Pat Kirwan breaks down each team's positional needs, listed in order of importance, entering the draft.
Analysis: The Cowboys have had the quietest offseason, which is unusual for such a high-profile organization that loves to make a big splash. The reason? They have a very solid roster and many of the players that were ready to hit the open market got trapped in the uncapped year rules extending their restricted-free-agent status. Now they head to the draft looking for a long-term answer at left tackle, where veteran Flozell Adams is due a $2.5 million bonus after the draft. They need a safety with center field skills, an inside linebacker to eventually replace Keith Brooking and a better kicker than is on the roster. After those issues, the Cowboys can start to fortify the back end of the roster to help special teams.
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Analysis: The Giants had a major issue at safety due to the injury concerns of Kenny Philips and the lack of production from the backups, but they paid a big price to solve that problem by signing Antrel Rolle. Still, that only puts one big question to rest. They have problems at linebacker, which they claim can be answered from within the roster, but a shot at Rolando McClain or even Sean Weatherspoon could change that tune during the draft. New York has an aging offensive line that needs a young option or two to compete for playing time. A specialty running back on third downs would be too good to pass in the middle rounds, and another corner to win the nickel or dime spot would be a solid play.
Analysis: The release of RB Brian Westbrook and OT Shawn Andrews created holes that need to be filled. The trade of QB Donovan McNabb gives them an extra second-round pick to address their needs, but with Kevin Kolb now the starter and Michael Vick still on the roster, the Eagles don't need to pick up another signal-caller. Signing restricted free-agent RB Mike Bell solves part of their running back question, but the draft has to provide relief for the offensive line. The defense slipped in 2009 in the first year under Sean McDermott, but it's not his fault as the Eagles got down to a third middle linebacker and never recovered from the loss of Brian Dawkins. Look for the Eagles, who also recently traded veteran corner Sheldon Brown to Cleveland, to target at least three to four defensive players in the draft.
Analysis: The Redskins got turned upside down in the offseason with a new general manager, Bruce Allen, and a new coach, Mike Shanahan. That change grew even more pronounced when they traded their second-round pick in the upcoming draft (and a 2011 third, or fourth rounder) for McNabb. Allen and Shanahan can be deal makers during the draft, and the Redskins should be thought of as a team ready, willing and able to pull off a few deals. Even with McNabb in the fold, there's still a large void at left tackle with the retirement of Chris Samuels, and they may also look to take a quarterback in the later rounds to potentially groom for the future. The Redskins are headed to a new 3-4 defense and need personnel to complete the project. Albert Haynesworth doesn't want to be the nose tackle in the 3-4 scheme spending his days holding the point against double teams. So the Redskins need to go find a true nose tackle in this draft.
Analysis: The Bears don't have a draft pick until No. 75. With that in mind, they went out in free agency and signed Julius Peppers as a No. 1 pick, so to speak, and came right back for tight end Brandon Manumaleuna and RB Chester Taylor. Tim Jennings was signed recently to fill the corner need, which is a good move when you consider the team doesn't have enough picks to also get a right tackle, wide receiver, safety and guard. The Bears would be wise to trade down when possible and acquire extra picks to get going in this talent pool. For GM Jerry Angelo, three picks in the third round would be ideal to get some needs satisfied.
Analysis: The Lions proved that money talks when they opened up free agency by signing Kyle Vanden Bosch and Nate Burleson. There are several other new faces on the roster, including G Rob Sims, who they recently acquired in a trade with Seattle, but work remains. Coach Jim Schwartz told me weeks ago that they need everything but a starting QB and a wide receiver. Running back will be a draft priority, given the late-season knee injury to Kevin Smith last year. The addition of Corey Williams should not preclude Detroit from drafting a big defensive tackle like Ndamukong Suh. There is speculation the Lions will pass on the dominant defensive tackle early and go left tackle. I'd rather see them continue to build the defense.
Analysis: The Packers live and die with the draft. They rarely use free agency to build their roster. This year is no exception. Green Bay did re-sign both ots its aging offensive tackles (Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher) in hopes they have a few years left. That said, the Packers may draft a young tackle early so as not to get caught again like they did last season. The corners are good, but aging, and it's possible the position could get addressed quickly in the draft. General manager Ted Thompson hit a home run last year with outside linebacker Clay Matthews in the first round, and another outside linebacker for the opposite side could finish the conversion to a 3-4 defense. Look for them to pick a safety before the draft is over.
Analysis: The Vikings need to add youth on defense with an eye on the reserves eventually replacing veteran starters. Antoine Winfield, Pat Williams and the oft-injured E.J. Henderson should have their understudies waiting in the wings after this draft. Chester Taylor was a key member of the offense and could be replaced by a combination of Albert Young and Percy Harvin, as well as more playing time for Adrian Peterson. However, I still think a player like Jahvid Best or, later in the draft, Dexter McCluster, makes sense. It may also be time to look at a left tackle and center.
Analysis: The Falcons rushed into free agency to get the best corner available in Dunta Robinson. Atlanta re-signed Brian Williams at the other corner spot, and GM Thomas Dimitroff told me he likes the young backups. Now, the Falcons can stay true to the draft board with an eye on outside linebackers and pass rushing defensive ends. A hybrid player like Brandon Graham or Jerry Hughes should be on their radar screen. There are a few good centers in this draft. If they decide to pass on Maurkice Pouncey early (they don't have a second-round pick due to last year's Tony Gonzalez trade), they could select Matt Tennant from Boston College in the third round. Tennant was the center for Matt Ryan in his last year in college.
Analysis: The Panthers will lose between six and nine starters this offseason, and by not being active in free agency, they will ask the same number of backups to step up and start. The first issue in this youth movement is who will replace all the backups destined to start in 2010? The Panthers' most serious questions involve a starting wide receiver, a defensive end to replace Julius Peppers and whether Matt Moore can lead this team as the starting quarterback. It sure looks like ownership is leaving lame duck coach John Fox in a very tough situation that the draft alone can't solve. On top of that, I don't think he's going to be allowed to trade away future picks to solve the problems.
Analysis: The Saints have not been active this offseason, and they have a few restrictions preventing free-agent acquisitions. Still, they didn't match the restricted-free-agent offer to RB Mike Bell, who is now with the Eagles. Safety Darren Sharper, who had nine interceptions last season, is unsigned and needs to return for the Saints to avoid a big hole in the secondary. Replacing Charles Grant, at least for the run downs, is important and so is getting a wide body at defensive tackle. The Saints will know before the draft if they lose RB Pierre Thomas in restricted free agency. If they do, it changes the focus of the early rounds.
Analysis: The Bucs started a drastic rebuilding project last year under rookie coach Raheem Morris, which very much continues. Tampa Bay traded for wide receiver Reggie Brown and picked up safety Sean Jones to compete with Sabby Piscitelli, but there haven't been any other real personnel moves. There is some speculation that there are money issues in Tampa, and it may motivate the club to move down in the first round, which would also help get more picks. Right now, with four picks in the top 67, they need to get a defensive tackle in the mold of Warren Sapp, a defensive end in the mold of Simeon Rice, and a young corner to eventually replace Ronde Barber.
Draft choices: Nos. 3, 35, 42, 67, 101, 153, 172, 210, 217, 232, 253
»Tampa Bay Buccaneers' draft history
Analysis: The Cardinals took some big hits in free agency, losing Antrel Rolle and Karlos Dansby, and trading Anquan Boldin. They were quick to react to the loss of Rolle by trading for Kerry Rhodes, but they need the draft to attempt to replace Dansby. While all this movement was going on, their left tackle situation went untouched. GM Rod Graves said the club may move Levi Brown to left tackle, but Arizona still needs to address the position in the draft. The team expects Steve Breaston to step up and fill the shoes of Boldin, but they lost Jerheme Urban in free agency and will grab a wideout later in the draft. A nose tackle could be a consideration in the middle rounds. A vertical threat tight end would also be a nice addition to the roster.
Analysis: Here's the team that should go get Donovan McNabb and put this young talented roster over the top. With two first-round picks, they might be able to switch No. 13 for the Eagles' No. 24 and get the McNabb deal done. The Niners with McNabb and two first-round picks could be the favorite in the NFC West. The team needs a safety and an outside backer with pass rush skills. On offense, one of the first-round picks will be dedicated to a right tackle. Later in the draft, a situational running back like Dexter McCluster would be a solid choice.
Analysis: It's not every year that a team in need of a franchise QB gets a shot at one, but the Rams could get their chance with Sam Bradford. With how well he performed at Monday's workout, and if the doctors clear him, he will be the No. 1 overall pick. After that decision, it might be a good idea to move down in the other rounds and get multiple picks to fill up the roster. At least one wide receiver is a must, and a third-down running back would help if they don't add one in free agency. The defense needs help at left defensive end.
Analysis: A new coach and general manager, and the roster is being turned upside down. Among the remaining issues are the futures of left tackle Walter Jones and defensive end Patrick Kerney, which will really impact the draft decisions. If they have to replace both players, plus get a running back and a safety early, it may be too much to ask, even with two first-round picks. The decision to trade for quarterback Charlie Whitehurst was questioned by fans and the media, but time will tell. Ultimately, it may say more about the draft class at QB than anything else. There is still a chance Brandon Marshall winds up here before the draft is over. Coupled with that potential move, if they can grab a left tackle and a safety like Eric Berry or a defensive end, they will contend in 2010. Expect the Seahawks to be active trading picks and moving around throughout the draft.
Draft choices: Nos. 6, 14, 60, 104, 127, 133, 139, 176, 213, 214 and 245
»Seattle Seahawks' draft history