By: Zac Bellman
Last week I took a look at the NFC playoff teams that need the best drafts to return to the postseason next year. This week the AFC playoff teams are the focus, and there are three that jump out as having the biggest needs left to fill this offseason.
3. Houston Texans – Despite a 12-4 finish in 2012, the Texans lost some key components and depth at key positions. Andre Johnson is one of the best wide receivers in the game, but the Texans have struggled in recent years to put a legitimate threat across from him. Kevin Walter, who had served in that position the last couple seasons, left for Tennessee this offseason. Other needs for the Texans include linebacker depth, an offensive tackle, and a safety to replace the loss of Glover Quin.
Keenan Allen out of California may be the best wide receiver available around the Texans’ first pick, which doesn’t come until 27th overall. He has the size and speed to be a number one receiver in the league, but can also line up in the slot, which the Texans will need him to do at times to create space for Johnson.
2. Baltimore Ravens – As is typically the case with reigning Super Bowl champions, the Ravens were gutted in free agency in addition to losing their cornerstone on defense in Ray Lewis. Huge holes need to be filled at inside linebacker and safety, spots held for the last decade by Lewis and Ed Reed respectively. Other positions of need include center, left tackle, and wide receiver, positions which all lost veterans. Offensive line especially has to be a priority considering that the Ravens biggest move this offseason was locking down Joe Flacco with the fattest contract any player has ever received in the history of the NFL.
The media has picked him apart for the last few months, so no one really knows where Manti Te’o’s draft stock is, but more than likely he could be available for the Ravens’32nd overall pick.
1. Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck was a major hit for the Colts in last year’s draft, but if the Colts want to return to the playoffs next year, he needs to be protected. The Colts grabbed a tackle and a guard in free agency, but a center to direct a reshuffled line will be necessary. Running back and pass rusher are two other glaring needs that must be addressed. Unfortunately the Colts have six draft picks, including only two in the first 120 selections. It is that much more critical for the Colts to hit on their first selection at 24th overall, and if they can address one of those needs in the process, it would be that much better.
Eddie Lacy could very well bring balance and stability to the Colts’ offense, and given the recent devaluation of the running back position, he could easily fall to the 24th pick. He can also catch passes out of the backfield, serving as a check down for Luck if the Colts decide to go in that direction.
Check back next week for a full first round mock draft. Follow me on Twitter for NFL news and notes @ZacBellman_WNY