AFC Team NeedsWednesday, April 11, 2012
Wide receiver: Jacoby Jones may have worn out his welcome in Houston, and Kevin Walter had to take an offseason pay cut just to keep his roster spot. The Texans will likely draft the best available wideout with the 26th pick. A field stretcher like Kendall Wright would work nicely.
Offensive line: The Texans lost the entire right side of their offensive line (RT Eric Winston, RG Mike Brisiel) in March, and they were too tight up against the salary cap to sign replacements in free agency. Look for GM Rick Smith to target athletic linemen in the middle rounds of the draft as competition for expected new starters Rashad Butler and Antoine Caldwell.
Outside linebacker: Brooks Reed kept the Texans competitive after Mario Williams' year-ending injury, but Reed has limited pass-rush moves and would ideally not be an every-down player. Houston will target college defensive ends to groom at one of the most valuable NFL positions.
Quarterback: After releasing Peyton Manning, Drew Stanton and Trevor Vittatoe are the Colts' only quarterbacks under contract for 2012. Andrew Luck is expected to be the No. 1 pick.
Wide receiver: Indianapolis re-signed 33-year-old Reggie Wayne and gets back Austin Collie at slot receiver, but can't count on brittle Donnie Avery to be an every-down wideout. Luck also relied heavily on tight ends in college, and the Colts are devoid of pass-catching threats at the position.
Defensive tackle: The Colts will start Dwight Freeney at right end and Cory Redding on the left side. 29-year-old journeyman Brandon McKinney is currently the team's top nose tackle. Indy could also use help at outside linebacker and cornerback. The Colts have a long way to go.
Wide receiver: Jacksonville paid big money to Laurent Robinson in free agency, but he's never excelled as more than a third receiver and Mike Thomas has panned out as a slot guy only. Blaine Gabbert needs a physical wideout with a large catch radius to secure his oft-errant passes.
Defensive end: The Jags did well to re-sign Jeremy Mincey, but they can't count on knee-hobbled Aaron Kampman to man the other end, and Austen Lane has shown no NFL pass-rush tools. An impact edge rusher could make everyone on the Jacksonville defensive line more productive.
Offensive line: The Jaguars need competition for left guard Will Rackley after a miserable rookie season, and center Brad Meester is getting awfully long in the tooth. Right tackle Eben Britton's back problems may be chronic. In Jacksonville, this is a position that requires improved depth.
Defensive tackle: Karl Klug and Jurrell Casey showed promise as rookies, but Titans line coach Tracy Rocker desires more girth on the interior. Klug is a pass rusher only. If a 320-plus pound plugger like Michael Brockers or Dontari Poe lasts to pick No. 20, Tennessee will pull the trigger.
Cornerback: The Titans should feel comfortable trotting out Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty as outside cornerbacks, but Cortland Finnegan's loss will be felt in the slot. A physical inside corner like Brandon Boykin of Georgia would make sense with Tennessee's second-round pick.
Guard: Drafting a road-grading right guard would allow Leroy Harris to kick inside to center and improve the Titans' run blocking. Harris and new left guard Steve Hutchinson are strong interior pass protectors, but Chris Johnson didn't see enough lanes on strong-side run blocks last year.
Defensive tackle: Denver lost a bidding war for Brodrick Bunkley, and the Broncos don't want to rely on Ty Warren to carry their defensive interior at age 31 after a triceps tear wiped out his 2011 season. Penn State's Devon Still could be an attractive target with the Broncos' 25th overall pick.
Running back: While Willis McGahee should have garnered more Comeback Player of the Year attention for his magical season, the end is near for any 31-year-old runner. Peyton Manning will push for a back who's more skilled in blitz pickup -- a necessity in Manning's brand of offense.
Quarterback: The Broncos sent a large contingent to work out Brock Osweiler on Arizona State's campus last week, perhaps indicating they plan to draft a signal caller to groom behind 36-year-old Manning. Denver's only current backups are Caleb Hanie and practice squader Adam Weber.
Kansas City Chiefs
Defensive line: The Chiefs’ starting nose tackle would be 2011 sixth-round pick Jerrell Powe if the season began today, and 2009 first-rounder Tyson Jackson is entering a make-or-break year with an unwieldy $14.72 million salary due in 2013. Kansas City will address D-Line early in the draft.
Inside linebacker: The Chiefs don't have a weakness at inside 'backer, per se, but it's a position at which they can afford to improve. Kansas City could use a "Ted" linebacker willing to and capable of blowing up opposing lead blocks. Dont'a Hightower of Alabama could be a fit in round two.
Quarterback: Kansas City won't verbally admit it, but the organization's offseason actions suggest it isn't sold on Matt Cassel. Owner Clark Hunt pleaded for a run at Peyton Manning, and coach Romeo Crennel has questioned Cassel's "consistency." The Chiefs are a sleeper team to trade up for Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill after recently working him out in College Station.
Offensive line: The Raiders don't draft until the end of the third round after Al Davis traded away all of their early-round selections. Expect new GM Reggie McKenzie to attack the offensive line once he finally gets on the clock. The Raiders are installing a new zone-blocking scheme up front.
Tight end: Brandon Myers, Richard Gordon, and David Ausberry are the Raiders' only tight ends under contract for the 2012 season. New coordinator Greg Knapp's offenses have long utilized tight ends in the passing game, so talent will almost surely be added to the position via the draft.
Quarterback: The Carson Palmer trade hangs over McKenzie's head as a player the old regime sent away premium picks to acquire. Going on age 33, Palmer is due large, non-guaranteed base salaries through 2016. McKenzie will begin looking to replace Palmer sooner rather than later.
San Diego Chargers
Outside linebacker: Jarret Johnson was a worthwhile addition in free agency, but the Chargers still haven't fixed their pass-rushing quandary. Johnson is an edge-setting, run-stopping linebacker. This is a position at which San Diego could very easily use the No. 18 overall pick.
Running back: The Chargers expect a breakout year from 2010 first-round pick Ryan Mathews, but can't feel comfortable about their backfield depth. With Mike Tolbert gone to Carolina, look for GM A.J. Smith to invest a second- or third-round selection on another versatile running back.
Safety: Free agent bargain-bin pickup Atari Bigby is only a short-term stopgap, and 2010 fourth-round pick Darrell Stuckey hasn't panned out as the organization hoped. The Chargers' GM is known to be high on Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith as a potential second-round pick.