National Football League
Dissecting the Draft: AFC team strategies
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
Luke Joeckel has projected as a Matt Kalil-like stalwart from day one.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - A capsule look of the major needs and a possible course of action for the AFC teams in the 2013 NFL Draft, which will take place at New York's Radio City Music Hall from April 25-27.


Buffalo (6-10)

Top Needs: LB, WR, QB, CB

First Three Picks: No. 8, No. 41, No. 71

Number of Selections: 6 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

With Ryan Fitzpatrick now in Tennessee, new Bills coach Doug Marrone's first order of business is finding a quarterback and let's face it, neither holdover Tarvaris Jackson or newcomer Kevin Kolb is the answer.

That has many putting two and two together and coming up with Marrone's old signal-caller at Syracuse, Ryan Nassib, as the team's choice with the eighth overall selection. By doing that, however, Marrone would be severely curtailing his honeymoon as an NFL coach, a period which is generally far too brief to begin with.

Nassib just isn't the type of prospect worthy of being a top 10 selection so if he is Buffalo's plan, the organization would be best served moving down. If not, standing pat and filling some other hole would be a better option.

In fact it's conceivable Nassib could still be around when it's Buffalo's turn in the second round, the 41st selection overall.

The Bills also have plenty of issues in other places. The team needs a complement to Stevie Johnson at wide receiver and its best offensive lineman, guard Andy Levitre, signed with Tennessee in free agency. Meanwhile, tight end Scott Chandler has proven to be an excellent safety valve and red zone touchdown threat but tore his ACL in Week 16, making his status for the start of 2013 very questionable.

On defense, Mike Pettine comes in as coordinator from the AFC East-rival Jets and takes over an underachieving unit. On paper Buffalo is strong up front but needs plenty of help in the back seven.

All three starting linebacker spots could be in flux since Nick Barnett was released and both Kelvin Sheppard and Nigel Bradham are trying to establish themselves. Corner Stephon Gilmore and free safety Jairus Byrd are the constants in the secondary but need help.

If Buffalo general manager Buddy Nix can talk Marrone off the ledge, Alabama guard Chance Warmack would be a nice replacement for Levitre at No. 8.

Miami (7-9)

Top Needs: OLB, OT, CB

First Three Picks: No. 12, No. 42, No. 54

Number of Selections: 11 (1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 5, 7, 7, 7)

The perception in South Florida is that the Dolphins have gone all-in in an attempt to make things tough on the New England Patriots in the AFC East.

The Dolphins certainly made the biggest splash early on in free agency, signing two of the best players available in speedy wide receiver Mike Wallace and Super Bowl winning linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.

They continued the spending spree from there bringing in wide receiver Brandon Gibson and tight end Dustin Keller of the offensive side of the ball, along with linebacker Phillip Wheeler and cornerback Brent Grimes to help the defense.

Here's the bad news, though. Miami had to release linebackers Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby and lost a solid tight end in Anthony Fasano. The 'Phins also have to replace their starting left tackle, Jake Long, as well as their best cover corner, Sean Smith, and a very versatile running back in Reggie Bush.

In other words there is still plenty of work to be done.

Offensive line could be the top priority now with the 12th overall pick and linebacker along with more depth at defensive end as well as cornerback will be key.

Speaking at his pre-draft press conference last Thursday, Miami general manager Jeff Ireland admitted that the Dolphins need to "add some talent on the offensive line."

Ireland called the addition of guard Lance Louis a depth move, and although he was comfortable with Nate Garner at right tackle he would not commit to the expected move of Jonathan Martin from the right side to Long's spot on the left.

"He needs to be more consistent with some of things that he's going to see going up against probably the best athlete per pound on the football field," Ireland said when talking about Martin, who will be entering his second season in 2013. "Right defensive end, right outside linebacker, you gotta be on your game playing left tackle in this league, so he just needs to improve his consistency."

Some league sources believe the Dolphins want Oklahoma left tackle Lane Johnson but they will likely have to trade up from No. 12 to get him. Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes would also be a nice fit in Miami. He could replace Smith and give Miami a terrific tandem if Grimes proves to be healthy.

New England (12-4)

Top Needs: CB, OG, S

First Three Picks: No. 29, No. 59, No. 91

Number of Selections: 5 (1, 2, 3, 7, 7)

A lot of NFL personnel people think they are the smartest guy in the room. Few are ... especially when Bill Belichick enters.

The Patriots coach and general manager is generally two or three steps ahead of his competition and nothing magnifies that more than draft day.

Belichick and the Pats' brain trust set up their draft day in free agency and this season New England attempted to remake its wide receivers corps, brought in veteran safety Adrian Wilson and added former Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly to an already impressive front seven.

If wide receiver Danny Amendola can stay healthy, he'll be a more than adequate replacement for the departed Wes Welker in the slot. The real lynchpin to the Pats' moves at wide receiver, though, was Emmanuel Sanders, a restricted free agent from Pittsburgh who signed a one-year offer sheet. The Steelers matched the offer, however, so getting a real vertical threat is still needed,

The Patriots could also use some depth on the interior of the offensive line and at cornerback and safety.

New England, which has the 29th overall pick in the first round, has shown strong interest in Mississippi State cornerback Johnathan Banks as well as Boise State corner Jamar Taylor. Meanwhile, if Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson continues to fall, he could be an option.

N.Y. Jets (6-10)

Top Needs: OLB, RT, OG, QB

First Three Picks: No. 9, No. 39, No. 72

Number of Selections: 7 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

Those back-to-back trips to the AFC Championship Game in Mark Sanchez's first two NFL seasons are now just distant memories for the New York Jets, a team which enters this draft process as one of the least talented in football.

The embattled Sanchez will likely get one final chance to prove he can be the answer at quarterback for the Jets but you can't rule out a signal-caller at No. 9 overall for New York, especially if West Virginia's Geno Smith begins to fall.

Other major needs for the Jets include right tackle, a position where Austin Howard allowed 13 1/2 sacks last season, along with outside linebacker where the pedestrian Antwan Barnes and Garrett McIntyre are currently penciled in.

In reality, though, the Jets need help just about everywhere outside of left tackle and center where D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold reside. Of course, even those stalwarts have probably reached the apex of their careers and have started the descent.

Cornerback also looks strong on paper but that will likely change dramatically after the Jets finally pull the trigger and trade All-Pro Darrelle Revis.

If Smith isn't the pick at No. 9 New York could look toward guards Chance Warmack of Alabama or Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina. The team is also enamored with LSU pass rusher Barkevious Mingo while Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, although he has been falling since running some poor 40 times at his pro day, would be a nice fit.


Baltimore (10-6)

Top Needs: ILB, OL, WR, S

First Three Picks: No. 32, No. 62, No. 94

Number of Selections: 12 (1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, 6, 7, 7)

Much has been made about what the Baltimore Ravens have lost since winning Super Bowl XLVII.

Superstar linebacker Ray Lewis and veteran Pro Bowl center Matt Birk retired after the title game, while wide receiver Anquan Boldin was traded to San Francisco.

Safety Bernard Pollard was cut and signed with Tennessee, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe went to Miami as a free agent, linebacker Paul Kruger signed with Cleveland, cornerback Cary Williams went up I-95 to Philadelphia and veteran safety Ed Reed took his act to Houston.

General manager Ozzie Newsome has done a decent job of replenishing things especially of defense, however, bringing in ex-Broncos pass rusher Elvis Dumervil as well as veterans Marcus Spears and Chris Canty. He also got younger at safety by brining in former Oakland No. 1 pick Michael Huff.

One thing which hasn't been addressed is inside linebacker and it looks like Newsome wants to fill that hole in the draft with the 32nd overall pick. Left tackle also remains a concern since Bryant McKinnie is a free agent and is not all that dominant anyway.

If Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te'o, LSU's Kevin Minter or Kansas State's Arthur Brown are around at No. 32, expect the Ravens to sprint toward the podium.

Cincinnati (10-6)

Top Needs: S, WR, RT, LB

First Three Picks: No. 21, No. 37, No. 53

Number of Selections: 10 (1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 7, 7)

The Cincinnati Bengals are a talented bunch aiming to take the next step and garner some postseason success.

Finding a complement to Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green as well as a more explosive outside running threat could help quarterback Andy Dalton, who has some limitations due to his pedestrian arm strength. Clearing up the right tackle situation is also a priority because Andre Smith, who was one of the best in football last season, remains a free agent.

The defense seems to be in better shape although weakside linebacker is up for grabs and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer could use some competition for middle linebacker Rey Maualuga as well. Safety is also a concern because no one was able to beat out the limited Chris Crocker last season and he is now a free agent.

With 10 picks, including four in the first three rounds, Cincy has the ammunition to get some things done and is reportedly very high on athletic Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree as well as Alabama running back Eddie Lacy and Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro. Also keep an eye on Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden, a fast-rising prospect, as a possible second or third round pick.

Cleveland (5-11)

Top Needs: CB, TE, DE, LB

First Three Picks: No. 6, No. 68, No. 104

Number of Selections: 7 (1, 3, 4, 5, 5, 6, 7)

Cleveland's new management team of team president Joe Banner, general manager Mike Lombardi and head coach Rob Chudzinski has rebooted things in the Forest City.

Rumors say the new regime isn't all that enamored with quarterback Brandon Weeden, one of the team's first round picks from a year ago, so the Browns, who hold the sixth overall pick in the first round, could be in a real wild card in the process.

Norv Turner was hired to take over Cleveland's offense and figures to build around running back Trent Richardson. Defensively Ray Horton was brought in and will likely move to a 3-4 look with ex-Baltimore edge rusher Paul Kruger as the big offseason move.

Just about everything is on the table for Cleveland. The Browns could be in on West Virginal quarterback Geno Smith or they could go the more traditional route and select Alabama corner Dee Milliner to team with Joe Haden. A real threat at tight end as well as depth at linebacker and defensive end is also needed.

There is also the very real possibility Cleveland trades down and both linebacker Jabaal Sheard or defensive line Ahtyba Rubin could be moved to facilitate things.

Pittsburgh (8-8)

Top Needs: WR, LB, S

First Three Picks: No. 17, No. 48, No. 79

Number of Selections: 8 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 7)

There is plenty of work to be done in Pittsburgh as age has slowly crept up on the Steelers.

In fact, this could be the most important draft for Pittsburgh in years as they have to replenish multiple positions.

The Steelers have moved on from former Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison, will likely replace veteran nose tackle Casey Hampton and really can't count on oft-injured safety Troy Polamalu.

Meanwhile, two of the team's younger playmakers, wide receiver Mike Wallace and cornerback Keenan Lewis jetted in free agency to Miami and New Orleans respectively. The team was able to keep restricted free agent receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who signed a one-year offer sheet with New England, making that position less of a priority.

The Steelers are seemingly always looking for help on the offensive line while the club will also need help at running back because Rashard Mendenhall left for Arizona.

Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, who has been falling since running some poor 40 times at his pro day, would be a perfect sit in Western Pennsylvania with the 17th overall pick as would Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro or LSU 'backer Kevin Minter.


Houston (12-4)

Top Needs: WR, LB, OG

First Three Picks: No. 27, No. 57, No. 89

Number of Selections: 9 (1, 2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 7)

The window hasn't shut in Houston but the Texans certainly have to tweak the roster if they hope to match last season's 12-4 record.

The Texans defense should be fine since it possesses the best defender in all of football, J.J. Watt, and will be getting back its captain, stud linebacker Brian Cushing, who missed the last 11 games in 2012 with a knee injury.

That said Houston struggled down the stretch last season and showed a disturbing inability to handle quick rhythm, spread offenses, meaning more speed and athleticism is needed in the back seven.

Offensively the team has been looking for a complement to Andre Johnson at wide receiver for years and almost has to make a move in that direction now since veteran Kevin Walter is gone.

The interior of the offensive line could use an upgrade and a potential down the line replacement for limited quarterback Matt Schaub is also in play.

Houston, which possesses the 27th overall selection in the first round, is reportedly excited by Baylor wide receiver Terrance Williams and LSU linebacker Kevin Minter.

Indianapolis (11-5)

Top Needs: OL, OLB, CB

First Three Picks: No. 24, No. 86, No. 121

Number of Selections: 6 (1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 7)

The Colts hope to build on a promising first season with Andrew Luck at the controls.

The fact that the Colts are picking 24th in the 2013 NFL Draft a year after selecting Luck No. 1 overall should tell you all you need to know about the Stanford product and the impact he had on the franchise.

To move forward even further Indianapolis will need to protect Luck more consistently and that means upgrading the offensive line. The team did pry right tackle Gosder Cherilus away from Detroit in free agency but incumbent left tackle Anthony Castonzo struggles with speed off the edges and guard Mike McGlynn is often overmatched inside.

Indianapolis also needs to replace Dwight Freeney and help 32-year-old Robert Mathis on the edges of its 3-4 defense while continuing to add pieces to its secondary. Signing free agent linebacker Erik Walden as well as cornerback Greg Toler and safety LaRon Landry helps but the Colts still need more athleticism.

LSU hybrid defensive end/linebacker Barkevious Mingo was once thought of as a top-10 prospect, so getting him at No. 24 would be nice value. Cornerbacks like Washington's Desmond Trufant or Mississippi State's Johnathan Banks could also be in play for Indy.

Jacksonville (2-14)

Top Needs: DE, LB, CB

First Three Picks: No. 2, No. 33, No. 64

Number of Selections: 7 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

Jacksonville, which holds the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft, is a true wild card when trying to project things.

The Jaguars may be the least talented team in the NFL and need plenty of help on both sides of the ball. Moreover a new brain trust has taken over led by general manager David Caldwell and new head coach Gus Bradley.

A lot of the talk in Jacksonville has centered on disappointing quarterback Blaine Gabbert and whether Caldwell is ready to cut bait on the former Mizzou star just two years into his NFL career.

Bradley, though, is a defensive-minded coach and needs to address the Jags' paltry pass rush, specifically off the edges.

About the only bright spots in Jacksonville are at wide receiver, where Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon have terrific upside, and running back, where the return of Maurice Jones-Drew gives the Jaguars a true bell-cow.

If they go pass rusher at No. 2 overall, Oregon hybrid Dion Jordan is the obvious choice.

Tennessee (6-10)

Top Needs: OL, DE, WR

First Three Picks: No. 10, No. 40, No. 70

Number of Selections: 9 (1, 2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 7)

The Titans addressed their most glaring holes in free agency by signing highly-regarded guard Andy Levitre from Buffalo, inking strong safety Bernard Pollard from the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens and getting running back Chris Johnson and young quarterback Jake Locker backups by convincing Shonn Greene and Ryan Fitzpatrick to leave the AFC East behind.

Tennessee stills need to give Levitre more help on the interior of the offensive line but getting the potential Pro Bowl selection to Nashville opens up the 10th overall pick at least a bit for Mike Munchak and Company.

The Titans also signed offensive lineman Robert Turner and Chris Spencer in free agency but taking yet another is a strong possibility although there are other needs Tennessee must address.

Wide receiver Kenny Britt is certainly talented but is entering the final year of his contract and has been so unreliable it's hard to imagine him staying in Music City for the long haul so getting an outside threat to team with Kendall Wright could be an option.

Defensive end is also a position that needs help. Derrick Morgan has a nice 2012 season but Kamerion Wimbley was somewhat of a disappointment and bringing in a young pass rusher is expected at some point.

Guards Chance Warmack of Alabama and Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina are reportedly in Tennessee's crosshairs and some have even speculated that the Titans are also high on Warmack's teammate in college, tackle D.J. Fluker.


Denver (13-3)

Top Needs: DE, LB, QB

First Three Picks: No. 28, No. 58, No. 90

Number of Selections: 6 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7)

Peyton Manning's debut season in the Rockies produced a sterling 13-3 record for the Denver Broncos before a disappointing home playoff loss against the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.

Manning should continue to play at a high level considering the Broncos added star slot receiver Wes Welker as well as guard Louis Vasquez in free agency. That said, Manning is 37 and the only other quarterback on Denver's roster is Brock Osweiler so it's probably a good idea for John Elway to grab a potential heir apparent at some point.

The Broncos could also use a true bell cow back also. Willis McGahee is under contract for 2013, but his status is shaky and a Knowshon Moreno/Ronnie Hillman duo wouldn't have many linebackers itching to bite on play action.

On defense Denver improved by signing defensive tackle Terrance Knighton as well as talented but underachieving cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie but the Elvis Dumervil fax fiasco will have the Broncos searching for an edge pass rusher to team with All-Pro linebacker Von Miller.

The 6-foot-8, 280-pound Margus Hunt is the type of raw talent you gamble with late in the first round and the Broncos have the 28th overall selection. Most project Hunt as a 3-4 end, but he certainly has the size and frame to hold up as a base end in a 4-3 also.

Other options could be Florida State defensive end Tank Carradine, a very gifted prospect on the mend from an ACL injury, or Denver could cure its running woes quickly by selecting Alabama's Eddie Lacy.

Kansas City (2-14)

Top Needs: OT, CB, LB

First Three Picks: No. 1, No. 63, No. 96

Number of Selections: 8 (1, 3, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 7)

With Alex Smith and his new caddy, Chase Daniel, officially on board for new head coach Andy Reid the only real options for Kansas City with the No. 1 overall pick are trading down with a team enamored by West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith or selecting Luke Joeckel, the Texas A&M left tackle who projects as a Matt Kalil- like stalwart from day one.

Left tackles may not excite fans but they certainly perk up the moods of offensive-minded coaches like Reid. From day one moving forward, Joeckel won't need help, opening up a whole spectrum of options for Reid. In short, the presence of a player like Joeckel on the backside makes game planning that much easier.

That said, Kansas City's new brain trust of Reid and his hand-picked general manager, John Dorsey, would be derelict in its duty if the pick wasn't shopped around.

The Chiefs really played up their visit with Geno Smith at the team's facility recently and also have made their "interest" in Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan as well as Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd well known.

Feigning interest in the top quarterback and best defensive prospects available, and playing footsie with the other top tackle on the board, Central Michigan's Eric Fisher, could force a QB-desperate team to trade up and give the farm away to Kansas City.

The best and more likely scenario in the City of Fountains is dropping down a spot or two, picking up an extra second- or third-round pick and still getting Joeckel to play bodyguard for new signal-caller Alex Smith.

"It would be really cool," Joeckel said when asked about possible being the No. 1 overall pick. "A dream come true. But the way I'm just looking at it, I want to get there. I am definitely striving to be the No. 1 pick, going through this entire process. But my dream is to just play in the NFL."

Although 'tis the season to knock players in draft process, Joeckel is such a sound prospect he has come through the process relatively unscathed with the traditional "needs to add strength" -- the lone strike against him.

Kansas City did franchise left tackle Branden Albert but it's clear the team is open to moving him in the right deal or playing mix and match with him and either Joeckel or Fisher for at least one season.

The Chiefs could also use s dependable backup for running back Jamaal Charles, a cornerback or two and some depth at the linebacker position.

Oakland (4-12)

Top Needs: DT, OL, LB

First Three Picks: No. 3, No. 66, No. 100

Number of Selections: 7 (1, 3, 4, 6, 6, 6, 7)

It seems like the Oakland Raiders start a "new era" every year or two and 2013 will be no exception as former Green Bay and Seattle backup quarterback Matt Flynn should finally get his chance as a starting signal-caller.

By acquiring Flynn from the Seahawks, it makes it less likely the Raiders use the No. 3 overall selection on West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.

Oakland really needs help on the defensive line after the departures of tackles Desmond Bryant and Tommy Kelly as well as end Matt Shaughnessy. Veteran Richard Seymour also remains unsigned and has likely played his last game as a Raider.

Defensive tackles Sharrif Floyd of Florida and Star Lotulelei of Utah make a lot of sense early but the team also needs a developmental prospect at quarterback to hedge its bet on Flynn as well as help on the offensive line, linebacker and at cornerback.

San Diego (7-9)

Top Needs: OT, OG, CB, OLB

First Three Picks: No. 11, No. 45, No. 76

Number of Selections: 7 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

New Chargers coach Mike McCoy arrives in America's most Beautiful City as the architect of the reclamation product called Philip Rivers.

Rivers is obviously talented but fell on hard times during the final season of the Norv Turner era, quite possibly due to his porous offensive line. Losing the team's best lineman, guard Louis Vasquez, to AFC West-rival Denver doesn't help and mission No. 1 in San Diego will be rebuilding things up front.

The Chargers did bring in tackle King Dunlap from Philadelphia as well as guards Rich Ohrnberger from Arizona and Chad Rinehart from Buffalo but those guys aren't exactly difference makers and it's almost a fait accompli that the Chargers will select the best available O-Lineman when their pick comes up at No. 11. Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson, Alabama guard Chance Warmack and UNC guard Jonathan Cooper are all possibilities.

The team also needs help at corner despite adding former Jacksonville starter Derek Cox as well as more depth at linebacker, particularly outside.