Some NFL teams draft for need, and some draft strictly with an eye on talent. Either way, most teams still have weaknesses on the roster after the draft is over.
Below, Football Outsiders looks at the biggest hole on each roster now that the 2021 NFL draft is complete. Many of the advanced stats referenced below are explained here.
Dallas Cowboys: Safety
The Cowboys could not have expected the quarterback-needy Panthers and Broncos to select cornerback prospects Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II with the two picks before Dallas was set to pick at 10. That likely motivated Dallas’ decision to trade down and draft Micah Parsons, a player who was closer to “best available” than to a team need. But given their required audible, the Cowboys did a tremendous job of filling their holes. They landed corners Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright in the second and third rounds. They bulked up their defensive line with defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa and edge rusher Chauncey Golston, also in the third. And in the fourth, they drafted a Day 2 talent in offensive tackle Josh Ball, who presumably fell because of off-field issues.
If healthy, the Cowboys have a complete roster for 2021. But health motivates the need they might develop at safety. They added Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee from the Falcons this offseason, but Neal tore his Achilles in 2018 and ACL in 2019, and Kazee tore his Achilles in 2020. Meanwhile, Dallas wants to try Neal at linebacker, in any case. The team probably will have to rely on an incumbent or two at safety. That should be fine for Donovan Wilson, who started 10 games last year. But fourth-round sophomore Reggie Robinson and sixth-round rookie Israel Mukuamu played cornerback in college, and neither has taken a defensive snap in the NFL at his new position. And Darian Thompson is entering his sixth year in the league. He probably would have started more than 11 games the past three seasons if he had a future as a full-time starter.
New York Giants: Offensive line
Analytically inclined Giants fans probably threw a party when GM and notorious trade-upper Dave Gettleman traded back in the first round and netted a bounty of draft capital. The move was tremendous in a vacuum. But his subsequent selection of wide receiver Kadarius Toney seemed a bit superfluous after the team added Kenny Golladay for big money in free agency. This is a critical year for the Giants’ evaluation of quarterback Daniel Jones, yes. But Jones needs better pass protection to help him avoid the sacks and turnovers that have his future with the team in doubt. Andrew Thomas, last year’s No. 4 pick, will hopefully improve in his second season, but in his first he blew 6.5% of his pass blocks, the highest rate among tackles with 300 or more pass-block snaps, according to Sports Info Solutions charting. Returning 2020 opt-out Nate Solder was barely better (6.3%) when he last played in 2019. And guard Kevin Zeitler left for the Ravens in free agency.
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