New England Patriots:
The Patriots haven’t had a lot of recent draft success, however Bill Belichick has still shown a “draft for need” approach over the years.
The Patriots needed interior defensive line help badly, selecting Dominique Easley and Malcom Brown in back to back first rounds. Easley was ranked 26th in PFF interior defender rankings and Brown was ranked 31st.
Joe Thuney was a pick based on need as well, considering the always changing interior of the Patriots offensive line.
- 2016 2nd and 3rd rounds: Cyrus Jones CB and Joe Thuney G
- 2015 1st and 2nd rounds: Malcom Brown DT and Jordan Richards S
- 2014 1st and 2nd rounds: Dominique Easley DT and Jimmy Garoppolo QB
- 2013 2nd and 3rd rounds: Jamie Collins LB and Logan Ryan CB
Pittsburgh has been building based on need for years, investing in young edge rushers like Bud Dupree and Jarvis Jones to replace Jerome Harrison, Ryan Shazier to replace Lawrence Timmons, and Artie Burns and Sean Davis to replace Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu.
- 2016 1st and 2nd rounds: Artie Burns CB and Sean Davis S
- 2015 1st and 2nd rounds: Bud Dupree LB and Senquez Golson
- 2014 1st and 2nd rounds: Ryan Shazier LB and Stephon Tuitt DE
- 2013 1st and 2nd rounds: Jarvis Jones LB and Le’Veon Bell RB
Yes they blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl. However, the Falcons built their 2016 NFC champion roster through drafting based on need.
Selecting Vic Beasley 8th overall in 2015 was seen as a reach to many. The Falcons needed pass rush help and Beasley provided that for Dan Quinn’s defense, becoming the 2016 sack leader with 15.5.
The Falcons finished 4-12 in 2013, thanks in large part to one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. Atlanta drafted Jake Matthews to solidify one of the tackle positions.
After a rough rookie season, Matthews has become a solid pass blocker (79.2 pass block rating).
Keanu Neal and Deion Jones were also seen as need based picks in 2016 and both helped the Falcons dominate Tom Brady in the first half of the Super Bowl (Neal- 13 tackles, Jones- 9 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 forced fumble).
- 2016 1st and 2nd rounds: Keanu Neal S and Deion Jones LB
- 2015 1st and 2nd rounds: Vic Beasley OLB and CB Jalen Collins
- 2014 1st and 2nd rounds: Jake Matthews OT and Ra’Shede Hageman DT
- 2013 1st and 2nd rounds: Desmond Trufant CB and Robert Alford CB
Green Bay Packers:
Ted Thompson is known, and praised for not dipping into the free agent market, overspending on players who put up career numbers in contract seasons. Instead, the Packers have addressed needs through the first rounds of the draft.
After B.J. Raji retired, Green Bay needed help on the interior of the defensive line. Thompson drafted UCLA defensive tackle Kenny Clark who finished at a 76.4 PFF rating, good enough for 36th of all interior lineman.
The secondary was built through early rounds as well, and although Green Bay has been at the bottom in total pass defense, the front office has still looked to address that need through the draft.
- 2016 1st and 2nd rounds: Kenny Clark DT and Jason Spriggs OT
- 2015 1st and 2nd rounds: Damarious Randall S and Quentin Rollins CB
- 2014 1st and 2nd rounds: Ha Ha Clinton Dix S and Davante Adams WR
- 2013 1st and 2nd rounds: Datone Jones DE and Eddie Lacy RB
These four teams all have one thing in common: Franchise quarterbacks. When the quarterback position is set for a decade (or in New England’s case, two decades), teams can take risks in the draft, trying to fill roster holes while an elite quarterback masks the flaws of the 53.
Teams drafting quarterbacks high every year is always based on need rather than best player available. Was Carson Wentz not a need based pick last season? On most boards, neither Goff or Wentz were a top two prospect in the draft.