Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher could be a bookend to Eugene… (Jeff Schrier / Associated…)
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:
Typical of the team that drafts second, the Jacksonville Jaguars have all sorts of needs. They're unlikely to take a quarterback with their first pick, but they could use an offensive tackle to be a bookend to Eugene Monroe. A pass-rushing defensive lineman is a pressing need, too, for a unit ranked last in 2012 with just 20 sacks. The entire secondary also needs to be retooled.
The Tennessee Titans were aggressive in free agency, filling several roster vacancies with solid veterans. They still need to do some patching, however, and that might start with taking one of the two top guards — Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper — with the 10th pick. They could use a receiver, too, and a defensive lineman who can help them get bigger and more disruptive in the trenches.
Although they exceeded just about everyone's expectations last season, the rebuilding Indianapolis Colts still have some work to do. They made the playoffs, so they currently pick too late for one of the elite tackles. They might look for an upgrade at guard. With Dwight Freeney gone and Robert Mathis on the back side of his career, there's a need for pass rushers, and there are plenty of those in this class.
The Houston Texans have one of the NFL's best receivers in Andre Johnson, but they're still looking for a capable No. 2. They should have their pick of several strong candidates in this draft, possibly among them Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson, Cal's Keenan Allen, and Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins. The Texans drafted Whitney Mercilus in the first round last year, but they could use another pass rusher and might go that way.
Now that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have traded for Darrelle Revis, the pressure is off them to try to trade up for an elite cornerback. The Buccaneers could use a defensive tackle to pair with Gerald McCoy, though without their first-round pick they'll need to search hard for one. A pass-catching tight end is also high on the wish list for a team that let Dallas Clark go. Quarterback Josh Freeman could use another sure-handed target, and that could be Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert.
A solid secondary is essential in a division with Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, and the Carolina Panthers don't have one. They need help at cornerback and safety, so they could easily go either direction with the 14th pick. They need help on the other side of the ball, too, both on the offensive line and at receiver, where they need to find an eventual replacement for Steve Smith.
Three NFC South teams pick in consecutive order, and the New Orleans Saints draft at No. 15, looking to fix their historically bad defense. The Saints need to ramp up their pass rush, and new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan should have his pick of talented prospects to fit his 3-4 scheme. The club is also in position to take an elite safety. Choosing wisely will be essential for a team that lost its second-round pick as a result of Bountygate.
Tony Gonzalez is playing one more season, so the Atlanta Falcons would love a promising young tight end to learn from a future Hall of Famer. Although the Falcons added Osi Umenyiora, they would like to build depth along their defensive front, either at tackle or end. If they can get a quality cornerback, that would be a huge help, and it's key for the franchise to start preparing for the future at offensive tackle.