Patriots Must Focus on Adding Linebackers, Wide Receivers in 2010 NFL Draft


Feb 12, 2010

Patriots Must Focus on Adding Linebackers, Wide Receivers in 2010 NFL Draft Here is the second half of a short series detailing the needs of every team in the first round of April’s NFL draft. If you missed Thursday’s post that detailed picks 1-16, click here.

From now until the selection meeting, will bring you weekly draft coverage, and our first mock draft will run next Thursday. (An asterisk below indicates the pick will be decided by a coin flip later this month at the draft combine.)

*17. San Francisco 49ers (From Carolina Panthers)
2009 record: 8-8
Needs: Defensive end, outside linebacker, offensive line, wide receiver, cornerback, strong safety
Analysis: If they can get a playmaking linebacker or wide receiver with the 13th pick, the 49ers will be able to add a solid defensive end or offensive lineman at this pick, since both positions appear to be very deep in this draft. If the Niners can get Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap with this pick, they’d be in great shape.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers

2009 record: 9-7
Needs: Offensive line, cornerback, safety
Analysis: Ben Roethlisberger was sacked a whopping 50 times last season, and the Steelers still scored the 12th-most points in the NFL, which is pretty amazing. Plus, he’s already had concussion issues, so it’s time for the Steelers to give him some better protection along the offensive line.

*19. Atlanta Falcons
2009 record: 9-7
Needs: Defensive end, linebacker, cornerback, safety
Analysis: The Falcons’ defense was wildly underwhelming, particularly against the pass. Head coach Mike Smith built a very strong front seven when he was the defensive coordinator in Jacksonville, and he’s got to keep plugging away with that unit in Atlanta. They’ve used resources on their secondary in the draft, so they might want to focus on edge rushers this year, hoping to land Dunlap or Michigan outside linebacker Brandon Graham.

*20. Houston Texans
2009 record: 9-7
Needs: Cornerback, safety, defensive tackle, running back
Analysis: The Texans have clearly established themselves as one of the premier offenses in the NFL, so they’ve got to continue putting their resources into defense. Houston allowed 17 rushing touchdowns last season, which ranked 24th in the league, so they could use a big fella in the middle of their defensive line. The Texans also need to overhaul their secondary.

21. Cincinnati Bengals
2009 record: 10-6
Needs: Tight end, guard, safety
Analysis: Any team that starts Roy Williams at safety needs an upgrade, so Earl Thomas from Texas or Taylor Mays from USC are options here. But the Bengals’ most pressing need is at tight end, a position that was decimated by injuries last season, which definitely didn’t help quarterback Carson Palmer’s down year. Oklahoma’s Jermaine Gresham is the top tight end on the board and will almost certainly be available here. There are also a handful of offensive linemen who could suit the Bengals at this spot if guard Bobbie Williams signs elsewhere.

22. New England Patriots
2009 record: 10-6
Needs: Defensive end, linebacker, tight end, right guard, wide receiver
Analysis: The Patriots are equipped with three second-round draft picks and could essentially trade up as high in the draft as they’d like. They don’t have a pressing need at cornerback, but if they can trade into the top eight to get Florida’s Joe Haden, they’d have a future lockdown player who could play opposite of either Shawn Springs, Darius Butler or Leigh Bodden. Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain would be another perfect fit, but the Pats would need to trade up to get him, too. If the past is an indicator, the Patriots will stay where they are and could get someone like Graham, Texas outside linebacker Sergio Kindle or Florida inside linebacker Brandon Spikes. Or, here’s a scary thought: The Pats use yet another first-round pick on a tight end and select Gresham.

23. Green Bay Packers
2009 record: 11-5
Needs: Outside linebacker, defensive end, cornerback, left tackle
Analysis: Aaron Rodgers proved he’s one of the best passers in the league, but he hit the ground 50 times last year. It’d be a good sign of faith if the Packers got him some blind-side protection. The Packers might also want to find a new edge rusher to replace Aaron Kampman, and they could add some depth at cornerback. Charles Woodson and Al Harris were very good, but they’re also very old.

24. Philadelphia Eagles
2009 record: 11-5
Needs: Defensive end, linebacker, safety, running back
Analysis: Their pass defense was pretty ordinary, and it’s not because of their elite cornerbacks. The Eagles need to develop a better pass rush around defensive end Trent Cole, and if they can free him up, they could return to the ranks as one of the most disruptive defenses in the league.

25. Baltimore Ravens
2009 record: 9-7
Needs: Cornerback, safety, wide receiver
Analysis: Baltimore has one of the most dominant front sevens in football, but when it can’t get to the quarterback, its cornerbacks get overly exposed. The Ravens should also draft a safety who can learn from Ed Reed in his final years — as well as replace him in the lineup when he inevitably gets injured. And, like always, the Ravens need to get some better wide receivers for quarterback Joe Flacco. Outside of Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant, who will go much earlier than here, there aren’t many first-round-caliber wide receivers, so a cornerback like Kareem Jackson (Alabama) or Kyle Wilson (Boise State) would be a better fit.

26. Arizona Cardinals
2009 record: 10-6
Needs: Linebacker, tight end, quarterback, offensive line
Analysis: This team is still built to win now, so it’s unlikely the Cardinals would turn to a rookie quarterback over Matt Leinart, but it’s something to consider. Middle linebacker Karlos Dansby is likely departing for the highest bidder, so the Cards will need to replace him. They also need to get some pass-rushing linebackers to take some stress off the defensive line, which generates most of their pressure in the backfield.

27. Dallas Cowboys
2009 record: 11-5
Needs: Inside linebacker, safety, wide receiver
Analysis: They can’t draft a new coach, so they should try to get younger at inside linebacker. At the very least, they need to add depth at that position. The Cowboys’ defense was phenomenal, though, so they could choose to give quarterback Tony Romo another wideout.

28. San Diego Chargers
2009 record: 13-3
Needs: Offensive line, running back, middle linebacker
Analysis: The Chargers ranked 31st in rushing yards and 32nd in yards per carry (3.3). LaDainian Tomlinson’s decline greatly hurt their ground game, and Darren Sproles showed he is best used as a complementary back. It’s also due to a mediocre offensive line. It appears as though the Chargers will move forward without Tomlinson, and Cal running back Jahvid Best looks like he’ll be taken at this portion of the draft. His durability might be questionable, though, and the Chargers might want to lean toward an offensive lineman at this point instead.

29. New York Jets
2009 record: 9-7
Needs: Outside linebacker, cornerback, safety, running back, wide receiver
Analysis: Their needs are a little more cosmetic than most. They’ll need to add depth in the secondary because they’ve cut ties with cornerback Lito Sheppard, and it doesn’t sound likely cornerback Donald Strickland or safety Kerry Rhodes will be back, either. Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery are a very good receiving tandem, but the Jets could use some depth there. They might also look to add a running back, since it’s uncertain whether Thomas Jones and Leon Washington will be back.

30. Minnesota Vikings
2009 record: 12-4
Needs: Quarterback, offensive line, defensive back
Analysis: The Vikings need a quarterback if Brett Favre decides to retire. It’s likely they could take Texas quarterback Colt McCoy here, and he’d be a great fit in this offense. Otherwise, the offensive line was a disappointment, failing to consistently protect Favre or spring running back Adrian Peterson, who eclipsed 100 yards a career-worst three times.

31. Indianapolis Colts
2009 record: 14-2
Needs: Offensive line, defensive tackle, linebacker
Analysis: President Bill Polian was classy enough to call out his offensive line for losing the Super Bowl, so we know where he’ll look in the draft. But the Colts still can’t stop the run and would greatly benefit from drafting a big defensive tackle who could absorb some of the double-teams thrown in the direction of defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.

32. New Orleans Saints
2009 record: 13-3
Needs: Outside linebacker, defensive end, tight end, safety
Analysis: There aren’t many pressing needs, but the Saints have some free agents to lock up before the draft. If anyone — say, safety Darren Sharper — takes advantage of the paydays thrown at Super Bowl champions, the Saints will have to react and replace new needs. Otherwise, they could continue to add depth to their tremendous defensive line or bring some youth to the outside linebacking corps.

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