With the NFL Combine under way, we break down the biggest need for each AFC team heading into the Draft.
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 AFC team:
New York Jets
First-Round Pick: No. 6
What They Need: Everyone knows the Jets need a quarterback. It is possible that Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston slips to them at No. 6, or they make a move up to make sure they get one of them. There are plenty of other needs, though, including cornerback and offensive tackle.
First-Round Pick: No. 14
What They Need: Miami’s offensive line graded out among the worst in the league according to ProFootballFocus.com, so that would be a good place to start. But if the top offensive tackles are gone before the Dolphins pick, cornerback or linebacker could be in play in the first round.
First-Round Pick: None (traded to Cleveland in Sammy Watkins deal)
What They Need: If DE Jerry Hughes walks in free agency, Rex Ryan will surely be tempted to look for another pass rusher. Offensive line help is still needed even after the signing of OG Richie Incognito, and of course there is still that little matter of a quarterback unless EJ Manuel makes huge strides.
New England Patriots
First-Round Pick: No. 32
What They Need: With Vince Wilfork and Rob Ninkovich both on the wrong side of 30, another defensive lineman would not hurt. But if the right guy is available at the end of Round 1, New England may want to take another shot at drafting a speed receiver to help Tom Brady stretch the field.
First-Round Picks: No. 12, 19
What They Need: With Josh Gordon suspended again, this time possibly for good, the Browns definitely need a wide receiver. They also need help stopping the run (they were dead last in the NFL last season), so that second first-round pick they have thanks to the Sammy Watkins trade with Buffalo will come in handy.
First-Round Pick: No. 21
What They Need: The Bengals had just 20 sacks in 2014, and ProFootballFocus.com rated their pass rush dead last in the NFL by a wide margin. So it’s safe to say Cincinnati will be looking for some guys who know how to get after the quarterback. Free agency could also create some holes in the secondary.
First-Round Pick: No. 22
What They Need: The Steelers have a new defensive coordinator and holes to fill all over the defense. Both outside linebackers are free agents, as is corner Ike Taylor. And safety Troy Polomalu will turn 34 in April. Look for some new faces to join the Steel Curtain at the draft.
First-Round Pick: No. 26
What They Need: Baltimore could look to get Joe Flacco more weapons early in the draft. Wide receiver Torrey Smith and running back Justin Forsett are both free agents, and WR Steve Smith Sr. has to slow down at some point, right? Defensive back is also a possibility as the Ravens gave up a lot of yards through the air for a team with such a strong pass rush.
First-Round Pick: No. 2
What They Need: The good news is that the Titans need a quarterback and a pass rusher, and there are plenty of both at the top of the draft. If the Titans like both top QBs, they are OK even if Tampa takes one with the first pick. If Tennessee doesn’t like its QB options, the team will get its choice of the top pass rushers. The Titans also could trade the pick to someone who likes the No. 2 QB and still get a top pass rusher.
First-Round Pick: No. 3
What They Need: The Jags’ biggest need is probably right tackle, but third overall is not the place to look to fill that need. They could get some offers for the No. 3 pick if one of the top quarterbacks is still on the board. But if they don’t deal the pick, look for them to take a top pass rusher and address the RT need later.
First-Round Pick: No. 16
What They Need: The Texans need a quarterback but are not in position to take one early. The most likely route will be to look for an offensive tackle to help protect whoever is throwing the passes, but don’t rule out a receiver as Andre Johnson will be 34 years old when training camp begins.
First-Round Pick: No. 29
What They Need: While the Colts allowed just 29 sacks, it would be overstating it to say that Andrew Luck had plenty of time to throw; Indianapolis was ranked 26th in pass protection by ProFootballFocus.com. Their run defense was also exposed by New England in both late-season meetings, so help there could not hurt.
First-Round Pick: No. 4
What They Need: The Raiders appear to have found their quarterback in Derek Carr, leaving them with options for the No. 4 overall pick. Carr needs weapons, and they will almost certainly have their choice of wide receivers (Amari Cooper, anyone?). Oakland could also use a pass rusher to help Khalil Mack.
San Diego Chargers
First-Round Pick: No. 17
What They Need: Both starting corners are slated to become free agents, but early on the Chargers may look to upgrade along the lines. They ranked 30th running the ball and 26th stopping the run, so an interior defensive lineman or offensive lineman would not be a big surprise.
Kansas City Chiefs
First-Round Pick: No. 18
What They Need: It became somewhat of a punchline last season that the Chiefs did not have a single touchdown pass to a wide receiver. Donnie Avery and A.J. Jenkins have both already been released, so it’s no surprise that just about every mock draft out there has K.C. grabbing a new weapon for Alex Smith in the first round. Offensive line help is needed as well.
First-Round Pick: No. 28
What They Need: If the Broncos lose WR Demaryius Thomas and/or TE Julius Thomas to free agency, targeting a weapon for Peyton Manning (assuming he returns) becomes a priority. If the Thomas’ return, look for Denver to get some help up front on offense and defense early in the draft.