The Austin Chronicle

'The NFL Beat': 2012 Draft Needs

By Alex Dunlap, February 11, 2012, 6:42pm, The Score

This is "The NFL Beat" and I have friends in 32 places. It is draft season and phone lines, text lines, Interwebs, Twitter-webs, planes, trains, and automobiles connect those of us who continue to march to the NFL beat following Super Bowl 46.

Here we take a spin around the league and ask some of the Beat’s most respected NFL minds at this early juncture about what each team’s “biggest needs” are to address in the 2012 Draft or via free agency.

Jim Wyatt, Titans Insider for the Nashville Tennessean is telling me: Biggest needs (In my opinion) are along the defensive line and in the secondary, most notably at defensive end and safety.

The agent for one of 2012’s top draft prospects at the WR position is telling me that the Houston Texans are the team with the clearest and most open need at wide receiver. The organization is hoping they can draft a Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, or Alshon Jeffery-level talent at pick 26 who would be able to step in and start quickly. The Texans will also target depth along both the offensive and defensive lines in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting is telling me there is a rumor floating around that if Alabama RB Trent Richardson is available when they pick at seven, the Jaguars will be drafting him; even given the presence of All-Pro and 2011 regular season rushing leader Maurice Jones-Drew. Aside from this bit of insider gossip, the Jags’ clear needs are along the offensive and defensive lines, and addressing the glaring hole at wide receiver.

No one needs to tell me anything about the Colts. They will pick Andrew Luck in the first round, then likely draft an RB in the second. I think they would be thrilled to start out with a Luck-Lamar Miller combo. They have big needs to address in the defensive backfield, but should do so through free agency. They have young, raw talent already on their roster, but are in desperate need of experience, game-proven secondary help. Also addressed will be the offensive line and TE positions. If Colby Fleener is around in the third, I think we could see a “Stanford Connection” from QB to TE in Indy next season.

John Eisenberg of CSN Baltimore is telling me: After almost making the Super Bowl this season, the Ravens will likely use the draft to address their offensive line, which was pushed around in the playoffs. They also want to add another young receiver who can produce, and GM Ozzie Newsome recently said, "You can never have enough pass rushers." Their offseason path is pretty clear.

Vic Carucci, legendary NFL Journalist and editor for the Cleveland Browns told Rosterwatch at the Senior Bowl that it is the mantra of GM Mike Holmgren’s regime to either draft or sign a new QB every year. Holmgren has stated he will do so in 2012 publicly. With that noted, Carucci personally believes (at this early juncture) that Colt McCoy will be the starting QB in Cleveland’s West Coast system again next season. Carucci affirmed that it is a three-year system to learn, and he was noticing marked improvement in McCoy prior to his Week 13 injury. Cleveland has successfully drafted four “starting”-caliber defensive players in the last two drafts, and this time Carucci believes the focus will shift more toward shaping the offense.

Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider is telling me: The Steelers' glaring weakness remains offensive line, particularly if they cut LG Chris Kemoeatu as I expect. Doug Legursky will start there, but someone such as Cordy Glenn, who could play either tackle (if that becomes necessary, and it could) would be a perfect fit behind Legursky. They also need an ILB to groom behind James Farrior and a NT to work in with Steve McLendon and Casey Hampton.

Isaiah Pead, one of 2012’s elite RB prospects and Big East Offensive Player of the Year told me at the Senior Bowl that the Bengals were one of the teams he had interviewed with. With the contract of Cedric Benson expiring, the running back situation is very much up in the air, and they will be targeting runners. The Bengals also learned in 2011 that they are one Leon Hall injury away from being a bad pass-defense team. I believe they address depth in the defensive backfield and a linebacker with their two first-round picks, then go after an RB in the second around Isaiah Pead, Doug Martin, or Terrance Ganaway territory.

Ben Violin of the Palm Beach Post is telling me that the Dolphins draft plans will largely depend on what they do in free agency. If not addressed there, they will need to address QB and the right side of the offensive line first. There are also needs at defensive end, as well as for depth at cornerback/free safety.

Doug Kyed of is telling me: Addressing the holes in the secondary should be priority No. 1 for the Patriots this offseason. For the sixth straight year, I’d like to see them take a defensive back in the first two rounds of the draft.

Matthew Elder of is telling me: The Bills must find a way to get to the QB. Their ability to apply the pressure will make the difference between turning the corner or not.

Matt Deem of is telling me: Safety, defensive line, an edge-rusher and a big defensive tackle are key. On offense, right tackle is a need position. I look for the Jets to address the pass rush need through the draft and the safety need through free agency.

A source close to the organization told Rosterwatch last week that the Chiefs will be focusing on bolstering the interior of their offensive line and looking to add a complimentary runner to their stable in order to spell Jamaal Charles and keep him healthy. Rumors abound that they may look at a QB early as well, as the Matt Cassel experiment has not lived up to its billing thus far.

Kevin Acee, Chargers Insider for the San Diego Union-Tribune is telling me: The Chargers need a pass rusher, a guy who can make game-altering plays and make quarterbacks uncomfortable. I don't think they'll get that guy in free agency and will address that need in the draft. There are also needs at offensive line, tight end, and inside linebacker.

A source close to the organization has recently told Rosterwatch that the Raiders will be looking hard early at linebackers who will be able to easily adapt to the versatile roles that new head coach Dennis Allen’s “multiple defense” calls for. The sentiment of the organization seems to be that previous first round LB pick Rolando McClain lets tackles “come to him” and struggles getting back into coverage.

Kirk Davis of is telling me: The Broncos needs are at CB, MLB, DT, and RB. They will need someone to replace Brian Dawkins’ vocal and emotional leadership as well. I believe they should look for that leadership at the MLB position through free agency, since this isn't a strong draft for that position. I believe they will need two good defensive backs to get further in the playoffs, and past the New England Patriots in particular.

Mark Cook of is telling me: When a team goes 4-12 there are numerous glaring needs but maybe no more so than in the defensive backfield. With Ronde Barber having most likely played his last game in Tampa, and the possibility of Aqib Talib facing prison time after his Dallas trial in March, the Buccaneers are left with E.J. Biggers (who struggled all year) as their most experienced CB. The Buccaneers are thought to be high on CB Morris Claiborne with the No. 5 pick, but he may not be there when it is Tampa's turn to pick. They will also be targeting playmakers on offense and linebackers, which was a position of great disappointment in 2011.

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is telling me: With just five picks, the Falcons are set to address their offensive and defensive lines. Also, in the draft it is possible that they will take a tight end because the heir apparent to Tony Gonzalez doesn't appear to be on the roster.

Brian Allee-Walsh of is telling me: Here are their draft needs as I see it: interior defensive lineman, an outside linebacker, corner and safety, offensive tackle and guard/center. Some of these needs can be addressed in free agency as well.

Jeff Fuller, 2012 WR prospect and former Texas A&M standout told Rosterwatch that the Panthers were one of the three teams he interviewed with extensively at the Senior Bowl. While the Panthers have more pressing needs for a disruptive pass rusher, physicality along a horrible defensive line, and some new bodies in the secondary, I look for them to address these issues in the first three rounds and target the best WR value on the board in Round 4, which I project to be Jeff Fuller territory.

Paula Pasche of the Oakland Tribune is telling me: For the Lions to talk about getting to the Super Bowl, they have to bolster their secondary. S Louis Delmas, CB Chris Houston, and CB Eric Wright are the real deals when healthy, but after that there are plenty of question marks, and also a lack of depth. If Jahvid Best can’t return due to his concussion issues, running back will be a need also.

Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press told me at the Senior Bowl, very simply: The Vikings single biggest need is at left tackle.

Matt Bowen, former NFL safety and current NFL draft analyst for the National Football Post is telling me: The Bears’ biggest needs in this draft are at wide receiver, defensive end, left tackle, and cornerback. I still see the Bears targeting defensive line with their first-round pick. (Nineteenth overall.)

Brian Carriveau of is telling me: After giving up the second-most yards in NFL history in 2011, the Packers need defense, defense, and more defense. They need to find a running mate at outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews and a big-bodied 3-4 defensive lineman that can help collapse the pocket.

Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan told Rosterwatch at the Senior Bowl that he is “only looking at DBs” while Jerry Jones indicated to interviewers at the Senior Bowl to expect a “shake-up” on the defensive side of the ball, unlike 2011 which saw 10 of 2010’s 11 defensive starters returning. They will be focused on the defensive backfield, offensive line, and a good cover linebacker.

John Miller of Philly Sports Daily is telling me: The Eagles clearly need a linebacker - their LB corps is perhaps the weakest in the NFL. Most mock drafts have them taking a LB in the first round (15th overall). However, the Eagles historically place very little value on the linebacker position - they seem to think that most linebackers are interchangeable. In fact, they have not drafted a linebacker in the first round since 1979.

Everyone close to the Giants is too busy going to parades and things of that nature this week, but their needs are fairly well-known. They need an upgrade in their LB corps that was brutalized all season in mismatches with TEs. No LB in the league was targeted and subsequently burned more often than Michael Boley in 2011. While the defensive backfield began showing improvement through the playoffs, CB Corey Webster was the league’s most-burned defender through Week 13, and this group could use an upgrade as well. Most also believe they will target a running back in rounds three to five, presumably a Boom Herron or Cyrus Gray-caliber prospect.

A source very close to the Redskins organization has told Rosterwatch that owner Dan Snyder is said to be “very intrigued” by Baylor’s Heisman-winning QB Robert Griffin III. I believe they will trade to either the two or four spot from pick No. 6 to insure his services, as QB is a desperate need. We were also told they will be targeting DBs to give first-year secondary coach Raheem Morris some new toys to play with.

Mike Jurecki of XTRA 910 Radio Phoenix sent a short text: “OL.” Clearly echoing the sentiment shared by many an observer of the Arizona Cardinals in recent seasons. Offensive line will be the Cardinals’ primary focus.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is telling me: When you are 15-65 over the past five seasons, it might be easy to pick which areas the Rams don't need help. But when you score as little as the Rams have over the past few years, you need playmakers, touchdown-makers, and the Rams sorely need help at the wide receiver position.

Rob Staton of is telling me: The Seahawks greatest long-term need is at quarterback, but don't expect the team to reach for the position this year. It's almost certain they'll instead target defense early and particularly the front seven, so the likes of Courtney Upshaw, Melvin Ingram, Quinton Coples, and Zach Brown will be on the radar. Running back is also likely to get attention within the first three rounds as Seattle looks to compliment - and protect - Marshawn Lynch.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle is telling me: The Bears and the 49ers are the only two NFL teams that haven’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since 2003. Obviously, there will be a lot more info to come, but with Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams being the only two receivers under contract for 2012, I’d say WR tops the list.

[Alex Dunlap is the host of RosterWatch on 104.9FM ESPN Radio Austin, founder of, and a featured expert contributor to the network. He is also an NFL draft analyst for]

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