While the start of the regular season is almost upon us, NFL scouts and general managers are already looking ahead to the 2020 NFL Draft.
Some teams' needs will be discovered throughout the 2019 season, while others already know the positions they will prioritize when next year's draft begins. Earlier this week, we broke down the
Before Week 1 of the regular season kicks off, we look at each NFC team's biggest draft needs at this point in time.
2020 Draft needs: Offensive tackle, edge rusher, cornerback
Arizona is going into the 2019 season with D.J. Humphries and Marcus Gilbert manning their tackle positions. A former first-round pick, Humphries has never reached his potential and is entering his final season under his rookie deal. Gilbert is 31-years-old (acquired by Arizona from Pittsburgh for a sixth-round pick during the offseason) and has played in just 12 games over the past two years due to injuries and a suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
While Chandler Jones (13 sacks last season) is still one of the NFL's premier pass rusher, Arizona should use next year's draft to find another edge rusher to pair him with, given that their other top pass rushers -- Terrell Suggs and Brooks Reed are 36 and 32 years old, respectively.
A year after taking cornerback Byron Murphy in the second round, expect the Cardinals to draft another young cornerback to pair with Murphy in 2020. While the Cardinals still have an eight-time Pro Bowl corner in Patrick Peterson, he may not be in Arizona's longterm plans. Peterson, who will miss the first six games of this season for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy, may be traded to a contender with two years remaining on his current contract.
2020 Draft needs: Edge rusher, defensive line, running back
The Falcons will be on the market for a new edge rusher if they decide to move on from Vic Beasley -- an All-Pro in 2016 who has had consecutive disappointing seasons -- after the 2019 season. Atlanta may also move on from DT Grady Jarrett after this season, meaning that Atlanta may spend a first or second-round pick on his possible successor.
Atlanta could also use more depth at the running back position, with Devonta Freeman coming off a season that saw him miss 14 games due to injury. Ito Smith, a rookie last season who replaced Freeman in the starting lineup, averaged just 3.5 yards per carry last season.
2020 Draft needs: Cornerback, receiver, defensive tackle
While the offseason addition of Gerald McCoy should add a boost to Carolina's line in 2019, the unit could use some young blood on the interior in 2020. This season will determine whether or not the Panthers will have to use a high draft pick on a receiver in next year's draft. While the Panthers are encouraged with what they saw from Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore this offseason, Carolina may need to add even more firepower during the offseason if Samuel, Moore, and veteran newcomers Chris Hogan and Torrey Smith don't gel with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
Cornerback may be the position Panthers fans should keep an eye on this season. Donte Jackson, a rookie last season, is motivated to show that he can be an elite cornerback after failing to record an interception during the final nine games of the 2018 season after having four picks in his first seven games. He played a considerable role in Carolina's 27th place finish in passing touchdowns allowed in 2018.
James Bradberry returns for his fourth season as Carolina's starting left cornerback, while Ross Cockrell, a former starter in Pittsburgh, enjoyed a strong summer with the Panthers and will be asked to fill a multitude of roles in the secondary this season. Rashaan Gaulden and Javien Elliott will continue to be asked to fill the team's needs in nickel situations.
2020 Draft needs: Safety, edge rusher, cornerback
Despite already boasting one of the NFL's top defenses, Chicago may use the start of the 2020 draft on that side of the ball. While the team signed Ha-Ha Clinton Dix this offseason, there's a strong chance he signs with another team next offseason if he returns to Pro Bowl form. There's also the chance that the Bears decide to not retain him if he is a liability in run support.
While the Bears picked up former first-round pick Leonard Floyd's fifth-year option back in May, there's a good chance that Floyd signs with another team after the 2020 season. That's why it shouldn't come as a surprise if Chicago looks to pair Khalil Mack with a young, rookie pass rusher in 2020. Chicago is expected to move on from Prince Amukamara after this season, meaning that they will likely be looking to find his replacement early in next year's draft.
2020 Draft needs: Safety, cornerback, tight end
Safety appears to be Dallas' weakest position entering the 2019 season, with Xavier Woods and Jeff Heath serving as the team's starting safeties. Woods, a former sixth-round pick, became a full-time starter in 2018, his second NFL season. Heath, a seven-year veteran and former undrafted rookie, is heading into his third year as a Cowboys' starting safety.
While they are currently deep at the cornerback position, Byron Jones and Anthony Brown are entering the final year of their contracts. While there are questions at defensive end (Randy Gregory's future continues to be unclear, while Robert Quinn is signed just for 2019), the tight end position will definitely need new blood heading into 2020. While Blake Jarwin had a decent 2018 season, the Cowboys need more depth at that position.
2020 Draft needs: Cornerback, edge linebacker, interior offensive line
While the addition of Justin Coleman at the nickel spot should help in 2019, the Lions still don't have a definitive starter at corner opposite Darius Slay. Detroit also doesn't have significant depth at that position, something that will likely be an issue throughout the 2019 season.
Whether or not the Lions' edge linebackers reach their potential in 2019 will determine how big of a need this will be this time next spring. The Lions did sign former Patriot Trey Flowers this offseason. And while Detroit did draft Clemson pass rusher Austin Bryant in the fourth round, Bryant isn't expected to contribute much this season after dealing with injuries during training camp.
The Lions, with just over a week to go before the start of the preseason, still have major questions regarding their offensive line. Offensive guard Graham Glasgow has moved to center following center Frank Ragnow's recent injury, with Kenny Wiggins, who started 10 games at right guard last season, will replace Glasgow at right guard.
2020 Draft needs: Wide receiver, inside linebacker, offensive tackle
Green Bay passed on drafting a receiver this year while hoping for big contributions this season from Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, and J'Mon Moore. The Packers will undoubtedly spend a high pick on a receiver in this year's class, a class that will have a slew of talented wideouts there for the taking.
While inside linebacker Blake Martinez is coming off his best season to date, he will be a free agent after the 2019 season. If Martinez jettisons in free agency, and if fellow inside linebacker Oren Burks struggles this season, the Packers will have to spend a high pick on this position in the spring.
Bryan Bulaga, if he can stay healthy for a second straight year, the tackle position will be less of a need for Green Bay in 2020. That being said, it is still a position they will likely address in next year's draft, even with the offseason additions of Billy Turner and Elgton Jenkins.
2020 Draft needs: Offensive tackle, defensive end, cornerback
Riley Reiff's uninspiring 2018 season has made offensive tackle the Vikings' biggest possible 2020 draft need entering the 2019 season. Reiff needs to have a better season in 2019 and should with Pat Elflein moving from center to left guard. Defensive end may not be as dire as it currently is if Everson Griffen, who was slowed by injury in 2018, bounces back with a solid season in 2019. Stephen Weatherly, a four-year veteran, played well in relief of Griffen last season.
2020 Draft needs: Cornerback, wide receiver, quarterback
The Saints finished 29th in the league in pass defense last season. And while Marshon Lattimore and Eli Apple look like one of the better cornerback duos in the NFL, they need to make it happen on the field throughout the 2019 season.
While Michael Thomas is one of the league's best receivers, Ted Ginn Jr., New Orleans' No. 2 receiver, is 34 years old. Speaking of age, the Saints may have to spend a first-round pick on a quarterback if Drew Brees, who is embarking of his 19th NFL season this year, decides to retire after the season.
2020 Draft needs: Wide receiver, safety, edge rusher
The Giants, a year after trading away Odell Beckham Jr., will likely use a high pick on a receiver next spring. New York is also likely to spend a high pick on a safety after parting with Landon Collins this offseason. And while first-round pick Dexter Lawrence is expected to give them a boost on the line this season, the Giants still need a No. 1 pass rusher off the edge -- at outside linebacker in their very specific defensive system under defensive coordinator James Bettcher.
2020 Draft needs: Defensive end, safety, cornerback
The Eagles need a young pass rusher alongside Derek Barnett, with Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry both turning 32 next offseason. Philadelphia is also in need of some young blood at safety, with Malcolm Jenkins entering his 11th season and with Rodney McLeod set to become a free agent next offseason.
Speaking of free agents, cornerbacks Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, and Cre'Von LeBlanc are all set to enter the open market next offseason, meaning that there's a strong chance that the Eagles will have to spend a high pick on that position next spring.
2020 Draft needs: Safety, cornerback, offensive line
The 49ers did essentially nothing to address their need at safety this past offseason, instead, relying on Jimmy Ward and Adrian Colbert to make significant jumps in 2019. While veteran Richard Sherman was solid during his first season in San Fran, Ahkello Witherspoon was one of the worst starting cornerbacks in the NFL in 2018.
Already lacking depth on the offensive line, the 49ers may lose even more depth on the line if 13-year veteran Joe Staley departs in free agency. Even if Staley stays, the 49ers should add some youth and depth to their line via the draft next spring.
2020 Draft needs: Edge rusher, defensive tackle, receiver
Seattle will be in the market for an edge rusher next offseason after parting with Frank Clark earlier this offseason. A good option for Seattle in next year's draft -- Penn State's Yetur Gross-Matos. He fits what they like to do. Keep an eye on him.
Even if Jarran Reed (who is entering the final year of his rookie contract) is re-signed, expect the Seahawks to add more depth on the defensive line through the draft. Seattle will undoubtedly be spending a high pick on a receiver next spring following the sudden retirement of Doug Baldwin.
2020 Draft needs: Edge rusher, center, running back
While Aaron Donald led the Rams with 20.5 sacks last season, Los Angeles' next most effective pass rusher last season was Ndamukong Suh, who had 4.5 sacks and is now a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Center may also be a main position of need next offseason if Brian Allen struggles in his first season as a starter.
The Rams may also be looking for a new running back to help shoulder the load given that Todd Gurley's workload really is expected to decrease moving forward.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2020 Draft needs: Offensive guard, defensive line, running back
Tampa Bay declined to select a guard in this year's draft despite the hole left at that position with right guard Caleb Benenoch moving over to tackle. Alex Cappa, Benenoch's replacement, has reportedly not progressed as much as Tampa Bay was hoping this summer.
While they did sign Suh this offseason, he is 32-years-old and is on a one-year deal. Tampa Bay could use another young player on the defensive line to complement Vita Vea, last year's first-round pick.
2020 Draft needs: Wide receiver, offensive tackle, middle linebacker
Pretty much every early mock draft has the Redskins taking an offensive tackle with next year's first-round pick, especially given Trent Williams' current contract situation. Washington will also have to bolster their inside linebacker corps next season. While they signed free agent Jon Bostic (who spent last season with the Steelers) during the offseason, the Redskins need a longterm solution at that position moving forward.
While Terry McLaurin -- a third-round pick out of Ohio State -- should help improve their receiving corps in 2019, the Redskins still need a lot of help at that position and will likely spend one or multiple picks on receivers in 2020.