The 2024 NFL Draft is almost here. Here’s a look at five teams who are under the most pressure:

5. Minnesota Vikings

First-round picks: No. 11, 23

From the moment the Vikings acquired an extra first-rounder in a trade with the Houston Texans, we all assumed they were stockpiling picks to trade up to draft a quarterback. They let Kirk Cousins walk via free agency, and Sam Darnold isn’t a long-term solution. A rookie quarterback would benefit from having great skill position players in Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, T.J. Hockenson, and Aaron Jones. With that amount of talent, there’s no excuse for a young passer to struggle.

If the Vikings do trade up, they have to get it right.

Is there a particular quarterback Minnesota is targeting? And will it pick the wrong one?

4. Denver Broncos

First-round pick: No. 12

Sean Payton came to the Broncos with a lot of swagger but was quickly humbled. As smart as he thinks he is, he couldn’t overcome several personnel issues.

Now it looks like Denver is hitting the reset, after cutting Russell Wilson and absorbing an an NFL record $85 million dead cap hit over two years. The Broncos might have the worst quarterback room in the league (Ben DiNucci, Jarrett Stidham, and Zach Wilson). They will add at least one in the draft but aren’t in a great spot to land a top prospect.

Denver also has other needs, including cornerback, defensive line, and wide receiver. This is a team most likely to overreach for a quarterback prospect and might be better served getting someone to develop in the later rounds.

3. Chicago Bears

First-round picks: No. 1, 9

The Bears are in an envious position. It’s not often that a team has two first-round picks in the top 10. If you hit on both, you can have franchise cornerstones – such as the Texans, who took C. J. Stroud and Will Anderson Jr. They were the 2023 offensive and defensive rookies of the year, respectively. Make the wrong choices, and you can set your team back for years.

Chicago hasn’t drafted an All-Pro quarterback since before World War II (Sid Luckman, 1939!). Will presumptive No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams break the streak? Possibly.

And will the Bears draft a young receiver to pair with Williams such as Rome Odunze? Chicago needs at least one of its top picks to become a superstar.

2. Los Angeles Chargers

First-round pick: No. 5

Jim Harbaugh has a well-earned reputation as Mr. Fix It. The last time he was in the NFL, he took advantage of an underachieving San Francisco 49ers roster and immediately coached them to the NFC Championship. He has the burden of high expectations, even though this Chargers roster isn’t as good.

Low Angeles has already cut ties with several veterans due to the salary cap. Harbaugh will revamp this franchise in his image, which means a physical team in the trenches and less reliance on Justin Herbert. A successful extreme Chargers makeover won’t be possible without the right kind of young players at the offensive and defensive lines, particularly when you’re competing against the Kansas City Chiefs.

1. Dallas Cowboys

First-round pick: No. 24

The Cowboys are always under pressure. That’s a given when you’re America’s Team and your owner is Jerry Jones.

This year, however, the draft is even more vital due to football economics. Dallas has two young players in line for massive contract extensions: Micah Parsons and CeeDee Lamb. Dak Prescott has a $55 million salary cap number for 2024. These are key reasons why the Cowboys weren’t aggressive in free agency and let numerous players go. They need young, cheap talent, especially at offensive line, defensive tackle, and wide receiver.

The Cowboys have been good at drafting in recent years, but they can’t afford to miss this season if they want to stay competitive.

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.