AFC post-draft team needs: Chiefs, Bills in similar boat, while Steelers would do well to sign former division rival
Now that the 2023 NFL Draft has come and gone and teams have addressed some major needs, here are the ones that remain for each AFC team.
Buffalo Bills: A bonafide WR2
The Bills don’t really have a reliable receiver outside of Stefon Diggs — and Buffalo needs one if it wants to compete with the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals for the AFC crown. Gabe Davis and Khalil Shakir aren’t consistent enough to elevate this offense and the Bills didn’t bring in anyone in free agency or the draft to bolster the group.
Possible fix: Trade for DeAndre Hopkins
Miami Dolphins: Tight end
The offensive line is another major need for this team, but tight end might be more pressing. Durham Smythe, the presumptive starter after Mike Gesicki signed with the New England Patriots, finished with 15 receptions this past season. The Dolphins reportedly nearly traded for Darren Waller in 2022 before the Las Vegas Raiders sent him to the New York Giants this offseason. Miami also signed veteran Tyler Kroft, who is mostly known as a blocking tight end. The Dolphins know they need a quality tight end.
Possible fix: Sign a veteran free agent like Cameron Brate.
New England Patriots: Coverage safety
Devin McCourty retired and the safeties room is a jumble of mediocre veterans who mostly play in the box between Adrian Phillips, Jabrill Peppers and Kyle Dugger. The Patriots brought back Jalen Mills, who can play safety and cornerback, but what New England needs is someone who can patrol the deep secondary as McCourty did for 13 seasons. They’ll need it when they play the rest of their divisional games.
Possible fix: Sign John Johnson III.
New York Jets: Offensive tackle
New York should have fixed this in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, but the Pittsburgh Steelers jumped ahead of the Jets to grab Georgia’s Broderick Jones, which left the Jets in the lurch. The Jets’ current tackle depth chart is Mekhi Becton, who hasn’t played in almost two years, almost-38–year-old Duane Brown, 2022 fourth-rounder Max Mitchell, and 2023 fourth-rounder Carter Warren. The Jets need to protect Aaron Rodgers, and that group looks shaky.
Possible fix: Sign Isaiah Wynn or Cameron Fleming.
Baltimore Ravens: Pass rush depth
Edge rusher Odafe Oweh was a bit of a disappointment in 2022 and the Ravens will surely miss defensive end Calais Campbell, who was a salary cap casualty and signed with the Atlanta Falcons. Justin Madubuike could fill in well and edge rusher David Ojabo looked solid in two games after he fully recovered from an Achilles tear, but that’s still not an inspiring group. The Ravens would do well to strengthen their pass rush before the season starts.
Possible fix: Sign Frank Clark or Jadeveon Clowney
Cincinnati Bengals: Guard
Keeping Joe Burrow upright should always be the Bengals’ No. 1 priority in the offseason, and they made a huge move in signing Orlando Brown Jr. to protect Burrow’s blindside. However, the guard spot remains a bit of a question mark, specifically on the left side with 2022 fourth-rounder Cordell Volson. The Bengals are one position away from one of the better offensive lines in the NFL.
Possible fix: Sign Dalton Risner.
Cleveland Browns: Pass rush depth
Can you name a Browns pass rusher who's not Myles Garrett? Probably not. Despite the signing of Ogbonnia Okoronkwo this offseason, depth here is a glaring weakness in Cleveland’s defense, which needs as many able-bodied linemen as possible in Jim Schwartz’s scheme. The Philadelphia Eagles' defense which Schwartz coached in 2017 had five linemen with at least three sacks and double-digit quarterback hits. The Browns had one in 2022.
Possible fix: Sign any veteran pass rusher in free agency.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Nickel cornerback
The Steelers have two ends of the cornerback spectrum with 12-year veteran Patrick Peterson on one side and rookie Joey Porter Jr. on the other. But they don’t have a good nickel cornerback who can play in those pockets of space on the field that requires a rangy body. The Bengals have been an aerial threat with Joe Burrow, the Ravens have a much better receiver unit than they did in 2022 and the Browns could turn the corner in the passing game as well. The Steelers should solidify that unit more.
Possible fix: Sign Marcus Peters, one of the best slot cornerbacks in 2022.
Houston Texans: Linebacker
The offense is still a work in progress with C.J. Stroud now in the fold, but there isn’t one thing that can turn the Texans around in one season. Head coach DeMeco Ryans could fix the defense faster, though. Houston added Will Anderson Jr. with a monster trade-up in the 2023 draft but otherwise didn’t bring in too many big names. While there isn’t a free agent on the market who could revolutionize the team, there are some veterans who could help the trio of Denzel Perryman, Cory Littleton and Christian Harris. The Texans should throw as many options into the lineup as possible and maybe something worthwhile will emerge
Possible fix: Sign a veteran like Deion Jones, Kwon Alexander or Kyle Van Noy.
Indianapolis Colts: Right guard
The Colts have a lot of offensive potential if Anthony Richardson pans out, and that happens only if the offensive line is sound. The left side is fine with Quenton Nelson and Bernhard Raimann, but the right guard spot is questionable. Jonathan Taylor needs good blockers as well if he wants to rebound from a poor and injury-ridden 2022 season. Indianapolis would do well to grab a veteran guard to start Week 1.
Possible fix: Sign Gabe Jackson or A.J. Cann.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Cornerback
The offense is rock solid, but the defense still has holes, particularly in the secondary. The Jaguars need another cornerback to replace Shaquill Griffin on the outside. Though Jacksonville signed Darious Williams, depth is still an issue as well for the reigning AFC South champions. They can’t afford to mount 27-0 comebacks every game.
Possible fix: Sign Marcus Peters or Casey Hayward.
Tennessee Titans: Wide receiver
Whether it’s Ryan Tannehill or Will Levis under center in Tennessee, the Titans don’t have many reliable pass-catchers. Treylon Burks and Kyle Philips are still learning as they each head into their second seasons and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine has a low floor. The Titans failed with their trades for Julio Jones and Robert Woods in consecutive offseasons, but maybe they’ll have better luck this year with someone who has played with Tannehill before.
Possible fix: Sign Jarvis Landry.
Denver Broncos: Box safety
Patrick Surtain II and Justin Simmons are the only reliable players in Denver’s secondary. While the defense was one of the lone bright spots in 2022, the Broncos should continue to add pieces to it by filling the gaps. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph’s best unit with the Arizona Cardinals had two solid safeties, and right now Denver has only one.
Possible fix: Trade for Budda Baker to reunite him with Joseph.
Kansas City Chiefs: Wide receiver
The Chiefs have a similar-yet-different problem than the Bills: Neither has a good second pass-catching option for their rockstar quarterback. Kansas City’s problem, though, is its top receiver is tight end Travis Kelce. The group behind him in the wideouts room includes Kadarius Toney, Marquez Valdez-Scantling, Skyy Moore and second-rounder Rashee Rice. The Chiefs should add someone who will make defenses look away from Kelce.
Possible fix: Trade for DeAndre Hopkins (or … Mike Evans?)
Las Vegas Raiders: Interior offensive line
NBC Sports’ Peter King reported the Raiders’ No. 1 draft target was Ohio State offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr., who went one pick before Las Vegas to the Arizona Cardinals at No. 6. The Raiders didn’t solve their need for the rest of the draft, which leaves a big hole in the middle of the line. Center should be the team’s top priority, but guard is also a major need.
Possible fix: Sign center Ben Jones and/or guard Dalton Risner.
Los Angeles Chargers: Running back
The Austin Ekeler problem is coming to a head soon. And even if the Chargers don’t deal the veteran running back as he requested, they still haven’t figured out a quality backup behind Ekeler or his successor after 2023. There are some quality veteran backs in free agency who could shore up the position and provide relief if Ekeler is gone.
Possible fix: Sign Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette.