2012 NFL Draft Team Needs: NFC
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 NFC. You can check out the AFC needs here:
1. Offensive tackle: Levi Brown has the left side taken care of, but the right side is up for grabs. Brandon Keith held down the position last year, and Arizona has not made a move to re-sign him via free agency.
2. Outside linebacker: Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield would be the starters if the season started today. While that’s not a horrible pairing, the Cardinals at least need some depth here.
3. Quarterback: Sure, Kevin Kolb and John Skelton are around. The Cardinals’ brief flirtation with Peyton Manning, though, doesn’t indicate a lot of confidence in either. Bringing in a young QB to learn the ropes for a season or two would make sense.
1. Guard: Even if injury-prone Vince Manuwai or Garrett Reynolds can step up, this team needs depth.
2. Tight end: It appears that 2012 will be Tony Gonzalez’s last season in Atlanta, so sooner or later, the Falcons will have to groom his replacement. Bet on sooner.
3. Linebacker: Atlanta lost Curtis Lofton to New Orleans and appears disinterested in versatile veteran Mike Peterson. Lofa Tatupu might help after sitting out 2011, but the Falcons have to bring in at least one more body.
1. Defensive tackle: The Panthers used two 2011 third-rounders on this position and wound up with Sione Fua and Terrell McClain. And guess what? They played so well that Carolina needs to look at this spot again.
2. Wide receiver: Steve Smith is getting up there in age — he’ll be 33 in May — and Carolina didn’t have another WR with more than 47 catches in 2011. Giving Cam Newton another target could be key.
3. Cornerback: Until the Panthers can put someone other than Captain Munnerlyn on the opposite side of the field from Chris Gamble, they’re going to struggle keeping opposing offenses off the scoreboard.
1. Offensive tackle: LT J’Marcus Webb is the obvious choice for an upgrade along the line. Its interior isn’t in much better shape, though, with Chris Spencer, Lance Louis and Chris Spencer all subpar performers.
2. Defensive end: Julius Peppers remains one of the premier pass-rushers in the game, but Chicago needs someone to take advantage of the attention he garners on the other side of the line. Israel Idonije is a decent option, just not a dominant one.
3. Cornerback: The Bears re-signed Tim Jennings and plucked Jonathan Wilhite and Kelvin Hayden off the free-agent market. They could still use a CB early, though.
1. Defensive end: DeMarcus Ware brings most of the Cowboys’ pressure from his OLB spot. He’d be even better if Dallas could come up with a reliable pass rush on the line. Kenyon Coleman, Jason Hatcher and Marcus Spears are average at best.
2. Outside linebacker: Speaking of Ware, the Cowboys have not been able to fully take advantage of the havoc he creates. They brought back the underachieving Anthony Spencer to play on the left side, but could find a more productive player.
3. Center: Phil Costa has not gotten the job done, and the Bill Nagy-Kevin Kowalski pairing behind him on the depth chart doesn’t provide a big boost.
1. Offensive tackle: This position has been near the top of the Lions’ list of needs for several years. Aging LT Jeff Backus only has so many years left.
2. Cornerback: Another spot that the Lions have struggled to find playmakers. They added Jacob Lacey in free agency but let Eric Wright walk. The remaining pieces are extremely underwhelming.
3. Running back: In theory, the Lions’ backfield trio of Jahvid Best, Mikel Leshoure and Kevin Smith would give them one of the deepest groups in the league. Instead, all three are injury risks and Leshoure has had off-field trouble.
Green Bay Packers
1. Defensive end: There’s no big secret here. Green Bay has a monster at NT in B.J. Raji and an elite pass-rushing OLB in Clay Matthews. But its DEs, even with the signing of Anthony Hargrove, aren’t up to snuff. Ryan Pickett and Jarius Wynn combined for three sacks in 2011.
2. Running back: Brandon Saine could be a key player here, but with Ryan Grant a free agent and Alex Green coming off an ACL injury, there isn’t much depth.
3. Safety: Nick Collins’ status is in doubt after a season-ending injury in 2011, and the thought of Charlie Peprah as the No. 1 guy at FS is scary.
1. Left tackle: The Vikings’ most glaring weakness is at LT. Charlie Johnson was a disaster at the position a year ago.
2. Safety: Mistral Raymond is the odds-on favorite to take one starting spot, but Jamarca Sanford was totally lost at SS in 2011. At the very least, the Vikings need someone to challenge him.
3. Guard: May as well upgrade the whole line … Minnesota cut veterans Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera so, despite signing Geoff Schwartz, there’s a pressing need for players on the interior.
New Orleans Saints
1. Wide receiver: There is plenty of talent here, even after the loss of Robert Meachem, but the Saints utilize a multitude of WRs, so finding a reliable target is a must. Remember, New Orleans doesn’t pick until Round 3.
2. Defensive end: Cameron Jordan flashed some talent in his rookie season but came up with just one sack. Will Smith, on the other side of the line, will be 31 before the season starts.
3. Offensive tackle: Can the Saints count on Charles Brown at RT? Zach Strief is a better option, but the best move is to bring in another body.
New York Giants
1. Offensive tackle: Kareem McKenzie remains a free agent, leaving the Giants with a hole to fill on the line. Will Beatty and James Brewer would start if New York doesn’t slide David Diehl out wide. Depth is a necessity regardless.
2. Inside linebacker: Chase Blackburn played surprisingly well down the stretch, but he has yet to re-sign. He was a bit of a lightning-in-a-bottle solution in 2011.
3. Running back: Brandon Jacobs’ departure and Ahmad Bradshaw’s inability to stay 100-percent healthy means New York could use another back — preferably a big one to fill Jacobs’ shoes.
1. Safety: Philadelphia might be better served by playing the guys it has — the Eagles drafted Nate Allen two years ago and Jaiqwaun Jarrett in 2011 — but there continue to be questions here.
2. Outside linebacker: Trading for DeMeco Ryans should solve Philadelphia’s problems up the middle, but the Jamar Cheney-Brian Rolle combo on the outside remains a bit of a weak link.
3. Running back: LeSean McCoy’s presence means that Philadelphia does not have to break the bank here. The Eagles would love to lessen McCoy’s load in 2012, though, and it’s hard to see Dion Lewis providing too much help with that.
St. Louis Rams
1. Wide receiver: Brandon Lloyd played well for St. Louis late in 2011, but he’s gone now. It’s hard to envision the oft-injured Steve Smith replacing him. St. Louis needs to find a top-flight target (or two or three) for Sam Bradford.
2. Offensive tackle: Between Rodger Saffold struggling on the left side and Jason Smith failing to stay healthy on the right, the Rams are in a tough spot.
3. Defensive tackle: Out are Justin Bannan and Fred Robbins; in is Kendall Langford. Expect St. Louis to add at least one more guy here via the draft.
San Francisco 49ers
1. Defensive end: Justin Smith and Ray McDonald form a powerful 1-2 punch, but Smith is 32 years old and McDonald has had issues staying healthy.
2. Guard: Don’t overlook the loss of versatile lineman Adam Snyder to Arizona. He was the 49ers’ safety net at multiple positions, and his absence could force San Francisco to start an overmatched Daniel Kilgore on the right side.
3. Wide receiver: Mario Manningham’s signing serves as a substantial upgrade here, and the Randy Moss addition might do the same in a perfect world. This unit still needs more, even if both Manningham and Moss pan out.
1. Defensive end: Keeping Red Bryant was monumental for Seattle’s run-stopping ability, but he doesn’t help the Seahawks get to the QB. They need someone other than Chris Clemons capable of doing that.
2. Outside linebacker: David Hawthorne signed with New Orleans and Leroy Hill remains a free agent. Seattle did add Barrett Ruud to play the middle, but he’s currently flanked by K.J. Wright and Adrian Moten. Seattle needs better personnel out wide.
3. Cornerback: Richard Sherman had a strong rookie campaign, and Marcus Trufant’s re-signing gives Seattle viable competition between him and Brandon Browner. You can never have too much CB depth, though, especially with Trufant getting up there in years.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1. Running back: Plain and simple, Tampa Bay has to find someone to team with LeGarrette Blount in the backfield. Preferably a player that can pick up the slack on third downs.
2. Linebacker: The Buccaneers’ depth here is worrisome, especially since both Mason Foster and Quincey Black are not exactly Pro Bowl-caliber players right now.
3. Cornerback: Aqib Talib is likely headed for a lengthy suspension (if not jail time) and Ronde Barber might have one year left. Tampa Bay did sign Eric Wright, who started 16 games for Detroit last season, but Wright is not that good.
1. Quarterback: RG3. Next.
2. Inside linebacker: The Redskins have yet to re-sign Rocky McIntosh or tackling machine London Fletcher. Even if one comes back, Washington will need to fill in some roster spots at this position.
3. Offensive tackle: Jamaal Brown cannot stay healthy — he continues to deal with a nagging hip injury. Washington would be well-served to pick up some pieces along the interior of its line too, but RT is a good starting point.