The Titans should continue rebuilding the line this year by taking another guard and tackle.

Washington Redskins
Top needs: DE, CB and S

Greatest Strength: Receiver
The Redskins added DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts this offseason to join Pierre Garcon at receiver. Washington has three legitimate targets at wide receiver for Robert Griffin III.

Best Case Scenario:
Washington still does not have a First Round pick courtesy of the RG3 trade. With early picks in each of the remaining rounds, the Redskins could still add depth and possibly starters on the defensive side of the ball.