Early and late-round options for every teams’ biggest draft needs

Analyst Gordon McGuinness identifies Day 1 and Day 3 draft solutions for all 32 NFL teams.

| 5 months ago
(AP Photo/Jeff Haynes)

(AP Photo/Jeff Haynes)

Early and late-round options for every teams’ biggest draft needs


Regardless of last season’s results, every team in the league heads into next week’s NFL draft with needs they’d like to fill. For some teams, these needs will be long-term fixes to help turn around the fortunes of the franchise. For others, they will be to shore up a small weakness and add to the pieces already in place for a Super-Bowl run.

Whatever the need, one thing we know for sure is that the cheapest way to fill these holes is through the draft, and the players to fill those needs can be found both early and late in the process. With that in mind, here’s a look at a major need for every NFL team heading into the draft, and a potential solution should they decide to address it early or late.

[Editor’s note: This is not a mock draft, so there are players a little higher or lower than you might expect, and some players who we value as first-rounders aren’t mentioned purely due to the need we chose to address.] 

Los Angeles Rams: Quarterback

Day 1 option: Carson Wentz, North Dakota State, or Jared Goff, Cal

We don’t know who exactly the Rams traded up to No. 1 for, but the odds that it was for someone other than one of the top two signal callers are incredibly slim. Goff was the second-highest-graded passer in the nation in 2015, and his bowl game against Air Force was one of the most impressive performances we’ve seen from a college QB. Wentz is more of a gamble, but had a positive grade on throws to any area of the field beyond the line of scrimmage in 2015.

Day 3 option: Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky

The third-highest-graded passer in this draft class, Doughty was the only quarterback in the nation with an adjusted accuracy percentage of above 80 last year, coming in at 81.8 percent.

Cleveland Browns: Edge rusher

Day 1 option: Joey Bosa, Ohio State

There’s every chance that the Browns go quarterback at No. 2, but they also need to improve their pass-rush in a big way. At +73.4 and +69.0, Bosa has been the highest-graded edge defender in the nation in each of the past two seasons, racking up 70 total pressures in 2015.

Day 3 option: Yannick Ngakoue, Maryland

Ngakoue took a tremendous leap forward in 2015, registering 13 sacks, 10 hits, and 34 hurries, giving him a pass-rushing grade of +24.5, the fourth-best grade of any 3-4 outside linebacker in this class.

San Diego Chargers: Defensive interior

Day 1 option: DeForest Buckner, Oregon

The Chargers have struggled at the 3-4 defensive end position for several years now, and it’s highly likely that they’ll have the opportunity to fill that void with Buckner likely to be on the board at pick No. 3. Buckner graded at +73.0 overall, racking up 12 sacks, 16 hits, and 39 hurries as the most disruptive player on the defensive interior in the nation last season.

Day 3 option: Matt Ioannidis, Temple

San Diego can still improve its interior even if the team doesn’t draft Buckner at No. 3, though, and a player like Ioannidis would be a good fit. Extremely productive, he had the seventh-highest pass-rushing grade of any player on the defensive interior in 2015.

Dallas Cowboys: Defensive backfield

Day 1 option: Jalen Ramsey, Florida State

Ramsey graded at +43.3 over the past two seasons and excelled in multiple areas of his game with a positive grade as a pass-rusher, in coverage, and against the run. His versatility to be able to play safety and cornerback will get teams excited.

Day 3 option: Donte Deayon, Boise State

The 19th-highest-graded cornerback in this draft class, Deayon picked off four passes and broke up two more in 2015.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Edge defender

Day 1 option: Joey Bosa, Ohio State

They drafted Dante Fowler, Jr. early last year, but could benefit from another edge rusher opposite him. Bosa’s strength against the run, as well as his ability as a pass-rusher, makes him a good fit here, with the highest run-defense grade of any 4-3 defensive end last season.

Day 3 option: Will Anthony, Navy

Undersized but productive, Anthony played 3-4 defensive end for Navy last season and had the highest run-defense grade of any player at the position.

Baltimore Ravens: Offensive line

Day 1 option: Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss

They might not have a glaring need at left tackle yet, but drafting the best prospect at the position, who allowed just five hurries in pass protection in 2015, would be a smart move. Eugene Monroe played just six games last year and has graded at -6.2 over the past two seasons.

Day 3 option: Jack Allen, Michigan State

Allen is a perfect fit for a zone scheme, and was one of the highest-graded players in the class on zone runs, despite that making up only 40 percent of the running plays at Michigan State in 2015.

San Francisco 49ers: Quarterback

Day 1 option: Carson Wentz, North Dakota State

If the Browns don’t select a quarterback at pick No. 2, the 49ers should consider making a move up to get a potential franchise signal-caller. Positively graded on all levels of the field, Wentz would be a smart selection.

Day 3 option: Matt Johnson, Bowling Green

No quarterback in this draft throws a better pass on go-routes than Johnson. He led the nation with 1,698 yards on passes 20 yards or more downfield.

Philadelphia Eagles: Running back

Day 1 option: Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State

Elliott would give the Eagles a three-down option at the position from Day 1. An excellent blocker with the potential to be a dynamic receiver out of the backfield, he was also tied for the lead in this draft class with an average of 3.6 yards after contact per carry.

Day 3 option: C.J. Prosise, Notre Dame

Prosise missed time in 2015, but flashed some impressive skills when on the field, forcing 43 missed tackles on 156 carries.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Edge defender

Day 1 option: Shaq Lawson, Clemson

Lawson was the third-highest-graded edge rusher in this draft class, impressing both against the run and as a pass-rusher. With 13 sacks, 12 hits, and 25 hurries, he would help the Buccaneers get after quarterbacks in the NFC South.

Day 3 option: Ronald Blair, Appalachian State

Blair played 3-4 defensive end in college, but impressed as a pass-rusher. He registered eight sacks, six hits, and 23 hurries in 2015.

New York Giants: Linebacker

Day 1 option: Myles Jack, UCLA

If he slips for medical reasons or it involves a trade up, Jack would be a boost to the Giants’ linebacker corps. At +14.7, his 2014 coverage grade is the best for any college linebacker over the past two seasons.

Day 3 option: B.J. Goodson, Clemson

Goodson had the 12th-highest grade of any linebacker in this draft class in 2015, finishing the season with 62 defensive stops, ranking seventh at the position.

Chicago Bears: Offensive line

Day 1 option: Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame

The Bears signed Bobbie Massie to play right tackle, but Stanley would give them a left tackle of the present and future. He allowed just 14 total pressures from 458 pass-blocking snaps in 2015, after allowing 17 from 565 in 2014.

Day 3 option: Joe Haeg, North Dakota State

Haeg played against lesser competition in college, so will likely need time to adapt and develop, but the former Bison allowed just four pressures in the games where Carson Wentz was healthy enough to play in 2015.

New Orleans Saints: Defensive interior

Day 1 option: Chris Jones, Mississippi State

Jones’ upside is through the roof. Had the second-highest pass-rushing grade of any player on the defensive interior in the nation in 2015. He needs to become more consistent, but would be an automatic upgrade in the middle of the Saints’ defense.

Day 3 option: Willie Henry, Michigan

Henry would give the Saints a boost as an interior pass rusher, where his pass-rushing productivity rating of 10.2 was the seventh-best on the interior in this class.

Miami Dolphins: Guard

Day 1 option: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

The Dolphins’ guards ranked 69th and 80th overall in 2015, and while Dallas Thomas has only been in the league for three years, drastic action is needed. Whitehair has the versatility to play tackle, too, but looks to be a better prospect at guard. His run-blocking grade of +31.0 was the best of any tackle in college football in 2015.

Day 3 option: Sebastian Tretola, Arkansas

A much better run-blocker than he is in pass protection, Tretola had the eighth-highest run-blocking grade of any guard in this class.

Oakland Raiders: Defensive interior

Day 1 option: Chris Jones, Mississippi State

The Raiders have made a lot of impressive moves this offseason, which gives them a bit more freedom on draft day. One place they could look is to add a dynamic pass-rusher to the interior of their defense. With 49 total pressures in 2015, Jones fits that mold.

Day 3 option: Dean Lowry, Northwestern

Lowry had some huge performances for Northwestern last year, and graded positively against the run and as a pass-rusher, racking up four sacks, three hits, and 39 hurries

Tennessee Titans: Cornerback

Day 1 option: William Jackson III, Houston

The Titans got themselves a nice haul for the No. 1 pick in the draft, and it allows them to target a variety of needs. Jackson had the second-highest coverage grade amongst cornerbacks in this draft class, and came away with five interceptions and 13 pass breakups in 2015.

Day 3 option: Nick VanHoose, Northwestern

VanHoose had the highest grade of any cornerback in this draft class last year, finishing 2015 with three interceptions and 11 pass breakups. There are concerns about his athletic ability, but it didn’t appear to be an issue in college.

Detroit Lions: Wide receiver

Day 1 option: Josh Doctson, TCU

The Lions lost Calvin Johnson this offseason, and while it’s a stretch to call Doctson similar, he does have the ability to go up and win the ball, something the Lions will be missing in 2015. At +28.9, he had the highest receiving grade of any wide receiver in this draft class in 2015.

Day 3 option: Jordan Payton, UCLA

On film, Payton doesn’t wow you, but it’s tough to ignore the results. Only six receivers in this draft class had a higher receiving grade, while his 16 missed tackles forced were tied for sixth.

Atlanta Falcons: Wide receiver

Day 1 option: Michael Thomas, Ohio State

Atlanta needs someone to replace Roddy White, and Thomas could be the perfect complement to Julio Jones. Held back by poor quarterback play in 2015, Thomas has forced 28 missed tackles on his past 110 receptions, and dropped just five of the last 115 catchable passes thrown his way.

Day 3 option: Devin Lucien, Arizona State

Lucien has one of the best pair of hands in this draft class, dropping just three of the 69 catchable passes thrown his way in 2015. Against Power-5 opponents, only four receivers had a higher receiving grade last season.

Indianapolis Colts: Guard

Day 1 option: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

They may need to make a move up to get him, but Whitehair is worthy of that for the Colts. Right guard John Thornton was the 65th-highest-graded guard in the NFL last season, and Whitehair’s strength against the run would be a boost.

Day 3 option: Spencer Drango, Baylor

An offensive tackle in college, Drango projects better at guard in the NFL. His +21.3 run-blocking grade in games against Power-5 opponents was the best of any tackle in this draft class.

Buffalo Bills: Linebacker

Day 1 option: Reggie Ragland, Alabama

Once Myles Jack comes off the board, Ragland is potentially going to be in demand, with several linebacker-needy teams in the draft. He registered 52 defensive stops in 2015, and graded positively in all three major areas of his game.

Day 3 option: Nick Vigil, Utah State

Like Ragland, Vigil graded positively as a pass-rusher, against the run, and in coverage. He improved in coverage this year, grading at -2.5 in 2014 and +5.5 last season.

New York Jets: Quarterback

Day 1 option: Paxton Lynch, Memphis

Lynch is almost a lock to go in the first round of the NFL draft, though we have a third-round grade on him. While it wouldn’t be our choice, Lynch did grade positively on passes 20 yards or more downfield, throwing seven touchdowns and just one interception.

Day 3 option: Vernon Adams Jr., Oregon

Adams is an interesting prospect. He struggled early, dealing with a new offense and a hand injury, but over his final three games, his passing grade of +14.5 trailed only Jared Goff.

Washington Redskins: Linebacker

Day 1 option: Reggie Ragland, Alabama

There are a number of ways the Redskins could go here, but Will Compton and Mason Foster ranked 95th and 50th at linebacker in 2015. Ragland graded well as a pass-rusher (+7.7), against the run (+13.2), and in coverage (+9.8), so would make a lot of sense for Washington.

Day 3 option: Kentrell Brothers, Missouri

A much better run defender than he is in coverage, Brothers registered 78 defensive stops in 2015. He might only be a two-down linebacker in the NFL, but could be a very good one.

Houston Texans: Wide receiver

Day 1 option: Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma

At +27.8, only Josh Doctson had a higher receiving grade in this class in 2015. A lot of work came from the slot, but Shepard has shown the ability to win on the outside, too, a lot like Tyler Lockett of the Seattle Seahawks last season.

Day 3 option: Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh

Boyd might not be the most exciting receiver in this class, but he is consistent. The former Panther dropped just 10 of the 182 catchable passes thrown his way over the past two seasons.

Minnesota Vikings: Wide receiver

Day 1 option: Josh Doctson, TCU

It may require a trade up, but landing Doctson has to be the dream scenario for the Vikings heading into this draft. His 4.07 yards per route run average were not only the most in this class, but also in the nation in 2015.

Day 3 option: Nelson Spruce, Colorado

Spruce is one of the most reliable receivers in this draft class, dropping just seven of the 202 catchable passes thrown his way over the past two seasons.

Cincinnati Bengals: Defensive interior

Day 1 option: Jarran Reed, Alabama

Domata Peko was our 96th-ranked defensive tackle in 2015, and it’s time for some talent at nose tackle for the Bengals. Reed’s 13.4 run-stop percentage was the best of any DT in the nation in 2015, and he would provide an immediate upgrade for Cincinnati.

Day 3 option: Nile Lawrence-Stample, Florida State

It’s difficult to find a similar player on Day 3, but Lawrence-Stample was a good all-around defender for Florida State in 2015. At +21.5, he had the 12th-highest run-defense grade amongst defensive tackles in this class.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Cornerback

Day 1 option: Mackensie Alezander, Clemson

Antwon Blake is gone after leading the league in yards allowed, with 1,074. The Steelers do still need to add another cornerback, though, and Alexander would make sense. He didn’t intercept any passes over the past two seasons, but he did have 10 pass breakups and allowed just two touchdowns.

Day 3 option: Prince Charles Iworah, Western Kentucky

Charles Iowrah had his struggles at times, but he also came away with four interceptions, seven pass breakups, and the 26th-best coverage grade amongst cornerbacks in this draft class.

Seattle Seahawks: Defensive interior

Day 1 option: Andrew Billings, Baylor

Billings would be a prototypical replacement for Brandon Mebane in the middle of the Seattle defense, with the seventh-highest run defense grade of any defensive tackle in this draft class. He did contribute as a pass-rusher at Baylor, notching five sacks, three hits, and 22 hurries, but run defense is his strong suit.

Day 3 option: Anthony Zettel, Penn State

It’ll be difficult to find a player like Billings later in the draft, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other good players on the interior. Zettel registered 32 total pressures last year, and could slot in as an additional interior pass-rusher for Seattle.

Green Bay Packers: Linebacker

Day 1 option: Reggie Ragland, Alabama

The Packers are another team who could use a serious upgrade at inside linebacker, and the ideal situation for them would be to watch him slip all the way into the late 20s to allow them to grab him. Ragland’s success grading positively as a pass-rusher, in coverage, and against the run would be well received in Green Bay.

Day 3 option: Steven Daniels, Boston College

Like Kentrell Brothers, Daniels’ best fit early is as a two-down linebacker. He had the highest run-defense grade among linebackers in this class in 2015, and registered 63 defensive stops.

Kansas City Chiefs: Cornerback

Day 1 option: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson

With Sean Smith now in Oakland, it makes sense for the Chiefs to target another cornerback here, even after drafting Steven Nelson and Marcus Peters a year ago. The knock on Alexander is that he doesn’t make enough plays on the ball, but he also didn’t allow much into his coverage in 2015, giving up a reception once every 20.7 snaps in coverage, the fifth-best mark in this class.

Day 3 option: Taveze Calhoun, Mississippi State

Calhoun didn’t like giving up touchdowns in college, with just one surrendered from 620 snaps in coverage over the past two seasons.

New England Patriots: Defensive interior

Day 2 option: Hassan Ridgeway, Texas

Dominique Easley registered three sacks, eight hits, and 24 hurries as an interior pass rusher in 2015, and with him gone, the Patriots need to find a replacement. Ridgeway had the fifth-highest pass-rushing productivity rating among defensive tackles in 2015.

Day 3 option: Anthony Zettel, Penn State

Like Ridgeway, Zettel’s best role at this point is as an interior pass-rusher. His 27 hurries last season were tied with Robert Nkemdiche for the eighth-most on the defensive interior in this class.

Arizona Cardinals: Center

Day 1 option: Ryan Kelly, Alabama

Arizona already added guard Evan Mathis to improve the offensive line this offseason, and late in the first round is the perfect time to address the center position. Kelly didn’t give up a sack or commit a penalty in 2015, and was solid as a run-blocker, with the 14th-highest grade in that regard.

Day 3 option: Matt Skura, Duke

Skura had the third-highest FBS run-blocking grade last season, excelling as part of double-team blocks and at the second level.

Carolina Panthers: Safety

Day 1 option: Karl Joseph, West Virginia

When Joseph was injured in the fifth week of the 2015 season, he was our fifth-highest graded safety in coverage and had recorded five interceptions. Eight of his 12 solo tackles resulted in a defensive stop, with him impressing against the run and in coverage.

Day 3 option: Jayron Kearse, Clemson

Better against the run, though he flashes skills in coverage, too. At +11.1, Kearse had the sixth-highest grade against the run among safeties in this class.

Denver Broncos: Quarterback

Day 1 option: Paxton Lynch, Memphis

As we said before for the Jets, this isn’t where we would draft Lynch, but we do understand the nature of the NFL and the need for a quarterback, which elevates his value, and he is our third-ranked quarterback on the draft board. He finished 2015 as our seventh-highest graded QB, and has the size teams lose their minds over.

Day 3 option: Brandon Allen, Arkansas

Allen’s second half of the season was incredible, and from the eighth week of the season onwards, no quarterback posted a higher grade than Allen’s +28.5.

| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

  • Ed

    OAK missing from your article

    • BoltDaddy

      You missed it…or it was added later either way here it is:

      Oakland Raiders: Defensive interior

      Day 1 option: Chris Jones, Mississippi State

      The Raiders have made a lot of impressive moves this offseason, which gives them a bit more freedom on draft day. One place they could look is to add a dynamic pass-rusher to the interior of their defense. With 49 total pressures in 2015, Jones fits that mold.

      Day 3 option: Dean Lowry, Northwestern

      Lowry had some huge performances for Northwestern last year, and graded positively against the run and as a pass-rusher, racking up four sacks, three hits, and 39 hurries

  • Adrian Topete

    So the Raiders aren’t in the category of “Every NFL Team”

  • Calvin

    So the Bills and Oakland aren’t included but the patriots are even without a day one pick. That’s good writing. Sure makes lots of sense

  • http://www.delicious.com/vinceregan Vincetitution

    blame the editor – fixed!

  • DarwinsMyth

    With the Packers losing Raji for this season, and Pennell being absent for the first 4 games, the NT will be their most pressing need. Since DEs are thin in this years draft, the Packers should draft DE Jonathan Bullard in the 1st round, and move Guion to NT to start the year. Then the Packers can draft a NT in the next 3 rounds. Reggie Ragland is over-rated in my opinion, since he can only bench press 225 lbs x 13 times, which tells me, Ragland probably rode on the DL’s coattails. There are WRs and Safeties that can bench more than that.