clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NFL Draft 2014 team needs: NFC

The NFL Draft has finally arrived, but before the players start flying off the board, we take a look at the areas of need in the NFC.

Hannah Foslien

NFC teams addressed a lot of their areas of need during the free agency period, but that doesn't mean they don't still have holes heading into the NFL Draft. Even the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks have work to do in the draft.

While there is a clear projected top two in the AFC, the NFC remains more open. Everyone is chasing Seattle, but the 49ers, Saints and Panthers are just a few of the teams pushing for the conference crown. With so little separation at the top, getting immediate contributions from draft picks could prove to be the difference. At the same time, teams attempting to take the next step and become a contender -- like Arizona -- maximizing the picks and filling the remaining needs could prove to be vital.

Teams will start filling those in a few hours when the first round kicks off.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals entered the offseason looking to prove their 10-6 record was more than some one-year wonder. Arizona was able to fill a few holes in free agency, but a few others opened. Will a good haul in the draft give Bruce Arians the weapons to make a run at the Seahawk/49er stranglehold in the NFC West?

Notable departures

CB/KR Javier Arenas, RB Rashard Mendenhall, G Daryn Colledge, LB Jasper Brinkley, ILB Karlos Dansby, WR Andre Roberts

Key additions

TE John Carlson, CB Antonio Cromartie, RB Jonathan Dwyer, OT Jared Veldheer, WR/KR Ted Ginn

Team needs

Pass rusher- The Cardinals could use another pass rusher, whether it's a down lineman or a linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. If UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr falls, he could be an option at No. 20, and Missouri's Kony Ealy would make sense as well at that spot.

Safety - Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson are nice building blocks, but the Cardinals are still working on building a formidable secondary. Another safety would be a good start. Arizona could be in the market for Washington State safety Deone Bucannon in the second round.

Quarterback - Arizona still needs to find its quarterback of the future. Carson Palmer isn't the long-term answer. A day-two quarterback like Logan Thomas, Tom Savage or Zach Mettenberger would make sense for the Cardinals, who will likely be looking for a big passer with a strong arm.

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons were a very disappointing team last season, going 4-12 and not even coming close to sniffing the playoffs. This was a team that was supposed to have an elite offense, but both sides of the ball were equally poor last season. Were it not for the Houston Texans, we'd be talking about how the Falcons were the biggest disappointment in the league.

Notable departures

CB Asante Samuel, S Thomas DeCoud

Key additions

DT Paul Soliai, OG Jon Asamoah, DE Tyson Jackson, WR Devin Hester, G Gabe Carimi, CB Javier Arenas

Team needs

Defensive end - The Falcons signed Tyson Jackson and brought in a couple defensive tackles in free agency, but they're still in need of a starting defensive end who can rush the passer. It seems likely the Falcons will use a high draft pick on a starter at the position.

Tight end - Tony Gonzalez, who accounted for approximately 20 percent of team's total receptions over the last two years, has retired, which means Levine Toilolo is the top tight end in Atlanta. He's a solid blocker, but he's not going to replace the kind of production that Gonzalez put up. Atlanta likely won't spend a first-round pick on a tight end, but they could look for a starter in the second or third round.

Running back - Steven Jackson will get another chance to show he's healthy and can be a starter at 31. Still, the Falcons might want to find an under-valued running back as a potential starter in the second or third round.

Carolina Panthers

Head coach Ron Rivera was expected to bring an elite defense to Carolina, and may have been facing his last chance to do so in 2013. He went on to coach one of the three best defenses in the entire NFL en route to a 12-4 record and a No. 2 seed in the NFC. Carolina eventually lost in the divisional round of the playoffs, but ascended toward the NFL's elite. They need to draft well to stay there.

Notable departures

S Michael Mitchell, WR Domenik Hixon, WR/KR Ted Ginn, OLB Jordan Senn, WR Steve Smith, WR Brandon LaFell

Key additions

S Roman Harper, WR Jerricho Cotchery, WR Tiquan Underwood, CB Antoine Cason, WR Jason Avant, TE Ed Dickson, S Thomas DeCoud

Team needs

Wide receiver - It's the end of an era in Carolina, as Steve Smith left for the Baltimore Ravens. The Panthers also lost Brandon LaFell and replaced the pair with Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant. That's not an inspiring combination. The Panthers need to add a starter if possible.

Left tackle - The Panthers announced that Jordan Gross has retired. Gross was an excellent left tackle for an awful long time, so the Panthers need to find a replacement at the position sooner rather than later.

Cornerback - Carolina needs to get a starting cornerback to help keep the defense consistent. Captain Munnerlyn went elsewhere in free agency, and the team doesn't have its top three set. Carolina should definitely try to land some top talent in a deep cornerback class.

Chicago Bears

The Bears fought for the NFC North crown last season, but were just edged out by the Green Bay Packers, though the division as a whole was disappointing.

Chicago ended the season at 8-8, but still has plenty of key players in place to make an elite NFL team. The Bears have a quarterback, receivers and a running back. Now they have a coach who should be able to take control of that offense and make it into something special. But the Bears have some significant issues on the defensive side of the ball.

Notable departures

S Major Wright, CB Zackary Bowman, DE Corey Wootton, KR Devin Hester, DT Henry Melton, WR Earl Bennett, DE Julius Peppers, QB Josh McCown, RB Michael Bush, Adam Podlesh

Key additions

C Brian De La Puente, DE Jared Allen, DE Israel Idonije, WR Domenik Hixon, DE Willie Young, DE Lamarr Houston

Team needs

Cornerback - The Bears have had some solid corners for an awful long time, but they lost Zackary Bowman, and both Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman could go either way at this point in their careers. The Bears need a new starter, and with this draft so deep at the position, going in that direction in the first round would not be surprising.

Safety - Major Wright's departure led the Bears to go on a safety signing spree in free agency, but suggesting that Ryan MundyM.D. Jennings and Danny McCray are the future of the position doesn't exactly inspire confidence. If the Bears don't take a corner in the first round, getting a safety in the first is also an option, given it's a strong class up top.

Linebacker - Chicago has long been known for strong linebacker play, but the team is in transition now. Jon Bostic may yet work out, but he's still got some growing to do. For now, the team needs to be looking at James Anderson's position on the strong side. It's a position that needs to be addressed early on, though a full-time starter should probably not be the target if Bostic isn't ready to grow into a veteran role.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have doubled down on quarterback Tony Romo, and they're hoping to take advantage of a relatively weak NFC East. Unfortunately for them, the Philadelphia Eagles appear to be on the rise, and Eli Manning always keeps the New York Giants in the running. Dallas finished a mediocre 8-8 last season, once again falling short of a Week 17 bid for the playoffs. They had to release a lot of players to get under the salary cap for 2014-15, which means the Cowboys need to have a strong showing at the NFL Draft.

Notable departures

C Phil Costa, DE Everette Brown, WR Miles Austin, DE DeMarcus Ware, DT Jason Hatcher

Key additions

DT Henry Melton, QB Brandon Weeden, LB Will Herring, DT Terrell McClain

Team needs

Defensive end - As mentioned earlier, the Cowboys had to take multiple steps to become cap compliant this offseason. That included releasing defensive end/outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. While Ware struggled with injuries last season, his production on the field was still top notch and the Cowboys will need to replicate that. Dallas has penciled in Jeremy Mincey as the starter and that doesn't inspire a world of confidence.

Safety - The Cowboys have a real weakness at the safety position currently manned by J.J. Wilcox. He was a rookie last season, which likely means Dallas will give him more opportunities to earn a paycheck, but taking a safety in this relatively strong class can only be a good decision.

Linebacker - Outside of the hole made by Ware when it comes to pass-rushing, the Cowboys' defense includes Ernie Sims and DeVonte Holloman taking meaningful snaps on the defensive side of the ball. They need some youth at the position, and could stand to spend a high pick on it come draft day.

Detroit Lions

Detroit continues to under-perform despite having some of the best players in the NFL on both sides of the ball. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson should combine for one of the NFL's top offenses, but it has not translated into consistent wins. Instead, the Lions won just six games last season.

The Lions will move forward with Jim Caldwell, who will attempt to get the offense on track. With a defense that includes Ndamukong Suh, that unit will be expected to perform to high standards, as well. Unfortunately, there's still significant issues on that side of the ball that will need to be addressed in the NFL Draft.

Notable departures

WR Nate Burleson, OT Jason Fox, QB Shaun Hill, DE Israel Idonije, DE Willie Young, Louis Delmas

Key additions

James Ihedigbo, WR Golden Tate, DT Vaughn Martin, DE Darryl Tapp, FB Jed Collins, QB Dan Orlovsky

Team needs

Cornerback - The Lions don't have much at the cornerback position. Chris Houston was benched, Darius Slay lost his starting gig to Rashean Mathis and none of Bill Bentley, Jonte Green or Chris Greenwood looked solid enough to rely on.

Wide receiver - Golden Tate is coming to town, and he should be an excellent compliment to Calvin Johnson. But the Lions need more, and they need to get Kris Durham off the field. Ryan Broyles is hurt too often, and seeing the Lions go in on a wide receiver early -- especially in this draft -- would not be surprising.

Safety - Detroit let Louis Delmas go elsewhere due to his high cap hit, and while James Ihedigbo can step in and start in the interim, the Lions need a young player drafted early to be the future at the position.

Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers won the NFC North last season, but it was with an 8-7-1 record. They tied the Minnesota Vikings and the Packers were generally a shell of the team we've seen in recent seasons. Of course, they were without quarterback Aaron Rodgers for eight games, but the defense was the real problem and it will need to be addressed.

Notable departures

S M.D. Jennings, Evan Dietrich-Smith, OT Marshall Newhouse, DE C.J. Wilson

Key additions

WR James Jones, DT Letroy Guion, DE Julius Peppers

Team needs

Safety - The safety position was possibly the biggest disaster on the team last season. It was a mess, and M.D. Jennings has now departed in free agency. That means Morgan Burnett is back and then there's not much else. Micah Hyde could be an answer, but realistically, the Packers should look to draft someone early on.

Center - Rodgers didn't get his wish when it came to keeping Evan Dietrich-Smith in town. The Packers don't have an answer at center right now, so they'll need to address the position in the top three rounds.

Tight end - Jermichael Finley won't be back, and the Packers need to find a new tight end. Andrew Quarless is not the answer.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings have had a top pick, a playoff berth and now another top pick in the last few seasons. Leslie Frazier is now out as head coach, and Mike Zimmer is in. Norv Turner is the playcaller, but which quarterback he'll work with is up for debate. Christian Ponder isn't the answer any longer, and Matt Cassel certainly doesn't seem like it, either. The Josh Freeman signing last season was a disaster.

Notable departures

TE John Carlson, RB Toby Gerhart, CB Chris Cook, DT Letroy Guion, DE Jared Allen

Key additions

LB Jasper Brinkley, DT Linval Joseph, CB Derek Cox, CB Captain Munnerlyn, DE Corey Woottton, Vladimir Ducasse

Team needs

Quarterback - It's no secret: the Vikings need to draft a quarterback. They need to get one in the first two rounds, and that quarterback needs to be able to start. Getting someone to take some of the burden off Adrian Peterson can only help. Cassel is back and he can start in the interim, but he's hardly a long term solution.

Safety - Harrison Smith returning is a big deal, but the Vikings have nobody to play alongside him. It's unlikely that Jamarca Sanford is the answer to that.  Someone who can start immediately would be preferred.

Guard - The Vikings need a guard to replace Charlie Johnson sooner rather than later. There should be plenty of strong interior linemen early on in the second and third rounds for Minnesota to select.

New Orleans Saints

New Orleans boasts one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL, but they were ineffective against the NFC's powerhouse defenses. If the Saints manage to bolster the defense to support the offense, they might be able to make another deep run with the current group of mainstays, notably Drew Brees.

Notable departures

LB Will Smith, S Roman Harper, LB Jonathan Vilma, CB Jabari Greer, WR Lance Moore, C Brian De La Puente, OT Charles Brown, S Malcolm Jenkins

Key additions

S Jairus Byrd, CB Champ Bailey

Team needs

Cornerback - The Saints may have signed Champ Bailey, but they really can't depend on him to be a consistent starter at his age. He'll likely play at a high level when healthy, but the Saints can't rely on that. They need to draft a young corner in one of the top rounds, especially in this deep class.

Outside linebacker - Victor Butler and Parys Haralson aren't going to get the job done opposite Junior Galette. The Saints need to find an outside linebacker who can rush the passer and be a full-time starter.

Center - The Saints were smart to go out and get Brian De La Puente off of the San Francisco 49ers' practice squad a few years back. De La Puente grew into an excellent starer before he left via free agency. Now, they'll need to turn to a strong class of interior linemen to find a replacement early on.

New York Giants

New York has done a lot of crazy things in recent seasons, but the come-from-behind heroics and late pushes for the playoffs came a little late last season. New York lost its first six games, so when seven of their final 10 games were wins, it didn't count for much. Now the conversation is about whether or not Manning is declining, but that conversation is moot if the Giants don't act to make the team better around him this season.

Notable departures

C David Baas, DT Linval Joseph, DE Justin Tuck, WR Hakeem Nicks, G Kevin Boothe, WR Louis Murphy, RB Andre Brown

Key additions

OLB O'Brien Schofield, RB Rashad Jennings, G Geoff Schwartz, LB Jameel McClaim, CB Walter Thurmond, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, WR Mario Manningham, OT Charles Brown, DE Robert Ayers

Team needs

Defensive tackle - New York lost Linval Joseph to free agency, and there's really no replacement up front. Johnathan Hankins should play next to Cullen Jenkins next season, but the Giants should be addressing the position by looking for a future starter or simply depth. Jason Pierre-Paul and Damontre Moore should give the Giants a solid defensive line regardless, but another man on the interior is needed.

Outside linebacker - Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger both play meaningful snaps for the Giants defense. They're not terrible players, but the Giants could definitely use some more play-making ability from those outside linebacker spots.

Tight end - Adrien Robinson is basically the only tight end in New York right now. The Giants need a new target for Manning and they'll probably look to the draft to get him.

Philadelphia Eagles

Who saw Nick Foles coming in and looking like one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks last season? Nobody. Michael Vick went down with an injury, and if that never happened, Foles may never have got his shot. Now he's looking like the franchise quarterback of the future for the Eagles, who have some big moves that need to be made on the defensive side of the ball going forward.

Notable departures

WR Jason Avant, DT Clifton Geathers, WR DeSean Jackson, S Patrick Chung, S Kurt Coleman

Key additions

S Malcolm Jenkins, S Chris Maragos, RB Darren Sproles, CB Nolan Carroll, QB Mark Sanchez

Team needs

Safety - Nate Allen began his career as a pretty solid safety, but he's fallen off in recent seasons. Malcolm Jenkins should start at free safety, but the Eagles need to bring in competition for Allen at the strong safety spot. A safety in the first three rounds would not be surprising.

Cornerback - Bringing in Nolan Carroll is a smart move, but the Eagles need a young cornerback with the potential to be their No. 1 either immediately or in the next season or two. Spending a first-round pick on the position in this draft would be a good idea.

Outside linebacker - Trent Cole put solid pressure on opposing quarterbacks last season, but with a whopping $10 million due to him in 2015, the Eagles need to work on the position for the future. They also need someone to rush alongside Cole this season.

St. Louis Rams

The Rams are in the midst of a pivotal offseason. While they've shown improvement in recent seasons, they are in the most competitive division in football and are in flux at the quarterback position. Is Sam Bradford the answer? It appears he will get one more season to prove it, so St. Louis has to find a way to surround him with enough talent to give him a chance to be that guy.

Heading into the 2014 NFL Draft, the Rams are in a great position. They have two of the first 13 picks and four of the first 75 picks, including the No. 2 overall selection. There will be plenty of chances for the Rams to add to their roster on draft weekend.

Notable departures

CB Cortland Finnegan, G Shelley Smith, TE Mike McNeill, G Chris Williams, G Harvey Dahl

Key additions

WR Kenny Britt, QB Shaun Hill, DE/DT Alex Carrington

Team needs

Wide receiver - The Rams drafted Tavon Austin in the first round last year, but they still might be looking at wide receivers early. Sammy Watkins is certainly in play for the No. 2 overall pick, but it's probably more likely for the Rams to find a wideout in the second round. Kelvin Benjamin might be an option at that spot, but there are a number of talented receivers in this draft who could give St. Louis a boost in the passing game.

Offensive line - Even after bringing back Rodger Saffold, the Rams still have multiple holes on their offensive line. Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson is the favorite to be the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. The Rams could look at the guards in this class as well. UCLA's Xavier Su'a-FIlo would be a nice addition with the 13th pick, and players like David Yankey and Cyril Richardson could be available later in the draft.

Free safety - If the Rams aren't able to land Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round, they may wait to find a safety later in the draft. In that scenario, Hakeem Smith of Louisville, Terrance Brooks of Florida State and Sean Parker of Washington could be options.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers filled some holes with some castoffs from around the league, some with more upside than others. The secondary needs to get better and deeper in the draft. If there's any truth to the rumor that the 49ers went after DeSean Jackson, it they could be considering a wideout as well.

Notable departures

QB Colt McCoy, CB Carlos Rogers, WR Mario Manningham, RB Anthony Dixon, CB Tarell Brown, S Donte Whitner

Key additions

CB Chris Cook, OT Jonathan Martin, S Antoine Bethea, QB Blaine Gabbert

Team needs

Wide receiver - The 49ers were interested in DeSean Jackson, so they obviously recognize their need at wide receiver. Look for players like Brandin Cooks, Jordan Matthews and Davante Adams to be in play for San Francisco late in the first round.

Cornerback - San Francisco has been needing to address the cornerback position over the last few years. The 49ers have plenty of picks in this draft, so the second tier of corners should be right in their wheelhouse. Andre Hal, Aaron Colvin and Antone Exum could all be options on Day 2.

Strong safety - With Donte Whitner gone, the 49ers need to find a safety who can play in the box. Baylor's Ahmad Dixon may fit that profile a bit later in the draft.

Seattle Seahawks

Coming off a Super Bowl victory, the Seahawks had quite a bit of roster turnover this offseason. Seattle decided to part ways with Red Bryant and Chris Clemons on their defensive line. They also lost one of their top wide receivers, letting Golden Tate walk in free agency. Add two cornerbacks to the list of losses as well: Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner both moved on to different teams.

The core of the Seahawks' Super Bowl team is still in place, though. There are just a few more holes that need to be addressed in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Notable departures

G Paul McQuistan, CB Walter Thurmond, CB Brandon Browner, DE Chris Clemons, OT Breno Giacomini, WR Golden Tate, S Chris Maragos, DT Clinton McDonald, DE/OLB O'Brien Schofield, DE Red Bryant

Key additions

CB Phillip Adams

Team needs

Wide Receiver - The departure of Golden Tate made wide receiver an even more pressing issue for Seattle. It could look to draft a wideout in the first round or wait until the second round. Wide receiver is one of the deepest positions in the draft this year, so the Seahawks don't have to force the issue. Jordan Matthews of Vanderbilt or Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State could be possibilities in the first round, while receivers like Cody Latimer of Indiana, Allen Robinson of Penn State and Brandon Coleman of Rutgers could make sense later.

Offensive line - The Seahawks' offensive line became an issue as the season wore on, and it's an area that could be the focus of the 2014 NFL Draft in Seattle. Players like Joel Bitonio of Nevada, Morgan Moses of Virginia and Gabe Jackson of Mississippi State could be available at the end of the first round.

Defensive line - After parting ways with Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, the Seahawks could use some youth on the defensive line.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers were an absolute train wreck under Greg Schiano. The fans didn't like him, players didn't like him and there was always something going on in the news with controversy. Tampa Bay finished the season with a 4-12 record, but Lovie Smith is in charge now. Smith seems like just the guy to take over and get a handle on that locker room, but do the Buccaneers have too many holes?

Notable departures

OG Davin Joseph, K Lawrence Tynes, WR Tiquan Underwood, LB Dekoda Watson, OT Donald Penn

Key additions

DE Michael Johnson, CB Alterraun Verner, OT Anthony Collins, QB Josh McCown, C Evan Dietrich-Smith, OG Oniel Cousins, WR Lavelle Hawkins

Team needs

Wide receiver - The Buccaneers need a young, talented receiver to groom behind Vincent Jackson and start opposite him. The Buccaneers traded Mike Williams due to his off-the-field issues. In this deep draft class, they can land a difference-maker early on.

Interior linemen - Tampa Bay signed Evan Dietrich-Smith, which should bolster the interior of the offensive line, but getting a new guard or even two should be a top priority. If they take one in the first round, though, they'll likely need to trade down.

Defensive end - Michael Johnson was a good get for the Buccaneers, but Tampa Bay could not generate any pressure last season. They need another pass rusher to rotate in and potentially start, and this draft is heavy on them.

Washington Redskins

After taking the divisional title in 2012, the Redskins completely laid an egg last season. Robert Griffin III didn't look right and was ineffective, and the Redskins finished the season with a pathetic 3-13 record. The defense was a mess, the offense was a mess, and the team needs a strong draft to stay competitive.

Notable departures

P Sav Rocca, CB Josh Wilson, OL Will Montgomery, OLB Darryl Tapp, DE Adam Carriker

Key additions

WR DeSean Jackson, WR Andre Roberts, G Shawn Lauvao, OT Bruce Campbell, DT Clifton Geathers, DT Jason Hatcher, S Brandon Meriweather, S Ryan Clark, QB Colt McCoy

Team needs

Safety - Neither Brandon Meriweather nor Ryan Clark have been particularly effective in recent years, but both are expected to take meaningful snaps for the Redskins this season. Washington's secondary was particularly poor last season, and the team will likely need to get a safety when they finally get on the board at the beginning of the second round.

Cornerback - There's a chance we'll see a huge run of cornerbacks late in the first round, which could leave the market dry for the Redskins when they pick at No. 34. However, if there's some starting-caliber players there, the Redskins should jump at the opportunity given the issues in the secondary last year. Nobody performed up to expectations.

Inside linebacker - London Fletcher has slowed down considerably, and the signings the Redskins made don't inspire a lot of confidence. Daryl Sharpton, Akeem Jordan and Perry Riley are all inside linebackers, and it's hard to imagine two solid starters can come out of that bunch.