Stock Up, Stock Down for Every NFL Team Heading into Minicamps

Michael SchotteyNFL National Lead WriterMay 7, 2013

Stock Up, Stock Down for Every NFL Team Heading into Minicamps

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    Contrary to popular belief, not every NFL team is headed in the right direction this offseason. Fans would certainly like to think so, though—especially when talking about their own team in a vacuum.

    "Didn't you see what we did in the draft?" The cry goes up like an air raid siren whenever anyone dares predict a step backward in the upcoming season. The problem is that not every draft pick is going to hit with 100 percent accuracy like fans might hope. Also, 31 other teams get to do that whole draft thing as well.

    The same is true for coaching hires, fires, position changes, scheme changes and free agency. While every fan wants to believe that this offseason's moves will lead to improvement, sometimes your favorite team isn't even keeping up with the Joneses.

    So, which teams are headed in the right direction as we head into minicamps, and which teams have even more work to do? Click ahead and find out my picks. Disagree? Leave your picks in the comments below.

Arizona Cardinals

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    The hire of Bruce Arians is a make-or-break move that could give the Cardinals hope for the future or prove that Chuck Pagano, Andrew Luck and Ryan Grigson are all just that good at their jobs.

    The same is true for Carson Palmer being installed as starting quarterback. He put up big numbersat timesin Oakland, but the results never showed up in the win-loss column.

    The Cardinals are in wait-and-see mode, but even with big improvements on the offensive side of the ball, the loss of defensive coordinator Ray Horton could seriously deep six the defense.

     

    Stock Report: Neutral

Atlanta Falcons

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    This has been a pretty fantastic offseason for an already talented Falcons team.

    The return of Tony Gonzalez and the addition of Steven Jackson portend great things for a dynamic offense. On the defensive side of the ball, the Falcons have beefed up both their defensive front and defensive backfield.

    This team could easily be a championship contender, but the biggest question is whether the offensive line and linebacking corps will hold up their ends of the bargain.

     

    Stock Report: Up

Baltimore Ravens

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    I'm actually really bullish on the Ravens, both for this season and for the future.

    However, it's hard for one's stock to go "up" as defending champions, and the Ravens are replacing a lot of integral pieces. Even though I believe many of the replacements are upgradesfor instance, Ray Lewis might be a Hall of Fame-caliber player, but he was a liability at times last seasonso many new faces are sure to equate to some growing pains.

    It all hinges on Joe Flacco. Much like last year, if the offense can carry this team, the hiccups on defense won't really matter.

     

    Stock Report: Neutral

Buffalo Bills

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    Prior to the draft, I was higher on EJ Manuel than most. I also love the speed-centric additions of guys like Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin. The offense in Buffalo has plodded around too much in recent years, and the dynamic play of the rookies should complement C.J. Spiller nicely—down the road.

    Sometimes, though, rookies don't hit right away, and Manuel will probably take a year or two to acclimate fully to the NFL. These are excellent additions for the future, but the present outlook is pretty bleak for the Bills.

     

    Stock Report: Down

Carolina Panthers

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    Rookies Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short are going to have a cumulative effect on the rest of the Panthers defense. Because of that, a defense that has had solid parts but a crumbling core up front will be able to take steps toward greatness for the first time under Ron Rivera. This will be a unit to watch out for in the coming season. 

    On offense, there is still work to do. Frankly, the cap space in Carolina is a little messed up, with so much money being spent on running backs and so little of it being used to address the big bodies that are blocking for them. They'll need to be at their best in a very tough NFC South.

     

    Stock Report: Up

Chicago Bears

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    The Bears seemed adamant about improving their offensive line this offseason, but—as with many units in football—sometimes the best offensive lines are the ones that have worked together the longest. Because of this truism, it's not necessarily correct to believe that we'll see a huge uptick in Cutler's protection this season. We certainly could, but some speed bumps are almost inevitable. 

    The NFC North should be one of the toughest divisions in football next season, and it's difficult to see the Bears supplanting either the Packers or the Vikings as playoff favorites.

     

    Stock Report: Neutral

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Without a doubt, the Bengals defense is ready for prime time. The question is—and has always beencan Andy Dalton lead this team into Super Bowl contention?

    Now, with rookies like tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Gio Bernard in the mix, Dalton is officially in "put up or shut up" mode. Smart money is on Dalton doing the former.

    This could be the year that the Bengals stop being the "other" team in the AFC North.

     

    Stock Report: Up

Cleveland Browns

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    The Browns roster is more talented than any team should be with a brand new head coach and general manager.

    However, having a great tackle tandem, cornerback, center and running back doesn't mean a whole lot if the quarterback can't take care of business. And now that Brandon Weeden is locked in an actual quarterback battle with Jason Campbell, that doesn't bode well for his chances.

    This team is only getting as far as Weeden takes them, or as far as they're able to drag him along. Either way, the Browns should finish last in the AFC North once again.

     

    Stock Report: Neutral

Dallas Cowboys

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    Tony Romo isn't the problem with this team—he never has been and he likely won't ever be. Romo is an above-average starter who has been handed a lot of shiny toys to play with, but he consistently has his knees knocked out from under him.

    His line is terrible. The unit's best player, Tyron Smith, was a fantastic right tackle, but he was outclassed on the left side last season. The rest of the line is pedestrian, and reaching for Travis Frederick in the first round of this year's draft may not have helped that so much.

    Until Jerry Jones realizes what he knows (business) and what he doesn't know (football), this team will be perpetually stuck in neutral.

     

    Stock Report: Neutral

Denver Broncos

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    The Broncos were already a top team in football thanks to Peyton Manning, but the moves to add Wes Welker, Sylvester Williams and Louis Vasquez this offseason very well might put them over the top.

    Now, the Broncos' passing game should be as steady as it is explosive, and their running game should be able to provide a solid counterattack. On defense, Williams will draw blockers, giving guys like Von Miller more room with which to work.

    In a weak AFC, the Broncos may want to start making travel plans for late January.

     

    Stock Report: Up

Detroit Lions

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    At the end of the regular season, the Lions were faced with the need to improve their offensive and defensive lines, add a competent rushing attack to go with their passing game, replace both kicking specialists, re-sign both starting linebackers and shore up the defensive backfield.

    It would have been almost impossible to manage all of the above, but the addition of players like Ezekiel Ansah, Larry Warford, Darius Slay, Reggie Bush, Glover Quin, David Akers and Jason Jones certainly helped.

    As it's been said a few times already in this slideshow, so many moving parts can easily keep a team from reaching their true potential, but the Lions are clearly in a much better position today than they were at the beginning of the offseason.

     

    Stock Report: Up

Green Bay Packers

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    If the only thing good that happened this offseason was extending Aaron Rodgers' contract and saving themselves from a season full of "Baylessian" discussion over whether he wanted to play there, it would have been a success.

    Mission accomplished.

    Adding two top-flight running backs in the draft is icing on the cake. And without defenses being able to tee off on him, Rodgers might actually see the full length of that deal.

     

    Stock Report: Up

Houston Texans

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    Getting Brian Cushing back and healthy is easily the best thing to happen to the Texans this offseason, but with the losses they've suffered—Connor Barwin, James Casey, Glover Quin and others—it may not be enough.

    They drafted one full-time starter, a No. 2 receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, this year, but they still must be planning on J.J. Watt literally doing it all on defense.

    This was a team that had trouble closing out games and beating the best of the best last season. This season, they may find themselves taking a step back unless they get heroic efforts from more than just their elite players.

     

    Stock Report: Down

Indianapolis Colts

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    The Colts were able to do an amazing amount of work in Year 1 of the new regime. Now, with a full offseason dedicated to putting talent around Andrew Luck and on that "Chuckstrong" defense, an AFC South title seems well within their sights.

    Sure, the offensive line could be a problem, as could the change of offensive coordinator. Still, it's difficult to imagine the Colts faltering when their talent-bereft 2012 edition was so successful.

     

    Stock Report: Up

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars aren't the first team to use Pro Football Focus numbers. The New York Giants, notably, utilized PFF data en route to their last Super Bowl. This year, the numbers told Tony Khan that right tackle was an important position to fill, and the Jaguars went all in by taking Luke Joeckel with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.

    If Khan and the Jaguars are right, and if Blaine Gabbert is able to prove his doubters wrong (myself chief among them), the Jaguars could surprise people this season.

    At worst, the Jaguars have added a great defensive mind in Gus Bradley along with a bunch of talented defenders, so even the losses should be less embarrassing in 2013.

     

    Stock Report: Up

Kansas City Chiefs

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    The two biggest issues with the Chiefs last season were coaching and quarterback play.

    New head coach Andy Reid has lost a lot of luster in the past few years, but he's worlds better than Romeo Crennel. The same can be said for quarterback Alex Smith in comparison to Matt Cassel. Smith only has to be average to take this team into playoff contention.

    Add in a nice free-agent haul and a good draft class and this team could easily compete for a wild-card spot in the AFC.

     

    Stock Report: Up

Miami Dolphins

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    The Dolphins acquired a ton of pretty toys for Ryan Tannehill this offseason, but if he falters, this free-agent shopping spree could all be for naught.

    Jeff Ireland's job is hardly safe, and the Dolphins are doing their best to try to squeeze tax dollars out of their fans. The biggest issue may be along the offensive line, where Jonathan Martin and Tyson Clabo are hardly a quality tandem.

    After years of not spending and misspending, however, the Dolphins should be able to eke out a few more wins once they hit their stride. 

     

    Stock Report: Up

Minnesota Vikings

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    Last year, the Vikings were at their best while Percy Harvin was on the IR and Adrian Peterson was rolling along on all eight cylinders. Yes, Christian Ponder needs to take a step forward, but with wide receivers Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson now on board, it seems likely that might actually happen.

    On defense, the Vikings still need to figure out who is starting at middle linebacker, but the unit should be able to create a lot of pressure along the front seven.

    Look for Minnesota to keep the pressure on Green Bay all season long.

     

    Stock Report: Up

New England Patriots

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    The Patriots are going to miss Wes Welker, but probably not as much as people expect them to. Tom Brady has a bunch of new targets to work with, and he still has Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and a ridiculously underrated running game.

    The story here, though, is the Patriots defense that continues to improve, as they added another great piece this offseason in Adrian Wilson. As long as Tom Brady stays healthy, this team is clearly a Super Bowl contender. 

     

    Stock Report: Up

New Orleans Saints

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    Reuniting Sean Payton and Drew Brees after last season will have positive effects, as will bringing in Rob Ryan and his attacking 3-4 defense.

    In many ways, Saints fans are hoping that this team is the very same as the championship contender of a few years ago—and that last year's iteration was just a bad dream.

    Yet the offense still lacks the true bevy of weapons that some of the other elite teams have. Too often the Saints rely upon Drew Brees being able to hold up with less-than-adequate protection. Also, the defense isn't quite ready and could use another season to add talent that fits its new scheme.

    Overall, the Saints should be much better than they were in the Bountygate-plagued 2012 season, but contending for a Super Bowl might be too much to ask.

     

    Stock Report: Up

New York Giants

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    This draft was very typical for the Giants, as they went back to the ole well to solve last season's woes. With a ton of needs, they did what they always do: find ways to protect Eli Manning and add talent on the defensive line.

    These are smart moves. Johnathan Hankins and Damontre Moore should both be good pieces. Justin Pugh was a reach in the first round, in my opinion, but he'll play somewhere in their zone-blocking scheme.

    Free-agency additions like Dan Connor, Cullen Jenkins and Brandon Myers should reap dividends as well.

    It's all good, but is it enough?

    With Eli Manning, 32, and Tom Coughlin, 66, both getting "up there" in age, the Giants are on the downslope of their "window of opportunity." I'm not sure they've done enough to get over the hump, and the NFC East isn't doing them any favors.

     

    Stock Report: Neutral

New York Jets

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    I'm a Geno Smith fan. That said, like the Buffalo Bills, the New York Jets made moves for the future this offseason, and things might not look so bright and sunny in 2013.

    Adding Sheldon Richardson and Dee Milliner to the defense will help stem the tide a little bit, though, as should the new-look interior of the offensive line and the addition of running back Chris Ivory.

    Yet, the defense still lacks a pass-rusher and quality in the secondary outside of Antonio Cromartie (remember, with regard to Milliner, cornerbacks usually take a year or two to develop). Also, the offense has next to no targets for whomever wins the quarterback battle.

    It's looking like another rough year in New York for the Jets, but if the front office is given another chance, it looks like it has a much better long-term plan than the last regime.

     

    Stock Report: Down

Oakland Raiders

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    Matt Flynn is not an NFL-caliber starter.

    That statement—though absolutely absurd to Raiders fans who apparently believe he's the second coming of Steve Young—is what is going to hamstring all of the other quality moves that Reggie McKenzie has made this offseason.

    The defense is almost completely overhauled with quality castoffs from other teams, and quality down-the-road starters like linebacker Sio Moore and offensive tackle Menelik Watson were selected in the draft. 

    The lynchpin for this team, however, is Flynn. He's a facilitator. His greatest success was in Green Bay where he had a ridiculous amount of weapons. If he falters—and he willrookie Tyler Wilson could easily end up starting games this season.

    This is a long rebuild for a team that was so decimated by the end of the Al Davis era. McKenzie is making a lot of great moves, but the team is not quite there yet. Expect the Raiders to be drafting in the top 10 (if not top five) again next April.

     

    Stock Report: Neutral

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Many of my colleagues in the media claim that they have seen positive change in Philadelphia this offseason, and they assume that this will have and immediate effect for the Eagles.

    Chip Kelly is going to have a positive effect on the Philadelphia Eagles, but the idea that he's going to take this team from the cellar to the penthouse in one season is a little far-fetched. He'll need time to work out the kinks of his system, find more of "his" guys and build up around his ideals.

    With so many question marks on defense and along the offensive line, this is a team that is at least one—probably more—drafts away from being competitive in the NFC East.

     

    Stock Report: Neutral

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    "The Steelers are getting old."

    It's the constant refrain from critics who think that the team is made of solely of people they've heard of and not realizing that the rest of the roster is getting younger in recent years. However, while the Steelers have had good drafts, they're trying to replace a bunch of All-Pro-caliber players who are getting older (or have already left town).

    To me, 2012 was another good draft, but there was no James Harrison, no Troy Polamalu, no Hines Ward and no Jerome Bettis. Sure, they've picked up some players who can play some of those positions, but none of them has the ability to make the same impact.

     

    Stock Report: Down

San Diego Chargers

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    The biggest issue with the Chargers in 2012 was a stubborn refusal to change the offensive game plan in the face of constant reminders that the personnel simply was not there.

    Running a vertical Norv Turner-style passing attack with zero protection should be considered attempted homicide because Philip Rivers is lucky that he got through last season with his head still attached to his shoulders. 

    In 2013, the Chargers will have a more balanced attack and have added more bodies up front to keep Rivers upright, even if a few linemen go down.

     

    Stock Report: Up

San Francisco 49ers

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    The 49ers have had as good of an offseason—both through free agency and the draft—as anyone, and they hardly needed it.

    This was already a championship-level roster, and they just needed a few pieces to help them stem the tide of free-agent losses, specifically safety Dashon Goldson. Instead, they made a bunch of shrewd moves and came out of the spring better than they went into it.

    Wide receiver Anquan Boldin and safety Eric Reid are probably the only two immediate starters that were added, but names like Vance McDonald, Tank Carradine and Glenn Dorsey are going to be called upon in heavy rotation this season. Nnamdi Asomugha has a chance to crack the top-three cornerbacks as well—a statement that would've sounded truly absurd just two seasons ago.

    This is a team that is both deep and extremely talented up top. It's set up for a championship run in 2013 and for many years beyond.

     

    Stock Report: Up

Seattle Seahawks

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    If any team has matched the 49ers' fantastic offseason, it's their NFC West rival, the Seattle Seahawks.

    Adding electrifying wide receiver Percy Harvin was a stroke of genius, as it was rare win-win move for both the Seahawks and the Vikings. He'll give Russell Wilson a true playmaking companion and another phenomenal athlete for opposing defenses to worry about.

    The most pleasantly surprising development of the offseason, though, was the fact that the Seahawks were not satisfied on the defensive side of the ball. They added two potential starters (Tony McDaniel and Cliff Avril) in free agency as well as some quality depth and rotational help throughout the draft. When Antoine Winfield is your nickelback, something is going right.

     

    Stock Report: Up

St. Louis Rams

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    The Rams might feel a little behind the ole eight ball, as simply "getting better" in the NFC West might not be enough when the Seahawks and Niners are consistently two steps ahead of you.

    Yet the Rams played their playoff-contending rivals extremely close last season, and they have a chance to do so again in 2013, when Sam Bradford should have more protection and weapons than he ever has in the NFL.

    If Jeff Fisher is able to "handle" troubled rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree like he was able to with troubled rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins last season, this defense has a chance to be truly special in 2013. There is a ton of talent up front and in the linebacking corps, and the safety position won't be a giant Achilles' heel for opponents to exploit.

     

    Stock Report: Up

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    The Buccaneers' defense is probably in contentionif not already the front-runnerfor the most improved unit this offseason. Adding Darrelle Revis (assuming he's healthy), Dashon Goldson and Johnthan Banks will really beef up the secondary, giving the pass-rushers up front time to work.

    On offense, things are pretty much status quo, and Josh Freeman will have to prove that he's the man to lead this team to the promised land. If not, the Buccaneers won't hesitate to give rookie Mike Glennon an opportunity to supplant him.

     

    Stock Report: Up

Tennessee Titans

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    The Titans are removing every obstacle from Jake Locker's path. He has a much better interior line than last season with the additions of Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack. This, in turn, will boost the running game's effectiveness and open up vertical space in the passing game. Also, he now has Kevin Walter and Justin Hunter to provide more depth and add some stability to an already talented receiving corps.

    Of course, this all means that Locker has to actually win football games—something he hasn't really done with any regularity since high school. That's the issue with Locker; he's always been a guy with a ton of untapped potential.

    Will he reach it in 2013, or will the Titans' talented roster be looking for a new trigger man next offseason?

     

    Stock Report: Neutral

Washington Redskins

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    This team will only go so far as Robert Griffin III takes it.

    Luckily for the Redskins, that could potentially be the Super Bowl if RGIII can stay healthy. Everything on this team—the defense's effectiveness, the running game's explosiveness, the offensive line's stability—hinges on the ability of their superstar passer.

    Because they traded so much to go get him in the 2012 draft, they were unable to build other places on their roster via the draft, and cap space is also an issue. So, RGIII must be the phenomenal player they need him to be. Any step backward (a sophomore slump, perhaps) could doom the team as a whole.

    Overall, this should be a better team than last season, but RGIII coming back healthy is the only thing this team really needs to be a contender again in 2013.

     

    Stock Report: Up

     

     

    Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.