The Prize Target for Every Team in the 2013 NFL Draft
This article focuses on a position/player who would help each team the most. The prize target for each team doesn't necessarily have to come in the first round. There are several teams who would benefit from waiting until later rounds to address the most important needs.
However, the majority of teams will meet their most pressing need in the first round. Finding the right balance is typically the key to a successful draft.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs need to address their quarterback situation at some point during the upcoming draft. This situation is a little difficult because they need to decide what round to address this need. Kansas City could use the No. 1 overall pick to select someone like West Virginia's Geno Smith.
Smith is by far the most talented and NFL-ready quarterback in this draft. He has the strong arm, sound technique and mental makeup needed to succeed. However, questions about his ability to read a defense and anticipate his throws make him a stretch for the No. 1 pick.
This could force the Chiefs to look at second-round prospects like USC's Matt Barkley, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson, Syracuse's Ryan Nassib and NC State's Mike Glennon. It's even possible they wait until the third or fourth round and take a look at Tennessee's Tyler Bray.
Pulling the trigger on Smith is the most logical solution. He may be more of a mid-first-round prospect, but the value of the position is high enough to push him to the top spot. There's just too many question marks surrounding the other quarterbacks in this draft to risk not filling this need.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are in desperate need of someone with the ability to consistently generate pressure on the quarterback. Luckily, the No. 2 pick gives them a chance to add the top pass-rusher on their board. It's hard to imagine a scenario where Georgia's Jarvis Jones isn't in the running.
Jones is a linebacker prospect who can create pressure with both his speed and power. He consistently got the job done against the top competition in the SEC. Jones isn't just a pass-rusher, as he has quietly developed into a solid all-around linebacker.
Another strong possibility for the Jaguars would be to select Texas A&M's Damontre Moore. His length, nonstop motor and athleticism give him the ability to get after the quarterback.
Jacksonville could also address this need in the later rounds by looking at someone like Florida International's Tourek Williams or Auburn's Corey Lemonier.
The Oakland Raiders are missing that signature player who makes impact plays week in and week out. This player is absent on both sides of the ball, so they could go in any number of directions with this pick. However, finding a long-term solution at the quarterback position would make a ton of sense.
West Virginia's Geno Smith would be an excellent fit if the Kansas City Chiefs decide to go in a different direction with the No. 1 pick. Smith is a well-rounded football player with the mental makeup to navigate a rebuilding process.
Adding Smith would also give the Raiders an opportunity to trade Carson Palmer. He won't bring back the top-end picks the Raiders gave up, but all draft picks are valuable for a rebuilding franchise.
Here's a trade that makes some real sense: The Raiders trade Palmer to the New York Jets for Mark Sanchez and a second-round pick. Sanchez could then begin the season as the Raiders starter, giving Smith some time to get comfortable.
Target: Offensive tackle
Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel would immediately solve the Philadelphia Eagles' issues along the offensive line. He possesses the skill set needed to start at the left tackle position from day one. His combination of balance and athleticism make him a top-notch pass-protector.
Philadelphia still has Jason Peters on the roster, but he hasn't played a full 16-game schedule since 2006. The left tackle position is too important to count on an injury-prone player as the starter.
As the Eagles found out this past season, it doesn't matter who's playing quarterback if you can't protect him. Not even Chip Kelly's offense will work with a patchwork offensive line.
The Detroit Lions don't have a single cornerback on the roster capable of consistently winning one-on-one battles. Alabama's Dee Milliner boasts the talent needed to successfully defend each opponent's top playmaker.
Milliner is a bigger cornerback who features good speed and fluid movements. He isn't afraid to get physical at the line of scrimmage, which helps him disrupt the timing of the offense. Milliner also does a great job getting his head around to track the football.
Detroit could look to address its cornerback problem in the later rounds, but it wouldn't solve the need for an elite talent at the position.
If they pass on Milliner, a pass-rusher like Florida State's Bjoern Werner or Texas A&M's Damontre Moore would get heavy consideration.
Target: Pass-rushing linebacker
The Cleveland Browns' decision to hire Ray Horton as defensive coordinator means the team will play more of a 3-4 alignment. Cleveland's current roster lacks an ideal candidate to play the rush-outside linebacker spot. This draft features several players that fit that mold, including LSU's Barkevious Mingo.
Mingo is an exceptional athlete with the quickness and closing burst needed to generate pressure on the quarterback. He and Georgia's Jarvis Jones would be the ideal candidates for the Browns' first-round pick.
However, they could also address this need in the later rounds. Fresno State's Tristan Okpalaugo would be a great addition in the third or fourth round. Okpalaugo is a little raw, but boasts excellent length and quickness off the edge.
Unless Geno Smith falls to this spot, the Arizona Cardinals will need to address their quarterback issue in another round. This year's draft features several talented quarterbacks who would make sense in the second round. NC State's Mike Glennon boasts the big arm needed to fit Bruce Arians' offensive game plan.
Targeting Glennon in the second round would also allow the Cardinals to address their offensive line issues in the first. Central Michigan's Eric Fisher used a great Senior Bowl performance to significantly raise his draft stock.
It's important to note that reaching for a quarterback in the first round won't solve the team's problems, as it would only result in a wasted pick.
Landing both Fisher and Glennon would give the Cardinals two starters at two of the most important positions on the field.
New head coach Doug Marrone knows that the Buffalo Bills' upper management wants to target a quarterback at some point in the upcoming draft. He needs to make sure the decision-makers don't reach for someone in the first round. The way he could do that is by lobbying for his former college quarterback, Ryan Nassib.
Both Marrone and Nassib enjoyed success at Syracuse and would make a nice team in Buffalo. However, this reunion only makes sense if they select Nassib in the second round.
The familiarity between these two should pay immediate dividends. We saw how that helped Ryan Tannehill this past season. He was able to win the starting quarterback job in large part because he was familiar with Mike Sherman's offense.
New York Jets
The New York Jets are another team who needs to look at selecting a quarterback early in the upcoming draft. They can't afford to go another season without someone to legitimately push Mark Sanchez for the starting job. The issue is that USC's Matt Barkley is the most NFL-ready quarterback in this draft, outside of Geno Smith.
It's tough to imagine the Jets targeting another former USC quarterback, but he'd be the best fit. New York must find a way to overlook the USC connection and pick the player that makes the most sense.
Barkley shouldn't be in play at pick No. 9, but would represent great value in the second round. He's a smart player who boasts the experience and mental makeup to make an immediate impact. Barkley doesn't have the upside of the other quarterbacks in this draft, but his high floor makes him a very safe pick.
The Tennessee Titans inked Kamerion Wimbley to a big-money contract with the hope he'd increase the team's pass rush. However, he didn't have the impact they expected and finished the season with only six sacks. This is why someone like Florida State's Bjoern Werner will be on the Titans' radar.
Werner has a knack for getting pressure on the quarterback. He uses his quickness off the ball and balance to get the edge. His ability to dip his shoulder and flatten out gives him a nearly unstoppable move.
The addition of Werner would allow the Titans to look into Wimbley's contract to see if they can cut ties. Salary cap concerns always play an important role in the NFL.
San Diego Chargers
Target: Offensive line
Philip Rivers has struggled the past two seasons thanks in large part to issues along the offensive line. Rivers doesn't possesses the athleticism needed to move in the pocket and overcome pressure. An offensive tackle like Central Michigan's Eric Fisher should be the San Diego Chargers' No. 1 target.
Fisher is a good athlete who features the balance, fluidity and quick feet needed to protect the quarterback. There's no doubt that he'll be an immediate upgrade over last year's starters Michael Harris and Jared Gaither.
If Fisher is off the board, Alabama's Chance Warmack would also make sense. The guard position isn't as valuable as left tackle, but Warmack has the potential to be one of the top players at that position.
Target: Wide receiver
This year's draft class features a good amount of second-round receiver prospects. Because of this fact, the Miami Dolphins could wait to address their biggest need. Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton, West Virginia's Stedman Bailey and USC's Robert Woods are three players the Dolphins could target.
Because of the trade of Vontae Davis, Miami holds two second-round picks. They could realistically use both of those picks to add talent to the wide receiver position. Using this strategy also allows Miami to address another need in the first round.
The only wide receiver that makes any sense at pick No. 12 is Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson. He's an explosive playmaker with tons of potential, but he also needs time to develop. Miami could find a more NFL-ready wide receiver in the second round.
Finding a more polished player is important because the Dolphins need to be mindful of Ryan Tannehill's development. A smart and experienced receiver like Robert Woods would really help Tannehill stay on the right path.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are another team that could benefit from this draft's depth at a specific position. They really need to increase the talent at the cornerback position, and there's a ton of second or third-round prospects that could help.
Oregon State's Jordan Poyer, Washington's Desmond Trufant and Boise State's Jamar Taylor are all solid options. These three are good athletes and fierce competitors. They would be great fits for Greg Schiano's hard-nosed style of play.
Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks is really the only cornerback option at the 13th pick. He would also be a great fit in Tampa Bay, but selecting him at this spot doesn't really maximize the value of the pick.
Tampa Bay should wait until the later rounds to add a cornerback and use this pick to select the best player available.
Target: Interior defensive lineman
The middle of the Carolina Panthers' defensive line doesn't feature a lot of talent. They mainly have rotational guys and lack a real difference-maker. North Carolina's Sylvester Williams is a versatile defender who can both stuff the run and penetrate the pocket.
This type of versatility is very valuable to a team that needs both a space-eater and penetrator at the defensive tackle spot.
Adding Williams will also help Luke Kuechly continue to make plays from sideline to sideline.
New Orleans Saints
Target: Pieces to fit the team's new 3-4 defense
Sean Payton decided to cut ties with Steve Spagnuolo and the 4-3 defense. The team is still searching for a defensive coordinator, but Payton is committed to making the switch to a 3-4 alignment. This means the New Orleans Saints will need to target players to fit this system.
The toughest position to fill in this system is the nose tackle spot. There just aren't a ton of player who have the size and strength to play the position. Fortunately, this draft features two nose tackle prospects in Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins and Georgia's John Jenkins.
Both players do a great job occupying blockers and holding at the point of attack. Their ability to play a two-gap role helps the linebackers cleanly flow to the football. The Saints couldn't go wrong with either prospects.
Jenkins' good showing at the Senior Bowl gives him the early lead on Hankins.
St. Louis Rams
Target: Wide receiver
The St. Louis Rams own two first-round picks and can fill their need at the wide receiver position with either pick. Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson would give St. Louis the explosive playmaker the offense desperately needs. His ability to take the top off a defense will really help Sam Bradford take the next step in his development.
Patterson is a little raw, but his big-play ability will allow him to make an immediate impact. This isn't just a speed player, as Patterson also runs clean routes and can go up and attack the ball at its highest point.
Outside of landing a playmaking wide receiver, the Rams also need to address the offensive line. Oklahoma's Lane Johnson would be a great addition with either of St. Louis' first-round picks.
Target: Nose tackle
There are several reports that the Pittsburgh Steelers plan to cut ties with long-time nose tackle Casey Hampton. This decision will leave a major hole in the middle of Pittsburgh's defense. Addressing this hole with Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins would be a great situation for the Steelers.
Hankins is a massive defender who excels at plugging the middle of the defense. He uses his thick lower half to occupy blockers, which allows the linebackers to flow to the football.
Pittsburgh needs to start getting younger on the defensive side of the ball. Replacing Hampton with Hankins would be a great start to the process.
Target: Three-technique defensive tackle
I'm still having trouble understanding the Dallas Cowboys' decision to switch from a 3-4 system to Monte Kiffin's 4-3 defense. This move creates more than a few needs on the defensive side of the ball. Kiffin's system requires a penetrating defensive tackle at the three-technique spot. There isn't a player on the current roster that fits that role.
Missouri's Sheldon Richardson boasts the quickness needed to shoot the gap and wreak havoc in the backfield. He'd have a real chance to open the season as a starter and make a major impact. The only concern surrounding Richardson is his inconsistency.
At times, he can use sloppy technique and take plays off. This won't be acceptable at the next level and could cause some issues with the coaching staff.
New York Giants
The New York Giants have survived the past few seasons with a makeshift linebacker corps, which included Chase Blackburn in the middle. This draft features two linebacker prospects in Notre Dame's Manti Te'o and Rutgers' Khaseem Greene that would make sense for the Giants.
Greene's versatility would mean the Giants could use him at either the inside or outside linebacker spot. With the possibility of an injury happening throughout the season, this versatility could play an important role.
Adding Greene would also give the Giants an explosive playmaker who delivers punishing hits and generates turnovers. It has been awhile since New York had this type of athlete in its linebacker corps.
Target: Offensive line
The Chicago Bears have needs all along the offensive line, as they could realistically use an upgrade everywhere but the center spot. Finding someone to help protect Jay Cutler is the most important task this offseason. Oklahoma's Lane Johnson features the skill set needed to quickly develop into a top-notch pass-protector.
Johnson is a little thin through the hips, but he has a quick shuffle and plays with balance. He does a good job keeping his pads down while fighting for inside hand position. Johnson would immediately represent a more consistent replacement for J'Marcus Webb.
While he's a little thin, Johnson has a nasty streak that helps him excel as a run blocker. He's always looking to finish off blocks and open running lanes.
There's a lot of uncertainty facing the future of Rey Maualuga, as he's a pending free agent. The Cincinnati Bengals made their late-season push because the defense started playing better football. They know that fielding a strong defense is important. This is why they could look to replace Maualuga with Notre Dame's Manti Te'o.
Despite the fake-girlfriend controversy, Te'o would be a great addition to any defense. He possesses good size, quickness and instincts. His ability to also hold up in coverage makes him a three-down player.
The Bengals' locker room has been one of the more accepting groups in the league. They routinely add players with questionable character and red flags. Marvin Lewis and company have done a great job helping those troubled players reach their full potential.
The Washington Redskins don't have a first-round pick because of last year's trade that landed them Robert Griffin III. This means they'll need to address their needs in the later rounds. The second round features several cornerbacks that would offer an immediate upgrade. This group includes Rutgers' Logan Ryan, Oregon State's Jordan Poyer and Washington's Desmond Trufant.
Ryan's combination of long arms, quickness and fluid hips gives him a ton of upside. He's capable of fitting in any type of system, including one that asks him to play bump-and-run coverage.
Washington also needs help along the offensive line, but Griffin's athleticism helps combat those issues.
Target: Wide receiver
Christian Ponder and the Minnesota Vikings' passing game did very little to help the team make a playoff run. They need to bring in a playmaking wide receiver to help increase the explosiveness of the offense. Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins is a great candidate to fill that need.
Hopkins is an aggressive wide receiver who consistently attacks the ball at its highest point. This allows him to make plays even when faced with tight coverage. With Percy Harvin on board, Minnesota needs a wide receiver who can win one-on-one matchups.
Harvin is a difference-maker, but needs a specific game plan for him to really take advantage of all of his talents. Hopkins is more of a traditional wide receiver who can make plays within the normal route tree.
Target: Offensive line
Andrew Luck is the most important part of the Indianapolis Colts' franchise. This means his health needs to be the organization's main focus. So, this makes upgrading the talent along the offensive line the best option. North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper is a guard prospect capable of making an immediate impact.
Cooper is a well-rounded player who both opens running lanes and protects the quarterback. His ability to increase the production of the running game will do a lot to help keep Luck healthy. A steady running game will allow the Colts to limit the amount of times Luck drops back for a pass.
Ideally the Colts would love to add a right tackle to the mix. However, it isn't likely there will be a worthy prospect left on the board at pick No. 24.
Target: Offensive playmaker
The Seattle Seahawks hit a home run last year by selecting Russell Wilson in the third round. They now need to surround him with more talent. A playmaking tight end like Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert would be a great security blanket for Wilson.
Eifert possesses the size and quickness to make plays in the passing game. He does a great job attacking the ball at its highest point. This means Wilson could target Eifert even when he's in tight coverage.
Tight end is a need because Zach Miller has failed to live up to his big contract. Eifert will help the team erase that failure.
Green Bay Packers
Target: Offensive line
The Green Bay Packers dealt with a lot of injuries along the offensive line this past season. This made it difficult for Aaron Rodgers to consistently find a rhythm and forced him to take a lot of unnecessary hits. A high-upside player like Florida State's Menelik Watson would be a great fit in the second round.
Watson is a terrific athlete who still needs time to fully develop. However, his fluid movements and raw strength gives him the potential to learn on the fly. He'd be a great fit at the right tackle spot in the Packers' lineup.
There's a limited amount of first-round offensive tackle prospects in this draft, so the Packers will need to fill this need in the later rounds.
Target: Wide receiver
Outside of Andre Johnson and Arian Foster, the Houston Texans lack explosive playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. They really need to add someone capable of increasing the offense's big-play ability. West Virginia's Tavon Austin has the quickness to immediately give the Texans another offensive threat.
Austin excels at picking up yards after the catch and creating in space. He's the type of player who can quickly turn a short pass into a touchdown.
Houston can't expect to keep pace with an offense like the one run by the New England Patriots with their current cast of players. Someone like Austin would help them even the score.
Target: Defensive tackle
The Denver Broncos need to upgrade the talent and get younger along the interior of the defensive line. Justin Bannan and Kevin Vickerson are solid rotational players but bring little upside. Alabama's Jesse Williams would represent an instant upgrade.
Williams plays with a low center of gravity, which allows him to hold at the point of attack. His ability to occupy blockers and anchor against the run would give the Broncos a strong inside presence.
Denver could also use an upgrade at the middle linebacker position, but adding someone capable of occupying blockers like Williams will help.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots failed to reach the Super Bowl this season thanks in large part to the issues in the secondary, most notably at the safety position. Devin McCourty and company had a hard time slowing down the Baltimore Ravens' Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta.
Texas' Kenny Vaccaro is the type of safety that would go a long way toward solving the Patriots' secondary problems. Vaccaro is a well-rounded player who both supports the run and holds up in coverage. His fluid hips and quickness even allows him to play some man coverage.
Adding Vaccaro means the Patriots could consider moving McCourty back to his more natural cornerback position.
The Atlanta Falcons have a lot of money wrapped up in the cornerback position, and it's likely they have to part ways with someone. Brent Grimes, Asante Samuel and Dunta Robinson should all be worried about their status with the team.
Adding a younger and cheaper option like Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks would help the Falcons' salary cap situation. Banks is a physical defender who uses his long arms to get into the body of the wide receiver.
This means he's capable of fitting in several coverage schemes. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has the type of mind to make good use of Banks' skill set.
San Francisco 49ers
Dashon Goldson has been a major part of the San Francisco 49ers' defensive success over the past few years. However, he's a pending free agent and it will cost a lot of money to keep him on board. It makes sense for the 49ers to target someone like Florida's Matt Elam as a cheap replacement.
Elam is a big hitter who strikes fear into wide receivers who dare to come across the middle. His physical play also extends to the running game, as he does a great job attacking the line and making solid tackles.
He isn't just a physical defender, as Elam also has the range to make plays in deep coverage. It's possible that Elam would help 49ers fans forget about Goldson rather quickly.
Finding a replacement for Ray Lewis won't be an easy task, as it's almost impossible to replace his leadership and playmaking ability. However, LSU's Kevin Minter is the type of player capable of easing the loss of Lewis.
Minter is a solidly built linebacker who has excellent instincts. He quickly reads his keys and takes proper angles to the football. Of all of the linebackers in this draft, Minter is the best at meeting the blockers at the point of attack and using his hands to disengage.
It's wrong to think that Minter will ever reach the level of Lewis, but he has the potential to develop into an above-average starter.
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