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2014 NFL DRAFT FIRST ROUND WINNERS AND LOSERS: 3 TEAMS I LIKED AND 3 I DIDN’T LIKE

The 2014 NFL Draft began last night with the first round. There were plenty of great moves and a number of bad ones to go with all of the surprises. Some teams did amazing, while others fell flat when they got their turn in the spotlight. Here are three teams that I liked from last night’s first round action and three I didn’t like.

THREE TEAMS I LIKED

1.  St. Louis Rams – The Rams had the best first round of any team in my opinion landing two of the top ten prospects in the draft and instantly becoming a more intimidating team in the trenches. With the 2nd-overall pick they chose to remedy their offensive tackle issues by drafting massive Auburn left tackle Greg Robinson, a prospect many feel could have the highest ceiling of anyone not named Clowney. Their current left tackle Jake Long is recovering from a torn ACL and has seen his play take a dip the past few years making Robinson at the very least Long’s heir apparent. Right tackle Roger Saffold was resigned, but can’t stay healthy and played a lot better when he was moved inside to guard last season. Robinson can play either of those spots. However, reports from draft night have the Rams playing Robinson inside at left guard to start, although those plans could change quickly with the health issues of the other offensive tackles on the roster. Then with the 13th selection, the Rams had the NFL Scouting Combine MVP defensive tackle Aaron Donald fall into their laps. Massively underrated to start the draft process, Donald blew scouts, analysts and front offices away with his performances throughout this off-season, which caused them to go back to the game tape where they were able to see a dominant interior defensive lineman. The Rams now boast arguably the scariest defensive line in the NFL with four first round picks in Robert Quinn, Chris Long, Michael Brockers and now Donald. Yikes. Great Job St. Louis!

2.  Cleveland Browns – The Browns were arguably the story of the 2014 NFL Draft’s first round. New General Manager Ray Farmer moved all over the board by making three trades and in turn he landed arguably the top corner prospect in Justin Gilbert with the 8th-overall pick and then of course he got their new franchise quarterback Johnny Manziel with the 22nd selection, while also landing Buffalo’s first-round pick in 2015 in the process, which could easily be a top ten pick considering the Bills’ recent history. Farmer not only landed two pretty good players at two of their top areas of need, but also gave new Head Coach Mike Pettine the player he really wanted, while giving owner Jimmy Haslam the guy he wanted. Ray Farmer was the MVP of the first round.

3.  Minnesota Vikings – A year after landing three first round picks (Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson) in the 2013 NFL Draft, Vikings GM Rick Spielman was able to secure another two first-rounders this year. He would move down a spot to the 9th overall pick to land pass-rusher Anthony Barr and an extra 5th round selection, while making his big move at the end of the night by sending his 40th overall draft choice and just a 4th rounder to Seattle to get the final pick of the round (32nd) to obtain their new franchise quarterback, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings had to get a new signal-caller this year after last season’s disastrous quarterback situation and Bridgewater, who is arguably the top quarterback prospect in this draft, was fantastic value at the end of the first round and should form a great pairing with Adrian Peterson for years to come. It’s also worth mentioning that along with their two first-round picks this year and three last year, Spielman also drafted twice in the first round in 2012 landing Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith. That’s an incredible seven first round picks in the last three years.

Also liked: The Cincinnati Bengals got fantastic value and filled one their top needs by grabbing arguably the top rated corner in the draft in Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard.  Dennard has all the skills to be a top shutdown corner with the ability to play right away. The Bengals got a good one.

THREE TEAMS I DIDN’T LIKE

1.  San Francisco 49ers – What were the 49ers doing last night. They came into the draft with more ammo (draft picks) than any other team and more than they could ever need and yet they didn’t make any moves whatsoever to work their way up the first round from the 30th-overall pick, where they could’ve landed a real impact player that could’ve helped them immediately. They even had enough picks that they probably could’ve moved up to get into the first round to make a second selection. Yet they chose to remain at the 30th spot in the draft and slightly reach for Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward, who might have still been available into the mid-second round. They needed secondary help, but could’ve easily made a move to land either of the two top safety prospects, Calvin Pryor or HaHa Clinton-Dix or any of the top three corners.

2.  Philadelphia Eagles – Another really questionable move from last night was the Eagles drafting Louisville outside linebacker/defensive end Marcus Smith with the 26th-overall pick. Smith was by far the biggest reach of the night as he was projected to be a third round pick. He was the 89th ranked prospect on my draft board. There were a number of much higher rated players at the same position still on the board. Even though they were able to gain an extra third round pick by moving down from the 22nd pick to the 26th to take Smith, this was still a horrible value pick even if he fills a need on their roster. They very likely could’ve gotten him with their second round pick.

3.  Detroit Lions – A number of reports leading up to the draft had the Lions in love with North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron and I guess they were true as they quickly snagged him off the board with 10th-overall pick. But why. The Lions have two solid playmaking tight ends in Brandon Pettigrew, who they just resigned and last year’s rookie Joseph Fauria, who became a pretty dangerous red-zone threat for them. They didn’t need a tight end and while they did need to add another wide receiver to the mix, this is an incredibly deep draft at that position and they could’ve got one later. There are also a ton of questions about Ebron to go with the fact that he doesn’t block at all. They needed a lot more help on the defensive side of the ball than they do on their already explosive offense. This was not a smart pick.

Also didn’t like: The Tennessee Titans selecting talented left tackle Taylor Lewan, even though they don’t have a spot at all in their starting lineup for him. They still have Michael Roos at left tackle, who is pretty good and just signed free agent right tackle Michael Oher to a four-year deal, while they are set at guard with last year’s first round pick Chance Warmack and Andy LeVitre, who they signed to a big deal just last off-season. Lewan is not a center. The Titans are not good enough to take a luxury pick at this point in the draft.

 

Written By: Mark Scott

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2014 NFL DRAFT TOP NEEDS FOR ALL 32 TEAMS

The 2014 NFL Draft is upon us giving front offices and fans hopes and dreams of landing the next great talent. Every year teams have holes and needs to fill or upgrade and do their best to do it through free agency, but not every hole can be filled with a free agent. That leaves the NFL Draft where the possibilities seem endless. Teams have their depth charts and draft boards ready, so in preparation of the 2014 NFL Draft, here are the top three needs for all 32 NFL teams.

AFC EAST

BUFFALO BILLS (6-10)

1.  OT – Cordy Glenn has done a decent job at left tackle for the Bills since being drafted, but could be better served at right tackle or inside at left guard, both positions that desperately need to be upgraded. They never replaced LG Andy LeVitre last year and RT Erik Pears shouldn’t be starting. Drafting a top left tackle prospect will allow the Bills to upgrade two positions at once. If they are happy with Glenn on the blind side then adding a right tackle is still a top priority. Either way E.J. Manuel needs better protection.

2.  S – Jarius Bryd was allowed to sign with the Saints in free agency and has yet to be replaced.

3.  TE – Scott Chandler was resigned and is a decent receiving option at tight end, but could definitely be upgraded, especially if it means adding a young, dynamic pass-catching weapon.

MIAMI DOLPHINS (8-8)

1.  OG – Both 2013 starters are gone; Richie Incognito (bully scandal) and John Jerry (free agency) need to be replaced. Shelly Smith was signed as a free agent to man one spot, but they still need to add another starting-level talent to play the other. Depth is an issue as well.

2.  RT – Miami fixed their left tackle situation by signing Branden Albert, but still need to add a right tackle where they can upgrade on Jason Fox.

3.  DB – Cortland Finnegan and Louis Delmas were added to the secondary in free agency, but both struggled last season and the Fins could find better options in the draft.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-4)

1.  TE – Once the envy of the entire NFL, this unit has dropped significantly over the past year. Rob Gronkowski cannot stay healthy and recent reports have him waiting as long as possible before returning from his latest injury, which could extend into the regular season, while Aaron Hernandez is likely to be in prison for a long time. There wasn’t much that the Pats could do last year to fix the unit, but starting to rebuild it should be one of their main priorities for the 2014 NFL Draft.

2.  S – Adrian Wilson and Steve Gregory were both cut and only Patrick Chung was brought in. Duron Harmon remains a question mark. At least one starting-quality safety should be added in the draft.

3.  DT – Age and injuries are an issue for both Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, while players like Chris Jones and Joe Vellano were relied on way too much last season. Youth and talent need to be added to the interior defensive line.

NEW YORK JETS (8-8)

1.  WR/TE – The Jets added Eric Decker and Jacoby Ford in free agency, but neither is a no.1 wide receiver, while Jeff Cumberland remains their top option at tight end. New York should be able to land a playmaker at either position in the first round.

2.  S – Safety is one of the more important positions in Rex Ryan’s defense and he’s been getting by with sub-par talent the past few years. It’s about time they add a talented young safety to this defense.

3.  CB – They were forced to let Antonio Cromartie go due to cap restraints and have only added Dmitri Patterson in free agency. Even if Dee Milliner is able to take a step forward, the Jets still need to add a starting-caliber corner.

 

AFC NORTH

BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-8)

1.  FS – The strong safety position is set with Matt Elam, but the Ravens need to add someone to play next to him. James Ihedigbo was a liability in coverage last season and was allowed to leave as a free agent. They signed Darian Stewart, but they will need to do better than just him.

2.  RT – The Ravens could only sign one of their free agent starting offensive tackles and they chose to sign left tackle Eugene Monroe allowing RT Michael Oher to sign with Tennessee. They need to upgrade on Ricky Wagner.

3.  DE – Baltimore didn’t have the cap room to resign Arthur Jones and were forced to let him depart in free agency. They haven’t found a replacement yet.

CINCINNATI BENGALS (11-5)

1.  DE – Talented Michael Johnson signed for big money in Tampa leaving the Bengals in need of a replacement. Margus Hunt struggled as a rookie and isn’t ready to be counted on as a starter yet.

2.  LT or LG – Andrew Whitworth was a solid a left tackle to start last year, before moving over and excelling at left guard mid-season. He made the switch because the Bengals had Anthony Collins to play left tackle, but he also signed for big money in Tampa. Depending on where they want Whitworth to play will determine whether they need to draft a left tackle or left guard.

3.  CB – Terrance Newman and Adam Jones have been surprisingly good for Cincinnati, but both are in their 30s, while Leon Hall is trying to return from his second torn Achilles in the last three years and Dre Kirkpatrick has been a disappointment so far.

CLEVELAND BROWNS (4-12)

1.  QB – The Brandon Weeden experiment failed and he was released, along with Jason Campbell this off-season. Brian Hoyer played surprisingly well for the Browns last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury and gives Cleveland a decent veteran to help smooth the process of developing a new franchise quarterback. Another new regime (GM, Head Coach, coaching staff) is running the Browns in 2014.

2.  CB – There is a large drop-off in talent between top corner Joe Haden and everyone else on the roster. They need to upgrade on Buster Skrine as their second starting corner across from Haden. They need to upgrade their depth too.

3.  WR – Like cornerback, there is a major drop-off between Josh Gordon and the rest of the receiving corps. Greg Little has yet to become a reliable option and the rest of the unit is uninspiring. Gordon has had some off the field issues as well that could cause a problem should he gets suspended again. They need to add a legitimate second option.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (8-8)

1.  WR – The Steelers have seen starting wide receivers leave in back to back seasons with Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders departing as free agents. Lance Moore should help, but is Markus Wheaton ready to step up. Regardless they need to draft at least one wide receiver.

2.  NT – The Nose Tackle position is arguably the most important in Dick LeBeau’s defense, which has struggled since the departure of long-time Steeler Casey Hampton. Steve McClendon has been decent since taking over, but would be better served as a five-technique end on the outside and could help fill their on the edge.

3.  CB – Ike Taylor was lit up repeatedly last year against no.1 wide receivers and at 34 his best days are long gone. Pittsburgh needs to find a young corner with the potential to start soon.

AFC SOUTH

HOUSTON TEXANS (2-14)

1.  QB – Matt Schaub fell apart in 2013 and so did Houston’s season. Schaub was traded to Oakland this off-season, while Ryan Fitzpatrick was signed to be a veteran backup. Third-string Case Keenum played surprisingly well when called upon last season, but his ceiling appears to be that of a backup quarterback. The new coaching staff led by Bill O’Brien needs to find their new franchise quarterback.

2.  TE – Top tight end Owen Daniels was released this off-season and has yet to be replaced, while no.2 Garrett Graham was resigned. A young quarterback is going to need a reliable short-to-intermediate target to dump off too when the pressure gets too hot.

3.  OLB – Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus both struggled to generate much pressure last season, which is especially concerning considering that J.J. Watt was the main focus of opposing teams and faced double and triple teams on every play. There is also talk of moving Reed inside to help out the interior.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (11-5)

1.  S – Both safety positions need to be addressed. Starting Strong Safety Antoine Bethea left in free agency and has yet to be replaced, while Free Safety LaRon Landry struggled in coverage and continued to battle injuries last season. A new strong safety is needed, while Landry could be upgraded. Depth is a concern as well.

2.  OC/OG – The Colts desperately need to improve their interior offensive line for Andrew Luck and the running game. They struggled to protect Luck or generate any type of successful run blocking last season. Indy tried to fix the Center position by releasing Samson Satele and signing Phil Costa, except Costa surprised everyone a few weeks ago by retiring at just 26 years old leaving the team with just Khaled Holmes in the middle. The Guard positions were a nightmare in 2013 for the Colts and still need to be fixed as Mike McGlynn and Jeff Linkenbach were rightfully allowed to leave this offseason, yet the team still has not signed anyone to come in.

3.  OLB – Robert Mathis was awesome last season, but is well into his 30s and is a risk to see a major decline in his play at anytime. Bjoern Werner was basically invisible last year and needs to take a giant step in his development in 2014, while Erik Walden is a decent run-stuffer, but provides very little in the pass-rushing department.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (4-12)

1.  QB – The Blaine Gabbert experiment failed and he’s now in San Francisco. Chad Henne was resigned and is the perfect stop-gap veteran to have in place, while developing a new, young franchise quarterback.

2.  OLB – Or the “LEO” position in Gus Bradley’s defense. The Jags have been at or near the bottom of the league in sacks for the past five years. This unit desperately needs to be improved starting with a talented young pass-rusher.

3.  WR – GM David Caldwell recently told the media that he isn’t counting on no.1 wide out Justin Blackmon playing for the Jags this season, who is currently serving an indefinite suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy again. Cecil Shorts and Ace Sanders are the team’s top receivers at the moment.

TENNESSEE TITANS (7-9)

1.  CB – Top corner Alterraun Verner was lost in free agency and hasn’t yet been replaced. Depth is a question too.

2.  QB – Jake Locker has been a major disappointment since being drafted, especially with his inability to stay healthy. This will be a “prove-it” season for him. A new coaching staff is in place led by Ken Whisenhunt and a new quarterback being drafted is high possibility.

3.  RB – The Titans finally gave up on Chris Johnson and released him this off-season. Meanwhile, Shonn Greene is the top ball-carrier on their roster and that is a problem.

AFC WEST

DENVER BRONCOS (13-3)

1.  CB – Champ Bailey and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are out and Aqib Talib is in, while Chris Harris is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the playoffs. If the season started today they would have to rely on Tony Carter, they must do better than that. They need to add another starting-quality player, along with some depth as this isn’t a particularly deep unit either.

2.  ILB – The Broncos have a gaping hole in the middle. They relied on Wesley Woodyard and Paris Lenon last season and need to do better than that if they have Super Bowl aspirations. Neither is with the team anymore leaving Jamar Chaney on the top of the depth chart at the moment. Denver needs to find a better option.

3.  LG – Zane Beadles struggled in pass protection last season and was allowed to leave in free agency. They haven’t found a replacement yet.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-5)

1.  WR – This is one of the weaker units on the Chiefs’ roster. Dwayne Bowe is the only real threat and he has struggled with drops over the last few seasons. Donnie Avery was a nice surprise in 2013, while A.J. Jenkins is still a giant question mark. They need to find another starting-quality receiver that can be a deep threat, while adding another to upgrade their depth.

2.  RT – 2013 1st overall pick Eric Fisher is moving to left tackle this season to take over for the departed Branden Albert leaving a hole at right tackle that has yet to be filled.

3.  OG – The Chiefs lost both starting guards in free agency and have only added Jeff Linkenbach to fill one spot leaving a hole at the other. Another starting guard must be added.

OAKLAND RAIDERS (4-12)

1.  QB – The Raiders have had issues at quarterback for a while and hope the addition of Matt Schaub will help remedy the situation in the short term. Schaub is not the long-term answer after falling apart in Houston last season and the Raiders will need to find a young signal-caller with the ability to develop and take over for Schaub in the next year or two.

2.  DL – The Raiders only resigned one of their four free agent starting defensive linemen in DT Pat Sims. Their stud pass-rusher and best player Lamarr Houston was by far the biggest loss of the off-season. GM Reggie McKenzie did an okay job of filling the holes with some short-term deals for aging talent; bringing in Justin Tuck, Antonio Smith and Lamar Woodley. Those guys will give the Raiders a chance to develop some young defensive linemen, but they have to draft a few first, preferably one that can start and make an immediate impact right away. They desperately need pass-rush help on the outside and inside of this defensive line.

3.  WR – The Raiders have some solid secondary receiver options in Rod Streater and Denarius Moore and added another in James Jones in free agency, but are still in need of a high-level no.1 wide out.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (9-7)

1.  CB – The Chargers secondary got lit up week after week last season and have arguably the worst cornerback situation in the NFL. They sent Derek Cox and Johnny Patrick packing this off-season and only resigned Richard Marshall, while their only free agent addition was Brandon Ghee. That isn’t good enough, not in a division with Peyton Manning. They desperately need to add talent to this unit.  They need starters.

2.  NT – Cam Thomas signed with Pittsburgh in free agency leaving a giant hole in the center of San Diego’s defense. They have yet to replace him.

3.  TE/WR – Antonio Gates isn’t going to last much longer and the Chargers need to find someone to take over for him. They drafted Ladarius Green, but he has yet to make a meaningful impact. As a rookie, Keenan Allen was the only productive and reliable target on their offense. Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Brown need to be better as secondary receiving options. They need to get Phillip Rivers more weapons and soon.

NFC EAST

DALLAS COWBOYS (8-8)

1.  DT – The Cowboys have a ton of issues on the defensive line and need to completely rebuild the unit after using countless players and having to sign guys off of the street just to field a lineup in 2013. The interior is particularly a problem. Jason Hatcher was fantastic last year, but the Cowboys were unable to resign him due to cap issues. Even if they were able to resign Hatcher they still needed to add someone next to him. Henry Melton and Terrell McClain were signed as free agents, but Melton is a question mark after blowing out his knee last season and McClain is only a backup at this point in his career. They need to add two starting-quality defensive tackles right now.

2.  DE – Dallas was forced to cut Demarcus Ware this off-season leaving them without their best pass-rusher and defender for this season. George Selvie was a revelation last year after being signed mid-season off the street and will be counted upon to repeat that same performance this season. Anthony Spencer was recently resigned to a 1-year deal, but is a question mark after suffering a season-ending knee injury last year. Jeremy Mincey has been the only free agent addition at defensive end so far. They need to add an elite, young pass-rusher to this roster.

3.  OG – The Cowboys interior offensive line is a big problem. They need to desperately upgrade both starting guards, Ronald Leary and Mackenzy Bernadeau. They can’t have both of these guys in the starting lineup again. Meanwhile, Brian Waters is a 37-year old free agent coming off of a season-ending triceps injury.

NEW YORK GIANTS (7-9)

1.  DE – Once the strength of the team, pass-rusher has now become a weakness. Jason Pierre-Paul struggled last season and battled injuries. Justin Tuck was their most consistent pass-rusher in 2013, but headed to Oakland as a free agent, while Mathias Kiwanuka turned 31 in March and Damontre Moore contributed nothing as a rookie. Robert Ayers was added in free agency, but he’s not the game-breaking pass-rusher this defense needs.

2.  TE – Brandon Myers didn’t work out last season and was allowed to leave as a free agent, while Bear Pascoe also signed elsewhere in free agency. Eli Manning desperately needs more weapons.

3.  LT – Starting Left Tackle Will Beatty struggled all year long before suffering a broken leg in the season finale and is a big question mark at the moment. Justin Pugh was impressive at right tackle as a rookie last season, but would be even better if moved inside to guard. If the Giants can land a potential franchise left tackle, then they can move Beatty to right tackle and Pugh inside to guard upgrading three positions on the offensive line with one move. Charles Brown was added as depth.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-6)

1.  CB – The Eagles need to upgrade the talent on this unit. They have three decent complimentary corners in Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher and the recently signed Nolan Carroll, but don’t have a true shutdown no.1 cornerback on the roster. Brandon Boykin is solid as the slot corner on this unit. Philadelphia finished dead last in opponents passing yards against. This pass defense has to be improved.

2.  WR – The Eagles chose to release DeSean Jackson and resign Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin. Jackson was the star of that trio leaving a big hole in their offense and will need to be replaced.

3.  OLB – The Eagles struggled to generate much of a pass-rush last season and the pass defense got killed as a result. Trent Cole, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham have to be better and put a lot more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Cole will turn 32 during this season and could be a cap casualty next year as he will be owed $10-million in 2015. An eventual replacement will have to be added.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS (3-13)

1.  CB – The Redskins’ corners couldn’t cover anyone last year as they were absolutely abysmal. For some reason they chose to resign DeAngelo Hall and E.J. Biggers. They need to upgrade both of those guys, while the addition of Tracy Porter as a free agent only helps out the depth of this unit. They need to add starting-quality talent and soon.

2.  S – Both safety positions need to be upgraded as well. Brandon Meriweather isn’t very good and can’t stay healthy, while free addition Ryan Clark is 35. Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo were highly disappointing as rookies.

3.  RT – Trent Williams is one of the top left tackles in the league, but Tyler Polumbus is one of the worst right tackles. He has to be upgraded as Robert Griffin III needs all the protection he can get on that wonky knee of his.

NFC NORTH

CHICAGO BEARS (8-8)

1.  DT – The Bears spent a lot of money in free agency on defensive ends, signing four of them (L. Houston, J. Allen, W. Young, and I. Idonije), but neglected the interior of the defensive line, choosing only to resign Jay Ratliff, who barely played last season. Why they chose not to upgrade their defensive tackles after finishing dead last in opponents rushing yards against last season is beyond me. Henry Melton was allowed to leave as a free agent and has yet to be replaced. The Bears need to add someone in the starting lineup to play next to Stephan Paea to go with some depth as well.

2.  CB – Age is an issue at corner as Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings and Kelvin Hayden are in their thirties, along with Zackary Bowman leaving as a free agent. Some youth is needed. Depth is an issue as well.

3.  SLB – James Anderson was one of the biggest liabilities on the Bears defense last season and needs to be upgraded. Meanwhile, Lance Briggs continues to age and battle injuries and rookies Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene struggled mightily to adjust to the pro game.

DETROIT LIONS (6-10)

1.  CB – It seems like every year cornerback is listed as the top need for the Lions and for good reason as they continually pass on drafting highly-rated elite corners for some reason. They’ve spent Day 2 picks on Darius Slay and Bill Bentley in the past couple of years, but neither appears to have the talent or potential to be a top shutdown corner. Rashean Mathis was their best corner in 2013 and that is a problem.

2.  DE – The Lions saw starting defensive end Willie Young and backup Israel Idonije sign with the rival Bears. Devin Taylor didn’t contribute much as a rookie and may not be ready to be counted on as a starter just yet. Darryl Tapp was added, but that was just a depth signing. Ezekiel Ansah was exceptional as a rookie, but the Lions will need to find someone better than Taylor to replace Young across from him.

3.  WR – Golden Tate was added as a free agent and should provide a good second option to Calvin Johnson, but Matthew Stafford still needs another weapon. Ryan Broyles can’t stay healthy and Kris Durham only just started showing flashes of being an NFL-quality receiver last year. Depth is needed on this unit.

GREEN BAY PACKERS (8-7-1)

1.  TE – Jeremichael Finley’s career is up in the air due to health concerns and the Packers chose not to resign him when his contract expired in March. They have yet to find a replacement. Only backup Andrew Quarless has been resigned. The Packers need to find Aaron Rodgers a new tight end to light up opposing defenses with.

2.  C – Evan Dietrich-Smith headed south and signed with the Bucs leaving a gaping hole in the middle of Green Bay’s offensive line. A replacement has to be added.

3.  S – This is a major problem area for Green Bay as their safeties provided very little last season. They didn’t even record a single interception among them. Morgan Burnett and M.D. Jennings were awful last year, Burnett will get a shot to redeem himself, but Jennings was not resigned this off-season leaving a hole at free safety at the moment. They should target one of the top safeties early in the draft.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS (5-10-1)

1.  QB – The Christian Ponder experiment failed and the Vikings appear ready to move on from their former first-round pick. Matt Cassel was resigned to be the veteran backup or stop-gap quarterback, while Minnesota attempts again to develop their next franchise signal-caller. They should have the opportunity to land one of the top quarterback prospects with the 8th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

2.  WR – The Vikings need to find a better third receiving option than Jerome Simpson to play behind Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings, preferably someone that can play in the slot.

3.  SS – Harrison Smith has the free safety position locked down, but the Vikings have nobody to play next to him at strong safety.

NFC SOUTH

ATLANTA FALCONS (4-12)

1.  DE – The pass-rush is a major problem in Atlanta after they finished 29th in the league with just 32 sacks in 2013. Osi Umenyiora was okay for the Falcons last year, but John Abraham was sorely missed. They signed Tyson Jackson to help out, but this unit still needs some youth and a talent upgrade. They need to get better with such young cornerbacks on the roster. The Falcons are going to use multiple defensive schemes this year, so adding a pass-rusher that can line-up with his hand in the dirt in a 4-3 and play standing up as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 would be ideal.

2.  TE – Tony Gonzalez finally retired even though he’s still one of the top tight ends in the NFL and the Falcons are now forced to find a replacement after putting it off for the past couple of years. Levine Toilolo showed very little last season to prove he can be Gonzalez’s replacement. They also do not have a true blocking tight end on the roster.

3.  OT – The Falcons have some issues at the offensive tackle positions. Matt Ryan was sacked 44 times last season and they need to desperately fix that if they are to avoid another year like 2013. They appear committed to Sam Baker after signing him to a big deal before last season, but he needs to be a lot better and has to stay healthy after playing in just four games last year. He might be better off at right tackle, where they also need to upgrade on Lamar Holmes and Mike Johnson. Adding one of the potential franchise left tackles at the top of the first round could fix this issue. This was also an offense that finished dead last in rushing last year.

CAROLINA PANTHERS (12-4)

1.  LT – Jordan Gross retired and there isn’t a solution on the roster leaving a giant hole on Cam Newton’s blind side. Right tackle is an issue as well where they can do better than Byron Bell and Nate Chandler.

2.  WR – Who exactly is Newton going to throw the ball too this season. The Panthers have had to completely rebuild their wide receiver corps this off-season after cutting long-time star Steve Smith and watching Brandon Lafell, Ted Ginn and Domenick Hixon sign elsewhere as free agents. Those were their top four wide receivers in 2013. So far they have replaced them with a trio of backups in Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood. That’s not going to cut it. This unit desperately needs elite talent and youth in a hurry. If they can’t land a left tackle in the first round than drafting a receiver is must.

3.  CB – The Panthers were forced to watch their top corner Captain Munnerlyn leave as free agent due to super tight cap restraints, the same reason they had to let their entire wide receiving corps go. Their other starting corner from last season is Drayton Florence, who is a 33-year old free agent at the moment. Only Antoine Cason has been added to this unit. They need to add two corners and at least one that can start immediately.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11-5)

1.  CB – The Saints were forced to cut starting corner Jabari Greer due to cap issues and were only able to add the quickly declining soon-to-be 36-year old Champ Bailey as a possible replacement. They need someone better than Bailey to play across from Keenan Lewis.

2.  OLB – Junior Galette was awesome last season, but the Saints need someone across from him. Victor Butler is a question mark after missing all of 2013 with an injury, while Parys Haralson is just okay and shouldn’t be in the starting lineup. Another elite pass-rusher could take this defense to the next level.

3. OC – The Saints don’t have a starting Center on the roster at the moment after Brian De La Puente left in free agency. This is an issue.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (4-12)

1.  WR – This unit desperately needs to add talent. There is nothing on the roster behind Vincent Jackson. Chris Owusu, who has only 14 career receptions is probably their next best receiver. That is a major issue. They need to add multiple receivers and at least one that can start immediately. Youth is needed too as Jackson is already 31.

2.  QB – There is a new regime (GM, Head Coach) running the Bucs with former long-time Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith leading the way. Smith doesn’t appear to be a fan of Mike Glennon, who took over for Josh Freeman last year after he was traded mid-season. That was made clear when the Bucs signed veteran Josh McCown as a free agent and immediately named him the starter. McCown is just the short-term answer though as he is only on a two-year deal and will be 35 when the regular season gets underway. Tampa will be in the market for a quarterback at this year’s draft, while Glennon could be headed out of town.

3.  OG – Starting Left Guard Carl Nicks has barely played the past two seasons and what he will provide this year remains a big question mark. Insurance behind him will be needed, while a new right guard will have to be added after the Bucs released Davin Joseph this off-season.

NFC WEST

ARIZONA CARDINALS (10-6)

1.  QB – While he’s done a decent job since joining the team, Carson Palmer will turn 35 this season and isn’t getting any younger. It’s about time the Cards draft their future franchise quarterback to begin developing while Palmer still has some gas left in the tank.

2.  OLB – The Cardinals need to upgrade this unit as it is probably the weakest part of their defense. John Abraham turned in a fantastic season, but is turning 36 this month and the rest of this group has had trouble staying healthy and can be just plain better. Finding a young stud pass-rusher in this draft would be ideal, although there are only a couple of them available this year so they will have to pounce early.

3.  S – Yeremiah Bell is a free agent, although they could stand to upgrade on him. Meanwhile Tyrann Mathieu is still recovering from a brutal knee injury suffered last season.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (12-4)

1.  CB – This was the weakest unit on the San Francisco defense last season and needs to be upgraded. Carlos Rogers was released, while Tarell Brown surprised them by bolting for Oakland in free agency and Eric Wright remains a free agent. They did sign Chris Cook, but will have to do more than that to fix this group. They need to add a starting-quality corner and some depth.

2.  DL – Age is an issue here. Justin Smith will turn 35 this season and can’t play forever, while Ray McDonald will hit 30 around the same time. Adding youth and depth with upside should be the focus here.

3.  OC – Jonathan Goodwin played pretty well last season, but will turn 36 in December and is currently contemplating retirement. He is also a free agent right now and not on the roster leaving a hole in the middle of their dominant offensive line.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (13-3)

1.  OL – This was the weakest unit on Seattle’s Super Bowl winning roster last season. They struggled all season long to protect Russell Wilson and without his incredible mobility they don’t come anywhere close to having the season that they did. Outside of left tackle Russell Okung, every other spot on the O-Line could be upgraded. They also have no choice, but to replace last season’s starting right tackle Breno Giacomini, who signed with the Jets as a free agent. Backup Guard Paul McQuistan also departed as a free agent.

2.  DL – The defensive line took a beating this off-season as the Seahawks had to cut Red Bryant and Chris Clemons, while Clinton McDonald signed with the Bucs as a free agent. Fortunately, they were able to find room under the cap to keep Michael Bennett and Tony McDaniel, but this unit could use a couple of extra bodies, preferably at least one with the ability to crack the starting lineup.

3.  TE – The Seahawks have some solid options here with Zach Miller and Luke Willson, but imagine what Russell Wilson could do with an elite playmaking tight end.

ST. LOUIS RAMS (7-9)

1. OT – This is a problem area for the Rams. Left Tackle Jake Long has battled injuries throughout his career and is currently recovering from a torn ACL and MCL suffered in December and has also seen a steady decline in his play over the last few years. Roger Saffold was resigned and can play right tackle, but appeared to find his spot in the league last year when he was moved inside to guard, where they need help as well. They can’t rely on using Joseph Barksdale in the starting lineup either. If they can land one of the potential franchise left tackles in this draft, then they need to run up to the podium.

2.  S – St. Louis lost both starting safeties coming into last season and never truly replaced them. Fourth-round pick T.J. McDonald was okay, but struggled for most of the season at strong safety and battled injuries as well, while free safety Rodney McLeod was awful and desperately needs to be upgraded. Darian Stewart also departed in free agency.

3.  WR – The Rams have spent a number of high draft picks on wide receivers over the past few years and might have every type possible, but have yet to land a true #1 elite wide receiver.

 

Written By: Mark Scott

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2013 NFL DRAFT TOP NEEDS: AFC NORTH

BALTIMORE RAVENS (10-6)

2013 Draft Picks: 32 (1st), 62 (2nd), 94 (3rd), 129 (4th), 130 (4th), 165 (5th), 168 (5th), 199 (6th), 200 (6th), 203 (6th), 238 (7th), 247 (7th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: LB Courtney Upshaw, ALA (35, 2nd), OG/OT Kelechi Osemele, IWST (60, 2nd), RB Bernard Pierce, TEMP (84, 3rd)

Decision Makers: GM Ozzie Newsome, Head Coach John Harbaugh

The Baltimore Ravens finally won their second Super Bowl in 2012, but the celebration didn’t last long as they faced a major roster exodus in the off-season losing multiple starters, especially on defense. Ray Lewis retired as expected, but what followed was surprising to say the least. They made a couple nice moves in free agency to slow the bleeding, but a number of holes on both sides of the ball still need to be filled. Ozzie Newsome has twelve picks to work with, so watch for the Ravens to be a team that could move up the board throughout the draft.

1.   Inside Linebacker – Future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis finally called it a career and retired on top, but also left a hole the team has been trying to find an heir apparent to fill with for a number of years. The team was shocked when fellow starter Dannell Ellerbe spurned them and signed with Miami as a free agent. Solid backup Jameel McClain is also coming off a season ending spinal cord contusion. They signed former Raider and high draft pick Rolando McClain, but he was a major disappointment in Oakland and has had a few off the field problems with the law.

2.   Left Tackle – Bryant McKinnie remains a free agent and there is at least a little bit of interest from the Ravens in bringing him back, although teams like the Saints and Chargers are also interested. The Ravens offensive line was at their best when they put McKinnie back in as the starting left tackle and moved Michael Oher back to the right side. Oher can play left tackle and 2012 second round pick OG Kelechi Osemele has been talked about as a possible option as well.

3.   Safety – The Ravens need to add a young starting safety. Longtime Raven Ed Reed signed with Houston, while fellow starter Bernard Pollard was cut before signing with the Titans. They brought in another former Raider in Michael Huff on a 2-year deal and he will be one starter. Backup James Ihedigbo was resigned, but should remain a reserve.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (8-8)

2013 Draft Picks: 17 (1st), 48 (2nd), 79 (3rd), 115 (4th), 150 (5th), 186 (6th), 206 (6th), 223 (7th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: OG David DeCastro, STAN (24, 1st), OT Mike Adams, OSU (56, 2nd), LB Sean Spence, MIA-F (86, 3rd)

Decision Makers: GM Kevin Colbert, Head Coach Mike Tomlin

Age finally caught up to the Steelers in 2012 as they failed to make the playoffs and may be in for a bit of a rebuilding period. Their defense is especially old with multiple aging starters still remaining and is in need of some young talent. A few of which will probably need to start right away. The offense needs multiple players as well, especially at the skill positions. The 2013 NFL Draft is an important one for the Steelers.

1.   Outside Linebacker – The outside linebacker position for the Steelers has been the weakest it has been in years. Lamarr Woodley remains solid on one side, but recorded just four sacks in 2012, his fewest since his rookie year. James Harrison got old and slow and was released this off-season, while Jason Worilds has yet to really break out in his three seasons in the league.

2.   Running Back – Pittsburgh used a number of different backs throughout last year and will come into 2013 with just Jonathan Dwyer and Issac Redman on the roster. Both are solid backups, but neither is the workhorse back the Steelers need and desire. The Steelers also want to get back to being a more run-oriented offense this season. They’ve talked to former Giants starter Ahmad Bradshaw, while Rashard Mendenhall signed with Arizona.

3.  Wide Receiver – They lost Mike Wallace in free agency to the Dolphins and nearly lost Emmanuel Sanders to Patriots after he signed an offer sheet with them before the Steelers matched. Although, Sanders will be an unrestricted free agent following the season. They found Wallace and Sanders late in the third round and their top wide out for 2013 Antonio Brown was a sixth round selection, so look for Pittsburgh to add a guy or two in the mid-rounds.

CINCINNATI BENGALS (10-6)

2013 Draft Picks: 21 (1st), 37 (2nd), 53 (2nd), 84 (3rd), 118 (4th), 156 (5th), 190 (6th), 197 (7th), 240 (7th), 251 (7th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, ALA (17, 1st), OG Kevin Zeitler, WISC (27, 1st), DT Devon Still, PSU (53, 2nd), WR Mo Sanu, RUTG (83, 3rd)

Decision Makers: Owner/GM Mike Brown, Head Coach Marvin Lewis

It has been extremely impressive how the Bengals have turned their much maligned franchise around the last few years, particularly by doing it through the draft. They have added talent and depth across the board using the draft and will look to do so again with ten picks, including a pair of second-round selections that could allow them to trade up for a particular prospect they may desire. With the Steelers set for a potential step back and the Ravens possibly reeling from losing a number of starters, the AFC North could be prime for the taking for the Bengals. If they can’t come to terms with Andre Smith, adding a right tackle in the draft will become imperative.

1.   Strong Safety – The safety position has been an area of weakness for the Bengals the last number of years, although Reggie Nelson turned in a good year last season at free safety. Chris Crocker wasn’t nearly as good next to him and is a free agent that probably won’t be back and needed to be upgraded anyway. Nate Clements spent some time at safety in 2012, but is a 33-year old free agent on the decline. Taylor Mays continues to be awful.

2.   Running Back – They brought in Benjarvus Green-Ellis last year and while he is a reliable, consistent back, he’s not the dynamic three-down workhorse they’ve been searching for the past few seasons. Adding a feature ball-carrier could take this offense to the next level.

3.   Linebacker – The linebacker corps may be going through a slight transition period. They found a diamond in the rough when they signed Vontaze Burfict, who went undrafted last year following a legendary drop down draft boards. He was fantastic for them last year and is the only linebacker with a guaranteed starting job this season. Starting MLB Rey Maualuga was resigned, but he was terrible in 2012 and finished the year as one of the worst rated starting linebackers in the league. Thomas Howard is a solid outside linebacker, but missed almost all of last season with a torn ACL and is still a free agent, while Manny Lawson signed with Buffalo in free agency. They recently signed former Steeler James Harrison, but at 35 years old, injury prone and in decline, he may not contribute much. Another young linebacker or two should be added.

CLEVELAND BROWNS (5-11)

2013 Draft Picks: 6 (1st), 68 (3rd), 104 (4th), 139 (5th), 175 (6th), 227 (7th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: RB Trent Richardson, ALA (3, 1st), QB Brandon Weeden, OKST (22, 1st), RT Mitchell Schwartz, CAL (37, 2nd), DT John Hughes, CIN (87, 3rd)

Decision Makers: GM Mike Lombardi, Head Coach Rob Chudzinski

A new regime begins again in Cleveland in 2013, although it starts directly at the top with new owner Jimmy Haslam taking over the franchise during last year. NFL Network analyst and former executive Mike Lombardi returns to the Browns to handle general manager duties, while Rob Chudzinski starts his first Head Coaching job. Lombardi has already done some nice work adding talent in free agency leaving this roster just a few players away at key positions from challenging for a playoff spot. Cleveland fans hope this regime is the one that finally turns this franchise in the right direction. They are without a 2013 2nd round pick after sacrificing it to select WR Josh Gordon in the 2012 Supplemental Draft. Part of the new regime involves a switch from a 4-3 defensive scheme to a 3-4.

1.   Cornerback – Joe Haden remains one of the top corners in football, but the Browns don’t have anyone sufficient enough to start across from him. Former 2011 fifth round pick Buster Skrine was a nice late round find and is set to start, but someone better should be brought in ahead of him. Sheldon Brown is 34-year old free agent and has yet to be resigned by the Browns.

2.   Quarterback – New regimes often mean new quarterbacks and in the Browns case the new guys in charge aren’t fans of 2012 first round pick and starter Brandon Weeden. They’ve made it pretty clear that they are on the hunt for new signal-caller to build the franchise around. They also traded backup Colt McCoy to San Francisco and replaced him with veteran Jason Campbell.

3.   Offensive Guard – The Browns could use upgrades at both guard positions, but in particular RG Shaun Lauvao continued to struggle in 2012 and hasn’t developed into a legit NFL starter. He’s in the last year of his rookie contract and should be replaced with a better prospect. John Greco was decent at LG after replacing Jason Pinkston in the starting lineup mid-season.

Written By: Mark Scott



Redskins Acquire Rams’ 2012 Second Overall Draft Pick

Written By: Mark Scott

The Rams and Redskins have made their move. In the most anticipated trade of the past few months, St. Louis chose Washington over Cleveland to deal the no.2 overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft too as first reported by FoxSports.com. The Rams sent the second overall pick to the Redskins in exchange for  Washington’s sixth overall selection of the 2012 NFL Draft, as well as their 2013 and 2014 first round picks along with their 2012 second round choice, 39th overall. Baylor’s QB Robert Griffin III is expected to be the player chosen by Washington with that selection.

Who the Rams would trade the second overall choice too and what they could receive in compensation has been the talk around the NFL for months, especially the past few weeks when St. Louis let it be known at the NFL Scouting Combine that they intended to trade the pick to the highest bidder. The bounty was expected to be high for the pick in order to select Griffin III, especially after the Baylor Quarterback blew scouts away with his workout in just a few select drills at the Combine. He was also excellent in team interviews and media sessions. The Rams have a number of holes to fill after a 2-14 season and a new regime coming in, but Quarterback wasn’t one of them as St. Louis chose to stand behind current signal-caller Sam Bradford, who was taken with the first overall pick in the 2010 Draft. They can now fill more of those holes beginning this year and over the next couple of years giving their new regime led by Head Coach Jeff Fisher the building blocks to build around Bradford and turn the franchise around.

Washington was desperate to fix their Quarterback position after a disastrous season with Rex Grossman and John Beck throwing passes for them. They were expected to pursue recently released Peyton Manning and still are despite Friday’s trade, but news that Manning isn’t interested in playing in the NFC, specifically the NFC East, where his brother Eli plays with the Giants seems to have eliminated them from discussions. This news about Manning probably only increased the Redskins interest in the Rams’ draft pick to select Griffin III. Barring a change in Manning’s mind, the Redskins will go forward with Robert Griffin III as their new franchise Quarterback, believed to be a perfect fit for Head Coach Mike Shanahan’s offensive scheme.

Unhappy with their own Quarterback situation, the Cleveland Browns were believed to be the favorites to land St. Louis’ No.2 pick and made a late push Friday by reportedly offering three first round picks including their 2012 fourth overall pick and possibly a second round choice, but it was too late, the Rams had already settled on a deal with Washington. Cleveland will now have to look elsewhere to find a Quarterback or stick with current starter Colt McCoy. The deal between St. Louis and Washington will become official when the new league year starts on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 4 pm, EST.

It is a great move for both teams. For St. Louis, they will now have five first round and four second round draft picks over the next three years. They can now build around Sam Bradford and finally give him some weapons to utilize, while possibly finding some help and an eventual replacement for aging running back Steven Jackson and also improve a bad defense. For Washington, they can select Griffin III and finally add the right Quarterback to build the franchise around in the Mike Shanahan era, although it comes at a steep price.