That's a mere sampling of the questions surrounding teams as we head toward the 2017 NFL Draft (April 27-29 in Philadelphia). And that's what this installment of All-32 is all about: identifying one key draft-related question for each GM.
Trade winds blow harder on Day 1 of the great college marketplace than at any other time of the year. Expect this time around to be no different, even if the Brownsdo hold on to that top spot. It's a period of great uncertainty, as questions abound in all corners of the NFL. Here's one pressing, draft-centric issue for each team. Hit me up with your draft takes: @HarrisonNFL is the place.
Dallas Cowboys: Can the Joneses afford to go BPA again?
Dallas' recent organizational M.O. has been to take the best player available on the draft board, be it Ezekiel Elliott (despite the presence of veteran running backs Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris), Jaylon Smith (despite a nerve issue in his knee), Randy Gregory (despite off-field issues) or Zack Martin (despite the availability of Johnny Manziel and the need for a backup plan for Tony Romo), among others. The Cowboys need a pass rusher more than anything, while the secondary was ransacked by free agency. Look for the Joneses to eschew BPA for help in either area ... I think?
They spent some mid-round draft capital on this a few years back, using a fourth-round pick on Ryan Nassib out of Syracuse in 2013. Washington found Kirk Cousins in the same round one year prior, but more often than not, the top quarterbacks come on Day 1 or Day 2. Are the Giants willing to use that kind of currency this year? Eli Manning is not coming off one of his stronger seasons. Not to mention, this will be Year 14 for him. The Giants certainly could afford to upgrade the right side of the offensive line, and potentially add another running back, but Manning won't be commenting on boat trips forever.
Look at most mock drafts, and you'll see Philly snagging a defensive stud for coordinator Jim Schwartz's unit. That's fine, except that side of the football was not the problem for this team in 2016. Christian McCaffrey should be there when the Eagles are on the clock at No. 14. Would GM Howie Roseman pass? What if O.J. Howard's still available? Could you imagine Wentz operating 2TE sets with Zach Ertz and Howard? Not saying Philly won't go defense in Round 1, but passing on a talent like McCaffrey (Darren Sproles 2.0) might be tough. That goes for passing on Dalvin Cook, too. Ultimately, I'm guessing they go corner, but remember what the defense-needy Cowboys did with their first-round pick last year.
Just like with the Eagles, most draftniks have Washington committing their first-round pick (17th overall) to the defensive side of the ball. The smart money would be on D-line or secondary. Grabbing Zach Brown in free agency was quite a coup. Meanwhile, running back looked to be partially solved with undrafted rookie Rob Kelley's emergence last season. Kelley was on-again, off-again, though. After plowing for 321 yards in Games 8 through 10, Kelley managed just 280 yards over the final six weeks, averaging a mere 3.3 yards per carry. What is the organizational feeling on Matt Jones this year? With DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon departed, Jay Gruden might lean on the ground game more this fall. No issue with the Redskins going defense in Round 1, but thinking they should at least kick the tires on drafting an RB on Day 2.
A whole bunch of folks have the Bears taking cornerback Marshon Lattimore third overall. Makes sense. Prince Amukamara and Quintin Demps were nice free-agent acquisitions, but hardly enough to stop Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford. Heck, the division's other non-Bears QB, Sam Bradford, just led the NFL in completion percentage. But what of Chicago's quarterback? Yes, Mike Glennon is now making $15 million per year. That doesn't guarantee he's the answer. Perhaps GM Ryan Pace takes a one-year look-see and reassesses in 2018. If Mitchell Trubisky or Deshaun Watson tumbles down the board, bear in mind that Pace owns an early second-rounder (No. 36 overall).
Detroit Lions: Pass on defense in the first round and snag ... a tight end?
"No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" came the scream from Lions fans everywhere. The secondary allowed opposing quarterbacks a passer rating north of 100 last year. Even drafting a running back as an Ameer Abdullah fallback (he's missed a ton of time) probably sounds more enticing than taking a tight end. Detroit already spent a high pick on the enigmatic Eric Ebron. He was much-improved last year, though, and could be made even more effective with the addition of David Njoku out of Miami. First, there's the motivation of having another guy at your position. Second, there's the potential for Detroit to deploy two athletic TEs to create mismatches in the passing game, a recent trait my colleague Daniel Jeremiah mentioned in his latest mock. Not a bad lineage of Hurricane tight ends, either. That's where Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow Jr. and Greg Olsen came from -- and maybe the Lions' next tight end, as well.
Eddie Lacy is playing elsewhere. Cool. That still doesn't mean Montgomery can carry the rock 20 times per game. It sure looked as though the former wideout was gassed in a couple of games last season. And for all the talk of him playing running back full-time, Montgomery carried the football more than 11 times only once all season. A decent running back can found on Day 2 or even Day 3 of the draft (SEE: Johnson, David). Yet, if Christian McCaffrey falls to 29, Thompson might have to say yes. Green Bay can afford to pass on an RB in the first round. The same can't be said for a pass rusher.
We know the Vikings' offensive line was an abomination much of last season -- in the run game, anyway. And we know Tom Johnson was viable in Floyd's stead. After Johnson and stud Linval Joseph, it's pretty thin at DT on Mike Zimmer's defense. GM Rick Spielman signed Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers to man the offensive tackle spots, but is Remmers a long-term answer? Even if he is, depth is still an issue -- on both lines. The Vikes have conducted several pre-draft meetings with guards and defensive linemen. I think they'll address one of those spots early. Much could depend on which running backs are available on Day 2. With no first-round pick (after the Sam Bradford trade), Minnesota must spend its top-end draft currency wisely.
Atlanta Falcons: Draft for need or take the best player on the board?
No, those things aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. Last season, GM Thomas Dimitroff knocked if out of the park by snagging Keanu Neal, Deion Jones, Austin Hooper and De'Vondre Campbell with his first four picks. We should also throw Brian Poole in there, as the undrafted free-agent signee started nine games in the secondary. Perhaps only the Cowboys had a more impactful draft haul than Atlanta. Dimitroff is in a much different spot this year, fortifying a team that could've won the Super Bowl, instead of re-tooling an 8-8 bunch. Drafting for need (pass rusher, guard) makes sense for a team built to win now. But that could mean passing up on the inevitable blue-chipper who plummets down the first round. My guess: Atlanta trades out of the first and accumulates more picks (the Falcons only have six right now).
Carolina Panthers: Protect Cam or weaponize him? That is the question ...
Last year, Dave Gettleman had much 'splainin' to do after letting Josh Norman walk out the door. He and his personnel department went right after Norman's position group in the draft, spending three of their five picks on corners -- with the top pick, No. 30 overall, also used on defense (DT Vernon Butler). The problem for Newton has been a dearth of talent to get the ball to. First it was Kelvin Benjamin's injury. Then the large wideout disappeared for large stretches last season. Entering Year 3, Devin Funchess has yet to develop into the WR2 Carolina hoped for. Meanwhile, Jonathan Stewart -- who's been solid -- just turned 30, and he hasn't played a full season since 2011. The dilemma here is that Michael Oher missed months with concussion symptoms, while fellow tackle Mike Remmers is now playing for the Vikings. Carolina could use a right tackle. There's not one worth taking eighth overall. But Dalvin Cook is. O.J. Howard, too.
New Orleans Saints: When will the franchise do what it has to do: draft a quarterback?
Nobody wants to the see the Saints draft a quarterback. The perception is that the defense sucks too bad for GM Mickey Loomis to invest a high pick on a guy who inevitably will sit on the bench. So maybe that's not in the cards for pick No. 11 -- but what about No. 32? What if the only truly QB-needy team in the second half of the first round, Houston, passes on the top remaining quarterback, potentially Mitchell Trubisky or Deshaun Watson? Point is, New Orleans' defense, with young players developing, did improve last year. Not exponentially, but the unit allowed fewer points and yards than the year prior. Drew Brees is 38. Dan Marino had his worst season at 38. John Elway missed several starts at age 38 -- and eventually rode off into the sunset after winning a second consecutive Super Bowl -- because his body couldn't hold up anymore. Roger Staubach was 38 at his retirement press conference. Peyton Manning's game started to slide at 38. Not everyone can be Tom Brady. Loomis doesn't have to panic just because Trubisky might be sitting there, but the organization can't put QB off much longer, either.
Tampa GM Jason Licht got Jacquizz Rodgers back under contract rather quickly. He was quietly effective when it became his turn to be the RB1. Rodgers put up back-to-back 100-yard games on the road when Tampa needed some wins midseason. Everyone seems to have given up on Doug Martin, who is dealing with off-the-field issues. Seems premature for a guy who was second in the NFL in rushing just two years ago. Adrian Peterson continues to be linked to the Bucs because of his joint workouts with Jameis Winston. Who knows? Maybe he and Winston were running in short shorts on the beach, a la Rocky and Apollo in the greatest bro-love scene ever. That said, even with Peterson having just left New England without a deal, it doesn't appear Licht is interested in that much mileage in his backfield rotation. This is a deep RB draft. Not hard to imagine Tampa addressing this area somewhere in the first four rounds.
The Cardinals hold a key pick on Day 1. It's no secret they must think about drafting a quarterback. Following Tony Romo's retirement, you can bet the Texans are curious as to what Arizona could do. Maybe the Cards take ILB Reuben Foster -- this would not only fill a need, but remove him from the wish lists of several teams that own picks from No. 14 through the end of Round 1 (like the Eagles, Titans, Raiders, Steelers, Ravens, Saints). Secondary help is not out of the question. I have to think the Cardinals take wideout Corey Davis if he's there. While John Ross is getting taken high in plenty of mocks, Arizona already has deep-ball threats. (Look out for J.J. Nelson this season.) With Michael Floyd departed, getting a big red-zone target who can fill the eventual Larry Fitzgerald void makes more sense. According to NFL.com draftnik Lance Zierlein, Davis wasn't asked to block much in college. He sure as heck will be if he goes to these guys.
Los Angeles Rams: How much can be done with "limited" draft resources?
Putting that word in quotes up there is not a mistake. The Rams don't have a first-round pick -- because of last year's trade for the No. 1 overall pick -- leading many analysts and fans to think L.A. has no capital to build a team for Sean McVay. Dude, the Rams have eight picks. And before you ask, only one is in the seventh round. GM Les Snead still owns five selections in the top 150. The Rams need talent at receiver, tight end, offensive line, pass rusher and corner. Given the presence of Todd Gurley, here's hoping they can further upgrade the line following the brilliant signing of veteran Andrew Whitworth. Spending at least two picks on wideouts -- or a WR and a TE -- makes sense. Bottom line: Let's stop crying for the Rams. They're fine.
Every draft expert and 13-year-old version of Daniel Jeremiah with an iPad and subscription to ProFootballFocus.com has the 49ers taking the Stanford defensive end at No. 2 overall. Local college kid, paired with a new GM who comes from a defensive background (who, oh, by the way, also went to Stanford). You get the drift. But don't the Niners need a QB, the greatness of Brian Hoyer aside? Going a step further, the 39-year-old real-life Jeremiah thinks San Francisco might try to trade down. If they can do that, I see the 49ers grabbing a pass rusher not named Solomon Thomas and taking a quarterback on Day 2. Heard the analysts on Sirius XM's NFL channel speculating up to five quarterbacks could go in the first round. How about two? There will be a prime prospect there on Day 2, like there was for the team across the Bay three years ago. Kirk Cousins went in Round 4. Not sure what made me think of him when writing this blurb ...
That would create quite an uproar, right? I still remember a pretty big NFC West draft-day deal from a couple decades ago -- when the Rams sent a perceived malcontent in Jerome Bettis to the Steelers. Or how about the Seahawks trading out of the first round so the Vikings could take Teddy Bridgewater? Seems like forever ago. Much like it seems like forever ago that Richard Sherman was beloved by the Powers That Be in Seattle. Perhaps the sideline tirades and the free spirit of a very vocal player represent the kind of petulance the John Schneider-Pete Carroll marriage can't handle in the household anymore. Or perhaps there's something else at play here ... Moving Sherman at this stage smacks of a team identifying a star's declining play and looking to maximize returns a year early (as opposed to a year late). Whether or not Schneider can snag a first-rounder for the three-time All-Pro is another question. We know the Seahawks need a tackle or two (depending on your Luke Joeckel slant). Cam Robinson and Ryan Ramczyk are the only tackles worth taking in the first round. Seattle should be able to draft one. How about both?