Addressing NFL team needs through a 2016 mock draft

By Scott Carasik

The 2015 NFL Season is coming to a close, and soon fans of 20 teams will switch their focus from playoff hopes to the NFL draft.

Because of this, NFL team needs will be of utter importance throughout the offseason. Teams that miss the playoffs definitely have holes that they need to fill, but no NFL team is perfect. And in the salary cap era, there’s going to be issues on every single team out there. The NFL is a fickle league. Even with some of the best teams looking complete, every team has an issue or two that needs to be addressed.

Note: The draft order used is the current draft order as if the season ended today as calculated here.

1. Cleveland Browns: QB Paxton Lynch, Memphis

Primary Team Needs: QB, WR, EDGE, CB

The first rule of building an NFL team is, “If you don’t have a good quarterback, you need to get one as soon as possible.”

The Browns don’t have a good quarterback, despite investing first round picks on one in 2012 and 2014 for Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel. They could also use another pass-rusher off the edge, a cornerback to complement Joe Haden and a wide receiver to replace Josh Gordon.

Paxton Lynch has shown potential at quarterback that could make him the first one to actually earn franchise status for the Browns since they came back into the league in 1999. Cleveland will continue to be screwed without one. Lynch is very comparable to a more-mobile Joe Flacco and could turn into a Pro Bowl quarterback like Flacco has.

2. Tennessee Titans: DL Joey Bosa, Ohio State

Primary Team Needs: CB, OT, FS, BPA

Courtesy of USA Today Images

The Titans have a good collection of talent at the key positions that would normally go No. 2 overall. At corner, Jason McCourty is a solid player. Taylor Lewan is a good left tackle. Marcus Mariota is a franchise quarterback, and they have multiple pass-rushers off the edge. Sure, a playmaking cornerback or free safety would be nice to have. So would a right tackle.

But when a guy as good as Joey Bosa is there at No. 2 overall, you have to take him. Bosa would allow the Titans to move DaQuan Jones to slide inside in rotation with Sammie Lee Hill while also giving them a presence at strong-side defensive end that could eventually rival what J.J. Watt does in Houston.

3. San Diego Chargers: WR LaQuan Treadwell, Ole Miss

Primary Team Needs: WR, TE, C, FS

Keenan Allen is a great player. There’s no question there. But he does get injured often and the Chargers could use someone to help take pressure off of Phillip Rivers and Allen in the passing game. LaQuan Treadwell might be overkill for that, but he’s a dynamic, explosive playmaker who could turn into one of the best receivers in the NFL in the right situation.

Treadwell is a Larry Fitzgerald-type receiver in that, while he’s not the fastest player on the field or the biggest receiver out there, he just knows how to get open. Other spots that make sense for the Chargers include tight end, center and free safety. Unfortunately, there’s just not the prospect quality at any of those spots to really make them worth a selection this high.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: EDGE/LB Myles Jack, UCLA

Primary Team Needs: EDGE, LB, CB, FS

Jacksonville’s defense has needs all over. The Jags need a better pass rush off the edge than what they have been getting from Cris Clemons and Andre Branch. They could also use an upgrade at middle linebacker over the mediocre Paul Posluszny. On top of it, they can never get enough good corners and safeties for the scheme.

Myles Jack has a knee injury that knocked him out for the second half of the season. But he’s arguably the best linebacker in the draft and could also contribute off the edge as a pass-rusher like he did early in his career at UCLA. His versatility makes him an asset in any defense that a team would play.

5. Baltimore Ravens: DL Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss

Primary Team Needs: WR, OG, EDGE, DL

Robert Nkemdiche

Steve Smith is winding down for his career and will need to be replaced. The Ravens could also lose Kelechi Osemele in free agency and would need to replace him. Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs are also getting older and could use another rotational guy to help keep them fresh, and Chris Canty is turning 34 during the 2016 season and should be replaced by someone similar.

That’s where Robert Nkemdiche comes in. The Ole Miss defensive lineman has shown to be one of the best players in the country against the run and could provide a similar pass-rush effort to what Canty provided throughout his career. Nkemdiche would fit in ideally as the 5-technique end in the 3-4 scheme for the Ravens and could learn under Canty for a year or two to become more effective.

6. Detroit Lions: OT Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss

Primary Team Needs: WR, OT, DL, LB

Calvin Johnson is starting to get older and could wind up being a cap casualty in the offseason. The Lions could also use an upgrade at their defensive tackle positions with Caraun Reid and Haloti Ngata not being ideal starters for the long term. At linebacker, a long-term replacement for Stephen Tulloch looks like the ideal pick for the Lions.

However, their offensive line really needs some help more than anything else. Michael Ola and LaAdrian Waddle have been mediocre at right tackle and should be replaced. A left tackle makes more sense to add, though. Laremy Tunsil has the ability to jump right in at left tackle for the Lions and allow Riley Reiff to play his more natural right tackle role.

7. New Orleans Saints: LB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame

Primary Team Needs: WR, OG, EDGE, LB

With the Saints switching to a pure 4-3 defense under Dennis Allen in 2016, it would make sense for them to add some speed at linebacker. Jaylon Smith would be ideal for them to add, because he’s a perfect complement to Stephone Anthony in the middle of that defense. Anthony playing the Mike role with Smith at the Will would give the Saints a great group of linebackers in their base.

Other needs that the Saints have include a No. 1 wide receiver with Brandin Cooks not able to stay healthy and Marques Colston winding down his career. They also need a pure pass-rusher off the edge and an interior lineman to allow the Saints to possess one of the better offensive lines in the NFC South once again.

8. Dallas Cowboys: QB Jared Goff, California

Primary Team Needs: QB, TE, RB, CB

Jared Goff Cal

Jason Witten is aging and will need to be replaced soon. Sure, the Cowboys have Gavin Escobar, but they run a ton of two-tight end sets. They also need a good running back because of how hit-and-miss Darren McFadden has been this season. Byron Jones and Brandon Carr have been solid, but the Cowboys could stand to upgrade Carr this offseason.

That being said, their biggest need is easily a quarterback to eventually replace the 35-year-old Tony Romo. Jared Goff would be a great fit for their scheme due to his similarities to both Romo and Drew Brees. Goff can attack and read defenses well, but he does have a tendency to try and fit the ball into tight windows. Playing behind Romo for a year or two could help him learn what to do.

9. San Francisco 49ers: QB Connor Cook, Michigan State

Primary Team Needs: QB, OG, LB, CB

The 49ers have issues along their offensive line and in the second and third levels of their defense. But if they don’t get a good quarterback, they are going to be toast moving forward. Colin Kaepernick is making too much money to be sitting on the bench or on injured reserve, so they will either cut him or trade him.

And no one is considering Blaine Gabbert a franchise quarterback. The 49ers would be wise to attack this need by picking Connor Cook out of Michigan State. Cook can minimize the mistakes of an offense but has the arm to take advantage of deep receivers. Ideally, he works with a top rushing offense and the 49ers could provide him with that.

10. St. Louis Rams: QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota State

Primary Team Needs: QB, OG, OT, C

After spending many picks along the offensive line, the Rams still have one of the poorest performing ones in the NFL. They could use help all over it, specifically at tackle and guard. They might need three, if not four, new starters with the only one looking competent at this point being Rob Havenstein at right tackle.

But, Rule No. 1 of team building rears its ugly head here again. The Rams don’t have a franchise quarterback. So they need to get one immediately. Carson Wentz is an underrated quarterback prospect in the draft and could be the ideal fit for the Rams with their combination of talented deep threats at wide receiver and speedy intermediate threats at tight end.

11. Miami Dolphins: OT Ronald Stanley, Notre Dame

Primary Team Needs: OT, EDGE, LB, S

Miami would be a better team if they had better pass-rushers and coverage linebackers. They could also use a good complement at safety to Reshad Jones. But their biggest need is easily their left tackle. Branden Albert has continually been injured since he signed with the Dolphins and should be replaced long-term.

By taking Ronald Stanley out of Notre Dame, the Dolphins would have their ideal long-term offensive line under contract with Stanley and Ja’Wuan James at tackle, Mike Pouncey at center and a Billy Turner-Jamil Douglas combination at guard. They should be able to protect Ryan Tannehill effectively enough for Tannehill to have the best stretch of his career.

12. New York Giants: RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State

Primary Team Needs: RB, WR, LB, S

Ezekiel Elliott Ohio State

Despite investing in running backs with Andre Williams and Shane Vereen, the Giants would be better on offense if they had a three-down running back. Ezekiel Elliott out of Ohio State is arguably the best pass-blocking running back in the draft in 2016.

More than that, he might be the best pure running back in the draft. He’s averaged over 6.6 yards per carry over the past two seasons behind a solid offensive line using his exceptional vision and balance to shed tacklers and create a ton of yards after contact.

The Giants could also use some coverage help at linebacker and strong safety and another wide receiver to help Eli Manning.

13. Oakland Raiders: EDGE Leonard Floyd, Georgia

Primary Team Needs: S, CB, EDGE, LB

With Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper set up as Derek Carr’s primary weapons and the Oakland offensive line performing exceptionally well this year, the only real spot on offense that might be a need is tight end. However, Clive Walford makes that a non-issue. Running back could be upgraded later on in the draft for sure. That leaves best defensive player not at defensive tackle. In this case, it’s Leonard Floyd of Georgia that just makes sense.

Khalil Mack is the current LEO within the scheme for the Raiders and has just been ridiculous as a pass rusher and run defender. Pairing him with Floyd on the other side of the formation and a non-suspended Aldon Smith could give the Raiders three talented pass rushers. Floyd also fits the SLB role in the Raiders’ scheme well as he can set the edge against the run effectively and isn’t atrocious in coverage.

14. Philadelphia Eagles: DL A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama

Primary Team Needs: QB, OG, OT, DL

While the Eagles need a quarterback, they might be better served trying to bring in someone along the lines of Colin Kaepernick or Robert Griffin III in the offseason than looking to the draft. That leaves the real need at offensive and defensive line. Cedric Thornton is solid but unspectacular, and adding some more talent up front to help out Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan would be wise.

A’Shawn Robinson is a great fit for any scheme. He’s a disruptive force from Alabama and could give the Eagles another Cox-type defensive end for their 3-4 front. His 6’4″, 312-pound frame also gives him the versatility to play some 1-technique in nickel situations. They need that extra pass rush from the interior to force teams off the field on third downs.

15. Chicago Bears: CB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida

Primary Team Needs: OT, DL, EDGE, CB

Chicago has some solid cornerbacks, but they need a true No. 1 cornerback to complement Kyle Fuller. On top of that, they aren’t getting a great pass rush because their 3-4 defense lacks the personnel to make it happen. They need both defensive linemen and edge rushers to help make it better. They also need to fix their left tackle situation.

They luck out by having the best pure cornerback in the draft fall to them here in the first round. Vernon Hargreaves III from Florida has shown flashes of Darrelle Revis-level skills, but he doesn’t have Revis-level athleticism. Hargreaves would definitely improve the ball skills of a defense that has just six interceptions for the year.

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB/S Jalen Ramsey, Florida State

Primary Team Needs: WR, EDGE, CB, S

Jude Adjei-Barimah and Sterling Moore are starting for the Buccaneers because of underperformance from both Johnthan Banks and Alterraun Verner. Keith Tandy is also a free agent after this season. The Buccaneers could also use better edge rushers than Jacquies Smith and William Gholston starting for them within the defense. A playmaking safety also wouldn’t hurt their defense.

On top of that, a wide receiver to replace the aging Vincent Jackson could be useful as well. In this situation, Jalen Ramsey makes too much sense. He’s a playmaker at both corner and safety and would be an instant starter at either role for Tampa. If they wound up with him, their defense would get much better at creating crucial turnovers.

17. Atlanta Falcons: LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama

Primary Team Needs: WR, OG, EDGE, LB

The Falcons have a need at wide receiver because Roddy White, Leonard Hankerson, Justin Hardy and Devin Hester haven’t shown the ability to be true No. 2 receivers playing opposite Julio Jones. They also have a need at offensive guard with Chris Chester potentially retiring after this season and the less-than-average performance from Andy Levitre.

They could also use a pass-rusher across from Vic Beasley to help free up the second-year stud out of Clemson. However, the biggest need is in the middle of the defense. Paul Worrilow and Justin Durant have been underwhelming as starters in the new scheme. Reggie Ragland is arguably the most athletic linebacker outside of Myle Jack and has shown propensity as a blitzer, in coverage and against the run that Worrilow and Durant just don’t have.

18. Houston Texans: QB Christian Hackenberg, Penn State

Primary Team Needs: QB, RB, WR, CB

Christian Hackenberg

The biggest recurring theme with the Houston Texans offense is the lack of a No. 2 receiving threat outside of Deandre Hopkins. They are missing a talented running back outside of Arian Foster, and they could use an upgrade to their cornerback corps. However, the reason why they aren’t consistently winning games is because they need a true franchise quarterback.

Christian Hackenberg would be the ideal quarterback to fall to the Texans because he’s been in Bill O’Brien’s offense before and has shown success within the scheme. He’s also that prototypical quarterback in terms of arm strength and build, but he’s got to fix the issues he’s shown under James Franklin once he gets to the NFL or this is a wasted pick.

19. Buffalo Bills: EDGE Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky

Primary Team Needs: OL, EDGE, LB, S

Contract situations of Mario Williams and Manny Lawson make EDGE more of a need than it should be in Buffalo. Linebackers who could cover more effectively could also be useful in Buffalo, as would a safety who could cover the deep third more effectively than Corey Graham is doing this season. They could also use some upgrades along the offensive line.

At this point in the first round, Noah Spence would be the ideal fit for Rex Ryan’s defense. He can play either a strong-side linebacker role in the 3-4 looks that Ryan shows or a defensive end role in the 4-3 looks. He had some off-field issues that could cause him to drop, but the draft process should allow him to overcome those problems.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Taylor Decker, Ohio State

Primary Team Needs: OT, TE, CB, S

The Steelers have needs throughout their roster. Secondary would be an ideal pick, but there’s not really anyone worth a pick this high that would fit their scheme. They could also use a tight end, but the same problem rears its ugly head here. That leaves offensive tackle, where Mike Adams has been injured and under-performed as a pro.

By taking another Ohio State Buckeye in Taylor Decker, the Steelers try to take a chance on a guy who can be the true long-term solution at left tackle for them. This move would also allow Kelvin Beachum to play his more natural left guard role once he gets healthy in 2016.

21. New York Jets: EDGE Shaq Lawson, Clemson

Primary Team Needs: QB, OG, EDGE, S

The Jets have a need at quarterback. Unfortunately, at this point of the first round, there’s not a single quarterback worth picking. They could stand to improve their interior offensive line situation with better guards or find a better starting free safety, but their biggest need is easily additional pass rush off the edge.

Shaq Lawson is a good pass-rusher who can fit the multiple concepts of the Jets defense under Todd Bowles and could potentially lose some weight to be better as a rush linebacker. Lawson plays the run well, but he’ll make his money in the NFL as a pure pass rusher. His 10 sacks in the ACC this year just scratch his potential as a pure pass-rusher.

22. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Michael Thomas, Ohio State

Primary Team Needs: WR, LB, CB, S

The Chiefs should look into some potential replacements at cornerback, safety and linebacker due to expiring contracts and aging players. However, they have a bigger need at wide receiver than anywhere else. Sure, Jeremy Maclin is good, and they have a great tight end in Travis Kelce. But they need to give those two help with someone who can stretch a defense and open up the underneath routes.

Enter Michael Thomas out of Ohio State. He’s a true deep threat with great speed and a 6’4″ frame. He has potential to look like Randy Moss-lite if used in the right system. The Chiefs just have to make sure they have Thomas stretching defenses deep early and often.

23. Seattle Seahawks: WR Corey Coleman, Baylor

Primary Team Needs: WR, OT, OG, C

Courtesy of USA Today Images

The Seahawks have arguably the worst offensive line in the NFL and could use help all at all five spots. They need at least three, if not four, starters to fix their woes up front. However, they really need someone who can lead the wide receiver corps, because Doug Baldwin is mediocre and the rest of their receivers are average at best.

Corey Coleman has a Steve Smith Sr. feel to his game as someone who can attack underneath all day and turn those routes into big gains. On top of that, he can burn a defense deep with his route-running despite not being the best athlete out there. The Seahawks would be lucky to add Coleman to their team, and he would only fall this far because he’s undersized (5-foot-10 and 190 pounds).

24. Minnesota Vikings: OL Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M

Primary Team Needs: WR, OT, OG, CB

While the Vikings aren’t getting great performances out of their wide receivers, they are getting worse performances out of their offensive line. They need to get someone to help take some pressure off of Teddy Bridgewater in the passing game and the best way to do that is to get him some protection. They could also use a corner to pair with Xavier Rhodes full-time.

Germain Ifedi did his best work at guard and should be able to slide right into the Vikings offensive line configuration as either a left or right guard. While a guard in the first round seems like it’d be a bad fit for any team, Ifedi would allow the Vikings to have multiple talented players competing on the right side of the line at right guard and right tackle with T.J. Clemmings and Phil Loadholt.

25. Washington: CB Mackensie Alexander, Clemson

Primary Team Needs: WR, TE, CB, S

Washington has some old and untalented cornerbacks playing for them outside of Bashaud Breeland. They also are getting very poor safety play out of Dashon Goldson and Jeron Johnson this year. On top of it, Kirk Cousins could use some more targets outside of an oft-injured DeSean Jackson and a constantly-concussed Jordan Reed.

The best available pick here would be Mackensie Alexander out of Clemson. He’s a true lock-down style corner with the potential to be on the same level as a Desmond Trufant one day. He’s an ideal complement to Breeland because he can take No. 1 receivers while Breeland is playing the No. 2 receivers and picking off passes.

26. Indianapolis Colts: LB Su’a Cravens, Southern Cal

Primary Team Needs: RB, OT, LB, CB

The Colts could very easily lose starting linebacker Jerrell Freeman to free agency this coming offseason based on how he’s played over the past three years. Freeman has shown to be one of the better inside linebackers in the NFL and, if he does stay, will need a partner in the second-level of the defense with D’Qwell Jackson aging. Running back has the same problem as linebacker with an aging Frank Gore.

Cornerback and offensive tackle could stand to be upgraded, but those won’t be high priority in the first two rounds. The best player available for the needs at this juncture is Su’a Cravens out of Southern Cal. He’s similar to Freeman in that he’s a former safety who now plays linebacker, but unlike Freeman, he’s better in coverage and can play the Mike role within the 3-4 for the Colts.

27. Green Bay Packers: DL DeForest Buckner, Oregon

Primary Team Needs: TE, OT, DL, EDGE

The Packers have a philosophy of bringing in the best talent they can get, regardless of need. While they don’t have any ridiculously important needs due to drafting well, they should look into talent along their defensive front-seven, offensive tackle and tight end due to contract situations. This draft has its strength all along the defensive front, and ideally this is what the Packers should target if they lose Mike Daniels.

The best player available at this point for their needs is DeForest Buckner out of Oregon. Buckner has a great frame to help knock down passes as he’s 6-foot-7 and 300 pounds. The Packers should use him in rotation with Datone Jones and Letroy Guion if they lose Daniels. Buckner is still pretty raw technically, but his physical tools should make him worthy of a rotational spot early.

28. New England Patriots: Pick Forfeited Due to Deflategate Scandal

Primary Team Needs: WR, TE, LB, CB

Because the Patriots cheated, they don’t have this pick. They still have needs, though. As always, they need more talent at cornerback. They also need some depth at linebacker. But their biggest needs are on offense. Tom Brady needs some additional targets outside of Rob Gronkowski to finish his career. Another tight end who can do the same kind of stuff that Aaron Hernandez used to do on the field would be ideal for the Patriots to take early as well.

29. Denver Broncos: DL Adolphus Washington, Ohio State

Primary Team Needs: OT, C, DL, LB

Adolphus Washington

Denver has issues with future contract situations along their offensive line and defensive front seven. While they should be able to keep one of those units kept together, it will be tough for them to re-sign all of their talented young players in their front seven as they are all in that 27-and-under range. Taking into account that they will lose either Malik Jackson or Derek Wolfe, the Broncos should focus on a talented defensive lineman to replace them.

The name that springs to mind is Adolphus Washington out of Ohio State. He’s a 6-foot-4, 290-pound monster that projects well to the 3-4 as a 5-technique and to the 4-3 as a 3-technique. His overall explosion is less than ideal, but he makes up for it with great hand technique and a ton of strength. His bull rush will put quarterbacks on their back in the NFL, but he’ll make his money as a top run defender.

30. Arizona Cardinals: DL Andrew Billings, Baylor

Primary Team Needs: QB, DL, EDGE, LB

Despite having the best year of his career, Carson Palmer is on the list of potential quarterbacks to be replaced because he’ll turn 36 before the end of this season. The Cardinals would be wise to invest in someone who can learn behind him for a couple of years. On top of that, adding more talent to the front-seven would be wise.

Andrew Billings would make the most sense here for the Cardinals because he projects best to their offset 3-4 nose tackle position. Billings is a bowling ball in the middle that can take on double teams effectively and allow both Corey Peters and Calais Campbell to play their most ideal roles within the defense. This would also push Rodney Gunter into a backup role. He’s been solid, but unspectacular, and would be better served in that role.

31. Cincinnati Bengals: DL Kenny Clark, UCLA

Primary Team Needs: WR, DL, LB, CB

The Bengals will need some wide receivers to replace Mohamed Sanu or Marvin Jones if either of them leave for free agency after the season. They also have some aging linebackers and cornerbacks that could be replaced with some younger, faster players. But more than that, they have an aging talent in Domata Peko that should be replaced by someone who can penetrate and plug gaps within a 4-3 scheme.

Kenny Clark is a unique fit for the 1-technique role because he’s also got the speed to play an effective 3-technique in the same scheme. He has a wide body and good burst off the snap. However, his biggest issue comes from his body type and how he doesn’t fit in multiple schemes. If he wasn’t as squatty as he is, it’d be very possible for him to go in the top half of the first round.

32. Carolina Panthers: RB Derrick Henry, Alabama

Primary Team Needs: RB, OT, EDGE, S

I know what you’re thinking, “But they have a talented running back now in Jonathan Stewart!” Unfortunately, Stewart is nearing the 30-year old mark and that alone makes him replaceable as a running back in today’s NFL. The Panthers could also use a defensive end across from Charles Johnson that could rotate with Jared Allen and Kony Ealy on the weak side. On top of that, Michael Oher is a mediocre pass blocker who is replaceable.

A playmaking safety would also be nice for the current NFC leaders to replace Roman Harper within the scheme and provide more weak-strong versatility. I’m not a huge fan of Derrick Henry as an NFL running back, but Carolina tends to be take a different view with their running back evaluations and will prefer someone who has some power, but truly makes his name off of his agility and vision within the scheme.