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NFC draft breakdown: Team by team
NFL franchises always proclaim happiness with their incoming rookie class.
No team, though, can truthfully say they’ve checked off every box on the list of pre-draft needs.
Even as clubs celebrate the arrival of new blood, they will still be looking to address positions lacking in depth or talent before the start of the regular season. Here is a look at what all 32 squads accomplished in last week’s draft and what’s next as the offseason unfolds.
What was addressed: On the heels of making Brandon Carr the highest-paid free-agent cornerback signing this offseason, Dallas swung Thursday’s boldest draft-day move to secure the top prospect at the same position. Louisiana State’s Morris Claiborne was snagged when Dallas jumped eight spots in the first round to No. 6 in a trade with St. Louis. The Cowboys also used their next three picks on defensive players in Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford, Wake Forest linebacker Kyle Wilber and Eastern Washington strong safety Matt Johnson.
What wasn’t addressed: The only two offensive players chosen came in Rounds 5 (Virginia Tech wide receiver Danny Coale) and 6 (Oklahoma tight end James Hanna). Neither is expected to make an immediate impact to replace free-agent departures Laurent Robinson and Martellus Bennett.
What’s next: Developing a killer instinct. The Cowboys let too many games in which they led slip away last year.
What was addressed: After surrendering 4.4 yards a carry in 2011, the Eagles beefed up the middle of their defense by selecting Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox in the first round. Two second-round picks — California linebacker Mychal Kendricks and Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry — should immediately compete for defensive snaps as well. Iowa wide receiver Marvin McNutt and University of Miami guard Brandon Washington could become sixth-round steals. Both were expected to get chosen earlier.
What wasn’t addressed: Nothing glaring. The Eagles used their nine picks on nine different positions.
What’s next: Completing a contract extension with running back LeSean McCoy. “Shady” has outplayed his rookie deal.
What was addressed: The Redskins not only landed their long-needed franchise quarterback in Robert Griffin III but his understudy in Michigan State's Kirk Cousins. Using a fourth-round pick on Cousins with the Redskins having other needs is a curious move but understandable considering the problems Washington has experienced at the position for the past two years under head coach Mike Shanahan.
What wasn’t addressed: The Redskins are hoping that some bargain-basement veteran signings in free agency will shore the secondary. The team didn’t draft a defensive back until Southern Methodist’s Richard Crawford and Iowa’s Jordan Bernstine in Round 7.
What’s next: Teaming with the Dallas Cowboys to appeal the salary-cap penalties levied by the NFL for violations in 2010. The Redskins are slated to take a $36 million hit over the next two seasons. A May hearing is scheduled with an arbitrator.
NEW YORK GIANTS
What was addressed: Although quarterback Eli Manning led New York to a second Super Bowl victory in five seasons, the Giants hope the first-round selection of Virginia Tech running back David Wilson will allow for a more balanced offensive attack. Louisiana State’s Rueben Randle (second round) will compete for snaps as New York’s No. 3 receiver, an opportunity that opened when Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham signed with San Francisco in free agency. Cornerback Aaron Ross also departed to Jacksonville, which contributed to the selection of Virginia Tech cornerback Jayron Hosley in round three. As Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum recover from knee surgeries suffered in the Super Bowl, Cincinnati tight end Adrien Robinson (fourth) will have an early chance to impress the coaching staff.
What wasn’t addressed: Linebacker depth was an issue at times last season and none were drafted. The Giants, though, sent a fifth-round pick earlier this month to Cincinnati for Keith Rivers.
What’s next: Determining whether to trade or keep defensive end Osi Umenyiora. He is entering the final year of his contract and wants a new deal. Umenyiora was on the trade market for a brief time last year but no suitor made an attractive enough offer.
What was addressed: General manager Rick Spielman made a shrewd draft-day move by scoring extra picks in a one-slot trade-down with Cleveland. The Vikings still got the player they wanted – cornerstone left tackle Matt Kalil – at No. 4. The bounty from Cleveland led to Minnesota jumping back into the first round at No. 29 in a trade with Baltimore to grab Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith. Cornerbacks Josh Robinson (third round) and Robert Blanton (fifth) bolster a weak secondary. Southern Cal fullback Rhett Ellison (fourth) should fill the blocking H-back role held by Jim Kleinsasser, who retired after last season.
What wasn’t addressed: The Vikings will probably be on the lookout for veteran linebackers after not picking one (North Carolina State’s Audie Cole) until the seventh round.
What’s next: Reaching agreement with local and state officials to build a new stadium. Otherwise, this franchise may become the Los Angeles Vikings in 2013.
What was addressed: The Bears are counting on first-round pick Shea McClellin to become a pass-rushing complement to defensive end Julius Peppers. The Boise State product also could see snaps at strong-side linebacker. South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery (second round) joins veteran Brandon Marshall as lanky additions to the wide receiver corps. Chicago’s long-standing problems at safety may now be solved with the third-round pick of Oregon State’s Brandon Hardin.
What wasn’t addressed: It was a tad surprising that a team with questionable offensive line depth didn’t target the position. Chicago, though, did sign former San Francisco 49ers guard Chilo Rachal as a free agent before the draft.
What’s next: Ending the stalemate with running back Matt Forte about his contract status. Unhappy with being designated Chicago’s franchise player, Forte seems unlikely to report any time soon unless inked to a new deal. The Bears covered themselves in case there is a holdout by signing former Oakland running back Michael Bush in free agency.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
What was addressed: Hoping to keep Clay Matthews from becoming a constant double-team victim on the pass rush, Green Bay chose one of his former Southern Cal teammates – outside linebacker Nick Perry – in the first round. Defensive end B.J. Raji should also be pleased after he, too, received extra blocking attention in 2011 following the free-agent departure of Cullen Jenkins. The Packers are hoping that Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy (second round) can eventually become a difference maker at the five-technique in the same fashion as Jenkins, who is now with Philadelphia. Tennessee-Chattanooga quarterback B.J. Coleman will have the chance to develop as Aaron Rodgers’ backup like Matt Flynn, who also was a seventh-round pick.
What wasn’t addressed: The Packers still only have three tailbacks on their roster after passing on the position in the draft.
What’s next: Tweaking the defense so the Packers don’t finish last in the NFL in yardage allowed for a second consecutive season.
What was addressed: First-round pick Riley Reiff is the likely heir apparent to left tackle Jeff Backus. However, the Iowa standout’s initial snaps may come at right tackle in place of underachieving former first-round choice Gosder Cherilus. Coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament, any contributions that Oklahoma wide receiver Ryan Broyles provides as a rookie will be a bonus. The second-round pick should eventually challenge Nate Burleson for a starting spot opposite Calvin Johnson. A shaky secondary was augmented with the third-round pick of Louisiana-Lafayette cornerback Dwight Bentley, who had a solid week of Senior Bowl practices.
What wasn’t addressed: Rather than draft a running back, the Lions are rolling the dice that Jahvid Best (concussions) and Mikel Leshoure (Achilles’ tendon) can recover from the injuries that ruined their 2011 campaigns.
What’s next: Working on a long-term contract extension with defensive end Cliff Avril, who was designated the team’s franchise player in February.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
What was addressed: Without picks in the first two rounds, the Saints added players who are more likely to help the team in the future. Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, who played collegiately at Regina in Canada after leaving Louisiana State, fits that bill. Nick Toon, the son of former New York Jets wide receiver Al Toon, could push for playing time as a No. 4 wide receiver with Robert Meachem having left to San Diego in free agency. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis has championed running back Mark Ingram as the team’s first-round pick. New Orleans traded its 2012 first-rounder to New England last year for the chance to draft Ingram, who had an injury-plagued rookie campaign.
What wasn’t addressed: The Saints lost two cornerbacks in free agency (starter Tracy Porter and backup Leigh Torrence) but still didn’t draft one.
What’s next: Ending what may become an ugly contract impasse with quarterback Drew Brees and becoming acclimated with Joe Vitt as interim head coach in place of the suspended Sean Payton.
What was addressed: Like with the Saints, Atlanta didn’t have a first-round pick this year after trading it to Cleveland in 2011 as part of a package that netted the Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones. The Falcons should have no regrets about the deal after Jones’ promising rookie season. Wisconsin center Peter Konz, Atlanta’s first pick in the second round, will replace 34-year-old starter Todd McClure sooner than later. Expect the same with fifth-round pick Bradie Ewing and current Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli, whose $3 million base salary in 2012 makes him a strong candidate for release. Southern Mississippi’s Lamar Holmes (third round) could compete immediately with Sam Baker and Will Svitek to start at left tackle. Troy’s Jonathan Massaquoi (fifth) has the chance to work into the defensive line rotation as an edge pass-rusher, an area of weakness for the Falcons outside of John Abraham. The Falcons traded a seventh-round pick to Philadelphia for cornerback Asante Samuel, which may prove one of the offseason’s biggest steals.
What wasn’t addressed: The Falcons passed on drafting a developmental tight end to groom behind Tony Gonzalez, who may be playing his final NFL season. Middle linebacker depth remains shaky after the free-agent loss of Curtis Lofton (New Orleans).
What’s next: Hammering out a contract extension with quarterback Matt Ryan. While he has two years remaining on his lucrative rookie deal, the Falcons want to keep Ryan in the fold long-term and avoid some of the bad blood that is developing between other teams and their quarterbacks over contracts like with Drew Brees in New Orleans and Joe Flacco in Baltimore.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
What was addressed: The Bucs hope they have the second coming of John Lynch in Alabama strong safety Mark Barron, who was the No. 7 overall pick. Tampa Bay traded back into the first round to corral Boise State running back Doug Martin at No. 31. Martin will immediately push LeGarrette Blount for a starting spot. Nebraska’s Lavonte David (second round) and West Virginia’s Najee Goode (fifth) are much-welcomed additions to a mediocre linebacker corps.
What wasn’t addressed: A developmental quarterback to groom as Josh Freeman’s understudy. Journeymen Dan Orlovsky and Brett Ratliff are currently his backups. The Bucs opted to trade with Jacksonville and move down two spots in the first round rather than select cornerback Morris Claiborne at No. 5. That indicates the team has confidence Aqib Talib will be legally cleared after being charged last year with a felony assault charge involving a deadly weapon. Tampa Bay didn’t draft a cornerback until West Virginia’s Keith Tandy in Round 6.
What’s next: Becoming a more disciplined club under new head coach Greg Schiano. He already is stressing attention to detail in Tampa Bay’s offseason program.
What was addressed: The Panthers are hoping that Boston College middle linebacker Luke Kuechly will become a tackling machine like 2001 first-round pick Dan Morgan. Midwestern State’s Amini Silatulo (second round) will compete with veteran Mike Pollak to replace the released Travelle Wharton at right guard. Sixth-round pick Brad Nortman of Wisconsin became the only punter on Carolina’s roster.
What wasn’t addressed: Eleven years have now passed since Carolina chose a defensive tackle in the first two rounds (Kris Jenkins was the most recent in 2001). The Panthers are counting on 2011 third-round picks Terrell McClain and Sione Fua continuing to develop after starting as rookies. The Panthers still don’t have a quality complement for starting cornerback Chris Gamble. Coastal Carolina’s Josh Norman (fifth) is a project.
What’s next: Continuing the development of quarterback Cam Newton coming off his outstanding rookie season. The Panthers caught a break when offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski interviewed for head coaching positions but wasn’t hired.
What was addressed: Star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has a new protégé in first-round pick and fellow Twin Cities native Michael Floyd. The No. 13 overall pick, Floyd should give Arizona its most dangerous pair of wideouts since Fitzgerald played with Anquan Boldin. Oklahoma cornerback Jamell Fleming (third round) could get a look in Arizona’s nickel and/or dime defensive packages. The Cardinals used their highest pick on an offensive lineman since 2007 on Mississippi’s Bobby Massie. He has the chance to win the starting right tackle spot. Washington’s Senio Kelemete (fifth) will be groomed at guard and tackle.
What wasn’t addressed: By not drafting a running back, the Cardinals showed confidence that 2011 second-round pick Ryan Williams will return from a knee injury suffered during his rookie preseason. The Cardinals remain a tad light with their linebacker depth after not re-signing graybeards Joey Porter and Clark Haggans.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
What was addressed: More offensive firepower was the focus of San Francisco’s first two picks – Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins (first round) and Oregon running back LaMichael James (second). Jenkins was picked ahead of some more heralded receiver prospects like Louisiana State’s Rueben Randle and Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill. The undersized James provides a fleet change-of-pace option in a diverse running back crew that includes Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and newcomer Brandon Jacobs (New York Giants). Wake Forest’s Joe Looney (fourth) was a welcome addition after San Francisco lost two right guards (Adam Snyder and Chilo Rachal) in free agency.
What wasn’t addressed: The 49ers passed on selecting a cornerback, which reflects confidence that free-agent pickup Perrish Cox (Denver) can fill the top backup role.
What’s next: Seeing how Randy Moss fits in with his new teammates and what he has left in the tank. The temperamental wide receiver has brought controversy everywhere he has played – something the 49ers were able to avoid in their surprising 2011 run to the NFC Championship Game. San Francisco, though, believes the 35-year-old Moss can still stretch the field after a year out of football.
What was addressed: The Seahawks made the most surprising first-round pick when drafting West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin at No. 15. Seattle believes Irvin can become a pass-rushing terror with the ability to line up all over the defense, a role that Aaron Curry could never fill despite being the No. 4 overall pick in 2009. Irvin, though, is undersized at 245 pounds and has a history of off-field trouble. Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson was a curious third-round pick. He’s only 5-foot-11 and the Seahawks just signed ex-Green Bay backup Matt Flynn to a two-year contract.
What wasn’t addressed: The Seahawks passed on drafting a wide receiver even though Sidney Rice has battled injuries for two straight seasons and
What’s next: Handing the starting reins to Flynn unless Tarvaris Jackson can up his game and keep the spot in the upcoming quarterback competition.
St. LOUIS RAMS
What was addressed: A team with as many holes as the Rams wasn’t going to plug them all at once. But St. Louis made great strides in that regard at defensive tackle (Louisiana State’s Michael Brockers), wide receiver (Appalachian State’s Brian Quick and Wake Forest’s Chris Givens), cornerback (North Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins and Montana’s Trumaine Johnson), and running back (Cincinnati’s Isaiah Pead) with seven selections in the first four rounds. Jenkins and Pead were the products of extra second-round picks acquired in trade-downs with Washington and Dallas. The Rams immediately cut kicker Josh Brown after drafting Missouri Western’s Greg Zuerlein in round six.
What wasn’t addressed: The front seven still needs work, especially depth at end and outside linebacker.
What’s next: Getting quarterback Sam Bradford back on track after he regressed in 2011 under departed offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. The Rams must hope some of the younger skill-position talent on the roster steps up to make a bigger impact after the team was thwarted in attempts to draft Alabama running back Trent Richardson (Cleveland) and Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon (Jacksonville).
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