Lions among teams with can't-miss first round draft picks
Nobody wants to get it wrong on a first round draft choice. The sad reality for teams across the NFL is that it's happened in the past and will continue to happen as long as the league is alive and well. The truth of the matter is that perennial playoffs teams and teams with a solid core of skill players across the board can afford to miss every once in awhile. On the flip side, let's take a look at four teams that cannot afford to miss this year:
Oakland Raiders - #3 overall
When 3 out of your last 4 first round picks are Jamarcus Russell, Darius Heyward-Bey and Rolando McClain, things aren't necessarily looking up. The Raiders also didn't help themselves by trading away their first round picks the last two seasons.
Who to Avoid - Geno Smith, QB West Virginia: I don't have a first round grade on Smith, let alone in the top 10. If the Raiders were to take him at 3, it could cripple the franchise both financially and on the field for years to come if Smith doesn't pan out. There are other needs on this team, and Oakland can take a bet on Ryan Nassib of Syracuse or Mike Glennon of NC State in the 2nd round and see what happens.
Who to Take - Eric Fisher, OT Central Michigan: Oakland needs to think smart and not sexy in this draft. Fisher is an athletic left tackle that can anchor your line for 7-8 years, and will give the Raiders comfort when they can eventually develop a young QB.
Detroit Lions - #5 overall
After making the playoffs two seasons ago, the Lions went back to being the Lions this past year. The much maligned defense got them in big deficits early and blew leads late in games time after time. With a good offense in place, the Lions have to use their #5 pick on a difference maker on defense.
Who to Avoid - Any offensive player
Who to Take - Dee Milliner, CB Alabama or Dion Jordan, DE/OLB Oregon: I have a feeling the Lions will take whoever is available out of these two guys. If Milliner is off the board, Jordan can provide an instant spark on defense. He can get after the quarterback and is great in pass coverage for an outside linebacker, something the Lions have lacked the past couple seasons.
Tennessee Titans - #10 overall
The Titans have made it clear that Jake Locker is their franchise quarterback. He flashed at times last year, but spent the majority of his time running for his life in the process. Although the Tennessee defense could use a ballhawk in the secondary or a defensive tackle, the Titans would be smart to use their #10 pick on the offensive line to protect Locker and his growth moving forward.
Who to Avoid - Sheldon Richardson, DT Missouri, other D-lineman available
Who to Take - Chance Warmack, G Alabama or Lane Johnson, OT Oklahoma: Odds are that these two guys will be available when the Titans are up and would be great selections. I would be shocked if they don't invest on the O-line and help Locker stay upright for years to come.
Carolina Panthers - #14 overall
Cam Newton's rookie season in 2011 was filled with highlight reels and statistics that drove fantasy football nerds crazy. Although he hit a little bit of a sophomore slump last year, there are pieces in tact for a dynamic offense. So the question is - why aren't the Panthers any good? The answer is that they can't stop anyone on defense. Playing in the NFC South gives Carolina the pleasure of taking on the high powered offenses of Atlanta and New Orleans twice a year. By my count - that's an automatic 3 or 4 losses with the defense they are putting on the field. They have to start now with a player who can step in immediately and turn the defense around.
Who to Avoid - Tavon Austin, WR West Virginia or Keenan Allen, WR California: A lot of mock drafts have the Panthers taking a wideout to add to Cam's arsenal. Because there aren't many skill players that jump out at you in this year's first round, I find this thinking a bit confusing. And I think new GM Dave Gettleman, formerly of the Giants, will agree. He's a smart guy who knows that without a defense, you aren't getting anywhere in that division.
Who to Take - Xavier Rhodes, CB Florida State or Desmond Trufant, CB Washington: Adding either of these guys will immediately change the way Carolina's defense is not only perceived but played on the field. LB Luke Kuechly was a great start in last year's draft, and adding a Rhodes or Trufant will go a long way into stopping receivers from running free down the Panther's sideline.
So there it is. Four teams with very important drafts for the future of their franchises moving forward. Let's hope they don't miss.