Biggest draft need for every AFC team, entering the combine

Which position groups should you be watching at the combine this week? Jeff Dooley identifies each AFC team's top draft need.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/George Bridges)

(AP Photo/George Bridges)

Biggest draft need for every AFC team, entering the combine

We haven’t even gotten to free agency yet, so every NFL team’s personnel needs have the potential to change in a significant way between now and the 2016 NFL draft. But that doesn’t mean we still can’t identify what each team’s biggest need looks like right now.

Here is the single biggest positional need for each of the 32 NFL teams, entering this week’s scouting combine. Which position groups should you be watching extra closely?

[Editor’s note: Stay tuned as we’ll break down draft needs for every NFC team tomorrow.]

AFC East

Buffalo Bills: Edge rusher

High-priced defensive end Mario Williams is likely to be released this offseason, but even if he were to return, there is a strong case for the Bills to add a pass-rusher in the 2016 draft. The only Bill who was able to disrupt opposing quarterbacks last season was undersized edge rusher Jerry Hughes, with Williams producing the NFL’s fourth-worst pass-rush productivity score at the position. The good news for Buffalo is that there should be plenty of good edge rushers available at the No. 19-overall pick.

Miami Dolphins: Offensive line

Miami ranked No. 31 in our offensive line rankings this season – after ranking No. 32 in 2015. The Dolphins could consider a tackle as early as the No. 8 overall pick, with Branden Albert turning 32 this season and having graded out as average in two of the last three years, and Ju’Wuan James yet to prove he can be a productive NFL right tackle. Moreover, RT Jason Fox, LG Dallas Thomas, RG Billy Turner and G/C Jamil Douglas all produced horrific grades this season, meaning there are needs everywhere.

New England Patriots: Offensive line

This one is one of the more obvious picks on the list. Tom Brady’s pass protection this season was one of the worst in the league on an otherwise strong roster. In fact, every single Patriots offensive lineman earned a negative grade in pass blocking this season. Brady is coming off one of the best seasons of his entire career, but he can’t play forever – New England would do well to fix this issue for his final years.

New York Jets: Cornerback

This might seem odd given the spending spree the Jets made at the position last offseason, but two of those acquisitions – Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine – graded out very poorly in 2015, and the third, Darrelle Revis, didn’t perform at his usual dominant level and will turn 31 years old before the start of next season. If the Jets find themselves with an opportunity to draft a franchise quarterback, they should obviously do so – but the latter could be a tall order at No. 20 overall.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens: Edge rusher

The Ravens need to get a lot better in pass defense, and with Elvis Dumervil 32 years old and Terrell Suggs turning 34 this season and coming off a season-ending torn Achilles, getting an impact edge rusher in the draft should be a priority. Dumervil was the only player to provide any sort of edge-rushing presence, and he earned a negative grade versus the run.

Cleveland Browns: Quarterback

This shouldn’t come as a surprise given the off-field issues with Johnny Manziel, and Josh McCown grading out as one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. The Browns have a couple of intriguing options at the second overall pick in the form of Cal’s Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz.

Cincinnati Bengals: Defensive back

The Bengals graded out as a top-10 coverage unit in 2015, but with safeties George Iloka and Reggie Nelson both eligible for free agency along with cornerbacks Adam Jones (who committed a costly personal foul in the team’s Wild-Card loss to Pittsburgh) and Leon Hall, the defensive backfield is a need area. Third corner Dre Kirkpatrick ranked as the ninth-worst player at his position this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Linebacker

This is true both for the outside and inside linebacker positions. Soon-to-be-38-year old James Harrison was by far the team’s best edge rusher, with Bud Dupree struggling as a rookie, and inside backers Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier were liabilities against both the run and in pass coverage (with Shazier’s one standout game coming in the Wild-Card win over Cincinnati).

AFC South

Houston Texans: Quarterback

This is easier said than done, given that barring a trade the Texans won’t pick until No. 22 overall, but this is a team in serious need of an upgrade at quarterback. Brian Hoyer produced the worst grade we’ve ever seen from a QB in a playoff game in Houston’s Wild-Card loss to Kansas City, and on a team with a top-5 defense in PFF grades and a legit star at wide receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, identifying a potential franchise quarterback is a must.

Indianapolis Colts: Offensive line

The truth is there are a number of positions we could have gone with here, but after Andrew Luck was under pressure on 40 percent of his dropbacks last season, before missing the final eight weeks of the season due to injury, it’s clear that Indianapolis needs to do a better job of protecting him. The only standout in PFF grades last season was left guard Jack Mewhort, making finding an impact offensive lineman in the draft a necessity.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Defensive back

The Jags need to get better along the offensive line, but we’ll go with the defensive backfield as the slightly bigger need, after they posted the third-worst coverage grade in the NFL. Last year’s big-money free-agent pickup at cornerback, Davon House, earned a negative grade on the season, and the only player in the entire secondary to earn a positive grade was Aaron Colvin, who played primarily in the slot. The Jags could look at adding a corner or safety as early as the No. 5 overall pick.

Tennessee Titans: Offensive line

The Titans could certainly afford to add a top talent to a receiving corps that has little star potential outside of 2015 second-rounder Dorial Green-Beckham and tight end Delanie Walker. But the offensive line is in an even worse situation, with every player outside of left tackle Taylor Lewan grading out very poorly. There’s a reason some mock drafts have Tennessee taking Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil with the top overall pick.

AFC West

Denver Broncos: Offensive tackle

The Broncos’ offensive line was saved by an average performance from center Matt Paradis and an excellent performance from left guard Evan Mathis, who was PFF’s top-graded run-blocker at his position. But things were ugly on the outside. Left tackle Ryan Harris graded equally as poorly as a pass blocker as he did in the running game, while right tackle Michael Schofield earned the second-worst pass-blocking efficiency score of any tackle, allowing 57 quarterback pressures on the season, including nine sacks.

Kansas City Chiefs: Offensive tackle

This could change depending upon how many of their defensive free agents the Chiefs lose, but the combination of Jah Reid and Donald Stephenson at right tackle was a disaster, while left tackle Eric Fisher still hasn’t proven himself worthy of the 2013 No. 1 overall pick. He performed well in the divisional-round loss to New England and showed improvement over his first two seasons, but still finished the year with a negative grade.

Oakland Raiders: Defensive back

The Raiders actually graded out relatively well in most areas last season, but their pass coverage was a major weakness. Moreover, they are losing their highest-graded coverage player to retirement in safety Charles Woodson, and their second-highest-graded coverage player, cornerback David Amerson, posted an outlier season compared to his first two. Former top-10 pick D.J. Hayden had his worst season as a pro, allowing a 104.1 passer rating that ranked 15th-worst among corners, and it might be time to invest another premium draft pick at the position to replace him.

San Diego Chargers: Defensive line

The Chargers had the worst offensive line in the NFL last season – which give you an idea of just how bad their defensive line was in order to get chosen over them here. San Diego graded out as the second-worst run defense in football this season, and there are zero bright spots on the defensive line. The Chargers really need to add a stud up front to bolster a poor defense.

| Editor-in-Chief

Jeff is the Editor-in-Chief of PFF, and a regular contributor to The Washington Post's NFL coverage. He previously worked as the editor for ESPN Insider's NFL, Fantasy, and College Football coverage.

  • jdg3

    I think all the AFC West teams need to invest in the O-line. They talent of the pass rushers in that division is insane.
    KC – Justin Houston (Dee Ford and Tamba Hali)
    OAK – Khalil Mack (Aldon Smith and Mario Edwards Jr.)
    DEN – Von Miller (Demarcus Ware, Malik Jackson, Derek Wolfe)

    • Dan Y

      You forgot about San Diego -_- hahaha, but seriously, some pretty nasty pass rushers!

      • micah

        Bolts edge rushers arent bad. Probably the worst in the division but an above average tandem.

  • McGeorge

    While the Jets secondary needs help, the Jets Oline REALLY needs help.

    BTW – recent high CB picks by the Jets.
    #1 – Kyle Wilson – Bust (Rex and Tannenbaum)
    #1 – Dee Miliner – likely Bust (Idzik)
    #3 – Dexter McDougle – likely Bust (Idzik)

    Also under Tannenbaum, Vlad Ducass (Bust) #2.
    Idzik drafted Brian Winters #3, who is pretty bad

    • bill jaffe

      the Jets o-line needs tons of help

    • Craig W

      The Jets need a lot of help in a lot of places.

  • bill jaffe

    The Raiders need at least 2 corners and 1 more safety but i bet their first pick is another edge rusher to go with Mack because as Denver proved hitting the QB tons with a pass rush makes all other defenders better

    • Jack Casey

      You don’t M Edwards? What about Aldon?

      • bill jaffe

        can’t count on Aldon and Edwards showed flashes but he’s not quite there.

        • Caleb Filiault

          i could see them waiting for a little bit with mario. he showed flashes and looked pretty good at times. if they do decide to keep aldon, then i could see them maybe taking a flyer on someone in the later rounds.

          • bill jaffe

            found out why they will look according to the SF Chronicle Mario is dealing with a neck issue that may cause him to miss time

  • Adam

    Every year PFF says the Steelers suck individually at run defense and yet the stats don’t back it up (usually). I know stats can lie, but in this case I think they’re closer to reality than what this site says.

  • Evan

    Another media source siting offensive line as the Patriots biggest need. Just ignoring the fact that they played all but four games without their best offensive lineman (Solder), played 3 rookies the majority of snaps (1 UDFA), their RT playing LT, and poor coaching that led to the o-line coach getting fired. Pats needs on the O-Line are simple, a depth OT that isn’t Marcus Cannon or Cam Fleming, and maybe a veteran OG if they don’t want to put all their eggs in the Shaq Mason/Tre’ Jackson basket. Would be shocked if they commit a lot of draft resources on the OL.

    • Jack Casey

      Yeah I’m also hoping that getting Solder back would improve two positions. Also not sure on who they would be giving up on out or Mason or Jackson assuming Stork is the Center going forward.

      If they are really high on a guy that falls and see value, fine. But with Dante coming back I really don’t see this as the teams top need.

      I do want them to draft a running back at some point. Would like a complete back too. No more of this Blount for power, Vereen for speed etc.. You can get a complete back in the middle rounds (L Bell 2nd, D Johnson Langford 4th)

      • Evan

        I’m done reading about how o-line is such a big need for the Pats just because of the second half of the season after all the injuries. We agree about pretty much everything here. I think the RB you are looking for is Devontae Booker from Utah. Although I think Kenneth Dixon from LA Tech might be a fit too as more of an every down RB.

        • Caleb Filiault

          i think maybe alex collins from arkansas could be a good option as well