Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - A capsule look of the major needs and a possible course of action for the AFC teams in the 2014 NFL Draft, which will take place at New York's Radio City Music Hall from May 8-10.
Top Needs: OT, WR, LB, S
First Three Picks: No. 9, No. 41, No. 73
Number of Selections: 6 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7)
Buffalo probably wouldn't mind adding another standout linebacker next to 2013 rookie star Kiko Alonso, but it might be a better idea at this point to build up around second-year quarterback E.J. Manuel in order to help the former Florida State star speed up his development.
The Bills could be in the position to snare a franchise left tackle with the ninth overall pick, either Texas A&M's Jake Matthews or Michigan's Taylor Lewan, depending on how things shake out.
Another option could be selecting the best wide receiver left on the board, especially if Matthews' teammate with the Aggies -- lengthy wideout Mike Evans -- falls. The 6-foot-5 Evans would project as a complement to Stevie Johnson and could add to an impressive young core which also includes second- year players Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin.
Safety is also an issue after losing a Pro-Bowl talent like Jairus Byrd in free agency but the best back-end defenders in this process -- Alabama's Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor -- aren't worthy of the ninth overall slot.
Top Needs: OL, RB, TE, DT
First Three Picks: No. 19, No. 50, No. 81
Number of Selections: 7 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
Miami is coming off a controversy-filled campaign which ultimately resulted in offensive tackle Jonathan Martin leaving the team after being bullied by linemate Richie Incognito and others.
Head coach Joe Philbin survived the embarrassing scandal but is likely on a short leash considering owner Stephen Ross 86ed embattled general manger Jeff Ireland in favor of Dennis Hickey and gave Hickey full autonomy over all personnel matters.
One thing that is certain is the Fish need help on the O-line. Miami allowed a league-high 58 sacks and couldn't protect Ryan Tannehill with Martin and Incognito or without them. Miami started the rebuild up front by giving ex- Kansas City left tackle Branden Albert a monster deal, but more needs to be done.
Hickey could be bluffing but seems to love Alabama tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and his aggressive nature. Plenty of organizations have red-flagged Kouandjio (at least in the first round) for potential knee problems, but others have compared his skill set favorably to his former linemate with the Crimson Tide, D.J. Fluker, who the Chargers eventually took 11th overall in 2013.
Other potential targets at No. 19 could include Notre Dame left tackle Zack Martin, although he seems to be rising as draft day approaches, as well as athletic North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron or another Alabama stalwart, inside linebacker C.J. Mosley.
"I'm a big fan of Zack Martin as a player. If you look at any mock draft that's ever been constructed, it's mandatory that Zack Martin goes to Miami," NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "When you start putting these things together, you just kind of go, okay, he's there, they take him. I don't see how Miami could pass on him. He's too clean."
New England (12-4)
Top Needs: WR, TE, DT, OL
First Three Picks: No. 29, No. 62, No. 93
Number of Selections: 8 (1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 6, 6, 7)
It's time for New England to get a little bit younger at multiple positions but there is still plenty of shelf life left in the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era.
All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski's health has to be a concern moving forward, and even if Gronk can stay on the field, New England would like to replicate the two-tight end offense it had when both Gronkowski and the now-jailed Aaron Hernandez were at their peaks.
Ebron is the best TE in this draft, an athletic marvel in the mold of a Vernon Davis. Some question his physicality and strength, however, so don't be surprised if he falls a bit on draft day. Whether Ebron is still around at No. 29, though, is a longshot so perhaps Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro, a slot option in the mold of Hernandez, could be the more likely scenario.
Athletic Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman also shapes up as a nice fit as would Notre Dame nose Louis Nix or a young offensive lineman like Nevada's Joel Bitonio or Virginia's Morgan Moses.
N.Y. Jets (8-8)
First Three Picks: No. 18, No. 49, No. 80
Number of Selections: 12 (1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 6, 6, 6, 6, 7)
Whether it's second-year man Geno Smith or veteran Michael Vick at quarterback for the New York Jets won't really matter unless the team continues to add playmakers around them.
Signing wide receiver Eric Decker and running back Chris Johnson during free agency was a good start but more work needs to be done, specifically getting a true burner on the outside and a legitimate seam threat at tight end.
With the 18th overall pick, Ebron looks like a terrific fit. Of course no matter how much Vick and or Smith will want another skill position difference- maker, it's hard to imagine Rex Ryan going into a season with Dimitri Patterson as a possible starter at cornerback. So, also keep an eye on outside defenders like Bradley Roby, the kind of big, press corner who could excel in a Ryan defense.
"We remain open minded," Jets general manager John Idzik said. "We're going to evaluate each pick and the players that are available to us at that pick, and we'll pick who we think is the best player."
Top Needs: OL, S, WR
First Three Picks: No. 17, No. 48, No. 79
Number of Selections: 8 (1, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 6)
Just over a year removed from the franchise's second Lombardi Trophy, the Ravens believe their path back to the top runs through their offensive line and defensive backfield.
Baltimore averaged an NFL-low 3.1 yards per rush last season, particularly struggling at center after Matt Birk's retirement and at left tackle, at least until Eugene Monroe came over in a trade from Jacksonville. Over on defense, a year after drafting Matt Elam with the 32nd overall pick, the Ravens need a presence next to him at the safety position.
Baltimore re-signed Monroe but lost Michael Oher to Tennessee and really have limited options at right tackle. Former Tampa Bay center Jeremy Zuttah, meanwhile, was brought in to replaced the overmatched Gino Gradkowski in the pivot.
If general manager Ozzie Newsome decides to go O-Line at No. 17 overall, keep an eye on Notre Dame's Martin, a position-versatile player who is regarded as one of the safest picks in this draft. Other options could be Kouandjio of Alabama, as long as his problematic knee checks out, or Virginia's Morgan Moses.
In the defensive backfield the Ravens wanted to upgrade opposite Elam anyway, but James Ihedigbo's exit to Detroit only magnifies things. Kouandjio's teammate with the Crimson Tide, Clinton-Dix, has the range and ball skills to be a playmaker early in his career, but is unlikely to be on the board. Pryor could be, though, and is a nice fallback.
Wide receiver is probably the third position Newsome will be weighing seriously and the depth there could force his hand. Players like Odell Beckham Jr. of LSU, Oregon State's Brandin Cooks as well as lengthy Florida State prospect Kelvin Benjamin and USC standout Marqise Lee could present a favorite flavor scenario for Ozzie.
Top Needs: CB, OL, DE
First Three Picks: No. 24, No. 55, No. 88
Number of Selections: 9 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 7, 7)
The Cincinnati Bengals are still searching for that elusive first playoff win in the Marvin Lewis era despite reaching the postseason three consecutive times, a first in franchise history.
The team's ascent to playoff regular directly correlates with Andy Dalton's arrival at the quarterback position but the Red Rifle's subpar play in big moments has some wondering if the Bengals can take the next step with him.
Continuing to build the supporting cast around Dalton is what this draft will be about and the biggest priorities figure to be replacing defensive end Michael Johnson and offensive tackle Anthony Collins, who both fled to central Florida in free agency, as well as beefing up the cornerback position where Leon Hall is coming off an Achilles injury and Terence Newman will be 36 by next season.
Defensive end might be the thinnest position in this draft (although Missouri stalwart Kony Ealy and Auburn tweener Dee Ford both project as possible late first-round choices), while the top-tier offensive tackles figure to be gone by the time Cincinnati gets around to picking at No. 24 overall.
Corners like Jason Verrett of TCU and Roby may be around, though.
Top Needs: QB, OL, RB, WR
First Three Picks: No. 4, No. 26, No. 35
Number of Selections: 10 (1, 1, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 6, 7)
The Cleveland Browns unveiled their latest reboot in the offseason, restructuring their lightly regarded front office yet again by dropping two of the "three stooges" in CEO Joe Banner as well as general manager Mike Lombardi.
Ray Farmer, a former draft pick on Banner's watch in Philadelphia, has taken over the team's football operations in place of Lombardi. Meanwhile, off-the- radar candidate Mike Pettine, the ex- Buffalo defensive coordinator, was given the head coaching job only after others spurned the Browns and the culture Banner created by his firing of Rob Chudzinski, a Plan B choice himself after Chip Kelly chose Philadelphia over Cleveland last offseason.
A quick look at the Browns' current depth chart revels one gaping hole: the quarterback position. Journeyman Brian Hoyer and the nondescript Alex Tanney were the only players under contract until notable bust Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen were each recently inked after mini-camp tryouts.
None of those players is the answer, however, and Texas A&M signal caller Johnny Manziel, the most polarizing figure in this draft, could be in play at No. 4 overall.
Some scouts believe Manziel will turn into a superstar and others think he belongs nowhere near the first round. He flashed a better arm than advertised at his pro day, embraced the big stage and has already improved on what were some shoddy mechanics at times.
With two first-round picks Farmer could take his QB at No. 4 and then a complement to Josh Gordon at wide receiver with the 26th overall selection. Conversely he could flip things and snare Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins, certainly a higher-rated prospect than Manziel or Central Florida's Blake Bortles, early and address QB later.
"It's a players' league," Pettine said when talking about the draft. "When you look at it, coaches can only affect it so much. I think that it's critical for us. For the personnel department, (the draft is) their Super Bowl. It's absolutely critical that we have a solid draft."
Signal callers that could be available with the 26th pick include Fresno State's Derek Carr and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater. Even LSU's Zach Mettenberger and Pitt's Tom Savage could sneak into the conversation.
"We talk about the 'it' factor a lot with quarterbacks, just that type of personality, those traits that you want to have in your quarterback," Pettine said. "(You want) a guy that is confident, assertive and poised, that can handle teammates when they need to be handled at things going on in the offensive huddle."
Top Needs: CB, LT, DL, WR
First Three Picks: No. 15, No. 46, No. 97
Number of Selections: 9 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, 7)
The Pittsburgh Steelers, owners of a record six Super Bowl titles, are a pedestrian 16-16 over the past two NFL seasons.
That kind of mediocrity hasn't been seen in the Steel City since the late 1990s and it's not the kind of thing people are used to in Pittsburgh.
The expiration date on Ben Roethlisberger's shelf life as a top-tier NFL quarterback is rapidly approaching so the Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin must pull out all the stops in order to take advantage of the 32-year-old's remaining prime.
The most glaring deficiency in Pittsburgh is left tackle where former seventh- round pick Kelvin Beachum is currently penciled in to protect Roethlisberger's blind side.
If Notre Dame's Martin, a safe pick with a ton of position flexibility, remains on the board at No. 15 he might serve as a solid approach, as would Michigan's Taylor Lewan.
If both are gone, which is a distinct possibility, cornerbacks like Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert and Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard are sure to be high on the Steelers' wish list.
Top Needs: QB, OT, LB
First Three Picks: No. 1, No. 33, No. 65
Number of Selections: 11 (1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 6, 6, 6, 7, 7)
If you want to talk about how precarious a shelf life in the NFL can be focus on south Texas where the Houston Texans morphed from a 12-4 division championship club into a 2-14 disaster in one calendar year.
Of course, the silver lining in finishing with the NFL's worst record is that the Texans and new coach Bill O'Brien possess the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft, a nice building block to have as the club attempts its climb back toward relevancy.
One of the main reasons O'Brien was brought to the Lone Star State was to fix the quarterback problems but that doesn't mean it's a fait accompli the Texans will be taking a signal caller with the top overall selection, in fact that scenario remains highly unlikely.
If Las Vegas was handicapping the Texans' intentions, the draft's top two QBs -- Texas A&M stalwart Manziel and Central Florida star Blake Bortles -- would remain at the top of the list for O'Brien and general manager Rick Smith but not at No. 1.
The once-in-a-generation physical skills South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney brings to the table make him the obvious choice but there is a good chance that an Eli Manning-type situation could develop.
Manning was the consensus top choice in the 2004 draft but had no interest in playing for San Diego, which had the selection so the Chargers drafted him and traded Peyton's baby brother to the New York Giants on draft day in exchange for a haul which included Philip Rivers.
This time Clowney could be taken by the Texans with the intent on being traded to a team like Atlanta, which is in desperate need of a pass rusher and holds the No. 6 overall pick, a much more logical and less pressure-packed landing spot for a Manziel or Bortles.
The safety net is that Clowney would have no problem playing for Houston and teaming the potential superstar with J.J. Watt could produce the most dominating defensive line since the 1970s when units like Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain and Minnesota's Purple People Eaters ruled the NFL landscape.
The 6-foot-5, 266-pound Clowney is an overwhelming physical specimen, who ran the 40-yard dash at a blazing 4.53 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine and showed off his explosiveness with a 37 1/2-inch vertical leap, along with a broad jump easily surpassing 10 feet.
Clowney proved to be speedier than either Cam Newton or Colin Kaepernick were when they invaded Indy for their workouts and his lone questionable number -- 21 reps on the 225-pound bench press -- was alleviated by the historical efforts elite pass rushers like Julius Peppers (22), Greg Hardy (21), Robert Quinn (22) and Aldon Smith (20) put up.
To be blunt, if there were no ancillary issues with Clowney, there would be no debate over who should be the No. 1 overall pick. His ceiling as a player is akin to the heights of Empire State Building, while the rest of an admittedly deep class fighting for the second-best prospect tag might reach Yao Ming stature.
Houston, though, officially moved on from Matt Schaub this offseason, dealing the veteran signal caller to Oakland for a late-round pick, and even though the Texans signed veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, the 2014 starter will still likely come from this draft.
The Texans are well aware there are really only four elite prospects in this process and none of them play the game's most important position (Clowney, Auburn left tackle Greg Robinson, Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack and Watkins) so the first option remains to trade down with someone who wants to go all-in on Clowney.
Absent of that, though, O'Brien and general manger Rick Smith will be risking their reputations by choosing any player over Clowney.
"I don't exactly who we will take," Smith said. "What I do know is that I know the order of our board. I know that if we select first, it's a unique opportunity obviously to be the first pick. If we do select there, I know who we feel good about there. If we move, then obviously there are variables that come into play at that point. While I don't know exactly who we're taking, I think that we've done a nice job of valuing the board and we know how they fall."
Top Needs: CB, OC, WR
First Three Picks: No. 59, No. 90, No. 166
Number of Selections: 5 (2, 3, 5, 6, 7)
It's been two years and two 11-5 finishes with Andrew Luck as the quarterback in Indianapolis.
Now it's time to take the next step and become a legitimate Super Bowl contender, something made that much tougher by the fact that general manager Ryan Grigson traded the team's first-round pick in 2014 to Cleveland for disappointing running back Trent Richardson.
The Colts only have five selections in the upcoming draft and will not get a chance to pick, barring a trade, until the 59th overall choice yet they could use help at safety, linebacker and wide receiver.
Players with late-second-round grades who could be logical fits include USC center Marcus Martin or corners like Rice's Phillip Gaines and Utah's Keith McGill.
Top Needs: QB, DE, WR
First Three Picks: No. 3, No. 39, No. 70
Number of Selections: 11 (1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 7)
Jacksonville is still looking for the answer at the game's most important position after pulling the plug on 2011 first-round pick Blaine Gabbert, sending the former Mizzou star to San Francisco to be Colin Kaepernick's new backup.
The Jags and second-year head coach Gus Bradley did re-sign Chad Henne as a bridge and an insurance policy, meaning they could bypass the position at No. 3 overall and look for the answer in the second round with the 39th overall selection.
If Houston declines a signal caller at No. 1 overall or trades down, it's more than conceivable Jacksonville would have its pick between the two top QBs in the draft, Bortles and Manziel.
Neither of those prospects, however, are worthy of being selected with the third overall pick and if the NFL truly is a copycat league as most surmise, the Jags have a leg up when it comes to emulating Seattle' terrific Super Bowl-level defense because Bradley was one of its architects.
That means a player like Mack, the Buffalo linebacker, could be in play.
The fact that Justin Blackmon is suspended moving forward also has to make Watkins a serious consideration.
Top Needs: RB, CB, QB
First Three Picks: No. 11, No. 42, No. 112
Number of Selections: 6 (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7)
Most observers in Nashville believe new head coach Ken Whisenhunt was brought in to help quarterback Jake Locker, not give up on him.
That said its's also conceivable that Whisenhunt digested the film on Locker and came to the conclusion he just isn't the answer, meaning the Titans could be a sleeper team in the first round when it comes to selecting a quarterback at No. 11 overall.
The most likely scenarios, however, remain running back where the team must replace former 2,000-yard rusher Chris Johnson, as well as defense, specifically the back seven.
The running back position as a whole has been devalued to such a degree that you simply can't justify taking one in the first round so a lot of people have Tennessee looking at UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr because Whisenhunt's defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, will be shifting toward a 3-4 attacking defense.
Physical corners, though, are also needed to pull off what Horton wants to accomplish and that position is a need in Music City after the Titans lost Pro Bowl cornerback Alterraun Verner in free agency. Conversely, Tennessee already picked up veteran Shaun Phillips to help on the edge.
All of that makes Dennard or Gilbert the most logical fits.
Top Needs: OG, LB, RB, QB
First Three Picks: No. 31, No. 63, No. 95
Number of Selections: 7 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
If you were thinking the Denver Broncos' 43-8 thumping at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII would cause Peyton Manning to ponder his football mortality, think again.
The reigning NFL MVP, who turned 38 in March, surfaced in Denver last month for the first time this offseason, and flashed a sense of urgency highlighted by his organization's high-profile dealings in free agency.
"I feel that I have a responsibility to the team to be on top of my game," Manning said before his appearance as a guest speaker for the local Boy Scouts of America's annual sports breakfast. "That's what I think about every day when I lift weights and throw with my receivers -- doing my job to help the Denver Broncos."
A win in the big game had many speculating that Manning could stop playing and ride off into the sunset as a champion with his second Lombardi Trophy -- legacy stamped, a thought process fueled by the fact that the five-time MVP admitted he could see the "light at the end of the tunnel" of his playing career.
Only Manning knows if that's how things would have shaken out if Denver bested Seattle, but the Seahawks' rout ensured there would be no happy ending to his fairy tale, at least in 2014.
Any remaining doubts Manning would be back for another run at the game's ultimate prize ended in March when he was formally cleared to play after an exam on his surgically repaired neck.
Like most, Manning was very impressed by John Elway's handiwork in free agency which resulted in a haul that not only placed receiver Emmanuel Sanders in the Rocky Mountains but also high-profile defensive targets like pass rusher DeMarcus Ware, shutdown cornerback Aqib Talib and ascending young safety T.J. Ward.
Denver was always going to be a serious threat to get back to the Super Bowl as long as Manning returned, but by "winning" free agency, the Broncos have seemingly lapped an AFC field they were already dominating.
The shelf life of this group remains about as lengthy as that gallon of milk you picked up last night. The future isn't what this team is about, though.
"I think you could look at a couple different places," NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said when asked about Denver's draft plans. "Obviously Eric Decker is gone so you've got an opportunity to put another player in that offense with Peyton Manning to be successful.
"And then when you look on the defensive side of the ball, the linebacker to me, you could continue to add a linebacker in there. But this team, when you look at it, there's some teams where these needs just jump off the page and you go, okay, man, they literally can't line up and play a game unless they get this solved. This Bronco team is pretty deep."
Perhaps but one spot does stand out a bit. The loss of Zane Beadles in free agency means the Broncos are thin at guard opposite Louis Vasquez. Xavier Su'a Filo, the most experienced and NFL-ready member of UCLA's impressive O-line, might be a nice get with the 31st overall pick and he could step right in as a starter.
"I you're trying to add to that depth, I still say offensive line is still a spot they could take a look at," Jeremiah's colleague Charles Davis said. "The pressure Seattle bought to them in the Super Bowl to get in Peyton's face really, really hurt them."
Kansas City (11-5)
Top Needs: WR, OL, DE, S
First Three Picks: No. 23, No. 87, No. 124
Number of Selections: 6 (1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6)
Turning two wins into 11 seems like a pretty significant achievement for Kansas City but a lot of the goodwill from that turnaround, which was architected by veteran coach Andy Reid, vanished during an ugly playoff implosion against the Indianapolis Colts.
Reid and his hand-picked general manager John Dorsey enter their second season in the Show Me State facing a much more difficult task. Kansas City isn't going to sneak up on anybody in 2014 and the last-place schedule is a thing of the past.
Another postseason run is certainly possible but only if some obvious needs can be addressed in the draft, most notably at wide receiver and on the offensive line where last year's top overall pick, tackle Eric Fisher, was a bit of a disappointment.
Quarterback Alex Smith gets a lot of criticism for being a game manager and failing to push the ball down the field, but one of the major reasons he didn't last season was because the Chiefs lacked a consistent downfield threat outside the numbers to pop the top on opposing defenses.
Picking at No. 23 means Kansas City could have a number of options with players like Beckham Jr., Lee or Cooks.
Beckham is the type of dynamic athlete who should be able to stretch a defense in time and offers a little more size than Cooks, a flat-out burner. Lee is a more polished prospect coming in but doesn't offer the kind of big- play ceiling the Chiefs will be looking for.
"(Andy Reid) likes to have guys that can stretch the field on the outside on offense, and with the depth we have at receiver in this draft, I would be shocked if there's not somebody there he thinks he could plug in that could really take the top off of their defense," NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "I think (adding a receiver) is going to benefit their running game tremendously, going to open things up in that offense."
Contingency plans could include Su'a-Fil or a potential difference-maker at safety like Northern Illinois thumper Jimmie Ward
Top Needs: QB, OL, DE, WR
First Three Picks: No. 5, No. 36, No. 67
Number of Selections: 7 (1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 7, 7)
The Oakland Raiders are seemingly always wild cards when it comes to the NFL Draft but 2014 could see the organization take a more conventional approach.
General manager Reggie McKenzie could go in a number of directions with the No. 5 overall pick and the Raiders are obviously one of a number of teams in the top five who are unsettled at the quarterback position. That said, Oakland could also use help on both lines as well as a big-play threat at receiver.
McKenzie brought a ton of money into the offseason and did a nice job plugging holes for the short-term, be it trading for veteran signal caller Matt Schaub or signing defensive lineman Justin Tuck, linebacker LaMarr Woodley and offensive tackle Austin Howard.
He and head coach Dennis Allen remain on very short leashes, though, so risking everything on a quarterback like Manziel or Bortles seems unlikely.
The added incentive to win now should turn Oakland toward a safer prospect and snaring Watkins is as secure as it gets in this draft. If Watkins is gone, that could mean Mack or Robinson would fall to No. 5 and both would serve as nice alternatives for the Raiders.
San Diego (9-7)
Top Needs: CB, WR, DL
First Three Picks: No. 25, No. 57, No. 89
Number of Selections: 7 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
Head coach Mike McCoy had a rather productive rookie season in San Diego, piloting the Chargers to the postseason and orchestrating an upset win in Cincinnati.
To build on that the Chargers have to improve on their 29th-ranked and AFC- worst pass defense.
The talent level simply has to be upgraded on the back end and a few corners with first-round grades may be available by the time San Diego gets its turn at No. 25 overall.
Verrett is undersized at 5-foot-9 but shapes up as a Captain Munnerlyn-type, a player who battles enough to compete on the outside during early downs before moving into the slot and becoming a difference maker on obvious passing downs.
Roby, meanwhile, could be dropping and in play thanks in large part to some off-the-field issues.