Capsules looking at the needs and outlooks for the 32 NFL teams heading into the draft, which begins Thursday night:
1. ST. LOUIS RAMS (1-15)
LAST SEASON: The worst offense in the NFL landed the Rams the top pick, although they’re used to picking early. Year 1 of rebuilding plan under GM Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo represented only a slight downturn from the five-win total the previous two seasons that merited a pair of No. 2 picks: OT Jason Smith in 2009 and DE Chris Long in ’08. Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson carried the load for a puny lineup, and the defense ranked 29th. The release of Marc Bulger earlier this month all but cinches that they’ll take a QB first, and the offensive line fortified last year by Smith and free-agent center Jason Brown should ease concerns Sam Bradford will get beat up before he’s up to speed.
THEY NEED: QB, WR, CB, S, backup RB.
THEY DON’T NEED: Starting RB, K.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Bradford, DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Gerald McCoy.
OUTLOOK: Although Devaney maintains the team is undecided, the Bulger move a day after the Redskins acquired Donovan McNabb removed a potential trade partner and tips the Rams’ hand. So, a quarterback comes with the first pick.
2. DETROIT LIONS (2-14)
LAST SEASON: Lions snapped a 19-game losing streak in Week 1, then won only one more game to set an NFL record with 30 losses over two seasons. Detroit has won just three games since midway through the 2007 season in what has been the worst 40-game stretch since the Dayton Triangles were slightly worse during the 1920s. The Lions gave up 494 points last year, ranking fourth in league history, after giving up the second most during the winless 2008 season. But finally, a rookie class generated legitimate reasons for hope. QB Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 pick overall, showed signs of promise with his arm and toughness. Fellow rookies Brandon Pettigrew, Louis Delmas and DeAndre Levy also looked like players other teams wished they drafted. First-year coach Jim Schwartz seemed to be a good fit for a franchise that needs leadership on the sideline.
THEY NEED: DT, RB, CB, S, OT.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, WR, C, LB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Gerald McCoy, OT Russell Okung.
OUTLOOK: The Lions have made a series of solid moves this offseason, signing DE Kyle Vanden Bosch and WR Nate Burleson and acquiring DT Corey Williams, OG Rob Sims, CB Chris Houston and backup QB Shaun Hill. What the Martin Mayhew-led front office does in the draft, though, will be paramount. Drafting a playmaker on defense — Suh or McCoy — seems logical to bolster a unit that has been awful.
3. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (3-13)
LAST SEASON: Bucs had worst finish since 1991, when they were in the middle of a stretch of 14 consecutive losing seasons. Rookie coach Raheem Morris and first-year general manager Mark Dominik retained their jobs, primarily because not much could be reasonably expected from a team that cut ties with most of its key veterans and started a rookie at quarterback for much of the season. Josh Freeman, last year’s No. 1 pick, went 3-6 following an awful 0-7 start with Byron Leftwich and Josh Johnson at QB. But the rookie struggled with the absence of a consistent running game, as well as the lack of reliable receivers beyond TE Kellen Winslow. Defense was a problem, too, although statistics improved slightly after Morris took charge of the unit and called plays over the final six games.
THEY NEED: DT, WR, S, LB, DE, OG, CB.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, RB, TE.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Gerald McCoy, S Eric Berry.
OUTLOOK: Bucs built a Super Bowl winner primarily through the draft and insist they’re committed to rebuilding the same way. Despite being well under the salary cap the past two years, they’ve refrained from spending big in free agency and did not re-sign their best wide receiver, Antonio Bryant. With 11 picks overall, three in the top 42, Dominik is confident he can address a variety of needs. Poor drafting since the team’s Super Bowl season in 2002 created the current predicament, and there’s little room for error this year.
4. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (4-12)
LAST SEASON: Years of poor judgment from top to bottom (and most places in between) finally snowballed into a 4-12 season, the franchise’s worst since 1994. The result was a thorough house-cleaning: Mike Shanahan replaced Jim Zorn as coach; Bruce Allen replaced Vinny Cerrato as the head of the front office; and owner Dan Snyder yielded roster control to his new brain trust. There’s more: Donovan McNabb is the new QB, Larry Johnson or Willie Parker are serving notice that RB Clinton Portis isn’t irreplaceable, and Shanahan has hinted the same about DT Albert Haynesworth.
THEY NEED: OL, OL, OL. Get the idea?
THEY DON’T NEED: TE.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OT Russell Okung, QB Jimmy Clausen.
OUTLOOK: It’s been 10 years since the Redskins drafted an offensive lineman in the first two rounds of the draft, and it’s finally caught up to them. Jason Campbell was sacked 43 times last year (third in NFL) as the team tried nearly every combination of blockers. Veterans Chris Samuels and Randy Thomas finally wore out and are gone, and nothing that Shanahan does will matter until he starts rebuilding up front. Shanahan has also keenly scouted the top available QBs, although that position would seem less of a priority following the trade for McNabb.
5. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (4-12)
LAST SEASON: In the first year of the Scott Pioli/Todd Haley regime, the Chiefs doubled their victory total of 2008. That gave the franchise 10 wins in three miserable seasons. Enough disgusted fans stayed home to bring an end to a string of non-blacked-out home games that began in 1991. On a positive note, perennially troubled running back Larry Johnson was released and Jamaal Charles emerged. In only 10 starts, Charles rushed for 1,120 yards, including a team-record 259 in a 44-24 blowout of Denver in the finale that Haley points to as proof his long-range plan is working. QB Matt Cassel, obtained from New England, was off and on. But an inconsistent offensive line gave him no help in the first part of the season and his receivers dropped passes.
THEY NEED: LB, S, OL, WR, C, TE.
THEY DON’T NEED: K, P, QB, RB, CB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OL Trent Williams, S Eric Berry, OL Bryan Bulaga.
OUTLOOK: Pioli’s first draft proved disappointing to fans who rhapsodized that their new GM was football’s foremost personnel genius. Mr. Irrelevant, K Ryan Succop, has provided the biggest impact. But in all fairness to Bill Belichick’s former sidekick, Pioli barely had time to locate the men’s room, let alone organize his own scouting team. A big help identifying players this year should also be new coordinators Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel. They had better be. Gaping talent shortcomings exist at many positions. Pioli and his team badly need a breakthrough draft.
6. 14. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (5-11)
LAST SEASON: Jim Mora got only one year to coach his hometown team, a collection so flawed its architect — former GM Tim Ruskell — was forced out before last season was over. The Seahawks counted on LT Walter Jones, a 35-year-old coming off major knee surgery. That never happened. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck turned 34 and was battered again. The new, supposedly revamped running game went nowhere. New WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh pouted and had sporadic production. The pass rush was almost nonexistent, the safeties were old, slow and sieve-like, and LB mainstay Lofa Tatupu missed most of the year while injured. The Seahawks’ lone coup was getting Denver’s first-round pick (No. 14 overall) in exchange for a forgotten second-rounder last year.
THEY NEED: A partial list: OT, RB, WR, DT, DE, S, CB, OG, QB.
THEY DON’T NEED: K, P, C.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OT Russell Okung, OL Bryan Bulaga, OL Trent Williams; RB C.J. Spiller.
OUTLOOK: Jones seems on the verge of retiring, so finding a new LT is imperative; holdover T Sean Locklear is not the answer. RB Julius Jones didn’t fit the zone-blocking run scheme last year, and new coach Pete Carroll is going to go even more hard-core with his system, having zone guru Alex Gibbs as his line coach. That makes the dynamic Spiller enticing. QB is still an issue, with Hasselbeck entering the final year of his contract. That is, unless Seattle truly believes Charlie Whitehurst is the man for 2011 and beyond. He has never thrown an NFL pass, yet cost Seattle a third-round pick and over $8 million in a new contract after his recent trade from San Diego.
7. CLEVELAND BROWNS (5-11)
LAST SEASON: Cleveland began 1-11 under first-year coach Eric Mangini before a four-game winning streak saved him from being fired from his second job in two seasons. Former Green Bay and Seattle coach Mike Holmgren has taken over as team president, charged with returning one of the NFL’s most storied franchises to glory. It won’t be easy. The Browns solved part of their quarterback problem by trading Brady Quinn, releasing Derek Anderson and signing free agent Jake Delhomme, who wants to bounce back after an atrocious 2009 with Carolina. Delhomme is only a temporary fix.
THEY NEED: Help at nearly every position, with QB, DL, TE, WR and S the primary hot spots.
THEY DON’T NEED: A left offensive tackle. Joe Thomas is the real deal.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: S Eric Berry, DL Jared Odrick, QB Jimmy Clausen.
OUTLOOK: By stockpiling selections — the Browns currently have 10, including five of the first 92 — new general manager Tom Heckert can wheel and deal. There’s been rumblings he’s putting together a package of picks for a trade with St. Louis for the No. 1 overall spot to take Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford. If that doesn’t work, Berry would be the safest pick and give Cleveland a much-needed, big-play defensive back like AFC North rival Pittsburgh has in Troy Polamalu and Baltimore with Ed Reed.
8. OAKLAND RAIDERS (5-11)
LAST SEASON: The Raiders posted their NFL-worst seventh straight season with at least 11 losses. The most notable development was the midseason benching of 2007 No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell, whose 50.0 passer rating was the lowest since Ryan Leaf’s rookie season. Bruce Gradkowski and Russell will compete for the starting job unless the Raiders add another quarterback before training camp. Rookie WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (9 catches) and second-year RB Darren McFadden (357 yards rushing) were also disappointments as Oakland got little production from its past three first-round picks. Owner Al Davis stripped coach Tom Cable of play-calling duties in the offseason and brought in Hue Jackson as offensive coordinator.
THEY NEED: OL, DL, QB, WR.
THEY DON’T NEED: TE, RB, K, P.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OL Trent Williams, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, QB Jimmy Clausen.
OUTLOOK: After spending top-10 picks on disappointing skill-position offensive players the past three years, it might be time for the Raiders to address their offensive line. Davis has used a first-round pick on an offensive lineman just three times in the past 22 drafts. But with a strong group of offensive tackles available, this could be the year to do it again. Oakland also could use an elite pass rusher after going three straight years without a player reaching double digits in sacks. There’s always the possibility the Raiders could rebuild with a new quarterback, taking Clausen with their first pick.
9. BUFFALO BILLS (6-10)
LAST SEASON: Endured another “nothing’s new” campaign by missing the playoffs for a 10th straight year, in large part because of an inept offense even T.O. couldn’t spark. That led the once-proud franchise to take yet another spin of the head-coaching carousel. Dick Jauron was fired in November and eventually replaced by Chan Gailey. The QB position remains in flux after Trent Edwards lost his starting job to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Only emerging star was rookie S Jairus Byrd, who tied for the NFL lead with nine interceptions.
THEY NEED: A new winning attitude along with OT, QB, DT, WR.
THEY DON’T NEED: Yet another losing season, and DBs, K, P.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OL Bryan Bulaga, OTs Anthony Davis or Trent Williams, QB Jimmy Clausen, NT Dan Williams.
OUTLOOK: If they pass on Clausen, don’t rule out the Bills selecting Tim Tebow with second-round pick (41st). In becoming the fifth head coach since Marv Levy retired following 1997 season, Gailey faces the familiar challenge of finding a franchise quarterback. He’s already revamped the defense, switching to a 3-4 scheme. Though the former Cowboys head coach has respect around the league, it might be too much to ask Gailey to turn around perennial loser in one season.
10. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (7-9)
LAST SEASON: Jags blacked out nine of 10 home games. They ended with a four-game losing streak and missed the playoffs for the eighth time in 10 years. Jacksonville had a league-low 14 sacks and ranked 23rd in total defense, the biggest concerns for general manager Gene Smith and coach Jack Del Rio. Despite a late collapse and defensive woes, the Jaguars feel good about the direction of the franchise because of four rookie starters and several more young contributors.
THEY NEED: Local icon Tebow to boost ticket sales. More pressing needs include DE, LB, S, C, G, DT, WR.
THEY DON’T NEED: OT, RB, TE, CB, K, P.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE Derrick Morgan, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, LB Rolando McClain, S Earl Thomas, RB C.J. Spiller.
OUTLOOK: Small-market Jaguars would love to trade down, acquire more picks and avoid guaranteeing nearly $20 million to a rookie for the third consecutive year. A deep draft could mean no takers, though, so the Jags might be stuck at No. 10. If so, Spiller might be an enticing choice, but having Maurice Jones-Drew and a need to rebuild on defense seemingly make that unlikely. Drafting Tebow might be even less plausible (Jags don’t have a second-round pick) despite pleas from fans and owner Wayne Weaver’s belief the Florida star could fill empty seats in Jacksonville.
11. DENVER BRONCOS (8-8)
LAST SEASON: Denver started 6-2 under rookie coach Josh McDaniels, but with a sputtering offense and porous defense, then went 2-6 to miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year. McDaniels was hired in January 2009 and was already behind in draft preparations. It showed, with a series of eyebrow-raising selections, including trading the Broncos’ first-round pick in 2010 to move up and grab DB Alphonso Smith. His first draft didn’t produce any immediate impact players, with first-rounders Knowshon Moreno and Robert Ayers slow to shine in the pros. While not acknowledging any failures, McDaniels said the Broncos will be much better prepared for this draft. At least they have Chicago’s first-round pick from the Jay Cutler trade a year ago.
THEY NEED: C, LB, DL, TE, WR, CB, QB.
THEY DON’T NEED: K, P, S.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: LB Rolando McClain, WR Dez Bryant.
OUTLOOK: The Broncos bought a defensive line in free agency after watching teams run the ball straight up the gut last season. Now, they have the prototypes to complete their conversion from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defensive alignment. What would really help are inside and outside linebackers. They also could use a center following Casey Wiegmann’s return to Kansas City, a pass rusher to play opposite NFL sacks leader Elvis Dumervil, and a wide receiver following the trade of Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall.
12. MIAMI DOLPHINS (7-9)
LAST SEASON: There’s a sense of progress and optimism under the Bill Parcells regime, which took over after Miami bottomed out at 1-15 in 2007. But following a great leap forward in 2008, the Dolphins backslid and missed the playoffs, and the franchise still hasn’t won a postseason game since 2000. Holes to be plugged are plentiful. The plodding offense was helped by the acquisition of WR Brandon Marshall. Most likely is a pick to help a defense that gave up a franchise-record 140 points in the fourth quarter, most in the NFL.
THEY NEED: OLB, NT, FS, ILB, TE.
THEY DON’T NEED: CB, QB, K, P.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: LB Rolando McClain, S Earl Thomas, NT Dan Williams, DE Derrick Morgan.
OUTLOOK: Given Parcells’ fondness for size and defense, chances are good the Dolphins will use their first choice on a nose tackle or outside linebacker, where the need is pressing. Sacks leader Joey Porter was released, aging free agent Jason Taylor’s return is uncertain, and aging nose tackle Jason Ferguson faces an eight-game suspension to start the season. Plus the Dolphins are overdue to put a priority on upgrading the front seven, where they haven’t used a first-round selection since 1996.
13, 17. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (8-8)
LAST SEASON: In coach Mike Singletary’s first full year in charge, the Niners ended a franchise-worst stretch of six straight losing seasons — though 8-8 was hardly something to celebrate. This team began 3-1 and started talking playoffs. QB Alex Smith took over for demoted, and now departed, Shaun Hill at halftime Oct. 25 at Houston and showed plenty of positive signs. Smith could be pushed by newly acquired David Carr.
THEY NEED: OL, KR.
THEY DON’T NEED: WRs, QBs.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OT Anthony Davis. Singletary already took him to dinner and he has visited the team.
OUTLOOK: There will be many an eye on director of player personnel Trent Baalke as he leads the team through the draft following what team president Jed York called a “mutual parting” between the 49ers and GM Scot McCloughan last month. One of Singletary’s biggest offseason priorities was bolstering an offensive line that has lacked continuity, largely because of injuries. San Francisco has allowed an NFL-worst 150 sacks during the last three seasons.
15. NEW YORK GIANTS (8-8)
LAST SEASON: Giants fell apart in the second half and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005. They fired rookie D-coordinator Bill Sheridan and hired Bills interim coach Perry Fewell to fix a unit that gave up 427 points. S Kenny Phillips is a question mark coming off knee surgery. Eli Manning and his young receivers surprised last year, but the running game was so-so with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw hurt. The offensive line is aging.
THEY NEED: Defense: DT, MLB, S.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, WR.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: LB Sean Weatherspoon seems a no-brainer if the Giants go for need. Don’t be surprised if the O-line gets the help with OT Anthony Davis of Rutgers staying home.
OUTLOOK: Giants signed safeties Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant as free agents so safety isn’t an immediate need. Skill positions on offense are in pretty good shape.
16. TENNESSEE TITANS (8-8)
LAST SEASON: Made NFL history as the first team to start 0-6, then bounce back with five straight wins. The opening skid caused the benching of Kerry Collins and gave Vince Young his starting QB job back. Chris Johnson became the sixth player in NFL history to run for at least 2,000 yards, but the defense struggled mightily in its first season without tackle Albert Haynesworth and with new coordinator Chuck Cecil.
THEY NEED: Defense at DE, CB, LB.
THEY DON’T NEED: RB, WR.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DE Derrick Morgan, CB Joe Haden.
OUTLOOK: The Titans feature as much offensive talent as they’ve had since moving to Tennessee in 1997 with Young, Johnson and promising WR Kenny Britt. But defense, usually such a strength under coach Jeff Fisher, is being revamped with veterans such as DE Kyle Vanden Bosch already gone and LB Keith Bulluck a long shot to be signed to a new deal. CB Nick Harper, a three-year starter, also isn’t expected back. Tennessee could try to fix the defense by trading for Haynesworth and is stocked with nine draft picks for any deals.
18. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (9-7)
LAST SEASON: The Steelers appeared ready to make a strong run at repeating as Super Bowl winners until their season evaporated during a mystifying five-game losing streak, including inexplicable losses to the Chiefs, Raiders and Browns. Even worse, the offseason has been a nightmare for one of the NFL’s proudest and most accomplished franchises, with another sexual-assault accusation against QB Ben Roethlisberger — although he will not face charges — and the trade of former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes following a series of off-field problems. In only a year, the Steelers have gone from one of the most stable of franchises to one where its owners are upset by their star players’ conduct and there is a possible leadership gap in the locker room. Bringing back two popular players — WR Antwaan Randle El and LB Larry Foote — may help the team’s stability on and off the field.
THEY NEED: OL, CB, WR, LB, RB, DL. And, hmm, maybe a QB?
THEY DON’T NEED: P, TE.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: CB Kyle Wilson, OL Maurkice Pouncey, OL Mike Iupati.
OUTLOOK: With an aging defense, a thin OL and a lack of RB depth, the Steelers — accustomed to patiently plugging in draft picks only when they’re ready — suddenly have a number of positions they must address in one of their most important drafts in years. A cornerback is their most pressing need. They have 11 draft picks, four in the fifth round, and probably will package one or a couple to move up in Rounds 2, 3 or 4.
19. ATLANTA FALCONS (9-7)
LAST SEASON: The Falcons couldn’t pull off back-to-back playoff seasons in the second year with GM Thomas Dimitroff, coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan. There was this to celebrate: The team managed the first consecutive winning seasons in franchise history. Smith, Jacksonville’s former defensive coordinator, made defense the major thrust of the 2009 draft, but injuries took away defensive tackle Peria Jerry, the first-round pick, and safety William Moore (second round). The team finished 28th against the pass and then filled a top need by signing free-agent cornerback Dunta Robinson. The offense took a big hit in the 2009 preseason when slot receiver Harry Douglas was lost with a knee injury.
THEY NEED: DE, OLB, RB, C, S, PK.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, FB, P.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE Brandon Graham, LB Sean Weatherspoon.
OUTLOOK: The Falcons still have their core players on offense with Ryan, RB Michael Turner, receiver Roddy White and TE Tony Gonzalez. Atlanta may need new complementary players for White and Turner. An ankle injury hurt Turner, who couldn’t come close to his 2008 totals of 376 carries for 1,699 yards. The return of Douglas should help the depth at receiver. Ryan, 20-11 as a starter after missing two 2009 starts with an injured toe, remains the cornerstone of the franchise. Defensive end Jamaal Anderson, a first-round pick in 2007, had one-half sack in 2009, giving him 2½ for his career. He saw time at tackle and may have to make that his new home if he is replaced at end in the draft. John Abraham, who will be 32 this year, fell from his career-best 16½ sacks in 2008 to 5½ in 2009.
20. HOUSTON TEXANS (9-7)
LAST SEASON: Texans finished with first winning record in franchise history, but failed again to make their first playoff trip in their eighth season. Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson combined to power Houston’s potent offense and rookie linebacker Brian Cushing improved a defense that features LB DeMeco Ryans and 2006 top overall pick DE Mario Williams.
THEY NEED: A CB after the departure of Dunta Robinson; an RB to complement Steve Slaton.
THEY DON’T NEED: LB with Cushing establishing himself as a future star to play alongside Ryans. WRs with Johnson and reliable starter Kevin Walter along with a handful of role players.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: CB Kyle Wilson, S Earl Thomas, RB Ryan Mathews.
OUTLOOK: If Schaub and Johnson can pick up where they left off, Houston’s offense should be tough to slow down. It will be even more potent if Texans can find a bigger running back to complement Slaton. Ryans and Cushing are one of the best linebacker duos and Williams continues to improve. If they can find someone to replace Robinson, the defense should be better in 2010.
21. CINCINNATI BENGALS (10-6)
LAST SEASON: The Bengals ran the table in the AFC North to win the division and reach the playoffs for only second time since 1991. They lost to the Jets in their regular-season finale, and then again in the playoffs. Coach Marvin Lewis decided to go with a run-first philosophy, and Bengals finished ninth in the league rushing, but saw the passing game finish 26th. WR Chris Henry died in a fall from a truck during the season. The defense was the bright spot, finishing fourth overall. The Bengals got rid of underperforming WR Laveranues Coles after only one season and signed free agent WR Antonio Bryant as his replacement.
THEY NEED: TE, WR, S, DE, K.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, RB, P.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: WR Golden Tate, TE Jermaine Gresham, S Earl Thomas.
OUTLOOK: The Bengals have a young, talented core on a defense that is growing into one of the league’s best. The offense is another matter. The passing game was a mess for the second straight season. QB Carson Palmer struggled in the new run-first philosophy, and got little help from his receivers. Chad Ochocinco was the only consistent threat to catch a pass downfield, prompting defenses to give him extra coverage. Ochocinco turned 32 in January and is entering the final year on his contract. Tight end has been a problem for years, and was a glaring weak spot last season after Reggie Kelly and Ben Utecht got hurt during training camp. Chase Coffman, a third-round pick, struggled with his blocking and didn’t play. Improving the passing game is a priority.
22. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-6)
LAST SEASON: QB Tom Brady had a solid season on a surgically repaired knee that held up. But he faded toward the end when he played with rib and finger injuries. Now WR Wes Welker, who led the NFL with 123 catches, is recovering from torn knee ligaments suffered in the final regular-season game, and likely will miss the early part of the season. That leaves Randy Moss as the team’s only proven receiver. The pass rush was a serious weakness and the leadership suffered with the retirements of LB Tedy Bruschi and S Rodney Harrison and the trades of DE Richard Seymour and LB Mike Vrabel. The season ended with a shocking 33-14 first-round playoff loss as the Baltimore Ravens scored on the first offensive play and led 24-0 after the first quarter.
THEY NEED: DE, TE, WR.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, K, OL.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OLB Sergio Kindle, DL Jared Odrick, DE Brandon Graham.
OUTLOOK: Patriots have a serious need for a pass rusher with the trade of Seymour to Oakland before last season and the loss of his replacement, Jarvis Green as a free agent to Denver after the season. The only veteran tight end on the roster is Alge Crumpler after two left via free agency — Benjamin Watson to Cleveland and Chris Baker to Seattle. The improvement of the New York Jets, very active in free agency, is a threat to the Patriots’ dominance in the AFC East, which they won for the sixth time in seven seasons last year. The good news: New England locked up NT Vince Wilfork for five years and has three picks in the second round.
23. GREEN BAY PACKERS (11-5)
LAST SEASON: Recovered from offensive line’s awful start to the season and a pair of emotional losses to Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings to go 11-5, finish second in the NFC North and make the playoffs as a wild card. After an outstanding first season in 3-4 scheme under Dom Capers, the defense fell apart in 51-45 overtime playoff loss at Arizona.
THEY NEED: OT, CB, OLB, RB, P.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, WR.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: CB Devin McCourty, OT Anthony Davis, DE Brandon Graham.
OUTLOOK: The Packers have re-signed veteran tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, but they don’t have an obvious successor for LT Clifton and it’s not clear whether they think T.J. Lang has a brighter future as a guard or a right tackle. Cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris both are in their 30s, and Harris is coming off a season-ending knee injury. While rookie outside linebacker Brad Jones did an admirable job filling in after Aaron Kampman hurt his knee last year, the Packers are looking for depth at the position with Kampman gone to Jacksonville. A third-down back with breakaway speed would add a new dimension to an already potent offense.
24. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (11-5)
LAST SEASON: A big-play offense masked defensive deficiencies for much of the year until the last two games. The Eagles had a chance to win the NFC East and secure a first-round bye, but were blanked by Dallas in the final week. They were blown out again by the Cowboys the following week in the wild-card playoff, beginning a massive roster overhaul. The Eagles traded franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb to Washington and parted with several veterans, including former All-Pros Brian Westbrook and Shawn Andrews.
THEY NEED: FS, DE, LB, OL.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, WR.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: S Taylor Mays, S Earl Thomas, OL Mike Iupati.
OUTLOOK: The Eagles have 11 picks, including seven in the first four rounds and four among the top 75. They’ve never been shy about trading up or down and certainly have plenty of options to make several deals on draft day. Defense is a priority, especially a free safety, a pass-rushing end and playmaking linebacker. They also need an interior offensive lineman.
25. BALTIMORE RAVENS (9-7)
LAST SEASON: The Ravens reached the playoffs for the second time in two years under coach John Harbaugh, defeating New England 33-14 in the wild-card round before falling to Indianapolis. Highlights included a sweep of the AFC West, a 20-17 overtime win over Pittsburgh and successive routs of Detroit (48-3) and Chicago (31-7). Ray Rice ran for 1,339 yards and led all NFL running backs with 78 catches and 702 yards receiving. The receiving corps was led by Derrick Mason with 73 catches for 1,028 yards, but no other wideout had more than 34 receptions.
THEY NEED: DE, DT, CB, TE, FB, S, OT.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, RB, WR, C, OG.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DT Terrence Cody, TE Jermaine Gresham.
OUTLOOK: Because the Ravens traded their third- and fourth-round picks to Arizona to get WR Anquan Boldin, they enter the draft with only five selections. Baltimore desperately needs a pass rusher and a tight end to back up Todd Heap. But general manager Ozzie Newsome could move back in the first round if he can swing a trade to get more picks. Then again, trying to predict what Newsome will do with his No. 1 pick is nearly impossible. In 2008 he pulled off a surprising trade to snare QB Joe Flacco, and last year he moved up three notches to take OT Michael Oher.
26. ARIZONA CARDINALS (10-6)
LAST SEASON: Cardinals won their second NFC West championship in a row, winning 10 games in the regular season for the first time in 33 years. Arizona beat Green Bay 51-45 in overtime in one of the most memorable games in NFL playoff history. No Super Bowl surprise this time, though. The season ended with a one-sided second-round loss at New Orleans. Kurt Warner went out a winner, announcing his retirement in a career that saw him twice lead formerly woeful franchises to the Super Bowl. Coach Ken Whisenhunt, who has not had a losing record in three seasons with the Cardinals, was rewarded with a big new contract. Whisenhunt’s skill will be tested with the departure of several key players. Most prominently, WR Anquan Boldin was traded, ILB Karlos Dansby and S Antrel Rolle left via free agency.
THEY NEED: LB, NT, OT, TE, third-string QB.
THEY DON’T NEED: RB, C, OG, K, P.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OLB Sergio Kindle, LB Sean Weatherspoon, OLB-DE Jerry Hughes, TE Jermaine Gresham.
OUTLOOK: With the gunslinger Warner gone, Matt Leinart will get his chance, with newly acquired Derek Anderson the backup. Expect more emphasis on the running game of Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower. But with WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston, this team still has to throw the ball. Warner’s leadership will be missed, with the maturing Fitzgerald the most likely candidate to step into that role.
27. DALLAS COWBOYS (11-5)
LAST SEASON: After showing signs of yet another distressing December, the Cowboys went to New Orleans and spanked the Saints on a Saturday night, sparking a closing flourish that included their first playoff victory since 1996. Tony Romo took fewer high-risk, low-reward chances and helped WR Miles Austin go from backup to Pro Bowler. Led by DeMarcus Ware and energized by fiery newcomer LB Keith Brooking, coach Wade Phillips’ defense was outstanding, earning him a contract extension.
THEY NEED: OL, S, WR.
THEY DON’T NEED: TE, QB, RB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OTs Bruce Campbell, Rodger Saffold or Anthony Davis; S Taylor Mays, WR Dez Bryant.
OUTLOOK: With the Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium, Jerry Jones is driven to become the first host to play in the big game. However, all he’s done this offseason is shed declining starters LT Flozell Adams and S Ken Hamlin. Could it be that he’s waiting to make a splash at the draft — one that’s in prime time, no less? Probably not, but Jones would happily move up to get a lineman he covets or down to add a pick and snag two guys that can play right away.
28. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (13-3)
LAST SEASON: Chargers won final 11 regular-season games to finish 13-3, then took another inexplicable playoff face-plant, losing in divisional round to New York Jets. RB LaDainian Tomlinson and DT Jamal Williams were released and CB Antonio Cromartie was traded to the Jets. General manager A.J. Smith has once again shied away from signing impact free agents, so he’ll have to fill some gaping holes via the draft.
THEY NEED: RB, DT, OL, CB, S, third-string QB.
THEY DON’T NEED: K, P.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: RB Jahvid Best or RB Toby Gerhart.
OUTLOOK: The departure of the late John Butler’s best draft pick — Tomlinson — and Bobby Beathard’s last remaining draft pick — Williams — gives Smith two key positions to fill. Smith likely will try to get L.T.’s replacement in the first round. He also has the No. 40 overall pick after trading third-string QB Charlie Whitehurst to Seattle. Smith’s last four first-round picks haven’t exactly overwhelmed. Among them, WR Craig Davis remains on the cusp of being a bust, and Cromartie was traded after seemingly losing his will to tackle and having too many off-field issues.
29. NEW YORK JETS (9-7)
LAST SEASON: Made it all the way to the AFC championship game in Rex Ryan’s first season as coach. Rookie QB Mark Sanchez had his struggles and threw 20 interceptions, but showed great poise down the stretch and into the playoffs while establishing himself as a franchise-type quarterback. Led by RB Thomas Jones (now with Kansas City) and a terrific offensive line, the Jets topped the NFL in rushing. Ryan’s aggressive and unpredictable defense was also ranked No. 1 in the league. All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis finished second to Green Bay’s Charles Woodson for AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
THEY NEED: A pass-rushing DE or LB, S, DL and OL depth.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, WR, C, ILB, CB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: S Taylor Mays, OLB-DE Jerry Hughes, DL Jared Odrick.
OUTLOOK: Despite being somewhat handcuffed by the league’s “Final Eight” restrictions that limited players Jets could sign, GM Mike Tannenbaum addressed several needs through headline-making trades and signings. They added a game-breaking wide receiver by trading for Santonio Holmes; a playmaking cornerback to complement Revis by acquiring Antonio Cromartie; a solid option at safety in Brodney Pool; and a replacement for Jones by inking LaDainian Tomlinson to a two-year deal. New York heads into the draft able to go after the best talent available, regardless of position. The thought is Ryan and Tannenbaum will target defensive players, at least with their first few picks. And don’t count out trading up, as they’ve done the last few drafts.
30. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (12-4)
LAST SEASON: What a ride. Brett Favre joined the team at the start of the preseason and turned in one of his best seasons, throwing 33 TDs and only seven interceptions to help lead the Vikings to the NFC title game. Minnesota dominated New Orleans statistically at the Superdome, but five turnovers, including an interception by Favre in Saints territory with the clock winding down, ultimately doomed them in an overtime loss. The bitter defeat left a veteran team stunned, especially when the Saints beat the Colts in the Super Bowl.
THEY NEED: DT, CB, MLB, S.
THEY DON’T NEED: DE, OLB, WR, K.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DT Brian Price, DL Jared Odrick, CBs Kyle Wilson, Kareem Jackson or Patrick Robinson, S Taylor Mays.
OUTLOOK: Vikings could look to Odrick or Price to groom as an eventual replacement for aging Pat Williams. They also need depth at CB after starter Cedric Griffin tore knee ligaments in NFC title game. Vikes re-signed Benny Sapp, but could use a more pure cover cornerback opposite tackling machine Antoine Winfield. Also a significant need is safety, where Madieu Williams and Tyrell Johnson rarely made a difference. Of course, with Favre still mulling a return for a 20th NFL season, Vikings could consider drafting a QB of the future, though likely not in Round 1. If Jimmy Clausen somehow slides down to them at 30, it would present them an intriguing decision.
31. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (14-2)
LAST SEASON: People will remember Peyton Manning throwing that game-clinching interception in the Super Bowl. But these are essentially the same Colts who started 14-0, set an NFL record with 23 straight wins and reached a second Super Bowl in four seasons. Manning won a record fourth MVP and the Colts claimed their sixth AFC South title in seven years. And they did it despite playing at times without five projected defensive starters and losing starting WR Anthony Gonzalez in the first quarter of the season opener. What do they need to improve? The ground game.
THEY NEED: OL, CB, DT, LB.
THEY DON’T NEED: WR, S.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OL Mike Iupati, CB Kyle Wilson, DL Jared Odrick, OLB Everson Griffen, OLB-DE Jerry Hughes.
OUTLOOK: The Colts want an OT here, but at No. 31, it’s unlikely any bona fide anchors will be around. Iupati, who some think will move to tackle, probably will be gone, too. So president Bill Polian could do anything with the pick. He’s traded out of the first round, made the expected pick, even given Manning additional weapons when nobody thought it was necessary. Wilson seems like a perfect fit in Indy’s defense. Hughes would give the Colts’ revamped D additional speed and more versatility, and Odrick would fill a less glaring need at DT. The only predictable thing this year: expect the unexpected from Polian.
32. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (13-3)
LAST SEASON: New Orleans won the franchise’s first Super Bowl and boasted the NFL’s best offense for the third time in four seasons under coach Sean Payton, who also calls offensive plays. Drew Brees, the reigning Super Bowl MVP, threw for more than 4,000 yards for the fourth straight season. The Saints’ defense gave up 357.8 yards per game, ranking 25th, but made up for by getting turnovers or making timely, drive-stalling third-down stops. That was good enough to complement an offense that scored nearly 32 points per game.
THEY NEED: LB, DE, S, DT, CB, C.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, TE, WR, RB, OG, OT.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: LB Sean Weatherspoon, DT Brian Price, OLB Everson Griffen, DL Jared Odrick, LB Daryl Washington, OLB-DE Jerry Hughes.
OUTLOOK: Having lost outside linebacker Scott Fujita in free agency, the Saints could use a prospect with good speed at that spot. The free-agent signing of DE Alex Brown lowers the urgency of selecting a defensive end in the draft. The Saints have decent depth at most positions, particularly if safety Darren Sharper re-signs, so they could be flexible, defy conventional wisdom and simply take a player they like, regardless of position. Recall 2007, when the Saints selected WR Robert Meachem, even though their biggest need appeared to be in the defensive backfield.
48. CAROLINA PANTHERS (8-8)
LAST SEASON: Everything quickly soured when Jake Delhomme committed five turnovers in a Week 1 loss to Philadelphia. Delhomme threw 18 interceptions before being sidelined with a broken finger. Matt Moore replaced him, finished 4-1 as a starter, and was declared the No. 1 QB in 2010 after Delhomme was released. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart became the first teammates since the merger to each rush for over 1,100 yards. The defense, led by LB Jon Beason and now-departed DE Julius Peppers, came on strong at the end of the season.
THEY NEED: WR, DE, QB.
THEY DON’T NEED: RB, CB, S.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: The Panthers have made draft-day deals the past two years, but if they wait until 48th pick, WRs Brandon LaFell of LSU and Taylor Price of Ohio could be options.
OUTLOOK: The Panthers don’t have a first-round pick for the second straight year after trading it to San Francisco in 2009 to take DE Everette Brown in the second round. Brown will try to fill the void with Peppers signing with Chicago, and the Panthers will seek a DE in draft. They also need a backup for Moore, and have no clear No. 2 WR after Steve Smith. The team has spent much of the offseason shedding veterans and salary, and plans to test many younger players as coach John Fox enters the last year of his contract.
75. CHICAGO BEARS (7-9)
LAST SEASON: A big disappointment. The Bears had high expectations after acquiring Jay Cutler from Denver, only to miss the playoffs for the third straight year since the 2006 team’s Super Bowl run.
THEY NEED: Help at DB, OL and WR.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, LB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: WR Dezmon Briscoe, OT Tony Washington, CB Brandon Ghee.
OUTLOOK: Considering they don’t pick until the third round, you could call Cutler and the late defensive end Gaines Adams this year’s first and second-rounders. The Bears included their first-rounder in the Cutler trade and dealt their second-rounder to Tampa Bay last season for Adams, who died in January after going into cardiac arrest.