2014 NFL Draft: The Worst-Case Scenario Every Team Must Avoid

Giancarlo Ferrari-King@@GiancarloKingFeatured ColumnistApril 7, 2014

2014 NFL Draft: The Worst-Case Scenario Every Team Must Avoid

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    Chris Chambers/Getty Images

    We're now just a month away from the start of the 2014 NFL draft.

    Though every fan wants their respective teams to have an outstanding draft, sometimes things don't always pan out the way they're supposed to.

    Whether an organization misses out on the chance to draft a franchise quarterback or they wait too long to address a position of need, each slide you're about to see breaks down what the worst-case scenario would be for all 32 NFL teams.

    Figuring out exactly where each team stands heading into the draft wasn't an easy task.

    Taking a look at some recent reports that have surfaced and blending it together with a combination of advanced and regular statistics, we were able to analyze each roster and come up with these scenarios.

    So without further delay, it's time to start the slideshow below and check out the list.

Houston Texans

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Armed with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, the Houston Texans are in a great position to make an immediate turnaround during the 2014 season.

    Former New England Patriots offensive coordinator and Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien comes to Houston at the perfect time.

    Without a true "franchise-caliber" quarterback to run their offense, the Texans managed to average a measly 17.2 points per game last season.

    O'Brien has had a plethora of experience working with signal-callers.

    From his days dealing with Tom Brady in New England to the more recent time he spent with Matt McGloin and Christian Hackenberg at State College, Pa., O'Brien knows exactly what he wants in a quarterback.

    "O'Brien likes accuracy over a cannon of an arm," Deepi Sidhu of HoustonTexans.com tweeted.

    John McClain of the Houston Chronicle also pointed out that the Texans head coach "likes a quarterback with good size and enough mobility to avoid the rush."

    Now that Matt Schaub has been shipped off to the Oakland Raiders, there's no better time to pursue a quarterback of the future.

    Evaluating the top QBs in this year's draft is going to be the No. 1 priority for O'Brien and the Texans front office.

    That doesn't mean they necessarily will take a field general with the first pick in the draft, but the goal of course will be to draft at least one who can come in and compete for the job.

    Knowing that, at the end of the day, the worst-case scenario for the Texans would be missing out on a potential franchise quarterback in this year's draft. 


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Texans miss out on drafting a franchise quarterback.

St. Louis Rams

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    When the St. Louis Rams get on the clock on May 8, they will have to do some major soul-searching to figure out exactly how they're going to use the second pick in the draft.

    Finishing 7-9 last season in the hyper-competitive NFC West, head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead have cultivated a roster full of talent and upside.

    With two picks in the first round of the draft, this program has the luxury of adding "elite" prospects over positions of need early on.

    That's why a dynamic edge-rusher like South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney could become a real possibility for the Rams.

    Despite having two fantastic pass-rushers in Robert Quinn and Chris Long on the roster, Fisher hasn't ruled out the possibility of going after a guy like Clowney early in the draft.

    Talking about Clowney at the NFL Annual Meeting, per Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Fisher said:

    I’ve learned over the years that you never have enough pass rushers. And I think not only us, but other teams that are in our situation, are creative enough to find ways to get (Clowney) on the field and put him in position to make plays.

    Whether the decision is made to go after Clowney or to add an offensive lineman like Auburn's Greg Robinson, the Rams' worst-case scenario is going to be passing up on a franchise-altering football player in lieu of adding more draft picks.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Rams miss out on an elite player early in the first round and trade back into the draft.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    In case you didn't get the memo, this isn't the same Jacksonville Jaguars team that went out and drafted quarterback Blaine Gabbert in 2011.

    Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell have done everything in their power to completely rebuild this roster and the culture that goes with it.

    The new regime in Jacksonville went out this offseason and retooled this roster with the helping hand of free agency.

    Now with the draft next up on the agenda, it's going to be imperative for this franchise to hit paydirt with all of their picks.

    In a quarterback-driven league, the Jaguars won't be able to take that next step without solidifying the position long-term.

    The decision to re-sign veteran signal-caller Chad Henne this offseason made perfect sense. Not only will he be entering his second season running offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch's scheme, but that level of comfort within the confines of this offense also gives him the ability to lead by experience.

    Still, Henne is never going to be the face of this franchise.

    Grading out as Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) worst quarterback in 2013, Henne played poorly, but his struggles could be directly correlated to a Jaguars offense that was starved for talent.

    Though they could always go for another elite defensive prospect, addressing the quarterback dilemma seems like the most appropriate course of action for this team.

    Like the Texans, going after a QB doesn't have to come by way of the top half of the first round.

    Depending on the team's evaluation process and what guys they really like, maneuvering their way down the draft board could be the smartest decision Caldwell makes.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Jaguars miss out on drafting a franchise quarterback.

Cleveland Browns

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    Tony Dejak

    Another offseason means another change of management for the Cleveland Browns.

    For Browns fans, it's become a vicious cycle as of late.

    Since 2005, the Browns have had five head coaches at the helm of this franchise.

    But it's that feeling of perpetual hope that keeps fans of the Browns going even amidst the crashing waves of turmoil.

    Mike Pettine is the latest man to be tabbed as the head coach of the Browns. With new general manager Ray Farmer now running the day-to-day operations, this duo has been put in a great position to succeed come draft day.

    Having 10 draft picks to work with—including two in the first round—means that the new regime in Cleveland will be able to land valuable pieces throughout the entire draft process.

    That process starts by adding a quarterback into the mix.

    Despite this year's draft looking incredibly deep on paper, NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah wrote, "I will be very surprised if the Browns take any position other than a quarterback with their top pick, especially after releasing Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell during the first week of free agency."

    Figuring out which quarterback this team should select has already been discussed by various media personalities and mock-draft aficionados alike.

    Even Browns superstar wide receiver Josh Gordon weighed in on the idea, saying on NFL Fan Pass that he would take Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater with the No. 4 pick in the draft.

    No matter who ends up suiting up for the Browns next year, the time to go after a franchise quarterback is now. Missing out on that possibility would wholeheartedly be the worst-case scenario for this team.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Browns miss out on drafting a franchise quarterback.

Oakland Raiders

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    Ben Margot

    The Oakland Raiders' foray into the 2014 draft comes on the heels of a big offseason by general manager Reggie McKenzie.

    Adding a herd of veteran players into the mix shows that this team wants to rebuild and contend from Day 1.

    The draft brings opportunities galore for the Silver and Black. Having the luxury to pretty much do anything they want will make the team's first-round pick one of the more interesting ones in this year's draft.

    Because of this, figuring out the team's worst-case scenario becomes a little more difficult.

    That being said, the one thing McKenzie can't miss out on is landing a premier playmaker.

    For all of the hyperbole surrounding some of the "top-tier" prospects, it's going to be up to the staff in Oakland to vet and properly determine which players can make an immediate impact from the moment their name is announced at the lectern.

    Finding players with that kind of skill set isn't easy. But if you go back and put on the tape, there are a few guys who would look fantastic in a Raiders uniform.

    Buffalo's Khalil Mack is an explosive defender who can come off the edge, drop back into coverage and find the football with relative ease.

    Adding him into the mix would be a fantastic haul for the Raiders in Round 1.

    If you flip over to the other side of the ball, Clemson's Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M's Mike Evans are two talented wide receivers who have enough ability to change the complexion of an offense right away.

    The Raiders' draft is going to be a big one. With a veteran-infused roster now at their disposal, the team can't afford to miss out on adding as many playmakers as possible.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Raiders pass on a dynamic playmaker in favor of a quarterback early on.

Atlanta Falcons

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Just two seasons removed from playing in the NFC Championship Game, the Atlanta Falcons struggled mightily last season.

    Now, the Falcons head into the 2014 draft with a talented roster serving as a basis for a quick turnaround.

    With quarterback Matt Ryan out there leading the troops, it's hard to imagine this team maintaining their status as "basement dwellers" of the NFC South for long.

    Though a lost season is tough for any fan, the good news is the Falcons now have the sixth overall pick in this year's draft.

    In a Twitter exchange with Bleacher Report's resident Falcons enthusiast Scott Carasik, he went on to explain to me that the worst-case scenario for this team would be missing out on Auburn's Greg Robinson, South Carolina standout Jadeveon Clowney or Buffalo's Khalil Mack.

    Whether that means none of those prospects fall to them or they can't trade up and land one, missing out on a blue-chip player would be the one scenario this team can't afford.


    Worst-Case Scenario: Missing out on a Day 1 game-changer like Clowney, Robinson or Mack.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Chris O'Meara

    Lovie Smith's return to coaching is reason enough for Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans to jump for joy.

    A longtime staple of the Chicago Bears, Smith compiled a coaching record of 81 wins to just 63 losses in nine seasons.

    Taking over the Buccaneers, Smith will try to duplicate that same level of success in a warmer part of the country.

    Coming along for the ride with Coach Smith is new general manager Jason Licht.

    Licht and the Buccaneers were aggressive in free agency.

    By landing big-time players like defensive end Michael Johnson, cornerback Alterraun Verner and center Evan Dietrich-Smith, the Bucs' new administration already helped fill some major positions of need.

    With second-year quarterback Mike Glennon on the roster and former Chicago Bears journeyman Josh McCown now in the mix, the need for a quarterback doesn't seem as pressing as it was a few weeks ago.

    There's already a level of quality to this roster that has been missing in the past. That kind of depth makes settling for a player on draft weekend the worst-case scenario for the Buccaneers.

    The NFL draft is a great medium to muster up big-time trades. In last year's draft, there were five trades in just the first round.

    While having draft picks is a wonderful way to start your tenure as either the head coach or general manager of the Buccaneers, using it to leverage more picks or players could be even more of a gratifying solution.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Buccaneers settle for players without attempting to trade back at some point during the draft.

Minnesota Vikings

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    Matt Dunham

    The Minnesota Vikings are another NFL franchise smack dab in the middle of sweeping change.

    Mike Zimmer was hired to be the team's ninth head coach. Along with Zimmer's introduction as head coach came veteran offensive coordinator Norv Turner to try to spark an offense led by the incomparable Adrian Peterson.

    The Vikings' biggest issues stem from a lack of stability at quarterback.

    Though former first-round pick Christian Ponder is still on the roster, the team's decision to re-sign Matt Cassel has all but closed the book on the Ponder era in Minnesota.

    It's fair to assume that Cassel should have a level of success under Turner's tutelage.

    Historically, Turner has found a way to get the most out of his quarterbacks in his Air Coryell attack.

    Finding a quarterback to come in and compete is going to be big for this team. Whether that guy comes in the first round or later on in the draft, ignoring the position is one scenario this team has to avoid.

    If you look at the division the Vikings play in, a common theme is quality quarterback play. Guys like Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler all have a swagger about them that translates to putting points up on the board.

    Finding that player who can help lead the Vikings back to the top of the NFC North is going to be key for this program.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Vikings leave the 2014 draft without a quarterback.

Buffalo Bills

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    Associated Press

    Last year, the Bills went out and drafted their franchise quarterback in former Florida State signal-caller EJ Manuel.

    Manuel is a dual-threat QB who has displayed boisterous arm strength on film despite still being somewhat of a developmental project.

    If they want to make this whole Manuel situation work, Bills head coach Doug Marrone and general manager Doug Whaley would be wise to shore up the team's offensive line during the upcoming draft.

    Using Pro Football Outsiders' advanced statistics as a guide, the Bills finished last season with the 29th-ranked offensive line when it came to protecting the quarterback.

    Landing pieces to ensure Manuel can stay upright is going to be a big part of the this team's draft plans.

    Talking to B/R's Chris Trapasso about the Bills offensive line, he went on to say, "The Bills really need to solidify the RT position. Erik Pears is a pass-blocking specialist but he regressed in 2013 and is over 30. They're fine at left tackle, right guard and center although Eric Wood, who's finally entering offseason workouts not coming off an injury, needs to be better."

    Though Trapasso pointed out that tight end, defensive end, wide receiver and running back are all "big" needs, finding an effective right tackle is still important.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Bills miss out on a quality offensive tackle, leaving Manuel vulnerable once again during the 2014 season.

Detroit Lions

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    Rick Osentoski

    Led by quarterback Matthew Stafford, the Detroit Lions are a team that can form like Voltron and become a formidable offensive juggernaut in the blink of an eye.

    With Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush and now Golden Tate all out there on the field, defenses will once again have a tough time slowing down Detroit's potent attack.

    The Lions should turn their attention toward defense during the upcoming draft.

    While it would be great to have another prominent wide receiver line up across from Johnson, bolstering the team's secondary is a big need.

    Last season the Lions finished as the 23rd-ranked pass defense. Now, with the loss of safety Louis Delmas to free agency, there's a need to infuse more playmakers into the secondary.

    If they want to address their biggest need in the first round, a guy like Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would be a nice haul.

    Clinton-Dix is a high-caliber safety with an NFL-like frame and fantastic ball skills.

    His draft stock seems to be on the rise, as NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah tweeted, "Several personnel guys have told me they'd be very surprised if the Rams passed on HaHa Clinton-Dix at 13."

    With the No. 10 pick in the draft, the Lions could be in a great position to land the Crimson Tide ball hawk.

    Even if Clinton-Dix isn't the guy the Lions go after, the point is, there will be great defensive prospects available for them to pursue.

    Worst-case scenario? The Lions pass on a defensive playmaker early and there is a rush for cornerbacks and safeties in the first two rounds.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Lions pass on a defensive back early, then reach for one in Round 2.

Tennessee Titans

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    Mark Zaleski

    "Things are different. The building is different. The offense and defense are going to be different. The schedule is going to be different. All of those things have changed," Tennessee Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt told Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

    With the former Arizona Cardinals head coach running the show, Titans fans are going to see a complete overhaul of their roster.

    That overhaul could very well start by going after a quarterback in the upcoming draft.

    Though Jim Wyatt wrote that the team considers Jake Locker to be their starting QB in 2014, he also notes that the Titans are doing their due diligence when it comes to signal-callers in the draft.

    But if the team decides to bypass a quarterback, that won't be the end of the world, either.

    Alterraun Verner's decision to sign with the Buccaneers has opened up a big void in the secondary.

    B/R's draft expert Matt Miller has Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert going to the Titans in the first round. Explaining his reasoning behind the pick, Miller said:

    At 6'0", 200 lbs, Gilbert has the size and speed to be a press-coverage cornerback and excel as a ball hawk. He also brings big value as a return man, as his open-field speed shows on defense and special teams.

    And what you like best about Gilbert is that he's NFL ready and can instantly step in and produce as a boundary cornerback matched up against top-tier wide receivers.

    The worst-case scenario for the Titans on draft weekend would be missing out on a quality cornerback.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Titans miss out on a top-tier cornerback prospect in Round 1 of the draft.

New York Giants

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning needs weapons. There's really no way around it.

    Giants general manager Jerry Reese has made some serious strides in free agency, landing cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond.

    Though there are still needs on the defensive side the ball, the weight of this draft should shift toward going after offensive playmakers.

    With Hakeem Nicks now headed off to the Indianapolis Colts, the Giants roster has lost another downfield threat.

    Having the No. 12 pick in the upcoming draft gives the Giants an opportunity to go after a playmaker.

    Finding a way to improve on last season's 19th-ranked passing attack starts with landing a prominent weapon like Eric Ebron out of the University of North Carolina.

    Ebron is a speedy tight end with great hands and the ability to pick up significant yards after the catch.

    Comparing him to San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon DavisDane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com (h/t CBSSports.com) said, "Freaky athletic specimens, both Ebron and Davis move like wide receivers, but have the size and length of tight ends to create mismatches in coverage."

    As is the case every year, for the Giants to have success, they are going to have to count on Manning. ESPN.com's Dan Graziano summed it perfectly when he said:

    So Manning has a lot of work to do, and this is why the Giants pay him $20 million or so a year. They count on him to be able to carry them to great things. They know, if they didn't already before last year's crater of an 0-6 start, that they can't just let the whole roster erode around him and expect him to work miracles.

    Whether it's Ebron or another offensive talent, Manning needs guys on this roster who can grow with him and contribute on a weekly basis.


    Worst-Case Scenario: Eric Ebron and wide receiver Mike Evans are off the board when the Giants finally get on the clock.

Chicago Bears

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    Matt Marton

    Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman came in last season and revamped the team's offensive attack.

    The lethal combination of wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall cleared the way for the Bears to finish the 2013 season with the league's fifth-ranked passing attack.

    With a prolific offense now in place, the Bears have to keep finding ways to revitalize their defense.

    Unlike the Bears of the past, last year's defense finished as the 30th-ranked unit in the NFL.

    That has to change if this team wants to make a serious playoff push in 2014.

    Bears general manager Phil Emery kicked off the rebuild the right way when he went out and signed free-agent defensive ends Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen.

    But the quest to improve the defense doesn't end in free agency.

    This year's draft should serve as a testament to the iconic defenses of the past. Going after players who can become instant contributors should be the goal for Emery and Trestman's second year together in Chicago.

    In his most recent mock draft, B/R's Matt Miller has the Bears going after Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan in Round 1.

    Talking about why he makes so much sense for this team, Miller said:

    Jernigan looked like a top-five pick at times this year. Turn on the national championship game, and it is easy to see that he was the best player on the field. His quickness off the ball is matched by his strength, and when Jernigan is dialed in, he's unstoppable.

    Defense is the name of the game when it comes to the Bears.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Bears miss out on a premier 3-technique tackle defensive tackle in Round 1.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Keith Srakocic

    After an 8-8 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers will try to find a way back into the postseason.

    But after suffering significant casualties thanks to free agency, the Steelers are once again a team on the mend.

    The positives for this team starts with their coaching staff. Head coach Mike Tomlin is a staple of consistency, and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is one of the brightest minds this game has ever seen.

    Add in former Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak as the team's offensive line coach, and the Steelers once again have one of the most sought-after coaching staffs in all of professional football.

    Per usual, the draft is going to be the best place for the Steelers to reload their roster.

    A worst-case scenario for the Steelers during the upcoming draft comes down to how the draft board falls. With a bevy of needs to fill, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has a daunting task ahead of him.

    Perhaps more than anything else, the Steelers will need to find a way to replace the production of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who signed with the Denver Broncos earlier this offseason.

    The result, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lost another quality target.

    Though the team went out and signed Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey to help ease the loss, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that the team still has its sights set on one during this year's draft.

    The best draft for the Steelers is going to be one that is predicated on balance.

    Finding a way to address the level of turnaround this organization has undergone will be key for the future success of the Steelers.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Steelers focus on the defensive side of the ball, making Roethlisberger's life even harder in 2014.

Dallas Cowboys

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    It's Jerry Jones' world, and we're all just living in it.

    That sentiment rings true to fans of the Dallas Cowboys, who have endured the tyrannical ways of Jones for quite some time now.

    Jones and his beloved Cowboys seem to always be on the brink of breaking through in the NFC East with each passing season.

    But with a defense that finished the 2013 season as the league's worst-ranked unit, things need to drastically change if the Cowboys ever want to find their way back to the playoffs.

    Looking at some the team's biggest needs, NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah wrote:

    The Cowboys must replace DE DeMarcus Ware and DT Jason Hatcher and they are desperate for an impact safety. The safety position has been an issue for the past few years and it wouldn't be a surprise if they decided to address that problem with their first-round pick. 

    The worst-case scenario for the Cowboys really hinges on Jones as a general manager. Will he stay the course and improve the team's biggest need? Or will he decide to go after a guy who intrigues him regardless of position?


    Worst-Case Scenario: Jones decides to go about his business and reaches for a player he falls in love with instead of addressing the team's biggest needs.

Baltimore Ravens

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    David Banks/Getty Images

    Although they are just two seasons removed from winning the Super Bowl, the Baltimore Ravens are a team without a true identity.

    CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora detailed the biggest question marks surrounding the team leading up to the draft:

    Does Joe Flacco have enough weapons, finally? Who plays right tackle? Is there a true free safety on the roster? The Ravens will get something out of WR Steve Smith and retaining TE Dennis Pitta was a must, but they still lack a big target outside at receiver, and expect that to be a major draft target.

    It will now be up to Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome to answer those questions while attempting to rebuild the once-vaunted Ravens defense.

    The draft itself is of course a great way to attack all facets of the ball.

    If Newsome can find a way to supply quarterback Joe Flacco with more weapons and build up the team's defense, the Ravens could find their way back into playoffs before you know it.


    Worst-Case Scenario: Newsome shifts his attention to shoring up the team's offensive line and passes on a potential playmaker in Round 1.

New York Jets

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    For a team that started a rookie quarterback and brought in a first-year general manager, the New York Jets surprised a lot of people last season by winning eight games.

    Credit head coach Rex Ryan for keeping the locker room strong as the Jets underwent a serious dose of change in 2013.

    Now with their eyes set on the 2014 season, the Jets will need to build an offense that can help either Geno Smith or recently signed quarterback Michael Vick thrive.

    Like most draft pundits, B/R's Matt Miller has the Jets drafting a wide receiver in the first round of the draft—Odell Beckham out of LSU.

    Drafting a wide receiver makes too much sense at this point in time.

    Though they could use an edge-rusher to further enhance Ryan's defense, without an offense to rely on, Smith won't ever have the chance to grow as a passer.

    The way things are looking right now, there will be plenty of wide receivers available by the time the Jets' first-round pick comes rolling around.

    Who they decide to go after is still up in the air.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Jets go after a pass-rusher in Round 1, missing out on a potential game-breaking wide receiver in the process.

Miami Dolphins

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    To say the 2013 season was a tumultuous one for the Miami Dolphins would be an understatement.

    From controversies within the organization to the team limping to an 8-8 record, the Dolphins need to take a big step forward in 2014 if head coach Joe Philbin wants to stick around for the foreseeable future.

    This year's draft should focus on rebuilding the team's offensive line.

    Even though they went out and signed left tackle Branden Albert, the Dolphins still could use some more talent to make sure quarterback Ryan Tannehill is successful.

    Taking a look at ESPN NFL/College draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s "Grade: A" draft for the Dolphins (subscription required), he touches on the need to bring in another versatile offensive lineman:

    In Round 2 I go with Bitonio, a versatile offensive line prospect who can play either guard or tackle. Same with Mewhort in Round 3. I'd like to consider a cornerback in Round 3, but the issues on the line are more pressing. It's both a protection issue and about creating some running lanes.

    The Dolphins don't necessarily have to use a first-round draft pick to solve their problems, but adding productive bodies to the line is going to be important for this franchise.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Dolphins wait until Round 3 to address their offensive line.

Arizona Cardinals

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Arizona Cardinals first-year head coach Bruce Arians came to the desert in 2013 and immediately helped this franchise transform into a legitimate playoff contender.

    Finishing the season posting a 10-6 record, the Cardinals are a football team with a ridiculously bright future ahead of them.

    Boasting the league's top-ranked run defense, the Cardinals' success came by way of a young, productive defensive unit.

    But it was quarterback Carson Palmer who underwent the biggest transformation under the steady watch of Arians.

    Bouncing back from a rough stint with the Oakland Raiders, Palmer finished last season as Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) 19th-ranked QB.

    With so much room to grow as an organization, the Cardinals' draft is another chance for this team to add cornerstone pieces to an already stellar roster.

    But Arians told Bob McManaman of The Arizona Republic that he doesn't feel like the team needs to draft a quarterback in the first round.

    Continuing his commentary on taking a quarterback in Round 1, Arians also told McManaman, "I’m not a believer in a guy learning anything sitting on the bench."

    Still, the fact is Palmer isn't getting any younger and those comments don’t rule out the possibility of taking a quarterback later on in the draft.

    With a talented roster, there is no reason at this point not to try to bring in a guy that Arians can attempt to work his magic with who could ultimately serve as the heir apparent to Palmer's throne.


    Worst-Case Scenario: Arians and general manager Steve Keim wait another year and bypass the chance to develop a quarterback.

Green Bay Packers

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    When you have quarterback Aaron Rodgers, you always have a chance to do great things.

    The Green Bay Packers enter the 2014 season with a great offense and plenty of question marks on the defensive side of the ball.

    Packers general manager Ted Thompson will be looking to hit the jackpot once again on draft weekend and help this defense grow into a dangerous unit.

    At pick No. 21, the Packers will have plenty of directions they can go in.

    They could land a talented safety like Louisville's Calvin Pryor or Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward, or they could follow ESPN NFL/College draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s lead (subscription required) and select an inside linebacker like Alabama's C.J. Mosley.

    No matter who they bring in early, the entire draft should be centered around the defense.


    Worst-Case Scenario: Thompson isn't thrilled with how the board looks and decides to trade out of the first round, thus missing out on a big-time defensive prospect.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Michael Perez

    Without question, the most intriguing storyline heading into the 2013 season was Chip Kelly taking over as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Kelly came to Philadelphia looking to break all of the rules and change the way NFL teams look at offensive football.

    The result? The Eagles made the playoffs and finished second in total offense, and Kelly's brilliant offensive philosophy turned quarterback Nick Foles into a star.

    The second chapter of the Kelly's story begins with more questions than answers.

    After the team decided to part ways with wide receiver DeSean Jackson, it will be interesting to see if either Riley Cooper or Jeremy Maclin can step up and replicate that type of production.

    Talking about the decision to release Jackson, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora raised some interesting questions:

    With Jackson just down the road in Washington now, will this move blow up in Kelly's face? And will there have to be a learning curve at the pro game, coming to grips with the need to sometimes love a malcontent up rather than merely set him free? 

    It's hard to question Kelly at this point in time. Everything he has done so far has resulted in great success. And like every "genius," the Eagles head coach could use the draft to find a cheaper, younger replacement and come out smelling like roses once again this year.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Eagles miss out on a wide receiver who gives them a vertical threat in Kelly's offense. The result? This offense takes a step back, allowing the Giants and Cowboys to take over as top dog in the NFC East.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Reed Hoffmann

    Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs' voyage to the playoffs last season was a remarkable feat considering the team won just two games in 2012.

    Veteran quarterback Alex Smith did a brilliant job running Reid's interpretation of the West Coast offense, while running back Jamaal Charles became just another benefactor of Reid's bountiful offensive scheme.

    Now that the Chiefs have reestablished themselves as one of the more productive teams in the NFL, it's going to be imperative that Reid and general manager John Dorsey continue to build on their success.

    Wide receiver is a big area of need for the Chiefs.

    So much so, that on a conference call with reporters, per Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star, Dorsey talked about addressing the position in the upcoming draft:

    I think this draft is very deep in terms of wide receivers with skills. So we’re gonna turn over every rock possible as we move forward here. We’ll continue to add to the competitive depth to our roster, and that’s what we do everyday. We come in here and try to find the best possible players we can.

    With a desire to get better results from the position, Dorsey and Reid can't afford to pass on a "top-tier" player if they get the chance to draft one.

    No matter how deep this draft class may be on paper, landing a guy who can be a difference-maker from Day 1 will keep the Chiefs in contention heading into the 2014 season.


    Worst-Case Scenario: Dorsey and Reid decide to hold off on drafting a wide receiver early and end up settling for a player who needs time to properly develop.

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Al Behrman

    Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has been a pillar of stability for this organization since he walked in the door back in 2003.

    Now entering the 2014 season, Lewis will look to keep the Bengals trending upward even though he lost Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden this offseason.

    B/R's Andrea Hangst wrote a comprehensive mock draft detailing how she envisions things will unfold for the Bengals.

    In it, Hangst said:

    The Cincinnati Bengals are more fortunate than other teams headed into May's NFL draft in that they don't have a large number of obvious, starting-position needs to fill.

    With nine picks—one in each round, plus a compensatory pick in Rounds 6 and 7—the Bengals can use some of their selections on the best players available, again building their roster from the ground up with young talent.

    Drawing up a worst-case scenario is tough for the Bengals considering the level of youth and depth they currently have on their roster.

    But if you had to select one deterrent that could hamper this team's chances of success, it would be ignoring their need for a cornerback early in the draft.

    Despite using a first-round pick on Dre Kirkpatrick in 2012, the Bengals could use an upgrade in their secondary considering Leon Hall is coming off of an Achilles injury and Terence Newman will be 36 years old in September.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Bengals delay drafting a cornerback until the latter rounds of the draft, missing out on a potential stud in Round 1.

San Diego Chargers

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Who would have guessed that the AFC West would have produced three playoff teams in 2013?

    Competing all year long, the San Diego Chargers got back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

    The end of the Norv Turner era last offseason paved the way for first-year head coach Mike McCoy to come in and restructure the culture in San Diego.

    McCoy immediately looked the part of a head coach.

    Talking about the way he went about his business last season, Chargers.com managing editor Ricky Henne said:

    As mentioned on our BoltsCast show, from what I’ve seen so far McCoy has both a hands-on and laissez-faire style during practices.  It’s quite interesting to see.  He lets his coaches do the instructing but constantly roams from group to group to watch and evaluate what is taking place.  McCoy doesn’t just watch though, he often steps in and talks with the coaches during and after the drills.

    A new offensive philosophy and the addition of impact players like running back Danny Woodhead and rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen paved the way for the Chargers to piece together a 9-7 record.

    Now, with momentum in their corner, McCoy's Chargers have a shot to do something special in 2014.

    Last season, the team finished with the NFL's 29th-ranked pass defense. Knowing that stopping high-powered offenses like the Denver Broncos will be beneficial to their success, going after starting-caliber cornerbacks is crucial.

    There may be a group of guys hovering around in Round 2, but if this team gets the chance to draft a player who fits their scheme in the first round, they can't afford to pass him up.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Chargers miss out on the "top" cornerbacks in this year's draft and have to roll the dice on a defensive back later on in the process.

New Orleans Saints

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    Gerald Herbert

    New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is 35 years old. Though he may have a few good seasons left in the tank, the time for this team to make another Super Bowl push is now.

    Saints head coach Sean Payton has already started his voyage back to the big game.

    By hiring defensive coordinator Rob Ryan last offseason, the Saints went from having the worst-ranked defensive unit in the league to becoming the fourth-best in just one season.

    That significant of a jump is a credit to not only Ryan's scheme, but also to Payton's coaching and of course to Saints general manager Mickey Loomis for pairing the two minds together.

    With their sights set on the 2014 season, the Saints' biggest challenge will be making sure Brees and this offense are put in a great position to rack up a slew of points.

    The loss of running back Darren Sproles and wide receiver Lance Moore is big.

    According to Pro Football Focus' metrics (subscription required), Sproles and Moore were targeted a combined 156 times last season.

    Though rookie wide receiver Kenny Stills had his moments, the Saints need to find a way to replace Sproles and Moore if they want to contend in a tough NFC South division.

    What better place to find those guys than the upcoming draft?


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Saints decide to take defensive players early in the draft and end up having to settle for a one-dimensional wide receiver in the latter rounds.

Carolina Panthers

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    It's not a secret that the Carolina Panthers' success will always come down to how quarterback Cam Newton plays.

    Though they are sound defensively, losing wide receivers Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn Jr. in free agency has put Newton and this offense in a tough spot.

    Without having any of those guys out there on the field, it's clear this team desperately needs an infusion of wide receivers.

    That's why heading into May's draft, the philosophy is simple: find them, scout them, draft them.

    There is no other way to look at it.

    Newton needs as many weapons as possible if the Panthers want to find their way back to the playoffs this season.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Panthers end up selecting just one wide receiver in the upcoming draft.

New England Patriots

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    Elise Amendola

    For a remarkable 15th season, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will roam the sidelines.

    With his hood up and headset on, the 61-year-old coach will once again lead his team into battle each and every week.

    At this point, it may be considered passe to talk about the success of the Patriots. But even though they haven't won a Super Bowl title in 10 years, this franchise hasn't experienced a losing season since 2000.

    The iconic Tom Brady is now 36 years old, and though he keeps on producing, it would be foolish to not understand that this magical era is slowly but surely winding down.

    But coming off of an incredible performance in free agency—where the team landed superstar cornerback Darrelle Revis—this program has a real shot to get back to the big game next season.

    Highlighting some of the biggest areas this team needs to improve on during the draft, NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah said, "The Patriots need to get younger and more explosive in their defensive line. They have some promising young wideouts but they lack someone with the potential to be a true No. 1 receiver."

    Getting a handle on those needs, the Patriots should make it their goal to go out and use this draft as a vehicle to give the former Michigan quarterback as many weapons as possible.

    Without the ability to spread out a defense and put up points, it's going to be difficult for Brady and the Patriots offense to keep up with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos next season.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Patriots don't get the chance to add a top-tier tight end or wide receiver, leaving Brady with the same offense he had last season.

San Francisco 49ers

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    Paul Sakuma

    The situation that's unfolded between San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke seems to be at a crucial tipping point entering the 2014 season.

    Though Harbaugh tried to put an end to those "rumors" when talking to Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated, no one really knows for sure what's happening behind closed doors.

    Harbaugh may be brash at times, but the guy knows how to win.

    Looking to finally take that next step and win the Super Bowl, the 49ers enter the 2014 draft with a glaring need at cornerback.

    Losing Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers to the Oakland Raiders has cranked up the pressure on the 49ers' hunt for a defensive back.

    B/R's Matt Miller may have projected the 49ers to take Fresno State wide receiver Davante Adams in the first round, but during his analysis, he raised a great point:

    This is a classic Trent Baalke pick, as it sets the 49ers up for the future. But on the other hand, the chance they keep this pick has to be considered incredibly low given their 11 total picks in the draft and very few open roster spots. 

    Baalke still has a lot of decisions to make this offseason.

    But regardless of if he decides to shuffle around the draft board or not, landing a cornerback has to be right at the top of his list.


    Worst-Cast Scenario: Baalke moves out of the first round and misses out on a quality Day 1 defensive back by doing so.

Denver Broncos

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    Paul Sancya

    I'm not going to lie, it was tough seeing Peyton Manning walk away without winning his second Lombardi Trophy last season.

    However, the Seattle Seahawks deserved it, and Manning will get his shot once again in 2014 if things fall into place.

    Denver Broncos general manager John Elway has done everything in his power to morph this roster into a championship contender.

    Using free agency to make splashy defensive signings, Elway has once again helped the Broncos become a popular Super Bowl pick heading into the upcoming season.

    As it stands today, the Broncos roster doesn't have many holes in it.

    But that doesn't mean adding productive bodies won't help in the interim.

    If you had to narrow down a few positions of need, depth at the wide receiver and cornerback are two areas Elway could address in the draft.

    While there isn't a true worst-case scenario for this team, not addressing either of those positions at some point during the draft would be a tough pill to swallow.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Broncos don't draft a wide receiver or cornerback in this year's draft.

Seattle Seahawks

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Super Bowl-winning Seattle Seahawks are one of the most complete and talented rosters in all of football.

    It goes without saying that the job Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have done has been nothing short of spectacular.

    With the bulk of free agency in the rear-view mirror, the Seahawks will need to turn their attention toward the NFL draft.

    There aren't any major gaps when you look at the Seahawks roster. As Schneider told ESPN.com's Terry Blount, "We are blessed to have a young, talented team."

    Carroll's mantra of competition has helped convert the Seahawks into what they've become today.

    Knowing that, finding players who can come in and compete at wide receiver and on the defensive line is going to be the best way to continue the successful run of this program.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Seahawks turn a blind eye and miss out on adding a quality wide receiver and more depth on their defensive line.

Indianapolis Colts

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Indianapolis Colts don't have the luxury of drafting a player in the first round this year thanks to running back Trent Richardson.

    When the team traded for Richardson, at the time, it wasn't a bad idea.

    Needless to say, things didn't go according to plan, as Richardson struggled mightily, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry last season.

    Whether Richardson can turn his career around remains to be seen. But for the Colts, that doesn't mean they can't use their other draft picks to continue to build this roster.

    Quarterback Andrew Luck has now led this team to back-to-back playoffs appearances.

    Now, with the addition of wide receiver Hakeem Nicks to go along with Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton, the Colts offense should be able to make even bigger strides in 2014.

    Ultimately, the draft is a good place for Colts general manager Ryan Grigson to add more pieces to head coach Chuck Pagano's defense.

    The loss of safety Antoine Bethea has become one area that needs to addressed.

    If they land a safety with upside in the second round, it would be a win for this franchise.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Colts miss out on a top safety in this year's draft because of the Richardson trade.

Washington Redskins

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    Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

    Just like the Indianapolis Colts, the Washington Redskins don't have a first-round pick in this year's draft.

    But with a new head coach in Jay Gruden running the show, the Redskins should be able to get back to their productive ways on offense.

    Perhaps the biggest move the team made this offseason was signing former Philadelphia Eagles speedster DeSean Jackson after he was released.

    Adding a vertical threat who can take the top off of a defense gives Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III a chance to post colossal numbers in 2014.

    As is the case with the Colts, the Redskins still could land some good players in the upcoming draft.

    ESPN NFL/College draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. (subscription required) explained what he believes the Redskins should do with their picks during his "Grade: A" draft article.

    "With wide receiver now off the board as a need, my focus is on adding high-ceiling talent at need positions," Kiper said.

    That theory makes a ton of sense considering the Redskins are coming off of a season where they finished with a 3-13 record.


    Worst-Case Scenario: The Redskins decide to go after another wide receiver or offensive weapon, leaving quality defensive players on the board.


    All NFL free-agency signings, information and stats courtesy of NFL.com unless noted otherwise.