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1. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS TJ Carpenter of 810 WHB Kansas City
Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel is the Chiefs’ top choice, according to TJ Carpenter of 810 WHB Kansas City. There have been mixed reviews from Chief fans on the acquisition of Alex Smith, but they would be reaching for a quarterback at number one with this year’s pool. The major factors to this decision are the release of right tackle Eric Winston and the franchising of left tackle Brandon Albert. Winston’s release came as a surprise to many, in spite of his infamous rant towards Chiefs fans for cheering Matt Cassel’s exit against Baltimore, but it is being viewed as a difference in philosophy between Winston and new Head Coach Andy Reid. Carpenter says that Kansas City is open to the idea of trading out of the top spot, but is hard pressed to find a suitor.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are quietly revamping their roster, shedding contracts of a handful of overpriced veterans. They have no intentions of moving the team to Los Angeles, despite the national perception that they’re drastically suffering from so many black outs. There’s no secret that the Jags need help at multiple positions, by their draft position, but new General Manager David Caldwell isn’t looking to make a major splash to turn things around overnight. Ryan Green of 1010XL 92.5FM in Jacksonville reports that the Jaguars are looking to add an impact player from the SEC, based on the options that they have at their disposal. They’re in desperate need of establishing a pass rush and stopping the run, which is why Green believes that Florida defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd is the logical choice with the second overall pick.
The Oakland Raiders are working to get younger this offseason by allowing many veterans to walk during their free agency period. Like most teams around the league, they’re also shedding overpriced contracts in order to get under the salary cap. Richard Seymour isn’t getting any younger and has become expendable, Tommy Kelly will likely be cut, and Matt Shaughnessy is the only free agent on the defensive line that is worth retaining. To simply put it, the Raiders need pass rushers on their defensive line. They signed former Bengals lineman Pat Sims, but they’ll need a lot more than just him and Lamarr Houston. Shane Hallam from DraftCountdown.com believes that Utah defensive lineman Star Lotulelei is the best choice for Oakland at number three, if his heart is healthy. Lotulelei had a minor heart ailment that kept him from working out at the combine, but doctors have cleared him to fully participate in his Pro Day. If he has a clean bill of health going forward, Hallam believes that the Raiders will select Star Lotulelei.
The Eagles are going through a culture change, in their transition from the Andy Reid era to the Chip Kelly era. It’s no secret that they’ve had a lot of issues on the defensive side of the ball, which is why they’re trying to bolster that unit this offseason. Derrick Gunn of Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia believes that despite the addition of Texans linebacker Conner Barwin, the Eagles still need a viable pass rusher. Javis Jones was diagnosed with spinal stenosis in 2009, during his time at USC, but enjoyed a successful two season with Georgia after transferring. He had another stenosis scare during the NFL Combine, but doctors have since cleared him to continue football activities. If Jones has a stable and clean bill of health by draft day, Gunn believes that the Eagles should add the elite pass rusher who led the nation in sacks, tackles for losses, and forced fumbles in 2012.
The Lions come into the NFL Draft as a surprise top 5 pick, after being a playoff team in 2011. They lost some key players to free agency with sack leader Cliff Avril going to the Seahawks and right tackle Gosder Cherilus signing with the Colts. There are still a number of players that could fill either one of those needs, such as Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher or Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner. Detroit might be in the best situation for any team in the draft, since Reggie Bush fell to the Saints in 2006. Ironically, Bush just signed on to be the Lions’ new feature back this offseason. They will be looking to take the best available player at this spot, which is why Jeff Riger of 971 The Ticket in Detroit believes that they should selected Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner. There were discussions around the NFL Combine that Milliner could be the top overall pick, but not even Deion Sanders went number one in his day. If the Lions don’t fill their needs at right tackle and defensive end, this pick could change, but there’s nothing wrong with taking the only shutdown corner in the draft.
The Cleveland Browns have a new owner, a new general manager, but could they be looking for a new quarterback? They just spent one of their first round picks in last year’s draft on 29-year old Brandon Weeden. This move shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, since its no secret that the Browns have shopped Weeden around the league this offseason and pursued some top backup quarterbacks on other rosters. The main target that could affect this pick, is if they were to pull of a deal to acquire Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallot. He worked out at Arkansas’ Pro Day, but nothing has been put in play for a reasonable trade. It could happen around draft time, as the Patriots front office is always active in the first round. The Browns don’t have as many needs as they normally do this offseason, so new GM Michael Lombardi is coming into a situation where they have a very young and talented core at key positions. Trent Richardson and Josh Gordon appear to be stable pieces to build with, so why not get them a signal caller than can develop with them. Geno Smith has been rated as the top quarterback pick in this year’s draft, but not good enough to go no.1 overall. Ken Silverstein of 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland selects Smith, with the no.6 overall pick, in order to stabilize that position for hopefully the first time since the Browns came back to the league.
The Arizona Cardinals need help at a lot of positions, so this could come down to just picking the best available player. The problem with that theory is that there isn’t one defining choice. Arizona released starting quarterback Kevin Kolb this offseason, opening another need, but new head coach Bruce Arians says that they do not plan on taking a quarterback with the no.7 pick. If they’re not going to take a top signal caller, then they have to get someone to protect him. Chris Coraggio of CBS 5 in Arizona chooses Alabama offensive guard Chance Warmack to make an impact on that developing offensive front. Warmack is regarded as one of the top players in the entire draft, but a guard is an abnormal choice to go no.1 overall. Arizona signed former Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall in free agency, so they need to continue to build upon their rushing attack.
Apparently Manny Lawson didn’t get the memo that the Bills are really bad, but we knew they had to be if they’re picking in the top 10. The defense isn’t as bad as you’d think, on paper, but they could always use some work. They got a new head coach, in Syracuse’s Doug Marrone, now they need a new signal caller. Buffalo actually made an intelligent move by getting rid of Ryan Fitzpatrick. It’s not that he couldn’t be a valid backup option, but his contract was too much and he wasn’t ready to take any franchise to the playoffs. It’s an interesting spot with the number eight pick and the Bills can go two ways: either take the best available player or take their most pressing need. Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 in Buffalo believes that the Bills will be in desperation mode and take USC QB Matt Barkley, because they might not have any quarterback options in the second round. Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib is a popular pick, because of the connection to Marrone, but he’s not a top 10 talent. Barkley wasn’t overly impressive in college, but NFL scouts are hoping that he can be an impact player once he gets some talent around him.
Surprised it’s not a quarterback right here? You shouldn’t be. The New York Jets are coming off the worst season in the Rex Ryan era and is looking to change the culture this offseason. New general manager John Idzik says that they are going to start building their team through the draft and not free agency. It’s not necessarily a ploy to save money, but it’s just a matter of a needing to go in another direction. The Jets aren’t shopping Darrelle Revis as aggressively as you’d think, but that doesn’t mean a deal couldn’t get done before summer camp. They did lose a handful of defensive players this offseason, including: Eric Smith, Yeremiah Bell, LaRon Landry, Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, Shonn Greene, and many others. This is an interesting position in the draft to where New York could go with the best player on the board or the most pressing need. Eric Allen of NewYorkJets.com believes that the best route is to get another pass rusher, in Oregon’s Dion Jordan. He’s got great size, he has 4.6 speed, he can play defensive end or linebacker, and can be an instant starter for the Jets.
The Tennessee Titans have been struggling to find their identity on offense for the past three seasons, whether it’s been with the development of Jake Locker or the issues with Chris Johnson’s production. If you want to improve your offense, you have to start in the trenches. Tennessee signed one of the top offensive linemen in free agency, with former Bills guard Andy Levitre, but they still need some work. Teresa Walker of the Associate Press believes that the Titans will continue to upgrade their offensive line with the addition of North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper. He is regarded as the second best offensive guard in the draft, behind Alabama’s Chance Warmack, and has the tools to start right away. There is a chance that they could go after a pass rusher at this spot, but it would be hard to pass up on a top lineman that can grow with the rest of the Titans’ young core.
The San Diego Chargers finally got rid of Head Coach Norv Turner and General Manager AJ Smith, but possibly was a couple of years too late. They brought in former Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy to be the new Head Coach and help Phillip Rivers to take that next step in his progression. The Chargers don’t have any glaring holes to fill, but more of positions to upgrade. The number one position to fix up is on the offensive line. Bernie Wilson, who covers the Chargers for the Associated Press, believes that Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson is their best option. He’s a versatile offensive lineman that can play multiple positions, has great fundamentals, and is highly intelligent. Their offense has been suffering from a lack of talent and key injuries during the past seasons, but McCoy is looking to stabilize that unit and get back in the AFC West title hunt.
The Dolphins have never been a team to make selections that make sense, but rather whatever will increase ticket sales. This offseason, they’ve shelled out large contracts to unproven players like Mike Wallace and Phillip Wheeler. They’ve lost a lot of key players in Reggie Bush, Jake Long, and Sean Smith, but Miami is pressing on. They’ve improved from a marketing standpoint, but not exactly from a team standard. Miami has been hurting in the secondary for the past three seasons, which is why Ken LaVicka of ESPN 760 believes that they will select Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant with the number twelve pick. They traded Vontae Davis to the Colts two seasons ago, they lose Sean Smith in the offseason, so now it’s time to find some form of stability if they’re going to be competitive in the AFC East.
The Bucaneers are in desperate need of a solid cornerback option. They traded Aquib Talib to the Patriots last season, and Eric Wright is an overpaid mistake from the previous offseason. Tampa Bay has been in trade talks with the Jets in possibly acquiring Darrelle Revis, but they need to have a backup plan if that never materializes. Mark Cook of PewterReport.com believes that the Bucs have to take the next best available cornerback on the board, in Florida State standout Xavier Rhodes. This pick could be completely thrown out the window if the Revis deal gets done, but Rhodes would be a decent option as a backup plan. The Bucs’ offense really took off last season, with Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson leading the way, but now it’s time to put the attention on the defensive side of the ball.
It’s crunch time for the Carolina Panthers and Ron Rivera. Cam Newton is coming up on his third season, but still hasn’t been given any quality weapons, other than Steve Smith, to work with. Their running game is pedestrian, since Newton is pretty much their entire offense. Carolina has continued to focus their attention in free agency on the defensive side of the ball and could continue with the Draft. Taylor Zarzour of WPTF 680 in Carolina says that if the Panthers can find another team to trade out of the first round with, they would gladly move down the draft board. They could choose to take the first receiver off the board, but it looks like they’ll continue their defensive trend. Zarzour believes that they are very high on Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro, who could be a leader in their developing secondary. They’ve released Chris Gamble and invested in Captain Munnerlyn, now it’s time to find their first hard hitting safety since Deon Grant.
It’s going to be tough to see BYU DE/OLB Ziggy Ansah being available out of the top 10, but if it happens Mike Detillier and the Saints will gladly take him. He’s a versatile pass rusher that came into the football scene a little late. He was scouted out of Ghanaian by a university alum, and was encouraged to try football after not succeeding with the track and field team. The Saints are starting to shed a lot of contracts, while still signing a lot of backups from other teams for more cap-friendly depth. There’s no secret that they’ve needed a pass rusher for quite some time, after drafting Cam Jordan and others, but now they’ll have an opportunity to get a raw talent with Ansah. Thankfully, this will be the first year in a while that New Orleans won’t be able to draft another Heisman winner.
The St. Louis Rams surprised everyone with their attacking defense last season, now it’s time to focus on improving their offense. They let two key starters, running back Steven Jackson and receiver Danny Amendola, walk in the offseason. In the second season of the Jeff Fisher era, the Rams will look to find some explosiveness in the first round of the draft. Howard Balzer of Grand Slam Sports believes that there is a high chance of St. Louis drafting West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin in the first round. They haven’t done a great job at surrounding Sam Bradford with the elite weapons to help him get to that next level, but Austin could be a start. He would instantly replace Amendola in the slot, but could ultimately work his way into being their top receiving option. Austin brings blazing speed and great instincts to the table, but isn’t the biggest target. Many teams are hoping that he could be the next Percy Harvin, but the Rams won’t let him get by them.
The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t had to consider drafting a receiver in the first round for seven seasons. The last one that they took was Santonio Holmes in 2006. Pittsburgh has always been able to find those hidden gems in the later rounds, such as Hines Ward, Antwan Randal El, and Mike Wallace. With the departure of Wallace, a former third round pick, the Steelers will now have to find a big receiver that can be their new deep threat. Tennessee receiver Cordarelle Patterson was one of the most talked about weapons in the SEC this past season. He was one of the top junior college stars to make an impact from day one and could transition well to the NFL level. Scott Wright of DraftCountdown.com believes that Patterson has the tools to be a number one receiver in this offense, but could be take earlier. He has the talent that could make him the first receiver taken in the draft, but he’ll be make an impact anywhere.
The Dallas Cowboys need to figure out a lot of things this offseason, including what Jerry Jones was thinking giving Tony Romo all that money. Obviously Jones believes that this team is only one player or so away from being a championship contender. He continues to invest and believe in Romo, despite his poor play, but that looks to be the way that Dallas will choose to draft this season. They have to upgrade the offensive line if they’re going to be productive, which is why Cal Watkins believes that they’ll do so with the selection of Alabama right tackle DJ Fluker. There is an outside chance that they could package a deal, in order to move up in the draft and select Chance Warmack, but that will remain something to keep an eye on. Fluker has great size and power, but does have weight issues. He has done a great job at trying to trim down, leading up to draft, but he’ll have to continue that trend in order to live up to his elite upside.
The Giants most pressing need going into this offseason is at linebacker. They let Chase Blackburn walk in free agency, but did get a steal in former Cowboys linebacker Dan Connor. New York went from being World Champs, to not even making the playoffs, but they are slowly putting the pieces together to make another run. They did let a number of starters walk on the offense, including Ahmad Bradshaw and even shopping Victor Cruz, but it seems more and more likely that he’ll play out this year.The Giants were on the Manti Te’O bandwagon, until all of the controversy came out in the offseason, so now they’re debating between LSU hybrid Bartevious Mingo and Georgia’s Alec Ogletree. In the end, they need a player that can be a pass rusher and someone to drop back into coverage. With that being said, Ogletree is the most prepared to be an instant contributor, as Mingo has been criticized for his lack of size. The Giants need help in the pass rush with Jason Pierre-Paul, and they’ll have some solid options available in the middle of the first round.
Chicago would love to move down in the draft order, but who wouldn’t this year? We all know about how Brian Urlacher isn’t exactly hosting an auction for his services this offseason, since being released by the Bears, but that doesn’t mean that the door is closed for him to return. It’s a new era in Chicago, with more of a focus on offense than ever. The ironic part of that philosophy is the fact that the Bears will look to improve their defense in the first round of this year’s draft. John Moon Mullin of CSN Chicago believes that the Bears have their sights set on Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown, whether they are able to trade down or not. Last year they brought in second rounder Alshon Jefferey for a pre-draft workout, as they did this year with Brown. They have multiple options at linebacker, at this point in the draft, but management seems to believe in Brown, despite his size.
There’s no doubt that the Bengals are on the rise, with back-to-back post season appearances. Last year’s first rounder Dre Kirkpatrick was a non-factor due to injury, but that doesn’t mean that Cincy won’t look to upgrade their secondary once again. Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Inquirer believes that Florida’s Matt Elam can bring an attitude to the defensive backfield that former USC star Taylor Mays hasn’t produced in his two seasons with the Bengals. The only factor that could cause the team to look at the offensive side of the ball is if they can’t get a long term deal done with left tackle Andre Smith. Reedy is confident that this young team will continue to progress. They have solid starters in Andy Dalton & AJ Green on offense, and were able to get some great value on defense out a number of these previous first round draft picks.
Not quite sure how Eric Fisher is still on the board, but he’s surely be gone way before the no.22 pick. The St. Louis Rams have two picks in the first round because of their trade with the Redskins last year, that materialized into RG3, so it is imperative that they take advantage of this pick and benefit from that trade. They’re not going to find a dual-threat franchise quarterback, but they don’t need one with Sam Bradford in town. We have the Rams selecting West Virginia Tavon Austin with their first pick in this round, so they could go on the defensive side of the ball or look at a running back. Eddie Lacy might be too much of a risk at this point, healthy wise, but it never hurts to upgrade the offensive line. They signed a blockbuster deal with former Dolphins left tackle Jake Long, so adding Eric Fisher would only benefit this upgrade on the right side.
The Minnesota Vikings are a playoff-caliber team that is only a few players away from being a wildcard contender. Christian Ponder got some help in his development, with free agent acquisitions Greg Jennings and Matt Cassell, but he still has to prove that he can be leader of the offense and not rely so much on Adrian Peterson. The defense needs some fresh faces, as many of their veterans are getting long in the tooth, which is why the Vikings will look to use one of their first round draft picks to upgrade their linebacking core. LSU Linebacker Kevin Minter has all the talent in the world, but his size is questionable. He can always add on more weight, once he gets into a proper training program, but scouts still wonder if he can be an impact player on day one. Tim Yotter of Fox Sports North believes that their first selection will either be LSU’s Kevin Minter or Notre Dame’s Manti Te’O, with Minter having more upside.
The Colts put a major emphasis on the offensive side of the ball during last year’s draft, so it’s time to focus on the defense. Indy added former Jets/Redskins safety LaRon Landry on a 4-year deal this offseason to be a leader on a young defensive unit, but that ins’t the end of their upgrades on that side of the ball. Management believes in taking the best available player, not necessarily an urgent need, as they look to be a playoff contender once again. Tom James of the Tribune Star believes that Donte Jones out of UCLA could be a solid replacement for Dwight Freeney. The defensive end brings great size and speed to the equation, and will be an underrated name on draft day. That’s not to say that the entire draft will be dedicated to the defensive side of the ball, but they have something going right in Indianapolis.
When you talk about rebuilding the defense, you have to start in the trenches. The Vikings acquired an extra first round draft pick from the Seahawks in the Percy Harvin trade and plan to utilize it for building for the future. Kevin Williams is getting up there in age and will eventually need a replacement, which is why Tim Yotter of Fox Sports North believes that Sylvester Williams of North Carolina could be a valuable investment. Cornerback and Receiver are the more pressing needs, but their value drops at this point in the draft, rather than capitalizing on the depth that they can gather in the later rounds. With the additions of Minter and Williams, the Vikings have created an added dimension of a quality pass rush that can benefit them this year and going forward.
The Packers had another under-achieving playoff appearance in 2012, primarily because of their lackluster defense. In order to get any type of pressure on some of the rising offensive forces in the NFC, they have to bolster their pass rush. Doug Russell of WTMJ in Milwaukee believes that Alabama nose tackle Jess Williams could be that force. Their former first round star BJ Raji seems to be a one man band on the defensive front, in the 3-4 scheme, so Williams would bring that extra attitude in the trenches. We know about his power and instincts to stop the run and rush the quarterback, but not a lot of “draft experts” have him going this high. Green Bay is one of the best organizations in football when it comes to drafting and developing talent, so you can help but trust their decision-making. When a team rarely has to use free agency to improve their team, they’re doing something right.
It’s the same ol story with the Houston Texans…trying to get to an AFC Championship game. There must be something in water in Texas, because the Cowboys have the same problem. Believe it or not, it wouldn’t kill the Texans to get some offensive pieces in the draft. Cliff Saunder of KTRH in Houston believes that Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins could prove to be a viable weapon to play opposite of Andre Johnson. He’s never really had a quality player to take the pressure off of Johnson, either at tight end or second and third receiver. Arian Foster is the only real threat that can help hin that department. If the Texans want to get over the hump, they need to add more offensive threats, but it might be too late for a rookie to make that big of an impact while Kubiak is on the hot seat.
After the Broncos bolstered their offense with Wes Welker this free agency, their attention has been directed to the defensive side of the ball. Von Miller has turned out to be the player that he was drafted to be, as the leader of the defense, but he’s going to need some help. They lost Jason Hunter in free agency, after he signed with Oakland, so they’ll be looking to upgrade their defensive end position. Damontre Moore is one of the most underrated pass rushers in this draft class. Ironically it’s one of the deepest positions, after being deemed such a weak class, but has seen his stock significantly drop in recent weeks. Moore could come as a steal in the draft if he’s able to slip this far. He was the anchor to the Aggie’s defensive attack, he has great instincts, and will be an instant contributor for the Broncos.
It’s a thin receiving core for the Patriots this offseason. They released Brandon Lloyd, they let Wes Welker sign with the Broncos, and their tight end duo are battling injuries. The only viable target on the roster is Deion Branch. They did sign Danny Amendola to replace Welker, but he has his own health issues. Tom Brady is going to need someone to throw to, right? It would be quite the stretch to find California’s Keenan Allen still on the board at this point, but you just never know what could happen in the NFL Draft. He’s got solid size and speed to be an instant contributor for any NFL team, and he would be a steal for the Patriots at this point in the draft.
The Falcons are in win-now mode, but they find themselves picking at the end of the first round. Sports Illustrated reported last week that Atlanta was looking to move up in the draft, possibly parallel to their 2011 strategy. They had to give up five draft picks in order to move up from 27 to 6, in order to draft Julio Jones, but will face a tougher task of moving up from 30 this year. Never say never, but the Falcons would have to take a hit that would affect their next two seasons in order to make the jump this year. If they choose to remain at this spot, they will need to add depth on the defensive line and upgrade their pass rush. Florida State defensive end Cornellius Carradine is a name that is moving up draft boards, despite recovering from an injury that he suffered at the very end of the college football regular season. He has 4.7 speed and would be a rotational player initially for the Falcons vaunted defense.
The 49ers may not of won the Super Bow, but you could make a case that they are winning the offseason. The one thing that sets them apart is the way that they’ve upgraded their team through trades. They shipped Alex Smith off to the Chiefs for a second round pick, they acquired Anquan Boldin from the Ravens for a mere sixth round pick, and there’s no telling what they could do once the draft arrives. One thing is for sure, they continue to upgrade their team. They did lose Dashon Goldson in free agency to the Bucs, but they have enough depth to have the next player step up. Believe it or not, their offense can always use an extra weapon or two. They have the versatile Vernon Davis, but he could be even better if he had a talent like Notre Dame Tyler Eifert to distract defenders. Dan Shonka of Ourlads.com believes that if Eifert were to somehow fall that far in the first round, the 49ers would be crazy not to take him. He’s not Jimmy Graham, but he’s one of the most intriguing offensive weapons in this class. Between his size, speed, and instincts, Eifert is a no-brainer this late in the draft.
The Ravens gutted their secondary in free agency this offseason, allowing Ed Reed to sign with the Texans, Carey Williams going to the Eagles, and releasing Benard Pollard. They did sign former Raiders defensive back Michael Huff, who can play both corner and safety. Baltimore also has a pressing need a left tackle and receiver. They traded Anquan Boldin to the 49ers for a mere 6th round pick and Bryant McKinnie sits as a free agent. The most pressing need has to be in the secondary. One of the rising names in the NFL Draft will be Houston cornerback DJ Hayden. You know him best for his freak medical emergency in practice last fall, after being rushed to the hospital for issues within his abdomen. He has since been cleared from any injury-risk stereotypes in pre-draft reports, making him one of the sleepers in the first round. He’s a very aggressive defender, with 4.40 speed, and excels as a tackler. The Ravens’ best corner is former controversial first rounder Jimmy Smith, out of Colorado, but he hasn’t developed into the player that they hoped him to be. Hayden can be an instant contributor and possibly one of the best picks in the draft.