NEW YORK -- Capsules for each of the 32 NFL teams for the draft on April 25-27:
16, 22. ST. LOUIS RAMS (7-8-1)
LAST SEASON: Made six-win improvement in first season under Jeff Fisher, who returned from one-year break and helped distance franchise from worst five-year stretch in NFL history in which Rams totaled 15 wins. Fisher has radically remade roster, which ended last season as league’s youngest.
THEY NEED: RB, WR, S, OLB.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, OL.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: WR Patterson at 16; FS Eric Reid at 22.
OUTLOOK: Latter pick comes from deal with Redskins for No. 2 overall choice last year and rights to QB Robert Griffin III. Most obvious needs are at RB and WR, positions populated mostly by youngsters after Steven Jackson and Danny Amendola left in free agency. Seventh-round pick Daryl Richardson was effective as change-of-pace RB. Fourth-round WR Chris Givens had much better rookie year than second-rounder Brian Quick. Both starting safeties must be replaced. Signing OT Jake Long solidifies line as well as giving Rams top two overall picks from 2008 with DE Chris Long coming off big year.
1. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (2-14)
LAST SEASON: What didn’t go wrong? They matched worst record in franchise history, had player involved in murder-suicide during season, and went through nasty fan rebellion that resulted in team owner Clark Hunt cleaning house after it was all over. Romeo Crennel has been replaced by longtime Eagles coach Andy Reid, and longtime Packers executive John Dorsey took over for general manager Scott Pioli.
THEY NEED: OT, DE, QB, LB, WR.
THEY DON’T NEED: CB, TE.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OT Luke Joeckel.
OUTLOOK: Chiefs traded second-round pick and third-round choice next year to San Francisco for QB Alex Smith, so it’s unlikely West Virginia’s Geno Smith goes No. 1. More likely is LT Joeckel, who would eventually replace disgruntled franchise player Branden Albert. But without consensus top choice, Chiefs could try to trade down and pick up additional picks to aid in massive rebuilding job.
2. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (2-14)
LAST SEASON: Worst season in franchise history led to firing of GM Gene Smith and coach Mike Mularkey. New GM Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley are in charge of total rebuild, which included parting ways with about two dozen veterans. Need more talent everywhere.
THEY NEED: CB, DE, QB, OT, LB, S.
THEY DON’T NEED: Punter in third round. Team was mocked for drafting Bryan Anger with 70th overall pick last year.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE-OLB Dion Jordan, OT Joeckel, QB Geno Smith.
OUTLOOK: Jaguars sent entire front office to Smith’s Pro Day, but many believe it was smoke screen to hopefully entice trade partner for second overall pick. If Jags can’t trade down and garner more selections, versatile Jordan would seem like perfect fit to upgrade inept pass rush.
3. OAKLAND RAIDERS (4-12)
LAST SEASON: Raiders took big step backward in first year under new regime led by GM Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen, win total dropping in half from 2011 when they just missed playoffs. Defense struggled to pressure quarterbacks as well as cover downfield, running game stagnated under fired coordinator Greg Knapp, and QB Carson Palmer made too many mistakes. Palmer too often tried to force things with team playing from behind. It added up to 10th straight season without winning record and the team’s fewest victories since 2007.
THEY NEED: DL, OL, LB, WR, TE.
THEY DON’T NEED: K.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DT Sharrif Floyd, DE/OLB Jordan, DT Star Lotulelei, OT Eric Fisher.
OUTLOOK: McKenzie in full rebuild mode now, having cut ties with five players taken in top 10 of their draft class, including three of late owner Al Davis’ high picks. Raiders will be dedicating about 40 percent of salary cap dollars to players no longer in organization as McKenize looks to start rebuilding through draft. He already picked up his QB in trade for Seattle’s Matt Flynn. Oakland has only one of its own first-round picks on roster from past 12 drafts and just two players total who were drafted by team from 2001-09. Biggest focus of offseason has been upgrading defense that returns three starters. Oakland still needs to find elite pass rusher and could do that with first first-round pick since 2010.
4. PHILADELPHIA (4-12)
LAST SEASON: Started 3-1 before losing eight straight and 11 of 12, missing playoffs for second straight year and costing coach Andy Reid his job after 14 seasons. While offense was decimated by injuries, losing QB Michael Vick, RB LeSean McCoy, WR DeSean Jackson and four starting linemen for extended periods, defense was flat-out awful, especially after Todd Bowles replaced Juan Castillo as coordinator. New coach Chip Kelly brings his offensive pedigree from Oregon and roster already has undergone massive overhaul.
THEY NEED: OL, CB, S, QB, DL.
THEY DON’T NEED: RB, WR, K, P.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: QB Smith, CB Dee Milliner, OT Fisher, DE/OLB Jordan.
OUTLOOK: With several needs, Eagles in position to draft best player available at No. 4 instead of reaching for specific position. That’s been GM Howie Roseman’s philosophy and it’s endorsed by Kelly. If they feel Smith is franchise QB, they’ll take him even though Vick and Nick Foles are battling for starting job. Considering they have many holes to fill, it’s possible Eagles trade down and use multiple picks to get a few starters. Eagles usually one of more active teams during draft and have picks in each of first five rounds and four in seventh.
5. DETROIT LIONS (4-12)
LAST SEASON: Flopped to humbling finish with eight straight losses one year after ending 11-season postseason drought.
THEY NEED: OT, DE, OLB.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, RB, DT.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OT Fisher, DE Ziggy Ansah.
OUTLOOK: Lions lost all four starters on edge of offensive and defense lines. LT Jeff Backus retired and RT Gosder Cherilus left in free agency to sign with Indianapolis. DE Cliff Avril signed with Seattle as free agent and DE Kyle Vanden Bosch was released. Detroit signed speedy RB Reggie Bush because it seems unlikely RB Jahvid Best will be cleared to play because of concussions.
6. CLEVELAND BROWNS (5-11)
LAST SEASON: Coach Pat Shurmur was fired following season that began with Jimmy Haslam buying team from Randy Lerner. Haslam has cleaned house, bringing in former Eagles President Joe Banner to turn around franchise that has been spinning its wheels for more than a decade.
THEY NEED: CB, OLB, TE, S.
THEY DON’T NEED: DT, RB, WR.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: CB Milliner, QB Smith.
OUTLOOK: It’s always about quarterbacks in Cleveland. Brandon Weeden’s uneven rookie season—and because he’ll turn 30 this year—has driven speculation Browns, under new coach Rob Chudzinski, could select West Virginia’s Smith. But signing of veteran Jason Campbell appears to give team a parachute for at least one more season.
Banner will be running draft and his history has been to trade down in similar situations. Browns don’t have second-round pick after taking WR Josh Gordon in supplemental draft and would like to get another one. Cleveland’s switch from a 4-3 to 3-4 defense has elevated need for pass rushers, which team addressed in free agency with Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves.
7. ARIZONA CARDINALS (5-11)
LAST SEASON: Cardinals, beset by injuries and awful play at quarterback, lost 11 of last 12 following 4-0 start, leading to firing of coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves.
THEY NEED: OL, OLB, DE, S, ILB, CB.
THEY DON’T NEED: K, P, DT, RB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OTs Lane Johnson or Fisher, DE-OLB Jordan.
OUTLOOK: Amid myriad offseason personnel changes, new coach Bruce Arians and new GM Steve Keim did not address offensive line. Arians insists line is player or two away from very good. That suggests Cardinals will address blockers in draft. Johnson has been climbing in recent speculation and Cardinals would love to have Fisher fall into their laps. That said, this is new regime and Arians’ “we don’t draft for need” mantra might be more than just words. With signing of Carson Palmer, QB is not big issue it once was, although Cardinals could go for one in later rounds. Might be willing to trade down.
8. BUFFALO BILLS (6-10)
LAST SEASON: Money didn’t buy much for Buffalo. High expectations that came with free-agent DE Mario Williams signing six-year, $100 million deal were quickly dashed after Bills bumbled to eighth consecutive losing finish and missed playoffs for 13th straight year. Revamped defense was porous. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick-led offense sputtered. It led to another offseason of wholesale changes with Chan Gailey fired and replaced by Doug Marrone, team’s fifth coach since 2001.
THEY NEED: QB, WR, LB, OL.
THEY DON’T NEED: RB, DL.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: WR Cordarrelle Patterson, DE/LB Barkevious Mingo, DE/LB Jordan, Oregon, G Chance Warmack, Alabama.
OUTLOOK: OUTLOOK: Grim, as usual. Though defense has talent and is expected to be better under new coordinator Mike Pettine, Bills in midst of yet another start-from-scratch rebuilding project under Marrone. Front-office belief is Bills’ fortunes won’t turn around until they identify and groom franchise-caliber quarterback—a position that’s not been secure since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired after 1996 season. Fitzpatrick is gone, replaced by inconsistent and injury-prone Kevin Kolb, or Tarvaris Jackson.
9. NEW YORK JETS (6-10)
LAST SEASON: Things went bad in a hurry for Rex Ryan’s Jets as they couldn’t figure out a way to effectively use Tim Tebow and their two best playmakers—CB Darrelle Revis and WR Santonio Holmes—went down with season-ending injuries in consecutive weeks. They actually had chance at playoffs late in season, but lost last three games as QB Mark Sanchez was awful and was benched. GM Mike Tannenbaum was fired a day after season ended.
THEY NEED: OLB, S, TE, G, WR, RB.
THEY DON’T NEED: C, LT, K.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE Mingo, DE/OLB Jordan, DE Ansah, CB Milliner.
OUTLOOK: New York has lots of holes to fill and new GM John Idzik has said he wants to build core through draft. Revis possibly could be headed to Tampa Bay for package of picks, including Buccaneers’ first-rounder at No. 13 overall. Ryan would love to add pass rusher, especially if he loses Revis, making Mingo, Jordan or Ansah likely top targets. Milliner could also be guy if Jets go after immediate replacement for Revis. Sanchez remains on team as likely starter mostly because of hefty contract, but New York could look at drafting his successor—maybe Smith or EJ Manuel—with extra pick in the first round (if Revis is traded) or in second.
10. TENNESSEE TITANS (6-10)
LAST SEASON: Titans turned to Jake Locker, a move hampered in season opener when quarterback dislocated his left, non-throwing shoulder tackling defender off an interception that should have been whistled dead as an incompletion. That started disappointing season for franchise that expected more after missing playoffs on tiebreaker in coach Mike Munchak’s first season. Locker dislocated shoulder again a month later and missed five starts. Four of five starters on offensive line had season-ending injuries.
THEY NEED: RG, DE.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, RB, WR, LB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: G Warmack, G Jonathan Cooper, DE Mingo, DE/OLB Jordan.
OUTLOOK: Titans signed 12 free agents to add experience, with LG Andy Levitre plugging big hole after retirement of Steve Hutchinson. They still need right guard, with protecting Locker top priority. Another pass rusher for team that gave up franchise-worst 471 points also a must, which is why Munchak hired Gregg Williams as senior defensive assistant for a season in which he must win. Owner Bud Adams’ patience is growing thin, with team’s last playoff win in January 2004.
11. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (7-9)
LAST SEASON: Chargers fired coach Norv Turner and GM A.J. Smith after missing playoffs for third straight season, replacing them with Mike McCoy and Tom Telesco. Offensive line was team’s weak spot, allowing Philip Rivers to be sacked 49 times and contributing to 22 turnovers.
THEY NEED: LT, LG, SS, LB, CB, RB.
THEY DON’T NEED: C, FS, K, P.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OT Johnson; G Warmack.
OUTLOOK: Chargers claim they’re not rebuilding, but they have made substantial changes since McCoy-Telesco regime took over. Telesco is having to undo some damage done by Smith, who made rare and ultimately unproductive foray into free agency last offseason. Picking No. 11, San Diego can expect top two tackles, Joeckel and Fisher, to be gone. Remains to be seen whether they’d have to trade up to grab Johnson, if they are targeting him.
12. MIAMI DOLPHINS (7-9)
LAST SEASON: For a change, Dolphins won’t be making switch at coach or quarterback. QB Ryan Tannehill played well as rookie in 2012, and first-year coach Joe Philbin won favorable reviews even though Miami endured fourth consecutive losing season. Despite signs of progress, 28-0 loss at New England in finale underscored large talent gap between Dolphins and AFC East champions. Dearth of playmakers was biggest problem. No Miami WR scored more than one touchdown in 2012, reflecting lack of a pass-catching deep threat. Offense ranked 27th in yards, and defense tied for fourth worst in takeaways.
THEY NEED: OT, CB, DE, G, RB, OLB, S, TE.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, C, DT, ILB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OT D.J. Fluker.
OUTLOOK: GM Jeff Ireland has been criticized for past picks, but he’s never gone into draft with so much flexibility. Dolphins have 11 picks, including five in first three rounds, and expect to significantly upgrade roster. They made several moves in free agency to help WR corps, signing Mike Wallace, top pass catcher available, and Brandon Gibson, and TE Dustin Keller. Also re-signed WR Brian Hartline. But LT Jake Long departed, further weakening shaky OL. Dolphins might use first-round pick on OL for the third time in six years.
13. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (7-9)
LAST SEASON: Despite improving from four wins two years ago to seven in 2012, Bucs’ first season under coach Greg Schiano ended on sour note with team losing five of six following 6-4 start.
THEY NEED: CB.
THEY DON’T NEED: S.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: CB Xavier Rhodes.
OUTLOOK: Cornerback is major priority after leading league in rushing defense but ranking last in yards allowed passing. Bucs have had discussions with Jets about trading for Revis. Josh Freeman became first 4,000-yard passer in club history and Bucs set team records for total offense and points scored. Nevertheless, improving defense—particularly pass rush and secondary—is must if Schiano’s going to have realistic chance of producing franchise’s first playoff berth since 2007.
14. CAROLINA PANTHERS (7-9)
LAST SEASON: Panthers started slow again in 2012 and failed to make playoffs for fourth straight season. However, four-game winning streak to close schedule brings sense of promise. Panthers likely need to reach postseason to save coach Ron Rivera’s job.
THEY NEED: DT, OT, WR, CB.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, RB, C, TE.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: WR Patterson.
OUTLOOK: Panthers have plenty of areas to address, but only five picks overall to work with after trading away third- and seventh-rounders. They need help up front defensively after releasing veteran DT Ron Edwards in salary cap move. Also need to find replacement for starting LT Jordan Gross, whose contract voids out after this season, and long-term replacement for WR Steve Smith, entering his 12th season, to go with young QB Cam Newton. Panthers tried to fill needs at cornerback in free agency, but adding talented cover man wouldn’t hurt.
15. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (7-9)
LAST SEASON: With coach Sean Payton suspended in connection with NFL’s bounty investigation, Saints finished with fewer than 11 wins and missed playoffs for first time since 2008. Offense remained among league’s best under coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr., a Payton protege, but defense gave up most yards (7,042) ever in a single season under coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who was fired after one year. Spagnuolo was replaced by former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who is changing from 4-3 to 3-4.
THEY NEED: LB, DE, OT, DB.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, RB, WR, TE, P, K.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE Mingo, LB Jarvis Jones, OT Menelik Watson.
OUTLOOK: Saints’ top priority appears to be elite pass rusher, perhaps end or outside linebacker who’d fit Ryan’s scheme. Loss of Jermon Bushrod, four-year starter at left tackle, also left hole, though 2010 second-round pick Charles Brown has been waiting for chance. Salary cap constraints limited Saints to handful of solid players—but not stars—in free agency. Further complicating matters is Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to take away New Orleans’ 2013 second-round pick as part of club’s bounty punishment. Those factors mean Saints could pay dearly for missing on any of top few picks in first, third (75th overall) and fourth (109th) rounds.
17. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (8-8)
LAST SEASON: Steelers failed to reach playoffs for first time since 2009 and needed win over Cleveland in last game to avoid coach Mike Tomlin’s first losing season. Injuries took toll, none bigger than fractured rib of QB Ben Roethlisberger that blunted momentum of 6-3 start. He missed three games—Pittsburgh lost two of them—and wasn’t the same when he returned. Nor were Steelers. GM Kevin Colbert insists team is not in transition, but departure of WR Wallace, DB Keenan Lewis, RB Rashard Mendenhall and LB James Harrison suggest otherwise.
THEY NEED: OLB, RB, WR, S, CB.
THEY DON’T NEED: OL, QB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: LB Jones, WR Patterson, S Kenny Vaccaro
OUTLOOK: Steelers need help all over place. Wide receiving group behind Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders is either aging or inexperienced. Jason Worilds, tabbed as Harrison’s replacement, is largely unproven and RBs Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman have yet to show they can stay healthy for extended periods. Pittsburgh is also tight against salary cap, putting even more emphasis on finding handful of impact players in this draft.
18. DALLAS COWBOYS (8-8)
LAST SEASON: Cowboys lost to an NFC East rival on road in playoffs-or-bust finale for second straight season. This time it was Redskins with a 28-18 win. In 2011, New York Giants beat Dallas and went on to win Super Bowl. Dallas has missed postseason three straight years and four of past five.
THEY NEED: OL, S, DL, LB, RB.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, WR, CB, TE.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: G Warmack, DT Sheldon Richardson, S Vaccaro.
OUTLOOK: Cowboys have to win now if they want Jason Garrett to remain coach, and draft could address immediate needs. Dallas finished second-to-last in rushing despite free agent signings of guards Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings, and RT Doug Free had terrible year. Safety became need when veteran Gerald Sensabaugh was waived. Also need defensive linemen and linebackers because they’re switching back to 4-3 after nearly a decade in 3-4. Dallas needs backup to RB DeMarco Murray, who has been plagued by injuries both years. Cowboys committed to Tony Romo for three more years with new contract, likely putting off drafting quarterback in early rounds.
19. NEW YORK GIANTS
LAST SEASON: Started 6-2 and had another second-half swoon. While Eli Manning and offense scored points despite having WR Hakeem Nicks limited much of season, defense disappeared after helping team win second Super Bowl in five seasons. Pass rush was inconsistent, run defense was porous and injury-ravaged secondary was exposed. DE Osi Umenyiora signed with Atlanta, S Kenny Phillips went to Eagles and DE Chris Canry and LB Michael Boley were released.
THEY NEED: DL, LB, CB, OT.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, WR, K, P, KR.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: S Vaccaro, DE Tank Carradine.
OUTLOOK: Giants can get back to playoffs if coach Tom Coughlin and coordinator Perry Fewell can resurrect defense. New faces and revived Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul need to restore defense. Reese needs to find some gems in second and third rounds to fill holes at middle linebacker and in secondary.
20. CHICAGO BEARS (10-6)
LAST SEASON: Bears won seven of first eight games, only to stumble late for second straight year and miss playoffs. That cost Lovie Smith his job, with Marc Trestman replacing him as coach. They also parted with eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher after his contract expired and they couldn’t agree on new deal.
THEY NEED: OL, LB, WR, CB.
THEY DON’T NEED: RB, PK.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: LBs Alec Ogletree, Arthur Brown, Manti Te’o; DE Datone Jones, OT Fluker.
OUTLOOK: Any number of ways Bears could go given all their needs. General manager Phil Emery wouldn’t mind trading down, but whether they stay at No. 20 or not, Bears could use help on offensive line and at linebacker—even with additions of LT Bushrod, G Matt Slauson and LBs James Anderson and D.J. Williams. There’s also issue to address at quarterback given Jay Cutler’s expiring contract and lack of an heir apparent if this becomes his final season in Chicago.
21. CINCINNATI BENGALS (10-6)
LAST SEASON: Reached playoffs for second year in row as wild card and lost to Houston in opening round for second straight season. QB Andy Dalton struggled in big games down stretch, especially 19-13 loss in Houston. Defense was among league’s best, finishing sixth in yards allowed. Cincinnati went into offseason determined to keep roster intact for run at franchise’s unprecedented third straight playoff appearance. Bengals have shown they have enough talent to reach playoffs as wild card, but yet to show they’re good enough to compete with best once they get to postseason.
THEY NEED: Tackle (with RT Andre Smith—an unrestricted free agent—still unsigned); RB, S, LB, CB.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, K, P, DT.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OT Fluker, T Watson, S Vaccaro, S Matt Elam.
OUTLOOK: Focus will be more on who’s already in Cincinnati rather than who joins Bengals. Dalton and young receivers who complement star A.J. Green have to show a lot of improvement to get Bengals over biggest hurdle: no wins in playoffs since 1990. Coach Marvin Lewis is 0-4 in playoffs with Cincinnati. If Dalton can’t get them deeper into playoffs, it’ll be time to considering a change.
23, 25. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (10-6)
LAST SEASON: Surprised NFL, and even themselves, by riding Adrian Peterson’s 2,097 yards rushing to a spot in the playoffs after 9-23 record over previous two years. Lost to Green Bay in wild-card round.
THEY NEED: WR, MLB, DT, CB.
THEY DON’T NEED: RB, OT, QB, S.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: WR Keenan Allen, LB Te’o.
OUTLOOK: By trading moody WR Percy Harvin to Seattle, Vikings have extra first-rounder, No. 25. But by trading Harvin, they also have bigger hole at WR even after shelling out to sign ex-Green Bay standout Greg Jennings. West Virginia WR Tavon Austin is Harvin-type slot player, but if he’s gone the well-rounded Allen could be good fit. Just as important is finding starter at middle linebacker. Ogletree of Georgia could be available if off-field problems prompt a slide. Te’o would bring plenty of scrutiny after girlfriend hoax saga, and his speed is question mark, but his toughness and Notre Dame pedigree could be too much for Vikings to pass up.
24. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (11-5)
LAST SEASON: Had one of greatest turnarounds in league history going from 2-14 to 11-5 and back to playoffs. And they did it with last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Andrew Luck, calling signals and despite losing first-year coach Chuck Pagano for most of season as he battled leukemia. Offensive coordinator Arians took over, won Coach of the Year honors and landed in Arizona as Cardinals coach.
THEY NEED: DE, LB, WR, RB, CB.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, TE.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: WR Allen.
OUTLOOK: Colts spent most of free agency looking for good bargains to plug defensive holes and keep Luck better protected. But they haven’t filled all needs. Indy could still use another bona fide pass rusher, bigger inside linebackers, a taller cornerback and even a few more weapons for Luck.
26. GREEN BAY PACKERS (11-5)
LAST SEASON: Overcame 2-3 start to win second straight NFC North title before getting run over by QB Colin Kaepernick and San Francisco 49ers in second round of playoffs.
THEY NEED: TE, RB, DE, S.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, CB, G, WR.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: TE Tyler Eifert.
OUTLOOK: For first time in a while, Packers have plenty of draft needs, even if it doesn’t necessarily mean GM Ted Thompson will stray from his strict focus on best players available. After losing Tom Crabtree and bringing back Jermichael Finley on one-year contract, Packers could use sure-handed, tough, versatile athlete like Eifert, 2012 Mackey Award winner as top college TE. Without any proven, healthy young RBs on roster, however, Packers could be tempted by Alabama RB Eddie Lacy at No. 26.
27. HOUSTON TEXANS (12-4)
LAST SEASON: Houston won 11 of first 12 games, J.J. Watt emerged as star defensive end and Texans looked like legit Super Bowl contender. Tom Brady then picked apart defense on a humiliating Monday night in Foxborough and Houston nosedived. Texans won ugly home playoff game against Cincinnati, then lost to New England in much the same way. Watt was league’s top defensive player, but questions about QB Matt Schaub’s arm strength and limitations of offense plagued team.
THEY NEED: WR, T, G.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, RB, S.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: WRs DeAndre Hopkins, Robert Wood, Allen.
OUTLOOK: Texans have used first-round pick on defense for past four years, but that’s likely to change. Houston cut workmanlike Kevin Walter and Andre Johnson will be 32 when season begins, making need for another playmaking receiver more urgent than ever. Houston took DeVier Posey in third round last year, but he’s expected to miss chunk of season with torn left Achilles tendon. Texans’ last five first-round picks are playing key roles, and 2012 first-rounder Whitney Mercilus will move into starting role after Houston let Connor Barwin go in free agency.
28. DENVER BRONCOS (13-3)
LAST SEASON: Broncos rolled into playoffs with 13-3 record, 11-game winning streak and No. 1 seed in AFC, then promptly lost at home to Ravens. After adding WR Wes Welker from New England and RG Louis Vasquez from San Diego in free agency, filling needs and creating some holes in their rivals’ rosters, they again lost to Ravens when Pro Bowl pass rusher Elvis Dumervil signed with Baltimore following deadline-fueled fax faux pas that made him accidental free agent.
THEY NEED: DE, CB, LB, RB.
THEY DON’T NEED: WR, K, P, PR, QB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE Carradine, DE Jones.
OUTLOOK: Peyton Manning says boss John Elway is fostering angry attitude at Broncos headquarters these days because “last year was good but it wasn’t great. And we’re looking for a great season.” It’s same attitude Elway upheld after losing at home in playoffs to Jacksonville in late ‘90s before bouncing back and leading Broncos to consecutive Super Bowl titles during his Hall of Fame playing career.
29. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-4)
LAST SEASON: Patriots had NFL’s most productive offense, finishing with 34.8 points and 427.9 yards per game. Defense was second in league with 41 takeaways. But they lost AFC championship game in own stadium 28-13 to Ravens, who went on to win Super Bowl. TE Rob Gronkowski missed that game after he re-broke left forearm previous week against Houston. Tom Brady threw for 4,827 yards, 34 touchdowns and just eight interceptions and Wes Welker tied for second in NFL with 118 catches. But 13 points Patriots scored in AFC title game were their fewest since 16-9 loss to Jets in 2009. Young RBs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen had good seasons, secondary improved after allowing many big plays early in season.
THEY NEED: DE, OLB, DB, WR.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, TE, RB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE Damontre Moore.
OUTLOOK: With Brady and improving young defense, Patriots should remain solid contenders after going eight seasons without Super Bowl championship. Welker, NFL leader with 672 receptions over past six seasons, will be missed after signing with Denver. Patriots chose not to re-sign Brandon Lloyd, their second leading wide receiver last season, but added Danny Amendola, Donald Jones and Michael Jenkins. Addition on defense last year of draftees end Chandler Jones, LB Dont’a Hightower, CB Alfonzo Dennard and S Tavon Wilson, plus trade for CB Aqib Talib, should make Patriots even stingier. They need more pressure on quarterbacks, though. But with coach Bill Belichick back for 14th season in weak AFC East, they have legitimate shot at reaching another Super Bowl. But not likely to get much help from draft with just five picks.
30. ATLANTA FALCONS (13-3)
LAST SEASON: With home-field advantage through NFC playoffs, Falcons beat Seattle for first postseason win in five years with coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan. Atlanta finished just short of Super Bowl, falling to San Francisco 28-24 in NFC championship game when Falcons were stopped at 49ers 10-yard line with just over a minute remaining. Soon after, team released RB Michael Turner, DE John Abraham and CB Dunta Robinson. Also, C Todd McClure retired and RT Tyson Clabo was cut.
THEY NEED: CB, TE, DE, OT, RB.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, WR, S, DT.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: CB Desmond Trufant.
OUTLOOK: Instead of looking for tight end or running back who might take over in year or two, Falcons, in win-now mode, might seek immediate help at cornerback after cutting Robinson and seeing Brent Grimes sign with Miami. GM Thomas Dimitroff could be tempted to select TE Eifert to be groomed as eventual replacement for Tony Gonzalez, who has pushed back his retirement for one more year. Free agent Steven Jackson, signed to replace Turner, turns 30 in July, so running back is another position that might be addressed later on. Falcons signed DE Umenyiora but still could use another pass rusher.
31. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (11-4-1)
LAST SEASON: 49ers returned to Super Bowl for first time in 18 years seeking to extend perfect 5-0 record on the NFL’s big stage, but missed chances in waning moments as coach Jim Harbaugh lost to big brother, John, and Ravens 34-31 in Superdome in game interrupted by power outage. San Francisco switched quarterbacks from Smith to Kaepernick in November in move that proved successful for Jim Harbaugh. Smith was traded to Kansas City, then Niners acquired Colt McCoy from Cleveland as Kaepernick’s backup.
THEY NEED: DT, TE.
THEY DON’T NEED: CB, QB, K.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: TE Zach Ertz, DT Sylvester Williams.
OUTLOOK: Unlike last offseason, San Francisco wasn’t able to keep entire starting defense together. Safety Dashon Goldson left for five-year deal with Tampa Bay, while NT Isaac Sopoaga departed for Eagles and TE Delanie Walker wound up with Titans. GM Trent Baalke and Harbaugh have filled many voids, perhaps most notably kicker with Phil Dawson as replacement to David Akers. Trade with Baltimore brought WR Anquan Boldin as another option for Kaepernick. San Francisco has six cornerbacks with NFL experience, though with 13 draft picks 49ers could use one of those selections on defensive back.
32. BALTIMORE RAVENS (10-6)
LAST SEASON: Ravens won Super Bowl despite finishing with ho-hum record and losing four of last five games. In postseason, they beat Indianapolis, Denver and New England before defeating San Francisco 34-31 to win second world championship. Although Baltimore traditionally relied on defense to win, in 2012 Ravens set franchise record with 398 points and averaged 31 points per game in playoffs.
THEY NEED: S, FS, OT, ILB, WR.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, RB, G.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: LBs Te’o, Kevin Minter.
OUTLOOK: Ravens have 32nd pick in first round, but GM Ozzie Newsome has knack for finding a gem in latter stage. Last time he had final pick in first round, he snagged TE Todd Heap. Baltimore has 12 picks, so expect Newsome to make trade or two or three. He also has several holes to fill, most notably linebacker (due to retirement of Ray Lewis and departure of free agents Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger). Safety and wide receiver are also priorities.
51. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (10-6)
LAST SEASON: Rode leadership and all-around talent of rookie QB Robert Griffin III to first division title in 13 years. Season’s end was marred by Griffin’s knee injury in playoff loss to Seattle, leading to major surgery and doubts whether he will be fully healthy for season.
THEY NEED: S, RT, CB, WR.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, RB, DL.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: S Matt Elam.
OUTLOOK: Second half of $36 million cap penalty for overspending during 2010 uncapped season dealt severe blow to coach Mike Shanahan’s plans to upgrade team that rallied to win NFC East. Shanahan needed all the creativity he could muster, contract-wise, just to keep players he had. As it is, free agency left Redskins basically status quo, and they’ll use draft as primary means to improve team, although they are without first-round pick because of trade last year that moved them into position to take Griffin.
56. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (11-5)
LAST SEASON: Seattle was less than one minute away from playing for NFC championship. Defense remained among best in NFL, led by All-Pro DBs Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas. Marshawn Lynch finished as No. 3 rusher in NFL with career-best 1,590 yards. But emergence of QB Russell Wilson grabbed most attention. Taken in third-round, Wilson won job from Flynn and Jackson in training camp and improved throughout season. Seattle got its first road playoff win since 1983 at Washington before losing in final minute at Atlanta.
THEY NEED: LB, QB, G, TE, DL, K.
THEY DON’T NEED: CB, S, RB, P.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Harvin. That’s how Seahawks view it after trading first-rounder to Minnesota for one of top playmakers in NFL when healthy. Seahawks might look LB or DT in second round.
OUTLOOK: In busy and successful offseason, addressed needs on defensive line by signing Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Tony McDaniel, adding veteran cornerback to play slot in Antoine Winfield, and trading for Harvin. Seattle still has 10 selections and are one of best teams in finding later-round gems. Outside LB will be focus with Leroy Hill unlikely to return, and space-eating DT to help against run. Seahawks almost certainly will draft another QB with similar skills to Wilson after trading Flynn.