The draft is still quite a ways off, and March free agency will arrive first, but much of the NFL world's focus has already turned to the April 25-27 event.
It's a time of renewed hope for bottom-feeders and Super Bowl contenders alike. Every franchise is looking for that missing piece—the player who will fill that final hole and get squad to the Super Bowl. Or at least fill an important hole for the climb to respectability.
For some teams, that means an offensive lineman. For others, it's a skill-position weapon. Others still want pass-rush help or to bolster the secondary.
And for some NFL clubs, the most important of quests continues: the search for a quarterback.
Regardless of the circumstance, there's a player who would fit like a hand in a glove for every franchise.
Washington State Offensive Tackle Andre Dillard
No, it isn't Nick Bosa. In fact, we're not going with the Arizona Cardinals' first overall pick at all. The best thing that could happen to the Redbirds is if a team in love with one of this year's quarterbacks offers a package of picks to move up. Arizona hopes it has such a quarterback in Josh Rosen.
But there are holes all over its roster—including a porous offensive line that surrendered 52 sacks in 2018 (fifth-worst in the league).
There's no guarantee that Washington State's Andre Dillard will make it out of the first round. Per Braden Johnson of 247Sports, many mock drafts have Dillard pegged as a first-rounder after he impressed scouts at January's Senior Bowl.
One even has him as a top-10 pick.
The 6'4", 310-pounder was indeed impressive in Mobile, Alabama, just as he was with the Cougars. But he's not a mortal lock to go in the top 32 picks.
It should absolutely be a mortal lock that he doesn't get past No. 33, though.
Atlanta Falcons: Houston DT Ed Oliver
The Atlanta Falcons just trudged to a disappointing 7-9 season. But that lousy record and a draft class choked with defensive line talent could combine to drop a game-changer into Atlanta's lap at No. 14.
Before knee troubles threw a wrench into his 2018 season, Houston's Ed Oliver was in play for consideration as the No. 1 overall pick in 2019. The 6'3", 292-pounder, who has 31 tackles for loss the past two seasons, has drawn comparisons to both Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams and Geno Atkins of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Yes, the Falcons already have Grady Jarrett, and there's no guarantee Oliver will blossom in the pros like Donald did—if there were, he'd go No. 1 overall.
But he's got a very similar skill set to Donald's, as he offsets his lack of ideal size with an explosive first step.
And upgrading the defensive front is arguably Atlanta's biggest offseason priority in 2019.
Baltimore Ravens: Mississippi St. EDGE Montez Sweat
The Baltimore Ravens offense and quarterback Lamar Jackson stole the show in Maryland last year, and as the offseason gets underway, the defense looms as a major question mark.
More specifically: the pass rush.
Outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith are on the verge of free agency. Since the Ravens have just under $22 million in cap space, at least one of those players is more than likely a goner. Maybe both will be, given that Suggs will turn 37 in October.
Enter Mississippi State edge-rusher Montez Sweat.
The 6'6", 252-pound Sweat, who was arguably the most impressive pass-rusher at January's Senior Bowl, topped 10 sacks for the Bulldogs in each of the past two seasons—adding 30 tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
Sweat has the athleticism and first step to play outside linebacker in the pros, as well as the strength and power to kick to end in sub-packages.
If there's a rub here, it's that if Sweat shines at the combine the way he did in Mobile, he may not make it to No. 22.
Buffalo Bills: Alabama OT Jonah Williams
The Buffalo Bills spent their first-round pick in 2018 on Josh Allen, who they hope will be their long-term answer at quarterback.
Now it's matter of building the offense around him. The receiving corps is one of the NFL's weakest. The offensive line allowed 41 sacks (14th-worst) and ranked 23rd in pass protection, per Football Outsiders.
The latter needs a no-brainer fix—provided that Alabama tackle Jonah Williams makes it to them at No. 9.
Chris Trapasso of CBSSports.com doesn't just believe that Williams is the best offensive lineman available in 2019—he thinks there's only one other prospect who is better in the entire class:
"Williams (currently my No. 2 overall prospect) has started on the edge for the Crimson Tide since his freshman season. He's the opposite of a project, a fundamentally sound technician with plus athleticism and developed strength to deal with every type of pass-rusher. While Nick Saban's club is known for its running prowess, its offense utilizes a plethora of spread concepts."
If Trapasso's right, Williams would be a dream get in Western New York.
Carolina Panthers: Notre Dame CB Julian Love
Not every ideal prospect is a first-rounder. Every year there are Day 2 picks who go on to have big impacts. The 2018 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, linebacker Darius Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts, was a Round 2 selection.
The Carolina Panthers have been known for hitting on second-rounders in the secondary. They took James Bradberry in 2016's second round. The same went for Donte Jackson a year ago.
It's possible the Panthers could make it three solid young cornerbacks in four years with Notre Dame's Julian Love.
Were it not for the fact that Love lacks ideal height (5'10"), he'd be a first-round prospect. But what Love doesn't have in size, he makes up for in just about every other area.
Speed? He's got plenty.
Quickness? You bet.
Tenacity? Love topped 60 tackles last year and had 16 passes defensed. He's not afraid to trade a little paint.
And while fans of the team might not get their first choice on the draft's first day, they'd come to Love this one on Day 2.
See what I did there?
Chicago Bears: Ohio State RB Mike Weber
The Chicago Bears don't have a selection in the first round.
Not that the team's complaining, mind you—the Khalil Mack trade worked out pretty well. The Bears also don't have a pick in the second round, though.
That makes it hard to peg which players will be available at No. 88. However, we do know what the Bears' needs are—and running back is at or near the top of the list.
After losing out on Kareem Hunt, Chicago still needs to procure a better fit for Matt Nagy's offense in the backfield than Jordan Howard.
At first glance, Ohio State's Mike Weber might not appear to be that player. The 5'10", 214-pounder is mostly known as a punishing downhill runner with a skill set similar to Howard's
However, Weber's speed and receiving chops are underrated. He'll have a chance to open more eyes in Indianapolis at the combine.
Assuming he does, Weber would be a steal in the third round.
Cincinnati Bengals: Florida OT Jawaan Taylor
It's a time of great change for the Cincinnati Bengals. There's a new head coach in Zac Taylor. His arrival has brought rumblings that Andy Dalton's days as the team's starting quarterback could be numbered.
But no matter who the head coach is, or who the quarterback is, one thing has not changed in the Queen City: The Cincinnati offensive line needs work.
This year's draft class isn't a bumper crop, and Williams won't make it to No. 11. If there were any real chance of that happening, his name would be listed here.
However, a number of draftniks, including Trapasso, think the Bengals could look to the right side and Florida's Jawaan Taylor:
"Taylor is massive at 6'5" and around 325 pounds, but he carries his weight amazingly well thanks to light feet, the ability to sink at the knees to not get out-leveraged, and a powerful upper body that allows him to control most defensive linemen. Cincinnati got good returns from Cordy Glenn in 2018 and can play Taylor opposite him at his natural right tackle position."
Taylor's a readymade starter at a position of need in Cincy.
Cleveland Browns: Ole Miss WR D.K. Metcalf
I didn't expect to be writing this anytime soon about the Cleveland Browns, but the team is in pretty good shape.
This isn't to say the Browns are without holes. They have more than one. But not one of those needs is so glaring that it ties the franchise's hands in this year's draft.
Still, those holes are there—among them is a big-bodied wide receiver who can win one-on-one battles in the red zone.
There is no shortage of mock drafts that project Cleveland will take a wide receiver at No. 17. For Vinnie Iyer of Sporting News, that wideout is D.K. Metcalf of Ole Miss:
"While his college teammate A.J. Brown is the shorter, scrappier playmaker, Metcalf is the classic size-speed prospect (6-4, 230 pounds). That's the kind of outside No. 1 the Browns' offense needs to push the ball better both downfield and in the red zone with Baker Mayfield, especially now that we know their new head coach, Freddie Kitchens, won't be messing with the passing game."
Seriously—just take a look at this dude.
That's a beefy young pass-catcher.
Dallas Cowboys: Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson
Every year, some players come off the board much earlier than many draftniks expect. There are also those who languish longer than experts think they will.
It stinks for that latter group, but they are also quite the bargain for the teams that land them.
And a draft-day slide from Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson would be ideal and then some for the Dallas Cowboys, who have a glaring need at the position and don't have a pick until Round 2 after they traded for wide receiver Amari Cooper last year.
The 6'5", 250-pound Hockenson surprised some people when he declared for the draft after his redshirt sophomore season, but he's the most well-rounded prospect at his position in the class.
In addition to the ability to stretch defenses as a receiver, Hockenson is also an accomplished blocker—traits that would no doubt appeal to a Dallas team that's long looked for a viable Jason Witten replacement.
Denver Broncos: Missouri QB Drew Lock
The Denver Broncos made waves at quarterback recently when they acquired Joe Flacco. But he's a short-term solution at best.
Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray weren't there, but many of the class' top quarterbacks were in attendance at the Senior Bowl.
Among those young signal-callers, Missouri's Drew Lock stood out the most. And in doing so, Lock put himself squarely in the crosshairs of the NFL's QB-needy clubs.
Frankly, given how Lock looked in the Senior Bowl and at Missouri, it's a coin toss as to whether he'll even make it to the 10th pick. The 6'4" 225-pounder threw for over 3,400 yards in each of the past two seasons, with an impressive touchdown-to-interception ratio of plus-51 over that span.
Although Flacco's heading to the Mile High City, the Broncos are still in position to draft a quarterback this year and then let him sit and learn for most (if not all) of that rookie season.
John Elway admittedly hasn't had the best luck at quarterback since he took over as Denver's general manager in 2011. Lock is talented enough to change that.
Detroit Lions: Florida State EDGE Brian Burns
There's no disputing that the Detroit Lions need pass-rushing help. There are any number of players the team might consider for that at No. 8—from Clemson's Clelin Ferrell to Kentucky's Josh Allen.
However, the Lions may also be set to take advantage of other team's needs. They could trade down with a franchise that needs a quarterback and then stockpile picks and still potentially get a player who could help up front.
A player like Florida State edge-rusher Brian Burns.
The 6'5", 227-pound Burns needs to add mass (that weight will all but certainly be substantially higher at the combine), but he showed plenty of ability to get after the quarterback at FSU. Over the last three seasons, Burns piled up 23 sacks and 38.5 tackles for loss, including 10 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in 2018.
Finding help on the edge won't magically fix all the Lions' problems. Getting that help while adding picks, however, would be a big step in the right direction.
Green Bay Packers: Mississippi State DL Jeffery Simmons
It's been a rough draft season for Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons—and then some.
First, an assault charge before Simmons' arrival at Mississippi State in 2016 cost him an invitation to this year's combine. That was bad, but not a killer—the 6'4", 300-pounder was still widely viewed as a top-15 prospect in the class of 2019.
Then came the killer—a torn ACL in workouts that will wipe out Simmons' first season.
"If it is in God's will, no matter which team drafts me this April, I will work extremely hard to get healthy and become a leader in that organization," Simmons wrote in a statement after the injury.
It was a devastating setback for Simmons, but it presents the Green Bay Packers, who have a need on the defensive line, with an interesting opportunity.
There was no guarantee that Simmons would last until Green Bay's first of two Round 1 picks at No. 12. Now, if the Packers are willing to be patient and "redshirt" Simmons, he'll likely be available with their second pick at No. 30.
Houston Texans: Oklahoma OT Cody Ford
For some NFL teams, the greatest need is so glaringly obvious that it's almost blinding.
And after the Houston Texans allowed a league-worst 62 sacks a year ago, there's no doubt that their biggest need is along the offensive line. Specifically, at tackle.
With the No. 23 pick in Round 1, Houston will likely miss out on the tackle elite prospects. But per Jon Ledyard of the Draft Network, Oklahoma's Cody Ford has the potential to be as good (if not better) than anyone in the class:
"Ford's tape is among the best and most fun of the 2019 offensive line class, as he shows everything from high-end promise to unbelievably physical finishes. The muscle of the Oklahoma offensive line, Ford has just one year as a full-time starter under his belt, but already his mental processing and technique are pretty impressive. He's a mauler at the point of attack, while also possessing the athleticism to get out in space and the agility in pass protection to shut down all types of rushers."
That's just the kind of help the Texans need.
Indianapolis Colts: Ohio State WR Parris Campbell
The Indianapolis Colts experienced quite the turnaround last year—due largely to a phenomenal draft class. They traded down in Round 1 (picking up extra picks in the process) before crushing it out of the park with guard Quenton Nelson at No. 6 overall.
Then they selected the eventual Defensive Rookie of the Year, outside linebacker Darius Leonard, at No. 36.
With the 26th pick this year, the Colts may well attempt to bolster the pass rush. Most of the names that make sense for Indy in that regard in that spot are mentioned elsewhere in this piece—players like Montez Sweat of Mississippi State or Clelin Ferrell of Clemson. They may land one, but as the Colts showed in 2018, teams can make a big dent on Day 2 as well.
Indianapolis also needs a wide receiver to pair with T.Y. Hilton, and Parris Campbell of Ohio State makes a lot of sense. Campbell has good size (6'1", 208 pounds), great speed and a fine collegiate resume after he hauled in 90 passes for over 1,000 yards with 12 scores for the Buckeyes.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Michigan DL Rashan Gary
Nope. Not a quarterback.
With rumors swirling that the Jacksonville Jaguars are one of the front-runners to land soon-to-be free-agent quarterback Nick Foles, per NFL Network's Mike Garofalo (via SB Nation), it's possible that by April 25 the Jaguars' need for a new signal-caller won't be nearly as pressing.
That opens the door for the Jaguars to benefit at No. 7 if non-quarterbacks slide—players such as Rashan Gary of Michigan.
There's also been speculation that defensive tackle Malik Jackson, who is set to carry a cap hit of $15 million in 2019, won't be brought back—a move that would create a sizable hole on Jacksonville's defensive line.
The 6'5", 283-pound Gary didn't post huge stats for the Wolverines last year, but he's a talented, confident and versatile lineman.
"I feel like I'm the best player in the draft, defensively and offensively," Gary said, per Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk. "I'm the best player in the draft."
Kansas City Chiefs: Florida Atlantic RB Devin Singletary
If the Kansas City Chiefs are wise, they'll use their first pick in the 2019 NFL draft on a defense that was among the NFL's worst last year. That unit prevented the Chiefs from achieving a Super Bowl LIII berth.
But defense isn't the team's only problem. After they jettisoned Kareem Hunt midseason last year, the Chiefs also need an infusion of running back talent—especially with Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West about to become unrestricted free agents.
At just 5'9" and 200 pounds, Devin Singletary of Florida Atlantic isn't close to being the biggest back in this year's class. But there's quite a bit of Hunt in Singletary's game. The quickness is there. So is the agility. The ability to make people miss. The passing-game chops. And more power than he's sometimes given credit for.
He would fit what the Chiefs do offensively—and he's probably going to be available on the draft's second day.
Los Angeles Chargers: Wisconsin OT David Edwards
Sometimes, success comes at a price.
The Los Angeles Chargers had a great year in 2018, winning 13 games—including one in the postseason. But all those wins will leave the Bolts picking late in Round 1—28th, to be precise.
That could make it a little tricky for the Chargers to address their need on the offensive front—at least on the draft's first day. The high-end options may be gone, but reaching early for a second-tier option isn't a recipe for success.
However, while it may be a bit more difficult to find a quality starter up front on Day 2, it isn't impossible.
As Chris Pflum wrote for SB Nation, Wisconsin's David Edwards has as high a ceiling as any O-lineman's in this year's class.
"He still moves like the option quarterback turned tight end he was four years ago, but does so at well over 300 pounds and with evident power. He is easily able to mirror speed rushers, anchor against power rushers, and move to block for zone runs or screen passes. He is also a people-mover in the run game, creating openings in a variety of blocking schemes."
All that's also available at a discount, as Edwards is still a bit raw.
Los Angeles Rams: Alabama S Deionte Thompson
We should have a much better idea of the dream draft target for the Los Angeles Rams a few days after free agency opens March 13. A lot remains unsettled for the Rams, with prominent contributors such as defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, guard Rodger Saffold and safety Lamarcus Joyner all about to hit the open market.
However, we do know that the top defensive lineman isn't making it all the way to No. 31 in this year's draft. Neither is the No. 1 guard prospect.
The top safety is another matter.
As Gavino Borquez wrote for Draft Wire, the general belief is that top safety is Alabama's Deionte Thompson.
"Thompson is the latest in a long line of Alabama defensive backs to be considered first-round draft selections. He flies around the field hunting the football and plays that game 'full tilt, full time.' He's got great speed and acceleration which allows him to cover a great amount of range. Thompson is quick-footed and fluid through the hips. He has no trouble getting out of breaks of flipping his hips to turn and run."
The 6'2", 196-pounder would be a Day 1 starter for the NFC champs.
Miami Dolphins: Duke QB Daniel Jones
There are quite a few mock drafts floating around that project Oklahoma's Kyler Murray to go to the Miami Dolphins at No. 13.
We won't do that here. Yes, the Dolphins will be in the market for a quarterback if the team moves on from Ryan Tannehill as most expect. But there are also reports that Miami is much more interested in Tua Tagovailoa in 2020 or Trevor Lawrence the following year than it is in investing a top-15 pick in any of this year's quarterback prospects.
However, were a signal-caller to fall into their laps through a trade down or a draft-day drop, that might be a harder bargain for the Dolphins to pass on.
Duke's Daniel Jones might not be the top signal-caller in 2019, but an argument can be made he's close after he started in a pro-style offense under David Cutcliffe at Duke the last three years. At 6'5", Jones has the size NFL teams covet. He's also got the quick release that coaches love.
But a reduced asking price would make Jones a dream draft target—and it could happen.
Minnesota Vikings: Ole Miss OT Greg Little
The 2018 season didn't go according to plan for the Minnesota Vikings—in large part due to an offensive line that wavered between below average and flat-out bad.
There's little question the Vikings will hit that line hard in free agency and the draft. There are also some in-house moves that could be made. As Anthony Broome reported for 247Sports, the team is considering shifting left tackle Riley Reiff to guard after a pair of disappointing seasons.
Of course, if the Vikings do that, it will open a hole at tackle—which is where Greg Little of Ole Miss comes in.
The 6'6", 325-pound Little isn't the most refined or NFL-ready player of this class at the position. But he's the prototype for the blind side—agile and powerful with long arms.
If the Vikes are at all serious about relocating Reiff, Little would be a solid get at No. 18.
New England Patriots: South Carolina WR Deebo Samuel
The New England Patriots have long been a hard team to peg in the NFL draft. They trade up and/or down with regularity and generally don't allow need to dictate strategy.
In other words, they're smart.
With that said, there are a couple of positions that stand out this year. The Patriots have numerous players at both wide receiver and along the defensive line about to hit free agency. End Trey Flowers will more than likely return, but the rest are question marks.
And given that the Patriots are the undisputed kings of "win now" mode, they don't just need potential replacements—they need replacements with the potential to produce from Day 1.
If January's Senior Bowl was any indication, South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel fits that bill. To say that the 6'0", 210-pounder was the star of the proceedings in Mobile is an understatement. Samuel got open at will in practices, showing excellent speed and change-of-direction skills.
He's also a special teams standout who could serve as a two-for-one fill-in for free agents Chris Hogan and Cordarrelle Patterson.
New Orleans Saints: Hawaii LB Jahlani Tavai
The New Orleans Saints don't have a ton of needs this offseason. That's a good thing, because after they traded up to select Marcus Davenport in 2018, they don't have a pick among the first 32 this year.
However, Dane Brugler of The Athletic thinks they could still go a long way toward fortifying the linebacker position in Round 2 with the selection of Hawaii's Jahlani Tavai:
"One of the better kept secrets in the 2019 NFL Draft, Tavai has a legitimate chance to be the first senior linebacker drafted. Well-built at 6-3 and 235 pounds, he has outstanding range and moves clean when asked to drop in coverage. Against the run, Tavai is physical at the point of attack to detach from blocks and find the football."
Were it not for a shoulder injury last season, Tavai would be getting more consideration as a late first-rounder. He still might—if that shoulder checks out in Indy, and he tests well.
Tavai would be an excellent pick for a Saints linebacker corps that's shaky outside Demario Davis.
New York Giants: Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins
There's no secret that the New York Giants need a quarterback of the future who can sit behind Eli Manning for a while and then take the reins for Big Blue.
The general belief among most draftniks is Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins is the best of this year's bunch—a 6'3", 220-pounder with a cannon for a right arm who threw for 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns in his lone year as Ohio State's starter.
Haskins also completed 70 percent of his passes, but Brad Crawford of 247Sports believes Haskins' play in big games sets him apart.
"Haskins' white-hot play down the stretch sealed his Heisman invite and furthered his record-setting season for the Buckeyes as a lethal threat through the air," Crawford wrote. "Outside of [Kyler] Murray, there's not a signal-caller in this draft who meant more to his team in big games, and that's a quality NFL franchises covet."
If there's a potential monkey-wrench in this plan, it's the notion that another team might leapfrog the Giants at No. 6 and take the big signal-caller themselves.
New York Jets: Alabama DL Quinnen Williams
Much like the Arizona Cardinals, an argument can be made that the best thing that could happen to the New York Jets on April 25 is for some team in love with a young quarterback to come calling.
However, as Matt Stypulkoski reported for NJ.com, Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams stands out among the top potential targets for the Jets if they stand pat: "Williams is a freak interior playmaker with a tremendous mix of size [6'4", 289 pounds] and agility. Jets fans may not like the idea of another defensive lineman in the first round, but he's a legitimate option at No. 3 overall after logging eight sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss and 71 total tackles as a sophomore for Alabama."
With the team's switch to Gregg Williams at defensive coordinator, Gang Green needs pass-rush help in the worst way.
In a draft class deep on the defensive front, sometimes the wisest course is to go with the flow.
Oakland Raiders: Clemson DE Clelin Ferrell
The Oakland Raiders are flush with both salary-cap space and draft picks in 2019. That's good, because there also isn't a team in the league with more holes to fill.
Chief among those holes is the NFL's most anemic pass rush. The Raiders managed just 13 sacks last year. There were 11 players in the NFL who had at least that many sacks individually.
To say Oakland needs to improve that pass rush is an understatement, and with the fourth overall pick, they should be in solid position to do that.
The odds that Bosa will make it to No. 4 are slim to none. But as consolation prizes go, Clemson's Clelin Ferrell isn't a bad one. In recent years there hasn't been a more consistent force off the edge than the 6'4", 265-pounder.
In 2018, Ferrell piled up 11.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss while helping Clemson win a second national championship in three years. The year before, it was 9.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. Six more sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in 2016.
A dream target indeed.
Philadelphia Eagles: LSU CB Greedy Williams
It's still early in the predraft process, but quite a few draftniks seem to feel the Philadelphia Eagles will take Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence at No. 25 overall.
While Maurice Jones-Drew of NFL.com is among those who have Lawrence slotted to Philly, he also believes LSU cornerback Greedy Williams will slide to No. 24.
If Williams falls one more spot, the defensive lineman would have to wait.
The Eagles have invested quite a bit of draft capital in the secondary in recent years, with varying amounts of success. But if top cornerback Ronald Darby leaves via free agency, it'll be imperative that Philly hits the defensive backfield again.
At 6'3", Williams has the size NFL teams covet in a boundary defensive back. He also has the speed and agility to develop into a true No. 1 corner.
Unfortunately, this may be more pipe-dream than dream target. While Jones-Drew mocked Williams outside the top 20, ESPN's Mel Kiper had him heading to Oakland—with the fourth overall pick.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Michigan ILB Devin Bush
The news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason has centered on the futures of tailback Le'Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown. But the Steelers have another problem. An old problem. One that's even older than Bell's impasse with the team.
Pittsburgh's inside linebackers are a mess.
It would be a great story if Ryan Shazier returned to the playing field, but the odds of that happening aren't good. Vince Williams is a throwback—tough against the run but limited in coverage. The rest of the team's players at the position are...let's go with unimposing.
The middle of the Pittsburgh defense was exposed time and time again last year. The Steelers badly need an infusion of athleticism in the middle.
Michigan's Devin Bush could provide that infusion in the first round of the draft. The 5'11", 233-pounder, who had 66 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss in 2018, has just the sort or range that's needed in the Steel City.
Bush would be a gift at No. 20.
San Francisco 49ers: Ohio State EDGE Nick Bosa
It won't take long on draft day for the San Francisco 49ers' ideal scenario to play out.
One pick should just about do it. All they need is for the Arizona Cardinals to pass on Ohio State edge-rusher Nick Bosa. Or for some QB-needy team to trade up to No. 1 and grab the signal-caller of their dreams.
If either of those things occur, San Francisco general manager John Lynch might pull a hammy racing to the podium to turn in a card with Bosa's name on it at No. 2.
Yes, the Niners have already invested a ton of first-round capital in the defensive line, with varying degrees of success. DeForest Buckner appears to have worked out. Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas have not.
But none of those players were widely considered the No. 1 overall prospect in their draft class—a can't-miss pass-rusher dripping with athleticism and the ability to beat blockers off the edge.
Bosa is—and the 49ers would be incredibly foolish to pass on that upside.
Seattle Seahawks: Georgia CB Deandre Baker
Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker isn't short on talent—after piling up 40 tackles, two interceptions and nine passes defensed while playing in the SEC—the country's toughest conference—the 5'11", 185-pound Baker was named the Thorpe Award winner as college football's top cornerback.
And while discussing the upcoming scouting combine with Brooke Cersosimo of NFL.com, Baker also demonstrated he isn't short on confidence, either: "Every part of the [NFL Scouting] Combine, [I want to] be the best at each drill. I don't want to put a number out there [for the 40-yard dash] just yet. I don't want to scare nobody. Just watch and see."
With players such as Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers, the Seattle Seahawks aren't short on youth in the secondary. But the defensive backfield also lacks an anchor—a true top guy.
Baker has the talent to be that true No. 1 cornerback for the Seahawks.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kentucky EDGE Josh Allen
Trying to predict how the first handful of picks in this year's draft will play out is even more maddening than in most years.
For starters, none of the teams in the top five have a need so pressing at quarterback that they are likely to burn their first pick on one. That sets the stage for one of the teams behind them to make a move into the top five.
Of course, if a franchise trades up and takes a QB, that means another player will drop.
If that's the case with Kentucky edge-rusher Josh Allen, Christmas will come early for new Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
Bowles' arrival in Tampa means a seismic shift—after three decades of four-man fronts, the Bucs will feature more 3-4 looks in the base defense. That means pass-rushers with the speed to play standing up and can also get after it with a hand in the dirt on passing downs are key.
Allen, a wildly athletic 6'6", 260-pounder, is just such a player.
Tennessee Titans: Oklahoma WR Marquise Brown
The 2019 season is a make-or-break one for Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota. But, to be fair, it's not as if Mariota's been surrounded by a ton of weaponry over his four seasons with the team.
Last year, it appeared that the 6'3", 209-pound Corey Davis began coming into his own, offering Mariota a lanky, big-bodied receiver who can produce consistently outside.
Now, Mariota needs a yin to go with that yang—a young speedster who can take the top off a defense.
A speedster like Oklahoma's Marquise Brown.
As NFL.com's Chase Goodbread wrote in June 2018, to say that Brown has wheels is an understatement:
"Nicknamed 'Hollywood' (he's from Hollywood, Florida.), Brown has been clocked at 4.33 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Consider the comments of former Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, who told the Associated Press last year: 'I think we saw somewhat with what Dede could do last year with that speed that he had, but I think Marquise is even faster. I love Dede, but Marquise, he's got another gear.'"
The 40 is going to be interesting at this year's combine.
Washington Redskins: Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray
There isn't a more polarizing prospect in the 2019 NFL draft than Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray—the little guy with the big arm who just won the Heisman Trophy.
There also may not be a team in the NFL more hard-up for quarterback help than the Washington Redskins. The only signal-callers under contract on the team are Colt McCoy and Alex Smith. Both are recovering from broken legs. The latter is reportedly set to miss all of the 2019 season because of his.
Bleacher Report's NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller believes Murray would fit well in Washington:
"Head coach Jay Gruden has shown an ability to develop quarterbacks and has also been willing to innovate offensively to fit his players. If he would install a scheme that let Murray make plays on the perimeter while feeding running back Derrius Guice behind a big, tough offensive line, then this thing could work Week 1 and fill the biggest need on the depth chart."
The biggest problem? It's unlikely the 5'10" Murray makes it to No. 15, so if the Redskins want him, it may take some wheeling and dealing.
Salary numbers provided by Over the Cap.