2011 NFL Draft Needs
The 2011 NFL Draft is the best way for teams to address their personnel needs this offseason. Even with the complications of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations, there is a healthy group of underclassmen and the senior class is strong as well.
Team needs can be addressed at any stage of the draft. We know the story of Tom Brady, the sixth round pick, but every year there are rookies starting on both sides of the ball who were considered an afterthought on draft weekend.
In this article, I break down the needs for all 32 teams, give you an idea of the way the draft might play out for the teams and list some potential prospects the team is eyeing in the draft.
If you have any question about what your team will be doing this offseason, just ask and be sure to follow me on Twitter @JohnLorge.
What They Need: WR, DL, QB, TE, LB
Draft Strategy: New coach Ron Rivera has said the Panthers will stick with the 4-3, instead of the 3-4 he coached in SD, because of their personnel. In that case, the team needs to upgrade both of their defensive tackles. DE and LB are secondary concerns on defense.
Their WRs and QBs brought each other down last year. In order for Jimmy Clausen to improve (and keep his job), Carolina will have to surround him with more talent at WR and TE. With Andrew Luck gone, it will be tougher for Carolina to move off the first pick, but they need to collect picks if they can.
Potential Targets: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn | A.J. Green, WR, Georgia | Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame | Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina
What They Need: DL, DB, TE
Draft Strategy: It's tough to predict what Denver will do considering the Broncos don't have a coach and they don't know which QB they're sticking with. I would expect some trades out of Denver, starting with a QB. They're currently asking for a second round pick for Orton.
The team already has two second round picks that are very attractive. Whether they go 3-4 or 4-3 moving forward, the team will need multiple defensive linemen.
The team could lose two or three of their starting defensive backs, so that is another major hole.
Potential Targets: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU | Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn | Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado | Allen Bailey, DE, Miami | DeAndre McDaniel, S, Clemson | Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
What They Need: QB, OT, Defense
Draft Strategy: If Buffalo can re-sign Donte Whitner and Drayton Florence, you can change the "defense" above to front seven.
The Bills could not stop the run in 2010. They need to add players who locate and fly to the ball throughout the draft.
There is a strong chance Buffalo will target a QB in the first round and the Bills have to upgrade the left tackle position.
Potential Targets: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn | Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn | Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU | Blaine Gabbert, QB, MIssouri | Benjamin Ijalana, OT, Villanova | Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College | Jake Locker, QB, Washington
What They Need: Offense, DE, S
Draft Strategy: The Bengals offensive core is already dissipating and more players could be leaving soon. Their OL has major holes and really the only thing they have locked in for the long-term is a TE.
On defense, Carlos Dunlap looks like a keeper, but they still need more out of their ends, and their safeties fail to make plays.
Potential Targets: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson | A.J. Green, WR, Georgia | Cam Newton, QB, Auburn | Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech | Marcus Cannon, OL, TCU
What They Need: QB, OL, OLB, CB
Draft Strategy: If Arizona can't get their hands on a QB via free agency or a trade, they are going to have to spend their first-round pick on one, which looks like the best option.
If any QB is going to have success, the team will need to get him time with a better OL.
On defense, their OLBs haven't been great at getting to the QB and they need depth at the cornerback position.
Potential Targets: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri | Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas | A.J. Green, WR, Georgia | Orlando Franklin, OL, Miami | DeMarcus Love, OT, Arkansas | Dontay Moch, LB, Nevada
What They Need: WR, LB, DE, DB
Draft Strategy: Mike Holmgren likes drafting receivers and defensive backs and I would expect him to take his best option there with Cleveland's first pick.
The Browns may be transitioning to the 4-3 and they need better linebackers in either scheme. If they do switch schemes, they will really need to add DEs.
Potential Targets: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia | Prince Amukamura, CB, Nebraska | Greg Jones, LB, Michigan St. | Mason Foster, LB, Washington | Greg Romeus, DE, Pittsburgh
What They Need: QB, OLB, DT, RB
Draft Strategy: Jim Harbaugh won't settle for a QB, so he won't settle on one in the first round if he doesn't believe he can be the man.
The Niners need to bring some more playmakers to their front seven, specifically at the OLB position.
Frank Gore will return from his injury, but I don't have much faith in him playing 16 games. The CB position needs to be upgraded as a whole, too.
Potential Targets: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri | Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas | Prince Amukamura, CB, Nebraska | Kris O'Dowd, C, USC | Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio St. | Owen Marecic, FB, Stanford | Tom Keiser, DE, Stanford
What They Need: QB, LB, CB, DT
Draft Strategy: Aside from them not including Vince Young, nobody is sure what the Titans QB plans will be moving forward.
It's possible they will draft one, but the division is wide open, so getting a plug-and-play guy gives Tennessee a better shot of getting back to the playoffs.
The Titans defense needs some help at every level. Corners are needed, they have multiple free-agent linebackers and the D-line needs upgrading.
Potential Targets: Prince Amukamura, CB, Nebraska | Cam Newton, QB, Auburn | Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon St. | Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA | Kelvin Sheppard, LB, LSU
What They Need: S, OT, DE, ILB
Draft Strategy: There is a lot of talent on the Dallas roster, but there are also some obvious needs. Both tackles could be upgraded.
With Marcus Spears hitting free agency, the Cowboys might try to get a cheaper DE. The safeties were the real problem with Dallas' defensive backfield this season, and upgrading is a must.
Keith Brooking isn't going to play forever, either. Dallas is always a threat to trade down, too.
Potential Targets: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama | Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa | Robert Sands, S, West Virginia | Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi St. | Rahim Moore, S, UCLA
What They Need: QB, WR, OL, CB
Draft Strategy: It looks like Washington is getting ready to draft a QB; the 'Skins might have to trade up or down to get their man at the right price.
Whether he will start over Rex Grossman in 2011 is another question. Who he will throw to is yet another question.
Both starting CBs for Washington are hitting free agency. The 'Skins offensive line continues to be a headache, too.
Potential Targets: Jake Locker, QB, Washington | Cam Newton, QB, Auburn | Julio Jones, WR, Alabama | Tyron Smith, OT, UCLA | Rodney Hudson, G/C, Florida St. | Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
What They Need: DB, 3-4 Personnel, TE
Draft Strategy: Switching to the 3-4, Houston will have to realign their front seven. Wade Phillips has used a smaller NT in the past, but the best 3-4 teams use a clogger.
In any scheme, Houston's DBs are bad; getting a big name free-agent would be huge, but even then depth needs to be drafted.
If Owen Daniels is out, a new TE needs to come in.
Potential Targets: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina | Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama | Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor | Brandon Burton, CB, Utah | Robert Sands, S, West Virginia
What They Need: QB, DB, OLB, DL
Draft Strategy: The Vikings are another team that needs a QB but would be better off with a veteran. Both Viking OLBs are free agents. I expect Chad Greenway to be back but Ben Leber might become a casualty.
The entire defensive backfield could use refreshing, especially the safeties.
If the Vikings lose Pat Williams and Ray Edwards, they will need an instant fix for what is one of the best front fours in football.
Potential Targets: Prince Amukamura, CB, Nebraska | Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon St. | Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas | Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma | Bruce Carter, LB, North Carolina
What They Need: CB, SS, LB, DE
Draft Strategy: BPA (Best Player Available) on defense should be a theme for Detroit this draft. I wouldn't be surprised to see them trade up or trade back into a round if the talent is there.
Detroit needs multiple corners, with Chris Houston looking at options, and a strong safety. Their linebackers have performed well at times, but talent is lacking overall.
An attacking defensive end is also on Detroit's radar. The Lions interior OL needs some help, but the defense comes first.
Potential Targets: Prince Amukamura, CB, Nebraska | Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA | DeAndre McDaniel, S, Clemson | Marcus Gilchrist, CB, Clemson | Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
What They Need: WR, DT, OG, TE, RB
Draft Strategy: Keep adding pieces to the puzzle. The Rams would love if Julio Jones falls to them in the first round, but they have other needs on defense (at tackle, end and linebacker) they can attack if a WR isn't there.
Later in the draft, they need to keep adding WRs or possibly a receiving TE.
Steven Jackson is entering his late 20s and if STL wants to keep any freshness in his legs, they need another back to take 10-plus touches per game.
Potential Targets: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama | Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA | Stepehen Paea, DT, Oregon St. | Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee | D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas | Matt Szczur, WR, Villanova
What They Need: RB, G/C, S, QB
Draft Strategy: Miami could lose one or both of their backs to free agency and it's looking like Ronnie may stay but Ricky is gone. Before drafting a RB, the Dolphins need to fix their problems at guard and center.
Free safety depth would be nice and don't be surprised if the Dolphins draft some competition for Chad Henne. Without a second round pick, Miami could be willing to trade down to get one.
Potential Targets: Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida | Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas St. | Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama | Pat Devlin, QB, Delaware | Rodney Hudson, G/C, Florida St. | Noel Divine, RB, West Virginia
What They Need: DB, LB, DE, QB
Draft Strategy: Although many have problems with the Jags personnel on offense, it's their defense that kept them out of the playoffs this year.
The defensive backs, especially the safeties, are not making the needed plays. The defensive ends aren't getting pressure. The linebackers are just OK. At least they have defensive tackles to build off.
Potential Targets: Rahim Moore, S, UCLA | Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA | J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin | Allen Bailey, DE, Miami | Deunta Williams, S, North Carolina | Will Hill, S, Florida | Tyrod Taylor, QB, VIrginia Tech
What They Need: CB, OL, DL, RB
Draft Strategy: Oakland's first-round pick belongs to New England as a part of the Richard Seymour (FA) deal, but I wouldn't be surprised if they try to move back into the first round once a workout warrior arises.
The team is getting hit hard by free agency this offseason. Nnamdi Asomugha had his contract voided, the offensive line has holes and Michael Bush could be headed for a starting role somewhere.
After an 8-8 season, Oakland could be headed back to the cellar.
Potential Targets: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas | Brandon Burton, CB, Utah | Orlando Franklin, OL, Miami | Tyron Smith, OT, USC | Marcus Cannon, OL, TCU | Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas St.
What They Need: WR, LB, OT, DE
Draft Strategy: Depending on what the team wants to do with Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd, SD could need to move up or be willing to move down in the draft.
The Chargers offense had injuries at almost every position, so depth that could start is important.
Many think SD needs another OLB, but Larry English will get a little more time and they have bigger needs inside and on the defensive line.
Potential Targets: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama | Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa | Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh | Quan Sturdivant, LB, North Carolina
What They Need: LB, OT, DB, RB
Draft Strategy: Size matters for New York in the draft. If a player isn't in the 90th percentile for height, don't expect NY to make a play on him early in the draft.
The team has a history of going after Senior Bowl studs, but they aren't against taking a promising junior prospect.
If NY can get a starting LB in the draft, they will. Depth at OT, RB, and DB are all goals.
Potential Targets: Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA | Aaron Williams, CB, Texas | Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia | Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado | Lee Ziemba, OT, Auburn |
What They Need: DE, LB, S, OL
Draft Strategy: The plan should be defensive BPA all the way for Tampa and if they fall in love with a defensive end prospect, I could see them moving up in the first or second round to get their man.
The team struggled to stop the run again this year and we could see multiple rookie LBs starting for them next year.
Any opportunities to upgrade the offensive line will be made and the team could select a couple of safeties as well.
Potential Targets: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin | Martez Wilson, LB, Illinois | Cameron Jordan, DE, Cal | Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma | Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA
What They Need: DT, OL, DB
Draft Strategy: The Colts have needed help at DT for a while and those needs have been ignored.
This year, with a bad interior OL and tackle Charlie Johnson hitting free agency, those DT needs may be ignored early in the draft again.
Depth in the defensive backfield is a major need, too, with the way Bob Sanders & Co. get hurt.
Potential Targets: Nate Solder, OT, Colorado | Drake Nevis, DT, LSU | Stefen Wisniewski, C, Penn St. | Clint Boling, OL, Georgia | Jaiquawn Jarrett, S, Temple
What They Need: LB, DL, WR, RB
Draft Strategy: Scott Pioli will go BPA, focusing on the defense, but you can never be too sure who the best player on his board is.
KC has has several front-seven guys hitting free agency and if they bring Tamba Hali back, they need to get another talented OLB to take attention off of him.
Everyone doesn't agree, but I think the team needs to draft a young power back to split carries with Jamaal Charles.
KC wants to run the ball over 500 times, Thomas Jones is nearing the end of his career and his YPC in the second half of the season was 3.0.
Potential Targets: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama | Martez Wilson, LB, Illinois | Drake Nevis, DT, LSU | Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue | Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College
What They Need: OLB, OL, CB, RB
Draft Strategy: The Eagles are the most likely team to trade out of the first round. Undoubtedly, a top talent will slide to the mid-20s and the Eagles will get a chance to save money and load up on assets.
The Eagles need to use the 2011 NFL Draft to add depth on both sides of the ball. They could find a starter at OLB and a second corner, but depth will be the theme, especially along the offensive line.
Potential Targets: Benjamin Ijalana, OL, Villanova | Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA | Quan Sturdivant, LB, North Carolina | Rashad Carmichael, CB, Virginia Tech | Pat Devlin, QB, Delaware
What They Need: RB, LB, DE, DT
Draft Strategy: Losing to Seattle did bump the Saints a few spots higher than expected in the draft, so they should get a great front-seven player with the pick.
They could use a pass-rushing DE opposite of Will Smith, but with several LBs hitting free agency and the way they blitz from that position, a talented OLB might make more sense.
I would be surprised if the Saints don't draft a RB, but I wouldn't expect it until the middle of the draft.
Potential Targets: Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M | Allen Bailey, DE, Miami | Sam Acho, DE, Texas | Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma St.
What They Need: OL, DB, QB
Draft Strategy: In the first few rounds, Seattle needs to take the best player on the board at the OL or DB position.
Their young talent on the OL is very banged up and, overall, was not able to run the ball. The Seahawks also could not stop the pass, those two areas being what held the team back this year.
Seattle needs to decide what they want to do with their QBs, but I don't see the team drafting one early.
Potential Targets: Tyron Smith, OT, USC | Aaron Williams, CB, Texas | Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi St. | Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia | Mitch Mustain, QB, USC
What They Need: RB, OLB, OL, DE
Draft Strategy: Even if the Packers need a RB, I wouldn't expect them to spend a high pick on one.
If GB stays where they are, I would expect them to add depth to the OL (a move that paid off last year) or get the best defensive player on the board.
The Packers have a lot of money invested in their DBs and depending on what they do with Charles Woodson, drafting a corner or safety is a likely option.
Potential Targets: Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin | Justin Houston, LB, Georgia | Aaron Williams, CB, Texas | J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin | Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College | Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon
What They Need: OL, DL, OLB, S
Draft Strategy: There should be a Pro Bowl caliber 5-tech or pass rushing OLB on the board at the end of the first round.
The Jets have some very good offensive linemen, but their guards are suspect and they need tackle depth.
Rex Ryan likes his safeties, but depth is needed. A new 350-pound nose guard could be on the way, too.
Potential Targets: Martez Wilson, LB, Illinois | Cameron Jordan, DE, Cal | Cameron Hayward, DE, Ohio St. | Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M | Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor | Kenrick Ellis, DT, Hampton
What They Need: OL, DB
Draft Strategy: Ozzie knows best, and I know Ozzie will move back in the draft if it means he can collect picks. The Ravens need depth and starters all across the offensive line.
The secondary also needs depth: Ed Reed won't play forever and their corners are under question.
Potential Targets: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa | Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida | Kris O'Dowd, C, USC | Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi St. | Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
What They Need: OL, WR, DT, OLB
Draft Strategy: The Bears must do a better job protecting Jay Cutler and opening holes for Matt Forte.
Upgrading the offensive line should be top priority in this year's draft, even if that means trading picks to get players who are ready to start.
The wide receivers have been acceptable for Chicago, but the Bears don't have a go-to guy. On defense, depth in the front seven would make them that much better.
Potential Targets: Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College | Nate Solder, OT, Colorado | Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi St. | Marcus Cannon, OL, TCU | Steve Schilling, G, Michigan | Stefen Wisniewski, C, Penn St.
What They Need: OL, DE, CB, RB
Draft Strategy: Tackles and guards are the major needs for the Steelers. Their offensive needs to get a better push at the line of scrimmage for the running game.
Another thing that would help the rushing attack is a little scat back to spell Rashard Mendenhall.
Aside from Ziggy Hood, the defensive line is pretty old and banged up, so new blood there is needed. Corner depth, someone who could develop into a starter, is also a need.
Potential Targets: Mike Pouncey, G, Florida | Drake Nevis, DT, LSU | Steve Schilling, G, Michigan | Jason Pinkston, T, Pittsburgh | Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon St. | Curtis Brown, CB, Texas
What They Need: DE, WR, TE, OL
Draft Strategy: With many of the talented underclassmen WRs returning to school, it will be tough, but I really think Atlanta needs to add a legit No. 2 option opposite of Roddy White, someone who can eat single coverage.
John Abraham is aging and the Falcons could also use another DE with pass-rushing skills.
Eventually the team will have to replace Tony Gonzalez and OL depth is always a good thing. I don't see Atlanta going out of their way to make a trade early in the draft.
Potential Targets: Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh | Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland | Cameron Jordan, DE, Cal | Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri | Justin Houston, LB, Georgia
What They Need: OLB, OT, G, DE
Draft Strategy: The Pats offensive line has several contract issues and it can be tough to pay Pro Bowl linemen once they get in their 30s.
As always, the Pats have a good stable of picks, including Oakland's first rounder, so they should be able to slide back and accumulate more or move up and get their guy.
On defense, they need players who can get to the QB, and adding depth to the DL is always a plus. Be sure to keep an eye on where Bill Belichick visits for pro days. It usually tips off an early pick.
Potential Targets: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue | Anthony Costanzo, OT, Boston College | Stefen Wisniewski, G/C, Penn St. | Benjamin Ijalana | Justin Houston, LB, Georgia | Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College