Offseason Needs For Dallas Cowboys And Top 5 Teams In 2016 NFL Draft's Needs, Too

Dallas' draft targets not only depend on who they sign in free agency, but also the offseason needs of the teams ahead of them in the draft order. Here's our look into the competition.

"And with the fourth pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select..."

Here's the part of the movie where special effects kick in, rendering a psuedo-dream state for the audience to interpret as the beginning of a flashback. Have all the mock-draft fun you like (and we do, here's CowboysHQ's latest), but reality is there's so much involved in a team's draft goals before being on the clock, it's silly to put stock into these next few months of draft chatter. 

Yes, "team needs" drives the movie trailer. Of course "they" do. Like your parents before your conception, however, team needs will have a full and interesting life before they ever get to the pomp and circumstance in Chicago at the end of April. Not only will these experiences shape team needs to barely resemble how they look today, but they'll get plenty of assistance in determining the options presented to the Cowboys for the fourth pick.

That helping hand will come in the form of the three teams picking ahead of Dallas. Their needs directly affects who will be available for Dallas to draft. And just like Dallas, their team needs will be shaped and molded by the acquisitions made during Free Agency 2016. As boxes get checked, needs evolve. The hope for the Cowboys, and likely all teams, is that free agency signings eliminate "need" from the equation, but we all know that is generally wishful thinking. Teams speak to BPA strategies, but rarely is a team in a position to completely ignore need. After the draft, there will be sound bites about how 'X' player was the best guy out there, but teams construct draft boards that take need into account. It's the reality of the situation, despite the lip service.

So how can anyone reasonably anticipate what Dallas can or will do without tracking the offseason needs of the rest of the draft's Top 5? It's not possible. In that vein, we surveyed writers who cover each of the other four teams to get an idea of what they'll be shopping for this offseason. As they check those boxes off with free agent signings, we should get a better idea of what positions they will continue to target with their draft picks.

DRAFT SLOT TEAM / RECORD
WRITER
WEBSITE

1

Tennessee Titans

(3-13)

Greg Arias

@TNFBScout

TitanRedzone.com

The Tennessee Titans are one of the most needy teams in the NFL heading into free-agency and the draft, and how they fill these needs will determine the future of a team that will have a new head coach (Mike Mularkey) and general manager (Jon Robinson). 
Among the biggest needs for the Titans are solutions to the problems on the offensive line where the Titans desperately need to find an answer at left guard, right tackle and perhaps even center where Brian Schwenke has under performed in his career to this point. 
The Titans also need immediate help at corner, receiver and improved depth at inside linebacker, safety and possibly another running back as well, though that is not necessarily a pressing need but could stand an upgrade. 
Major Team Needs: OG, OT, C, CB, WR, LB, S, RB

DRAFT SLOT TEAM / RECORD
WRITER
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2

Cleveland Browns

(3-13)

Rick Grayshock

@RickGrayshock

TheOBR.com

The Browns are a hot mess. The defense-- which was the highest paid in the league-- gave up 27 points per game and just under 380 yards a contest. They were in the bottom 5 in nearly every important category. The secondary, which was supposed to be the strength of the entire team was a major disappointment, and they continued to be abysmal against the run as well. 
The Browns have recently spent high draft picks on cornerbacks, (Justin Gilbert) brought in free agents, (like Tramon Williams) and taken chances on long shots with high 'upside' (Pierre Desir) and still need help at the position. They also need someone to rush the passer, as Paul Kruger has been a disappointment the past two seasons after coming from Baltimore and Barkevious Mingo has not come close to reaching the potential many saw in the 6th overall pick of the 2013 draft.
On offense the Browns still need The Quarterback. They have been searching for it since returning to the league in 1999, and 2016 will be no different. Even though the quarterback play wasn't the reason the Browns only won 3 games in 2015, they know that they don't have the answer on the roster. 
The Browns could get a boost at the wide receiver position if Josh Gordon is allowed back into the league. It may mean the difference between spending a first/second round pick on a WR and spending a fourth. The Browns have the smallest and possibly least effective pass catchers in the league. They may also be losing Travis Benjamin to free agency.
Speaking of free agency, the strength of the offense is in the line, but that could easily change as center and Pro-Bowler Alex Mack is a free agent along with right tackle Mitchel Schwartz. Losing both of those two would be hard enough, but there was also talk at the conclusion of the season that Joe Thomas may finally be fed up with the Browns hitting the reset button every two years.
So the Browns will be looking for a QB, a WR, several upgrades to the defense, including DE and CB and likely replacements on the offensive line.  
Major Team Needs: QB, CB, Edge, WR, OL

DRAFT SLOT TEAM / RECORD
WRITER
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3

San Diego Chargers

(4-12)

Annie Heilbrunn

@annieheilbrunn

SDSuperChargers.com

The Chargers enter the 2016 draft with plenty of needs, including offensive/defensive line and safety, among others.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the Chargers is at the line of scrimmage, where they seem to struggle most. General manager Tom Telesco added two big free-agent signings in 2015 to shore up the left side of the offensive live -- left tackle King Dunlap and left guard Orlando Franklin -- and both were injured much of the season. The rest of the line didn't fare much better, with starting center Chris Watt going on injured reserve and right guard D.J. Fluker suffering multiple concussions and a high-ankle sprain. San Diego's run game was second-worst in the league in 2015 and with Telesco moving up in the first-round to take running back Melvin Gordon, it is imperative this team gets an offensive line that can stay healthy and give Philip Rivers and Co. some kind of chance for a ground game. 
The defensive line isn't in good shape either. Besides defensive end Corey Liuget, the line is average at best. The Chargers allowed 4.8 yards per carry in 2015, third-worst in the NFL. Now that linebackers Manti Te'o and Denzel Perryman seem to be clicking, Telesco could give this defense some help by adding strong linemen in the trenches. 
Speaking of defense, the Chargers could use a playmaker, someone who will strike fear in the opposing team. With Eric Weddle moving on, Telesco might want to draft a safety, a strong defender who may be able to get the Chargers some takeaways. San Diego finished 2015 with just 11 interceptions (tied for 21st in the NFL). 
 
Major Team Needs: OG, OT, C, CB, WR, LB, S, RB

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4

Dallas Cowboys

(4-12)

K.D. Drummond

@KDDrummondNFL

CowboysHQ.com

The Cowboys are the team that feels surprised to be selecting in the Top 5, but they discovered they have just as many holes to fill as their competition. Romo's age and injury history puts the team on the clock to find an heir apparent to the franchise QB, as any fan with longevity remembers the post-Aikman abyss. A future star QB, while still in developmental stages, could've saved this season. An upgrade over Weeden, Cassel and Kellen Moore is highly necessary.
Still on offense, Dallas could use a running back, as although the offensive line proved anyone CAN run behind it, getting washed up Darren McFadden 1,000 yards in 10 starts, a better ZBS runner could do wonders.When Dez Bryant went out, it was clear there wasn't another receiver that could thrive without a star QB, so that must be considered to. A late-season injury to Gavin Escobar that could affect his offseason, and Jason Witten's age means TE is a thought. Only the OL is not a need.
On defense, if they don't bring back Greg Hardy, Dallas will have to consider DE help in free agency as it's a rare transcendent player who can make a big impact as a rookie edge rusher. Interior of the DL could be a target though, as Tyrone Crawford will need someone to pair with him at 3-tech. A big body 1-tech to replace Nick Hayden is probably a middle-round possibility based on the low importance Marinelli places in the position. Linebacker is a need assuming they let Ro McClain walk, and only Byron Jones and Orlando Scandrick inspire confidence in the secondary. Dallas literally needs help everywhere except for offense line.
Major Team Needs: QB, CB, LB, DT, DE, RB, S, Kitchen Sink

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WEBSITE

5

Jacksonville Jaguars

(4-12)

Charlie Bernstein

@NFLCharlie

JagsInsider.com

The Jacksonville Jaguars biggest needs are all on the defensive side of the football.  Their pass rush is anemic and although it's likely that they'll try to get some help in free agency, if a player like Joey Bosa were to inexplicably fall to them at No. 5 that would be their pick.  
Another major area of need is in the secondary at safety.  Jacksonville has the worst safety tandem in the NFL with Jonathan Cyprien and Josh Evans.  It's a position that's a major area of need and it has to be addressed in the offseason.  Jalen Ramsey would be a no-brainer pick for the Jags assuming Bosa is gone.  
The third area of need would be at cornerback.  It's not quite as desperate as the defensive line and safety, as the Jaguars have a pair of guys who can play in Davon House and Aaron Colvin.  Still, if Ramsey and Bosa are gone when they go on the clock, Florida's Vernon Hargreaves could very well be the selection.
Major Team Needs: DE, S, CB


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