It’s that time of the year again as the end of the Senior Bowl marks the first step to this years NFL draft for players and coaches.
Big boards everywhere light up as NFL coaches and staff are able to get a closer look at some of the nations top available talent.
The Saints primary concern this off season is to rebuild the defensive line after focusing so heavily on their secondary over the last few seasons.
Last year the Saints drafted Florida State corner back Patrick Robinson in the first round, the year before it was Ohio State corner back Malcolm Jenkins who was taken with their top pick.
New Orleans was able to parlay all these picks into one of the best secondaries in the league and major improvement was made during the 2010 season as they quickly became a top five pass defense.
Conversely the rush defense was ranked 16th overall last season and how can anybody forget Marshawn Lynch’s 67-yard touchdown run against them in the wild card round just a few weeks ago.
The Saints however will not get tied up in a positon and draft a player based soley on need, and over recent years they have proven this fact choosing to draft the best player availible.
It seems likely that the Saints may take a running back or outside linebacker depending on how the drafts plays out.
Nick Fairley- DT- Auburn
John Fox is out and Ron Rivera is in as the new head coach of the Panthers, and his first major decision as a head coach will be to figure out who to take with the number one pick. Carolina cut right to the point earlier this off season and claimed quarterback was their primary focus, but Stanford’s Andrew Luck decided to return for one more year of college football. With Luck out of the picture I think Carolina looks to fill one of it’s biggest needs and drafts the best defensive tackle in the draft, Nick Fairley.
Da’Quan Bowers– DE- Clemson
Speak of the devil John Fox is the new head coach of the Denver Broncos, hired only weeks after his firing in Carolina by new head honcho John Elway. Rumor has it Fox would like to change the Broncos from a 3-4 unit to a 4-3 unit, a move that completely changes the personnel that see the field. Denver ranked 25th against the pass last season and 31st against the run so its a tough call – do you draft the best corner in the draft or take the best pass rush defensive end? Strictly on the basis of the high likely hood they do switch to a 4-3 defense Da’Quan Bowers has to be the choice here.
Patrick Peterson- CB- LSU
The Bills have many needs that include quarterback, defensive end, offensive tackle and yes even corner back. At the top end of the draft like this teams usually take the best talent available regardless of need, but on the chance the top talent fills a dire need than it’s a win-win scenario. Given that the best DT and DE are off the board the Bills take the top corner in the draft in Patrick Peterson to help shore up a secondary that may be in line to be without two starters. Peterson is considered by many as the top prospect in the entire draft.
Cincinatti is a mess and after a mess of a season noteven head coach Marvin Lewis wanted to return to the struggling franchise. Quarterback Carson Palmer has also said he wants out citing irreconcilabledifferences much like a bad Hollywood marriage. It’s unclear what the Bengals plan to do withPalmer or if he will return so a very real need to draft a young promising quarterback may arise. However given the likely hood that wide receivers Chad Ochocinco (soon to be Johnson again) and an aging Terrell Owens will notreturn in 2011 it’s clear that receiver would become their primary need. Green is being compared to some of top receivers in the NFL in Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson and is a special talent sure to become a big time play maker.
Blaine Gabbert- QB- Missouri
When Kurt Warner decided to retire after the 2009 season it left a gaping hole in the Cardinals roster at quarterback. Arizona went out and signed former Brown quarterback Derek Anderson to create some competition between he and former first round draft pick Matt Leinart. Anderson won out and Leinart was released but it became quickly apparent Anderson wasn’t the man for the job and he was replaced by John Skelton and Max Hall. Skelton showed some promise and Hall just seemed confused but one thing is crystal clear, they need a quarterback. Gabbert is the prototypical quarterback standing 6-5 and weighing 235 pounds with a very live arm. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt has no choice here but to pull the trigger on the former Tiger.
Robert Quinn- DE- UNC
The Browns are another team in flux after parting ways with head coach Eric Mangini and defensive coordinatorRob Ryan among others. Ryan was not let go but instead chose to take over as the Dallas Cowboys D’coordinator. This is a team that has some good pieces in place in young quarterback Colt McCoy and running back Payton Hills, but they have many needs including OL, OLB and ILB. Quinn is another top talent and a tweener style DE/OLB so he is likely to fit with the Browns whether they stay with a 3-4 or move to a 4-3. Also there are not offensive lineman ranked this high to take.
Marcell Dareus -DT- Alabama
While it’s true the 49ers need a quarterback the question is does any one believe the remaining group has one good enough to be taken with the seventh overall pick? Likely not but a case could be made for Arkanas’ Ryan Mallett, Michigan’s Jake Locker or Auburn’s Cam Newton. Defensive tackle is a glaring need for the 49ers and Dareus is ranked higher and better then all three of the above mentioned signal callers.
Prince Amukamara -CB- Nebraska
A trends is starting to develop among the teams picking in the top ten, no quarterbacks and head coaches that received the bootat season end. Long time head coach Jeff Fisher was released from the Titans on the heels of a battle with quarterback Vince Young, who is still scheduled to be released or traded. Inside linebacker is a big need for the Titans, as is quarterback and offensive guard. If there was a prospect here in those positions than likely that’s the way the team would go but there is not, so they don’t. In 2009 the Titans secondary was ranked 29th against the pass so the second best corner in the draft is a wise draft choice when you play Payton Manning twice a year.
Anthony Castonzo -OT- Boston College
Dallas could be a talented team but seemingly always have trouble putting it all together. Jason Garrett is the new head coach and expectations are extremely high that the 2011 season will be much more successful than the last, which ushered out Wade Phillips. Marcus Spears is scheduled to become a free agent and it’s foggy at best if the team will try and resign him to a long term contract, so DE may be a real concern. Also the secondary could use a little revamping as both safeties, Gerald Sensabaugh and Ken Hamlin, struggled throughout most of the 2010 season. Most importantly however is the offensive line and the protection of Tony Romo. The projected best tackle in the draft is taken in Anthony Castonzo to help pass protection and run blocking.
Cam Newton- QB- Auburn
The sexy pick here for the Redskins is former Razorback quarterback Ryan Mallett, and for good reason. Think about it, Mallet is alot like Jay Cutler, a big armed kind of cocky type quarterback and Mike Shanahan loves big arm guys. However it still may be a bit early to take Mallet considering his accuracy and decision making are big question marks as he heads into the pro’s. Also rumor has it that Shanahan really likes Jake Locker. Given the uncertain future of Donovan McNabb, and backup Rex Grossman’s habit of throwing interceptions, quarterback is definitely a big need. In the end though I think the decision is made to take the dynamic, although raw, Cam Newton instead of Locker.
Von Miller- OLB- Texas A&M
Once again we have another head coach who has found work relatively quickly after being fired. Wade Phillips is taking over the ranes as defensive coordinator for the Texans which is a must considering last season Houston was essentially the worst defense in the NFL. The secondary is a special concern, and without question they could use help at FS, SS and CB. It’s still a little too early to reach for a safety as there is just not one here that carries a grade this high, also the top corner’s are already off the board. Phillips will be switching from a 4-3 to his more familiar 3-4 defense so the decision is made to take Von Miller who can fill the need as a pass rush linebacker.
Jake Locker- QB- Washington
Yet another team that needs a quarterback and lost a head coach. Childress was fired more than halfway through he season, leaving the job to Leslie Frazier. Brett Favre will notreturn for a 21st NFL season, or so we hope, and Tavaris Jackson is just notthe answer at quarterback for the franchise. The Vikings have some big names slated to become free agents including linebackers Chad Greenway, Ben Leber and defensive lineman Ray Edwards and Pat Williams. Again in the end the Vikings start at the top and draft arguably the next best quarterback available in Jake Locker.
Aldon Smith- OLB- Missouri
Last year the Lions struck gold in drafting defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh who finished the season with 66 tackles and ten total sacks, an unheard of number in quarterback drops when it comes to a rookie defensive tackle. The Lions aren’t without needs however as OLB, ILB and SS are all areas that need to improve next year. At thirteen the best talent available in an area of need is Aldon Smith who is versatile enough to be a 4-3 backer or play in a 3-4 scheme. He can provide immediate production on the outside for a struggling Lions defense.
Julio Jones- WR- Alabama
The Rams have their quarterback of the future in Sam Bradford, now it’s time to get him some play makers in the receiving core. It’s an absolute no brainer here that they draft Julio Jones who will immediately become the number one wide receiver in St. Louis and finally give the team a true play maker not seen since the departure of Torry Holt.