Strategies For AFC Teams In The 2018 NFL Draft

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It’s like Christmas Eve in the air today. The NFL Draft starts tomorrow night, and the anticipation is getting to its peak. So much is about to go down on what should be another extremely entertaining weekend.

Before the craziness ensues, let’s get to a different type of article on the draft. Most often, you’ll see articles of mock drafts or player rankings and analysis. This time, it’ll be a little different. Here, we will roll through every teams’ best strategy (based on the opinion of yours truly) entering the draft.

Without further ado, let’s get started with the AFC teams.

Cleveland Browns – Continue To Build The Roster, Find a Quarterback

Number of picks – Nine

The Browns are in an excellent position to start their 2018 draft in the right way. With the first pick, they can get the quarterback that the franchise deserves. Whether it ends up being Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, or Baker Mayfield, the front office needs to get it right. After that, it’s all about finding the right pieces. If Bradley Chubb is available at four, the Browns shouldn’t hesitate. If not, trade back for the right price and add pieces to the secondary and at tackle, two positions that are in desperate need of filling. Two names to throw out after a trade back would be Denzel Ward and Mike McGlinchey, which would round out a great haul in round one. After that, it’s about finding depth at spots. More investment at cornerback is necessary, and you can never have enough help along the front seven. The Browns have plenty of picks to load up the roster, and this front office is much improved from previous years.

Baltimore Ravens – Load Up The Offense For Flacco

Number of picks – Eight

The Ravens still continue to boast a top defense in the NFL, but the front office hasn’t done enough getting playmakers in the building to help Joe Flacco. Now, with eight picks in this draft, the offense must be addressed. They have a number of ways to go with their first pick. Drafting a receiver seems likely at this point, but they should opt for an offensive tackle there to put opposite Ronnie Stanley. Connor Willams and Mike McGlinchey could both be there, and that would be a great start. Baltimore has good possession receivers, but could use speed and quickness as a complement. Players like D.J. Chark and Christian Kirk would be great adds. On top of that, finding a reliable tight end is a need. Having someone to trust like Flacco did Dennis Pitta during their Super Bowl run is important. If the Ravens don’t have one by round three, they will have to look for guys like Durham Smythe, Troy Fumagalli, or Ian Thomas. All three would be solid adds that late.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Secondary and Linebacker Help, But Also Look To Future

Number of picks – Seven

This will be a telling draft for the Steelers. With their roster now, they are still in place to make championship runs. Their trio of Ben, Bell, and Brown always make them tough. What they still lack is some pieces on defense. A lot of Thursday will dictate what Pittsburgh does in the first round, but linebacker and safety are the biggies. Guys like Rashaan Evans and Leighton Vander Esch are in play, but if they’re gone, Justin Reid should be in play. After that, a certain LSU running back has been mocked there. Derrius Guice would be a good move for a Steeler team that is unsure of Bell’s future. If they don’t sign him to a long term deal, running back becomes a need instantly.

Of course, life after Ben Roethlisberger has to be in the equation. Giving serious thought to a quarterback will happen soon for this franchise. However, the board will likely take them out of the equation there.

Overall, finding linebacker help (guys like Fred Warner and Josey Jewell in later rounds) and safety help (Jessie Bates, Marcus Allen, Armani Watts) are the priorities. If they can get guys like these on the roster, the defense will look more complete.

Cincinnati Bengals – Address Offensive Line Early, Help Dalton Late\

Number of picks – 11

The Bengals used to be a playoff team every year, but now they are sitting in mediocrity. Marvin Lewis is still around, but the Bengals need a good draft to find themselves in the playoff picture come January. It starts with the offensive line. Seeing major pieces of the offensive line leave in consecutive season has left it in shambles, even with recently acquired Cordy Glenn. They currently sit with the 21st pick in the first round, where they need to draft offensive line. Whether it’s a tackle like Connor Williams to play at right tackle or a interior guy like James Daniels or Frank Ragnow, that needs to be the pick.

After that, look for them to mix their picks between offense and defense. They could use a linebacker to pair with Vontaze Burfict, along with more help in the secondary. Christian Sam is a mid round prospect with some gaining buzz. Shaquem Griffin and Oren Burks are two other names to look for. On offense, the organization doesn’t seem to like John Ross, so it’s possible they will look for a receiver to help out Dalton. Michael Gallup and James Washington would be good complements to A.J. Green.

Overall, the Bengals need help at a lot of spots, so their 11 picks will help Cincy fill them.

New England Patriots – Get Secondary and Trench Help, Quarterback In Play?

Number of picks – Eight

The Patriots are in an excellent position to do as they please in this coming draft. They have four picks in the top 64, which gives them options. Rumors are swirling about the Pats trading up for a quarterback. If I was in their position, I would certainly consider giving up 23 and 31 overall for a chance at Josh Rosen.

If they don’t do that, adding four impact players in the first two rounds would be perfect. They need a franchise left tackle, so Mike McGlinchey would certainly be a great pick at 23. They could also look for Chukwuma Okorafor in the second round. On the other side of the trenches, getting consistent pressure is important (you can never have enough pass rushers). With no real premier pass rusher on the roster, I’d give Harold Landry or Marcus Davenport a look if they’re available at 23. In round two, someone like Josh Sweat or Duke Ejiofor would be good for them.

Let’s also not forget about the secondary. They were torched by Nick Foles and company in the Super Bowl. The 31st pick could be a corner like Mike Hughes or Jaire Alexander, two guys with excellent man coverage skills. Isaiah Oliver could also be in play as a longer press corner.

Whatever the Pats do, their needs are clear. Whether they trade back to continue to acquire more or trade up for a quarterback, they will be contenders once again.

Buffalo Bills – Get Your Quarterback and Protect Him

Number of picks – Nine

The Bills currently own the 12th and 22nd picks in the draft, but that could change on draft night. Don’t be surprised if they trade up. If it were me, I’d package 12 overall and second rounders to move up, keeping pick 22 if possible. Getting Josh Rosen would be huge for Buffalo. Alas, I don’t see them taking Rosen. If they have their guy marked, go get him.

If they are able to retain the 22nd pick, the offensive line is a likely pick there. Either James Daniels or Frank Ragnow make perfect sense with Eric Wood retiring. Building a strong offensive line for your new quarterback is key.

As far as other picks, the Bills should look at helping their defensive line and finding a quality linebacker late. We’ve mentioned plenty of linebackers, but someone like Oren Burks, Jack Cichy, or Fred Warner makes sense for them. The defensive line class is deep. Andrew Brown would be a nice pick in the middle rounds.

If they get their quarterback and get trench help, call it a successful draft for the Bills.

Miami Dolphins – Quarterback In Play, Line and Defense Priority Otherwise

Number of picks – Eight

The Dolphins, like the Bills, could move up to select a quarterback. However, if I’m the Dolphins, I would stand pat and roll with Tannehill worst case. If a quarterback falls, take him, but other than that, stick to your guns elsewhere. If Tremaine Edmunds or Roquan Smith is available at 11, then there’s the pick. If not, look for an offensive linemen like McGlinchey, who has been mentioned a bunch in this article.

After that, continue to add defensive help and another receiver to replace Jarvis Landry. I have mentioned the depth of the defensive line class, and someone like Nathan Shepherd or Harrison Phillips will be in play for them. If Maurice Hurst falls, and he might according to reports, they should pounce.

Finally, finding a replacement for Jarvis Landry would be nice. Michael Gallup, James Washington, and Christian Kirk all would fit nicely there. Some later round names include Tre’Quan Smith and DaeSean Hamilton, the latter of which is a fantastic route runner who can thrive immediately.

New York Jets – Get Your Quarterback And Get Skill Positions

Number of picks – Six

The Jets got themselves into a position for a top quarterback with their trade up from six to three overall. They lost their second rounder in the process, but they were smart to get in position for their guy. Whether it’s Baker Mayfield or Rosen, either will fit in well up in East Rutherford.

After getting their quarterback, the Jets have plenty of time to figure out their plan in the rest of the draft. Their defense looked much better last season, but they still need help at corner. Players like Rashan Gaulden and M.J. Stewart could be mid round targets for New York.

After that, adding a running back and some receivers would be beneficial for their quarterback. Guys like DaeSean Hamilton and Byron Pringle would be nice adds in the later rounds, along with a running back like John Kelly or Jordan Wilkins.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Fill Your Small Roster Holes

Number of picks – Seven

The Jags don’t enter with many holes, but there are specific areas they can target with their picks. In round one, ideally they make a play for a guard or a tight end. It’s a little early for a tight end in this class in my opinion, but if they want the top guy, they may have to pull the trigger. Someone like Hayden Hurst or Mike Gesicki (depending on the type of tight end they want) will be gone by round two, so they need to weigh that carefully. As far as the guard spot goes, the interior line class is loaded, but they also need to consider that depth will diminish by the early going in day two. Players like Will Hernandez and Billy Price will only be available once. If I were the Jags, I’d run with the interior line first.

On defense, there isn’t too much to fill. One spot could be the linebacker position with Paul Posluszny’s retirement. There are plenty of linebackers to fill his spot, especially in the later rounds. Previous names like Jack Cichy and Jerome Baker would be good, along with Tegray Scales. There is value later for them.

Tennessee Titans – Replenish The Front Seven

Number of picks – Six

The Titans have interesting patterns when it comes to the draft. Not this time around, as I expect new head coach Mike Vrabel to convince the front office to address the front seven. Edge and linebacker should be the positions to target in round one. Players like Rashaan Evans, Marcus Davenport, and even Harold Landry may be there for the taking. Another name floating around is Josh Sweat, someone I am a huge fan of in this draft.

In the later rounds, the Titans could target another receiver. It seems odd with Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor in the building, but the Titans did meet with several wide receivers pre-draft. The Titans could pull the trigger in later rounds, and I expect they’d target a receiver who will take the top off of defenses. It might be too late for D.J. Chark, but someone like Deon Cain will likely be available for Tennessee.

Indianapolis Colts – See: Browns, Cleveland (Minus The Quarterback)

Number of picks – Nine

The Colts, like the Browns, need to start building the roster with talent at a number of spots. Indy GM Chris Ballard made a smart move trading back to the Jets spot at six, and it may be beneficial to trade back again. First, if they don’t, look for them to target Bradley Chubb, Quenton Nelson, or Saquon Barkley. They could take Derwin James or Roquan Smith, but the three former names are more likely at this point. I like Chubb and Nelson a ton, as does everyone, but if neither are there, a trade back could be beneficial. If they trade back, I expect them to for sure land another second round pick. The second round is loaded with talent for them to acquire. Should they trade back, someone like Harold Landry or Derwin James could still be available.

Let’s move on to round two. With a possibility of four (they have three already) picks in this round, the Colts can do some damage. In my latest mock, I had them trade back in round one, and they picked up Josh Sweat, Da’Ron Payne, Austin Corbett, and Mike Gesicki. The defensive line sorely needs help, as does the offensive line in protecting Andrew Luck. Luck also needs some more targets. Those potential four picks attacked those needs.

If Indy trades back, they can have a heck of a draft, adding young talent to boost a very underwhelming roster. I trust Chris Ballard to do just that.

Houston Texans – Protecting Watson Is Key

Number of picks – Eight

The Houston Texans moved up in last year’s draft to select their quarterback of the future, DeShaun Watson. That left them without a first or second round pick in this year’s draft. The Texans will need to do what they can late on day two and day three to help themselves out. They have a really strong defense, so their focus shifts to the offensive line. They brought in some interior help, but tackle is still a need for them. Later round help for them could include Alex Cappa, Chuks Okorafor, and Martinas Rankin, all three of which might be ready to go by the start of the year. The other area where they could improve is tight end. They had a slew of injuries at that spot last season, and are losing C.J. Fiedorowicz to retirement. Guys like Chris Herndon, Durham Smythe, and Tyler Conklin will be there to help that out. They don’t have a lot of early picks, but they can use their eight picks to move up and get someone they covet later.

Kansas City Chiefs – Address Pass Rush, Linebacker

Number of picks – Eight

The Chiefs look ready to explode on the scene once again with their offense in 2018. However, their defense still needs some work before the season. They don’t pick until round two, but they will be looking at the front seven to start themselves off. Someone like Sam Hubbard or Obo Okoronkwo would be a nice selection for them in round two. They could also look at the linebacker position, and they could opt for someone like Darius Leonard, who is a bit raw, but packs a punch.

Where else should they look? The secondary is still an area of need. They added Kendall Fuller via trade, but they lost Marcus Peters to the Rams. There are corners to target in the middle rounds, most notably players like M.J. Stewart and Quenton Meeks. Adding stability there would be good for a team that struggled mightily in coverage down the field.

Denver Broncos – Quarterback, Offensive Line, Linebacker In Play

Number of picks – Eight

The Broncos were one of the teams coaching at the Senior Bowl, so they got a great look at Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield during the week. It wouldn’t be shocking at all for the Broncos to target one of them Thursday night. However, they need to be extremely prepared, because the “top four” quarterbacks could (although not likely) go in the first four picks. Also, their guy might not be there at five overall. If it was me, I want Baker Mayfield for Denver at five, and if he’s not there, I would take a different approach.

The options at five if my quarterback is gone would be either Quenton Nelson or Bradley Chubb. However, if some team wants to move up to five, I would definitely trade back. Let’s say the Bills offer 12 and 22 for number five. If it’s me, I’m pulling the trigger and moving back. With the 12th and 22nd picks, I can target the pass rush and the offensive line. Let’s go with Harold Landry and Will Hernandez. Landry complements Von Miller well, and Hernandez gets to team up with Garett Bolles on a line that will protect Case Keenum.

After that, it becomes pretty clear. Linebacker is another need for the Broncos, but in the mid rounds, linebacker drops off to a point. So, another direction could be wide receiver. The era of Thomas and Sanders could be done, and someone like D.J. Moore, Courtland Sutton, and Anthony Miller could be in play. Those are all great options to boost the offense with Keenum running the show.

Oakland Raiders – Tackle And Defense Need Serious Help

Number of picks – 11

The Raiders have an opportunity to get this draft right and turn themselves around and get back to the playoffs. This draft needs to be a home run for a team that struggled last season.

First off, the tackle spot needs to be fixed. Donald Penn is aging and right tackle is a mess right now. Mike McGlinchey at number 10 overall makes a ton of sense, and he would fit well on the right side right away. The other option at 10 is to find the linebacker that they’ve desperately needed. If Roquan Smith is there, I’d be hard pressed not to pull the trigger. He would play right away and be a centerpiece in the middle of that defense.

After that, the secondary needs a ton of work. Gareon Conley and Karl Joseph are young pieces, but they can use more. Players like Jaire Alexander, Justin Reid, and Isaiah Oliver are players to look at for the Raiders in the second round.

What else can they do with their eleven picks? Wide receiver is one position to address in the later rounds. With Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson already there, it seems fine, but Nelson is on the back nine of his career. Someone like Equanimeous St. Brown would be a nice add with a high ceiling later in the draft.

Los Angeles Chargers – Help Trenches, Start Thinking Future

Number of picks – Seven

The Chargers dealt with so many injuries in 2017, but they still have a playoff caliber football team in 2018. There are plenty of directions for them in the first round. Safety, linebacker, defensive line, and offensive line are all needs for this team. It seems unlikely either top safety falls to them in round one, but they’d be obvious picks if they did. Defensive line is deep, so waiting on that makes sense. The one position they should look for is linebacker in round one. It’s probable that Rashaan Evans is there for the Chargers at 17, and I would make that selection for them in the first. Another option for them would be someone like Da’Ron Payne, who would bolster the line already dominated by Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. Payne and Taven Bryan, another first round name flying around, would be nice picks there to develop for Los Angeles.

The next rounds for them could fall for them in a good way. As far as defensive and offensive line goes, Alex Cappa and Tyrell Crosby are names that could help the tackle position. On the defensive side, Justin Reid and Jessie Bates are safeties that could make an already potent pass defense better. Nathan Shepherd and Harrison Phillips are defensive tackles that will be available for them in round two.

The final thing the Chargers may look at is a quarterback. Philip Rivers has his days numbered in Los Angeles, and picking a quarterback could be the move in round one. Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph could be available for them at 17, and if they like one of them, that could happen on Thursday night.

What do you think of the strategies? Do you like your team’s? What are your thoughts? Follow me on Twitter @JSchyvinck13 and let’s talk! Also, join Nate and I @SportsGuysBlog on Twitter for our live stream on Thursday and Friday night! 

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