Needs and outlooks of the 32 teams heading into the NFL draft, which begins Thursday night:
- DENVER BRONCOS (8-8)
LAST SEASON: John Fox's first season was eventful as QB Kyle Orton caved in to Tebowmania and Tim Tebow jumped in and led Broncos to series of fourth-quarter comebacks. That propelled them to playoffs for first time in six seasons. With Tebow running the option along with rejuvenated RB Willis McGahee, Broncos led league in rushing. But passing game was atrocious. Tebow's best pass was his last one in Denver, an electrifying 80-yard TD strike to Demaryius Thomas that beat Pittsburgh in playoffs. A 45-10 loss at New England showed Broncos how far they had to go, so they sped up things with megamove in offseason, adding four-time MVP Peyton Manning. Tebow now is with Jets.
THEY NEED: DT, RB, QB, OL, DB.
THEY DON'T NEED: PK, P, LB.
OUTLOOK: Broncos gained additional draft pick in trading Tebow, and they need to hit on most selections as they build around Manning on offense. Denver will augment a defense that was vastly improved last year with addition of Rookie of Year Von Miller and return of fellow Pro Bowl pass rusher Elvis Dumervil.
- HOUSTON (10-6)
LAST SEASON: Texans took major leap forward on defense, going to Wade Phillips' 3-4 alignment. Used six of eight draft picks on defensive players and top two - end J.J. Watt and outside linebacker Brooks Reed - locked down starting roles to help Houston win first division title. QB T.J. Yates, a fifth-round pick, was starter by end of year and guided Texans to first playoff victory. He'll start season as Matt Schaub's backup. Arian Foster backed up breakout 2010 season with another solid year, rushing for 1,224 yards and earning another Pro Bowl invitation.
THEY NEED: WR, OL, DE, S.
THEY DON'T NEED: RB, CB, LB, TE.
OUTLOOK: Houston took several hits in free agency, losing 2006 overall first draft pick DE Mario Williams, Pro Bowl LB DeMeco Ryans and veteran offensive linemen Mike Brisiel and Eric Winston. Texans would like to find WR to complement Andre Johnson, two-time All-Pro who missed much of last season with hamstring injuries. TE Owen Daniels was top receiver (54 catches, 677 yards) and Foster was No. 2 (53 catches, 617 yards). Also need to shore up right side of line, which helped set franchise records for yards rushing (2,448) in 2011.
- GREEN BAY PACKERS (15-1)
LAST SEASON: Despite defense that was anything but perfect, Packers made bid for perfect season that ended with late-season loss at Kansas City. Then Packers' season-long tendency to give up yards in big chunks was exposed by Giants in divisional playoff, Aaron Rodgers and offense couldn't bail them out and Packers lost chance for back-to-back Super Bowl championships.
THEY NEED: OLB, S, DL, CB.
THEY DON'T NEED: WR.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Mercilus.
OUTLOOK: Packers never replaced departed free agent defensive end Cullen Jenkins last year and still don't have true complement to Clay Matthews at other outside linebacker spot. Pass rush suffered as result. Addition of free agent Anthony Hargrove might help defensive line, especially with oft-injured 2010 second-round pick Mike Neal sitting out first four games after violating NFL's performance enhancing substance policy. An outside linebacker would be high on wish list. Safety also is need, as it's still not clear if Nick Collins will return from neck injury. Packers also might look for offensive line depth.
- BALTIMORE RAVENS (12-4)
LAST SEASON: Ravens won AFC North, made fourth consecutive trip to playoffs and gave New England fits in conference title game before losing by field goal. Terrell Suggs, AP Defensive Player of Year, sparked league's third-ranked defense. Offense was fueled by running back Ray Rice, who totaled NFL-leading 2,068 yards from scrimmage. Joe Flacco threw for 3,610 yards and found new favorite target downfield, rookie Torrey Smith (50 catches, 841 yards and seven TDs).
THEY NEED: C, OT, G, S, WR, LB.
THEY DON'T NEED: QB, RB, CB.
OUTLOOK: Ravens lost free agent G/C Ben Grubbs to New Orleans, C Matt Birk is nearing end of career and OT Bryant McKinnie struggled at times last season. Baltimore needs offensive linemen, although GM Ozzie Newsome won't draft for need if far better player is available. Ravens don't have pressing need beyond the offensive line, although S Ed Reed could use help in backfield and Flacco certainly wouldn't mind having another long threat following departure of Lee Evans, a disappointment in 2011.
- SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (13-3)
LAST SEASON: AP Coach of Year Jim Harbaugh pulled off impressive, immediate transformation of once-proud franchise with his rah-rah style and "Who's got it better than us? No-body!" chant. While Niners just missed Super Bowl, they are building team they believe will be in mix again with many familiar faces - plus high-profile free agents. Harbaugh showed no signs of being behind with last year's lockout, and now has full offseason to make things happen.
THEY NEED: DT, WR, OL.
THEY DON'T NEED: S/CB, PK, P.
OUTLOOK: San Francisco already has many pieces in place, including bringing back QB Alex Smith and all 11 defensive starters from last year. SF ended eight-year drought without playoff berth or winning record. GM Trent Baalke re-signed CB Carlos Rogers (tied with S Dashon Goldson with six interceptions) and signed CB Perrish Cox. Smith will have WRs Randy Moss and Mario Manningham in what has become deep receiving corps to join Michael Crabtree, TE Vernon Davis and re-signed wideout/return man Ted Ginn Jr. 49ers' receivers managed one catch for 3 yards in 20-17 OT loss in NFC championship game to eventual Super Bowl champion Giants at Candlestick Park.
27, 31. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (13-3)
LAST SEASON: Despite lack of deep threat and weakness in secondary, Patriots came within desperation pass of winning Super Bowl when Tom Brady's heave into end zone on last play fell incomplete. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez emerged as best tight-end tandem in NFL. Rookies Stevan Ridley at RB and Nate Solder at OT showed great promise. Pass rush struggled, especially when knee injury in 14th game ended DE Andre Carter's season. Wes Welker led a weak corps of wide receivers with 122 catches.
THEY NEED: OLB, DE, CB.
THEY DON'T NEED: QB, TE, PK, P.
OUTLOOK: Josh McDaniels takes his former role as offensive coordinator, with speedy Brandon Lloyd added to Brady's targets. Steady RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis signed with Cincinnati, but Ridley is more of breakaway threat. Brady coming off another outstanding season with 5,235 yards passing and 39 touchdown passes. But Welker remains unsigned after Patriots put franchise tag on him. Patriots made several low-key free-agent signings to address suspect defense. They could have better luck building defense through draft with four picks in first two rounds.
- NEW YORK GIANTS (13-7)
LAST SEASON: Team finally put everything together in final weeks of season and won second Super Bowl in five seasons. QB Eli Manning and offense posted record numbers through air while ground game was worst in league. Once defensive line put pressure on quarterbacks, it was formidable. P Steve Weatherford was unsung hero of postseason.
THEY NEED: TE, WR, OT and, of course, another pass-rushing lineman.
THEY DON'T NEED: CB, PK, P.
OUTLOOK: Championship cost Giants in free agency. OT Kareem McKenzie has not been re-signed. CB Aaron Ross, RB Brandon Jacobs, DE Dave Tollefson and WRs Mario Manningham signed elsewhere. TEs Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum had major knee injuries in Super Bowl. While New York signed Cowboys backup TE Martellus Bennett and OT Sean Locklear as free agents, acquired LB Keith Rivers from Cincinnati, and re-signed CB Terrell Thomas and MLB Chase Blackburn, don't be surprised if Giants look in those areas in draft, particularly tight end. Giants can't get enough pass-rushing linemen; if right one is there, they will take another. Or could go for local product: Sanu has size, speed, can play the wildcat and produces. Sanu broke Larry Fitzgerald's Big East single-season record with 109 receptions in 2011.
- ATLANTA FALCONS (10-6)
LAST SEASON: Falcons went for broke in 2011, giving up hefty package to Cleveland on draft day to land receiver Julio Jones from Alabama. He was supposed to be explosive offensive player who would carry Atlanta to Super Bowl, but season was disappointment despite fourth straight winning record and another trip to playoffs. Falcons were wiped out in opening round by eventual Super Bowl champion Giants, failing to score any offensive points. Owner Arthur Blank vowed to shake things up, but Falcons largely stood pat after playoff debacle.
THEY NEED: OT, TE, RB, S, CB.
THEY DON'T NEED: QB, WR, DT.
OUTLOOK: Falcons will have to make most of what will be very limited draft because of Jones trade, having surrendered this year's first-round pick. Barring another deal, Atlanta won't make first pick until late in second, and team doesn't have fourth-rounder, either. Instead of landing high-profile player, Falcons will likely be looking for help on offensive line. Franchise QB Matt Ryan took bit of a beating last season. This will also be chance to bulk up depth in secondary for new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, who plans to use more nickel and dime packages. Also, Falcons looking to land future replacements for TE Tony Gonzalez and RB Michael Turner.
- NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (13-3)
LAST SEASON: Saints closed regular season on eight-game winning streak while smashing numerous NFL and club offensive records, and appeared Super Bowl favorite until stunning loss in final seconds of divisional round at San Francisco. With offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael calling plays for final 10 regular-season games after coach Sean Payton broke his left leg in sideline collision with TE Jimmy Graham, QB Drew Brees had best season, throwing for NFL single-season record 5,476 yards. Graham's drastic improvement in his second year was big reason for that. Graham made Pro Bowl after leading the Saints with 99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 TDs.
THEY NEED: DT, CB, DE.
THEY DON'T NEED: QB, WR, RB, OL, TE, PK, P.
OUTLOOK: Because Saints traded away first-round pick to get RB Mark Ingram last year, and because they were docked second-round pick this year and next in connection with bounty scandal, and barring a trade, Saints won't pick until late in third round. They are fortunate in having veteran, record-breaking offense largely intact even as offensive-minded Payton serves season-long suspension in connection with bounty program. Also, Carmichael still around to call plays. Bigger concern under interim head coach Joe Vitt and new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is revamping interior defensive line and compensating for loss of CB and 2010 Super Bowl hero Tracy Porter in free agency.
- OAKLAND RAIDERS (8-8)
LAST SEASON: Raiders gambled midway through season when they sent 2012 first-rounder and conditional 2013 second-round pick to Cincinnati for QB Carson Palmer after Jason Campbell broke collarbone. Move failed to pay immediate dividends and coach Hue Jackson ultimately lost his job after one season. Oakland lost four of final five games to miss playoffs for ninth straight year. Star RB Darren McFadden missed final nine games with sprained right foot and defense was porous. Raiders had franchise worsts in touchdown passes allowed (31), yards per carry (5.1), yards passing (4,262) and total yards (6,201), while giving up third-most points (433) in team history. Oakland also set NFL records by committing 163 penalties for 1,358 yards.
THEY NEED: LB, CB, OL, WR, TE, RB, DL.
THEY DON'T NEED: PK, P.
OUTLOOK: Reggie McKenzie was hired as team's first general manager; longtime owner Al Davis died in October. McKenzie has put his imprint all over by cutting ties with some of Davis' favorites and building team along model he helped create in Green Bay. McKenzie and new coach Dennis Allen have just five picks. Oakland got three compensatory picks and first comes at end of third round.