Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: biggest team needs.
I had a chance to visit with owner Jerry Jones on ESPN 103.3 in Dallas-Fort Worth on Tuesday and he made it pretty clear that he's not feeling pressure to fill any certain positions. In some ways, the Cowboys will be rolling out two draft classes in 2010. The '09 class was taken out by a wide variety of injuries, so Jones is anxious to see how some of those players respond. Jones didn't confirm this, but I've been told that the scouting department is taking a long look at the safety position with the No. 27 pick overall. The organization is disappointed in the play of Ken Hamlin and it's time to start looking for his eventual replacement. Alan Ball has looked good at times, but I'm not sure he's ready for full-time duty. The Cowboys also would like to add depth along the offensive line. Doug Free emerged as a solid contributor in '09, but the team needs to continue drafting and developing young linemen. I'm not sure where the Cowboys will find a place-kicker, but it's certainly a major need. In fact, it's probably their biggest need heading into the 2010 season.
The Giants have to figure out what went wrong on defense and start adding talent. Linebacker Clint Sintim is a player from the '09 draft who's expected to take a major step this offseason. And there's also speculation that the Giants could go after Karlos Dansby in free agency. The Cardinals linebacker would give the Giants much-needed speed and power. You also have a major need at safety. The Giants were burned when Kenny Phillips went down with a season-ending knee injury after Week 2. C.C. Brown flamed out as Phillips' replacement and Aaron Rouse wasn't a lot better. You cannot enter the '10 season on a wing and a prayer that Phillips will stay healthy. The Giants will have plenty of options at No. 15. I wouldn't rule out a linebacker with that pick. But if a talented offensive tackle is available, general manager Jerry Reese will be ready to pull the trigger.
The back end of this defense needs help immediately. You can't just depend on Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown to get you through another season at cornerback. With that No. 24 pick, the Eagles should look long and hard at another cornerback. And obviously safety is a position of need. Quintin Mikell can't line up next to Macho Harris or Quintin Demps next season. The lack of a reliable safety really put the Eagles in a tough spot against teams with elite tight ends such as the Chargers and Cowboys. The Eagles also need to be on the lookout for another pressure player on defense. Trent Cole is one of the top defensive ends in the league, but he needs some consistent help. Defensive tackle is another need. I thought Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson looked tired late in the season. The Eagles can't afford for that to happen again. On offense, you have to figure out the Stacy Andrews situation. If you think Nick Cole can be a long-term answer at right guard, you have to think about releasing Andrews and his big salary.
If defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is going to make the transition to the 3-4 scheme, the Skins will have a different mindset in this draft. London Fletcher's a great player, but he wasn't made for the 3-4. It just won't work. The Skins will start looking for big thumpers at inside linebacker and excellent pass-rushers on the outside. Brian Orakpo should make a seamless transition to the new scheme, but I'm not so sure about Andre Carter. The Redskins also need to think about drafting cornerbacks and safeties. The back end of this defense needs to show major improvement. But obviously, all the talk will be about the quarterback position. I think Jason Campbell is a legitimate starter in this league, but Mike Shanahan has to go with the guy he's most comfortable with. That's why I think the Skins likely will stay at No. 4 and pick Sam Bradford. Then the Redskins have to start building an offensive line. The offensive line has suffered from years of draft neglect. It's time to start investing in the trenches.