Every NFL Team's Biggest Question Mark Heading into the Draft
The shopping for the groceries at the supermarket is still a little over three weeks away.
And now that the NFL’s 32 teams are done at the specialty shops and convenience stores, it’s time to put together that list for the trip to New York in late April.
So after all of the moves this offseason, here’s a look at each team’s largest quandary as they look to bolster their roster in the NFL draft.
Now keep in mind that while we’re pointing out what a team’s biggest question mark heading into the draft, it’s not necessarily the direction a club may go with its first selection.
Kansas City Chiefs: Inside Linebacker
Selections By Round (8): 1st (1), 2nd (None), 3rd (63, 96), 4th (99), 5th (134), 6th (170, 204), 7th (207)
The Chiefs went from 10 wins and a division title in 2010 to two victories and a second straight last-place finish in the AFC West. It's safe to say they've fallen on tough times.
Now it’s head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey to the rescue. There will be a new quarterback in Alex Smith (San Francisco 49ers). There’s also new looks in the secondary in cornerbacks Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson and more weapons via wideout Donnie Avery and tight end Anthony Fasano.
Three-fourths of the Chiefs linebacking corps wound up in the Pro Bowl last season via outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, as well as inside man Derrick Johnson.
With a defense that ranked only 27th in the league against the run last season, pairing a top-notch prospect with Johnson would be a big addition.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Defensive End
Selections By Round (7): 1st (2), 2nd (33), 3rd (64), 4th (98), 5th (135), 6th (169), 7th (208)
Coming off the worst season in the 18-year history of the franchise, there’s literally nowhere to go but up for the Jacksonville Jaguars…hopefully.
New head coach Gus Bradley, recently the defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks, knows there’s a lot of work to be done. On offense, not having running back Maurice Jones-Drew most of the season was a huge loss.
But quarterback Blaine Gabbert showed some signs of improvement after a rough rookie year, and the receiving tandem of wideouts Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts bears watching.
The defense was a major disappointment last season, but will have new starters in defensive tackle Roy Miller (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), outside linebacker Geno Hayes (Chicago Bears) and cornerback Alan Ball (Houston Texans).
However, when you total a league-low 20 sacks, less than NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt (20.5) in 2012, the answer here is rather obvious.
Oakland Raiders: Cornerback
Selections By Round (7): 1st (3), 2nd (None), 3rd (66), 4th (100), 5th (None), 6th (172, 205), 7th (209, 219)
When you haven’t enjoyed a winning season in 10 straight years, narrowing the question marks down for the Oakland Raiders to one would be like trying to peeling them off the Riddler’s costume. General manager Reggie McKenzie is preparing for his second draft and has more picks than he did a year ago.
A shaky defense has been rebuilt via free agency courtesy of six new starters, including all three linebacking spots.
But the secondary is a different matter. Michael Huff was a salary cap casualty this offseason, and as of now, the team’s starters at the corners are third-year pro Chimdi Chekwa and Phillip Adams.
Could McKenzie address that position with the third overall pick? Stay tuned.
Philadelphia Eagles: Quarterback
Selections By Round (9): 1st (4), 2nd (35), 3rd (67), 4th (101), 5th (136), 6th (None), 7th (210, 212, 218, 239)
Give the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles a D…from dream and dynasty to disaster.
For the first time since 1998, Andy Reid will not be on sidelines in the City of Brotherly Love. Enter Chip Kelly, late of the University of Oregon, who trades in his Ducks for a different kind of bird.
The Eagles were busy this offseason overhauling their defense. And the team’s new 3-4 alignment will feature at least six new starters, most of which can be found in the secondary.
Back to Kelly and his much-ballyhooed offense. At quarterback, Michael Vick returns and hopes to stay healthy, Nick Foles enters his second season and the team signed Dennis Dixon, whom Kelly is very familiar with from his days at Oregon. There’s also veteran Trent Edwards in the mix.
Given the team’s turnover issues from the past two seasons (75) and Vick’s inability to stay on the field for an entire year, there have to be concerns here despite the number of candidates.
Detroit Lions: Defensive End
Selections By Round (8): 1st (5), 2nd (36), 3rd (65), 4th (132), 5th (137), 6th (171), 7th (211, 245)
After reaching the playoffs in 2011 for the first time in more than a decade, it was a short stay in contender country for the Detroit Lions.
Jim Schwartz’s team enters this season off a 4-12 record and with an eight-game losing streak.
Speaking of losses, Gunther Cunningham’s defensive unit certainly took some hits this offseason, particularly up front. The Lions released veteran defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and defensive tackle Corey Williams hasn’t been re-signed. Meanwhile, top pass-rusher Cliff Avril signed a two-year contract with the Seattle Seahawks.
The team added defensive lineman Jason Jones (Seahawks) through free agency, but bolstering the front four has to be a priority.
Cleveland Browns: Cornerback
Selections By Round (6): 1st (6), 2nd (None), 3rd (68), 4th (104), 5th (139), 6th (173, 175), 7th (None)
Stop if you’ve heard this one before.
In each of the past two seasons, there’s only been one team in the AFC North with a losing record.
Escaping the division basement has been tough for the Cleveland Browns, who showed a bit of promise last season but still fell way behind the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers in the standings.
And it’s new head coach time for the franchise again with Rob Chudzinski. He and coordinator Norv Turner hope to jump start the offense.
Defensively, the Browns have been making strides in recent seasons, and they could look to add a playmaking cornerback to team with Joe Haden. In his second year, Buster Skrine finished third on the team in tackles and second with 11 passes defensed. But he failed to record an interception, and new defensive coordinator Ray Horton wouldn’t mind another talented body in his secondary.
Arizona Cardinals: Offensive Line
Selections By Round (7): 1st (7), 2nd (38), 3rd (69), 4th (103), 5th (140), 6th (174, 176), 7th (None)
When you win only one of your final 12 games (after a 4-0 start) and score the fewest points in the NFC, there's bound to be a few changes.
The Arizona Cardinals added running back Rashard Mendenhall (Pittsburgh Steelers) through free agency, and new head coach Bruce Arians will go with free-agent pickup Drew Stanton (Indianapolis Colts) at quarterback.
And yet the Cards still have to address an offensive front that (in part) allowed an NFL-high 58 sacks last season while the team finished dead last in the league in rushing offense in 2012.
Last April, Arizona added three offensive linemen via the draft in tackles Bobby Massie and Nate Potter, both of whom saw time as starters last season, as well as guard Senio Kelemete. Will the franchise continue to add fresh faces to a group that has struggled mightily for a number of years?
Buffalo Bills: Linebacker
Selections By Round (6): 1st (8), 2nd (41), 3rd (71), 4th (105), 5th (143), 6th (177), 7th (None)
Residents of the AFC East basement each of the past five seasons, the Buffalo Bills are looking to change the culture in Orchard Park.
Unfortunately, that’s usually easier said than done when your division includes the New England Patriots.
There’s a new head coach in Doug Marrone and now a new quarterback in Kevin Kolb, although the team could address this area sooner than later in the draft.
But what about the Buffalo defense, which once again failed to answer the bell? The New Orleans Saints were the only team in the league to give up more rushing yards per game last season despite the additions of defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson.
The Bills released linebacker Nick Barnett this offseason, and upgrading this unit is a priority.
New York Jets: Quarterback
Selections By Round (7): 1st (9), 2nd (39), 3rd (72), 4th (106), 5th (141), 6th (178), 7th (215)
What to make of these New York Jets?
Familiar faces like running back Shonn Greene, tight end Dustin Keller and linebackers Bart Scott and Calvin Pace are gone. Marty Mornhinweg and Dennis Thurman are the new offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez is back as well, and there is a new addition to the ranks.
Veteran David Garrard, who has not played each of the last two seasons, is now in the mix at the position. And it will be interesting to see if Sanchez, who has committed an astounding 52 turnovers the last two seasons, can fend off Garrard.
Greg McElroy, Tim Tebow and Matt Simms are also on the depth charts...for now.
The Jets have plenty of needs, to say the least. But getting their quarterback situation straightened out has to be priority No. 1.
Tennessee Titans: Defensive Line
Selections By Round (9): 1st (10), 2nd (40), 3rd (70, 97), 4th (107), 5th (142), 6th (202), 7th (216, 248)
What happened to the Tennessee Titans in 2012?
In head coach Mike Munchak’s first season at the helm, the team finished 9-7 and had the look of a club that could be on the rise.
But it all came apart early and often for the Titans this past season. And when the smoke cleared, Munchak’s club finished 6-10 and set a dubious franchise record for points allowed in a season (471).
Via last year’s addition of defensive end Kamerion Wimbley, Tennessee improved its pass rush a bit. But the Titans finished 24th in the league in rushing defense and could use some more help up front.
San Diego Chargers: Offensive Line
Selections By Round (7): 1st (11), 2nd (45), 3rd (76), 4th (110), 5th (145), 6th (179), 7th (221)
From perennial AFC West champion to total mystery, the San Diego Chargers need to stop the bleeding now.
Obviously, the team made big-time offseason adjustments, as general manager A.J. Smith and head coach Norv Turner are now elsewhere.
Quarterback Philip Rivers is still around, but has to do a better job of taking care of the football. Over the past two seasons, the former Pro Bowler has thrown 53 touchdown passes but has committed 47 turnovers. Of course, the Chargers need to take better care of him, as he was sacked 49 times in 2012.
Free agency has brought three new starters to the offensive line in left tackle King Dunlap and guards Chad Rinehart and Rich Ohrnberger.
Look for the Bolts to address this area early and often.
Miami Dolphins: Right Tackle
Selections By Round (11): 1st (12), 2nd (42, 54), 3rd (77, 82), 4th (111), 5th (146, 166), 6th (None), 7th (217, 224, 250)
The times are a changing for the Miami Dolphins. New logo, new players and hopefully renewed optimism for a franchise that has suffered through four straight losing seasons since winning the AFC East in 2008.
Head coach Joe Philbin and general manager Jeff Ireland added some premium talent at all positions this offseason, including wide receiver Mike Wallace, inside linebacker Danelle Ellerbe, tight end Dustin Keller and cornerback Brent Grimes.
But the team also lost left tackle Jake Long to free agency (St. Louis Rams), meaning Jonathan Martin, last year’s rookie starter at right tackle, switches sides in 2013.
The Dolphins have five of the top 82 picks in April, including a pair of selections in the second and third rounds. That 12th overall choice could be essential to protecting second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Cornerback
Selections By Round (8): 1st (13), 2nd (43), 3rd (73), 4th (112, 126), 5th (147), 6th (181, 196), 7th (None)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be going places in 2013.
It’s just a matter of how far they plan to travel.
For the second straight year, the Bucs stopped in the NFC South basement. But instead of a 4-12 finish, as was the case in 2011, the team improved to 7-9.
Work is still needed on the defensive side of the ball, especially when you allow the most passing yards in the NFL.
While the Bucs added free safety Dashon Goldon to their secondary, they lost cornerback E.J. Biggers to free agency (Washington Redskins), and Eric Wright’s status with the team is uncertain at best. Obviously, Schiano’s club has been in the Darrelle Revis discussion, but that’s something that has yet to come to a conclusion.
Carolina Panthers: Defensive Tackle
Selections By Round (5): 1st (14), 2nd (44), 3rd (None), 4th (108), 5th (148), 6th (182), 7th (None)
If only the Carolina Panthers could get this slow start thing figured out. They’ve certainly got the final six games aspect down to a science.
Winners of five of their last six contests last season, Ron Rivera’s team still only finished 7-9 in 2012.
There were strides made last year, especially on defense. Ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy got to opposing quarterbacks on a regular basis, and linebacker Luke Kuechly was the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
But this was a team that also finished mediocre 14th in the league vs. the run. Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards was recently re-signed, but this unit needs to be a little stouter up the middle.
New Orleans Saints: Left Tackle
Selections By Round (5): 1st (15), 2nd (None), 3rd (75), 4th (109), 5th (144), 6th (183), 7th (None)
As has been well-documented, it was quite a 2012 for the New Orleans Saints.
An unprecedented offseason followed by a 7-9 finish, minus suspended head coach Sean Payton, and nothing was easy in the Big Easy last season.
Now it’s time to put the pieces back together. That’s not a problem on offense, where quarterback Drew Brees led an attack that once again ranked among the league leaders in points scored.
But the team also lost two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod to the Chicago Bears via free agency. And since the Saints only have five selections in this draft (zero in the second round), they may have to address the position with the 15th overall pick.
Yes, the New Orleans defense has many more needs, especially making the move from the 4-3 to the 3-4 under new coordinator Rob Ryan.
St. Louis Rams: Safety
Selections By Round (8): 1st (16, 22): 2nd (46), 3rd (78), 4th (113), 5th (149), 6th (184), 7th (222)
With the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks both winning 11 games this past season, it was easy to forget about the 7-8-1 St. Louis Rams.
But ask the Niners just how competitive Jeff Fisher’s team was in 2012. Jim Harbaugh’s club failed to beat their longtime rival in two meetings. And while the Rams were a below .500 team a year ago, their 4-1-1 mark within the division was the best in the NFC West.
St. Louis tied for the league lead with 52 sacks last season, but could use some more big plays from the back seven. The Rams totaled only 21 takeaways in 16 games last year.
With safeties Craig Dahl (San Francisco 49ers) and Quintin Mikell (released) now elsewhere, it could be safety first (or second), as Fisher has a pair of first-round picks at his disposal.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Linebacker
Selections By Round (8): 1st (17), 2nd (48), 3rd (79), 4th (115), 5th (150), 6th (186, 206), 7th (223)
From start to finish, 2012 was an off year for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now, Mike Tomlin looks to rebound following his first non-winning season in the Steel City.
There have already been big changes. Wide receiver Mike Wallace (Miami Dolphins) and cornerback Keenan Lewis (New Orleans Saints) signed big contracts to go elsewhere, and physical outside linebacker James Harrison was released.
The latter of those three moves could prove to be the most significant, as Harrison often set the tone for the defense. Add in the fact that veteran inside linebacker Larry Foote is entering his 11th season and outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley is coming off an injury-plagued year, and this pride and joy area of the Steelers could use a little new blood.
Dallas Cowboys: Defensive Tackle
Selections By Round (6): 1st (18), 2nd (47), 3rd (80), 4th (114), 5th (151), 6th (185), 7th (None)
Another season, another disappointing stretch run for the Dallas Cowboys.
Once again, Jason Garrett’s club was in position to capture the NFC East on the final Sunday night of the season. Once again, the Pokes fell short of their goal and the playoffs.
There will be changes once again on the defensive side of the football, as Rob Ryan is out and veteran coordinator Monte Kiffin is in.
That means the switch to the 4-3 scheme, and Jerry Jones has been busy trying to put the right pieces in place. The defensive ends are set with Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware, and up the middle, it’s Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher.
But the Cowboys could be looking for a dynamic young defensive tackle that will spend his share of time in the other team’s backfield.
New York Giants: Offensive Line
Selections By Round (8): 1st (19), 2nd (49), 3rd (81), 4th (116), 5th (152), 6th (187), 7th (225, 253)
A year after going 9-7 and winning the Super Bowl, the New York Giants went 9-7 and didn’t even reach the playoffs.
Tom Coughlin’s team will still have quarterback Eli Manning but features a new starter in the backfield in second-year running back David Wilson, the Giants' first-round pick in 2012.
Coughlin’s club won’t be featuring much of anything new on the offensive line. It’s a veteran-laden unit with center David Baas, guards Kevin Boothe and Chris Snee along with tackles David Diehl and the emerging Will Beatty.
And since there’s no time like the present, look for the organization to address the offensive line on more than one occasion later this month.
Chicago Bears: Linebacker
Selections By Round (5): 1st (20), 2nd (50), 3rd (None), 4th (117), 5th (153), 6th (188), 7th (None)
It’s the end of an era in the Windy City.
The Chicago Bears defense will have a different look, as eight-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Brian Urlacher won’t be back with the organization.
But to focus on just his spot would be a mistake. The team also lost outside linebacker Nick Roach to free agency and the Oakland Raiders. Roach was the fill-in for Urlacher when the veteran was sidelined. Add in the fact that still-productive star outside linebacker Lance Briggs is entering his 11th NFL season, and a little infusion of youth here wouldn’t hurt.
Veterans James Anderson (Carolina Panthers) and D.J. Williams (Denver Broncos), released by their teams this offseason, will fill the gap this season. But don’t be surprised if the Bears address these positions early.
Cincinnati Bengals: Offensive Line
Selections By Round (10): 1st (21), 2nd (37, 53), 3rd (84), 4th (118), 5th (156), 6th (190, 197), 7th (240, 251)
The Cincinnati Bengals have been in the playoffs three of the last four seasons. And credit must go to an organization that has drafted extremely well in recent seasons.
With 10 picks in this season’s upcoming draft, head coach Marvin Lewis and company will look to shore up some areas that could make the team a favorite in the AFC North.
Last April, the Bengals used a first-round pick on guard Kevin Zeitler. Later this month, the team could address the offensive line once again. Incumbent right tackle Andre Smith remains unsigned, and quarterback Andy Dalton was sacked 46 times last season.
Add in a ground attack that finished in the middle of the NFL pack in 2012, and it never hurts to upgrade an offensive line that has to deal with the talented defenses within the division.
Washington Redskins: Secondary
Selections By Round (7): 1st (None), 2nd (51), 3rd (85), 4th (119), 5th (154, 162), 6th (191), 7th (228)
From worst to first proved to be the Washington Redskins' mantra in 2012.
In 2013, there is no first, as in first-round draft choice.
No matter. The team gave up a few picks last April to move up and get quarterback Robert Griffin III, who captured NFL Rookie of the Year honors and helped lead the Redskins to their first division title since 1999.
What has gone relatively unnoticed is the emphasis the team has put on the draft as of late. Washington has selected 21 players the last two years.
Now they need to use some of this year’s seven selections on upgrading a secondary that has some concerns. While an injury-plagued pass rush added to the team’s issues, the Redskins gave up 31 touchdown passes in 2012.
And in an NFC East that now features some of the tougher receiving tandems in the league, this is an area that can use all the help it can get.
Minnesota Vikings: Middle Linebacker
Selections By Round (11): 1st (23, 25), 2nd (52), 3rd (83), 4th (102, 120), 5th (155), 6th (189), 7th (213, 214, 229)
The Minnesota Vikings proved to be one of the great stories of the 2012 NFL season.
Yes, there was a huge focus on league MVP Adrian Peterson and what proved to be a near-miss of the NFL record for rushing yards in a season.
But lost in Peterson’s accomplishment was the fact that this was a club that finished 10-6 and grabbed a wild card berth last season. The Vikings were a combined 9-23 the previous two years combined.
Due to this year’s trade of wide receiver Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota has a pair of first-round picks. It also has a middle linebacker to replace, as Jasper Brinkley signed with the Arizona Cardinals this offseason.
It seems the most obvious area to address, and no doubt head coach Leslie Frazier would like to upgrade a defensive unit that was a bit inconsistent in 2012.
Indianapolis Colts: Linebacker
Selections By Round (6): 1st (24), 2nd (None), 3rd (86), 4th (121), 5th (None), 6th (192), 7th (230, 254)
Talk about a bounceback season.
After finishing 2-14 in 2011 and basically starting over again, the Indianapolis Colts parlayed a great draft class and numerous other factors into an 11-5 record and a wild card berth. It marked one of the great single-season turnarounds in league history.
But there’s still plenty of work to be done, especially on the defensive side of the football. The Colts finished 26th in total defense in terms of yards allowed, and only three teams gave up more rushing yards. The bottom line was that Chuck Pagano’s team allowed more points (387) than it scored (357) in 2012.
Former defensive end turned outside linebacker Robert Mathis enters his 11th season, while free-agency addition Erik Walden (Green Bay Packers) hopes to help as well. Inside, Jerrell Freeman led the team in tackles and there’s also three-year veterans Kavell Conner and Pat Angerer.
You’re looking for big plays from the linebacking corps in the 3-4 defense. But when you consider the team’s defensive ranking and the fact that the club only forced 15 turnovers last season, this is an area worth addressing.
Seattle Seahawks: Offensive Line
Selections By Round (10): 1st (None), 2nd (56), 3rd (87), 4th (123), 5th (138, 158), 6th (194), 7th (220, 231, 241, 242)
The Seattle Seahawks are definitely the NFL’s “girl with the curl” these days.
A strong finish had them at 11-5 and in the playoffs last season. The team went onto beat the Washington Redskins in the wild card round and were seconds away from the NFC title game.
Via the trade with the Minnesota Vikings, the team added talented wide receiver Percy Harvin this offseason. But the price was the team’s first-round pick in 2013 and beyond.
Only two teams in the league ran for more yards than the Seahawks last season. But they could also use some help on an offensive line that feature Pro Bowlers in left tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger.
Carroll and company could look to upgrade the right tackle spot. Breno Giacomini was a 16-game starter last season and is coming off elbow surgery.
Green Bay Packers: Offensive Line
Selections By Round (8): 1st (26), 2nd (55), 3rd (88), 4th (122), 5th (159, 167), 6th (193), 7th (232)
It’s been offseason business as usual for the Green Bay Packers, which means being extremely quiet during the free-agency period.
No matter, general manager Ted Thompson will address any issues the team may have during the draft. This organization has done as good a job as any restocking its roster.
And one area that needs some attention is the offensive line. While the Packers haven’t had a lot of luck in recent years keeping running backs healthy, the bottom line is that Green Bay was 20th in the league in rushing offense last season.
Of course, it’s also worth mentioning that no quarterback in the league was sacked more than Aaron Rodgers (51) in 2012.
Reason enough to add some new faces and perhaps some depth to battle the Jared Allens, Ndamukong Suhs and Julius Peppers’ in the NFC North.
Houston Texans: Wide Receiver
Selections By Round (9): 1st (27), 2nd (57), 3rd (89, 95), 4th (124), 5th (160), 6th (195, 201), 7th (233)
Buoyed by a trio of solid free-agent pickups, the Houston Texans may be one highly successful draft class away from taking the next step to a championship.
Free safety Ed Reed, punter Shane Lechler and fullback Greg Jones will all help Gary Kubiak’s team. But there’s another area that could use a little infusion of talent.
Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson is about to begin his second decade in the NFL, and quarterback Matt Schaub could use another reliable target. The team opted to release veteran Kevin Walter and added Keshawn Martin and DeVier Posey via the draft last April.
Despite the presence of running back Arian Foster, this was an offense that faded down the stretch in 2012 and is in need of some added firepower.
Denver Broncos: Secondary
Selections By Round (6): 1st (28), 2nd (58), 3rd (90), 4th (125), 5th (161), 6th (None), 7th (234)
The Denver Broncos appeared to have it all going their way last season as they headed into the playoffs.
But it proved to be a short stay in the postseason, as John Fox’s defense gave up too many big plays in the double-overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round.
The Denver secondary appeared helpless at times against Joe Flacco and his speedy receivers, as veteran corner Champ Bailey and young free safety Rahim Moore had less-than-memorable afternoons.
The Broncos are now without defensive end Elvis Dumervil, but did sign cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. However, if the team doesn’t look for another pass-rusher, don’t be stunned if it addresses any area of the defensive backfield.
New England Patriots: Defensive Tackle
Selections By Round (5): 1st (29), 2nd (59), 3rd (91), 4th (None), 5th (None), 6th (None), 7th (226, 235)
It’s been quite a run for the New England Patriots, and it doesn’t appear Bill Belichick’s team is on the verge of falling back anytime soon.
Still, winning games and division titles have almost been an afterthought. Winning Super Bowls as of late has been another story.
The team addressed the defense twice in the first round last season via the additions of defensive end Chandler Jones and outside linebacker Dont’a Hightower. The re-signing of cornerback Aqib Talib and the addition of strong safety Adrian Wilson, released by the Cardinals in March, are positives as well.
Getting some help on the defensive line would help, especially on the inside. Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork is coming off another Pro Bowl campaign, but the star defender is entering his 10th NFL season.
Atlanta Falcons: Defensive End
Selections By Round (11): 1st (30), 2nd (60), 3rd (92), 4th (127, 133), 5th (163), 6th (198), 7th (236, 243, 244, 249)
The Atlanta Falcons would love to do what’s never been done in the NFC South since it was formed in 2002: win back-to-back division titles.
More importantly, the franchise is still seeking its first Super Bowl title. And with 11 picks in April, general manager Thomas Dimitroff has the ammunition to bolster his roster.
The Falcons defense still has some question marks, and one area is the pass rush. The team released defensive end John Abraham, who totaled 10 of the team’s 29 sacks in 2012.
Atlanta just added free agent Osi Umenyiora (New York Giants), who can certainly bring the heat. But the Falcons will see a little more help in bolstering that sack total.
San Francisco 49ers: Defensive Line
Selections By Round (14): 1st (31), 2nd (34, 61), 3rd (74, 93), 4th (128, 131), 5th (157, 164), 6th (180), 7th (227, 237, 246, 252)
When it was all said and done, 2012 proved to be a banner year for the San Francisco 49ers. Unfortunately, they didn’t wind up with the banner they truly wanted.
Off their first Super Bowl appearance since 1994, as well as their first ever loss in the big game, Jim Harbaugh knows they have to stay on the defensive, especially in a division that has grown leaps and bounds in recent seasons.
Getting that defense back on track would help. Numerous factors contributed to a late slump and issues in the playoffs.
Up front, star defensive tackle Justin Smith isn’t getting any younger and is returning from a triceps injury. The team lost starting nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga (Philadelphia Eagles) to free agency. With a league-high 14 picks in April, the possibilities are endless.
Baltimore Ravens: Safety
Selections By Round (12): 1st (32), 2nd (62), 3rd (94), 4th (129, 130), 5th (165, 168), 6th (199, 200, 203), 7th (238, 247)
The defending Super Bowl champions will certainly have their share of new faces on the field this season, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Combine the retirement of linebacker Ray Lewis, the free-agent departures of safety Ed Reed, linebackers Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe and cornerback Cary Williams and the release of strong safety Bernard Pollard, and that’s quite an overhaul.
While the addition of outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil is a big plus, replacing your top tackler in Pollard and one of the great ball hawks in Reed is a big task. The Ravens signed safety Michael Huff, released by the Raiders this offseason, but there’s more work to be done here.
And you can count on general manager Ozzie Newsome to make the most of his club’s dozen selections.