The draft will be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday in New York. Times NFL writer Sam Farmer examines team needs by division. Today, the South divisions:
In a division with Cam Newton and Drew Brees, there's even more of a premium in getting to the quarterback. That's why the Atlanta Falcons are mulling the possibility of trading up to land defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. The Falcons need to protect their own quarterback, too, and Matt Ryan isn't too mobile. If they stay put with the No. 6 pick, they likely will take an offensive tackle.
Vincent Jackson is a talented receiver, but he can't do it all for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That team needs another receiver after trading Mike Williams to Buffalo. And how about a quarterback? Josh McCown is a nice bridge player, but the Buccaneers need to take the long view, and that probably isn't Mike Glennon. Alterraun Verner was a smart acquisition, but Tampa Bay needs more help at cornerback.
The New Orleans Saints had a dramatic defensive turnaround last season, although that doesn't mean the makeover is finished. They shored up their safety situation by signing free agent Jairus Byrd, and now it's time to add another cornerback, someone who can pick up the slack now that Jabari Greer is gone. A wide receiver/offensive playmaker is tempting for a team that no longer has Darren Sproles.
Steve Smith is gone, and that's a big change for the Carolina Panthers. They will be scanning the draft board for a playmaking receiver and might use their first pick to take one. But offensive tackle is a huge need for them, too, as they need to replace the retired Jordan Gross. Carolina relies heavily on its stalwart front seven to pressure quarterbacks, although a solid cornerback would be helpful.
The Houston Texans have the No. 1 pick, and new Coach Bill O'Brien has been intently studying the robust class of quarterbacks. There's no question that's an area of need. It might be too tough for O'Brien to pass on South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, though, as he and J.J. Watt would form a nightmarish combination for any opposing offense. The Texans have the first pick in every round.
If the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to give Chad Henne a fair chance at quarterback, they have to give him someone to reel in his passes. With the third pick, they're probably in good position to land Clemson's Sammy Watkins, the most explosive receiver in this draft class. The Jaguars might also take a quarterback, although they don't need to leap for one at the top of the draft. If Clowney were to drop this far, the Jaguars would snap him up; Khalil Mack is tempting too.
Losing cornerback Alterraun Verner is no small consideration for the Tennessee Titans, but their needs are plenty. The Titans are on the lookout for an outside linebacker who can pressure the passer. Their own passer is under plenty of pressure, so the Titans are likely scanning the horizon for a quarterback who can be a more reliable long-term answer than Jake Locker.
The Indianapolis Colts only have five picks in this draft and don't select until the 27th spot of the second round. They are looking for a safety to replace Antoine Bethea, who left for San Francisco via free agency. The Colts could also use a cornerback, although the first two waves of those players are likely to be long gone by late in the second round. A pass rusher would be helpful, too.
Next: North Divisions