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Chasing The Denver Broncos and The Carolina Panthers

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Everyone in the NFL envies the position that the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers are in as they prepare to face off against each other in the Super Bowl this Sunday. You can bet that each and every team is analyzing all the possible strategies that would give them the best chance of playing for the Lombardi Trophy next February.

It is extremely difficult to discuss what will happen in free agency because we have no clue which players will get the opportunity to test the open market; therefore, we are going to discuss what some teams can do in the draft to get them to the Super Bowl this year. As always, there is a myriad of factors that go into whether a team will make it to the Super Bowl that can’t be predicted, like health.

Now, let’s discuss what a couple of the teams that were close to reaching the Super Bowl need to do in the draft to actually make it there next year.

Arizona Cardinals

The biggest reason the Arizona Cardinals got railroaded by the Panthers was because of all the senseless turnovers they committed. The reality is that Carson Palmer will remain the quarterback for the Cardinals next year and they have to hope that he won’t make the egregious mistakes that he made this year in the postseason.

When you glance at the Cardinals’ roster you see one glaring weakness, a lack of a consistent pass rush. This year, Dwight Freeney provided a good pass rush for the Cardinals, but you can’t expect him to do that again at his age; therefore, it is a need that they need to attack in the first round of the draft.

Prior to the Senior Bowl, it appeared as though Noah Spence would be a likely target at the end of the first round, but his dominant showing in Mobile, Alabama eliminated that from being a real opportunity. The fact that they are picking so late in the round limits the type of player they can get, but there are still good options that they can look at.

Clemson defensive end David Dodd is a great pass-rusher with the flexibility to play as an outside linebacker in Arizona’s 3-4 defense. He doesn’t have the pass-rush potential that others have, but he can be a consistent producer down in Arizona. Another player who the Cardinals could look at is Leonard Floyd. Unlike Dodd, Floyd is a raw player, but he has the frame and athleticism to be a freak off the edge.

Later in the draft, the Cardinals need to focus on acquiring a center and a complement to David Johnson at running back. Luckily, this draft is extremely deep at both of those positions. Alabama’s Ryan Kelly and Arkansas’ Jonathan Williams would be great fits for the Cardinals.

If Arizona could come out of the draft with Dodd, Kelly and Williams in the first four rounds, they would be set up well to challenge the Panthers for NFC supremacy.

New England Patriots

The New England Patriots have Tom Brady, which means that they are always one of the favorites to make it to the Super Bowl; however, there are some spots on their roster that they need to upgrade to get the opportunity to win the Lombardi Trophy.

The biggest area the Patriots need to address is the offensive line. Brady was on the run for almost the entirety of this season and with his advanced age, he can’t take the amount of hits he took throughout the season, especially the amount he took against Denver in the AFC Championship.

Unfortunately, the Patriots don’t have a first-round pick, thanks to “Deflategate”; therefore, they are at the mercy of the 31 other teams as to whom will be available when they pick in the second round. At offensive tackle, their pickings will be slim, so you may see them go the route of free agency there, but there is a ton of talent in the second round and beyond at offensive guard.

There are three guards who the Patriots should hope falls to them in the second round; Arizona State’s Christian Westerman, North Carolina’s Landon Turner and Stanford’s Joshua Garnett. All three players are dominant run blockers who can also hold up in pass protection.

Other positions that the Patriots need to target in the draft are cornerback and running back. At cornerback, there are a few directions they could go. Northern Iowa’s Deiondre Hall is a long cornerback who can play well in man and zone situations. Also, Baylor’s Xavien Howard may have the ball skills out of any cornerback in this class and he’d be a welcome addition to New England’s secondary. At running back, UCLA’s Paul Perkins and Notre Dame’s C.J. Prosise would be great fits in the Patriots’ scheme.

If the Patriots can improve their offensive line and get more talented at cornerback and running back, yu can bet the Broncos will be shivering in their boots.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks may be the most talented team in the NFL, especially on defense, but there are still some holes that need to be filled if they want to beat the Panthers next year. The two biggest holes are at cornerback and offensive tackle. You could make a case that defensive tackle is another position that needs to be targeted in the draft.

Since this draft is loaded with defensive tackle talent, the Seahawks should go after a cornerback or offensive tackle in the first round. Seattle has shown a propensity to not allocate significant resources to their offensive line because of Russell Wilson’s ability to make plays when under pressure. Nevertheless, the Seahawks may want to rethink that strategy as they were dominated up front for a majority of the season.

If they decide to look at an offensive tackle in the first round Auburn offensive tackle Shon Coleman would be a great option for Seattle. He has the athleticism and power that the Seahawks look for and he would significantly improve the talent on the edge. If they stick with their strategy, they could look to get a high upside tackle later in the draft like Texas Tech’s LeRaven Clark, who has the measurables to become a stud on the offensive line in a few years.

If they want to get a cornerback in the first round, Ohio State’s Eli Apple and Miami’s Artie Burns would be great fits for the Seahawks. If they go offensive line first, some cornerbacks they should take a serious look at are Baylor’s Xavien Howard and Virginia’s Maurice Canady.

Seattle has a ton of options at defensive tackle in this draft. From Ohio State’s Adolphus Washington to Clemson’s D.J Reader, the Seahawks have no excuse to not come out of this draft with an impact defensive tackle.

The best strategy for the Seahawks would be to grab Coleman in the first, Howard in the second and the best defensive tackle left in the third round. if they did that, they would have a great chance to be the Panthers and get back to the Super Bowl.


About John Owning

John Owning

John Owning is a NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has years of experience covering the NFL, NFL draft and NCAA football. John's work has been featured on the Bleacher Report and DraftBreakdown.com