During the NFL Draft, teams have the opportunity to fill up giant positional needs. For divisions such as the AFC North and AFC South, there are high expectations for this upcoming season for many of these teams. With the hopes of playoff appearances, awards, and Super Bowl trophies on the line, a lot is being asked of these rookies. However, no team is perfect and some of these spots could use improvement. Today, we’re going to be taking a look at the biggest needs of the AFC North and AFC South teams.
The Ravens have handled this offseason very well. With making sure they found Lamar Jackson a sure number one receiver by going out and acquiring Sammy Watkins and drafting Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman. By filling in a void at right tackle that the traded Orlando Brown Jr created, they did a great job by signing Alejandro Villanueva and helping fortify the offensive line with 3rd round pick Georgia G Ben Cleveland.
It’s hard to not like what they did on the defensive side of the ball either. With 1st round pick Penn State OLB Odafe Oweh, SMU CB Brandon Stephens, and Ohio State CB Shaun Wade, there is so much defensive talent on this team alone.
The Ravens are known for always having an amazing linebackers unit. This year’s unit is no different, except for their inside linebackers. While Patrick Queen had a very good rookie year, L.J. Fort isn’t the most reliable in terms of run stuffers. With only 53 tackles while appearing in 14 games last year, there is room for improvement.
If the Ravens aren’t very comfortable with what L.J. Fort offers, they can look to add a free agent towards training camp such as Avery Williamson. Regardless, the Ravens defense is on pace to be a top ten unit once again and help propel them to be serious contenders in the AFC.
With the Bengals having a very great draft in reuniting Joe Burrow with former LSU teammate, Ja’Marr Chase and completely rebuilding the trenches on both sides of the ball there’s a lot to be excited for. With the new additions on the offensive line, hopefully, they can keep Joe Burrow upright, so he can be the gunslinger that he is.
The defensive line is set to be one on the rise with third-round steal Texas DE, Joseph Ossai and already present D.J. Reader and Trey Hendrickson. With the potential for a good secondary with additions of Mike Hilton and being backed by the great Jessie Bates III, the one glaring issue on defense with the potential to be a great unit is a linebacker.
Looking at Bengal’s depth chart, outside of Germaine Pratt, the linebacker unit offers little to nothing. To see a team with such a glaring need to not pick a linebacker is surprising. With players such as Dylan Moses from Alabama going undrafted, eyebrows can be raised as they ignored the position with all ten of their draft picks.
This isn’t the end for the Bengals, however, as they can look to land one of many veterans such as Kwon Alexander or Avery Williams. The Bengals, however, do need to make some sort of move for a linebacker to help stuff the run and be a playmaker when the ball is in the air.
With a new era in Cleveland Browns’ history, the great management keeps bringing in more talent to an already star-studded roster. With Greg Newsome II sliding right to the Browns at 26 and the eventual trade up for Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah at 52 were just a few of the highlights of this phenomenal draft class.
With the offense set to be even more explosive with the addition of Anthony Schwartz and the return of Odell Beckham Jr. and the defense set to be an even better unit with the addition of Jadeveon Clowney and Anthony Walker Jr., there’s a lot to be excited for.
While the addition of Jadeveon Clowney was a great one and helps their run defense, they truly lack a great defensive tackle. Malik Jackson is unfortunately a shell of what he was with the Broncos during their Super Bowl 50 run. Andrew Billings hasn’t proved anything in terms of rushing the passer with a career total of 3.5 sacks. Outside of the phenomenal Myles Garrett, they don’t have a true pass rusher.
Jadeveon Clowney has only had three sacks in the past two seasons. Unless fifth-round pick Tommy Togiai can be a great pass rusher at the defensive tackle position, they truly lack a playmaker at that position that can take that potentially best unit to the next level.
Najee Harris was a bit of a reach by the Steelers, however not a bad pick. With all the success Harris had during his time at Alabama and the obvious hole at running back for the Steelers, the pick was obvious from a mile away. There’s quite a lot to be happy about with what Najee Harris will bring to the Steelers offense as well as what his new teammate and Steeler, Kendrick Green C from Illinois, can bring to the team. The biggest issue the Steelers didn’t necessarily prioritize was the offensive line.
With as fun as the Najee Harris pick is, how useful will he be with a subpar offensive line? Losing Alejandro Villanueva to the rival Baltimore Ravens hurts because they won’t be able to open up rushing lanes for the first-round pick, as well as struggle to keep Big Ben upright. The Steelers need to attempt to make some sort of move at the offensive line.
With players such as Eric Fisher and Charles Leno Jr. still available, a move should be considered to help bolster up the unproven offensive line unit in Pittsburgh.
With all of the many questions regarding Deshaun Watson’s time in Houston, the Houston Texans needed to do well in this draft. They, unfortunately, didn’t have a lot of valuable draft assets due to the trade for Laremy Tunsil. With their first pick in the entire draft, they picked Stanford QB Davis Mills. That just truly shows the confidence that the organization has in retaining Deshaun Watson.
The addition of Michigan WR Nico Collins was rather nice, as well as Miami TE Brevin Jordan, who fell into their laps at pick 147. With a team that’s rebuilding currently, it’s important to make use of all of your picks and be sure not to waste any. Unfortunately for the Texans, it seems as if a pick or two could have been used elsewhere.
With the many holes on the Texans roster, it’s hard to try to not find a spot that needs improvement. With an AFC South that has some great pass rushers in Deforest Buckner of the Colts, Josh Allen of the Jaguars, and Bud Dupree of the Titans. Why not find give yourself a fighting chance of retaining Deshaun, and bolster up your offensive line?
Whether you do that by trading away some picks or by signing a big-time free agent, after all, Deshaun Watson has done for the organization, the least he deserves is an offensive line.
The Indianapolis Colts are sporting a roster that is solid all around. With six All-Pros from the former season returning, as well as the trade for former Eagles QB Carson Wentz, there is a lot to be expected from this 2021 Indianapolis Colts team. With the reunion of Carson Wentz and Colts HC Frank Reich, it’ll be interesting to see if they can turn Carson into what he was during his 2017 campaign. By selecting Michigan DE Kwity Paye, Chris Ballard and the Colts filled in one of their needs of an edge rusher. The other looming need of left tackle, however, was never addressed.
Making sure the Colts can cover Carson Wentz’s blindspot is crucial to his success. With the retirement of longtime Colt Anthony Castonzo, there is a major hole to be filled. While there was an effort to fill the need in free agency by signing Sam Tevi, he isn’t a very viable option for them.
The Colts should aim at looking for a veteran along the left side of the offensive line. With Charles Leno Jr. being released by the Bears, that would be a viable option. There have also been talks about potentially the Colts trying to fill that spot with former first overall pick Eric Fisher.
Everyone knew who the first overall pick of the 2021 draft would be as soon as the season ended. Trevor Lawrence, touted by many to be amongst one of the greatest quarterback prospects ever, finds his home in Jacksonville. There’s nothing but bright days ahead for Jaguars’ fans.
First-year Head Coach Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence have the potential to take the NFL by storm. By adding Shaquill Griffin as well as drafting Georgia CB Tyson Campbell, the issue of CB has been solved. Jacksonville even did a great job by selecting several rookie playmakers for Lawrence in Clemson RB Travis Etienne and Ohio State TE Luke Farrell. The offensive line has been addressed by drafting Stanford OT Walker Little, who is bound to bring a nasty side to the Jags offensive line.
With a brand new Jaguars team slated for 2021, the team still doesn’t have all the pieces to compete for a Super Bowl. With holes at both safety positions, the Jaguars may be limited on the defensive side of the ball. While investing in a seasoned veteran such as Earl Thomas III to mentor the young safety group could prove to go a long way.
In general, the Jaguars could use help in stopping the run as they were one of the worst units across the league. With lackluster play coming from their defensive line and linebackers, While the cornerbacks on the roster are by far the most solid group on the defensive side of the ball, the Jaguars are in desperate need of help stopping the run.
The Tennessee Titans had a great 2020 season winning the AFC South. While unfortunately only making it to the AFC Wild Card round, the Titans needed to make some moves to improve their roster. With big pieces on offense in Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown, the Titans decided to bolster up the defensive side of the ball and sign former Steelers LB Bud Dupree.
Dupree brings a very athletic approach to the linebacker position being able to rush the passer while being quite efficient. While not being the best teams in terms of rushing the passer, Dupree’s presence will help the Titans instill fear in opposing offenses. The Titans didn’t stop with the addition of Dupree, however, and bolstered their secondary by drafting Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley to play alongside Janoris Jenkins.
A position the Titans need to improve to bring their defense into the top ten would be defensive tackle. Teair Tart is nothing to ride home about, as in seven games last year, Tart recorded five tackles. While the addition of Bud Dupree can help, Teair Tart is not what the Titans necessarily need. The Titans need a nose tackle that can reset the line of scrimmage to allow their linebackers Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans to make plays. The addition of free agent Kawann Short would be a great start to filling a position that could use more production.