NFL Nation: Draft Watch 2010 NFC

Draft Watch: NFC North

April, 21, 2010
4/21/10
1:18
PM ET
NFC dream/Plan B: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Dream scenario/Plan B.

Chicago Bears

Dream scenario: Without a first- or second-round pick, Chicago's dreams are pretty muted this week. They have significant needs at guard and cornerback, but nothing would make them happier than having a starting-caliber safety fall to them at No. 75 overall. The nature of the position, and the depth of this draft, makes it possible. They might not get South Florida's Nate Allen, who is a likely second-round pick, but there should be other options. Finding a starter without having to sacrifice additional picks in a trade-up would be ideal.

Plan B: Guards are not highly coveted from a draft perspective, and if the Bears don't like any of the safeties available to them at No. 75, they should be able to find someone to compete for their wide-open spot at left guard. As of now, the only veteran in the mix for that role is Josh Beekman.

Detroit Lions

Dream scenario: This might be too dreamy to actually happen, but here goes: The Lions acquire Washington defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth for a third-round pick. They draft Oklahoma State's Russell Okung at No. 2 overall and grab Cal running back Jahvid Best at No. 34. Although they pass over arguably the two best prospects of the draft -- defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy -- the Lions still get an elite defensive tackle, a fixture at left tackle and a playmaker in the backfield who would be ready to contribute immediately while starter Kevin Smith continues his knee rehabilitation. I've shied away from this scenario, believing the cost for Haynesworth would be too high, but a third-round pick is pretty reasonable here.

Plan B: Frankly, getting a dynamic defensive playmaker at No. 2 -- Suh or McCoy -- is an awfully nice fallback position.

Green Bay Packers

Dream scenario: The Packers need a left tackle of the future. As this year's draft class stacks up, there is a significant dropoff between the top four left tackles and whoever you consider to be No. 5. Currently situated at No. 23, the Packers probably aren't going to get a chance at Okung, Oklahoma's Trent Williams, Rutgers' Anthony Davis or Iowa's Bryan Bulaga. But as long as we're in a dream-like state, we can hope that one of those four -- Davis? -- somehow slips to No. 23 or close enough that the Packers can make a reasonable trade up to get him.

Plan B: In our blog network mock draft, I proposed taking a chance on USC left tackle Charles Brown. He would probably get at least a year to develop, based on current starter Chad Clifton's contract, and would benefit from being in a stable offensive environment.

Minnesota Vikings

Dream scenario: Vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said this week that he is confident at least one of his four targeted players will be available with the No. 30 overall pick. I won't hazard a guess at their identities, but ideally one of them would be a quarterback and fall to their spot. More than anything, this franchise needs a young quarterback to build around. More often than not, those quarterbacks are found at the top of the draft and at least in the first round. There are no assurances about waiting for next year. Getting their quarterback of the future is the Vikings' dream scenario.

Plan B: The Vikings have a relatively strong roster otherwise, and therefore can afford to draft for value at every spot if they choose. If their quarterback of the future isn't available at No. 30, or he can be selected lower in the draft, then they'll benefit from additional depth that the best available player will bring.

Draft Watch: NFC West

April, 21, 2010
4/21/10
1:16
PM ET
NFC dream/Plan B: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Dream Scenario/Plan B.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals would love to fortify their defensive front seven in this draft, starting front and center. Tennessee nose tackle Dan Williams might fall to them at No. 26 in their dream scenario. And if that dream scenario were too far-fetched, Williams might fall far enough for Arizona to use one of its two third-round choices to move up several spots in the round to take him.

This assumes Williams indeed ranks as the most attractive option at nose tackle in this draft. Conventional wisdom has Williams going to Miami at No. 12, and with so many teams running 3-4 defenses, the Dolphins wouldn't be the only ones seeking help at the position. The 49ers could have interest as well because their nose tackle, Aubrayo Franklin, will probably play under a one-year contract this season.

Plan B could include staying at No. 26 and "settling" for one of the top inside linebackers in the draft. Missouri's Sean Weatherspoon comes to mind. Drafting the top-ranked tight end might even make sense for the Cardinals, depending on which defensive players remained available.

St. Louis Rams

The Rams have more holes than picks to patch them. The pipe-dream scenario for the Rams would include another team offering the world for the top overall choice. That almost certainly isn't going to happen, but a more realistic scenario could involve the Rams trading out of the 33rd overall pick at the top of the second round.

The overnight gap between first and second rounds could help St. Louis arrange a trade.

Their dream scenario might include moving back in the second round, adding one or more choices and still coming away with an impact player on offense, perhaps at wide receiver or tight end or both. The Rams desperately need offensive firepower and that type of move could help them get it.

If the Rams decide against drafting Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford first overall, Plan B could include bolstering the defense at No. 1, then trying to find a quarterback either at No. 33 or by trading into the late first round. Trading up wouldn't make much sense for the Rams because they need as many picks as they can get. But if they weren't sold on Bradford, they could always try to get Colt McCoy later.

Seattle Seahawks

One dream scenario for Seattle would be to emerge with one of the two highest-rated offensive tackles in the draft. Most of the teams drafting among the top five would focus on defense under this scenario, leaving Trent Williams, Russell Okung or Bryan Bulaga available at No. 6.

There's still some question as to how much the Seahawks will value a tackle in the draft. It's a legitimate question given line coach Alex Gibbs' philosophy of shaping lower draft choices into productive players for his system. If the Seahawks aren't set on taking a tackle that early, another dream scenario might include defensive tackle Gerald McCoy slipping to them at No. 6. Under this scenario, the Lions would take Ndamukong Suh at No. 2, with the Bucs, Redskins and Chiefs drafting offensive tackles.

Under Plan B, the Seahawks might not feel great about the tackles available to them, and McCoy would be long gone. Seattle would then take a hard look at highest-ranked player at another position. Safety Eric Berry, defensive end Derrick Morgan or running back C.J. Spiller could fit the profile.

San Francisco 49ers

A potential dream scenario for San Francisco would see them sitting at No. 13 with legitimate options at tackle and quarterback.

Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen would be available after slipping out of the top 10. Even if the 49ers' rumored interest in Clausen weren't true, Clausen's availability in that spot might enhance the value of the 13th overall choice. Perhaps another team would value a shot at Clausen enough to trade up. The 49ers could then either draft Clausen and declare him their future starter or trade out of the spot, giving them a later first-round choice, plus a new second-rounder. The team would still have a shot at an offensive tackle at No. 17.

Plan B doesn't look bad, either. The 49ers would stay at No. 13 and see which player falls to them. They could consider an offensive tackle or a highly rated cornerback or even Spiller if he were to fall their way. With another choice at No. 17, the 49ers should not feel as much pressure to address a primary need with both choices.

Draft Watch: NFC South

April, 21, 2010
4/21/10
1:05
PM ET
NFC dream/Plan B: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Dream scenario/Plan B.

Atlanta Falcons

Dream scenario: They get Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham with the first-round pick and come back with an outside linebacker and a center in the middle rounds. Graham’s been a very productive college player and the risk of him being a bust is low. He can fit a need immediately. Plan B: If Graham is somehow gone, that could change things dramatically. Jason Pierre-Paul has raw athleticism, but comes with questions. The Falcons may instead look toward linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, defensive tackle Jared Odrick or even an offensive lineman.

Carolina Panthers

Dream scenario: A big defensive tackle, like Terrence Cody, falls until they have their first pick in the second round. Cody would fill a huge void and make the run defense much better. They could follow him up with a wide receiver and a quarterback who can begin his career behind Matt Moore. Plan B: If Cody’s not there, a true run stuffer might not be available. The Panthers may have to go with a receiver first and that’s a dangerous proposition because their draft history with receivers has been terrible.

New Orleans Saints

Dream scenario: They done such a good job filling in depth at defensive end that it’s no longer a huge need. That leaves outside linebacker as the only really big need. The Saints likely would be very happy to land a linebacker like Weatherspoon or Jerry Hughes and get some depth at defensive tackle and tight end over the next few rounds. Plan B: The Saints aren’t desperate in any area. If a linebacker isn’t there with value in the first round, they can save that for a bit later and perhaps draft a defensive tackle or tight end first. The Saints are capable of surprises and a running back in the first few rounds isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Dream scenario: There doesn’t seem to be a big preference between defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy. The Bucs gladly would take either one and follow up with a receiver like Golden Tate and a cornerback with their two second-round picks. Plan B: If the Bucs don’t get a defensive tackle first, it’s almost a disaster because the need is so great. If Suh and McCoy are somehow gone, they’d have to consider taking offensive tackle Russell Okung, safety Eric Berry or a defensive end and they’d still have a glaring hole in the middle of their defensive line.

Draft Watch: NFC East

April, 21, 2010
4/21/10
1:03
PM ET
NFC dream/Plan B: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Dream scenario/Plan B.

Dallas Cowboys

I guess a dream scenario would be someone like Texas safety Earl Thomas slipping all the way to No. 27, but we know that will never happen. So a more realistic "dream" might be a team behind the Cowboys desperately wanting safety Taylor Mays. I don't believe the Cowboys want Mays, but he would be tempting if he's still there at No. 27. If the Cowboys can bail out on that pick and land an extra one, that would be a positive scenario. If none of that works, the Cowboys will stay at home and take someone such as USC left tackle Charles Brown or Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty. We know they love safety Nate Allen, but No. 27 is too high for him.

New York Giants

The dream scenario is Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain slipping to No. 15. But that seems like a stretch at this point. If McClain's not there, the Giants will be looking at defensive tackle Dan Williams. They need another defensive tackle who can hold at the point of attack. Williams would be that player. He'd be an immediate upgrade to Rocky Bernard and he would likely push Chris Canty. General manager Jerry Reese loves creating competition in training camp. I think Idaho guard Mike Iupati could also be an option in a Plan B scenario.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles would be thrilled with Texas safety Earl Thomas, but he'll never slide to No. 24. And that's why I'm sticking with Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson as the Plan B. He has the tools to be a starter in the league for several years. Another strong Plan B would be Florida center/guard Maurkice Pouncey. Andy Reid would be thrilled to land Pouncey. Especially with Jamaal Jackson recovering from the knee surgery.

Washington Redskins

I guess the dream scenario would be thwarting Andy Reid's evil plan and landing Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford. It wouldn't thrill Donovan McNabb, but it would give the Redskins more of a long-term answer than McNabb. But I don't see that scenario happening, so let's go with a left tackle at Plan B in Oklahoma State's Russell Okung or perhaps Oklahoma left tackle Trent Williams. Is it just me or is the Big 12 going to dominate the top of the draft board?

The Skins need more draft picks. That's why they should pull the trigger on an Albert Haynesworth. It's clear that Shanahan doesn't want to move forward with the talented defensive tackle. See what a team's willing to give up for him. I think you'd at least get a second-round pick.

Draft Watch: NFC West

April, 14, 2010
4/14/10
1:03
PM ET
NFC decision-makers: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: The decision-makers.

Arizona Cardinals

President Michael Bidwill and general manager Rod Graves are the highest-ranking personnel people, but the draft is clearly a collaborative effort in Arizona.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt has earned additional input after helping Arizona produce back-to-back division titles and a Super Bowl appearance. A stronger say in personnel was reportedly part of the understanding when Whisenhunt recently agreed to a contract extension through the 2013 season.

Director of player personnel Steve Keim plays a leading role in identifying talent at the college level. Keim and Graves have been together in Arizona since the late 1990s.

This appears to be a stable situation.

San Francisco 49ers

The situation in San Francisco appears far less stable than the one in Arizona.

Scot McCloughan's abrupt departure as general manager five weeks before the draft raised legitimate questions about how the power structure would shake out -- both in the long and short term.

Player personnel director Trent Baalke has taken over for McCloughan. It's clear the 49ers want Baalke to serve as a stabilizing force through the draft and probably longer.

It's still fair to wonder how draft day might go.

Coach Mike Singletary has stepped up his role in scouting. Team president Jed York and executive vice president Paraag Marathe remain influential. Their profiles are higher than they were a couple years ago.

What will it all mean when the 49ers are on the clock and various draft scenarios are playing out at full speed? That's a little tough to say at this point, though the 49ers appear determined to prove they'll proceed as usual.

Seattle Seahawks

Coach Pete Carroll is the highest-ranking football decision-maker in the organization and that's fine by GM John Schneider, whose role should be significant nonetheless.

Most head coaches with strong personnel power lean heavily on their GMs and scouting departments. Carroll's recent experience at the college level makes him more personally familiar with the talent in this draft, adding an important dynamic to the Seattle front office, particularly in this first draft under Carroll.

The Seahawks did maintain significant continuity in their personnel department. Will Lewis, Ruston Webster, Scott Fitterer and Mike Yowarsky remain in prominent roles. Each has been with the team for several years or longer.

St. Louis Rams

General manager Billy Devaney, executive vice president Kevin Demoff and coach Steve Spagnuolo are the primary decision-makers for a second consecutive draft.

One question in St. Louis is to what degree the pending ownership change might affect the team's thought process. There are no indications so far that the Rams will do anything other than proceed as they normally would.

Devaney, Demoff and Spagnuolo appear unified. They've been together for a couple of seasons and seem to have a good working relationship.

Draft Watch: NFC North

April, 14, 2010
4/14/10
1:01
PM ET
NFC decision-makers: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: decision-makers.

Chicago Bears

General manager Jerry Angelo is preparing for his ninth draft with the Bears, and his approach has changed significantly during that time period. He had a number of hits early in his career, from cornerback Charles Tillman and linebacker Lance Briggs in 2003 to receiver Bernard Berrian in 2004 to kick returner Devin Hester in 2005. But a few stumbles since then -- defensive end Dan Bazuin in 2007 among them -- have coincided with a move away from the draft focus; Angelo has gutted the 2009 and 2010 drafts to acquire veteran players. Angelo takes into account the opinion of coach Lovie Smith but has final say on the entire draft approach.

Detroit Lions

General manager Martin Mayhew emerged from the staff of former president/CEO Matt Millen with a strong understanding of the failures in that regime. Mayhew revamped the draft process, added more people to internal conversations and listens carefully to coach Jim Schwartz. It's hard to find a trend for Mayhew's thinking so early in his career, but his first draft produced nine players who saw action in 2009. At least four -- quarterback Matthew Stafford, tight end Brandon Pettigrew, safety Louis Delmas and linebacker DeAndre Levy -- will be starters at some point in 2010. Private as a player, Mayhew operates in near secrecy with the Lions.

Green Bay Packers

General manger Ted Thompson is entering his sixth draft as the Packers' top football decision-maker. All personnel men value the draft, but you would be hard-pressed to find one who puts such unequivocal faith in it as the sole avenue for stockpiling the roster. Thompson has signed only a handful of notable free agents during his tenure and none in the past three years. On the other hand, the Packers' regular starting lineup in 2009 included 18 players originally drafted by the team. Thompson lost a valued adviser in new Seattle general manager John Schneider, but he also leans on director of college scouting John Dorsey and director of football operations Reggie McKenzie.

Minnesota Vikings

Rick Spielman doesn't have the title of general manager, but as vice president of player personnel, he has run the Vikings' past three drafts. Spielman uses an intricate numbering system that places players in groups by their potential and then assigns a number -- sometimes carried out to decimal points in the ten-thousandths -- to rank each of them within that group. The approach led Spielman to choose receiver Sidney Rice over Dwayne Jarrett in 2007, among other decisions. He has also been willing to take injury and/or character risks in the first round if he's comfortable with his staff's research and evaluation.

Draft Watch: NFC East

April, 14, 2010
4/14/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC decision-makers: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: the decision-makers.

Dallas Cowboys

Everyone knows that owner/general manager Jerry Jones makes the final call in the draft room. But he receives plenty of input from son Stephen and the highly underrated director of scouting, Tom Ciskowski. If there are a couple of safeties the Cowboys are torn between, Jones might send for secondary coach Dave Campo. But in the end, Jones makes the final call. In '08, he turned to offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to get a final opinion on whether running back Felix Jones was the right pick ahead of Rashard Mendenhall, who eventually went to the Steelers. At the time, the Cowboys were in need of a complementary back to Marion Barber. Jones is actually a good listener, but he's making the final decision. When Bill Parcells was head coach from '03-'06, there was obviously a different dynamic. He had far more say than Wade Phillips currently has in the draft room.

New York Giants

Coach Tom Coughlin has a strong voice in the draft room, but general manager Jerry Reese is making the final call. Reese has a ton of trust in his scouting department, so he lets them do a lot of talking. But the mild-mannered former scout doesn't have any problem making a decision. Reese has a strong vision of what he's looking for in a player. And he almost never reaches. The Giants hit on a lot of picks late in the draft, in part, because Reese takes so much pride in the second day of the draft. Now that will be the third day in the draft, and he'll have more of an opportunity to re-set the board.

Philadelphia Eagles

Coach Andy Reid is the main decision-maker, but he gets a lot of input from president Joe Banner and new general manager Howie Roseman. Reid was always Donovan McNabb's biggest defender, but obviously he came around to thinking it was time to move the veteran quarterback. Reid's one of the few coaches in the league with final authority in the draft room. He's very respectful, though, of his scouting department and doesn't often try to trump them with impulsive decisions. Reid has a clear vision of what type of player he hopes to produce. He lets the scouts bring him the best value and then he normally goes along with their recommendations. Some would argue that Reid has too much on his plate. But this is the way he prefers to work. And for now, owner Jeff Lurie's not looking to change that dynamic.

Washington Redskins

Mike Shanahan immediately became the most powerful head coach in the division. Coughlin and Reid have a lot of authority, but they don't wear it on their sleeves like Shanahan. He's made it clear that money's not an issue when it comes to dealing with belly-aching players such as Albert Haynesworth. Dan Snyder has stepped aside and given Shanahan the ultimate authority. Is that too much for one man to handle? Well, we're about to find out. Fortunately for Shanahan, Redskins general manager Bruce Allen seems to be a less impulsive personnel man. His expertise is in doing contracts and working with the salary cap, but he has enough gumption to challenge Shanahan on certain issues.

Draft Watch: NFC South

April, 14, 2010
4/14/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC decision-makers: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: decision-makers.

Atlanta Falcons

General manager Thomas Dimitroff has final say and this guy has a strong background as a scout and personnel evaluator that has shown through in his first two drafts. Dimitroff is a true student of the game and watches countless hours of film. Coach Mike Smith also is heavily involved in the process, but Dimitroff has the strongest voice here.

Carolina Panthers

General manager Marty Hurney prides himself on saying there really is no “final say" in Carolina. He and coach John Fox make decisions together and the scouting department is heavily involved. Usually, this approach brings a consensus. Hurney says if there is strong disagreement on a player the team steers clear of that guy and moves to the next one on the list.

New Orleans Saints

General manager Mickey Loomis is the ultimate voice here, but it’s interesting to note how much better his track record has been since coach Sean Payton arrived. Loomis may have more power now than he did when Jim Haslett was coaching. He certainly has a better relationship with Payton than he did with Haslett, who might have been the driving force behind some bad personnel decisions.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

General manager Mark Dominik makes the final call or the Buccaneers. Much like Dimitroff, he came up through the ranks in the personnel department and has a strong scouting background. Coach Raheem Morris also has a strong voice in the room and was instrumental in the team selecting quarterback Josh Freeman last year. Dominik and Morris have collected 11 picks in this draft and know they need to succeed on most of them to really kick their rebuilding program in the right direction.

Draft Watch: NFC West

April, 7, 2010
4/07/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC Approach: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Draft approach.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals have shown better draft-day discipline over the last two seasons, with positive results. The trend should continue after Arizona signed coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves to contract extensions through the 2013 season.

Graves and player personnel director Steve Keim have been with the organization since the 1990s. Arizona has stability and continuity.

The Cardinals should have learned valuable lessons in 2007, Whisenhunt's first as head coach. That was the year Arizona emphasized need over value in the first two rounds, with predictable results. The team went with tackle Levi Brown at No. 5 when running back Adrian Peterson was available. Arizona then sent the 38th and 105th choices to Oakland for the 33rd choice, a pick the team used for nose tackle Alan Branch.

Arizona holds an extra third-round choice this year, giving the team ammunition to trade up in a round. But the last couple of seasons have shown there's value in patience. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and running back Beanie Wells landed in Arizona over the last two drafts without the Cardinals maneuvering to get them.

St. Louis Rams

The Rams have taken a play-it-safe approach in the draft over the last couple of years.

Defensive end Chris Long, offensive tackle Jason Smith and linebacker James Laurinaitis were seen as low-risk selections. They also were known for high character.

The Rams have indicated they could be more open to a wider range of personalities as they seek to upgrade their talent level. Their general approach should not change, but a dire need for playmakers might make it tougher to rule out all higher-risk players. General manager Billy Devaney has said he feels much better about the culture at Rams Park, making it easier for the team to consider higher-risk prospects.

Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant comes to mind. He's a top-10 or top-15 talent whose immaturity could push him down in the draft. Could the Rams resist him if he somehow fell to them at No. 33?

The Rams could also use additional picks, and that second-round choice could hold additional value as the NFL shifts to a new television-friendly draft format. I also think there's a chance some teams could try to move into the late first round to avoid having to wait overnight. Having a team trade into the first round for a shot at quarterback Colt McCoy could affect the Rams' options at No. 33 and, in turn, their approach.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers had become a very deliberate, value-oriented drafting team under general manager Scot McCloughan. Their decision to select receiver Michael Crabtree at the expense of more pressing positional needs demonstrated the approach last year.

It's unclear how much the approach might change now that McCloughan has left the organization. Player personnel director Trent Baalke, a McCloughan confidant, shares his former boss' philosophy. One question could be to what extent others in the organization, including coach Mike Singletary, influence the process on draft day itself.

Singletary is known for his enthusiasm. What kind of poker player might he make during a draft without a true GM in place? If the 49ers reach for, say, an offensive tackle, might it be because McCloughan wasn't there to make sure the team stuck with its board?

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks are a little harder to predict because they have a diverse mix of new leadership.

Coach Pete Carroll has the most personnel power ultimately, but general manager John Schneider ranks a close second and the philosophy he brings from Green Bay should help guide the draft. Offensive assistants Jeremy Bates and Alex Gibbs also could influence the approach based on the specific types of players they value.

The Packers accumulated more picks than any other NFL team once Schneider's mentor, Ted Thompson, took over for the 2005 draft. Seattle has also been accumulating choices. Schneider has described himself as more aggressive than Thompson. Carroll oozes energy and aggressiveness.

That combination could lead to a bolder approach in this draft. A trade for Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall would affirm such thinking.

Draft Watch: NFC North

April, 7, 2010
4/07/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC Approach: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Draft approach.

Chicago Bears

General manager Jerry Angelo's background is a scouting director, so for most of his Bears tenure he accumulated and guarded draft picks as if they were gold. In his first seven drafts with the Bears, he made 28 picks in the first three rounds (an average of four per year). But Angelo has changed his team-building process in the past two years, releasing that grip when offered the opportunity to acquire more established players. He gutted the top of the 2009 and 2010 drafts in trades for quarterback Jay Cutler and late defensive end Gaines Adams, supplementing those losses by signing veteran free agents to fill individual needs. It's not a bad idea when considering Angelo's current situation. The more immediate approach will either work or, after already missing the playoffs for three consecutive years, it will be a mess someone else has to clean up.

Detroit Lions

The talent gap in Detroit remains wide enough that the Lions will continue following their new mantra under general manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz: Talent must trump need at every pick. That was the case last year, when the Lions considered tight end Brandon Pettigrew the best player on their board at the No. 20 overall pick, and will resume in 2010. It is the Lions' luxury and curse. Although some positions are more dire than others, the team needs help at all of them except quarterback. So while the Lions' ideal scenario would be to grab multiple linemen in the first three rounds, they can't afford to force it by passing up players they consider more talented -- no matter what position they play.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers have largely sat out the free-agent market over the past four years, leaving them to fill all of their needs through the draft. As a result, general manager Ted Thompson hasn't been afraid to trade down to accumulate additional picks and provide maximum depth on his roster. This tack values volume over elite pedigree but has brought players like receiver Greg Jennings and defensive tackle Johnny Jolly to the team. Thompson did trade up last year to grab linebacker Clay Matthews in the first round, but in general that has been an exception to his rule. I'm guessing the Packers wouldn't be opposed to moving below their No. 23 overall pick this year if it means an additional choice in the late second or early third round.

Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota vice president Rick Spielman inherited a relatively talented roster in 2007 and thus has used the draft to target individual players his scouts have identified for specific roles on the team. By my count, Spielman has made seven draft-day trades to position himself to take the players he wanted over the past three years. Those players include receiver Sidney Rice (2007), safety Tyrell Johnson (2008) and linebacker Jasper Brinkley (2009). Expect more of the same this year from Spielman, who has the luxury of drafting purely for value rather than need.

Draft Watch: NFC South

April, 7, 2010
4/07/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC Approach: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Draft approach.

Atlanta Falcons

General manager Thomas Dimitroff is one of the few executives in the league who won’t give the tired answer about drafting the “best athlete available." He freely admits the Falcons draft mainly on need, although ability is certainly a factor. The Falcons are extremely committed to building the core of their team through the draft and they’ll look to continue that this year. Dimitroff is particularly looking forward to this draft because he has flexibility that hasn’t been there before. The Falcons went almost all offense in the first year Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith were together and focused heavily on defense last year. While defensive end and outside linebacker top the list of needs, the Falcons won’t be limited to one side of the ball in this draft.

Carolina Panthers

There’s always a lot of talk about how conservative general manager Marty Hurney and coach John Fox are. That’s true in a lot of ways, but it’s misleading when talking about their recent drafts. Hurney’s done more wheeling and dealing than a lot of general managers and made big trades to get Everette Brown and Jeff Otah in the last two drafts. Getting Brown last year cost the Panthers their first-round pick this year. The Panthers aren’t slated to pick until the middle of the second round, but don’t rule anything out. They might not have a lot of currency, but you might see them package a few later picks to try to move up if a player they really want is available late in the first round or early in the second.

New Orleans Saints

General manager Mickey Loomis has final say with lots of input from coach Sean Payton and the scouting department. You can’t question their success since this group came together. The 2006 draft by New Orleans -- which included Reggie Bush, Roman Harper, Jahri Evans and Marques Colston -- is shaping up as one of the most outstanding classes in recent history. Loomis isn’t afraid to go against popular opinion. He traded up to get Thomas Morstead in the fifth round last year. The move outraged some fans, but Morestead ended up being an important part of the Saints’ march to the Super Bowl title. Loomis is in a different situation this year because the Saints have the last pick in the first round and don’t have a lot of glaring needs other than depth. The Saints haven’t been players in free agency, so don’t be surprised if Loomis tries to add some picks during the draft to get more depth.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rip on general manager Mark Dominik and coach Raheem Morris for a turbulent first year in power, but you can’t really criticize their first draft. They got a franchise quarterback in Josh Freeman, a surprise seventh-round contributor in receiver Sammie Stroughter and a few other players who showed some promise. Dominik is quite proud of the fact he’s stockpiled 11 draft picks and he could look to add more. This whole youth movement the Bucs are going through hasn’t been very popular with the fans, but the team remains very committed to building through the draft. The failure to do that caused the downfall of Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen and it has been a painful process to watch their collection of veterans getting cut and busted draft picks over the last year or two. But this draft is a chance for the Bucs to put some life back into the franchise.

Draft Watch: NFC East

April, 7, 2010
4/07/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC Approach: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Draft approach.

Dallas Cowboys

Now that Jerry Jones has released left tackle Flozell Adams and safety Ken Hamlin, there's more of a sense of urgency at those spots in the draft. The Cowboys will replace Adams with Doug Free, but they could still take an offensive tackle or guard at No. 27 overall. Safety Nate Allen and cornerback Devin McCourty are two players the Cowboys really like late in the first round.

There's a belief that safeties Alan Ball and Mike Hamlin could get the job done in a pinch, but the Cowboys will focus on that position in the draft. Last year's approach involved saving money -- if you can believe that. The Cowboys' first picks were Nos. 69 and 74. The only true impact player from the '09 draft was kickoff specialist David Buehler. In this year's draft, the Cowboys need to select players who can have a more immediate impact. If an offensive tackle starts to slip in the first round, don't be surprised if the Cowboys are there to catch him.

In the past, the Cowboys have emphasized need over value out of necessity. In this year's draft, I think staying at No. 27 and going with the best value is what the Cowboys are trying to accomplish. Releasing Hamlin and Adams certainly changed the dynamic heading into the draft, but it also provided some clarity.

New York Giants

General manager Jerry Reese almost never gets caught reaching in a draft. He doesn't normally go for project players in the first three rounds, although Ramses Barden is certainly the exception. This year's approach has to be a little different, though. The Giants were exposed on defense in several areas last season.

They can't afford to simply take the "best-player-on-the-board" philosophy. The Giants need help at linebacker and defensive tackle. And another pass-rusher would be nice. I'd be very surprised if the Giants took an offensive player at No. 15 overall. If Rolando McClain out of Alabama is there, look for Reese to take him. He's exactly the type of player Reese and Coughlin love -- remarkably intelligent and a natural leader. After losing Antonio Pierce, the Giants need more players like that.

Philadelphia Eagles

With the Sheldon Brown/Chris Gocong trade, the Eagles are now thin at cornerback and linebacker. And it's not as if they had an embarrassment of riches at those positions before the trade. In the past, the Eagles have been very open to moving down in the first round. And with the depth of talent in this year's draft, that's certainly a possibility. But at No. 24, something tells me the Eagles will stay right there and draft the best cornerback or safety available. They've taken a long look at Texas' Earl Thomas, but I don't know if he'll be available at that point.

The Eagles need more firepower at linebacker, so that's also an option in the first round. They've spent the past couple of drafts bolstering their offense with speed at the skill positions. Now it's time to start retooling that defense. I'd be very surprised if the Eagles don't take a defensive player at No. 24.

Washington Redskins

Mike Shanahan continues to meet with quarterbacks despite the blockbuster trade for Donovan McNabb. I recall McNabb not enjoying a certain draft pick in '07, so it will be interesting to see whether Shanahan addresses the quarterback position in the draft.

Of course, the draft focus now turns to left tackle. The Redskins don't have a viable candidate there unless they sign the aging Flozell Adams. And general manager Bruce Allen said on a local radio show that he's talked to Adams' agent. But I still think left tackle Russell Okung of Oklahoma State is the way to go for the Redskins at No. 4 overall. The Redskins will have to wait until Saturday to pick again unless they somehow land a second-round pick in a trade.

So in reality, the Redskins will only find one immediate starter in this draft. And by the way, Shanahan needs to start drafting some larger inside linebackers. As I've said many times, London Fletcher is not going to hold up in this defense for very long. Part of that is age, but most of it is size.

Draft Watch: NFC North

March, 31, 2010
3/31/10
1:18
PM ET
NFC History: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: History in that spot.

Chicago Bears

The Bears’ top pick is No. 75 overall. Here are the last five players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2009: Ball State tackle Robert Brewster (Dallas)
2008: Oklahoma defensive back Reggie Smith (San Francisco)
2007: Illinois State receiver Laurent Robinson (Atlanta)
2006: Louisville guard Jason Spitz (Green Bay)
2005: Virginia Tech defensive back Eric Green (Arizona)

Robinson had 37 receptions as a rookie but has since moved to St. Louis. Spitz was the Packers’ opening-day center last season before a back injury sidelined him. He is a candidate to start in 2010. Smith has played in 13 games over the past two seasons for the 49ers, with seven tackles and no interceptions.

Detroit Lions

The Lions’ top pick is No. 2 overall. Here are the last five players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2009: Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith (St. Louis)
2008: Virginia defensive end Chris Long (St. Louis)
2007: Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson (Detroit)
2006: USC running back Reggie Bush (New Orleans)
2005: Auburn running back Ronnie Brown (Miami)

Brown, Bush and Johnson have all been dynamic playmakers for parts of their careers. Coincidentally, all three have been slowed by knee injuries of varying severity. The Rams are still waiting for elite payoff from Long and endured an inconsistent rookie season from Smith.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers’ top pick is No. 23 overall. Here are the last five players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2009: Mississippi offensive tackle Michael Oher (Baltimore)
2008: Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall (Pittsburgh)
2007: LSU receiver Dwayne Bowe (Kansas City)
2006: Oklahoma guard Davin Joseph (Tampa Bay)
2005: Nebraska cornerback Fabian Washington (Oakland)

Oher, Mendenhall, Bowe and Joseph have been full-time starters. Washington moved from Oakland to Baltimore.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings’ top pick is No. 30 overall. Here are the last five players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2009: Rutgers receiver Kenny Britt (Tennessee)
2008: Purdue tight end Dustin Keller (New York Jets)
2007: LSU receiver Craig Davis (San Diego)
2006: LSU running back Joseph Addai (Indianapolis)
2005: Virginia tight end Heath Miller (Pittsburgh)

All five are skill players, for what it’s worth. Davis has been a bust, but Miller, Addai and Keller are highly productive players. Britt is on pace to be as well.

Draft Watch: NFC South

March, 31, 2010
3/31/10
1:03
PM ET
NFC History: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: History in that spot.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

They’re sitting at No. 3 and recent history indicates they’ll get a big name, but not necessarily a guaranteed star. The jury is still very much out on defensive end Tyson Jackson, who went to Kansas City in this spot last year. Jackson didn’t record a sack in his rookie year. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan went No. 3 overall in 2008 and is off to a very good start, and the same can be said for 2007 No. 3 pick Joe Thomas. The Cleveland offensive tackle already has been picked for three Pro Bowls. But 2006 third pick Vince Young and 2005 No. 3 Braylon Edwards have both had very uneven careers thus far.

Atlanta Falcons

They hold the No. 19 pick and the recent history in that spot has been solid. Philadelphia receiver Jeremy Maclin and Carolina offensive tackle Jeff Otah are off to strong starts. Tennessee safety Michael Griffin, who went in this spot in 2007, has been a very solid player and 2005 pick Alex Barron has been a regular starter at offensive tackle for the Rams. The biggest question mark at this spot in recent history is Antonio Cromartie. He had a few very productive years in San Diego, but slumped last season, prompting his move to the New York Jets.

New Orleans Saints

They hold the No. 32 pick, the final one in the first round because they won the Super Bowl. There are no guarantees of instant success when you’re picking this late. Ziggy Hood went in this spot to Pittsburgh last year and the Steelers are bringing him along very slowly. Safety Kenny Phillips went No. 32 to the Giants in 2008. He was primarily a backup as a rookie and got hurt early last year. It’s a similar story for 2007 pick Anthony Gonzalez of the Colts. He showed promise in his first two seasons as a backup, but an injury derailed him last year. The Giants have had mixed results with defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, whom they took in this spot in 2006. He hasn’t been spectacular, but he has been somewhat productive. The real gem in this spot has been 2005 pick Logan Mankins. The New England guard has been to two Pro Bowls.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers traded this year’s first-round pick to San Francisco last year. As a result, their top pick is in the second round and it’s No. 48 overall. History has shown you still can get a productive player at this spot. Cornerback Darcel McBath got off to a good start with Denver last year before being sidelined with an injury late in the season. Tight end Fred Davis had a quiet rookie season with the Redskins in 2008, but started to emerge last year. Jacksonville linebacker Justin Durant was a part-time-starter as a rookie in 2007, but has been a full-time starter the past two seasons. Cornerback Cedric Griffin has developed into a solid starter in Minnesota after being selected by the Vikings in 2006. Then, there’s the sad story of linebacker Odell Thurman, whom the Bengals took at No. 48 in 2005. He played only two seasons before suspensions and off-field problems derailed his career.

Draft Watch: NFC West

March, 31, 2010
3/31/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC History: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: History in that spot.

St. Louis Rams

The Rams' decision at No. 1 will likely come down to quarterback Sam Bradford or defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy.

NFL teams have taken three quarterbacks first overall in the past five years. Alex Smith (49ers, 2005) has been mostly disappointing, although he has showed signs of progress lately. JaMarcus Russell (Raiders, 2007) is looking like a flat-out bust. Matthew Stafford (Lions, 2009) hasn't played long enough for anyone to know.

The Rams won't find much comfort in analyzing defensive tackles taken first overall lately. NFL teams haven't drafted one first overall since the Bengals selected "Big Daddy" Dan Wilkinson in 1994.

Nine of the last 15 top picks were quarterbacks. Four were linemen. One was a running back. One was a receiver.

Seattle Seahawks

The sixth overall choice is high enough for Seattle to select the top-rated player at one of the less important positions. That's what the Redskins did when they drafted safety LaRon Landry sixth in 2007 and what the 49ers did when they chose tight end Vernon Davis sixth a year earlier.

The alternative could be selecting the second-rated player at one of the marquee positions. Andre Smith (Bengals, 2009) was the second offensive tackle selected in his class. Vernon Gholston (Jets, 2008) was the second defensive end in his class, though he became a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.

It's also possible the Seahawks could find the first offensive tackle or defensive end available at No. 6. The probably won't look for a cornerback that early. Adam "Pacman" Jones (Titans, 2005) was the last corner taken sixth overall.

The Seahawks also hold the 14th overall choice. Three of the last five players taken in that spot were defensive backs, including the Jets' sensational Darrelle Revis. The Bears found the third-rated tackle at No. 14 when they drafted Chris Williams in 2008, but Seattle probably will not have that option in this draft. Too many teams ahead of the Seahawks could be targeting tackles. It's one reason Seattle could take one sixth.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers could use an offensive tackle. The 13th overall choice hasn't been particularly lucky at the position. The Saints' Jammal Brown, chosen 13th in 2005, is the only offensive lineman selected in the spot since the Houston Oilers drafted Brad Hopkins in 1993.

Relatively few offensive linemen have gone between the 11th and 16th picks during that time.

The last four picks at No. 13: defensive end Brian Orakpo (Redskins, 2009), running back Jonathan Stewart (Panthers, 2008), defensive lineman Adam Carriker (Rams, 2007), defensive end Kamerion Wimbley (Browns, 2006). Orakpo and Wimbley are 3-4 outside linebackers. The 49ers could use another one of those.

San Francisco also holds the 17th overall choice. Guard Steve Hutchinson (Seahawks, 2001) was the last true star taken in that slot. More recently, defensive ends Jarvis Moss (Broncos, 2007) and David Pollack (Bengals, 2005) haven't panned out. Moss reportedly contemplated retirement amid struggles adapting to a 3-4 scheme last season. A neck injury forced Pollack into retirement before he had a chance to develop.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals could use another linebacker and they could do much worse than finding a player as good as Clay Matthews, who went to Green Bay at No. 26 last year.

The 26th spot, which also produced potential Hall of Famers Alan Faneca and Ray Lewis years ago, hasn't been as kind to other teams recently.

Tackle Duane Brown (Texans, 2008), defensive end Anthony Spencer (Cowboys, 2007), defensive tackle John McCargo (Bills, 2006), center Chris Spencer (Seahawks, 2005) were 26th overall picks.

The Cardinals can't do much worse than the 49ers have fared at No. 26. San Francisco drafted tackle Kwame Harris (2006) and quarterback Jim Druckenmiller (1997) in that spot.

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