In addition to my piece on the NFC here is my segment on all 16 AFC teams. Once again this is what I think teams should do to improve from where they were last year with a couple of names being real possibilities to bring in via the draft or free agency. They might not be available and they aren’t just the best guys out there, but rather what would make sense to me. And it’s about what should be on top of their list for this offseason.
Here it is:
Baltimore Ravens (26th overall pick; 3.1 million cap space):
The Ravens had the right strategy to beat the Super Bowl champion Patriots – run the ball and put pressure on Tom Brady. Unfortunately what they didn’t have was the players in the defensive backfield to keep Brady from beating them via the pass as New England only ran the ball one time in the entire second half. They have two very good starting corners if they are back and healthy in 2015. But they absolutely need to add depth.
Draft: 1st round – Marcus Peters (Washington), 2nd round – Jalen Collins (LSU), 3rd round – Kevin White (TCU); Free agency: Tramon Williams (Packers)
Justin Forsett had a breakout season last year, but I’m not sure if he’ll be back next year. If he’s not and they are not sold on Bernard Pierce, they should add a future running back from a loaded draft class.
Draft: 1st round – Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin), 2nd round – Jay Ajayi (Boise State)
Baltimore was tied for second in sack total and a big part of that came because of the presence of Pernell McPhee, who may only have had 7.5 sacks, but he freed his teammate up and allowed them to have a lot of success. I don’t expect him to be back this season, so the Ravens need to replace him with a guy that can also rush from the inside and run great stunts.
Draft: 2nd round – Ha’ouli Kikaha (Washington); Free agency: Brandon Graham (Eagles)
Steve Smith is getting older and the Ravens might lose Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones in free agency. So whether or not those guys are back this year, Baltimore needs to add some quality receivers.
Draft: 1st round – Devin Smith (Ohio State), 2nd round – Nelson Agholor, 3rd round – Ty Montgomery
Cincinnati Bengals (21st overall pick; 35.2 million cap space):
First of all – I’m not a big fan of Andy Dalton as he just doesn’t seem to be the reason for the Bengals. He has gotten a lot of help from the running game and struggles against good defenses. But let’s not talk about that.
Much more important for them was their inability to get to the opponent’s passer, as their 20 sacks in 16 games (!) were the worst number in the league. They need some pass rushing specialists.
Draft: 1st round – Vic Beasley (Clemson), Bud Dupree (Kentucky), 2nd round – Owamagbe Odighizuwa (UCLA); Free agency: Jason Pierre-Paul
The Bengals would also benefit a lot from bringing in a thumper at safety with the versatility to make plays against the run and the pass.
Draft: 1st round – Landon Collins (Alabama), 2nd round – Jaquiski Tartt (Samford); Free agency: LaRon Landry (Colts)
Cleveland Browns (12th and 19th overall pick; 48.7 million cap space):
The Browns organization hasn’t said that they are completely behind Johnny Manziel, but I expect him to be their starter this year. To make him an effective player, they have to design an offense around him that is built on running the ball (which is their strength) and have him on rollouts and bootlegs.
Yet, he needs help at the wide receiver position. With Josh Gordon probably not coming back to them that position group is certainly below-average. Putting potent pass-catchers around Manziel has to be the Browns top priority.
Draft: 1st round – Kevin White (West Virginia), DeVante Parker (Louisville), 2nd round – Dorial Green-Beckham (Missouri); Free agency: Randall Cobb (Packers), Michael Crabtree (49ers)
Another thing they really have to improve on is their run defense. Most of all their nose tackle position has to be improved.
Draft: 1st round – Danny Shelton (Washington), 2nd round – Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma); Free agency: Kendrick Ellis (Jets)
Pittsburgh Steelers (22nd overall pick; -1.4 million cap space):
If you think about a Steelers team you probably wouldn’t think the offense being their strongest part, but Pittsburgh’s offense is gangbuster, while their defense is getting older as the years go by. They added young talent in previous drafts with Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Ryan Shazier. But outside of a couple of young guys on that defensive front, they lack youth, which they need to continue to add to their roster. They’ll have to look at some defensive backs.
Draft: 1st round – Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest) 2nd round – Alex Carter (Stanford), Derron Smith (Fresno State); Free agency: Brandon Flowers (Chargers)
The thing that could help them on offense though would be road-rager at guard to help get Le’Veon Bell in the open field, where we all know what he can do.
Draft: 2nd round – A.J. Cann (South Carolina), Laken Tomlinson (Duke); Free agency: Orlando Franklin
Buffalo Bills (no first round pick; 30.9 million cap space):
The Bills have the best defensive line in football and while he might be the only member to not make the Pro Bowl Jerry Hughes is one of the best and relentless defensive ends out there. So they shouldn’t let him walk away from Buffalo.
Next up is probably their biggest question mark – the quarterback position. Second year man E.J. Manuel was benched after four weeks last year only to be replaced by Kyle Orton who’s playing for his fifth different team and is 32 years old. So I don’t think he’s the Bills’ future at quarterback. It will be interesting to see if they try to find a talented player in the draft and let him develop or try to find their guy in free agency.
Draft: 2nd round – Bryce Petty (Baylor); Free agency: Mark Sanchez (Eagles)
With C.J. Spiller probably hitting the free agent market and their next guy up in the backfield being the oldest running back in the NFL in Fred Jackson, the Bills need to find their future guy to put in the backfield.
Draft: 2nd round – Duke Johnson (Miami), 3rd round – David Johnson (Northern Illinois); Free agency: Mark Ingram (Saints)
Miami Dolphins (14th overall pick; 1.9 million cap space):
The Dolphins best unit is their defensive line and while most people only know Cameron Wake it’s really a group effort. Jared Odrick might become a free agent, so the Dolphins have to evaluate the draft prospects and free agents out there to decide on whether they can keep Odrick.
Draft: 2nd round – Mario Edwards (Florida State), Carl Davis (Iowa), 3rd round – Gabe Wright (Auburn); Free agency: Henry Melton (Cowboys)
To help their team they should also bring in a ball hawk at safety, to take away the ball from opposing teams more often.
Draft: 2nd round – Gerrod Holliman (Louisville); Free agency: Nate Allen (Eagles)
Lamar Miller has shown a lot or promise to be the effective at running back for the Dolphins, but I think adding a bigger powerful running back could make a big difference in Miami.
Draft: 3rd round – T.J. Yeldon (Alabama); Free agency: Frank Gore (49ers)
New England Patriots (32nd overall pick; -5.1 million cap space):
First of all the Patriots need to resign one of the two best cornerbacks in the league named Darrelle Revis. He changes the way you can scheme on defense because you can simply let him play the other team’s best receiver one-on-one and take that guy out of the game.
Next up is the search for a talented wideout. Brandon LaFell made a difference for them at times because of his size and ability to go up and come down with competed catches. Finding a guy like that to pair with Tom Brady would be great.
Draft: 1st round – Devin Funchess (Michigan State), Devin Smith (Ohio State), Sammie Coates (Auburn); Free agency: Hakeem Nicks (Colts)
Vince Wilfork will turn 34 in April and this defense needs a dominant defensive tackle to help their big man out and eventually replace him.
Draft: 1st round – Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma), Michael Bennett (Ohio State)
New York Jets (6th overall pick; 48.6 million cap space):
I have one question for those Jets – Who’s your quarterback? The Michael Vick and Geno Smith experiments have officially failed, if you want to take my advice. If they decide to roll with either one of those guys they should still bring in another guy to compete and eventually take the spot under center.
Draft: 1st round – Marcus Mariota (Oregon), 2nd round – Bryce Petty (Baylor), Brett Hundley (UCLA); Free agency: Matt Flynn
Whoever will be their quarterback they have to help him out by using an offense that is built on running the ball and surround that guy with some talented pass-catchers.
Draft: 1st round – Amari Cooper (Alabama), Kevin White (West Virginia), 2nd round – Jaelen Strong (USC), Dorial Green-Beckham (Missouri); Free agency: Cecil Shorts (Jaguars), Jerrell Jernigan (Giants)
Last year the Jets were embarrassed against the pass at times because of their depleted secondary. They have some first round talent on the backend, but they need to add talent and depth.
Draft: 2nd round – P.J. Williams (Florida State), 3rd round – Steven Nelson (Oregon State); Free agency: Antonio Cromartie (Cardinals), Chris Culliver (49ers)
Houston Texans (16th overall pick; 10.9 million cap space):
The main question for the Texans will be if they look at Ryan Mallett as their future at quarterback. Either way I think they will add another guy to compete for that spot and develop.
Draft: 2nd round – Brett Hundley (UCLA), 3rd round – Sean Mannion (Oregon State); Free agency: Brian Hoyer (Browns)
Derek Newton will be a free agent and could be gone before the season starts, so they should bring in a right tackle that is able to run their zone scheme and keep the pocket clear.
Draft: 3rd round – Rob Havenstein (Wisconsin); Free agency: Doug Free (Cowboys)
Andre Johnson is not the same he was a couple of years ago and has spent quite some time in the league. It’s time for the Texans to find another wide receiver for the future.
Draft: 3rd round – Tony Lippett (Michigan State), Phillip Dorsett (Miami)
Indianapolis Colts (29th overall pick; 37.8 million cap space):
People always say that the Colts offense is one-dimensional and talk about Trent Richardson being a bust, but actually this offensive line struggles to open up holes for running backs and protect Andrew Luck, who last year was hit more than any other quarterback in the league. They need to add some talent to that offensive front.
Draft: 1st round – Cedric Ogbuehi (Texas A&M), 2nd round – A.J. Cann (South Carolina); Free agency: Mike Iupati (49ers)
Indy lost Antoine Bethea is last year’s offseason and they have to find a replacement for him. Bethea to me was the most complete safety in football in 2014, so they won’t be able to find a player quite as good as him, especially if you consider that this year’s draft class for safeties is one of the weakest in the draft. If they could move up a little and grab Landon Collins from Alabama that would be a great move.
I’m not sure what the Colts will do with Richardson and looking at the missing production in the last two years I wouldn’t be shocked if they would trade him and pick one of those top-tier running backs in the draft if they are still available.
Draft: 1st round – Todd Gurley (Georgia), Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin), 2nd round – Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska)
Jacksonville Jaguars (3rd overall pick; 60.8 million cap space):
The Jaguars seem to have found their franchise quarterback in Blake Bortles. Now it’s time to protect him as the offensive line allowed the most sacks in the NFL last season. They need to find some quality players to add.
Draft: 2nd round – Cameron Erving (Florida State), 3rd – Hroniss Grasu (Oregon); Free agency: Jah Reid (Baltimore)
A pretty good pass rush led by defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks could use another specialist at getting to the quarterback and with the third overall pick they should add one via the draft.
Draft: 1st round – Leonard Williams (USC), Randy Gregory (Nebraska), Dante Fowler (Florida), Shane Ray (Missouri)
Denard Robinson is not the kind of guy you can hand the ball 25-30 times a game. He’s a great playmaker and a remarkable story if you consider he was a quarterback at Michigan, but he needs a guy to back him up. A more physical runner would improve this backfield.
Draft: 2nd round – Tevin Coleman (Indiana), 3rd round – T.J. Yeldon; Free agency: Frank Gore (49ers)
Tennessee Titans (2nd overall pick; 39.7 million cap space):
I don’t think this organization is sold on Zach Mettenberger. They need to find a promising young quarterback to lead their team in the future. At least one of the top two quarterbacks will be available and I could easily see them grab one of them. I think they might be better suited to take the best player available though.
Draft: 1st round – Jameis Winston (Florida State), Marcus Mariota (Oregon), 2nd round – Brett Hundley (UCLA); Free agency: Matt Flynn
Whoever will be under center for the Titans would benefit from having a slot receiver to help him out.
Draft: 2nd round – Tyler Lockett (Kansas State), Jamison Crowder (Duke); Free agency: Randall Cobb (Packers), Cecil Shorts (Jaguars)
And now I go back to taking the best player available who also would fill a need for Tennessee which would be a dominant player on that defensive front to pair with Jurrell Casey.
Draft: 1st round – Leonard Williams (USC), Dante Fowler (Florida)
Denver Broncos (28th overall pick; 26.7 million cap space):
Peyton Manning is still your guy. You don’t compete for championships without him. With that being said, they have to think about the future. The Broncos seem to be very happy with Brock Osweiler’s development, but if a quarterback falls to them in later rounds they could make their move.
Terrance Knighton might not be a household name, but he is a very good player for that Broncos defense and I think they should absolutely sign him to a long-term deal. If they don’t they have to find another nose tackle to put pressure on centers and eat up double-teams.
Draft: 2nd round – Michael Bennett (Ohio State)
Julius Thomas had 12 touchdowns on 43 catches last year, which tells you he’s a big factor in the red zone, but not a big part of the passing game over the entirety of the field. If he’s out of the building they should look to find a replacement that can also be a security blank for Manning.
Draft: 2nd round – Nick O’Leary (Florida State), 3rd round – Ben Koyack (Notre Dame)
Kansas City Chiefs (18th overall pick; 2.2 million cap space):
As most of us probably know, the Chiefs wide receivers had 0 total touchdowns last year. Let me say it one more time – Shame on you! They absolutely have to add some new guys who can make big plays and get into the end zone.
Draft: 1st round – Devante Parker (Louisville), Devin Smith (Ohio State), Jaelen Strong (Arizona State); Free agency: Torrey Smith (Ravens)
The Chiefs biggest question mark will be the status of Eric Berry. Let’s all hope he returns soon, because he’s a great player and man. If he doesn’t they have to replace his playmaking ability and swagger on the field.
Draft: 1st round – Landon Collins (Alabama)
And finally they need to get a right tackle since Eric Fisher is their guy on the blind side now.
Draft: 1st round – Andrus Peat (Stanford), 2nd round – Ty Sambrailo (Colorado State); Free agency: Doug Free (Cowboys)
Oakland Raiders (4th overall pick; 49.5 million cap space):
The Raiders drafted the best quarterback of last year’s draft in Derek Carr. Now it’s time to put some talent around him. James Jones is a pretty good wideout, but he was the fourth receiver when he was with Green Bay. So they should bring in a couple of other pass-catchers.
Draft: 1st round – Amari Cooper (Alabama), Kevin White (West Virginia), 2nd round – Jaelen Strong (Arizona State); Free agency: Michael Crabtree (49ers), Julius Thomas (Broncos)
Not everybody’s sure who Oakland’s starting running will be next year, but I think Latavius Murray could become a solid runner with homerun-hitting ability and Maurice Jones-Drew is bound for a bounce-back season.
To me they have a pretty good defensive front seven, but their backend (which will lose a couple of players) is still shaky. They should add quality corners and safeties.
Draft: 2nd round – Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest), P.J. Williams (Florida State) 3rd round – Jaquiski Tartt (Samford), Gerod Holliman (Louisville); Free agency: Perrish Cox (49ers), Kareem Jackson (Texans)
San Diego Chargers (17th overall pick; 25.2 million cap space):
The Chargers were fourth in passing yards allowed, but 26th against the run. So they need to get big nose tackle to control the line of scrimmage.
Draft: 2nd round – Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma), Michael Bennett (Ohio State); Free agency: Terrence Cody (Ravens)
Jason Verrett was an excellent draft pick last year, but if Brandon Flowers isn’t back this season, they need to bring in a true shutdown corner.
Draft: 1st round – Trae Waynes (Michigan State), Marcus Peters (Washington); Free agency: Chris Culliver (49ers)
On offense they had to play with their fourth center at times in 2014. They have to find an intelligent and durable player to take over that spot.
Draft: 2nd round – Hroniss Grasu (Oregon), Cameron Erving (Florida State); Free agency: Jonathan Goodwin (Saints)
Like I said on my NFC piece, this isn’t a too complex analysis, but I really wanted to cover all teams. So if there’s any specific team you’d like to hear my opinion on, just write to me or leave a comment!