2020 NFL Draft AFC team Needs: Titans, Bengals, Dolphins likely to have need at quarterback in next year's class
Breaking down the most likely top three 2020 draft needs for all 16 AFC teams
With the preseason in the books, NFL rosters are taking shape and the college football season is here, so of course, I'm taking stock in team needs for the 2020 NFL Draft.
We ran, but a plethora of pleasant surprises in training camp and exhibition games have tweaked likely needs for a few clubs. Earlier this week, we broke down . Today, we'll break down the AFC.
2020 Draft needs: Edge rusher, defensive tackle, offensive guard
The Ravens are in the midst of a changing of the guard philosophically. For years, the defense has been the team's anchor. But gone are Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle. Sure, Earl Thomas was added in free agency, but on paper, Baltimore is going to have problems rushing the passer for the first time in a while. On the interior, most of their hog mollies are run-stopping specialists who don't have as much value as they did even five years ago.
On offense, with a run-heavy attack and a first-round quarterback at the helm, the blocking unit cannot be ignored. Elder statesman Marshal Yanda turns 35 in mid-September, and the other guard spot is a weakness up front. With the Lamar Jackson era upon us in Baltimore, a nice core of young receivers, a sturdy secondary, and new-age linebackers at the second level, the Ravens will have to turn their attention to the offensive and defensive lines.
2020 Draft needs: Offensive tackle, offensive guard, safety
If there's one thing that could derail the Browns' super-hyped season, it's the offensive line. Greg Robinson has found himself to a certain degree but isn't a lock to be a franchise left tackle. Reliable veteran guard Kevin Zeitler was moved in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade, and 2018 second-round pick Austin Corbett did not earn a starting gig out of camp in Year 2. And the right side of the line is hardly a brick wall with Eric Kush and Chris Hubbard slated at the right guard and right tackle positions respectively. Someone like Walter Little from Stanford, who'll have plenty of pass-blocking reps on long-developing pass plays in 2019, would make sense early.
While Damarious Randall and Morgan Burnett are a solid safety tandem, Burnett turned 30 in January. A strong safety-linebacker hybrid would be a logical addition to the back end in Cleveland in next year's draft.
2020 Draft needs: Offensive line, quarterback, linebacker
Cincinnati's offensive line is a mess, and part of that is due to injury. This year's first-round pick Jonah Williams will be back in action next year, but even with his calming presence up front, the Bengals need more blocking reinforcement to compete in the AFC North.
The quarterback spot in Cincy is fascinating, because, financially, 2019 would be the sensible final year for Andy Dalton. If the team does move on from him, it has to love what 2019 fourth-rounder Ryan Finley demonstrated during the preseason. His experience with play-action and anticipation throws makes him an ideal fit in Zac Taylor's offense. But is his presence enough to preclude the team from going Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert in Round 1 of 2020? Ehhh. Also, the linebacker position needs a massive upgrade in terms of speed and coverage skills, especially after Vontaze Burfict departed in free agency.
2020 Draft needs: Free safety, edge rusher, cornerback
Terrell Edmunds' value comes mostly in his versatility, and Sean Davis hasn't lived up to expectations as a former second-round pick. Pittsburgh could use a rangy center fielder who'd perfectly compliment Edmunds at safety. On the edge, it's a make-or-break year for Bud Dupree, who's playing on the fifth-year option. Unless he takes a big leap, he's likely to hit the free-agent market next March. That would leave T.J. Watt as the alpha edge rusher on the roster. He'd need a running mate opposite him.
Right now, the Steelers look OK at cornerback. But Joe Haden will be 31 next season and outside of third-round pick Justin Layne, there's not much promising depth behind him on the outside. Artie Burns has been a bust of a first-round pick and 2017 third-round selection Cam Sutton has been a liability when he's been on the field in his first two seasons.
2020 Draft needs: Edge rusher, cornerback, wide receiver
Jerry Hughes is one of the most underrated edge defenders in football, but he'll be 32 next season. Behind him on Buffalo's depth chart are run-stopping specialist Shaq Lawson, who hasn't been a very productive pass rusher and is in the last year of his rookie deal, Trent Murphy, a disappointing free-agent add a season ago who spent a good portion of it injured, and 2019 seventh-round selection Darryl Johnson, fresh off an impressive preseason.
In short, the position needs an injection of youth that can get after the quarterback. Watch out for super-sleeper Carter Coughlin from Minnesota or Tennessee's Darrell Taylor. Levi Wallace looks to have the No. 2 cornerback spot locked down, and Taron Johnson flashed as a rookie. There's just not loads of depth at the position. Receiver might not seem like a need after John Brown and Cole Beasley were added in free agency, but they aren't spring chickens, and Zay Jones has been mediocre at best in his first two NFL seasons. Even if Robert Foster plays as well as he did late in 2018 this year, the Bills should give Josh Allen more weaponry on the outside.
New England Patriots
2020 Draft needs: Tight end, center, safety
There's a gaping hole at tight end on New England's roster after the Rob Gronkowski retirement. And even if he returns for part of the 2019 season, the team needs to address that position next offseason with a top talent. Missouri's Albert Okwuegbunam is a name to watch at that position, not just because it's a challenge to spell or pronounce. He's a dynamic pass catcher. Given the severity of veteran center David Andrews' medical condition, the pivot spot on the offensive line will be a priority as well.
New England's secondary has been solid the past two seasons, anchored by free-agent add Stephon Gilmore, long-time multi-dimensional defensive back Logan Ryan, and the McCourty brothers. But they latter duo will be 32 at the start of next season, and although Devin has really been able to maintain his speed late in his career, the Patriots should look for his heir apparent early in next year's draft.
New York Jets
2020 Draft needs: Cornerback, edge rusher, offensive line
The Jets have a dire need at the cornerback spot right now, and even if Trumaine Johnson gets back to full health this year and plays well, he needs help out wide. Fortunately for the Jets, the 2020 cornerback class looks to be deep. With Leonard Williams and Quinnen Williams along the defensive line, New York is in good shape up front on defense. On the edge though? Third-round pick Jachai Polite could salvage that position as a rookie, but beyond him, there's not anyone with much juice around the corner.
Sam Darnold has an adequate line in front of him, and the additions of Kelechi Osemele and Ryan Kalil will both be a clear step up from the blockers they replaced. But Kalil came out of retirement to play for the Jets this season. At tackle, Kelvin Beachum has always overachieved in his career but is already 30. Brandon Shell has quietly played decently well on the right side yet has limitations and is in the final year of his rookie deal.
2020 Draft needs: Quarterback, offensive line, edge rusher
Ryan Fitzpatrick winning the quarterback battle over Josh Rosen in Miami may be more about his experience advantage than anything, and it would be surprising if we didn't see Rosen for an extended period during the 2019 season. The Dolphins are clearly rebuilding, and the roster isn't exactly conducive to success for a young quarterback. So Rosen is positioned to be in the same predicament he was a season ago in Arizona, and the Dolphins look like a club poised for one of the first picks in the draft. The Tagovailoa vs. Herbert debate will rage on in South Florida for months.
After quarterback, the offensive line needs to be addressed, even if Laremy Tunsil isn't moved in a trade. The center spot, right guard position, and right tackle need huge upgrades. Unless he has an out-of-nowhere resurgence, disappointing former first-round pick Charles Harris represents the need for Miami to add to the edge-rusher spot as well. Not shockingly, a team at the ground floor of the rebuilding process will head into next offseason with major needs at the game's most premier positions.
2020 Draft needs: Edge rusher, offensive line, running back
With the future of Jadeveon Clowney unknown, and it grows increasingly likely he's already played his last down in Houston, the Texans have to find their next alpha pass rusher to complement J.J. Watt. And of course, the offensive line needs to be given more reinforcement, even with 2019 first and second-round selections used on blockers. Max Scharping and especially Tytus Howard are not ready to be consistent offensive linemen right now.
And there's a noticeable need at running back, even after trading for Duke Johnson, given the Lamar Miller ACL tear. The 2020 group of ball carriers looks tremendous, so there'll be many studs for the Texans to choose from, and they can probably get a feature back in the third round.
2020 Draft needs: Defensive tackle, edge rusher, wide receiver
Now a 4-3 team, the Colts have to find a penetrating interior rusher to push pockets and help the outside edge defenders. The 2020 class is seemingly shallow on those type of players, so Indianapolis may have to use a first-round selection there if the front office deems it the club's most pressing need.
Speaking of edge defenders, Justin Houston and Jabaal Sheard are both north of 30, and although Kemoko Turay has flashed, Indianapolis should identify a top outside pass rusher in the 2020 class and go after him. Someone like Iowa's A.J. Epenesa would be a huge boost for this burgeoning defense.
Out wide, the Colts made it work with a patchwork group last season, and with T.Y. Hilton turning 30 in November, next year would be an appropriate time to bring in more high-end talent at the position for Jacoby Brissett.
2020 Draft needs: Safety, wide receiver, defensive line
Even with 2018 third-round pick Ronnie Harrison in the mix, the Jaguars need a rangy center fielder to pair with him, and that type of player is not currently on the roster. At wide receiver, the group led by Dede Westbrook and Marqise Lee might be a bit underrated but it won't strike fear into the minds of many defensive coordinators. And if the Nick Foles experiment is going to work in Jacksonville, the team needs to assemble a deep, talented group of pass catchers for him, similar to what he had in Philadelphia.
The once-vaunted defensive line is still good but may look entirely different by the offseason in 2020, with Yannick Ngakoue playing on the one-year franchise tag this year and Calais Campbell turning 34 next year. Former first-round pick Taven Bryan is the future up front, but even if he comes into his own in Year 2, Jacksonville has to refortify the defensive line.
2020 Draft needs: Quarterback, edge rusher, strong safety
Marcus Mariota doesn't do it for me, and he needs a monster 2019 -- the final year of his rookie deal -- to earn an extension with the Titans. Even if doesn't play well and Ryan Tannehill does, it's safe to assume the decision-makers in Nashville will want to handpick their future at the quarterback spot in the 2020 Draft.
On the edge, Cameron Wake has had phenomenal longevity but will be 38 in January. Harold Landry, the team's second-round pick in 2018, has immense promise but needs to refine his skills. Even if he blossoms in 2019, the rest of the outside-rusher group is barren.
Kenny Vaccaro made sense as a veteran addition last season, but there's not a ton of guaranteed money left on his deal, and the Titans could find an upgrade over him early in the draft to pair with Kevin Byard at safety.
2020 Draft needs: Defensive line, cornerback, wide receiver
The Broncos have to bring in more youth between Von Miller and Bradley Chubb up front, especially with long-time defensive lineman Derek Wolfe playing in the final year of his contract this season. At cornerback, the Broncos currently have Chris Harris and Kareem Jackson as the top dogs. Both are play-making veterans over 30 years of age.
Courtland Sutton needs to have an impressive year to give the Broncos their outside weapon of the future, and the same goes for 2018 draftee DaeSean Hamilton in the slot. Emmanuel Sanders can still be a very productive pass catcher yet is 32 and currently playing on the last year of his contract. The 2020 class has a loaded wideout group, so the Broncos should look there early.
Kansas City Chiefs
2020 Draft needs: Cornerback, linebacker, offensive guard
The Chiefs' cornerback position leaves a lot to be desired, especially after Steven Nelson signed with the Steelers in free agency. Much of the same goes for the linebacker spot. Last year's big-ticket free-agent Anthony Hitchen was abysmal in 2018, and former second-round selection Reggie Ragland might not make the roster. Even if he does, he's proven to be a major liability in coverage.
Up front, Kansas City could seemingly upgrade the left guard position quite easily, and despite his otherworldly ability to make plays on the run, protecting Patrick Mahomes should be of the utmost importance.
Los Angeles Chargers
2020 Draft needs: Offensive tackle, wide receiver, running back
Given Russell Okung's blood clot situation, the Chargers can't be too sure about his future at left tackle, so that's a position they should address to protect Philip Rivers for as long as the veteran quarterback wants to play.
With Hunter Henry set to return after missing all of last season, the Chargers get another pass catcher to add to the collection led by Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, but after the latter two names, Los Angeles doesn't have much depth at the receiver position right now. To maximize the time the team's Super Bowl window stays open, the Chargers should draft a top-end receiver prospect.
Is Melvin Gordon done playing for the Chargers? Probably, right? If so, picking a mid-round feature back type would be logical to pair with Austin Ekeler for 2020 and beyond.
2020 Draft needs: Linebacker, offensive guard, tight end
The Raiders are slowly but surely building their roster the way Jon Gruden wants it. Despite that, the team could add to many positions across the board. Linebacker stands out as a major need for the future, simply because one of the spots is currently manned by Vontaze Burfict, an older player on a one-year deal.
Up front, Richie Incognito will likely need to be replaced in 2020. Staying on that side of ball, regardless of the crazy offseason hype for journeyman Darren Waller at tight end, the Raiders should look for a young, pass-catching specialist at the position for the start of the team's era in Las Vegas.
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