Vito Stellino's team-by-team needs

NFL draft

April 16, 1999|By VITO STELLINO

AFC East, New York Jets

1998 record: 12-4

Number of picks: 8

First round: None

Major needs: G, DL, LB, QB

Outlook: The Jets don't have a first-round pick because they gave it to New England as the final piece of the four-draft-pick package for coach Bill Parcells. Not that Parcells will miss having a first-round pick. He manages to win with castoffs. The Jets' first pick will be the 57th in the draft, so they don't figure to get an impact player, but Parcells could use a guard, more depth on defense and a young quarterback.

Miami Dolphins

1998 record: 10-6

Number of picks: 6

First round: No. 24

Major needs: RB, OL, DL, WR

Outlook: Jimmy Johnson has been looking for another Emmitt Smith since he arrived in Miami. He traded down last year and picked John Avery, who wasn't the answer. Since there are only two first-round running backs in this draft, he won't find one in the 24th spot. He could gamble on Cecil Collins, but his off-the-field problems make him too much of a first-round risk. Johnson may have to settle on the best athlete.

Buffalo Bills

1998 record: 10-6

Number of picks: 9

First round: No. 23

Major needs: CB, DE, WR TE

Outlook: The Bills have to start thinking about replacing some of their productive older players in the near future. Wide receiver Andre Reed and defensive end Bruce Smith are both 35, so the Bills could pick a player at either position, but they may go for a cornerback on the first round because they haven't overcome the loss of Jeff Burris last year.

New England Patriots

1998 record: 9-7

Number of picks: 11

First round: Nos. 20 and 28

Major needs: RB, DL, C, OT, WR

Outlook: The Patriots have five of the first 91 picks and they're trying to put together a package to trade up with Washington to the fifth spot to get one of the top two running backs. The freak flag football injury Robert Edwards suffered at the Pro Bowl has left them thin at running back. If they can't trade up, they'll try to get a defensive end with one of the first-round picks.

Indianapolis Colts

1998 record: 3-13

Number of picks: 6

First round: No. 4

Major needs: LB, DE, CB, S

Outlook: The Colts tipped their hand that they plan to draft Ricky Williams when they traded Marshall Faulk to the St. Louis Rams for second- and fifth-round picks. If there's a surprise and Williams goes in the first three picks, the Colts figure to switch to Edgerrin James. This will give the Colts a chance to team Williams or James in their backfield with Peyton Manning for most of the next decade and pick up two extra picks.

AFC Central

Jacksonville Jaguars

1998 record: 11-5

Number of picks: 9

First round: No. 26

Major needs: DE, CB, LB, G

Outlook: For a team as good as the Jaguars, they haven't drafted that well. But you can cover up a lot of mistakes when you trade for Mark Brunell. They figure to dominate the AFC Central again, but they've got to upgrade their defense if they're going to challenge Denver for a Super Bowl berth. They could draft for defense with their top three picks even though they signed Carnell Lake and Gary Walker in free agency.

Tennessee Titans

1998 record: 8-8

Number of picks: 7

First round: No. 16

Major needs: DE, MLB, S, CB

Outlook: The Titans (formerly the Oilers) are moving to a new city and a new stadium, and owner Bud Adams wants a winning record. So the Titans will be looking for players who can make an immediate impact. They can no longer afford to wait for players to develop. They have to upgrade their defense and will be looking for a pass-rushing defensive end.

Pittsburgh Steelers

1998 record: 7-9

Number of picks: 11

First round: No. 13

Major needs: WR, OT, LB, S

Outlook: All the free-agent losses may be finally catching up to the Steelers. That's why -- with eight picks in the first five rounds -- personnel director Tom Donahoe needs to hit it big if the team is to reverse its slide after suffering the first losing season of the Bill Cowher regime. Their top priority is to get one of the top three receivers in the draft at No. 13.

Cincinnati Bengals

1998 record: 3-13

Number of picks: 8

First round: No. 3

Major needs: QB, CB, OT, DT

Outlook: If quarterbacks go 1-2 with the first two picks, the Bengals figure to make it 1-2-3 for the first time since 1971. Back in 1979, the Bengals had the third pick and were expected to take Kellen Winslow, but they gambled on Jack Thompson, who was a bust. That won't stop owner Mike Brown from picking another quarterback. He grew up watching his father, the late Paul Brown, go to 10 straight title games with Otto Graham.

Cleveland Browns

1998 record: Expansion team

Number of picks: 13

First round: No. 1

Major needs: QB, RB, WR, DE, LB

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