No roster in the NFL is perfect. Good players move on if they don’t get paid as much as they would like, draft picks don’t always meet expectations and there’s a cap limit because of which teams don’t have the money to invest equally in every position. So it’s not only the teams who select early in the draft who would like to upgrade some position groups. All of them would benefit from that. So here are the biggest holes on some of the NFL’s rosters.
Buffalo Bills wide receivers
The Bills already were pretty thin at wide receiver before the news broke on Sammy Watkins’ foot injury and the surgery. Now he might miss the first couple of weeks of the regular season. Behind him they have Robert Woods, Leonard Hankerson, Marquise Goodwin and some other little-known players. Woods was the most productive of that group with 552 yards receiving last season, but I wouldn’t rely on him as a number one target in the passing game. I like Charles Clay at tight-end and they have some nice options out of the backfield, but if they really want to spread the ball around some of those wideouts have to step up. I don’t understand why they let Chris Hogan go (Tom Brady certainly doesn’t mind), but the one guy to keep an eye on is speedster Kolby Listenbee, who could emerge as a deep threat and open up a lot of stuff underneath.
New York Jets edge rushers
The Jets might have the finest defensive line in football with three first round picks in Leonard Williams, Sheldon Richardson and all-world defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson. What they haven’t had in seemingly forever is a consistent edge rusher. When Rex Ryan still was in New York he tried to find that guy, but he never really did. I like last year’s third round pick Lorenzo Mauldin, whose activity is off the charts, but behind that their third-rounder this year in Georgia’s Jordan Jenkins might be their best option. I think they were both underrated coming out of college, but having a player, who has proven to be a real threat off the edge would only make those guys on the inside even better and take the entire defense to another level.
San Diego Chargers safeties
Eric Weddle was one of the best safeties in the league before he moved on to the Ravens from San Diego. That leaves a huge hole that needs to be filled. Jahleel Addae has shown some potential and is the most likely to fill Weddle’s shoes, but he’s not the type of player his predecessor was. This Chargers defense gave up a lot of big plays last year and with uncertainty on the backend I don’t know if they’ll improve in that department. With third overall pick Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram finally coming into his own they have two nice edge rushers, but they lack push up the middle to relieve the secondary and missing the playmaking ability of Weddle will hurt.
Tennessee Titans defensive backs
A lot of people thought the Titans would decide between an offensive tackle in Laremy Tunsil and Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey to upgrade their secondary with the first overall pick. By trading down to number 15 before getting back into the top ten and grabbing a franchise tackle in Michigan State’s Jack Conklin took away the opportunity of grabbing a high-class defensive back. In the third round they selected a lower level playmaker in safety Kevin Byard from Middle Tennessee, who I really liked in the draft process, but I’m not sure if that’s enough to improve their pass defense. Jason McCourty is the Titans’ best player in the secondary and while they have a couple of nice pieces on paper, I don’t think they have enough impact players on that unit. A ground-and-pound approach and one of their second-round picks in edge rusher Kevin Dodd should take some pressure off them though.
Dallas Cowboys pass rushers
If I ranked these groups this might be number one not only because of the suspensions, but because of the situation in general. Right now their starting front four would probably look like this: Tyrone Crawford (DE) – Terrell McClain (DT) – Cedric Thornton (DT) – Jack Crawford (DE). Those four combine for 20 career sacks over about five or six years each. I think the Oklahoma kid Charles Tapper was a nice addition via the draft, but I think he’ll have to work on his pad level and hand usage do be effective as a rotational player for them. Another big hit I thought was the broken foot of third round pick defensive tackle Maliek Collins from Nebraska. He flashes potential and under a great D-line coach he would have been able to release it and makes plays consistently. So after four weeks the Cowboys get Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence back. I thought Gregory was a steal in the second round last year and Lawrence has been an underrated, consistent player since coming into the league. Still, Gregory is unproven as he has yet to start a game or pick up a sack and Lawrence is better against the run than the pass. Add a hole inside and you get back to the defense having to overaccomplish like they did last year. Let’s hope for them that running game on offense takes away some pressure off their defense.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receivers
With all the drama around the Eagles quarterback situation people seem to forget about who are the guys that will catch the passes. Jordan Matthews failed to reach the 1000 yard receiving mark last year by only three yards, but who are they going to match him with? Nelson Agholor was a disaster in his rookie campaign, not even reaching 300 yards and being rated the least productive receiver in the NFL. Behind him they have Rueben Randle, who had some nice moments with the Giants, but has never done it on a consistent basis and Josh Huff who finished at around 300 yards as well. I think Doug Peterson will rely heavily on his two tight-ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek, who form one of the best duos at that position.
Seattle Seahawks offensive tackles
When you look at the Seahawks offensive line you have to wonder how they had so much success running the ball in recent years. If I had to project their starting line-up it would include a tackle, who just moved to center, a second-year guard who started only one game last season, a rookie guard, a tackle who lost his job with the Bears after allowing five sacks to Aldon Smith three years ago and was released by the Raiders after starting for them again this year and another tackle, who didn’t impress on the right side in 2015 and probably will be asked to protect Russell Wilson’s blind side in 2016. I think they can still have a nice running game and I think those interior guys might be able to hold their ground, but even with all the magic Wilson shows scrambling around the Hawks’ tackles are far below-average starters and that might keep them from competing with the elite NFC teams.
New Orleans Saints cornerbacks
The Saints defense was horrible last year. There’s just no other way to put it. They ranked dead last in points allowed and second to last in total yards allowed. And even though they were equally as bad against the run as they were against the pass, I think the problem starts at the backend. Because they were exposed via the pass so many times, they had to focus more on dropping people into coverage and use more nickel and dime packages than they would have liked to. I think they’ll be fine against the run as soon as they find a way to fix their secondary. I like their combination of safeties with a healthy Jairus Byrd, Kenny Vaccaro who has another year under his belt and rookie Vonn Bell, who they could bring in at the same time as those other two guys in sub packages, because they can line him up over slots and do a lot of different stuff. My concern is the cornerback position, where they’ll get their best one in Keenan Lewis back from injury and Delvin Breaux, who started his comeback from a life-threatening neck injury to football just a couple of years ago and other than Cameron Jordan might have been their best defensive player last year. So those two look pretty good, but behind them the best option is Tony Carter and then there aren’t any guys left I really trust. In today’s pass-heavy game you need more than two good corners if you want to be able to match up with offensive personnels and rotate players. With the aforementioned Jordan putting the heat on opposing quarterbacks and a new defensive scheme they’ll have to give up less than 30 points a game, even with Drew Brees lighting up the scoreboard.
Other groups who need to be mentioned:
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerbacks, New York Giants running backs, Chicago Bears Offensive Tackles, Arizona Cardinals cornerbacks, Atlanta Falcons inside linebackers, Los Angeles Rams wide receivers, Houston Texans defensive ends, New England Patriots edge rushers, Green Bay Packers inside linebackers