NFL Draft 2013: Biggest Question for Each Team Heading into the Draft
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The NFL draft is the most exciting few days of the offseason for fans. It's standard practice in the weeks leading up to the draft for every general manager to say something along the lines of, "It's our goal to build our roster and this organization through the draft."
It's cliche to always say, but we'll just have to take it one draft at a time!
Let's take a look at the biggest question facing each team as it prepares for the start of the draft on Thursday, April 25.
Kansas City Chiefs
Will Branden Albert be a Chief when the draft is over?
There have been a lot of rumors out there connecting Branden Albert and the Miami Dolphins. Considering it's less than a week before the draft, it's tough to find legitimacy in anything being said right now. It's the season for lying!
Albert may very well end up in Miami, but as of right now, he's a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, holders of the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. They have options with the top pick and also with the franchise-tag status of Albert and his $9.8 million guaranteed for the 2013 season.
Will the Raiders target a defensive playmaker at the top of the draft?
The Raiders have been linked to quite a few different players at the top of the draft right now, and that's probably exactly what they want. Sharrif Floyd, Star Lotulelei and Dion Jordan are all playmakers that would help give the Raiders defense a much-needed identity.
Raiders head coach Dennis Allen looks to replace spots vacated this offseason by the departures of Tommy Kelly, Matt Shaughnessy and Desmond Bryant along the defensive line. They did sign former Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman Vance Walker, but he's never had more than 32 tackles in a season, although he did pick up three sacks last year in spot duty.
Who will the Broncos turn to as Elvis Dumervil's replacement?
If there's one thing this draft isn't missing in terms of depth at the position, it's quality defensive ends and linemen that can help get after the passer. The Broncos will try to upgrade the spot vacated by Elvis Dumervil leaving for the Baltimore Ravens with either a veteran stopgap or a young guy.
Derek Wolfe will look to have an increased workload as well, as the second-year player from Cincinnati picked up six sacks in limited duty next season.
San Diego Chargers
Is Philip Rivers the problem?
Philip Rivers has turned the ball over 47 times the past two seasons. In his first seven years in the NFL, Rivers turned the ball over just 77 times. That's a rate of more than twice his regular output; is Rivers to blame, or is it the result of other weak spots on offense?
The Chargers could stand to add a left tackle in this draft, as the Jared Gaither experiment is over in San Diego.
The Chargers could also help by adding another playmaker. Danario Alexander was a nice surprise, but there's no doubt the losses of Vincent Jackson, Mike Tolbert and Darren Sproles over the past few years have been an issue in San Diego.
Who will join Michael Huff in the secondary?
There's a lot being made about the Ravens losing safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard in the same offseason. The Super Bowl champs have had a hard time holding on to their talent. Just this offseason they've seen Reed, Pollard, Paul Kruger, Cary Williams, Dannell Ellerbe and Ray Lewis leave for other opportunities or retire from the game.
The Ravens have been linked to some of the top safeties available in this draft, and with newly signed Michael Huff taking one of the safety spots already, it makes sense that they'd look for a solid complement to play opposite him.
Where do you find the cornerback to start opposite Joe Haden?
If Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner somehow fell to the No. 6 pick in this draft, he'd be a great fit opposite Joe Haden in the Browns' defensive backfield. The NFL becomes more of a passing league every day.
With the Super Bowl champion in your division, the fact that the Ravens love to throw the football means that you need solid cover corners on both sides of the field. Milliner would let the Browns defense do things it can't do with the current personnel. The Browns could go another direction with that top pick and use a later pick to address cornerback, but they need an impact player opposite Haden.
How do they address the right tackle position?
The Bengals have yet to reach an agreement with Andre Smith, their former first-round pick out of Alabama in 2009 and last year's starting right tackle.
They might have the opportunity to take Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker this year if he's available when they choose at No. 21. He's thought to be able to slide inside and play guard if he doesn't show enough athleticism to play tackle in the NFL.
The Bengals could also go with a safety at this point in the draft if Kenny Vaccaro, Jonathan Cyprien or Matt Elam is a target of theirs.
Will the Steelers take a running back in the first round?
The Steelers will address the running back position at some point in the draft. The question is whether they see enough value in a player like Alabama's Eddie Lacy or North Carolina's Giovani Bernard to take him in the first round. They could also wait and take a player like Stanford's Stepfan Taylor somewhere on Day 2 of the draft.
With the departure of James Harrison, you can't rule out the possibility of taking an outside linebacker and pass-rusher at No. 17 either.
What wide receivers will be available when the Texans pick at No. 27 in the first round?
The Texans will look for a guy to split opposite of Andre Johnson and hopefully take some of the pressure off the Pro Bowl receiver. They have some quality developmental guys in Lestar Jean, Keshawn Martin and DeVier Posey, but they need someone who can step in next year and make an immediate impact.
If Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins can get out smoothly from this "trashed hotel" business that's followed him from an incident at the combine, then he, Justin Hunter or Keenan Allen could be a great pick for the Texans.
Can the Colts find a way to keep Andrew Luck on the field?
The Colts need help at running back, and they need help on the interior of the defensive line. Either of these positions could really help keep their best player, quarterback Andrew Luck, on the field longer.
A more defined running game would open up play action and help the Colts become a more balanced offense. The Colts finished 22nd in the NFL in rushing last season, averaging just 104 yards per game.
The Colts could also stand to bring in some interior defensive line help. Stopping the run on defense would help get the ball back to Luck and maybe lower the 138 yards they gave up on the ground per game. That was good for 29th in the NFL.
Where will the pass rush come from?
The Jacksonville Jaguars finished dead last in the NFL in sacks last season with just 20 as a team. To make matters worse, 4.5 of those sacks came from C.J. Mosley (2.5, Lions) and Terrance Knighton (2.0, Broncos), who joined other teams this offseason.
The Jaguars have long been linked to Oregon linebacker Dion Jordan with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. Jordan is a versatile athlete who would give the Jaguars defense a much-needed playmaker to help Paul Posluszny lead it into the future.
Will the Titans make another big investment at guard?
The Titans were one of the more active teams in free agency this offseason and made a big splash by signing former Buffalo Bills guard Andy Levitre to a six-year, $46.8 million deal.
The Titans still have a need at the other guard spot, and they sit with the No. 10 pick. Many draft experts believe Alabama guard Chance Warmack and North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper are still in play for Tennessee with that selection.
It'll be interesting to see whether the Titans would feel comfortable making that kind of investment in both guard spots, as they'd have $46 million tied up in one and a first-round pick in the other.
New England Patriots
At what point will the Patriots add another wide receiver?
Despite the Patriots' move to sign Danny Amendola and a few other veteran receivers that'll battle for roster spots, wide receiver is still an area the Patriots should attempt to upgrade during this draft. The question is whether that upgrade will be in the first couple of rounds or later in the draft.
Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez both must deal with injuries this offseason, and Amendola has had health issues of his own in the past.
The Patriots could use a receiver to help stretch the field the way Randy Moss did a few years ago. Robert Woods, Quinton Patton and Cordarrelle Patterson could all be options for the Patriots.
Who will play left tackle for the Dolphins next season?
The Miami Dolphins went all out in free agency this offseason, capped by the guaranteed $30 million they gave former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace. The question now is, what will they do about the left tackle position?
They let Jake Long leave for St. Louis and currently sit with the option of second-year player Jonathan Martin taking over protecting the blind side of second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. At least that's how their roster currently stands.
As previously noted, there have been rumors of interest in Kansas City Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert and a possible trade. If not, the Dolphins look at having to move up to the top seven in the draft to land one of the top three tackles in this draft. Those tackles would be Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson.
Which quarterback will the Buffalo Bills end up drafting, and where?
The Buffalo Bills made the decision to cut former starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and bring in Kevin Kolb as the apparent starter right now. But there's a strong belief the Bills will still add a quarterback at some point in the first two rounds of the draft.
The Bills hold the No. 8 selection in the first round, and new head coach Doug Marrone will have to decide whether to draft his former quarterback at Syracuse, Ryan Nassib.
Marrone brings the West Coast offense to Buffalo, so another possibility for the Bills is to try to take USC quarterback Matt Barkley with their second-round pick. Either way, it'll be interesting to see how the Bills approach making an investment at the quarterback position.
New York Jets
How do the Jets use the two first-round picks they have now?
Now that the Darrelle Revis saga is finally over, we can clear the dust and see where we stand as far as the draft and what the Jets will try to accomplish with their two first-round picks. They have selections No. 9 and No. 13 and will look to add a pass-rusher, wide receiver or possibly a safety with those picks.
One of the more popular picks for the Jets right now is LSU's Barkevious Mingo as an outside linebacker. Rex Ryan wants to find someone who can get after the passer, and Mingo should be available for him to take if he chooses.
West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin could be an option for the Jets. He could really help quarterback Mark Sanchez by giving him a big-play target who doesn't require the ball downfield in order to make a big play. Austin a threat any time the ball is in his hands.
The Jets just traded the best defensive player in the NFL for draft picks, so they can't afford to miss with the first-rounder they got.
Will help on the interior offensive line be available when the Cowboys pick?
The Cowboys need some help along the interior of the offensive line. The question for the Cowboys at No. 18 is whether North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper or Alabama's Chance Warmack is still available at that point in the draft.
It's not unlike Jerry Jones to move around in the draft if he sees a player he has targeted and likes. We saw it with former LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne last season. Either Cooper or Warmack would really help the Cowboys offensive line and hopefully give quarterback Tony Romo a clear pocket to step into in the tough NFC East.
Will Chip Kelly get his own quarterback in this draft to develop in his offense?
There has been some speculation that Chip Kelly could draft West Virginia's Geno Smith or former Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel to be his quarterback of the future. Kelly has Michael Vick as his current starter and second-year player Nick Foles to conceivably back him up, but the Eagles also signed former Oregon Duck Dennis Dixon this offseason.
This scenario would have to change if they were to draft a quarterback in the first few rounds next week. You can't keep four quarterbacks, and none of those guys would last long on the practice squad. If they do end up drafting a quarterback, then Foles or Dixon would most likely be cut.
Do any of the top defensive backs fall to the Washington Redskins?
The Redskins don't pick until the middle of Round 2 (No. 51) because of the trade up for Robert Griffin III last season with the St. Louis Rams. They will look for one of the top defensive backs to fall farther than expected. At least, that would be the ideal scenario.
The top three cornerbacks for the Redskins all become free agents after this season. It'd be a good move to find a young, developing talent to play on the outside in this draft.
They could also look at any of the safeties that'd be available in what's become a very deep safety class this year. Matt Elam, D.J. Swearinger, Eric Reid, T.J. McDonald and Bacarri Rambo could all be options for the Redskins.
New York Giants
How much youth can they add to the offensive line in this draft?
The New York Giants are pretty gray along the offensive line, with the exception of newly re-signed left tackle William Beatty. The other four spots are occupied by players that will be at least 30 years old by next season.
D.J. Fluker, the Alabama right tackle and possible guard at the NFL level, would make a lot of sense for the Giants at No. 19. There is depth in this draft along the rest of the interior offensive line, and it wouldn't be surprising at all to see the Giants make a couple of choices to get some younger pieces along the offensive line.
Green Bay Packers
Will they make a concerted effort to add a running back?
Will the Packers draft a running back within the first two rounds of the draft?
The Packers seem like they've needed a running back for a few years now. But is this the year they make it a reality and invest a first-round pick? While there isn't a marquee running back in this year's class, there are plenty of guys who could step in and contribute right away, and a lot of them will be available in the second and third rounds.
UCLA's Johnathan Franklin has seemed to rise over the past couple of weeks, but he could be an option for the Packers at the bottom of the first round. Then you have Florida's Mike Gillislee, who is another three-down back that would fit in the pass-happy Green Bay Packers offense. Both of these guys can stay on the field in passing situations, and that's paramount for handling that offense.
Will the Bears put a bigger emphasis on upgrading at linebacker or guard?
The Bears recently signed former Jaguars offensive lineman Eben Britton and also made moves for linebackers D.J. Williams and James Anderson. None of these moves will affect how they approach drafting in the first round, but it'll be interesting to see how they judge these two positions on their team.
New head coach Marc Trestman said former Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi will focus on playing guard this season as well.
The Bears could look at inside linebackers Manti Te'o or Arthur Brown, and if either of the top two guard prospects is still around, that could very well be an option.
How do they spend their all-important two draft picks in the first round?
The Vikings made headlines when they decided to trade embattled wide receiver Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks for first- and seventh-round picks this year plus a mid-round pick next year. But it's not just replacing Harvin's production that'll be a challenge for the Vikings.
They need help along the defensive line, and although they just paid wide receiver Greg Jennings a lot of money, it'd help Christian Ponder to add even more offensive weapons around him and league MVP Adrian Peterson. The Vikings sit with picks Nos. 23 and 25 in the first round.
How will the Lions go about upgrading the offensive line?
The Lions lost both offensive tackles this offseason and currently sit with the No. 5 pick in the first round. Left tackle Jeff Backus retired, and right tackle Gosder Cherilus got a whole lot of money to move to Indianapolis.
The Lions will probably miss on both Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher in the first round, but they should have a pretty good shot at Oklahoma's Lane Johnson if they're interested. If they want either of those other two tackles, they'll have to move up into the top three.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
How do you push Josh Freeman this season and create some urgency?
Josh Freeman received the offensive weapons necessary to succeed last season. He ended up completing just under 55 percent of his passes and still threw 17 interceptions to just 27 touchdowns.
Vincent Jackson is a bona fide No. 1 receiver, and running back Doug Martin made the Pro Bowl as a rookie last season. The Buccaneers' move for Darrelle Revis just put much more pressure on Freeman.
Don't be surprised if the Buccaneers draft a quarterback at some point to help push Freeman this season. It'll help create a sense of urgency for Freeman with a legitimate option to push him to become the best he can.
New Orleans Saints
Should the Saints put more of an emphasis on keeping Drew Brees upright or stopping the other team from scoring?
The New Orleans Saints lost their starting left tackle in free agency, as Jermon Bushrod signed a healthy deal with the Chicago Bears. The only other option on the roster right now at left tackle is Charles Brown, who's not someone you'd feel entirely comfortable handing the starting left tackle job to.
The Saints will have to determine if it's a better plan at tackle and whether they can find any defensive player who could make a big enough impact to lower the 28-plus points per game they gave up last season, which ranked second-worst in the NFL.
Where is Steve Smith's replacement?
The Carolina Panthers have had the steady Steve Smith catching passes for them for the past 12 years on the outside. He's caught 772 passes for over 11,000 yards and 63 touchdowns in his career. But he turns 34 years old in May, and the Panthers need to bring in some more talent at the wide receiver position to help transition Smith in the next couple of years.
If DeAndre Hopkins checks out from a "character" standpoint after the combine issue, then he could be a great pick for the Panthers at No. 14. If Tavon Austin is still on the board, it'd make sense to give Cam Newton another weapon on offense.
Either way, the Panthers need to prepare for life after Smith and enjoy it for as long as he's still out there catching passes.
Will they bring in talent to rotate with Osi Umenyiora at defensive end?
The Atlanta Falcons signing Umenyiora after losing John Abraham basically put a Band-aid over the situation. The Falcons still need to invest in one of the great pass-rushing defensive ends in this class, and they have the veteran to start in the meantime.
It's a perfect bridge to a player like Bjoern Werner, Alex Okafor or Damontre Moore.
San Francisco 49ers
Who are the 49ers' trade-up targets?
The 49ers have 13 picks in the upcoming draft, and they won't take 13 players. They'll use those picks in packages to move up and take certain players they target. They could use a safety to fill the void left by Dashon Goldson, who left via free agency to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
They could also use a pass-rushing defensive tackle to create depth behind an aging Justin Smith. The 49ers can afford to take a few risks with such a strong roster and talented group.
One risk that could pay huge dividends for them is to target Florida State defensive lineman Tank Carradine. He has injury concerns but is also seen as one of the top pass-rushers in this entire draft. It would seem to be a worthwhile risk for a team in the 49ers' position.
St. Louis Rams
How do you get Sam Bradford more weapons?
The Rams did well in free agency to go out and sign tight end Jared Cook, who should provide a reliable option for Bradford across the middle as a big, physical receiver.
The loss of Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson means either recent draft picks Austin Pettis, Chris Givens and Brandon Quick need to step up, or else the Rams need to continue adding talent around Bradford.
Ideally for Bradford, it would be both of these things. Tavon Austin would provide the dynamic big-play threat the Rams really need to give this offense an identity. For so many years, St. Louis pounded the ball with Steven Jackson, who left for the Atlanta Falcons in free agency.
Will Carson Palmer have competition at quarterback this year?
It's such an interesting quarterback class in that you don't know where anyone will be drafted, and the teams that need quarterbacks went out and made some moves that didn't pigeonhole them into needing to take a quarterback at any certain point in the draft.
The Cardinals are one of those teams following the resolution of the Kevin Kolb experiment. Carson Palmer came down from Oakland in a trade to conceivably be "the guy" for the immediate future in Arizona.
But will the Cardinals draft a quarterback in the first or second round and immediately push Palmer into fighting for a starting spot? If Geno Smith falls like some have predicted he will, could the Cardinals pass on him if he sits there at No. 7?
Do the Seahawks need to invest a high pick in another receiver or playmaker on offense?
The Seahawks are one of the most complete teams in the NFL, and they did a great job at the start of free agency to bolster their pass rushing. It was the one area that most people knew needed an upgrade, and they took care of it with Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett.
Besides adding quality depth to a solid roster, could the Seahawks use another playmaking wide receiver, even after trading for Percy Harvin? They could use a mid-round pick on another receiver to go with Harvin, Sidney Rice and Golden Tate.
This would really give Russell Wilson plenty of options in the passing game and help the Seahawks put points on the board and have teams attempt to play from behind against them.
These are the quick questions NFL teams might ask themselves as they prepare for next week. What else could these teams ask as they prepare for the draft?
Let me know in the comments.
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