Wednesday, 6 March 2013

NFL Draft: NFC Team Needs

As the window for teams to franchise tag players closes we take a closer look at NFL teams needs for free agency and the draft.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers  - Pick #26
The draft gurus are telling us that the Packers are really looking for a 3-4 end, the problem here is that with the 26th overall pick, the premier names at end in the draft are most likely going to be off the board and the Packers might look to trade back for extra picks and take a project of just pull the trigger on the highest rated player on their draft board. 

The next biggest need is the running back spot and despite this hole the Packers have still managed to win so many games, so what would happen if they get a legitimate back? Current draft grumblings would indicate that using the 26th pick on one of the drafts backs could be a little rich, but the Packers might feel the need so bad that they go ahead with it anyway.

Team Needs - DT, OL, RB

Minnesota Vikings – Pick #23
Running back, just joking!! The Vikings do need more offensive help but at another skill position, wide receiver. There’s going to be a Percy Harvin shaped hole in the teams offense because of his desire to leave due to football reasons so hitting on a receiver at some point is going to be vital. 

The next position the team will be looking at, but probably not in the first round, is a linebacker that has good coverage skills due to the Vikings defense running a lot of nickel as well as Jasper Brinkley and Erin Henderson becoming unrestricted free agents.

Team Needs - CB, S, WR, LB

Chicago Bears – Pick #20
Even though I’m not a Bears fan it will pain me to see the Bears likely using their pick on a target for Jay Cutler seeing as he will likely just throw it into traffic anyway. 

Tight end is the most pressing need and probably the direction that Chicago will go, but don’t rule of the potential of the Bears drafting a speed receiver to complement Brandon Marshall.

Team Needs - CB, OL, WR, TE

Detroit Lions – Pick #5
NEWS FLASH!! Lions have a top 5 pick and will take a wide receiver! *All Lions fans bury their heads in hands*

With six defensive linemen set to become unrestricted free agents the Lions will probably make the smart choice and draft a young lineman to bolster the ranks. Cliff Avril is the key party to keep an eye on in all of this because if he gets re-signed then drafting an end becomes slightly less pressing and the focus could shift to corner back.

Team Needs -  OL, S, DL, CB

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons – Pick #30
For a team that narrowly missed out on a Super Bowl appearance the Atlanta Falcons have a lot of needs entering the draft. Having recently released veterans Michael Turner (RB), Dunta Robinson (CB) and John Abraham (DE/LB) a priority will be to fill the gaps in those respective positions. 

Having struggled to stop the run and slow down elite teams passing games, the latter of these particularly so in January (which has been a recurring theme in recent years), expect to see the Falcons re-stock the trenches of their defence. With the departure of John Abraham and a second year in defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s hybrid 3-4 scheme (which sometimes uses 5 man fronts) a hybrid end/linebacker type should be prioritised and tackle will most likely be targeted later on.

Of course, if Tony Gonzalez does go through with his decision to retire the tight-end position will become a priority and with potential free-agents on offensive line that position could also soon become a need.

Picking late, #30 overall, the Falcons will look for value, in this year’s draft that can particularly be found at offensive and defensive line, so expect the Falcons to wait for the right guy to fall rather than jump up like they did two years ago.

Team needs – DE/OLB, RB, TE

New Orleans Saints - Pick #15
Coming off a season where there defence was just plain dreadful and recently hiring Rob Ryan the Saints will undoubtedly prioritise defence in the upcoming draft, particularly in the higher rounds. Making the transition to the 3-4 and having potential free-agents at defensive-line and linebacker means the team’s main area of need will be here, expect the Saints to go after a hybrid end/linebacker type with their first overall pick and add players at other defensive positions of need such as nose tackle and cornerback later on.

If potential free agent left tackle Jermon  Bushrod, who at 28 will be looking for a pay-day salary, is allowed to walk, filling his spot will become a priority either through free-agency or the draft if the Saints cannot maneuver enough cap room to keep him. Though the depth of this year’s draft class at offensive line this shouldn’t be a problem.

Team needs – DE/OLB, DL,CB

Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Pick #13
Last season the major weakness of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was in the secondary, ranking dead last in the league for passing defence (eighth in interceptions though) despite having the league’s number one ranked run defence.

Expect the Bucs to go after a cornerback in the first round, the position is a major need with Aqib Talib last season being traded and the underwhelming E.J. Biggers being a potential free-agent. With the seemingly immortal Ronde Barber also being a possible retiree or a free-agency departure safety could also be targeted in the following rounds, though with Mark Barron the team has flexibility in whether to go with a free or strong safety.

With the relative strength of this year’s cornerback free-agency class thought the Bucs have options. With the thirteenth pick they can look for a replacement for the possible departure of defensive tackle Roy Miller, take an offensive tackle, or entertain the possibility of trading down and drafting a weapon at tight-end to help out QB Josh Freeman, though all of these positions can be targeted through the later rounds.

Team needs – CB, TE, S

Carolina Panthers - Pick #14
Heading towards the 2013 NFL season the Carolina Panthers have a number of holes on their team and not much cap space to show for it.

The Panthers will prioritise positions that they will have had to cut players at to free up cap-space. Players such as defensive tackle Ron Edwards and cornerback Chris Gamble are rumored to be in line to for the chop.

With a new offensive coordinator the Panthers will likely be looking to get QB Cam Newton help in the shape of either a solid number two receiver to eventually succeed the 33 year-old Steve Smith or an offensive lineman.

The Panthers also need help at defensive tackle to shore up the defence, though with only five picks they have little ammunition to trade up into the top 10 of the first round to get a shot at one of the top players at the position such as Sharrif Floyd or Star Lotulelei.
Team needs – OL, DL, WR

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers - Pick #31
Ultimately it was the most disappointing end possible for the 49ers season, but there is a lot of reasons to be hopeful for the future in the bay area. In terms of needs the Niners have remarkably few holes to fill, and with the extra 2nd rounder (+) they’ve bitten the Chiefs’ hand off for in exchange for Smith, they should have no problem drafting both strength and depth. The key positions they’ll be looking at are safety, d-line and outside linebacker, and they’ll also look to add another WR after A.J. Jenkins’ very underwhelming rookie season. Deeper into the draft they could do with a fresh face at kicker to replace David Akers.

I see Florida FS Matt Elam as an ideal fit for the Niners - he’s a physical beast who is perfect for their hard hitting defence, but don’t be surprised if the Patriots steal him from under their nose and they end up taking a DE. With their surplus of picks a trade up in the early rounds is another attractive option if they have their heart set on someone, and let’s not forget they could do with a back-up QB to eventually bench Kaepernick for in an awkward will they/won’t they situation sometime next season.

Team Needs - S, DE, OLB, WR, K

Seattle Seahawks - Pick #25
With a roster stacked with talent and a cap situation other teams can only dream of, the Seahawks’ cup truly runneth over. That situation could get even better if they manage to shop backup Matt Flynn to one of the QB hungry teams out there, but even if they keep him as an overpaid understudy they will be laughing going into this draft. 

In terms of needs they have very few, but stocking up on pass rushers cannot hurt (inside or edge rush would both benefit them). Depth at WR is also something of a concern, and they could be even more deadly with another weapon on the edge. RT or guard are also potential 1st round choices, but knowing Pete Carroll he’ll probably ‘reach’ for an under the radar guy who turns out to be one of the best at his position. 

Team Needs - DE/DT, WR, OT, G, CB

St. Louis Rams - Picks #16, #22
The Rams aren’t as far off being a legit play-off contender as most people would think, but they have to find a way to get Bradford more help whether it comes in the form of another WR to complement Danny Amendola, or just some better protection up front. 

Their defence is nigh on elite (they have one of the most underrated pass rush combos in the league in Long and Quinn) but the one thing it lacks is a dominant safety to back up the very solid Finnegan and Jenkins. At #16 it is tough to say who will be floating around for them to snap up, but remember they also have #22 from the Redskins. Unfortunately it’s unlikely any of the top 3 tackles will still be there for their first pick, but  they would snap up Lane Johnson should he fall that be there. 

If not they could well go for G Jonathan Cooper and then follow up with the top WR on the board (Tavon Austin would be a sexy choice) for #22. Kenny Vaccaro would be an obvious safety choice if they wanted to balance their selections with a defensive player. With the imminent departure of Steven Jackson they’ll want to get depth at RB in the later rounds.
Team Needs - OT/G, WR, S, RB, TE

Arizona Cardinals - Pick #7
On the face of it, the Cardinals’ needs must seem fairly obvious. The word QUARTERBACK has been on the screaming lips of every Arizona fan all year, and it is hard to look beyond the position (which was truly dreadful for them) when their defence played at such a high level. 

However, offensive line is also very difficult to ignore if you look beyond the surface – I don’t think many QBs could have had a winning season behind this unit (ranked #32 by pro football focus), so I don’t see it as improbable the Cards will bite the bullet and take Eric Fisher at #7. 

That said, it will be very hard to resist picking up Geno Smith should he still be on the board when their time on the clock comes, and I can’t think of anyone else before them who legitimately should draft Geno – KC have Smith, Jacksonville NEED pass rush, the Raiders are invested in Palmer and Cleveland won’t give up on Weeden yet. 

This will come down to whether the Cardinals can resist fan/media pressure and make the smart move by shoring up their o-line before placing a rookie QB in there to be killed. I like the Cards drafting Fisher or even Chance Warmack and rolling with (a hopefully healthy) Kevin Kolb for another season.
Team Needs - OT, QB, G, RB, LB

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys - Pick #18
A new owner...

Jokes aside at the very top of the Cowboys shopping list has to be the offensive line. Out of the linemen they've drafted over the last four years there are only two remaining on the roster and Dallas have relied on average line play to get them through each season. An upgrade here could see Romo get less jittery.

Their defensive line may need an overhaul, even with the re-signing of Anthony Spencer and Demarcus Ware contract restructure. Inside they lack depth behind Ratliff and Hatcher, so a "Star" three technique could be on the cards.

Elsewhere depth at running back and linebacker is also an issue as there are health problems with the starters at both spots. Linebacker Sean Lee and replacement Bruce Carter both missed time due to injuries and running back DeMarco Murray also seems to be made of china. Look for Dallas to add depth especially to the running back position with Felix Jones almost certainly on his way out.

Team Needs - OG, RB, ILB, DE 

New York Giants - Pick #19
With the dominance of the tight end position in offences around the league and the Patriots stealing pass catching Jake Ballard, the Giants have a need at tight end even if they re-sign Martellus Bennett. The offensive line has a weakness on the right side with neither Locklear or Diehl convincing anyone.

The linebacker corp definitely needs reinforcement with Michael Boley being cut and one of Keith Rivers and Chase Blackburn likely to hit free agency. Also up front on defence they could do with depth at the defensive end position with the release of Osi Umenyora and a possible upgrade at defensive tackle wouldn't go amiss to pair with Linval Joseph.

Team Needs - TE, LB, OL, DT 

Philidelphia Eagles - Pick #4
For a team only two years departed from being labeled a "dream team" there sure are a lot of holes in the Eagles defence. First of all the defensive line needs all the help it can get after the cutting of Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson and a move to a 3-4 defence. 

There is a real need for linebackers. Demeco Ryans only just left Houston to get away from the 3-4 and now he's stuck behind another 30 front and there have to be questions over Trent Cole at outside linebacker. 

The secondary is a mess with below par safety play all year. Domonique Rodgers Cromartie is an unrestricted free agent and Nnamdi Asomugha is in a "restructure or be cut" position. 

Team Needs - LB, CB, S, DL

Washington Redskins - Pick #23
There aren't many glaring holes in the Redskins roster as they have built carefully the last few years under Mike Shanahan. Tight end is the only spot on the offence without a bonafide starter and the 'Skins have been able to get by with above average talent here. On the line, both right tackles are set to hit free agency so they have to ask themselves if they want to risk having a rookie protect RG3.

Defensively the biggest question has to be over London Fletcher and his possible retirement. Behind the front 7 Washington could do with better safety play having failed to replace the departed Landry and sadly deceased Sean Taylor.

Team Needs - TE, OL, LB, S

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