The Pro Bowl is coming up soon signifying the end of the 2008 football season. Once the best athletes from the NFL finish up their Mojito's and leave the beaches the off season will be in full swing.
Many franchises have already made major changes, particularly with coaching and management. The Broncos, Lions, Raiders, Rams, and Chiefs have made major changes amongst others. At this point in time each NFL franchise has to evaluate what they have and what they will need to win in the upcoming season. It appears this year that the list of teams looking to improve even includes the Lions this year.
The Vikings hit it big a few years ago with the drafting of Adrian Peterson and have been a force both running the ball and stopping the run. Anchoring the top defensive line in the country are the Williams boys and stud defensive end Jared Allen. The Vikes have some good pieces but still have a few glaring holes in their roster.
- Quarterback - I doubt there are too many Frerotte or Jackson fans left these days. A franchise signal caller would make a HUGE impact on the Vikings offense and is the No. 1 need currently.
- Coaching - Brad Childress is a suspect coach at best and is being carried by a team with a considerable amount of talent. No change will be made this year but another season that falls below expectations will likely cause change. Wins cure all.
- Offensive Tackle - A new right tackle would be a significant addition to the team. A solid run game and time to throw can make a rookie or average quarterback look good. Some youthful depth would be wise as well.
- Wide Receiver - A lesser need but an upgrade could certainly help. They have seen some decent receivers but not the top talent like they had in Moss.
- Defensive Back - The secondary would benefit from some young talent and depth. They are not bad but they certainly have room to improve. Age will catch up with them soon as well. Now is the perfect time to pick up a prospect or two in the draft to groom.
- Linebackers - The Vikes could use more talent in the line backing core. The current starters,although not bad, benefit from the stellar line play. Some youth, depth, or a top quality player would be a good investment.
How to fix the problems?
- Draft a Quarterback. Either trade up for Stafford or Sanchez or get a kid like Josh Freeman with your first pick. It is the biggest need and needs to be addressed this off season. The team is ready to take the next step with just one or two tweaks, make them.
- Grab a guy like Tra Thomas or Jon Runyan in FA. They stil have a few good years left and should be reasonably priced.
- Childress will not make any significant coaching changes and will be in place unless the team has a significant falter this year.
- A play maker style receiver would be the goal. A big target or someone that runs well. This is a late round draft pick up or a Free Agent. A late round draft pick is the best option. Plug in a quick small guy at the No. 3 spot that can get yards after the catch.
- Youth is the key here. I think this is a mid-late round draft pick up that can be developed and be used as a backup for now unless you get lucky and find a starter.
- More youth and talent in the line backing core would be very beneficial. A mid round pickup like Jason Phillips or Tyrone McKenzie could provide a boost and add depth.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers are interesting this off season largely due to their defensive change in philosophy. Lining up in a 3-4 requires different players than what they have. They may be able to due some minor moves in Free Agency but don't expect the big signing. Defensively they need some youth and depth as well as personnel to fit the scheme. Offensively they need some line depth and some talent at the skill positions.
- Nose Tackle - The switch to the 3-4 defense this off season requires a NT to plug up the middle.
- Running Back - A consistent and talented running back has been missed for many years in Lambeau. A quality back could flourish in GB.
- Line Backers - The 3-4 also will put stress on the line backing core. They will need to add more backers, particularly OLB type players.
- Secondary - The secondary is getting older and may lose Al Harris. A CB should be added to bolster the defense.
- Offensive Line - Depth is needed and the possible loss of Tauscher is a concern.
Note: I removed wide receiver, as it is not a "need". It could help but is not a true need or problem and therefore does not fit the context of this article. Thank you Packers fans for the feedback!
How to fix the problems?
- Draft BJ Raji. He is likely to be there at No. 9 and is a great fit. If not, then trade up. There are only a few prospects this year that can play the NT position and nothing special in FA.
- Look for a guy like Shonn Greene or LeSean McCoy in the second or wait and take James Davis or Rashad Jennings later.
- Look at mid round and late round LB prospects like Connor Barwin, Daniel Holtzclaw, or Mortty Ivy.
- Again, mid to late round prospects should be considered. You could also try for a CB in Free Agency, there are a few good ones. Chris Gamble may be a good fit.
- I think looking to FA for depth and adding a late round tackle to develop would be good enough.
The Bears had a rough year but still have some nice pieces in place. Offensively they did well with Matt Forte and defensively they played below their apparent ability.
- Wide Receiver - The Bears need a true No. 1 receiver. A real threat that defenses have to be concerned with. Someone that can allow Hester to be a No. 3 and continue to return kicks.
- Defensive End - Although they may rebound the Bears had a real down year rushing the passer. It is too vital in the Tampa Two to ignore.
- Secondary - A quality corner back or safety in the mix would be a welcome addition.
- Youth and Depth - Across the board Chicago is lacking in youth and depth so filling in young talent along both lines should be a priority this off season.
How to fix the problems?
- Draft a Wide Out in the first round. Kenny Britt and Hakeem Nicks are probably the best fits. Nicks in particular has the attributes you need. Big, strong, and fast. He has incredible hands as well.
- Use the second round to find a pass rusher. You just need someone with some speed off the edge for passing downs. Take an OLB/DE prospect with speed and train him.
- The third round of the draft will be a good round for secondary players. You can also find one in FA if necessary.
- Use the late round picks to inject youth into the front seven on defense and the offensive line. Stay away from Marinelli guys though.
Where to start? The Lions have the most holes of any team in the NFL. They already filled the biggest ones by getting a new GM and new coaches. The kicking game is strong and a few players, namely Ernie Sims, DeWayne White, Cory Redding, Kevin Smith, Calvin Johnson, and Gosder Cherilus are starting caliber players that should be built around. Problem is that is 6 out of 22.
- Middle Line Backer - The Lions were the worst team in football stopping the run and a stud in the middle is needed to stop the bleeding.
- Franchise QB - Although I think they should wait on this, they will eventually need to find their QB for the future. It is a glaring hole.
- Defensive Tackle - Since the departure of Shaun "I only play every six downs" Rogers the Lions have not been able to hold the middle together. A beast up front is needed so Redding can slide back to the under tackle position.
- Defensive End - Although Avril looked like he may develop into a solid player a speed rusher off the edge is still a big question mark.
- Corner Back - A talented CB is needed. Bodden may be gone and the rest of the guys are backups.
- Offensive Line - Although still a big need, the defense is much worse. One top quality lineman is needed and a guard should be brought in as well. Depth is not great.
- Strong Side Line Backer - A starting caliber player is needed. Send Lenon packing, please.
- Kick Return Man/Wide Receiver - Someone who can use his feet to get yards. A fast guy that can stretch the field and gain yards after the catch. This would help Johnson get less pressure.
How to fix the problems?
- Free Agency will offer some possible fits. Mike Petersen should be looked at. With any luck though you can get a guy in the draft with the No. 20 and/or No. 33 picks. At least one of the LB positions needs to be addressed in the first three picks.
- I think the Lions should resign Orlovsky and let him and Stanton have a shot. You may see Culpepper back again as well. Set the team up and get your franchise QB next year in a better QB draft.
- I think the third round will be the spot. Sammie Lee Hill and Terrence Taylor should be looked at very seriously in the third.
- Defensive End - I believe a solid DE prospect will be available in the second round. Unless you can trade down the first pick, you should be looking at Krueger or even Michael Johnson at No. 33. If you can trade down then Brian Orakpo or Everette Brown can be looked at. The No. 20 pick will determine things if you cannot trade down.
- A corner back in the third or fifth round and a Free Agent should be considered. Dunta Robinson or Nnamdi Asomugha should be brought in along with a pick. Darius Butler, Kevin Barnes, and Asher Allen may be available from the third round on.
- I think if the Lions cannot trade down then an LT is the pick. Andre Smith is still the best bet. This would make a big difference up front and make a solid improvement to the pass and run game. I have this need at No. 6 because they could get by with less, the line is mediocre, the defense is terrible.
- Although it is a major need, with other needs taken care of it could be taken care of later. Ideally, Brian Cushing or Clint Sintim end up here, if not then Bart Scott should be signed if possible. Either the draft or FA can address this need so it should be filled. A good SLB would make a big difference on the defense.
- The Lions need another offensive playmaker. This could be a return specialist who is the No. 3 receiver or a No. 2 receiver that can also return kicks. Either way, the attention off of Calvin and the improvement in field position would go a long way toward improving this team. I think this is a draft pick up in the later rounds. Brandon Tate comes to mind.
The next addition will focus on the NFC South.
My draft predictions can be found here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/117803-2009-nfl-mock-draft-january-30-2008
My late round sleepers can be found here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/116231-2009-draft-sleepers