Here’s a team-by-team look at the top three draft needs for each team, in order of how they will draft.
QB – The No. 1 overall pick and a total lack of production leads to the obvious pick.
DT – New head coach Ron Rivera knows exactly how to build a winning defense – from the inside-out.
CB – Chris Gamble was unreliable and free agency could affect depth.
NT – They’ll try to find some help via free agency, if and when that happens. But the long-term solution is a young, big playmaker at No. 2.
RB – Many have tried, few have succeeded in recent years. A true go-to back solution must be found.
ILB – If you’re going to build a 4-3, nothing is more important than a middle-backer who can run the show.
OLB — Ryan Fitzpatrick may be feeling pressure, but the Bills need to pressure the opposing QB. A swift, playmaking outside backer or rush end is must.
DT – Stuffing the middle and collapsing the pocket makes this defense much better.
QB – Fitzpatrick had a better season than critics give him credit for. Still, depth is necessary.
QB – You can’t build anything without prioritizing the most important position on the field. There are other glaring needs, but none as big as this.
S – The Bengals have options in the secondary, but not a true, young, hard-hitting game-changer.
DE – Depending on free agency, the entire unit could look different in 2011. Finding depth is a must.
DE – Moving to a 4-3 means the Browns must bolster the outside rush with bigger bodies able to stop the run.
WR – Colt McCoy has very few viable targets and none that can break across the middle.
RT – There may be need at DT, but it’s not as pressing as protecting McCoy and establishing an edge offensively.
San Francisco 49ers:
QB – David Carr … repeat, David Carr. That’s Jim Harbaugh’s leading candidate right now. Niners need an upgrade fast.
DE – Patrick Willis covered a lot of ground and mistakes for a lagging DL. In a deep draft for ends, he’ll finally get some help.
CB – Press coverage skills are the first to go with age. This team needs more athleticism.
QB – Vince Young is gone, Rusty Smith is not the answer and Kenny Britt and Chris Johnson need help.
DE – Long known for their rush ends, the last edge rusher left town with Jason Babin’s free agency.
G/C – Mike Munchak has an eye for line talent. A crumbling interior line and young QB could be a recipe for disaster.
CB – Terrence Newman turns 33 in 2011 and despite some individual successes, the Cowboys gave up too many big plays in the passing game.
OT – The franchise QB missed the end of the season with a broken collarbone. That’s a sign: The guys up front have been giving up big hits for two years now.
WR – Santana Moss is the only legitimate front-line receiver in uniform and he’s 32. Size and speed were nowhere to be found in 2010.
OT – The ‘Skins need an anchor on the line that can be counted upon for 12 or so years.
QB – With no QB a sure thing, expect Mike Shanahan to solidify WR and OT, then go after a project with promise.
DT – Once the strength of the defense, DTs need an upgrade and infusion of youth.
CB – First-round pick Kareem Jackson had a disastrous rookie year and a lack of man-to-man talent and experience abounds.
OLB – New DC Wade Phillips is all about rushing off the edge. Big help is needed.
S – Bernard Pollard is gone and cover skills are horrendous up and down the depth chart.
QB – Finding a franchise QB is an absolute must. There is no option but to draft a QB, either as a potential franchise player or developmental project.
WR – Patience is always difficult, but building around a QB and front-line receiver could pay long-term dividends.
DT – Kevin Williams is a good piece, but beyond that, there are gaps to fill.
DE – The makings of a truly dominant DL, a la the Giants of recent vintage, would be there with Ndamukong Suh next to a top-shelf end.
LT – Matt Stafford must have his blindside protected.
OLB – Corner may be in the mix as well, but the secondary gets a lot better when the front seven is upper-echelon.
St. Louis Rams:
WR – Sam Bradford has all the skills and put them all on display in 2010. Give him a game-breaker and let the fun times begin anew.
SS – The linebacking corps is average. That means a play-making and sure-tackling becomes a priority.
DE – Bookend DEs that can pinch the pocket make everyone better. A complement to Chris Long is crucial.
RB – Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown have had diminishing returns the past two seasons. Miles are stacking up. New legs are necessary.
OG – If things have been unsettled and unproductive between the tackles and it’s cost the Dolphins games.
QB – The Dolphins have reached and made a lot of mistakes on QBs. They’re still looking.
DE – Every year, Jags have fallen short when it comes to pressuring quarterbacks and disrupting opposing backfields.
S – The last line of defense must be bolstered. They need better tackling and better cover skills at safety.
LB – Some may say QB, but outside of Daryl Smith, Jags’ backers are just a bunch of guys.
New England Patriots:
DE – In a year when top-tier rush ends are available, the Pats desperately need to scoop one up early.
WR – There’s no longer a true deep threat on the roster. Tom Brady needs one to be Super.
OL – Across the board, money and age issues have the Pats looking to bolster things up front.
San Diego Chargers:
LB – The entire unit is in a state of flux, with a speed and hard-hitting playmakers a priority.
DE – Outside of Luis Castillo, the Chargers have an array of question marks and unproven talent.
S – Defense, defense, defense. The Chargers need help on all three levels.
New York Giants:
OLB – In this ground-oriented division, it’s imperative the strong-side has a tough, playmaking linebacker.
DL – It’s what the Giants do. It’s a Draft tradition unlike any other. Draft defensive ends. Or, tackles.
RB – The miles are racking up on Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs and it shows. The Giants need another back.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
DE – The most glaring weakness defensively may be priority No. 1 and No. 2.
RB – LaGarrette Blount is a live wire and about all the Bucs have. They need an explosive No. 2.
CB – There may be some shifting in the secondary, with Ronde Barber aging. Drafting a corner gives the Bucs options.
Kansas City Chiefs:
WR – Dwayne Bowe has been sensational beating defenses all by himself. Imagine how he’ll be with a viable complement on the other side.
OLB – A play-making speed rusher opposite Tamba Hali could turn this Chiefs D into a destructive force.
QB – Matt Cassel may have answered questions, but he still needs a back-up and someone who could push him.
OT – If you can’t run the ball or stop the run, you lose in the post-season. With Peyton Manning running for his life, too, Colts MUST start on the offensive side.
DT – See above. Too often, the inside of the Colts defense was pushed around and gashed for big yardage.
S – Bob Sanders is gone and never was reliable, health-wise. His backups have been injured or ineffective.
RT – Some say defense should be the priority, but if Michael Vick is your franchise QB, he needs protection on his blind-side.
CB – The Eagles may be the leader for F.A. Nnamdi Asomugha, but with no guarantee before the draft, an athletic corner is a must.
DE – The Eagles pass rush has gradually diminished into a near non-factor the last two years.
New Orleans Saints:
DT – Sedrick Ellis had a healthy 2010, but that was a rarity. Depth is thin, too.
OLB – Free agency could devastate Gregg Williams’ attacking edge rush.
RB – Reggie Bush may not be fully healthy, ever, again. And Pierre Thomas was injured, too.
OG – The Seahawks tried a number of combinations in the trenches, but the talent just wasn’t there.
QB – Pete Carroll needs to develop a true franchise QB. A journeyman stop-gap player won’t cut it.
OT – Only one player (Chris Spencer) started every game in 2010. The Seahawks need help across the board.
CB – A lot of red flags were raised over the course of the season. Reaching the next level requires more speed and cover ability.
WR – Aging and unproductive, this unit fell well short of expectations in 2010.
OG – The interior line must improve and get stronger.
DE – For a defense that knew how to come up big, another play-maker on an aging defensive front will keep things going.
RB – Michael Turner needs a sleeker, more explosive third-down complement.
WR – Too many of Roddy White’s complementary receivers could not make consistent plays.
New England (2nd pick)
OT – Mike Tice and Mike Martz did a good job adjusting to their deficiencies up front. But the deficiencies are still there.
DT – Tommie Harris (injuries) and Anthony Adams (free agency) cannot be relied upon for 2011. Henry Melton isn’t the answer.
WR – Johnny Knox and Devin Hester are valuable assets, but not big go-to receivers under pressure for Jay Cutler.
New York Jets:
WR – Mark Sanchez is ready to take another big step forward. He goes nowhere without playmakers outside.
OG – Age and inconsistency hindered the inside-running game and inside protection in 2010.
OLB – Jets are aging fast at a key spot in Rex Ryan’s pressure-oriented defense.
OL – Across the board up front, the Steelers offense needs help moving forward. Guard is a particular priority.
CB – At times it looked like Troy Polamalu covered the entire field. But he can’t.
DE – Dick LeBeau has a lot of weapons at his disposal, but a deep DE class may be too tempting to pass.
Green Bay Packers:
OLB – With Clay Matthews making plays all over on one side of the field, fortifying the opposite ‘backer limits options for opponents.
OL – Tackles are aging and guard Daryn Colledge could opt for free agency.
KR – Aaron Rodgers had a superb season, despite fighting uphill when it came to field-position.
Oakland Raiders (no 1st-round pick):
CB – Nnamdi Asomugha is moving on. This absolutely is a must-get position high in the draft.
C – More specifically, interior line. Position switches notwithstanding, bulking up against tough NTs is a priority for a team that likes play-action.
OG – See above. Al Davis wants his teams to stretch the field, but you can’t do that without success in the middle and protecting the QB.