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NEW TGS COVER STORY...TGS 2012 NFL DRAFT PREVIEW
by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor


The NFL Draft always brings back plenty of memories. Especially for this writer, who recalls the days long before the draft became an industry unto itself, and who worked on rudimentary draft previews for the heck of it. We recall the days when the draft festivities would take place almost at the conclusion of the regular season, and then when they would be conducted in late January during the years immediately following the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

Before the advent of ESPN, keeping track of the draft meant waiting for the evening newspaper (remember those?), which would provide info on first-round selections, then waiting for the following day's morning paper to report upon subsequent picks. Or, listening to news radio when it was time for the sports reports every half hour, and charting updates of the latest picks. Upon its launching in September of 1979, ESPN, however, thought that providing extensive draft coverage might not be a bad idea for pro football junkies who were looking for their gridiron "fix" in the offseason. Indeed, one of ESPN's first major breakthroughs was its on-site coverage of the 1980 draft, just a few months after the network began its operations.

We can also recall the draft days before Mel Kiper, Jr. became a household name, although we suspect a younger Mel was doing some of the same things we were doing, like us in a low-flying orbit with our draft previews, about the time ESPN began its coverage of the draft.

In those days, there were few media coverage options for hard-core NFL fans and "draftniks" outside of Joel Buchsbaum's mesmerizing reports for Pro Football Weekly. The mysterious Buchsbaum, based in Brooklyn and rarely seen in public, had quickly developed a cult-like following in those days, as he was featured not only in PFW but on various sports-talk radio shows (notably in St. Louis, where he cultivated a new legion of fans in the midwest on blowtorch KMOX when preceding the Monday night games). There was also a fellow named Jerry Jones, different from the one who would buy the Cowboys several years later, who would preview the draft with a small, goldenrod-colored booklet called the Drugstore List. Jones' labor of love, which began in 1978, continues to this day, and the 2012 version of the Drugstore List is available nowadays just as it was over 30 years ago when it was one of the few reference sources for the draft besides Buchsbaum's material for PFW. Only now there are countless other draft previews, both in print and especially on the internet.

As for the eccentric Buchsbaum, he sadly passed away in December of 2002 at the young age of 48. Shortly thereafter at an industry trade show, PFW Publisher and Editor Hub Arkush related to us his sadness at the news, but Hub fortunately found an able successor to Buchsbaum in Nolan Nawrocki, who has continued PFW's insightful and comprehensive draft coverage in the Buchsbaum tradition.

The draft provided something unique for me, too, as I produced my own version of a preview over 30 years ago to a very small collection of clientele while I was finishing my college work. Those early draft previews were among the items I first sent along to TGS Founder Mort Olshan when looking for a job outside of the college sports information office sphere over thirty years ago. Mort liked what he saw and darned if he didn't hire me, providing my entrée into this fascinating business. We even toyed with the idea of producing some serious draft previews at TGS in the early '80s before passing on the idea; among other things, by the time the draft rolled around each spring, we were too exhausted from a season's worth of football and basketball publishing work to so quickly sink our teeth into another project. No Mel Kiper, Jr. for us, though, in retrospect, perhaps we should have gone for it way back when. We had an idea that the draft held the potential to captivate the NFL audience, as forward-looking thinkers such as Kiper were able to capitalize upon later in the '80s.

Fast forward to 2012, and the NFL Draft remains a pretty big deal. We at TGS planned to pay attention as usual, but with our publishing season now extending into late April with this year's adjusted NBA schedule, we thought it might be a good idea to reintroduce a TGS preview version of the draft. And why not? The festivities in New York City begin next Thursday with first-round action, covered comprehensively as always by ESPN. Like most NFL fans, we remain captivated by the proceedings.

For us, this is a treat, and a walk down memory lane when we used to do these draft previews just for fun. After all of these years, we still get the same kick out of previewing the draft as we did more than 30 years ago!

Following are our team updates, revolving around first-round draft posibilities, and our projected selections. As always, trades can alter proceedings, but for the moment this is how we believe things might proceed next Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall. We'll go in draft order (as of Thursday, April 19), covering the first half of Round One in this issue, and following with second half in our final issue of the season next Monday.

1-INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: The rebuild in Indy goes deeper than Peyton Manning's departure for Denver. Several other familiar faces (TE Dallas Clark, RB Joseph Addai, WR Pierre Garcon, C Jeff Saturday among them) have also been on the move since last season ended. New HC Chuck Pagano, installing a 3-4 defense, has raided former employer Baltimore for some new pieces for the stop unit (DE Bryant McKinney, DE Cory Redding, and S Tom Zbikowski all ex-Ravens). Although there was some legitimate interest in Indy regarding Baylor's Heisman-winning QB Robert Griffin III, the selection of Stanford QB Andrew Luck, perhaps the most pre-cooked QB entering the draft since Manning fourteen years ago, has been practically pre-ordained since the Colts sewed up the top selection. Expect Indy to look for added depth at WR, CB, and the defensive line in subsequent rounds. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

2-WASHINGTON REDSKINS (from St. Louis): After missing out on Peyton Manning in free agency, Mike Shanahan opted against pursuing other available options such as Green Bay's Matt Flynn (who eventually inked with Seattle) and instead swung a major trade with the Rams to swap first-round picks and give the Skins the second selection. Baylor's Griffin was obviously in The Shan's sights, and will almost surely be the selection. The need to look for a wideout in the draft has been negated somewhat with the FA signing of ex-Indy WR Garcon. Instead, Shanahan likely prioritizes the OL (tackle position in particular) and the safety spot (after LaRon Landry's departure to the Jets) in subsequent rounds. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

3-MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Don't be surprised if the Vikes end up moving down and adding a few extra picks. If they stay put at number three, however, expect Minnesota to address its OT position and nab Southern Cal's Matt Kalil. If not, and the Vikes think they can get a potential difference-maker such as LSU CB Morris Claiborne and another quality OT with later picks, they might make a move. Regardless, expect the LT spot on the O-line, added depth at CB, and perhaps another wideout to be the priorities. Matt Kalil, OT, Southern Cal

4-CLEVELAND BROWNS: That the Browns could use some offensive playmakers is beyond question. It's in which direction GM Tom Heckert and HC Pat Shurmur decide to go that remains in doubt. The commitment to QB Colt McCoy will be determined on draft day; if the Browns go for Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill, who has been moving quickly up the draft board and is likely the only non Luck/Griffin QB to be taken in the first round, then it's a vote of non-confidence in McCoy. But most AFC North observers don't think the Browns are ready to abandon the ex-Texas gunslinger just yet, and expect Cleveland to instead go for the top RB in the draft, Alabama's Trent Richardson, then perhaps nab the top available wideout with its second pick in the first round (at number 22, via Atlanta). Expect the ORT position to be addressed sometime in later rounds. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

5-TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: New HC Greg Schiano needs an improved defense and is probably not done addressing his concerns at the CB spots despite adding ex-Lion Eric Wright in free agency. After allowing 30 TD passes last year, with Ronde Barber on the wrong side of 35 (and contemplating retirement), and Aqib Talib's status up in the air due to a felony charge in Texas, expect the Bucs to continue to shore up their needs on the corner before addressing other concerns. Which are plenty and might include adding another RB, TE, LB, and perhaps a developmental project at QB with Josh Freeman regressing alarmingly last season. The need for a playmaker and WR help, however, was alleviated in free agency by signing ex-Charger Vincent Jackson. The Bucs might be tempted to trade down if they believe they could land another top corner later in the first round, although no others rate as highly at that position as LSU's Morris Claiborne. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

6-ST. LOUIS RAMS (from Washington): Playmakers, playmakers, playmakers. That's what the Rams need desperately, with wide receivers at the top of the list as targets for QB Sam Bradford. New GM Les Snead has already traded down from the second pick in the first round, getting the Skins' pick in this slot, plus Washington's second-rounder, and Skin first-rounders in 2013 & 2014. Not a bad haul, we'd say. Snead could also be tempted to trade down again with several quality wideouts likely to be available later in the round, but if he stays put, look for Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon or Notre Dame's Michael Floyd to be the pick. New HC Jeff Fisher had his defensive wishes granted in free agency by adding old friend CB Cortland Finnegan from the Titans and DE Kendall Langford from the Dolphins, although the Rams likely do more solidifying on the corners and the DL with subsequent picks. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

7-JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: The Jags hired Mike Mularkey to be their new head coach specifically because he is expected to turn Blaine Gabbert into a real NFL QB. That won't happen without better receiving options than Gabbert had as a rookie last season, and to that end J'ville added ex-Cowboy WR Laurent Robinson in free agency. Which is a nice start, but the need for playmkaers is so great that the Jags likely look for another wideout in the first round. If Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon is already off the board, expect Notre Dame's secondary-distorting Michael Floyd to be next in the queue. The Jags addressed one of their other concerns at CB in free agency by adding ex-Giant Aaron Ross, but will still be looking for help along the DL and could be instead tempted to go for someone like Mississippi State DE Fletcher Cox with their top pick. Still, we'll say it's a WR in the first round for J'ville, with the chance the Jags even trade down with several quality wideout possibilities in the draft mix in the first few rounds. Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

8-MIAMI DOLPHINS: We might be in a minority, believing that the Dolphins can win with Matt Moore at QB, citing evidence from late last season. Still, indicators are that Miami and new HC Joe Philbin might only view him as a stop-gap, and there is reported heavy interest in Texas A&M's QB Ryan Tannehill, who has wowed scouts in workouts and has been pegged by some to go even higher than this eighth slot. For that reason we consider Tannehill a potential "swing" selection in the first round, as dominoes could start falling a lot of different directions if he's picked as high as fourth (which some believe is possible) by the Browns, or, by chance, the Dolphins, if they are so in love with the A&M QB that they trade up to get him. But GM Jeff Ireland did add journeyman David Garrard to the Dolphin QB mix in the offseason, suggesting Philbin might be comfy with Moore and Garrard as his options for the time being (Chad Henne has departed for the Jags via free agency) while Ireland addresses other concerns, such as adding DEs and LBs who can pressure the QB, and perhaps another WR after Brandon Marshall's move to the Bears. Still, if Tannehill is on the board when the Dolphins are on the clock, we suspect they go in his direction. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

9-CAROLINA PANTHERS: The Panthers have needs along both lines that have not yet been fully addressed in free agency, so expect GM Marty Hurney to take care of those positions in the draft. Hurney has also been known to trade down in the past and might be tempted to do so again. The Panthers think they've already added another skill-position weapon to their attack by inking bruising FA RB Mike Tolbert from San Diego, thus the lines are likely to receive much of the attention in Charlotte. We're thinking it probably comes down to a trio of defensive linemen (Mississippi State's DE/DT Fletcher Cox, Memphis DT Montari Poe, or LSU DT Michael Brockers), with CB and WR addressed in subsequent rounds. Fletcher Cox, DE/DT, Mississippi State

10-BUFFALO BILLS: Lots of possible directions for the Bills, although they won't include the DE position after adding Mario Williams from the Texans and Mark Anderson from the Patriots via free agency. Now, expect focus to turn to the OLT spot, long a weakness and from where LY's starter Demetrius (now "Demetress") Bell has departed to the Eagles in free agency, or a deep threat wideout to complement Stevie Johnson, who was signed to an expensive extension. OLB might be another position to upgrade with Shawne Merriman trying to come back from serious Achilles tendon surgery. As an offensive-minded coach, however, look for Chan Gailey to get his way by adding some needed beef along the OL. Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

11-KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Having addressed some needs in free agency by adding punishing RB Peyton Hillis from the Browns and OT Eric Winston from the Texans, GM Scott Pioli now likely gives HC Romeo Crennel his wish by going for defense in the early rounds. The Chiefs could use a prototypical NT, but none projects this high in the first round. A sideline-to-sideline linebacker to team with Derrick Johnson in the middle of Crennel's 3-4 might be the answer, and that bill be could be filled by Alabama's Dont'a Hightower. Watch also for Southern Cal's DE/LB Nick Perry, a potential hybrid who could have special appeal to Crennel, familiar with Tedy Bruschi's similar role from Romeo's days on Bill Belichick's Patriots staff. Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama

12-SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: After finishing well out of the money in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, Pete Carroll decided he wasn't going to look for a rookie to solve his QB dilemma and instead nabbed the best non-Manning option available in the FA ranks by inking Matt Flynn, Aaron Rodgers' longtime caddy in Green Bay. Now, expect defense to be the first priority in the draft, although we wouldn't be surprised to see Carroll and GM John Schneider add a developmental project at QB in the later rounds. Unless the Seahawks trade down, we suspect this pick comes down to Southern Cal's DE/LB Nick Perry or Boston College's LB Luke Kuechly. Nick Perry, DE/LB, Southern Cal

13-ARIZONA CARDINALS: By most accounts the Cards were the runners-up in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, but now that they're sticking with Kevin Kolb for at least another year, expect them to provide him with some OL help in the draft. Which could come in the form of either of Stanford's likely first-round blockers, G David DeCastro or T Jonathan Martin. The Big Red have already added ex-49er G Adam Snyder in free agency, so they're serious about building a better fortress around Kolb. Don't be surprised if GM Rod Graves, without a pick in the second round, decides to trade down and look later for OL help, which should still be plentiful, either down the board in this round or (if adding picks via trade) in the second or third rounds. At some point the Big Red likely seeks pass-rush help from the DE and LB spots as well. David DeCastro, G, Stanford

14-DALLAS COWBOYS: Maybe Jerry Jones is mellowing with age, because we thought he'd be a bit more active in the offseason. How much longer is Jerry going to stick with Tony Romo (with only one playoff win in six seasons as the starter) at QB, anyway? FA Kyle Orton was signed only as a backup, not as the starter. Other more-pressing needs at C (Carolina's Mackenzy Bernadeu) and CB (Kansas City's Brandon Carr) were addressed in free agency. Now Jerry can go get the best player available, or he can decide that maybe he needs more depth on the corners, which remains a threadbare position on the roster despite Carr's addition. If that's the case, look for South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore to be the pick here; if looking for the most-impactful, perhaps it's Illinois DE/LB Whitney Merclius, the nation's leading sacker last season with hybrid written all over him. Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

15-PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: The Birds might have a few tricks up their sleeve; among other things, they're on the hook for only one more year of Michael Vick's contract, and Andy Reid could be tempted to make a move for a developmental QB in the draft (we'd watch for Wisconsin's Russell Wilson or perhaps Michigan State's Kirk Cousins in subsequent rounds). Although already having addressed some defensive needs in the offseason (especially by trading a 4th-round pick to the Texans fir LB DeMeco Ryans), we suspect Philly nonetheless looks for defense with this pick, perhaps at safety, but also prioritizing the DL. Ryans' addition lessens the need to add to the LB corps with an early pick. The highest-rated pure safety in the draft is Alabama's Mark Barron; we suspect it's either him or a DE, perhaps North Carolina's Quinton Coples or South Carolina's Melvin Ingram, in this spot. Mark Barron, S, Alabama

16-NEW YORK JETS: Things haven't been quiet this offseason in Floral Park. They never are when Rex Ryan is around, but the addition of Tim Tebow from Denver has added a new distraction to the Jets' usual media circus. We'll find out in the fall if this addition becomes a plus or a terrible minus for the Jets (which is possible if holdover starter Mark Sanchez feels undermined and continues his recent regression). Ryan and GM Mike Tannenbaum have some other holes to fill, namely a demon-like pass rusher and another wide receiver. The safety spot, a question mark with Jim Leonhard trying to rebound after yet another season-ending injury in 2011 (this one to his leg after the shin problems of 2010), was addressed in free agency by adding LaRon Landry from the Redskins. Ryan and Tannenbaum might find it hard to pass up South Carolina's versatile Melvin Ingram, Alabama's Courtney Upshaw, or perhaps Illinois' pass-rush specialist Whitney Mercilus. Melvin Ingram, DT/DE/LB, South Carolina

Following are our forecasts for the final half of the first round, beginning with Cincinnati's pick in the 17th spot.

17-CINCINNATI BENGALS (from Oakland): Although the Bengals made the playoffs last season, they have several areas of need, and at some point will look to address a defensive line that had a bite taken out of it in the offseason when DEs Jonathan Fanene (to the Patriots) and Frostee Rucker (to the Browns) departed in free agency. Cincy addressed RB concerns by adding FA BenJarvus Green-Ellis from the Patriots; now look for the Bengals to go for a CB, WR, or defensive line help in the first round. And with a deep crop of corners available, we think Marvin Lewis pushes to get one of those before the best are off the board. Although LSU's Morris Claiborne and South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore are likely to be gone by this stage of the round, the Bengals could still be tempted by the next-best available option at CB, Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick. This pick is courtesy of the Carson Palmer trade with the Raiders and also provides Cincy (now with a pair of first-round picks) some flexibility in case it wants to trade up for a shot at Claiborne or Gilmore. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

18-SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: The Bolts have somewhat compensated for WR Vincent Jackson's departure to Tampa Bay by adding wideouts Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal in the offseason. Now the pressing need is to find an impact pass rusher, and nobody did that better in the college ranks last season than the nation's top sacker, Illinois' Whitney Mercilus, who could certainly help what was the NFL's worst third-down defense a year ago. We have to assume that GM A.J. Smith and HC Norv Turner are on the clock after missing the playoffs the past two seasons; more than most GM/HC combos, Smith and Turner need to find a couple of immediate impact players from the draft. Whitney Mercilus, DE/LB, Illinois

19-CHICAGO BEARS: After the 2011 season unraveled following Jay Cutler's thumb injury last November, one of the Bears' top priorities was to find a better backup QB than Caleb Hanie, which they seem to have done in the offseson by adding ex-Raider Jason Campbell. The offense was also augmented by acquiring combustible ex-Dolphin and Bronco WR Brandon Marshall (who was considered worth the risk considering his productive on-field relationship with Cutler during their days together in Denver) & punishing ex-Raider RB Michael Bush. Now, new GM Phil Emery is free to look for DL help in the draft, and might opt for North Carolina's Quinton Coples to form a bookend of Tar Heels (along wth Julius Peppers) at the DE spots. Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

20-TENNESSEE TITANS: The unfulfilled dreams in Nashville of landing Peyton Manning in the offseason shouldn't shatter things too much for the Titans, as they already have their QB of the future on the roster in Jake Locker. Besides, HC Mike Munchak has other more pressing needs, specifically an impact defender, and will likely look at the DL or LB in this slot. Or both, if Alabama's Courtney Upshaw is still on the board. Courtney Upshaw, DE/LB, Alabama

21-CINCINNATI BENGALS: If the Bengals went for defense with their earlier pick (17th) from the Raiders, we suspect they go for offense with this selection, either along the OL or at WR, where Andy Dalton could use another target to take some heat off of A.J. Green. That is, if they don't package the picks to move higher in this round. Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

22-CLEVELAND BROWNS (from Atlanta): The Browns get another chance to upgrade their offense with this selection from Atlanta, acquired during last year's draft. If the Browns take RB Trent Richardson early, or even if they go for QB Ryan Tannehill with their first pick, they likely go WR here. Ruben Randle, WR, LSU

23-DETROIT LIONS: Times have changed in Motown, where after drafting the best available players for years, the Lions are now a playoff team and can select based upon specific needs. And they have a need for upgrades on the corners after the offseason departure of Eric Wright. Fortunately, this is a deep-looking crop of corners in this year's draft. Somebody is going to gamble on Janoris Jenkins, who has unlimited upside and played last year for Terry Bowden at North Alabama. But Jenkins also carries plenty of baggage after being tossed out of Florida earlier in his career. Are the Lions going to be the team to roll the dice on Jenkins? Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama

24-PITTSBURGH STEELERS: The Steelers re-signed most of their own veterans but haven't yet added much in free agency, including at QB, where Mike Tomlin was forced to risk using an injured Ben Roethlisberger down the stretch a year ago. Depth at QB could still be addressed in the next wave of free agency, but don't be surprised if Pittsburgh invests a pick in a QB in one of the later rounds, where the Steelers are loaded with compensatory picks. More help might be needed immediately along the lines, and it's no secret that the Steelers need reinforcements up front defensively, especially at the nose tackle spot with Casey Hampton now 34 and coming off knee surgery. Memphis' Dontari Poe is probably the top-rated prototypical NT in the draft and might have been a top-ten pick in February. But have shaky subsequent workouts and downgraded scouting reports moved him out of the first round completely? Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

25-DENVER BRONCOS: The Broncos have certainly made a lot of noise in the offseason with the Peyton Manning signing, so now it's time to address the defense. And John Fox is well aware that his "D" needs more upgrading beyond adding FA CB Tracy Porter from New Orleans. Replacing DT Brodrick Bunkley (who moved to the Saints) figures to be a Denver priority, and we suspect the most intriguing pick left on the board at this stage of the first round could be LSU DT Michael Brockers. The Broncos will also probably be looking for RB help in later rounds. Michael Brockers, DT, LSU

26-HOUSTON TEXANS: The Texans are not done in free agency, and will be looking to make some moves when the second wave hits in early summer. Expect another vet QB to be added behind Matt Schaub and C.J. Yates after Matt Leinart was a salary cap casualty. In the meantime, Houston has needs at OLB (where d.c. Wade Phillips can never have enough of 'em in his 3-4) and the G positions. But where the Texans could really use an upgrade is at wideout, where adding another big-time receiving target to take the heat off Andre Johnson remains a priority for Gary Kubiak's offense. If Houston wants to go with production, it might opt for South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery or Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu; if it wants potential, then it might consider Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, who flashed big-play upside despite not getting much chance to shine for Paul Johnson's option offense in Atlanta. Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech

27-NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (from New Orleans): Bill Belichick has been known to roll the dice in the draft. And this year he has two picks (this one, acquired from the Saints on draft day last year, plus his own at number 31) in the first round and two more in the second round to use as potential bait to trade up for help on the defensive edge. Which appears to be the first area in need of upgrading on a leaky stop unit that could use some reinforcements despite the Patriots coming within a minute of a Super Bowl win last February. Clemson's Andre Branch is a bit raw and needs to add some bulk, but could intrigue Belichick with his athleticism, good hands, and straight-line speed. And we know how Belichick values potential "hybrid" performers such as Branch. Andre Branch, DE/LB, Clemson

28-GREEN BAY PACKERS: Pack GM Ted Thompson usually walks gingerly through the FA process, preferring instead to build via the draft, but did add ex-Indy C Jeff Saturday in the offseason. Thompson might further tweak the offense in the draft, especially at RB, where the Pack remains thin (even if it decides to bring back Ryan Grant) and likely address that offensive backfield need in the earlier rounds. But Thompson and HC Mike McCarthy know that Green Bay more urgently needs upgrades on the stop unit if it wants to atone for the playoff loss to the Giants and get back to the Super Bowl. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers will likely be campaigning hard for someone like Boise State's Shea McClellin, one of the most versatile defensive weapons in the draft. Shea McClellin, DE/LB, Boise State

29-BALTIMORE RAVENS: The Ravens took some hits to their defense in free agency, not to mention losing coordinator Chuck Pagano, now the Colts' new coach. And they're getting near the point where they have to begin to look for Ray Lewis' successor at MLB. GM Ozzie Newsome will be seeking reinforcements along the DL in the early rounds and will likely address needs along the OL and the WR spots somewhere along the way. Off the bat, Newsome could be tempted by a DT such as Penn State's Devon Still, but if Boston College MLB Luke Kuechly slips through the cracks and into the late stages of the round, Ozzie could move quickly for Lewis' eventual successor. Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

30-SAN FRANCISCO 49ers: The Niners added some interesting potential upgrades to their offense in the offseason, signing FA wideouts Mario Manningham from the Giants as well as the one and only Randy Moss, who came out of retirement to ink an incentive-laden deal. We also like the addition of beastly ex-Giants RB Brandon Jacobs, who came on the cheap and could lighten the load for Frank Gore. But after watching Jim Harbaugh work his magic at Stanford and last year with the 49ers, something tells us the second-year HC won't be afraid to think outside the box. Although the Niners will be addressing their needs at the G spots and on the DL before the draft is done, and don't have an immediate need at TE with Vernon Davis in the fold, Harbaugh might be very intrigued by the possibilities his former pupil at Stanford, Coby Fleener, can offer to his offense in double-TE sets. Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford

31-NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: This is New England's own pick, and Bill Belichick might be tempted to go for defense again. New o.c. Josh McDaniels might try to convince Belichick that Tom Brady's receiving corps still lacks an outside presence and could use a bit more than FA additions Brandon Lloyd, Donte' Stallworth, and Anthony Gonzalez can provide, and how the Pats ought to take advantage of this deep crop of WR playmakers in the draft before they all disappear. Belichick, however, will likely figure he can still find a quality wideouts with one of his two second-round picks (including one in the middle of the round from Oakland) and likely goes for more defense, perhaps from the bountiful crop of cornerbacks. Virginia Tech's Jayron Hosley could fit the bill and also provide special teams help on the return units. Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech

32-NEW YORK GIANTS: After taking a look at the Giants' 2012 schedule, Tom Coughlin will be happy for any help he can get from the draft. He and GM Jerry Reese will also have an eye to the future on the defensive edge, where both DE Osi Umenyiora and DE/OLB Mathias Kiwanuka will be unrestricted free agents after 2012. Expect those reinforcements to be addressed in the early rounds, but the departure of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw's durability issues make RB a top priority. Although this isn't regarded as a deep draft for RBs, Boise State's Doug Martin is rated by most behind only Alabama's Trent Richardson at the position. Doug Martin, RB, Boise State

A few other teams that don't have picks in the first round (as of April 23) will be looking for help in the later rounds.

ATLANTA FALCONS: The Falcons don't have a pick until fairly late (55th overall) in the second round, the result of a draft-day trade with the Browns last year that Atlanta used to nab Alabama WR Julio Jones. With new coordinators both offensively (Dirk Koetter) and defensively (Mike Nolan), the Falcons will try to address whatever changes are forthcoming as best they can. Offensively, Koetter wants to implement a more-vertical passing game but will want to improve the pass protection, and will likely focus upon the LT spot. Tony Gonzalez also can't play forever at TE, so that could be another position of interest. Defensively, Nolan would like to add an impact player on the end plus a NT, with the new three-man fronts the Falcs likely will employ. Possible targets who could still be on the board in the second round include Cal OT Mitchell Schwartz, UL-Lafayette TE Ladarius Green, and Marshall DE/LB Vinny Curry.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Due to last year's draft day trade with the Patriots that allowed the Saints to move up and select Alabama RB Mark Ingram, there's no first-round pick this season, and "Bountygate" penalties forfeited the second-round pick. So, at the moment, the Saints aren't slated to be on the clock until late in the 3rd round, with the 89th overall pick, and they have just five selections (as of April 23) in the entire draft. The Saints did add several FA defensive pieces in the offseason (DT Brodrick Bunkley via Denver and LBs Curtis Lofton via Atlanta, David Hawthorne via Seattle, and Chris Chamberlain via St. Louis) but more upgrades along the DL are probably going to be a priority for new d.c. Steve Spagnuolo. The Saints might also be looking at the CB spots with Tracy Porter (to Denver) and Leigh Torrence (to Washington) leaving in free agency. Depth along the OL could also be addressed. Possible available DTs late in the third round could be Michigan's Mike Martin or Washington's 348-lb. Alameda Ta'amu.

OAKLAND RAIDERS: No more Al Davis calling the shots, as new GM Reggie McKenzie gets to run his first draft after working alongside Ted Thompson in Green Bay. McKenzie won't have much to work with, however, as even the addition of three compensatory picks puts Oakland at a mere five selections overall. And as of the start of the week none of those were until the end of the third round, at number 95. When finally on the clock, McKenzie and new HC Dennis Allen will probably be looking for help along the DL, where a space-eating DT who can also function on the nose in the 3-4 (likely to be a part of the new Raider defensive package) could be targeted, and perhaps at CB, where Oakland made some FA additions (Ron Bartell from the Rams and Shawtae Spencer from the 49ers) but still looks awfully thin. The Raiders are probably going to also add another QB at some time before training camp, with untested Terrelle Pryor and Rhett Bomar the only backups to Carson Palmer (who has had injury problems in the past) after Jason Campbell signed with the Bears. Run-stuffing possibilities who could still be on the board when the Raiders get around to selecting are DTs Kheeston Randall (Texas) and DaJohn Harris (Southern Cal), while available CBs could include UCF's Josh Robinson, Arizona State's Omar Bolden, and Vanderbilt's Casey Hayward. Expect a QB (maybe San Diego State's Ryan Lindley or UT-Chattanooga's B.J. Coleman) to be tabbed in the later rounds.

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