2012 NFL Draft Team Needs: AFC
With the NFL’s free-agent frenzy dying down and the draft rapidly approaching, each team has a pretty clear idea where improvements are still needed.
So, here’s a look at the remaining draft needs for the AFC. You can check out the NFC needs here:
1. Guard: Losing Ben Grubbs made this position a priority for the Ravens. Second-year guy Jah Reid might get the first crack at replacing him — that’s not a sure bet by any means.
2. Outside linebacker: Another free-agent departure hurt here, as Jarrett Johnson headed to San Diego. The Ravens have a lot of faith in Paul Kruger’s ability to operate opposite Terrell Suggs, but wouldn’t pass on a playmaker here.
3. Wide receiver: Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin should form a decent 1-2. After that, the Ravens need Tandon Doss to emerge. Regardless of how he comes along, there’s a lack of quality weapons.
1. Wide receiver: Buffalo badly needs a complementary piece for Stevie Johnson. David Nelson had 61 grabs last season — and he’d be a nice fit as a No. 3 WR, as opposed to the No. 2 guy.
2. Offensive tackle: The Bills (sort of) committed to Ryan Fitzpatrick last season, and now they need a LT to protect his blindside. Demetress (formerly Demetrius) Bell bailed for Philadelphia, leaving an even bigger void.
3. Linebacker: Adding Mario Williams and Mark Anderson will crank up Buffalo’s QB pressure. Taking a LB who can get into the backfield would add to the Bills’ new defensive intimidation.
1. Wide receiver: A.J. Green has already reached superstar status, so it may not make sense for Cincinnati to spend another high pick at this position. That said, Green and the Bengals still need another reliable weapon or two.
2. Defensive end: Out are Frostee Rucker and Jonathan Fanene, and in are Derrick Harvey and Jamaal Anderson, a pair of first-round busts. Cincinnati needs better production up front.
3. Safety: Re-signing Reggie Nelson helps the Bengals, who said goodbye to Chris Crocker after a brutal 2011. Can Taylor Mays step up and play a meaningful role? The Bengals might not be willing to risk waiting to find out.
1. Running back: With Peyton Hillis departing via free agency, this is an obvious spot for Cleveland to focus on. Montario Hardesty would be the starting back as things stand now.
2. Wide receiver: Another spot on the roster where Cleveland has a major talent deficiency. Greg Little has promise, but there just aren’t any proven commodities.
3. Quarterback: Let’s not kid ourselves, the Browns have needs on the defensive side too. The issues are just much more pressing on offense, including at QB, where Colt McCoy’s leash is getting shorter and shorter.
1. Wide receiver: Demaryius Thomas has shown some serious potential, and Denver added Andre Caldwell and Jason Hill in free agency. Finding a top-flight pass-catcher for Peyton Manning to throw to still has to be in the cards.
2. Defensive tackle: Brodrick Bunkley took his talents to New Orleans, leaving the Broncos with a gaping hole in the interior of their defensive line.
3. Middle linebacker: You could make the argument that Denver needs help elsewhere, like at RB or on the OL. Joe Mays is the definite weak link at LB, though, where Von Miller and D.J. Williams have formed an impressive pairing on the outside.
1. Wide receiver: Every team would take a hit when a player of Andre Johnson’s caliber goes down with an injury, but Houston’s choices behind their top guy are barely average.
2. Right tackle: The Texans cut Eric Winston and lost Mike Briesel to the Raiders, so the entire right side of the offensive line will be new. Rashad Butler at tackle is more of a problem than Antoine Caldwell at guard.
3. Inside Linebacker: Houston traded DeMeco Ryans, in part, because Darryl Sharpton looks ready for more responsibility. Even so, there’s not a lot of depth left.
1. Quarterback: One of the big no-brainers. Indianapolis traded for Drew Stanton, but he’ll be the backup to either Andrew Luck.
2. Cornerback: Indianapolis has a lot of work to do, but this should be the starting point on defense. There are very few workable options on the roster, and 10-game starter Jacob Lacey headed to Detroit.
3. Guard: In adding Samson Satele, Winston Justice and Mike McGlynn this offseason, Indianapolis has actually done an OK job starting to patch together its line. There’s still a lot of ground to make up.
1. Right tackle: The Jaguars will try moving Eben Britton back to his natural RT spot. If that doesn’t work, Guy Whimper is far from an acceptable fallback option.
2. Wide receiver: Snatching Laurent Robinson from the Cowboys was a great start, but Jacksonville needs much more at this position. For as shaky as Blaine Gabbert was in 2011, he didn’t get any help.
3. Defensive end: Even after bringing Jeremy Mincey back into the fold, Jacksonville could use some more bodies here. Aaron Kampman has struggled to stay healthy at the other end spot.
Kansas City Chiefs
1. Nose tackle: Kelly Gregg, in addition to being unsigned at the moment, is considering retirement, and Jerrell Powe far from engrained himself in the starting lineup last season. Kansas City needs a big body in the middle.
2. Guard: Casey Wiegmann sounds like he’s going to hang ‘em up, so the Chiefs will slot in second-year man Rodney Hudson at center. That will leave them thin at guard behind Ryan Lilja and Jon Asamoah.
3. Quarterback: Matt Cassell will be the signal-caller in 2012, with Brady Quinn and Ricky Stanzi behind him. It’s a perfect situation to bring in a late-round rookie, because the Chiefs are not overly confident in any of their current options.
1. Quarterback: Matt Moore is far from the best QB in the league, but he played well when given a shot last season. Still, Miami needs to start grooming its franchise guy at the position.
2. Wide receiver: The Dolphins wanted to rid themselves of the Brandon Marshall headache, and that’s fine, but now they’re left with a starting duo of Davone Bess and Brian Hartline at WR. That’s unacceptable.
3. Safety: Miami signed Tyrell Johnson after cutting Yeremiah Bell. That’s not a great trade-off and, either way, this position needs an upgrade.
New England Patriots
1. Cornerback: The Pats brought in Will Allen via free agency and still employ Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington and Ras-I Dowling. Even so, landing a true No. 1 CB would make all of those guys better.
2. Outside linebacker: Here too, the need is not an overwhelming one. New England signed Trevor Scott and Bobby Carpenter to go with Rob Ninkovich, Jerod Mayo and Tracy White. There’s depth, but a dynamic pass-rusher could take this unit up a notch.
3. Defensive end: Mark Anderson and Andre Carter combined for 26 sacks last season. Anderson already walked via free agency and Carter is still on the market. The Pats need to replace some of that production.
New York Jets
1. Wide receiver: Santonio Holmes has not put up the type of numbers the Jets envisioned when they picked him up, and it’s hard to see the recently-signed Chaz Schilens as a dominant player.
2. Safety: Jim Leonhard might sign elsewhere, and the Jets brought in LaRon Landry, who is coming off of a major injury of his own, as his potential replacement. Landry and Eric Smith up against, say, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez is not a matchup that would favor the Jets.
3. Outside linebacker: Aaron Maybin turned out to be a pleasant surprise here, but the Jets need someone capable of getting to the quarterback consistently.
1. Nose tackle: If Oakland pulls the trigger on a move to a 3-4, it will need a gap-filler up front. Its current tackles don’t fit that bill.
2. Outside linebacker: The loss of Kamerion Wimbley to Tennessee was a killer, especially if that 3-4 switch happens. The Raiders currently do not have the bodies or the pass-rushing talent to succeed in that scheme.
3. Quarterback: Carson Palmer will be the No. 1 guy. After that, however, the Raiders’ depth chart consists of Terrelle Pryor and Rhett Bomar. Oakland has to bring in someone else.
1. Offensive tackle: Last year’s LT, an aging Max Starks, tore his ACL during the Steelers’ playoff loss. And the projected RT, Willie Colon, has played all of one game since 2009.
2. Cornerback: Because of their talent elsewhere on defense, the Steelers don’t necessarily load up at CB. They’re just way too depleted there now, though, with William Gay signing in Arizona.
3. Guard: The Steelers cut Chris Kemoeatu in their cap-slashing spree, leaving them woefully thin on the interior of their line.
San Diego Chargers
1. Offensive guard: Tackle is a spot of need too, despite the re-signing of Jared Gaither. There’s a more troublesome issue at guard, where Kris Dielman’s retirement has left San Diego without many choices.
2. Running back: Ryan Mathews is the clear top dog, and Curtis Brinkley showed well in his 2011 action. San Diego badly needs a player that can do some of what Darren Sproles used to, though.
3. Cornerback: Quentin Jammer has not aged well, and the 33-year-old veteran might be in line for a move to safety soon. Either way, San Diego has to get younger.
1. Center: The Titans’ OL was abysmal in 2011. Eugene Amano definitely contributed to those problems. Even if he’s going to start again this season, Tennessee has to bring in someone to back him up.
2. Guard: Steve Hutchinson’s addition at lef guard was a terrific pickup for Tennessee … and it put the onus on Leroy Harris to up his game on the right.
3. Cornerback: Losing Cortland Finnegan has the Titans reeling a bit. Alterraun Verner will step into the starting lineup, but Tennessee at least needs someone to play nickel.