2012 NFL Draft Order: Which Top-10 Teams Must Target Defensive Stars?

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2012

LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 16:   London Fletcher #59 of the Washington Redskins reacts after a play against the Philadelphia Eagles during a game at FedExField on October 16, 2011 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The 2012 NFL Draft will feature a lot of offensive players selected early, but several teams inside the top 10 will need to buck that trend and focus on defense instead.

Even though defensive players don't usually receive as much hype leading up to draft day, they are just as important to building a championship team as their offensive counterparts.

With that in mind, here are three teams that should upgrade on 'D' in the first round.


No. 6 Washington Redskins

OXFORD, MS - NOVEMBER 19: Morris Claiborne #17 of the LSU Tigers looks on against the Ole Miss Rebels on November 19, 2011 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. LSU beat Mississippi 52-3. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

While the Redskins would love to acquire either Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III with their first pick, it doesn't seem like a plausible scenario right now. Their quarterback play was brutal virtually all season long, but that position will need to be upgraded through free agency or later in the draft.

So the team's first pick should be used to find a playmaker who can make an immediate impact in the secondary. Washington intercepted just 13 passes this season, and that's simply not enough to make up for a poor offense.

Morris Claiborne of LSU would be the best option, with Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick serving as a rock-solid backup plan. Both players had a boatload of success at the college level and shouldn't have much trouble making the NFL transition.


No. 8 Carolina Panthers

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 12:  Devon Still #71 of the Penn State Nittany Lions celebrates after sacking Taylor Martinez #3 (not pictured) of the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the game on November 12, 2011 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Panthers used their first pick last season to select Cam Newton. He went on to revolutionize the team's offense despite a lack of weapons outside of Steve Smith. They can only hope to hit a similar home run on defense in this year's draft.

One of the main reasons Newton was able to put up such gaudy stats was the team's porous defense. It's a unit that allowed 27 points and 378 yards per game, both numbers which ranked near the bottom of the league. In other words, reinforcements are necessary.

Right now the most likely candidate appears to be Devon Still. The Penn State defensive tackle, who has watched his stock skyrocket over the past couple months, would be a huge addition to help stop the opponent's running game.


No. 10 Buffalo Bills

BLACKSBURG, VIRGINIA - NOVEMBER 17:  Quarterback Logan Thomas #3 of the Virginia Tech Hokies is tackled by defensive end Quinton Coples #90 of the North Carolina Tar Heels at Lane Stadium on November 17, 2011 in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Geoff Burke
Geoff Burke/Getty Images

After a strong start to the season, Buffalo's defense fell apart down the stretch. The Bills stopped forcing turnovers, allowing the unit's many flaws to be exposed. Fixing those holes is the first step to ending the team's playoff-less drought, which is currently the longest in the NFL.

Getting more pressure on the quarterback is the team's top priority. The Bills were one of just six teams that finished the season with less than 30 sacks. Even more concerning is the fact no single player recorded at least six sacks.

The versatile Quinton Coples would seem like a perfect fit, especially since it's unclear what direction Buffalo will head under new defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt. Coples has proven he can get after the QB, and that's all Buffalo should care about at this point.

Full list of picks courtesy CBS Sports.