NFL Nation: Draft Watch 2011

Draft Watch: NFC East

April, 21, 2011
4/21/11
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), 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

Dream scenario: If the Cowboys play things the conventional way and sit tight at No. 9, they’ll probably be looking at either defensive end J.J. Watt or offensive tackle Tyron Smith. Either one would provide good value or fill a big need, and the Cowboys would improve. But Dallas owner Jerry Jones doesn’t always do things the conventional way. Although trading up to the top five might be difficult, Jones’ imagination could heat up if LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson makes it past the first five picks. The entire Dallas secondary had a horrible year last season, and Peterson would provide an instant upgrade. Jones might not be able to sit still if he’s within striking distance of Peterson.

Plan B: If there’s no chance at Peterson and the Cowboys aren’t excited enough about Watt or Smith, they could reach slightly and take Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara. He’s the second-best cornerback in this draft, and most mocks have him going somewhere in the teens. If the Cowboys like the player enough, it wouldn’t be much of a reach to just take him. If another team is looking to move up for another player, the Cowboys could drop down a few spots and still have a shot at Amukamara.

Washington Redskins

Dream scenario: The Redskins, who need a quarterback perhaps more than any other team on the planet, would love nothing more than for something bizarre to suddenly cause Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert to start falling. It’s not out of the realm of possibility. Carolina’s leaning toward Newton but hasn’t made a final decision. Even if the Panthers go with Newton, Buffalo could go with linebacker Von Miller at No. 3, and the word out of Arizona is the Cardinals probably are looking more for a pass-rusher than a quarterback. That would put the Redskins within striking distance on Gabbert, and general manager Bruce Allen and owner Daniel Snyder could try to move up to grab him. Or they could just take a chance that he’ll be available at No. 10.

Plan B: If Newton and Gabbert are gone, there’s no quarterback worthy of the No. 10 pick. Defensive tackle also is a major need, but the Redskins could fill that in free agency. Snyder enjoys making a splash, and if he can’t do it with a quarterback, he might do the next-best thing and take a guy who would catch passes from whoever ends up throwing them. With Santana Moss as a free agent and not much else in the receiving corps, Alabama’s Julio Jones could be a very nice consolation prize.

New York Giants

Dream scenario: The desperate need is at outside linebacker, but the only player who is really a sure thing is Miller, and he almost certainly will be a top-five pick. So the dream ends there and reality sets in, and the other reality is the Giants have big needs on the offensive line, where everyone but guard Chris Snee is starting to get old. Florida center/guard Mike Pouncey could really solidify the interior of the line, where the need is greatest. Tackles Gabe Carimi and Anthony Castonzo also could be possibilities as the Giants could consider moving tackle David Diehl to guard.

Plan B: This may sound a bit off the wall because the Giants have decent running backs in Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. But what if Alabama’s Mark Ingram happens to be available? The Giants might have to consider him. He might be better than Bradshaw and Jacobs. Also, along the same lines, don’t rule out the possibility of a defensive tackle like Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson if he’s available. The Giants appear to be in good shape in the middle of the defensive line, but general manager Jerry Reese places a high value on having lots of depth, especially in the middle of the defensive line.

Philadelphia Eagles

Dream scenario: In a perfect world, the Eagles would package their first pick (No. 23 overall) with quarterback Kevin Kolb and trade their way into the top five, where they would aim for cornerback Peterson. The Eagles have a desperate need for a cornerback to play opposite Asante Samuel, and Peterson is the only sure thing in this draft. But this is not a perfect world. Unless the lockout somehow ends between now and the start of the draft, they’re not allowed to trade Kolb. If they stay put, the Eagles have to hope Amukamara somehow falls to them, or they might have to take a chance on Colorado’s Jimmy Smith, who comes with some background questions.

Plan B: The right side of the offensive line needs to be upgraded. Most teams stay clear of guards in the first round. But tackles Castonzo, Nate Solder and Carimi all could be available when the Eagles pick. Any one of them could step right into the lineup and start.

Draft Watch: NFC West

April, 21, 2011
4/21/11
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Dream Scenario/Plan B.

Arizona Cardinals

Dream scenario: Having Texas A&M pass-rusher Von Miller available at No. 5 would qualify as a dream scenario based on what we know about Arizona this offseason. New defensive coordinator Ray Horton has vowed to turn the Cardinals into more of a pressure-oriented team. The Cardinals have an obvious need to get more dynamic at outside linebacker to a degree that probably would not happen even if O'Brien Schofield and Will Davis emerged as factors.

Granted, the Cardinals need a quarterback more than they need anything else, but there's no sense to this point that Arizona would select one fifth in this draft. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has said he doesn't see a Sam Bradford or Matt Ryan type among the current college prospects. Personnel director Steve Keim has said a team cannot have any reservations about a quarterback selected that early. Perhaps they are blowing smoke.

Plan B: Or, Whisenhunt might be right about not seeing a Bradford or Ryan in this draft. The Cardinals' need for a quarterback is great enough, however, for them to select one as Plan B should the pass-rusher scenario fall through. Let's assume Miller is off the board when Arizona chooses. Drafting receiver A.J. Green or cornerback Patrick Peterson would upgrade the roster, to be sure, but if a top pass-rusher were unavailable and Gabbert slipped unexpectedly, could Arizona really turn its back on a promising if imperfect passer?

San Francisco 49ers

Dream scenario: Having Miller or one of the top quarterbacks fall to the 49ers at No. 7 would surely tempt them, but that seems unrealistic even as a dream scenario.

A more realistic dream scenario would have the 49ers on the clock with a choice between top cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara. The team could then draft the one it likes best, filling an obvious need, or consider trading out of the selection if another team showed strong interest in moving up the board for, say, one of the top wideouts.

The 49ers' problems in pass coverage last season were team-related and not just corner-specific. The safety play wasn't exactly stellar. As ESPN Stats & Information notes, the 49ers allowed 66.7 percent completions, 18.2 yards per attempt and a 130.1 rating on passes thrown at least 15 yards downfield between the yard-line numbers -- right where top coverage safeties are expected to make their mark. The league averages were 48.8 percent completions and 12.3 yards per attempt with a 79.9 rating.

But with cornerback Nate Clements' contract becoming untenable, there's no denying the team's need for a top corner. Adding one with the seventh overall choice would provide a needed talent upgrade in the secondary. And if Peterson eventually transitioned into becoming a top safety, as former 49ers cornerback Eric Davis suggested the case might be, the 49ers could use him there as well. Ronnie Lott made that transition famously as the eighth pick of the 1981 draft.

Plan B: It would probably entail seeking out one of the top pass-rushers after Miller. I've penciled in Robert Quinn as a possibility, but the 49ers would have to weigh risks. Quinn underwent surgery in 2007 to alleviate pressure caused by a benign tumor that remains in Quinn's brain and could affect his status.

St. Louis Rams

Dream scenario: Landing a playmaking wideout with the 14th overall selection stands as the dream scenario for the only NFC West organization that has found its long-term answer at quarterback. Conventional wisdom says there's no chance Green will be available this late, and most mock drafts seem to have Alabama receiver Julio Jones coming off the board before the 14th selection as well. The Rams can dream for the purposes of this exercise. Jones would certainly add promise to a receiving corps with quite a few injury-related question marks.

Quarterback Sam Bradford completed 59.1 percent of his passes to wide receivers last season, right at the league average. But he managed only 6.2 yards per attempt on those passes, well off the 7.8-yard NFL average. Arming Bradford with ample weapons, particularly on the outside, makes too much sense for the Rams to head in another direction unnecessarily.

Plan B: If one of the top two wideouts isn't available at No. 14, the Rams can feel good about building their depth along the defensive line. Coach Steve Spagnuolo wants to build a deep rotation of linemen along the lines of what he had when running the New York Giants' defense. While the Rams got more than expected from their defensive line last season -- Fred Robbins and James Hall were outstanding -- they could use an infusion of young talent. Auburn's Nick Fairley has the talent to go much higher than No. 14, but if he or even Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget were available, the Rams could do worse.

Seattle Seahawks

Dream scenario: General manager John Schneider came right out and said he hopes to move out of the 25th overall choice. Trading down generally would not qualify as a very exciting dream scenario, but the Seahawks need more selections. They lack a third-round choice and remain in what Schneider called the "infancy" of the building process. More picks, please.

While Seattle obviously needs a quarterback, this draft does not appear to offer slam-dunk prospects at the position, and Seattle is selecting too late for a realistic shot at one of the top ones, anyway. Trading out of the spot would allow Seattle to gain the additional picks necessary to address multiple deficiencies. Remember, Schneider came to Seattle from Green Bay, where the Packers used more draft selections than any team in the league -- 51 -- over a five-year period beginning in 2005.

Plan B: Of course, lots of teams talk about trading down and acquiring additional selections. It's easier said than done, in some cases. Plan B could entail standing pat at No. 25 and selecting the best lineman available on either side of the ball. The Seahawks need building blocks. They selected high enough in 2010 to target elite prospects at left tackle (Russell Okung) and free safety (Earl Thomas). They're in position to take a less exciting approach this year, but they can still strengthen their foundation.

Draft Watch: AFC South

April, 21, 2011
4/21/11
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Dream scenario/Plan B.

Houston Texans

Dream scenario: A run on quarterbacks means the team has more to choose from on defense, and while Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller is too much to hope for, North Carolina’s Robert Quinn is there for them to snatch up at No. 11. Quinn would be inserted as a starting outside linebacker in the new 3-4 scheme run by defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.

Plan B: A trade down with someone looking to come up for a quarterback would be nice, as the Texans could use extra picks to replenish the defense. In such a scenario, a spot in the middle or high 20s could be used on an outside linebacker like Georgia’s Justin Houston, UCLA’s Akeem Ayers or Arizona’s Brooks Reed. But if they remain at No. 11, Missouri’s Aldon Smith is a guy who could help them.

Indianapolis Colts

Dream scenario: They may not value an offensive tackle with the 22nd pick, but it seems like it’s time that they should. Ideally, they’d have their choice between Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi, Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo and Colorado’s Nate Solder. Carimi, who got great experience at Wisconsin, gets the nod from a team that is in the middle of Big Ten country.

Plan B: Who’s the value guy who’s slipped? That’s the man the Colts are most likely to pounce on, but I can’t predict who it’ll be. A quality defensive tackle can do a lot for the defense, and if Illinois’ Corey Liuget is still available, he could be a guy the Colts like. He’s drawn comparisons to Anthony McFarland, and while McFarland didn’t work out well, the qualities he had that were appealing are still appealing.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Dream scenario: Even for a dream, the idea of a safety worthy of the 16th overall pick is far-fetched. So we’ll move past that. If they love a quarterback, they could have some appealing options. Otherwise, I see GM Gene Smith sticking with his foundation-building plan, and that would mean a defensive end. If they want bigger, it’s Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt. If they want faster, it’s Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan. Aldon Smith would also be an option. Picking among all three would be a great spot.

Plan B: We’ll stick with the foundation plan and turn to the interior offensive line. Florida’s Mike Pouncey could be a rock at guard or center (if he can learn to snap) for a long time and looks to be the sort of fixture the Jaguars would love to stock the roster with.

Tennessee Titans

Dream scenario: Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert slips to No. 8 while a team or two jump up to grab non-quarterbacks in the top seven. The Titans would have their quarterback of the future, with offensive coordinator Chris Palmer set to tutor Gabbert as soon as the lockout ends, while the pressure to get a veteran who can hold down the fort eases a bit since the Titans get one of the top rookies.

Plan B: With the top two quarterbacks gone, the Titans address defense and hope Auburn tackle Nick Fairley can be an impact guy whose interior play can have a positive bearing on the other 10 defenders on the field with him.

Draft Watch: AFC West

April, 21, 2011
4/21/11
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Dream scenario/Plan B.

Denver Broncos

Dream scenario: The Broncos’ dream scenario begins with the Carolina Panthers taking a quarterback with the No. 1 pick. That would mean the entire defensive draft board is available. The Broncos' primary needs are on defense. Denver would likely choose between Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson. The general consensus is Denver will most likely take Dareus.

Plan B: If Carolina takes Dareus, Denver could take Miller or Peterson or trade down to the No. 5-8 range and compile other high-round picks. I could see Miller and Peterson being available at No. 5. If Denver goes down to No. 8, it could look at Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn or Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers.

Kansas City Chiefs

Dream scenario: The Chiefs are in a great position. They pick No. 21 and need pass-rushers and an offense tackle. Several of those prospects should be available at No. 21. But if the Chiefs had a dream, I’d think it would be to see Alabama receiver Julio Jones tumble to them. But that is a pipedream. He likely won’t fall past St. Louis at No. 14. I think the Chiefs would like to see a pass-rusher like Missouri’s Aldon Smith, Cal’s Cameron Jordan, Purdue’s’ Ryan Kerrigan or Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson available at No. 21. If not, the Chiefs could go for a pass-rusher like UCLA’s Akeem Ayers or Georgia’s Justin Houston.

Plan B: If all the pass-rushers are gone, that’d probably mean some tackles would fall. Among those players who could interest the Chiefs are Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo, Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi or Colorado’s Nate Solder. Kansas City will have options and it could prompt it to trade down a few spots to gain another quality pick and grab a player high on its list.

Oakland Raiders

Dream scenario: The Raiders are the only team currently without a first-round pick. Their first pick is at No. 48. Oakland’s dream scenario would to see a first-round talent slide to them without having to trade up. If a quarterback such as Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett or Washington’s Jake Locker is there, Oakland could easily grab them. The Raiders like veteran Jason Campbell, but getting an eventual replacement at the bargain price of No. 48 is worth it. Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith would also be a dream scenario for Oakland if he was available at No. 48. The team may lose Nnamdi Asomugha in free agency. Smith is considered a top-15 talent; he may fall because of character issues. He’d be a steal at No. 48.

Plan B: If these players don’t fall, Oakland will likely look at offensive linemen (its biggest need), cornerbacks and quarterbacks in the second round. If the Raiders could get a player like Penn State guard Stefen Wisniewski and Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick on the second day of the draft, they would be thrilled.

San Diego Chargers

Dream scenario: The Chargers are in an even better position than the Chiefs. San Diego, which has the No. 18 pick, could use a pass-rusher or an offensive lineman. Plenty should be available when they choose. Plus, San Diego has extra picks in both the second and third rounds. The Chargers can do basically whatever they want to do. Thus, the Chargers can make up their own dream scenario. If they want to move up to No. 5 and take Miller, they probably can. If they want to move up to No. 11-12 and take Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt or Jones to help at receiver, they can.

Plan B: If they stay put, the Chargers can wait for players like Jordan, Smith or Kerrigan at No. 18. They could also move down to take a pass-rusher like Houston or Ayers or an offensive lineman in the No. 20-25 range. The Chargers are truly in charge of their own draft destiny.

Draft Watch: NFC North

April, 21, 2011
4/21/11
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL 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: There is no doubt the Bears' top draft priority is to elevate their offensive line personnel, and typically tackles are valued more than guards or centers. Typically, most blue-chip tackles are off the board by the No. 29 overall pick. So the Bears can only hope that one of the draft's five or so first-round tackles drop to the bottom of the first round. They would be more than pleased to get Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi, Colorado's Nate Solder or even Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod. If nothing else, a first-round tackle would give the Bears more flexibility in determining the best positions for 2010 starters Chris Williams, Frank Omiyale and J'Marcus Webb.

Plan B: If all five tackles are off the board, the next step would be to identify the top guard available. The Bears' offensive line needs are equal across the board. That guard could be Danny Watkins of Baylor. But don't rule out general manager Jerry Angelo pushing hard to trade down and out of the first round if none of the tackles are available.

Detroit Lions

Dream scenario: I don't think there's any question here. The Lions should be thrilled if Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara is available at their No. 13 overall slot. He has elite speed, good cover skills, none of the baggage of Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith and fills a huge need. The Lions really don't have a surefire starting cornerback under contract at the moment.

Plan B: If Amukamara is off the board, the Lions will need to make a character decision on Smith. They brought him in for a pre-draft visit at the facility last month and presumably have a handle on what type of person he is. If they're comfortable, Smith fills the same need as Amukamara. If not, the Lions are in a position to take the best offensive or defensive lineman available.

Green Bay Packers

Dream scenario: We've noted that it would be surprising for a blue-chip offensive tackle to be available at No. 29. The likelihood drops accordingly at No. 32. But truth be told, drafting a high-caliber offensive tackle might be the Packers' best-case scenario. Bryan Bulaga, their top pick in 2010, is already entrenched at right tackle. But at some point they'll have to replace left tackle Chad Clifton as well. It's doubtful a high-caliber left tackle will drop to No. 32, but we can dream, right?

Plan B: There would be nothing wrong with drafting an outside linebacker here, especially if a prospect like UCLA's Akeem Ayers is available.

Minnesota Vikings

Dream scenario: Honestly, the dreamiest scenario is one of the top two quarterbacks dropping unexpectedly. It's so dreamy that I don't know if I can even consider it dream-scenario worthy. In all likelihood, Auburn's Cam Newton and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert will be long gone by No. 12. But if one of them drops, the Vikings would be stunned and thrilled. Even if, say, Gabbert falls past the Arizona Cardinals at No. 5, the Vikings would have to consider it a blessing and should gladly pay the price it would take to move up.

Plan B: In all likelihood, Newton and Gabbert will be off the board. You could argue that a quarterback is so important that the Vikings should just target the next man on their list at No. 12. But given the Vikings' need, the next-best scenario would be to draft the best offensive or defensive linemen available at No. 12 and then find a way to trade back into the first round to select a quarterback somewhere below No. 20.

Draft Watch: AFC East

April, 21, 2011
4/21/11
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: dream scenario/Plan B.

Buffalo Bills

Dream scenario: The Bills went 4-12 last year and haven't made the playoffs in 11 years. They're entering their second season under general manager Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey. They're still laying an organizational foundation. As such, there are holes all over the place. So many, in fact, the Bills can go almost any direction and not make a misguided pick. Their dream player would be Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, but his availability at No. 3 isn't within their control. I believe if Newton is there, the Bills will pounce.

Plan B: If Newton's gone, then Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert almost certainly will be on the board for them. At least two of the top three defensive players -- Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller and Louisiana State cornerback Patrick Peterson -- would be there, too.

Miami Dolphins

Dream scenario: The Dolphins' dream scenario would be to get a draft-day phone call from another team desperate to move into the middle of the first round. The Dolphins own the 15th pick, and none of their most pressing needs matches up favorably with that spot. The top two -- maybe three -- quarterbacks will be gone. The Dolphins also need interior line and backfield help, but No. 15 seems too early for those top prospects: Florida center Mike Pouncey and Alabama running back Mark Ingram. But the Dolphins cannot afford to pass on a player they really like and hope he falls to them in the second round because they don't have a second-rounder. They traded it to the Denver Broncos in the Brandon Marshall deal. So the Dolphins would love to trade back in the order a little, snag Pouncey or Ingram or a quarterback such as Ryan Mallett, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton or Jake Locker and collect another draft choice in the process.

Plan B: If they can't trade back, then they'll be stuck with reaching a little for a player they identify as the best fit for their team.

New England Patriots

Dream scenario: The Patriots hold three of the top 32 picks and two selections in each of the first three rounds. They'll gladly listen to every trade offer and definitely will field some calls. Bill Belichick's dream scenario is to have maximized value when they've made their final selection. If that means collecting more picks and still landing players they like, then so be it. If that means moving up in the order for a specific player and not having to give up much to do so, then so be it. If that means standing pat and making the best pick off their in-house draft board, then so be it.

Plan B: The Patriots have so many picks that they have more than a Plan B. However the draft shakes out, they'll have a Plan Z, Article XXXIV, Section 16, Subsection vii -- and an appendix with 23 more sets of instructions. No other front office enters the draft process with such flexibility.

New York Jets

Dream scenario: The Jets don't seem to be worried much about a dream scenario. Head coach Rex Ryan has laughed and shrugged when discussing the No. 30 slot. They don't have much control over who will be available. Their trade options are severely limited. The Jets don't have a second-round pick to dangle because they lost it in the trade for cornerback Antonio Cromartie. The NFL lockout allows clubs to trade draft choices only, preventing the Jets from packaging players like they did to move up and draft quarterback Mark Sanchez fifth overall in 2009. The Jets probably will be forced to await their turn and hope another team wants to jump in at the end of the first round. Maybe then they can turn their 30th pick into multiple picks.

Plan B: If no one wants their 30th pick, then they'll check out players such as Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor or UCLA safety Rahim Moore.

Draft Watch: NFC South

April, 21, 2011
4/21/11
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), 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: It’s no secret the Falcons are looking for a pass-rusher because John Abraham is getting older and the team has no other defenders who can consistently pressure quarterbacks. This is a draft deep in defensive ends, but there probably will be a run on them from the mid-teens into the mid-20s. If someone like Georgia’s Justin Houston or Clemson’s Da'Quan Bowers somehow fell to No. 27, the Falcons would be elated.

Plan B: Atlanta might have a better shot at getting a pass-rusher in free agency, and the Falcons showed last season with cornerback Dunta Robinson that they aren’t afraid to target a need and spend a pile of money. If the pass-rusher isn’t there, the Falcons could switch gears and go with a receiver such as Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Baldwin or Maryland’s Torrey Smith. Also, don’t completely rule out an offensive tackle. This franchise is built around quarterback Matt Ryan, and Sam Baker still hasn’t shown he’s the answer at left tackle.

Carolina Panthers

Dream scenario: All indications are the Panthers are going to shoot for the moon and draft Auburn quarterback Cam Newton with the top overall pick. Although they are aware of the downside, the Panthers realize Newton’s upside could make him the type of quarterback that comes along once a decade or so. When you’re coming off a 2-14 season and trying to catch up to the rest of the NFC South by actually installing a passing game into your offense, you need to have a quarterback.

Plan B: There haven’t been any phone calls from other teams offering trades. But you never know what might happen in the days and hours leading into the draft. The chances of getting a willing trading partner are slim with the uncertainty of the lockout, but general manager Marty Hurney probably would listen to any offers. He's without a second-round pick because he traded it last season to draft Armanti Edwards. If someone were willing to help Hurney add some extra picks, he might be willing to drop down a few spots and Georgia receiver A.J. Green probably would be the alternative target. But that still would leave the Panthers with a hole at quarterback and they’d have to go out and get one in a trade or free agency as soon as the lockout ends.

New Orleans Saints

Dream scenario: If one of the defensive ends, perhaps Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan, Bowers, California’s Cameron Jordan or Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward, is sitting there, the Saints would be able to fill what appears to be their biggest need. Will Smith is solid on one side, but he’s getting up in years and the Saints don’t have another strong pass-rusher. Might be time to go ahead and get one.

Plan B: Defensive tackle and outside linebacker also seem to be possibilities and UCLA’s Akeem Ayers could fit nicely with Jonathan Vilma and Scott Shanle in the linebacker corps. But the Saints aren’t a team that fixates on filling immediate needs in the draft because they often do that in free agency. If Alabama running back Mark Ingram is available, the Saints could view him as a carbon copy of a young Deuce McAllister.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Dream scenario: They’d have their pick of pass-rushers, including Bowers, Houston and Kerrigan. Any of them would fit very nicely and it would be another big building block in a defensive line foundation that was started last year when the team used its first two draft picks on defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price. Although the Bucs use the 4-3 as their base defense, that doesn’t mean they’re locked in on guys who fit the prototype of 4-3 defensive ends. Raheem Morris is a defense-minded coach and he is flexible. If there’s a strong pass-rusher available, the Bucs almost certainly will grab him.

Plan B: If a pass-rushing defensive end isn’t there, the Bucs might have to get creative. They didn’t have a playmaker in their front seven last season and that put undue pressure on the secondary. Geno Hayes and Quincy Black didn’t fully emerge as explosive outside linebackers last season and the Bucs could look at someone like Ayers to help improve the front seven.

Draft Watch: AFC North

April, 21, 2011
4/21/11
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: dream scenarios and Plan B.

Cincinnati Bengals

Dream scenario: The Bengals own the best pick in the AFC North at No. 4 overall. The Bengals can go in a lot of different directions. So their dream scenario involves flexibility. Cincinnati, ideally, would like one of the top two quarterbacks -- Auburn's Cam Newton or Missouri's Blaine Gabbert -- to be available at No. 4. That way the Bengals can decide whether they like one of these quarterbacks as Carson Palmer's replacement or entertain trade offers. Cincinnati would be in a position of power at the top of the draft.

Plan B: If both Newton and Gabbert are gone within the first three picks, Plan B would be to fill a need with the highest player on their draft board. Georgia receiver A.J. Green and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson are two possibilities.

Cleveland Browns

Dream scenario: Cleveland's dream position is pretty similar to Cincinnati's. If one of the top two quarterbacks fall to No. 6, the Browns should have no shortage of interested trade partners looking to draft Newton or Gabbert. The Washington Redskins at No. 10 could be a possible suitor, as well as the Minnesota Vikings at No. 12.

Plan B: If Newton and Gabbert are off the board at No. 6, that increases the chance of Cleveland using the pick. The Browns need receivers and defensive linemen in the worst way. Defensive linemen Marcell Dareus of Auburn and Robert Quinn of North Carolina are possibilities on defense, and on offense Green is the most likely target. A dark horse for the Browns could be Peterson. Secondary help is not Cleveland’s biggest need. But if Peterson is dangling there at No. 6, he may be too good to pass up.

Baltimore Ravens

Dream scenario: The Ravens thrive on finding great value picks late in round and have another chance at No. 26. This draft is very deep, and a top-15 talent could be available in the late-20s. The Ravens need offensive linemen and pass-rushers. Therefore, a dream scenario would be for Baltimore to have the ability to choose several players at these positions. Some possible options would be Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder, Florida guard Mike Pouncey and pass-rusher Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue.

Plan B: The Ravens could also address a lesser need but add talent at wide receiver or corner in the first round. Colorado CB Jimmy Smith could help the Ravens, but he enters the draft with character concerns.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Dream scenario: A dream scenario for the reigning AFC champions would be reuniting Mike Pouncey with his twin brother, Maurkice Pouncey, to anchor the offensive line in Pittsburgh. But the Steelers have the No. 31 pick and know that's probably not going to happen barring a trade up.

Plan B: A more realistic option would be to draft a cornerback, a position the Steelers must upgrade and has little depth. No. 1 corner Ike Taylor and top reserve William Gay are pending free agents, and there's no guarantee either will return. Texas defensive back Aaron Williams and Miami corner Brandon Harris are options. Drafting an offensive linemen also is a possibility.

Draft Watch: AFC West

April, 14, 2011
4/14/11
12:07
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Draft philosophy.

Denver Broncos

This is the one mystery team in the division. There is a new regime in Denver, led by the Broncos’ legendary quarterback John Elway, who is the team’s vice president of football operations. In his first year in an NFL front office, Elway has the final say. Yet, he does work closely with general manager Brian Xanders, who is a holdover from the last regime, and new coach John Fox. Xanders is expected to have more of a say now, and Fox has been in draft rooms as a head coach for the past nine years in Carolina. They all said Denver will be open minded in the draft. The brass has been at several pro-day workouts and has brought in several players for pre-draft visits. Denver needs defense, but it won’t shy away from taking the best player available. I expect this group to be willing to trade and do what it takes to bring as much talent as possible to Denver as it begins the rebuilding process.

Kansas City Chiefs

One of the reasons Scott Pioli is effective as a general manager is that he is a careful drafter. He was part of a strong drafting team in New England, and his second effort in Kansas City was one of the league’s best. Pioli believes in taking low-risk players. He usually doesn’t pursue players with character issues. He’d rather get a solid player who is a good citizen than a terrific player who is an off-field risk. The Chiefs haven’t been aggressive in draft trades in the Pioli era. I get the feeling he’d rather trade down than up. Pioli is fond of players from the SEC. Both of his first-round picks are from the SEC, and the Chiefs’ first three picks from last year’s draft are from the conference. The reasoning is that if players can excel at the highest level of collegiate play, they have a chance to succeed in the NFL.

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders have one of the most famous draft philosophies in the history the NFL. It’s All Al Davis. And right now, that’s not such a bad thing. After whiffing on several first-round picks, Davis put together one of the most complete drafts in the NFL in 2010. Davis had a draft resurgence by sticking to the basics. He drafted good college players who also tested well at the combine in the offseason. In recent years, Davis seemed more fixated on combine scores and measurables than college production. He took several chances on players who looked the part but didn’t necessarily have the college résumé to back it up. Last year, he drafted proven college players. If Davis can continue that trend, the Raiders will be in good shape. Davis has never worried about the size of the school the player has come from, so he is willing to draft anyone. That worked in the third round last year, when he drafted tackle Jared Veldheer from tiny Hillsdale College. As far as trades go, Davis has been known for trading picks for veteran players such as Randy Moss, DeAngelo Hall, Richard Seymour, Kamerion Wimbley and Jason Campbell in recent years. If the lockout continues, trading picks for veterans won’t be an option. It will be interesting to see whether Davis tries to deal to trade up and recoup the first-round pick that was surrendered in the Seymour deal.

San Diego Chargers

A.J. Smith’s philosophy is to be ready for anything. Smith prepares for any scenario. The San Diego general manager is feeling particularly powerful this year because he has an extra pick in the second and third rounds thanks to the 2010 trades of cornerback Antonio Cromartie and third-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. Smith is looking for the best scenario, whether that means keeping the five picks in the first three rounds, trading up for a big score or trading down for several picks. In recent years, Smith has traded up to get players such as running backs Ryan Mathews and Jacob Hester. I can see that being the case this year. The key to Smith’s philosophy is college production. He goes for high-effort, high-production players. He doesn’t go for many projects in the early rounds.

Draft Watch: NFC South

April, 14, 2011
4/14/11
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Draft philosophy.

Atlanta Falcons

General manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith have been pretty open about the need to add some “explosive’’ players to the roster. Couple that with the fact that Dimitroff usually drafts for need and you can strongly surmise the Falcons will seek a pass-rushing defensive end or a big-play wide receiver with their first pick. But they’re sitting at No. 27 and that means there might not be any sure-fire prospects at either spot.

With division rivals Tampa Bay and New Orleans -- also in the market for pass rushers -- sitting just ahead of them, the Falcons may consider trading up to get a defensive end. There was a time early in Dimitroff’s tenure when moving up wouldn’t have been a consideration because the Falcons were stockpiling picks to continue building through the draft. With a 13-3 team that’s largely intact, it might be time to become more aggressive. The Falcons only have a few real needs and they might package some picks to make sure they get the right fit.

Carolina Panthers

Marty Hurney still is the general manager, but coach John Fox is gone. That’s led to a major change in how the entire organization looks at things. The Panthers realize they’ve fallen behind the rest of the NFC South -- and most of the NFL -- in offense and it’s time to start catching up. In the Fox days, there was no chance of the Panthers taking a quarterback in the first round.

Now, Carolina seems to be strongly considering Auburn’s Cam Newton and Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert remains in the mix. Hurney recognizes that this might be the chance to get the franchise quarterback this team has needed for so long. But Newton comes with some questions and Gabbert’s not a sure thing. Despite the eye-opening changes within the building, the real question is if Hurney actually has the nerve to go out and take a huge chance?

New Orleans Saints

General manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton have become pretty good at taking a long-term view of the draft. Their past two first-round picks were defensive backs Malcolm Jenkins in 2009 and Patrick Robinson last year. There was a sense that these guys didn’t have to play immediately and that’s worked out well. Jenkins emerged as a very good starter at free safety last season, after working as a backup cornerback as a rookie. Robinson spent his rookie year as a backup and is expected to progress next season.

That’s just evidence that the Saints like to focus on the best available player and they don’t lock into needs that can be filled if and when free agency arrives. Defensive end is New Orleans’ biggest area of need, but the history of Loomis and Payton suggest they’re not going to take someone at that position unless they’re convinced he’s the best player available. With this approach, just about any position other than quarterback is in play when the Saints pick at No. 24.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

General manager Mark Dominik has been pretty deliberate about addressing needs in his first two drafts. He traded up to get quarterback Josh Freeman in 2009 and, last year, doubled up at defensive tackle and wide receiver. Dominik drafted defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price with his first two picks last year and also brought in receivers Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams within the first four rounds.

This year, Tampa Bay’s needs are clearer than they’ve been throughout Dominik’s tenure. Getting a pass rusher is atop the list and history suggests the Bucs will go for that early on and, maybe, do it again a bit later. Dominik also needs to keep in mind the Bucs were the youngest team in the league last season and not get too carried away with the success of last year’s rookies. Some of them might have played over their heads last season and the Bucs need to keep their eyes open to keep improving the overall talent level of this team.

Draft Watch: AFC East

April, 14, 2011
4/14/11
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: draft philosophy.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills drafted for the future last year as opposed to immediate needs, and who could blame them? They clearly were the worst team in the AFC East at the time and had little chance of challenging the Patriots or Jets. So the Bills drafted for long-range needs. They took running back C.J. Spiller ninth overall even though they already had a pair of 1,000-yard rushers. They also collected a bunch of prospects from smaller schools, showing a willingness to mold players who weren't necessarily game-ready. The Bills were preparing more for 2012 than 2010. With the third and 34th picks this spring, they can obtain two starters if they choose -- or they can maintain last year's approach and draft with the horizon in mind. Auburn quarterback Cam Newton would fall into that category.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are in a tricky spot. They might be forced to reach in order to get a player they want. They're slotted 15th overall, putting them in a weird spot for some key positions of need. It's like no-man's land for a quarterback because Newton and Blaine Gabbert almost certainly will be off the board by then, but it's too soon for the next tier of prospects. Top receivers Julio Jones and A.J. Green also should be gone. No. 15 also seems too early for interior linemen or running backs. But if the Dolphins want to address a specific need, then they might be forced to reach. They don't have a second-round pick to fall back on. They traded it to the Denver Broncos in the deal for receiver Brandon Marshall. Lack of a second-rounder also limits their ability to trade up in the order.

New England Patriots

As long as there's a lockout, draft picks are the only currency. In that regard, the Patriots are the NFL's wealthiest team. The Patriots have two picks in each of the first three rounds and three picks within the first 33 slots. That kind of affluence should make them major players when it comes to trades. Plus, the Patriots own the first selection of the second round. Several hours to think will tempt other teams to make a deal and move into that prime position to snag a player who slides unexpectedly. The Patriots have a history of trading back to collect picks, but with all of their assets and the likelihood of a rookie wage scale in the next collective bargaining agreement, this could be the year they trade up to get an impact player.

New York Jets

The Jets are in a similar position as the Dolphins -- only worse. Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum loves to trade up to acquire players the front office has identified as impactful. The Jets did so with cornerback Darrelle Revis, linebacker David Harris, running back Shonn Greene and quarterback Mark Sanchez. The Jets have been assigned the 30th pick because they made it to the AFC Championship Game, but good luck moving up this year. The Jets lost their second-round pick to the San Diego Chargers in the trade that brought cornerback Antonio Cromartie. Another method to moving up is packaging players. But the lockout prevents any such trades. Jets coach Rex Ryan has expressed resignation over being stuck at 30 and accepting whatever's left over.

Draft Watch: NFC North

April, 14, 2011
4/14/11
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Draft Philosophy.

Chicago Bears

General manager Jerry Angelo has emerged from what amounted to a two-year draft hiatus following the high-profile trades for quarterback Jay Cutler and late defensive end Gaines Adams. It will be interesting to see if any philosophical shifts are detectable in what will be the Bears' first draft since Angelo overhauled his front office. Director of college scouting Greg Gabriel departed, his position was dissolved and Tim Ruskell was hired to oversee the college and pro scouting departments. To this point, there has been a general sense that Angelo -- a onetime scouting director himself -- has been drawn to individual players he likes more than he has been guided by a larger plan to build a balanced team. Case in point: He has drafted 18 defensive backs and 11 offensive linemen over his tenure. Six of those 11 offensive linemen were taken in the seventh round, part of the reason the Bears are short-handed at the position this offseason.

Detroit Lions

If the Lions have proved anything under general manager Martin Mayhew, it's that they value every last drop of the draft. In some instances, Mayhew has gone to great lengths to secure an extra pick, no matter what round it is in. On at least two occasions, he has traded a player recently signed as a street free agent or claimed on waivers for a seventh-round draft pick. In several cases, Mayhew has included those picks in trades for other players. This spring, he and the Lions appealed a relatively mild NFL tampering discipline, hired a prominent attorney and achieved the slightest reduction in the penalty: A seventh-round pick lost in 2012 rather than 2011. Some teams consider seventh-round picks to be throwaways or places to grab a player otherwise destined for college free agency to avoid a bidding war on signing bonuses. Under Mayhew, the Lions use them as a daily commodity.

Green Bay Packers

Generally speaking, more is better for the Packers. It's been well-chronicled that Packers general manager Ted Thompson built his championship team almost exclusively through the draft, and that approach requires volume to gather enough depth and maximize the chances for hitting big on players. Thompson famously traded back into the 2009 first round to select linebacker Clay Matthews, but a betting man realizes it's far more likely that he will trade back in any given year to accumulate more picks. Thompson rarely pursues the hot name or flashy personalities or even flashy players. Case in point: Choosing nose tackle B.J. Raji over receiver Michael Crabtree in 2009. But there is no arguing with the Packers' approach under Thompson, which has built layers of quality -- if not elite -- depth at multiple positions across the board.

Minnesota Vikings

Every team insists that talent trumps need in the draft, but under vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman, the Vikings have drafted for need more often than you might think. Consider 2010. The Vikings entered the draft knowing their depth was thin behind injured cornerback Cedric Griffin, who was rehabilitating a torn anterior cruciate ligament. They also had lost backup tailback Chester Taylor via free agency. Their first two picks? Cornerback Chris Cook and running back Toby Gerhart. In 2009, they wanted to replace right tackle Ryan Cook. The answer was Phil Loadholt, their second-round pick. In 2008, the Vikings traded up to draft safety Tyrell Johnson because they knew starter Darren Sharper was entering his final season. There's a difference between taking what the draft gives you and maneuvering to make sure it gives you what you want. The Vikings lean toward the latter under Spielman.

Draft Watch: AFC South

April, 14, 2011
4/14/11
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Draft philosophy

Houston Texans

Coach Gary Kubiak and general manager Rick Smith have had their moments and hit on some stars. But they’ve failed to do as well when filling the guts of their roster. Enter Wade Phillips, the new defensive coordinator whose opinion on defenders with the ability to fix things is expected to carry a lot of sway. The needs are clear at outside linebacker, safety and cornerback. The team has said Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell are sufficient as nose tackles, but surely it has to consider an outsider. Look for the Texans to lean on defense, unless they give in to what appears to be an overwhelming temptation to draft a tight end. They want to draft with a best-player available mentality, but need can sway them.

Indianapolis Colts

Bill Polian’s reduced administrative responsibilities allowed him to focus even more on the draft and planning for all possible scenarios coming out of the lockout. He is a best-player-available drafter who has not had a big home run at the top for a while. Typically the Colts put a premium on the sort of skill player who can be a part of the best supporting cast for Peyton Manning. Does Polian decide that at this point in time, a pricey offensive tackle is needed for that cast? Offensive tackle and defensive tackle are issues, but Polian has never taken a player at either position in the first round during his tenure in Indianapolis. Blue-chip skill players often carry the day at the top.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars head into a the third draft of what they consider to be a four-draft rebuilding process. They have found some very good pieces under general manager Gene Smith's steady hand. He likes guys who played a lot in college and were team captains -- resume lines that are becoming increasingly popular for many teams. Todd McShay said Smith prefers high floors to high ceilings, and it’s an effective way to think following a regime that busted far too many times. Smith’s fifth, sixth and seventh rounds haven’t produced a lot yet, so that’s an area where we can look for improvement.

Tennessee Titans

Jeff Fisher is gone. New coach Mike Munchak and his staff will certainly have input and influence. They have coached the scouts on adjusting some personnel for system alterations. But more power resides upstairs now than it has in recent years. General manager Mike Reinfeldt is heading into his fifth draft in the post. He’s got a new right-hand man in Ruston Webster, the team’s vice president of player personnel. Reinfeldt is a consensus builder with a veteran scouting staff. They have fallen in love with some big workout guys with mixed success -- Chris Johnson was a big hit, Jared Cook is still up in the air and Chris Henry was a failure. Last year’s draft put a huge premium on smart guys and it’s a trend that is likely to continue.

Draft Watch: NFC West

April, 14, 2011
4/14/11
12:00
PM ET
» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Draft philosophy.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals expect their draft choices to address immediate needs even if the players they choose do not start right away. They pay less lip service to the "best player available" mantra than some teams.

"There is a line you walk between both of them, where you draft the best available player for your need," coach Ken Whisenhunt explained before the 2010 draft. "You always consider where your depth is, where your greatest margin of improvement is going to come, and that is kind of what we look toward when we do that."

The Cardinals put together two draft boards. One rates players on overall NFL potential. The other lists the 120 players Arizona would consider drafting, taking into account the Cardinals' needs as well.

San Francisco 49ers

General manager Trent Baalke puts an old-school emphasis on measurables in the belief that bigger, stronger athletes hold up better over the course of a season. His former boss, Scot McCloughan, shared the same philosophy, which he traced back to Ron Wolf.

I expect that philosophy to continue. It fits well with new coach Jim Harbaugh's belief in establishing a power running game to facilitate play-action opportunities.

The first three players San Francisco selected in the 2010 draft -- tackle Anthony Davis, guard Mike Iupati and safety Taylor Mays -- fit the "size matters" philosophy.

St. Louis Rams

The Rams feel good enough about the foundation they've built to tolerate more risk than they were willing to accept when GM Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo were in the early stages of remaking the roster.

We saw that last year when the Rams used a third-round choice for cornerback Jerome Murphy and a fourth-rounder for receiver Mardy Gilyard. Murphy had been suspended from his college team for violating team rules. Gilyard was more flamboyant than most recent Rams choices. Draft analysts raised potential character concerns in both cases.

This is not to suggest the Rams have abandoned their core values. They are simply far enough along in the building process to expand their options.

Side note: Over the past two seasons, the Rams have used both first-round choices on players from the Big 12 Conference and both second-rounders on players from the Big Ten.

Seattle Seahawks

Any struggling team with new leadership will be active in addressing weaknesses.

The Seahawks have taken it to another level under coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider. These guys are energetic, aggressive and unapologetic. They would rather wheel and deal than stand pat, an approach that led to multiple trades in their first draft together.

The lockout will prevent teams from trading veteran players, limiting the Seahawks' options this year.

The team is more unified philosophically this year because offensive line coach Tom Cable shares more conventional views on prospects at his position. Cable's predecessor, Alex Gibbs, was more particular in what he wanted, affecting the overall approach.

Draft Watch: NFC East

April, 14, 2011
4/14/11
12:00
PM ET
Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Draft philosophy.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles have used five of 10 first-round picks on defensive linemen since Andy Reid arrived as coach and top personnel man in 1999. Two more went for wide receivers. The team has taken one quarterback (Donovan McNabb), one defensive back (Lito Sheppard) and one offensive lineman (Shawn Andrews) in the first round during that time.

Reid and the Eagles like to stockpile draft choices. They have used 105 choices since 1999, tied for the fourth-highest total in the league. The figure is 31 over the past three drafts, tied with New England for most in the league.

Philadelphia moved up in the first round in each of the last two drafts. The Eagles traded up to take receiver Jeremy Maclin with the 19th pick in 2009. They traded up to the 13th spot last year, selecting defensive end Brandon Graham.


Dallas Cowboys

Obvious needs on the offensive line will test the Cowboys’ draft philosophy.

The team hasn’t used a first-round choice for the position since 1981. Dallas hasn’t used even a second-round selection for an offensive lineman since selecting Jacob Rogers in 2004.

Owner Jerry Jones has selected skill-position players twice in the past three drafts, landing receiver Dez White and running back Felix Jones.

Overall, however, Dallas has used eight of its last 10 first-round selections for defense.

The Cowboys aren’t afraid to wheel and deal. They’ve traded up or down five times in the last nine first rounds, generally coming out OK. Bryant, cornerback Mike Jenkins (2008), Jones (2008) and linebacker Anthony Spencer (2007) came to the Cowboys with first-round picks acquired from other teams.

Dallas could use help in its secondary, a position the team has periodically addressed early with Jenkins, Terence Newman (2003) and Roy Williams (2002).

Washington Redskins

Mike Shanahan’s personnel decisions in Denver were largely his undoing, clearing the way for him to join the Redskins beginning in 2010.

His last few drafts in Denver did produce some big hits, however. Ryan Clady, Peyton Hillis, Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Elvis Dumervil became quality starters.

Shanahan has been known to focus on draft prospects at their very best, putting less weight into their struggles in the belief that a good coach should be able to realize max potential.

New York Giants

The Giants seem like one of the more methodical teams when it comes to the draft. They haven’t traded up or down in the first round since 2006.

A longtime former league executive told me he thought the Giants were more apt than most teams to target the players they brought in for pre-draft workouts.

Conventional wisdom says the Giants need to address their offensive line and linebacker situations in this draft. It’s easy to see why when looking at recent draft history.

The team has used four of its last five first-round choices for defense -- but none for linebackers -- since using the 2004 draft to select Philip Rivers and trade for Eli Manning.

The Giants have drafted only one offensive lineman and no running backs in the first three rounds since 2005. They’ve remained productive on the ground, but their veteran line could use some reinforcements. The Giants have selected a league-low four offensive linemen in the draft since 2005, a trend that might need to change.

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