Monthly Archives: November 2013

MID-SEASON LOOK: FALCONS DRAFT NEEDS

Losing key play-makers like WR Julio Jones has left the Falcons' offense sputtering in 2013.

Losing key play-makers like WR Julio Jones has left the Falcons’ offense sputtering in 2013.

BY LANCE N. POIRRIER
@IBleedBluNOrang

The 2013 Falcons have been one of the NFL’s biggest surprises this season, and not in a good way. Atlanta’s defense has been dismal with no pass rush amongst other glaring needs on the defense. Matt Ryan has lost nearly his entire supporting cast through the season and he unfortunately doesn’t have the same effect on “no names” that Tom Brady or Peyton Manning does, Ryan needs his play makers available every game for the team to be successful.

DEFENSIVE END
Since letting the aging John Abraham go this offseason the Falcons’ pass rush has gone nearly extinct. The Falcons are on track to have the third overall pick in 2014, with which they would love to add South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney who is one of the most exciting and dominating DE prospects since Julius Peppers. Other names to look at past the first round are Missouri’s Kony Ealy, Stanford’s Trent Murphy, or North Carolina’s Kareem Martin. Don’t be shocked if the Falcons double dip on defensive ends in the top four rounds of the draft, they need tons of help.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Tackle is less of an issue for the Falcons, but any pass rush assistance would be an immediate help to their sad defense. Pass rushers who might interest the Falcons early in the draft could be Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman or Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan, but if the Falcons wanted to wait until a bit later they may consider Florida’s Dominique Easley or Purdue’s Bruce Gaston.

TIGHT END
NFL legend Tony Gonzalez is calling it quits after the 2014 season and it’s a shame his great career is ending on such a sour note. TE is going to become a major need for the Falcons once Gonzalez departs. The Falcons will have a higher pick to start each round, and they may consider Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins or Iowa’s C.J. Fiedorowicz.  An intriguing prospect who could help the Falcons is Oregon’s Colt Lyerla, who cut the bottom out of his draft stock by unexpectedly leaving the program midseason. There are also some later round picks that could bring potential and depth to Atlanta in Colorado State’s Crockett Gilmore or Indiana’s Ted Bolser.

The Falcons could be in the market for another power back in the 2014 Draft, such as Ohio State's Carlos Hyde.

The Falcons could be in the market for another power back in the 2014 Draft, such as Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde.

RUNNING BACK
The Falcons released Michael Turner early this off-season to make cap room and make a run at veteran Steven Jackson, but he’s been sadly disappointing and too often injured.  Should Mike Smith retain his head coaching job into 2014, the Falcons will be looking for a powerful back to plug into their offense and regain their rushing attack. Some players who might interest the Dirty Birds are Florida State’s James Wilder, Jr., Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde, or Alabama State’s Isaiah Crowell.

OFFENSIVE LINE
The Falcons have had to strip away their once-dominant offensive line over the past few seasons due to cap issues, and their current lack of depth has shown that they were ill-prepared for the scenario.  The Falcons desperately need a powerful right tackle to help sustain their run game, and Miami’s Seantrel Henderson who’s a monster of a man with great potential to become a road-grading RT in the NFL. They may also consider North Carolina’s James Hurst, who would be an instant upgrade at RT with potential to move to LT when the time comes for Sam Baker to exit Atlanta. The Falcons also need help along the interior of the offensive line, where they could consider the versatile guard/tackle from Stanford, David Yankey.  Baylor OG Cyril Richardson, who entered the season as the top-rated interior offensive linemen in this class, carries great potential and would be a solid second round pick should he last that far.

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MID-SEASON LOOK: JETS DRAFT NEEDS

The jury is still out on Jets' rookie QB Geno Smith, but he'll definitely need some new weapons in the passing game.

The jury is still out on Jets’ rookie QB Geno Smith, but he’ll definitely need some new weapons in the passing game.

BY TYLER GROSS
@TJGross13

At 5-5, The New York Jets have become one of the most inconsistent teams in recent memory, winning one week and losing the next. After being beaten soundly by the Buffalo Bills this past week, the Jets draft needs are crystal clear.

WIDE RECEIVER
It is way too early to pull the plug on Geno Smith, especially with the receiving corps that he’s had to work with this season. Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill, and the declining Santonio Holmes are not a recipe for success when your starting QB is a rookie. The Jets will have plenty of wide receivers to choose from in the 2014 draft. Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt) would come in and immediately help Smith and the Jets’ sputtering offense, but there is no guarantee that he will fall to the Jets draft position in the first round. Other receivers to keep your eye on are Brandon Coleman (Rutgers) and Cody Hoffman (BYU).

TIGHT END
This 2014 draft class could produce three very special NFL tight ends.  Jace Amaro (Texas Tech), Eric Ebron (North Carolina), and Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Washington) could all become top tier pass-catching tight ends in the NFL, and the Jets would be mistaken to go into the 2014 season with Jeff Cumberland as their starting tight end. Kellen Winslow is only in New York on a one-year deal, and his average performance thus far, combined with his age, would suggest he will not be back with the Jets next season.

The Jets' d-line is playing at a high level, but adding some help on the egde, such as FSU's Christian Jones, wouldn't hurt.

The Jets’ d-line is playing at a high level, but adding some help on the egde, such as FSU’s Christian Jones, wouldn’t hurt.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER
The Jets defensive line has been stellar and Sheldon Richardson has proven to be one of the best players taken in 2013 NFL draft, but the Jets need to keep building up the defense. Antwan Barnes and Calvin Pace have been solid but they’re not getting any younger. Quinton Coples has incredible potential, but the Jets should look to the draft for another OLB. A couple players I think the Jets should really take a look at are Jackson Jeffcoat (Texas) and Christian Jones (Florida State).

SAFETY
Antonio Allen in the seventh round of the 2012 draft was a steal for the Jets; but he is a better fit to be a strong safety rather than free safety. The Jets current starting strong safety, Dawan Landry, is on the wrong side of 30 and his age is showing more every week. The Jets need to move Allen to the starting strong safety position and draft their next free safety in May. The Jets should take a look at another Seminole defender, Lamarcus Joyner (Florida State).

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MID-SEASON LOOK: CHIEFS DRAFT NEEDS

QB Alex Smith is in a contract year.  Will the Chiefs look to add a young gun for the future?

QB Alex Smith is in a contract year. Will the Chiefs look to add a young gun for the future?

BY LIAM QUIBELL
@LiamQuibell19

Kansas City is having a year to remember as they currently sit 9-0, the best record in the league.  Despite their great record, however, they have two games against the Broncos left as well as a Week 16 matchup vs. the Colts.  But despite a tough last half of the schedule, it is safe to say the Chiefs will pick in the 25-30 range in the Draft.

Andy Reid’s boys are playing phenomenally, but there are still some issues they need to address, mostly on the offensive side, to take that next step.

QUARTERBACK
Alex Smith is a decent NFL quarterback but I don’t see him taking a team to the Super Bowl.  Next year will be a contract year for Smith, so drafting a quarterback early will put the pressure on Smith to perform and it will also give a young QB a chance to play. If the Chiefs decided to pick up a QB late in the first I can see them going with Derek Carr from Fresno Sate or UCLA’s Brett Hundley. If the Chiefs decided to go a different route in the first round, Georgia’s Aaron Murray or Alabama’s A.J. McCarron may be good pickups on Day 2.

The Chiefs might part ways with the overpaid Dwayne Bowe, meaning they could target at receiver like Penn State's Allen Robinson in the early rounds.

The Chiefs might part ways with the overpaid Dwayne Bowe, meaning they could target at receiver like Penn State’s Allen Robinson in the early rounds.

WIDE RECEIVER
With Dwayne Bowe in hot water and playing poorly it might be time to replace him. The Chiefs already have speedsters like Donnie Avery and Dexter McCluster, so they may be inclined to pick up a big target like Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews or Penn State’s Allen Robinson late in the first, or possibly Brandon Coleman from Rutgers or Devin Street from Pittsburgh in the middle rounds.

TIGHT END
Anthony Fasano is playing well for the Chiefs this year but with little need for help on the defensive side of the ball, the Chiefs might go out and get a TE in the middle rounds.  Guys they might be interested in include Marcel Jensen from Fresno State or Arthur Lynch from Georgia.

SAFETY
If there is one position on the defensive side of the ball that needs help it is free safety.  Eric Berry and Quentin Demps make up a great 1-2 punch at strong safety but a free safety like Lamarcus Joyner from Florida State in the second round would just make their defense that much stronger.

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MID-SEASON LOOK: RAMS DRAFT NEEDS

The Rams' offense has sputtered so far this season, despite top free-agent signings like TE Jared Cook.

The Rams’ offense has sputtered so far this season, despite top free-agent signings like TE Jared Cook.

BY LANCE N. POIRRIER
@IBleedBluNOrang

The bar was set very high for the 2013 Rams, but due to a lack of continuity and an unfortunate visit from the injury bug, the Rams are in their usual disappointing form. The Rams seem to have a great base to build off of come 2014, but they’ll need some help along the way.  With the addition of head coach Jeff Fisher the Rams seem to have their defense and how it operates down to a science. But the St. Louis offense is lacking serious production which is upsetting considering the money they put into top free agent OT Jake Long and TE Jared Cook.

The Rams’ 2014 draft should focus on the offensive side of the ball.  With their own pick and the final first-rounder from the RG3 trade with the Redskins, the Rams have the opportunity to add some serious help on offense.

OFFENSIVE LINE

The Rams offensive line as a whole has been rather disappointing considering the expectations brought on with the additions of veteran guard Harvey Dahl, former first-overall pick Long, and the top choice of the 2nd round in 2009 Rodger Saffold. The Rams need to focus on adding a quality center, as well as another guard or tackle.

With the possibility of the Rams having two high picks in the first round, offensive tackles like Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews or Michigan’s Taylor Lewan are not completely out of the question. Another option for the Rams later in the draft would be my top-rated center in the 2014 draft class, Hroniss Grasu from Oregon. The Rams need OL help if they want to get the most out of QB Sam Bradford.

The Rams need a legitimate #1 WR, and Vandy's Jordan Matthews has the size/speed combo to be just that.

The Rams need a legitimate #1 WR, and Vandy’s Jordan Matthews has the size/speed combo to be just that.

WIDE RECEIVER

Rams’ rookie sensation Tavon Austin was my favorite prospect of the 2013 draft class, and last week’s performance against the Colts should tell you why.  But for the Rams to truly get the most out of an electric slot receiver like Austin, they need to add a prototypical #1 wideout; someone around 6’2″ – 6’4″ and 220 pounds to really draw some focus away from Austin and Cook. With the Rams having two high picks in the first round they could easily spend one on such a wide receiver such as, USC’s Marqise Lee or Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews, either of whom would be ideal in St. Louis and could really open up their rather sluggish offense.

RUNNING BACK

The Rams thought they had struck gold last year with 7th-round pick Daryl Richardson, but it appears he’s fallen into a sophomore slump this season with minimal production, and even losing his starting job to rookie Zac Stacy. Stacy is a serious option for the Rams moving forward but he comes with an injury history that’s followed him into the NFL.  Some guys the Rams should consider on day two of the draft are Arizona State’s Marion Grice, UCF’s Storm Johnson, or Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde.

QUARTERBACK

The Rams may also consider drafting a quarterback in 2014 with current starter and hopeful franchise centerpiece Bradford entering the final year of his rookie deal.  It seems OC Brian Schottenheimer prefers to have a QB who can make quick reads and stay inside of the pocket, even in the face of pressure.  2014 draft prospects like LSU’s Zach Mettenberger and Alabama’s A.J. McCarron may be the perfect fit in St. Louis should the Rams want to spend a high pick on a QB.  If the Rams were looking for a developmental-type passer they may consider North Carolina’s Bryn Renner.

Safety is the only glaring need on the Rams' defense, and solid options like Louisville's Hakeem Smith should still be available in the middle rounds.

Safety is the only glaring need on the Rams’ defense, and solid options like Louisville’s Hakeem Smith should still be available in the middle rounds.

SAFETY

The lone blemish on St. Louis’ outstanding defense is the play of inexperienced safeties. Again, the Rams could spend one of their top first rounders on a renowned college safety like Alabama’s Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix or wait until later in the draft and target guys like Ohio State’s C. J. Barnett or Louisville’s Hakeem Smith.

CORNERBACK

The Rams may also consider adding some youth at corner to challenge current stater Cortland Finnegan, and push Janoris Jenkins, who’s struggling in his sophomore season. With CB help not being a direct need the Rams could wait until the 3rd round or later, leaving them with such players as Oklahoma’s Aaron Colvin or Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste, both of whom could excel in Fisher’s pressure defense.

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PROSPECT PROFILE: Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks

NCAA Football: Oregon State at California

BY RYAN MILLER
@ThinkingNFL

Brandin Cooks may not be a household name, not yet. But come draft time he should be. The 5’10, 186-pound receiver from Oregon State is a speedster and should remind you of a top 10 pick from last year, Tavon Austin. So what makes Cooks such a special talent?

Lateral Quickness/Elusiveness

Cooks has the ability to cut on a dime and give you change every time.  On this punt return, is appears that the two Stanford tacklers have Cooks pinned against the sideline.  They are both breaking down to make the tackle and Cooks has very little room to run.  However those would-be tacklers are left grabbing at the air as Cooks uses the two yards or so he has to work with to escape.

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No One-Trick Pony

Cooks dosen’t need designed plays to get open.  You can put him on the outside and he will beat defenders 1-1.  Here he is lined up 1-on-1 against Stanford.  He gets a free release at the line, then gets open on a post-corner route.

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Willing to Take the Hit

Cooks lacks size, but plays big.  On this particular route, Cooks runs an underneath slant route. He beats his defender but knows a safety is coming.  This doesn’t faze Cooks, however, as he goes up to make the grab then takes a big hit.

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Hands/Ball Skills

Cooks shows some fantastic hands. What’s even more impressive is his ability to attack the ball in the air despite his stature.  Here he wins a jump ball with two defenders. And yes, Cooks is only 5’10.  Look at the vertical he displays.

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Not shown here is Cooks’ vertical speed/quickness.  The guy can take the top off any defense, and I expect him to run in the low 4.3s come the combine.  I feel that Cooks is a tremendous talent, and come draft time, don’t be surprised to hear his name called early.

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MID-SEASON LOOK: BEARS FULL MOCK DRAFT

Ohio State CB Bradley Roby

Ohio State CB Bradley Roby

BY LANCE N. POIRRIER
@IBleedBluNOrang

1ST ROUND

Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
5’11 1/8″, 190

Both Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman are scheduled to be free agents this off-season and this might be the time to move on from them.  By adding one of the top corners in free agency and a young corner like Roby, they could be on to something good. Roby has the size and speed to really make a name for himself in the NFL, though I’m not sure how he’ll fair against #1 receivers with being less than 200 pounds, but he’ll be a great complementary corner instantly, with room to grow. Roby seems better suited for a zone based defense rather than the Bears’ (who run their corners in more man matchups than anything), but Roby’s fast and reactive nature should keep him out of any trouble made by stronger WR’s.  The best thing about Roby’s speed is he can quickly and easily correct minor mistakes, get back in position, and make a play.  Roby also has the strength of an NFL corner, while being an effective jammer and excellent blitzer.

2ND ROUND

Jeoffrey Pagan, DT, Alabama
6’4″, 290

Pagan has the perfect frame to work in the base Tampa-2 scheme the Bears run. He’s used to playing DE when Alabama is in their 3-4 sets, but he’d do essentially the same thing on the inside of the Bears’ defense and he could quickly become the star of a revamped defensive line in Chicago. Pagan’s experience as a 3-4 end would be beneficial should the Bears incorporate a hybrid-style defense with several different looks, much like other successful teams have run, including the 49ers, Seahawks, and Ravens.

Colorado State C Weston Richburg

Colorado State C Weston Richburg

3RD ROUND

Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State
6’3 1/4″, 297

A new center has been one of the Bears needs for some time now, and Richburg is one of the best under-the-radar prospects of the 2014 draft class. He’s got a powerful snap equalling to an always pristine delivery. Richburg also has a powerful upper body which keeps him in any battle and can be amplified by his usually good technique. With some fine tuning Richburg could be one of the best centers in the NFL for some time and an immediate upgrade at the position for the Bears.

4TH ROUND

Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
6’2 1/4″, 220

The Bears need to double dip on corners in this draft, and Jean-Baptiste is a tall, athletic corner who’ll best thrive in a defense like the Bears’, where he’ll play man to man coverage more than anything. Bump and run won’t be SJB’s thing in the NFL due to lack of arm strength, and he shouldn’t be lined up on a team’s top WR who could over power him. Jean-Baptiste must work on his sloppy tackling to survive in the NFL. When you see Stanley Jean-Baptiste think of another famous hyphenated NFL CB: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

5TH ROUND

Brendan Kelly, DE, Wisconsin
6’6″, 255

Kelly is one of my favorite prospects you’ve never heard of. He’s got the size/speed to succeed in the Bears’ 4-3, can bend the edge and apply pressure on the outside of the pocket, and also possesses the agility and strength to shed blockers and jump inside on run plays. Kelly also provides versatility along the Wisconsin defensive front playing some OLB when Wisconsin is running their 3-4 scheme, which is all the better should the Bears introduce more 3-4 in 2014. Unfortunately Kelly has had a difficult time shaking the injury bug over the last few seasons missing substantial time in the last two years.

Florida FB Trey Burton

Florida FB Trey Burton

6TH ROUND (FROM TB)

Trey Burton, FB, Florida
6’3″, 229

Most successful offenses have a “move” or “flex” type player who they can play all over to create mismatches around the field, and Trey Burton is just that. He’s got great size and incredible speed, can play any spot you could ask, including FB, TE, HB, and he originally came to Florida as a QB, took on some kick return duties, and is now the versatile player we know today. Burton will be listed as a FB in the NFL, but like a Swiss Army knife, you can simply move him somewhere different and still get production.

6TH ROUND

Donte Rumph, DT, Kentucky
6’2 1/4″, 323

Rumph is a big-bodied space-eater, but maintains the speed required to run with the Bears 4-3 pressure scheme. His size still gives him the option to play NT should the Bears adapt a hybrid style defense.  Rumph’s incredible mass and strength let him maintain pressure, even on a double block.

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MID-SEASON LOOK: EAGLES DRAFT NEEDS

QB Nick Foles is coming off two huge performances, but can he sustain those numbers and the the Eagles' long-term answer at QB?

QB Nick Foles is coming off two huge performances, but can he sustain those numbers and the the Eagles’ long-term answer at QB?

BY RYAN MILLER
@ThinkingNFL

The Philadelphia Eagles have had a roller-coaster season this far, and somehow find themselves tied for first the NFC East and in the playoff hunt. Over the past two games, the Eagles have played pretty darn good football. However, both of those games came against the Oakland Raiders and the reeling Green Bay Packers. Looking over the sample size of the season thus far, it is clear that there are still questions that need to be answered and some clear needs to fill.

Wide Receiver
The Eagles lost a big-time player in Jeremy Maclin to a season-ending injury in training camp.  Maclin, a former first-round pick, is an extremely talented receiver who would have flourished in Chip Kelly’s new offense with his speed, route-running and after-the-catch ability.  He was arguably the best receiver on the team in terms of all-around ability,  even ahead of DeSean Jackson. However, this was Maclin’s contract year, and he’ll likely walk after the year is done and hit free agency as the Eagles already have a lot of money invested Jackson and LeSean McCoy.  Riley Cooper has caught 5 touchdowns in his last 2 games, but he’s turned in some very poor games earlier in the year, as well.  Depending on how Cooper performs the rest of the year, it would not surprise me if the Eagles targeted a WR somewhere in the 3rd round.

Safety
Earl Wolff
has been decent for a 6th round rookie, but I’m not sure if he can be a viable starting safety for the years to come. Nate Allen, Patrick Chung and company aren’t the answer, either.  While I don’t love this class in terms of the top-rated safeties, look for the Eagles to target a Safety as high as the 2nd round.

If the Eagles decide to go corner in the first round of the draft, Jason Verrett of TCU would make plenty of sense.

If the Eagles decide to go corner in the first round of the draft, Jason Verrett of TCU would make plenty of sense.

Cornerback
While some question the Eagles’ defensive scheme, the bottom line is that corners need to be able to cover no matter the scheme. This class is deep, as my 2nd-rated corner, Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller, isn’t expected to go until the 3rd round. My highest-rated corner is Jason Verrett from TCU, but he’s likely to go in the first. If the Eagles could get a guy like Fuller on Day 2, they should be satisfied.

Nose Tackle
An integral part of a 3-4 defense is the nose tackle.  Bennie Logan has been thrust into the starting spot, and while I have seen some good stuff from him, I’m not sure if he can get the job done for the long term.  I also have seen some solid stuff from Cedrick Thornton.  I’ll be interested to see how they feel about Logan come draft time, as the book is still out on him.

Quarterback
Yes, here it is: the Eagles need at the quarterback position.  Nick Foles is coming off two big games statistically, including an NFL-record-tying performance with seven touchdown passes.  But again, those 2 games were played against the Raiders and Packers, two teams with questionable secondaries.  Fans also must forget his game against the Dallas Cowboys, which was horrendous to say the least.  He also wasn’t good enough to beat out Michael Vick for the starting Job in late August.  All things considered, we need to see a larger sample size from Foles to really get an idea where the Eagles should be looking at to nab a QB in this year’s draft.  In my opinion, I don’t think they will be drafting Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel like many mocks have.

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MID-SEASON LOOK: BUCS DRAFT NEEDS

Rookie QB Mike Glennon has been solid, but will the Bucs stick with him instead of taking a top QB in next year's Draft?

Rookie QB Mike Glennon has been solid, but will the Bucs stick with him instead of taking a top QB in next year’s Draft?

BY LUKE EASTERLING
@NFLDraftReport

The Pewter Pirates are win-less no more, but that won’t get the paper bags off fans’ heads at Raymond James Stadium quite yet.  There’s still plenty of distrust for the current regime, from GM Mark Dominik to head coach Greg Schiano and his staff, and key injuries definitely haven’t helped a team that couldn’t even win with their best 22 on the field during the first half of the season.

The silver lining for a 1-8 team is that they’re likely to be picking very high in next year’s Draft, so let’s take a mid-season look at what the most pressing needs are for the Bucs on both sides of the ball.

OFFENSE

Tight End/Slot Receiver

These are two separate areas of need, but the reasoning is similar: no matter who is standing in the pocket in Tampa Bay next year (or running for his life as it collapses), there is a huge need for an athletic tight end to create mismatches, as well as a reliable third receiver who can be a consistent chain-mover and play-maker after the catch from the slot.  The highest pick the Bucs have spent on a tight end in the past few years was on Luke Stocker in the 4th round in 2011, and he’s been an injury-riddled disappointment.  The Bucs would be wise to consider one of this year’s top targets at the position at the top of the 2nd round, such as Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins or Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro, both of whom have the size and athleticism to create serious problems for opposing defenses.  In the slot, the Bucs have had a revolving door this year that has included Kevin Ogletree, Tiquan Underwood, Eric Page and Skye Dawson, none of whom have proven to be what the Bucs need.  Names like Odell Beckham, Jr. (LSU), Jared Abbrederis (Wisconsin), Cody Hoffman (BYU) and Kevin Norwood (Alabama) would be solid fits.

LSU's Le'El Collins has the versatility to play either guard or tackle, making him an ideal target for team looking to build young depth on the offensive line.

LSU’s Le’El Collins has the versatility to play either guard or tackle, making him an ideal target for team looking to build young depth on the offensive line.

Offensive Line

What was supposed to be a strength heading into this season has turned out to be possibly the most disappointing unit on the entire Bucs team.  Though their overall play has improved over the past two games (especially in the run game), the Bucs’ big uglies have been riddled by injuries and inconsistency.  They’ve yet to see a completely healthy Carl Nicks, and former Pro Bowlers Davin Joseph and Donald Penn haven’t played anywhere near they’re usual standards.  Throw in an average-at-best center in Jeremy Zuttah and a decently-progressing project at right tackle in Demar Dotson, and the Bucs have a recipe for needing to add some young talent to a vital unit.  Look for them to address this in the middle rounds (as best they can, considering they’ll likely be without their 3rd and 5th round picks), with options such as Alabama’s Anthony Steen (G), Notre Dame’s Zack Martin (G/T), LSU’s La’el Collins (G/T), and Tennessee’s JuWaun James (T).

Quarterback

Here’s the thing: I like Mike Glennon.  I really do.  I think he will continue to develop into a pretty solid quarterback in the NFL.  But will he ever be that field general who strikes fear into the hearts of opponents?  Will he ever be that guy that you wouldn’t DARE leave with more than a minute on the clock to make a comeback win?  I just don’t think so.  So, even if he keeps playing the way he has so far (mostly mistake-free), if the Bucs want to use this opportunity of picking in the top three in the Draft to take a swing on a dynamic signal-caller, you could hardly blame them.  If they end up behind the Jags at #2, I wouldn’t be surprised if Oregon’s Marcus Mariota is their guy.  In that scenario, it might provide the Bucs an opportunity to deal Glennon on Draft Day to recoup some of the picks they’re missing this year, which could end up being a huge win-win for them.

DEFENSE

Defensive End

Welcome to Tampa Bay’s broken-record need: a dynamic pass-rushing presence who can bend the edge, collapse the pocket and force opposing quarterbacks into bad decisions.  The Bucs have missed so often at spending high picks on the position that one has to wonder if the Draft is really the best avenue for them to try to fill that need this year (Adrian Clayborn, Da’Quan Bowers, Gaines Adams…need I go on?).  However, similar to the quarterback position, if ever there was a year for the Bucs to swing for the fences on a pass-rusher, it would be to take a freakish talent like South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney.  However, should they wait until Round 2, there might still be some players available who have the skills to make such an impact, such as Stanford’s Trent Murphy or USF’s Aaron Lynch.

Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller began the year with a solid performance against Alabama, and has continued to improve throughout the year.

Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller began the year with a solid performance against Alabama, and has continued to improve throughout the year, making him a solid Day-2 option for the Bucs.

Cornerback

Darrelle Revis definitely looks like he’s returning to form, and though the Bucs just spent a 2nd-rounder on Johnthan Banks, you can never have too many good corners in a division that features Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton.  This year’s corner class is very similar to last year’s, in that I’m not thrilled with the top tier, but there is a deep second tier that could produce some solid NFL talents.  My favorite Day-2 options are Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller, Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard, and Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner (who could play in the slot and also slide back to safety in certain packages).

Sam Linebacker

With the increasing amount of three-wide sets that defenses are facing on a regular basis these days, many 4-3 teams are running with just two linebackers on a greater amount of snaps than in years past.  This has made the Sam LB position become a little less of a priority, and the Bucs have been using a committee approach this season with Dekoda Watson and Jonathan Casillas.  Both of these players have been solid, but it wouldn’t hurt to add another young guy to the mix.  Late-round options could include Illinois’ Anthony Brown, Stanford’s A.J. Tarpley and Iowa’s Anthony Hitchens.

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MID-SEASON LOOK: RAIDERS DRAFT NEEDS

QB Terrelle Pryor has been a bright spot for the Raiders this year, but he'll need more help this off-season.

QB Terrelle Pryor has been a bright spot for the Raiders this year, but he’ll need more help this off-season.

BY LIAM QUIBELL
@LiamQuibell19

After an unexpectedly decent start to the year on the shoulders of Terrelle Pryor, there was some hope for a possible wild-card berth for the Raiders. But back-to-back tough losses to the Eagles and Giants have killed those hopes, and now it’s time for the Raiders to look to the draft.

There isn’t much going well for the Raiders right now besides good running by Rashad Jennings and decent quarterback play by Pryor.  The Raider’s O-line is lacking, the receiving core is sub-par and the secondary has not been very successful over the last few weeks.

The Raiders first priority in this draft should be picking up a good possession WR that can bail Pryor out as well as some offensive linemen to buy the QB time in the pocket. Depending on where the Raiders finish, which will probably be in the bottom 10 of the league, Oakland will have many options to consider.

A guy I like for Oakland in the 10-15 range is Texas A&M WR Mike Evans.  A big-bodied receiver with good hands is something the Raiders need to complement speedsters Denarius Moore and Rod Streater.  I think that Clemson’s Sammy Watkins will get snatched up before the Raiders have the opportunity to take him, but either way, I like Evans to the Raiders.

Tennessee OT Antonio Richardson is one of many solid options the Raiders will have if they choose to take an offensive lineman early in the draft.

Tennessee OT Antonio Richardson is one of many solid options the Raiders will have if they choose to take an offensive lineman early in the draft.

A receiver isn’t the only route I think the Raiders may decide to take in the first round.  The Oakland O-Line has been decimated in recent weeks and picking at their potential spot in the draft Baylor G Cyril Richardson or Tennessee OT Antonio Richardson are viable options.  Richardson would be a great pickup to protect the left side of the O-line and block for Pryor on roll-outs.

The secondary doesn’t need the immediate attention as the other two positions, as the Raiders still have CB D.J Hayden who will hopefully get bigger and stronger this offseason.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Silver & Black spent a third round pick on a free safety such as Terrence Brooks from Florida State to backup the aging Charles Woodson.

GM Reggie McKenzie will have a number of options on draft day, and for Pryor’s sake, he cannot go wrong with Evans at WR or one of the big tackles available at 10-20.

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MID-SEASON LOOK: BEARS DRAFT NEEDS

G Kyle Long has impressed so far in his rookie season.

G Kyle Long has impressed so far in his rookie season.

BY TYLER GROSS
@TJGross13

We are eight games into the Marc Trestman era in the Windy City, and at 5-3, the Bears have had their share of ups and downs. The offense has vastly improved, while the aging defense has been bitten by the injury bug. Injuries and lack of depth at specific positions can be used as a clear indicator as to which positions the Chicago Bears need to draft next May. Lets start with the offensive draft needs.

CENTER
Roberto Garza is the lone returning starter from the 2012 offensive line, and while he has been an effective at points in his career, his age is beginning to show clearer. Two rookies, Kyle Long and Jordan Mills, have held down the right side of the line efficiently, and now it’s time to complete the offensive line remodeling and grab a center through the draft, possibly even an undrafted free agent.

TIGHT END
Don’t be alarmed, I’m just as big a fan of the “Black Unicorn” as everybody else. But Trestman’s offense requires more than one tight end to catch passes. The Bears need a versatile tight end similar to Tyler Eifert; someone that can line up in tight or split out and become a matchup nightmare for the defensive backs. Martellus Bennett has been incredible for the Bears, but adding a tight end that can be somewhat of a Swiss-Army knife would make this offense special.

QUARTERBACK
Jay Cutler will return from a groin tear this week against the Lions, and his performance from this point on will go a long way in the Bears’ decision to extend him, franchise him, or let him walk. No matter what happens, the Bears need to pick up a developmental quarterback in the draft. Spending a mid-round pick on a developmental quarterback will give Trestman options moving forward, and they may not have to pay the market price for Cutler if Trestman can find his guy in the draft. Josh McCown’s performance in Lambeau on Monday night is a testament to the fact that Trestman can work with any QB that is willing to learn.

Now let’s take a look at the draft needs of the Chicago defense. This unit has been decimated by injuries and its lack of depth has been exposed.

Arizona State DT Will Sutton is one of a few solid options the Bears will have at DT in the 2014 Draft.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Season-ending injuries to Henry Melton and Nate Collins, along with a nagging turf toe injury to Stephen Paea have revealed the lack of depth on the interior of the defensive line. There are several strong prospects that fit the Bears 4-3 scheme in the college ranks that can be picked up via the draft. Players like Will Sutton (Arizona State), Dominique Easley (Florida), and Ra’Shede Hageman (Minnesota) would all be valuable pieces for this defensive line. The Bears should get Melton back for a bargain, as he was franchise-tagged this season and his market value will be significantly lower due to his injury. Collins will be back as well, but the Bears need depth at the DT position.

SAFETY
Major Wright and Chris Conte were serviceable starters at the safety positions when the Bears defensive line was healthy; the line created enough pressure to cover up their shortcomings. But with the depleted unit the Bears are putting out every Sunday, the safety play has been horrendous. Both have been caught out of position far too many times, and their lack of play-reading instincts has reared its ugly head this season. There will be several potential starters at the safety position available for Chicago through the draft.

CORNERBACK
Charles Tillman is getting old, and while Tim Jennings has been a solid CB, he is not the interception machine that he was in 2012. These two can be successful for maybe another season or two, but the Bears lack of depth at the corner position has been exposed, as well.  An injury to Kelvin Hayden in the preseason placed Isaiah Frey at the nickelback position. Frey has been successful, especially for a player who spent the 2012 season on the practice squad. In the NFL, you can never enough true coverage cornerbacks and the Bears will be in a better position defensively going into the 2014 season if they add another cover corner through the draft.

The Bears offense has made up for the defense’s shortcomings, but the Bears can strengthen that defensive unit and help Mel Tucker next season by adding some young impact players.

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