Bengals

Draft Needs: Cincinnati Bengals

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Cincinnati Bengals [full archive here].

Season Recap: Good for Owner Mike Brown. When everyone was calling for Head Coach Marvin Lewis to be fired, Brown stuck with his man. The Bengals hit gold on their first two picks: AJ Green and Andy Dalton. The two rookies led the Bengals to the playoffs and both made the Pro Bowl. With two first round picks in the upcoming draft, Cincinnati will only improve in 2012.

Team Needs:
1. Wide Receiver: AJ Green is incredible and should be one of the top receivers in the league very shortly. Once teams began to double him, Dalton didn’t have many other options to throw to. Jerome Simpson made some highlight plays, but likely wont return due to impending drug charges. Kendall Wright or Reuben Randle would fit nicely in round one.

2. Running Back: The Bengals would like to find a star RB to complement Dalton and Green. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was signed, but I don’t believe he is that good. Lamar Miller would be a perfect fit and would bring a homerun threat to the young offense.

3. Strong Safety: A young safety to pair with Reggie Nelson would give the Bengals a very solid defense. Chris Crocker is getting old and Taylor Mays looks to be a bust. Mark Barron could be a nice option with one of the Bengals first rounder’s.

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Draft Needs: Atlanta Falcons

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Atlanta Falcons [full archive here].

Season Recap: The Atlanta Falcons approached last offseason with the anticipation of making a serious run at the Super Bowl. They traded up to the number six overall pick to acquire another weapon for Matt Ryan in Julio Jones. Jones showed he was worthy of the selection, but nothing else seemed to pan out for the Falcons. Without many high draft picks, Atlanta needs their returning players to bounce back from a disappointing 2011 season.

Team Needs:
1. Defensive End: The most important position in football is the Quarterback. In today’s league, teams have to have excellent pass rushers in order to disrupt opposing team’s QB. The Falcons need to find a pass rusher that an offense fears. John Abraham used to be that player, but is on the downside of his career. Ray Edwards was signed last offseason, but only posted 3.5 sacks in 16 starts. A player like Vinny Curry in the second round would be a good addition.

2. Left Tackle: Former first round pick, Sam Baker was benched during the season after poor play. If Baker can come back strong, then this is not a need for Atlanta, but the Falcons can’t take a risk at not giving Matt Ryan the best protection possible. With no first round pick, Atlanta better hope Baker can handle the job, because it will be hard to find a capable starter in the second or third round

3. Tight End: Tony Gonzalez had another solid season, but at 36 it is time to begin looking for his replacement. If a player like Dwayne Allen or Coby Fleener slips in the second round, Atlanta may be smart enough to grab one of them.

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Draft Needs: Detroit Lions

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Detroit Lions [full archive here].

Season Recap: Finally they put it together! The Detroit Lions had a successful season, and earned their first playoff appearance since 1999. Matt Stafford stayed healthy for all 16 games, and established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the league. GM Martin Mayhew has done an excellent job rebuilding a Detroit team that hasn’t seemed to recover since the departure of Barry Sanders. With young stars Stafford, Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, and Ndamukong Suh on the team, Detroit will be a competitive team for years to come.

Team Needs:
1. Offensive Tackle: The Detroit offense has a couple all-stars and a solid supporting cast. In order to continue the success, Detroit needs to protect the quarterback. Left tackle is Detroit’s top need and should be addressed in the first round. Jeff Backus was resigned, but will be 35 next seaon. Cordy Glenn would fit nicely.

2. Cornerback: Detroit has a collection of capable cornerbacks, but no real star. If Detroit hopes to overtake Green Bay at some point, they’ll need some solid defensive backs to cover. Janoris Jenkins, Dre Kirkpatrick, Stephon Gilmore, and Brandon Boykin are possibilities in round one.

3. Strong Safety: Amari Spievey seems destined for a depth role after his poor play in the 2011 season. Louis Delmas is solid, but would benefit from a solid counterpart. Harrison Smith would be a great addition in the second round.

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Draft Needs: Pittsburgh Steelers

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Pittsburgh Steelers [full archive here].

Season Recap: The Pittsburgh Steelers compiled a 12-4 record in 2011, but were upset in a shocking overtime loss to the Tebow-led Denver Broncos. The Steelers once again dealt with numerous injuries throughout the season, and had to make some cost-saving roster moves this offseason in order to get under the cap. Gone are longtime Steelers, Hines Ward, James Farrior, Aaron Smith, and Chris Kemoeatu. Pittsburgh will field a younger team in 2012, but should be in the playoff mix with QB Ben Roethlisberger in charge.

Team Needs:
1. Inside Linebacker: James Farrior, a starter since the 2002 season, was cut in March, leaving a vacant spot next to Lawrence Timmons. The Steelers need a new starter, and should be able to select one in the first round. If Dont’a Hightower last until the Steelers, he would be a perfect fit.

2. Offensive Line: The Steelers continue to get by with average play along the offensive line. The Steelers need depth at offensive tackle, and possibly a new starting guard. Mike Adams and Cordy Glenn would be good fits.

3. Nose Tackle: Casey Hampton is getting up there in age, and suffered a torn ACL at the end of the season. It’s now time for Pittsburgh to find Hampton’s replacement in the upcoming draft. Josh Chapman from Alabama is capable of starting his rookie year. Chapman could be had in rounds two or three.

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Draft Needs: Denver Broncos

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Denver Broncos [full archive here].

Season Recap: Broncos fans enjoyed an exciting 2011 season led by Tim Tebow, who took a 1-4 team to 8-8, won the AFC West, and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. The Broncos seemed to be set moving forward with Tebow; until perhaps one of the greatest free agent Quarterbacks of all time became available. John Elway made some good moves in free agency and will look to the draft to surround Peyton Manning with more talent before the 2012 season kicks off.

Team Needs:
1. Defensive Tackle: As of now, the Broncos starters are Ty Warren and Kevin Vickerson-making defensive tackle the number one priority heading into the draft. Brodrick Bunkley, who played well in 2011, signed with the Saints, leaving very little depth at the position. The Broncos have solid edge rushers, but need to get more of a presence in the middle in order to free up Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller. Michael Brockers, Fletcher Cox, or Jerel Worthy would all be nice fits in round one.

2. Running back: Willis McGahee had a 1,000-yard season and made the Pro-Bowl, but wore down the stretch. The Broncos must equip Manning with a solid RB option to share the load with McGahee and Knowshown Moreno, who can’t seem to stay healthy. A player such as Lamar Miller, David Wilson, or Doug Martin could all be reasonable options in the first two rounds.

3. Linebacker: Joe Mays was resigned, but he is better fit as a depth player. Denver’s best linebacker, DJ Williams is suspended for the first six games. The Broncos should search for a LB who is capable of starting next year. A player such as Mychal Kendricks, Travis Lewis, or Kyle Wilber could be taken in rounds two or three.

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Draft Needs: Houston Texans

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Houston Texans [full archive here].

Season Recap: The Texans were the most solid all-around team in 2011. The defense made a huge jump under coordinator Wade Phillips while switching to the 3-4, improving from 30th to 2nd in total yards allowed. Everything looked to be in place for a serious Super Bowl run, but the injury bug hit, and it hit very hard. First, All-Pro OLB Mario Williams was lost for the year after the 5th game. All-Pro WR Andre Johnson missed nine games. Pro-Bowl QB Matt Schaub was lost in week 10, forcing the Texans to start fifth-rounder and third-string QB T.J. Yates for the final six games. The Texans still managed to make the playoffs and win the first round, but simply didn’t have enough to get past the Ravens in the divisional round. Look for the Texans to come back healthy and dangerous in 2012.

Team Needs:
1. Wide Receiver: Andre Johnson is one of the best WR’s in the game, but there isn’t much of a threat next to him. It’s time for the Texans to fix this problem and go out and grab a legit number two option. Houston should target Kendall Wright, Stephen Hill, Rueben Randle, or Mohamed Sanu in round one.

2. Offensive Guard: Mike Brisiel signed with Oakland and 2011 starter Wade Smith is not that good. The Texans have to find at least one new starter at the guard position. Kevin Zeitler would fit in the zone-blocking scheme and could be had at pick 26.

3. Inside Linebacker: DeMeco Ryans wasn’t a good fit in the 3-4 and was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. Brain Cushing is entrenched at one ILB spot, leaving a question mark at the other. I don’t believe Darryl Sharpton is worthy of a starting job; he is better suited as special teams, depth type player. If the Texans pass on acquiring a WR in the first round, a player like Dont’a Hightower comes to mind. Hightower would complete the Texans defense for years to come.

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Draft Needs: New Orleans Saints

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the New Orleans Saints [full archive here].

Season Recap: After a somewhat slow start to the season, the New Orleans Saints exploded in the second-half, finishing the year with eight straight wins. Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s record of passing yards in a season, and many people anointed the Saints as early Super Bowl favorites. The Saints easily took care of the Lions in the Wild Card round, but failed to beat the 49ers on the road. With Head Coach Sean Payton suspended for the 2012 season, the New Orleans Saints have a lot to overcome if they hope to be contenders in 2012.

Team Needs:
1. Outside Linebacker: The Saints signed MLB Curtis Lofton to take over for Jonathon Vilma, who will likely be suspended for his role in the Bounty program, but questions still remain on the outside. Former Ram Chris Chamberlain was signed, but ideally as a depth player. The Saints don’t have a pick until the third round, so a player such as Zach Brown, Keenan Robinson, Sean Spence, or Nigel Bradham would be ideal fits.

2. Defensive End: New Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo loves having a rotation of ends to stay fresh throughout the game, enabling 100% effort every snap. Under “Spags”, you can never have enough D-lineman. The Saints need to add another body to the mix. Cam Johnson and Chandler Jones are names that are possibilities in the third round.

3. Defensive Tackle: Again, you can never have too many D-lineman under Spagnuolo. The Saints made a good signing in run-stuffer Brodrick Bunkley to start alongside Sedrick Ellis, but more depth is needed. With few high draft picks, it will be hard to get production from the rookies in 2012, but if a player such as Brandon Thompson or Kendall Reyes falls in the second round, the Saints could make a move up to grab them.

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Draft Needs: Green Bay Packers

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Green Bay Packers [full archive here].

Season Recap: The Green Bay Packers started the season 13-0 and were the obvious favorites to repeat as Super Bowl Champions. Well, the success seemed to get to the player’s heads and the Packers ended up losing their first playoff game. Led by MVP Aaron Rodgers, expect the Packers to enter 2012 with a rather large chip on their shoulder.

Team Needs:
1. Outside Linebacker: After a combined 23.5 sacks in his first two seasons, Clay Matthews managed only 6 in 2011. Green Bay needs a pass rusher opposite Matthews to help take away the double teams he received all season long. Bruce Irvin from West Virginia is an interesting option for Green Bay in round one.

2. Defensive End: Another reason for Matthews’ dip in production was the lack of pressure from the lineman up front. BJ Rajii is set at nose, but Green Bay needs better play from the defensive ends. Devon Still, Kendall Reyes, and Jerel Worthy are options in round one and two.

3. Center: Re-signing Scott Wells would take care of this problem, but if not, the Packers will have to draft a center in the first few rounds.

4. Defensive Backfield: Nick Collins’ absence hurt the Packers and the lack-of-depth showed during the second half of the season. The Packers also need to begin planning for the retirement of Charles Woodson, who is turning 36 this year.

5. Running Back: Ryan Grant is a free agent, leaving young RBs James Stark, Alex Green, and Brandon Saine behind Aaron Rodgers. The Packers should make attempts to resign Grant, or bring in a veteran for camp competition. Knowing the Packers don’t sign free agents, the return of Grant is the more likely scenario.

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Draft Needs: Baltimore Ravens

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Baltimore Ravens [full archive here].

Season Recap: If it weren’t for a Billy Cundiff missed field goal or a Lee Evans dropped touchdown pass, the Baltimore Ravens likely would have beaten the New England Patriots and clinched a spot in the Super Bowl. The Ravens need to stop coming up short and do whatever it takes to give Ray Lewis one more shot at another Super Bowl ring.

Team Needs:
1. Center: Both Matt Birk and Andre Gurode are free agents. The Ravens need to find an upgrade over both aging players. Peter Konz and Ben Jones are the two best centers and the draft and should be in play for the Ravens in the first two rounds.

2. Inside Linebacker: There’s no doubting Ray Lewis as an exceptional player, but at 36, there’s no telling how much time he has left. Starting ILB Jameel McClain and reserve Brendon Ayanbadejo are both free agents. Ideally, now is the time to find a replacement for Lewis. Dont’a Hightower, from Alabama, is an option in round one. If Baltimore decides to pass on Hightower, Vontaze Burfict would be a good selection in the middle rounds. Burfict’s known character issues and poor combine performance will push him down the draft, but if anyone can shape this guy up, it’s Ray Lewis.

3. Offensive Tackle: The Ravens have a hole at whichever tackle position Oher doesn’t play. There is no question Oher can be an effective starting Right Tackle, but he still hasn’t proven enough to lock down the left side. Ozzie Newsome needs to figure out the plans for Oher, and then make moves accordingly.

4. Wide Receiver: Torrey Smith played very well during his rookie season, but the Ravens need to continue adding weapons for Flacco. Anquan Boldin is still a starter, but seems to be regressing a bit. Reuben Randle and Stephen Hill are options in the first two rounds. The Ravens could target a Laurent Robinson or Brandon Lloyd in free agency.

5. Offensive Guard: The Ravens must resign Pro-Bowl LG Ben Grubbs. Marshal Yanda and Ben Grubbs are one of the top guard tandems in the league. Losing Grubbs would push OG higher on the need-list for the Ravens, but I think Grubbs returns to Baltimore.

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Draft Needs: San Francisco 49ers

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the San Francisco 49ers [full archive here].

Season Recap: The San Francisco 49ers were the headline team of 2011, improving from a 6-10 record in 2010 to a 13-3 team that was one game away from the Super Bowl under Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. Improved play of QB Alex Smith and a top five defense were the key reasons for the success. With a full season of head coaching experience under his belt, Harbaugh will undoubtedly lead a motivated and confident 49er team in 2012.

Team Needs:
1. Wide Receiver: Michael Crabtree finally showed what he is capable of, but really was the only solid option, outside of Vernon Davis, for Alex Smith. Free agent Josh Morgan played well, but only lasted five games before a season ending injury. Ted Ginn will most likely leave in free agency and Braylon Edwards has already been released. A speedster such as Robert Meachem or Vincent Jackson would be a great fit. Kendal Wright would also be a solid selection in the first round.

2. Right Guard: Adam Snyder is a free agent and most likely won’t be resigned. The 49ers need to draft a young OG to add to their offensive line. Cordy Glenn from Georgia and Kevin Zeitler from Wisconsin are names to keep an eye on in the draft.

3. Tight End: Everyone knows Harbaugh is a big fan of the two tight end set. Pairing a solid tight end with All-Pro Vernon Davis would be a smart move. Stanford tight end Coby Fleener is one of the top prospects in the draft, and with the connection to HC Jim Harbaugh, could be a possibility in round one or two.

4. Cornerback: This is a more pressing need if Carlos Rogers isn’t resigned, but it’s likely he returns. If he is not resigned, Trumaine Johnson from Montana is an interesting prospect to keep an eye on. I think the 49ers should add Cortland Finnegan, who would fit perfectly in the defense, and give the 49ers some very physical play in the secondary.

5. Safety: The 49ers appear set with Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner, but could use some more depth. Backups Reggie Smith and Madieu Williams are free agents, so a young draft pick would fit nicely. Harrison Smith, Markelle Martin, and George Iloka are all possibilities.

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