clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

8 teams that will turn to the 2016 NFL Draft to address a position ignored in free agency

Teams like the Vikings and Falcons added major talent during free agency, but they have a glaring need to fill that should be taken care of during next month's draft.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

As the rush of free agency dies down, even some of the teams that spent the most money didn't necessarily fill their most important needs. The Jacksonville Jaguars committed more than $200 million in total value and $76.4 million in guaranteed money to seven free agents, but still didn't add an edge rusher to complement Dante Fowler Jr.

While the Houston Texans doled out big money to acquire Brock Osweiler, the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Rams are no closer to solving their quarterback woes. The Rams, however, appear content with their situation, as is.

But the offseason is far from over. Now, attention turns to the 2016 NFL Draft, where it's a better idea to address needs anyway. The players are younger, the ceilings are typically higher and the talent is unequivocally cheaper than acquisitions in free agency.

Still, the pressure is on for a few teams to deal with a positions that wasn't upgraded in free agency:

No. 2: Cleveland Browns - Quarterback

The Johnny Manziel project went down in flames, as have many other quarterbacks in Cleveland. But with a new regime led by Hue Jackson, Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta, the Browns are ready to start fresh. Even though the team has flirted with the idea of trading for Colin Kaepernickor signing Robert Griffin III, it is the No. 2 pick in the draft that looks like the logical way to fill the void.

Only the Tennessee Titans, heading into year two with Marcus Mariota, will pick ahead of the Browns. That likely means Cleveland will have its choice of the passers in the draft class, although it really comes down to two. California's Jared Goff was initially the favorite to be the second pick, but he has been passed by North Dakota State's Carson Wentz, who may have the better size and strength necessary to be a fit in the AFC North.

No. 5: Jacksonville Jaguars - Edge rusher

General manager Dave Caldwell has been lauded for his patience in rebuilding the Jaguars, but he waited until his third draft to make a real investment at the pass rushing "LEO" position. But an ACL tear meant Dante Fowler, Jr. never saw the field as a rookie in 2015, and the Jaguars don't have an experienced player ready to fill the role in 2016.

Most pass rushers take some time to get going, so the Jaguars may need to make a trade if the team hopes to find production at the LEO spot in 2016. It'll be tough to rely on Fowler or a rookie to crank out a double-digit sack season. But the draft is good spot to add more talent at the spot for the long-term. With the fifth pick, Jacksonville could address the position with a player like Joey Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Shaq Lawson or Noah Spence, but the top of the second round could also provide an opportunity to upgrade.

No. 10: New York Giants - Wide receiver

There's no doubt that Odell Beckham Jr. is a star, but the Giants still haven't had a chance to see what an offense would look like with Victor Cruz ready to go on the other side. Even if Cruz returns to the field after taking a significant pay cut to stay in New York, it's still tough to imagine that he'll ever be the same. And even after Rueben Randle upped his production in 2015, the Giants have been content to let him pursue a contract elsewhere.

That leaves a big hole opposite Beckham that the Giants didn't fill in free agency, when the team spent big upgrading its defense. With the No. 10 pick, the Giants could be in a feasible spot to draft the top receiver in the class, and many expect that to be Laquon Treadwell of Ole Miss. Receiver isn't the team's only need though, and the second day could also be a place to find a No. 2 option for Eli Manning.

No. 15: Los Angeles Rams - Quarterback

Passing the football was far from a strength for the Rams in 2015, but the team seems confident in Case Keenum to get things going. Many would argue that confidence is misplaced, though Keenum hasn't really had much time or the circumstances to definitively prove either way.

If the Rams decide to address the position in the draft, they could be in good shape with the No. 15 pick. Some have suggested Los Angeles should trade up to secure a passer they covet, including Cris Collinsworth who said the Rams should trade with the Titans for the top pick in the draft. But even if both Wentz and Goff are off the board, Paxton Lynch of Memphis is a player that could be a good fit in Los Angeles.

No. 17: Atlanta Falcons - Linebacker

Paul Worrilow has been given the chance to secure his place as the middle linebacker for the Falcons, but hasn't locked down the role. While the Falcons spent big to bring Alex Mack and Mohamed Sanu to Atlanta, linebacker is still a position that could use a boost and the first round of the draft is a place that makes sense to grab one.

At No. 17 in the draft order, there's a solid chance the Falcons will have Alabama's Reggie Ragland and/or Ohio State's Darron Lee on the board. Even Georgia outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, who has likened himself to DeMarcus Ware, is a player who could bring size and athleticism to the middle of the Atlanta defense.

No. 23: Minnesota Vikings - Wide receiver

The Vikings didn't spend a ton of money in free agency, but upgraded the offensive line and added some talent like Michael Griffin to its roster for cheap. What the team didn't get is a wide receiver to help out Teddy Bridgewater and improve a Vikings offense that was No. 31 in passing yards. The breakout of Stefon Diggs in October showed that the Vikings have a talented young receiver to work with, but he was the only player on the team to finish with more than 500 receiving yards.

With Mike Wallace gone and Cordarrelle Patterson getting phased out of the offense, the Vikings need to add offensive weapons and should be able to grab a good one with the No. 23 pick. While it's seriously doubtful that the Vikings get the top receiver in the class, Treadwell, Corey Coleman, Josh Doctson, Will Fuller and Michael Thomas offer enough options with legitimate first-round talent to give Minnesota a solid player, regardless of how the first 22 picks go.

No. 25: Pittsburgh Steelers - Cornerback

Nobody should be surprised that the Steelers didn't touch the cornerbacks on the open market, because leaving free agents is just the Pittsburgh way. Even a four-year, $20 million deal for tight end Ladarius Green isn't that much and is still way more than the Steelers have given any free agent in the last two years.

Still, the lack of additions to the secondary leaves the team very needy heading into the draft. The Steelers aren't typically a team that strikes for need, but if Clemson's Mackensie Alexander or Ohio State's Eli Apple are on the board, it would be a perfect blend of need and value for the Steelers near the end of the first round.

No. 30: Carolina Panthers - Wide receiver

Receiver was supposed to be the disaster that would ruin the 2015 season for the Panthers, but the team managed to put together a Super Bowl campaign with Ted Ginn and Jerricho Cotchery. However, Greg Olsen was the only player on the team to eclipse 750 receiving yards and Cotchery is headed out of Carolina.

Getting Kelvin Benjamin back after the receiver missed all of 2015 with an ACL tear will definitely help, but relying on Ginn to handle starting duties and not upgrading the receiving corps would be questionable. Like the Vikings, the Panthers may benefit from a solid group of top receivers in the draft class that sends a talented player to No. 30, but Carolina also has needs in its secondary that could be addressed in the first round, as well.

* * *

Draft Winners: How the top franchises get it done with their picks

Be sure to subscribe to SB Nation's YouTube channel for highlight videos, features, analysis and more