NFL's five weakest rosters: Jacksonville Jaguars at top
We've already recapped the five strongest rosters in the NFL. Now let's take a look at the five weakest.
For the teams that finished at or near the bottom of their division in the AFC, things are going to get worse before they get better. It's no coincidence that four of the five organizations listed below are welcoming new coaches, new general managers or both. All of them have suffered talent losses this offseason while shedding bloated salaries for a rebuilding phase.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
New coach Gus Bradley's best player, Maurice Jones-Drew, is entering a contract year while coming off Lisfranc surgery. Leading receiver Cecil Shorts carried injury concerns into the offseason after two concussions in three weeks prematurely ended his season. Left tackle Eugene Monroe and right guard Uche Nwaneri are solid, but the offensive line lacks legitimate solutions at the other three spots.
In a down year for available veteran quarterbacks and draft prospects, incoming general manager David Caldwell had little choice but to publicly back Blaine Gabbert. Barring a trade for the unproven and underwhelming Matt Flynn, Gabbert will have another opportunity to hold the offense hostage.
The roster on the defensive side of the ball in shambles. The Jaguars cut ties with three veteran cornerbacks -- Derek Cox, Rashean Mathis and Aaron Ross -- and also dumped starting strong safety Dawan Landry. The defensive line has produced no pass rush to speak of, finishing last in the NFL with just 20 sacks in 2012. Without free agent Daryl Smith, the linebacking corps is among the league's least imposing.
Draft needs: The Jaguars are the rare NFL team with a need at nearly every position. Their first priority should be finding a franchise quarterback, and the front office reportedly is intrigued by West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. Beyond that, the most glaring holes to address in the early rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft are at cornerback and right tackle.
2. Oakland Raiders
Upon inheriting a roster in salary-cap hell a year ago, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie immediately began jettisoning veterans with bloated contracts. The biggest impact of those losses has been felt on defense, where the Raiders are doing a complete overhaul. Aside from left defensive end Lamarr Houston, the entire front seven is gone from last season. It doesn't get any better in the secondary, where Oakland has parted with its four top cornerbacks from 2012.
Quarterback Carson Palmer is expected to be released at some point this offseason, signaling a sea change on offense. The unit will be built around running back Darren McFadden, who just happens to be one of the most injury-prone stars in the NFL.
While there is some promising young talent at wide receiver, the cupboard is bare at tight end. It doesn't get much better on the offensive line, with only left tackle Jared Veldheer and center Stefen Wisniewski as long-term answers.
Draft needs: This will be McKenzie's first real shot at the draft. He was without picks in the first, second and fourth rounds last year because of the previous regime's ill-advised trades for Carson Palmer, Jason Campbell and Joseph Barksdale. Staring at a future with Terrelle Pryor as the quarterback, the Raiders are another possibility for Geno Smith at No. 3 overall.
If McKenzie goes in a different direction, there are enough needs to go with the best player available regardless of position. The secondary, pass rush, offensive line and tight end should top his wish list.
3. New York Jets
Career backup Mike Goodson appears to be the favorite to start at running back. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes' health is a major question mark after he had Lisfranc surgery. The Jets also lost starters at both guard spots and tight end.
If the Jets find a way to keep Darrelle Revis, they can field a respectable defense with the addition of two edge rushers at outside linebacker. Unfortunately, a Revis trade appears to be a matter of "when," not "if." The run defense also took a hit with the loss of Mike DeVito to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Draft needs: As with the teams listed above, it all starts with the quarterback. The Jets' brass reportedly came away very impressed with Geno Smith after spending time with him in mid-March, but they might not get a shot at him with the ninth overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. The top needs otherwise are at outside linebacker, safety, offensive guard, tight end and running back.
4. Buffalo Bills
The Bills' quarterback situation is so ugly that new coach Doug Marrone couldn't even remember his backup signal-caller's name. While running back C.J. Spiller is one of the most electrifying playmakers in the NFL, he needs help in the form of two wide receivers and a tight end. Already in need of a right tackle, Marrone lost his best offensive lineman in guard Andy Levitre.
Buffalo's defense looked like one of the worst units of all time early last season before showing modest improvement down the stretch. New coordinator Mike Pettine has interesting building blocks on the defensive line, as well as one of the game's best safeties in Jairus Byrd. The trouble spots are the linebackers, cornerback depth and strong safety.
Draft needs: While all of the teams above have a quarterback need, the Bills are the only one virtually guaranteed to draft one in the first or second round. If Geno Smith already is off the board by pick No. 8, Marrone could instigate a trade into the back end of the first round to reconnect with Syracuse's Ryan Nassib, a favorite of NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell. General manager Buddy Nix has acknowledged the need for a pass-catching tight end, and there's also a vacancy opposite Stevie Johnson at wide receiver. Nix should target offense early in the draft.
5. San Diego Chargers
New coach Mike McCoy won't have to find a starting quarterback, but he realizes his mandate is to fix Philip Rivers, who set career highs in interceptions thrown (20 in 2011) and sacks taken (49 in 2012) the past two years. The good news is that McCoy has enjoyed success in his NFL career with disparate parts such as Matt Moore and Tim Tebow.
Where the Chargers need a massive rebuild is on the offensive line. Following Wednesday's release of Jared Gaither, the Chargers' only semi-reliable starter on the offensive line is declining center Nick Hardwick. McCoy also must coax a comeback season out of an aging Antonio Gates while hoping no other team snatches up restricted free-agent wide receiver Danario Alexander.
The Chargers have several defensive building blocks in young linemen Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes to go with safety Eric Weddle and inside linebacker Donald Butler. The problem is depth. Previous general manager A.J. Smith left too many holes to fill in one year.
Draft needs: The Chargers desperately need an impact offensive lineman with the No. 11 overall pick, and there's a good chance they will get one with three top left tackle prospects and two elite guards in this year's draft. General manager Tom Telesco might have to go back to the same offensive-line well in the middle rounds before adding depth at cornerback and linebacker.
Hey, at least we're not Jags or Raiders fans, so that's... something.