The NFL draft is coming up and teams are already being judged on where they will place next season. Many factors come into play, including the amount of picks they have, where the picks are in the draft, what assets the teams have at the moment and what the schedule is like for the team in the 2011 season.
In each listing, you will find the position of the first four selections for each team and what NFL.com thinks needs addressing (from the NFL Draft preview section)
Here it is, counting down from worst to first: the NFL power rankings.
Needs (taken from NFL.com): QB, S, LB, DL, RB, WR
Picks (as of April 25): 8 Picks; 4th overall, 35th, 66th, 101st
You have a QB (Palmer) threatening to retire, your star wide receivers (Owens/Ochocinco) aren’t coming back and considering all that talent, to go 4-12 in 2010 spells trouble for the Bengals organization.
Sure, they put up a fight in some games (34-30 loss to Saints in Week 13; 49-31 loss to Bills in Week 11; 39-32 loss to Falcons in Week 7); they just simply couldn’t get it done—and you can’t get away with a 10-game losing skid in this league.
They will need to beef up the offense and try to keep Carson Palmer happy if they want success in 2011 but as for right now, the team needs to take Palmer’s threats seriously. If the Bengals are going to shop Palmer (something the Bengals claim they won’t do), they better get some high-quality picks or a game-changing offensive player because if he retires for nothing, the Bengals are going to be worse off for it.
Needs (taken from NFL.com): QB, WR, CB, LB, OL
Picks (as of April 25): 8 Picks; 10th overall, 41st, 144th, 155th
As of right now, the Redskins have a lot of question marks.
Donovan McNabb was a complete bust and probably will be traded, released or benched unless something changes. Santana Moss, their leading receiver, will test the free-agent market and their recent drafts haven’t resulted in anything extravagant. Albert Haynesworth was possibly the most disappointing story of 2010 and the rest of the defense can use some work.
The draft picks in the system right now have Bruce Allen in a position where he has to make some major moves if he wants to be a factor next season. Does he trade his top picks and hope for some gems in the later rounds or does he trade for early picks in 2012? It is a tough call and we will know more when the 2011 draft is finished but as for right now, the future isn’t that bright in the US capital.
30. Tennessee Titans
Needs (taken from NFL.com): QB, DL, OL, LB
Picks (as of April 25): 9 Picks; 8th overall, 39th, 77th, 109th
To think, I had high hopes for this Titans team a year ago.
Vince Young had a great start, going 5-3 before their bye week and then, just like an M. Night Shyamalan flick, the twist came in and it was harsh.
They managed one win after the bye week and the key point to Young’s impending departure (via trade or release, we have nothing at this point) was an altercation after a Week-11 loss to the Redskins.
He tore a flexor tendon in his right thumb but was ready to re-enter the game. But Coach Fisher didn’t see it that way and Young reacted by throwing his shoulder pads into the crowd as he left the field. Young and Fisher had an altercation and Young stormed out soon after.
Now that you are up to speed, looking towards the future, Rusty Smith isn’t a great starter and Kerry Collins is getting older and if that post-bye record of 1-7 isn’t enough to suggest that the Titans need help, you are blind—especially in a division that houses Peyton Manning.
If all else fails, you could very well look to a guy like Chris Johnson to run the ball a lot more than he already does (which is a lot to begin with) but it does make the Titans way more predictable in that sense.
A great guy to combat Manning may be drafted at eighth overall in Nick Fairley and as it stands now, Young set back the QB position a few years for this team but if they have any hopes of being in the postseason, they will have to make the best trade possible for Young and not release him.
29. Buffalo Bills
Needs (taken from NFL.com): QB, OL, DL, LB, TE
Picks (as of April 25): 9 Picks; 3rd overall, 34th, 68th, 100th
A pick this low is perfect for this franchise. They have been underachieving as of late but who can blame them when they are in the AFC East, a division that hosts the New England Patriots and New York Jets?
If they want the success that saw them to four-straight Super Bowl appearances and soon, this is the time to start the rebuild and it starts by assessing Ryan Fitzpatrick.
If he isn’t the QB of the future, you have the option of grabbing a guy like Blaine Gabbert and build around him or blow the 2011 season and go after Andrew Luck in 2012. Going into the draft, the Bills took a long look at LB Von Miller during the Senior Bowl and he could be the choice going forward.
But working with only their own picks at this point, the Bills will have to do some wheeling, dealing and convincing to be a threat in the 2011 season but in my opinion, I don’t see that happening. It’s going to be slow and painful for Bills fans but you can only go up from here, so we can only speculate and see what the future holds.
28. Denver Broncos
Needs (taken from NFL.com): DL, S, TE, OL, RB
Picks (as of April 25): 7 Picks; 2nd overall, 36th, 46th, 67th
The question for Denver is whether or not Tim Tebow is trusted to be their future. As of right now, it doesn’t seem like it—at least, not in John Elway’s eyes.
As for the rest of the team, the needs aren’t on offense for the most part. The good news is that Denver has a great shot of grabbing the best defensive player in the draft in Marcell Dareus.
After that, they are in bad shape as far as picks are concerned; after the 67th pick, they are without a fourth or fifth-round selection and don’t pick again until No. 186. This leaves a few question marks for this team in the short term and is another reason they are ranked where they are.
Needs (taken from NFL.com): QB, DL, OL, LB, CB
Picks (as of April 25): 8 Picks; 1st overall, 65th, 97th, 98th
The Panthers have a lot of work to do if they hope for a successful season in the near future. Free agency seems the way to go at this point, as they hold the first overall pick (and will probably grab Cam Newton) but don’t pick again till 65th overall.
Unless they can dig up a gem at the beginning of the third round, they are in trouble in the short term.
Investing in the future could be a good course of action, trading for higher picks in future drafts or trading up. Perhaps Jimmy Clausen can be used as trade bait if Newton does get drafted first overall.
Needs (taken from NFL.com): QB, LB, OL, TE, CB
Picks (as of April 25): 8 Picks; 5th overall, 38th, 69th, 103rd
This draft as well as offseason, the Cards’ main focus will be to complement the talent of Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Also, keep in mind that the retirement of Kurt Warner really hurt the team that made a Super Bowl appearance in 2008.
Drafting here is a little tricky, as they have similar needs to the team picking in the third spot, the Buffalo Bills. Unless the Cards can swing a deal to boost them up the draft board, the only thing they can do is wait and see who Buffalo chooses.
If Von Miller or Blaine Gabbert are on the board at No. 5, I highly doubt the Cards will pass up the opportunity and look to free agency or trading to fill the other void. It may be an easy choice, and as I stated before, they were in the Super Bowl only three years ago.
Needs (taken from NFL.com): QB, DL, S, OL, WR
Picks (as of April 25): 9 Picks; 12th overall, 43rd, 106th, 139th
What a 2010 for the Minnesota Vikings—and I say that with the utmost sarcasm.
Brett Favre ended his consecutive games played streak, Randy Moss rejoined the team after a trade from New England that ended in Moss being released a little over a month later, the roof on their brand-new stadium collapsed because of snow build-up—forcing two of their home games to be played at alternate locations—and through it all, they went 6-10 and missed the playoffs a year after making the NFC Championship game.
They will need to improve on both sides of the ball to be successful in 2011, considering they play in the same division as the two representatives of the NFC Championship game of 2010 and the eventual Super Bowl Champions.
Adrian Peterson needs to be the Adrian Peterson of old if the team stands a chance and now that Favre is out of the picture, he will have a bigger spotlight on him. Defensively, look for a pass-rushing defensive end in the first round of the draft. I can almost guarantee that the Vikings make a trade to move up in the draft and could even look Bill Belichick’s way and try and grab one of his two first rounders.
It is going to be slow but the Vikings have some work to do if they want back in the NFC Championship game.
Needs (taken from NFL.com): QB, DL, CB, LB, S, OL
Picks (as of April 25): 12 Picks, 7th overall, 45th, 76th, 108th
A new beginning in the San Francisco area starts with the new coaching staff, headed by Jim Harbaugh.
I’m not a huge Alex Smith fan, but he might be the best choice for 2011 considering QB availability—though you may have some interesting commodities coming from free agency or trades (*cough* Kevin Kolb *cough*).
Picking seventh overall sets up the Niners to grab some quality defensive players and this high, you have a shot at defensive back Patrick Peterson or even a guy like cornerback Prince Amukamara. The defensive option is there but consistency is key for a team that went 6-5 and starting the 2010 season 0-5. The tendency to win big and lose big was there, but keep in mind that their four wins after the bye week were divisional games and again, we are talking about the NFC West.
They have a large quantity of picks this year, can build slowly and have the ability to get that playoff experience if the NFC West continues its abysmal trend. Also, if the Alex Smith experiment doesn’t work out, I hear 2012 is a great draft year for rookie QBs.
23. Oakland Raiders
Needs (taken from NFL.com): CB, OL, QB, S
Picks (as of April 25): 7 Picks; 48th overall, 81st, 113th, 148th
The Raiders have gradually improved after JaMarcus Russell turned out to be the worst first overall pick ever in my opinion—and those sentiments are probably shared by a good number of you reading this.
This team has a lot to do before they can even think about the postseason. First of all, trade up in the draft because when you don’t pick until 48th overall, you have problems (granted, they traded their first-rounder to get Richard Seymour, but he is getting older). Grabbing Jason Campbell was a good start last season but they need players and assets for the future.
22. Cleveland Browns
Needs (taken from NFL.com): WR, DL, OL, S, LB
Picks (as of April 25): 8 Picks; 6th overall, 37th, 70th, 102nd
This is a make-or-break year for the Browns who have a great 1-2 punch at QB but definitely need some help after a 5-11 campaign.
Jake Delhomme leads the resurgence and has a talented backup in Colt McCoy to fall back on if the former Panther falters at any point. Picking a talented wide receiver in the draft is crucial to this plan.
Grabbing a short-term veteran may not be the best answer if they want to build a long-term, successful team; their division that houses last year’s AFC Super Bowl representative Pittsburgh Steelers and a Baltimore Ravens team that always plays a tough defensive game.
In a linemen-heavy draft, you can get those players in the second and third rounds.
As a Patriots fan, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Browns for waking the sleeping dragon in New England, thanks to the 34-14 win in Week 9 as the Pats ran roughshod on their opponents the rest of the season.
Yes, Jets fans, I won’t ignore that you beat them in the playoffs but you didn’t win a Super Bowl, get over it, 2011 is a new start for everyone and I am looking forward to the next chapter in that rivalry, but I digress.
21. Seattle Seahawks
Needs (taken from NFL.com): OL, QB, S, CB, DL
Picks (as of April 25): 8 Picks, 25th overall, 57th, 99th, 156th
The good news for the Seahawks was that they won their division and got into the playoffs. The bad news is, they were 7-9 and will have a first-place schedule in 2011.
Matt Hasselbeck will be good for them in the short term but will need some protection and I personally see them drafting a successor to him in the first round. Getting a solid CB is also crucial to their success and Pete Carroll knows how to keep busy during the offseason.
Look for the Seahawks to jump up but not too far; they have some work to do.
Needs (taken from NFL.com): DL, CB, WR, S, QB, LB
Picks (as of April 25): 7 Picks; 16th overall, 49th, 80th, 114th
One of the things I admire about this team is their running game and they prove it year after year. They were third in the NFL in rushing yards per game but otherwise, just another average team on the cusp of the playoffs.
It starts with a good defensive lineman to rush the QB and prevent the passing game after a 28th-ranked pass defense in 2010. David Garrard has to be a consistent player and not choke under pressure like he did in the last three games of 2010. But all in all, the future looks bright in Jaguar country.
The crop of rookies coming in and the ability to grab a great defensive player to build around is too obvious to pass up when the 16th overall pick comes around.
19. Miami Dolphins
Needs (taken from NFL.com): RB, OL, TE, QB, S, CB
Picks (as of April 25): 8 Picks; 15th overall, 79th, 111th, 146th
The Dolphins are a team on the bubble.
Chad Henne could be the QB going forward, especially if they grab a certain running back from Alabama with their first-round pick because the RB situation there is pretty old with an aging Ricky Williams.
The defense can be addressed later in the draft but if they want a shot at winning the AFC East like they did in 2008, they have to improve on a season that saw them alternating wins and losses from the beginning of October to the middle of December, as they only put up 275 points (30th in the NFL).
If you are going to play in the AFC East, you need to put up more points—simple as that.
18. Houston Texans
Needs (taken from NFL.com): CB, DL, LB, S
Picks (as of April 25): 8 Picks; 11th overall, 42nd, 73rd, 105th
The Texans have had expectations like this before but now, they have to do something. After finishing 6-10, the 2011 season is full of excitement in Houston.
Matt Schaub will have to be more consistent but could possibly have a young Matt Leinart to fall back on (if he resigns, which I doubt). Andre Johnson is a solid deep-threat and Arian Foster was the NFL’s leading rusher in 2010 and will probably re-sign. "Everything is coming up Milhouse," as the popular Simpsons character would put it.
Defensively, it doesn’t look that way and when your main focus is to look for players to stop Peyton Manning and the Colts twice a year as well many other solid QBs in the league, you need a better pass rush and that can be addressed at the draft.
You can also look at Prince Amukamara to help with the deep threats but mainly, they need someone to get to the QB quickly.
17. St. Louis Rams
Needs (taken from NFL.com): WR, DL, TE, S, RB
Picks (as of April 25): 7 Picks; 14th overall, 47th, 78th, 112th
A great turnaround season for the Rams and a bright future ahead gets them ranked where they are.
Sam Bradford took a 1-15 team to 7-9 and was a mere game away from the playoffs. This could be good for the young NFC West team as they look to build around the 2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Draft day will see plenty of defensive players taken, as St. Louis could be part of it and wait until the later rounds to grab a wide receiver.
16. Dallas Cowboys
Needs (taken from NFL.com): DL, OL, S, CB, LB
Picks (as of April 25): 8 Picks; 9th overall, 40th, 71st, 110th
Many will say that the Cowboys' season ended when Tony Romo went down with a broken left clavicle in Week 7 against the Giants. But they had already dug themselves a hole, going 1-4 before that game and continued a losing streak that cost Wade Philips his job as head coach.
Jason Garrett came in and Jon Kitna did his best but in the end, it wasn’t enough, as they finished 6-10 and out of the playoffs and lost a shot at a Super Bowl appearance in their home building. Garrett did go 5-3 as the interim and it was enough for Cowboys management to remove the interim label from his title and make Garrett the full-fledged head coach of the team.
Coming to the draft, the Cowboys are in great shape; the offense was clicking as the season came to an end and it can only get better as Romo makes his return. That being said, the defensive and offensive line need a little tweaking (more offensive line—don’t want another QB injury).
I see a great improvement next year and a possible playoff position, considering this draft class is bursting at the seam with offensive linemen and a wide variety of defensive players.
15. Detroit Lions
Needs (taken from NFL.com): CB, LB, S, OL, RB, WR
Picks (as of April 25): 6 Picks; 13th overall, 44th, 75th, 107th
In Detroit, you have to take the good with the bad.
The good is that they have been able to build in the draft in the last few years and have a bright future with some cornerstones in place in QB Matt Stafford and DT Ndamukong Suh.
The bad is that they only have six picks in the entire draft this year and will have to make some noise to get anywhere in 2011. But hey—it can’t get any worse than going 0-16 right?
Well, they have a few options on defense to go with on draft day but in terms of the fabric of the team, I have them ranked a little higher because I do see some hope for this team in the next few years.
How it goes is completely up to how their management views the team.
Needs (taken from NFL.com): LB, DL, WR, OL
Picks (as of April 25): 8 Picks; 18th overall, 50th, 61st, 82nd
Philip Rivers has a great core of offensive playmakers in WRs Patrick Crayton and Kelley Washington. At RB, you have Darren Sproles, who shocked (no pun intended) the Charger fans after taking over the starting RB role with the departure of LaDainian Tomlinson.
Rivers has good vision for the field and it will only get better with some more protection and a couple more consistent targets in the backfield.
13. NY Giants
Needs (taken from NFL.com): OL, LB, DL, RB, S
Picks (as of April 25): 8 Picks; 19th overall, 52nd, 83rd, 117th
A successful 10-6 season for the Giants ended with no postseason appearance for the second year in a row. The 2007 Super Bowl Champions are a distant memory and now will have to look upon Eli Manning to get them back to the promised land.
Another solid offense that is plagued by an aging offensive line will be the key addressed with the draft.
Needs (taken from NFL.com): DL, WR, OL, LB
Picks (as of April 25): 8 Picks; 21st overall, 55th, 86th, 118th
I am ranking the Chiefs a little lower because I believe they overachieved last year but will now have to face off against the best the AFC has to offer after winning the AFC West.
They will have to improve at wide receiver for one, but the most important position of all is a solid nose guard (possibly Phil Taylor) to get to the elite QBs they will have to face in 2011.
Matt Cassell is a great QB for the future of the franchise but a great wide receiver to open up space for Dwayne Bowe will only make this team climb the list.
11. Atlanta Falcons
Needs (taken from NFL.com): DL, WR, CB, TE, OL
Picks (as of April 25): 9 Picks; 27th overall, 59th, 91st, 124th
Matt Ryan has been established as a top-10 QB but without a complementary cast of wideouts, the team doesn’t fall into my top 10 but are very close to it. They need to address those aforementioned contracts or immediately address replacements for those expiring contracts.
Needs (taken from NFL.com): DL, LB, CB, OL
Picks (as of April 25): 8 Picks; 20th overall, 51st, 84th, 116th
I don’t know about you, but I think Mark Dominik has a great mind and has put it to use since taking over as the GM of the Bucs. Much like the Giants, they had a 10-6 season but fell victim to the playoff format that is always called into question.
Another question that comes to the forefront is the lack of a pass-rusher on defense. This is a great team to watch out for this upcoming season; I think they’ll surprise a lot of people.
Needs (taken from NFL.com): LB, DL, S, OL
Picks (as of April 25): 6 Picks; 24th overall, 56th, 72nd, 88th
The Saints take a top-10 spot here because not much has changed for them since they won the Super Bowl in 2009. The bad news on that front is that a lot of teams have improved since then and Sean Payton will have to address that.
They also have a fair amount of early picks that they can use to get a solid player in a deep draft such as this one. The defensive line is a concern but with the addition of Shaun Rogers, they can breathe a little easier.
Otherwise, Drew Brees is an elite QB and will bring the Saints back into the postseason and can be poised for another run (unless they run into another road matchup with a 7-9 team like the Seahawks...only kidding, Saints fans).
8. Baltimore Ravens
Needs (taken from NFL.com): WR, CB, S, DL
Picks (as of April 25): 9 Picks; 26th overall, 58th, 90th, 123rd
The Ravens have always cracked my top 10 and it’s been based on a hard-hitting defense that they use game after game for 60 minutes. Ray Lewis keeps his boys honest and terrorizes QBs from all over the NFL.
On offense, a wide receiver could be a great acquisition to help out Anquan Boldin and QB Joe Flacco. This, in my opinion, is another great team to watch and a possible AFC contender in my book.
Needs (taken from NFL.com): CB, OL, LB, DL
Picks (as of April 25): 10 Picks; 23rd overall, 54th, 85th, 104th
I loved watching these guys last season; from the resurgence of Michael Vick to the epic punt return by DeSean Jackson in Week 15 against the Giants, I only have high hopes for this team in the upcoming year.
They have some options with the draft here. Vick is one of the best scrambling QBs in the game, so getting a good offensive lineman could be key here. Imagine if they were to grab a guy like Jimmy Smith at CB to complement Asante Samuel.
This team is a few players away from being NFC favourites. There’s plenty of time to address the situation—and I am not even considering the possible work stoppage—and they still have Kevin Kolb to dish out for a good price.
They make the top 10 here and if they get those key players, they have a shot at squeaking into the top five.
Needs (taken from NFL.com): OL, WR, DL, LB, S
Picks (as of April 25): 6 Picks; 29th overall, 62nd, 93rd, 127th
The Bears were so close to the Super Bowl that they could literally taste it.
But Jay Cutler went down and as far as I am concerned, he made the right choice because imagine how much more damage could have been done. That would not only hurt Jay Cutler but the organization in the long run.
They have that top-five potential again and could make it back to the NFC Championship game but two things need to be addressed.
First of all, protection for Cutler; if he goes down, so do the Bears. Secondly, when you give Cutler that protection, you need to get him somebody to throw to, so a game-changing wide receiver is also key.
Needs (taken from NFL.com): OL, DL, S, SPECIALIST, CB
Picks (as of April 25): 6 Picks; 22nd overall, 53rd, 87th, 119th
When you have Peyton Manning, where on offense do you need to improve? Manning makes everyone around him much better with his play-calling on the offensive line but on that note, you can always grab a lineman to protect Manning.
Becoming bigger on defense will only get the Colts back up into the top 3 but for now, they will have to settle for top 5.
4. NY Jets
Needs (taken from NFL.com): LB, DL, OL, WR, S
Picks (as of April 25): 6 Picks; 30th overall, 94th, 126th, 161st
Alright Jets fans, let me hear it. Let me hear all the hate for ranking your team below New England.
Actually, better yet, hold that thought.
The Jets are an excellent team—two-straight AFC Championship games and Mark Sanchez will only get better with experience. They are slowly becoming the NFL’s most-hated team but if they keep playing solid football and backing up their trash talk, they can make it to the Super Bowl and win it.
They just need to address a few key issues including being less predictable with the pass rush. It worked against a Patriots squad that has a pass-first mentality but didn’t fare well against a Steelers team that torched them with the play of Rashad Mendenhall in the AFC title game.
They crack my top 5 because I actually believe they will be better than last year but will have to fight harder. They might need a few more picks in the draft to be successful, especially when comparing the amount of picks that the Pats have before the Jets make their second selection.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
Needs (taken from NFL.com): CB, DL, OL, S, RB
Picks (as of April 25): 7 Picks; 31st overall, 63rd, 95th, 128th
The Steelers seem to be in contention year after year and I don’t know if it’s Big Ben, Troy Polamalu or they just play better football when they need to.
This year, they have another shot at the Super Bowl. As the team ages, they will need to get some depth but they hardly seem like a team to have a problem with that. Look for them to address the defensive line first as Big Ben is elusive and can make up for falters in the offensive line.
Don’t count out the Steelers to get a couple of big bodies in the draft to help in that respect.
2. New England Patriots
Needs (taken from NFL.com): LB, DL, WR, RB
Picks (as of April 25): 9 Picks, 17th overall, 28th, 33rd, 60th (and 74th, 92nd)
They have got to be the front-runner in the AFC (if not the NFL) at this point considering how well they did last season and their ability to grow even stronger with more picks in the first 35 selections than anyone in the NFL.
Tom Brady is back after an MVP season, the wide receiver corps is stronger than ever and the play of BenJarvis Green-Ellis at RB wasn't elite but enough to complement Brady's arm and keep defenses true.
The young Pats defense just continues to gain experience with the recent choices of Jerod Mayo and Devin McCourty, just to name a couple.
What is left? Protecting Brady is the first thing and that will be addressed with one of the first-round choices. You can also look at Belichick’s record of draft-day trades and you can almost tell that there’s going to be more dealing this year to build an even brighter future and address the few issues left with his team’s play.
The Pats will also have to keep an eye out for the Jets and the moves they make to combat the three-time Super Bowl Champions but that’s already obvious as the rivalry continuously gets heated.
Needs (taken from NFL.com): DL, LB, OL, CB, RB
Picks (as of April 25): 9 Picks; 32nd overall, 64th, 96th, 129th
Since winning the Super Bowl, the Packers have been at the top of my list because through all the injuries and the concussion to Aaron Rodgers, they still managed to become champions.
I believe they have a team that can do what no other team has done since the Patriots of 2003 and 2004 (repeat, just in case some of you were confused).
A pass-blocker on the offensive line is a great start in the draft because the Super Bowl MVP doesn’t need any more concussions if Green Bay hopes to reach Indianapolis next February.
At this point, they deserve the No. 1 spot because they are the champions and until someone knocks them down, they will be at the top.