Biggest NFL roster holes for all 32 teams after the 2022 draft

Biggest NFL roster holes for all 32 teams after the 2022 draft post thumbnail image

This NFL offseason has been nothing if not entertaining. Some NFL teams made a huge splash in free agency, such as the Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos, while other made major improvements in the 2022 draft, such as the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets.

However, most (all) teams still have a weakness (or multiple weaknesses) on their roster that probably should be addressed if they want to win the Super Bowl. Should teams be looking to players in free agency to fill these needs or tempt fate and stick with what they have? That is what the next two months will be about: Evaluating what they have and addressing needs as they go. But what exactly are these roster holes, and who are the current starters at those positions?

Below, Football Outsiders outlines the biggest hole on each NFL roster now that the draft is done and training camp is in the distant future. Many of the advanced stats referenced below are explained here.

Let’s jump in and start with the NFC East:

Jump to:
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN
CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND
JAX | KC | LV | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF
SEA | TB | TEN | WSH

NFC EAST

Biggest hole: Defensive line

The Cowboys drafted Sam Williams in the second round to help replace Randy Gregory, and the in-house replacement appears to be Dante Fowler Jr.. While the Cowboys by no means have a bad line on paper — they’re pretty strong on paper as a whole — a scenario where DeMarcus Lawrence is hurt or unproductive and the Cowboys ask a lot of Micah Parsons again is plausible. In that scenario, it’s a big ask for Williams and Fowler to contribute a meaningful pass rush.

Fifth-rounder John Ridgeway (Arkansas) was a stab at fixing the interior run defense. The Cowboys don’t have a lot of interior production between Carlos Watkins on run downs and Trysten Hill on passing downs. It’d be a big boon if someone on the line took a big step forward to help settle the interior. Larry Ogunjobi, who lost a big contract with the Bears on account of a failed physical, could be an interesting fit if looking at free agents.


Biggest hole: Cornerback

Well, after trade rumors swirled, the Giants cut James Bradberry, which opens up a pretty sizable hole. Third-rounder Cordale Flott (LSU) and 2021 third-rounder Aaron Robinson are both better sized for the slot, which is a position that Darnay Holmes manned last season. The Giants needed to cut Bradberry to be able to find the cap space to sign their rookie class.

While free agency is still bustling, cornerback is relatively barren. Janoris Jenkins, Joe Haden, and Kyle Fuller could all be potential adds if they’re willing to sign on to what looks like a rebuild season. They would also have to, as mentioned earlier, be willing to sign on for a pretty meager sum.


Biggest hole: Cornerback

And who becomes an almost-immediate player for Bradberry? How about the Eagles? They didn’t draft a player at cornerback, signing only a trio of undrafted free agents. Darius Slay is, of course, a star. They also have Avonte Maddox at slot corner and a camp battle between Zech McPhearson, Kary Vincent Jr., Mac McCain III and Tay Gowan on tap to play outside. Bradberry would immediately come in and settle that down. The Eagles don’t have a ton of cap space, but they might be able to offer Bradberry the idea of winning.

If not, the same guys we just mentioned for the Giants would also all be in play for Philadelphia. Former Eagle Steven Nelson is off the board this time. We’ll throw in Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes as other thoughts for the position that might fit a more zone-heavy team with former Vikings assistant Jonathan Gannon as defensive coordinator.


Biggest hole: Linebacker

We would also be telling the truth if we wrote quarterback, but Sam Howell is a decent prospect to wander out of this draft with, and how many more times do you need to read about Carson Wentz‘s limitations?

Commanders linebacker Jamin Davis was rough in his rookie season, allowing 91.7% of his coverage targets to be completed (per Sports Info Solutions) while adding 13 broken or missed tackles. While Cole Holcomb was better than that, he has hardly made himself a mainstay at this point.

The Commanders would absolutely make sense for a run-stuffing linebacker like Joe Schobert or Dont’a Hightower. In theory, Davis is going to develop into a better coverage player than he has been based on his raw attributes. But they need a little help here because the defensive line cannot do it all alone.

— Rivers McCown

NFC North

Biggest hole: Wide receiver

The real answer for the Bears’ biggest remaining hole is a “pick your poison” ordeal. They have too many issues to solve, including offensive line, defensive line and linebacker (outside of Roquan Smith, of course). Wide receiver is the most hindering issue right now, though. The team lost a slew of pass-catchers, most notably Allen Robinson II, and did not do enough to replace them.

Incumbent Darnell Mooney is a solid player, but he is a WR3 on a good team. As far as veterans go, the Bears only signed Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown. Both are WR4 types who have moonlighted as WR3s, but never because the team wanted to do that on purpose. Chances are they will be WR2 and WR3 in Chicago. The team also drafted Velus Jones Jr. out of Tennessee, but at least in Year 1, he is probably more of a gadget player and returner than a real-deal wideout.

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Biggest hole: Secondary

Detroit’s secondary is not completely hopeless. 2019 fifth-round pick Amani Oruwariye has quietly been nice for the team, while safety Tracy Walker III has been a solid in the back end. However, neither of them are Pro Bowl-caliber players and the rest of the unit is largely made up of volatile propositions. There is still a way to go for this unit.

For one, former first-round pick Jeff Okudah probably will never live up to his draft slot. He may recover and become a decent player, but it’s hard to see how he goes from what we’ve seen so far to a legit No.1 cornerback. Likewise, the Lions signed another former first-rounder, Mike Hughes, who was fine in Kansas City last season, but has yet to string together a few weeks of consistently good play. Detroit tried to solve its other safety spot by signing DeShon Elliott from the Ravens and drafting Kerby Joseph (Illinois) in the third round. Perhaps the latter blossoms into a quality player, but neither of those additions is likely to make a meaningful impact in 2022.


Biggest hole: Pass-catcher

The Packers have a decent amount of resources invested at wide receiver, but it still projects to be an incomplete unit in 2022. Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb both return, but neither moves the needle for any team. Free agent Sammy Watkins was a good add for depth and rotational purposes. Moreover, 2021 third-round pick Amari Rodgers hardly played at receiver last year and didn’t play well as a punt returner, leaving his role in limbo.

Green Bay did add two rookies — Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs — but Aaron Rodgers‘ history with getting production out of rookies is not particularly impressive. It is an intriguing unit that is loaded in some sense of the word, but there is a lot left to be proved. While Rodgers can probably make it work anyway, it’s a dangerous line to walk.

At tight end, Robert Tonyan is coming off a season-ending injury, is hardly being paid and is set to get loose from his contract after 2022. Marcedes Lewis is getting older, and former 2020 third-rounder Josiah Deguara has yet to come alive. If Tonyan is healthy, the unit will get by the same as it has before, but it’s easy to see how this room could get a complete makeover soon.


Biggest hole: Tight end

“Quarterback of the future” could fit here as well, but that doesn’t inform any of the team’s potential issues in 2022.

This season, the Vikings’ previously solid tight end room is now rather void. 2019 second-round pick Irv Smith Jr. returns as a sleek, “move” tight end, but he did not clear 350 receiving yards in either of his first two seasons and then missed all of 2021 with a season-ending meniscus surgery. Smith was never much of a blocker, either, which continues to be an odd fit with the style of offense a Kirk Cousins-led unit tends to gravitate toward.

Behind Smith on the depth chart is Ben Ellefson, who wasn’t remarkable with the Jaguars, and Johnny Mundt, a former Ram who followed new head coach Kevin O’Connell north in free agency. The team took a flier on South Carolina’s Nick Muse in the seventh round this year, but he isn’t expected to contribute early on, especially at a position that tends to require a transition period.

— Derrik Klassen

NFC SOUTH

Biggest hole: Interior defensive line

The Falcons did a solid job drafting players who filled needs, a process made significantly easier by the fact that Atlanta basically needed one of everything. Not all of them will work out, of course, but adding a quarterback, a pair of edge rushers, an inside linebacker, a sleeper running back and a developmental quarterback covers a lot of bases.

When you need 10 new starters, mind you, you can’t get to everything. The Falcons ranked 30th in run defense DVOA last season, 29th in defensive adjusted line yards and 32nd in power success rate. Their front was often outmuscled and beaten back. Run defense has never been Grady Jarrett‘s forte. Atlanta will need someone already on the roster to step up, or teams are going to run all over the Falcons yet again.

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Biggest hole: Interior offensive line

Drafting Ikem Ekwonu with the sixth overall pick was a good start, but the offensive line entering the offseason consisted of Taylor Moton and four large question marks. Ekwonu joins Bradley Bozeman and Austin Corbett as new faces on the offensive line, but that still leads left guard to be manned by one of Pat Elflein, Michael Jordan or Brady Christensen, all of whom would be problematic in their own ways.

The three players combined for 49 blown blocks and 14 sacks allowed last season, with each taking his turn to be cover-your-eyes bad at one point or another. Christensen, at least, was a rookie, and had to handle being shunted from left tackle to right tackle to right guard at various points. He also showed signs of improvement as the year went along, so the Panthers’ best option might be to slide him to guard on a more regular basis, now that Ekwonu is in the fold. But that’s far from a sure option to protect … well, whoever is going to be starting at quarterback by the midpoint of the season.


Biggest hole: Quarterback

The Saints’ biggest need comes down to how much trust you put in Jameis Winston. Winston had a 13.6% DVOA and 64.4 QBR in limited action in 2021, each the second-best mark of his career, and was being more judicious with the ball then he had been in Tampa. If the Saints are comfortable with him being able to do that over the course of a full season, then you could make arguments for edge rusher defensive line or tight end as the biggest hole. Though, what the Saints really need most of all is a bunch of cheap rookie contracts to help offset their salary-cap bloat.

The issue is that even when Winston is at his best, he is typically somewhere between the 11th- and 20th-best starter in the league. He is unlikely to lead the Saints out of 9-10 win purgatory; he’s a useful piece in an offense rather than someone you can build an offense around.

To be clear, we’re not saying the Saints should have drafted a quarterback in this underwhelming class, nor are we suggesting they should make a move for someone like Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo. Winston is likely the best the Saints could have reasonably done in 2022. But the next time they do find themselves in position to look for a potential franchise quarterback, they should take advantage of it.


Biggest hole: Secondary

The Buccaneers are set at most positions, including the top players in their defensive backfield. Bringing cornerback Carlton Davis back in free agency was huge, and Antoine Winfield Jr. has become a star safety. But Tampa Bay was only 10th in DVOA against the pass last season, including 19th against tight ends and 13th against “other” (No. 3 and No. 4) receivers. For a team as talented as the Buccaneers, those count as holes.

Sean Murphy-Bunting had some struggles as the slot corner, ranking 60th out of 80 qualified corners with 8.3 yards allowed per pass, according to Sports Info Solutions charting. Last year’s starting free safety, Jordan Whitehead, is gone — his replacement looks to be a mix of Logan Ryan, Keanu Neal and Mike Edwards. This should result in adequate play, but Super Bowl contenders are hoping for something a little above adequate.

At the very least, the Bucs could have used their fourth-round punter pick on adding some extra depth to their secondary. They did pick up Sam Houston State corner Zyon McCollum in the fifth round, but there were earlier opportunities to address the secondary that Tampa passed on.

— Bryan Knowles

NFC WEST

Biggest hole: Cornerback

The Cardinals know who their top three corners will be, but none of them actually looks like a top corner. In three qualified NFL seasons, Byron Murphy Jr. has never made the top 50 players at the position in coverage success rate. He may be best suited to a slot corner role, and his contract is up after the season — even if he plays well in 2022, he might be leaving town in 2023.

Marco Wilson, a fourth-round draft pick out of Florida last year, was dreadful as a rookie, ranking 79th out of 81 qualifiers in coverage success rate. The new face is Jeff Gladney, the Vikings’ first-round pick in 2020, who has generated bad headlines both on the field (70th in coverage success rate as a rookie) and off (was released last preseason after a domestic violence indictment; he was found not guilty in March).


Biggest hole: Cornerback

The problem here is not Jalen Ramsey, who is coming off his second consecutive first-team All-Pro appearance. It’s everyone else. Former starter Troy Hill returns to L.A. after a year with the Browns, but he turns 31 in August and struggled in Cleveland, posting a 48% coverage success rate that would have ranked outside the top 60 corners if he had seen enough playing time to qualify. Mind you, that’s still better than what David Long Jr. (47%) or Robert Rochell (40%) did for the Rams.

Los Angeles added a trio of Day 3 picks in the draft. Fourth-rounder Decobie Durant (South Carolina State) is fast but tiny; he could make an impact in the slot right away. Sixth-rounder Quentin Lake (UCLA) and seventh-rounder Russ Yeast (Kansas State) each played both safety and corner in college, but the Rams face a greater need at the latter position right now.


Biggest hole: Cornerback

Free-agent signee Charvarius Ward and incumbent Emmanuel Moseley look like a fine pair of starters, but you need a good third corner in the NFL in 2022. And right now the 49ers don’t have anything but question marks — but hey, at least they have a lot of question marks. Jason Verrett has been a very good corner when healthy, but he has played more than four games just one time in the past six years. Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir (both rookies in 2021) and journeyman Dontae Johnson each allowed at least 9.6 yards per target last season, which would have put them in the bottom five cornerbacks if they had played enough to qualify. San Francisco also drafted two cornerbacks, but fifth-rounder Samuel Womack (Toledo) may be too small and sixth-rounder Tariq Castro-Fields (Penn State) too slow to make much of an impact.


Biggest hole: Quarterback

The Seahawks surprised most observers by coming out of the draft without taking a quarterback, leaving them with no good options at the game’s most important position. The best of the options is probably Drew Lock, who led the NFL in interceptions in 2020 before spending most of 2021 as a backup to Teddy Bridgewater (who is now a backup himself in Miami).

Speaking of backups, Geno Smith got a chance to start in 2021 for the first time since 2017 and took too many sacks in critical situations. Jacob Eason is the hometown hero who played high school and college ball in Washington state, but Indianapolis waived him in the middle of last season. The Seahawks even invited not one, but two undrafted rookies — Louisiana’s Levi Lewis and Western Michigan’s Kaleb Eleby to rookie camp.

— Vincent Verhei

AFC EAST

Biggest hole: Interior offensive line

The Bills came into the draft with very few legitimate needs at any position. Then they spent a first-round pick on their only real position of need (second cornerback) while adding depth to positions like running back, wide receiver and linebacker. At this point in the offseason, the Bills have one of the most complete rosters in football; it’s a struggle to find any legitimate positions of need.

The only potential need for Buffalo could be interior offensive line. Even there, it probably ends up being a depth add. Rodger Saffold III and Ryan Bates are serviceable, and Cody Ford can back up guard as well as tackle. Beyond that, Buffalo lacks meaningful depth at the position. But how much does that really mean to Buffalo? The Bills ran up the middle or between guards just 49% of the time, the eighth-lowest rate in football.

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Biggest hole: Safety

The Dolphins have loaded up their offense under new coach Mike McDaniel. The additions of Tyreek Hill, Terron Armstead, Chase Edmonds, Sony Michel and Raheem Mostert supplement an already-existing core of Jaylen Waddle and Tua Tagovailoa. The defense is another story. Miami has cornerback locked up with Xavien Howard and Byron Jones and spent most of its draft capital adding youth to their already-young linebacker group.

The Dolphins’ weakest position remains safety. Their best player at the position, strong safety Eric Rowe, is in the last year of his deal. Jones and Jevon Holland are still on rookie deals, but the Dolphins could use some additional firepower. Miami ranked ninth in defensive passing DVOA against WR1s and 10th against WR2s last season, but that dropped all the way off to 30th against other wide receivers and 30th against tight ends. The Dolphins also ranked 20th in defensive passing DVOA on deep passes. Being able to have that surefire coverage over the top could take this secondary to the next level.


Biggest hole: Cornerback

The Patriots’ draft class was unorthodox to say the least. For a weekend full of surprises, the biggest may have come at the 21st overall pick. New England elected to trade out of its original draft spot, allowing the Kansas City Chiefs to move up and take Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie. Since the departure of J.C. Jackson this offseason, New England has done very little to fill the hole of top-end corner. Jalen Mills is still on the roster from last year’s squad and slot cornerback Jonathan Jones will return from a shoulder injury.

The Patriots added two veterans this offseason, but are they still serviceable? Terrance Mitchell ranked 77th in coverage success rate among qualifying corners with the Houston Texans last season, while Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler sat out the 2021 season after temporarily retiring for personal reasons.

New England double-dipped at cornerback in the late rounds, but neither player is likely to fill the role of CB1. Houston’s Marcus Jones is best suited to make an early impact in special teams. While skilled, his 5-foot-8 frame projects him as more of a slot corner. Arizona State’s Jack Jones is a project with a multiyear trajectory, and the team will try to capitalize on the former five-star recruit’s potential after some up-and-down years in college. None of New England’s additions seems to fill the void left by Jackson.

We almost listed linebacker for this section, but the team doesn’t seemed too concerned about the group at present. Patriots linebacker coach Jerod Mayo has spoken highly of the current group, specifically noting that two redshirt rookies on the roster did not see playing time last year. Both Cameron McGrone and Ronnie Perkins functionally serve as rookie assets for this linebacker corps.


Biggest hole: Linebacker

The Jets added four impact players to four positions of need in the top 36 picks, receiving near-universal praise from draft graders and fans alike. This draft was the fireworks show at the end of a quietly impressive offseason. New York spent most of free agency adding midlevel talent to positions of need, raising its mean by building through the median. All of a sudden, a team that had glaring needs at every position has a name or two at almost every position.

The Jets’ linebackers are the one position group still desperately thin from a talent perspective. In 2021, C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams counted for 270 of 336 tackles from Jets’ linebackers, an 80% share. Williams is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2023 and the Jets have an out in Mosley’s contract next year before paying him $18.5 million.

Once we make it past Mosley and Williams, every linebacker on the roster that received significant playing time had a broken/missed tackle rate over 18.5%, according to Sports Info Solutions. The Jets should look to be improved after their loaded draft class and solid free-agency moves, but the fact that they have not added resources to the linebacker position is mildly concerning.

— Cale Clinton

AFC NORTH

Biggest hole: Wide receiver

Lost in all the praise for the Ravens’ draft was the fact that the team is even less set at wide receiver than it was before the draft. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, who was traded to the eagles on Day 1 of the draft, finished 41st, 58th and 88th among receivers in DYAR in three seasons with the Ravens, but at least he made opponents respect his deep speed.

The starters at the moment consist of Rashod Bateman, who had a promising rookie campaign despite a training camp injury (46th in DYAR), kick returner Devin Duvernay, and James Proche II, who barely scraped past 200 receiving yards in 2021. For Lamar Jackson to return to anywhere near his MVP form, he will need assistance from an unforeseen source.


Biggest hole: Tight end

The Bengals figured to grab a developmental tight end in the draft, but it didn’t fall that way. That leaves newly signed Hayden Hurst as the lone move tight end on the roster. Hurst is a former first-round pick who was lost in the need to funnel balls to Kyle Pitts in Atlanta, as he had been with Mark Andrews in Baltimore.

Hurst can get up the seam — in 2019 and 2020, we charted Hurst with 11% and 15% of his targets as deep. Pitts took all those targets last season, so Hurst charted exactly 0% deep throws a year ago. Being the lone catching threat at the position and with the Bengals’ superb wideouts leaving Hurst with matchup advantages, 2022 should be a good setup for the former Gamecocks star. But if Hurst doesn’t pan out or gets hurt, the Bengals are left with a blocker (Drew Sample) and a special teams ace (Mitchell Wilcox) as their tight ends, which would surely hinder the explosive passing attack.


Biggest hole: Defensive line

The front four in Cleveland remains a unit with plenty of question marks beyond Myles Garrett. With Jadeveon Clowney still in limbo, Chase Winovich is slated to get a shot at redemption opposite Garrett. Backing him up is third-round draft choice Alex Wright from Alabama-Birmingham. He is a young and long prospect who needs plenty of seasoning before making any impact.

Inside there are plenty of choices without any obvious solutions. Jordan Elliott and Taven Bryan are the starters for now, but good camp performances from second-year man Tommy Togiai or this year’s fourth-round pick Perrion Winfrey of Oklahoma could change that. The Browns have been hunting for answers on their defensive front for a couple of years but have yet to come up with much.


Biggest hole: Defensive line

The Steelers’ defensive front is shallow and getting long in the tooth, even if Cameron Heyward, 33, remains an unblockable menace (10 sacks, 53 pressures in 2021).

At the other two spots, Pittsburgh is relying on a pair of players, Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu, who combined for 57 snaps in 2021. Tuitt missed all of last season due to a combination of knee injury and mourning the death of his brother. He has yet to commit to anything for the coming season — the team remains hopeful but vague whenever asked about Tuitt’s status. Nose tackle Alualu was lost in Week 2 to a broken ankle and is entering his age-35 season.

Behind them are journeyman Chris Wormley and third-round pick DeMarvin Leal of Texas A&M, a middling athlete who disappointed on tape, though playing end in a 3-4 front might be suited to his skill set. Obviously, the Steelers can still generate a pass rush, but they were 27th against the run by DVOA last year. Unless Tuitt and Alualu return to form, that may not improve much.

— Robert Weintraub

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AFC SOUTH

Biggest hole: Linebacker

The Texans needed help virtually everywhere entering the draft and came away from it better at multiple positions. Picking Derek Stingley Jr. third overall then picking Jalen Pitre in the second round gives the Texans two potential cornerstones in their secondary and versatile defenders for Lovie Smith’s Cover 2-heavy scheme. On offense, Kenyon Green is a physical and versatile guard who can start immediately, and running back Dameon Pierce could be getting early playing time.

However, the linebacker group for the Texans still needs help. Houston drafted Christian Harris out of Alabama in the third round, but Smith’s scheme has a need for multiple linebackers who are able to carry a slot receiver or tight end over the middle of the field. Christian Kirksey and Kevin Pierre-Louis are both a bit longer in the tooth, and last season Houston finished last in defensive DVOA against tight ends. Protecting the middle of the field is very high priority for the Texans and getting speedy linebackers who can cover is crucial.


Biggest hole: Wide receiver

The Colts did well with filling some of their needs in the draft, considering that they didn’t have a first-round draft pick. Picking Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann in the third round should give them competition at left tackle, and Nick Cross is a great value addition in the third round at the safety spot. Jelani Woods and Mo Alie-Cox give Matt Ryan an imposing tight end duo.

Despite adding Alec Pierce in the second round of the draft, the depth of the wide receiver room in Indianapolis is thin, to say the least. If T.Y. Hilton ends up not re-signing, that leaves Ashton Dulin, Dezmon Patmon, Parris Campbell and Keke Coutee on the depth chart behind Pierce and Michael Pittman Jr.. Asking so much of a second-round pick such as Pierce may not be the best way to help Ryan be successful in Indy. Finding a receiver with a speed element should be the top priority for the Colts to give them a different type of receiver.


Biggest hole: Safety

The Jaguars spent a good amount of draft capital on their defense, picking Georgia’s Travon Walker first overall, then trading back into the first round to draft linebacker Devin Lloyd. In addition, Jacksonville drafted linebacker Chad Muma in the third round, who, along with Lloyd and free-agent signing Foyesade Olokun, could give Duval a fast and physical trio of linebackers.

Despite all of the attention given to the defense in free agency and the draft, safety is still a glaring hole. The Jaguars were second in the NFL in missed tackles, according to Pro Football Reference, and starting safeties Andrew Wingard and Rayshawn Jenkins finished first and fourth on the team in missed tackles. Neither are especially good in the passing game either, with the Jaguars finishing last in the NFL in defensive passing DVOA over the middle of the field. 2021 third-round pick Andre Cisco played well in the small number of reps he received, but the safety spot remains a large question mark.


Biggest hole: Offensive line

The Titans trading star wideout A.J. Brown to the Eagles for the first-round pick they used to draft receiver Treylon Burks feels more like a retooling of the roster rather than a full scale rebuild. By adding Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary in the second round, they filled out a defense that came on strong in the back half of the 2021 season.

However, the Titans still have gaps along an offensive front that finished 24th in pass block win rate. By letting Rodger Saffold III walk in free agency, they’ll be relying on veteran Aaron Brewer or Jamarco Jones at left guard. Third-round tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere from Ohio State will compete with last years’ top draft pick Dillon Radunz for the right tackle spot. The question marks along the line will have to be solved before the season begins.

— J.P. Acosta

AFC WEST

Biggest hole: Backup quarterback

The Broncos are enjoying their best offseason since they won the Peyton Manning lottery in 2012. The starting lineup is stacked on both sides of the ball. But what happens if Russell Wilson gets hurt, even for just a few weeks? Brett Rypien has somehow squeezed four interceptions into just 42 career pass attempts, while 35-year-old Josh Johnson is also on the roster.

Backup quarterback may be the most pressing need, but the Broncos could easily have grabbed North Carolina’s Sam Howell on Day 3. Howell could have learned under Wilson, scrambled his way to a win if called upon for an emergency start and perhaps gotten polished up and traded once the Broncos are certain they don’t need a quarterback of the future. Instead, the Broncos risk falling off the AFC chase if Wilson misses a single game.


Biggest hole: Mathieu’s replacement

The Chiefs used the windfall from the Tyreek Hill trade, plus their own top draft picks, to spackle over major holes at cornerback (Trent McDuffie) and edge rusher (George Karlaftis) while adding a nominal replacement for Hill himself (Skyy Moore). Tyrann Mathieu‘s post-draft departure to the Saints, however, leaves the Chiefs without an all-purpose safety/slot corner/defensive tone-setter.

Free-agent acquisition Justin Reid will take Mathieu’s place in the lineup, but rarely rushes the passer and isn’t suited to a slot coverage role. Juan Thornhill has the tools to slide down into the box more often but is no Honey Badger, particularly in man coverage. Second-round pick Bryan Cook is toolsy and tough but inexperienced just enough to break the Chiefs’ heart by biting on a double move in a playoff shootout. Cornerback-safety hybrid Lonnie Johnson Jr., acquired in a trade with the Texans, is also in the mix. Johnson can cover big slot receivers, but that’s his only Badger-like quality.

It’s likely that Mathieu’s unique role will be retired in favor of a more conventional approach in the secondary. Like the Hill trade, it’s a practical move, but it will make the Chiefs a little less entertaining.


Biggest hole: Cornerback

Nate Hobbs has developed into one of the NFL’s best slot corners. Rock Ya-Sin, acquired from the Colts in the Yannick Ngakoue trade, is a capable starter at one outside position. But the other cornerback spot will either be manned by perma-prospect Trayvon Mullen Jr. or ex-Ravens free-agent acquisition Anthony Averett, who only earned a starting job in his fourth season in 2021 because of injuries.

With no first or second-round picks after the Davante Adams trade, the Raiders were in no position to draft a shutdown corner. But instead of dipping into a deep talent pool on Day 3, they chose a pair of running backs, including Zamir White (Georgia’s second-best rushing prospect, behind James Cook) in the fourth round when high-upside small-school cornerbacks like Joshua Williams (Fayetteville State), Decobie Durant (South Carolina State) and Tariq Woolen (UTSA) were still on the board.

A physically skilled cornerback off the bench could help the Raiders survive a shootout against the Chiefs or Chargers. A backup running back probably will not. The Raiders may dip into high-risk veterans in free agency for someone like Xavier Rhodes or Jimmy Smith, but that will take some significant salary-cap wriggling.


Biggest hole: Right tackle

Storm Norton, who finished third in the NFL with 42 blown blocks last season, per Sports Info Solutions, is still penciled in as the Chargers starter at right tackle. First-round pick Zion Johnson is likely to start at right guard, leaving sixth-round pick Jamaree Salyer as Johnson’s primary competition for a starting job. Salyer played left tackle at Georgia but has the size, skill set and physical profile of an interior lineman.

Neither Norton nor Salyer appear to be an ideal fit for a team with Super Bowl aspirations, so don’t be surprised if the Chargers add a veteran such as Riley Reiff as an insurance policy.

— Mike Tanier



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