If you're a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers or Cleveland Browns, chances are you're already scouring the Internet for updates on team needs and mock drafts. You've come to the right place.
Fans of many NFL franchises have just one thing to look forward to as we head into Week 11—the NFL draft. As the NFL landscape starts to unfold, so does the NFL draft picture. Which juniors will be foregoing their final year of eligibility for the draft remains a guessing game at this point, but a good idea can be developed by now. Same for the draft order, which is starting to take shape.
Let's kick off our offseason projections with an updated two-round mock draft and updated team needs. We call that one-stop-shopping.
Team Needs: QB, DE, OLB, RT, WR
It's all but certain that general manager Gene Smith will be let go at the end of the season. Whether that means the end of Mike Mularkey's run as head coach remains to be seen, but it's likely both will be looking for work after the NFL season ends. That leaves Jacksonville's offseason up in the air.
The team knows they have a few key areas to address. First off is quarterback, where former first-rounder Blaine Gabbert has woefully underperformed. The talent around him hasn't been great, but Gabbert has shown enough negatives in his own individual performance and skill set to warrant the team moving on at this point. It would also help to protect the new quarterback, which makes right tackle a top-five need for the front office.
Another big need is wide receiver. Smith tried to shore up this position in 2012, but his free-agent signing of Laurent Robinson and the trade up to draft Justin Blackmon both look like foolish moves so far. The Jaguars still have needs at the position and should look at receivers in the offseason.
The Pick: QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
Geno Smith isn't Andrew Luck. Or Robert Griffin III. He is pretty good though. Smith needs work—he won't come in to the NFL as a ready-made gunslinger, but he does compare well to Ryan Tannehill, who is playing pretty well in Miami.
Smith, like Tannehill, is raw, but smart enough to learn on the job and give the team an upgrade at the position while developing. If the talent level around Smith can be improved upon, he'll give the team their best chance to win in 2013 and in the future.
Team Needs: QB, DE, CB, LT, S
The Kansas City Chiefs face an offseason of uncertainty. This is the NFL's youngest team, but they're also looking at the possibility of a regime change. Both general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel could be on their way out of town. Who sits in the chair at the head of the table when the offseason starts will determine the direction the team takes.
The first two decisions will be what to do with Branden Albert and Glenn Dorsey. Albert is a free agent after this season, and the left tackle is having his best season in the Chiefs' zone-blocking scheme. If he can be re-signed, they should make it happen. Glenn Dorsey was placed on IR before Week 10, putting an end to his season. He's also up for free agency and will be a safe bet to leave town in search of a 4-3 defense.
The Pick: DE Star Lotulelei, Utah
So much can change between now and the draft, but if the Chiefs remain in a 3-4 defense, the pick of Lotulelei is the smart pick. Not that fans will care—a quarterback is wanted in Kansas City. But this is the right way to rebuild the defense.
Whether it's Pioli or someone else making the call on draft day, unless something major happens between now and April, the best pick for 2013 and the future would be to address the defensive line. Quarterbacks can be found outside the first round.
Team Needs: DT, OLB, S, WR, OT
Owner Jerry Richardson made waves when he fired general manager Marty Hurney midway through the season. Now it's up to Richardson to find the right person to run the front office. The first order of business for the new GM will be deciding on Ron Rivera's future as head coach.
Whether Rivera is back or not, the Panthers must address their defense. The team's attempts to get better at defensive tackle largely failed, making that a clear need in Round 1 of the 2013 draft. Hurney's 2012 first-rounder, Luke Kuechly, looks like a long-term starter at inside linebacker, but with Jon Beason's health and contract in question, the team could stand to get better on the outside.
With the way the offensive line has played this season, if a top offensive tackle is available when they come on the clock, it may be too sweet an offer to pass on.
The Pick: OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
It would be tempting to take a run at someone like Johnathan Hankins (Ohio State) here, but Luke Joeckel is clearly the best player on the board and he also fits a need. Joeckel could either play right tackle until Jordan Gross is gone, or he could step in immediately on the left side and move Gross to the right side. Either way, a weakness on the team becomes a strength in a hurry.
How about that defensive tackle position, though? The Panthers would need to double-back around and make this a priority in Round 2.
Team Needs: WR, OLB, CB, OG, QB
The teams all slated to pick at the top of the draft have one thing in common—uncertainty at the top of the franchise. The Cleveland Browns are no different, as there is a good chance new owner Jimmy Haslam and new team president Joe Banner clean house after the season.
No matter who is calling the shots, the Cleveland Browns have a nice talent base in place, but the new lead men must decide whether or not Brandon Weeden is the answer at quarterback. If team leadership believes in Weeden, the team will be free to address other needs in the first round. If Weeden isn't their guy, the team's first pick could easily be spent on a quarterback instead of other needs.
The Pick: OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Let's assume for the time being that the Browns keep Weeden as the starter. This frees them up to go after my No. 1 player in the draft, outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.
Jones will see many comparisons to Von Miller, and while he isn't as explosive as Miller, Jones can be a similar presence in a 4-3 defense as a strong-side linebacker. He'll be an effective pass rusher on third downs and also a good run defender on the edge.
For a team with so many needs, the Browns can afford to sit back and draft the best player available. That's Jones.
Team Needs: QB, DE, WR, RT, OLB
General manager Buddy Nix has said he wants to draft a quarterback this offseason. While the team has other needs, expect drafting a quarterback to lead the talk through the spring.
Other than drafting a new QB, the Bills need to finish out their offensive line by adding a right tackle. Similarly, they need to finish out their defensive line by drafting a left defensive end. It wouldn't hurt to see the team add an outside linebacker at some point in the middle rounds too.
The Pick: QB Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
If Nix gets his way, Tyler Wilson will be the next quarterback of the Buffalo Bills. And that's not a bad thing.
Wilson will be questioned due to a lack of elite size (6'2", 220 pounds) and poor production in 2012, but he played a season without his head coach (Bobby Petrino) and with three of his top wide receivers gone to the NFL. Wilson's production gets a pass due to those circumstances.
What can't be questioned are Wilson's toughness and arm strength. He's fearless in the pocket and can deliver strikes all over the field. He's not running a fancy offense and putting up Madden numbers, but Wilson is as solid of a quarterback as this class knows.
Team Needs: QB, WR, RB, RT, OLB
The New York Jets are in a unique situation where they can draft at nearly any position and still fill a need. Such is the state of their roster.
There's a good chance general manager Mike Tannenbaum is looking for work after the season, and same for head coach Rex Ryan. But no matter if it's Mike or someone else calling shots in the Jets war room, the 2013 class should be a year dominated by best-player-available picks.
My personal draft philosophy is need plus value in harmony. The Jets can do this and fill their needs with players of high value. Like Barkevious Mingo.
The Pick: OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU
Mingo looks and feels like a Tannenbaum/Ryan guy. He's quick, athletic, versatile and hungry. If the team can develop Mingo the way they have Muhammad Wilkerson, it wouldn't be long before the Jets finally have a top-tier outside linebacker to round out their 3-4 defense.
Mingo isn't the highest rated player available at this point, but he's certainly in the mix as the highest rated need for the Jets.
Team Needs: DE, CB, OG, QB, ILB
Watching the Oakland Raiders play, it's pretty evident that this is a team with major needs on both sides of the ball. General manager Reggie McKenzie did the best he could with the empty cupboard of draft picks Al Davis left him. Now McKenzie has to hit on his high picks in the Raiders' 2013 draft.
The team will be tempted by quarterbacks, unless Terrelle Pryor is their guy for the future, but judging from the players still on the board here and the team's needs, waiting on a quarterback would be best. It's still a need, but more of a need outside the first round.
Defense should be the focus early in the draft for McKenzie as he helps to fill out Dennis Allen's depth chart on the team's weakest side of the ball.
The Pick: ILB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
Given this scenario in April, the Raiders would have an easy decision to make. While Chance Warmack, Taylor Lewan or Dee Milliner might be more clearly determined needs, Te'o is the best player on the board and could step in immediately in replacing Rolando McClain at the MIKE position.
Te'o is an ideal leader and one of the most athletic inside linebackers to enter the draft in a long time. His ability on first, second and third down will make him an instant star in the Raiders' 4-3 defense.
Team Needs: OG, CB, OLB, S, QB
Knowing where the Philadelphia Eagles will go in the first round is a bit of a toss-up right now. If Andy Reid is still head coach and head of personnel, he will make a major difference in the shaping of this roster.
The two biggest areas of need for the team are on the offensive line. It's very possible the team looks to replace right guard Danny Watkins with their first pick, but they could also go for an offensive tackle and move Todd Herremans inside. All of this of course assumes that Jason Peters is back healthy in 2013.
Quarterback could be viewed as a need, depending on whom is calling the shots in April. If Andy Reid is gone, the new coaching staff could be ready to move on from Michael Vick and Nick Foles, which means the position would be in play here at the No. 8 overall pick.
The Pick: OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
The problem with drafting a quarterback in the first round is that no player grades out here as a value. Instead, the Eagles should look at the highest player on the board. For me, that's guard Chance Warmack.
Warmack isn't just the best player available, he also fills a need in Philadelphia. Imagine the offensive line with Warmack inserted at right guard. The inside of the Eagles line would instantly be one of the strong points of the roster instead of a weakness.
Warmack isn't a sexy pick, but it is a smart selection that could bolster the line for the next decade.
Team Needs: OT, WR, DT, OLB, S
Les Snead has done an admirable job turning over the roster in St. Louis, and the team is vastly improved from the group he inherited last spring. The work is far from done, though.
When you're relying on Wayne Hunter and Barry Richardson at offensive tackle, it's time to upgrade the position. Even with Rodger Saffold back in Week 10, the Rams still need to look at improving the state of their offensive line with early picks.
Addressing the offensive line isn't their only need, and with two first-rounders the Rams will be able to move around and make plays for the best value. With at least one pick, however, they should look at the offensive line.
The Pick: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
He's not Luke Joeckel, but he's pretty darn close.
Taylor Lewan shouldn't be viewed as a consolation prize, Rams fans. This is a guy you want protecting Sam Bradford, I promise. Lewan isn't as smooth as Joeckel, but then again Joeckel isn't as mean as Lewan. If you want a tough left tackle who will knock defenders on their ass and then bulldoze his way to the second level, then Lewan is your guy. And if you're like me, that sounds a lot like a Jeff Fisher left tackle.
Team Needs: OT, WR, OT, OLB, S
See previous slide for team needs.
The Pick: OLB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Now that the Rams have addressed their left tackle need with pick No. 9, it's time to look at the defense and see where they can finish filling in holes. Some people may want a wide receiver here, but it would be foolish to reach for a receiver who isn't a strong value at No. 10 overall. A trade back makes more sense than a reach for a boom-or-bust position like receiver.
C.J. Mosley is a name you should get to know. The Alabama stud has the athletic ability to play both inside or outside linebacker in a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. He's versatile, tough and has a nose for the ball. His play inside the hashes will be a welcome addition in St. Louis, where Jeff Fisher is building a tough-nosed defense that loves to hit.
Team Needs: OG, DE, S, OG, WR
The Tennessee Titans are slowly rebuilding, and so far the majority of their draft picks have panned out. Many of the top players on this team—Jake Locker, Kendall Wright, Colin McCarthy, Akeem Ayers, Zach Brown, Mike Martin and Jurrell Casey—were drafted in the last two years. That's an impressive track record. Now it's time to plug gaps and move forward.
The biggest areas of concern in the 2013 offseason will be the offensive line—especially the interior—and adding a few more pieces on defense. If the front office can identify and secure another draft class like 2011 and 2012, they'll be in great shape for the future.
The Pick: DE Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
The Titans need help, badly, at offensive guard, but they just missed out on Chance Warmack. It's too early for Barrett Jones at this point, so instead they look to add a three-down pass-rusher opposite Kamerion Wimbley.
Moore may be a better fit in a 3-4 defense, but his ability to come off the ball and attack the backfield is impressive no matter where you line him up. As the NFL becomes more specialized, Moore will find a way to make an impact. And if the team finds that Wimbley is too rich for his production, they have a built-in replacement in Moore.
Team Needs: OT, OG, DE, OLB, WR
Everyone in the NFL—fans, coaches, writers, scouts—they all know that the Arizona Cardinals must address their offensive line in the offseason. Of course, we knew that last year too and the team patched holes with poor signings. This year it's time to get serious about building the offensive line from scratch. Fans should accept nothing less.
The Cardinals will be tempted to address the quarterback position, but Kevin Kolb actually played well before going down with injury. Imagine what he could have done behind a good offensive line.
After Round 1, look for Arizona to try and improve the pass rush and then focus on getting stronger on the O-line and adding depth at wide receiver.
The Pick: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Jake Matthews is a right tackle at Texas A&M, but their spread offense asks him to do a lot of the same things an NFL left tackle would do. If he can make the switch it is all about his athleticism, and when watching on film I see enough quickness and balance to play on either side.
Matthews could come in as a Day 1 starter on the left or right side. Ideally he'd team up with Levi Brown to give the team a competitive anchor on each side of the line.
Team Needs: S, DE, RB, OC, DT
A playoff team in 2011, the Cincinnati Bengals are close to competing on a yearly basis. After two years of very strong drafts, the Bengals aren't that far away from competing at a high level, but there are still some holes to fill.
Notably the team needs to round out the offensive line by adding a center and fill out the defensive line with a starting tackle and depth at defensive end.
If the young talent already in place continues to develop, the Bengals will be a competitor for a long time with another strong draft class coming in.
The Pick: DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
You all know by now that Geno Atkins is a monster in the middle of the Bengals defensive line. Now put Johnathan Hankins next to him. The Steelers, Ravens and Browns should be terrified of the possibility.
Defensive tackle may not be the team's biggest need, but it is a need and Hankins is an incredible value at pick No. 13. If he's on the board here, the Bengals should waste no time in sending the pick in.
Team Needs: OG, RT, S, WR, QB
Jerry Jones is an underrated general manager. There, I said it. Believe it or not, Jones has done a good job stocking the roster with talent. Picking head coaches hasn't been his strong suit, but adding players is. Jones will face a tough task in the 2013 draft, as he needs to fix the offensive line, shore up the defense and look at adding a young quarterback to develop.
Jones is never afraid to trade picks, and this might be the year to move back in the first round in an effort to pick up more selections. If there is a solid group of offensive linemen on the board when Dallas picks, look for them to slide back a spot or two in exchange for a late-round selection.
The Pick: OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
The Alabama right tackle has been up and down at times this season, but much more up than down against elite competition. Fluker played very well against both LSU and Texas A&M, showing the strength to be an anchor on the right side of an NFL offensive line.
A left tackle he is not, and probably will never be, but Fluker is big and strong enough to be a power run blocker on the strong side and an adequate pass protector with good upside to improve as he develops into an NFL offensive lineman.
Team Needs: OT, CB, DE, OLB, ILB
It's easy to look back on a draft class and point out where a team went wrong. For example, last draft the Lions should have found a way to draft a cornerback higher than they did. Hindsight is always 20/20, and it should give Detroit an indicator of where to begin the offseason.
The cornerback position is definitely the weakest spot on this team, but it's not the only hole. The team needs to get better at offensive tackle (even after drafting Riley Reiff last year). They also need to find DEs who can step up to replace Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch (both targets to be gone before next season).
The Lions have enough talent in place to be competitive, but they need a solid draft to become a serious playoff contender again.
The Pick: CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
Consider the Detroit Lions very lucky if Dee Milliner is still on the board for them. In this scenario, all the teams that need help at cornerback above Detroit had bigger needs elsewhere. The Lions would love to add the Alabama cornerback to the roster.
Milliner would be tabbed as a starter from the first snap, allowing the team to move their focus to the offensive line and other needs in subsequent rounds.
Team Needs: WR, CB, OT, TE, OG
The 2012 draft class that Jeff Ireland brought to Miami could be looked at as a turning point for this franchise. It also saved Ireland's job. With scouting for the 2013 class underway, Ireland should be burning up his frequent flyer miles looking at wideouts.
A decision has to be made on Jake Long at left tackle. If the team decides to move on from Long, look for offensive tackle to become the biggest need of the offseason. The Dolphins need another threat outside of Brian Hartline, whether it's through free agency or the draft. After that Ireland and Joe Philbin can start looking at adding talent to other position groups.
The Pick: WR Keenan Allen, Cal
This selection is based on the dangerous assumption that Jake Long is back with the team next season. As long as their All-Pro left tackle is still on the roster, Miami can move forward looking for help at WR in the first round.
Keenan Allen's season has been cut short by a knee injury, but his draft stock shouldn't take a hit from it. Allen's athleticism will wow scouts at the NFL Scouting Combine, as will his tape from Cal. The Bears used Allen as a quarterback, running back and receiver—something the Dolphins' offensive staff will find very similar to Jordy Nelson from their days in Green Bay.
Team Needs: DE, DT, OLB, CB, S
The New Orleans Saints are short one pick in 2013 thanks to their Bountygate punishment, but that won't deter Micky Loomis from addressing the team's major needs on defense.
Every pick from the Saints' 2013 class could conceivably be spent on the defensive side of the ball. In fact, it would be wise for Loomis and Sean Payton to spend the majority of their offseason scouting defenders and setting about a plan to add at least one defender at every position group through the draft.
The Pick: DE Dion Jordan, Oregon
Dion Jordan shouldn't be available here when the actual draft rolls around, but with the teams ahead all focusing on needs and value, Jordan is still sitting on the board for New Orleans. They'll gladly take him.
Jordan is tailor-made for Steve Spagnuolo's defense. He is big, fast, strong and, most importantly, versatile. Jordan can line up as a defensive end or outside linebacker, plus his lean frame could easily add 10-15 pounds of muscle. A lot like Jason Pierre-Paul in terms of raw athletic ability, Jordan's stock could soar once the Combine comes.
Team Needs: OT, TE, DE, NT, CB
The San Diego Chargers could be facing an offseason of front office turnover. Both general manager A.J. Smith and head coach Norv Turner are likely to be fired. The two have been in San Diego since 2007, but a change is past due.
The new front office will inherit a team with talent at quarterback and on defense, but with an offense that needs a major rebuild on the offensive line and an infusion of talent at the skill positions. No position will receive more attention than left tackle, where Jared Gaither's signing in the offseason remains a major bust due to injury.
Once the offensive line is addressed in Round 1, look for San Diego's new general manager to get younger at tight end and cornerback while keeping an eye on adding talent to the team's defensive line.
The Pick: OT Dallas Thomas, Tennessee
Dallas Thomas may be playing guard for Tennessee right now, but he's talented enough to play tackle or guard in the NFL. The Chargers would love to have this level of versatility right now.
Thomas projects best at RT, but in a pinch he could easily slide in and play on the left side. Depending on the blocking scheme employed next season, Thomas' run-blocking skills could be a major boost on the blind side of the line in San Diego.
Wherever they decide to line him up, there's no doubting that Thomas is a major upgrade for San Diego.
Team Needs: CB, DT, OLB, S, OT
Several years worth of solid drafting has reshaped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. These aren't your father's Bucs, and with another strong offseason Tampa will be in good position to compete for a playoff run.
Trading Aqib Talib and moving Ronde Barber to safety has brought a sense of urgency to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' depth at cornerback. Once the season is over, look for Mark Dominik to make a starting cornerback a priority.
Once the cornerback position is addressed, look for Dominik and Greg Schiano to start getting younger (and better) at offensive tackle and safety. They can also keep an eye on any falling outside linebackers and defensive tackles to add depth to a young front seven.
The Pick: CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
The Bucs need a starting cornerback. Period. With Dee Milliner off the board, they can turn their attention to the No. 2-ranked cornerback, Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks.
Banks has prototypical cornerback size, but quicker-than-average feet and a good ability to locate the ball in the air. He's not a turnover machine at the college level, but he'll be a heads-up cornerback in the NFL who can make plays on the ball and generate turnovers due to excellent timing and footwork.
Team Needs: WR, DT, DE, ILB, CB
The Minnesota Vikings are among the many talented teams in the NFL right now with good, young players poised to take off. That doesn't mean there aren't needs here.
The Minnesota front office should invest heavily in scouting wide receivers and defensive linemen in preparation for the 2013 NFL draft. The team will surely address one of the positions early on and likely look to fill out the other position in Round 2. If the Vikings can add a defensive tackle in Round 1, wide receiver in Round 2 and defensive end in Round 3, they'll be doing very well to start the 2013 draft.
The Pick: DT John Jenkins, Georgia
Wide receiver is a bigger need, but John Jenkins represents a better value at pick No. 20. Jenkins has the size to line up next to Kevin Williams and demand a double-team from the offense's guard-center duo, allowing Williams more room to operate in the gap and theoretically drawing attention away from Jared Allen on the edge.
Jenkins will also be a nice addition to the team's run defense. If the tackles are playing well, teams won't be able to shoot their blockers through the line to occupy the middle linebacker. Simply getting better up front at one position could change the dynamics of the entire defense.
Team Needs: DE, OT, DT, OLB, CB
It seems wrong to consider the defensive line an issue for the New York Giants, but despite three marquee defensive ends, the front four really isn't playing well. That could prompt Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin to dump or demote veterans in favor of younger, hungrier players.
Outside of defensive end, the Giants have to get better at offensive tackle. The team rolls through tackles each week, with little consistency. If they want to keep Eli Manning upright and playing lights-out, the protection off the edge has to improve.
Once the defensive end and offensive tackle positions are addressed, look for Reese to fill out the class with value picks at defensive tackle, outside linebacker and cornerback. All are areas of need, and few are as good as Reese at getting value in the middle-to-late rounds.
The Pick: DE Bjoern Werner, FSU
Keeping with the theme that the Giants' front four is underachieving, Jerry Reese would be wise to look at the Florida State defensive line. Bjoern Werner, in particular.
The Seminole pass-rusher has been on a tear over the last two seasons, showing both the skill set and production that warrant a first-round grade. Werner isn't done developing, either, so there's considerable upside to this selection for the future as he grows, matures and learns how to play the position.
Team Needs: WR, DT, RT, OG, RB
The Seattle Seahawks are quickly becoming the most unpredictable team on draft day. While it's tough to justify their selections at the time, the team's 2012 draft class is paying off early on. They need more of the same in 2013.
The biggest weakness on the team is at wide receiver. Even as guys like Golden Tate step up, Seattle's offense is still plagued by an inability to make big plays on the outside. If the front office sees a chance to get a playmaker at wide receiver, they should strike.
It seems like every year the Seahawks need to get better on the offensive line, and this year is no different. Look for the right side of the line to receive an upgrade through the draft.
The Pick: WR Justin Hunter, Tennessee
The Seahawks need a game-changer on the outside, and Justin Hunter is just that. His production has been slowed a bit early on in 2012, but Hunter still has the size and speed to be a starting wide receiver on the edge.
Given his big-play ability, Hunter would enter the lineup as a starter from the outset of training camp. Russell Wilson should be elated with this pick.
Team Needs: DE, NT, OLB, FS, SS
The youth movement in Pittsburgh continues into 2013, so expect the Steelers' draft to focus primarily on getting younger on defense.
With the majority of the team's starting defense over 30 years old, the front office and coaches must start looking for young players to move into those roles over the next few seasons. The biggest area of need in a blitz-based 3-4 defense is at outside linebacker, and replacing James Harrison in the next few years should be a focus.
Similarly, getting younger at both safety positions has to be a focus after both Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu have missed time with injuries.
With any remaining picks, the Steelers will need to make amends for the release of 2012 fourth-rounder NT Alameda Ta'amu and look at improving their defensive end play.
The Pick: DE/OLB Sam Montgomery, LSU
Sam Montgomery can't fix all the Steelers' needs on defense, but he can fill the biggest potential hole at outside linebacker opposite LaMarr Woodley.
Montgomery plays as the right end in the LSU defensive scheme, but he's generally lined up way outside the left tackle in a nine-technique—giving him an advantage when rushing off the edge. That's essentially what he would do in a 3-4 defense, and it's a big part of the reason why Pittsburgh should be interested in his services.
Team Needs: DT, OLB, ILB, CB, S
With Peyton Manning at quarterback and Von Miller at outside linebacker, anything is possible for the Denver Broncos. But the NFL is a team sport, and while the Broncos are playing out of their minds right now, there are still holes to fill on the overall roster.
John Elway's ability to run this team can't be questioned any longer—not after two strong offseasons—but it's this third offseason that could make or break the team. The Broncos' brass must identify the right players to fill key needs at defensive tackle, two linebacker positions and face the reality of an aging future Hall of Famer in Champ Bailey.
Defense will be the focus for Elway and John Fox this spring. Expect Denver to use its draft picks heavily on Fox's favorite side of the ball.
The Pick: DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
One key area of need for Denver since Elway took over the team has been at defensive tackle. Many thought the team might draft Marcell Dareus over Von Miller because of this need, but instead Fox has made do with the talent available. Getting more talent will make a big impact.
Richardson is a classic three-technique tackle who will make his money shooting through the guard-tackle gap and making plays on the backfield. Richardson has been a one-man wrecking crew on the Mizzou defensive line, showing off the pass-rushing skills and run-stuffing strength to be an instant impact in the NFL.
Team Needs: RB, CB, OC, DE, QB
It will be an interesting offseason in Green Bay.
Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy have several areas of need to address on the roster, and many of those could be shaped by free agency. What's important is maintaining a Packer-like mentality and focusing on need and value in each round.
The scouts in Green Bay should be tasked with focusing on getting better in the secondary and along the defensive line. While Casey Hayward has been amazing for the Packers, they need to continue to add youngsters who can step in and play right away in the secondary due to injury and age.
The offense will need a boost at running back, but that's not a first-round need or value in 2013. Also, don't be surprised to see the team use a late-round pick on adding another backup quarterback to challenge Graham Harrell behind Aaron Rodgers.
The Pick: CB/FS David Amerson, North Carolina State
David Amerson entered the season as a top-five player with unreal potential. Thirteen interceptions in 2011 put Amerson's stock at an almost impossible-to-match high. And he's not matched it, instead struggling at times in man coverage. Amerson's stock has fallen, but his playmaking skills will keep him in the late first-round area once the draft rolls around.
It's true that Tennessee and Miami (Fla.) both owned Amerson, but his range and playmaking ability show me that he can play free safety if he struggles early at cornerback. Amerson's ability to play either position, and that playmaking talent, makes him an intriguing add in the Packers secondary.
Team Needs: OLB, OG, NT, CB, ILB
You have to give it up for Ryan Grigson's first offseason in Indianapolis. The Colts' new general manager has likely earned himself an Executive of the Year award for the work he's done in taking the Colts from two wins in 2011 to at least six in 2012.
As good as Grigson has been, the Colts roster still needs a lot of help. That help will come through a 2013 draft class that should allow the team to focus on getting stronger, faster and younger on defense. Many of the Colts' selections in the upcoming draft should come from the defensive side of the ball, giving head coach Chuck Pagano the horses he needs to run his 3-4 defense.
The Pick: DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
As part of the team's transition to a 3-4 scheme, getting stronger up front on defense will be a requirement. Cory Redding has one defensive end spot held down, and rookie Josh Chapman has promising potential at the nose tackle position, but that other spot on the line is a question mark.
Sylvester Williams has the strength to play as a five-technique in the Colts' 3-4 scheme, and like so many defensive ends being drafted for the scheme these days, he's also quick enough to penetrate the backfield and make plays on the ball. Williams won't just plug a gap or two, he'll attack the quarterback on passing downs.
Team Needs: CB, S, WR, OC, CB
If you've watched the New England Patriots play this year, you've noticed that their defense is a bit weak. The front seven has been much improved thanks to 2012 first-rounders Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones, but sweeping changes could be coming in the secondary.
That will be Bill Belichick's first order of business in the 2013 draft. Once he's added a key player to the secondary, look for New England's head man to start addressing age at center and free agents at wide receiver.
If Belichick can walk out of the 2013 draft with a new safety, one new cornerback, a new wide receiver and a center, the team could very well have made the necessary additions to remain competitive over the next five seasons.
The Pick: SS Matt Elam, Florida
Since the retirement of Rodney Harrison, the New England secondary has lacked an imposing force at the safety position. Someone with the power to drill receivers coming over the middle, but also the heads-up ability to create and force turnovers. If anything, that's what this team is missing most.
Matt Elam can be that guy. The big-hitting Florida safety has game-changing range and impact, especially when he zeroes in on a receiver or tight end over the middle. Elam has had a brilliant season, and his draft value fits perfectly with the Patriots' need for the position.
Team Needs: CB, FS, NT, DE, OLB
The San Francisco 49ers are a tough team to evaluate when it comes to postseason additions. In the 2012 offseason, the team drafted exclusively for the future, choosing to build the top-level of the depth chart through free agency while opting to sit the rookies in what's amounted to a redshirt year.
That won't be the case again this year.
The 49ers have needs, and a surprising number of them come on defense. Jim Harbaugh has one of the best defenses in the NFL, but he also needs to continue to add and turn over the talent there. An offense that features a dominant offensive line, great depth at running back and wide receiver and two viable quarterbacks needs little help. The defense, however, needs some re-tooling.
The Pick: CB/FS Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
There are some who love Dashon Goldson's ability at free safety, but I happen to think he's a bit overrated due to a big year of interceptions in 2011. Goldson is the weak link in the 49ers secondary, and with his contract expiring after this year, the 49ers could wisely use that money to look into keeping Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman together.
Goldson can be replaced, and Kenny Vaccaro could even be an upgrade. The Texas safety can play free or strong safety, and he's even played a ton of slot cornerback against spread offenses. Vaccaro's flexibility in the scheme, plus his playmaking skills, would make this rookie a starter in Vic Fangio's defense.
Team Needs: ILB, OT, S, OLB, DE
Getting younger on defense will be the theme of the Baltimore Ravens' offseason, and general manager Ozzie Newsome will face the potential reality of replacing two future Hall of Famers in one offseason.
With the future in doubt for both Ray Lewis and Ed Reed's careers, Newsome must act now to find young players who can step into the huge shadow created by the two superstar defenders. While no player can expect to truly replace Lewis and Reed, at least finding competent starters on the two positions has to be a focal point.
Once Newsome moves on from the enormous task of drafting an inside linebacker and free safety, look for the Ravens' draft to focus on the offensive line, defensive end and outside linebacker. The Ravens have good talent at defensive end and outside linebacker, but it's never too early to add pass-rushers.
The Pick: FS Eric Reid, LSU
Eric Reid will have the unfortunate task of attempting to replace Ed Reed. From one Reed to another Reid, the Ravens secondary will flow from one playmaker to another. While the LSU Reid isn't quite the athletic specimen Reed was, he shows similar speed and tackling ability.
What Baltimore will miss most are Reed's instincts, and unfortunately for them that's not something Reid can be taught.
Team Needs: OT, OG, OLB, S, TE
The Chicago Bears have an annual need along their offensive line. And they will until the front office makes a concentrated effort to improve the play of the line. From left tackle all the way to right guard, upgrades are needed.
New general manager Phil Emery had a solid draft in 2012, but he needs to hit this one out of the park by adding to the offensive line at least twice and also focusing on upgrading the talent at tight end, safety and outside linebacker. Oh, and if there's time, he should look into an inside linebacker to groom behind Brian Urlacher.
The Pick: OG Barrett Jones, Alabama
Barrett Jones can't replace Brian Urlacher, and he can't play left tackle, but he can open up huge holes in the run game from the guard or center spots on the offensive line.
Jones will leave Alabama as one of the most decorated offensive linemen in recent memory, and NFL teams will take notice of his versatility along the offensive line, his intellect from the center position this season and his overall strength at the point of attack.
If you need help on the interior of your offensive line, few players are safer or more NFL-ready than Jones.
Team Needs: DE, OT, RB, OLB, OG
For an 8-1 team, the Atlanta Falcons sure do have plenty of needs.
General manager Thomas Dimitroff has built a complete team, but the Falcons are also relying on plenty of aging starters and a patchwork offensive line. If Dimitroff can get the team younger at tight end and defensive end and better on the offensive line, the offseason will be a success.
With Tony Gonzalez, John Abraham and Michael Turner all questionable to return next season, free agency could be considered an option for the team, but as a disciple of Bill Belichick, Dimitroff is more likely to address these needs through the draft.
The Pick: DE Alex Okafor, Texas
Alex Okafor would bring to Atlanta something the Falcons defense sorely lacks: a dynamic defensive end under 30 years old.
As John Abraham nears retirement, finding a young player who can crash the edge off the right side of the defense takes priority. It's even showing up this year as the Falcons struggle to rush the quarterback and shut down high-octane offenses.
Okafor would give Atlanta a speedy edge rusher who can start terrorizing Drew Brees, Josh Freeman and Cam Newton in the NFC South.
Team Needs: WR, DE, NT, CB, S
The Houston Texans front office has done a wonderful job building a strong defense and a brutal running game that can carry the team to victory most weeks. One area where the team needs to get younger—and just flat-out better—is at wide receiver.
Andre Johnson is no longer able to scare defenses on his own. DeVier Posey has yet to make an impact in his rookie season. It's time for the Texans to invest heavily in the position. That could come as early as the first round of the 2013 draft.
Other areas of need include the defensive line, where depth and talent are needed, and also in the secondary where upgrades at No. 2 cornerback and both safety spots are possible.
The Pick: WR Robert Woods, USC
If any player is poised for a draft day "fall," Robert Woods looks like that player.
USC's marquee wide receiver is a solid prospect, but he's also plagued with questions about how well he'll transition to an NFL offense. Woods isn't exceptionally big or fast, but one thing he can do is catch the football. Woods is also a very good route-runner who has the change-of-direction skills to run himself open against man coverage.
Good routes and good hands are usually an indicator of a good NFL receiver. That's what Houston needs.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars - WR Terrance Williams, Baylor
2. Kansas City Chiefs - QB Matt Barkley, USC
3. Carolina Panthers - DT Jesse Williams, Alabama
4. Cleveland Browns - Forfeited (supplemental draft)
5. Buffalo Bills - DE Margus Hunt, SMU
6. New York Jets - QB E.J. Manuel, FSU
7. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) - CB Jordan Poyer, Oregon State
8. Philadelphia Eagles - CB Xavier Rhodes, FSU
9. Washington Redskins - ILB Kevin Minter, LSU
10. St. Louis Rams - WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
11. Tennessee Titans - OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
12. Arizona Cardinals - DE/OLB Corey Lemonier, Auburn
13. Cincinnati Bengals - FS T.J. McDonald, USC
14. Dallas Cowboys - FS Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
15. Detroit Lions - OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
16. Miami Dolphins - TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
17. New Orleans Saints - Forfeited by NFL
18. San Diego Chargers - DE Sharrif Floyd, Florida
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - DE John Simon, Ohio State
20. Minnesota Vikings - WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
21. New York Giants - OT Brennan Williams, North Carolina
22. Seattle Seahawks - OLB Chase Thomas, Stanford
23. Pittsburgh Steelers - FS D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina
24. Denver Broncos - DE Michael Buchanan, Illinois
25. Green Bay Packers - RB Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State
26. Miami Dolphins (from Indianapolis) - DE Cornelius Carradine, FSU
27. New England Patriots - CB Terry Hawthorne, Illinois
28. San Francisco 49ers - DT Kawann Short, Purdue
29. Baltimore Ravens - ILB Arthur Brown, Kansas State
30. Chicago Bears - OT Cyril Richardson, Baylor
31. Atlanta Falcons - RB Eddie Lacy, Alabama
32. Houston Texans - DE Datone Jones, UCLA