With just a few short weeks until the 2023 NFL Draft, I thought I would take a look at all of the AFC teams and break down what their key needs are before they are on the clock! Take a look below and feel free to discuss your thoughts on Twitter with me @MirdaSheWrote!
Biggest Draft Needs – AFC Teams
In the midst of this wild Lamar Jackson saga, I am going to speak on the Ravens as if the quarterback returns to the team. This Baltimore team has somewhat stalled the last couple of seasons, despite a loaded roster on paper, and I think there are a few areas that they should target in the 2023 NFL Draft: cornerback, wide receiver, and pass rusher.
The Ravens tend to go with the best available guys on the board at their given selection but don’t be surprised if these positions are favored.
As a Green Bay diehard, I fully understand uber-successful regular seasons that fall on the shoulders of a wildly talented quarterback, but also constantly have many holes to fill on your roster. Meet the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills have a serious need for a young and explosive linebacker who can fill that Von Miller type of role and disrupt your Patrick Mahomes and Trevor Lawrence‘s of the league.
A speedy slot receiver would also be so so beneficial for QB Josh Allen who has that quick release. If you paired that with an elusive WR, this could help to open up Diggs and Davis.
When you have a generational talent like Joe Burrow, the very first thought as the Bengals front office has got to be a tackle consideration. Star RT La’el Collins tore his MCL in December while other injuries to their line became detrimental to their playoff hopes. Securing this line and adding depth can let Burrow do what he does best!
With a hot cornerback on the board, I would not be surprised for Cincy to go in that direction. Recently signing veteran Sidney Jones, this is almost closing the door on re-signing Eli Apple. Jones is a great talent, but if Gonzalez or Forbes is up for grabs, you strongly consider taking them.
After the blockbuster Watson trade with Houston, Cleveland won’t be jumping into the draft until round three. They do have eight total picks throughout the draft and their first pick (74 overall) should definitely be a defensive tackle or defensive end. Browns’ front office may very well pick the best available player that falls under one of these positions.
Despite the Elijah Moore acquisition from New York (Jets), it would not hurt to equip Watson with either a wideout or tight end again, depending on the best available by round three!
Denver is another team that does not have a draft selection until round three, but let’s face it. They already feel as if they won the draft after landing former Saints Head Coach Sean Payton.
With a large need to shore up their offensive line, this is exactly what they’ve accomplished in free agency. Signing both Ben Powers and Mike McGlinchey should greatly improve the play of Russell Wilson, who played the worst ball of his career. Can you blame him though? Tied for the most sacks (55), these additions will be fun to watch.
One key need would be a reliable running back and I have no doubts that Payton has an eye for athletic, versatile backs.
On defense, the numbers were there in 2022 (if you ignore the win column), but this team needs to place its focus on depth. This would be useful to look at available cornerbacks or linemen.
Let’s cut right to it. Even the most casual of fans know that the Texans have a staggering need to fill the quarterback role. Though they have been one of the busiest teams in free agency, this position is staying open and presumably until April 27th when they select Bryce Young (assuming Stroud is scooped up by Carolina).
Aside from the obvious above, Houston should eye a sledgehammer on defense given their new Head Coach DeMeco Ryans has the reigns and hails from a defensive background. Is this where we see a Lukas Van Ness or Nolan Smith by pick 12? We shall see.
Another team, another need for a QB. Here sits Indianapolis, again, unsure of who is in their driver’s seat on offense. Like several other teams, the Colts will assumingly have their choice between Will Levis and Anthony Richardson by pick number four.
Being that they are uncertain of who their quarterback be, one thing is for sure: no matter who is under center, you want to be sure they are taken care of. They can certainly use some help on their line. With the swarm of talent at the Tackle position, this could be of service to a team that needs help in a handful of areas. Maybe this gets Jonathan Taylor back to that MVP-caliber type of season. Colts fans are hoping anyway!
Defensively, they should think to address their depth at both cornerback and pass rush. I have a feeling that this Colts team is going to be like a kid in a candy store throughout the entire draft while they are once again in reload mode.
If I were coaching this budding Jacksonville team, I would have to take an immediate look at the defensive side of the ball. The Jags ranked fifth in pass defense last year and could use some aid at both cornerback and safety.
It never hurts to reinforce the O-line to keep this explosive offense moving in a positive direction. Though they have Engram at TE, this could also be a position to address depending on who is left by the time they are on the clock.
I see a two-pronged approach here. One on offense and one on defense. They need some firepower on D after moving on from Frank Clark this offseason-whether that is an edge rusher or interior lineman.
After also moving on from both Juju Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman, you have to consider equipping the MVP-caliber QB Mahomes with a stud wideout.
After signing Jimmy Garroppolo this offseason, I would certainly do all I could to protect him given his injury-prone tendencies. It would not hurt to add another weapon for Jimmy at wide receiver behind Adams and Renfrow.
Should there be a big name waiting in the wings by the second or third round, an explosive pass rusher opposite Crosby would be huge for Raider nation. Playing Mahomes, Herbert, and Wilson each twice a year needs to be top of mind for Josh McDaniels’ unit.
Los Angeles Chargers
A lot of exposure on their defensive line was made apparent last year with not-so-healthy Joey Bosa and an aging Khalil Mack. They could use a strong and steady EDGE to help fill in the gaps when either of these two misses any time.
As far as the offense goes, a big-bodied tight end fits perfectly into their scheme and would give the gunslinging Justin Herbert another option downfield. Dalton Kincaid (Utah) in the first round or even Darnell Washington (Georgia) in the second would be fantastic drafts.
Fun fact: the Miami Dolphins do not have a Running Back contracted through the 2024 season and it’s been an area of inconsistency over several seasons. Though they do have Mostert, a guy like Charbonnet could give them that true third-down back who is able to break tackles and ultimately, be a touchdown machine in the red zone.
After servicing their need at RB, the Dolphins should consider adding a Tight End from this talented draft class. Both Gesicki and Long are not on the roster and striking gold with one of these rookies would be a fun piece to build around and hope for the long term.
With the talent we see on tackles in this draft, you would have to assume that New England eyes the best available by their 14th overall pick. Mac Jones was fighting for his life last year and if they are committing to him to redeem this offense, a functional O-line is a must.
Another glaring need is the Pats’ secondary. We could potentially see a cornerback announced here as well and I would definitely expect one of the top three to be available (Porter Jr., Gonzalez, Witherspoon).
New York Jets
With an imminent trade involving the Jets acquiring Aaron Rodgers from Green Bay, this offensive line will really have to cross its T’s and dot its I’s. Rodgers turns 40 in December and doesn’t have the wheels that he once showcased. A versatile type of lineman who can switch up between tackle and guard would be such a plus for this team.
With an absolute stud in Quinnen Williams, the 4-3 Jets D could use another anchor on that line so look for a nasty defensive tackle taken by NY. Potentially a Bryan Bresee (Clemson) type would fit here. At the very least, the depth should ease any concerns should Williams get injured throughout the long NFL season.
Pittsburgh has made some sensible free agency additions in regard to their offensive line. Alas, teams can never feel too comfortable with both offensive or defensive lines. Depth is beyond important.
A really intriguing angle for the Steelers’ 17th pick would be a run-clogging, pressuring defensive tackle to support their 3-4 front. Supporting Heyward at DE could really do wonders.
Considering Pittsburgh has not drafted an offensive lineman in the first round since 2012 (DeCastro), prioritizing a true blindside protector should really be considered to safeguard sophomore QB, Kenny Pickett.
The Titans’ biggest glaring need is a struggling offensive line. There are some spectacular options in this year’s draft as far as tackles go: guys who are multitalented, athletic, and able to hold their own. While Tennessee has made some offseason moves, you cannot pass up on some of this year’s talent assuming one of those big names is there (Johnson, Skoronski, or Jones).
In addition, the third-ranked passing offense in the league last year could really use some ammo for Vrabel’s squad. A solid, explosive receiver would help Tannehill to keep the offense rolling through the air.