2. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (2-14)
LAST SEASON: 49ers tied franchise record for losses, leading to organizational overhaul. Longtime GM Trent Baalke was fired, along with first-year coach Chip Kelly, and replaced by first-time GM John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan. Team struggled just about everywhere in 2016. Blaine Gabbert or Colin Kaepernick failed to provide strong quarterback play, Niners lacked any big-play receivers, defense set franchise worsts for most points, yards and yards rushing allowed in single season.
THEY NEED: QB, CB, WR, OL, pass rusher.
THEY DON’T NEED: RB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State; DL Solomon Thomas, Stanford; S Jamal Adams, LSU.
OUTLOOK: Niners could go in any direction considering how many needs they have. Lynch was busy in free agency, but most acquisitions are placeholders rather than foundation pieces and shouldn’t alter draft strategy. With Brian Hoyer in place, San Francisco doesn’t need quarterback who can step right in as starter, will likely look for someone in first few rounds as future starter. Receiver also could be taken early, which would be change in strategy from Baalke’s approach when team rarely took skill position players in first three rounds. Other most pressing needs are on defense, where pass rusher and cornerbacks are in short supply.
3. CHICAGO BEARS (3-13)
LAST SEASON: Coming off its worst season in decades, Bears finished with lowest win total in non-strike year since 1973 team went 3-11 and posted their most losses since 1969. Also missed playoffs for ninth time in 10 seasons and took big step back in Year 2 under coach John Fox and GM Ryan Pace. Steady stream of players going down, with 19 finishing season on injured reason, exposed lack of depth.
THEY NEED: S, CB, QB, DL, TE, WR.
THEY DON’T NEED: RB, RG, LG, C.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: S Jamal Adams, LSU; DE Jonathan Allen, Alabama; CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State; S Malik Hooker, Ohio State; QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson.
OUTLOOK: Pace did not pick QB in first two drafts even though he talked about taking one every year when he got job. That figures to change this time. Question is in which round. Signing Mike Glennon to replace Jay Cutler gives Bears leeway to wait rather than draft QB with No. 3 pick. Bears could take safety or edge rusher early to boost middle-of-road defense that ranked 27th against run. Chicago also figures to look for more help at WR given Alshon Jeffery’s departure in free agency and Kevin White’s inability to stay healthy his first two seasons. Same goes for TE with Zach Miller’s long injury history.
8. CAROLINA PANTHERS (6-10)
LAST SEASON: Carolina failed to make playoffs one year after representing NFC in Super Bowl. Reasons included dramatic drop-off in production from 2015 MVP Cam Newton. Newton struggled behind unsettled offensive line; coach Ron Rivera suggested recently those hits took toll on QB’s confidence. Panthers have addressed need at left tackle by adding free agent Matt Kalil, with hope that Michael Oher can return from concussion that cost him 13 games and slide over to play right tackle.
THEY NEED: RB, WR, DE, RT, TE.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, CB, C, G.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford; RB Leonard Fournette, LSU; WR John Ross, Washington; TE O.J. Howard, Alabama; RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State; WR Mike Williams, Clemson; QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson.
OUTLOOK: Carolina made host of moves on first day of free agency, filling number of holes and freeing it up to take best available player. GM Dave Gettleman said he doesn’t feel he has to draft for need like in 2016, when he selected cornerbacks with first three picks. Panthers could use more weapons for Newton, including young running back to take some pressure off him in passing game. Veteran RB Jonathan Stewart is back, but he’s struggled with injuries; it’s time Panthers address backfield. Gettleman loves “hog mollies” — his affectionate term for big offensive and defensive linemen — so wouldn’t be surprise if he goes that direction. Wild card here could be Watson, especially with Newton battling back from shoulder surgery. Newton has served as mentor of sorts for Watson for years.
11. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (7-9)
LAST SEASON: New Orleans remained mired in mediocrity for third straight season for familiar reason: deficient defense. After ranking second to last in 2014 and 2015, unit improved only moderately in 2016 to 27th out of 32. Lack of depth was exposed by injuries of various severity to CBs P.J. Williams and Delvin Breaux; club’s top 2016 draft choice, DT Sheldon Rankins; top LB Dannell Ellerbe; and speedy edge pass rusher Hau’oli Kikaha, whom Saints hoped would make big jump in second season. Offense, as usual, was exceptional, ranking first. Seemingly ageless Drew Brees led NFL in yards passing at age 37. Rookie receiver Michael Thomas’ quick adjustment to pro game and ability to make difficult catches were evident early and Brees took advantage.
THEY NEED: DE, CB, S, OL, DL.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, WR, TE, LB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee; CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State; DE Taco Charlton, Michigan; DE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA; CB Quincy Wilson, Florida.
OUTLOOK: Often-secretive Saints coach Sean Payton readily acknowledges top priority this offseason is improving defense. It’s that obvious. Likely early-round targets will be edge rusher or cornerback. Saints have addressed linebacker, defensive tackle and safety in free agency, but not with big names, so opportunities to upgrade those areas won’t be ignored. Payton also has demonstrated he’ll snag offensive skill players he likes, even when more practical choice or area of need might be another position. And with Brees entering final season under contract, Payton might be inclined to draft QB.
13. ARIZONA CARDINALS (7-8-1)
LAST SEASON: With nearly everyone returning from 13-3 team that made NFC championship game, Cardinals expected to be contender last season. Instead, they struggled out of gate and finished with first losing season in coach Bruce Arians’ four years in Arizona. Cardinals did get breakout performance from running back David Johnson, who led league in yards from scrimmage and set NFL record by gaining at least 100 yards from scrimmage in each of first 15 games. But QB Carson Palmer and rest of offense couldn’t repeat big-big play assault that was team’s hallmark in 2015. Cardinals won close ones that season and lost them last year.
THEY NEED: CB, QB, ILB, WR.
THEY DON’T NEED: RB, OLB, OT.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: LB Reuben Foster, Alabama; QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech; WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan; WR Mike Williams, Clemson.
OUTLOOK: It’s time for Arizona to address QB situation because this could well be 37-year-old Palmer’s last season. Not greatest quarterback crop, though, and Arizona has other needs it may address with No. 13 pick. In addition to Mahomes, Cardinals took close look at Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer, but 13th might be reach for him. Cardinals could try to trade down, still get Kizer and add another pick. If team does get QB, he would watch from sideline for at least one season and learn under Arians, who has worked with some of game’s best. But Arizona could address WR, too, with Michael Floyd gone and Larry Fitzgerald perhaps in final season. Cardinals have two terrific OLBs but could use some help at ILB, especially for long term.
14. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (7-9)
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs third year in row despite 3-0 start, but rookie QB Carson Wentz started 16 games and showed plenty of promise despite lack of playmakers on offense. LT Lane Johnson’s 10-game suspension for PED use helped cost them shot at playoffs. They were 5-1 with Johnson, 2-8 without him, including six losses by seven points or less. First-year coach Doug Pederson also got valuable on-job training and should be more comfortable one year in. Defense was vastly improved under new coordinator Jim Schwartz, though both starting cornerbacks aren’t coming back. Special teams were one of best in league again.
THEY NEED: CB, RB, DE, WR.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, G, S.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford; CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State; WR Mike Williams, Clemson; DE Charles Harris, Missouri; CB Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado.
OUTLOOK: First draft for Joe Douglas, hired last May as vice president of player personnel. Douglas works with executive VP Howie Roseman, though it’s not known who has final say. Addition of free agent WRs Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith allows Eagles to focus on biggest need: cornerback. But they’d have tough time passing up McCaffrey, if he’s available. They could trade down in draft that’s deep at CB, though that might not sit well with fans in host city.
17. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (8-7-1)
LAST SEASON: No trip to postseason, thanks in large part to terrible defense that dragged down playoff-worthy offense. Offseason was train wreck lowlighted by messy and never fully explained firing of GM Scot McCloughan halfway through four-year contract. He has not been replaced; Bruce Allen, team president and right-hand man for owner Dan Snyder, is running show. Much-needed, long-overdue overhaul of defense began right away with firing of coordinator Joe Barry. Instead of bringing in one of big-name, successful folks available, Redskins promoted LB coach Greg Manusky. Team did sign free agents on defense, but didn’t bring in any big-ticket players. Another huge question hanging over club: QB Kirk Cousins’ status. He is under franchise tag again, still could be traded and, barring long-term deal reached by July 15, nothing is set beyond this season.
THEY NEED: DL, LB, RB, LG, QB, DB, WR.
THEY DON’T NEED: TE, LT, RG.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee; DT Malik McDowell, Michigan State; DE Taco Charlton, Michigan; LB Reuben Foster, Alabama; RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford.
OUTLOOK: Only trace of stability around franchise is two-year contract extension that came out of nowhere for coach Jay Gruden — despite late-season collapse — while uncertainty over McCloughan’s future was still talk of town. Who knows what’ll happen with Cousins? Who knows whether defense will be much better after additions of players such as DTs Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain and S D.J. Swearinger in free agency? Who knows who’ll be calling shots during draft? There could be attempt to pick quarterback of future. Running back would seemingly be priority, too, and there is definite need at left guard. Depth all over roster is issue.
19. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (9-7)
LAST SEASON: Established themselves as team on rise, improving from six to nine wins and contending for playoff berth in Jameis Winston’s second season. No. 1 overall pick from 2015 draft topped 4,000 yards passing for second straight year, with receiver Mike Evans also posting impressive numbers and becoming first-time Pro Bowl selection. Defensive lapses and absence of consistent running game hurt down stretch, contributing to failure to make playoffs for ninth consecutive season.
THEY NEED: RB, S, TE, DE, WR.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, T, G.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State; DE Taco Charlton, Michigan; S Budda Baker, Washington.
OUTLOOK: With RB Doug Martin missing most of last season due to injuries and suspension that will extend three games into 2017, GM Jason Licht and coach Dirk Koetter figure to be interested in versatile runner/receiver to help Winston end club’s long playoff drought. Top priority in free agency was adding speedy receiver to feature opposite Evans, Winston’s favorite target. Licht and Koetter addressed that with signing of DeSean Jackson. Adding DT Chris Baker in free agency strengthened interior defensive line, however, still need dynamic pass rusher.
21. DETROIT LIONS (9-8)
LAST SEASON: Detroit surged atop NFC North with eight wins in nine-game stretch and became first NFL team to come back from fourth-quarter deficits to win eight games in single season. Lions, though, closed with three straight setbacks to spoil shot at winning division title for first time since 1993. Lions lost at Seattle 26-6 in wild-card game, extending postseason losing streak to nine games over 25 years. QB Matthew Stafford overcame retirement of star WR Calvin Johnson with one of his best years despite finishing season with injured finger on throwing hand.
THEY NEED: DE, LB, DB.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, WR, OL.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE Taco Charlton, Michigan; DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee; LB Haason Reddick , Temple; S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan.
OUTLOOK: Detroit filled holes in free agency by signing OT Rick Wagner and OG T.J. Lang, but second-year GM created one by releasing injury-prone LB DeAndre Levy. Drafting player or two to play LB seems a priority, as does finding DE to play opposite Ezekiel Ansah. Lions also need help in secondary to line up with standout CB Darius Slay and 31-year-old S Glover Quin.
23. NEW YORK GIANTS (11-6)
LAST SEASON: Ben McAdoo got Giants back to playoffs for first time since 2011 season, but postseason was short-lived as Aaron Rodgers and Packers shredded Steve Spagnuolo’s much-improved defense. Offense was a disappointment all year with no running game, porous line and no options on outside other than Odell Beckham Jr.
THEY NEED: RB, T, LB, DT, TE, QB for post-Eli Manning era.
THEY DON’T NEED: WR, CB, C, S.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: LB Jarrad Davis, Florida; RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State; T Garret Bolles, Utah.
OUTLOOK: Despite not having much cap space, GM Jerry Reese did plenty in offseason. He released veteran WR Victor Cruz and RB Rashad Jennings, re-signed DE Jason Pierre-Paul and LB Keenan Robinson, and got free agent WR Brandon Marshall and OL D.J. Fluker to sign. Ten defensive starters are back. New York is even taking chance on righting career of former Jets QB Geno Smith. Only major players lost were DT Johnathan Hankins, PK Robbie Gould and OT Marshall Newhouse. Giants don’t gamble in draft. Unless there is tie in rankings or major concern about off-field problems, it’s always best player available regardless of position. Cook is has had off-field problems; his talent makes him risk worth taking. An out-of-box pick would be Michigan DB Jabrill Peppers, game breaker as kick returner and wild card for linebacker or safety.
26. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (11-6-1)
LAST SEASON: Once again Seattle took advantage of weak NFC West and claimed fourth division title under Pete Carroll. But it was not typical Seahawks season. Vaunted defense was still fifth overall in NFL, but exposed late in year by season-ending injury to star safety Earl Thomas. Seattle’s once reliable run game struggled in the post-Marshawn Lynch era and fell to 25th in NFL. QB Russell Wilson played through ankle and knee injuries most of season and was rarely given adequate protection. And despite all those issues, Seahawks won at least one playoff game for fifth straight season before losing to Atlanta in divisional round.
THEY NEED: CB, S, OL, DL.
THEY DON’T NEED: LB, RB, TE.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: CB Kevin King, Washington; S Obi Melifonwu, Connecticut; OL Cam Robinson, Alabama; OL Garett Boles, Utah; CB Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado.
OUTLOOK: GM John Schneider has to start looking toward future. Seahawks don’t need to be rebuilt but are getting older in some key spots, especially on defense. Expect Schneider to be aggressive in draft restocking defensive line and secondary. Don’t be surprised if he trades early-round selection for picks later. Seattle’s biggest moves in free agency were offensive line and run game, and depth at linebacker. Schneider will certainly seek more options for offensive line that was Seattle’s biggest weakness in 2016.
28. DALLAS COWBOYS (13-4)
LAST SEASON: One of best drafts in franchise history led to sea change, with QB Dak Prescott replacing 10-year starter Tony Romo, directing club-record 11-game winning streak, earning Offensive Rookie of Year honors and ultimately sending Romo to broadcast booth. NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott was other rookie star as Cowboys won NFC East for second time in three years and took top seed in NFC playoffs before losing to Green Bay in divisional round. Defense again struggled to make game-changing plays and gave up winning drive to Packers after Cowboys twice pulled even in final five minutes.
THEY NEED: DE, CB, S.
THEY DON’T NEED: C, G, RB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: CB Adoree Jackson, Southern Cal; DE Charles Harris, Missouri; DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee; CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama; DE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA.
OUTLOOK: Because CBs Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr left in free agency, it’s now hard to say which need is greater, pass rushing or depth at cornerback. With DE Randy Gregory out entire season for substance-abuse violations, getting to quarterback probably still top priority. That’s partly because Anthony Brown, another product of last year’s draft, and Orlando Scandrick are viable starters at CB. Arguably biggest loss in free agency was S Barry Church because of his intangibles. If 2016 second-rounder Jaylon Smith can’t be impact LB because of college knee injury that sidelined him as rookie, Cowboys will need help there.
No. 29. GREEN BAY PACKERS (12-7)
LAST SEASON: Packers bounced back from midseason slump to win eight straight games before losing NFC title game in Atlanta. QB Aaron Rodgers carried team down stretch, accomplishment made more remarkable given loss of RB Eddie Lacy to ankle injury in October. WR Jordy Nelson (NFL-high 14 TD catches) returned from knee injury, while Davante Adams emerged to become third threat at wideout to join Nelson and Randall Cobb. Injuries ravaged cornerback position and slowed development of young players pressed to take more responsibility, contributing to porous pass defense (31st in league). LB Clay Matthews was slowed by shoulder and hamstring injuries.
THEY NEED: CB, RB, G, edge rusher.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, T, TE, S.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford; RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State; LB T.J. Watt, Wisconsin; DE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA; DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee; CB Adoree’ Jackson, USC; CB Tre’Davious White, LSU.
OUTLOOK: GM Ted Thompson has holes to fill after Packers took hits in free agency. Coach Mike McCarthy seems committed to keeping former WR Ty Montgomery at running back; team lost Lacy in free agency to Seattle. Thompson re-signed LB Nick Perry after career year, though pass rush could use infusion with Matthews turning 31 and veteran Julius Peppers now back in Carolina. CB Davon House returned to Packers in offseason after couple years in Jacksonville, but cornerback position still needs boost. Packers could stay in house to replace RG T.J. Lang, who signed with Detroit. Signings of free agent TEs Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks gives offense potential for new wrinkles.
31. ATLANTA FALCONS (13-6)
LAST SEASON: Falcons’ feel-good story of winning NFC South in Dan Quinn’s second season was soured by devastating collapse in Super Bowl. Atlanta blew 25-point lead in second half of overtime loss to Patriots. Still, it was special season as Falcons were surprise NFC champions. Led by MVP quarterback Matt Ryan, Atlanta led league in scoring. Young defense leaned heavily on four rookie starters and such second-year players as Vic Beasley, who led league with 15 1/2 sacks. Wide receiver Julio Jones is returning from foot surgery.
THEY NEED: OG, OLB, DT, FB, S.
THEY DON’T NEED: RB, QB, CB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OG Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky; OLB Charles Harris, Missouri; LB Takkarist McKinley, UCLA; DT Malik McDowell, Michigan State; S Budda Baker, Washington; S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan.
OUTLOOK: Offseason free-agent signings have provided at least possible answers to few obvious needs, freeing GM Thomas Dimitroff and Quinn to look for best available players. Falcons have focused on defense high in Quinn’s first two drafts, and it would be no surprise if that plan continues, perhaps with another edge rusher to complement Beasley. Rretirement of right guard Chris Chester leaves obvious need that may be addressed early, even though team signed veteran free agent Hugh Thornton. Similarly, Falcons may see need to add more help at defensive tackle even after signing two-time Pro Bowler Dontari Poe. It appears unlikely team will re-sign Jonathan Babineaux. Fullback Patrick DiMarco, who signed with Buffalo, must be replaced. Falcons signed fullbacks Derrick Coleman and Soma Vainuku but could add more competition late in draft. Another key offseason move was re-signing cornerback Desmond Trufant. Team’s top offensive skill position players return, including Jones and running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. New offensive coordinator Steve Sarkasian replaced Kyle Shanahan, hired as 49ers coach.
37. LOS ANGELES RAMS (4-12)
LAST SEASON: Move to West Coast did nothing to end Rams’ streaks of 13 consecutive non-winning seasons and 12 straight non-playoff seasons. Los Angeles lost 11 of last 12, leading to Jeff Fisher’s departure and hiring of Sean McVay as youngest head coach in NFL history. Rams had NFL’s worst offense for second consecutive year, managing measly 262.7 yards per game — nearly 46 yards fewer than 31st-place San Francisco. No. 1 pick Jared Goff went 0-7 as starter after taking over, looking unsurprisingly shaky behind subpar offensive line. Rams mortgaged big chunk of future last spring to move up for Goff, and that’s why Tennessee will be using Los Angeles’ fifth overall selection this month.
THEY NEED: WR, CB, S, OL.
THEY DON’T NEED: QB, RB, DL.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: CB Adoree Jackson, USC; OT Garett Bolles, Utah; LB Taco Charlton, Michigan; DE/LB Takkarist McKinley, UCLA; OT Cam Robinson, Alabama; CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama.
OUTLOOK: General manager Les Snead has inconsistent draft history, including big hits and big busts. Rams clearly aren’t afraid to swing major trade, but another move up to first round might just dig deeper hole. With needs all over roster, they’re more likely to take what they consider best available players with all picks, then see what they’ve got in training camp. McVay hasn’t publicly expressed any particular draft desire to help him in fixing offense, but Rams signed LT Andrew Whitworth and WR Robert Woods in free agency to shore up two particular needs. Los Angeles doesn’t have receiver over 6-foot-1 who played extensively last season, so a big pass catcher might be appealing.
48. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (8-8)
LAST SEASON: Championship aspiration heightened by 5-0 start was hammered by injuries and insufficient OL play. Loss of QB Teddy Bridgewater to major knee injury in practice 12 days before opener was lessened by arrival of replacement Sam Bradford, but trade to get him with Eagles forced GM Rick Spielman to part with first-round pick (No. 14). Bradford set NFL record for completion percentage despite poor protection, and Adam Thielen broke out as capable complement at WR to Stefon Diggs. But running game was worst in league. Defense that was stellar throughout run to 2015 division title and dominant in first five games last year slipped down stretch.
THEY NEED: G, DT, S, LB, RB, TE.
THEY DON’T NEED: CB, DE, WR, C.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK (SECOND ROUND): DT Malik McDowell, Michigan State; G Dion Dawkins, Temple; G Taylor Moton, Western Michigan; S Budda Baker, Washington; S Marcus Maye, Washington.
OUTLOOK: After signing Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers in free agency, Vikings have new starting OTs. There’s glaring need at RG, though, and as last season proved, there’s no such thing as too much depth on OL. After knee injury ruined 2016, former franchise cornerstone RB Adrian Peterson was not retained. Latavius Murray was signed to join Jerick McKinnon in backfield, but deep draft class provides opportunity to look toward future. Harrison Smith could still use playmaking partner at safety, and uncertainty of Sharrif Floyd’s knee injury makes DT position worth strengthening. Spielman has eight picks, with No. 48 overall followed by pair of selections in third and fourth round. That could be enough assets to use for move into end of first round, if so desired.
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