The 2016 NFL Draft is quickly approaching. Therefore struggling teams in particular are working furiously in the attempt to make the most of their allotted picks.
As part of the preparation process, a major trade has already gone down. Meanwhile, other teams will be finalizing draft boards and hosting last-minute meetings with key players over the next couple of weeks.
Needing a major do-over after a poor 2015 season, the following teams must ace this year’s draft.
Los Angeles Rams: No. 1 overall, five total picks
The Rams can remove their “quarterback for hire” sign from the front door, because Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead masterminded a trade with the Tennessee Titans to move up to No. 1.
Is this Rams trade brilliant or insane? pic.twitter.com/pLN5juwR6p
— Molly Qerim (@MollyQerim) April 14, 2016
In order to have the opportunity to secure the rookie quarterback of their choosing, the Rams gave up the farm. This boils down to the Rams having only four picks after their first to address multiple areas of need.
Loading up for more weapons — either to help Carson Wentz or Jared Goff, presumably — at the wide receiver position beyond Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt should be a priority. The team could also use a tight end in lieu of Jared Cook’s departure during free agency.
On defense, the Rams need to fill gaps at cornerback and safety after losing Rodney McLeod and Janoris Jenkins in free agency, among other areas of need.
Provided the Rams select a quarterback at No. 1 (they will), the team won’t pick again until the fourth round. This means the Rams must study up on some of the deeper talent they anticipate being available in later rounds.
Cleveland Browns: No. 2 overall, 10 total picks
After a dreary 3-13 finish filled with quarterback nightmares, the Browns have a chance to make some improvements with 10 draft picks, including two fourth and fifth rounders.
Addressing the obvious elephant in the room, the Browns are perfectly situated to select a quarterback at No. 2 to compete with Robert Griffin III. This could right the huge wrong the team committed when the name “Johnny Manziel” came into the Cleveland camp three years ago.
Another dire need for the Browns is a credible wide receiver after losing Travis Benjamin in free agency. The team simply can’t count on Josh Gordon, who might have literally blown his chance at returning to the Browns after reports of another failed drug test surfaced.
Additional enhancements at defensive tackle and outside linebacker must be addressed as well. Last year the Browns defense allowed the third-most rushing yards (128.4) and recorded the fifth-fewest sacks (29) in the league.
If the Browns shockingly do not select a quarterback at No. 2, snagging Ohio State’s Joey Bosa would be a smart move. There is also the possibility that Cleveland could trade down from No. 2 and draft the best player that falls to them.
After making a change of scenery at quarterback and adding some new rookie talent, Cleveland and its fans should be feeling less embarrassed and more hopeful heading into the 2016 NFL season.
San Diego Chargers: No. 3 overall, eight total picks
In a case of what could possibly go wrong for the Chargers in 2015, pretty much everything did when they finished the season with only four wins.
As a result, the Chargers will select third in the draft and have a total of eight picks to invest in some enhancements.
With the departure of Eric Weddle, drafting a multi-faceted safety such as FSU’s Jalen Ramsey (who could also play some corner) would be a logical choice. And because the Chargers defense allowed an average of 24.9 points per game last season, adding defensive linemen should also be a priority.
The Chargers’ suspect offensive line is also a glaring area of need the team must fix. Quarterback Philip Rivers passed for an amazing 4,792 yards but endured a ridiculous 2.5 sacks and several hits per game.
Since losing tight end Ladarius Green to free agency, another position of concern is depth behind Antonio Gates, who turns 36 this June. Razorbacks Hunter Henry would be a sweet pick.
In what could be the last season playing in San Diego, the Chargers could save face by making some splashy moves in the draft.
Dallas Cowboys: No. 4 overall, nine total picks
Little did the Cowboys know they would land this year’s No. 4 draft pick when their season started last September.
Dallas has nine picks, including two fourth and four sixth-rounders, to target some new playmakers. If the Cowboys pass on a quarterback at No. 4, it is likely a defensive lineman will be selected.
Jerry Jones strongly intimated the Cowboys were leaning against running back, quarterback at 4
— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) March 22, 2016
Provided this is the case, the Cowboys couldn’t go wrong with targeting Bosa if he is still available. Randy Gregory is facing a four-game suspension and it doesn’t appear the team is interested in keeping a problematic Greg Hardy around.
The ‘Boys also need enhancement at the cornerback position and could possibly make a move for Ramsey or Ohio State’s Eli Apple.
On the offensive side, another running back behind Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris also makes for a wise later-round pick.
When all is said and done with the draft, it would be quite mind-blowing if the Cowboys didn’t use a single pick to snag a quarterback for depth behind Tony Romo and Kellen Moore. C’mon guys.
San Francisco 49ers: No. 7 overall, 12 total picks
The 49ers currently pick seventh and have a whopping 12 selections to add some new blood to their ailing roster.
It is highly anticipated that Chip Kelly and the 49ers might select the best quarterback prospect available at No. 7. Though there remains the possibility the team could try to trade for the Browns’ No. 2 pick. Either way, the team’s quarterback situation is in disarray with a disgruntled Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert, who still has much to prove.
Beyond the need for a quarterback, the receiving corps beyond Torrey Smith isn’t very appealing since the departure of Anquan Boldin. If he’s still there in the second round, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller would fit the bill.
Strength at the offensive line should be addressed as well with a tackle (perhaps Indiana’s Jason Spriggs?), and guard selection within the first few rounds.
And defensively, the 49ers need to make some big moves. In particular, they need a boost at inside linebacker and cornerback after having allowed a generous average of 387.4 yards per game last year.
With only a couple of weeks left to strategize, 49ers fans can only hope their team hits the jackpot when 12 new rookies join the team.
Philadelphia Eagles: No. 8 overall, nine total picks
The Eagles’ best-laid plans for success last year under Chip Kelly ended up in smoke when the team finished the season with only seven wins.
Thus, Philadelphia has the No. 8 selection in the draft as part of nine total picks. Obviously not convinced that Sam Bradford is a long-term solution, the Eagles have reportedly been giving rookie quarterback prospects more than a cursory look.
The #Eagles QB marathon ends tomorrow. Paxton Lynch visited Monday, Dak Prescott yesterday, Carson Wentz today, Jared Goff tomorrow. Whew.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 13, 2016
Any of these upcoming rookies could land to the Eagles in the first three rounds. And it still remains to be seen if Philly gets aggressive and makes an attempt to move up.
Additionally, the Eagles must find somebody to play change of pace to running back Ryan Mathews. As we all know, the DeMarco Murray experiment imploded last season. Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott could fall into the team’s lap if it doesn’t go for a quarterback in the first round.
Adding another wide receiver is also a potential need considering the drop issues the Eagles experienced with Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor.
On the other side of the field, improvements on defense must be addressed after the team allowed the second-most passing touchdowns (36) and fifth-most passing yards (4,273) in 2015.
Lastly, a guard and tackle are major necessities to upgrade the Eagles offensive line that allowed Bradford bruise through two sacks and multiple hits per game.
New Orleans Saints: No. 12 overall, six total picks
While the Saints’ offense was busy racking up numbers (second-best in the league), the team’s defense was counterproductive, allowing their opponents to get away with the farm on a weekly basis.
With opposing teams scoring a league-high 29.8 points per game against their porous defense, it is no wonder the Saints won only seven games last season.
This year’s draft presents the Saints with only six picks to make some drastic improvements to their defense and bolster their offensive line.
Due to the team’s tight salary cap which eliminated free agency as an option, the Saints need to hit the draft with an impact defender in mind. With the 12th pick, the Saints could land a guy like Louisville’s defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins to apply pressure in the pocket.
A guard to help open space for running back Mark Ingram and keep Drew Brees upright should be a draft focus as well.
If the Saints can find some skill players at defense to compliment their finely-tuned offense, they’ll be on the rebound in 2016.
Miami Dolphins: No. 13 overall, eight total picks
Finishing dead-last within their division with just six wins, the Dolphins choose at No. 13 and have eight picks to enhance some obvious holes.
After managing a total of only 16 total takeaways (the fourth-least in the league), adding playmakers at cornerback and safety should be a main priority. To build on “talent” beyond Byron Maxwell, the Dolphins could feasibly pick a cornerback such as Apple or Houston’s William Jackson. The team has reportedly shown interest in both prospects.
Furthermore, adding a pass rusher makes sense after watching Olivier Vernon depart in free agency.
The Dolphins also need help on their offensive line after being weak across the line for the past few seasons.
With a shakedown already having taken place in the front office after a poor start last year, the Dolphins must make the most of the draft to have a fighting chance to survive against their rugged AFC East competition.