2021 NFL Draft order: Cowboys No. 5; Broncos inch closer to top 10
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This is a look at the first-round order for the 2021 NFL Draft heading into Week 11 of the NFL season, along with the top three needs for each team. The order is determined by record, using strength of schedule as the first tiebreaker (click here to see a full list of the draft-order tiebreakers). Keep in mind — teams 19-32 would make the playoffs if the season ended today and are marked as PL (short for playoffs) in the order below. The draft order for playoff teams is determined by the results of postseason play.

Biggest needs: QB, WR, edge rusher

This week’s game: at Chargers

Is Joe Douglas setting the stage for one of the boldest moves ever by a GM? He says Sam Darnold is the Jets’ “quarterback for the future,” but to make that a reality beyond this season, he’ll likely have to pass on the most hyped QB prospect in nearly a decade.

Biggest needs: QB, CB, OT

This week’s game: vs. Steelers

When the Jaguars needed him most on Sunday (Jacksonville’s final drive of the game), Cam Robinson was no match for the Packers’ pressure off the edge, which isn’t going to help the pending free agent’s case at the negotiating table.

Biggest needs: QB, WR, OL

This week’s game: vs. Bengals

Washington passed on Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa in this year’s draft, only to bench Dwayne Haskins a month into the season. Would Ron Rivera really say no thanks to some of the top QB prospects available again if his team ends up drafting this high, even with Alex Smith’s heroic comeback?

Biggest needs: Interior OL, TE, edge rusher

This week’s game: vs. Jets

We’re giving edge rusher a spin on the needs list this week after the Chargers recorded only one sack (by defensive lineman Jerry Tillery) in the last two games with Joey Bosa sidelined. Melvin Ingram, in the final year of his deal, has yet to record a sack this season, and Uchenna Nwosu isn’t playing much. The Bolts pressured Tua Tagovailoa on just 12 percent of his dropbacks in Week 10.

Biggest needs: CB, DT, OL

This week’s game: at Vikings

Potential silver lining to what’s looking like a lost year in Dallas: The last time the Cowboys started a season 2-7, they ended up landing Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall five months later. It’s not hard to envision them bouncing back in a weak division with a healthy Dak Prescott and a highly touted rookie defender or offensive lineman added to the mix.

PICK ACQUIRED FROM THE HOUSTON TEXANS

Texans’ record: 2-7 (.593)

This week’s Texans game: vs. Patriots

See the playoff teams section for analysis of the Dolphins’ needs and the bottom of this article for analysis of the Texans’ needs.

Biggest needs: OL, CB, edge rusher

This week’s game: at Washington Football Team

Sunday’s rout by the Steelers marked the fourth game in which Joe Burrow has been sacked four or more times, tied for most in the league, and three of the four games were against division opponents. This team isn’t going to be competitive in the AFC North until it can keep its quarterback from being bludgeoned by rivals.

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, CB, OT

This week’s game: On bye

James Bradberry continues to play at a Pro Bowl level, but the Giants should be looking to upgrade opposite him at corner.

Biggest needs: OL, CB, WR

This week’s game: vs. Lions

There could be more big changes coming in Matt Rhule’s second offseason on the job. Four of the five starters on the offensive line and the team’s top three cornerbacks are due to hit the market.

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, S, CB

This week’s game: at Saints

Can the Falcons, with a defense that’s been stingier in the past month despite lacking a consistent edge-rush presence, beat a winning team? They haven’t done it yet this season, and six of their final seven games are against squads that are currently at least three games above .500.

Biggest needs: OT, CB, QB

This week’s game: vs. Dolphins

Is it too soon to give up on Drew Lock? Yes. But that’s life in the NFL in 2020. He’s played in one fewer game than the benched Dwayne Haskins and has a lower completion percentage and QB rating despite being surrounded with a better supporting cast. Based on the way things are trending for Lock and the Broncos, we can’t leave QB off the needs list any longer.

Biggest needs: OL, CB, edge rusher

This week’s game: On bye

The 49ers are already pursuing edge-rush help. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported they were among the teams to put in a claim on recently waived DE Takkarist McKinley, who was assigned to the Bengals. San Francisco’s search will continue into 2021.

Biggest needs: WR, DL, LB

This week’s game: at Panthers

The two players to record sacks for the Lions in their Week 10 victory — DEs Everson Griffen and Romeo Okwara — could be playing elsewhere in 2021, as both are due to become free agents. Okwara is on pace to post a career-high in sacks. He already has six, while no one else on the team has more than two.

Biggest needs: Interior OL, DL, WR

This week’s game: at Texans

Forty percent of the New England offensive line that played so well on Sunday night could walk in the offseason. Guard Joe Thuney and center David Andrews, both among the top 10 players at their respective positions, are pending free agents.

Biggest needs: OL, DT, QB

This week’s game: vs. Cowboys

With a strong running game leading the way, Kirk Cousins has turned it on again, posting a passer rating of 100-plus in each of the past three games. We’re not backing off the need to develop a young quarterback behind him, though.

Biggest needs: QB, OG, S

This week’s game: On bye

The Bears could barely muster 100 passing yards against a Vikings pass defense that has had its share of issues this year, offering the most stark signal yet that Chicago, losers of four straight, has to start over at quarterback.  

Biggest needs: QB, CB, edge rusher

This week’s game: vs. Packers

Philip Rivers had a good night against the Titans, but we’re not moving QB on the needs list at this point. Remember, 2020 fourth-round pick Jacob Eason is the only quarterback the Colts have under contract beyond this season.

Biggest needs: LB, CB, edge rusher

This week’s game: vs. Eagles

Cleveland is set at one corner sport with Denzel Ward, but Cleveland’s top two players at the position this season outside of Ward have expiring deals. Plus, Greedy Williams, who has yet to play in 2020, is still somewhat of an unknown with less than a full season’s worth of starts under his belt. 

Biggest needs: OG, LB, CB

This week’s game: at Browns

These are not wonderful times for the Eagles, and things might soon get even uglier. A vulnerable back seven on defense will face two of the league’s top six pass offenses in the next three weeks.

Biggest needs: CB, edge rusher, interior OL

This week’s game: at Seahawks

Lost somewhat in the hoopla around Kyler Murray’s miraculous throw was the fact that the Cardinals failed to sack Josh Allen, who matched a season-high with 49 dropbacks.

Biggest needs: WR, ILB, interior OL

This week’s game: at Broncos

This offseason should be all about adding explosiveness, starting at the receiver position. The Jets are the only team with fewer pass plays of 20-plus yards than the Dolphins (20).

PICK ACQUIRED FROM THE LOS ANGELES RAMS

Rams’ record: 6-3 (.453)

This week’s Rams game: at Buccaneers

See Pick No. 2 for analysis of the Jaguars’ needs and the bottom of this article for analysis of the Rams’ needs.

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, TE, WR

This week’s game: at Ravens

Tennessee has a grand total of zero sacks to show for the $20 million it invested in Jadeveon Clowney and now former Titan Vic Beasley for 2020. After that experience, perhaps investing in the position early in the draft will be a more appealing option for GM Jon Robinson in 2021.

PICK ACQUIRED FROM THE SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Seahawks’ record: 6-3 (.506)

This week’s Seahawks game: vs. Cardinals

See Pick No. 1 for analysis of the Jets’ needs and the bottom of this article for analysis of the Seahawks’ needs.

Biggest needs: WR, OL, edge rusher

This week’s game: vs. Titans

Bill Belichick, long the master of identifying and exploiting the opponent’s weakness, located it Sunday night on the interior of the Ravens’ offensive line.

Biggest needs: DT, OL, S

This week’s game: vs. Chiefs

The Vegas offensive line has held up well despite disruptions due to COVID-19 protocols and injuries, a credit to O-line coach Tom Cable. That said, young reinforcements will likely be needed up front given the potential for free-agent losses/cap casualties.

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, DT, WR

This week’s game: vs. Rams

Whom do you keep when you probably can’t lock up all your key pending free agents: Chris Godwin entering his prime or stud defenders like Lavonte David and Shaq Barrett?

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, CB, DT

This week’s game: On bye

We wrote about the need for O-line help just last week, but DT deserves a week in the spotlight. It’s been a problem area for a while, including on Sunday, when the Cardinals gashed the Bills for 217 yards rushing.

Biggest needs: WR, interior OL, CB

This week’s game: at Colts

The Packers were wise to fork over big money to extend left tackle David Bakhtiari this weekend. What does that mean for the future of free-agent-to-be Corey Linsley, though? He’s PFF’s top center (by far) this season.

Biggest needs: QB, S, DL

This week’s game: vs. Falcons

There’s uncertainty at quarterback for the Saints in the short- and long-term, but no matter what the future holds for Drew Brees and Jameis Winston, this seems like a fine time for Sean Payton to draft and develop a passer.

Biggest needs: Interior OL, WR, S

This week’s game: at Raiders

In addition to guard/tackle Mike Remmers, three interior O-linemen (Austin Reiter, Kelechi Osemele, Daniel Kilgore) are due to reach unrestricted free agency in 2021. All four players have started at least three games for the Chiefs this season, so adding depth up front figures to be on the to-do list.

Biggest needs: OT, edge rusher, CB

This week’s game: at Jaguars

Pittsburgh could be in the market for interior D-line depth with Tyson Alualu in a walk year, but corner is the bigger priority from our perspective with Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton due to reach free agency in 2021, one year before Joe Haden and Steven Nelson do the same.

TEAMS WITHOUT A FIRST-ROUND PICK

TRADED FIRST-ROUND PICK TO THE MIAMI DOLPHINS

Biggest needs: WR, CB, edge rusher

This week’s game: vs. Patriots

In addition to bolstering his weaponry on offense, the Texans can help Deshaun Watson by giving him a defense that can get off the field. Houston ranks second to last in average time of possession because, in part, it has allowed 167.4 rushing yards per game this season (most in the NFL).

TRADED FIRST-ROUND PICK TO THE JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Biggest needs: OL, edge rusher, LB

This week’s game: at Buccaneers

Joe Noteboom’s performance filling in for the injured Andrew Whitworth could tell the Rams a lot about how high a priority the O-line should be this offseason. 

TRADED FIRST-ROUND PICK TO THE NEW YORK JETS

Biggest needs: OL, CB, edge rusher

This week’s game: vs. Cardinals

The cracks in the Seahawks’ offensive line seem to be showing, as Seattle set a new season-high in sacks allowed in each of the past two games. Russell Wilson has been hit a combined 23 times and sacked 11 times in that span.

Follow Dan Parr on Twitter @TheDan_Parr.

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