BAL | CIN | CLE
| PIT | CHI
| DET | GB | MIN
Biggest Needs: TE, WR, RB
Strangely, a team that’s been devoid of offensive talent
in recent years now has few holes to fill on that side of the
ball. The drafting expertise of Ozzie Newsome leads me to believe
the Ravens will select the right player, and in this case, I believe
it will be the replacement for TE Todd Heap. Heap has been a productive
TE, but his best days are clearly behind him. And acquiring Anquan
Boldin via trade was the deal this off season that made the most
sense. With Boldin, alongside route-running tactician Derrick
Mason, the Ravens have given young Joe Flacco all the tools he
needs to continue his ascension up toward the league’s best
young QB list. RB Ray Rice was a gem last year and Willis McGahee
had several huge games in 2009, but if the Ravens decide that
McGahee’s $3.5 million salary for 2010 is too much, they
could look to bring in a cheaper and younger player at that position.
They may attempt to squeeze out one more productive season out
of the veteran, though.
Potential Free Agent Targets: The Ravens already made the move
of the off season by bringing in Boldin. He instantly upgrades
a position that’s long been the source of trouble for Baltimore.
Boldin has never been a TD scoring machine, but he could easily
flirt with a 100-catch season in 2010 if he stays healthy.
Draft Picks 1.25, 2.25: If TE Jermaine
Gresham is available late in the 1st found, count on the Ravens
grabbing the former Oklahoma Sooner. Gresham isn’t quite
the blocker that Heap is, but he’s a more more athletic
pass catcher. This resembles the situation some years ago when
the Ravens drafted Heap even though incumbent Shannon Sharpe was
still a productive pass-catching TE. The Ravens could then secure
the services of WR Mardy Gilyard of Cincinnati in the 2nd. The
speedster is also a capable kick returner as well. Sure, they
picked up veteran Donte Stallworth, but there’s a reason
why the Ravens will be his fourth team in four years—he’s
simply not as good as some think. So consequently, selecting Gilyard,
who appears to have the qualities that Stallworth once had, appears
to be a smart move.
Biggest Needs: CB, FS, DL
Safety Ed Reed has indicated he may retire at some point this
off season, so securing his replacement should be at the forefront
of what Baltimore does. Reed himself was a late 1st round selection
(24th overall in 2002), so don’t put it past the Ravens
to find quality at that stage of the draft. Reed battled a number
of injuries last season, but he remains a force in the secondary.
Perhaps another position that’s just as critical for Baltimore
to pay close attention to during the draft is at cornerback. CB
Lardarius Webb suffered an ACL late last season and his prognosis
for starting the season on the active roster remains up in the
air. Dominique Foxworth played well in some games, but in others
he did not. It’s therefore crucial that they upgrade a position
that’s important to the way Baltimore has played defense
for the past decade. Haloti Ngata continues to be the real deal
and Terrell Suggs remains a force on the outside, but it’s
time Baltimore begins looking beyond Trevor Pryce and Kelly Gregg.
Potential Free Agent Targets: There are no real suitable options
on the free agent market for Baltimore at their positions of need.
Plus, they generally build and supplement their team through the
draft. That’s been a successful formula for them for more
than 10 years and should continue to be such moving forward.
Draft Picks: 1.25, 2.25: It’d
be a crime if S Taylor Mays dropped to the Ravens at #25. Stranger
things have happened, however. They would grab him in a second.
Perhaps a more realistic target could be CB/KR Kyle Wilson from
Boise State. Getting one of these players would free up Baltimore
to take DE/OLB Ricky Sapp from Clemson.
Biggest Needs: WR, TE, OG
Ok, let me get this straight. The Cincinnati Bengals chose instead
to sign WRs Matt Jones and Antonio Bryant over Terrell Owens?
Am I missing something here? Indeed, Owens is far from the player
he was several years ago, but at his stage of his career, he’s
still a better option than One-Year-Wonder Bryant and Never-Done-Anything
Jones. I guess that’s what makes the Bengals the Bengals.
The need at WR aside, a pass-catching TE has been absent from
this team, it seems, since Dan Ross back in the early 80s. Perhaps
that’s more of a need than WR even. It should be interesting
to see how 2009 1st round draft choice Andre Smith develops. The
massive LT is sort of like an extra pick this year. If his development
is where they hope it is, the surprisingly run-first Bengals could
continue their productive conservative offensive game plan.
Potential Free Agent Targets: They’ve
already done what they’re going to do in free agency with
the ghastly signings of Bryant and Jones. I thought they’d
be in the running for a second-tier QB to give Carson Palmer a
reputable back-up (Jake Delhomme?). As it stands now, though,
the Bengals have nothing behind Palmer.
Draft Picks 1.21, 2.22: While WR
is the most glaring need offensively from my perspective, a dynamic
TE such as Jermaine Gresham would do wonders for the Bengals.
His average run-blocking ability, however, could have them looking
elsewhere, but his pure pass-catching ability would give Cincy
the kind of TE they’ve been lacking for a generation. Getting
a play-maker in the 2nd round such as Dexter McCluster would be
huge. He’s a poor man’s Percy Harvin with his multi-dimensional
Biggest Needs: FS, SS, DE
Probably against their better judgment, the Bengals resigned S
the former Dallas Cowboy retread. Remember when many viewed him
as Ed Reed’s equal early in both their careers? Um…not quite the
case now. Needless to say, getting his successor would be a major
coup for the Bengals. They would also benefit from a consistent
outside pass rusher. Antwan
Odom was on his way last season, getting eight sacks in the
season’s first six games. But an Achilles injury halted any threat
the Bengals had of developing a threat in the pass rush from Odom.
Look for them to address that position at some point during the
Potential Free Agent Targets: Julius
Peppers would have been a nice addition, but certainly the price
tag was way too steep for the historically frugal Bengals. Jarvis
Green could have been in the mix too, but they missed out on him.
Dwan Edwards could possibly fit here, or even an Adewale Ogunleye.
Draft Picks: 1.21, 2.22: Either
of the top safeties in this draft would be suitable fits in Cincy:
Earl Thomas or Taylor Mays. Both are considered smart, hard-hitting
and physical safeties—exactly what’s needed in the
rough and tumble AFC North division. With the bad press that Carlos
Dunlap has been getting, there’s a chance he drops to the
second half of Round 2. If so, his history shouldn’t scare
off the Bengals, who’ve taken chances before. If Dunlap
is not available, they could look toward TCU DE/OLB Jerry Hughes.
Biggest Needs: QB, RB, WR
New Cleveland Brown GM Mike Holmgren is doing the easy part of
rebuilding a downtrodden franchise—getting rid of all the
excess baggage. The difficult part comes with trying to rebuild
it all. He’s axed QBs Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn, along
with LB Kamerion Wimbley. This after the organization sent WR
Braylon Edwards and TE Kellen Winslow packing last year. I’m
not sure what the plan is in Cleveland, but this year’s
draft should shed some light as to what they plan to do. Newly
signed signal caller Jake Delhomme is nothing more than a short-term
stop-gap measure at QB, and back-up Seneca Wallace is just that—a
back-up. This team has a laundry list of needs on offense, but
starting with QB and a RB would get them off to a good start.
I remain baffled almost a year later why the Browns felt inclined
to rid themselves of Edwards and Winslow. No one stepped up in
their absence last year—yet the Cleveland front office brass
felt it was the QBs’ fault? Interesting. I’m certainly
not defending Quinn or Anderson; it’s just amazing that
the organization didn’t see their struggles coming—what
with stripping the offensive weapons down to the bare bones and
Potential Free Agent Targets: Short-term though they might be,
free agent pick-ups Delhomme and Wallace represent the new regime’s
course of action. They want proven productivity in lieu of potential,
and on some levels that makes sense. But Delhomme seems to be
damaged goods between the ears, and no team is going anywhere
with Wallace as its starter. Yet, they’re the new Cleveland
QBs. They could possibly target a free agent RB before or soon
after the draft, but it probably won’t be anyone of any
Draft Picks 1.07, 2.06: If Jimmy
Clausen somehow slips by Washington, look for the Browns to grab
him at #7. It’s said that many view Clausen as a West Coast
style QB, which the Browns may attempt to incorporate to some
degree. If this scenario plays out for Cleveland, the Delhomme
gamble would have been worth it. A somewhat pedestrian Combine
notwithstanding, RB Jonathan Dwyer could be a choice at the top
of Round 2. His bruising style could complement Jerome Harrison’s
Biggest Needs: CB, FS, DE
The Browns have needs all over the defense. Holmgren apparently
believes in addition by subtraction, as a few of his first moves
on the job were sending DT Corey Williams to Detroit and Kamerion
Wimbley to Oakland. Again, those are the easy moves. Now comes
the opportunity for Holmgren to show the NFL universe what he’s
really made of. Cleveland’s secondary is abysmal and needs
immediate improvement. But with the huge question marks on offense
as well, it’s anyone’s guess as to what the Browns
will do with their first two picks.
Potential Free Agent Targets: It
seems Cleveland is more interested in getting rid of players at
this time instead of bringing new players in—especially
on defense. They’ve been rather quiet outside of the Delhomme/Wallace
acquisitions. Whether they become more active in free agency in
the future remains a mystery. But for now, Cleveland fans must
invest quite a bit of trust in Holmgren and hope that he pulls
this franchise out of the doldrums of awful football with this
Draft Picks: 1.07, 2.06: Cleveland
could nab safety Eric Berry of Tennessee with its 1st round choice
at #7. Some look at him as the next Ed Reed and the best prospect
in this draft not named Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy. If, in
fact, he’s the next Ed Reed, he will only be as good as
the front 7 playing with him. If the Browns develop no pass rush,
even the best safeties and CBs would have difficulty staying with
NFL receivers for an extended period of time. But Berry’s
a start. This putrid defense won’t be rebuilt in one year,
but he’s a really good first piece to the puzzle. Virginia
CB Chris Cook is an intriguing option in the 2nd round. At 6-2
and 212 lbs., he’s a huge CB with speed (4.43 in the 40).
Biggest Needs: RB, OG, OT
Willie Parker could still return to the Steelers, but it’s
not probable at this stage. As such, Pittsburgh must secure a
back-up RB to spell Rashard Mendenhall, who finally showed what
he was capable of in 2009. The Steelers are most successful when
they get back to what has been a franchise staple for 40 years:
running the football. It’s easy to get infatuated with the
passing game when you have a Houdini at QB, but to do so at the
exclusion of the running game is a huge mistake. Pittsburgh is
solid up front, but now would be a perfect time to begin grooming
the next wave of O-linemen in the Steel City. A good, young LT
would certainly be a sight for sore eyes in Pittsburgh.
Potential Free Agent Targets: Much like the Ravens, the Steelers
generally build their team through the draft instead of free agency,
although Pittsburgh recently signed WR Arnaz Battle and brought
back WR Antwaan Randle El. Neither will be much of a factor in
Draft Picks 1.18, 2.20: RB is certainly
not the biggest need on this team, but CJ Spiller is arguably
the best RB in the draft, and getting the speedy Clemson product
would give Pittsburgh a dynamic 1-2 punch. Another 1st round target
could be USC’s LT Charles Brown. The 2nd round selection
could see them taking OT/G Vladimir Ducasse from UMass.
Biggest Needs: ILB, CB, DL
NT Casey Hampton was resigned for 3 years and more than $21 million,
but his replacement must be identified at some point. In fact,
an upgrade along the entire front-3 should be looked at. ILB James
Farrior has had a solid career, and Larry Foote, who took a one-year
hiatus in Detroit, looks like he’s going to return to Pittsburgh.
Both are getting long in the tooth, and it would be in Pittsburgh’s
best interest to find Farrior and Foote clones in this draft.
The Steelers drafted two CBs last season, but neither did much.
They may have to look at that position again this year to help
solidify a position that’s probably the biggest weakness
on the team.
Potential Free Agent Targets: Again, don’t expect Pittsburgh
to make a move worth anything in the free agent market. They may
bring back Larry Foote, but they know what they are getting in
a player who spent the first seven years of his career in Pittsburgh.
They appear more concerned about retaining the services of their
own free agents (Ryan Clark, Willie Colon) than going outside
the organization. They may view their foray into free agency a
success if they’re able to lock those two up.
Draft Picks 1.18, 2.20: Head coach
Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will be all
smiles if ILB Rolando McClain is there at #18. He would give the
Steelers precisely what they need at the time they need it. He’s
a relentless defender who finds himself all over the field, chasing
down ball carriers. Remember when Oakland Raider QB Bruce Gradkowski
went up and down the field against Pittsburgh late in 2009? That
was Exhibit ‘A’ of why the Steelers need to upgrade
their secondary. Oklahoma’s CB Dominique Franks could be
the 2nd round choice, or if they’re looking for Hampton’s
heir apparent now, they could grab North Carolina’s NT Cam
Biggest Needs: WR, OT, OG
While the Chicago Bears have quite a few holes to fill on their
roster, they unfortunately don’t have the quantity of draft
picks that typically warrant much optimism. Due to trades from
the past several years, the Bears are without a draft pick in
the first two rounds in this year’s draft. The only saving
grace, though, is that there are definitive needs on the team,
starting with the aging offensive line. The Orlando Pace experiment
lasted only one year, so they will certainly look to fill the
need at tackle.
Chicago has invested a lot in QB Jay Cutler, so it would behoove
the organization to surround the signal-caller with better options
at receiver. Honestly, is relying on a converted defensive player
as your #1 receiving option the best way to go? I don’t
think so. I personally thought they should have been in the running
for Anquan Boldin, but what do I know? But if they stand pat at
WR and new offensive coordinator is able to do special things
with this unit, then he really deserves the Mad Scientist moniker
Potential Free Agent Targets: The only free agent remaining that’s
worth going after would be WR Terrell Owens. Even with his mileage,
he would instantly improve an average receiving corp and give
Cutler the kind of weapon he’s going to need to take his
game and the Bears’ offense to another level.
Draft Picks: 3.11, 4.11: It will
be one of those best-player-available scenarios during the 2010
draft. A player such as Demaryius Thomas, WR from Georgia Tech
could come into play in the 3rd round, with O-lineman Kyle Calloway
from Iowa a possibility in the 4th.
Biggest Needs: CB, FS, DT
A defense that once was the signature of this team has become
average over the last couple seasons. This defense is getting
old and average rather quickly. Part of that decline, however,
has been a porous secondary. Improving their pass rush with free
agent pick-up Julius Peppers, though, will help. It will be tough
for them to address all of their needs in this draft, but focusing
first on getting Cutler the help he needs should be the first
order of business.
In order for Julius Peppers to be worth the $42 million scratch
he signed for in the off season, the interior of the defensive
line must create a push. Otherwise, teams will simply put all
attention on Peppers and dare the other linemen to beat them.
First-time defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will look to get
the most out of the players up front, but getting a developmental
young stud through the draft to complement Peppers is a matter
the Bears should address.
Potential Free Agent Targets: CB Dre’ Bly is aging, but
he played well in brief stretches last season with San Francisco.
He’s never been a shutdown corner, but he has big-play ability.
Rod Marinelli’s presence as the defensive coordinator, however,
may prevent that from happening. One of Marinelli’s first
orders of business when he became head coach of the Lions was
to rid the team of Bly. Another player could be CB Phillip Buchanan,
who mirrors Bly somewhat in his playmaking ability—although
he has a tendency to be less-than-disciplined in defensive schemes.
Draft Picks: 3.11, 4.11: Perrish
Cox could be a target in the 3rd round. He is a poor man’s
version of Devin Hester—a CB with kick returner skills.
The Bears would get better, younger and more versatile with one
Biggest Needs: RB, OG, OT
When you’ve won only two games in two years, obviously your
needs are many. Perhaps the greatest need of all is improving
the pedestrian running game. Whether it’s the offensive
line or the lack of explosive play-making ability at the RB position,
the fact remains that the Lions have had one of the worst running
offenses the league has seen in a long time. Kevin Smith is still
a question mark for the start of training camp, but even when
healthy he’s a second-rate NFL running back.
The Lions could in any order spend their 2nd and 3rd round selection
on a RB and an O-lineman. The passing game is coming together,
with Matthew Stafford and WRs Calvin Johnson and newly-signed
Nate Burleson being the main cogs. Those weapons must be fortified
with a threat in the backfield if Detroit has any thoughts of
improving its abysmal offensive performance in recent years. The
Lions have spent both high and mid-round draft picks on offensive
linemen in recent years, but none have become stars. It’s
time they hit on one.
Potential Free Agent Targets: Don’t
look for Detroit to be in the running for any of the available
free agent RBs, and all of the good unrestricted offensive linemen
were gobbled up early. Expect Detroit to remain mute on the free
agent front for the rest of the off-season—unless, of course,
someone of note gets cut.
Draft Pick: 1.02, 2.02: There have
been rumors that since the Lions have signed defensive linemen
Kyle Vanden Bosch and Corey Williams this off season, that drafting
Gerald McCoy or Ndamukong Suh is now an afterthought. Some say
they’ve put themselves in a position to select OT Russell
Okung at #2. I don’t see it. I think a DT can have more
impact on a game than an OT; plus, with head coach Jim Shwartz’s
background as a defensive coach, I’d put smart money on
one of the D-tackles. The 2nd round pick could be Cal’s
RB Jahvid Best. Getting a multi-dimensional threat like that would
Biggest Needs: CB, DT, FS
Even though Detroit signed and traded for several secondary players
this off season, it still remains the biggest weakness on a team
full of them. They need to have CBs who can at least remain in
the same zip code as receivers streaking downfield. Upgrading
in that area is crucial. But if Detroit drafts Suh or McCoy at
#2, the Lions will have during the off-season crafted one of the
best D-lines in the division. Not bad for a team that’s
struggled on that side of the ball for the last four years.
It looks like the Lions may have struck gold when they selected
SS Louis Delmas at the top of the 2nd round last year. Now they’d
like to complement his hard-hitting ability with a free safety
capable of coverage. There are some top-notch safeties in this
draft; I just don’t think Detroit will spend a high pick
on this position, though. They could address it in Day Three of
the draft, though.
Potential Free Agent Targets: I
believe the Lions are looking to get young, and as a result will
stay out of the free agent game relative to defensive backs. No
unrestricted free agents remain, and there’s no way the
Lions part with those valuable draft picks for those restricted
free agents. Look for them to address their remaining needs on
defense through the draft.
Draft Pick: 1.02, 2.02: The Lions
should pick Suh without looking back, then could really solidify
the young defense with someone like Devin McCourty at the top
of the 2nd, the speedy CB from Rutgers.
Biggest Needs: OG, OT, RB
Aaron Rodgers finished the season as the most-sacked QB in the
league last season. That could have been a combination of Rodgers
holding onto the ball too long, or it could have been that the
Green Bay offensive line is aging and not as good as it needs
to be. The Packers resigned Chad Clifton, but as a player with
10 years of experience, he’s no spring chicken. Mark Tauscher
remains unsigned; he, too, is entering his 11th year. Needless
to say, they need to infuse some youth up front.
RB Ryan Grant was solid in 2009 but far from spectacular. With
a dynamic passing attack in Green Bay, it’s crucial that
they improve their running game. Look for them to address that
need at some point in this draft.
Potential Free Agent Targets: Don’t expect much action from
Green Bay in the way of improving up front. There are a lot of
aging offensive linemen in the free agent market and none of them,
quite frankly, are any better than the aging players they already
have on their roster. However, one intriguing free agent who could
possibly find a role with the Packers is RB Brian Westbrook. I
think wherever Westbrook ends up, he will be utilized as a specialized
3rd down back—exactly what Green Bay needs.
Draft Pick: 1.23, 2.24: OT Charles
Brown from USC could be the pick in the first round, followed
by the do-everything RB/WR/KR Dexter McCluster from Ole Miss.
It’s time the Packers provide more quality and versatility
in the backfield behind Ryan Grant. Brandon Jackson was supposed
to be that player once upon a time, but the former 2nd round pick
hasn’t panned out.
Biggest Needs: CB, S, OLB
Even though Green Bay had one of the top defenses through most
of last season, the game that lingers is the playoff game against
Arizona. The Packers couldn’t do anything defensively. Sure,
Charles Woodson won the DPOY award, but how much longer do they
expect him to keep up that pace at his age? In order for the Packers
to remain a top-half defense and remain a threat in their division,
they must shore up that secondary. If a CB doesn’t tickle
their fancy, perhaps one of the top safeties falls to them. Either
way, Green Bay needs young and talented D-backs incorporated in
With the departure of Aaron Kampman via free agency, Green Bay
must also get an outside pass rushing threat. The 3-4 defense
is predicated on getting pressure on the QB from the edge, but
there aren’t many options left on the roster to fulfill
that mission. Look for them to target Kampman’s replacement
early in Day Two of the draft.
Potential Free Agent Targets: Green
Bay probably won’t look to free agency to backfill the holes
in their defense. They already have older players on defense that
need to be replaced with younger players. I think they improve
their team almost exclusively through this year’s draft.
Draft Picks: 1.23, 2.24: A top-notch
prototypical hybrid DE/OLB probably won’t be available in
the second half of the first round, but a safety such as Taylor
Mays possibly could be. That’d be a major coup for the Packers.
Someone such as DE/OLB Ricky Sapp could be grabbed in the 2nd
round, or even DE Carlos Dunlap could fall into the bottom of
the 2nd round due solely to his rumored character and work ethic
Biggest Needs: RB, C, OG
The Vikings were unable to land RB LaDanian Tomlinson as Adrian
Peterson’s primary backup. And with Chester Taylor’s
exit, coupled with the alarming rate with which Peterson now coughs
up the football, it’s vital that the Vikings have a solid
#2 RB. The offensive line could use a little more youth and depth
as well. The guards appear set with Steve Hutchinson and Anthony
Herrara, but grabbing a center could be a prudent thing to do.
There have been some whispers about T Bryant McKinnie beginning
to show chinks in his armor. Who can forget the way Julius Peppers
abused him late last season? So don’t disregard their need
for an eventual replacement for McKinnie.
Potential Free Agent Targets: RB
Brian Westbrook would be an interesting selection here. He’s
versatile enough and secures the ball enough to be a suitable
back-up to Peterson. Plus, his shifty and elusive moves would
complement the bullish Peterson’s running style tremendously.
Draft Picks: 1.30, 2.31: The best
case scenario for Minnesota would be if the versatile Maurkice
Pouncey falls to them at the bottom of the 1st round. He plays
both guard and center and could be the eventual replacement for
Hutchinson. Another jackpot would be RB Joe McKnight from USC.
He’s Brian Westbrook—only eight years younger. Securing
these two players with the first two picks could keep the Vikings
in a battle for NFC supremacy in 2010—assuming, of course,
that Brett Favre returns.
Biggest Needs: CB, S, ILB
The Vikings enter this draft season with two glaring needs: cornerback
and safety. Antoine Winfield suffered through injuries all last
season and Cedric Griffin ripped up his knee against New Orleans
in the playoffs. So depth and youth are the order of the day.
Also, EJ Henderson had a horrific injury late last season. A broken
leg could hamper him a bit entering training camp, and a replacement
for the often-injured LB should be a priority. What’s not
listed above in terms of a position of need is DT. Pat and Kevin
Williams are perhaps the best combination of DTs in the NFL, but
Pat is getting up there in age and has mentioned it’s 50-50
whether he will retire before the season begins. As it is now,
Minnesota has to spell him throughout the game to keep him fresh.
That’s a good formula indeed, but they must begin grooming
his replacement at some point. Why not now?
Potential Free Agent Targets: Heading into the off season, I thought
CB Leigh Bodden would have been a nice pick-up for Minnesota,
but New England resigned the veteran soon after free agency began.
It was a long-shot with the restrictions put on the Vikings—a
final four team—but on paper it looked like a potentially
good fit. Veteran LB Bertrand Berry is still available. If Minnesota
maintains its win-now approach, Berry could see spot duty and
help keep the Vikings’ front seven one of the best in the
Draft Picks: 1.30, 2.31: CB Devin
McCourty could be a target late in the first round. Also, ILB
Brandon Spikes, a surefire first rounder before the 2009 college
season, could possibly fall to them late in the 2nd round. Henderson’s
return to full strength is questionable, and even if he does,
how effective will he be? Spikes’ presence could allow Minnesota
to ease Henderson slowly back into the mix.