2011 NFL Draft: AFC Team-by-Team Draft Needs

A couple of months ago I did division-by-division draft needs for every team. But now that we’re less than a week away from Roger Goodell taking the stage at Radio City Music Hall, I’ve decided to put together an updated post together on all 32 teams. So below you’ll find team-by-team needs for the AFC, as well as a quick summary for each division. (NFC team needs are coming soon.)

AFC East

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick directs his team against the New York Jets during the third quarter of their AFC Divisional NFL playoff football game in Foxborough, January 16, 2011. REUTERS/Adam Hunger (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Bills: QB, CB, OT, DE, OLB, TE, S
Dolphins: RB, C, OG, QB
Patriots: OT, OG, OLB, RB, DE
Jets: WR, DE, OLB, OG

Quick & Dirty Summary: While quarterback is definitely a need for the Bills, they’re more likely to go with the best defensive player on the board at No. 3, which could mean LSU’s Patrick Peterson is headed for upstate New York…There’s a good chance that both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams have played their final downs in Miami, so landing a running back in one of the first three rounds almost seems imperative for the Dolphins…With two first round picks, the Patriots could address their lines on both sides of the ball, but knowing Bill Belichick he won’t stand pat and will look to acquire more picks by trading one of those two selections…The Jets have huge decisions to make at receiver, where Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards are both free agents. It’s doubtful that Rex Ryan will address the receiver position in Round 1, but you can never tell what’s up his sleeve.

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2011 NFL Draft Needs: AFC West

No. 2 Denver Broncos
Team Needs: DT, LB, RB, DE, G, S
The Broncos have a ton of needs to fill, most notably on defense where they’re switching to a 4-3 front. Jamal Williams isn’t a great fit in a 4-3 alignment, which leaves Denver with Marcus Thomas and Justin Bannan (who’s good in a rotation but might be exposed as a full-time starter) at defensive tackle. At defensive end, Elvis Dumervil is set to return after missing the entire 2010 season with an injury, but Jason Hunter is the only potential 4-3 DE on the roster. Linebacker is a major need as well, especially if the trade talk about D.J. Williams is true. Running back, guard and safety are also positions of need, although with the No. 2 overall pick, the Broncos are most likely to select DT Nick Fairley or DE Da’Quan Bowers. I can’t see them taking Patrick Peterson after they re-signed Champ Bailey, but you never know.
First Round Possibilities: Da’Quan Bowers (Clemson), Nick Fairley (Auburn), Patrick Peterson (LSU).

(No first round Pick) Oakland Raiders
Team Needs: CB, OL
Nnamdi Asomugha is a free agent and the Raiders can’t tag him, so assuming he heads to greener pastures, corner will become a huge need. The team re-signed Stanford Routt but Chris Johnson isn’t a full-time starter so look for Oakland to snag one of the available corners in the second round. Center and tackle are needs as well.
First Round Possibilities: Brandon Harris (Miami), Jimmy Smith (Colorado), Prince Amukamara (Nebraska), Aaron Williams (Texas), Stefen Wisniewski (Penn State), Mike Pouncey (Florida), Tyron Smith (USC), Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Derek Sherrod (Mississippi State), Anthony Castonzo (Boston College), Nate Solder (Colorado).

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2011 NFL Draft Needs: NFC South

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton talks to his players as they play the Carolina Panthers in the first half at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina on November 7, 2010. UPI/Nell Redmond .

No. 1 Carolina Panthers
Team Needs: DT, QB, TE, CB, G, WR
I feel like I say this every year about the team with the top pick, but when you have the No. 1 pick in the draft, you don’t have just one need – you have several. With how poorly Jimmy Clausen played in his first year, quarterback is the most obvious choice for the Panthers at No. 1. But if the new coaching staff feels like he’ll make strides (uh, really big strides) in his second year, then I wouldn’t rule out Nick Fairley at No. 1. The team has had a steady rotation at the defensive tackle spot but they need to find more disruptive players and Fairley certainly fits the bill. If the Panthers manage to trade out of the top spot (which is unlikely), they could move down and target someone like Patrick Peterson seeing as how Richard Marshall may not be back next year and Captain Munnerlyn is better suited for the nickel. But unless they can trade out of the top spot, the Panthers won’t be filling their need at cornerback, tight end, guard or receiver in the first round.
First Round Possibilities: Blaine Gabbert (Missouri), Cam Newton (Auburn), Nick Fairley (Auburn), Jake Locker (Washington), Patrick Peterson (LSU).

No. 20 Tampa Bay Bucs
Team Needs: DE, CB, OT, LB
The one glaring need for the Bucs is pass rush. Stylz G. White is the team’s best pass-rusher, but he’s not consistent and he’s a free agent so the Bucs may let him walk. Tim Crowder is a free agent as well and seeing as how he was exposed as a starter last year, he may only be brought back in a rotation next year. With how deep the talent pool is at defensive end, the Bucs may choose to wait and grab a pass rusher later in the draft. If that’s the case, they may target a cornerback or linebacker with their top pick, seeing as how Barrett Ruud and Ronde Barber are free agents.
First Round Possibilities: Akeem Ayers (UCLA), Adrian Clayborn (Iowa), J.J. Watt (Wisconsin), Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue), Brandon Harris (Miami), Jimmy Smith (Colorado), Aaron Williams (Texas).

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2011 NFL Draft Needs: NFC North

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (C) and teammate Clay Matthews (L) celebrate their win over the Pittsburgh Steelers after the NFL’s Super Bowl XLV football game in Arlington, Texas, February 6, 2011. Rodgers was voted MVP of the game. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

2011 NFL Draft Needs: AFC East | AFC North | NFC East | NFC North

No. 12 Minnesota Vikings
Team Needs: QB, DT, DE, S, LB
Leslie Frazier has plenty of holes to fill in his first draft as head coach of the Vikings, perhaps none bigger than at quarterback. Brett Favre won’t be back and if Tarvaris Jackson is re-signed (which is a big “if”), he certainly won’t be handed the starting job. If Ryan Mallett or Cam Newton slips to Minnesota at No. 12, they’re definite possibilities to land in the Twin Cities. Defensively, Pat Williams probably won’t be back and it’s doubtful the Vikes see either Jimmy Kennedy or Letroy Guion as potential starters alongside Kevin Williams next year. On the outside, free agent Ray Edwards racked up eight sacks in 2010 but his production has dropped and thus, the Vikings have a reason not to break the bank to retain him this offseason. Everson Griffen and Jayme Mitchell have flashed their potenital, but can either be counted on as a starter opposite Jared Allen? At safety, Madieu Williams isn’t likely to be brought back and the Vikes could use a ballhawk to go along with either Husain Abdullah or Tyrell Johnson. The recently released O.J. Atowge might be a possibility via free agency.
First Round Possibilities: Cam Newton (Auburn), Ryan Mallett (Arkansas), Akeem Ayers (UCLA), Robert Quinn (North Carolina), Marcell Dareus (Alabama), Cameron Jordan (Cal), Aldon Smith (Missouri), Von Miller (Texas A&M).

No. 13 Detroit Lions
Team Needs: CB, OT
The Lions acquired Chris Houston and Alphonso Smith last year but seeing as how they play in a division that features two explosive passing attacks in Green Bay and Chicago, Detroit needs to continue to add pieces to its secondary. They should have a chance to land one of the top 3 corners (Patrick Peterson, Prince Amukamara, Brandon Harris) at No. 13 and if someone like Amukamara falls in their lap, I can’t see the Lions passing on such a highly touted prospect. Staying on the defensive side of the ball, this team needs more playmakers at the linebacker position. The Lions have already told Julian Peterson that he won’t be back and while the team may re-sign Bobby Carpenter, he’s best served as a backup. On the other side, Landon Johnson is unlikely to return as well after being placed on I.R. in late December. It seems like Detroit usually enters drafts needing to target linebackers and this year is no exception. Offensively, the line is improving and isn’t a pressing need but the team could stand to add depth.
First Round Possibilities: Patrick Peterson (LSU), Prince Amukamara (Nebraska), Brandon Harris (Miami), Jimmy Smith (Colorado), Nate Solder (Colorado), Greg Jones (Michigan State), Akeem Ayers (UCLA), Von Miller (Texas A&M), Bruce Carter (North Carolina), Mike Pouncey (Florida), Derek Sherrod (Mississippi State), Anthony Castonzo (Boston College).

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2011 NFL Draft Needs: AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin watches play against the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High on August 29, 2010 in Denver. Tomlin’s Steelers lost to the Broncos 34-17. UPI/Gary C. Caskey

2011 NFL Draft Needs: AFC East | AFC North | NFC East | NFC North

No. 4 Cincinnati Bengals
Top Needs: WR, S, DE, QB
If the Bengals trade Carson Palmer this offseason then quarterback obviously moves to the top of the list, but as of right now it appears as if Palmer will be the team’s starter for at least one more season. Receiver is a definite area of concern, as Terrell Owens is a free agent and it’s uncertain if Chad Ochocinco will be back. If he isn’t, then they’ll need a No. 1 (Jordan Shipley and Andre Caldwell are good players, but neither of them are top guys) and could target A.J. Green with the No. 4 pick. Defensively, finding a free safety is a must because Chris Crocker is average at best and Roy Williams (the team’s strong safety) is a liability in coverage. They added Reggie Nelson, but he’s struggled since his rookie season and isn’t reliable. Defensive end isn’t a pressing need because they have Carlos Dunlap, Robert Geathers, Antwan Odom and Michael Johnson, but Geathers is a rotational guy, Odom is injury-prone and Johnson is still a project. It may be hard for the Bengals to pass on D’aQuan Bowers if he falls to No. 4.
First Round Possibilities: D’aQuan Bowers (Clemson), A.J. Green (Georgia), Nick Fairley (Auburn), Cam Newton (Auburn), Robert Quinn (North Carolina).

No. 6 Cleveland Browns
Top Needs: WR, DE, LB, OT
Mike Holmgren found a head coach in Pat Shurmur to run his West Coast Offense and if we’re under the assumption that the Browns have their quarterback in Colt McCoy, then the team has two main priorities this offseason: Get younger and better on defense and find a true No. 1 wideout. Mohamed Massaquoi has flashed enough potential to be viewed as a starter, but is he a true No. 1? Because if he’s not and A.J. Green is sitting there at No. 6, it may be hard for Holmgren not to pull the trigger on the most NFL-ready prospect in the entire draft. If Green isn’t there and Holmgren isn’t sold on Alabama’s Julio Jones being a No. 1, then the Browns will likely address their defense. Robaire Smith is a free agent and has likely spent his last days in Cleveland. Shaun Rogers was just released. Derreck Robinson and Brian Schaefering are better options off the bench or in a rotation, and Kenyon Coleman is entering the final year of his contract. Suffice it to say, the Browns have needs along the defensive line, which is good seeing as how that position is the deepest in the draft. I also wouldn’t rule out the Browns taking another cornerback, seeing as how Eric Wright is a free agent and Sheldon Brown isn’t getting any younger.
First Round Possibilities: A.J. Green (Georgia), Julio Jones (Alabama), Marcell Dareus (Alabama), Nick Fairley (Auburn), Da’Quan Bowers (Clemson), Robert Quinn (North Carolina), Prince Amukamara (Nebraska), Patrick Peterson (LSU).

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