Trade Assets, Needs and Possibilities for Every Team in 2014 NFL Draft
In less than a month, all eyes will be on Radio City Music Hall in New York City as the 2014 NFL draft begins.
Teams around the league have spent endless hours, days, weeks and months determining which player is the perfect fit for their team. Regardless of how much time and effort is put in during the months leading up to the draft, no one knows what is going to happen.
All 32 NFL teams have been tinkering with their rosters this offseason, trying to find players that can help improve their unit and replace the players they have lost.
Every team will look to improve their team via the draft and some may be able to use current players to help make trades and bolster their rosters.
Here are the trade assets, needs and possibilities for every team in the 2014 NFL draft.
In 2013, the Arizona Cardinals weakest link from 2012, the offensive line, went from giving up the most sacks in 2012 (58), to finishing middle of the pack in 2013, allowing 41.
The additions of Veldheer and Larsen will help bolster the protection for quarterback Carson Palmer, there is still a need at right tackle. Eric Winston started all 16 games there last season, but the team has shown little interest in re-signing him.
In an interview with Dan Bickley of AZCentral.com, Winston said of a return to Arizona:
I can't say there have been super-positive talks or anything like that. It doesn't seem like anything is being done. I'd still love to come back to Arizona. I love the guys in the locker room, love the city, and I think the team will be really good with or without me. They're ready to have a special run out there.
With questions surrounding a possible Winston return, the team will need to find some help along the offensive line for the offense to be productive in 2014.
In an article last week for ESPN.com, Josh Weinfuss speculated on three different trade pieces for the Cardinals: defensive tackle Dan Williams, tight end Rob Housler and linebacker Sam Acho.
ESPN.com's Field Yates offered a scenario in which the Cardinals trade Williams to Dallas in return for cornerback Morris Claiborne (subscription required). Weinfuss noted how Williams could help Dallas' poor run-stopping and Claiborne may find new life playing with former LSU teammates Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.
Housler and Acho are both trade candidates because of the wealth of depth at the tight end and linebacker positions. and both could be used to acquire a late-round pick.
After this offseason, Keim feels comfortable with where they are selecting in May's draft, telling Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com, “My whole goal and our whole goal as [an] organization is to be able to go in … [and] that we can sit there and look in the mirror and say we’re taking the best player available and the guy who helps the Cardinals the most. I think through free agency we’ve afforded ourselves to do that.”
The team could solidify its offensive line in the first round by selecting either Notre Dame's Zach Martin or Virginia's Morgan Moses with the 20th overall pick, but, if they choose the best player available, which Keim suggested, guys like Louisville safety Calvin Pryor or Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman may end up being too tough to pass up.
After a rash of injuries and poor depth across the roster, the Atlanta Falcons finished the 2013 season with a 4-12 record, and they hold the sixth overall pick in this May's draft.
The team's depth was one of the biggest reasons the Falcons struggled last season, but general manager Thomas Dimitroff has been busy this offseason inking an extension with defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, signing defensive tackles Paul Soliai and Peria Jerry, defensive end Tyson Jackson, offensive lineman Jon Asamoah, Gabe Carimi and Mike Johnson, kick returner Devin Hester and cornerback Javier Arenas while parting ways with Tony Gonzalez, Thomas DeCoud, Asante Samuel and Stephen Nicholas, via AtlantaFalcons.com.
Despite all of the additions, the team still needs help along the offensive line, a pass-rusher, a safety and more depth throughout their roster.
In 2011, Dimitroff was not afraid to part with draft picks when he traded up to the No. 6 spot to draft Julio Jones, giving the Cleveland Browns five picks: their first- (27th overall), second- (59th) and fourth-round (124th) picks in 2011 and their first- and fourth-round picks in 2012.
If the Houston Texans opt to go quarterback with the first overall pick, Dimitroff may strike again if he feels the need to trade up for South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney.
While trading up to draft Clowney in the first round would help a Falcons teams that desperately needs a consistent pass-rusher, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote why it would not make sense:
Under this scenario, the Falcons must trade up to No. 2 to get Clowney. But the Falcons have too many holes to fill – tackle, center, pass rusher, tight end and free safety — and likely can’t afford to mortgage the future to get Clowney.
If the Falcons stand pat at No. 6, Auburn's Greg Robinson and Texas A&M's Jake Matthews could end up being steals for Atlanta. Both have the ability to start from Day 1 at left tackle and could help provide protection for Matt Ryan for years to come.
I was once banging the drum for Jake Matthews, but I'm starting to believe Greg Robinson could be the best tackle prospect I've seen yet.— Ryan Lownes (@ryanlownes) February 28, 2014
Tight ends Jace Amaro and Troy Nikklas are starters that could be found in the second round, and the draft is full of talented safeties that will be available in later rounds.
After winning the Super Bowl following the 2012 season, the Baltimore Ravens had to watch many of their players leave because the team simply could not afford them after signing Joe Flacco to a big multi-year contract.
General manager Ozzie Newsome has done a nice job of retaining some of his own players this offseason, re-signing offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, wide receiver Jacoby Jones and tight end Dennis Pitta. He also signed wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Owen Daniels, via BaltimoreRavens.com.
Despite those additions, the team still has needs at safety, right tackle and running back.
Sitting at the No. 17 pick, the Ravens would love to trade down and acquire more picks, but that scenario is always easier said than done. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti does not think trading down is a likely scenario, telling Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com, “I think it will be difficult. I think we’ll probably find ourselves staying where we are.”
Rob Rang of CBSSports.com has the Ravens selecting safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with their 17th overall pick, writing:
The Ravens plan to shift last year's first round pick, Matt Elam, over from free safety to strong safety. Clinton-Dix boasts the range and ball-skills to complement him. The tandem would give the Ravens the formidable duo in the deep patrol to handle the explosive passing offenses of the AFC's powerhouses.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller does not believe Clinton-Dix will last that long and instead has the Ravens selecting Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller. Fuller would help provide depth at the cornerback position and could push Jimmy Smith for playing time as the team's No. 2 cornerback. He could also be a key piece in their nickel and dime packages.
The remainder of the draft can be used to look for depth along the offensive line with guys like Nevada's Joel Bitonio and North Dakota State's Billy Turner. They can also find help at the running back position with Wisconsin's James White or UCF's Storm Johnson.
Doug Marrone's rookie season at the helm of the Buffalo Bills had its share of ups-and-downs. The team failed once again to reach the playoffs after finishing 6-10, and it has not reached the playoffs in each of the last 14 seasons.
The team has been relatively quiet in the free-agent market, signing guard Chris Williams, cornerback Corey Graham, linebacker Keith Rivers, running back Anthony Dixon and re-signed tight end Scott Chandler. They also saw All-Pro safety Jairus Byrd leave for the New Orleans Saints in free agency, via BuffaloBills.com.
Last week, the team traded for Tampa Bay Buccaneers' wide receiver Mike Williams. The Bucs confirmed the reports on Friday afternoon, per team writer Scott Smith:
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' rapidly-evolving depth chart will have another new starter in 2014. On Friday, the Buccaneers traded wide receiver Mike Williams to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, pending Williams passing a physical.
Williams recently made headlines after being stabbed in the leg, but he was with Marrone at Syracuse and has familiarity with his system.
The team still needs help along the offensive line, particularly at tackle, but the front office still needs to find more weapons for quarterback EJ Manuel.
Sitting at No. 9 in the draft, the Bills are too far down to grab one of the major impact defensive players like Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack. Due to their need for offensive-line help, they could trade out of that spot if one of the top quarterbacks are still available and there is a team behind them willing to move up.
Albert Breer of NFL.com seems to think that wide receiver Mike Evans makes sense for the Bills at No. 9, and, if that were the case, he believes wide receiver Stevie Johnson would be traded.
2) I initially had Lewan to BUF at 9. Was told Evans belongs in Top 10. My guess is if Evans lands in BUF, Stevie Johnson could be moved.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 1, 2014
If the team wants to improve the offensive line, they would be jumping for joy if either Auburn's Greg Robinson or Texas A&M's Jake Matthews is available with their first pick. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller does not believe either will be available and has the Bills selecting tight end Eric Ebron in his latest mock draft, writing:
Ebron is like a Vernon Davis lite, using his rare speed and burst to make plays in space. He's also a better blocker than many realize and can play either in-line or flexed out in a slot position. Ebron's versatility, speed and considerable upside make him a slam dunk for this young, innovative offense.
If they go with Ebron on the first, there is still talent available along the offensive line in the second round, including Virginia's Morgan Moses and Ohio State's Jack Mewhort.
The later rounds can be used to find depth at defensive tackle, linebacker and safety and they could find themselves in the market for a running back in either the second or third round.
To say that the Carolina Panthers have had a lackluster offseason thus far in 2014 would be an understatement. The Panthers have lost four wide receivers: Steve Smith (released), Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon, and former Pro Bowl left tackle Jordan Gross retired, but they did franchise tag defensive end Gregg Hardy and signed wide receivers Jerricho Cotchery and Tiquan Underwood along with cornerback Antoine Cason, via Panthers.com.
To make matters worse, it was revealed that quarterback Cam Newton underwent ankle surgery in March and is expected to be out at least four months.
Finding protection for Newton should be a top priority, followed by finding playmakers at wide receiver and bolstering the depth on defense.
The Panthers' only true trade assets are their draft picks. However, considering how late in the first round they are selecting, they may not get the best value if they try to trade back.
While many of the top-name tackles will likely be off the board when the Panthers select at No. 28, there should still be some valuable pieces available.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has the Panthers taking Michigan's Taylor Lewan, despite some off-field issues, writing:
Taylor Lewan comes with some off-field question marks, but he's the tough-as-nails blocker the team needs when facing NFC South defenses. That he's still available at No. 28 overall is more due to the allegations off the field than it is a lack of talent.
CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler also went offensive tackle to the Panthers in his latest mock, choosing Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio, writing:
The Panthers will likely look to help Cam Newton with this pick, possibly at offensive tackle where Jordan Gross recently announced his retirement. Kouandjio's draft stock is a mystery right now due to the knee durability concerns, but his fall could be the Panthers' gain.
By drafting a tackle like Lewan or Kouandjio it will give the Panthers more flexibility to look for a wide receiver like USC's Marqise Lee or LSU's Jarvis Landry in the second round before focusing on cornerback and the offensive line more in the later rounds.
Phil Emery and his staff have done a great job of adding playmakers and depth to the defense this offseason with the additions of defensive ends Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and Israel Idonije; linebacker D.J. Williams; cornerback Charles Tillman; safeties M.D. Jennings, Ryan Mundy, Danny McCray and Craig Steltz; wide receiver/kick returner Domenik Hixon and special teamer/linebacker Jordan Senn. The team also released defensive end Julius Peppers and wide receiver Earl Bennett, via ChicagoBears.com. Emery still needs to find more depth and youth for an aging unit through the draft.
Per a report by Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times, Emery addressed that by saying "Did we have enough depth to win football games? The answer is no. From a personnel perspective, I had not done enough to provide enough depth."
Despite an abysmal 2013 season for Chris Conte, he was expected to compete for the starting free safety spot, but his opportunity will be in jeopardy after the team announced, via ChicagoBears.com, that Conte will be out four to five months after undergoing shoulder surgery in late March.
On top of the team needing solid depth at all positions, there will likely be a focus on addressing the secondary—particularly the safety positions—via the draft.
After releasing Earl Bennett earlier this offseason, the Bears have few trade assets other than their own draft picks. Considering the depth of talent along the defensive line and in the secondary in this draft, the Bears may be more likely to use their own draft picks to move back.
In the first round, the team could be looking at defensive tackles like Timmy Jernigan or Aaron Donald. Chicago has flexibility because of re-signing defensive tackles Nate Collins and Jeremiah Ratliff as well as adding guys like Lamarr Houston and Israel Idonije. Both can play inside, but it's also possible that they could be off the board when they pick in the first round.
While the defensive line still seems like a logical place to add, the injury to Conte may push the team's need to draft a safety early.
I'd have to think surgery for #Bears' Conte makes drafting a safety high even more of a priority— Patrick Finley (@patrickfinley) April 3, 2014
Safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor are two first-round options for the Bears. Chicago may look at guys like Jimmie Ward or Deone Bucannon in the second or third rounds to help solidify their safety position.
The Cincinnati Bengals have been relatively quiet this offseason in terms of free agency. The team lost defensive end Michael Johnson, tackle Anthony Collins and wide receiver Andrew Hawkins via free agency. They cut center Kyle Cook and linebacker James Harrison. The Bengals signed quarterback Jason Campbell, safety Danieal Manning, tackle Marshall Newhouse and re-signed safety Taylor Mays and wide receiver Brandon Tate, via Bengals.com.
The Bengals have been solid but not spectacular in recent years, and they would benefit from a dose of youth on defense, particularly at cornerback. Terrence Newman, Leon Hall and Adam Jones are all getting up there in age and Dre Kirkpatrick has failed to lived up to the expectations of the 17th overall pick in the 2012 draft.
The only thing the Bengals REALLY need(outside of QB) is a new cornerback. Three starters 30 or over is not a good plan.
— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) February 9, 2014
Along with the need at cornerback, the center position is wide open with the release of Cook, and the team could be looking early in the draft to find his replacement.
Because he was a former first-round pick, Kirkpatrick could create some buzz if the team decides to move on from him. Another legitimate trade asset is linebacker Rey Maualuga. He is entering the final year of his deal, and the Bengals have two young linebackers in Jayson DiManche and Emmanuel Lamur that could make him expendable.
Cornerback seems like the most logical position for the Bengals to go after in the draft and both Bleacher Report's Matt Miller and CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler have the Bengals selecting TCU cornerback Jason Verrett at No. 24 overall.
Miller says of Verrett: "He's physical at the line of scrimmage and shows the agility and burst to be very comfortable in space. Ask him to attack the ball and he'll do it, as Verrett shows good hands and top-tier closing speed."
Other options for the Bengals could be Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard if he falls to No. 24 or possibly Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller or Ohio State's Bradley Roby.
The team could address the center position as early as the second round with Colorado State's Weston Richburg or USC's Marcus Martin. They could wait and take a look at Arkansas Travis Swanson or Florida State's Bryan Stork.
The Browns have made only a handful of moves. They added to their secondary after T.J. Ward left for Denver by signing Donte Whitner. Cleveland also picked up linebacker Karlos Dansby, wide receiver Andrew Hawkins and running back Ben Tate, via ClevelandBrowns.com.
Picking fourth overall will give the team a bevy of options, and they can use help both at quarterback, considering Brian Hoyer is the only quarterback on their roster with NFL experience.
Hoyer is coming off of an ACL injury and recently spoke with WKRK-FM, via NFL.com. When asked about competing with a rookie quarterback he said, "It's inevitable. In this league, there's constant change. Just by the sheer numbers, someone's coming. Where that might be, no one knows."
Having the two first-round picks will give the Browns the flexibility when trying to determine if they want to select a quarterback first or go after a playmaker on offense.
One of the Browns biggest trade assets was already moved last season when the team traded Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for their 2014 first-round pick. The Browns have the fourth overall and 26th overall pick in this year's draft. The team has the ammunition to move up if there is a player they desperately want, but they are in a terrific spot to find two impact players for the 2014 season.
Regardless of who is throwing the football, the Cleveland Browns need more weapons on offense. Josh Gordon has proven to be one of the best wide receivers in the game and the addition of Ben Tate at running back will help, but it may be too tough to pass up on Clemson's Sammy Watkins at fourth overall.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has the Browns taking Watkins fourth overall, writing, "If the Cleveland Browns are serious about building an elite offense, they need to make Sammy Watkins their pick at No. 4 overall—not Manziel or Bortles."
Selecting Watkins guarantees the Browns another offensive weapon, and they could wait until their 26th overall pick to address the quarterback situation. In years past, there have always been quarterbacks who drop. Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater or Fresno State's Derek Carr may still be available and could push Hoyer for the starting quarterback spot.
If the team does decide to use an early pick on a quarterback, Johnny Manziel has the ability to step in and create buzz for an organization, but his development may take longer than fans will expect. The Browns were not at Manziel's pro day, but they are expected to work him out at their facilities in the next few weeks.
Johnny Manziel will work out for the Browns in 2-3 weeks— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) April 2, 2014
The rest of the draft should move towards solidifying their defense, particularly at linebacker and cornerback. Wisconsin's Chris Borland and Stanford Shayne Skov could be mid-round targets at linebacker, while Utah's Keith McGill and Missouri's E.J. Gaines could be options in the later rounds at cornerback.
The Dallas Cowboys have done little tinkering this offseason with their roster other than the releasing of defensive end/linebacker DeMarcus Ware and wide receiver Miles Austin. The team signed defensive tackle Henry Melton and quarterback Brandon Weeden, via NFL.com.
One of the Cowboys' biggest needs in the draft will be finding someone who can replace Ware and get after the quarterback. In addition, the team still lacks depth along its defensive line and needs help at free safety.
For a team trying to rebuild its defense, the Cowboys' best trade asset may be their own first-round pick. They could try and parlay that pick into a later first-round pick and possibly a late second- or early third-round pick, or they could finally give up on former first-rounder Morris Claiborne and try to get a mid-to-late pick out of him.
Cowboys' owner and general manager Jerry Jones does not classify his defensive overhaul as a "rebuild", telling David Moore of DallasNews.com, “We’re not rebuilding. We are, by necessity, having to revamp the defensive line.’’
Signing Melton should help the Cowboys' pass rush up the middle, but the team struggled mightily against the run in 2013, and they could look for a run-stopping defensive tackle when they pick 16th overall in May's draft.
Florida State's Timmy Jernigan and Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman have the flexibility to play both the three-technique and nose tackle, and they could help bolster the struggling Cowboys run defense.
If the team feels the biggest need is finding a pass-rusher in the mold of a DeMarcus Ware, UCLA's Anthony Barr would be an ideal fit if he is still available in the first round. Conversely, the team may be forced to draft a guy—like Missouri's Kony Ealy or Auburn's Dee Ford—higher than expected.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has the team selecting Barr with their first pick, writing:
The Cowboys have relied on smaller, hybrid DE/OLB types before, such as DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. Barr is the same type of player. And at 255 pounds, he's shown the ability to put on weight and maintain his quickness and flexibility..
Given the team's need for safety help, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor could be considered in the first round but the team appears more likely to address the defensive line.
Fresh off of their Super Bowl loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Denver Broncos wasted little time improving their team through free agency. Since free agency began on March 11, the team has signed safety T.J. Ward, cornerback Aqib Talib, defensive end/linebacker DeMarcus Ware and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The team also released stalwart corner Champ Bailey, via NFL.com.
Signing those free agents will fill needs. They can use the draft to reinforce different areas of their roster, and they can take a chance on players that other teams would not.
One need the team could address is the linebacker position, particularly at middle linebacker.
Being near the end of the first round in this year's draft will give the Broncos the upper hand if a team falls in love with a player but is not sure if it can pick him in the second round. With few glaring needs, the Broncos can afford to drop back and compile some additional picks along the way.
The Broncos' options are likely going to be wide open at No. 31, but they would be ecstatic if Alabama's C.J. Mosley slipped that far.
Mosley is one of the few non-pass-rushing linebackers in this draft to get a first-round grade. Because teams often feel they can find competent starting linebackers in the second and third rounds, Mosley may fall.
If Mosley is unavailable, the team could look to improve its offensive line by going after UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo or Stanford's David Yankey. Both Su'a-Filo and Yankey are strong, powerful guards and would be nice additions to an already solid offensive line.
The later rounds of the draft would allow the Broncos to focus on finding potential playmakers. Guys like Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis or South Carolina's Bruce Ellington. Denver can also focus on shoring up their secondary with cornerbacks like Utah's Keith McGill or Purdue's Ricardo Allen.
The Detroit Lions have been relatively quiet in new head coach Jim Caldwell's first offseason. The team released wide receiver Nate Burleson and safety Louis Delmas in February and inked deals with defensive end Darryl Tapp , safety James Ihedigbo and wide receiver Golden Tate at the start of free agency, via DetroitLions.com.
The Lions have proven they have an offense capable of putting up points and a dominant defensive line. When push comes to shove, their secondary has consistently under-performed.
A cornerback, safety and a linebacker with the ability to rush the passer should be high on the Lions' wish list.
During a radio appearance on "Mondays with Bernie," team president Tom Lewand spoke about whether the team would be willing to move up in the draft, saying (h/t MLive.com):
Our position is we always have to be ready to improve our team in whatever way is possible. Sometimes we search those things out, and they don't materialize. Sometimes they are presented to us, and you take advantage of them.
In all likelihood, the team's best option for trading up or down in the draft will be with their own picks. If they want to move up to grab a dynamic wide receiver like Clemson's Sammy Watkins, it will cost them plenty.
Over at CBSSports.com, their panel of five experts all have the Detroit Lions selecting a cornerback with their first pick in May's draft. All but Pete Prisco have the Lions selecting Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert while Prisco has the team selecting Virgina Tech's Kyle Fuller.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller is also on the secondary theme, but he has the team selecting Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
In an ideal world, Watkins lasts until No. 10 and the Lions can add him to Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate to form one of the league's best wide receiver trios, but it is unlikely he will drop that far.
The Lions can look in the second or third rounds to draft a wide receiver like USC's Marqise Lee, Penn State's Allen Robinson or LSU's Jarvis Landry.
The team could also look to upgrade its backup quarterback position by looking at late-round guys like South Carolina's Connor Shaw or Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas.
Green Bay Packers
The 2014 offseason for the Green Bay Packers has seen the team re-sign some of its own (Sam Shields, John Kuhn, B.J. Raji, Mike Neal and James Starks), while making a big-name splash and signing Julius Peppers, via Packers.com.
The Packers 2013 season was marred by an injury to Aaron Rodgers, but the team was still able to make the playoffs, ultimately falling short against the San Francisco 49ers.
The team still has holes along its defensive line despite the signings of Raji and Peppers, while there is also a need at safety after starter M.D. Jennings left for Chicago. Near the top of the list for the Packers may be tight end with the future of Jermichael Finley up in the air.
Like most teams, the Packers best trade assets are likely their own draft picks. If they can find a willing partner, they could trade back to acquire more picks and help add to their team's depth.
The Packers offense has been consistently explosive with Aaron Rodgers under center, and a lot of that is due in part to Jermichael Finley's ability to open up the middle of the field.
Finley suffered a neck injury last October, and Packers head coach Mike McCarthy did not seem too optimistic about a return for the free agent, telling ESPNWisconsin.com:
I was excited about him. [But] he had neck surgery. It takes time. [It was a] serious injury. I think we all have to go back to that day. I know I have. It’s great to hear he’s training and feels great and that’s a big part of the rehab. You feel good and everything, but you have to trust the information that’s available to the doctors. I think you have to really be smart with those types of injuries.
If the team is looking to upgrade at the tight end position, North Carolina's Eric Ebron would be a perfect fit, but he is unlikely to be there at No. 21 when the Packers are on the clock.
An upgrade at safety may be the next logical choice, and, while it may seem like a stretch, Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward would be a perfect fit for the Packers. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller agrees, writing: "As the Packers plan a more attacking, versatile defense, Ward is the type of single-high safety they need next to a hitter like Morgan Burnett."
The team could still address the tight end position in the second round with guys like Notre Dame's Troy Niklas or Georgia's Arthur Lynch if Ebron is off of the board and they think Texas Tech's Jace Amaro is not worth taking as high as No. 21.
The later stages of the draft could see the Packers targeting help along the offensive line the form of a young center like Colorado State's Weston Richburg or finding another wide receiver like Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews or Pittsburgh's Devin Street.
After an abysmal 2013 season that saw the Houston Texans go 2-14, fire their head coach and lock up the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 2014 draft.
The team hired Bill O'Brien as the team's new head coach and has done very little this offseason other than trading quarterback Matt Schaub to the Oakland Raiders for a sixth-round pick, signing safety Chris Clemons and releasing safety Danieal Manning, via HoustonTexans.com.
The needs are plenty for the Texans, but the biggest question in Houston is; quarterback or pass-rusher?
The best asset the Houston Texans have is their No. 1 pick, which allows a team to take whoever they want. According to Bleacher Report's Dan Pompei, the Texans are actively shopping the first pick to move down and acquire more picks.
Having the top pick in the draft can be both a luxury and a burden, but if the Texans can move down and still grab a player high on their board, they can help resurrect a team that is only one season removed from going 12-4.
Speculation has been growing since the start of the 2014 offseason, and all signs seem to point to the Texans drafting Central Florida's Blake Bortles with the first overall pick.
The Texans were 'impressed' with UCF QB Blake Bortles' Pro Day. Breakdown and reaction: http://t.co/OlcHGCRRBs— Bleacher Report NFL (@BR_NFL) March 19, 2014
New mock draft on Wednesday as well. Spoiler: QB Blake Bortles remains my pick to the #Texans at No. 1— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) February 23, 2014
Taking a quarterback first overall makes sense for the Texans considering their options at the position are T.J. Yates, Case Keenum and Ryan Fitzpatrick, but Jadeveon Clowney may be too difficult to pass up.
Clowney has long been viewed as the best prospect in the 2014 draft, but given the Texans' need at quarterback, they may have to pass.
When asked at his pro day by the media what he will do if the Texans pass on him, Clowney responded, "I have to make them miserable."
The choice is still up in the air for the Texans, but if they choose Bortles in the first, they'd still have an opportunity to grab a pass-rusher like Auburn's Dee Ford in the second round. If they select Clowney, they could find themselves with an opportunity to trade up and grab Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater if he drops down the board like NFL.com's Adam Schein has suggested. Houston could also go after one of the second-tier quarterbacks at No. 33, like Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo or LSU's Zach Mettenberger.
The Texans can spend the rest of the draft finding depth along the offensive line and in the secondary.
After an 11-5 season in 2013 that led to a playoff berth and a first-round victory, the Indianapolis Colts lost to the New England Patriots in the divisional playoffs after a thrilling victory against the Kansas City Chiefs on Wild Card Weekend.
The Colts front office has been busy this offseason. Indianapolis re-signed kicker Adam Vinatieri, cornerback Vontae Davis and running back Ahmad Bradshaw. In free agency, they signed defensive end Arthur Jones, linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, center Phil Costa and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, via Colts.com.
The Colts do not have a first-round pick because of the Trent Richardson trade, but the team still needs to find depth along their offensive line, their secondary and defensive line.
Considering the team traded away their first-round pick for Richardson, it is unlikely they will be trying to move up in the draft. They could try to move down to acquire more picks, but they appear likely to stand pat.
Heading into the draft without a first-round pick leaves much of the draft process for the Colts up in the air. General manager Ryan Grigson commented on Colts Up Close, via Colts.com, “With having no first-round pick, you are going to have to look a little bit harder and you are going to have to be a little bit more sure of yourself because that’s your first pick."
Despite signing veteran center Phil Costa, the position will likely be an area the team needs to look at in the draft. Colorado State's Weston Richburg is one of the highest-rated centers on the board, but the Colts might not be willing to reach on him in the second round.
The Colts would like to upgrade their safety position after losing Antoine Bethea to the San Francisco 49ers earlier this offseason. The team has already interviewed Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward and sent representatives to Washington State safety Deone Bucannon's pro day, but both could possibly be off of the board when the Colts finally pick at No. 59.
Grigson seems happy with what he currently has at the safety position, telling Mike Wells of ESPN.com:
We have some players sitting there at that position. Delano Howell was no slouch when he played last year. When he came in, for a guy that was on Buffalo's practice squad the year prior, he did a heck of a job. We will of course look at the draft. We are still looking at some other options. We want to solidify every position group possible the best we can.
If the team wants to improve the interior of its defensive line, Florida's Dominique Easley and Arizona State's Will Sutton could both provide depth and youth to the defensive tackle position that currently has Fili Moala, Josh Chapman, Montori Hughes, Ricky Jean-Francois and Jeris Pendleton under contract.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have quietly had a solid offseason. The team re-signed defensive end Jason Babin and quarterback Chad Henne, and they signed running back Toby Gerhart, defensive tackle Ziggy Hood, guard Zane Beadles and wide receiver Tandon Doss, via Jaguars.com.
Henne's presence leaves plenty of directions the team can go with the third overall pick. ESPN's Mel Kiper wrote (Insider subscription required), “The Jags decided to re-sign Chad Henne, and while I don’t think they did so based on the idea he’s an immovable object at starter, I do think they believe they can win football games with him starting if they improve everywhere else.”
While quarterback is an obvious long-term need, the team will also be looking to improve at wide receiver, along the offensive line and with a pass-rusher.
Holding the third-overall pick may allow the Jaguars to find a partner to trade down with if Jadeveon Clowney does not fall. The Jaguars would likely pounce on Clowney if he is still available, but if he isn't, the team could find a team wanting to trade up for Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins or Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack.
As stated above, Clowney would be too tough to pass up, and he would be the logical choice if he happens to fall past the Texans and Rams.
If the team does not feel confident with Henne as their starter, they could look to Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater or Central Florida's Blake Bortles, if he's not selected first overall.
CBSSports.com's Will Brinson has the Jaguars taking Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, writing:
The Jags would love Clowney to fall to three but this is a pretty fantastic scenario for them. They've got their choice of the top wideout (no one, even the Jags, knows what Justin Blackmon will do in 2014), another offensive lineman, any of the quarterbacks or Mack, a dynamic and potentially destructive pass rusher.
The Jaguars could potentially be sitting at No. 3 with the opportunity to draft Sammy Watkins, Auburn's Greg Robinson or their pick at quarterback.
The rest of their draft can be used to find potential impact players in the second and third rounds. The latter rounds can be used to help find depth along both the offensive and defensive lines.
Kansas City Chiefs
A year after having the worst record in the league, the Kansas City Chiefs bounced back in 2013 under new head coach Andy Reid. The Chiefs were ultimately ousted from the playoffs. Due to limited cap space, the team has added very little via free agency this offseason.
While the Chiefs have a roster capable of making another playoff run in 2014, the team has a need at both the wide receiver and free safety positions.
Chiefs general manager John Dorsey told Chiefs.com he'd be willing to trade for more picks:
Well, my phone is always open, if you want to tell those guys if they want to trade up or down, just give me a call. You know what; you have to do everything within your power to see if you can do things. Rest assured that I will try to do everything I can to move up (or) move down if I feel like it’s time to pull the trigger and go up and get a player, or pull the trigger to move down to get a player, I will use every resource available to me.
If Dorsey finds a deal worth making, it sounds like he would be willing to part with just about any resource he has.
If the Chiefs feel that finding a wide receiver to complement Dwayne Bowe, Oregon State's Brandin Cooks may be the answer. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller and CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco both tab him to the Chiefs in their latest mock drafts, with Miller writing:
Too many will look at Cooks' size (5'10", 189 lbs) and automatically assign him to the slot. That would be a mistake. Cooks is a matchup nightmare and can play anywhere on offense. He's quick enough to play in the slot and excel, but he runs a full route tree and has proven himself as an outside receiver. And like Jackson or Percy Harvin, what he does after the catch is impressive, no matter where he catches it.
Other options for the Chiefs at No. 23 could be LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. or Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin.
Not all are on board with the Chiefs taking a wide receiver with their first-round pick, as Bleacher Report's B.J. Kissel thinks safety is the bigger issue, tweeting:
I'll go on record as wanting #Chiefs to draft L'ville safety Calvin Pryor. Versatile player who can play w/ Berry, or replace him if needed.— BJ Kissel (@bkissel7) March 19, 2014
Drafting Pryor would allow the Chiefs to essentially use Berry and Pryor interchangeably, as both have the ability to come up and defend the run in the box or drop back and play in coverage.
Both the wide receiver and safety positions have depth, so if the Chiefs go one way in the first round, they can still find a solid contributor at the other position later in the draft.
The Miami Dolphins' offseason has been dominated by the Richie Incognito situation that ultimately resulted in the team releasing him. The team has been quietly adding to its roster, signing safety Louis Delmas, left tackle Branden Albert, cornerback Cortland Finnegan, running back Knowshon Moreno and guard Shelley Smith, via CBSSports.com.
After the Incognito fiasco and trading Jonathan Martin to the San Francisco 49ers, the offensive line remains one of the most pressing needs for the Dolphins heading into the draft. The team also needs help at linebacker and tight end.
According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, in February the Dolphins were shopping 2013 first-round pick Dion Jordan. La Canfora also stated that the team would likely be willing to trade wide receiver Mike Wallace and pass-rusher Cameron Wake.
The rumors have died down as of late, but all three have the potential to net the Dolphins a serious return if they are dealt.
Ideally the Dolphins would be able to make a trade and move up to select Auburn's Greg Robinson, because it is unlikely he would last all the way to the Dolphins at No. 19.
The addition of Branden Albert in free agency gives the team more flexibility, but they could be in the running to select Notre Dame guard/tackle Zach Martin.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller thinks that Martin is a versatile player; "he could line up at any spot other than center once he is in the NFL. He has the tools to be an All-Pro as a guard, even if he's drafted and begins his career at right tackle."
The Dolphins will want to do as much as they can to protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill. If tight end Eric Ebron is available at No. 19, he could provide protection as a blocker and give Tannehill a big target in the middle of the field.
If the Dolphins wait until the later rounds to address the tight end position, Tennessee State's A.C. Leonard or Oregon's Colt Lyerla could give the Dolphins a needed play-making tight end.
The Minnesota Vikings watched Jared Allen leave for the Chicago Bears. Minnesota signed Everson Griffen to a long-term deal along with defensive end Corey Wootton, cornerback Derek Cox, quarterback Matt Cassel, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and defensive tackle Linval Joseph, via Vikings.com.
The biggest need for new head coach Mike Zimmer is a quality starting quarterback. On top of the team's need for a quarterback, it still needs help at linebacker, backup running back and could use some new weapons on offense for its quarterback.
If the Vikings opt to draft a quarterback in the first round, they could look to move former first-round pick Christian Ponder. He showed flashes in 2012 but regressed in 2013, eventually losing his starting job to Matt Cassel. The Jacksonville Jaguars were able to trade former first-rounder Blaine Gabbert to San Francisco for a sixth-round pick, and that would likely be the return for Ponder if the Vikings plan on moving him.
When the Minnesota Vikings pick eighth overall in this May's draft, they may be able to pick from a plethora of available quarterbacks.
Blake Bortles continues to get all of the buzz as the No. 1 pick in the draft, but Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Fresno State's Derek Carr all could be available for the Vikings at No. 8.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has Manziel going to the Vikings in his latest mock draft, commenting on how, despite not appearing to be a match, Manziel and Zimmer may be a perfect fit: "His style of play may not be prototypical, but you can certainly appreciate his skill set and the ways in which he makes a defense uncomfortable. No one will understand that better than Zimmer given his background as a defensive coordinator."
DraftInsider.net's Tony Pauline is hearing that the Vikings may bypass one of the top quarterbacks in order to get Zach Mettenberger later in the draft, tweeting:
Word from several sources; Minnesota Vikings heavily leaning towards Zach Mettenberger/QB/LSU in 2nd, looking for LB (Khalil Mack/UB) in 1st— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) April 1, 2014
In theory Pauline's tweet makes sense, but it seems unlikely that Mack would slip down to No. 8. The Vikings could still use their first pick to shore up their defense and hope that Mettenberger will still be there when they pick in the second round.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots made a big splash in free agency, signing former All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis as well as re-signing Julian Edelman, signing wide receiver Brandon LaFell and cornerback Brandon Browner, via CBSSports.com.
Despite upgrading their team via free agency, the Patriots still need help along the defensive line, a second tight end, and they could use some youth and depth along the offensive line.
Back in March, according to Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, the Texans were speculated to have interest in acquiring Ryan Mallett from the Patriots and then use their first overall pick in the draft to take Jadeveon Clowney.
ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss does not see much value in Mallett, writing:
I think the best-case scenario for the team and Mallett at this point is that he lights it up in the preseason, creating some value for himself, and then he can sign elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent next offseason
Reiss later went on to say that Mallett's value in terms of a draft pick in return would likely be "a late-round pick at best."
Houston makes a lot of sense considering Mallett's ties with new head coach Bill O'Brien, but, at this point, many of the Mallett trade rumors have lost traction.
After losing Aaron Hernandez prior to last season, the Patriots offense failed to have the same explosiveness it once had with Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.
If the Patriots wanted to find a replica version of Hernandez on the field, Texas Tech's Jace Amaro may be a perfect fit.
One pick I seem to always make: Jace Amaro to the #Patriots. Match made in football heaven.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 21, 2014
CBSSports.com's Will Brinson has Amaro going to the Patriots at No. 29, writing:
If at first you don't succeed, try try again? The Patriots actually DID succeed with their tight ends in a previous draft, but things didn't pan out whenever they tried to pay them big bucks. Giving Tom Brady another option in the passing game wouldn't hurt things at all now that Darrelle Revis and Vince Wilfork are secure.
Amaro is a shifty tight end who has the ability to lineup in the backfield, on the line of scrimmage, in the slot or split outside as a wide receiver.
If the Patriots want to focus on solidifying its defense, they could look at Auburn defensive end Dee Ford or Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley. Both players have the ability to start from the get-go, and Bill Belichick has had success with young defensive draft picks.
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints made an impact by signing safety Jairus Byrd and Champ Bailey in free agency, but they have been relatively quiet other than re-signing key veterans Luke McCown, Parys Haralson and Zach Strief, via NewOrleansSaints.com.
Despite the addition of Champ Bailey last week, the Saints still need to get younger at the cornerback position as well as youth and depth along the defensive line, while they could use another playmaker on offense, particularly at wide receiver.
The Saints already traded away one of their biggest assets in Darren Sproles, so it's unlikely they will make any big deals in the draft. Considering the team does not have any glaring holes, they could trade back if the opportunity presents itself and obtain more draft picks.
The possibilities for the Saints at No. 27 almost seem endless. They could get lucky and find a cornerback like Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller or TCU's Jason Verrett. The Saints could also select from a pair of pass-rushing defensive ends like Auburn's Dee Ford and Boise State's Demarcus Lawrence.
Fuller and Verrett would help make the cornerback group younger, and either would be a nice complement as the third cornerback.
@aplatt8 Saints will have a lot of options at CB in the draft. Some talent out there.— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) March 12, 2014
Unfortunately, he was not able to that. He had to pull out of the combine due to a herniated disc in his lower back, according to NFL Network's Steve Wyche.
Ford has explosiveness and speed, but he is stuck in the "tweener" mold of not quite big enough to be an every-down defensive end but not quite good enough to be an outside linebacker.
Lawrence is long and quick, but he lacks the ideal size to be an every-down defensive end. He could work well out of a rotation, particularly on third downs, and some think he may be the best defensive end behind Jadeveon Clowney.
Demarcus Lawrence is my #2 defensive end in this class behind Clowney. He's a top 20 player in this class, he's going to be a stud.— Thomas Melton (@TMeltonScouting) April 4, 2014
The Saints could then look to the latter rounds to find a wide receiver like Ole Miss' Donte Moncrief or Alabama's Kevin Norwood to replace Lance Moore, who was cut by the Saints in March.
New York Giants
The New York Giants have been one of the league's busiest teams this offseason, signing 25 free agents, 10 of which spent the 2013 season with the team. Some of the bigger names include guard Geoff Schwartz, linebacker Jameel McClain, cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Walter Thurmond III and Zackary Bowman, defensive end Robert Ayers and wide receiver Mario Manningham, via Giants.com.
After losing wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and tight end Brandon Meyers, the Giants need to find another playmaking pass-catcher at both wide receiver and tight end. Despite general manager Jerry Reese's plethora of moves in free agency, the team still needs help at defensive tackle and along the offensive line.
Sitting with the 12th overall pick in May's draft, the Giants have the opportunity to find a quality player that can contribute right away. New York also has the ability to move back and collect picks if it finds a potential suitor.
Despite the team's need at wide receiver, it could possibly shop slot receiver Jerrel Jernigan for a late-round pick. Jernigan found success in the final three games of the year filling in for Victor Cruz in the slot, hauling in 19 catches for 237 yards and two touchdowns. While his production was not staggering, he proved he had the ability and shiftiness to be productive in the slot, and other teams will have more use for him considering Cruz's role.
Mock drafts have the Giants selecting various different players with their first pick, ranging from North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron to Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Donald makes sense because he can give the Giants defense an explosive, pass-rushing three-technique tackle. Ebron would help give Eli Manning a dynamic playmaker in the middle of the field.
Ebron is easily the most talented tight end in this year's draft, combining his athleticism and size to be one of the most dominating tight ends in college football in 2013.
Bleacher Report's Dan Hope agrees that Ebron would be a great fit for the Giants, and he has him going to them in his latest mock draft, writing:
He can stretch the field with his speed, leap to high-point jump balls, make defenders miss and run through contact. While he is not much of a blocker, he could be a tremendous receiving asset who can make plays both over the middle and outside.
With the possibility of a run on quarterbacks in the top 10, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews may slide down to the Giants at No. 12. CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler calls Mathews the "safest prospect in this class," and he has the ability to step in immediately at left tackle and protect Manning's blindside.
If the Giants are still looking for a wide receiver in the second round, USC's Marqise Lee or Ole Miss' Donte Moncreif could be viable options. Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be a sleeper tight end if the team doesn't draft Ebron in the first round.
New York Jets
After an 8-8 season in 2013, general manager John Idzik has added a few new pieces in wide receiver Eric Decker and quarterback Michael Vick, via NFL.com, but the team has been relatively quiet in free agency.
The team failed to address the cornerback position and will need to improve on its current situation with under-performing former first-round picks Dee Milliner and Kyle Wilson.
Despite the team's addition of Decker, the team still needs a viable No. 2 wide receiver as Jeremy Kerley is more of a slot wide receiver while Stephen Hill and David Nelson have both been unable to solidify themselves as top targets.
Idzik has hinted this offseason that the team would be willing to make a trade for the right player, telling NFL.com's Dan Hanzus:
As we proceed through free agency and approach the draft, there may be trade talks. There may be roster transactions, players become available that may be of interest. So we're very open-minded and we feel like we're prepared to act.
The Jets could try and manufacture a trade to move up and pick a receiver like Mike Evans or a tight end like Eric Ebron, but it may cost too much to move up eight to 10 spots when the team has many needs to fill.
According to Manish Mehta the New York Daily News, the front office is "skeptical of Stephen Hill’s ability to become a reliable piece to the puzzle in 2014 and beyond." Because of that, they may be willing to deal the former second-rounder.
Hill skyrocketed up boards during the 2012 offseason despite catching just 49 passes in his entire college career and has been a disappointment in New York. The Jets likely would not receive much back in compensation, but they could possibly use him as a thrown-in for a deal that could help them trade up.
Because of the team's need at both cornerback and wide receiver, the Jets may have a good amount of options when they select 18th overall.
The LSU standout attacks the ball as well as any player in this draft, and he shows the speed to make big plays after the catch, too. In an offense featuring Mike Vick or Geno Smith, Beckham's ability to get open underneath or press a defense deep will be huge.
Beckham would help provide the home-run hitter the Jets need to complement Eric Decker. Beckham's ability to play both inside and outside would help create mismatches for opposing defenses.
If the team decides to go for a cornerback in the first round, Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard, TCU's Jason Verrett and Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller all have the ability to step in and become contributors.
Lastly, if the team wants to find a target in the middle of the field for Geno Smith or Michael Vick and North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron is off the board, Texas Tech's Jace Amaro may be an option.
Amaro is a flexible tight end who has the ability to line up all over the field and would provide either quarterback with a big, quick target in the middle of the field.
General manager Reggie McKenzie and his staff have been busy this offseason trying to rebuild a Raiders roster that went 4-12 in 2013.
In March, according to CBSSports.com, the Oakland Raiders traded for veteran quarterback Matt Schaub from the Houston Texans for a sixth-round pick. On top of adding Schaub, the Raiders re-signed running back Darren McFadden, safeties Charles Woodson and Usama Young and defensive tackle Pat Sims while agreeing to terms with tackle Austin Howard, defensive ends Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith, linebacker LaMarr Woodley, cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers, wide receiver James Jones, guard Kevin Booth and running back Maurice Jones-Drew, via CBSsports.com.
Because of the overhaul of talent via free agency, the Raiders' options when they pick at No. 5 could be endless. They could just draft the best player available, whether a quarterback, linebacker or wide receiver.
The Raiders' offseason spending spree does not make them an automatic contender in 2014, but they do have a chance to add an immediate impact player at No. 5.
With the addition of Schaub at quarterback and the level of talent at the position in the draft, the Raiders may try to move Terrelle Pryor during the draft. After the acquisition of Schaub, Pryor asked for his release, according to NFL.com’s Marc Sessler, via Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie.
In all likelihood, McKenzie will do his best to shop Pryor around to try and see what sort of value he can get.
The luxury for the Raiders will be waiting to see which player falls to them in the draft, and they may luck out if Buffalo's outside linebacker/defensive end Khalil Mack or Clemson wide receiver are still there when they pick fifth.
A GIF journey through what makes Sammy Watkins special: http://t.co/T2PqxPFBgu— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) March 29, 2014
Watkins may not last that long because of his explosiveness and speed. A team like the Tampa Bay Buccanneers may be inclined to move up to try and grab him.
If Watkins is off the board, Oakland will have the tough decision of deciding between Mack and one of the quarterbacks that are left.
In a year-end round-table, McKenzie was asked if he'd be reluctant to start a rookie quarterback, and he responded, according to Vic Tafur of SFGate.com:
Yeah, rookies, it would be great if we can have them sit until we’re really ready to throw them in there, absolutely. But, to me, you have to make sure you surround those young players like that with good football players, whether it’s weapons, protection from an offensive line standpoint, run game.
McKenzie's comments make it appear that the team would be more willing to draft a quarterback in Rounds 2 or 3 to develop behind Schaub. They would be more inclined to go after Mack with the fifth pick.
the Raiders could lean Manziel, but have faith in Schaub,and wait. They could go OL but Khalil Mack feels more like a OAK move #BillWildMock— Andrew Garda (@Andrew_Garda) April 5, 2014
Mack is an excellent edge rusher who has the ability to step up against the run and could excel as both an outside linebacker and 4-3 defensive end in the Raiders' scheme. Adding him to a defense featuring Tuck, Woodley, Sims and linebacker Sio Moore, the Raiders front seven would be a significant upgrade from 2013.
If Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater or Fresno State's Derek Carr slip in the draft, the Raiders could try and jump back into the first round and solidify their quarterback position for years to come.
Late last month the Philadelphia Eagles made headlines when they released wide receiver DeSean Jackson, via NFL.com. Many believe his release was due in part to Chip Kelly's desire to build a particular type of culture in the locker room.
"I've been told by sources this has something to do with Kelly and the kind of culture he's trying to create [in Philly]." -@Jeff_McLane— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) March 28, 2014
The release of Jackson has been the Eagles' biggest offseason move. They have made some improvements to their team through free agency, re-signing wide receivers Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin, offensive lineman Jason Kelce and Jason Peters and safety Nate Allen while trading for running back Darren Sproles and signing quarterback Marc Sanchez, safety Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback Nolan Carroll, via CBSSports.com.
The release of Jackson may put the Eagles in the market for another wide receiver, but they still have pressing needs at outside linebacker, defensive back and along the defensive line.
Prior to his release, it was reported by Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia's Derrick Gunn that the Eagles were shopping Jackson:
League source has told me eagles are listening to offers for desean jackson.. patriots and niners have inquired. #Eaglestalk— Derrick Gunn (@TheRealDGunnCSN) March 18, 2014
A trade never materialized and the Eagles were left to release him. Not much has been said as to why a deal was never reached to trade him but he likely would have been the Eagles best trade asset this offseason.
The Eagles may be banking on Maclin to return to form after missing all of 2013 with a torn ACL, but the team could still be looking a receiver to complement he and Riley Cooper.
A receiver with a similar skill set to Jackson and could still be available when the Eagles pick at No. 22 is Oregon State's Brandin Cooks. He spoke to Philly.com about his comparisons to Jackson, saying:
His game is unbelievable. The man can blow the top off, catch the deep routes, catch the underneath routes, produce in the return game. He’s just special. He’s a freak. I definitely admire his game. Maybe Chip Kelly is looking to take another speedy receiver in that first round, and that could be me. Who knows? And if that’s the case, a lot of people will wonder ‘Can he do it like DeSean Jackson?’ In my opinion, I can do it like him and do it better.”
Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com seems to think Cooks and the Eagles would be a good fit at 22, writing, "Gone is DeSean Jackson and in is a much cheaper replacement. Cooks can fly and he had 128 receptions last year."
If they opt to improve their defense, they likely will not be in the running for one of the top safeties such as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor, but they could see potential in Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward. Rotoworld.com's Josh Norris doesn't think selecting Ward is out of the realm of possibility for the Eagles, writing:
Ward is very versatile and can play in the box, line up over slot receivers or tight ends, or run the deep half. He would complement Jenkins very well, potentially in the same way Kenny Vaccaro did in New Orleans. He might not be frequently mentioned there now, but I bet Ward is selected in the first round.
The team could be in the running for a safety like Deone Bucannon or Lindenwood cornerback Pierre Desir in the second round. Both have the ability to be contributors right away, allowing Philly to use the remainder of the draft to help build depth along both the offensive and defensive lines.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been relatively quiet this offseason in the free-agent market, with their biggest signings being safety Mike Mitchell, wide receiver Lance Moore and running back LeGarrette Blount, via CBSSports.com.
The Steelers moved on from defensive lineman Ziggy Hood and Brett Keisel and will need to bolster the defensive line as well as find youth at cornerback and more receiving options at wide receiver and tight end.
Sources have told WalterFootball.com that there is some reluctance of the Rooney family to give Roethlisberger another big contract. Pittsburgh has had a history of letting pricey veterans leave when they hit the later years of their career, and Roethlisberger's off-the-field issues haven't been forgotten by ownership.
One big reason I think Roethlisberger trade may not happen next year is the Steelers are really averse to change.— Andrea Hangst (@FBALL_Andrea) November 14, 2013
It seems unlikely that the team would be willing to part with such an iconic figure, but if there is a quarterback available when they select 15th overall that they feel can lead this football team, it could be a possibility.
At No. 15, the Steelers will likely be faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to address the team's need at cornerback or defensive line.
Cornerback's Darqueze Dennard, Kyle Fuller and Bradley Roby should all be available, and Dennard may be the best fit for Dick LeBeau's 3-4 defense because of his physical style and press-coverage skills. According to NationalFootballPost.com, Dennard was scheduled to visit the Steelers earlier this month.
If the Steelers are looking to improve their defensive line in the first round, Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy, Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III and Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman could all be viable options.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller sees Ealy as a 4-3 defensive end but wrote, "he has the body type (6'4", 273 lbs) and natural strength to gain 10 pounds and become a top-level athlete as a 3-4 defensive end."
Nix is an interesting player because he fills a need at nose tackle and seemed to draw the attention of Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin during his pro day:
Despite the fact that he fills a need, picking him at No. 15 may be too high as some have him projected to be drafted as late as the middle of the second round. If the pass on Nix, Hageman may be the best available option.
@SteelDad Hageman has the length and pass rush potential that Steelers need. Nix is too up and down as a pass rusher.— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) February 27, 2014
Hageman shows speed and explosiveness on his game tape, but he is a player that lacks consistency at times and may be too much of a risk for the Steelers that early.
If the Steelers want to find a playmaker for Roethlisberger in the second round, Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be their guy. Rotoworld.com's Josh Norris wrote of Seferian-Jenkings:
No tight end displayed more versatility in terms of alignments than ASJ. Inline, in the slot, out wide and in the backfield. He did it all. ASJ is very limited after the catch but still has downfield ability thanks to his ball skills and anticipation at the catch point.
Seferian-Jenkins could give the Steelers offense some added touchdown potential and youth at the tight end position with the aging Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth.
San Diego Chargers
This offseason, the San Diego Chargers focused on retaining some of their own players instead of spending money through free agency. The team re-signed linebacker Donald Butler, safety Darrell Stuckey, guard Chad Rinehart and cornerback Richard Marshall while signing free agent running back Donald Brown, cornerback Brandon Ghee and quarterback Kellen Clemons, via CBSSports.com.
The Chargers defense is full of young, talented players, but there is a lack of a true No. 1 cornerback. The draft is full of cornerback talent, and the team may address that in the first round along with the defensive line, and they could look to bolster their linebacker core as well as their offensive line later in the draft.
Wide receiver Eddie Royal bounced back in 2013 after a couple of down years, finishing with 47 catches for 631 yards and eight touchdowns. Due to the emergence of Keenan Allen, the Chargers may try and move Royal for a mid-to-late-round pick.
The Chargers have needs at both cornerback and along the defensive line. Lucky for them, the 2014 draft is full of talent at both positions.
The team currently sits with no true No. 1 cornerback and could possibly find Ohio State's Bradley Roby available to them at pick No. 25.
Roby had some struggles in 2013, but Bleacher Report's Matt Miller does not think it will be much of an issue, writing, "the Big Ten standout did struggle at times in 2013 after posting an All-American season in 2012, but he has all the tools (footwork, strength, speed) to be a top-tier outside cornerback.
26.) Bradley Roby/CB - Perhaps the class' most physical gifted CB w/tremendous closing speed and fluid hips. High Ceiling. #LownesBigBoard— Ryan Lownes (@ryanlownes) February 26, 2014
If they want to look towards improving their defensive line, Notre Dame's Louis Nix is a nose tackle that can take up space but also has an impressive first step and the ability to get after the quarterback.
25. San Diego Chargers - Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame - Win the trenches. Nix is a legit gap eater & fills a need as SD gets better. #A1GMock— Shane Alexander (@A1Gsports) April 8, 2014
Even if the team drafts Nix, it still has needs at defensive tackle and could look at a pair of former LSU Tigers Ego Ferguson or Anthony Johnson in the later rounds.
San Francisco 49ers
Despite reports earlier this offseason from La Canfora that there was tension between Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers front office, little has surfaced since.
The 49ers have made some moves this offseason in hopes of returning to the Super Bowl in 2014. The team traded for tackle Jonathan Martin and quarerback Blaine Gabbert while signing safety Antoine Bethea, cornerbacks Eric Wright, Chris Cook and Perrish Cox and wide receiver Kassim Osgood, via CBSSports.com.
The 49ers already have a solid roster but they can still use some help at wide receiver and along their offensive line.
The 49ers have a logjam at running back with Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and Marcus Lattimore, leaving LaMichael James on the outside looking in. In two seasons he has just 39 carries for 184 yards but his quickness and speed may be enough to get a team to trade a fifth- or sixth-round pick on him.
The 49ers have plenty of offensive weapons for quarterback Colin Kaepernick in Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. However, the offense lacks someone that can stretch a defense and make big plays.
San Francisco should have plenty of wide receiver options available to them when they select 30th overall. Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, USC's Marqise Lee and Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin are all legitimate wideouts that could help the 49ers from Day 1.
Cooks and Lee both have the speed and explosiveness to drive defenses crazy, but they may not be available at No. 30.
Benjamin has the tools and the size to be a threat in the NFL, but he needs to refine his game and still can be looked at as a project at the age of 23.
Finishing up a post on FSU's Kelvin Benjamin. Legit size & talent. Matchup player. Must develop route running, consistency vs. NFL DBs.— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) February 28, 2014
The team could look to add to its linebacker depth as well as cornerback late in the first or with one of their six selections in the top 100 picks.
Two of the biggest moves for the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks this offseason have been re-signing defensive end Michael Bennett and extending head coach Pete Carroll's contract, via ESPN.com.
The Seahawks have a dominating defense and offense with the ability to put up points, but they still have needs at guard and tackle as well as at wide receiver.
Considering the team has no real pressing needs, they could trade out of the first round and gain some additional draft picks.
At No. 32, the Seahawks can sit and wait to see which players fall down the draft board and could find some great fits.
If they look to improve the guard position, CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler thinks the team should draft UCLA guard Xavier Su'a-Filo writing, "offensive guard has been an inconsistent position on the Seattle roster. Su'a-Filo has experience at tackle and guard, but projects best inside and will be the top guard in this class for several teams."
Su'a-Filo can help make the Seahawks running game even better, but, most importantly, he will be able to better protect quarterback Russell Wilson.
Su'a-Filo seems to be the kind of guard who I really like in today's NFL. Decent run blocker, but very good pass blocker.— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) March 17, 2014
CBSSports.com's Rob Rang thinks the Seahawks will go after a wide receiver and that Kelvin Benjamin fits the team's bill, writing, "the Seahawks look for unique traits and could see the 6-5, 240-pound Benjamin's height, gliding speed and strong hands as an ideal replacement for the injury-prone Sidney Rice."
Benjamin could quickly replace Rice in the Seahawks offense and would be a perfect complement to Percy Harvin and Doug Baldwin.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams have been relatively quiet the offseason with their biggest moves being the signing of wide receiver Kenny Britt and backup quarterback Shaun Hill, via CBSSports.com.
St. Louis has the luxury of two first-round draft picks, second and 13th overall, and they have the ability to truly bolster their roster.
#Rams signing of Kenny Britt shouldn't limit their drafting a WR in first few rounds. Still need talent there and Britt is no sure thing— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 1, 2014
The team's biggest needs are likely at wide receiver and in their secondary.
The best asset that the St. Louis Rams currently own is the second overall pick, which they acquired two years ago in a trade with the Washington Redskins. According to Josh Katzowitz of CBSSports.com, Rams general manager Les Snead is in talks with teams to trade the No. 2 overall pick.
“We have had some conversations with multiple teams,” Snead said. “They're more flirtatious calls than anything. We have numbers 2 and 13, but Houston has No. 1. Nobody can really seriously chat with us until they are happy with at least two players."
A team looking to draft a quarterback or one that is positive Jadeveon Clowney will drop there could wind up bringing in a large haul for the Rams.
If the Houston Texans select Blake Bortles first overall, the Rams will have to seriously discuss drafting Jadeveon Clowney. Despite the fact that the team already has Robert Quinn and Chris Long at defensive end, a talent like Clowney does not come along often.
If they do pass on Clowney or are able to trade the pick away and move down a few spots, Clemson's Sammy Watkins could give quarterback Sam Bradford the true No. 1 wide receiver he desperately needs.
In reality, the #Rams are in a difficult but enviable spot. They're not far away. With Sammy Watkins they get a whole lot closer.— Ryan Lownes (@ryanlownes) February 17, 2014
Watkins ran a 4.43 40-yard dash but looks to be much quicker than his 40-time would indicate. He has terrific body control and consistently burns opposing cornerbacks with a combination of his speed and excellent route-running.
Another option at No. 2 is Auburn tackle Greg Robinson. Despite the team having Jake Long and Rodger Saffold on their roster, Robinson has the ability to step in and contribute instantly at right tackle and could eventually move to left tackle once Long is gone.
When the Rams pick at No. 13, the team could look to draft a safety like Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Louisville's Calvin Pryor.
Several personnel guys have told me they'd be very surprised if the Rams passed on HaHa Clinton-Dix at 13.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) April 3, 2014
Clinton-Dix would immediately improve a Rams secondary and provide stability in the back-half of the field and could be a perfect complement to strong safety T.J. McDonald.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been busy this offseason with their hiring of new head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht. The team also released star cornerback Darrelle Revis, traded wide receiver Mike Williams and signed cornerback Alterraun Verner, defensive end Michael Johnson and quarterback Josh McCown, via CBSSports.com.
After trading Williams, wide receiver has jumped to the top of the Bucs' biggest needs list, along with guard, tackle and cornerback.
Sitting at No. 7 overall, the Bucs may be more inclined to use a future pick to jump up in the draft to try and grab a wide receiver like Clemson's Sammy Watkins, or make a big jump and try to grab South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
If the Bucs decide to stay at No. 7, they may end up having to decide on drafting a tackle like Auburn's Greg Robinson or Texas A&M's Jake Matthews, or they could draft a wide receiver like Texas A&M's Mike Evans.
If Bucs can't get Watkins, a Vincent Jackson-Mike Evans (if they take at 7) combo could rival #Bears for most physically impressive WR duo.— Eric Edholm (@Eric_Edholm) April 4, 2014
Evans is a big, strong and physical wide receiver that has the ability to jump and get the ball and has the potential to be a dominant presence in the red zone. Considering the success McCown had with the Marshall/Jeffery duo in Chicago, the Jackson/Evans duo would be a welcomed addition.
The Bucs could target a quarterback like Johnny Manziel or Derek Carr if they are available at No. 7, but considering they plan on using McCown as their starter in 2014, they may be better suited finding players who can have an impact right away.
The later rounds of the draft will allow the Bucs to focus on their defensive line, particularly at defensive end, with guys like Stanford's Trent Murphy or Louisville's Marcus Smith.
The biggest news from the Tennessee Titans' offseason was the release of running back Chris Johnson earlier this month, via SI.com.
The team has made some minor moves this offseason by signing defensive end Shaun Philips, wide receiver/kick returner Dexter McCluster, quarterback Charlie Whitehurst and tackle Michael Oher, via CBSSports.com.
The release of Johnson puts running back near the top of the Titans' needs list, but the team also requires help at cornerback, a pass-rusher and could be looking to replace quarterback Jake Locker.
Prior to his release, Johnson was one of the team's best trade assets, but considering he was due a roster bonus on April 7, the team had no other choice than to move on.
If the Titans are set on selecting a new quarterback when they are on the clock at pick 11, they could try and move Jake Locker for a middle-round pick.
After losing Verner in free agency, the team may look to the draft to find his replacement, and Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert may be their guy.
In his latest mock draft, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller pegs Gilbert to the Titans, writing:
Justin Gilbert would be the ideal man to step into Ray Horton's scheme. At 6'0", 200 lbs, Gilbert has the size and speed to be a press-coverage cornerback and excel as a ball hawk. He also brings big value as a return man, as his open-field speed shows on defense and special teams.
With the team's move to a 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton, a pass-rushing outside linebacker may make more sense.
UCLA's Anthony Barr may end up being the best option for the Titans at No. 11 and CBSSports.com's Rob Rang has Barr going to the Titans in his latest mock draft, writing: "only two years removed from playing on offense, Barr lacks the polish to rank as a top 10 pick for everyone but his tremendous blend of size (6-5, 255), speed (4.44) and flexibility made him a star rush linebacker in UCLA's 3-4 scheme."
Considering the depth at both cornerback and 3-4 pass-rushers, the Titans could still find viable options in the second round at either position.
Unsurprisingly, the Washington Redskins made one of the biggest splashes this offseason when they signed former Philadelphia Eagle DeSean Jackson, according to ESPN.com.
To go along with their signing of Jackson, the Redskins also signed safety Ryan Clark and cornerback Tracy Porter while re-signing Santana Moss and Brian Orakpo (via the franchise tag), via CBSSports.com.
The Redskins do not possess a first-round pick, having traded it away in 2012 to the St. Louis Rams to draft quarterback Robert Griffin III. The team still has needs at defensive back, linebacker and offensive line.
Considering that they do not own a first-round pick, it is unlikely the team will try to trade up to get a player they like, but they could trade down in the second round to try and gain more draft picks.
The team could be looking to address the offensive line with their first selection in the second round, and Stanford guard David Yankey and UCLA guard Xavier Su'a-Filo could both be options.
Yankey is quick and athletic but many believe he is falling down draft boards.
I haven't talked to one scout/exec that would take David Yankey in the first 3 rounds.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) April 3, 2014
Su'a-Filo may not be available when the Redskins pick and it could be a risk to take Yankey that high, leaving the Redskins to focus on defense and they find Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland to still be available.
Chris Borland is such a natural at LB. He played mostly offense in HS, but was still B1G Frosh POY in 2009. Instints/intangibles are awesome— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) March 11, 2014
Borland is an every down linebacker that could be a perfect replacement for the retired London Fletcher.
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