Vito Stellino's team-byteam needs

April 18, 1997|By Vito Stellino

AFC East

New England Patriots

1996 record: 11-5 (won division, lost in Super Bowl)

Picks: 9

First round: No. 29

Analysis: The Patriots made the Super Bowl even though their defense ranked 19th overall and 28th against the pass. That's why personnel chief Bobby Grier is likely to stress defense in the draft. Oddly enough, coach Bill Parcells left in part because he wanted to to draft defense last year. But now he's gone and Grier has the two extra draft picks that the Patriots got from the Jets for the Parcells signing.

Buffalo Bills

1996 record: 10-6 (wild-card berth)

Picks: 6

First round: No. 23

Analysis: Times are changing in Buffalo. The wide-open, no-huddle offense is gone along with Jim Kelly, and the Bills will switch to the Joe Gibbs one-back offense now that one of Gibbs' former aides, Dan Henning, is the new offensive coordinator. That's why the top priority for the Bills in this draft is to find a big back who can take the pounding in the one-back offense.

Indianapolis Colts

1996 record: 9-7 (wild-card berth)

Picks: 7

First round: No. 19

Analysis: The Colts, who made the playoffs despite being ranked 25th on offense and 22nd on defense, need help on both sides of the ball. But their top priority is to find a left tackle to replace Troy Auzenne and Jason Mathews, who were ineffective at that position last year. Jim Harbaugh took a battering and needs more protection.

Miami Dolphins

1996 record: 8-8

Picks: 10

First round: No. 15

Analysis: Jimmy Johnson got three third-round compensatory picks and even though he's not allowed to trade those, they give him the flexibility to do a lot of maneuvering. If he can't trade up to get a player he wants, he'll probably trade down for extra picks. His top priority is an outside linebacker and he may trade up to get one. He also wants to upgrade both lines and wants a wide receiver.

New York Jets

1996 record: 1-15

Picks: 9

First round: No. 6

Analysis: Bill Parcells continued the trend of teams bailing out of the top of the first round because they didn't think the highest-rated players in this draft are worth the contracts they're going to demand. By dropping to the sixth spot, though, Parcells risked the possibility that the top four defensive players will go in the top five picks. Regardless of how it turns out, it's Parcells' call this year.

AFC Central

Pittsburgh Steelers

1996 record: 10-6 (won division)

Picks: 9

First round: No. 24

Analysis: The Steelers are one of the few teams that act as if the league really does have a hard salary cap. They keep losing players (Chad Brown, Ray Seals, Willie Williams and Deon Figures were among this year's examples), but they keep reloading in the draft. That's why the draft is so important to the Steelers if they're to remain a contender. They'll stress defense this year, starting with a cornerback on the first round.

Jacksonville Jaguars

1996 record: 9-7 (wild-card berth)

Picks: 7

First round: No. 21

Analysis: It's easy to forget the Jaguars were 4-7 before they put on a late run. They had the No. 2 offense in the league last year and their only need in that department is a tight end. But they've got to bolster their defense because they can't keep living on Mark Brunell pulling out games late. They'll be looking for a defensive tackle, a cornerback and a safety so they don't keep falling behind.

Cincinnati Bengals

1996 record: 8-8

Picks: 7

First round: No. 14

Analysis: With new defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau switching the 3-4 that he used in Pittsburgh, the Bengals' main priority will be to find a 3-4 outside linebacker opposite James Francis. They also want to get a running back later in the draft because they lost Garrison Hearst and Ki-Jana Carter showed up at minicamp overweight and out of shape.

Houston Oilers

1996 record: 8-8

Picks: 8

First round: No. 13

Analysis: What the Oilers need most is a home. They still don't know if they're going to play in Houston or Memphis this fall although coach Jeff Fisher has done a remarkable job of keeping the team together in a chaotic situation. The Oilers are one of the many teams that would like to trade down and get extra picks. Their top two needs are a cornerback and wide receiver.

Ravens

1996 record: 4-12

Picks: 12

First round: No. 4

Analysis: Since the Ravens gave up more yards than any other team last year, it's no surprise they'll concentrate on defense with most of their 12 picks. They've tried to trade down to get extra picks, but they could be better off staying in the fourth position and picking Peter Boulware if he is available. They'll have to play Boulware at linebacker after signing Michael McCrary, but he can fit in.

AFC West

Denver Broncos

1996 record: 13-3 (won division)

Picks: 5

First round: 28

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