INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL Scouting Combine lacks the appeal of a competitive game, but fans can still glean valuable information from watching prospects work out in shorts. Here are some of the players your favorite team will study at Lucas Oil Stadium:
The Cardinals will look to fill their pressing needs along the offensive line at pick No. 13. This will prompt Ken Whisenhunt to extensively critique the performances of Ohio State OT Mike Adams and Stanford OT Jonathan Martin. Don't discount the Cardinals taking a peek at Stanford OG David DeCastro as a possible replacement at guard.
The Falcons are without a first-round pick due to the Julio Jones deal, but the team needs to upgrade the front lines on both sides of the ball. This will put Wisconsin OG Kevin Zeitler and Iowa State OG Kelechi Osemele under the scope, with Thomas Dimitroff also casting an eye toward Virginia DE Cam Johnson and Boise State DE Billy Winn as potential successors to free agent John Abraham.
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It is time for the Ravens to find a replacement for Ray Lewis in the middle, and GM Ozzie Newsome could address this with the 29th pick. Arizona State LB Vontaze Burfict and Alabama LB Dont'a Hightower will get a long look, but the Ravens could spend time studying some later options like Cal's Mychal Kendricks during the combine.
The move to the 4-3 will force Buddy Nix to search hard for a pass rusher worthy of selection at pick No. 10. South Carolina DE/OLB Melvin Ingram and Alabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw will garner strong consideration, but North Carolina DE Quinton Coples will also pique the interest of Bills officials. Chan Gailey will also take a look at wide receivers Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State) and Kendall Wright (Baylor) as potential replacements for free agent Stevie Johnson.
Ron Rivera has to find enough defensive playmakers to improve a sagging unit. This will prompt Panthers officials to study LSU DT Michael Brockers and Penn State DT Devon Still as possibilities in the middle. Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick also will get a look, but his interview will determine if he passes the team's character standard.
Mike Tice takes over the offense, but he needs better options on the outside to improve the passing game. While some would expect the team to look at potential No. 1 receivers like Michael Floyd and Kendall Wright, the explosion of the tight end position could lead to long glances at Stanford's Coby Fleener and Clemson's Dwayne Allen.
The Bengals are power players in the draft with two picks in the first round (Nos. 17 and 21). With the possible departure of Cedric Benson via free agency, Marvin Lewis and Co. will focus on Virginia Tech RB David Wilson and Miami RB Lamar Miller. On the defensive side, the focus will be on North Alabama/Florida CB Janoris Jenkins and Alabama S Mark Barron as upgrades to the secondary.
The dismal performance of the Browns' offense will lead Pat Shurmur to consider all options on that side of the ball. Robert Griffin III will certainly attract the attention of Browns' officials, but Alabama RB Trent Richardson and Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon will also garner interest as possibilities at pick No. 4. The team will also look at Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd and Baylor WR Kendall Wright to gauge their value at the 22nd pick.
The Cowboys must improve a defense that struggled down the stretch, so their focus will be on finding playmakers at cornerback and safety. Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick and Mark Barron will draw significant attention as possibilities at No. 14, but the team could look for an under-the-radar prospect like Iowa State CB Landon Johnson or Coastal Carolina CB Josh Norman as a Day 2 option.
The Tim Tebow experiment could force John Fox to stock his offensive lineup with more explosive players on the perimeter. That could prompt the team to take hard looks at wide receivers Michael Floyd (Notre Dame), Kendall Wright (Baylor) and Mohamed Sanu (Rutgers) and running backs Lamar Miller (Miami) and David Wilson (Virginia Tech) to see if they can add a dynamic dimension.
The Lions' offense is downright scary, but Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz need to bring the defense up to par. With Cliff Avril set to possibly depart via free agency, the focus should be squarely on Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus and Clemson DE Andre Branch. Don't be surprised if the Lions also cast a long gaze at Syracuse DE Chandler Jones due to his length and athleticism.
After being touted as the most talented team in the NFL a season ago, the Packers seemingly took a step back, particularly on defense. This will prompt Ted Thompson to spend most of his time evaluating pass rushers at Indianapolis. Clemson's Andre Branch and USC's Nick Perry will get consideration at pick No. 28, but don't rule out the team studying a sleeper like Boise State's Shea McClellin as a Day 2 possibility.
Rick Smith and Gary Kubiak have constructed a potential powerhouse in Houston, but the team needs another explosive receiver to complement Andre Johnson. Baylor's Kendall Wright and Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu will get some attention, but the team could look to Appalachian State's Brian Quick or Florida International's T.Y. Hilton as Day 2 possibilities.
The new era will coincide with a new quarterback, and Stanford's Andrew Luck appears to be the choice at No. 1. However, the team has a host of other offensive needs, which will force new GM Ryan Grigson to spend a lot of time studying the big boys on the line. Wisconsin C Peter Konz and Georgia C Ben Jones will get long looks as Jeff Saturday replacements, but don't discount the team looking at Iowa State G Kelechi Osemele as a potential starter on the interior.
After watching Blaine Gabbert struggle as a rookie, the Jaguars enter the draft intent on improving his surrounding cast, particularly at wide receiver. At No. 7, the only worthy candidate is Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, but he might be off the board within the first few picks. If Gene Smith is looking for potential Day 2 value picks at wide receiver, he will spend a lot of time getting to know Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill or Appalachian State's Brian Quick.
Scott Pioli needs to retool a few positions for the Chiefs to remain a contender in the AFC West. If he isn't satisfied with the Chiefs' offensive line, he can nab Stanford's David DeCastro or Jonathan Martin at the 11th pick. Pioli could also pinpoint a massive presence in the middle, making Memphis NT Dontari Poe worthy of extensive study this week.
If Joe Philbin is unable to lure Matt Flynn to South Beach as a potential franchise quarterback, the Dolphins will be in the mix for Baylor's Robert Griffin III or Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill. However, the team could look to upgrade their defensive line, leading the personnel staff to spend more time evaluating South Carolina DE Melvin Ingram and Alabama DE Courtney Upshaw. Also, don't rule out the team casting an eye towards Iowa OT Riley Reiff as a franchise caliber right tackle.
The deterioration of the Vikings' offensive line could lead Rick Spielman to take a long, hard look at USC OT Matt Kalil. The thought of adding a No. 1 receiver will certainly lead to a thorough examination of Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon. If Spielman opts to address the Vikings' leaky secondary, the scouting staff will spend more time evaluating LSU CB Morris Claiborne's athleticism and movement skills.
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The Patriots have been so active in the draft's early rounds it is hard to gauge the players on their radar despite having two picks (No. 27 and No. 31). Bill Belichick certainly needs to address the pass rush, so Clemson DE Andre Branch, Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus and Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox will spend most of the weekend under the scope. The team could also use a big play receiver like Notre Dame's Michael Floyd and Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu.
The Saints need to upgrade their back seven to remain perennial contenders in the NFC. The lack of speed and athleticism at linebacker will prompt scouts to spend time with Miami LB Sean Spence to gauge his ability to fit into the team's new defensive scheme. (Utah State LB Bobby Wagner is also a prospect the Saints will be interested in, but he recently came down with pneumonia and will be forced to sit out drills.) The team could also take a long look at Iowa State CB Landon Johnson, South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore and Vanderbilt CB Casey Hayward to improve depth at corner.
Jerry Reese is a strong believer in taking the best available player over addressing the team's biggest need. Given the last pick in Round 1, the Giants will study Stanford TE Coby Fleener and Clemson TE Dwayne Allen to obtain a better feel for their upside and potential. The team could also look at offensive tackle candidates like Ohio State's Mike Adams and Florida State's Zebrie Sanders as potential replacements at different values.
The disappearance of "Ground and Pound" can be attributed to the deterioration of the offensive line and the lack of a dynamic runner. This could lead to extensive studies of Stanford OG David DeCastro, Georgia OG/OT Cordy Glenn, Miami RB Lamar Miller and Virginia Tech RB David Wilson. If the team looks to fortify the defense at outside linebacker, the Jets should focus heavily on Alabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw or West Virginia DE Bruce Irvin in workouts.
The Raiders are without prime picks in the draft, so that makes their college free-agent board a priority during the run up to the draft. Team scouts will identify productive players with the speed and quickness to contribute on special teams and as backups. McNeese State CB Janzen Jackson is regarded as a top talent, but his checkered past will keep him near the bottom of the list.
Juan Castillo retained his title as defensive coordinator, but the defense has to improve for the team to seriously contend for a title. The Eagles need more athletic linebackers on the second level, and this year's class has several intriguing candidates at different stages of the draft. Boston College's Luke Kuechly is the headliner of the 2012 draft class, but North Carolina's Zach Brown and Miami's Sean Spence are strong possibilities, too.
Conventional wisdom suggests the Steelers will attempt to replace some of their aging veterans at key position. The nagging injuries surrounding Casey Hampton could make Memphis' Dontari Poe an intriguing option as the 24th pick in the first round. The team will also be interested in eventual replacements for Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark, but the top option in the draft, Alabama S Mark Barron, is unable to work out due to double hernia surgery. This will create opportunities for Notre Dame S Harrison Smith and Boise State S George Iloka.
Norv Turner and A.J. Smith are on short leashes, so 2012 is a make-or-break year in San Diego. Given the issues along the offensive line, the personnel department should spend time getting to know Ohio State OT Mike Adams, Georgia OG Cordy Glenn and Stanford OT Jonathan Martin. If they opt for a value-priced Day 2 option, the Chargers could cast their eyes towards Florida State's Zebrie Sanders and Washington's Senio Kelemete.
The lack of a classic No. 1 receiver has hindered Alex Smith's development, but Jim Harbaugh could look to change that with the 49ers' pick in the first round. Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery possess the size the 49ers covet, but they must display the requisite speed and quickness to be effective as pros. If Harbaugh doesn't find what he desires at receiver, he could turn his sights to Montana CB Trumaine Johnson as a possible replacement for free agent Carlos Rogers.
Pete Carroll has built his offense around the versatile talents of Marshawn Lynch, but the Seahawks' feature back is a free agent and could depart to greener pastures. To guard against his defection, the Seahawks' personnel staff will focus their attention on Miami RB Lamar Miller and Virginia Tech RB David Wilson. If the Seahawks look to address one of their defensive needs at pick No. 12, the evaluations of USC DE Nick Perry and North Carolina LB Zach Brown could become major parts of a draft-day discussion.
Jeff Fisher's team sits in the catbird seat with their spot near the top of the board. The Rams have a plethora of trade options available, so the team must evaluate a wide range of prospects to fully prepare for any draft day moves. With offensive tackle and wide receiver viewed as primary needs, the personnel staff will certainly keep their eyes on Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon, USC OT Matt Kalil and Iowa OT Riley Reiff.
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The Bucs will attempt to groom a replacement to Ronde Barber by selecting a cornerback early in the draft. LSU CB Morris Claiborne is a worthy replacement with his exceptional skills, but scouts want to see how he competes in drills with his teammates. If Tampa Bay trades back to acquire more picks, the team could target Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick as a possibility, making his combine performance (on and off the field) paramount to his chance of becoming a Buc.
Mike Munchak has given Jerry Gray the freedom to attack opponents with a frenetic defense, but the unit needs a pair of ball-hawking cornerbacks to maximize all facets of the scheme. This will put most of the Titans' eyeballs on North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins, Montana CB Trumaine Johnson and Nebraska CB Alfonzo Dennard. An underrated pass rusher could be in the cards on Day 2, so Marshall's Vinny Curry and Boise State's Billy Winn will also get looks.
The Redskins have failed miserably attempting to identify a franchise quarterback over the past few seasons, but going all in on RG3 might solve the issue. If the trade market is too volatile, the team's interview with Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill becomes a pivotal factor. The 'Skins could also benefit from an infusion of speed and athleticism at wide receiver, so Justin Blackmon is squarely in the crosshairs this weekend in Indianapolis.