Biggest remaining hole after NFL draft for every 2017 playoff squad

Did Patriots properly replace CB Butler? Will Eagles regret not tapping into deep interior OL class?

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History tells us that most of the best teams in the NFL this season will be teams that made the playoffs last year, but that doesn’t mean they are without weaknesses. Here are your 12 playoff teams and the biggest hole on each of their rosters that they either completely failed to address or properly failed to address this offseason.

New England Patriots - Outside Cornerback

After losing Malcolm Butler to free agency, the Patriots had a big hole to fill at cornerback opposite Stephon Gilmore. Jason McCourty was brought over after a decent season in Cleveland, but he’s on the wrong side of 30 and not an ideal fit for a press-man-heavy scheme.

Rookie Duke Dawson projects more directly to nickel corner, and Eric Rowe looked overwhelmed when exposed to more playing time this past season. The Patriots group as a whole is capable enough, but for their schematic preferences, a stronger outside option would have been preferable.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers - Linebacker

Most had linebacker listed as the No. 1 need for the Steelers going into the draft, so imagine the surprise when the team didn’t draft a single one. Pittsburgh seems content to roll with a pretty average duo of Vince Williams and Jon Bostic on the second level, a combination which will have its limitations.

Does fifth-round safety Marcus Allen transition to linebacker? Can undrafted free agent Matthew Thomas finally put it all together? These are the Steelers storylines to watch moving forward.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars - Right Guard

I thought about putting quarterback down on this list, but the hole at right guard is bigger, albeit less important. Patrick Omameh, who signed with the Giants this offseason, was better than fellow starting OG A.J. Cann. But neither are the caliber of the rest of this offensive line, which needs to be the anchor for Jacksonville to be successful offensively.

Will passing on Will Hernandez for somewhat of a luxury pick in Taven Bryan eventually come back to bite them? I think the rest of Jacksonville’s unit is strong enough to withstand the dip in play at right guard.

 

Kansas City Chiefs - Outside Cornerback

It’s tough to replace what Marcus Peters brought to the Chiefs from a coverage and playmaking standpoint, but you have to at least try, right? The Chiefs' best corner is now Kendall Fuller, who has one strong season on his resume, as a nickel corner in Washington last year. Can he make the transition outside and maintain the same high level of play?

Coincidentally, the nickel is also Steven Nelson’s best spot, leaving the other outside position up for grabs between Keith Reaser, David Amerson and the possibility of a late challenger emerging from the depth chart. Not a great spot to be in.

 

Buffalo Bills - Wide Receiver

I have no idea how the Bills started the draft with all the picks they had, jettisoned most of them in questionable trades and then didn’t spend any of the remaining selections on a wide receiver until Round Six (Clemson's Ray-Ray McCloud and North Carolina's Austin Proehl). Can they honestly be counting on Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones to anchor the passing attack after what the duo showed last year? Josh Allen better be worth what they surrendered to get him.

 

Tennessee Titans - None?

You could argue the Titans could have improved the right guard spot even after re-signing Josh Kline, but they prioritized, traded up for, and addressed the two major weaknesses of their roster — inside linebacker and edge rusher — in drafting Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry, respectively. Even adding Dane Cruikshank in the fifth gives them much-needed depth and versatility at safety.

Now, is Tennessee the most talented roster in the league at every spot? Absolutely not. But there are no obvious holes in the Titans current starting lineup.

 

Philadelphia Eagles - None?

It’s certainly debatable whether the Eagles could have upgraded left guard, where Steven Wisniewski played well last season after an up-and-down career in a couple different spots. But the Eagles are loaded with talent across their depth chart, so it is tough to generate a lot of concern. Things may change after next season, but right now, this is the best roster in football.

 

Minnesota Vikings - Offensive Guard

The Vikings have added exactly one interior offensive lineman of note this offseason, Appalachian State’s Colby Gossett in the sixth round. Gossett is unlikely to contribute much in Year One, leaving Nick Easton, Tom Compton and Danny Isidora to compete for two starting spots. Joe Berger’s retirement and the loss of Jeremiah Sirles has left them painfully thin up front.

Despite all that, Minnesota passed up on multiple chances to add a quality interior offensive lineman in a deep draft at the position. If anything is going to derail the rest of their loaded roster from competing for a Super Bowl title this season, it will be their interior offensive line play.

 

Los Angeles Rams - Linebacker

Mark Barron. Bryce Hager. Ramik Wilson. Cory Littleton. Micah Kiser. Tegray Scales. These are the Rams options at linebacker for their 2018 starting lineup. None of those options have been above average at any point in their careers, and most have been decidedly below average.

It’s a blemish on an otherwise impressive roster, and the Rams are hoping that by loading up the defensive line, they can make life very easy on the linebacking corps. Still, it was very unexpected to see the team wait until Round Five (Virginia's Micah Kiser) to address the position.

 

New Orleans Saints - Tight End

I was told reliably that if the Saints were unable to move up in the draft for Marcus Davenport, they would have stayed at No. 27 and taken a tight end, probably Penn State’s Mike Gesicki. By the time they picked again at No. 91, four tight ends were off the board and they opted to go with Tre’quan Smith.

You could do worse than a group of Josh Hill, Coby Fleener and Ben Watson, but the Saints don’t have a field stretcher between the numbers at the position, or a formidable red-zone threat. Adding one this offseason could have been a big boost to the offense.

 

Carolina Panthers - Free Safety

When the Panthers elected to move on from Kurt Coleman this offseason, it left a hole at free safety that they have been unable to fill. The Panthers have a number of safety options, but no clear centerfielder to play single-high in Ron Rivera’s defense.

It is unclear what role rookie Rashaan Gaulden will play, but his best work came around the line of scrimmage at Tennessee. Colin Jones and Mike Adams are both aging safeties who aren’t strong options to play deep, leaving the Panthers very susceptible and without a big play presence in the middle of the field.

 

Atlanta Falcons - Offensive Guard

I would say interior defensive line, but adding Deadrin Senat saved them from having the worst depth chart in the league at the position. It’s still pretty rough, but I’m high on Senat, and Grady Jarrett is one of the best in the league.

The Falcons did add Brandon Fusco this offseason, a capable but not preferable starter, and the hope is that LG Andy Levitre can continue playing at an acceptable level for one more season. Guard hasn’t been an area of strength for the Falcons over the past few years, yet it hasn’t impeded their success much.

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