1. Offensive Guard
The Tennessee Titans running game has stalled over the past few years, and while some of the blame should fall on Chris Johnson, he hasn’ t been supported by the offensive line. Steve Hutchinson is a Hall of Famer, but he’s 35 and doesn’t have much left in the tank. Chance Warmack could be an option in the first round.
2. Strong Safety
Jordan Babineaux has been a weak link in the secondary for the past few years and it’s time for the Titans to bring in some competition. Matt Elam would be an ideal replacement in the second round.
3. Tight End
Jared Cook is an unrestricted free agent and never really lived up to expectations in Tennessee. If the Titans are hoping for Jake Locker to take the next step, they need to upgrade the supporting cast around him.
Tavon Austin WR Weset Virginia #1
Size/Athleticism: Vastly undersized. Has the speed to take the top off the defense, but lacks the height to be an ideal deep threat. Teams will need to get creative in the ways they get Austin the ball, because he’s the type of receiver that needs to be open in order to come down with the football. He lacks the height and physical style of play to battle for the ball in tight coverage. Once the ball is in his hands, he becomes a running back and is a threat to pick up chunks of yardage after the catch. Frequently lined up in the backfield at West Virginia and also used on end-arounds. A dangerous weapon in the return game.
Separation Skills: Elite speed. Safeties always have to be aware of him on the field because he can get a step an just about any cornerback in man coverage. Very limited in the amount of routes he has been asked to run. Vast majority of his receptions came on quick slants and drag routes. He caught very few balls further than five yards past the line of scrimmage.
Ball Skills: Inconsistent hands. Seems to struggle hauling in fastballs (see 2011 LSU game in which ball goes through hands and bounces off helmet). Lacks the height and strength to battle for jump balls. If he’s not open, he’s not coming down with the ball. He will need to be used primarily in the slot for this reason.
Intangibles: Coaches say he developed into a leader late in his carer and became a mentor to young players on the team.
Durability: No known issues, but his lack if size definitely puts him at risk for injuries in the future.
Comments: Austin is an intriguing weapon but it’s important to not get carried away with projecting his impact at the next level. It’s easy to fall in love with his highlight-reel plays, but realistically he is only a return specialist and a slot receiver at the next level. He can definitely be a valuable weapon, but he isn’t someone to build around. What concerns me most about Austin are his hands. Slot receivers tend to drop a few more passes based simply on the difficulty to hauling in a pass with limited reaction time, compared to having time to adjust on throws further downfield and on the outside. So when a slot receiver such as Austin enters the league with questionable hands, it raises a red flag.
The Buffalo Bills have to end the carousel at quarterback. But is this the year? Geno Smith will likely be off the board before the Bills are on the clock, which would force them to reach to fill the need. Perhaps the right move will be to wait until the second or third round and bring in a low-risk prospect to compete with Ryan Fitzpatrick.
2. Inside Linebacker
The Bills need a new leader in the middle of the defense after a disappointing year by Kelvin Sheppard. This could be a position they try to fill with a veteran free agent. If they address it early in the draft, Alec Ogletree could fill the need in the first round. Arthur Brown could be a second-round target.
3. Right tackle
The Bills offensive line was much improved in 2012, especially on the left side with Cordy Glenn showing promise as their new franchise left tackle. But the ride side of the line still needs some work, and veteran Erik Pears may have to battle a rookie for the starting job. Dallas Thomas and Justin Pugh could be second or third-round options.
It’s time for the New York Jets to move on. Mark Sanchez has been given plenty of opportunities to prove himself and he’s failed time and time again. While he will probably be on the roster in 2013, the Jets will likely bring in someone to compete for a starting job. In the second round, Tyler Wilson and Mike Glennon could be options.
2. Outside Linebacker
Rex Ryan’s defense has gotten progressively worse during his tenure in New York. And the primary reason for the struggles has been the lack of a pass rusher. This could be the Jets target in the first round. Barkevious Mingo and Dion Jordan both have the potential to offer an immediate threat, even if only in a specialist role.
3. Wide Receiver
Stephen Hill will be expected to take the next step in 2013, but the Jets clearly need another weapon. Since they need immediate help and are unlikely to address this need in the first round, the Jets may push to solve this issue in free agency.
1. Offensive Line
While the Arizona Cardinals obviously need a quarterback, it would be foolish to bring anyone in before the offensive line is fixed. Former 1st-round pick Levi Brown returns from injury, but he has been playing out of position at left tackle for years. 2012 4th-round pick Bobby Massie is coming off a season in which he led the league with 13 sacks allowed and may be better suited to play guard. Brown may be the only lineman whose job is relatively safe.
The Cardinals could be competitive with Kevin Kolb if the offensive talent, especially the line, were upgraded around him. But it has become clear that the quarterback of the future is not on the roster. Arizona may consider a quarterback in the first round, but the safer route would be wait until the second or third round and bring in a developmental prospect such as Ryan Nassib or Tyler Wilson.
Daryl Washington has emerged as one of the league’s premier inside linebackers, but there should be a competition for the other three linebacker positions in training camp. Paris Lenon is an unrestricted free agent, and the Cardinals don’t have an adequate replacement on the roster. Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles’ decision about sticking with the 3-4 or shifting to a 4-3 scheme will have a significant impact on how the front office approaches the linebacker position this offseason.