NFL Draft 2013: Teams That Must Boost Pass Rush in First Round

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IJanuary 28, 2013

ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 17: Jarvis Jones #29 of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrates after the game against the Georgia Southern Eagles at Sanford Stadium on November 17, 2012 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

In a draft loaded with pass-rushing monsters, the following three teams cannot let the opportunity to boost their pass rush slide by. 

The value of a dominant pass-rusher in the NFL continues to rise. It is now almost expected that players with elite pass-rushing skills, but aren't considered every-down players, will fly off the board in the first round. 

So, while this draft is loaded with good talent at that skill, these three teams cannot wait until the second round to try to land one of these guys. 


Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons were just five points away from playing in the Super Bowl this past season, and this talented group is poised to be a huge factor again next year. 

However, they have some needs that need addressing. For the Falcons, this starts on defense. Atlanta struggled stopping the run and the pass this year, and if it doesn't act fast, that pass rush will only get worse. 

Last year, Atlanta finished the season 28th in sacks, and they did not make any strides as the season went on. 

The problems for the Falcons go beyond the numbers. This past season, they had just one player register more than four sacks. That was John Abraham with 10.

Abraham still has two more years left on his contract, but he is 34 years old. He can't keep up this stellar pace much longer, and adding someone to help ease the blocking pressure on him will only extend his window of productivity.


Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders have needs all over the field. Especially on defense, where they were 27th in points allowed.

With the third overall selection, the Raiders are in a great position to add an elite talent, and it would be foolish for them to look anywhere else. 

The Raiders finished 31st in sacks this season, and it is no surprise. Defensive end Lamarr Houston led the team with just 4.5 sacks. While it is always possible to scheme up blitzes to help generate pressure, this puts a lot on the corners, and Oakland is also hurting for corner talent.

The Raiders must find a player that opposing offenses have to account for in pass protection. This will help free the entire team up to get to the quarterback. 


New Orleans Saints

We can point fingers at the fallout from Bountygate all we want, but the reason the Saints did not make the playoffs this year is simple: Their defense stunk.

This team finished 31st in passing yards allowed and 32nd in rushing yards allowed.

With all the talent at pass-rusher in this draft, the Saints would be wise to address that issue first. 

New Orleans finished the season 29th in sack percentage in 2012, and in today's NFL, that is simply not going to cut it. 

Will Smith and Cameron Jordan are a nice pass-rushing duo on the line, and the two combined for 14 sacks last year. However, Jordan is locked in the interior on the line, and he needs to focus more on stopping the run. 

Also, Smith is showing signs of slowing down at 31, and he has just one season left on his massive contract.