With the 2018 scouting combine kicking off this week, NFL Nation reporters take a closer look at the positions of need for all 32 teams and which players will be closely evaluated.
Click the link after each team to view the full post.
There were signs Ryan Tannehill could be on the rise when Miami extended him in 2015, but last season’s knee injury cast doubt on his long-term future with the Dolphins. It would be wise for the Dolphins to explore their options in the draft to potentially upgrade from Tannehill over the long haul. Read more.
The Patriots need a strong off-the-line linebacker. On offense, there will be some intrigue as to whether the team can find “the next Jimmy Garoppolo” at quarterback, that is a high-upside developmental prospect. Read more.
Let’s make it easy and list the positions that don’t need to be addressed: free safety and strong safety (Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams, respectively). The Jets are open for business everywhere else, which tells you why they won only five games last season. Read more.
Baltimore has to upgrade the supporting cast for quarterback Joe Flacco and improve the NFL’s No. 27 offense. The Ravens desperately need to draft a wide receiver because their top two (Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin) could be gone and Breshad Perriman has been a bust. Read more.
The Bengals must make their offensive line their first priority after allowing 80 sacks in two seasons. The Bengals don’t have much stability at that position with center Russell Bodine potentially becoming a free agent and their two tackles remaining big question marks. Read more.
The Browns will focus on quarterbacks, obviously, but they also need to be sure about two other players they will consider drafting: running back Saquon Barkley and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. This draft is too important to miss on any opportunity. Read more.
This process starts with inside linebacker, where the Steelers were depleted last season after a severe spinal injury to Ryan Shazier and a shoulder injury to backup Tyler Matakevich. The Steelers will have options here and should capitalize on them. Read more.
The Texans’ biggest offseason need right now is to upgrade their offensive line. The group gave up 252 total pressures, the second-most allowed by a team in any of the previous 12 seasons. Read more.
Pass-rusher or running back first? Will the Colts surprise everybody and go with an offensive lineman in the first round? That’s just the start for the Colts, who also need to add depth at receiver behind T.Y. Hilton because Donte Moncrief and Kamar Aiken are headed to free agency. Read more.
Interior offensive line and tight end should be the Jaguars’ top two priorities at the combine. The Jaguars finished the regular season as the NFL’s top rushing team (141.4 yards per game), but their production dropped off significantly over the final six games. Read more.
The Titans’ pass-rush pipeline is barren as 2016 second-round pick Kevin Dodd is looking like a bust and 32-year-old Erik Walden is a pending free agent. Depending on what happens with pending free agent Avery Williamson, inside linebacker could be a big need, too. Read more.
After a 5-11 finish, it’s clear the Broncos need plenty of things, but a solution at quarterback certainly leads the way. Read more.
With one of the league’s worst run defenses last season, the Chargers need to add more athletic bodies who can make an impact defensively in the run game. That means players who can create havoc up front and rangy athletes at the second level of the defense who can cover and tackle. Read more.
The Cowboys need linebacker, wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, safety and tight end help either in major or minor ways. It is always worth remembering a draft is not just about the current year but the future. Read more.
New general manager Dave Gettleman has made it a priority to rebuild the offensive line — his “hog mollies” as he likes to say. The Giants can use guards and tackles. Maybe even a center. They won’t discriminate. If you’re an offensive lineman, you’re in play. Read more.
The Eagles need to bolster their linebacker corps. Besides lacking depth, there are question marks around each of the 2017 starters: Middle linebacker Jordan Hicks is recovering from a ruptured Achilles and has had difficulty staying healthy, Nigel Bradham is a pending free agent, and Mychal Kendricks has requested to be traded in the past. Read more.
The Bears’ top offensive need is at wide receiver, as the team had only one receiver crack the 50-catch mark in 2017 — Kendall Wright (59), who is an unrestricted free agent. The Bears are still holding out hope that former first-round pick Kevin White will pan out, but White has played in only five regular-season games since the Bears drafted him No. 7 overall in 2015. Read more.
The Lions are set at some positions, including receiver and quarterback. But don’t be surprised if this draft ends up heavy on linemen. Read more.
When Dom Capers took over in 2009, then-GM Ted Thompson finagled his way into a pair of first-round picks and turned them into nose tackle B.J. Raji and linebacker Clay Matthews. They became cornerstones of a defense that won the Super Bowl. Mike Pettine needs that kind of talent influx as he implements his defensive system. Read more.
Aside from figuring out who the quarterback will be in 2018, the Vikings’ other biggest need this offseason is to add pieces to the offensive line. The unit struggled to protect Case Keenum in the playoffs and has a number of question marks. Read more.
The Falcons likely will prioritize the offensive and defensive lines because coach Dan Quinn always emphasizes winning the line of scrimmage first. Read more.
The easy choice is wide receiver. The Panthers traded No. 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo last season and promoted Devin Funchess into that role. Funchess, who was dealing with a shoulder injury late in the season, never proved worthy of the promotion. Read more.
The biggest needs are defensive end (since last year’s standout starter, Alex Okafor, is a free agent and coming back from a torn Achilles), a pass-catching tight end and an athletic outside linebacker. Read more.
Look for the Buccaneers to make upgrades on defense, with both their pass rush and their back end. Read more.
The Cardinals don’t have a projected starter at quarterback on the roster and might address the position in free agency, but the draft might be where Arizona finds a long-term answer. Read more.
The Rams did a fine job fixing the offense last offseason, and now it’s time to focus on the defense. Cornerback stands out as their most glaring need. Read more.
Top needs are edge-rusher, cornerback and interior offensive line. The Niners also could use a game-breaker at receiver or running back, but with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in place, those positions aren’t as pressing. Read more.
The Seahawks have varying degrees of need or potential need at as many position groups as they have areas that are currently solidified. Such is life for a team with 16 unrestricted free agents and uncertainty with several other starters. Read more.
Source — Washington Football Team to hire 49ers executive Martin Mayhew as GM
The Washington Football Team is hiring Martin Mayhew as its new general manager, a source told ESPN on Thursday, adding another experienced voice to help coach Ron Rivera.
Mayhew interviewed with Rivera on Jan. 16 and had long been considered a strong candidate. Among the other known interviews, Washington also spoke with Ryan Cowden, Tennessee’s vice president of player personnel, Nick Polk, Atlanta’s director of football operations and JoJo Wooden, the Los Angeles Chargers‘ director of player personnel.
Mayhew had a longer track record in front offices and also had earned a reputation for knowing how to work with his head coaches. In Washington, Rivera has the power so the general manager will report to him. He and Mayhew share the same agent, but Mayhew also brings a wealth of experience. He served as Detroit‘s general manager from 2008-15 – after eight years in the Lions’ front office. Rivera has said he wanted someone who also could handle the administrative duties of the position.
ESPN had previously reported that Marty Hurney was expected to be named the team’s new general manager.
Mayhew was named Detroit’s GM late in 2008 after the Lions finished that season 0-16. Detroit was 8-24 in his first two seasons. The Lions made the postseason in 2011 and ’14, the only two years in which they had a winning record during his tenure. Overall, Detroit went 41-63 in his seven-and-a-half seasons.
Mayhew hired Jim Caldwell in 2014 to replace the first coach he had signed, Jim Schwartz. Detroit fired Mayhew midway through the 2015 season. But his hiring of Caldwell paid off: Detroit finished with three winning seasons in Caldwell’s four years with two playoff appearances. It was the first time Detroit had posted consecutive winning seasons since 1994-95.
One person who coached under Mayhew called him “smart, analytical, level-headed” and someone who stayed calm. He was able to have disagreements without it becoming divisive. He also said Mayhew sometimes lacked a gut feel for players, but felt that issue could be lessened if someone else on his staff offered that quality.
Mayhew was the New York Giants’ director of football operations in 2016 before joining San Francisco’s front office a year later. He spent two years as a senior executive and the past two as the vice president of player personnel.
Mayhew played four years as a defensive back in Washington, winning a Super Bowl in the 1991 season. His time in Washington was sandwiched between one season in Buffalo and four in Tampa Bay.
What the Nick Sirianni hire means for Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles – Philadelphia Eagles Blog
Sirianni’s name emerged late in Philadelphia’s extensive coaching search, which included 10 official interviews and plenty of informal flirting. They reached out to gauge the interest of Oklahoma Sooners coach Lincoln Riley. They put in a request to speak with Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, though any potential conversation was pushed until after Sunday’s AFC Championship Game. They considered hiring New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
But in the end, the Eagles ended up going with the 39-year-old Sirianni, who follows the only Super Bowl-winning coach in the team’s history, Doug Pederson. He comes to Philadelphia without any playcalling experience and with some major shoes to fill.
What does this mean for quarterback Carson Wentz?
Once Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie fired Pederson on Jan. 11, it became clear the Eagles preferred the path of trying to keep and fix Wentz instead of trading him, and they gravitated toward candidates who were on the same wavelength. Wentz was at his best when Colts coach Frank Reich was the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia. Sirianni was Reich’s right-hand man in Indianapolis and coached quarterbacks in San Diego when Reich was the Chargers’ O-coordinator in 2014 and 2015.
Sirianni has majored in the QB position and is in lockstep with Reich, whom Wentz trusts fully. The odds of Wentz staying in Philadelphia went up when Pederson was fired and likely ticked up another few notches with this decision on this coach.
What drew the Eagles to Sirianni?
Philadelphia had an interview with Sirianni on Tuesday that reportedly spilled into the next day. Buzz began picking up soon thereafter that he was a front-runner for the job alongside McDaniels. He helped the Colts finish in the top 10 in offense two of the past three seasons despite a rotating cast at quarterback. He similarly got a lot out of the Chargers’ receivers when he was their position coach from 2016 to 2017.
A source said Sirianni has “great people skills,” is good with player evaluation and has a strong work ethic. Though maybe not the loudest of personalities, Sirianni is said to have more of an edge to him than it may first appear.
There are also internal dynamics to consider. Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman are deeply involved in the Eagles’ football operations. In order for that power structure to stay intact, the coach has to be amenable to it. Sirianni doesn’t come in with the clout of a McDaniels, for instance, and will likely be fine initially with fitting into that construct and focusing on the coaching side of things.
Did the late start affect whom Philadelphia could hire as coach?
Yes. The Eagles had interest in Arthur Smith, Robert Saleh and Brandon Staley, but those candidates were too far down the road with other teams to seriously consider reversing course once the Eagles jumped into the mix after waiting a week to fire Pederson.
With the hot names quickly scooped up, the only real course of action was to take a deliberate approach and find the right fit.
The Eagles were also coming off a train-wreck 4-11-1 season and didn’t enter the market from a great position of strength. Questions about how things ended with Pederson, the tricky quarterback situation with Wentz and 2020 second-round pick Jalen Hurts, and the poor salary-cap outlook for 2021 impacted the job’s attractiveness.
What are the concerns about Sirianni?
Sirianni has never called plays. Will he assume those responsibilities while adjusting to his first head-coaching gig? He’ll be making that big leap while operating in one of the country’s most intense media markets. His previous NFL stops were Indianapolis, Kansas City, San Diego and Los Angeles. He’s in store for a whole different experience in Philly.
Sirianni must now build out a staff. The pool has already shrunk with assistants around the league getting snatched up by other new coaches. That process needs to begin in earnest.
Is it the right hire?
There was a strong case to be made for Duce Staley. The degree to which current and former players advocated for him both publicly and behind the scenes is very rare. Staley has the respect of everyone within the Eagles organization, can command a room like few others and earned the opportunity after 10 years as an assistant in Philadelphia, including the past three years as assistant head coach.
There is a legitimate question as to whether Staley’s blunt style would have vibed with Wentz, but there’s a case to be made that you should hire the best coach and let the coach guide the team, and the quarterback room, the way that person sees fit.
Los Angeles Chargers coach Brandon Staley makes sure to connect with QB Justin Herbert
“I called him on my way back home,” Staley said about who he contacted first when he learned Sunday that he would be the Chargers’ head coach. “I promise I called [wife] Amy first, but then I called Justin because I wanted him to hear my voice. And I wanted him to know about my family … and then I just wanted to listen for a little bit. Wanted him to hear my energy, maybe see a little bit of vision of what I have for what we want to get accomplished together.”
The 38-year-old Staley said he FaceTimed with Herbert on the way to the Costa Mesa facility Thursday for the introductory news conference “because I wanted him to see us before our big day.”
Staley was the coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams‘ top-ranked defense. And while he wouldn’t go into specifics as to what he’s looking for in an offensive coordinator or offensive scheme, the former college quarterback has an understanding of what it takes on both sides of the ball.
“I’m looking for somebody with character and capacity and that can lead our staff and be part of our vision for how to get the best out of our players.”
Staley did say he would be making the defensive calls and hopes to have a staff in place “in a few weeks.”
Chargers general manager Tom Telesco was asked why he hired a guy with so little NFL coaching experience, including zero on the offensive side.
“Having his background, coming up in high school and college on offense. I think that helps,” Telesco said. “I’m watching the Baltimore and Buffalo playoff game and one coach [Sean McDermott] had a defensive background and the other [John Harbaugh] had a special-teams background. And they both have young quarterbacks and they’re both doing very well.
“There are different ways to do this,” said Telesco, adding that Staley’s brain is “very sharp.”
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