2021 NFL Draft order: Jets No. 1, Cowboys in top 10

This is a look at the first-round order for the 2021 NFL Draft heading into Week 5 of the NFL season, along with the top three needs for each team. The order is determined by record, using strength of schedule as the first tiebreaker (click here to see a full list of the draft-order tiebreakers). Keep in mind — teams 19-32 would make the playoffs if the season ended today and are marked as PL (short for playoffs) in the order below. The draft order for playoff teams is determined by the results of postseason play.

Biggest needs: WR, edge rusher, CB

This week’s game: vs. Cardinals

I can’t sit here and say with a straight face that Sam Darnold is the problem. I tried, and it didn’t work, much like Gang Green’s plan for 2020. The Jets can swap in a new quarterback this offseason if they so choose, but I don’t view the position as one of the team’s three biggest needs right now, and it’s hard to imagine the results being significantly different until they give their passer an NFL-caliber receiving corps. It’s also time to rebuild in the Jamal Adams-less secondary, with four starters ticketed for free agency in 2021. The hunt for help at edge rusher should continue this offseason, too, with the team’s top players at the position — Jordan Jenkins and Tarell Basham — due to hit the market.

PICK TRADED TO THE MIAMI DOLPHINS

Biggest needs: WR, CB, edge rusher

This week’s game: vs. Jaguars

So, your team is 0-4 and fired its head coach/GM on Monday, but hey, at least you’ll get a high draft pick next year, right? Wrong! The Texans traded their first- and second-round picks in the 2021 draft to Miami in the Laremy Tunsil deal. It’s going to be free agency or bust in 2021 for a squad that must find a proper replacement for DeAndre Hopkins and tighten up a defense that ranks as one of the league’s worst.

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, CB, WR

This week’s game: On bye

The Giants’ defense is coming off a surprisingly strong performance against the Rams, but it had no answer for the 49ers’ backups a week earlier. Two of the team’s top edge rushers — veterans Kyler Fackrell and Markus Golden — are headed for free agency, as is starting CB Logan Ryan, who was brought in after the release of 2019 first-round pick Deandre Baker. The G-Men also have to breathe some life into an offense that isn’t dynamic enough even when Saquon Barkley is healthy. 

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, S, CB

This week’s game: vs. Panthers

As you might have noticed in Week 4 (or in any of Atlanta’s previous outings this season), the Falcons’ defense is a hot mess. They could use help at every level, but the team has to find a fix for its long-running pass-rushing woes. There could be big holes to fill in the secondary with Darqueze Dennard, Damontae Kazee (who was carted off the field with an Achilles injury on Monday night) and the oft-injured Keanu Neal playing on deals that expire in 2021.

Biggest needs: OT, WR, DL

This week’s game: at Texans

We’ve now had 16 games to evaluate Gardner Minshew as a starter, and while Jaguars fans might be lusting for the next big thing from the college ranks, the fact is the former sixth-round pick gives his team a chance to win most of the time. He has a 7-9 record as a starter, which is to be commended given some of the obstacles he’s overcome in his short tenure. So, no, QB is not going on the needs list right now. The bigger issues for this team could be at left tackle, where Cam Robinson is due to become a free agent, and receiver, with Keelan Cole, Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook scheduled to hit the market.  

Biggest needs: WR, interior OL, CB

This week’s game: vs. Rams

I know Dwayne Haskins is Pro Football Focus’ lowest-rated QB thus far in 2020, but I’m not putting QB on the needs list 11 games into his career as an NFL starter. He deserves to have more than one wide receiver he can trust. What’s the plan for an offensive line that has two starters on the interior (Chase Roullier and three-time Pro Bowl selectee Brandon Scherff) headed for free agency in 2021? On defense, corners Ronald Darby and Fabian Moreau have deals that expire after this season.

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, CB, S

This week’s game: vs. Giants

Dallas’ defense has found its way into historically bad territory, allowing 126 points in the last three games (most in a three-game span in franchise history). There are needs just about everywhere you look on a defense that is operating like a turnstile. Edge rusher and the secondary could require the most attention this offseason with Aldon Smith, Everson Griffen, Xavier Woods, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis and Daryl Worley due to become free agents and Dak Prescott coming up on a huge payday that could put a strain on the budget.

Biggest needs: OT, DL, CB

This week’s game: at Patriots

Garett Bolles is enjoying a breakout campaign in the final year of his rookie deal (the Broncos declined his fifth-year option), and Denver is reportedly working on signing him to an extension. That situation bears monitoring, but even if the team locks him up, there are still two other Broncos tackles headed for free agency (Elijah Wilkinson and Demar Dotson), and it’s hard to say if the team can be confident in Ja’Wuan James, who will be coming off a disappointing 2019 season and an opt-out in 2020. On defense, two starting linemen are in a walk year (Mike Purcell, Shelby Harris) and there could be a void to fill at corner if the Broncos want to get out from the $13.5 million A.J. Bouye is due next year.

Biggest needs: Interior OL, TE, WR

This week’s game: at Washington Football Team

The O-line has been better in 2020, but it’s still one of PFF’s lowest-ranked pass-blocking units and three of the five starters up front — Sam Tevi, Dan Feeney and Forrest Lamp — are in the final year of their contracts. L.A. will have to find Justin Herbert a new tight end if the franchise-tagged Hunter Henry doesn’t return, and this would be a good time to develop the heir apparent to Mike Williams with the WR2 due to hit the market after next season.

Biggest needs: OL, DT, S

This week’s game: at Seahawks

Reinforcements will be needed up front: 80 percent of the Vikings’ starting offensive linemen are scheduled to have their contracts expire either this offseason or next. The cry for help in the trenches on the other side of the ball is ear splitting. Minnesota is desperate for disruption on the interior, as nary a tackle for loss has been recorded by a purple-clad DT this season. And which impending free agent will the Vikings re-sign if they can’t afford to bring back both Yannick Ngakoue and Anthony Harris? Ngakoue seems like the safer bet to return given that they just parted with draft capital to acquire him. 

Biggest needs: WR, ILB, interior OL

This week’s game: at 49ers

With their own first-rounder and the Texans’, the Dolphins could end up holding two top-five picks. What to do with that high-value capital? A field-stretching threat at receiver would help Miami take that next step toward contention, with DeVante Parker, Preston Williams and Mike Gesicki making plays underneath. Brian Flores’ defense lacks a field general in the middle. The O-line might also require attention at some point in the draft with starting center Ted Karras playing on a one-year deal.

Biggest needs: WR, DL, LB

This week’s game: On bye

With Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola playing in the final year of their deals, the hole at receiver for Detroit in the offseason figures to range from manageable to massive. Then there’s that defense Matt Patricia can’t figure out how to fix. There are needs at all three levels of it, but the lack of a robust pass-rushing presence to complement Trey Flowers (who’s never had more than 7.5 sacks in a season) continues to stand out. Keep in mind that LBs Jarrad Davis and Reggie Ragland are in a walk year, too.

Biggest needs: OT, WR, CB

This week’s game: at Ravens

Joey B. can play. Now it’s all about giving him the weaponry he needs to pull Cincinnati out of the cellar, which means upgrading the offensive line has to be Priority No. 1. The Bengals will need to beef up the receiving corps, too, if free-agents-to-be A.J. Green, John Ross and Mike Thomas move on. Corner is a spot to watch with starter William Jackson III and nickel back Mackensie Alexander scheduled to be free agents in 2021.

Biggest needs: OL, CB, S

This week’s game: vs. Dolphins

There will be some big question marks going into the offseason on the offensive line and in the secondary. The Niners’ starting left tackle (Trent Williams) and center (Ben Garland) are due to hit the market. Safety Jaquiski Tartt’s deal is up, and five corners having expiring contracts: Richard Sherman, K’Waun Williams, Ahkello Witherspoon, Dontae Johnson and Jason Verrett.

Biggest needs: CB, edge rusher, interior OL

This week’s game: at Jets

The Christian McCaffrey-less Panthers showed us the Cardinals’ defense isn’t quite there yet. Will Patrick Peterson — who doesn’t seem to be his old, elite self — be back in 2021? Veteran Dre Kirkpatrick is another free agent at CB. Chandler Jones will be entering a contract year next season, and this squad could still use a pass-rushing complement for him. 

Biggest needs: OT, interior OL, WR

This week’s game: at Falcons

Their defense isn’t going to wow anyone on paper, but it’s getting the job done and has some promising young talents to develop. After Carolina went all-D in the 2020 draft, might it do the exact opposite in 2021 … without drafting a QB?! Teddy Bridgewater is playing winning ball sans his top weapon right now. Given what their roster of 2021 free agents looks like, the Panthers could be best served by rebuilding that O-line around Bridgewater and giving him another pass catcher or two if Curtis Samuel and/or Seth Roberts walk this offseason.

Biggest needs: DT, OL, S

This week’s game: at Chiefs

Las Vegas has to get more of a push up front, and the defensive interior is one area to target for a pressure influx with starting DTs Maliek Collins and Johnathan Hankins both due to reach free agency in 2021. Elsewhere on defense, the Raiders should look to upgrade over impending free agent Erik Harris at safety. As for the offensive line, Denzelle Good’s deal is up after this season and the team could get out from the declining Gabe Jackson’s contract with no dead money.

Biggest needs: Interior OL, DL, WR

This week’s game: vs. Broncos

There could be a seat or two to fill on Bill Belichick’s offensive line. New England presumably will get Marcus Cannon (opt-out) back in 2021, but Joe Thuney (franchise-tagged this season) and David Andrews are coming up on free agency. The same goes for several of the Patriots’ rotational guys up front on defense, including John Simon, Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise, Derek Rivers and Adam Butler. Journeyman Damiere Byrd has become a starter at receiver, but his deal is up after this season.

Biggest needs: WR, OG, LB

This week’s game: at Steelers

The Eagles might need to invest a first-rounder in a receiver for the second straight year with Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson struggling to stay healthy and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside failing to emerge. Injuries have also taken a massive toll on the offensive line, where the team might finally have to replace Jason Peters, who’ll be 39 years old and a free agent in 2021. Philly has embraced a youth movement at linebacker, but two starters (Nate Gerry and Duke Riley) are due to reach free agency in the offseason.

Biggest needs: QB, S, DL

This week’s game: vs. Chargers

Drew Brees can still be effective even if his arm isn’t what it used to be, as he reminded everyone on Sunday. That said, it’s time to find his successor (I don’t view Jameis Winston, he of 30 INTs in 2019, as that guy). As for a defense that finally came alive after the first quarter against the Lions, safety is one of the positions worth monitoring. Marcus Williams is due to become a free agent and Malcolm Jenkins has performed well below his usual standard. 

Biggest needs: CB, edge rusher, OT

This week’s game: at Browns

For the purposes of this exercise, we’re assuming Philip Rivers — playing on a one-year deal — will remain a Colt in 2021. That could leave GM Chris Ballard with some decisions to make at corner, where the resurgent Xavier Rhodes and T.J. Carrie have expiring deals. On the defensive line, starters Justin Houston and Denico Autry are ticketed for free agency. While the offensive line remains the strength of this team, starting OTs Anthony Castonzo and Braden Smith are due to hit the market after next season, and Indy might not be able to pay both.

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, DT, WR

This week’s game: at Bears

Tampa Bay’s dynamic defense is facing the same predicament it did a year ago: Shaq Barrett (franchise tag) and Ndamukong Suh (one-year deal) are headed for free agency. It will be more difficult to keep them this time around. It’s hard for me to envision Tampa Bay waving goodbye to free-agent-to-be Lavonte David, which makes me wonder if there will be enough green left to keep Chris Godwin from walking.

Biggest needs: LB, CB, edge rusher

This week’s game: vs. Colts

The Browns are off to a 3-1 start for the first time since 2001. Rejoice, Cleveland! This defense has allowed 30 points or more in three of its four games, though. Linebacker is the weakest spot on this unit, but don’t overlook the need for depth at corner (and safety). Imagine what this D could be with a quality young edge rusher opposite DPOY candidate Myles Garrett.

PICK TRADED TO THE JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Biggest needs: OT, interior OL, edge rusher

This week’s game: at Washington Football Team

The Rams haven’t made a pick in the first round since they took Jared Goff first overall in 2016, so this is nothing new for them. As for what they should be targeting with the picks they do have, L.A.’s offensive line has bounced back in 2020, but starter Austin Blythe is in the final year of his deal, and Andrew Whitworth is going to run out of steam at some point (I think).

Biggest needs: QB, OG, S

This week’s game: vs. Buccaneers

Somewhere, a Super Fan is munching on a sausage with a tear running down his cheek after watching a putrid performance by the Bears’ offense in Week 4. Mitch wasn’t the answer, and St. Nick isn’t a long-term QB1. Time to go back to the well at quarterback in the draft. Try not to pass on two studs this time. Chicago might also be in the market for new starters at right guard and safety with Germain Ifedi and Tashaun Gipson playing on one-year deals for the veteran minimum in 2020.

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, DL, interior OL

This week’s game: vs. Bengals

There was talk of a tag-and-trade for edge rusher Matt Judon this past offseason, perhaps because the Ravens knew they most likely would not be keeping him beyond 2020. Fellow front seven members Derek Wolfe, Pernell McPhee, Tyus Bowser, Jihad Ward and Justin Ellis are due to hit free agency in 2021, too. Then there’s Lamar Jackson’s O-line, which has impending free agents Matt Skura and Ronnie Stanley, who is undoubtedly part of Baltimore’s plans for the future. 

Biggest needs: OT, edge rusher, CB

This week’s game: vs. Eagles

There are some mighty big fish on the Steelers’ slate of free agents for 2021, and Pittsburgh can’t pay all of them. The list includes the left side of the offensive line (Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler), franchise-tagged edge rusher Bud Dupree and nickelback Mike Hilton. 

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, TE, WR

This week’s game: vs. Bills

Tennessee figures to be in the market for edge-rushing help again with Jadeveon Clowney, Kamalei Correa and Vic Beasley playing on one-year contracts. Corey Davis is on track for a career year after having his fifth-year option declined, which could create a void at receiver. The band might get broken up at tight end with budding star Jonnu Smith and MyCole Pruitt headed for free agency.

Biggest needs: WR, interior OL, CB

This week’s game: On bye

Going another offseason without drafting a wide receiver for Aaron Rodgers would seem downright rude, even if the offense is thriving right now. It’s almost impossible to imagine Green Bay letting Pro Bowl left tackle David Bakhtiari walk, but he and starting center Corey Linsley have deals that expire in 2021. Cornerback is listed here because former second-round pick Kevin King is also an impending free agent.

PICK TRADED TO THE NEW YORK JETS

Biggest needs: OL, edge rusher, CB

This week’s game: vs. Vikings

Trading out of the first round to acquire a stud defensive back. Very fashionable in the NFC West. Seattle actually doesn’t have a first- or third-round pick next year, and might have to focus on the offensive line early. Two starters on the interior are scheduled to reach free agency in 2021 (Ethan Pocic, Mike Iupati) and both starting tackles (Duane Brown and Brandon Shell) are up in 2022. 

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, CB, OT

This week’s game: at Titans

Buffalo’s pass rush woke up in the second half after a very quiet first couple quarters vs. the Raiders. It still stands out as the team’s biggest draft need with Trent Murphy’s contract expiring after this season and Jerry Hughes’ due to run out a year later. Upgrading at corner opposite Tre’Davious White should be on the to-do list, and there will be an opening at right tackle if Daryl Williams isn’t re-signed.

Biggest needs: Interior OL, WR, edge rusher

This week’s game: vs. Raiders

If there’s one area to focus on here for the team that seemingly has everything, it’s the offensive line. Starting center Austin Reiter and left guard Kelechi Osemele have contracts that expire in 2021, while the deals for starting OTs Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz are up after next season. Two other first-stringers that could be lost to free agency: WR Sammy Watkins and edge rusher Tanoh Kpassagnon.

Follow Dan Parr on Twitter @TheDan_Parr.

Source: Read Full Article