The New York Giants need to do a better job of protecting quarterback Eli Manning, so look for them to try to fortify their offensive line with either their first or second pick. They draft ninth, so they probably will be in position to pick up one of the premier pass rushers in this class too. A safety would be helpful, although the Giants pick too early to use their first selection on that position.
With Greg Hardy suspended for the first 10 games of the season, it only underscores the need for the Dallas Cowboys to collect defensive players. The Cowboys are light on capable players in the secondary, so they might want to use the 27th pick on a cornerback if there’s a top-shelf one left. They also could use a run-stuffing defensive tackle, and there should be one left.
The Philadelphia Eagles will focus on the passing game in this draft — and from both perspectives, offense and defense. With Jeremy Maclin now in Kansas City, a year after DeSean Jackson left for Washington, Philadelphia needs to restock at receiver. But the Eagles need to think corner and safety too, and they could go one of those two directions with the No. 20 pick. There’s help wanted along the offensive line too.
If the Washington Redskins play their cards right, they should be able to get an impact player at No. 5. New General Manager Scot McCloughan has given every indication Robert Griffin III will get the starting quarterback job, but expect the team to take a long look at Oregon’s Marcus Mariota if he’s available. The Redskins need a pass rusher too, and could get an elite one at that spot. Another possibility: trading back into the early teens for Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton.
The rich get richer, considering the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots have a robust nine picks in this draft. They have a pressing need at defensive tackle now that Vince Wilfork is in Houston. They won’t get one of the top-tier players with the No. 32 pick, but the Patriots always seem to find the hidden gems. Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner left via free agency, so the Patriots need to resupply at cornerback. They’re also in the market for a guard to replace Dan Connolly.
Rex Ryan is trying to reshape the Buffalo Bills, and he won’t have a first-round pick to do so, as the franchise traded its top selection in this draft to Cleveland last year in the Sammy Watkins deal. The Bills are looking for an answer at quarterback — is it EJ Manuel, the newly acquired Matt Cassel, or somebody they can pick up in this draft? The Bills also need to beef up protection for whichever passer is back there, so offensive line is a priority.
The Miami Dolphins picked up defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, a huge prize in free agency, so they can turn their attention to a skill-position player with the 14th pick. They might go with a running back who can upgrade their ability to get the hard yards in short-yardage situations, or they might grab one of the many receivers in this class, as their cupboard is bare in that department. The Dolphins are looking for help on the offensive line too, particularly at guard.
Todd Bowles has proved himself a master at getting the most out of defenses, and the New York Jets look to be in good shape in that regard, especially with the return of Revis. The club could use an elite edge rusher, though, and the Jets will be in position to get one with the sixth pick. But can they resist passing on Mariota if he’s still around after the first five players are chosen? Geno Smith has yet to prove he’s deserving of the quarterback job for the long haul.
NEXT: NORTH DIVISIONS