Every team will of course have its own draft board when it enters the war room on April 25 for the 2019 NFL draft. But marrying rankings and scheme fit with team-specific areas of need will be key to acing the draft.
Let’s take a closer look at the five biggest draft needs (in order) for all 32 teams.
Note: Statistics provided throughout from Elias Sports Bureau and ESPN Stats & Information.
Top draft needs: DT, EDGE, TE, G, CB
The Bills have their quarterback in Josh Allen, but considering Shaq Lawson is the only player drafted by Buffalo before 2017 still on the roster, there are a lot of areas of need here. With Kyle Williams gone, the defensive tackle position opens up — Houston’s Ed Oliver could fit perfectly — and Jerry Hughes isn’t getting any younger off the edge. The Bills managed only 36 sacks in 2018. And after Charles Clay signed with Arizona, Buffalo will want a complement to Tyler Kroft at tight end.
2019 NFL DRAFT
When: April 25-27
Where: Nashville, Tennessee
How to watch: ABC/ESPN/ESPN App
• Complete draft order: Picks 1-254 »
• Needs for all 32 teams » | Draft guides »
• In-depth stories on the top prospects »
• Kiper’s ‘Grade: A’ three-round mock »
• McShay’s ‘Grade: A’ three-round mock »
• Two-round mock drafts: Kiper vs. McShay »
• More NFL draft coverage »
Top draft needs: QB, G, OT, C, EDGE
The Dolphins need everything, starting with quarterback. Yet because they don’t pick until No. 13, there’s a shot the Dolphins either draft a QB on Day 2 or wait until 2020 to address the position — or both. Miami will be looking to rebuild its offensive and defensive lines almost entirely and then potentially tack on some cornerback depth. It all depends on how GM Chris Grier wants to go about this rebuild.
New England Patriots
Top draft needs: TE, WR, DT, EDGE, QB
Could New England go wide receiver, perhaps in the slot, in the first round for the first time since snagging Terry Glenn in 1996? Will the Patriots find a Rob Gronkowski replacement? Who will be the heir apparent to Tom Brady? And can Bill Belichick do what he’s done so many years in the past and replenish the defense after losing Trey Flowers and Malcolm Brown to free agency? Lots of questions for the defending champs.
NFL draft profile: Noah FantNoah Fant is a tight end out of Iowa who caught 19 touchdowns during his stint with the Hawkeyes.
New York Jets
Top draft needs: EDGE, G, C, TE, CB
If the Jets take an offensive lineman in the first two rounds, it’d be just the second time since 2007. But it’s a real possibility considering the lack of depth and the departure of James Carpenter. And Gang Green will also target some pass rushing off the edge after dropping the QB just 39 times in 2018. Trading back from No. 3 overall might be a move for the Jets to wrangle some more picks.
Top draft needs: EDGE, ILB, WR, G, RB
The Ravens’ offense pivoted last season once Lamar Jackson took the reins. He averaged 17 rushing attempts per game, and per Elias, no other QB has averaged even 12 per outing since 1970. Even still, Baltimore needs to get him some weapons, including some impact wide receivers and a running back complement to Mark Ingram. But let’s not forget the defensive front seven also lost Za’Darius Smith, C.J. Mosley and Terrell Suggs during the offseason.
Top draft needs: OT, LB, QB, TE, G
ESPN +Over the past couple of weeks, we rolled out our annual position rankings series, which usually come out around the time pitchers and catchers report. This was my first year handling the project, and I decided to structure it from the standpoint of tiers.
Doing it that way helped, I hope, offer a sense of how talent is grouped at the different positions right now, and which positions are stronger and weaker as compared to historical standards. But there is one final step we can take with this approach: What do the teams look like from the standpoint of tiers?
As I did with the pitching staffs, it’s simple enough to dump all the ratings into a file and see how many players each team has in each tier. So that’s what I did, and the results serve a dual purpose. First, they simply give us a way to look at how teams stack up in relation to each other. It’s not a rigorous projection, but the hierarchy of teams organized in this way isn’t much different than it looks like in an actual projection of team records.
ESPN+: Doolittle’s positional tiers
How do the best at each position rank and what tier of production do they fit in?
Positions:C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP
The other thing this snapshot offers is a glimpse at how teams have constructed their rosters. This is really the interesting part. Which teams are built with a stars-and-scrubs approach? Which teams have a lot of talent bunched in the middle? Which teams are good but have an obvious void in terms of MVP-level talent? Are there any teams that look less talented than the current group of unsigned free agents? (Sadly, there is one.)
As with the pitching tiers analysis, teams are given 6 points for each player rated in Tier I, 5 points for Tier II and so on. Those total points are then divided by the total number of players being rated to give us our tier-based score. I updated the teams’ rosters with the latest transactions. To break up the commentary, we’ll list the teams in groups of five.