At the NFL Scouting Combine -- and with free agency rapidly approaching -- there has been much discussion about specific team needs to be addressed this offseason. In your mind, what is the most glaring hole on a team's roster that simply must be filled for that squad to contend in 2012?
- Albert Breer NFL Network
Lions need a shutdown corner to take that next step
The Detroit Lions need a cornerback in the worst way. I don't care how good Matt Flynn might become -- no backup quarterback should throw for 480 yards and six touchdowns on a playoff team in Week 17. And especially not when the defense had a fearsome front with Ndamukong Suh pushing the pocket and Cliff Avril coming off the edge.
As far as the Lions have come the past three years, the 946 passing yards yielded in their final two games (against Green Bay and New Orleans) vividly explains one of the last leaks that needs plugging in Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz's roster renovation. Whether it's maneuvering up the board to get Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick or splurging on a Cortland Finnegan (who's awfully familiar with Schwartz), Detroit needs to add a stud at the position to go with Louis Delmas -- a young premier safety in the secondary. Without that, it's hard to see the Lions taking that next step and having a prayer of catching the high-octane Packers in the NFC North.
- Charley Casserly NFL.com
With a couple defensive upgrades, Carolina could be the surprise team of 2012
The Carolina Panthers have a terrific offense that is playoff-ready. Cam Newton was outstanding as a rookie and will only get better with a complete offseason. At times, the offensive line struggled to protect the rookie quarterback, but that problem should be solved when right tackle Jeff Otah returns from injury.
The defense, however, is a different story. The unit was abysmal in 2011 and will continue to hold the Panthers back if certain needs aren't addressed. The two biggest holes are at defensive tackle and cornerback. With the No. 9 pick in the draft, the Panthers will have a chance to draft the best DT (LSU's Michael Brockers or perhaps Penn State's Devon Still), but the best corner (LSU's Morris Claiborne) won't be around. Carolina could address its need there in free agency or later in the draft.
If the Panthers shore up the defense, they could be the surprise team in 2012.
- Jason Smith NFL.com
With Mendenhall injured, Pittsburgh should go after Michael Bush
If the Pittsburgh Steelers want to maintain this run of excellence, they have to go out and get a stud RB somewhere, whether it's in free agency or in the draft. They've already said they want to get back to running the football on offense and rely less on Ben Roethlisberger's arm. The problem is, Rashard Mendenhall is ordinary, and more importantly, hurt. The Steelers have no idea when he'll come back from the torn ACL he suffered in Week 17, so they must take care of this. The good news is that if they do, they should be right back at the top of the heap.
If Pittsburgh wants to address this in free agency, there's no better fit than Michael Bush. After Darren McFadden went down last year, Bush proved he could carry the load at running back in all facets of the game. Yes, he wore down a bit near the end of the season, but I'll chalk that up to an RB getting his first chance to be a feature back after a few of years of minimal activity. Bush has the ability to just punish teams physically and emotionally. I give him whatever money he wants.
If the Steelers are looking to fill this need in the draft, they're in a great spot to nab a back with the 24th pick. Miami's Lamar Miller is a potential difference-maker at the position, certainly, but I think a great fit would be Oregon's LaMichael James. Pittsburgh had a great thing going for a few years with Fast Willie Parker and the team can recapture that with James, who's a burner with a chip on his shoulder because of his slight stature (5-foot-9), but also weighs enough to withstand the pounding he'll get. Either way, the Steelers have to fill this hole if they want to win.
- Adam Rank NFL.com
Mario Williams would make the Saints the NFC favorite
A number of teams like to believe they are just a player away from a Super Bowl title. Like what if the Ravens had a different kicker? ... Or the Cowboys had a leader? ... Or what if the Jets had an NFL-caliber quarterback? Those teams would clearly be in much better shape.
But the team I'm looking at is the New Orleans Saints, whose defense was shredded by the Lions in the playoffs and made Alex Smith look like Joe Montana the following week. The biggest liability might seem like it's in the secondary, but if the Saints can add one difference-making pass rusher -- maybe Mario Williams in free agency -- the entire defense will benefit. (And New Orleans would instantly become my favorite in the NFC.) It would be tricky to address this issue in the draft, considering the Saints already dealt away their first-round pick.