By Zac Bellman
There is more than one way to put together an elite NFL team these days. Some teams bring in established players through free agency, others try to draft and develop their future stars, and some go with a mix of the two. With the free agency period winding down, some teams that made the playoffs last year still have many holes to fill in the draft. Here are the three NFC teams that need to reload with young talent to return to the playoffs next season.
3. Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons lost their top three corners in free agency in Dunta Robinson, Brent Grimes, and Chris Owens. In this passing era they need to get some fresh talent at that position to compete with the Saints, Buccaneers, and Carolina. These teams have tall receivers that need to be battled at the line of scrimmage.
Jamar Taylor out of Boise State fits this need very well because he can be physical and handle larger wide receivers. Atlanta also could bring in some young pass rushers at defensive end and outside linebacker to complement Osi Umenyiora as well as a new target at tight end to back-up Tony Gonzalez.
2. Green Bay Packers – The list of needs for the Packers prior to free agency has only grown up until this point. Greg Jennings, Jeff Saturday, and Charles Woodson among others were lost to other teams because Green Bay historically under GM Ted Thompson has avoided shelling out big contracts to veterans. The loss of Woodson, a ball hawk and good run defender, proved to be a substantial one when he sat out most of the season with a broken collarbone. In order to avoid gashing running performances like the ones they gave up last year, they need to bring in a defender who will help set the tone.
Eric Reid from LSU may be that defender, whose athleticism and tackling ability can help a defense that struggles to bring down ball carriers. Look for the Packers to target a running back at some point because they are looking for a feature player at that position.
1. Minnesota Vikings – Adrian Peterson single handedly carried the Vikings to the playoffs last season, accounting for 45.3 percent of their offense according to Bleacher Report. Despite the fact that his knee may be even better this season and allow him to rush for 3000 yards, the Vikings need some more threats on offense. Minnesota pulled a double whammy on Green Bay by signing Greg Jennings, taking him out of their rival’s offense and adding him to their own. However they will still come out of this offseason behind where they were last year if they don’t use the picks they acquired for Percy Harvin to draft a dynamic replacement.
Tavon Austin from West Virginia can be just the playmaker the Vikings are looking for in the slot receiver role. His kick and punt returning abilities need to be refined but he has elite speed and elusiveness in the open field after the catch. With two first round picks, the Vikings will have the option to trade up for Austin or sit back and nab another wide receiver and corner.
Check back next week for the three AFC teams that need to reload the most in the draft. Follow me on Twitter for NFL news and notes @ZacBellman_WNY