AFC South: On the Clock
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Team needs: Defensive tackle, outside linebacker, safety, running back.
|Chris Morrison/US PRESSWIRE|
|USC linebacker Clay Matthews could fill a void for the Texans.|
Dream scenario: All indications are that the Texans are expecting to address linebacker with the 15th pick in the draft. Ideally, they'd have their choice of the two USC guys projected to be selected around the middle of the first round -- Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews Jr. Matthews may be viewed as having a bit more upside as he has not reached his peak. And the Texans have inside information on him, as his uncle, Bruce Mathews, is now a part of Gary Kubiak's staff. At 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, Matthews would give the Texans the sort of size -- and hopefully the sort of durability -- they covet.
Plan B: Boston College's B.J. Raji will be out of range, but the Texans will have to consider a defensive tackle who can get some interior push, take some attention away from Mario Williams and help Amobi Okoye get back on track. Candidates at No. 15 might be Peria Jerry of Mississippi or Evander Hood of Missouri. A team in need of a lot of help on defense probably cannot afford to go offense, but Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells would have to be tempting to a team in need of a big back to pair with Steve Slaton.
Scouts Inc. take: "Houston is in a very good position for draft day. It will be tempting to add a first-round running back like Beanie Wells, but offensive line coach Alex Gibbs certainly has never needed running backs with strong pedigrees in order for his ground game to be successful. The obvious answer for Houston is to go with defense -- and I certainly would not object. Even a situational pass rusher like Aaron Maybin could yield immediate dividends, as Antonio Smith could move inside on passing downs and Maybin would line up opposite Mario Williams. Clay Mathews Jr. also makes a lot of sense. I can live with the Texans' defense at each level, especially with their ability to put points on the board on offense, but another playmaker at any level would surely be a welcome addition. One wild card to consider: Percy Harvin -- just a hunch, but wow, he could do great things with this group. If Matt Schaub can finally stay healthy, the Texans are not all that far away from becoming a contender. This draft could put them over the top." -- Matt Williamson, Scouts Inc.
Who has final say: General manager Rick Smith and coach Gary Kubiak work to find a consensus, but the Texans won't wind up with players Kubiak doesn't endorse.
Now On the Clock: New Orleans Saints, April 2.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
|Dale Zanine/US Presswire|
|North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks could step in as the No. 2 receiver for the Colts.|
Team needs: Defensive tackle, receiver, outside linebacker, running back
Dream scenario: The Colts have major holes to patch on defense, and they will spend a lot of picks on those spots. But team president Bill Polian is obligated to surround Peyton Manning with the best weapons possible as the quarterback comes off his third MVP season. So it would help the Colts play to their strength if a quality wide receiver is available at No. 27.
Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey will probably be gone, and while he needs polish, he would be a vertical threat who could pull attention away from Wayne or make defenses pay. At least a couple scouts think Rutgers' Kenny Britt and North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks are capable of very quickly stepping in as the second receiver, behind Reggie Wayne but ahead of slot-specialist Anthony Gonzalez. At 6-foot-3, 218, Britt would bring the sort of size Manning hasn't thrown to. Nicks has potential to be Marvin Harrison-like, although he won't be as exciting after the catch.
Plan B: Polian has said the best defensive tackles usually disappear in the first 15 picks, then don't re-emerge as a value until the latter rounds of the draft. But the guys rated as the second- and third-best defensive tackles in this draft could be around in the late 20s -- Mississippi's Peria Jerry and Missouri's Evander Hood. They both can help settle the Colts down against the run up the middle and help collapse the pocket and get to the passer.
Scouts Inc. take: "If history has taught us anything about the Colts' organization it is that Bill Polian and Co. will use first-round picks to surround Peyton Manning with plenty of skill-position talent. It is a long, illustrious list of first-rounders and that trend could continue once again this year. With Wayne, Gonzalez and Dallas Clark -- all former first-rounders -- in the fold right now, another wideout might not appear to be as high of a draft priority as defensive tackle, which is a position made up of adequate-at-best starters. But the Colts' decision-makers understand what has made them so successful throughout the Manning era and probably will continue with that strategy. While defensive tackles like Peria Jerry, Ziggy Hood and Ron Brace will be attractive to Indianapolis, do not be surprised when Britt or Brian Robiskie's name is taken to the podium for the Colts in Round 1." -- Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.
Who has final say: Polian equals personnel in Indianapolis. His scouts know what works in the Colts' schemes and the coaches he'll get input from include new head coach Jim Caldwell and new defensive coordinator Larry Coyer. But one of the league's best drafters has the final word.
Now on the clock: Baltimore Ravens, March 20.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Team needs: Receiver, cornerback, outside linebacker, offensive tackle
|Charles Sonnenblick/Getty Images|
|The Titans could take a wide receiver like Florida's Percy Harvin if he falls to them at No. 30.|
The Titans have a long history of holding off on receivers; they have not drafted one in the first round since Kevin Dyson in 1998. But here is a draft in which they are not desperate for help at any spot, so the best-case scenario would be they are enamored with one of the receivers who could still be around at No. 30 -- Hakeem Nicks of North Carolina, Kenny Britt of Rutgers or Percy Harvin of Florida. Tennessee doesn't traditionally give rookie receivers a lot of work, and if the Titans go against tradition and pick one here, they'd likely give him the time he needs to develop while counting on Justin Gage, free-agent addition Nate Washington and second-year man Lavelle Hawkins in 2009. Whether a first-round receiver would be in line to help now or later, the goal is to threaten down the field and keep teams honest, opening some room for running back Chris Johnson.
Plan B: The Titans are run by a couple of former NFL defensive backs in GM Mike Reinfeldt and coach Jeff Fisher and are of the belief they can never have enough quality cornerbacks. Cortland Finnegan should be a fixture for years and Vincent Fuller is a solid nickel back. But Nick Harper is getting older and having a quality replacement on board for beyond 2009 would be a sound move. Prospects such as Wake Forest's Alphonso Smith, Vanderbilt's D.J. Moore and Connecticut's Darius Butler all lack height, but may be possibilities as quality cover guys.
Scouts Inc. take: "While they have long-term questions at the quarterback position, the Titans need to take a win-now approach to this draft and have to find a wideout with both short-term and long-term potential on the edge. Signing Nate Washington wasn't a bad maneuver, but they still very much lack anyone resembling a No. 1 wideout. Finding someone of that caliber will not be easy with the 30th overall selection, but a player like Rutgers' Kenny Britt or North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks would be a great addition. Losing Albert Haynesworth will not be easy to overcome, so it wouldn't be out of the question for Tennessee to look at a defensive tackle like Boston College's Ron Brace or Missouri's Ziggy Hood if a suitable wideout isn't available. The Titans' goal will be to find one top playmaker on offense and some players to contribute and compete for playing time along the defensive line, at middle linebacker and cornerback on defense." -- Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.
Who has final say: Fisher isn't going to find himself with draft picks he didn't want, but Reinfeldt runs the draft room.
Now on the clock: New York Giants, March 18.