The NFL Combine is under way, so it’s a good time to take a look at what each team might be looking for in Indianapolis. Keep in mind these could change once teams start adding free agents on March 10, so we’ll revisit this just before the Draft in late April.
Here are the top needs for each NFC team:
First-Round Pick: No. 5
What They Need: The Redskins are in a really nice spot at No. 5 overall. Their biggest need is a pass-rushing defensive end, and there are plenty of those at the top of this draft. It is possible (but unlikely) the three best DEs will be gone; but that will mean one of the top two quarterbacks is still out there, and Washington’s phone will be ringing.
New York Giants
First-Round Pick: No. 9
What They Need: The Giants did not run the ball well (23rd in the NFL) or stop the run (30th in the NFL), which can’t make Tom Coughlin happy. Look for them to address both areas by drafting some big bodies. They may have their choice of the top offensive linemen on the board in Round 1.
First-Round Pick: No. 20
What They Need: All eyes will be on Chip Kelly to see if he will try to trade up and get his old Oregon QB, Marcus Mariota. Unless Mariota starts sliding fast, it would seem too big of a jump to make. Assuming the Eagles stay put, they should be able to get some much-needed secondary help in the first round.
First-Round Pick: No. 27
What They Need: Running back DeMarco Murray and WR Dez Bryant are both free agents, and most are betting on Bryant staying and Murray going. But while a running back will likely be needed, the Cowboys would be wise to look to the defensive side of the ball early on in the draft.
First-Round Pick: No. 7
What They Need: With John Fox taking over as head coach, it’s a safe bet the Bears will look to start filling holes on defense early in the draft. Chicago may be in more dire need of safeties and linebackers, but the value in the top 10 will likely be along the defensive line.
First-Round Pick: No. 11
What They Need: Even if Adrian Peterson does not return, serviceable running backs can be found. The Vikings need help protecting QB Teddy Bridgewater and also need to get him another weapon on the outside. Minnesota seems likely to be looking at offensive tackles and wide receivers early.
First-Round Pick: No. 23
What They Need: Four of the Lions’ top five defensive tackles, including All-Pro DT Ndamukong Suh, are free agents. Bringing Suh back is a priority, but either way the position will be addressed at the draft. Look for the Lions to also grab some offensive line help and possibly a cornerback.
Green Bay Packers
First-Round Pick: No. 30
What They Need: The Packers ranked 23rd against the run in terms of yards allowed and were graded 31st by ProFootballFocus.com, so help at defensive tackle or inside linebacker would be a good place to start. Offensively, Green Bay may look for an upgrade at tight end.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
First-Round Pick: No. 1
What They Need: Everyone has the Bucs pegged to take the quarterback of their choice at the top of the draft; and it sure seems like that is the plan as they cut Josh McCown and are also reportedly shopping Mike Glennon. But if they decide they don’t like the top QBs or someone blows them away with an offer for the top pick, they could use a top pass rusher as well.
First-Round Pick: No. 8
What They Need: The Falcons are desperate for help defending the pass, as they ranked 29th in both pass rush and pass coverage according to ProFootballFocus.com. The best of the best pass rushers will likely be gone before they pick eighth, but a defensive lineman will still be the likely choice.
New Orleans Saints
First-Round Pick: No. 13
What They Need: Many early mock drafts have the Saints targeting a pass rusher early, and that certainly would not hurt. But at some point in the draft, secondary help is needed as well. New Orleans ranked second to last in the NFL in pass coverage according to ProFootballFocus.com.
First-Round Pick: No. 25
What They Need: Cam Newton spent much of the season running for his life thanks to pass protection that was ranked dead last in the NFL by ProFootballFocus.com. Look for Carolina to get some offensive line help early and then possibly try to bolster a pass rush that was middle-of-the-pack in 2014.
St. Louis Rams
First-Round Pick: No. 10
What They Need: The Rams are a candidate to try to move up in Round 1 to get one of the top two quarterbacks, but they have plenty of other holes to fill on offense. Assuming they don’t jump up to get a QB, help along the offensive line is most likely in Round 1.
San Francisco 49ers
First-Round Pick: No. 15
What They Need: Michael Crabtree and Brandon Lloyd are slated to become free agents, and neither Anquan Boldin nor Stevie Johnson is a real threat to stretch the field. So wide receiver could be an early target, as could offensive line, especially if guard Mike Iupati leaves in free agency.
First-Round Pick: No. 24
What They Need: Linebacker might be the first place the Cardinals look, as Larry Foote and John Abraham are both free agents. James Bettcher takes over as defensive coordinator, but the blitz-heavy scheme will remain, so Arizona can always use corners who can cover without help.
First-Round Pick: No. 31
What They Need: If Marshawn Lynch retires or signs elsewhere, running back could be addressed at the draft, but the bigger need would seem to be on the outside. The lack of a true No. 1 wide receiver leaves Russell Wilson running around looking for someone to break open late far too often.