Teams Needing a Strong NFL Draft
by Trevor Whenham - 4/21/2010
The NFL Draft is obviously crucial for every NFL team - it's the best source of high-level talent at a (sometimes) reasonable price that there is. Teams that don't have good drafts can't be continuously rebuilding and filling holes, and teams that don't do that can't be competitive. For some teams, though, the draft holds an extra sense of urgency. Whether a team has been down for too long and needs to find a way back up, or a team needs to fight to stay at the top, there are teams that really need to have an especially strong draft this year. Here are four such teams:
St. Louis Rams - There is always a great deal of pressure on the team with the first pick of the draft - they can't afford to make a costly mistake. There is so much more than that going on here, though. The Rams have only been terrible for a couple of years, but they have some serious issues. There are some nice pieces on defense, but not enough. The offense is basically an empty shell - there isn't a single player on the roster around which a team can be built with the possible and hopeful exception of Jason Smith. The Rams have 10 picks in this draft, so they will have ample opportunities to get some useful talent. With the ownership situation uncertain and coach and general manager fighting for their continued existence the team really needs to get this one right. For now the Rams are just a proud franchise that have hit a rough patch. Without a good draft this year they could turn into an outpost of the Lions.
Cleveland Browns - Mike Holmgren is making some positive moves since taking over the reins of this pathetic franchise. He's has boldly addressed his quarterback situation, and cut the fat in a number of other ways as well. He's moving in the right direction - even if he has decided to stick with a lousy coach - but his window is small, and he has to maintain momentum if he wants his overhaul to work. Right now the people of Cleveland and of the NFL mostly seem to believe in Holmgren here, but another bad year or two and the mystique will be stripped from him, and the Browns will be back to being the Browns again. The Browns are well-positioned in this draft. They have the seventh pick which will allow them to address any of their most significant problems, then they have nine more picks after that, including three in the third round, to add some talent and give this team an identity and a direction that is, for once, obvious to people on the outside.
Detroit Lions - The excuses for the Lions are getting harder and harder to embrace. The Matt Millen era is in the ever-more-distant past, the franchise quarterback is on board, they have one of the nicest buildings in the league, and their current coach is the most competent they have had in a long time. There is more hope surrounding this team than there has been for a long time, but the fact is that this team still has a lot of work to do before they can be called talented. They have eight picks in this draft, including the second choice in each of the first four rounds. Those are the kind of picks that can add impact players to a roster. Millen also showed us the dark side, though - premium picks can be used to add wide receivers who never reach their potential. Detroit has perhaps the toughest city to operate in right now, but their job would be much easier if this team could at least finish at .500, and a strong draft here would help make that a real possibility.
New England Patriots - The Patriots have been the model franchise of the last decade. They don't overpay for players, their players keep their noses clean, they find bargains in the draft and free agency that turn into gems, and they just keep winning. For the first time last year, though, they looked mortal. Scott Pioli is gone, too many of their players are getting old, and they are without depth in a few key positions. The AFC East is turning into an arms race, and the Jets and Dolphins aren't going to roll over and die like they have in past years. Things aren't dire for the Patriots yet - they still have the best quarterback in the league - but they could be if they don't recharge and get ready for the next attack. They have 12 picks in the draft - the most of any team - so they have the definite ability to maintain their position of envious strength, but they do need to find more hits than misses with their boatload of picks.
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