The AFC is an arms race right now, as multiple teams are loading up in an effort to challenge the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Here are the most pressing draft needs for each team in the AFC ahead of this week's 2023 NFL Draft:
Bengals: Offensive guard
For the time being, La'El Collins is on the roster, and that makes the offensive tackle position slightly less of a need despite how he performed last season. Cincinnati invested significant resources into the offensive line last offseason but still have positions to fill before Joe Burrow can feel secure. Alex Cappa and Ted Karras played well last season, and the team hoped last year's starting left tackle, Jonah Williams, would either fill the other offensive guard position or flip to the right side. However, he requested a trade instead, following the signing of Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Brown Jr.
Tight end and cornerback are a few other positions to consider.
Bills: Interior offensive line
Buffalo's entire offensive line, outside of perhaps Dion Dawkins, needs attention, but the interior offensive line needs it most. The Bills churn veterans on an annual basis and Josh Allen has made it work, but it is time to find some staples along that unit. Linebacker is another spot that could use another body after losing Tremaine Edmunds in free agency.
Denver has a pretty good roster, which makes last season all that more disappointing. The Broncos have locked down the edges with offensive tackles Garett Bolles and Mike McGlinchey. They signed free agent offensive guard Ben Powers to pair with Quinn Meinerz. The Broncos have viable options at essentially every spot on the field, but center is a spot that needs to perform at a higher level.
Browns: Defensive tackle
Cleveland made a significant investment in free agent defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, but the Browns need more reliable play from others on the roster. They signed Trysten Hill and Maurice Hurst as well, but it is the young draft picks -- Perrion Winfrey, Tommy Togiai and Jordan Elliott -- who need to step up under the direction of new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
Linebacker is a position of concern as well, but there are players on the roster who could occupy those roles if able to stay healthy.
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Some may point to right tackle as Los Angeles' biggest need, but Trey Pipkins was fine; not great, but fine. The contract he received this offseason tells me that the team views him as the swing tackle and not the starter.
Los Angeles needs to get stronger up the middle on defense, though. The Chargers signed Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson in free agency last offseason, but the AFC contender allowed the fifth-most rushing yards in the league. Defensive tackle remains a need, but they need a linebacker who is willing to do the dirty work as well.
Chiefs: Defensive line
Kansas City lost some of its interior defensive line depth in free agency, and that essentially leaves the Chiefs with Chris Jones. Edge rusher is a question mark as well. They picked George Karlaftis in the 2022 first round and swapped Frank Clark for Charles Omenihu this offseason. The Chiefs need more pass rush to heat up opponents as they look to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
Indianapolis has a lot of needs on the roster, and the insertion of a quarterback is not going to fix it. However, the team expects to compete in the AFC South and is not looking for a one-year veteran rental for the fifth consecutive season. The Colts are better off adding a young quarterback to build around, whether that is in the first round or on Day Two. Wide receiver, cornerback and safety are other areas of concern on the roster.
Dolphins: Offensive guard
Offensive tackle play was much improved last season, and Connor Williams was fantastic at center in his first season after signing in free agency. Miami's offensive guard play was not up to expectations. Two players on their rookie contracts is ideal when the team is spending roughly $32.5 million on cornerbacks Xavien Howard, Byron Jones and Jalen Ramsey this year. The Dolphins need to add depth at a few spots, including defensive tackle and linebacker.
Jacksonville has made ample investment into the cornerback position in recent years. The Jaguars signed free agents Darious Williams and Shaq Griffin, in addition to spending a first-round selection on C.J. Henderson and a second-round selection on Tyson Campbell, who remains a building block at the position moving forward. The Jaguars need more from that group -- especially after releasing Griffin -- and returning to the well may be the only way to do it.
Defensive tackle, offensive guard and safety are a few of the other positions they could explore.
Jets: Interior offensive line
Offensive tackle could prove to be a bigger need dependent upon how New York views Mekhi Becton. A year ago, it sounded as though the Jets were prepared to move on from him, but could that have changed? They could stand to find long-term starters at center and guard as they move forward. Linebacker and defensive tackle are a few other spots where the team could look to acquire depth.
Patriots: Offensive tackle
New England is slated to start Trent Brown on the left side and 34-year-old Riley Reiff on the right side. There had been some discussion that the Patriots could move on from left tackle Isaiah Wynn and Brown this offseason; Wynn remains a free agent. The team could theoretically move starting guard Michael Onwenu to right tackle, which he played the better part of four games as a rookie in 2021, in a pinch. No matter how the Patriots choose to reshuffle the deck, the offensive line is going to be a concern without any additions.
The situation is reminiscent of 2020 when it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Cleveland, which picked Jedrick Wills, and Tampa Bay, which selected Tristan Wirfs, would select offensive tackles.
Wide receiver, tight end and linebacker are some of the other positions that would rank toward the top of the list.
Raiders: Defensive tackle
Las Vegas has made a lot of changes at the interior defensive line position, but there is no one who projects as a stable option long term. When combined with the fact that the linebacker unit is underwhelming, it emphasizes the need to get stronger up the middle. The interior offensive line would be a few other positions that require some time, love and care.
Ravens: Wide receiver
Baltimore's best pass-catching outlets are slot receiver Rashod Bateman and tight end Mark Andrews. The Ravens need a true X receiver who can stretch opposing defenses vertically. Hollywood Brown had that ability, but inconsistency has really limited the offense's potential. Quarterback Lamar Jackson may be willing to sign a long-term deal if he gets the guaranteed money he wants and the team has the talent around him necessary to succeed at a high level.
Steelers: Offensive tackle
Pittsburgh has taken its offensive line need seriously over the past few years, signing veterans Mason Cole, Isaac Seumalo, James Daniels and Nate Herbig, in addition to drafting center Kendrick Green and offensive guard Kevin Dotson. The team needs to get more dynamic on the edge, and it obviously agrees with that perspective, because the Steelers were a finalist to sign offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. The AFC North franchise has used its last two first-round picks on the quarterback and running back positions, so now it needs to protect those assets.
Houston has Davis Mills and Case Keenum on its roster but is almost certainly taking a rookie QB at No. 2 overall. It will be interesting to see if the Texans rehome Mills this offseason as part of that process. Kentucky's Will Levis, Alabama's Bryce Young, Florida's Anthony Richardson and Ohio State's C.J. Stroud are the best expected to be available.
The Texans have a bevy of needs to address, including wide receiver, center, linebacker, defensive tackle and edge rusher. They also hold the No. 12 overall selection.
Titans: Inside linebacker
Head coach Mike Vrabel has a big need at the position he played in the NFL. The team could take multiple linebackers in the upcoming draft and no one would have a problem with it. Azeez Al-Shaair, Luke Gifford and Monty Rice are slated to compete for those two starting roles right now. Depth is lacking behind them.
Offensive tackle would be high up the list, but they could theoretically allow Nicholas Petit-Frere time to grow into the role. Center, offensive guard and wide receiver are other areas to address.