With the College All-Star games in the books, not much to do now but wait for the combine.
1. Carolina (2-14): Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Despite being the worst team in the league the Panthers were good at something, they had the #8 passing defense by DVOA. Since passing the ball and stopping the pass are the biggest factors in winning games, there’s actually somewhat of a foundation to build on here. An 8th ranked passing D with the 17th best pass rush points to a strong back 7 and a breakout year from Charles Johnson along with young DEs Everette Brown and Greg Hardy showing promise (6.5 sacks between them last year). A stud DT would give the Panthers an excellent pass D and bring the sub-par run D up to make a very legitimate unit. The offense will still have major issues (though simply having more stability than the revolving door they had at QB and RB should make for improvement), but the D should keep it in reach, and in a close game, anything can happen.
2. Denver (4-12): Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Another team that did one thing very well and lots of stuff very poorly. Denver passed the ball very well most of the season, but it didn’t get them far when they couldn’t play D or run the ball. The O is in flux with the Orton/Tebow question undecided, so while that’s hashed out they can address the D that got McDaniels fired. An elite CB prospect next to/in front of/in place of Champ Bailey (depending on if/where he goes) and the return of Elvis Dumervil makes for a two pronged attack on a pass D that didn’t get pressure well nor cover much better.
3. Buffalo (4-12) Marcel Dareus, DE, Alabama
While NT Kyle Williams was widely praised and earned a Pro Bowl nod, the rest of the DL around him failed miserably against the run. Buffalo ranked dead last in adjusted line yards, last in % of runs stuffed, 31st in 2nd level yards, but 13th in open field yards. The back 7 can bring a runner down, but the DL is getting blown off the ball so badly by the time they can do so, the damage is already done. There are prospects that’d do more for the Bills poor pass rush, but Dareus helps in multiple facets, vital for a D that didn’t do much particularly well.
4. Cincinnati (4-12) AJ Green, WR, Georgia
Green is in the discussion for #1 overall and for good reason. Cincy fed Owens 139 targets (8th most in the league) and Ochocinco 126 (14th most) without getting 1,000 yards or 75 receptions from either of them. No wonder Carson Palmer would rather retire than come back to that. A passing offense built around Green, the far more efficient Jordan Shipley and Andre Caldwell and TE Jermaine Gresham might not send QBs running away screaming.
5. Arizona (5-11) Robert Quinn, OLB, North Carolina
This draft doesn’t have a quick fix to the glaring hole on Arizona’s roster (you know, the one that turned Larry Fitzgerald into the 71st most productive WR per play) so they address the pass rush. 5 sacks each from your edge rushers isn’t terrible, but both Joey Porter and Clark Haggans will be 34 when the draft rolls around. Quinn and O’Brien Schofield (2 sacks last year) gives them a pair of young edge rushers to take over and improve a mediocre pass rush. Playing in a hybrid D should help ease the transition from 4-3 DE to 3-4 OLB for Quinn.