When the red carpet rolls out Thursday and Radio City Music Hall fills with executives and hopefuls alike, we’ll know that the most important offseason weekend on the NFL calendar has arrived.
SFBay NFL Draft coverage
It’s the NFL Draft, where Roger Goodell gets booed more than Nick Swisher coming to Oakland, and dreams come true for more 200 young athletes.
Solid performances on Draft weekend — not just the first day — is what separates winning teams from losing ones.
And while the first round is crucial, don’t forget the Seattle Seahawks would still be a very bad team had they not hit home runs in almost every round thereafter in 2011 and 2012.
To better evaluate who will be available when your favorite team picks, you need to understand the wants and needs of the other 31 teams:
Needs: C, T, WR, DT, S
The Cards should be able to fill all of their needs this year. And even in the late rounds they can add high-quality talent. They won’t need to trade up for anything, really, and this class caters to all their needs.
San Francisco 49ers
Needs: C, G, T, WR, ILB, CB, S
The 49ers are building a long-term dynasty, and they’re not far from it, so long as everyone stays healthy and out of jail. Bigger corners are becoming more of the norm, which creates a need for bigger receivers. Look for Kelvin Benjamin or Mike Evans in the first round, probably after trading up.
Needs: C, G, T, WR, DE, DT, S
Russell Wilson is going to need big help for cheap, pretty soon. That’s along the offensive line and at receiver. Big time contracts are being thrown around and that’s not going to stop. Their most pressing need is at the line, though. Next, receiver.
St. Louis Rams
Needs: T, G, RB, CB, S
The Rams drafted a boatload of receivers since the 2011 collective bargaining agreement came into play. Sam Bradford appreciated it too, throwing for career numbers in 2013 before being knocked on his butt for the remainder of the season. He needs linemen to protect him. Maybe even two in round one.
Needs: WR, T, C, DT, CB, OLB, S
America’s team has turned into America’s most average team, with three consecutive 8-8 seasons. They’re going to need to hit on every selection for Tony Romo to get a ring. They also understand this, and might be tempted to trade up for safer players.
New York Giants
Needs: G, RB, WR, DT, CB, S
The football Giants are coming off a very down year. Though their record isn’t a clear representative of the roster, they could stand a solid upgrade their offense. It’s likely they won’t move around much, and Stanford guard David Yankey could increase the potency of their run game.
Needs: T, RB, DT, DE, ILB
Chip Kelly’s “blur” offense wasn’t supposed to work in the NFL. But it did, and some impact pass rushers could make the Eagles a real threat for a long time. Expect Philly to be bullish in making trades during the draft this year.
Washington Football Team
Needs: T, WR, DT, DE, OLB, ILB, CB, S
The Robert Griffin trade left the most obscene owner in the league without a first round pick for three years. They have a lot of speed on offense, but Griffin needs more protection. They should use as much stock as they can to get it. And use everything else to beef up their god awful defense.
Needs: T, G, C, RB, CB, OLB
Virtually every team in the division needs offensive linemen, but no team has a bigger need in that department than the Bears. Especially after giving Cutler huge money, which was preceded by injury. Matt Forte would also be thankful, though he needs more rest. Tre Mason, the back out of Auburn, fits nicely.
Needs: T, C, WR, OLB, ILB, CB, S
There’s nothing more beneficial that could be done than trading up for Sammy Watkins. Marqise Lee would be a secondary option, though the drop-off is significant. Mike Evans could also be of compliment, but might not be available at 10. The “D” needs to trade up if they want more Ws.
Green Bay Packers
Needs: G, C, WR, TE, DT, DE, ILB, CB
The Pack would love nothing more than to earn some revenge for the “Fail Mary” when they meet Seattle Week 1. To do that, they’re going to need Aaron Rodgers upright. Beefing up their interior protection is a must, as is stopping Marshawn Lynch.
But the Packers are always looking to add picks. Don’t be surprised if they trade down after the first round, or trade way up.
Needs: QB, WR, TE, RB, G, DT, DE, CB, S
The Vikings are one of only two teams that might get Blake Bortles, if they’re paying any attention to my rankings. Matt Cassel received starter money in the offseason, and so they might not.
Nearly everyone they’d want to keep bolts for anywhere else, which is fair enough reason to nab him. The Vikings are a mess, but don’t expect them to maneuver around like they should.
Needs: T, G, TE, RB, DE, CB, S
Everyone that lines up behind scrimmage loves their linemen. They bolster the run and keep your most important player healthy. And really, the Falcons could be something else if they can get the run going. And stop the other team’s.
Needs: WR, G, CB
The Panthers went from nothing to a real something in a short amount of time. In the process they overloaded their salary cap and had to let go of almost all of their offensive weapons. Good thing this draft has plenty, because Carolina will be taking two or three wide receivers.
New Orleans Saints
Needs: G, RB, DT, DE, CB
The Saints have few needs. I have RB here, but really, that’s hardly a need. And they just traded their best RB. If I’m running the team, I trade my second-round pick for a future first. And take a bunch of corners to compliment newly-added safety Jarius Byrd. An upgrade in edge rushing help would also be desirable.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Needs: T, G, C, WR, QB, ILB, OLB, CB
The Bucs have the best safety tandem in the league, but need some impact players at the line on both offense and defense. New head coach Lovie Smith, who formerly coached the Bears, loves his big men in the trenches. And he can hope that they find some quality guys.
Needs: QB, G, DT, DE, CB, S
Though the team has Peyton Manning, he’s only got two years left on his deal and the Broncos would be wise to draft a quarterback to groom. They also need to draft some interior offensive linemen to aide in the run game.
That said, their defense is seriously bad. They won’t remain as a contender unless they can add some impact defenders.
Kansas City Chiefs
Needs: T, G, RB, WR, NT, DE
After being one of the worst teams in the NFL during 2012, Kansas City became one of the best in 2013. But they also lost two of their best linemen in tackle Branden Albert and guard Jon Asamoah.
They also need offensive help everywhere else, and Michael Crabtree remains the best target that QB Alex Smith has ever had. Because of that trade, Kansas City may be looking to trade back, seeing as how they gave up their second rounder.
Needs: T, WR, DT, DE, CB
Oakland signed a number of experienced veterans during the offseason, upgrading nearly everywhere. The problem is, they won’t be around for very long.
Upgrading the trenches is always the best way to turn around a franchise. Particularly on defense. General manager Reggie McKenzie knows this, and though they’ve begun, the work isn’t over. Also, expect the Raiders to trade back and maximize their second and third round picks.
San Diego Chargers
Needs: WR, G, RB, DT, DE, CB
After taking the underwhelming Manti Te’o (whom I had labeled a bust), they scored the best value pick of the draft in Keenan Allen (who I couldn’t stop raving about).
If they add another impact receiver, the Bolts’ offense would be very hard to manage. If Alabama inside linebacker CJ Mosely falls to them, they need to jump on it. They could also add some pass-rushers. Either way, the Chargers are this year’s wild card team for the draft with no pressing need and a very high ceiling.
Needs: T, WR, RB, DT, CB, S
If EJ Manuel is to ever be successful, he’s going to need some receiving help. Adding two high-upside receivers is desirable, though they lost All-Pro safety Jarius Byrd in free agency. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would be very welcomed in Buffalo. And there’s almost no doubting he’ll end up there.
Needs: T, G, C, DT, DE, CB
After the biggest PR nightmare in recent history, the Dolphins lost two starting offensive linemen. That’s a glaring need, especially considering they’ve invested buku bucks into receiver Mike Wallace. And they ranked 24th in rushing yards allowed, even with Randy Starks. The team has a lot of work to do.
New England Patriots
Needs: QB, TE, DT, DE, S
One name: Aaron Hernandez. That’s who the Patriots must replace this year, and Eric Ebron is damn near the spitting image, less the murder charges.
Besides the tight end position, the Pats need to fill one hole that not many realize, quarterback. Tom Brady will more than likely retire after the 2015 season. New England would be wise to draft someone they can mold during the interim.
New York Jets
Needs: WR, RB, TE, DT, ILB, S, CB
The J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets, need some offense. BADLY. They signed Eric Decker, but that’s hardly a starting point. Taking three receivers is a must. Ideally in the first four rounds.
They have the draft capital to move up in just about every round, too. Rex Ryan trimmed down that belly last offseason, but he needs to add some bulk in his defensive front. If they do, they’re a top 10 defense.
Needs: WR, G, DE, ILB, CB, S
Like many teams that win the Super Bowl, the Ravens failed to even make the postseason the next year. A big part of that lies in losing several key pieces.
Baltimore has a big need at WR after trading Anquan Boldin and also has big needs at middle linebacker and safety. Matt Elam was a nice addition last year, but more would be useful. The reality, though, is that they are going to need to draft defense a whole lot.
Needs: WR, DE, CB, S
The jury is still out on whether Andy Dalton is the Bengals’ long term quarterback, but for now, he is. So give the man some weapons, will ya?!
AJ Green needs someone to compliment him, and while Tyler Eifert is something, he’s not enough. Until they add another real weapon, it’s impossible to truly grade Dalton. Also, they should find someone who can supplant what they lost in defensive end Michael Johnson.
Needs: QB, T, G, WR, RB, DT, DE, ILB, OLB
The Browns have a whole lot of talent on their roster, and even more draft picks. They will be active, and they will be even more aggressive.
They will most likely draft Sammy Watkins with their first pick, and possibly trade up for Blake Bortles. If they do, that’s a playoff roster. Bolstering the pass rush should also be a priority, and some offensive linemen would make Bortles happy. Oh, and that Tre Mason guy. He’d be perfect for the AFC North.
Needs: T, G, WR, RB, DT, DE, CB, S
The Steel Curtain has begun to look a little more like aluminum the past few years and Pittsburgh needs to change that.
Timmy Jernigan could be the answer, but when he was caught out of breath during the BCS title game, his draft stock plummeted. Still, he could be the answer and the Steelers should take him. Along with a receiver like Cody Latimer and defensive end Kony Ealy.
Add a value running back late in the draft, and they’ve done as good as they can.
Needs: QB, T, G, WR, RB, TE, NT, CB, S
Don’t listen to anyone who says Houston isn’t drafting Jadeveon Clowney. They’re less than remedial. And you should distance yourself from them, immediately.
Nonetheless, Houston has a lot of needs to fill. But the quickest way back to the playoffs is to protect QB TJ Yates, and give him some help. In the second round, I’m bullish on guard David Yankey and receiver Jordan Matthews, who is the cousin of Jerry Rice. ‘Nuff said.
Needs: G, WR, DT, DE, ILB, OLB
The Colts gave up their first-round pick for RB Trent Richardson early in the season and don’t pick until late in the second round. That as it may, they are a very good team. With the easiest strength of schedule.
Add some defense, and they’re a real contender to go all the way. Some protection for Andrew Luck, as well as a successor to Reggie Wayne’s throne, would be nice as well.
Needs: T, G, C, WR, TE, RB, DE, DT … Everything else
The Jaguars will never be successful until they add some offensive linemen. They traded away their future QB in Blaine Gabbert (kudos to the 49ers) for virtually nothing.
Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews in the first round, Morgan Moses in the second round, and they’ve upgraded considerably. Either way it’s cut, the Jaguars will be drafting in the top five next year also. Book it.
Needs: T, G, WR, TE, DT, DE, ILB, OLB, CB, S
Jake Locker was playing very well before his season-ending lisfranc foot injury. PROTECT THE MAN!! Give him some weapons and add some pass rushers. It’s cliche, but some things are that way because it works. Marqise Lee and Donte Montcrief are two names that Titans fans should remember.