1. Defensive End
If the Detroit Lions re-sign Cliff Avril, this becomes slightly less of a need. But regardless of Avril’s future with the team, they need to find a replacement for veteran Kyle Vanden Bosch who is well past his prime and was a liability this past season. Bjoern Werner, Damontre Moore and Dion Jordan should all be near the top of the Lions draft board.
The Lions best corner, Chris Houston, is an unrestricted free agent and the depth behind him is severely lacking. They could potentially bring in two or three players this offseason who emerge as impact players in the secondary. Dee Milliner is an option in the first round if they address the defensive line through free agency.
3. Offensive Line
If Gosder Cherilus is not re-signed, this need may jump up on the list of needs. Jeff Backus remains under contract but is coming off another disappointing season. Riley Reiff was selected in the first round in 2012 as his replacement, but may be forced into action on the right side if Cherilus does not return. The Lions may also be interested in bringing in a young center behind 34-year-old Dominic Raiola.
The Philadelphia Eagles are expected to end the Michael Vick era this offseason. And while Nick Foles may be worth developing, he isn’t an immediate answer to their issues at quarterback. If they’re interested in keeping Foles, then signing a veteran makes the most sense. But if the new regime isn’t interested in Foles, Geno Smith may be a first-round option.
2. Offensive Line
By season’s end, the Eagles had arguably the worst offensive line in the league. But a major reason for their struggles was the injury bug that bit Jason Peterson, Todd Herremans and others. Simply by getting everyone healthy the Eagles line will improve, but some changes are likely coming. Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher are strong possibilities in the first round.
Nnamdi Asomugha has been a huge disappointment and will only return to Philly if he restructures his contract. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is also an unrestricted free agent and is unlikely to return after a few sub-par seasons with the Eagles. Dee Milliner could be an option in the first round, but the depth at the cornerback position could cause them to wait until the second round to address the need.
Courtney Gardner WR Sierra #6
Size/Athleticism: Prototypical size for a No. 1 receiver. Shows decent athleticism and body control when working the sideline. Dangerous in the open field. Has the speed and agility to make guys miss and is big enough to break some tackle attempts by defensive backs. Frequently used on screens and short passes in the flat due to his ability to make plays after the catch. A feisty blocker. Lacks the strength to be a dominant blocker, but gives a great effort.
Separation Skills: Had no trouble getting deep at the JUCO level, but did so primarily using his pure speed. Route running skills are clearly limited. Vast majority of his routes in college were simply go routes or curls.
Ball Skills: Appears to have fairly reliable hands. Attacks the ball in the air rather than taking a passive approach and letting it come to him. Does a nice job adjusting to the ball in the air.
Intangibles: Multiple red flags raised by his antics away from the field. Originally signed with Nevada but failed to pass the high school math proficiency exam for the state of Nevada. Forced to attend Sierra College in order to become eligible to play at the D-I level. After one season at Sierra he committed to Oklahoma and was supposed to join them for 2012 season, but did not complete an English course in time to become eligible. After sitting out the entire 2012 season, he was expected to join Oklahoma in January but was reportedly ineligible once again and decided to enter the draft. In addition to the laundry list of academic struggles, Gardner has been arrested twice – once for underage drinking, once for obstructing an police officer while he was in a car with a friend who was being arrested for a DUI.
Durability: No known issues.
Comments: It’s tough to accurately judge Gardner’s talent based off of his JUCO film due to the level of competition, but it’s clear that he has the skills to play at the next level. But is a player with multiple off-field issues, limited experience at the college level and who has spent a year away from football worth a draft pick? He’s definitely an intriguing sleeper, but it would be tough to justify spending anything other than a 6th or 7th round pick on him.
The Oakland Raiders could survive another year or two with Carson Palmer if they upgrade the talent around him. But it is definitely time to begin the search for his replacement. And no, Terrelle Pryor is not the answer. Geno Smith may be an option with the third pick, but they are more likely to hold off and take a developmental prospect in the second or third round.
2. Defensive Line
Unrestricted free agent Richard Seymour will be too expensive to bring back. Desmond Bryant, who emerged as a quality starter this season, is also set to hit the market. The Raiders will likely try to bring Bryant back, but some big changes are definitely coming on the defensive line. This will likely be a position they address in the first round with Damontre Moore, Bjoern Werner or Star Lotulelei.
Michael Huff ‘s transition to cornerback worked better than expected, but he’ll be 30 in March and isn’t a long-term answer at the position. To make matters worse, nickleback Joselio Hanson is also set to become an unrestricted free agent. The Raiders could potentially take Dee Milliner with the No. 3 pick to address this need.
1. Defensive End
The Jacksonville Jaguars sent eight different defensive ends onto the field in 2012 in an effort to find someone who could get to the quarterback. All eight men failed, which means significant changes are coming this offseason. This will likely be the position the address with the No. 2 overall pick, potentially targeting Bjoern Werner or Damontre Moore.
2. Offensive Line
Eugene Monroe has developed into a strong left tackle, but he can’t keep Blaine Gabbert on his feet by himself. Cameron Bradfield and Guy Whimper tried, and failed, to win the right tackle job this season and a new face will likely be added to the mix this offseason. The could also be looking for a new center if 35-year-old Brad Meester is not re-signed.
3. Wide Receiver
Justin Blackmon will be expected to take the next step in his sophomore year, but more help is needed. Cecil Shorts has shown some promise, but he is better suited to play in the slot. If the Jaguars could add another flanker to pair with Blackmon on the outside, their receiving corps would start to look promising.
Note: I intentionally left quarterback off this list. Yes, Blaine Gabbert has struggled but we have to remember that he entered after his junior year when no one believed he was actually ready. The Jaguars mishandled him as a rookie which likely stunted his development. He deserves another year before being labeled a bust.