Published April 23, 2011
Team-by-team capsules for the NFL draft on April 28-30 in New York:
|1. CAROLINA PANTHERS (2-14)|
LAST SEASON: Decision to turn to young players while keeping veteran-friendly coach John Fox for lame duck season backfired. Panthers weren't remotely competitive on offense, managing 16 touchdowns. Matt Moore failed miserably as starting QB. Rookie Jimmy Clausen replaced him, had few reliable targets, and went 1-9 as starter without TD pass to a WR. Run game, so potent in 2009, disappeared until it was too late. Defense held up early, but eventually cracked from injuries, huge time of possession discrepancy and poor starting field position.
THEY NEED: QB, WR, DT, DE, CB.
THEY DON'T NEED: S, PK, P.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: QB Cam Newton.
OUTLOOK: San Diego defensive coordinator Ron Rivera replaced Fox. His first draft would be much easier if Stanford QB Andrew Luck didn't stay in school. Newton's skills, arm and athleticism have wowed Carolina's brass, but franchise has shied away from players with character and off-field questions. Still, Panthers desperately need franchise QB to jump-start NFL's worst offense. They also need help at WR, have huge holes on DL and have 28 potential free agents. Lockout, which prevents current players from being included in draft deals, does them no favors.
|2. DENVER BRONCOS (4-12)|
LAST SEASON: Broncos own second overall pick following franchise-worst 4-12 season and personnel blunders that cost Josh McDaniels his job as coach and de facto general manager. Enter John Fox, who used No. 2 pick in Carolina on Julius Peppers in 2002 and two years later was in Super Bowl. He's angling for another fast fix in Denver.
THEY NEED: DL, LB, maybe WR with Demaryius Thomas and Eddie Royal hurt.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE-DT Marcell Dareus.
OUTLOOK: Broncos are eager to forget all about worst season in 51-year history and get on with rebuilding project after McDaniels' 22-month reign of error. Really need defensive tackle to build around, but if Dareus goes No. 1 to Carolina, Fox's former team, Broncos could turn to Texas A&M pass-rushing LB Von Miller to team with Elvis Dumervil, who moves from OLB back to DE in Denver's return to 4-3 scheme under Fox.
|3. BUFFALO BILLS (4-12)|
LAST SEASON: After 0-8 start, young and rebuilding Bills showed signs of developing chemistry under first-year coach Chan Gailey. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick provided spark in taking over when Trent Edwards was benched after Week 2, and released a week later. Still wasn't enough to overcome porous defense that couldn't stop run as Bills missed playoffs for 11th straight year, tied with Detroit for NFL's longest active drought.
THEY NEED: A lot. Improving pass rush and upgrading offensive line. Though comfortable with Fitzpatrick, haven't ruled out selecting quarterback in first or second round.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OLB Von Miller, Newton, Dareus, QB Blaine Gabbert.
OUTLOOK: With offense starting to click, and Gailey adept in adjusting to strengths of roster, improvement appears close. Defense, however, is too weak, and too many questions remain to expect Bills to contend against AFC East powers.
|4. CINCINNATI BENGALS (4-12)|
LAST SEASON: Defending AFC North champs turned into dysfunctional sideshow with WRs Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens getting far more attention for their reality shows than performance on field. Lack of general manager — owner Mike Brown functions as de facto GM — leaves franchise rudderless: two winning seasons in last 20 years. Coach Marvin Lewis had such misgivings about front office he played out his contract, then decided to stay even though Brown promised no significant change. QB Carson Palmer demanded trade, threatening to retire if he's not dealt. Brown insisted he won't trade Palmer, leaving franchise a dysfunctional mess.
THEY NEED: GM, QB, WR, RB, S, CB, OL, LB.
THEY DON'T NEED: P.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: WR A.J. Green.
OUTLOOK: Bleak. Standoff between Palmer and Brown is worst scenario, but entirely possible given Brown's history of digging in. When team's leader throws in towel, it ripples through locker room. Ochocinco had sub-par season and got on Lewis' nerves again, so it's unlikely he'll be around for more than one season, if that. RB Cedric Benson wanted out after Bengals moved away from run-first philosophy and foundered. As long as front office sees no need for change, no reason to expect any.
|5. ARIZONA CARDINALS (5-11)|
LAST SEASON: Coach Ken Whisenhunt's impressive work turning around long-woeful franchise took severe step back with botched efforts to compensate for retirement of Kurt Warner. Derek Anderson was same erratic passer he had been in Cleveland and team eventually turned to rookies Max Hall (poor results) and John Skelton (only slightly better). Defense, never a strong suit in team's consecutive NFC West titles, was worse with departure of ILB Karlos Dansby and sub-par seasons from S Adrian Wilson, DT Darnell Dockett and CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
THEY NEED: QB, OLB, DE, CB, ILB, OL, perhaps WR.
THEY DON'T NEED: RB, PK, P.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Miller, Gabbert, CB Patrick Peterson, OLB Robert Quinn.
OUTLOOK: Cardinals need quarterback, but prefer acquiring veteran in a desire to win now rather than commit to longer rebuilding plan, a route Whisenhunt might not survive. However, signing free agent or trading for vet is impossible until lockout ends. As tempting as Gabbert might be, Cardinals need immediate help from a pick this high. Miller, if he's not gone, would be much-needed upgrade for awful pass rush. Quinn could be an acceptable alternative, with OLB Joey Porter almost certainly not returning. Peterson's athletic talent would be welcome in porous secondary.
|6. CLEVELAND BROWNS (5-11)|
LAST SEASON: Eric Mangini's second — and final — season as Cleveland's coach will be remembered for major upsets of New England and New Orleans, ankle injuries to quarterbacks, and another December collapse. Mangini was fired by president Mike Holmgren one day after 41-9 loss at home to Pittsburgh. Enter Pat Shurmur, Cleveland's fifth coach since 1999. Browns never established offensive identity in 2010 while their defense, though devastated by injuries, showed some promise.
THEY NEED: WR, DL, RT. Shurmur will run West Coast offense and covets playmaking wide receiver for second-year QB Colt McCoy. Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie are competent route runners, but don't scare defenses or stretch field. With Shurmur switching to 4-3 defensive front, Browns desperately need pass rusher.
THEY DON'T NEED: PK after slapping franchise tag on Phil Dawson, who has deserved new contract for years.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Green, WR Julio Jones or Quinn. Green is top overall wideout in draft but will likely be off board by No. 6, leaving Jones — not a bad Plan B. Quinn is also strong possibility despite not playing last year after being suspended.
OUTLOOK: Shurmur is former offensive coordinator and his boss, Holmgren, is one of NFL's greatest offensive minds. So it's hard to imagine Browns going with defensive player at No. 6 unless, of course, Peterson drops. GM Tom Heckert had strong 2010 draft, getting CB Joe Haden, S T.J. Ward and McCoy with top three picks. He needs another one.
|7. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (6-10)|
LAST SEASON: Niners began 0-5 last season after entering as an NFC West favorite following unbeaten preseason. Two first-round offensive linemen became immediate starters under coach Mike Singletary: No. 11 pick RT Anthony Davis and 17th pick LG Mike Iupati. Trent Baalke, recently promoted to general manager, ran draft for first time in 2010. Quarterback position for new coach Jim Harbaugh is major hole to fill. Baalke's other draft picks last season also played significant roles as rookies.
THEY NEED: QB, CB, DE.
THEY DON'T NEED: WR,TE.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Miller, Peterson.
OUTLOOK: Harbaugh, hired away from nearby Stanford after he led Cardinal to 40-12 Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech, is so eager to get going — and draft is at least a step in that direction as he awaits end to lockout. Harbaugh is former quarterback who will be called upon to groom new QB. Adding key pieces will be paramount for team that believes it greatly underachieved.
|8. TENNESSEE TITANS (6-10)|
LAST SEASON: Collapsed after 5-2 start in finish that wound up costing both Vince Young and coach Jeff Fisher their jobs. Young will be traded or released once new labor deal is reached, while Fisher parted with team three weeks after winning showdown with his quarterback without getting his coaching contract extended.
THEY NEED: QB. Rusty Smith is only quarterback on roster, and he didn't impress in lone start as rookie. Position is crucial for team that had worst time of possession in NFL and can't afford another mistake at QB. Also, DT, DE, LB for new defensive coordinator Jerry Gray.
THEY DON'T NEED: RB. Chris Johnson did well enough year after running for 2,006 yards, and Javon Ringer provided nice backup.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DT Nick Fairley, DE Da'Quan Bowers, Miller.
OUTLOOK: Titans aren't in complete rebuilding mode, not with Johnson and receiver Kenny Britt on offense. But Tennessee is nowhere good enough to overlook best player available at No. 8. Draft is deep enough in quarterbacks team could grab one in second round (39th overall).
|9. DALLAS COWBOYS (6-10)|
LAST SEASON: A 1-7 start turned supposed Super Bowl contender into also-ran, and that was before Tony Romo broke his collarbone. Coach Wade Phillips lost job midseason and things began to improve under interim coach Jason Garrett, earning him full-time job.
THEY NEED: Help on both lines, mainly tackle and defensive end, and depth in the secondary. Youth at inside linebacker would help, too.
THEY DON'T NEED: WR, high-maintenance personalities.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: T Tyron Smith, USC.
OUTLOOK: Jerry Jones believes in Garrett and wants this to become long-term partnership. Their first draft together could yield some clues on how they are building/rebuilding club that still has enough talent to pick up where it left off in 2009, when Cowboys won division and playoff game.
|10. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (6-10)|
LAST SEASON: Arrival of no-nonsense coach Mike Shanahan failed to make Redskins any less a circus. DT Albert Haynesworth feuded with coach and was suspended for final four games. QB Donovan McNabb, acquired in trade, was so underwhelming he was benched for final three games — after signing contract extension that was mostly smoke and mirrors. Result was third consecutive last-place finish, a first in franchise history.
THEY NEED: A whole lot: QB, RB, WR, DT, DE, LB, FS.
THEY DON'T NEED: TE, SS.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Jones.
OUTLOOK: Shanahan's rebuilding effort was set back immeasurably by McNabb debacle, which cost Redskins two draft picks and forced team to start over yet again at QB. Washington is too old and too thin in too many positions, result of decade's worth of poor front office moves. Shanahan quickly found changing culture in Washington would be multiyear undertaking. Another last-place finish wouldn't be surprising.
|11. HOUSTON TEXANS (6-10)|
LAST SEASON: Texans lost eight of last 10 games, largely due to NFL's worst pass defense (268 yards per game). Secondary produced only 13 interceptions and gave up league-worst 18 pass plays covering 40 yards or more. First-round draft pick Kareem Jackson floundered as starting cornerback, but Texans also had weak pass rush, ranking 23rd in sacks (30).
THEY NEED: DLs and secondary help. Houston fired coordinator Frank Bush and brought in Wade Phillips to implement 3-4 scheme. Signed DT Shaun Cody to two-year extension, and they could use athletic, effective pass rusher to complement him and DE Mario Williams, who had 8½ sacks last season. May be wary of drafting another cornerback, given how much Jackson struggled.
THEY DON'T NEED: TE, WR. Re-signed Owen Daniels, their No. 3 all-time receiver, and Joel Dreessen and James Casey developed into capable backups. Andre Johnson signed two-year extension through 2016. Texans had league's fourth-best pass offense in 2010.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE Aldon Smith, considered one of top pass rushers in draft.
OUTLOOK: Houston's offense has ranked among best since Gary Kubiak became coach in 2006. Defense needs some rebuilding, and also needs to stay healthy. MLB DeMeco Ryans missed last 10 games with a ruptured Achilles' tendon and Williams played through sports hernia for much of season. Texans need at least one more impact player on defense to break through for first playoff berth.
|12. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (6-10)|
LAST SEASON: Collapsed under weight of high expectations, injuries and internal dissension, going from Super Bowl contender to last-place team with new head coach in need of several position upgrades.
THEY NEED: QB, OL, DL, CB.
THEY DON'T NEED: RB, LB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Jake Locker, QB, Washington.
OUTLOOK: Ill-fated Randy Moss trade with Patriots for Randy Moss leaves Vikings without third-round pick, another hurdle in attempt to restock roster with young talent. Quarterback, again, is most pressing need for team moving on from Brett Favre experiment and Tarvaris Jackson project. If Locker (and Missouri's Gabbert) are gone at No. 12, Vikings could grab defensive end such as Clemson's Bowers to help shore up pass rush that dropped off last season after leading league in sacks in 2009. Or they could try to trade down to recoup third-round pick.
|13. DETROIT LIONS (6-10)|
LAST SEASON: Closed with four straight wins, including one against Green Bay, after drafting an instant star. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was only rookie on All-Pro team. Matthew Stafford, though, was healthy enough to play just three games a year after being drafted No. 1 overall.
THEY NEED: CB, LB, OT.
THEY DON'T NEED: DT, QB, WR.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: CB Prince Amukamara, Smith.
OUTLOOK: Detroit has big need at cornerback, but its biggest concern is keeping Stafford on the field.
|14. ST. LOUIS RAMS (7-9)|
LAST SEASON: Franchise shed sad sack status behind improved offense built around Pro Bowl RB Steven Jackson and No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford, plus stingier defense that's been coach Steve Spagnuolo's calling card. Rams were one win from improbable NFC West title before flopping in finale at Seattle.
THEY NEED: True No. 1 receiver would help NFL offensive rookie of year Bradford flourish under new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Defense needs help at linebacker beyond James Laurinaitis, who led team in tackles both of his seasons, and must replace safety Oshiomoghe Atogwe, who left as free agent.
THEY DON'T NEED: Last two seasons they've heavily invested in OTs — Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Jones.
OUTLOOK: Talented backup behind workhorse Jackson remains major item on wish list. Depth is thin overall for franchise working its way back to competitiveness in Year 3 for Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney.
|15. MIAMI DOLPHINS (7-9)|
LAST SEASON: For second year in row, Dolphins faded at finish. Owner Stephen Ross courted Jim Harbaugh before giving coach Tony Sparano and general manager Jeff Ireland contract extensions. While decision-makers remain the same, offensive overhaul is certain after Dolphins finished next to last in AFC scoring, and desire to upgrade starts in backfield. QB Chad Henne was benched briefly at midseason, threw 19 interceptions and lost support of leading receiver Brandon Marshall. RBs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams failed to produce single 100-yard rushing game, and both become unrestricted free agents when lockout ends.
THEY NEED: RB, QB, TE, G, S, WR, OLB, ILB.
THEY DON'T NEED: DE, CB, NT, FB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: RB Mark Ingram.
OUTLOOK: With many needs and only two of first 109 picks in draft, Dolphins would love to trade down in first round, but might not find much of a market. It will be shocking if they don't devote top choice to playmaker, perhaps even QB. Dolphins used second-round choice on QB every year from 2006 to 2009, but haven't devoted first-round pick to passer since Dan Marino in 1983.
|16. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (8-8)|
LAST SEASON: With star running back Maurice Jones-Drew hobbled all season, Jacksonville lost its final three games and missed postseason for ninth time in last 11 years. Coach Jack Del Rio kept his job, partly because team owner Wayne Weaver and general manager Gene Smith already started major rebuilding project, but Weaver promised changes if Jaguars don't make playoffs in 2011.
THEY NEED: DE, S, LB, CB, C, G, QB, WR.
THEY DON'T NEED: OT, DT, TE, RB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan, a high-motor, blue-collar, good-character guy who would fit perfectly opposite former Pro Bowler Aaron Kampman.
OUTLOOK: With so many holes, the most pressing on defense, Jaguars could go in any direction with first pick. Quarterback remains concern, especially with little depth behind 33-year-old inconsistent starter David Garrard, but don't expect team to address that need until second or third round.
17, 28. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (14-2)
LAST SEASON: Outstanding season by QB Tom Brady and rookie draft picks CB Devin McCourty, TEs Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez led Patriots to AFC's best record. But they lost opening playoff game for second straight year, to Jets. Ended regular season with eight straight wins. Patriots also led the NFL in scoring with 32.4 points per game as RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis emerged. Brady led NFL in passer rating, most touchdown passes (36) and fewest interceptions (4). But in playoff loss to Jets, he threw his first interception in 340 passes and was sacked five times.
THEY NEED: OL, LB, DE.
THEY DON'T NEED: QB, TE, CB, PK.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE J.J. Watt.
OUTLOOK: As usual, coach Bill Belichick piled up draft choices and has great flexibility to move up or down. Patriots have two picks in each of first three rounds. Aging offensive line with disgruntled G Logan Mankins, free agent T Matt Light and loss of G Stephen Neal to retirement, needs help. Defensively, rookie LBs Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham had decent seasons playing with star Jerod Mayo, but have a ways to go. Patriots' 36 sacks were tied for 14th in league. But No. 1 draft pick McCourty developed quickly into key contributor and was chosen for Pro Bowl.
|18. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (9-7)|
LAST SEASON: Chargers sputtered from start due to mind-boggling special teams blunders and turnovers. Not even Philip Rivers' fine season was enough to save four-time defending AFC West champions, who were eliminated from playoff contention by unfathomable loss at Cincinnati on second-to-last Sunday.
THEY NEED: OLB, DE, OT, S.
THEY DON'T NEED: QB, RB, P, PK.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DL Cameron Heyward, DE Cameron Jordan.
OUTLOOK: Chargers need an impact player on defense. Shawne Merriman is gone and Larry English, first-round pick two years ago, has been slow to develop. Chargers need strong performances, not empty stats. Yes, they had top-ranked defense in NFL, but that was based on yards allowed, a number skewed by fact Chargers often allowed opponents a short field due to special teams gaffes and giveaways.
|19. NEW YORK GIANTS (10-6)|
LAST SEASON: Had playoff berth all but locked up in Game 14 until they melted down in fourth quarter and blew 21-point lead against Eagles in showdown for NFC East lead. Were blown out by Super Bowl champion Packers in following week and missed postseason on tiebreaker.
THEY NEED: OT, G, C, DE, OLB, RB.
THEY DON'T NEED: DB, WR.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: G-C Mike Pouncey, OT Anthony Castonzo, Kerrigan, Ingram.
OUTLOOK: Ball control and defense have been constants when Giants win. With OTs David Diehl and Kareem McKenzie in their 30s, and fellow veterans G Rich Seubert (kneecap) and C Shaun O'Hara (foot) coming off injuries, O-Line could use some help. While loaded on defensive line, Giants won't hesitate to add another. Wild card might be if Ingram is still available. Giants took his father with first-round pick in 1987 and team has history of grabbing players who slip because of concerns about their health (Ingram's knee).
|20. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (10-6)|
LAST SEASON: With Josh Freeman developing into one of NFL's top young quarterbacks in first full season as starter, Bucs were one of league's biggest surprises, going from three wins in 2009 to just missing playoffs. Undrafted rookie free agent LeGarrette Blount rushed for more than 1,000 yards and rookie receivers Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn also played major roles in team's turnaround.
THEY NEED: DE to improve one of league's least-productive pass rushes.
THEY DON'T NEED: DTs and WRs after selecting Gerald McCoy, Brian Price, Williams and Benn a year ago.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE Adrian Clayborn.
OUTLOOK: Offense is headed in right direction with Freeman and promising collection of playmakers coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik have put around 23-year-old QB. Efforts to rebuild defense that's slipped since Bucs won their only Super Bowl nine seasons ago began with selections of McCoy and Price. Although unit has improved steadily since coach Raheem Morris began serving as own defensive coordinator late in 2009, inconsistent pass rush makes it difficult to compete in division that features QBs Drew Brees and Matt Ryan.
|21. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (10-6)|
LAST SEASON: Chiefs enjoyed breakthrough season in second year of Scott Pioli-Todd Haley regime, improving six games with last-place schedule and winning AFC West. They got destroyed in first playoff game by Baltimore.
THEY DON'T NEED: DE, S, CB, QB, PK, P, RB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OLB Justin Houston.
OUTLOOK: Pioli has spent his first two first-round selections on defense, hitting home run last year with S Eric Berry and possibly striking out the year before on DE Tyson Jackson. This will be first time he does not get to select in top five.
|22. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (10-6)|
LAST SEASON: Overcame rash of debilitating injuries to win seventh AFC South title in eight years. But after taking lead in final minute of wild-card game, last-second field goal gave Jets come-from-behind upset over defending AFC champs.
THEY NEED: Offensive line. Yes, some think it's time to find Peyton Manning's successor, but Indy's No. 1 priority is keeping its four-time MVP healthy. Poor ground game also has exposed chinks in aging line, and Colts must get that fixed before looking to future.
THEY DON'T NEED: WR. Never rule out anything when it comes to finding offensive playmakers in draft. But with Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon and a healthy Austin Collie and Anthony Gonzalez — two big ifs — receiver may be Colts' deepest position.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OL Gabe Carimi.
OUTLOOK: Colts prefer taking early-round players with a winner's mentality, and have demonstrated penchant for taking Big Ten players. Plus, they need to rebuild offensive line quickly. Carimi fits, but if he's not there, look for Boston College's Castonzo or Colorado's Nate Solder. One of the three tackles is likely to be available when Indy picks.
|23. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-6)|
LAST SEASON: Traded up to select undersized DE Brandon Graham at No. 13, but he started just six games and had three sacks before he tore knee ligament late in season. Second-round pick FS Nate Allen started every game before season-ending injury in December. LB Jamar Chaney and S Kurt Coleman, both seventh-round picks, had promising rookie seasons.
THEY NEED: OL, CB.
THEY DON'T NEED: QB, WR, RB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Carimi, Pouncey, CB Jimmy Smith, OT Derrick Sherrod.
OUTLOOK: Eagles have solid nucleus of young players at skill positions. They need to upgrade offensive line and must add another cornerback to complement Asante Samuel and improve poor pass defense. Philadelphia has always been active on draft day, and could look to package some picks to move up. Backup QB Kevin Kolb is on trading block and would land a premium pick or two, but lockout prevents deal.
|24. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11-5)|
LAST SEASON: Coming off first Super Bowl title a season earlier, Saints had solid 2010, ranking sixth in offense and fourth in defense and returning to playoffs. However, they were decimated by late-season injuries, particularly at running back, and were upset by Seattle in wild card round.
THEY NEED: DL, LB, possibly RB.
THEY DON'T NEED: QB, OL, DB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Heyward, Clayborn, OLB Akeem Ayers, Ingram.
OUTLOOK: Saints, who ranked 18th in sacks (33) and 16th in run defense (112.3 yards per game), want more depth on both interior and edge of defensive front. First and foremost, they could use play-making pass rusher to take pressure off DE Will Smith. Yet, with renegotiation of Reggie Bush's contract pending, New Orleans also could be inclined to take 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Ingram if he's still available.
25. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (7-9)
LAST SEASON: In Pete Carroll's first season back in NFL, Seattle became an asterisk in league history as first team with sub-.500 record to win its division. It was part of massive turnover year for Seahawks, who loudly promoted ridiculous number of roster transactions as Carroll and general manager John Schneider tried to remodel team. Seattle found gems in WR Mike Williams and first-round pick OT Russell Okung, but struggled to run despite a midseason trade for bruising RB Marshawn Lynch. Seattle started 4-2, then limped through losses in seven of next nine games before beating St. Louis in finale to win NFC West. Seahawks upset defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans 41-36, before losing at Chicago in NFC divisional playoff.
THEY NEED: QB, OL, DL, WR, CB.
THEY DON'T NEED: RB, LB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DL Muhammad Wilkerson.
OUTLOOK: No one disputes Seattle desperately needs quarterback with uncertainty of Matt Hasselbeck returning, which is fueling talk of taking hard look at TCU's Andy Dalton, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett or local favorite Locker. But no injury had more impact on Seattle's defense last season than DE Red Bryant's blown-out knee and Wilkerson would give Seattle depth at its hybrid defensive end/tackle position. Seahawks need depth on both lines. But if Seattle sees chance to stockpile picks and perhaps get QB late, don't be shocked to see it happen.
|26. BALTIMORE RAVENS (12-4)|
LAST SEASON: Ravens reached playoffs for third straight season, but second-round defeat in Pittsburgh again cut short bid to return to Super Bowl for first time since 2001.
THEY NEED: Pass rusher, OT or CB. Baltimore drafted LB Sergio Kindle last year to provide help to Terrell Suggs in pressuring quarterback, but fractured skull prevented Kindle from playing in 2010 and his status remains uncertain. Injuries prevented OT Jared Gaither from joining Michael Oher as bookends, and Ravens could lose several cornerbacks to free agency.
THEY DON'T NEED: QB, LB, RB, TE. Joe Flacco and Mark Bulger are solid 1-2 punch at QB; Ray Rice heads group of five quality RBs; Ray Lewis, Suggs and Jameel McClain comprise solid trio at linebacker; and Todd Heap, Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta provide depth at TE.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Heyward; CBs Brandon Harris or J.Smith.
OUTLOOK: GM Ozzie Newsome rarely fails to shine on draft day, even though Ravens usually pick deep in first round. Newsome makes habit of grabbing best player available, regardless of position, although that stance might change a bit because he hasn't been able to sign free agents.
|27. ATLANTA FALCONS (13-3)|
LAST SEASON: Falcons won NFC South with potent and balanced offense led by QB Ryan, who had his best season with 3,705 yards passing and 28 touchdowns. Roddy White had fourth straight year with more than 1,100 yards receiving. Falcons had first-round bye and home-field advantage through NFC playoffs but fell to Green Bay in divisional round.
THEY NEED: GM Thomas Dimitroff says he's looking for explosive players. His list could include big-play threat to join White at receiver, speed at running back behind starter Michael Turner, and a pass rusher to complement John Abraham at defensive end. Team might look for offensive linemen, as three starters could be lost to free agency, and tight end to eventually replace Tony Gonzalez.
THEY DON'T NEED: QB, FB, S. Second-year player William Moore emerged at SS last year to join FS Thomas DeCoud. Top of depth chart at cornerback also looks strong with Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes, but depth is a concern.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE Brooks Reed, Houston, Heyward (son of former Falcons RB Craig "Ironhead" Heyward), Clayborn, Ayers. An option could be WR such as Torrey Smith or Randall Cobb.
OUTLOOK: Dimitroff is open to trading up in the first round to take the player who can add immediate big-play potential on either side of the ball. Before Dimitroff and Smith, the Falcons had never had back-to-back winning seasons. Now they've had three straight winning records and are aiming for talent to bring postseason success.
|29. CHICAGO BEARS (11-5)|
LAST SEASON: Bears made surprising run to NFC North title and conference championship game, making playoffs for first time since 2006 Super Bowl season, even though Jay Cutler was human tackling dummy with little protection. Even so, they got enough out of their offense, and defense dominated again after several mediocre seasons. DE Julius Peppers paid off in big way after signing as free agent, and MLB Brian Urlacher rediscovered his Pro Bowl form after being limited by injuries in recent seasons. It didn't hurt, either, that Devin Hester began to wreak havoc again on returns.
THEY NEED: OL, WR, DT, LB.
THEY DON'T NEED: QB, RB, KR, PR.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Sherrod, Solder, DT Corey Liuget.
OUTLOOK: Bears desperately need help on offensive line — no secret there — after Cutler got sacked 52 times. Whether their first pick actually is O-lineman remains to be seen. Bears could also use replacement for DT Tommie Harris, top-tier receiver and some youth on defense.
|30. NEW YORK JETS (11-5)|
LAST SEASON: Fell short of coach Rex Ryan's preseason prediction of trip to Super Bowl, but reached AFC championship game for second straight season — and a crazy season at that. Jets were able to keep winning despite constant off-field distractions: HBO's "Hard Knocks"; NFL's investigation of team's treatment of female Mexican television reporter; Braylon Edwards' drunken-driving arrest; fallout from Brett Favre's sexual harassment case; assistant coach tripping opposing player and ordering players to form sideline wall; and foot-fetish videos supposedly featuring Ryan's wife.
THEY NEED: Pass-rushing DL, S, depth at LB and possibly WR, RT to replace Damien Woody.
THEY DON'T NEED: QB, RB, ILB, TE.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Liuget, NT Phil Taylor, Heyward, S Rahim Moore.
OUTLOOK: DL might be revamped with NT Kris Jenkins a free agent and coming off consecutive season-ending knee injuries. DE Shaun Ellis, team's longest-tenured player, also is free agent. QB Mark Sanchez might need new targets because WRs Edwards, Santonio Holmes and Brad Smith are free agents. Ryan insists this is year Jets will get where he has promised, but he might have to do it with handful of new faces.
|31. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (12-4)|
LAST SEASON: Went 3-1 with QB Ben Roethlisberger suspended for first four games, then beat out Baltimore on tiebreaker to win AFC North. Defense ranked second overall, first against run, and S Troy Polamalu was defensive player of year. Beat Ravens and Jets in playoffs before falling in Super Bowl to Green Bay.
THEY NEED: OL, except at center, CB, DL. Top pick Maurkice Pouncey made Pro Bowl at center.
THEY DON'T NEED: Safeties, RBs, QB, LBs.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: CB Aaron Williams, Wilkerson.
OUTLOOK: Very bright as long as Roethlisberger, RB Rashard Mendenhall, Polamalu, LB James Harrison, WRs Mike Wallace and Hines Ward stay healthy. This is a deep, talented, well-coached team with more depth than most.
|32. GREEN BAY PACKERS (10-6)|
THEY NEED: Given success last season, and wave of so many talented players coming back from season-ending injuries, it might seem Packers don't need anything. But they still could use outside linebacker to pair with Matthews and depth on offensive line. They could be tempted to take receiver, too.
THEY DON'T NEED: QB. There's glut of talent at inside linebacker, too.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Reed.
OUTLOOK: Without glaring needs, Packers GM Ted Thompson might be even more inclined than in past to take best player available — a philosophy he generally has stuck to anyway. But Packers also could use help in return game. And while DE Mike Neal seems to be heir assuming Cullen Jenkins eventually leaves as free agent, Packers could use DE depth behind him and Ryan Pickett.
|48. OAKLAND RAIDERS (8-8)|
LAST SEASON: Raiders ended string of seven straight losing seasons by sweeping all six games in AFC West. But that wasn't enough to save job of coach Tom Cable, replaced by offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. Most notable development last season was improvement on offense under Jackson in first season in Oakland. RB Darren McFadden and WR Jacoby Ford provided big-play ability lacking in recent years, but Oakland still needs help on offensive line and on defense.
THEY NEED: OL, DB, QB.
THEY DON'T NEED: RB, DL, TE.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OL Stefen Wisniewski, OL Rodney Hudson, J.Smith, QB Colin Kaepernick.
OUTLOOK: Oakland traded first-round pick to New England two years ago for DT Richard Seymour, who made Pro Bowl last season and has been leader on defense past two seasons. With Pro Bowl CB Nnamdi Asomugha a free agent, Raiders once again could be in market for starting cornerback to pair with Stanford Routt. Oakland also could lose starting FS Michael Huff, making secondary position of need. Also not bringing back LG Robert Gallery and adding more power-blocking to run game, creating potential holes on line. With Jason Campbell in last year of contract, Oakland also could look for young QB to groom.