1. OT: Former first-round pick Chris Williams is settled in as Chicago’s long-term left tackle, but the team needs better protection on the right side to execute new offensive coordinator Mike Martz’s pass-heavy scheme. Journeymen Kevin Shaffer and Frank Omiyale are currently the Bears’ top options.
2. S: In the Bears’ Tampa 2 defense, safeties need to be able to cover. Range-challenged Craig Steltz is penciled in at free safety for now, while strong-side safety Danieal Manning is constantly being shuttled around the secondary. “In the box” type Al Afalava and 2008 starter Kevin Payne seem to have fallen out of favor.
3. DE: Julius Peppers gives the Bears the double-digit sack threat they’ve lacked since their 2006 Super Bowl run, but the other end position remains a weakness. Israel Idonije has never been more than a swing-type reserve, Mark Anderson has just 4.5 sacks in the last two seasons, and 2009 draft picks Henry Melton and Jarron Gilbert showed little as rookies.
4. WR: Devin Aromashodu seems poised for a breakout year and Devin Hester should be more effective as a slot receiver in Martz’s wideout-friendly system, while Johnny Knox brings speed and Earl Bennett efficiency off the bench. However, the Bears’ receiver corps is anything but “proven.” Obviously, they won’t fix that problem on draft weekend.
1. CB: Trade acquisition Chris Houston should be more effective in the Lions’ press-man scheme, but the secondary is otherwise perilously thin. Eric King and Jonathan Wade were often abused in coverage last year, DeAngelo Smith is roster fodder, and Jonathan Hefney spent 2009 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
2. RB: Kevin Smith struggled badly to start last season, and is questionable for opening day as he comes off a torn ACL. Maurice Morris is a replacement-level talent. There’s heavy speculation that Detroit will use its second-round pick on Jahvid Best from California.
3. OT: Current Lions left tackle Jeff Backus is annually among the league leaders in sacks allowed, and turns 33 before the season. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus has failed to meet expectations as a former first-round pick. The Lions are believed to be interested in trading down to draft Russell Okung, though if they stay put Ndamukong Suh offers too much value to pass.
4. DE: The Lions are rolling the dice that injury-prone 31-year-old Kyle Vanden Bosch can stay healthy and regain his burst off the weak-side edge. The team’s options on the left side are aging Jared DeVries, who’s coming off a torn Achilles’ tendon, and special teamer Jason Hunter. Undersized Cliff Avril is ticketed for a nickel rushing role.
1. OT: 34-year-old left tackle Chad Clifton is a poor bet to play 16 games, and the Packers acknowledged as much by protecting themselves with per-game roster bonuses in his new contract. Right tackle Mark Tauscher turns 33 in June. A long-term solution is needed, and USC’s Charles Brown should appeal to G.M. Ted Thompson if he’s available at No. 23.
2. CB: All-Pro Charles Woodson is entering his age-34 season, 35-year-old Al Harris is coming off a torn ACL, and Tramon Williams will play 2010 on a one-year contract. With the Packers getting nothing from former second-round pick Patrick Lee, it’s time for Thompson to invest another early selection on a future starter.
3. LB: No. 1 in the league in 2009 run defense, the Packers are strong and deep at inside linebacker. More production is needed at the outside linebacker spot opposite Clay Matthews, however. Brad Jones, a seventh-round pick last year, showed well in coverage and run support, but managed just four sacks. Jeremy Thompson also has a career-threatening neck injury.
4. RB: The Packers are pleased with Brandon Jackson as a blitz-pickup specialist, but he doesn’t do enough with the ball in his hands. Green Bay has entertained the idea of signing free agent Brian Westbrook, indicating Thompson’s desire to upgrade at third-down back.
1. CB: Top corner Antoine Winfield turns 33 in June and fellow starter Cedric Griffin is recovering from a torn ACL. 2009 third-round pick Asher Allen has promise, but Minnesota is otherwise short on quality cornerback depth.
2. C/G: Incumbent starting center John Sullivan is a replaceable talent, and left guard Steve Hutchinson showed signs of decline last year as Adrian Peterson set a career low in yards-per-carry average, especially struggling down the stretch. Florida’s Maurkice Pouncey should be on G.M. Rick Spielman’s radar in the first round.
3. RB: Chester Taylor’s departure in free agency has forced the Vikings to get creative behind Peterson, converting wide receiver Darius Reynaud to running back and touting former undrafted free agent Albert Young as a possible replacement.
4. QB: Brett Favre and Tarvaris Jackson are both in contract years. Sage Rosenfels couldn’t even beat out Jackson to be Favre’s backup last season. The Vikings would do well to find a developmental quarterback in the draft’s middle rounds, assuming Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen doesn’t fall into their lap at No. 30.