2021 NFL Draft order: Cowboys in top five at midseason

This is a look at the first-round order for the 2021 NFL Draft heading into Week 10 of the NFL season, along with the top three needs for each team. The order is determined by record, using strength of schedule as the first tiebreaker (click here to see a full list of the draft-order tiebreakers). Keep in mind — teams 19-32 would make the playoffs if the season ended today and are marked as PL (short for playoffs) in the order below. The draft order for playoff teams is determined by the results of postseason play.

Biggest needs: QB, WR, edge rusher

This week’s game: On bye

Hey, the Jets were competitive in Week 9, which is an improvement. A winless season — and ownership of the draft’s first overall pick — seems a lot more likely after a missed opportunity to kick the Patriots when they were down, though.

Biggest needs: QB, CB, OT

This week’s game: at Packers

Jake Luton was good enough in his first career start to make the Luton versus Gardner Minshew storyline interesting. That said, it seems like everyone expects one (or both) of them to be backing up a rookie in 2021.

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, CB, OT

This week’s game: vs. Eagles

The Giants are competitive, but Daniel Jones has been pressured at the highest rate (41.9%) of any QB to attempt 40 or more passes this season, per Next Gen Stats. How much better would he be with good protection? 

Biggest needs: CB, DT, OL

This week’s game: On bye

OL replaces safety in the third need spot this week. Injuries have decimated Dallas’ front five, but the Cowboys have to improve their depth up front in the offseason.

Biggest needs: QB, WR, OL

This week’s game: at Lions

With Alex Smith stepping in for the injured Kyle Allen, the WFT is starting its third different quarterback in the last six games (two of them losses to the Giants). This team is still in second place in the league’s weakest division, but until there’s stability at QB, Ron Rivera’s squad seems likely to waste a talented pass rush.

Biggest needs: Interior OL, TE, CB

This week’s game: at Dolphins

Cornerback replaces receiver on the needs list this week. While Mike Williams is under contract for one more year, the Chargers’ best corner this season, Michael Davis, is a pending free agent and his departure could make the position a more pressing priority in 2021. Plus, Chris Harris Jr. and Casey Hayward have only one year left on their respective deals.


Texans’ record: 2-6 (.600)

This week’s Texans game: at Browns

See the playoff teams section for analysis of the Dolphins’ needs and the bottom of this article for analysis of the Texans’ needs.

Biggest needs: OL, CB, edge rusher

This week’s game: at Steelers

Slight tweak here, changing OT to OL, since the interior O-line is also going to require upgrades if the Bengals are going to do right by their young QB.

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, S, CB

This week’s game: On bye

The decision to waive disgruntled former first-round pick Takkarist McKinley on Monday doubled as a reminder that the Falcons need to pick an edge rusher again next year, and they need to get it right this time.

Biggest needs: OL, CB, WR

This week’s game: vs. Buccaneers

Carolina will be picking inside the top 10 if it can’t turn things around after losing four in a row. The Panthers will at least have to consider their options at QB if they end up with a high draft slot, and that could present a tough decision between taking a player to boost Teddy Bridgewater’s supporting cast or finding Bridgewater’s replacement. A player who could get the ball downfield more might be tempting, with Teddy averaging the second-fewest air yards per attempt (6.7) of any QB with 200 or more attempts this season, per Next Gen Stats.

Biggest needs: WR, DL, LB

This week’s game: vs. Washington Football Team

Detroit knew the task at hand on Sunday: Keep Dalvin Cook from going off. The Lions’ defense wasn’t anywhere near up to the challenge.

Biggest needs: OT, CB, S

This week’s game: at Raiders

The Broncos’ warts were on full display Sunday. Drew Lock was pressured on a season-high 34.7 percent of his dropbacks against a Falcons team missing its top two edge rushers. On the other side of the ball, Matt Ryan took advantage with Denver missing starting corners A.J. Bouye and Bryce Callahan.

Biggest needs: Interior OL, DL, WR

This week’s game: vs. Ravens

Whether it’s Cam Newton or someone else taking the snaps next season, the Patriots have to find their QB more receivers he can feel confident targeting in the red zone. Newton remains stuck on two passing TDs for the season and has gone three straight starts without throwing one.

Biggest needs: OL, DT, QB

This week’s game: at Bears

How many openings will there be on the Vikings’ offensive line this offseason? Left guard Dakota Dozier is due to become a free agent and left tackle Riley Reiff is a potential cut candidate with Minnesota among the teams in the red for cap space next year, per Over The Cap.

Biggest needs: OL, CB, edge rusher

This week’s game: at Saints

I know the offensive line was depleted by injuries/the COVID-19 protocol, like the rest of the team, but Nick Mullens was pressured on 15 of his 36 dropbacks (41.7 percent) on Thursday night. No QB who has attempted 35 or more passes in a game and been pressured on more than 36 percent of his dropbacks in that game has come out victorious this season. The O-line is going to be one of the many question marks for this team in the offseason.

Biggest needs: QB, OG, S

This week’s game: vs. Vikings

After three straight losses, maybe the Bears will be in position to draft one of the top quarterbacks available this spring. Chicago has averaged 7.4 fewer points per game in Nick Foles’ six starts than it did in Mitch Trubisky’s three starts (24.7 to 17.3).

Biggest needs: QB, CB, edge rusher

This week’s game: at Titans

With time running out for Philip Rivers to have the career renaissance the Colts were envisioning when they signed him in March, QB makes its way to the front of the needs list. Barring a surprising second-half run for the soon-to-be 39-year-old, Indy should be shopping for an answer under center again in 2021.

Biggest needs: LB, CB, edge rusher

This week’s game: vs. Texans

The Browns are starting B.J. Goodson and Malcolm Smith over their recent draft picks at linebacker, but both veterans are due to hit the market this offseason. Cleveland could use a playmaker for the second level of its defense.

Biggest needs: OG, LB, CB

This week’s game: at Giants

It’s a good thing the Eagles traded for Darius Slay. He’s the only Philly cornerback that rates among the top 90 in PFF’s grades this season.

Biggest needs: CB, edge rusher, interior OL

This week’s game: vs. Bills

The bye week wasn’t enough to fix what’s wrong with the Cardinals’ pass defense, which counts Arizona’s leading sacker, Haason Reddick, and Patrick Peterson among its pending free agents.


Rams’ record: 5-3 (.442)

This week’s Rams game: vs. Seahawks

See Pick No. 2 for analysis of the Jaguars’ needs and the bottom of this article for analysis of the Rams’ needs.

Biggest needs: WR, ILB, interior OL

This week’s game: vs. Chargers

Miami is achieving playoff-contender status earlier than expected. Remember, this team is holding four picks in the first two rounds of next year’s draft, thanks to the Houston Texans. Give Tua Tagovailoa another playmaker at wide receiver and Brian Flores a building block at inside linebacker … and look out.

Biggest needs: DT, OL, S

This week’s game: vs. Broncos

I know it’s not usually a production position in the conventional sense, but still … the fact that the Raiders have a grand total of one tackle for loss from an interior defensive lineman at midseason is mind-boggling. 

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, DT, WR

This week’s game: at Panthers

The Bucs’ defense lost its way on Sunday night, and it’s facing some tough circumstances this offseason with Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett and Ndamukong Suh among the players ticketed for free agency.

Biggest needs: WR, interior OL, CB

This week’s game: vs. Jaguars

It had been more than three years since a Packers wide receiver not named Davante Adams caught more than one TD pass in a game. Marquez Valdes-Scantling snapped the streak against the 49ers in Week 9, but the quest to land a Will Fuller type (if not Fuller himself) for Aaron Rodgers should ramp up again this offseason.


Seahawks’ record: 6-2 (.471)

This week’s Seahawks game: at Rams

See Pick No. 1 for analysis of the Jets’ needs and the bottom of this article for analysis of the Seahawks’ needs.

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, TE, WR

This week’s game: vs. Colts

Tennessee enjoys tremendous depth at tight end, but will that continue into 2021? Three of its top four players at the position are due to become unrestricted free agents, including Jonnu Smith, who’s tied for the team lead in TD catches.

Biggest needs: QB, S, DL

This week’s game: vs. 49ers

The Saints’ defense showed out against the Bucs, but there are some key members of it playing on deals that expire in 2021, including safety Marcus Williams (team leader in INTs) and defensive end Trey Hendrickson (team leader in sacks).

Biggest needs: WR, OL, edge rusher

This week’s game: at Patriots

The need for young front-line defenders isn’t out of mind. The passing game woes are significant enough for us to replace interior DL with WR on the needs list, though. The blame for the disappointing air game certainly doesn’t fall on the receiving corps alone, but the Ravens rank dead last in passing yards and No. 2 WR Willie Snead is due to hit free agency in 2021.

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, CB, OT

This week’s game: at Cardinals

The Bills were roughed up for seven sacks on Sunday against a Seahawks pass rush that has struggled this season. The Buffalo O-line might be in need of multiple new starters this offseason, but right tackle stands out with veteran Daryl Williams in a contract year.

Biggest needs: Interior OL, WR, S

This week’s game: On bye

Adding reinforcements for MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes figures to be a priority with Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson set to hit the market. 

Biggest needs: OT, edge rusher, CB

This week’s game: vs. Bengals

This team isn’t going anywhere without a healthy Ben Roethlisberger, who downplayed an apparent knee injury on Sunday. Who’ll be protecting him next year with three Week 1 starters on the offensive line, including left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, slated for free agency?



Biggest needs: WR, CB, edge rusher

This week’s game: at Browns

If the Texans didn’t have the Jaguars to beat up on, they’d be without a win this season (a fever dream for Dolphins fans). Houston’s horrid defense helped Jake Luton, a sixth-round pick this year, rack up 300-plus yards in his first career start. 


Biggest needs: OL, edge rusher, LB

This week’s game: vs. Seahawks

The Rams’ strategy of trying to get by on the cheap at inside linebacker means they should have a chance to find a middle-round upgrade at the position next year.


Biggest needs: OL, CB, edge rusher

This week’s game: at Rams

The pass rush broke out against the Bills (seven sacks), but the pass defense overall is still a disaster after allowing 415 passing yards and a 138.5 passer rating to Josh Allen on Sunday. The Seahawks have allowed 2,897 passing yards in their first eight games, which is the most any team has given up in that span since 1970.

Follow Dan Parr on Twitter @TheDan_Parr.

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