Everyday fans are bombarded with their team “needs” when the draft season rolls around. Frequently people want to replace very good players, who just aren’t household names. I have seen posts saying that the Vikings need a new safety, despite having Andrew Sendejo. Sendejo put together an eighty tackle and two interception season. People have said that the 49ers need to draft a defensive lineman in the first round. They have selected a first-round defensive lineman three years in a row. It is truly disturbing how quickly the media wants to replace young players, instead of giving them time to develop. I would like to do a few articles discussing what I observe to be team needs and explain my reasoning. In this installment, I will discuss the teams picking 7-11 in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Tampa Bay Bucs
The Tampa Bay Bucs are in a division full of offenses that can hang points on anyone. They are also one of the defenses that allow almost every team to put up points. The Bucs only got 22 sacks and 13 interceptions all season. They need help on their defense, as most of their first-round picks in recent years on offense.
- Cornerback: Vernon Hargreaves ended the season on IR, which resulted in Brent Grimes and Ryan Smith Starting at corner. There are plenty of corners that could play in the slot, or even replace Brent Grimes when the Bucs move on from him. Grimes is a good player but he is 34 years old, and time catches up to corners quickly.
- Defensive Line: The Bucs have 3 very good linebackers, however, they are all undersized. This means that the defensive line needs to be able to occupy blocks. Gerald McCoy always occupies at least two offensive linemen. On the other hand, not many of the other defensive linemen scare offenses. If there was another guy who could really disrupt the timing of run plays, it would benefit the linebackers.
- Safety: TJ Ward was let go by the Broncos, and there were reports that it was due to his health. If those reports are true it may be better to get a replacement for Ward before his injury gets too serious. Even if he isn’t injured, he is 31 years old, so he won’t be around in 3-4 years. When Ward is playing he is above average, but how much longer will he continue to play?
- Running Back: Doug Martin was once thought to be an up and coming running back. However, the last two seasons he has averaged 2.9 YAC, and he had 827 yards in those two seasons combined. One thing that a young quarterback needs to aid his development is a good running game, and I think that is the reason Jameis Winston has taken a step back. The offense relies too much on him, and defenses know it. They can do things to confuse him while offering no respect to the running game.
The Bears went out and got their quarterback of the future, and tried to allow him to sit and develop. It didn’t work, for a few reasons. Mike Glennon wasn’t good enough to carry the offense, and the defense didn’t do enough to win games. The Bears have a good running game but on offense, that is about it.
- Wide Receiver: There is not a single wide receiver on the Bears that scares defenses. There is little to no separation each play, and the Trubisky has to be pinpoint accurate to get simple completions. While there isn’t a top-shelf receiver in this draft, any help will be valuable to the offense. A passing game will not only add an element to the offense, it will open up the running game as well.
- Offensive Line: The offensive line is pretty talented, but there is no depth. Almost any time there is an injury it results in Kyle Long moving and a backup coming in at right guard. However, Kyle Long suffered an injury that sent him to IR last season. He may not be healthy enough to be moved all along the offensive line at the beginning of the year. The Bears could add someone to compete for the starting job at right tackle, which would add depth to the entire line, by allowing Kyle Long to stay on the interior.
- Cornerback: The Bears need to add a number one corner, they have Prince Amukamara and Marcus Williams. Both of which were allowed to walk from their previous teams, and they haven’t been much better in Chicago. They also have Kyle Fuller who they were trying to trade last season. They need to add someone who can lock down number one receivers, and allow the defense to aid the other corners.
- Tight End: The Bears lost tight end Zach Miller early in the season, and there is a very good chance he may never play football again. A young quarterback, such as Trubisky, would benefit from having a safety blanket who he can rely on. The Bears have so little talent in the way of pass catchers, so any options are good options.
San Fransico 49ers
The 49ers got their quarterback for the future, and now they can build around him. The 49ers didn’t win a game without Garoppolo, but they won 5 games with him under center. That is proof of two things, first being that he is good enough to change a franchise, and second, the 49ers aren’t very good as a team. So what do they need to be competitive as a team?
- Running Back: Carlos Hyde isn’t the answer for the 49ers. He cannot stay healthy and he isn’t a great back even when he is healthy. Kyle Shanahan has a very creative running game, that would benefit from a bell cow back. The Shanahan offense is even more deadly when they can attack teams on the ground and through the air.
- Linebacker: While Rueben Foster is good at middle linebacker, he could be elite at weakside linebacker. Foster has elite speed and instincts, but he isn’t the biggest, so he can struggle to disengage blocks. A true middle linebacker would allow him to move to his natural position, while still allowing the defense to run a variety of schemes.
- Wide Receiver: Kyle Shanahan can scheme receivers wide open, but occasionally he needs a player who can do it by himself. Marquise Goodwin is a good fit for the 49ers as a deep threat, but he shouldn’t be the number one option for the offense. The 49ers have Pierre Garcon, but he is getting older, so he won’t be a building block for the offense. The 49ers need a young receiver to build a chemistry with Garoppolo.
- Safety: The 49ers have drafted a ton of safeties that end up playing in the box. They need a safety that can roam the middle of the field and play sideline to sideline. They play a version of the Seattle Cover-3 Press Bail, which puts a lot of pressure on the single high safety. That safety needs the ability to process quickly, get over the top of passes to the boundary, and come down to make tackles.
With new head coach Jon Gruden at the helm, the Raiders should be a media circus. All the attention will make it that much more important that the Raiders have a successful draft. There are a few positions where the Raiders could stand to add talent.
- Linebacker: NaVorro Bowman is not the player that he once was. Injuries and time have taken a serious toll on Bowman’s body. The heart and soul of the Raiders’ defense requires the linebackers to patrol the middle of the field. Bowman showed flashes of the ability to do that, but him showing it every play is gone.
- Corner: The Raiders defense doesn’t ask the corners to do a ton, but they still underperformed last season. Every defense needs a number one corner so they can be freed up, the Raiders don’t have that. Conley could be that, but he will have to show that his injuries aren’t a hindrance.
- Tight End: The Raiders are built like a power run team, but they played like a pass-first team last year. If they are going to go with that flow they will need a pass-catching tight end. Jared Cook is a good tight end, but he doesn’t stretch the field.
- Running Back: Marshawn Lynch doesn’t fit in a pass-heavy offense. He is the type of back that needs carries to build momentum. Lynch could be a good late game back, but if the Raiders want to spread the ball around, he isn’t their guy.
- Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill can’t stay healthy. Jay Cutler may or may not care about football. They clearly have no faith in Matt Moore. They need a quarterback who can spread the ball around to their wide receivers. However, they don’t have that guy right now, and it is holding the offense back.
- Linebacker: Lawerence Timmons isn’t exactly a fit at the 4-3, and apparently he isn’t a fit on the team either. Timmons was suspended for not showing up to a game. It might be time to replace him.
- Wide Receiver: Jarvis Landry may not be back next year and DeVante Parker hasn’t stepped up like he should have. If they lose Landry then their passing attack will take a huge step back. Landry is seemingly the only big play threat on the offense.
- Defensive Line: The Dolphins defensive line is good, but they are getting older. They need to draft some young talent who can take over in the next few years. When Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh retire the Dolphins will have some serious issues along the offensive line.