LOS ANGELES CHARGERS 5--11
PRIMARY NEED: BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE
IT'S STRANGE: If everyone is healthy, this is a playoff team. Philip Rivers and a bevy of athletic receivers lead a well-designed aerial attack. RB Melvin Gordon improved drastically in year two and now fits well behind what is the NFL's biggest O-line. On defense, Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa make a nimble, explosive pass-rushing tandem (if Ingram is re-signed). All the corners can play man coverage—Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward can do it against No. 1 receivers, in fact—the safeties hit hard and the inside linebackers, behind a stingy D-line, are capable. But for several years the Chargers have been ravaged by injuries. They must find more depth.
DENVER BRONCOS 9--7
PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE LINE
WITH UNTESTED 2015 seventh-rounder Trevor Siemian under center, the Broncos knew they would need a run-based offense last season. There were two reasons their ground game (and playoff chances) dried up down the stretch. One: RB C.J. Anderson and underrated FB Andy Janovich suffered injuries. And two: The front five was inconsistent. Adept at times in zone blocking, at least inside, it ultimately couldn't move the line of scrimmage from snap to snap. Anderson and Janovich will both be healthy by '17, which means resources can go to the O-line. Every player except center Matt Paradis and maybe guard Max Garcia could stand to be replaced.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 12--4
PRIMARY NEED: INSIDE LINEBACKER
AT 34, middle linebacker Derrick Johnson is coming off his second torn Achilles in three years (one on each side). Ramik Wilson got better filling in for Johnson down the stretch, but even if he can assume more of Johnson's duties (which include taking the running back in man coverage), this position must be addressed. Despite a large, athletic defensive line, the Chiefs have ranked 22nd or worse against the run in five of the last six years. And with no depth at inside 'backer, they often have to play dime (six DBs) with a third safety in the box against three-receiver sets. As the Steelers made clear in their divisional-round win at K.C., this lighter personnel package only exacerbates the Chiefs' run-stopping woes.
OAKLAND RAIDERS 12--4
PRIMARY NEED: LINEBACKER
THOUGH THE issue abated as the 2016 season wore on, the Raiders struggled when offenses isolated their linebackers in coverage. Much of the time a simple lack of zone awareness was to blame. The fluid but inconsistent Malcolm Smith, Oakland's best coverage 'backer, was too often exposed. Even more so were youngsters Cory James and Ben Heeney (who is also coming off a right ankle injury that put him on IR in early October). Longtime Redskin Perry Riley helped after arriving midseason, but he's a plug-in guy. Considering the undisciplined play against the run, and given that the Raiders' D-line is already strong—if not stacked—a three-down clean-up linebacker would do wonders.