2012 NFL Draft Preview
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What a difference a year makes. Last April, we were certainly pumped up for the NFL draft, especially since it was the only thing going on the NFL, but it wasn’t the same because it preceded free agency, and we still had more than two months of the lockout in front of us.
We’re back to normal now, which means the 2012 season will come into clear focus in 7-8 days, and it all starts on Thursday night, when the NFL draft kicks off.
We’ll undoubtedly be surprised by some of the moves the teams make in the draft, but it’s still a worthwhile exercise to become familiar with the teams needs and the likely directions they will go, which we hope to accomplish with this report.
Picks: 10, 41, 71, 105, 124, 144, 147, 178, 217, 251
1. Offensive Tackle – The Bill offensive line actually held up relatively well last year, giving up a league-low 23 sacks in the regular season. However, this area is still a concern, as starting LT Demetress Bell signed with the Eagles, leaving them with Erik Pears and Chris Hairston, a 2011 4th-round pick, as the starting tackles. The ideal scenario for Buffalo in the 1st round appears to be Iowa OT Riley Reiff falling to #10 overall. Our Greg Cosell also likes Ohio State’s Mike Adams, although the Bills may be able to trade down a few spots if they want to target him. Some also feel like Reiff is “only” a right tackle.
2. Wide Receiver – Yes, the Bills locked up top WR Steve Johnson, but they still need additional help. The WR corps was decimated by injuries last year, and while Donald Jones isn’t bad and Marcus Easley has potential if he’s actually healthy, the Bills need to add someone early in the draft who can make a legitimate impact for their offense. If Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon falls, the Bills would have a hard time passing him up, and they may also consider Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd at #10 overall. They could also wait and draft a speedy WR like Wake Forest’s Chris Givens or a slot receiver like Arkansas’ Jarius Wright, since Roscoe Parrish is gone.
Fantasy Outlook: Aside from targeting a WR, the Bills could also add a QB and a TE. They re-signed starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and starting TE Scott Chandler, but both went downhill in the second half of the season. Fitzpatrick is obviously the starter, but that doesn’t mean the Bills can’t draft a developmental prospect like Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler with an eye toward the future. Also, at TE, they could target an athletic TE like Ladarius Green of Louisiana-Lafayette as a complementary piece next to Chandler, who’s more of a short-area and red-zone target.
Picks: 8, 42, 72, 73, 103, 145, 196, 215
1. Wide Receiver – The Dolphins traded #1 WR Brandon Marshall to Chicago and have failed to sign anyone else of note, leaving them with arguably the league’s worst WR corps, featuring Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, Legedu Naanee and Clyde Gates, among others. Bess is a good slot receiver, and the young and speedy Gates has potential, but this team desperately needs a WR to hang their hats on. The Dolphins will have to think hard about taking Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon with the 8th overall pick if he’s there. If not, someone like Illinois’ A.J. Jenkins would be a good target on Day Two. Of course, the WRs don’t matter a lot if the team can’t get stable QB play, and that position is a huge need as well.
2. Quarterback – The Dolphins whiffed on Peyton Manning, and their consolation prize was David Garrard. Matt Moore proved he can be serviceable if managed properly, but the Dolphins need to get new HC Joe Philbin a QB of the future. The logical candidate is Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill, who could “fall” to #8 overall if the Browns pass on him at #4. Tannehill is clearly the draft’s #3 QB, and while he’s still raw and is something of a project, he’d be a great fit for the Dolphins, especially with his college coach Mike Sherman taking over as Miami’s OC.
3. Offensive Tackle – The Dolphins are set at LT with Jake Long, but the right side is up in the air with RT Marc Colombo and RG Vernon Carey both unsigned free agents. If the Dolphins don’t opt to draft Tannehill or Blackmon in the 1st round, Iowa OT Riley Reiff would make sense.
Also:DE is another key need, since the team is moving to a 4-3 in 2012.
Fantasy Outlook: QB and WR are the clear needs for the Dolphins in terms of fantasy. They’re essentially set at RB with Daniel Thomas and Reggie Bush, but they could add an athletic TE to pair with Anthony Fasano, like Louisiana-Lafayette’s Ladarius Green.
New England Patriots
Picks: 27, 31, 48, 62, 93, 126
1. Outside Linebacker/Defensive End – The Patriot defense was atrocious last year, and they desperately need to improve their pass rush, especially after Mark Anderson signed with the Bills and Andre Carter missed much of the 2011 season. The Patriots use a versatile front seven with both 4-3 and 3-4 looks, and they’ll almost certainly use one of their two 1st-round picks on an edge rusher like Boise State’s Shea McClellin, who our Greg Cosell really likes, or Syracuse’s Chandler Jones. Whether it be at OLB or DE, they need to address their lackluster pass rush first and foremost.
2. Cornerback – The pass rush deserves a lot of blame for the Patriots’ struggles in coverage last year, but they also had big problems with depth in the secondary. Promising young CB Devin McCourty struggled, and while the Patriots spent an early pick on Ras-I Dowling last year, his durability is a big question. With two 1st-round picks and two 2nd-round picks, the Patriots could have plenty of options, including Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick, North Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins, and UCF’s Josh Robinson.
3. Safety – The Patriots didn’t land free agent LaRon Landry, and they were so thin in the defensive backfield that Matthew Slater and Julian Edelman played some defense last year. The Patriots did sign Steve Gregory to pair with Patrick Chung, but they need to add another young player, ideally with one of their four picks in the first two rounds.
Fantasy Outlook: The Patriots are one of the most unpredictable teams in the league, so while everyone expects them to target defense early and often, you can never know for sure. Still, there’s little for them to do at the fantasy positions. They’re set at QB and took Ryan Mallett as a developmental backup last year, they bolstered their receiving corps by signing Brandon Lloyd, franchising Wes Welker, and re-signing Deion Branch, and they have the most dangerous TE duo in the league. The only question is RB, where they lost BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but they used Day Two picks on both Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley last year. A RB can’t be ruled out, but it’s hard to imagine the Patriots taking one early.
New York Jets
Picks: 16, 47, 77, 154, 187, 202, 203, 232, 242, 244
1. Outside Linebacker – The Jets get a lot of attention for their defense, but they lack a consistent pass rush. Situational pass rusher Aaron Maybin ended up coming over from Buffalo and leading the team with just 6 sacks, so it’s pretty clear the Jets need to get some young talent at OLB in their 3-4 defense with starting LBs Bart Scott, Bryan Thomas, and Calvin Pace all in their 30s. Alabama OLB Courtney Upshaw could be a prime target with the 16th overall pick.
2. Wide Receiver – All the talk in New York is about QB, where Mark Sanchez got a mild contract extension and the Jets signed Tim Tebow. So, what do these two inconsistent passers have to throw to? Well, Santonio Holmes is back, but, other than that, the receiving corps currently consists of the frequently injured Chaz Schilens, slot receiver Jeremy Kerley, and Patrick Turner. The Jets want to run the ball a lot, and it’s possible they’ll sign a cheap veteran like Braylon Edwards, but they need to seriously consider Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd if he’s available with the 16th pick. If not, a 3rd-round WR like Wisconsin’s Nick Toon – son of former Jet Al Toon – would make sense as someone who could transition fairly quickly to the pro game.
3. Offensive Tackle – The Jets are set with left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson on one side, but they’re in need of help on the right side, where Wayne Hunter is undependable and Vladimir Ducasse doesn’t exactly inspire confidence if he has to play. The Jets would be wise to spend a Day Two pick on some competition for those two.
Fantasy Outlook: WR is the clearest need, but RB is also a question for the Jets. At the moment, their backfield consists of Shonn Greene, Joe McKnight, and 2011 4th-round pick Bilal Powell. It’s not exactly a poor group, but this position could use some help. New OC Tony Sporano will surely want to rely on the ground-and-pound philosophy, but Greene has been unable to prove that he’s capable of being the foundation of an offense. Of course, the Jets have now paired Greene with Wildcat packages from Tim Tebow, but this is still a position of need because it doesn’t appear that Greene is the future.
Picks: 29, 60, 91, 130, 164, 169, 198, 236
1. Guard/Center – The Ravens lost Pro Bowl LG Ben Grubbs in free agency to New Orleans, leaving them very thin at that spot. At the moment, 2011 3rd-round pick Jah Reid is expected to move from tackle to guard and start in place of Grubbs, but the Ravens could use some competition there. Guard is not always a position that’s in demand in the 1st round, but Wisconsin’s Kevin Zeitler would make sense with the 29th overall pick. Wisconsin C Peter Konz could also be a target with Matt Birk now 35 years old.
2. Linebacker – The Ravens could add help both inside and outside in their 3-4 scheme. On the outside, Paul Kruger will likely slide into the starting lineup opposite Terrell Suggs to replace Jarret Johnson, but the Ravens could draft someone to compete with Kruger and Sergio Kindle. On the inside, Ray Lewis is 36 years old and clearly isn’t the player he once was, so the Ravens may look to the future by adding a young player on the inside. Clemson’s Andre Branch may be a target on the outside, while Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower could be the pick if the Ravens pick address the inside.
3. Safety – It’s unclear how much longer star FS Ed Reed will play, and the Ravens also lost Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski. in free agency. While they still have Bernard Pollard at SS and signed Sean Considine, it may be time to start thinking about the future. Reed is 33, and Pollard is essentially an extra LB on the field because he’s great against the run but struggles in coverage. The Ravens could consider Notre Dame S Harrison Smith early.
Fantasy Outlook: The Ravens will probably draft another WR after spending 2011 picks on Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss. The Ravens are counting on Doss to step up and contribute after he didn’t really see the field much as a rookie, while hopefully Smith can develop into a more complete receiver with a full off-season. The disappointing Lee Evans is gone, but veteran possession receiver Anquan Boldin remains, so the unit could be okay. A 3rd- or 4th-round WR like Wisconsin’s Nick Toon would make sense, though, to add depth to the unit. Elsewhere, the Ravens are now thin at RB behind Ray Rice thanks to the retirement of Ricky Williams, so they could try to do that through the draft with a mid-round pick like Tennessee’s Tauren Poole or Baylor’s Terrance Ganaway.
Picks: 17, 21, 53, 83, 116, 156, 166, 191
1. Wide Receiver – The Bengals hit a home run last year by drafting A.J. Green early, and he certainly looks like he’ll be a #1 WR for many years. But there’s a big hole at the #2 WR spot. The inconsistent Jerome Simpson is a free agent and Andre Caldwell signed with the Broncos, and while Jordan Shipley will return from injury, he’s a slot receiver – and so is Andrew Hawkins. With two 1st-round picks, the Bengals could take one in the 1st round again, especially if Michael Floyd falls. If not, Illinois’ A.J. Jenkins and South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery are both 2nd-round possibilities.
2. Guard – The Bengals are already set to have two new starting guards, as free agents Travelle Wharton and Jacob Bell will likely replace Nate Livings and Bobbie Williams. The Bengals should be fine with Wharton, the former Panther, but, with two 1st-round picks, they have a shot at Stanford G David DeCastro, who would likely be able to start right away over Bell.
3. Cornerback – The Bengals re-signed Pacman Jones and signed Terence Newman Jason Allen to join Leon Hall and Nate Clements, but Hall is coming off a torn Achilles and Clements and Newman are both inconsistent. With two 1st-round picks, the Bengals are in prime position to draft Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick, South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore, or even North Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins if they can get over his character concerns if they want to keep an eye on the future.
Also: DT is another key need that could be addressed early.
Fantasy Outlook: Wide receiver is clearly the biggest need, as the Bengals are set in the rest of the passing game with young QB Andy Dalton and young TE Jermaine Gresham. Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd at #17 or even at #2 could be deadly with Green and Gresham, making Dalton a sexier pick for fantasy. That leaves RB, where Cedric Benson is gone for good and the Bengals signed BenJarvus Green-Ellis to pair with Bernard Scott. Can Green-Ellis really be a featured back, though, especially for a team that needs to run the ball? The Bengals could go several directions with their three picks in the first two rounds, and RBs like Virginia Tech’s David Wilson and Boise State’s Doug Martin are definitely options. It’s now obvious Scott is more of a specialty/role player.
Picks: 4, 22, 37, 67, 100, 118, 139, 160, 204, 205, 211, 245, 247
1. Running Back – With a limited quarterback in Colt McCoy, the Browns desperately need to be able to consistently run the football with a sustaining back. Peyton Hillis is gone, and that leaves the Browns with Montario Hardesty, Chris Ogbonnaya, and Brandon Jackson. All are solid complementary pieces in their own way, but it’s pretty clear that the Browns don’t have someone who can be the foundation of the offense. It’s quite possible that the Browns will opt for a quarterback or wide receiver with their first pick, and arguments can be made for both. However, the best pick for the Browns is clearly Alabama RB Trent Richardson, who is the best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson. Richardson is a pro-ready runner capable of playing every down in the NFL, and his presence would really help the offense as a whole. If they wait, they could take someone like Boise State’s Doug Martin in the 2nd round. But all signs point to Richardson.
2. Wide Receiver – Does it matter who your QB is if no one gets open? QB Colt McCoy certainly isn’t the answer, but it doesn’t help that the Browns have given him little help out wide. They did make a good move by drafting Greg Little in the 1st round last year, and he has the talent to develop into a #1 WR, but he has to become more consistent and avoid drops. Aside from Little, the Browns have Mohamed Massaquoi, who has been unable to establish himself as a viable threat on the outside, the versatile Josh Cribbs, slot receiver Jordan Norwood, and the unproven Carlton Mitchell. The Browns will surely consider Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon with the #4 overall pick, but they’re better off taking RB Trent Richardson and grabbing a WR like LSU’s Rueben Randle or Baylor’s Kendall Wright with the 22nd pick or Wake Forest’s Chris Givens or Illinois’ A.J. Jenkins on Day Two.
3. Quarterback – If you want to rank QB #1 on this list, that’s perfectly fine. Colt McCoy is a limited player and does not appear to be the long-term answer, so the Browns definitely need an upgrade, especially after not landing a free agent like Matt Flynn. With Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III out of the picture, they’ll take a long look at Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill with the 4th overall pick, and an argument can certainly be made that he’s worth it. If they opt for a RB or WR, they could also grab competition for McCoy in the 2nd round by picking Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden.
Also: The Browns have issues on the OL, both inside and at RT.
Fantasy Outlook: Well, given that we have QB, RB, and WR as the Browns’ top needs it’s pretty clear that they need massive upgrades for fantasy. The good news is that they have two 1st-round picks. See above for further explanation.
Picks: 24, 56, 86, 119, 159, 193, 231, 240, 246, 248
1. Offensive Line – The Steelers are set at C with Maurkice Pouncey, but, other than that, this has been an extremely unreliable unit over the last two years because of injuries. Marcus Gilbert will likely start at LT, while Willie Colon, who’s played in just one game in the last two seasons, is currently at the RT spot. Obviously, Colon is a big concern, and the Steelers also need help at LG, where Doug Legursky is the current starter. With the 24th pick, there’s a good chance the Steelers will address the offensive line, with Ohio State OT Mike Adams, Georgia G/T Cordy Glenn, and Wisconsin G Kevin Zeitler among the possibilities.
2. Nose Tackle – Casey Hampton has been a mainstay on the nose of the Steelers’ 3-4 defense for a decade, but he’s coming off a torn ACL and is a question mark heading into the season. Backup Chris Hoke is gone, leaving the Steelers with little experience at the position, although Ziggy Hood could shift inside. Washington NT Alameda Ta’amu may be worth targeting on Day Two. Depending on what the Steelers decide to do with the position, DE and ILB are possibilities as well in the front seven.
Fantasy Outlook: With a lot of departures and few signings, the Steelers have a lot of question marks, but, fortunately, they still look good, for the most part, for fantasy. That’s assuming Mike Wallace is going nowhere, which is a safe assumption that this point. However, the big question is the health of RB Rashard Mendenhall, who tore his ACL and will probably start the season on the PUP list, leaving the Steelers with Isaac Redman, John Clay, and Jonathan Dwyer. It’s tough to tell what the Steelers will do with the position, and it’s not like there are many free agents to target. It’s certainly possible they’ll consider Boise State’s Doug Martin or Virginia Tech’s David Wilson if they’re on the board in the 2nd round. Elsewhere, assuming the Steelers are able to keep RFA Mike Wallace, they should be fine at WR, and it’s doubtful that TE will be made a priority in this draft.
Picks: 26, 58, 76, 99, 121, 161, 195, 233
1. Wide Receiver – The Texans have been unable to find a consistent producer opposite Andre Johnson the last few years, as neither Kevin Walter nor Jacoby Jones has been reliable. Walter is fine in the slot but shouldn’t start on the outside, while Jones has never lived up to his potential on a week to week basis. To make things worse, Johnson was out half the season last year with a hamstring injury, so the Texans clearly need to add someone who can compete for a starting job. The ideal scenario is for deep threat Kendall Wright to fall to them with the 26th overall pick. Wright could fit in very well in Houston. If that doesn’t happen, the Texans could reach for raw deep threat Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech or also target LSU’s Rueben Randle, who’s a more complete receiver. If they decide to wait until the 2nd round, A.J. Jenkins of Illinois would be a good pick.
2. Offensive Tackle – The Texans surprisingly cut starting RT Eric Winston to create cap room, which delivers a pretty big blow to one of the best offensive lines in the league. For now, Rashad Butler, who has started four games in three years in Houston, will likely start at RT, so the Texans need to add someone here. If they don’t pick a WR in the 1st round, they could try to grab someone like Stanford OT Jonathan Martin or Ohio State OT Mike Adams. A guard can’t be ruled out either after Mike Brisiel signed with the Raiders.
3. Cornerback – New DC Wade Phillips helped the Texans make a miraculous turnaround defensively last year, as they jumped from 32nd in the league against the pass to 3rd. Of course, it also helped that they significantly improved their personnel, as CB Johnathan Joseph was one of the best corners in the league, and Danieal Manning was also an upgrade at FS. Still, the one trouble spot remains the other starting CB spot opposite Joseph. Kareem Jackson, a 2010 1st-round pick, was better last year, but he’s still unreliable, and #3 CB Jason Allen signed with the Bengals. Don’t expect the Texans to add a CB in the 1st round, but using one of their Day Two picks on the position would make sense.
Picks: 1, 34, 65, 97, 136, 170, 206, 208, 214, 253
1. Quarterback – Well, this is perhaps the most obvious need and choice in the league. The availability of Stanford QB Andrew Luck allowed the Colts to do the previously unthinkable and cut Peyton Manning, possibly the greatest quarterback in NFL history. For the most part, the Colts are starting over, and it’s safe to say they’re not going to do that with QBs Drew Stanton and Trevor Vittatoe. An argument can be made for taking Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, but they’re going to take Luck.
2. Offensive Line – The Colts need almost everything, but they need a decent offensive line to help Luck make as smooth a transition as possible. The offensive line was atrocious last year, and the Colts no longer have Manning to mask deficiencies up front. In time, Luck could become a similar type of quarterback, but he’ll only be a rookie. Jeff Saturday, Ryan Diem, and Mike Pollak are gone, and while the Colts brought in Samson Satele and Winston Justice and have some young talent, like LT Anthony Castonzo, it might be a smart move for them to take a lineman at the top of the 2nd round, depending on who’s available.
3. Tight End – In addition to getting offensive line help, it would be nice if Luck had some talent at the skill positions. RB and WR aren’t exactly great, but the biggest hole is at TE, where Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme are gone. At the moment, that leaves blocker Brody Eldridge atop the depth chart. Obviously, that’s not going to cut it. The 2012 TE class is a weak one, but the Colts may be in perfect position to grab Stanford TE Coby Fleener with the 33rd overall pick. If making Luck comfortable is the goal, pairing him with one of his favorite college targets would be a nice start. The Colts could also wait until the beginning of the 3rd round and hope that Clemson’s Dwayne Allen or Georgia’s Orson Charles is still available.
Also: WR is also a major need and could be addressed early if Fleener doesn’t fortuitously fall to them at 33.
Fantasy Outlook: The Colts need help at every fantasy position, with QB and TE having the most obvious holes. In the backfield, former 1st-round pick Donald Brown is the likely starter, and while he improved last year, he’s probably not the long-term answer. Joseph Addai is still a free agent, so the key to their approach is their opinion of second-year runner Delone Carter, who could potentially have a large role. This is a problem area, but the Colts won’t address it early in the draft. At WR, the Colts brought back the veteran Reggie Wayne and signed Donnie Avery, but they lost Pierre Garcon. Wayne, Avery – if healthy – and Austin Collie could be serviceable, but this position still needs help.
Picks: 7, 38, 70, 101, 142, 176, 228
1. Defensive End – The Jaguars are pretty solid up the middle led by Tyson Alualu, but the big problem on defense remains the pass rush. They finished 25th in the league in sacks last year, and Jeremy Mincey (8 sacks) was the only consistent threat. Matt Roth is a free agent, and Aaron Kampman has played in a total of 11 games in two seasons with the Jaguars, so this unit clearly needs another pass rusher. With the 7th overall pick, the Jaguars may be in perfect position to grab talented Alabama pass rusher Melvin Ingram.
2. Wide Receiver – The Jaguars helped solve a huge problem by signing Laurent Robinson, who enjoyed a breakout season with the Cowboys last year. Still, this remains a position of concern. Mike Thomas is best off as a #3 WR, and nobody else in this unit is proven, although Cecil Shorts has potential. Plus, Robinson is no sure thing, as he’s dealt with injuries throughout his career. It doesn’t help that this unit must deal with questionable QB play from Blaine Gabbert and possibly Chad Henne, but another quality receiver is definitely needed. If he slips to #7, Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon must be considered by the Jaguars. Otherwise, the Jaguars could wait for someone like Illinois’ A.J. Jenkins or Wake Forest’s Chris Givens on Day Two.
3. Offensive Line – QB Blaine Gabbert has the tools to develop into a decent passer, but his biggest issue is that he looks totally lost under pressure. The Jaguars allowed 44 sacks last year, and while a lot of blame can be placed on Gabbert, they could use a talent upgrade. DE and WR are bigger needs, but it still wouldn’t be surprising to see the Jaguars take Iowa OT Riley Reiff with the 7th overall pick.
Also: CB is a major need that could be addressed at any point of the first 1-3 rounds.
Fantasy Outlook: WR is clearly the position the Jaguars are most likely to address for fantasy. At QB, the situation is bad with Gabbert and Henne, but there’s not much else they can do at this point. At RB, Maurice Jones-Drew is one of the best in the league, and the Jaguars get Rashad Jennings back from injury, so they could be in good shape, although they may look to add a change-of-pace back like Florida’s Chris Rainey in the middle rounds if they want to move on from Deji Karim, which they essentially did last year, when they completely bailed on him. The do have Rashad Jennings returning from his knee injury, however.
Picks: 20, 52, 82, 115, 155, 190, 227
1. Cornerback – The Titans appear to have a pretty solid roster overall, but the one glaring need is at CB. They lost top CB Cortland Finnegan to St. Louis, leaving Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner as the projected starters. It appears to be close to a lock that the Titans will draft a CB in the 1st round, and with the 20th pick they’re in pretty good position. Morris Claiborne will be long gone, but they could be in position to grab the #2 CB on the board, whether they think that’s Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick, South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore, or North Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins.
2. Defensive End – The Titans lost Jason Jones and added talented pass rusher Kamerion Wimbley, but they still need to add someone else here. With DL coach Jim Washburn gone, the Titan pass rush was awful last year, as they finished 31st in the league with 28 sacks. You can never have enough pass rushers in today’s NFL, so if for some reason they don’t take a CB in the 1st round, someone like Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus is a possibility.
3. Safety – The Titans franchised FS Michael Griffin and also bring back SS Jordan Babineaux, so they’re solid at safety. Still, they have little depth, and given that Griffin doesn’t have a long-term deal, they could look to the future on Day Two.
Fantasy Outlook: Neither RB nor WR is a glaring need, as the Titans have talent at those positions with Chris Johnson, Kenny Britt, and Nate Washington starting. However, they could spend picks late in the draft on both for depth and competition purposes. At QB and TE, they have a lot of potential in QB Jake Locker and TE Jared Cook.
Picks: 25, 57, 87, 108, 120, 137, 188
1. Defensive Tackle – The Broncos’ defensive tackle position is a bit of a mess right now. Brodrick Bunkley signed with the Saints, while Ryan McBean will miss the first six games of the season because of a suspension. Plus, Marcus Thomas remains a free agent. For now, that leaves Ty Warren and Kevin Vickerson in the middle of the Broncos’ 4-3 defense. With the 25th pick, they should be in good position to grab a DT, with options including Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy and Penn State’s Devon Still.
2. Cornerback – The Broncos will have a new-look secondary with CB Tracy Porter and S Mike Adams joining the starting lineup. But, while Porter and Champ Bailey form a very good cornerback tandem, Bailey is 33 years old, but the Broncos still need to add some depth to the position and may also have an eye toward the future. They probably won’t address the position in the 1st round, but it’s a possibility if either Dre Kirkpatrick or Stephon Gilmore slips.
3. Running Back – The 30-year-old Willis McGahee had a terrific season last year in returning to a starting role, but he is 30 years old and wore down last year with multiple ailments. Meanwhile, former 1st-round pick Knowshon Moreno has fallen out of favor and tore his ACL last year, so the Broncos may look to draft a RB fairly early. Someone like Boise State’s Doug Martin would be a good target in the 2nd round.
Fantasy Outlook: With QB Peyton Manning now in place, the Bronco offense will look totally different after the Tim Tebow experiment last year. Manning has decent weapons around him in McGahee; WRs Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Andre Caldwell, plus his boy Brandon Stokley if he can stay out of the infirmary; and TEs Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen, but depth is a question at QB, RB, and WR. The unimpressive Caleb Hanie is the team’s insurance behind Manning, who missed all of last year, so the Broncos could certainly take a QB on Day Two. Another WR is certainly possible too.
Kansas City Chiefs
Picks: 11, 44, 74, 107, 146, 182, 218, 238
1. Offensive Line – The Chiefs actually don’t have many glaring needs, but offensive line is still a place where they can add some help, even after they signed top RT Eric Winston. They’re probably not going to draft a G or C with the 11th overall pick – although an argument can be made for Stanford’s David DeCastro – but they could draft a tackle as an eventual replacement for Branden Albert, who will be a free agent next year. If Iowa OT Riley Reiff is still on the board at #11, he’s a definite possibility.
2. Nose Tackle – Kelly Gregg is a free agent, leaving Jerrell Powe to slide into the starting lineup next to Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson in the team’s 3-4. The Chiefs will likely target a tackle early in the draft, making Memphis’ Dontari Poe, who’s more of an upside pick, and LSU’s Michael Brockers as possible picks and potential starters over Powe.
3. Inside Linebacker – The Chiefs have one of the league’s best inside linebackers in Derrick Johnson, but they could use an upgrade at the other ILB spot with Brandon Siler currently slated to start. There’s a very good chance they’ll take Boston College’s Luke Kuechly, who’s clearly the draft’s top ILB, with the 11th overall pick.
Picks: 95, 129, 148, 168, 189
1. Pass Rush – Well, the Raiders can’t really address any of their pressing needs in the draft, as they traded away everything and won’t pick until their compensatory pick at the end of the 3rd round. It’s been unclear what scheme the Raiders will run, although signs point to a 4-3, but either way they could use some help in the pass rush, where Kamerion Wimbley is gone. They did sign DE Dave Tollefson, but it’s pretty clear they need more help after losing Wimbley.
2. Tight End – The Raiders completely ignored Kevin Boss last year after Zach Miller left, so it’s hard to tell how big of a need this is. Of course, there is a new regime with WCO ties, so perhaps they’ll get the TE involved a bit more. Right now, the Raiders have Brandon Myers, Richard Gordon, and David Ausberry, who have combined for a total of 35 catches in their young careers. In a draft class short on TE talent, the Raiders probably won’t get anyone of note, especially considering they don’t pick until the end of Day Two. Still, it’s clearly a need.
3. Defensive Back – Safeties Tyvon Branch and Michael Huff are back, but the Raiders got rid of Stanford Routt and added Shawntae Spencer and Ronald Bartell. Spencer and Bartell could be solid, but this unit has seen serious downgrades over the last couple years. Huff is a versatile player who can actually play some corner, so adding someone at safety could give them flexibility.
Fantasy Outlook: QB Carson Palmer is entrenched at QB, but the Raiders have question marks around him. That’s not to say there isn’t talented. RB Darren McFadden is one of the best in the league, and the WR corps has a lot of young talent. The problem is that no one can stay healthy. The Raiders replaced backup RB Michael Bush with the speedy Mike Goodson, who is solid, but the offense could be in big trouble if McFadden and the WRs continue to have durability issues.
San Diego Chargers
Picks: 18, 49, 78, 110, 149, 183, 226, 250
1. Offensive Line – The Chargers had mixed success up front last year, and the move that actually helped solidify the unit was the signing of Jared Gaither, who replaced Marcus McNeill at LT. Gaither is back on Philip Rivers’ blind side, but otherwise they need some help, especially after G Kris Dielman retired. With the 18th pick, the Chargers are in position to draft someone like Stanford G David DeCastro or versatile Georgia G/T Cordy Glenn.
2. Cornerback – The Chargers ranked 13th against the pass last year, but CBs Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason give up big plays too easily. In fact, they couldn’t even decide on a starter between Cason and Marcus Gilchrist, a 2nd-round pick last year. In today’s NFL, CB has become even more important, plus Peyton Manning is now in the division. Gilchrist is still young, but it’s possible the Chargers will address the position again.
3. Strong Safety – The Chargers are in good shape with Eric Weddle at one safety spot, but are they comfortable with Atari Bigby taking over for Steve Gregory, who signed with the Patriots, at the other spot? Alabama’s Mark Barron is a possibility if he falls to the 18th pick, but the Chargers will likely wait to address the position until a bit later.
Fantasy Outlook: The Chargers remain one of the best teams in the league for fantasy, although their WR corps will look different with Vincent Jackson gone and Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem stepping in next to Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown. The two positions they could address are RB and TE. They have a pair of great players in Ryan Mathews and Antonio Gates at those positions, but they could take a player at both spots in the draft. RB Mike Tolbert is gone, and while the Chargers signed Le’Ron McClain, they could look to add a power back. At TE, veteran backup Randy McMichael is back, but the Chargers could still look to add someone like Louisiana-Lafayette’s Ladarius Green as Gates’ protégé.
Picks: 14, 45, 81, 113, 135, 152, 186, 222
1. Safety – The Cowboys signed former Jet Brodney Pool, but this unit is still in need of a playmaker. The Cowboys have had frequent issues on the back end, and they could be in perfect position with the 14th overall pick to draft Alabama SS Mark Barron, who is easily the best all-around safety in the draft, capable of making plays in the run game and against the pass and could be just what the doctor ordered for this defense.
2. Cornerback – The Cowboys made a significant upgrade by signing former Chief Brandon Carr to replace the inconsistent Terence Newman, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need more help. Mike Jenkins missed four games last year, and the depth behind him isn’t very good. Given that the Cowboys already invested a lot of money into the CB position in free agency, don’t expect them to draft one in the 1st round, but Day Two is a possibility.
3. Wide Receiver – The Cowboys have two of the league’s most talented WRs in Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, and they struck gold last year by bringing in Laurent Robinson last year. However, Robinson cashed in by signing with the Jaguars, leaving the Cowboys with little depth behind Bryant and Austin, who both have durability issues. As of now, Kevin Ogletree is slated for the #3 WR spot, with Dwayne Harris and Andre Holmes in the mix. Given the injury history at WR, the Cowboys would be wise to use a Day Two pick on a WR like Wisconsin’s Nick Toon or Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu.
Fantasy Outlook: Depth at WR is the biggest need with Robinson gone, but the Cowboys also need to target depth at TE. Jason Witten is still effective but has lost a step, and backup Martellus Bennett signed with the Giants. John Phillips is a decent backup, but the Cowboys could look to add someone in the middle rounds. Unless they trade Felix Jones, they’re in good shape in the backfield.
New York Giants
Picks: 32, 63, 94, 127, 131, 201, 239
1. Offensive Tackle – The defending Super Bowl champs did a solid job protecting Eli Manning, allowing 28 sacks last year, but this unit could use an infusion of young talent. RT Kareem McKenzie is a free agent who won’t be back, and injuries have been a problem. At the end of the 1st round, the best hope is probably that Ohio State’s talented OT Mike Adams somehow falls to pick #32.
2. Running Back – Especially given his foot issues, Ahmad Bradshaw probably needs to share the load with someone. Brandon Jacobs signed with the 49ers, leaving Bradshaw with D.J. Ware and Da’Rel Scott. Ware is a decent all-around player, and Scott has impressive speed, but the Giants may want to target someone who could be a featured runner. Boise State’s Doug Martin and Virginia Tech’s David Wilson are both worth targeting in the first couple rounds.
3. Wide Receiver – Like the Cowboys, the Giants are in excellent shape with their top two receivers. Hakeem Nicks is one of the best all-around receivers in the league, and Victor Cruz emerged as a big-time deep threat last year. However, depth is a huge concern, especially since Nicks has had injury problems. Mario Manningham is gone, and everyone competing for the #3 job is unproven. The Giants could benefit from spending a Day Two pick on someone like Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu, who projects as a possession receiver best out of the slot.
Fantasy Outlook: Aside from RB and WR, the Giants could look at bringing another TE, where they’re in an odd position. They signed former Cowboy Martellus Bennett, who did not live up to his potential in Dallas, and otherwise they have Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum, who both tore ACLs. Making things worse, Ballard underwent microfracture surgery, so he is very questionable for any part of the upcoming season.
Picks: 15, 46, 51, 88, 114, 153, 172, 194, 200
1. Defensive Tackle – The Eagles clearly enjoy drafting defensive linemen, and expect them to go for a DT if they stay put with the 15th overall pick. It’s not a desperate need with Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson on top of the depth chart, but DL coach Jim Washburn likes an active rotation up front. LSU’s Michael Brockers and raw but athletic Memphis DT Dontari Poe are possibilities.
2. Outside Linebacker – Ryans fills a gaping hole at middle linebacker for the Eagles, but they still need some more help. That may not come via the draft, and history shows that the Eagles probably won’t draft Luke Kuechly and move him to the outside, although they probably won’t have to worry about it since he’ll likely be off the board. Still, this remains a need, as the Eagles could use someone to compete for an outside spot opposite Brian Rolle with Ryans in the middle.
3. Safety – The Eagles are often the most difficult team to figure out in terms of draft needs because they often do the unexpected with an eye toward the future. They could trade up, they could trade down, they could target a QB, etc. But, on paper, the biggest need is probably at safety, especially after they added DeMeco Ryans at LB. They drafted Jaiquawn Jarrett last year, but this position was a disaster. Kurt Coleman should be a backup, while Nate Allen’s durability remains an issue. If Mark Barron is somehow on the board at pick #15, the Eagles need to take him.
Fantasy Outlook: Never rule out anything with the Eagles. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the Eagles had discussions with the Browns about the #4 overall pick, which would presumably indicate that they’re interested in Ryan Tannehill. That’s probably not going to be happen, but don’t rule out a QB fairly early for the Eagles, given Michael Vick’s age and lack of reliability. Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden is a possibility on Day Two. Elsewhere, a bigger backup RB to replace Ronnie Brown could be targeted, and depth at WR and TE could be drafted as well.
Picks: 2, 69, 102, 109, 141, 173, 213
1. Quarterback – Well, this is one of the most obvious calls ever. The Redskins re-signed Rex Grossman, but he’s clearly headed for a backup role. The Redskins three 1st-round picks to St. Louis for the #2 overall pick, and that means, barring a massive surprise, Robert Griffin III will be playing QB for Washington in 2012.
2. Inside Linebacker – The Redskins wisely re-signed London Fletcher, but they have no depth on the inside of their 3-4 scheme behind Fletcher and Perry Riley. Plus, Fletcher is 36 years old, so it’s pretty clear they need to address this position. St. Louis owns their 2nd-round pick, though, so they’ll have to wait if they want to draft somebody.
3. Offensive Tackle – LT Trent Williams was suspended for a failed drug test at the end of the season, while RT Jammal Brown has durability issues and hasn’t been consistently good. The Redskins aren’t going to get an elite prospect, but they’ll still probably target a tackle with one of their middle-round picks for depth.
Also: CB is also a big need that could be addressed with their 3rd round pick.
Fantasy Outlook: Griffin is a lock to end up in Washington, so what about his supporting cast? The Redskins signed the inconsistent Pierre Garcon to a big contract at WR, and the unit features a bunch of solid players with Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney(who could be on the way out), and Josh Morgan, in addition to young players like Leonard Hankerson and Niles Paul. They have a lot of decisions to make, and it doesn’t appear that a WR will be drafted after they signed two this year and drafted three last year. Elsewhere, they have a pair of solid young RBs in Roy Helu and Evan Royster, and they could re-sign Tim Hightower, but it’s pointless to predict what Mike Shanahan will do at RB in April (and from September-December).
Picks: 19, 50, 79, 111, 150, 184, 220
1. Offensive Tackle – The Bears addressed the offensive line in the 1st round of last year’s draft by taking Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi, but this unit remains a big issue. Carimi started just two games and had knee surgery, while starting LT J’Marcus Webb has struggled in pass protection. The Bears will have to think hard about drafting someone like Ohio State’s Mike Adams or Stanford’s Jonathan Martin in the 1st round. Yes, that would mean taking an OT early in back-to-back years, but the unit continued to struggle last year by allowing a 5th-most 49 sacks. They need to keep Jay Cutler on his feet.
2. Defensive End – In a division with Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford, you can never have enough pass rushers. The Bears look good with Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije, along with a developmental player in Corey Wootton, but they could still use another athletic pass rusher to go with Peppers. Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus and USC’s Nick Perry are possibilities at #19.
3. Cornerback – In a division with Rodgers and Stafford, you can never have enough cornerbacks either. Charles Tillman is entrenched in one starting spot, while Tim Jennings could use some competition at the other spot. The Bears did sign Kelvin Hayden, but, again, taking a CB is never a bad idea, especially in this division. They could target South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore or Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick if they decide to go that route in the 1st round.
Fantasy Outlook: The most likely fantasy position the Bears will target is probably WR, where the Bears could still look to team Brandon Marshall up with someone like Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd, which could be formidable. At TE, outgoing OC Mike Martz ignored the position, but Mike Tice could get it more involved. The Bears re-signed Kellen Davis as the starter with Matt Spaeth behind him, but an upgrade would be a good idea. Clemson’s Dwayne Allen, Georgia’s Orson Charles, and UL Lafayette’s Ladarius Green are all worth targeting on Day Two.
Picks: 23, 54, 85, 117, 158, 219, 230
1. Cornerback – The Lions addressed this area last year by signing Eric Wright, but he’s already gone to Tampa Bay. That leaves Chris Houston, who’s in the final year of his contract, along with Aaron Berry and Alphonso Smith, who also will be free agents next year. The Lions finished 22nd against the pass last year, and cornerback is a glaring need at this point. With the 23rd overall pick, the hope is that either Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina or Dre Kirkpatrick of Alabama is still on the board, although they could also take a risk on the talented but troubled Janoris Jenkins.
2. Offensive Tackle – Jeff Backus has been entrenched as a starter for the last decade, and he re-signed on a two-year deal. However, he’ll be 35 years old this season, so it’s time to look for a replacement. If the Lions don’t go for a CB, especially if Gilmore and Kirkpatrick are off the board, Ohio State’s Mike Adams and Stanford’s Jonathan Martin are possibilities at OT. The Lions desperately need to keep QB Matthew Stafford healthy.
3. Defensive End – This certainly isn’t as big of a need as CB and OT, but the Lions rely heavily on their front four. They’re set in the middle with Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, and Nick Fairley, and the starters at DE are also very good with Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril. However, you can never have enough quality pass rushers, and given that Vanden Bosch is in his 30s and Avril is currently under the franchise tag, it may be wise to add someone now.
Fantasy Outlook: The RB situation in Detroit is weird right now, as, if everyone was healthy, this unit could be stacked with Jahvid Best, Mikel Leshoure, and Kevin Smith. However, Best is dealing with a concussion issue, Leshoure missed his entire rookie season and is dealing with legal issues, and Smith also has durability questions. Adding depth later in the draft is a possibility. Depth at WR also isn’t out of the question, as the Lions have very little behind Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, and Titus Young.
Green Bay Packers
Picks: 28, 59, 90, 123, 132, 133, 163, 197, 224, 235, 241, 243
1. Outside Linebacker – Perhaps the biggest weakness for the Packers last year was the pass rush, even with 2010 Defensive Player of the Year Clay Matthews. Matthews ended up with only 6 sacks, and as a team the Packers finished 27th in the league with only 29. They have very little off the edge aside from Matthews, and the lack of a pass rush was a big reason why the Packers ranked dead last in the league against the pass, giving up 300 yards per game. Clemson’s Andre Branch and Boise State’s Shea McClellin would both be fine choices at the end of the 1st round.
2. Defensive Back – The pass rush is the biggest concern for the league’s worst pass defense, but the Packers have some issues on the back end. Charles Woodson is 35 years old, and he could shift to the inside more if safety Nick Collins can’t return from his serious neck injury. The Packers would probably benefit from adding help at both corner and safety, so look for them to address the secondary on Day Two.
3. Center – In one of their few free agency moves, the Packers signed veteran C Jeff Saturday to replace the departed Scott Wells. However, Saturday is 36, so the Packers may also look to add a developmental player behind him.
Fantasy Outlook: The Packers boast arguably the best passing game in the league, with QB Aaron Rodgers throwing to a ridiculously deep WR corps. They don’t have a great running game, but James Starks isn’t bad for what they do, and second-year back Alex Green has potential. Still, if the Packers don’t feel comfortable – Starks and Green both have durability issues – it’s possible they could spend an on a back, which would be quite a story for fantasy. Also, with Matt Flynn gone, they’ll have to think about drafting a developmental backup like San Diego State’s Ryan Lindley to compete with Graham Harrell behind Rodgers.
Picks: 3, 35, 66, 98, 128, 134, 138, 175, 210, 223
1. Offensive Tackle – The Vikings are in an interesting position in the draft, as they could fill any of their needs with an elite prospect with the 3rd overall pick. Of course, they could also be in position to trade back with a team targeting QB Ryan Tannehill. If they stay put, the smart move is drafting USC OT Matt Kalil, who could really help solidify the line in front of young QB Christian Ponder. The Vikings gave up 49 sacks last year, and Kalil would offer an immediate upgrade at LT. He should be able to start right away. He may be better blocking for the run than the pass, but Minnesota’s roster includes one Adrian Peterson, so it makes sense to help both him and Ponder.
2. Cornerback – The Vikings ranked 26th against the pass last season, and they’re playing in a division that features Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, and Jay Cutler. They struggled with injuries last year, and given that Antoine Winfield is 35 years old, they need to look for an upgrade, even after signing Chris Carr and Zackary Bowman. They’ll almost certainly take Kalil with the 3rd overall pick, but CB Morris Claiborne is the second best option. They could also take a corner if they trade down.
3. Wide Receiver – The Vikings aren’t going to spend the #3 overall pick on Justin Blackmon with Kalil and Claiborne on the board, and even if they trade down they’re more likely to go for an OT or CB, although Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd is a possibility. Either way, WR is definitely a need, as they need another weapon for Ponder. They’re solid at TE, and Percy Harvin is a fantastic weapon at WR. However, the mediocre duo of Michael Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu needs competition, and a legitimate threat on the outside would really help Harvin, who’s best as a movable piece. On Day Two, they could target guys like Illinois’ A.J. Jenkins and South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery.
Fantasy Outlook: Receiver is the only obvious need for the Vikings for fantasy. They drafted Ponder and TE Kyle Rudolph last year, in addition to signing TE John Carlson this year, and while he’s coming back from injury, RB Adrian Peterson remains arguably the most talented runner in the league. Maybe they could spend a later pick on someone to compete for a role as a receiving back, but it’s certainly not a glaring need.
Picks: 55, 84, 157, 192, 229, 249
1. Offensive Tackle – HC Mike Smith has given a vote of confidence to LT Sam Baker, who struggled last season, but Baker is in a contract year now. Are they going to commit to him again for the future? Of course, the Falcons don’t have a 1st-round pick this year after they traded up for Julio Jones last year, so they’re unlikely to find an LT of the future when they don’t pick until 55th overall. They could address the position, but the most likely scenario is that they stick with Baker and Will Svitek at LT in 2012.
2. Tight End – TE Tony Gonzalez decided to return in 2012, but this year could be it for the 36-year-old, who will go down as one of the best ever at the position. That means the Falcons would be wise to draft a potential replacement this year. While they don’t have a 1st-round pick, they could still be in good position to draft the 2nd- or 3rd-best TE in the draft with the 55th overall pick. Coby Fleener will be long gone, but Georgia’s Orson Charles or Clemson’s Dwayne Allen could still be available.
3. Middle Linebacker – Starting MLB Curtis Lofton signed with the Saints, and the Falcons don’t have much to fill the massive void. At the moment, the starting job appears to be up for grabs between Akeem Dent, a 2011 3rd-round pick who made 20 tackle as a rookie, and newly signed Lofa Tatupu, who missed all of last season because of knee surgery.
Also: DE is also a big need and could even trump all three of these positions.
Fantasy Outlook: In addition to drafting Jones last year, the Falcons spent a later pick on RB Jacquizz Rodgers, who should see an increased role this year as a receiver and change-of-pace runner. Additionally, they re-signed Jason Snelling, so they have good backfield depth behind Michael Turner. The one position, aside from TE, they could address is WR, simply for depth in the later rounds. They’re set with Jones, Roddy White, and Harry Douglas as the top three, but the only depth they have behind those guys is Kerry Meier, with Eric Weems gone.
Picks: 9, 40, 104, 143, 180, 207, 216
1. Defensive Tackle – After Ron Edwards went down for the season with an injury, the Panthers started a pair of rookies in Terrell McClain and Sione Fua at DT for much of the year. Both were 3rd-round picks, so it’s not like the Panthers are going to give up on them, but with the 9th overall pick they’re in perfect position to land a big upgrade after they ranked 25th against the run in 2011. Michael Brockers and Dontari Poe are options, but the Panthers’ best bet is taking Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox, who represents a good blend of need and value with the ability to play right away.
2. Cornerback – The Panthers lost Richard Marshall a year ago, leaving the talented Chris Gamble and the inconsistent Captain Munnerlyn to start. They’re fine with Gamble, but Munnerlyn needs competition, whether that’s from Darius Butler or a rookie. The Panthers could take South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore with the 9th overall pick, or they could wait and try to grab someone like UCF’s Josh Robinson in the 2nd round.
3. Linebacker – This group was a big issue last year, as Thomas Davis and Jon Beason both got hurt. Dan Connor signed with the Cowboys, leaving little depth behind Davis, Beason, and James Anderson. They could take Boston College’s Luke Kuechly in the 1st round, but they’ll probably wait and address the position later.
Also: OG is also a very big need and could be addressed early.
Fantasy Outlook: The Panthers are obviously set in the backfield, where they hit a home run with QB Cam Newton and have a messy fantasy situation at RB with DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Tolbert. But they could add more receiving weapons for Newton. They have a star in Steve Smith, so the question is how comfortable they are with Brandon LaFell and David Gettis next to him. Not using a pick in the first 1-3 rounds on a WR could be an endorsement for LaFell, a former 3rd pick himself. OC Rob Chudzinski likes to use TEs, and while they have the decent Greg Olsen, they have not re-signed Jeremy Shockey. The Panthers could look to pair Olsen with someone like UL Lafayette’s Ladarius Green.
New Orleans Saints
Picks: 89, 122, 162, 179, 234
1. Cornerback – Well, needs don’t matter much for the Saints, who will have a long wait until they’re on the clock. The traded their 1st-round pick to New England, and the NFL took away they’re 2nd-round pick, so they’re unlikely to get an impact player. Still, we’ll start at CB, where Tracy Porter is gone from a secondary that finished 30th in the league against the pass. Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson are penciled in as starters with little depth behind them.
2. Defensive End – The Saints spent an early pick on Cameron Jordan last year, but they still need pass rush help to go along with Will Smith. You can never have too many pass rushers, so perhaps the Saints will look for someone with upside in the middle rounds.
Fantasy Outlook: The Drew Brees situation remains a bit of a mess, but he’ll be playing QB for the Saints in 2012. Aside from WR, the Saints don’t need much else. The last thing we want is for them to take another RB after signing Sproles, drafting Mark Ingram, and re-signing Pierre Thomas last year, and they’re set at TE with young stud Jimmy Graham.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Picks: 5, 36, 68, 140, 174, 212
1. Running Back – It’s not that LeGarrette Blount isn’t talented and capable of producing. We’ve seen him put together big games, and we’ve certainly seen him put together big individual plays. But he’s just not a good enough all-around back. He can’t stay on the field in passing situations because he’s a liability in protection, and he doesn’t contribute anything as a receiver. So, the Bucs need to take a complete back with one of their first two picks. In an ideal scenario, the Browns pass on Trent Richardson with the 4th overall pick, leaving the Bucs to take the best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson at #5. If not, they could settle for the next best thing and take Doug Martin or David Wilson at the top of the 2nd round.
2. Cornerback – Ronde Barber is back, and the Bucs do have Aqib Talib and FA acquisition Eric Wright. So, this unit doesn’t look bad at the moment. However, Barber is 37 years old and nowhere near as good as he once was, and Talib continues to face messy off-the-field troubles. Talib, who’s a free agent next year, might not be in Tampa much longer, and the same goes for Barber, so the Bucs still need to look for the future. If Trent Richardson isn’t available at #5, the Bucs will probably take LSU CB Morris Claiborne.
3. Linebacker – The Bucs boasted the league’s worst run defense last year, and while injury problems at DT played a big part in that, the LBs didn’t help. Rookie Mason Foster in particular was lost in the middle, so the Bucs need to add some competition to help bolster the run defense. The good news is that a healthy D-line could be really good, so that can help mask weaknesses at linebacker, but the Bucs still must address the position.
Fantasy Outlook: The Bucs are in much better shape at WR now that they signed Vincent Jackson, giving them a very good receiving corps. However, they could look to add another TE. Kellen Winslow remains solid as the starter, for now, but they could add depth to compete with Luke Stocker, who hasn’t done much and is more of a blocker anyway. Otherwise, RB is the only obvious need.
Picks: 13, 80, 112, 151, 177, 185, 221
1. Offensive Tackle – The Cardinal offensive line has been lousy in pass protection, and that’s a big problem with Kevin Kolb at QB, because he really struggles dealing with pressure. Levi Brown has struggled, but the team re-signed him, so he’ll continue starting. However, the Cardinals have not brought back Brandon Keith, so their top priority is probably addressing OT with the 13th overall pick, unless they plan to use Adam Snyder there. If he’s on the board, Iowa’s Riley Reiff could be the pick. They could also trade down and try to grab someone like Georgia’s Cordy Glenn or Stanford’s Jonathan Martin.
2. Wide Receiver – The Cardinals are set with one of the best WRs in the league in Larry Fitzgerald, but they could use someone new to compete for the #2 job with Early Doucet, best in the slot, and Andre Roberts best as a role player for depth. If the Cardinals don’t take an OT in the 1st round, they could go for Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd or Baylor speedster Kendall Wright. They don’t have a 2nd round pick, but in the 3rd round they could target Wake Forest’s Chris Givens, among others.
3. Outside Linebacker – The Cardinal defense made huge strides under DC Ray Horton as the season progressed last year, and they ranked in the top 10 in the league in sacks. Still, they’ve had some turnover with Joey Porter and Clark Haggans gone, and while O’Brien Schofield and Sam Acho are two young players who could step up, it couldn’t hurt to add some more young competition in the team’s 3-4 scheme. If he slips, Alabama’s Melvin Ingram is a possibility.
Fantasy Outlook: The Cardinals will probably continue to go with the QB duo of Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. They could draft a QB late, but they’re not going to address the position early. They’re set at RB with Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams(who’s worked out with the team this week), and LaRod Stephens-Howling, and they also added an athletic young TE in Rob Housler last year, so, aside from targeting a #2 WR, there probably won’t be a lot of action for fantasy.
St. Louis Rams
Picks: 6, 33, 39, 65, 96, 171, 209
1. Wide Receiver – The Ram offense was a total mess last year, and while the offensive line deserves plenty of blame, it didn’t help that nobody stepped up in the receiving corps, aside from Brandon Lloyd, who is gone after only 11 games in St. Louis. The Rams will get slot man Danny Amendola back, but other than that there is no one to count on. Brandon Gibson shouldn’t be starting, Danario Alexander has durability issues, and free agent signing Steven Smith remains a big question mark. The Rams fortunately have three of the draft’s first 39 picks, so they could either take Justin Blackmon in the 1st round or wait and take someone like Rueben Randle early in the 2nd round.
2. Offensive Tackle – QB Sam Bradford had a rough sophomore season, and he received little help from his offensive line, which came nowhere close to living up to expectations. The Rams gave up a league-worst 55 sacks in 2011, and while OTs Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith are both young, they both got hurt and struggled last year. It’s highly unlikely that the draft’s top tackle, Matt Kalil, will fall to #6 overall, but the Rams could target someone with one of their two picks early in the 2nd round. Or, they could trade down a few spots from #6 and try to get Iowa’s Riley Reiff.
3. Cornerback/Defensive Tackle – Take your pick. The Rams have needs everywhere, so we’ll call #3 a tie. The Ram pass defense actually held up fairly well last year despite an absurd number of injuries, although it may have done okay partly because teams ran the ball all over the front seven. They made a big signing in CB Cortland Finnegan, and they also added DTs Kendall Langford and Trevor Laws. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t add more help. LSU CB Morris Claiborne and Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox are both possibilities with the 6th overall pick.
Also: OG is also a big need on the OL.
Fantasy Outlook: WR is the most glaring need because the Rams don’t have a quality starter on the outside right now. However, RB could also be a big need pretty soon. Steven Jackson is still very effective, but he’ll be 29 years old this season and has taken a beating as a featured runner with a tough running style. If Alabama’s Trent Richardson somehow falls to #6, the Rams could take him and try to move on from Jackson. Otherwise, they at least need to add a backup to Jackson, and it’s possible a change-of-pace back like LaMichael James or Isaiah Pead could be targeted on Day Two. We say it every year, but this could finally be the year they take a RB in the 2nd or 3rd round.
San Francisco 49ers
Picks: 30, 61, 92, 125, 165, 199, 237
1. Guard – The 49er roster is fairly loaded, so they don’t really have many major needs. However, starting RG Adam Snyder signed with the Cardinals, leaving a hole to fill. As of now, Daniel Kilgore would be the starter. Picking at the end of the 1st round, the 49ers could be in position to take Wisconsin’s Kevin Zeitler.
2. Wide Receiver – The 49ers addressed a gaping hole at WR by signing Mario Manningham, who will move into the starting lineup with Michael Crabtree, and they also took a chance on Randy Moss providing some value as a deep threat. Given that they don’t have many needs, they could still spend an early pick on a big-play receiver to develop. In the 1st round, that may be the very raw Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech, or they could get really lucky if Baylor’s Kendall Wright somehow falls to #30. If they wait, they could target someone like Wake Forest’s Chris Givens.
3. Defensive Line – The 49ers had the best defense in the NFL and were fantastic against the run, so this really isn’t a huge need. Instead, they have the luxury of adding a few young players here and there for depth. Justin Smith and Isaac Sopoaga are in their 30s now, so depth never hurts.
Fantasy Outlook: It’s hard to predict what the 49ers will do, but, in addition to a WR, they could possibly add a TE. Obviously, they have a stud in Vernon Davis, but, as the Patriots have shown, a lot of damage can be done with multiple weapons at TE. So, don’t rule out Stanford’s Coby Fleener, who played for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, in the 1st round.
Picks: 12, 43, 75, 106, 181, 225
1. Defensive End – The Seahawks have a very good DT rotation; however, they still need another pass rusher off the edge. Chris Clemons has been very good the last two years, but they need an athletic player in the mix with the versatile Red Bryant and Jason Jones. With the 12th overall pick, the Seahawks could land North Carolina’s Quinton Coples or hope that Alabama’s Melvin Ingram falls.
2. Linebacker – Starting MLB David Hawthorne signed with the Saints, and while the Seahawks added Barrett Ruud, he struggled in Tennessee last year. If Boston College LB Luke Kuechly is still on the board when the Seahawks pick at 12, he’s probably the most likely pick.
3. Guard – The Seahawks have added a lot of young players to the O-line in the last few years, including spending a 1st-round pick on James Carpenter last year, and they also signed free agent G Deuce Lutui this off-season with Robert Gallery gone. There could be re-shuffling on the line if they don’t address the position early in the draft, but it’s also possible they’ll take Stanford’s David DeCastro in the 1st round. DeCastro is clearly the draft’s best guard and is capable of starting right away.
Fantasy Outlook: The Seahawks addressed perhaps their biggest need by signing Matt Flynn, and while there are still some who think they’ll target Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill, don’t count on that. Elsewhere, the Seahawks could add depth at both WR and RB. They’re solid at both positions, but a bigger back to take some pressure off Marshawn Lynch wouldn’t be a bad idea. At WR, they’re in decent shape but have dealt with injuries, so they could take one at some point.
FantasyGuru.com’s John Hansen and Adam Caplan contributed to this report.
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