NFL teams approach the draft looking to build for the future by filling voids on their rosters.
Sometimes they can address these key needs with their first pick, other times they can afford to wait a few rounds to get it done.
What are the biggest voids on each team? And, most importantly, how should they be addressed? Read on to find out as we follow the order of the 2014 NFL Draft’s Day One (For the sake of this article, we’re approaching it as if every team has a pick this year, which they don’t).
They may have finished with a dismal 2-14 record last season, but Houston isn’t far away from competing in the postseason once again. Their defense was ranked seventh in the league last year and still can give opposing offenses fits.
With all the talent in this year’s draft, Houston is sitting in the catbird seat and can afford to draft Jadeveon Clowney and wait to draft Teddy Bridgewater with their second round pick. They might be tempted to trade down (Atlanta would be the most likely partner), but Bridgewater is slipping so far in this draft that he could be available early in Day 2.
Best way to fill that void: Teddy Bridgewater in the second round (after selecting the best player available, Jadeveon Clowney, with the No.1 pick)
Washington Redskins—safety (STL currently owns their first-round pick and would need to trade up to make this happen.)
Washington is a team filled with needs. They could use some beef on the offensive line, a cornerback and another pass rusher could help out, too.
Unfortunately they don’t have the draft picks to address all of these issues and their biggest void lies in the secondary.
Best way to fill that void: Trade up (with Baltimore or Cincinnati) into Round 1 for Calvin Pryor
This would be a desperate trade attempt, but one that would pay off immediately for the Redskins. They need help in the back end of their secondary, and Louisville’s former S Calvin Pryor is the type of player that fits that need well and has the skill set to become elite.
Washington had better hope that Pryor lasts until the second half of Day 1 and that Baltimore or Cincinnati is okay with parting with their first pick.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a team that I could easily see post a big improvement in 2014. Toby Gerhart has the ability to be an every down running back, while Chad Henne is at least serviceable.
Are they a playoff team in 2014? Not at all, but at least at quarterback, they can afford to wait a bit. But the time for development has to begin now.
Best way to fill that void: Blake Bortles
UCF’s Blake Bortles is the prototypical quarterback. However he’s a guy that needs a year or two to develop before he can step in and start. The Jaguars are a team that works for him since they can afford to stash him away while focusing on building the rest of the team up.
The Cleveland Browns have a good defense, a good offensive line, Josh Gordon and can easily add a running back later in the draft.
So, now all they need is a quarterback, right? Well it’s not that simple. Everyone seems to just assume that Johnny Manziel is Cleveland-bound, but I see the Browns being more likely to add Sammy Watkins with the fourth pick, then using the 26th pick on a quarterback.
Best way to fill that void: Derek Carr
Brian Hoyer looked good up until suffering a season-ending injury. Finding an everyday starting quarterback is important for the Browns, but with Hoyer they have a pretty good place holder at the present time.
Derek Carr could spend a year learning the offense under Hoyer, then step in ready to start in 2015.
Oakland Raiders—best player available
For a team with so much cap space heading into the offseason, the Oakland Raiders sure lost some key players.
At this point, overall talent is such a pressing need that they’re best off going with the best player available here.
Best way to fill that void: Khalil Mack
I love Khalil Mack and the way he plays. He should be either the first or second pick in the draft, but due to teams picking for need, he’ll likely slide down to No. 5. The Raiders have to make this pick as they look to rebuild their defensive front.
Atlanta Falcons—offensive line
Few Atlanta Falcons mock drafts seems to have them addressing their offensive line, yet it seems like the biggest need on the team. Scott Carasik called the unit “Atlanta’s worst position group“, stating that the unit was “missing at least two, if not three pieces before it can be considered competent as a unit.”
Best way to fill that void: Jake Matthews
The Falcons have a lot of money invested in their offense—specifically at quarterback.
With that in mind, why not draft the best left tackle available in the draft instead of playing games and attempting to trade up or down? Matthews can start immediately.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers—wide receiver
Why would the Buccaneers need a wide receiver when they already have Vincent Jackson? Simple: He’s the only threat in their receiving corps.
I didn’t put quarterback on the list for this simple reason: Mike Glennon is serviceable, and the Buccaneers can wait a year to see if he’ll pan out. Building talent is more important at this point in time.
Best way to fill that void: Mike Evans
Sammy Watkins will be gone by then. That’s not the only reason though, as Texas A&M’s Mike Evans might be a better compliment to Jackson, and could also teach the big, physical receiver a thing or two.
The Vikings have precisely one job this offseason, to add a quarterback. They have the right offensive coordinator in place with Norv Turner, plenty of talent on offense, a good offensive line and a defense that could use some improvements. But these small upgrades could be made later in the draft.
This team needs a quarterback that can be dynamic and is ready to step in and start in Week 1.
Best way to fill that void: Johnny Manziel
I’m as shocked as you are, since I’m one of the people who have been down on the former Heisman Trophy winner, but hear me out on this one.
Manziel is fit to start right away and will succeed if placed in the right situation. Cleveland would not be the right situation, nor would Jacksonville. Houston would be a bad idea for him as well for multiple reasons.
Minnesota offers the right situation. Manziel won’t be the focal point of the offense when he steps in, and he will be well-protected. He will have plenty of targets to pass to as well, and could easily lead the Vikings back into the playoffs.
This is the best overall marriage we could have in this draft. If need be, I’d even consider trading up—if I were the Vikings brass—to make this happen.
Buffalo Bills—dynamic offensive weapon
As of right now the only real playmakers on offense for the Bills are C.J. Spiller and Stevie Johnson (who sometimes disappears). Weapons are needed on this offense to surround E.J. Manuel.
Best way to fill that void: Eric Ebron
North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron is the perfect playmaker for the Bills to add in the draft. He’ll provide more outside run-blocking for Spiller, while giving Manuel a true threat over the middle.
The Lions secondary is rather dreadful, and has been for the last decade. They need help as soon as humanly possible.
Best way to fill that void: Justin Gilbert
The best cornerback in the draft is the best route to go for the Lions in the first round. Being in the NFC North, Detroit knows they’re in a pass-first division, and to neglect the secondary for as long as they have has been a huge mistake on their part. The ongoing mistake should end in this draft.
Tennessee has a lot of holes on their roster so it’s a bit hard to really pinpoint what their biggest void is.
A pass rusher would be a major help for the Titans, specifically an outside linebacker as they switch to a 3-4 defense.
Best way to fill that void: Anthony Barr
I’d recommend Khalil Mack, but he’s not going to be available at this pick. Anthony Barr provides the Titans with an athletic outside linebacker that can rush the passer and also drop back into coverage when needed.
New York Giants—offensive line
Eli Manning needs protection, and the New York Giants need to get back to dominating in the trenches on both sides of the ball. That was the bedrock of their two Super Bowl championships, and getting away from that identity has led to their downfall.
Best way to fill that void: Taylor Lewan
Michigan’s Taylor Lewan gives the Giants a nasty offensive tackle that can play any of the positions on the offensive line. Eventually he can be a leader, if he matures.
St. Louis Rams—offensive Line
The Rams have a great defense, a good receiving corps, the makings of a good running game and
a mediocre an unproven quarterback in his make-or-break season.
Sam Bradford needs protection, especially on his blindside since left tackle Jake Long likely won’t ever give a team all 16 games a season ever again.
Best way to fill that void: Greg Robinson
Between Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews, I think Matthews is the better prospect. Robinson will get drafted first, and will be a better fit for the Rams’ run-first offensive scheme.
Marc Tressman’s offense is truly a sight to behold in Chicago, but the Bears need to get back to fielding a stingy defense.
Last year the team finished with the eighth best offense in the NFL in yards gained and second in the league in points scored.
Unfortunately for the Bears, they finished 30th in points allowed and 30th in yards allowed. That’s pretty awful.
Despite finishing second in the league in points scored, the Bears had a -33 point differential for the season, which is even worse.
When you’re this uneven, finishing 8-8 seems about the right place to finish, but it also shows you exactly where improvements must be made.
Best way to fill that void: Ha’Sean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix
It’s a start, but adding Alabama free safety Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix would help get Chicago’s defense back on track. Much like the Bears’ defenses of the past, Clinton-Dix is a defensive playmaker that forces turnovers and is a great fit in their scheme.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are similar to the Bears in that they finished 8-8 thanks to an offense that clicked (though not as well as the Bears’ offense did) and a defense that faltered at the worst moments.
The biggest holes on the Steelers’ defense were in the defensive backfield, holes only made worse this offseason thanks to the loss of Ryan Clark.
Despite that, it’s not a safety that fits the Steelers’ biggest need
Best way to fill that void: Darqueze Dennard
Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard would be a great fit on the Steelers due to his good instincts and skill set to excel in press-man. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau would appreciate a talent like Dennard in his defensive backfield.
Dallas Cowboys-defensive tackle
Since losing DeMarcus Ware, the Dallas Cowboys have looked rather thin up front. They were thin before releasing Ware, and because of that the rest of the defense has suffered.
Best way to fill that void: Aaron Donald
The best defensive tackle prospect in the NFL draft going to the team in most need of a defensive tackle? It almost seems too good to be true, and sadly it almost seems like the type of situation that Jerry Jones could screw up.
Donald is the best choice for the Cowboys and will be a stalwart up the middle for any team that drafts him.
Baltimore Ravens-offensive line
Why did the Ravens struggle to run the football last year? Sure, Ray Rice may have been playing through a hip injury, but being weak up front had a lot to do with it.
Best way to fill that void: Zack Martin
Zack Martin can play multiple positions on the offensive line. Put him at left guard next to Eugene Monroe and you have the best left side of the line in the NFL. Put him at right tackle, and he and Monroe become probably the best bookends at tackle.
Either way, Martin fits Baltimore well.
New York Jets—secondary
The Jets have the best defensive front in the AFC East, and one of the best in the NFL. Unfortunately for the Jets, their secondary is lacking a lot, and it’s only gotten worse with the loss of Antonio Cromartie via free agency.
There seems to be talk that the Jets will go after a wide receiver in the draft, but they might be better off fixing the secondary first.
Best way to fill that void: Kyle Fuller
Kyle Fuller is more of an off-man/zone cornerback, but I could see him working very well in the Jets’ defense alongside Dee Milliner. With Fuller plus Milliner’s continued development, the Jets will get closer to having a secondary that matches their front seven.
Miami Dolphins—middle linebacker
What the team really needs is a head coach, but they don’t have a draft for that and the Dolphins are unfortunately stuck with Joe Philbin for one more year. No matter what position I put here, I know it won’t matter, for Philbin doesn’t play rookies (the only two exceptions are Ryan Tannehill and Jonathan Martin, and he was forced into that by injuries back in 2012).
Best way to fill that void:
Gus Malzhan C.J. Mosley
Not that it will matter because Miami’s coaching staff won’t play this draft pick much, but C.J. Mosley would be the best way to fill a key need for the Dolphins. If he’s drafted by the Dolphins (possible) and if he gets playing time (unlikely), Mosley could be Miami’s middle linebacker for many years to come.
Arizona Cardinals-pass rusher
The Arizona Cardinals have the workings of a great defense, however they will need help at two key positions.
Inside linebacker is a position of concern with the loss of Karlos Dansby, but the Cards can address that in Round 2 with Florida State’s Telvin Smith.
On Day 1, they can address a bigger need on defense—defensive end. And they can do it with a player who will be an excellent fit in Todd Bowles’ pressure-based scheme.
Best way to fill that void: Dee Ford
Ford can be used not only at defensive end, but at outside linebacker as well. Ford can give the Cardinals a ready-made pass rusher that can inch them closer to the elite teams that reside in the vaunted NFC West.
Arizona could use a quarterback as well, but there are quarterbacks they can target on Day 2 (McCarron, Mettenberger, etc.).
Green Bay Packers—tight end
For a contending team, the Packers sure have a lot of holes to fill. Some of these holes were addressed in free agency, but there’s still the position of tight end. And whether he gets a clean bill of health or not, Jermichael Finley isn’t the dynamic, athletic freak he once was.
Best way to fill that void: Jace Amaro
Amaro isn’t a great blocker, but he fits what the Packers need in a tight end—a big target that Aaron Rodgers can find down the seam.
Philadelphia Eagles—dynamic wide receiver
The Eagles released DeSean Jackson, thus creating a need for a playmaker in Chip Kelly’s offense. Lucky for them, this draft is loaded with playmaking receivers.
Best way to fill that void: Odell Beckham Jr.
LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. fits the DeSean Jackson role well. What he lacks in size (5’11″ 198 pounds), he makes up for in speed thanks in part to a 4.43 40-yard dash.
Beckham is versatile and can run the entire route tree. Kelly can move him around to create mismatches against opposing defenses.
Kansas City Chiefs—offensive Line
The Chiefs offensive line was a work in progress last season, but progress was made in a big way. Despite that, the Chiefs still lost a lot from their line in the offseason, including left tackle Branden Albert, and guards Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah.
Best way to fill that void: Xavier Su’a-Filo
Kansas City will lose out on the top tackles in the draft, but tackle isn’t their main area of concern. Guards are needed in KC, and UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo looks like one of the best guards available in the draft.
Cincinnati Bengals—offensive line depth
The Bengals offensive line is far from being bad, it’s actually quite good. The Bengals are a pretty solid all around team on both sides of the ball, but the offensive line is one of their weaker units and can help Dalton in his make-or-break year.
Best way to fill that void: Cyrus Kouandijo
Am not a huge fan of Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandijo, however he would be the best tackle remaining in the first round by the time Cincinnati is on the clock. Cincinnati would be a good destination for a player that probably should’ve stayed in school for one more year and could use further development. There are veterans that can help mentor him to where he needs to be.
San Diego Chargers—secondary
The Chargers’ secondary was one of the worst in the league last season, which isn’t where you want to be when playing Peyton Manning (at least) twice per year.
Any possible way to fix that secondary would be appreciated. And they’re lucky to still likely have a player available who can start in Week 1 and improve any defensive unit.
Best way to fill that void: Jason Verrett
Jason Verrett would fit the Chargers scheme fairly well, and would provide an instant upgrade to their secondary (Then again, who wouldn’t at this point?).
Verrett does everything well and is a smooth athlete who rarely makes mistakes. The Chargers need consistency and he can provide just that.
Indianapolis Colts—successor to Reggie Wayne
There are a lot of needs for the Colts on defense this year, especially in their secondary.
Those upgrades can come later in the draft, but on Day 1 they should take advantage of a deep wide receiver class and look for the next Reggie Wayne.
Best way to fill that void: Jordan Matthews
Jordan Matthews will take some pressure off from not only Reggie Wayne himself, but also T.Y. Hilton (more of a downfield speed threat like Mike Wallace than a number one receiver). He can also help open things up for their two tight ends, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.
This is where the run on wide receivers really picks up, and Indianapolis should officially get it started.
New Orleans Saints—wide receiver
Even the mighty Drew Brees-led offense could use an extra target, especially after the loss of Darren Sproles. Good thing this draft is deep.
Best way to fill that void: Brandin Cooks
Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks has the speed to pick up yards after catch in the open field, and can easily line up in the slot from the start of his career.
Carolina Panthers—anything to help QB Cam Newton
The team has a patchwork offensive line and no real help at wide receivers. Is this the way to treat your franchise quarterback when he can become a free agent in three years (two years left on his rookie year with the Panthers plus a year where he can get franchise tagged)?
Best way to fill that void: Allen Robinson
A big target at wide receiver would be a good way to start helping Newton, and Robinson would be the best fit for Carolina.
Robinson stands at 6’2″ 220 pounds and runs a 4.6 40-yard dash. He works well to get the ball no matter where in his vicinity it is thrown, and has the tools to be an elite Brandon Marshall-type receiver.
He’s exactly what Cam would ask for right now, and the best pick for Carolina.
New England Patriots—pass rusher
Some would say the Patriots should go tight end, others say they should take another receiver.
I don’t see that. Their young wide receivers from last year can (and likely will) develop into year two, while the Patriots can find tight ends either in the second round (Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Troy Niklas, or C.J. Fiedorowicz) or later (Crockett Gillmore, Xavier Grimble or even Colt Lyerla if they’re willing to take a risk).
Where New England does need help is with getting to the quarterback. They have a defense that can stop the run well, and the best cornerback tandem money could’ve bought in free agency this offseason.
Best way to fill that void: Kony Ealy
Ealy is the type of player that Bill Belichick usually gravitates towards, and would easily fit the Patriots defense and the vaunted “Patriot Way.”
San Francisco 49ers—wide receiver
The 49ers aren’t like other teams, they have a roster so deep that most of their draft picks barely saw the field last year. Why choose wide receiver as their biggest void when they already have two good ones in Anquan Boldin and Micheal Crabtree? But this unit can (and should) get a lot better.
Best way to fill that void: Marqise Lee
This would be a win-win for both parties. San Francisco gets a third wide receiver that will be more of a luxury than anything (any player drafted by San Francisco is more of a luxury than a need). And Lee can take his time properly developing—learning from Boldin along the way.
Denver’s defense may seem strong, but it isn’t quite what it should be if the team wants to win a Super Bowl. Outside of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, their front seven could use some help.
Best way to fill that void: Ryan Shazier
Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier is one of my favorite players in the draft, as he can work in either a 3-4 or the 4-3 defense used by the Broncos.
Drafting Shazier, then sticking him on the weakside would make Denver’s defense more dynamic than it currently is.
Seattle Seahawks-wide receiver
Even the Super Bowl champions need help, and the help they need is at wide receiver.
Seattle lost Golden Tate during the offseason, which weakens their offense a bit. They will use Percy Harvin a bit more at receiver (if he can remain healthy), but they’ll need another target to help Russell Wilson move the chains.
Best way to fill that void: Donte Moncrief
The team can find its replacement for Golden Tate in Donte Moncrief.
With proper coaching, Moncrief can become a dominant WR thanks to the tools and size that he possesses, and pairing him with Wilson in this offense would expedite that process.
Moncrief isn’t seen as a first round pick, but this will likely be when Seattle has their best chance at acquiring him. Now is the time to grab him, and if the Seahawks do, they will be rewarded.
(Follow @ThomasGalicia on Twitter.)