We covered the NFC yesterday, but what will teams in the AFC be looking for in the off season?
Baltimore Ravens – Pick #32
The Super Bowl Champs are yet to feel the full repercussions of Joe Flacco’s new deal, but the economic fallout is bound to shape how their picks are used. Personally, I don’t see a stand out, need position player who will be available in this spot for the Ravens and think that they should look for a team willing to trade up and stockpile another second round pick.
If the Ravens were to keep hold of this pick then I think they look at either a corner or safety due to the likely departure of Cary Williams and quite possibly Ed Reed. Another position to watch for when the Ravens are on the clock is the inside linebacker spot with Hall of Famer Ray Lewis hanging up the cleats post Super Bowl.
Team Needs: WR, CB, S, ILB
Cincinnati Bengals – Pick #21
The Cincinnati Bengals in recent years have had varied success within the division but with two years of successful playoff appearances they now seem to have a solid, dependable core of players.
Putting the extra pieces into place is what is going to take this team to the next level, and that means getting help in both the safety spot as well as at running back. Chris Crocker is now an unrestricted free agent but is nothing special and the rest of the secondary is a similar story.
Upgrading the running back spot is vital as the Andy Dalton – A.J. Green connection is now overplayed and ‘The Law Firm’ isn’t exactly a game changer.
Team Needs - LB, S, RB
Cleveland Browns – Pick #6
I can tell you what the Browns don’t need, and that’s a running back! The pickup of Trent Richardson looks a surefire hit for years to come in Cleveland, now they just have to follow that up with another impact player.
Defensive end is the clear need in Cleveland who haven’t had a consistent pass rush in quite some time. Finding a edge rusher is tough in the AFC North as whoever it is needs to be very stout against the run as well as obviously getting to the QB.
The other big need that the Browns could be looking to address is finding an offensive lineman who is going to clear the way for Richardson and with the number 6 pick they’re in a perfect spot to have a star at either one of those positions.
Team Needs: TE, DE, OL
Pittsburgh Steelers – Pick #17
As with the two teams listed above, the Steelers need help at safety with both Polamalu and Clark on their way out of the building soon and a lack of top tier talent waiting in the wings. Age is a real concern all across the board in Pittsburgh who have very good players at almost every spot on the field but need a lot of young blood to develop if they are to rise to the top again.
Wide receiver is looking like an area of need with the possibility of Mike Wallace hitting free agency, so they'll need a new deep threat for Ben Roethlisberger to sling the rock to.
Team Needs: ILB, NT, WR
Indianapolis Colts - Pick #24
Despite losing offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, coming off a 2012 season in which they were very much one of the league’s surprise packages and with $43.1 million in cap space, the Indianapolis Colts have reason to be optimistic.
The abundance in cap space gives the Colts the leeway to take a big name or two in free agency and alleviates the pressure of having to take certain positions in the draft. However, even though the team has this leeway they still have a number of needs.
Andrew Luck needs to be better protected, the wide receiver corps needs to be improved, the pass-rush is in need of a ‘stud’ rusher, and cornerback play needs to be improved, the list goes on.
Though the team needs defensive help expect the priority to be to help Andrew Luck get better, namely through prioritising offensive line and wide receiver. The team will most likely take an offensive lineman early then help the other areas of need through the later rounds.
Team needs – WR, OLB, OL
Houston Texans - Pick #27
Despite coming off a relatively successful 12-4 season the Houston Texans head into the offseason with 11 unrestricted free agents on defence, three of whom are starters. Who the team takes with the 27th overall pick is likely to be governed by who stays and who goes.
As well as having a great deal to worry about with re-signings, the Texans do not have the significant cap room needed to bring in any free agents to help out, so they will mostly have to rely on the draft.
A lack of depth at inside linebacker showed last season when Brian Cushing was lost to injury, the team needs to address this as well as issues such as possibly losing Connor Barwin at outside linebacker to help a defence that struggled at times last season.
On offence the Texans also need a solid number two receiver to help Matt Schaub and give opposing defences match up problems. With questions raised over right tackle Derek Newton the team will also look to address this, though with so many potential free-agents on defence that side of the ball is likely to receive priority.
Team needs – ILB, WR, RT, OLB
Tennessee Titans - Pick #10
Suffering six losses by 21 points or more in the 2012 season but still retaining head coach Mike Munchak, the Tennessee Titans will be looking to improve their fortunes through the off-season.
The Titans defence is in major need of help, particularly in the secondary.
Having already signed safety George Wilson the team will most likely look to continue to improve this area in quality and in depth, with Alterraun Verner set to become a free agent do not expect Alabama cornerback DeMarcus Milliner to fall past the Titans if he slides towards the bottom of the top 10.
Another major need for the Titans is to regain some consistency on offence and reignite CJ2K, which will help quarterback Jake Locker. Offensive line and offensive guard in particular are areas where the Titans need to get better, they will most like add depth at the position through the later rounds or possibly take Alabama guard Chase Warmack in the first if Milliner is already gone off the board.
Team needs – S,CB, G
Jacksonville Jaguars - Pick #2
It’s obvious that Blaine Gabbert isn’t getting it done in Jacksonville, the question however is more as whether he will get another season to prove his worth or not. With Kansas City trading for Alex Smith it looks likely that with the second overall pick Jacksonville will have their pick of the quarterbacks, with a new regime in power whether the team chooses draft a competitor/replacement for Gabbert will remain to be seen.
The Jaguars roster however is not short of holes, a generally poor defence needs help in all positions on the defensive line, the team also needs to get better at cornerback and outside linebacker. With new head coach Gus Bradley coming from the defensive coordinator role in Seattle an elite edge rusher type such as Oregon’s Dion Jordan or Florida State’s Bjoern Werner would be useful to fit his defensive scheme.
If the quarterback draft class for this season were stronger there would probably be a number of teams looking to trade up to Jacksonville’s spot and the Jaguars could trade down to acquire more picks to help out with their multiple needs. However, with this being unlikely the team will most likely settle for the ‘best available player’ and add depth throughout the rest of the draft.
Team needs – QB, DE/OLB, CB
Denver Broncos – Pick #28
The Broncos fell just short in the playoffs after an impressive season, but know that their Manning window is closing fast. With that in mind they’ll look to take a player at the end of the first who can make an immediate contribution.
Defensive line seems an obvious position of need, and an outstanding interior player could help prevent teams shifting all their protection to account for the Broncos’ impressive edge rush. They also need a youthful Middle linebacker (Manti before his fake girlfriend hoopla and very average combine showing would be have perfect), and they could do with getting younger in the secondary. A sensible choice would be Defensive Tackle Jesse Williams from Alabama, though predicting picks this far down the board is no easy business.
Team needs: DT, MLB, CB, C
Kansas City Chiefs – Pick #1
The dubious honour of the #1 overall pick belongs to KC, but this is not a year where you really want the privilege. There is a huge amount of talent available in the first round, but little that stands head and shoulders above the rest.
This problem was compounded for KC by the lack of a clear franchise quarterback in the draft, and the Chiefs must be wishing they were in this position 12 months ago. Before their trade for Alex Smith there were the inevitable calls for the Cheifs to take Geno Smith at the top pick, but they choose the far a more prudent move of picking up the veteran starter and will likely take the best player available (tackle Luke Joeckel) in a strong year for offensive line. Like the Raiders they will look to trade down a few spots and secure more picks, but it is unlikely any team will want to play ball.
Note: Tackle isn’t actually a big position of need compared to guard for them, but you don’t take a guard #1 overall, no matter what Mike Mayock may think.
Needs: G, ILB, FS, CB
Oakland Raiders – Pick #3
The Raiders are a team with a lot of gaping holes, but the good news is they actually have some draft picks this year. At number 3 they will be desperate to trade down to accumulate a few more picks, but this is not a draft class that encourages teams to move up.
Obvious weaknesses are Corner back (they don’t have a single proven starter let alone 2+) and defensive line, with Seymour and Kelly on their way out. Having one of the worst pass rushes going last year there’s a good chance they’ll spend their first pick on Bjoern Werner or Sharrif Floyd, depending on who the equally Defensive line hungry Jags steal first.
Whilst they might be tempted to take a Quarterback, Palmer has been confirmed as the starter for 2013 (although there are growing calls for Pryor to get his shot after a solid showing in the season closer vs SD). Keep in mind these are not your father’s Raiders, and the legacy of Al Davis is waning – don’t expect them to only draft players based on their 40 time any more.
Needs: DE, DT, CB, MLB, P (Lechler is a FA)
San Diego Chargers – Pick #11
The Chargers are coming off yet another disappointing season, but the fan base has finally got what they wanted and ousted the much maligned Turner-Smith combo. The glaring and universally accepted hole in the team is their o-line, particularly both tackles. Jared ‘Big Lazy’ Gaither was an epic free agency fail at left tackle and has lost the respect of team mates and coaches alike, so expect to see the Bolts cut ties with him and target the best tackle available at pick #11 – likely Eric Fisher or Lane Johnson.
Once their offensive line needs are sated they will probably look for fresh legs at running back in the later rounds to give them a viable alternative to the injury stricken Mathews. With Corner Backs Cason and Jammer both potentially hitting free agency they may also need to draft secondary help, and the strong safety spot has long been a revolving door alongside the ever-impressive Eric Weddle.
Team needs - OT, G, CB, RB, SS
Buffalo Bills - Pick #8
Doug Marrone has made it clear that he wants a new Quarterback to take over and replace the lackluster Ryan Fitzpatrick and he's sure to look at the later rounds to pick up an eventual replacement.
Any replacement will also need targets to throw to with Stevie Johnson the only legit receiver they have on the roster. Scott Chandler also suffered a bad injury last season and you can never have enough tight ends in this league!
Finally some steel in the middle of the defence wouldn't go amiss and linebacker has to be seen as a need to shore up the middle of the defence.
Team Needs - QB, LB, WR, TE
New York Jets - Pick #9
An easier segment to write would be "What aren't the Jets team needs." Gang Green have apparently completely forgotten all about roster management and have numerous holes in their team that need to be filled. Safe to say it's a rebuilding year!
Questions will always hang over the quarterback position with Sanchez as QB1, but the offensive line is also a concern with pro turnstyle and part time offensive lineman Vladamir Ducasse slated to start next season unless they recruit a replacement. Horrifically under used Justin Keller is also hitting free agency, so there is a need for a tight end as well for those moments Sanchez actually has time to throw.
On defence there is definitely a need at Outside Linebacker with Calvin Pace being put to pasture at long last. I see this position as second behind Quarterback, with Tom Brady in your division, you need to bring some heat!
Team Needs - QB, OLB, OL, TE
Miami Dolphins - Pick #12
Miami surprised no one last year picking up Ryan Tannehill in the draft and the rookie quarterback didn't fail to impress. Miami needs to surround their young gun slinger with talent and upgrades at Wide Receiver and either a replacement or backup for long time 'Phin Anthony Fasano could help jump start a lackluster offence.
On defence there is always a need for more corners and safeties, but the biggest need for the Dolphins is on the defensive line. Cameron Wake put up monster sack numbers last year and continues to produce, but could do with some more help up front.
Team Needs - WR, TE, OL, DE
New England Patriots - Pick #29
With no signs that the Patriots "big three" (Welker, Vollmer and Talib) are going to sign soon these are needs that would need addressing to continue their dominance of the AFC East. Brandon Lloyd failed to impress as a deep threat for the Patriots as well, so receiver will be high on the list.
If Vollmer departs there will be a big gap missing on the left side of the Patriots line and with Brady recently signing a contract extension there should be a priority to protect his blind side.
With the Patriots showing more of a tendancy to switch between their old 3-4 front and a 4-2 front a stud three technique to play next to Vince Wilfork would certainly help versus the run.
Team Needs - WR, OL, CB, DT