3 NFC contenders with a major problem area on their roster
Here, we examine three contenders from each conference and identify a major weakness that could derail their playoff hopes in 2018 unless fixed through the upcoming draft.
AFC - NFC
Los Angeles Rams - Pass-rusher
However, while Donald can be counted on to get close to double-digit sacks and be among the league leaders in quarterback pressures every single season, the Los Angeles Rams' newest interior monster saw his pass-rushing impact decline in his final season with the Miami Dolphins.
Suh generated only 43 pressures in 2017 compared to his average of 59 from 2014-16, according to ESPN's Alden Gonzalez. His production is likely to bounce back up to a higher level due to the superior talent around him, but after trading away defensive end Robert Quinn, the Rams can't simply hope Suh turns back into a top-tier pass-rusher.
Matt Longacre and Samson Ebukam are solid rotational edge players, but not the level of athlete you'd want lining up next to Suh and Donald and taking advantage of the huge attention opposing offenses will need to give to the duo. Considering the massive investments L.A. has poured into its defense this offseason, it would be a disaster if the lack of pass-rushing options held the unit back.
Green Bay Packers - Cornerback
(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)
Aaron Rodgers would probably need to put up 40 points a game if the Packers went into the season with its current group of cornerbacks, arguably the worst in the league and Green Bay's biggest need since the previous offseason.
Kevin King is arguably the only starting-caliber corner on the roster. The Packers brought back Tramon Williams after a solid year with the Arizona Cardinals, but relying on a 35-year-old is courting disaster. The only other experienced corner, Quinten Rollins, is coming off a torn Achilles.
While there's little doubt Green Bay would have been a playoff team if Rodgers had stayed healthy for the majority of the 2017 season, it's hard to imagine its secondary - which gave up a franchise-record passer rating of 102.2 to opposing quarterbacks - holding up against the NFC's elite teams in the postseason.
Carolina Panthers - Wide receiver
Beyond star tight end Greg Olsen, Carolina's top pass-catchers won't scare any offense. Torrey Smith - who was acquired via trade from the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason - is a one-trick pony who was pushed from his No. 2 receiver role by Nelson Agholor last season, Devin Funchess is a good red-zone target but is still developing at age 23, and free-agent signing Jarius Wright has just 265 yards in his last 24 games.
Running back Christian McCaffrey is a dynamic receiver out of the backfield, and fellow second-year man Curtis Samuel should cement a much larger role after injury robbed him of most of his rookie season. But, Newton still lacks top-tier downfield threats - especially after Carolina traded Kelvin Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills on deadline day.
The Panthers finished last season as the 28th-ranked passing offense, which is unforgivable considering Newton's vast talents. The time has come for Carolina to give its franchise player the support he needs if a return to the Super Bowl is to happen anytime soon.